Archive for the ‘Low Res Issue #2’ Category

Low Res #2

December 28, 2009

Low Res #2 Cover by Samurai / Inter

Content issue #2 Dezember 2009

Editorial #2

December 28, 2009

The best team is a team where the members often disagree to each other!

That’s my experience after 2 issues of Low Res. All of our team members who join regularly our irc channel [1] know what I mean. We met, discuss and very often we disagree. I think that if you have a look at the topics we disagree on, in the end its most of the time the same question:

Should we only concentrate on atari or should we be open minded for all retro stuff going on.

Being open minded looks always to be the right decision and you could kill any discussion with the argument “you are not open minded enough”. It’s a kind of opportunism, if you have no real arguments on the specific topic.

As an example we had a longer discussion about the subtitle of the magazine:

a web magazine made by Retro computing fans

It was a longer discussion not to have the name of our beloved system in the subtitle, but its was worth to discuss instead of blame everybody else as being not open minded.

This kind of discussing and disagreements aren’t negative, they helped us to keep up a higher level in the mag.

Enjoy issue #2

Finally here we are, live from the Ultimate Meeting (T.U.M.) in Karlsruhe / Germany we are happy (that the release stress is over finally 🙂 to present you issue #2 of our blog mag.

This time CiH, well known article machine of former Atari disks magazines joined our team, so you get some more to read 🙂

Last issue I wrote, that we believe in the idea of a blog mag. But who know if something works before you tried it out. In the end, we all at Low Res are very excited about the reactions on issue #1. We got more feedback we expected. Many thanks to all, who gave us feedback.

Also thanks to Samurai for his cover picture. Thanks a lot mate.


Links


1. #lowres on ircnet

News #2

December 28, 2009

Atari STE 20 Year Mega Demo

Go to http://www.dhs.nu to download the long awaited 20 years mega demo for the Atari STE.

Happy birthday bloody grey beast 🙂

Attackwave (Falcon)

Our team member SSB released a new game for the ATARI ST called Attackwave [1].

Attackwave

There was also already a STOT round [2] where we played Attackwave. SSB sponsored 3 handmade 3.5″ disks with Attackwave a as kind of limited edition of the game for the winners.

Retro Shirts

Some greek based people do a nice Retro Game Shirt Shop at ebay [3] . If your personal favorite game is not covered by the shirt collection, don’t hesitate to request a motive. I for example miss Speedball and Xenon II.


Retro paper toys

Simon Phipps released Rick Dangerous & Switchblade paper toys [4].

Vintage Computer Calendar updates

MugUK (Mike) has joined the Vintage Computer Calendar [5] team. Mug will maintain the UK based retro meetings. Because there are a lot, it’s good to have him in the team.

The calendar is now also connected at:

  • Atari Shop NL [6]
  • Computer Party Maniacs group at Facebook

Castle crisis competition at the Homecon IV

At the forth issue of the Homecon [7] meeting Wizard/WGL organized a Castle crisis [8] competition played on a Atari XL.

The next issue of the Homecon is soon (23th of January). There it is planed to play Blip [9] on a Atari XL.

Kick Off WC 2009

A lot could be written about the Kick Off WC 2009 [10] in Voitsberg / Austria, but you could simply watch this nice video

Gianni T. once again won the title, even that the final against Sypros P. was very close. The chances are good that the next WC will be in Düsseldorf / Germany.

e-jagfest

As you could read in the e-jagfest article in this issue, there were some great competitions. Here a video of the European Checkered Flag Championship

Scandinavian Kick Off Championship

The Scandinavian Kick Off Championship [11] took place in Lund near Malmö in the south of Sweden. The trainings were held in Copenhagen / Denmark, so it was a kind of multinational event.

Beside the training and the tournament, there was also a fine evening meal in Malmö where the WC qualification game Denmark – Sweden (1-0) was broadcasted.

STOT season #3 started

The STOT started season #3. First game was Paradroid 90. This season all games were elected before the season started. Have a look at the season plan [12].

In Melbourne at the Mace (Melbourne Atari Computer Enthusiasts) meetings, they now regulary take part in the competitions, which is a great motivation.

With the beginning of season #3 there is a partnership with Atarimania, so that the players get some more information’s about the actual game and if possible a download offer.

Abbuc Bundesliga season #7 started

Bunsen / Reno^WGL reported:
With River Raid we played a true classic (fist game ever on the German index for games that glorifying violence 🙂 as the first game of season #7 of the Abbuc Bundesliga. To short the game a little bit, we started at bridge 50.

The winner [13] was Yellow man. 2nd was Dietrich the Champion of the last season.

Bavarian Kick Off Championship

At the Xzentrix we had our traditional Bavarian Kick Off Championship [14]. This time we managed to get more players to take part than last year and we had a new champion: Frank F.

Frank and Thorsten playing Kick Off 2 during Xzentrix 2009

Frank F. and Thorsten B. playing Kick Off 2 during Xzentrix 2009

Links


1. Download Attackwave
2. Attackwave STOT round thread
3. Retro Shirt shop
4. Simon Phipps paper toys
5. Vintage Computer calendar
6. Atari Shop NL
7. HomeCon website
8. Castle crisis at Atarimania
9. Blip at Atarimania
10. Kick Off WC 2009 stats
11. Scandinavian Kick Off Championship thread at KO-Gathering
12. STOT season plan
13. Abbuc Bundesliga season #7 round:1 results
14. Kick Off Bavarian Championship thread at KO-Gathering

The future of ST web collections: Atarimania

December 28, 2009

Since years ATARIMANIA[1] is a well known source for all Atari 8 Bit fans. Now since some time, it extend it’s collections to also cover the ST computers. Not long ago, there was a relaunch of the site. So it was a good opportunity to have some words with one of the main responsible for the ST part of the site: Marakatti.

The new design

The new game screen

LR: Please introduce yourself.
Marakatti: My name is Marko, I live in southern part of Finland (the promised land of C64, Amiga and Windows) with my wife, 2 kids, 2 dogs and lots of Atari-machines and software. I’ve been active ST user since 1990 and own Atari machines from 2600 to Jaguar and from 400 to Falcon030. In the earlier days I was a gfx-man of Alien Nation and Depression crews. I also used to collect computers and videogames from 1997 to 2005 or something and have total of 135 machines and around 1500 original software titles for different systems.

LR: What is your function in Atarimania ?
Marakatti: My main job is to build the ST / TT / Falcon030 database (games, utils, demos), make Pasti-images from the originals we get or own, do a lot of scanning (disks, box, magazines, and whatever are related to ST software) and the most important part, to add the stuff our contributors send for us.
As every member of Atarimania I also participate to design, bug hunting and suggesting new features for the website and the special program we use to update the Atarimania. I try to work at least 1-2 hours every day for the site so you could say that there’s every day something new to see. I think 11 hours a day is my current record ;)

LR: How did you start participating in Atarimania?
Marakatti: In April 2008 things were very silent at the Guardians of the PaST. Team had lost the coder, founders needed to take a break for their hard work and the database engine wasn’t working 100%. It was a bit of uncertainty what comes next and when. So I was looking for a another project to keep the flame burning while the Guardians was on hold.
I noticed a site called Atarimania which was listed on RetroGamer magazine. It looked cool and I saw that the ST database wasn’t yet published. So I sent mail to the team, told a bit about myself and asked if I can help building the ST section. I got accepted to enter Atarimania. Later I worked for the both sites but as things got more and more silent on the Guardians side so I chose to concentrate my energy for Atarimania which is now my main Atari-project.

LR: What are the highlights of the relaunch of Atarimania? When did the relaunch was planed, and how long did it took?
Marakatti: It was amazing how fast our coder did the whole site from scratch concerning he has a fulltime job. I think the first concepts were done in late January. The new design really took off in May or so and we already had a new version running in early September. We’re still fixing bugs, cleaning the site and adjusting some minor things. This is pretty much done and we can concentrate to build the ST database again which still needs very much work to be equal to other areas of Atarimania.

About highlights I think the best thing is “My Atarimania”. It’s a totally new concept in Atari world where you can keep easy list of your Atari software online no matter where you are. It has already been very popular feature amongst the game collectors.
Generally speaking the whole site is now much faster and easier to navigate thanks to the fact that it’s fully recoded with Webdev instead of PHP. This also allows easier and more flexible expansion for future features.
We tried to make it more user friendly experience for our visitors and also have the latest web technology under the hood for the future.

LR: How many people are involved in Atarimania and how are they organized?
Marakatti: At the moment we have 10 active members from France, Germany, Spain, Sweden and Finland.
Six members are working on 8bit Atari-machines and four for ST / TT / Falcon030. It’s a funny coincidence that most of the ST team are from Scandinavia.

LR: Are there dependencies between the different systems, or are systems like the VCS and ST independent in Atarimania?
Marakatti: The ST section is most independent from the others. With an exception of our coder, we don’t do maintenance work for 8bit systems. Atarimania has originally been built around 8-bit machines so it’s natural that the founders work for console and 8-bit computers.
In fact 8 and 16+bit machines don’t share that much similarities apart from Atari name and the case design of XE. So both require special kind of expertise and most importantly years of experience. I have to admit I don’t even have enough knowledge to use 8-bit Atari computers properly apart from loading some games or watching the absolutely fantastic demos this “babyamiga” has to offer. These guys are best for the job so ST section can concentrate doing our own thing. Having said that I will ofcourse be here to help if things like scanning or taking screenshots is needed.

LR: Why is there an own forum with topics like “programming”, why not reuse “Atari-Forum” or “Atari Age” or whatever?
Marakatti: I think our forum main purpose is to allow interaction between visitors and Atarimania. The other areas like utils and demos are also expanding so it’s natural to have our own little forum for that. It is true that Atari-Forum and Atari Age are the most active places for community. We don’t try to compete against them.

LR: What number of games do you expect to be listed in AM in the end?
Marakatti: For single ST/TT/Falcon titles we try to reach the magical 5000 games limit. I still think there might be some PD or personal archives to be explored. But it will take a lot of time to go this far as we now need to concentrate to fill up the gaps in the current database.
For the total number when you count different releases like budget-versions and country specific releases + the utils and demos for that, no one can’t even imagine the total number! I think we are going to see well over 10000 entries in couple of years.

LR: Is there a chance, that the Atarimania project will die (the ST part) as Guardians of the PaST died?
Marakatti: First of all I think it’s too early to say if the Guardians have died or not. It had a habit of having big breaks, and then suddenly something moves a bit again. As I spent hundreds of hours working for that project I still have a soft spot for the site in my heart and would be sad to see it vanished completely.

I’m sure that Atarimania will survive as long as we have a coder to supports us and there’s nothing dramatically in our families lives. We spent our childhood with different Atari systems, we love to play with our machines now when we are adults and we want to preserve the good old days for the future generations when we’re gone. Three very important things that keeps us together.

LR: The strange thing on GotpST was, that it was only interested in “Commercial” games, what’s the opinion on PD and Shareware games on AM?
Marakatti: It was this way because Guardians goal is to preserve everything including complete game boxes. It was something that most people didn’t realize.

In Atarimania our ultimate goal is to save every software title released no matter under what license, where or who published them. As far as the commercial stuff goes we prefer to use Pasti-images for protected games to have as fresh copy as possible, that’s why we decided not to use any cracks. We have nothing against crackers though, without them the ST history wouldn’t be complete and no one could enjoy as large software base as we can today.
But the thing is that there are already mighty CD or DVD compilations available from DBug, our newest member Marcer and from many other people in the past. But no one hasn’t succeeded making the ultimate Atari ST / TT / Falcon030 software archive yet with as unmodified software as possible. So PD, demo and shareware stuff is most welcome, it would be a real loss to miss such classics like, let’s say Llamatron.

LR: I saw on a C64 Forum, that they have videos of each level of a game, do you think that will come as a future feature in AM as well?
Marakatti: Very tempting idea. It would be possible with the games that have trainers or by hiring Xerus to play everything for us :D

Couple of ST videos are already uploaded with much more to come. Time will tell if we manage to go this far. I have to admit I really enjoy watching the Amiga speed runs from YouTube and would love to see such thing on Atarimania someday.

LR: What are the next steps in the project?
Marakatti: Main priority on ST is now to take screenshots for the current entries and to make as much Pasti dumps available as possible. In total we have well over 1000 boxed originals waiting to be pastified and/or scanned + the new contributions we get every week.
We will also do our best to find lots of previews, reviews, work in progress etc. documents to be added as well as videos and otherwise unreleased material not found from other Atari websites.
I’m also a huge fan of Falcon030 so thanks to the already very good Falcon emulation on Hatari we are finally able to build decent Falcon database as well. I think we also start soon working on Jaguar section when we have figured out how to get decent screenshots.

LR: What are your dream features of Atarimania?
Marakatti: In the future when the database is ready I would like to see Guardians style things in Atarimania like the expanded background information of games, ability to play ST-game music files, wider selection of screenshots etc..
It would be great to be able to play ST games directly from the website like on VCS section. Also the idea of having rotating 3D software boxes sounds very cool to me.

But my ultimate dream is that I would like to see the members of Guardians of the PaST, Atari Legend, Atarimania and other ST sites to work together for one big project that would challenge the big sites like Hall of Light on Amiga or World of Spectrum instead of trying to do things on our own. ST scene is just too small for that.
Just look at the VCS and 8bit databases. They are real flagships of Atarimania. It just shows what is possible when you have motivation and dedication to give your best shot and get people to support the project. We have the technology and motivation so it can be done on ST as well. So far the support has been great but there’s always space for more stuff and people.

LR: What are your favorite ST games?
Marakatti: I’m a big fan of racing games on any platform, so almost anything from that genre goes. I think the best ones on ST are games from Magnetic Fields (Lotus and Super Cars series), Vroom, Microprose GP, Toyota Celica GT Rally and Stunt Car Racer. From other than racing games I enjoy very much playing Kick Off and all the classics like Gauntlet II, Ikari Warriors, Xenon, Arkanoid II, Fighter Bomber, Llamatron and Obsession just to name a few. I bet there are still dozens of great games I’ve never even played. That’s what makes ST gaming so fascinating :)

LR: Many thanks for this great interview, and our best wishes for the future of the project

Links


1. Atarimania website

The truth about the Amstrad CPC

December 28, 2009

Most users owned one only retro computer system or only a couple of them from one brand. We got in touch with other systems, but not in detail. So a bigger part of our knowledge about other systems are prejudices. We liked them in the past, because they were an excuse to keep a closer look on other systems. In this article, I put all my prejudices against the Amstrad CPC on the CPC-Forum [1]. Thanks to the open mindness of the people there we had a very good discussion and I think that most of my prejudices were wrong.

Tunnel Look / Ignorancia: There were no good Joysticks around for the Amstrad because it had a own joystick standard

Octate / CPC-Forum: The CPC uses a standard 9-pin SUB-D connector, so you can connect all standard joysticks to it. However, it only has one port so you need a joystick adapter to add the second port. The missing 5V power supply on the SUB-D port prevents auto-fire from working, but, as already said, you can connect a standard joystick (e.g. I’m using a Competition Pro).

OpenMind / Tollerancia: Ok, there were other computers that had no joystick connector or only one (the Spectrum for example). Now I know what the CPC switch on some joysticks meant. It was the autofire. Thanks for the answer, it extend my horizon.

Tunnel Look / Ignorancia: The 3 inch disks were exspencive like hell and no CPC user owned a floppy drive

Octate / CPC-Forum: Only the CPC464 and 464 Plus had no floppy drive, the 664, 6128 and 6128 Plus came directly with an inbuilt floppy drive. It is also possible to connect a 3.5″ PC floppy drive to the CPC which is the standard today.

TFM / CPC-Forum: Most of the CPCs had a floppy drive built in. Further most of the CPC users use an additional external 3.5″ or 5.25″ floppy drive with inexpensive discs. Since the CPC had a standard drive adapter, nearly every drive can be connected. Even some actual PC 3.5″ drives can be connected.

Tunnel Look / Ignorancia: But every school kid had to deal with drugs on the schoolyard to be able to buy at least one 3″ disk to get some pirate copies for his 664 or 6128, they were so expensive, so in reality everybody used datasettes I guess.

Almasys / CPC-Forum: indeed, I had to use cassettes when I was in school. One pack (10 pieces) of Panasonic 3″ disks had to be enough. But on the other hand, a normal cassette player was much cheaper than a 5,25″ disk drive.

Octoate / CPC-Forum: I got a 5,25″ drive soon after I bought a 3″ drive for my CPC 464. The disks were cheaper of course. A bigger problem for me was, that nobody else owned a CPC at that time. Most people owned a C64

Tunnel Look / Ignorancia: All CPC died after half a year because the floppy belt got broken

Octate / CPC-Forum: Not half a year (it lasts longer), but we can’t deny that it is the main cause for a hardware failure of the “CPC”.

