Classic Computer Magazine Archive ST-Log ISSUE 28 / FEBRUARY 1989 / PAGE 94


Why Wait?

Programming Sciences, Inc.
7194 Clairemont Mesa Blvd.
San Diego, CA 92111
(619) 569-0774

Reviewed by Robert Plotkin

The First Law of Computer Operation:

A computer is only as fast as its peripherals.

Why Wait? is a program that attempts to cut the amount of time waiting for peripherals down to a minimum, without any additional hardware. The program offers a Disk Cache, a Print Spooler, a Disk Accelerator and a RAM-disk. Why Wait? is initialized at boot time from the AUTO folder, and from then on is completely transparent.

The Disk Cache is most useful for software development, when a few files (compiler, linker, source files) must be accessed many times. The cache eliminates the need to access the disk each time a file is read. Instead, a record is kept of the most recently used files, and the file data is stored in a buffer. When one of the files in the buffer needs to be read from disk, it is instead read from memory at high speed.

The Print Spooler allows you to use your computer while your printer is printing, without a separate hardware buffer. The spooler takes only a matter of seconds to transfer printer data into the buffer, even with very large files.

The Disk Accelerator speeds up the rate of disk reads. This is done by increasing the size of the "read-ahead buffer." The normal read-ahead buffer on the ST can hold 1K of data. This means that when reading files, 1K of data is read from the disk at a time. Increasing the size of the read-ahead buffer will cause data to be read in larger chunks and with fewer disk accesses, thus effectively increasing the rate of disk access. When I tested the program I found that the speed of disk writes was also increased. This may either be because of the size of the read-ahead buffer, or because the program disables the write-verify mode. The manual does not say.

The RAMdisk uses a block of memory to simulate an extra disk drive and functions exactly like a real disk drive, with two exceptions: It is extremely fast, and its contents are lost when the computer is turned off. The RAMdisk is initialized automatically at boot-up by Why Wait?. There is also a RAMdisk copier program provided, which will automatically copy user-selected files to the RAMdisk at boot time.

Installation of Why Wait? is done with an installation program. The program allows the user to select the sizes of the cache buffer, the print-spooler buffer, the read-ahead buffer and the RAMdisk. The installation program also acts as a maintenance program, which can be used to turn the disk cache on or off, clear the spooler buffer or clear the cache buffer.

I tested the program with 1st Word, ST BASIC, the GEM Desktop and several of my own programs. All of the features worked exactly as described, and I think I can safely assume that it will work just as well with any other GEM applications. I did find one minor bug: A RAMdisk smaller than 100K causes the system to crash, and a system reset must be performed.

The instruction manual is short, but complete. It gives concise directions and descriptions and warns of problems that might arise while using the program. The manual also gives suggestions on how much memory to allocate to the various buffers according to your system specifications. The installation procedure was laid out clearly, and I was able to have the program up and running within 20 minutes. The only fault that I could find with the manual was that the section labelled "Installation Steps" came last.

It would have been possible to buy hardware that would perform the same functions as Why Wait?, but only at a much higher cost. Any one of the program's features is worth the cost of the package, and I highly recommend it to anyone who is tired of falling asleep while looking at the old, familiar message, "Printing... please wait."