Your Winter 1987 issue of START blew my mind! The included disk with STARTKey is worth about $600 to me. I subscribe to the Dvorak newsletter and they state a Silver Reed typewriter/printer with a switchable QWERTY/Dvorak keyboard costs about $600. I therefore upgraded my Atari 1040 by $600 with your STARTKey disk to a QWERTY/Dvorak switchable keyboard just for the price of your magazine.
I have only one problem and that is that I cannot lock capitals in Dvorak. I like to write my letters in Navy-style capitals. Can anyone please solve this problem for me?
STARTKey does not pay any attention to the state of the Caps Lock Key, and is not case-sensitive, so a macrofile containing:
R "P" macend
r "p" macend
s-r "P" macend
would cancel itself out. The best suggestion we can make, since you prefer to use capital letters all the time, is to create a new macro file with all the keys defined as Dvorak capitals. You might want to define the shift characters to the lowercase Dvorak equivalent, so you still have access to them:
r "P" macend
s-r "p" macend
Once you've compiled the new file, you can switch between it and the Dvorak keyboard on your Winter, 1987 START disk by using the Load option in STARTKey.
DOLLARS & SENSE VS. PHASAR
I'd like to comment on Jeffrey Daniels' review of Personal Finance programs (Spring 1988 START). It appears to me that Mr. Daniels has been unduly swayed by the superficial aspects of those programs.
I purchased Dollars and Sense in December 1986 and Phasar in February 1987. In order to determine for myself which was the better program for my purposes, I kept my personal financial records with both (yes, I entered every transaction twice).
My initial impression of Dollars and Sense was that it was a very good program. However, after using it for several months, I found that the features that looked the best at first became the very things that irked me the most. I didn't need presentation-quality reports (which I couldn't do anyhow because of the lack of page formatting), and waiting for the slow GDOS output was just a waste of time.
My major complaint (and the reason I've stopped using it) is that the program has many significant bugs: simple edits to existing transactions usually corrupted the data file so that it had to be restored from my last backup, losing several transactions in the process. The final straw was when I discovered that correcting an entry error required the re-entry of over three months' worth of transactions. Although I paid the extra fee for customer support, the one letter I wrote was never answered and there have not been any upgrades or bug fixes in the 15 months that this program has been out. Because of the number and severity of the bugs, I rate Dollars and Sense not acceptable.
On the other hand, I found Phasar to be a jewel. True, the manual is a bit folksy and the program uses GEM for only the top-level menu selections, but it works and works well. In over a year of use, I haven't lost a bit of data to a program bug!
The manual could be improved, but it does have a lot of information and a very extensive index. I made some suggestions that were graciously accepted by Marksman Technology. From that experience I would expect excellent customer support. For my personal and home financial record keeping, I rate Phasar excellent.
Marvin W. Rasmussen
THE GREAT DEBATE GOES ON
I have been programming on the ST for about two years now and have seen many different programming styles. Recently, I have noticed the lack of structure in some programs. If anyone were to take a reasonably good computer programming class they would learn some basic things about structured programming. For example, in Pascal, most programmers with structured styles will not use global variables, they will use only local variables and pass parameters. Another example is the undisciplined use of GOTO statements. How are beginning programmers to learn good technique if they study poorly-structured work?
Salt Lake City, UT
The debate about structured programming has been around for some time; what is good technique to one programmer may be anathema to another. For an interesting discussion of the other side of this issue, see if your local Atari user group has a copy of START's Summer 1986 issue in their library (sorry, but we're sold out of that issue, and it's now a collector's item). In it you'll find Dave Small's classic article "Voodoo Computing," in which he went so far as to compare writing structured code to burning incense: "It makes your eyes hurt, and confuses the whole ceremony, but does make you feel you have accomplished something."
IBM & MAC SOFTWARE CROSSOVER
I use the IBM program Managing Your Money on my ST, running it with pc-ditto. While Managing Your Money is slow at times, it's easy to use and seems reliable. I would love to switch back to an ST product, but this is one type of program where I feel that it's absolutely necessary that the data not be compromised. Any chance of you doing a head-to-head comparison between related IBM and ST software, letting us know how they stack up?