TFM / CPC-Forum: have a CPC running, bought in 1987, it still uses the original floppy and drive belt. Had never a need to change a part.
The drive belt problem only appears if the drive is not used for a long time.

OpenMind / Tollerancia: Is it hard to get a replacement?

Alamsys / CPC-Forum: Not at all, I get them from a local TV & radio repair shop

Octoate / CPC-Forum: There are enough Ebay auctions around, to get one.

Tunnel Look / Ignorancia: The Z80 CPU suxx because even with more MHz a 6502 machine had the faster 3D graphics

TFM / CPC-Forum: The original prototype CPC had a 6502. But this CPU was too weak, so Amstrad decided to switch to the powerful Z80 CPU. Look at Starglider with 3d Vector graphics or Driller for 3D solid graphic. The CPC versions beat every other system, especially the slow and ugly c64 versions.
When looking at the game Mercenary the Atari 800XL and the CPC versions were superior compared to all other so called home computers (16 bit machines excluded).

Cpt_void / CPC-Forum: A friend (hardcore C64 user) throw the joystick away after playing Elite. He said, it unplayable, it’s to fast.

Tunnel Look / Ignorancia: The CPC was not able to scroll as good as the other 8 Bit machines

Octoate / CPC-Forum: Well, have a look at the Giana Sister Remake [2] by TFM and Tolkin. It has smooth scrolling in overscan mode. I guess that this prejudice is caused by the bad Spectrum game ports. It’s much better on a real CPC, cause the CPC monitor had hardware antializing.

OpenMind / Tollerancia: Are there other examples then this Giana Sister Remake ( Or is the real reason you mention it the fact that the ST version of Giana Sisters did not scroll 🙂 Is it hard to code a scrolling?

Octoate / CPC-Forum:

  • Prehistorik II
  • Super Cauldron
  • Axys
  • Warhawk

that are example for good Hardware Scrolling. To code scrolling, you need some OUT orders to some registers of the CRTC and you have to keep an eye on the screen border. It’s more complicated if you use the overscan mode.

TFM / CPC-Forum: Take an old game of the old days… TLL! Watch TLL (Tornado Low Level) once on a CPC and you will never talk about scrolling!!! Really! Watch it !!! !!! !!! Bye the way, it’s not hard to code scrolling. Look at all the demos Wink

Tunnel Look / Ignorancia: There are no demos around for the CPC

Octate / CPC-Forum: Have a look at the demo section at Pouet [3]. There are a lot of them…

TFM / CPC-Forum: Take a look at the web and you will need about 99 years to watch all demos Wink

Tunnel Look / Ignorancia: I expected to get names from really good demos from you, are there none?

Octoate / CPC-Forum: Of course there are interesting demos, but not as much as on other systems. Of the newer ones, I like

  • From Scratch
  • Pheelone
  • Backtro
  • PHAT
  • PHAT 2
  • Demoizart
  • Hate Beats
  • Midline Process
  • A step beyond

Of the older ones, I like:

  • das Ultimate Megademo
  • The Demo
  • Voyage 93.

Tunnel Look / Ignorancia: The most unsuccessful Amstrad machine was the Joyce

TFM / CPC-Forum: Wrong, the Joyce was in fact one of the most successful systems for word processing. And in the time of its release it was superior to the PC.

OpenMind / Tollerancia: I heard, that Amstrad sold 8 million Joyce, so they even sold more units than ATARI with the ST range.

Tunnel Look / Ignorancia: Nobody used CP/M in the old days

TFM / CPC-Forum: CP/M was the standard OS in the old days like Windows today.
And it provides still a trendemous software library.

AMSi / CPC-Forum: Thanks to CP/M, applications like WordStar and dBase II were available right at the launch of the CPC. Turbo Pascal was also very popular. The ability to use CP/M was one of the reasons of the success of the CPC.

Nilquader / CPC-Forum: I had computer science at school and we had to write programs in LOGO. The school had to upgrade almost all of their computers to run PC Logo, but I could do my homework on the CPC. Thanks to CP/M and DR LOGO.

Many thanks to the people at the CPC-Forum to understand the intention behind the questions and to cooperate in that great manner. See you soon at a party guys.

Links


1. CPC-Forum
2. Gianna Systers Remake playable via a emulator online
3. Pouet

The future of the patches

December 28, 2009

Maybe the most important breakthrough in atari gaming in the past years was the invention of the ULS by d-bug. Thanks to this technology, Atari gamer are able to play old ST classics on a Falcon direct from the hard disk.
This year d-bug announced on their webpage [1], that they will stop patching games, so I like to do this interview with GGN of d-bug to ask him some questions about what could we expect in the future.

LR: Could you please introduce yourself

GGN: George Nakos, originating and living in Greece, 32 years old (I think :P), coder (and rarely crap artist) of the groups KÜA software productions, D-Bug and Paradize. I hang around at #atariscne a lot, tormenting people with my crap humor and sometimes I even help.

LR: As a lot of our readers aren’t familiar with the Falcon, could you please explain in some words, what you do to patch a game.

GGN: Well, that’s a pretty big subject on its own and would take a couple of articles on its own to answer fully ;). I’ll keep it short, simple and non technical though: Most ST games are only meant to run from a floppy, so we have used lots of techniques (including ULS) which basically change the disk routines so that they load from hard drive instead. This is not limited to the Falcon only (indeed the first ULS version was for STs). Falcon fixing includes changing 68000 code that doesn’t work on 68030, and generally running the game, see if it works or not, fix any apparent or possible crashes, and release.

LR: What is the current status of the d-bug activities concerning Falcon patches?

GGN: Well, we aren’t exactly busting a nut fixing stuff. We mostly do it at our leisure time. A couple years ago it was almost our only Atari activity. Now we just patch something if we get bored or would like to see it running on Falcon. This years December-full-of-releases came into being just because Cyrano Jones patched 5 games in a couple of hours, and then the next day I did the same, then we added some other stuff we had lying around, et voila!

LR: What could we expect in the future?

GGN: Being lax doesn’t mean we don’t have ideas 🙂

Recently we had an idea that (we hope) will spark some new interest in ST gaming. If all goes well, we’ll announce it in January 1st!

Otherwise, there are always things we can do to improve ULS. Don’t know if there’ll ever be a v4 of it though, again it depends on our moods.

LR: On the Amiga the WHD Load system exist for years, and it looks like there is still a lot of activity, is this project comparable to your patches?

GGN: Yes, it is comparable. Cyrano Jones told me that it originated from a Showaddywaddy quote on irc which was something along the lines of: “I wish we could switch off TOS!”. At that moment a small light bulb appeared on top of CJ’s head, and soon “TOSOff” (renamed to Universal Loading System for marketing reasons :P) was created. Of course it was influenced by WHDLoad, but it shares 0% code with it. Actually, with ULSv3 we have even one-upped them by introducing save states on the games (similar to emulator save states).

LR: How could people participate in the project?

GGN: ULSv3 is open source, so people simply need to download it, read the online documentation on our website and start patching! All they need is some 68000 knowledge, a copy of the compendium and the hardware address listing really.

LR: What are your personal 3 favorite games on the ST?

GGN: Very very very very very very very tough question! Interphase is surely one of them, a brilliant mix of 3D and real time strategy. Wings of death, no comments really. Turrican 2, again no comments. And since I just put a trainer on this interview, I’m free to give you 3 more :P. Another World, Prince of Persia and Vroom!

LR: Many thanks GGN for this interview, will be interesting of what kind your January Announcement will be.

Links


1. d-bug website

Where are they now? Missing Demos.

December 28, 2009

Ok, it’s time to get a bit of ‘demoscene’ content in this publication. The focus ought to be on the Atari scene as well. It would be too easy to toss off a review of the great triumphs of the year, such as the epic Suretrip 2 demo, the keenly awaited port of ‘Starstruck’ for the CT60 Falcon, Dead Hackers unexpected and welcome Sommerhack invitro, MJJ Productions spanking the STe with ‘Another Kid Story’, or even Excellence in Art’s welcome return.

There is the little matter of some forthcoming goodies such as the 20th Anniversary STe demo and others, but we seem to have left a few things on the road through 2009. Specifically, I’d like to ask what is happening to two previewed demos which were seen earlier this year but not (as yet) released.

I’m talking about the ‘Hidden Agenda’ demo from the Gathering party in Easter and Dune and Sector One’s Numerica party demo which was first shown in March, shown off again at the Outline party, and not heard from since.

Hidden agenda was the more unfinished preview. It should not have actually been shown in the state it was shown. It had the distinction of requiring a 14MB STe, such a machine could exist, but needed some soldering first! Proteque advised that they had ‘top men’ working on it back in April, although we were warned that it would take some time.

"Our top Brains are working on finishing this!"

"Our top Brains are working on finishing this!"

To be fair, I had the good fortune to sit next to Nerve at the recent Alt Party, who was able to update me further. There had been more work done, so what was there now was substantially different from the shown version at The Gathering. There was more to do and he offered to donate the source code if it helped, but as my coding skills add up to something less than zero, it would not have been any use.

Out of this missing pair, the demo from Dune and Sector One appeared to be the most polished and almost ready to go for release. We felt it would only be a matter of weeks before it was out in the wild. It turned up again at Outline in a teasing manner. The last mention of it was relating to a coding weekend with Dune on the 22nd to 23rd August. That date came and went, ominously quietly, and nothing has been heard since.

So, can anyone tell me where these cool demos are? The nice thing about this magazine is the blog format which allows people to post comments after the article, so if anyone feels like sharing any knowledge, feel free!

And before anyone asks in a retaliatory fashion about the extremely delayed issue of Alive Mag, Sorry, ask the missing German person as I’ve no idea what’s happening there..

CiH, October 2009 for Low Res Magazine.

Whilst we are awaiting the final appearance of this issue of Low Res Mag, Chuck of Dune only goes and answers the question about UFO. It seems it will remain ‘missing in action’ for a while yet, but something else is coming up shortly in the meantime.

Chuck / Dune:

Hi,

Life happens 😉

We are working on something different now, will be available in the end of this year 😉

For the UFO i don’t know exactly when it will be finished sorry because our code time isn’t elastic…

Hopefully our Mic alarms system is working in full mode and He will kick our ass to finish this in the next month … Believe him 😉

Thanks for your text 😉 it is really a good news for us to see that some of you are looking for our prods 😉 But you will be happy in december 😉

Sodium by Rave Noise Overscan.

December 28, 2009

An intro for the ST..

The 2009 edition of the Alternative party had quite a healthy presence of Atarian life-forms there. Apart from the usual UK visiting team, we were graced by the arrival of some hackers of a deceased persuasion, but I will tell more of what they got up to in another textfile. We also saw another ST set up nearby, with a  brand new UltraSatan hanging off it in an umbilical fashion. This machine belonged to Britelite, the coder working for long time Commodore botherers, Rave Noise Overscan, or RNO for short.

It turned out that they had written a short production for it, with the intention of showing it off at the Alternative party, good for them!

It is a tightly packed proggy, hovering nervously around the 26 kilobyte mark. So you expect a quick no-frills blast into the main action. The viewer is not disappointed as a harsh buzzy soundchip tune blasts in with a stark ‘porno’ logo in a barren font distorting up and down the screen.

A battering of snare-drums announces the first halfway designed effect part, the left hand side of the screen being occupied by a grey ‘RNO’ logo, complete with staring eye. The right hand side of the screen has a pink wavy distorting pattern, upon which some information about the demo appears.

So far, so average, but the next part, where the music picks up a warbling treble voice is much better. The pink thing on the right hand side is replaced by a huge texture-mapped greenish-hued cube. This only rotates on one axis, so may not be a full cube, however, there is some suggestion of depth given by a misty fading at the more distant end of things.

The pink thing seen earlier reappears, it is taking the everyman role of an info-screen, we are updated with some credits to describe Britelite as the coder, Xia making the music, and Zeroic and Fragment creating the graphics.

But this is not the end, the moneyshot effect is waiting impatiently to do its thing. This turns out to be a absolutely awesome solid twister, probably the best of its kind seen on an ST, and even rivalling some Falcon 030 versions of that effect for sure. If there are only sixteen colours on that screen, then there is some damn effective shading or anti-aliasing going on here!

But the end is following hard on its heels, as the pink distorter returns with the dismal news that this is pretty much all they have to show you this time. A final return of the stark distorting ‘porno’ logo, seen at the start is the only thing left before the demo abruptly ends.

Well, this was a compact effort, an interesting showcase for what we can hope to see in a bigger demo. Indeed there was some talk of a bigger RNO production for the ST at a future summer, quite large Helsinki-based demo party, but let’s not get carried away just yet, eh!

As it is, a nice little intro with a couple of truly stand-out moments. May all their future productions have more of these.

CiH, for Low-Res Mag, November 2009.

Cernit Trandafir by Dead Hackers Society.

December 28, 2009

A demo by Dead Hackers Society for the Atari STe...

I was aware that a demo was going to be released at the 2009 Alternative Party by the Dead Hackers Society (DHS) before we arrived at the event. They turned up in strength, and I had the pleasure of many a fireside(*) chat with Nerve, who had set up his STe next door to my laptop. He had a fully completed and ready to run demo on his STe, but he just about manfully restrained himself from clicking on the fateful .prg file before the competitions had been run. He was twitching quite a bit towards the end, and was visibly relieved when he was finally able to treat me to the first small screen showing of this demo.

(*) Apart from the stage-area pyrotechnics, an open roaring flame wasn’t really encouraged as a concept anywhere within the party due to it being 1. Illegal, and 2. Dangerous. My lungs do however still recoil at the recollection of the sheer amount of artificial smoke that was generated from the live-act performances!

But the wait was worth it, as DHS’s new demo, ‘Cernit Trafadir’ was presented without the bothersome “issues” that plagued last year’s competitions on the big screen. It was rated highly enough to get the third prize. The story of the demo follows in the rest of this text.

This time around, memory restrictions have been given the finger, as the demo comes in two versions, firstly a 2 MB version for oldskool hardcore, party like it’s 1991 styled sceners using floppy disks (or emulators). For less memory and storage challenged sceners like me, there is the fulsome luxury of a version needing the full 4 MB of STe RAM, but giving hard drive loading, and a deeply intimate massage with aromatic oils from a scarcely dressed but devastatingly gorgeous lady. Actually, I’m lying about the massage bit but I’ll do anything to keep your attention on this textfile, eh! A look at the folder containing the demo reveals a humongous chunk of soundtrack. The other advantage of hard disk loading allows  a 25 khz version of the soundtrack, rather than the 12 khz for the floppy drive version.

I’ll get the credits out of the way now. The coding is a three-way partnership of Gizmo, Evil, and Nerve. The graphics honours are shared between Evil and Proteque, an Amiga scene veteran who got fed up with the endless talk and inaction there, so he joined forces with DHS to do some new work. Musically, 505 has been asked to contribute an excellent soundtrack, no doubt he is celebrating the easing of memory restrictions as he heard the news.

Time to go and see the demo, there is lots to do, so pay attention!

A loading logo briefly appears on screen and gives way to a moody blue rolling background. A closer look appears to reveal different layers and a semi-transparent effect going on. Over the top, some credits in a very fancy font go over. The other impression on your eyes is the fact that this is fullscreen, occupying every last centimetre of the STe’s display. There are no clunky chunky boarders, and that remains the case for around 75 percent of the rest of the demo too.

The soundtrack builds into the next section of the demo, a pair of pulsing rastered distorting ‘things’ vibrate up the screen. This effect is pure oldskool and will get Amiga copper fans falling off their chairs faintly applauding (one hopes..)

Then bang! We’re into one of the talking point screens, an evening-toned rastered skyline taking up most of the screen, apart from the distant horizon,  and there’s these huge dark spinning skyscrapers getting in the way! They are spinning so freely, that the edges have all gone purple and blurry! This is one of the stand out moments of this demo for sure.

A pause and moments dark reflection, then we are into the next part. This starts deceptively quietly, an ornately bent and twisted wire frame cube, but with more solid lines than normal. It could be a 3-D effect, or it could be a very cunningly drawn sprite. This expands to fill the whole screen, in a Defjam-friendly blocky pixel chunk-o-vision mode. Then the full-screened glory is finally revealed as a whole differently coloured host of the original small version swamps the screen. You can’t see it in this screengrab, but there are some dark raster bars which squeeze in behind as well.

A ‘designy’ bit is next, almost lyrical in content, as a half-drawn standing figure stands to the left of the screen, whilst a flurry of rose flower sprites swirl on screen. Presumably this is an overt reference to the demo title which translates to ‘dark rose’ in Romanian.

