Classic Computer Magazine Archive ANTIC VOL. 6, NO. 5 / SEPTEMBER 1987

Products Reviews

Orion Micro Systems
2211 Planters Row Drive
Midlothian, VA 23113
(804) 794-9437
Requires SpartaDOS 3.2d
$39.95, 48K disk

Reviewed by Cabell Clarke

My Atari 130XE bulletin board system (The Boot Factory, (804)262-9289--ANTIC ED) grew to the point where I needed a hard disk, so I put together my own set-up using the ICD Multi I/O reviewed in Antic, April 1987.

Soon I realized it was absolutely necessary to have the hard disk fully backed up, because it was just as vulnerable to my DOS fumbles as the floppy system had been--but now errors were much more disastrous.

Trying to back up the subdirectory using DOS was extremely slow and cumbersome. So I was pieased when Orion Micro Systems asked me to beta test for their new backup program, HardBack. (My only connection with Orion is as an occasional volunteer beta tester and I have never received any payments frrom them.)

HardBack makes fast, simple and reliable backups of high-capacity drives and RAMdisks. Minimal typing and disk-swapping is required. This is a lot easier than copying with batch files and trying to optimize your hard disk space at the same time.

HardBack is written in ACTION! and compiled with the runtime package so you don't need the ACTION! cartridge. It consists of the backup program itself and a second program that restores backed up files to the hard disk or RAMdisk.

Currently, HardBack runs runs only under SpartaDOS v .3.2d. It supports the Ultra-Speed sector skew available with ICD's U.S. Doubler, thus greatly speeding the backup. But it will work with any Atari-compatible disk drive. HardBack is not only for hard disk users. It's excellent for backing up large RAMdisks and Quadruple-density floppy drives.

With the HardCopy option, you can completely document your backup in a disk file, printout, or both. From your printout you can easily locate your stored files on the backup disks. And since the files are stored in standard DOS fformat, they are instantly accessible with DOS commands.

HardBack is not copy-protected, but you must give the serial number to run the program. Next, specify the source path--D1: through D8: or Dn:[SUBDIR], etc. You can start anywhere you want. HardBack then asks for the destination drive, which must be different from the source. And if you choose to back up files by date, HardBack copies only those files with a date later than the one you specify.

Next, HardBack will ask you for your format preferences--NO FORMAT, REINIT ONLY, FORMAT, USE PRESET OPTIONS. If your disks are already formatted, select the first option and go. If your disks were used previously, you must REINIT them in order to free all space. This process only rewrites the directory sectors to free all space and ready the disks for backup. No formatting is actually performed.

Choosing to format each disk gives you a menu of format options which allow for single or double density, single or double-sided drives, and U.S. Doubler Utra-Speed. If you need more disks than you prepared, don't panic-options can be changed at each disk-swap.

After your format selections are made, HardBack reads your source disk and builds the subdirectory table. Insert the disk into your destination drive and press any key to start the backup. As each disk fills up, you are prompted to insert the next disk and continue.

HardBack also has disk optimization (space saving) options. Selecting file-splitting across your floppies uses every byte on the disk. Then it splits the current open file (if necessary) and writes the remaining bytes to the next floppy. The filename of any split file is written to a header file on that floppy.

When restoring the hard disk or RAMdisk, the opposite takes place. HardBack's second program, RESTORE.COM, reads the header file to determine if the backup disk is in the proper sequence and if a split file is at the beginning of that disk. During restoration, any split-off files are appended to the previous file.

This is a tremendous feature. Users can swap disks and read magazines while HardBack fills each disk and manages the files. Also, HardBack uses as few disks as possible. (If you'd rather not split the files) you can turn off that option.)

You can choose to veriffy the restoration of any file, or just let HardBack restore all files on your floppies. The software re-creates all necessary sub-directories on your hard disk.

HardBack lets you start your restoration anywhere in the sequence. For instance, you can restore the hard disk starting with floppy number five. This saves time if you restore with a different subdirectory. And if you must abort a restoration, you can start where you aborted--you don't have to start from scratch.

I've foolishly trashed the directory on my own hard disk several times, and HardBack has really saved the day. You can back up individual directories--bypassing the trashed directories so that the Hard Drive is not a total loss. I know you that you can do that with DOS, but HardBack is a lot easier and quicker.

HardBack is one of the nicest 8-bit tools in years. I can't do without it. I highly recommend this product for hard disk users, BSS sysops and anyone who needs to maintain backups of their high-capacity drives.

(Version 2)
Small Systems Innovation
600 West 21 Avenue
Apache Junction, AZ 85220
(602) 983-2686
$49.95, 48K disk

Reviewed by Gregg Pearlman

When Antic reviewed the original version of System-80 in the June 1987 issue, we praised its crisp, readable 80-column display but pointed out that it had few of the word processing features accepted as standard.

