The Lost Tone Byte

Where'd August and September Go?

BIT ONE: Power Tools for your Amiga.

Sometimes programmers can seem very busy on their Amigas. It is these times when we see new utilities that transform how our machines feel. Much like people change I feel my Amiga keeps on changing, growing and learning new things. Two utilities on Aminet, while maybe not massively earth-shattering, have again altered my Amiga. They both start with the word Power. One is Power Icons and the other is Power Windows. Let me tell you a little about what they do.

Power Icons simply removed the border from icons on Workbench. Not permanently. Only while you are dragging the icon. This serves no higher purpose as far as I can tell. It does however give your old Workbench a neat look while you're using it.

Power Windows is certainly the more functional of the two. It is a helpful solution to an age-old lament: "I wish I had more room on my desktop". Power Windows does not make the desktop any larger. It simply lets you move windows off the right and bottom of the screen allowing you to temporarily move a window out of your way without having to close it. A Microsoft OS has had this capability for some time now while the Amiga would halt window movement when the edge of the window hit the edge of the screen. With Power Windows you can move the window down and right until the mouse hits the edge of the screen. How do you get a window back now that it is hardly visible? Simply double-click anywhere on the title bar that you can get to and Power Windows immediately brings the window fully onto the screen. You can not move windows off the left or top of the screen. This is due to the operating system not liking negative coordinates for window positions according to the author.

Power Windows also enhances your windows in other ways. First off it is configurable through an included preferences program. You can configure it to make your windows opaque when you move them. That is, when you drag a window you will see the window rather than a frame of the window. It also allows you to add an iconify gadget to all windows as another way of adding virtual real estate to your screens. Not only is the look of the gadget configurable to both a standard Workbench look and a Sysihack look, the way that the windows iconify is also. You can tell Power Windows where you want iconified windows to go. These iconified windows look like small title bars. The only problem I have is that they look too much like iconified Macintosh title bars.

Since Power Windows includes many patches, it can cause system problems. Due to this the author has included a program to turn it off. He has also included instructions for testing it on your system before installing it. You also want to consider when it is run carefully. Power Windows should run last so you really want to run a utility like WBStartup Plus if you are going to start Power Windows by placing its icon in your WBStartup drawer. If any other program patches the same part of the OS, you are no longer able to stop Power Windows with the included program. This is important because you cannot see the changes you make in the preferences, which take effect after Power Windows is stopped and restarted. You can also tell Power Windows through the preferences what windows it should avoid as some programs can be unhappy with it playing with their displays. DPaint is one of these.

Installation of both of these utilities is both manual and straightforward. Power Icons install is simply dragging the icon into your WBStartup drawer. Power Windows has a slightly more involved install. You must drag its drawer somewhere. You then drag the file into WBStartup and edit the drawer location into the icon tool type. Instructions for all this are included.

Both power programs can be found on Aminet.

Contributed by: Anthony Becker

BIT TWO: PCMCIA Modem Driver!

Until recently, you would think that the PCMCIA slot in the Amiga 600 and 1200 was for the Squirrel. Besides this, other drive controllers, and RAM cards, there has been little use for what Commodore had hoped would be a gateway to all kinds of standard PC hardware in use on Amigas. Alas, since few saw fit to write drivers for any PC Cards except the few designed for the Amiga, the slot largely went unused.

A while ago this changed. Aminet saw a driver for a Cnet Ethernet PC Card. Now we have a freeware driver for PC Card modems. This comes in the form of a device driver that you simply place in the Devs: directory. You then tell your terminal program to use this device instead of the standard Commodore serial.device or the replacement 8n1.device. This done, you can use nearly any PCMCIA modem made for the PC. So far the list of unsupported modems is only two.

Finally, the PCMCIA slot has come closer to becoming what Commodore originally envisioned: a multi-purpose slot capable of supporting different devices by the user simply plugging in the card and installing a driver. You can readily use this alongside, but not simultaneously, with other PC Card devices by simply not using the other devices when you plan on using your PC Card modem.

Now that drivers have started being developed by intrepid Amiga coders, when we speak of the PCMCIA port on your 600 or 1200 we may just go from saying "why does my Amiga have this useless PCMCIA slot?" to "I wish my Amiga had more of these PCMCIA slots so I could use my PC Cards simultaneously."