There is a bit more STe hardware bashing next, as Proteque intervenes with a gorgeous high color picture, an anorexic blindfolded angel is the centrepiece of a metal-bending video mode, with something like 29,000 colours involved in its construction. I’m not sure what resolution that is, at least a fullscreen mode going over the standard issue 320 x 200 screen, I guess? Maybe Evil can get around to writing up some of the tricks and cunning code he used in this demo sometime?

We appear to return to some oldskool roots as the music changes mood into something more cosmic sounding. A starfield is met smartly by patterns of deep blue 3D bobs. This is one screen which is conspicuously not fullscreen, it is as smartly presented as the rest of the demo, but it could have been completely at home in a production two decades ago. In the mid-part, the obligatory greets are led onscreen. Always nice to get a mention of course 🙂

There follows a return to moody newschool, with a pair of spinning light-shaded blocks. My brain fails me in describing the precise technique, or mixture of techniques used. Yet another screen pleading piteously for some words of enlightenment from its creators.

Things are building towards a finale, as Gizmo gets to show off his superior 3-D object making skills. A grey-washed female nasally enjoys a black rose to the left of the screen, whilst a spinning enviro-mapped spiny thing, does its uncanny best to represent an open rose flower. Are we spotting a central theme yet?

Finally, the end is breathing hard down our tense and sweaty necks, as a series of fullscreen ripples, waves and good old tunnels lounge languidly in a semi-transparent fashion across a picture of a rose.  Then, the last effect is concluded, the music fades and dies and the screen turns to darkness for the last time.

So what do we think then?

‘Cernit Trandafir’ is most definitely a sequel to last year’s hit ‘More or Less Zero’. It continues the Dead Hackers progression with abusing the Atari STe’s hardware to give a production look and feel which would resemble the Amiga ECS at its peak, rather than the majority of Atari ST demos. (Not that I’m writing off a whole twenty years worth of Atari demo heritage of course, but these two demos are making fullscreen overscan almost look routine now. I guess the coding side would not be necessarily so taken for granted though!)

I like the continued hard disk support. The UltraSatan was conspicuously seen in some numbers at the Alt Party, so more demos that support this are always appreciated. Needless to say, I am looking forward strongly to the 20th Anniversary STe demo, hopefully with a contribution from DHS there too.

It is with absolutely no sense of regret that I can say that Cernit Tranfadir is another magnificent addition to the DHS portfolio of totally cool stuff. I sort of got some inside information they are shifting platform focus for their next production, so I’m looking forward to that sometime in the future.

I have one other observation of a personal and inward looking kind to garnish the end of this text with. I have enjoyed writing for this new magazine format, I am able to supply a comprehensive set of screen grabs for the first time on a demo review, which is liberating somehow!

See you next time.

CiH, for Low-Res Magazine, November 2009.

Alt Party 2009 – Man versus Machine versus rain!

December 28, 2009

17.39 – 23.10.09 – Start right here!

It’s that time for a party report as we’re at Ye Olde Nokiam Cable Factori once again, sitting more or less where we sat last year. That must be something to do with the homing pigeon styled magnetic core lurking deep within the brain which can place people to 0.00001 degrees latitude in a familiar but barely remembered place from 365 days ago. The main stage has someone sound checking by destroying various items of equipment on the stage, or maybe it’s something to do with oil exploration? It could even be one of the live acts tuning up, actually that last possibility is very likely.

A strangely struggling to come to the boil CiH is at the realtime keys once more. The crazy fools went and did it again, with the usual share of lukewarm travelling stories, and hopefully less in the way of crazy after-party adventures, apart from the fondly pre-planned ones involving sauna’s and alcohol of course.

There has been one major change from previous Alt parties, which should guarantee an easier time all round. This year, we arranged ALT accommodation with Wiztom, taking the strain off Q-Funk’s physical resources, not to mention our fragile mental states. Wiztom has a place with some nice upsides, but it is in a part of Helsinki so high that if you go up a floor too far from his apartment you risk an altitude-related nosebleed. Also there is a persistent burst lung hazard if you foolishly miscalculate bus stops too early and have to walk any distance back there, like we did last night..

Anyway, we’ve set up with a small band of fellow travellers, Wiztom, and the most unexpectedly arriving Nerve from Norway. A party of attacking Swedes are expected but are not yet sighted. The sound checking has moved on to some less kinetic but equally loud noises.

Some travelling notes are to go into this bit of the report. It’s been an epic journey which stretched to two days, so impressions and memories are a bit of a hazy blur, not helped with a relative lack of proper sleep.

We’re going back to the 21st of October and we’re still in the UK, a Wednesday dawned bright with expectation and rainclouds. The journey was to be carried out in two stages, as with the luxury of spare time off we decided to break our journey down with an overnight stop at the parent’s-in-law of the Felicing one, who happened to be just a hop and a spit away from Gatwick Airport. This is the departure point for our Squeezyjet direct flight to Helsinki on Thursday morning. That part of the trip was completely painless, parents-in-law are great hosts, and we went to bed early borne on a benevolent drowsy wave of good food and enjoyable wine.

22nd October, 03.30! – The horrible truth!

It is dark and we are smashed into forced wakefulness by the looming black granite menace of our departure time. An 08.15 flight has to translate into a much earlier bout of preparation, all the better to negotiate the carefully structured airport security dance-around. A dazed zombie sensation settles around my neck, never to really properly lift all that day, and only temporarily staved off by timely doses of caffeine. The journey over to the airport is darkened, damp and uneventful. People having better things to do with their time such as lovely warm recuperative sleeping rather than get in our way. Gatwick proves to be painless, even after we’ve managed to confuse the security people with our Alt Party tickets. Nothing really significant has to be left behind, apart from some Felician toiletries that didn’t fit themselves into a plastic bag earlier. Once that hurdle has been leapt, there are a couple of hours to kill, so the next thing to inflict on our dazed and confused body-clocks is a larger than usual breakfast. The jury is still out on whether a full cooked breakfast was the wisest thing to do at 05.45 hrs, I’m sure a guilty verdict is in the post. But that seemed to be a good thing to do back then.

(Squ)EasyJet turns out to be a fairly decent flight on this route. There is a controlled free-for-all to get to a seat at the start, but nothing fell off the aircraft on the way over and I managed to complete the red-eyed flight ritual of resting my head and tuning out the world in an unsteady half-doze for a while. So we’d judge it a good trip. In due course, we arrive at Vantaa Airport and smartly make our way to the 615 bus service, the no-frills but loyal and faithful vehicle which carried us to the Helsinki centre on many a previous occasion. We have carefully made sure that our communication routes to Wiztom are open and working previously and contact him now. The lines are open and he will meet us there shortly. Apart from the small matter of a defective laptop he is repairing. The name of ‘Marycloud’, aka warp factor 9 on the va-va-voom index is mentioned, the offending machine belongs to that fragrant lady.

Anyone with even the slightest experience of upgrading or repairing computers can guess what happened next.

The promised half-hour stretched away into a vast distance. The updates were discouraging and indicating new obstacles busily queuing up behind the current ones to take their place. One of the compulsory visiting rituals was carried out to everyone’s satisfaction when a Hesburger restaurant was located in the Central Station Metro arcade and Suomi style junk food reminiscent of our first 1998 visit was consumed.

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We is eating the Hesburger!

After that, we were passing the time in Central Station sploshing around in a puddle of apathetic tiredness, the fuddled state from our early start forcibly knocking on the doors of disinterest and loudly demanding to be let in. Fortunately in the nick of time reassuring phone calls came, firstly from the Knightly Truck of garbage (Sir GarbageTruck!) with a follow-up from the Martin of Q-Funk, whose physical presence entered closely following the phone call. At that point, a final text from Wiztom confirms that he has escaped the python-grasp of his never-ending computer errand and was finally on his way. The mood lightens a lot, and a lively conversation is in full flow by the time Wiztom arrives. A party of four then undertakes the epic and rain-lashed journey back to Wiztom’s premises across the wilds of Helsinki. We get off in a building site, and stagger up a series of hills, each of them with its own running stream of rainwater. Eventually we get to Wiztom’s apartment, which is a rather nice place dominated by a huge Sony flatscreen in the lounge.

A period of relieved collapse, including eagerly demoed excerpts from Housemarque’s  ‘Super Stardust’ on Wiztom’s PS3, crazy amounts of exploding stuff on screen and all follows. This is bringing your work home but not in any normal manner! We manage to make a further trip out into the ever-present lashing rain for essential supplies including a welcome pizza near-death experience and something for breakfast on the following day.

After we’ve eaten, there is a further mission which will take us out into the bleak sodden wilds of downtown Helsinki, as there is a pre-party event described as a ‘warm-up club’. This turns out to be another catch a lot of public transport episode, followed by more roaming in dark wetness to the Cable Factori site to locate this event. Wiztom wisely declines that chance so it is just Felice and I going. We manage to find it running in a fairly quiet state, although one or two people known to us turn up later on, such as the large towel-wearing American with a distinctive pseudonym discussed slightly earlier. He has acquired a lush beard and looks more than ever like Jeff Minter’s father. (A mischievous flash of thought places the young Jeff Minter fighting like a Jedi in the Empire Strikes Back cloud city where Truck takes on the Vader role and the deadly revelation is made!)

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Truck, on the right, giving the bad news to Jeff Minter. "I am your fatherrr!!"

The general atmosphere is relaxing, it is not too late but we are tired and decide to head back. This goes straightforwardly until a moments lapse of concentration, or over-optimism of journey’s end puts us off the bus several stops from where we should be. This is a lapse entirely on my part, I cannot use my usually successful strategy of finding an element of cock-up to blame on Felice! Unfortunately, the rest of this journey is completely uphill and on foot. We get back some fifteen minutes later than planned, soaked and with busted lungs, a long session of unwinding, hot and cold drinks, and essential web couch potato behaviour is needed before we can even contemplate going to our inflatable beds.

But as we do this, never has a night’s sleep been sweeter etc.

19.00 and we’re back in party space.

The Swedes have arrived, Baggio, Evil, and the less commonly seen coding megabrain Gizmo are setting up, as is the slight but welcome figure of Pahartik. He has found a new travelling companion and also sensibly opted to stay elsewhere, possibly to get out of any possible repeat of last year’s wardrobe lifting hassles with Q-Funk?

Back to the story so far….

The bulk of today was spent slowly restoring normal functions and energy levels to a sleepy body. Our long morning of leisure chez Wiztom’s took in several pursuits. These included watching a Japanese crime thriller in Japanese, with Finnish subtitles, with Wiztom to explain what was going on, which helped. We also discovered that his Atari STe could be connected to the hugeness of the Sony flatscreen. There was a certain amount of internal hardware tinkering pre-done to allow an S-Video connection as RGB was not supported to that screen. Several ST and STe full-screen demos were shown, including Unlimited Matricks representing the oldschool, and of course Dead Hackers ‘More or Less Zero’ from the class of 2008. With a screen of that size, the ST’s floppy drive ‘filing cabinet’ icons were nearly as big as actual filing cabinets!

By the time the Ultimate Music Demo’s 21 minute intro fades to a stop, it is almost time to leave, various computers are stuffed into various bags, and we set forth for another public transport adventure. There is thankfully no rain and the mission to get to the party place goes flawlessly. It appears that the party is not quite ready for the attending masses, as we present our ticket hopefully, but are politely told to go away until the official doors open time of 17.00hrs. We repair to the bar area where the warm-up club from the previous evening was held, and rapidly encounter Truck and a completely unexpected Nerve in quick succession. An improvised late lunch quickly follows from there. Whilst we are deep in scenish anecdoting, the lithe rollerskating figure of one of the special guests glides through the bar. This is Jeri Ellsworth, the maker of the Commodore ‘Direct to TV’ (DTV). She is completely approachable and joins in with the conversation. She looks like just about every geek’s fantasy girlfriend.

Eventually Truck is called to some organisers duty or other, the happy little gathering breaks up, so we figure that it is time to look for the proper party, which is now in a more welcoming doors open state.

Which takes us up to this point where we’re watching the party slowly unfolding.

19.22

One experiment which takes us out of normal party operating procedures is worth mentioning here. As Wiztom has a spare key, which has been loaned to Felice for the duration and we have pre-purchased five-day travel cards which enables us to blitz the public transport facilities without worrying about the cost. We have decided to leave our sleeping equipment at Wiztom’s place. The plan is to return there when the partying palls, to enjoy a comfortable night’s sleep without the suspense factor of sleeping near alcoholically challenged midnight strangers in the sleeping areas in darkness. The fun part is going to be when the public transport stops. The subway component quits disappointingly early, so we’ve agreed to party like animals through the nights, until around 05.00hrs when going home becomes a possibility once more. The dead morning period can be slept through and we return in the afternoon when the party starts to wind up again. We’ll be dead and buried by the end of it, but hey, I’ve got two days after I get back home to recover in!

19.54

There are a surprising number of original ST’s at this party. Apart from Wiztom bringing his machine, Nerve brought his along, and there is another one set up nearby, not connected to our little party. There is also a silent machine at the infodesk. (Not to mention the ST that Britelite set up near to us, also with an UltraSatan.) Nearly all of these machines are sporting some form of SD-card storage. Wiztom has one of the original Satandisks, (a free donation from Evil) which was being used to good effect this afternoon. Nerve and the third party ST have both got brand new UltraSatans, Nerve opting for a 4GB SDHC card. If there was not the little matter of a flight limiting what could be carried over, I might have been tempted to bring my STe with its UltraSatan as it would fit inside my flight bag, but there is also the little matter of borrowing a suitable screen, which is why I’m writing this report on the laptop, ho hum..

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Not an ST! The Baby Cray used for the Cray demo competition.

20.12

The Setok opening speech kicks off. I guess the party is officially ‘open’ now.

Ravel takes over, he expands on the man-machine theme a bit. I don’t see any birthday cake this time?

Fireworks at the end of the speech which was short and sweet. We’re definitely over the 10th anniversary portentousness.

21.49

First night food! – A loose gathering of the great and good of the Nordic and UK Atariscene’s set off in the direction of a food finding mission. This party included myself, Felice, Wiztom, Nerve, Partycle, and  Gizmo. A preliminary approach to the local Subway was met with a sad expression of scarcity, or we would have been sharing two bread rolls between a party of six! A small place around the corner met our cheapness criteria and offered a range of pizza and Indian food. (Thankfully not on the same plate together, that would have been too awful to contemplate!) This is where we have been for the past hour or so.

The rather snazzy glossy information booklet informs that an act called Byproduct is shaking the hall right now. Pahartik is in dancey dancey mode. He’s at his desk, possibly still to grasp that there is a front of stage area which could easily be used for those sort of pursuits?

Saturday 24th October.

00.58

It’s been a while since we’ve been here. Various distractions have played their part. The loud live act taking centre stage, thrusting it in the air, and shaking the building with a caterwaul of sound was the rock band (written initially as ‘Rock Bank, why?!) with cyberpunk sensibilities, ‘Dope Stars Inc’. As well as loud noises, androgyny was strongly themed. The kind of girls that these guys would get off with would most likely be easily confused lesbians who would want to look good next to the rough girls, but not realize what they had got into bed with until too late! Considering that act, I got a definite ‘Rock’ vibe from them, but not too much cyberpunk?

A lot of people were wearing ear defenders of some kind, possibly lung defenders were needed against the overworked fog machine too. At this time of writing there is still a thick pall of artificial mist in the party hall. I staggered over to the bar area which was completely packed out in contrast to the quietness last night. Another door with speeded-up chiptune mixes blaring out of it led to the Nebula Club, which is the grown-up equivalent to the second stage annex at the old party venue Gloria. Pahartik was found dancing over his MacBook with Linux installed. To get away from the ever present fog, I even went outside for five minutes, sans coat, as if I had Geordie antifreeze running through my veins.

I can still taste the damn smoke now!

01.22

I’ve been putting this off, but I guess its time to get some words on this screen about the party place and what is going on here.

There are lots of similarities but some important differences,with how Alt ’08 was set up. The same huge main hall is being used, with the stage being of central focus as it was last year. The tables for ‘Edgerunners’, the people that paid the extra to set up their computers were in the same place as before. The Finnish retro hobbyists with their flavours of old Mac, MSX and Commodore machines claimed an identical spot to before as well. There are some major differences, as a lot of the focus has been pulled further back down the hall and into the adjacent bar area. The space near the front of the stage, occupied by an ambitious attempt at catering was left totally bare and abandoned. Rollerskating Jeri babe is covering the hall with great ease and came over to see what we were doing. She is one of the most impressive guests in a decent line-up down the years, acing out even the mighty Jeff Minter with a massive babe-factor. I’ll get over this caffeine buzz in the later morning and promise to be embarrassed by these comments then, m’kay?

