Many of you lucky readers will have recently taken delivery of a brand new UltraSatan SD-card drive for your ST. Quite a lot of people will have also had the pleasure of owning the predecessor SatanDisk for some time before. Both of these devices were the modern answer to a lot of people’s ST bulk storage prayers. Of course the path to storage heaven was not a completely smooth one. It’s not really debris-strewn but there might be the odd pebble of discontent that you may stub your toe on. Here are a few of mine, but fortunately there are workarounds for these as I’ll explain.
It is worth noting at this point that I am using a very specific configuration for my UltraSatan enjoyment. This is an early series STe, Tos 1.06 (the version with the low res booting bug), I also have Tos 2.06 and MagiC as bootable options to give me enhanced functionality on the desktop too. It is expanded to the full amount of 4mb RAM. There are no other modifications that have been done to the machine. The experiences I’m describing may be unique to my set-up. Other people’s mileage may well vary. A preliminary run with Felice’s Mega STe with his UltraSatan didn’t generate these issues at all, for example.
Okay, so let’s tell you a bit more about these sinners!
For utility software in general, where there were hassles, these tended to be with programs with some kind of custom non-GEM file selector. The elderly TCB Tracker comes to mind as being a pig, sometimes co-operating, sometimes not. Most people won’t care too much but I did actually (de)compose some stuff with it, so it’s of interest to me to listen to some very old tunes occasionally. MusicMon, in its early 1.0 incarnation did not want to talk to the SatanDisk or UltraSatan at all. Again this is not the first choice of a lot of people, but this old version has served some very specific purposes for me and has been used as a composing tool (or should that read “composting tool”?)
I also fancied some real C64 SID-sounds on my STe, so Cream’s Playsid V2 was the logical choice. This worked up to the point where it locked up on the file selector after the first tune was played, sometimes even before that. There is an easy workaround for this though, where you can install .PSD files to the application and run it just fine by clicking on the soundfile. But what about the rest of these things that are bugging me? Patience, all will be revealed soon enough.
For something different, I ventured into the world of using cunning programming tricks to display high-colour pictures in a fair resemblance of their high-coloured glory. For this, we have Douglas Little to thank. My first attempt was with the Targa (TGA) viewer provided with Apex Media, which has been shown to work just fine on an STe/floppy combination before. With both the SatanDisk and UltraSatan, it appeared to hang without trying to convert and display a targeted picture. There was no difference between using drag and drop Tos 2.06, and the more laborious command-line to .ttp for Tos 1.06. This is possibly another casualty of the non-gem file handling? However, my second attempt with the more specifically written for the ST family picture viewer ‘Photochrome’ worked fine, but then again, this program did revert to a recognizable GEM menu when loading in something.
There was a conclusive workaround which sorted out all the issues described above. Very simply, having the full 4mb allows you to indulge in setting up a ramdisk. The Hybris reset-proof version did the job for me. Once this is installed on the desktop, you copy the difficult program or picture files into the ramdisk and run as normal, job done! Remembering of course if you are doing any work you would like to keep, to copy the files across to the more permanent storage before you switch the machine off!
We’re moving onto games and demos now. There were some issues raised which I’ll go into now. For example, some of the D-Bug conversations tended to be happier and not produce a row of bombs if a large chunk of memory was not occupied with a Tos 2.06 image file to start with. So I tended to run these under the plain Tos 1.06 environment. From reading around, I discovered this may be a bigger memory issue, as the Falcon 030 aimed portovers apparently need as much of the 4mb they can get their hands on? I hadn’t got around to tweaking the HD-Driver memory useage to minimum as yet as that hasn’t come up as a major problem so far.
I did have issues with a handful of demos. The most prominent was with ‘Breath’, the Mystic Bytes Error in Line 1999 entry. this freezes or stops after the first static picture, although the music plays on. The other demo which behaved in an inconclusive manner was ‘Hallucination’ by the Reservoir Gods. This drifted to a stop prematurely. Once again, Hybris ramdisk came to the rescue, enabling both of these demos to run through perfectly once they were copied there.
Having a Tos 2.06 Rom image in memory can cause problems of its own. The Pacemaker demo by Paradox was found to really need to run in Tos 1.06 mode, otherwise it lost the blue part of the palette!
Most other things that I tried seem to be just fine with SatanDisk and UltraSatan. Having a SDHC card in the latter case seems to make no difference. I was unable to reproduce these issues on the sole other machine that I’ve tried so far, which was Felice’s Mega STe.
As always, this is an open format publication with comments enabled, so let’s hear about any experiences you might have had with the UltraSatan and your solutions to any issues.
CiH, for Low Res Mag, October 2009, written live from the Alt Party!