Classic Computer Magazine Archive A.N.A.L.O.G. ISSUE 64 / SEPTEMBER 1988 / PAGE 54

ST Notes

New Atari Corp. documentation
    If you were one of the lucky developers to purchase the Atari ST Developers Kit for $300, occasionally you will receive mailings of new information from Atari. Recently, Atari mailed detailed information on the Mega ST system's internal expansion bus. The expansion bus was included inside the Mega for Atari and third-party developers to create additional support products that can easily be interfaced with the Mega's hardware.
    At the fall 1987 COMDEX show, Atari's research and development team indicated that several expansion bus products are in the works for the Mega computer. A Local-Area-Network card (LAN) is a natural product for the Mega to give businesses the ability to share information from a central hard disk or use a common printer.
    What makes the Mega expansion bus documentation so interesting is that it was printed on a laser printer and is easy to understand with complete explanations. This marks a decided change in Atari's previous documentation efforts. Atari documentation is normally poorly written and sloppy in presentation. With evidence of better documentation, Atari might be signaling the industry that it is cleaning up its internal problems and working towards a bright future.

    Has your computer been feeling run down? Maybe even a little feverish? It might be due to a computer virus. When the idea of a computer virus was first presented, it seemed like a joke. How could your computer get-sick? But we have found in the age of technological marvels, even the common flu can get your ST down.
    A virus is a program that unscrupulous programmers place on boot ST floppy disks. When you first power-up your ST, a program recorded in the "boot-sector" of the diskette in drive A is loaded into your ST's memory. The program initializes some memory and variables and then launches the main operating system stored in ROM.
    Viruses change the "boot-sector" by recording their own style of boot program. Instead of the usual coldstart process, the virus will install itself into your system's memory, and then proceed with the initialization as normal. Your ST turns on and the friendly GEM Desktop appears.
    Not all viruses are alike. Their side effects determine the destructiveness of a virus. For example, one virus will remain dormant for a couple of hours. When you ,try to save a file to your floppy disk, the virus will ocassionally cause the save operation to save incorrect data. When you thought you were saving a letter to your mother, the virus was saving a bunch of random characters.
    Viruses can spread, because they can also change the boot-sector of the other disks you insert into your disk drive after the virus has been loaded into your computer system. So, once a virus has been detected, it is important to immunize all of your other diskettes.
    So far, only one virus has been identified in the United States. Another has been described by users, but no one has found a way of detecting it. The virus seemed to have been created in Europe, and gradually found its way to the U.S. through the worldwide series of computer networks and telecommunications.
    Virus killing has become a popular cause. George Woodside, the author of Turtle, a popular hard-disk backup utility, has been working on a virus immunization program for the ST. George recently posted an anti-virus program that detects and erases a virus program from your ST disks. The program has been made available through DELPHI, CompuServe and GEnie, is also available through Usenet, the worldwide Unix users network.
    An interesting twist on the virus issue occurred last month with the release of an imunization program called FluShot. Apparently the same people who developed a virus received a copy of FluShot, added a new virus to it, and re-released FluShot back into the public. FluShot 3 has the virus attached! Later versions of Flu-Shot do not have the virus.

    Atari is pushing hard to make its Mega ST/SLM804 Laser printer combination a viable desktop publishing system for small businesses. Atari has met with limited sucess in trying to sell the ST and Mega as a general business computer, and has now aimed for the smaller "niche"markets (eg., MIDI music, desktop publishing, eduction, etc.). At the same time, the real world of business computing is finding the modern office equipped with computers able to network, communicate with mainframes, and send and receive facsimile transmissions, commonly called FAXs.
    Most business can buy a dedicated FAX machine for under $1,500. FAX is different than its predecessor TELEX, because the recipient of a FAX sees a photocopied image of the original instead of a teletype letter of text. FAX gives you instant copies of business correspondance, invoices and other written reports developed on your computer.
    Microfantasy Corp., the company responsible for Atariwriter 80, is now working with a small development group on adding FAX capabilities to the ST computer. A new device will plug into the cartridge port of the Mega to interface your computer with a FAX interface. When you want to send a FAX to another party, you specify a text or graphic file in the custom FAX program. The document is converted into a standard FAX transmission and sent to the specified FAX machine. The FAX device has built-in Hayes compatible 9600 baud modem. By connecting the FAX device to your phone line, the FAX program will automatically dial and transmit the document to the destination FAX machine. On the receiving end, the scanner device can be set up to automatically retrieve a FAX document in FAX Group 1,2 or 3 format.
    When a FAX transmission is received, the document image can be stored as a GEM image file, DEGAS picture or standard data file. A special printing utility will print the document on any dotmatrix or laser printer (including the Atari SLM804.)
    And now for the kicker, the suggested list price will be under $500. The FAX unit will be sold on a "direct" basis and should be available at the end of this year.

Multi-Finder ST
    The other 68000-based microcomputers (Mac & Amiga) have built their new operating systems around a multi-tasking environment. You can run a word processor at the same time that a telecommunications program is downloading a file. Since the operating system supports multi-tasking, programs for the Mac and Amiga can be run at the same time. The ST's GEM system doesn't support multitasking. However, several programs have been popping up that let you run more than one program in your ST's memory at once.
    Juggler (Michtron, $49.95 list) is a program that lets you load up to seven GEMbased programs into your ST Each application is loaded into a certain portion of memory. A switchbox allows you to select which application will be the "live" program. The ability to switch instantly between applications can greatly improve your productivity. Michtron just released its new Juggler II, an improved version which lets you partition your ST's memory into two, four or eight sections. The new software handles TOS and nonGEM applications too! So you can switch between a video game and word processor, quicker than your boss can find you playing games when you should be working.
    Revolver (Intersect, $49.95 list) is another program that, among other things, switches between various applications. Revolver can save a copy of the entire one megabyte of memory in your 1040 ST to a compressed disk file. At a later time, you can reload the disk-file data into your ST's memory and begin running the program where you left off.
    Revolver is a TOS application that is put into the AUTO folder of your boot disk. When you turn on your ST computer, Revolver loads itself into your ST's memory and waits for the user to activate its main menu. Revolver can be accessed in any screen resolution and within any program, GEM or non-GEM. Therefore, you could save a video game during a difficult game playing section, and later reload the section to replay the fun parts. Revolver is also an incredible utility for your ST. In addition to its applicationswitching functions, it has an impressive list of disk utilities, printer spoolers, resetbutton-proof RAM disks, automatic backup utilities and other functions for which you might otherwise depend on a desk accessory.
    Switch Back (Alpha Systems, $69.95 list) is a simple utility which allows a running application to be saved as a compressed binary disk file. You can reload saved applications at any time, giving you the same utility as Revolver's switching function. Switch Back is being promoted as an "unprotect" program which can remove the copy-protection method built into a game or GEM application, so its relative merits dim compared with Revolver and Juggler.

Companies mentioned:

Microfantasy, Inc.
5811 Cardoza Drive
Westlake Village, CA 91362

576 Telegraph
Pontiac, MI 48053
(313) 334-5700

Intersect Software
3951 Sawyer Road, #108
Sarasota, FL 33583
(800) 826-0130

Alpha Systems
1012 Skyland
Macedonia, OH 44056
(216) 374-7469