Hem! Back on topic. The cafe-bar run by students at the back of the hall has returned. It is the collection point for the free coffee and tea, which is somewhat needed right now. The exhibition spaces have a selection of artiness, perhaps not quite having the same impact as last year. Visiting groups include the anti-copyright ‘Pirate Party’. There is a fairly sophisticated attempt at a home-brew electric car here. There is also a Cray supercomputer which has its own competition category, Entries for which will be viewed with interest tomorrow. The free play arcade machine is Puzzle Bobble, aka Bust a Move, and I’ve been tempted to have a go or two on it. the party goes into a whole new area which last year’s party did not venture into, namely the Nebula Club at the back of the hall. (Or maybe it is the seawards facing front entrance?) This promises several events running in parallel with the main party hall, so it will be take a lot of effort if someone was trying to fit it all in?

There is also a very strange and terrifying looking bouncy castle concept, the best(?) way of describing it would be as a “Pedo-house” concept! I’m not sure if it is really suitable for the children that are supposed to turn up on the family day.

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Pedo-House! If you go anywhere near it, you'll shit bricks!

I have been working on a couple more articles for the Low Res blog-mag, one of which was ready to be uploaded into the WordPress site. The other is a crudely stitched together piece of shite and needs a lot of work to get it presentable. So that’s where I might go for a bit. Seeyawll later!

02.46

The grim night pounds on!

Felice has been away from his station for a while but has recently returned. Nerve is working on a little coding fancy which is still in the very early stages. There is going to be an official entry which has already been completed. Amazingly this has been completed before the party so no last minute sleepless party-coding is needed. (This was the combined demo with the Dead Hackers Society.) What he is doing now is just something random that may or may not turn into something more substantial. Wiztom is proposing a taxi-based return home soonish, which might be acceptable if shared between the threesome of us. The night bus would not really be an option, costing nearly as much with the added hassle factor of having to walk to the central station to catch it in the first place.

13.47hrs!

A big gap!

Wiztom made good on his taxi-booking threat a short time after the last entry, which turned up scant minutes after he asked. A swift nocturnal ride home followed. A bedwards collapse came almost immediately, where we slept the sleep of temporarily homeless gods. A slow rising process followed, which included breakfast (fresh baked savoury croissants, mmmm!) and a swift transit to the party place, where we encountered…

17.28

Another big gap!

A meal got into this one. Baggio, myself, Felice, Wiztom, Pahartik and a UK demoscener called ‘Ne7’ came with us to a Nepalese/Indian restaurant in town. Baggio and others were outfaced by the huge mounds of food placed in front of them but I managed to eat mine, and part of theirs. (He he!)

Actually, should I be so gleefully reporting the boundlessness of the CiH appetite?! Makes me look like a greedy bastard, ah well, too late!

There was some stuff that got in beforehand. The Demoscene TV people were running a seminar in the Nebula Club, and for some reason I was considered influential, interesting or just been around too damn long to ignore, as I was asked to show up. There were several familiar and semi-familiar scene names such as Britelite and Little Bitchard. A film crew from DTV were there also. There was a long round of introductions and free beer. A workshop of some sort was about to start when we realised that Felice’s video made from excerpts of old Alt Party footage was due on the big-screen. This had quite a good job done on it, going beyond what you would class as normal home movie. After a few more entries that competition was over so I returned to pick up on the seminar, but at that point, the ring-tone-sounding dinner-bell called as we were due to go off to eat at that time.

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*Me* speaking into a pretend microphone at the demoscene workshop.

18.12

The newschool music compo is now running, and a surprisingly mellow set of sounds issues forth from the main stage speakers.

There is a strong Atari presence here. We were expecting something from the Dead Hackers Society, which will be another full-screen STe demo. Apart from that there looks to be a release from Britelite/RNO as well!  Nerve was showing something that was in a ready to run condition and this had been for a week, but he did not dare to run it yet. I assume this is the DHS release. Apart from that, Wiztom was prodding some spare source code around with sort of proof of concept results. Nerve was playing around with a little random fancy when we left him last night, but I haven’t seen him yet to get an update if anything happened with it or not? (UPDATE – It was just a random fancy after all.)

18.42

There will be a lot of competitions and the two special guests, so we’re going to be sitting tight until well after midnight. Off to get some spare energy from somewhere.

20.26

The first of the guest speakers has completed her piece. This is Sophie Wilson, one of the very clever people who worked at Acorn on things like the Acorn Atom and ARM chip, and she still has an active career designing a follow-on called Firepath. One of the things which became very clear was just how far Acorn were ahead of their competitors in designing their hardware. It also became clear just how badly Acorn got their long-term survival strategy wrong, albeit indirectly, as Sophie was not involved on their sales and marketing, One of the audience questions relating specifically to the 16-bit Amiga/Atari ST era revealed just how much Acorn appeared to take their eye off the ball at that point, not bothering to look beyond the press releases or take any detailed note of what the competition was doing. As we all know, by the time Acorn bothered to look into the matter and away from servicing their captive educational market, it was really too little and too late.

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Sophie Wilson says her stuff.

There was an interesting ‘demo’ session at the end with some original code which was written in the mid-nineties, which would not disgrace a showing now. One of these useful gadgets was Acorn’s attempt at movie multimedia replay which appeared to be comfortable replaying several film clips at once and within a variety of special effects. This was being done on a virtual RISC PC emulation via an Intel Atom powered machine, which in its native state is not really that good with this multimedia lark! (Usual questions apply about the quality of the movies concerned. I’m guessing a maximum 256 colours here, but still, a good effort.)

Apart from ARM products being widely adopted by mobile phones, the even more potentially awesome Firepath chips are being hidden away in ADSL modems, no doubt doing a great job at great profit to all concerned, but I guess the business environment does not allow any large scale manufacture of a killer general computer based on this chipset? Which is a shame.

I’m looking forward to Jeri’s talk. Hopefully she’s taken the roller skates off by the time she goes up onto the stage?

21.57

Jeri Ellsworth lived up to her lively attractive pre-show personality on the stage. She may not have realized how many people she was speaking to until they undimmed the lighting a bit more! Her talk was even more packed out with interested geeks than Sophie’s was. Jeri is a small-town American girl from Portland, Oregon, with big dreams and the sheer persistence of the Phoenix, as these dreams were raised and dashed several times. Still it all seems to have come good at last. She has lots of interests and a very fulfilled life including various ways and means of getting rid of latent violence and pyromaniac urges! This did not stop the obvious question being asked at the end of the session, “Are you free tonight?” She did tell a grisly tale of travelling overland on Greyhound buses where shadowy people with even fewer social graces and more convictions than most demo freaks asked the same sort of question in their own special ways 😉 Sounds like the Euro Lines sleep deprivation overnight torture special to Hamburg back in 1996, but without the attempted sexual contact.

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The lovely Jeri Ellsworth, not on roller-skates at that moment!

She is also fond of setting things on fire, including herself…

Amazingly, the competitions appear to be running to time at the minute. Still, plenty of time to put a stop to that! I believe original hardware is going to be used for the ST entries, so it all falls apart from there!

Okay, Supercomputer demos coming up in half an hour or so.

22.52

The compo entry viewing machine (Cray) is being wheeled to the stage. Time to book a chair as I don’t fancy standing for the next couple of hours.

Sunday I’ll get back to you with the date later! Alright, it’s the 25th.

01.39

We’ve had a run-through of all the competitions. For an Alt Party these went fairly smoothly. Firstly some trends to note,

Cray Supercomputer demos, still a rather young category, shall we say.

Dynamic demo. There were actually a couple of good ones this year.

Alternative demo competition, The alternative platforms tended to be down a bit, the ST/STe represented fifty percent of the oldschool hardware. The other entries for MSX and C64 did fulfill a certain amount of crowd-pleasing from the home crowd. The entry from Britelite/RNO is a brilliant taster for a full demo. Apparently something bigger is planned for next year, well we live in hope.

There were an awful lot of PeeCee demos which went overboard for an ambient feel both with sound and vision. It was as if the coders were all looking over each others shoulders and coming to the same conclusion and techniques. Or did they just all have similar ideas independently of each other?

The competitions actually ran relatively smoothly for an Alt Party. There were none of the really horrendous issues and entry losses from last year. Any video beamer hassles with non-standard hardware were sorted out well within my tolerance level. So a big thanks goes to the competition screening team for getting that right this year.

There is a little matter of some voting to do shortly.

01.58

I have activated my second free coffee! We didn’t use the sleeping area, but we made sure we got our free coffee!

02.31

Lovely Jeri has been giving out skate-by neck massages!  Roller skating yank babes with top notch chip design skills rule!

Okay, here are some random impressions for the entries which stood out for me. The usual oldschool bias applies, but there were some goodies in among the newschool stuff too.

Bold by dvik&joyrex – MSX – This was an MSX hardcore reminder of Alt ’98 glories. Over the ST stuff, it was the other oldschool standout entry.

Cernit Trandafir by Dead Hackers Society – A sultry and sophisticated elder sister to More or Less Zero.

Sodium by RNO – A taster for something amazing to come in the future? Let it be so!

sodium

Sodium by RNO, this is almost Falcon-worthy!

KATANA by JUMALAUTA – Themed around ancient Japan, a PeeCee demo which hit the spot.

Bad News by Kooma – A hilarious joke demo that actually worked as a dynamic demo too.

Mandelbrot by Static – Awesome Cray fractal flight, took a lot of hitting various boxes to get it to run correctly but the effort was worth it.

Fraktaalikaali by Lasi Interactive – Nice runner up on the Cray which did not take itself too seriously.

Unsigned by Byterapers, Inc.- Nothing really new for the C64 but presented with an upbeat crowd-pleasing panache.

I am reminded that we get an extra hour of party/sleepytime as the clocks go back today.

02.51

Wiztom is getting around to packing up, looks like another taxi session to get back is on the cards. Still better sleep whilst we can.

A lot lot later, not at all real-time anymore, no really. Time is adjusted for a long period where I really didn’t feel like picking up any text at all, but we’re back now, alright?

We actually got back to Wiztom’s high tower at around 04 of the hundred hours (adjusted for winter time going back) and were feeling every minute of it by then.

Somehow we managed to claw ourselves awake just a few short scant hours later with a determined plan to arrive back at the party before the competition results and prize giving ceremony. There is a traditional after-party sauna taking place, in a different location from before, and the plan is to take ourselves off to it fairly soon after the party, as there is an earlier start and finish for the new place. Which is what more or less happened, as events will later unfold.

We actually got back to Kappeli, the old cable factori, around eleven, which gives a generous slice of time to take in the end of the party, even before the closing ceremonies were delayed until 15.00. Oh well! It’s a mellow lazy Sunday morning vibe which suits me just fine.

A fair bit of the spare time is utilized in making oneself as comfortable as possible, namely grabbing a couple of chairs near the stage area, using one of these seats as a footrest, and half-watching and half-dozing through the Demoscene TV showreels that were being played on the main projector screen. The Swedes are still more or less where they were before and have yet to leave. Unfortunately, we do not have their company for tonight’s sauna party, not even the party animal Baggio will be present due to work commitments.

The competition results are given with the prizes. Comments by me are in bold.

Striptease competition

Competition prize sponsored by Bemine.

1   Maija (the redhead)
2    ?
3    ?

This took place in the Nebula Club at some obscure time in the morning. Dreading an influx of sub-optimally body-formed drunk male sceners, we stayed away. There were some women of the female persuasion who joined in apparently.

Cyberpunk Costume competition results
Competition prizes sponsored by IRC-Galleria.

1    826    Weller-Taguchi-Fujiwara Model 5050 by Basscadet
2    453    Anarkomekaanikot by temmi hoo & saini
3    393    Guns > Luck by Kapteeni Kronos

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Basscadet was the real man-machine!

We were out at the time this was shown, but Basscadet did stay in costume for pretty much the whole party.

Themed Video competition results
Competition prizes sponsored by Wreck-a-movie.

1    417    Apocalypse by Mikko L?pp?nen
2    284    Taistelukoodaajan seikkailut by Paskuuden standardik?site
3    252    future is a machine by nosfe
4    225    Alternative Party – From the Beginning by Felice/Alive Team & Lotek Style/tSCc

Felice only just missed out on this one. Some opinion reckoned the second placed entry should not have been placed where it was, being a quick cheap jokey in-party knock-off.

Oldskool Music competition results
Competition prizes sponsored by Assembly and Scenesat.

1    292    Mountain Gate 2: Rise The Mountain Gate by T-101 of Accession
2    244    Does boot NYYRIKKI remix by NYYRIKKI
3    232    Full Moon Flow by King Thrill / Tekotuotanto
4    229    Jedi-mestaaja by shroomi & pahamoka
5    201    The Land of Shadows by Petrified/Accession
6    151    Few bytes left by Lagers

Retro Graphics competition results
Competition prizes sponsored by Nebula.

1    387    Totally Accurate Controller 2050 by bracket
2    334    Status check by ilesj
3    328    one-eyed robot with tits and a sword by h7 / Accession & HiRMU
4    216    edge tek by dep
5    188    Chilling out by DiamonDie
6    162    The most immersive pinball of year 2027 by wAMMA + naemok

More realtime drawings and stuff.

Nuskool Music competition results
Competition prizes sponsored by Assembly and Scenesat.

1    220    To The Unknown by T-101 / Accession
2    165    Helsinki (instrumental mix) by Kitkaliitto
3    148    Epica, pars I: Provocator by King Thrill / Tekotuotanto
3    148    Kill Kill Kill (Wobble Mix) by LB vs DJ Vadim
5    110    Tonight by E621
6    96    Farewell, my Jamaican friend… by ferrara / phObos team
7    84    Symmetry in Love by Tappio
8    78    Hustler by F.A.B.I.O
8    78    Jump in the acid street remix 2 by Olo
10    55    Aquarium by Foldplop
11    43    Spoiled Pancakes by V?s?n S? Lens
12    30    alternity by eimink
13    18    Ulp by mrp

Helsinki instrumental sounded like someone’s attempt to do classical with a modern twist.

Realtime Graphics competition results
Competition prizes sponsored by Epson.

1    275    Cyberpunk Tomorrow by Basscadet
2    126    Giraffi by Niko “kiirala” Kiirala
3    115    My little nuclear pony by DiamonDie
4    105    Spying for Ilya by Laura “Vield” Koponen
5    75    Exosceleton by Saini
6    52    My dwarven fortress by Kapteeni Kronos
7    48    Left overs by Hippi-Erkki
8    47    Drawing for the realtime graphics by Pirre
9    46    Zero by Aleksi “c8h11no2” Palen
10    41    Hi-Towers of M’Clabaku by stRana
11    39    Tisias by nosfe/iSO
12    31    Alternate reality snake by Sakari
13    29    Psykoosi by Siiri ja Anna
14    21    Keltainen volvo by Paparazzi / tAAt
14    21    RoboValve by spiikki ^ Nalleperhe
16    12    Game Over by Kryptos

Wildest Wild competition results
Competition prizes sponsored by Puputsin Puoti.

1    345    Compofiller 50000+ by iSO
2    311    Demoscene in 2 Minutes by Duncan^DMS & T-101^ACC
3    237    Altkohinat by Manmeet’s Machine

Supercomputer Demo competition results
Competition prize sponsored by CSC – IT Center for Science.

1    785    Mandelbrot by Static
2    630    Fraktaalikaali by Lasi Interactive
3    428    Supa by mrp

The Cray was a ‘baby Cray’, not one of the monoliths!

Dynamic Demo competition results
Competition prizes sponsored by Damicon Kraa and Nokia.

1    802    Bad News by Kooma
2    464    DATASPHERE by HACKERS
3    406    PREMORSE by jumalauta

The first placed entry deserved its first prize.

Alternative Demo competition results
Competition prizes sponsored by Live 2011 and Nokia.

1    393    Bold by dvik&joyrex
2    321    Unsigned by Byterapers, Inc.
3    171    Cernit Trandafir by Dead Hackers Society
4    151    Sodium by RNO
5    110    Namesia B by Komplex
6    98    Lateral Surface of Discord by Matt Current
7    85    Catharsis by mfx
8    78    Bad News by Kooma
9    77    18th anniversary by Damones
10    76    Coffee by rustbloom
11    65    KATANA by JUMALAUTA
12    26    DATASPHERE by HACKERS
13    22    The repeating life of Miss Time by Cenon
14    15    Kippis by Solarius & Oasiz
14    15    Recycle by Pants^2
16    13    Koivukyl? by ?lykuvioK
16    13    Fraktaalikaali by Lasi Interactive
18    10    Mandelbrot by Static
19    6    Dunkelheit by mrp
20    3    PREMORSE by jumalauta

No issues with the first place, but perhaps the second place demo was name-voted a tad much? Methinks the Dead Hackers demo was the true second placed production.

YLE competition results
Competition prize sponsored by the Finnish Broadcasting Company YLE.