The revised version of System-80 arrived just as the June issue went off to the printer. For some reason, the new 80-column display isn't quite as readable, even on a monochrome monitor. But the program's added word processing features now include cut-and-paste and a fine search-and-replace. Printer control codes are accessed via macros (keystroke series saved in memory).

Most System-80 commands are mnemonic--[CONTROL] [T] takes you to the top of a file, [CONTROL] [D] duplicates a block of text, etc.-- but some are strange. For example, to change uppercase text to lowercase, you must press [CONTROL] [CAPS]. You'd think that command would also work in changing lowercase to upper, but instead you must use [CONTROL] [SHIFT] [CAPS].

Search-and-replace is probably the best new feature in this package. It's fast and complete, and you can skip an occurrence of a search string or replace them all. The block move function also works well.

The program has a 16K text buffer, but it still doesn't wordwrap--either onscreen or in printouts--or indicate how much room is left either in the buffer or on the disk. Also, the directory gives only filenames, not file sizes.

Carriage returns are not visible onscreen, and you can't put them inside paragraphs (to split an overlong paragraph as an afterthought, for example). Also, there's no insert mode, just overstrike. And the cursor disappears while moving along a row or column, so you can't really tell where it is until you stop cursoring.

System-80 uses "short sectors" of 80 bytes each. That is, each 80-column line in a System-80 file is saved as a single sector, and the remaining 45 (usable) bytes are filled with extraneous text or special symbols. If you examine these sectors with a sector editor such as DISKWIZ-II, you'll see something like this:

Each 80-
column l
ine in a
80 file
is saved
as a si
ngle sec
tor. If
you exa

The final "xxx" in the above example represents the link pointer. Those 45 bytes won't hurt you any, but they can muddle things a bit if you try to edit that file in a word processor that uses all 125 available bytes in a sector.

Each carriage return/linefeed is saved as 80 blank spaces, adding to the overall bulk of the newly-formatted file. Also saved are 14-sector files with ".MAC" extenders--the're blank macro files which you can delete.

I calculated that 40 sectors of a 40-column text file in PaperClip or AtariWriter would translate to approximately 83 sectors in the System-80 format--making the files just about twice as large.

Overall, System-80 is a valiant effort that is more user-friendly than some other 80-column word processors for the 8-bit Atari. But many potential purchasers will be put off by the lack of wordwrap and the space-hogging file format.

Mindscape Inc.
3444 Dundee Road
Northbrook, IL 60062
(312) 480-7667
$29.95, 48K disk

Reviewed by Gregg Pearlman

If your favorite games include Ballblazer and Marble Madness, then you'll enjoy Mindscape's TrailBlazer as sort of a combination of both. The graphics are crisp and interesting, while this game is fast-paced and none too easy to master.

Using the joystick or keyboard, you must maneuver an extraterrestrial soccer ball down the "hyperspatial color grid" and across the finish line before the allotted time runs out. Moving the joystick forward to go faster, backward to slow down, and left and right to go left and right is simple enough, as is pressing the joystick button to "jump.'' But you'll find tough obstacles such as black holes or squares that move the ball in the opposite direction of the way you intended.

In fact, each square color has a different function. Blue has no effect-- they're the "safe" squares. Yellow bounces you, which can help or hurt, depending on your proximity to a black hole. Purple (or pink, depending on your monitor) moves you right when you want to go left, or vice versa--but pushing the joystick forward or backward works as usual. Green speeds you up and red slows you down. Flashing squares turn on warp speed. The black holes are just that--holes in the grid for your ball to fall into. They dump you back on track (if your lucky) but you lose time.

One or two players can compete in arcade or trial modes, or one player can challenge a "robot" opponent. You score 10 points for each square traversed and 100 while in Warp speed. You also get bonus points for time remaining after each course, as well as a bonus game for every three courses completed.

In arcade or robot options, you can jump only seven times per course, but you get credit for unused jumps in previous courses. However, jumps are unlimited in trial mode and if you hold down the joystick button just after the ball starts moving, you can complete the course in under 11 seconds. Obviously, this defeats the purpose of the game.

TrailBlazer's graphics are similar to Ballblazer, but even better--less chunky. Another similarity lies in the split-screen display--player 1 is on top, and player 2 or the robot is on the bottom. The game resembles Marble Madness in its basic premise-- moving the ball over the course without falling off the edge or down a hole.

TrailBlazer comes on a Commodore/Atari "flippy" disk, with the Atari version on side 2, as always. The eight-page manual is as clear as it needs to be.

Overall, TrailBlazer is easy to play but difficult to play well. You might while away countless hours trying to zip through the 21 courses and improve upon your previous high score, but your hands could ache from all the joystick manipulations.