One more thing--I've recently joined the ranks of the hard disk owners and I was wondering if you could run some articles on organizing ST hard drives, including tips on using them with pc-ditto and the Magic Sac. Since I use my computer for convenience, I would like to be able to automate as much as possible. How about desk accessories--if they load automatically each time, do they screw up games? Do they screw up pc-ditto? There's a lot of potential information to cover. Thanks for a great magazine.
New York, NY
We intend to cover a lot of ground with our new "Mac and PC on the ST" column, which begins this issue. We also welcome your suggestions on what Apple Macintosh of IBM PC software you'd like to see us review.
The next installment of "Getting Started"--our new owners column--will focus on selecting, organizing and using hard drives.
Now, since most games are copy-protected and must boot from the original disk, you'll probably want to turn off your hard drive first. If the game is not copy-protected, the presence of desk accessories shouldn't interfere with game operation unless the game is quite memory-intensive.
Avant Garde Systems, makers of the pc-ditto IBM emulator, have found that only a few ST users have reported problems using pc-ditto with desk accessories. Again, the main culprit appears to be memory-intensive programs (on the IBM side).
WANTS MORE ON DESKTOP VIDEO
In your article "Desktop Video" (START Special Issue #2 - Graphics and Music), you mention the use of an RGB-to-composite video converter, but not where one can be found. I own an Atari 1040 ST--which doesn't provide composite video out--and the only unit I've heard of is one made by Practical Solutions. Viewing its output at a recent show, it definitely outdoes the 520 STFM's in color saturation and stability, but are there others?
Incidentally, I have seen a preliminary version of another unit they are going to be putting out soon that will really open up the possibilities in this area! It is an Atari video generator/overlay/genlock unit, which will reportedly provide not only composite video generation, but will also allow the overlaying of this video onto another source, such as a VCR or TV. Apparently, the position and fade of the two video sources can be controlled with the overlaid image being output for recording. Also, it was mentioned that the genlock output will allow additional video sources--or a camera--to be synchronized to the unit, while an audio mixer is supposed to be part of the unit itself (I guess you'll also be able to mix the audio track as well!).
The uses of such a unit could open are limitless in this arena--from titling of home video productions to overlaying full animation sequences upon a "layered" production. Truly, the ST is approaching the realm of studio animation productions! Perhaps you could write a follow-up article on the types of hardware available? Please keep articles like these coming, and keep up the good work!
The Practical Solutions RGB-to-composite converter, Video Key ($119.95), has color ports for an RGB monitor as well as a composite port for composite video or VCR and an RF port for regular television. E. Arthur Brown Company also has an RGB-to-composite converter ($24.95); theirs is a cable that will convert the ST output to gray scales on a composite monitor.
Practical Solutions said their genlock device is still in its prototype stage and should be released late summer or early fall. It will have translucent, transparent and opaque overlays based on any background color. It will let you use your ST's full or partial screen, but won't allow overscan. Unfortunately, however, there are no plans at this point to include an audio mixer. (Read START for ongoing coverage of desktop video products, both hardware and software.) You can contact Practical Solutions at 1930 E. Grant Rd., Tucson, AZ 85719; their phone is (602) 884-9612. For the E. Arthur Brown Company, write to 3404 Pawnee Dr., Alexandria, MN 56308, or call (612) 762-8847.
NO START DISK?
Every issue, START features great programs on disk. If you bought this issue of START without the disk, you're missing out!
START is available with the disk for $14.95, but for those of you who want to read START first, it's available without the disk for $4.
If you want the full version of START, you can order the companion disk by calling the Disk Desk toll-free at (800) 234-7001. Our Customer Service specialists are on duty from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Pacific time. Or you can order your disk by mail using the order form inserted into this issue. Each disk is $10.95 plus $2.00 shipping and handling.