1    Bad news by Kooma

The Most Obscure Computer Competition
Competition prize sponsored by Damicon Kraa.

1    Sophie Wilson (Acorn Risc Machine (ARM))

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"Look mum, we won a prize!" - Nerve on stage.

With the results concluded, the doors closing time loomed rather suddenly out of the mid-afternoon gloom. It got to the point where we were chased out of the hall by the team deconstructing the chairs and tables. ST’s were hastily stuffed into bags and coats retrieved from the piles of stuff left under the tables. There was a plan to take ourselves directly to the afterparty Sauna, having smugly removed all computery stuff earlier that morning and returning to the party with pre-packed towels and party alcohol supplies for the sauna. We uneasily huddled around, teasing the new sauna location out of Setok, and deciding on an interim mealtime plan.

This took the form of a wet walk to the local McD’s with team Atari Sweden and Norway where more junk food was gratefully found and  consumed. At this point it was time to bid multiple farewells to the Swedes and Nerve.

There was a world of more wetness as we located the bus stop to take us to the new sauna place. We did not have to wait for too long and at least we were under cover.

Wiztom was confident about where we had to get off for the new sauna place. The subsequent hunt on foot for that location took us to some strange dark and creepy woods. At one point we managed to smell the distinctive aroma of wood smoke. Perhaps if we followed our noses in, we would have found it sooner? We also found that we weren’t the only ones who were lost, as we encountered Setok and Jeri who were also having locating difficulties with the Sauna.

Fortunately, we found the sauna on the edge of the coast. A lonely jetty goes into the water, waves break on a small beach, a brazier burns at the entrance of a wooden hut. The new sauna is a smaller place than the one we are accustomed to. There is a cozy sitting area and a good supply of drink, which is added to, and a bit of food. The sauna is already in action as several towelled figures testify.

There is no electric option here, but there is a double wood burner, the second one not being used. We manage to get there in the period where the sauna is just about to reach full operating temperature, and fulfill the ritual of steamy heat in the usual manner.

There is a fair choice of drink. My Edinburgh Whisky Tour purchased sacrificial small bottle of Dalwhinnie 15 year old single malt scotch survived the arduous journey out, but did not survive the consumption that took place here! This was deliberate and intentional. Even Nosfe commented favourably on the palatable qualities of this fine drink. The whisky exchange website describes it thus.

“A good introduction to the delights of single malt whisky – elegant, smooth and medium-bodied with a light, fruity palate and a whiff of heather on the finish.”

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Dalwhinnie 15 year old single malt scotch, the drinky nectar of the gods!

I’d have to agree with it, I liked one of the users comments where it was judged smoother than Glenfyddich.

Fortunately, this time around and restraining consumption of his booze perhaps, Felice did not feel the need to let everyone know how he felt, constantly.

Pahartik turned up late and rather lost when the sauna component of the party was almost over. A philosophical shrug later, and he opened a bottle of Koskenkorva which handily took over as the Dalwhinnie had run dry by then. Jeri was at the party but did not go into the sauna, although a promise was extracted from her to do this next time she came here. There was a UK scene presence which also didn’t go in, we got talking to an individual called ‘Ne7’ whom we saw more of on the final journey back home.

The sauna wrapped up fairly quickly by afterparty standards. It finished not so long after 21.30. We witnessed Setok folding himself into his Caterham Super 7, origami-fashion, for his drive home. We got back to Wiztom’s by 22.30 and were able to relax, grab a final bite to eat and get a reasonably early night.

Monday..

This leads us nicely to our final day. Wiztom sets off for work, fortunately at not too unreasonable an hour. We are left to our own devices with the spare key to the apartment. This would have been a quiet day apart from a cunning plan from Truck requesting a lunchtime meeting of the scene faithful still remaining in Helsinki.

We had enough time to get up in leisurely fashion, pack etc. The bags stand by awaiting our later return, so we set off once more. Cloudy and wet again? Yup!

There was no clear plan at the start, so gathering the assorted sceners together was something like trying to herd cats. Especially when some kitties like Felice had their own idea of meeting at Molly Malone’s bar in the centre of town with some of the people. We managed to collect Pahartik and his longtime American IRC buddy ‘Telephone’, a widely built Texan, but Q-Funk was fashionably late. A final phone call confirming location blasts away any complacency, so we had to hurry to the Kaampi interchange where the restaurant was located. This turned out to be a Chinese restaurant we had visited before. (Last year, when it served mouth-blistering cuisine to Q-Funk as I recall!)

There are an awful lot of people crammed into a fairly small space, I’m perched in the far corner wobbling on the seat edge which is not so hot. However, the food is plentiful and reasonably priced which fits in with last year’s recollections as well.

Eventually, and after a short digression back at the famous Molly Malone’s with Q-Funk’s latest femme and her friends, it is time to start on the long journey back. We have absolutely no problem with getting off at the right bus stop this time. A short pause later back at Wiztom’s place and we are off once more, heavy suitcase clonking along the broken pavement.

The return journey is straightforward and we have a couple of hours worth of time to crash at Vantaa airport after completing the checking in rituals. After completing the long and leisurely sweep of what the airport has to offer, we  discovered that Ne7 had got his flight time wrong and had been waiting at the airport for several hours previously. We recall that he left the Chinese restaurant under some time pressure, but he had got his checking-in time confused with his flight time. He was actually on the same flight as ourselves.

This helped to pass the time going back rather handily as we talked about anything and everything, having made sure we got seated together in an aisle surrounded by sullen Daily Mail reading elderlies. Actually the bulk of the conversation was between Felice and Ne7 as I was offering a minimal contribution, feeling very tired by then, also quite possibly a little bit unwell. Whether this was a lurgy which was picked up in Helsinki, or had been waiting for me since the UK to stupidly burn the candle at both ends is debatable. It was something that hung around for a week afterwards, it didn’t develop into a full blown cold or flu but left me feeling flat and drained for a while.

Anyway, back on topic and away from hypochondria, the arrival in the UK was around a  GMT-adjusted 22.00hrs as previously expected. Having parted from Ne7, some more journeying eventually got us back at Felice’s place at 01.00 of a Tuesday morning. A night’s uneasy rest, under the influence of the ‘thing’ described just now saw me just fit enough to make the last stage of the journey back home under my own power.

Final thoughts?

The second party in the ‘new’ format went off well at the old cable factory. There was a small drop in some areas from last year. Front 242 was a very hard live act to follow. The Dope Stars made a valiant effort but the gap to bridge was huge.

The party was still well-run and very professionally done. The drop in the main hall activities was made up for by the use of Nebula Club and cafe bar area, which at times attracted almost as many people as the main hall itself.

A niggling issue from last year, the competitions were much better run this year. This was the number one area for improvement identified from last time and I think the organizers were painfully aware of this. There were a high number of entries in all the categories. The oldschool demos tended towards the sparse, but high quality end of things.

There was a strong Atarian presence in the competitions, not just Dead Hackers and company, but Britelite finally doing the decent thing and coding an ST entry. We missed the return of the central European sceners from last year, (Earx, 505 etc) but they were pulled in by the attraction of Front 242 so I guess this is not a regular party for them?

It is nice to remeet the usual people, even Q-Funk, without a domestic crisis. Their names have been mentioned in many party reports before so I won’t repeat myself here. There were also some new(ish) people like Ne7, a face from Sundown who became better known to us.

Whilst on ‘people’, we’d like to thank Wiztom for the use of his apartment whilst we were in Helsinki. You’ve got a really nice place, even if it is on the top of a hill!

The special guests were good value, especially Jeri Ellsworth. She joined in and interacted with the party to a much greater degree than is usual for special guests. Jeri is one of my favourite memories from this Alt Party. Sophie Wilson gave a very interesting talk on her role at Acorn and ARM but was much more of a conventional special guest and probably not so much of a ‘people’ person.

So the end result is being left skint, with an unknown chest disease and knackered, fantastic party, see you next year!

Picture credits – All most pictures enthusiastically ‘borrowed’ from the Alt Party website gallery which is okay under the local creative commons licence, all copyrights belong to the original owners of course.

CiH – Writings realtime at the party and non-realtime later on, (c) Oct/Nov 2009.

The beast and the bird under load

December 28, 2009

After picked up MugUK, Gaztee and Link in Cologne, around 12 o’clock we arrived at the well known Pub where the event took place like the years before.

This year right after you entered, you feel that there were a lot more people present then in the years before. Having 16/32 [1] filling up the hall with his stuff always let a event looks bigger, and because atarishop.nl [2] (Jar Jar & Mr. Atari) were present once again on the other side, this year seems to be the biggest e-jagfest [3] since years.

the event

After some welcome to everybody I bought another Lynx with Checkered Flag from Jar Jar, to be sure that I have enough working machines for the competition later on. The prices for a Lynx are double the price of a Jaguar, interesting.

Soon in the UK “Currywurst”

Cause I knew from the years before the kitchen would close soon, I managed to get something to eat. The pub have the normal Schnitzel stuff on the menu, and I felt no hunger later on. My friends from the UK were on the “Currywurst” trip this year and were also satisfied they told me with the one the got in the pub. Later they were at the local supermarket and bought some ingredients to do their own Currywurst. Keep my fingers cross they get the proper sausages in the UK as well.

The mother of all racing battles

Now it was time to start the first competition: Checkered Flag on the Lynx [4]. The CF compo at the e-jagfest is one of the most traditional or maybe the most traditional ATARI gaming contest, and because the level of the participants is really high, it’s a great challenge to gain some fame in this competition. Because I failed last year in the half final. I was satisfied to reach the final once again. I even manage to win the qualification lap in the final, but in the race I crashed into Gaztee and next into on of the others, so in the end only the 4th place was possible. In the last round more or less nobody crashed, which shows the high level of the competition, because the course we always choose for the final is not easy. Even that Gaztee was very motivated this year, he once again managed to score 2nd (3 times in a row when he participated). Last year champion Mr. Atari used the chance and passed by 4 cars, and finally won the tournament once again. Chris was a fast driver and gain the 3rd place.

UBI Soft has been the main sponsor

This year BMX the organizer was able to get UBI Soft as the main sponsor of the competitions. And because UBI Soft gave us a lot of stuff, we were able to give prizes to all 6 players in the final. Many thanks to Ubi Soft for their support. Beside Limited boxes of “Anno 1701” and older versions of “Anno 1503” the best 3 players also won a cup. The competition took a long time and it was nearly 17’30 already.

New stuff

One reason for being a little bit late was as I said before, the large number of visitors this year. In the CF compo we had 24 participants, and the other reason were the presentations. But because the presentations are one of the most important events at the e-jagfest, it was ok, that it took so long.

Mathias Domin [5] once again showed the Impulse conversion for the Jaguar. The name now changed to Impulse X because of all the enhancements. I had the feeling, that there were not so many changes to the year before, but maybe I’m wrong.

Impluse X presentation

Simon Quernhorst [6] showed his latest Atari 2600 release kalled: Kite. It’s the first ever kite simulation on the 2600. Simon said, that he once worked for on of the largest kite shops in the world, and there he got the idea. The game really looked great. Like all his releases there is a limited number of cartridges and the game could be downloaded as well. Atariage could also do a cartridge, if the limited edition is sold out.

Kite presentation

Starcat [7] participates in a new project called “The Jaguar Owl Project”. It’s a engine for action adventures, and the 3D routines both for voxels and for textures looking very promising. While Mathias did his presentation in German, Starcat spoke English which was better for our guests from the Netherlands and the Uk. Starcat showed for the first time in public in the routines and graphics of the “inner world”, which means the stuff you see when you are inside a house for example. We keep our fingers crossed, that this project will lead to a release and continue to keep an eye on further alpha and beta releases.

Last but not least a member of the famous eclipse [8] team showed some first impressions of a upcoming Lynx game where you have to move tiles while the graphics are from the Iron Soldier universe. A ambitious project that will be a highlight when it’s finish I could imagine. Also some screenshots of never released Iron Soldier versions for the PS2 were shown. Once again it was shown, that there is activity in the atari games development scenes.

8 Players together play one game, that’s Atari spirit

Next I started the Grenzüberschreitungs competition [9]. This year my falcon looked really like put out of the trash, so some people were in fear, it would not work, but it did, and we managed to have a funny tournament. For the first time since we do competitions on the e-jagfest finally we had a female winner. Sarah managed to win and I scored 2nd (like last year, maybe the Gaztee syndrome) 3rd was Stefan who reached the final because of some lucky circumstances (Jar Jar and Mr. Atari had to get something to eat).Each player in the final also won some “Anno 1701 & Anno 1503” Stuff. UBI Soft gave us some Art books and some chili flowers (hope I will hear how they work) and some T-Shirts.

Grenzüberschreitung results

The infamous Club Drive appeared

Even that it was already after 8 o’clock there were still about 15 people present and we did a last tournament: Club Drive on the Jaguar [10]. We played the mode where you have to chase a ball. Because most of us were watching, it was like a popular sport game. We had some very close matches. Starcat for example was already 9-7 in the back when he manages to beat Link 10-9 and also in the final BMX managed to beat CDi even that CDi had a “match ball”. Great sport I could only repeat and the competition also proved once more, that Club Drive is much better than some people say. Finally CDi won the tournament, BMX scored 2nd and Starcat scored 3rd. It was the first Cup for Starcat so he was happy, like all the others who watch the games. As for the competitions before, UBI Soft sponsored some games and merchandise stuff for all the people in the finals.

The Club Drive competition

Doing some war at the end

Happy and satisfied it was too much harmony in the world, so after the tournaments we sat together and played Dogfight on a Mega STE. This is a nice PD game where you are a fighter pilot and have to shoot the opponent. The nice thing on the game is the possibility to play with 4 players if you have a parallel port joystick adapter. I will test this configuration as soon as possible. A good possibility to test the adapter I once got from GGN. Dogfight was coded by Steve Camber, the same guy who still do a amazing job in patching Kick Off 2 on the Amiga again and again. I met him at the Kick Off WC in Austria, and he was really happy to hear that we had fun with his game.

Then it was time to go and we packed our stuff together and said good bye.

Links


1. 16/32 website
2. atarishop.nl website
3. e-jagfest website
4. Results of the European Checkered Flag Championship
5. Matthias Domin’s website
6. Simon Quernhorst’s website
7. Starcat’s blog
8. Elipse Design website
9. Results of the European Grenzüberschreitung Championship
10. Results of the European Club Drive Championship

Xzentrix 2009 – party report

December 28, 2009

The Xzentrix party is a friendly multiplatform party with a focus on fun and using old machines. It is less demo oriented although demos can be seen ofcourse.

The party is held on a yearly base in Seeshaupt in Bavaria near Munich. Once it had a focus on Amstrad CPC and other Z80 machines but it is open to all platforms that are different from standard PCs. Actually this year there were more non-Z80 machines at the party than Z80 based ones.

ThorN / .tSCc. had suggested visiting the Xzentrix party to me in 2008. The party back then was so nice and different from other parties that I decided right away to visit the upcoming editions aswell.

This year the party run from September 11th to the 13th. The Friday I had a time off from work and did pack my gear and was in a good preparty mood. I took a train late in the afternoon to Ulm where ThorN and his Kick Off mate Frank were supposed to pick me up.

With only a slight glitch which directed ThorN into the local underground car-park at the main station, everything worked well. The car was pretty crowded as ThorN had plenty of gear himself and he already joked I might had to take a second Amiga monitor on my knees for the return trip.

We had quite some fun and decided to eat first. Along the motorway to Munich we gave Mc Donalds a go which turned out to be a good idea. Because we only arrived around 22:30 at Seeshaupt, there wasn’t any proper food to get anymore.

The party was already about 2/3 complete and we quickly occupied one of the free desks left. ThorN setup his Amiga 500 for the Bavarian Kick Off Tournament while I put my trusty STE together with my Satandisk into action. ThorN brought me a nice SC1224 monitor so I could spare myself the trouble to bring one myself. Soon we were playing with our machines, ThorN and Frank ofcourse headed straight into Kick Off 2 while I enjoyed Elite a bit.

Thorn and SSBs desk at Xzentrix 2009

Thorn and SSB's desk at Xzentrix 2009

Various people were already there. Shortly after us, CPC-Mike and Tolkin from the Amstrad CPC scene arrived. CPC-Mike took the desk right next to me which turned out to be a cool thing. Over the course of the party, I got good in touch with him although his Lower Bavarian dialect was hard to understand at times. We got along well and he showed me quite a few games on his CPC6128 and his 6128+. I never had played or worked with a CPC before so this was an interesting experience. I learned a bit about the CPC floppies and for the first time I saw a rather big lot of original 3inch floppy disks. CPC-Mike told me, they normally have a good rate of keeping data. However formatting them again after 20 years will only give a 50/50 success rate.

CPC-Mike and ??? playing on CPC

CPC-Mike and ??? playing on CPC

Ofcourse there were other systems around, including a C64 with an external CPU cartridge. In effect this used the original C64 only as an I/O module and it did run an impressive horizontal scrolling shooter game for two players.

Another C64 user had a YM emulator running on his C64 and we had a very nice chat about it. I introduced him to the SNDH format and into Atari ST bitplanes as he was interested about them. His software currently replays AY and YM files on the SID. However full SNDH support will be unlikely as it requires emulation of the Motorola 68000 aswell as the MFP. He was actually quite impressed by the YM music possible with Maxymiser and Musicmon 2.5.

Other interesting retro systems included both an AIM-65 and a KIM-1. However due to lack of time I didn’t really talk to its owner. Though both were nice to look at – and as I had read some documents on them in the past, I could make atleast some sense out of these interesting singleboard computers.

As always on the Xzentrix there was some Acorn action. E.q. RISC OS 5 running on an embedded ARM board, a RISC PC and a BBC Micro which I saw for the first time live. I think it is a pretty ugly machine but it showed at least some interesting software, including a colorful porn slideshow from the early 80s and various arcade games.

A very special machine was also there, a Sharp X68000 which demonstrated games all the time. I never saw this machine before. I only heard about it. The computer is housed within a distinct black upright tower with vertical floppy slots. According to my knowledge the X68000 is pretty rare and was only sold in Japan for only a few years.

The party location itself was the Communal assembly hall in Seeshaupt. Only drawback was the lack of showers (that seems to be a standard party feature). Breakfast was plenty although rather simple in organisation. “Here are the rolls, there is jelly and Nutella. Serve yourself!” Sweets, drinks including good beer were for sale so there was no need to go shopping to the supermarket. The party pizza on Saturday was actually quite edible, it was both warm and tasted not as cardboard.

I slept quite well for those two nights. Being the second party only where I brought an air bed, it is definitly a good idea to bring one instead of just a skimpy isolating mat. My air bed didn’t loose air this time like it did at the Numerica 2009 in Montbeliard. Even the typical party noise didn’t make sleep much troublesome. I never assumed this to happen but this year at Xzentrix I had no problems with that. I assume it was mainly based upon the better bed.

As always on the Xzentrix party, there was a flea market again. I didn’t buy many items this year. Just a box of several Ocean titles for my STE and a Sega Megadrive pad with 6 buttons. The latter one did work ok in port 0 (mouse port) but not at all in port 1. Instead of modding it, I traded it for 2 other Sega pads at the time of this writing.

Very interesting stuffs at the flea market included a large collection of Laser disks and a Laser disk player. I never saw such before but it wasn’t hooked up so I could not see this technology in working order.

Another interesting item for sale was a Microprofessor Z80 singleboard computer. Sofar I only knew about this from early c’t magazien issues but I never saw one and I didn’t expect to see one.

Codewise the party was uninteresting. Except for me doing a few lines of code on a game project of mine, noone was really coding in large style. Xzentrix is fun oriented, and not for hurry-hurry-finish-that-demo coding. Actually half of the time, people were enjoying games on the different machines, from Amstrad CPC over C64 to Kick Off 2 on the Amiga for ThorN’s tournament, Xzentrix 2009 had a distinct gamer’s feast touch. I liked it this way because it adds a new feel to a party. It’s different to a demo oriented party like Outline but merely a class of its own. I enjoy both styles of parties afterall.

In the end, ThorN really bough that second Amiga monitor, a 1084 with no SCART input. But luckily I didn’t have to take it on my knees. Packing the car better than on the trip to the party, we had more space in the end than before.

After a crosscountry trip through the Bavarian countryside, ThorN dropped me off at Memmingen where I took a train back home to Lake Constance.

All in all, Xzentrix 2009 was a great party. I enjoyed it a lot and considering the low entrance fee of just 10€, it is a good bet to visit. The flea market and the very friendly multisystem atmosphere give it a very cozy and enjoyable feeling.

Xzentrix 2010, I’ll definitly be there!

Links


1. Xzentrix website

Sundown 2009 Party Report

December 28, 2009

Which keeps trying to write itself as Syndown 2009 for some bizarre finger interaction incompetence reason?

22:20hrs. – I-It’s the 11th September 2009, happy twin towers day to you!!

It’s the sort of realtime party report, in a sort of conjuring words from a darkened laptop keyboard sense, which might account for the various myriad misspellings and text malfunctions, multiple restartings etc that I’ve incurred even at this early stage. Anyway, we’re here, after an epic journey of, ooh, many hours across the broken and be-buggered patchwork of UK motorway network linking Budleigh Salterton and Devon with the rest of the planet. But more of that slightly later, as they say.

First impressions are favourable, of a mellow and peaceful place apart from various bigscreen happenings. The party hall, actually the town hall or community centre, is a gentle, suitably mood-lit  and spacious place, there is a hefty generosity of table space to spread out with Mr Dell. This time around I’m opting for a low-key presence, this being the first time at this particular party, so no Atarian gear, apart  from the emulated  versions contained within the laptop, of course. (It might have been a different story, had the soon-arriving ‘UltraSatan’ SD-card storage device had turned up before the party, in which case my STe would have made the trip down too, to take its rightful place in the retro-computer exotic storage device dick swinging contest with the Speccies and Commodorian silicon life-forms present there!)
ourheroes

This is how the interior of the party hall looked. It had a generally ‘pink’ feel to it, as if we were attending a demo party inside a giant’s mouth!

Drinkies have been served by Felice in extremely large plastic pint safety glasses, but no-one is complaining. The contents are what matters, after all. We’re consuming, ermm, tastes like red vino, what a pleasant surprise.

As the hall is in late night chill-down mode, I’ve not checked too closely on what else is in there. A BBC Master from the olden days of 8-bit mightiness has been set up nearby. It may have been stolen from an unsuspecting school’s stock cupboard? The cupboard which was sealed off as a time capsule from the 1980’s!

23.26.

We’ve been up and around the hall and spoken to lots of people, especially Evil Paul for a long time. He was getting fed up with his blood level peaking over the booze level and was taking urgent steps to remedy this. I’ve spotted a table-full of Commodore hardware, Gasman’s Speccy, and a lone ST (Yaay!) running Neochrome master on it. This belongs to a visiting party from occasional Atari botherers ‘Torment’. There are a few EE-Peecees spotted too among the more normal hardware. In fact, I’ve got the most ‘corporate’ looking laptop in here due to sheer customizing laziness on my part. My Microsoft approved ‘XP-Bleu’ desktop sticks out like a semi-drunk besuited salary-man desperately trying to pull one of the demo group femmes attending the party, and falling flat miserably.

Saturday 12.9,09.

99L31 or 00:41 0′ Damn this semi-darkness! It kills typing!

We’ve been quietly studying ST emulation in its latest Hatari 1.3 guise for a while, including the rather nifty Falcon 030 emulation which is now included, This is now mostly good but still a bit broken in places, especially with the sound, Notable successes include the 2007 Outline invitro from Earx and co. Notable failures include the Avena/Digital Chaos Fried Bits 3 demo ‘Enrage’, which suffered as it could not settle on a screen mode so ended up showing none in the end. The other nice thing is that this laptop is not horribly underpowered for Falcy emulation, which is where my now aged Mini Mac G4 falls down at home.

At the end of the day, good old STEEM was still the best option to run through Checkpoint’s Suretrip 2 demo. Which I did. This is the first time of viewing since the Outline party. it still rules! Now wouldn’t it be nice if someone made a hard disk friendly version for my soon to be arriving UltraSatan?

I’ve not taken a lot of notice of the surrounding party over the last hour. Lots of people seem to be actually working on stuff although there is a high loud drink-assisted chat ratio too.

03.08 hrs

The shouty kitchen rules at parties! (I thought I was giving my tired throat a rest coming here!?)

This was posted on the DHS BBS just now by me, in a more tired than ’emotional’ state.

“Me and Felice are at Sundown. It is 03.00hrs. Typing in near darkness after too much mellowing out juice sucks.”

“You’ve no idea how many wrong attempts have actually preceded this final post ;-)”

“It’s a really nice party, I hope I can start to make more sense of it tomorrow in the cold light of day.”

Somehow I don’ t think this will be a long report? (Nonsense, it just needs a bit of finessing!)

10.15 – The real morning, none of that pretend stuff!

Gawd, we did drink a bit last night, did we not? There was a hint of hangover which was swiftly banished with the help of some effective breakfasting.

I’ve slept a thespian sleep, in a tangled forest of stage curtains, behind the stage. There is no set-aside sleeping area, just grab where you can. I managed to get a private alcove surrounded by these curtains which is probably the most intimate space available here. The good news is that the party noise activity had totally tailed off by the time my head hit the inflatable sack at 04.00hrs, so apart from the “usual” rhythmic sleeping noises, there were no disturbances as such. There is a party house rule which limits the volume at a very late hour, out of deference to the local population of Budleigh Salterton, many of whom have had to be carbon-dated to establish their age.

There is a not totally scurrilous rumour going around here that the massed gathering at Sundown 09 has pulled the average age profile in Budleigh down to the point where they need a bus pass, but they are not yet requiring help to get up and have a wee.

We have also breakfasted on our pre-purchased supplies in the surprisingly well-equipped kitchen. The selection, made by myself earlier yesterday, is intended to resemble the staple items of the Outline party style of breakfast. This happily includes a supply of constantly on tap hot hot beverage friendly water, and a microwave oven so strong, it is used in classified defence experiments, maybe? In addition to all of that, there is the sultry promise of a second breakfast of bacon rolls sometime in the next hour.

People are returning to life slowly, but the ambience is still more sleepy than anything, some people are outside eagerly grabbing the last traces of summer as it is a glorious day. I’ll join them in a bit.

# Journey Down! # – Time to say a few words about our travel travails.

Around 16,00hrs yesterday, Northampton, a world away – An automotively equipped Felice putters down our street with a car loaded with me, and stuff. We’re trying for the rather unique sensation of sampling the whole demo party experience without having to leave these shores. This has the advantage of cutting the overall journey time and leaving out the expensive ‘getting across the wet bit in the middle’ part. The downside is that the hours that we do travel included some tedious motorway episodes.

Felice utilised the TomTom in his head to route us close to a Friday rush-hour choked Birmingham. As subsequent radio traffic reports showed, this was actually the least worst option available, any alternate route had an accident and closures on it. The most enduring motorway-based ennui came when passing through Avonmouth/Bristol with a roadworks cunningly designed to make the worst of the situation. This was a tedious travellers tale that just about all the partygoers had in common. Unless some people managed a beach landing directly on the shingly sea front at Budleigh Salterton? Arrival, allowing for a couple of deliberate stops, the above-mentioned delays and a little searching around Budleigh Salterton itself from where the unspecific directions ran out, was around 21.30 hrs. We clearly  managed to avoid going too far as there was no loud splash at the end.

And that was the journey down. As the first notes from last night hinted, the party was already in a late night lockdown with a fair amount of alcoholic consuming going on, which we felt compelled to quickly join in with.

11:44

Confounding my expectation of no catering being provided in the party, we have just consumed the free bacon roll, cooked by the hand of rc55, the party organiser head person. We’ve also found Topy of Trabant owning fame who is also wearing an Outline 2009 T-shirt, the top garment of choice if you happened to have been to that memorable party. What are the chances of that happening? He asks. Rather good, I reply! An automotive conversation follows in the late morning sunshine, just outside the party hall. Apart from one or two nasty details, he thinks it would be possible to convert a Trabant to right hand (UK) drive. But you have to like hardware hacking to some degree to do it properly. (The most intractable part of this changeover would be relocating the gear shift, which is mounted on the dashboard on the left hand side and connected directly to the transmission which can’t be moved itself, which means that driving a right hand Trabi would then become a two person operation!)

13.09

I’ve been down the beach with mOd and friend. I managed to stay compliant with local by-laws and avoided dog-fouling. I also did not go any faster than 8 knots either. I guess not being shaped like a boat might have helped in the latter case. The beach is shingly with lots of pebbles underfoot, There was enough swooshy wave action for mOd to be caught unawares and fall whilst trying to run backwards away from an unexpectedly far travelling wave. We spent a lot of the time there trying to throw as many pebbles as possible back into the sea, which kept bringing them all back. We eventually tired of this canute-like endeavour and headed back into town. The rest of Budleigh high street is the (un)usual small town mix of the mundane and eye-poppingly weird. The latter category including a shop that reflects the twin obsessions of the owner, selling scale models of cars, buses and trains alongside born-again christian literature in the same shop window. Budleigh also has the distinction of hosting the most paranoid Chinese restaurant in Britain, but more of that later!
IMGP0402.JPG

No further comment or elaboration needed, this was a real distraction from the party at hand.

It almost feels like a disincentive to force oneself to stop at the party with such a pristine piece of showmanship for late summer on the beach as a rival attraction? Note for next time, if the weather is going to be lovely in a mid-September fashion next year, maybe we try to get down here as early as possible and enjoy a day chilling out at the seaside whilst the rest of the party is still arriving and setting up.

14.25

We are eating the lunchtime stuffs which were purchased from a busy Co-op mini-mart place in town. There is a timetable which kicks off at 15.00 and looks pretty busy thereafter.. I guess we’ll duck out from one of the music compo’s for the evening meal.

One of the party orga’s is an Orb fan, judging by the choice of music from the main speakers.

16:13

The preceding hour has been filled with silliness, faux-quizzes, bad musical impersonations and total randomness, including forced eating of chilli-sauce flavoured pringles, in the ritual known as Meaty’s quiz. Fortunately, none of this demands much audience participation apart from ironic applause and sarcastic remarks. All of the above works really well, in a way which is hard to explain if you are not already there. Me bombarding an uncomprehending readership with in-jokes rarely works, so I won’t on this occasion. There will be some real competitions later on. This is also the point at which you realise that you did not sleep nearly enough last night.

So went off for a bit to sort that out. Clunk, ZzzZZ! (Well more of a doze really.)

17:05 and back with caffeine, and awaiting the first (graphics) competitions. Which will not be until around 6.pm. Ho hum.

17.35 – Wine opened, Felice brought in fresh supplies, hurrah to him! So tonight’s slow spiral of decline starts here….

18.25 – Still no competition but we have spoken to Alex Holland, keeper of the Thalion Shrine who turned out without much pre-warning, which was nice. He was interested to see we were running emulated Atari’s but was here with a mini-mig Amiga thing, so he was thusly embracing the dark side today!

19.39

My fingers are sticky with the residue of Chinese food and my mind is gummed with the comprehension of STILL NO COMPETITIONS! – Have they brought in last year’s Alt Party team to run the compo’s or what?!

We went out for our evening meal to an interesting local Chinese takeaway. We had heard reports in-party from various people that it was a place with an agenda going beyond the mere serving of food. Our walking tour soon located these premises and we headed in. The food ordering was normal enough. What was very strange were the numerous pasted submissions, collages, comments, notices and handwritten pleas to be delivered from the forces of evil, whether they be the Illuminati, the antichrist, or the income tax office and bankruptcy courts. There were clearly “issues” going on here, and the owners of the restaurant either had a lot of problems, or a massive persecution complex. Still, I took a picture of ‘Peace Chicken’ when it was quiet and no-one looking. I guess he’ll come to the rescue?

Unfortunately, I ordered him to be served enclosed within batter balls and with a sweet and sour sauce, so that won’t happen then!

DSC02721

So what’s a legal wrong then?

Felice has over-ordered, managing to add special fried rice to the order as a ‘meal within a meal’ before he realised what he had done, so after eating my own substantial meal, I’ve been lending a hand, or fork with his. (Buuurp!)

Sunday – 00.13

Some considerable time after the last log entry.

We’ve had some nightmare live competition moments, where the organisers opted to do everything on the spur of the moment, and seemed to be constantly surprised by the many potholes of error and confusion that they fell down on the way. The music competitions suffered particularly, with one entry seeming to wreck swathes of equipment. There were a lot of agonised pauses by the time we got the oldschool demos underway. To make up for that, there were a decent number of entries, including a reasonable life-sign intro from Torment on the ST, and a couple of smashers on some decently obscure platforms, namely a full on megademo on the BBC Master mentioned earlier in the text. This was running entirely in mode 7 ‘teletext’ graphics, which is great for memory conservation and not a lot else. There was a lot of videoclip or effects, so some kind of video streaming or intensive data packing took place here?

Barely a step behind was a pretty nifty ZX81 (16k) demo from Noice which even included a hi-res fullscreen effect using some dirty hack which would set Sir Clive Sinclair’s beard on fire, A ZX Speccy demo from Ate Bit was notable for using the tape loading process to deliver parts of a demo on the way to loading its end product. Not to mention the 1 kilobyte music demo on the Speccy which was also an audience favourite.

There is a little matter of some newschool stuff to come shortly, whatever  that  might mean?! I’ll whinge about competition running later!

01.25

A shortish newschool competition concludes proceedings. Some good intros, some less convincing demos and only a handful of the latter. A party of the hardened partygoers have apparently made good their promise to go down to the stumbly uneven beach, in the dark. Several people with shovels have been sent after to dig a mass grave for them.

I’ll close down here for tonight, finish up in the morning.

09.27

Well a party of the hardened partygoers went down the beach and I took myself along with a follow-up team to join in. There were about twenty or thirty Sundowners who were reveling in the flickering light of a bonfire made from driftwood and random burny stuff. I declined the ankle-breaking opportunities inherent in the beach’s shinglescape and made it intact with the illuminating assistance of an LED pen-torch. Most other lighting was with the background of countless glowsticks, including some intrepid people who started to melt these in the fire and ‘paint’ random pebbles with their luminous droplets.

There was one serious and several silly attempts at slow capture photography and light graffiti with said glowsticks. It was a clear night, the moon was out and the stars were clearly visible overhead. In short, the perfect ending to the party. I decided to call it a night and shuffled back through a completely deserted town centre and back to the partyplace for bed shortly before 03.00 which is when the timer clock on my bladder would have expired.

IMGP0425.JPG

The real party is on the beach!

So now we’re on the second morning after, no hangover symptoms. The drinking did not get going for me in the same way as the previous night which may not have been a bad thing, and it’s time to round up this party report.

Sundown, the summing up…

The party considered – Sundown fits nicely into my mental map for pleasant experiences with the smaller to medium sized parties I’ve been to before. It is about the size of one of the earlier editions of Outline. Maybe less than a hundred people, but not that far off. The atmosphere is intentionally relaxed and laid back, a number of factors to be discussed shortly contribute to this feeling.

The location – (Hall) Budleigh Salterton Town Hall makes a rather good location for a party of this scale. It manages to be roomy and accommodate everyone without feeling squashed. The table space (two people per table) was generous, especially on a first visit with a minimal hardware presence (laptops only.) The partygoer does not feel cramped or crammed in. The hall is not completely ideal, it does have some superior facilities, such as a very good kitchen, which allows plenty of space and equipment for food preparation and consumption. On the other hand, there is no proper bathroom, as in showers, so perhaps two to three days is the longest a party can be sustained here? Sleeping arrangements tend to fall towards the ad-hoc, but there is plenty of spare space where you can remove yourself from the party hall. The other helpful aspect is there is a policy of keeping things quiet later on, partly out of consideration for the local elderlies, but also with a growing realisation that the majority of people attending Sundown are now after their first flush of wild and drunken youth.

The location – (Budleigh Salterton) – A seaside town, when September chooses to smile on you is a serious distraction from the business of partying, especially in Devon, in an area of outstanding natural beauty. I managed to get some beach time, which was described earlier in the report, not to mention the “real party is outside” themed episode late last night. Budleigh is an endearingly strange place, the average citizen is of a rather senior age. However, letting this party happen at all is a big plus in their favour. I learned at some point that this hall is used for Gaming LAN parties, so the idea of loads of youngish people with computers taking up residence in their community hall is not so alien as it might first appear to the overage Budleigh Saltertonians. Usefully, the LAN party is acting as a gateway drug for the demo party to take place!

Competitions – Is it me, or are competition organizers in general regressing, going senile and losing life skills as I get older? I remember going to the Error in Line parties back in 1999 to 2003 which generally ran smoothly in this area. They pre-recorded entries and these got shown more or less at the appointed times without any, lets say, unexpected delays or hold-ups in the actual entry showing process. This seems to be the gold standard benchmark to judge the rest by. Most other parties that I’ve since been to, including the rather expanded Alt Party last year seem to have taken a balls-out high risk live showing policy, which then goes horribly wrong. Sundown ’09 adds another chapter to this. It’s getting to the point where I’m getting nervous about sitting out a competition showing, as these appear to consist of a string of errors and embarrassments without a tangible end in sight? However, to make up for this, the entries were of high quality, particularly a well stocked oldschool demo competition.

People – I’ve got a small confession to make, I’m piss-poor at putting names to faces until I’ve got to know the people in question a bit more. I’ve spoken to a lot of friendly people without really remembering who they are. One or two of them were female and rather appealing in an uber geek chick kind of way. I had a nice chat with MegMeg, the  female half of the Beeb-bothering crew Neurotypical. rc55 was a fine host, even if he did sound like the head steward on a holiday airways flight camply apologizing for said flight encountering turbulence on a flight to Spain, especially when the competitions weren’t going to plan. It was nice to remeet an old Outline face, Topy, keeper of the Trabi, but he had left it wisely at home, figuring that it might be euthanised by an overkeen ‘Elf and safety” inspector over here, whose prime mission is to condemn and destroy that which does not conform to their narrow world view. We got talking to Gasman a lot of the time, another face from past parties elsewhere. There was a long and lubricated chat with EvilPaul.

We had a lot of chatting with Steve, aka Stavros, aka ‘Stav’ who we had a fair bit in common with. Rather late in the day we got talking to Spiny of Torment. We managed to bump into Alex Holland, who remembered us from the very memorable STNICCC 2000 party in Karsmakers-land.

Of almost no interest to anyone, the journey back was a weary reverse-run of the journey over, without the darkness, more hold-ups around Bristol but fewer delays around Birmingham. Which just about concludes this part of the report.

So the crucial question the end of this report has been waiting for. Is this a party which has that all-important “must come back factor”? Hell yes it does!

CiH, for Low Res Mag, Sept/Oct 2009.

The future for the CT63 lies in smaller things?

December 28, 2009

I had a discussion a few days ago, with a certain scener that has a CT60 [1]. He was telling me that he had expected much more from the machine, he expected a machine that would be more geared towards demos and games but it instead proved to be aimed to GEM users.

Essentially this is true. We’ve only seen two major demos for the CT60, Supernatural by Evolution and Derealization by DHS and various smaller intros with the most notable in my view being Genocidal, again by DHS. I am not mentioning Mikro’s ports of the TBL demos because they aren’t demos specifically made for the Atari, great as they are (and a good way to tease amiga users I might add :P). In the game front things are even worse, with only ports of old open sourced games and game engines. Great as they are again, nothing specific for the ct60.

DHS videodb for a much better quality video:

You don’t need an explanation for that. Usual excuses apply. Basically it can be summarised to real life. We aren’t young students anymore. But if we also take a look a bit deeper I would like to point two or three more possible reasons. The first is the bad timing of the CT60 appearance. It came at a time when the remaining sceners had abandoned the plain old simple falcon and went back to their ST/STE roots. All we need is to take a look at the recent releases for those machines. Though their numbers aren’t really high, the quality generally is.

and again better video at DHS videodb:

The second reason has to do with the great power of the accelerator, and as they say with great power comes great responsibility. The responsibility here lies with doing something spectacular, something as good and better to what the Amiga scene has been doing with these accelerators for years. This however besides the skill, that already exists, needs time, needs a lot of work from lots of people which adds to the time.

The third reason has to do with GEM. Many of the people who got the 060 are GEM users and not that much interested in the scene. People who want a fast GEM machine. Indeed this accelerator has boosted software production in that area a lot. Of course that argument falls into the false dichotomy category. We are all gem users. We all to some or more extend use GEM apps. I am writting this on a GEM app ;). Still, false as it may be this dichotomy exists though I really can’t understand it..

What I can understand though is the fact that I want this CT63 to become more enjoyable. I vote therefore for smaller demos and more cheating :). As much as I enjoy full featured demos, I’d really like to see more intros, even if they are just a couple of screens and a scroller. I think that those smaller projects could start a chain effect. I really don’t know that much about demo making but I’d think that a great time is spent towards making all things fit, finding new effects that appear coherent, collecting graphics and all those things that make a demo. Like in life, big projects are hard to start and even harder to finish.

I think I am bringing an owl to Athens (obligatory greek expression put in order to confuse readers) and those are things everyone’s already thought. But hopefully it will spark some interesting discussion in the comments section below..

Links


1. Powerphenix – Website of the CT63

An old trick re-used?

December 28, 2009

Cunning copyright catches crooks according to the BBC?  This has been done before as we reveal how!

This excerpt was taken from the BBC Website dated the 13.9.09.

“Video games developer Eidos have come up with a novel way of catching users playing pirated copies of their game.

Players using illegal copies of Batman: Arkham Asylum have found that essential control functions in the game have been disabled, rendering it unplayable.

Players attempting to use the glide function within the game will find it disabled in pirated versions, resulting in the Batman character coming to an untimely end.

The protection system came to light when a user complained on the Eidos support forum saying:

“When I…jump from one platform to another, Batman tries to open his wings again and again instead of gliding.”

An Eidos community manager replied, saying the user had encountered “a hook” in the copy protection system, designed to “catch out people who try and download cracked versions of the game for free”.

“It’s not a bug in the game’s code, it’s a bug in your moral code,” he added.”

Now let’s look past the triumphalist boasting, as I think we’ve been here before.

Back in 1993, a well-known figure on the Atari scene has a copy of ‘Oids’ by FTL Software and decides to crack it for (hem!) educational purposes (actually to render it Falcon 030 compatible.) I won’t name this person as he is now established in the ‘industry’. However, what was supposed to be a quick ten minute job to strip out the disk protection took most of the afternoon. This was once I had discovered by playing it that the initial attempt had only succeeded in removing a false layer of protection and some critical game features were disabled. It turned out that FTL had put in a much deeper and hard to root out second layer which directly affected the gameplay (if the first protection was removed? I’m hazy on the details.) This is quite a cunning ploy for a game written in 1985 or thereabouts.

Then as now, the protection system coders were relying on the tendency of crackers not to playtest their end result too intensively. It would need someone with prior experience of the gameplay from an untainted disk to point out that something was badly wrong. In the case of Oids, the rescued prisoners would not mill about once they were freed, but stood still on the spot, passively waiting to be fried by your landing thrusters. Also the alien bases were not generating enemies properly. I think there are still some ‘cracked’ versions out there that are incompletely de-protected and only work in this partial fashion?

Putting in dummy protection and nobbling the gameplay will work to some extent, as cracking a game using that system will involve more effort and slow down the crackers. They will need to check more intensively that what they have done works. However it isn’t going to take anyone with half a brain too long to work out what is up and it’s more or less business as usual, once the initial surprise element has been overcome.

So, Eidos, how does it feel to revisit a technique used a quarter of a century ago?

Any thoughts on this?

CiH
for Low Res Mag – 16/9/09

My life with the CT63

December 28, 2009

CT63 as main computer. Yes! in 2009! What’s it like to use a CT63 equiped atari falcon 030 in 2009? This is what LowRes will try to explore in this article. I must say that I’ve re-written it at least 3 times since I wasn’t happy with how it turned out the first two. Hopefully three is a charm.

Prologue

In the beginning the article was an idea. How would it feel to have the ct63 as my only computer for just a week? The week became 3 months since my PC broke and I started using the Atari. After all 50% of my computer usage was Atari related. Chatting at irc, playing games, a bit of coding. The rest was my thesis, wasting time at youtube, reading the news etc. But let’s look at the available hardware first.

Hardware

That would be an Atari Falcon +CT63 with 14MB STRAM and 256MB TTRAM, 40GB hard disk, a PeST adapter, a joystick and a jagpad. For networking, I got an ethernec adapter. The ethernec and the PeST are gifts from my good friend ggn whom I publically thank. Your friendship means a lot to me. The CT63 runs at 70MHz though I found it to be more stable at 66.6MHz. The PeST allows me to use a MS optical mouse and the ethernec to have internet access.

Software

The software I use is Highwire for browsing (with some CAB for pages that cause highwire to crash – css overflow), AtarIRC for my IRC needs, aFTP for FTP, Aniplayer for music and video and FalcAMP for online radio. This document is written on Atari Works and oh I forgot to say that I use an EasyMiNT setup. What I couldn’t find was a mail client that could use TLS that my email provider needs. Webmail naturally doesn’t work. As for my Thesis, I read PDF’s with zVIEW and I have compiled with g++ 4.4.1 the software I’ve written. Unfortunately, and this is a big problem, I haven’t found a way to type Greek on the Atari in a way that can be easily read from other computers. And since my thesis is in Greek, I have a problem.. Still, simple txt files can be converted with a program I’ve found and compiled. Also that’s a problem for greek websites, so that I’ve no problem viewing them, but a hell of a problem writing. There are a lot more programs I use, such as Two in One and KKCommander, QED and 7up, Taskbar and more.

My Teradesk powered desktop

Numb3rs
We’ve all seen benchmarks of the CT60, so no point in adding more. But since they are important I’d like to point out some. First of all the uptime, that can range from 10 seconds to 14hrs or until I shut down the machine. Once I figured out which programs to use and which not to touch, stability was increased a lot. I have found out though that sometimes NVDI or XBOOT crash on startup. Resetting the machine fixes it. Network speeds are around 400K/s locally and up to 100K/s on the internet. However with 99% of the downloads, speeds up to 30K/s are much more realistic. I’d have to stick with an average of 25K/s. There are more than 25 processes running at any given time, with an average of 28 and there are approximately 3GB’s of data sitting in my harddrive. A good cleanup will most likely eliminate about 200MB’s but since space isn’t really an issue…

KKcmd and sneek peak on my HD

Games and Demos
Unfortunately that’s where the CT63 fails to deliver. While applications are generally good, games and demos aren’t. Only very few of the falcon patched games by D-Bug and Klapauzius run, and things aren’t much better on the falcon only front. Falcon games that will run include Robinson’s Requiem CD (which benefits from the extra speed), Spice, Llamazap, Rave, Q-blue and RoadRiot 4WD. Steel Talons also runs but at a slideshow framerate.
With demos compatibility is also an issue with Underscore running like a slideshow until it crashes and Sonoluminszenz having the same effect. Various other demos will either crash or not run at all and only Beams taking advantage of the extra speed. Generally demos that make heavy use of the DSP exhibit slowdowns on the 060. I think that was explained in a previous issue of Alive. Stotro runs very well though and I am very happy for it :).
Games for the 060 simply don’t exist, with the exception of game engine ports, such as Doom, Quake, OpenTTD and SCUMMVM but I don’t play fps and SCUMM won’t run on my system. The 060 demos though, as well as the TBL ports are absolutely brillant. Please, more!

My Thesis
This is the only thing I must do on a computer, and sending mails but I’ve already discussed that. My thesis is a computer model – a simulation of a physical system that I’ve programmed in C++. Fortunately it compiled with relative ease on the falcon and it can now be executed here. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find a program that will do some of the calculations I need after I run it. So I either have to program it myself or use a PC. I could use the program Euler to do those calculations, but unfortunately that will not run on the 060. Not sure if a recompile could fix that, but I have been unable to recompile it. My knowledge of C is very limited.

Coding
That’s another problem I’m facing but that is mostly a problem of me not knowing enough about Atari coding. I have no problem with console coding, and I know nothing about GEM coding, so the problem is in something I’d like to do. Demo coding. So I would have to write a system that would get me at STlow and back to my current MiNT desktop, but that is something I have been unable to do. It’s OK you may say, go back to TOS. Well, not so easy.. Lack of knowledge means I constantly need to use material that is either online or in hypertext documents or in simple documents. That means I need a multitasking environment. All in all, I miss STEEM! GBE is great though :). And now I stop whining!

Media

Well, you can play audio files and do other stuff as well. No problem there. Video is another issue. Apart from youtube that is out of the question, it’s not very likely you get to play a 320×240 divx movie, though the divx codec exists (aniplayer again). I suspect that the 060 can be just about fast enough (with the help of the DSP) but the slow bus bandwidth and the low colour depth might not allow it. It’s possible though that the supervidel or the radeon will fix that. I’d like to hear people’s opinions on the subject.

Highwire and Aniplayer

Epilogue
The Atari is just not up to the task to be a modern computer. It’s close though. It covers approximately 75% of my computer needs and about 50% of my computer wants. I found out that the features I mostly need are web stuff. More particularly Javascript and ssl. That way I wouldn’t need to move to a pc every few hours to check something on my webmail. Also, a bigger resolution than 640×480 would have been nice. My TFT screen doesn’t like the manipulation done by programs such as Videlity or Blowup so I am stuck. Generally the software in the Atari world is very good. I don’t think my falcon doesn’t have a program that was equivalent to the one I used on the PC, with the exception of a program that could process scientific data in the way I want it to.
The transition from the PC to the Atari was a bit hard but now that I will go back to using a PC I find myself not that excited. I think that people who will switch to the Coldari, when that becomes available, won’t have a hard time to do so. It’s probably harder for me to go back to the IBM compatibles (remember when that was the word we used for them?) than staying on the Atari, but truth be told, there are a few things missing that do make life harder than it should.
I am very interested to see people’s responses on this article, what do you use your atari for, what would you like to be using it for and what do you miss from the days when the atari was your main computer?

Wiz2600 – an Atari 2600 emulator for the GP2X Wiz

December 28, 2009

While browsing an archive of available software for the opensource handheld console GP2X Wiz [1] [2], I stumbled upon Wiz2600 [3].

Wiz2600

Wiz2600

This is an emulator for the Atari 2600 or Atari VCS console. It enables the user to play Atari 2600 games on the GP2X Wiz handheld.

The emulator is available as opensource [4].

Installation on the GP2X Wiz is very simple. Just put the wiz2600 folder inside your game folder on the SD card or the builtin NAND Flash and leave the ini file there. Place all game rom images into the roms folder and launch the emulator.

First the user sees a configuration menu. Here various options as screen settings, audio and joystick can be  configured. Select the game rom image you want to play and start the emulation. Now the GP2X Wiz will behave like the Atari 2600 and you can play the game. pressing MENU will bring back the configuration menu.

The 2600 functions like RESET and SELECT are mapped to the fire buttons, the directional pad works as the joystick.

From what I tried sofar, the games works. I could play Space Invaders, Jr. Pacman and Mrs Pacman with Wiz2600 well. Only slight problem seems to be the sound. It sounds quite different to what I know from my original Atari 2600jr. The onscreen color scheme also looks a bit off but it does not break the fun.

With Wiz2600 you can easily enjoy Atari 2600 titles on your GP2X Wiz. A musthave for all owners of the GP2X Wiz handheld!


Links

  1. http://dl.openhandhelds.org/cgi-bin/wiz.cgi
  2. About the GP2X Wiz handheld at http://www.gp2xwiz.com/
  3. Download Wiz2600
  4. Wiz2600 homepage

UltraSatan in use, some quirks and workarounds.

December 28, 2009

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!

JayMSA – multifeatured disk image handling for Atari ST

December 28, 2009

Even if you are not deep into emulation, sooner or later you will stumble upon disk images in .MSA or .ST format. Basically those files are similar to ZIP archives or ISO images. they do not only hold files and there directory structure, but the exact layout of tracks on the original floppy disk is preserved.

JayMSA

JayMSA

JayMSA by Jaysoft [1] is free to download and use. The utility runs on all Atari STs and compatibles and fully utilizes the GEM desktop and is multitasking friendly.

With JayMSA one cannot only read disk images and save their contents as .MSA or .ST disk images ready for use with known ST emulators, but it also can write those images back onto disk. It also allows to extract files from a disk image. This feature is particular handy for hard drive users who do not want to run software from a floppy. Basically this saves the need to fully write the disk image onto a floppy disk.

Imaging a disk is simple with JayMSA. Just put the floppy you want to image into your drive, use the “Disk” menu to select the destination drive and click “Compress”. In the next dialogue select the options you want to employ for imaging

. If you are using TOS, the CRC feature seems to be buggy. It crashed for me in the past. But if you disable it, everything will work nicely.

You can select different target formats with MSA and ST being the most reasonable. Disk images in .ST format are not packed by default so I don’t recommend using them. After selecting where you want the fresh disk image to be stored, the program asks for confirmation and begins the imaging process.

JayMSA imaging a disk

JayMSA imaging a disk

When the imaging process has finished, JayMSA will list the contents of the new disk image in its main window. This will work as long as there is a FAT filesystem on the image. Software that loads from raw tracks will most likely only display some garbage here.

In this dialogue files can be selected, viewed with a configured text viewer from within the active disk image and ofcourse, extracted on their own to disk. Handy if you want to copy a single file from an entire disk image to your hard disk. Just click “Extract” in the “File” menu.

JayMSA - extracting files from a disk image

JayMSA - extracting files from a disk image

To write a disk image back to disk, select “Open” in the “File” menu to display the contents of your file. Now go to the “Disk” menu and select “Extract” to write the disk image back to a floppy. The process is similar to imaging a disk and ofcourse, JayMSA can write the same disk images back to disk that it created, e.q. you can write .ST files to disk with this.

Pro JayMSA

  • compatible with all previous MSA disk imagers
  • handles multiple disk image formats including .ST
  • has its own MSA file format with LZH compression
  • can clean bootsectors if desired (handy for those Ghost virus infested disk boxes)
  • shows contents of a disk image and allows to extract individual files
  • nice GUI
  • as a clean application, it works on all Ataris

Contra JayMSA

  • as most other disk imagers, JayMSA cannot image floppy disks with copy protection
  • uses “clean” disk access only so may not image everything no retry upon disk errors
  • the LZH compressed image formats can only be read and written by JayMSA itself
  • CRC option seems not to be compatible with TOS
  • window font display is buggy in ST-LOW and ST-MEDIUM if no NVDI is installed

Conclusion

All in all, I like JayMSA a lot and I use it regularly to write .MSA and .ST files to disk – and for the odd disk I need to image. Definitly a valuable tool for your Atari ST!


Links:

  1. JaySoft website

A brief history of the ST.

December 28, 2009

The Atari ST was unveiled to the public In January 1985 at the CES in Las Vegas. To see what the ST was though, we need to go one year back, to the ousting of Jack Tramiel from the company he founded, Commodore. We’ll skip the intrigue that surrounds that event and we’ll just say that Jack didn’t go alone, but also brought with him the engineer behind the 64, Shiraj Shivji.

When Jack lost his position at Commodore, he founded a company called Tramiel Technologies and Shiraj Shivji started working on a new 16-bit machine. How far the development had gone is at this moment unknown. What we know for a fact was that, as per the Atari Historical Society’s documents [1] and as dadhacker describes in his blog [2], he bought Atari with the dream to make this new computer that would bring the 16-bit revolution in power but without the price. That computer would eventually become the ST, we all know and love, but since the details are sketchy to say the least, Low Res decided to boldly go to the one person that knows more about Atari than Atari ever knew for itself.


The original 520 ST*

Curt Vendel is the man that created the Atari museum, founded Legacy engineering [3] and got the new Atari reinterested in their legacy with the Flashback 1 and 2 consoles. If there is one person respected and admired by all Atari fans, regardless of their favourite poison that would be him. We are therefore honoured that he agreed to answer a few questions.

Low Res: We’ve read the descriptions of dadhacker, who worked in TOS development but from those we can’t tell if the Tramiels had come to Atari with just an idea of a computer or if its development had already reached a good level. Rumour has it that it was the Amiga deal and Lorraine that actually forced Atari’s hand in both the ST’s design and the rush to the market. Are those two rumours true and if so to which extend?

Curt Vendel: Those rumors are completely false. Tramiel setup shop in May of 1984 in some office space in California where Shiraz went to work on his design for a new low cost computer (Codenamed – “RBP” for Rock Bottom Price). The Tramiels knew nothing about the existing contract between Warner owned Atari Inc and Amiga Corp, this relationship had been on going since late 1983 and Atari and Amiga went into contract in late Feb 1984 and paid Amiga an upfront advance of $500,000 towards the development of the Amiga chipset. Amiga would then receive $3mill from a stock buy by Atari when Amiga delivered the chipset to Atari at the end of June 1984.

Low Res: When was the Atari ST sent to the production lines?

Curt Vendel: “RBP” was in design and development within Atari from July 1984 through its showing at the 1985 Winter CES were it was shown to the public. Through the spring of 1985 the custom chips were being finalized and initial runs of the chips were made in May & June. Atari User Groups and Developers received small quantities of sample units in June 1985. Full production began in July through August 1985 and Retailers began to see shipments in late September 1985.

To speed up time to market, the “TOS” (The Operating System, or Tramiel Operating System) was initially delivered on diskettes as the new OS rom chips were not masked and ready in time for production release.

Low Res: You’ve written in the Atari Age forum that the ST was to be fitted with the AMY chip but instead it got the YM 2149. Were there any other corners cut in a bid to rush to the market? Was the ST supposed to have more such as hardware scrolling, sprites etc?

Curt Vendel: I wouldn’t called them “cutting corners” it was more of a strategic decision. AMY was and even today, still is a very remarkable audio chip design. However it still had bugs in its designs and time was running out to get it ironed out and then integrated into the ST design, so it was moved to be put into an XE series computer – however it would never make it into that computer design either. “SHIFTER” and “GLUE” were pretty much unchanged in their features and designs from what Shiraz envisioned them to what came out, so with that and from engineering notes and internal emails, it doesn’t appear that graphics features were cut back on in the initial design.

Low Res: The ST was marketed as a rival to the Macintosh, and truth be told it was a better machine. The result proved the Tramiels right since only the “business machines” survived, but what was the rationale behind it?

C.V. : Everything became a casualty of the X86 Win/PC machines. Once Windows 3.1 came out, it began to spell the doom for most computer platforms that were not X86/Windows. Even Apple in the 1990’s nearly went under and came close to stepping out of the PC business. The ST’s however had a simple design with intelligent features like a PC compatible disk drive design, color graphics, decent sound and built in ports for all basic needs from a computer user. Its ASCI port was actually SCSI done slightly better as devices self-assigned ID’s to themselves. Overall the ST was a good machine.

LR:The ST case design is.. interesting. Somebody thought to put the joystick ports underneath the keyboard. What were they thinking?

C.V.: I was never a fan of the Gray cased ST/XE look. It was so foreign to what Atari products looked like and should look like. Cost wise- doing an all in one case may be good, but visually I found it ugly. These are my own personal opinions of course. Yes the positioning of the joystick/mouse ports was a poor/clumsy choice, but given that most space around the sides was already occupied, there wasn’t much choice. I gained a lot more respect for the ST’s when the Mega ST line of “pizza box” styled systems and hard drives. It was an attractive look. Most importantly – a detachable keyboard that everyone wanted and expected in a computer by that time. Of course then the design went back to the 1040ST styled case again. The Mega Ste and TT030 were unusual looking systems, they had a unique look to them. I did like the fact that the TT030 came in an off-white appearance, it was much more pleasant looking then the dull gray color.

LR: Any other interesting insight we forgot to ask?

C.V: I think you asked some good questions.

TOS, The Operating System or Tramiel Operating System as it has been nicknamed was developed in a very short time on an Apple Lisa and in the offices of Digital Research. Anyone with any OS experience from Atari was sent there, they were given the x86 source code and the giant hack that is TOS became a reality. The descriptions of working there are an interesting read. Go to dadhacker’s blog and read them.

Atari actively marketed the Atari ST as a Mac beater and an IBM undertaker but unfortunately that didn’t really take off. The war would be with the Amiga. Atari had the fame of a home computer maker, at least in the United States and so had Commodore.

Ads like this:

would do little to change the climate and the first battle with the Amiga would be on the TV set of a show called computer chronicles[5]. The war that included various schoolyard battles, angry magazine writing campaigns and other favourite childhood memories was started then and ended… well it pretty much goes oon various internet forums where grown men (and women) can be kids again and behave like such ;).

Links


1. Atari Museum
2. Dad hacker blog
3. Legacy engineering
4. Atari ST vs Amiga

*ST image compliments of the Atari museum.

20 years ago (no political correctness under the tree)

December 28, 2009

Most of us know that close before a new year starts, there is this Christian party called Xmas, and all over the land people talk about peace and harmony, so this time I will have a look in some mags, what I find about this topic.

The One (UK) January 1990

The first two pages are an advertisement for “Operation Thunderbolt” The advertisement tell us:

  • “Blockbuster follow-up to last Christmas’s No.1 Hit .. Operation Wolf ..”
  • Now with twice the action, twice the fun, twice the challenge

Year, a great start. I never understand why war games were marketed as “funny”. Well I’m sure that a lot of pupils who let their parents bought them the games are at the moment in Afghanistan or somewhere else and maybe now they have their fun (I’m cruel, I know) Would be a good idea to send the advertisement guys down there as well I think.

The remarkable reviews this issue were:

  • X-Out

I have to play that game, it has a good reputation.

  • Black Tiger

I bought a copy of the game at the Xzentrix. It looks nice and the controls are also good. A good jump and run game.

  • Chase HQ

I played that a lot in the past, a good racing game I think. The special I remember was the split of the course.

Top 5 Atari ST

  1. Hard Drivin
  2. Powe Drift
  3. Laser Squad
  4. Pro Tennis Tour
  5. Strider

ASM (Germany) December 1989

What a contrast 🙂 On page 2 there are game cards (for what were they good?) And the first one is Rainbow Warrior, a game about Greenpeace. Political correct 🙂

The remarkablest reviews were:

  • Chambers of Shaolin

The first game I remember that use the bottom border. The training session was always more fun than the game itself

  • Shufflepuck Cafe

Still a great game. A unique concept among the ST games. You could say pong on speed. Well air hockey is the right expelantion.

  • Continental Circus

Enjoyed this game a lot in the STOT round last year. A racer with some unique stuff. It’s a tuff game.

  • A picture of everybody’s darling Jeff Minter

He wanted to do a game for the Koenix console. Both never entered the shops. Sad.

  • Rings of Medusa

I never played it, even that I own a original box, but it has a good reputation

  • North & South

A milestone in games history. Ok it’s war so it’s not political correct, but I played it like hell, and who does not remember when he let 3 horsed die in the river because they missed the bridge. Also unforgetable: the traitor 🙂

Top 5 Atari ST:

  1. Kult
  2. Xenon 2
  3. Summer Edition
  4. Super Hang On
  5. Populous

Also interesting, inside the magazine there was a Michael Jackson “Moonwalker” poster, maybe this is valuable these days

An interview with Rygar about the Lynx and its 20 years.

December 26, 2009

It’s 2009 and 20 years have passed since Atari released the Lynx. To commemorate that event the Lynx community is holding various events, including contests, releases and en masse party participations. None at the Low Res are so much involved in it, we are ST people for the most part, so as usual we go to the experts. All the people we talked to pointed us to Rygar, a French Lynx collector who not only collects but learned how to code the Lynx so as to release a game!

LR: Tell us a bit about yourself and how you got into the Lynx. Was it your first Atari or do you show an interest in all of them?

Rygar: I had my first one Lynx at the age of 14. It was my first portable console. I had waited for him during almost one year and I considered it to be the most beautiful day of my short life! Dices the beginning the games were very hard to find for this console, few stores had it and I sometimes had to make more of 100km to find a game (there was no internet in the time) so that the pleasure to find a game was very big when I reached there, it is at this moment I believe that the passion and the pleasure of the collection began to be born one my heart.

LR: Let’s say the Lynx is in a shop and you are a seller. Sell it to me

Rygar: Lynx is the best portable retro console, the full set is easily accessible for not too expensive step, the available games are often excellent and it is one of the few consoles where those that develop for it currently produce quality games upper to those of old time. Lynx reserves some more surprises and thanks to the new converters which land regularly on the scene the future lets augur only of the voucher!

LR: What are the best 5 games for the Lynx?

Rygar: Lemmings, shadow of the best, stun runner, cristal mine and bill & ted And indeed on alpine games if you also consider the games post-Atari.

LR: What are the newest developments? And is there a way to change the screen since all the Lynxes I can find have a broken one?

Rygar: For the projects in court of development on lynx you can ask Matthasen for the creator of lynxoplly, he teems with idea and it is a brilliant converter. It is unquestionably towards him that it will carry quite the hopes of the players! For my part I would take out probably some small compilations of my various demos but no true game for the moment. Indeed, you can change the screen of lynx, it’s enough to open him and you will see that it is very simple to replace.

LR: You learned how to code the Lynx so as to release a game. How hard was it? And how enjoyable?

Rygar: All that I know about the programming lynx I owe it to Fadest the creator of the Yastuna, he is the type brilliantly bright that taught everything to me he took time to explain me point by point and since the beginning how to make programs for lynx. Then I used small ends of codes found on the clear to progress and finally take out a game. It is an adventure very long and very complicated especially for somebody as me who did not know how to program before. I think for the moment that I am going to put that of quoted and to occupy me a little my family.

LR: What is being done for the 20 years anniversary by the community? And don’t be modest. You are doing something too

Rygar: 20 were celebrated already with dignity with Lynxoply, the flashcard (and my small game) and then he remains zaku who shall have to go out before the end of the year!

LR: Lynx demos. I can only find 3 of them. Don’t Lynx fans like demos? Why aren’t there more?

Rygar: It is a good question;) can be lynx touch you she a public less numerous than of the other console such as the 2600 or jaguar and then there exists much less documentation to learn to develop on lynx that he exists for the other console there, it is doubtless for it that can of people it launches in projects on this console.

LR: Thank you very much for agreeing to this interview!

Rygar: It is one always a pleasure to see people being interested in the lynx! Long live the lynx!

Links


1. Handy a lynx emulator