Contributed by: Anthony Becker, Executive Editor

BIT THREE: New mNews

Last month I told you mNews users about a way to fix a problem with mNews being slow on some machines due to the Time Zone preferences saved in your ENV: drawer. This month I bring good news to all users of this, one of the best news readers available. On Aminet there is a new version that fully supports the new MUI list and is getting ready to include some new features requested by users. One of these new features that is to be implemented is the automatic saving of multi-selected messages. This new beta version sports a ghosted button for this feature. It also sports the ability to catch-up just a single thread in a group. The only downside thus far from this new beta version is that it uses more RAM than the old version. This is very important when downloading the message headers from a subscribed group. When mNews runs out of RAM it will crash the machine so either make sure you have gobs of the stuff or limit the number of headers you load.

Contributed by: Anthony Becker, Executive Editor

BIT FOUR: Net Games:

What to do? You are on the net downloading the latest and greatest demos from Aminet. These multi-meg archives will take some time and you've been on IRC so long your eyes are starting to cross. One more DCC and you just might pull the phone cord out of the wall. Time to do that which we most like. Beat up on another human. No! Not a family member asking you how much longer you are going to be on that computer! Time to take on a total stranger in a game. Time to play some net games!

Yes, Tone has finally gone stir crazy. We all know you can play Diavolo on the net but that is only for the Gates Crate. Well Amiga users, we may not have Diavolo but we do have two games we can play with others around the world. Here is the best part: both can be downloaded from Aminet.

The first is NetTris. This is a network-able version of the venerable Tetris. The blocks fall and you have to make full rows to get them to disappear. First to the top loses. What makes this better than playing just any Tetris clone is the human opponent.

The second is FreeCiv. You all must remember Sid Myers's game Civilization. You start with one settler and must create a thriving, you guessed it, civilization by building cities and developing new technology for your populace. The Sid Myers game had you play against computer opponents just to make your life more difficult. FreeCiv, called that because it is free, is a clone of this game with no computer opponents. They have been replaced by your socket library. Your opponents are real people from around the globe adding a whole new dimension to the game. It is a port from a UNIX version so you need the Ixemul.library to play. You also need to replace your picture.datatype with an RTG datatype. Does that mean it can only be played by people with graphics boards? Hardly. People with regular Amiga OCS/ECS/AGA graphics can use the one that comes for free with Picasso96. This and the ixemul.library are also on Aminet. Those with graphics cards can use either the CyberGraphX or Picasso datatype. You can then either connect with a game or run your computer as a server and others can connect with you to play.

Contributed by: Anthony Becker, Executive Editor

BIT FIVE: Rumor mill:

Just some of the latest stuff running around on the net. News from Gateway appears to be imminent. Expect major news in the next two weeks. I'm talking Amiga news. The more interesting rumor comes from Amiga International. They are rumored to have been negotiating successfully with Epson for the ability to write printer drivers for their printers. Also in negotiation are Hewlett Packard and US Robotics. This could mean new and better printer drivers for the Amiga. A good thing since Amiga laser and ink jet drivers leave much to be desired.

Contributed by: Anthony Becker, Executive Editor

BIT SIX: Almost went a month without mentioning Vulcan!:

Yes, I tried but with these guys working overtime signing and writing new games it has become impossible not to mention them. Well, they're at it again. Just when you think Vulcan has sewn up all current types of computer games for the Amiga they come out with another. Their latest is called Hard Target. It is a Virtua Cop type of game. That is a first player perspective game in which you have to shoot solid 3D criminals while avoiding being shot by them or shooting the innocent. This latest creation requires an AGA Amiga with 2MB Chip RAM and a 4X or better CD-ROM drive.

Vulcan Software Ltd.

72 Queens Road
Buckland, Portsmouth, Hants, PO27NA

Contributed by: Anthony Becker, Executive Editor

BIT SEVEN: Spare parts again available for Amigas:

Let's just say you've broken the trapdoor on your 1200 by trying to fit a phase 5 PowerUp board in instead of getting a tower case like you should have. Now what do you do? Up until now you would have had to comb the ads for someone selling surplus cases. Well, not anymore. Now you can amble over to and look up the part you need. You can then order the part right from Amiga International. They have spare parts for the Amiga 500, 600, 1200, 2000, 3000 and 4000 model lines.

Contributed by: Anthony Becker, Executive Editor

BIT EIGHT: A look back at a year of The Amiga Monitor:

I'd like to say a lot happened in a year, and in a way it did. Gateway bought the Amiga and there is new hardware and software for those Amiga users who are left to spend their hard earned Gilders on. Things that haven't changed? The obvious one is the uncertain future of the machine itself. There has been a resurgence of shareware and PD uploads to Aminet as people come up with new ideas for programs every day. We have programs that I have featured here that add up-to-date features to the aging AmigasOS. New drivers, new patches, new libraries, new games, new utilities, new programs, and more abound. You can not go a week without seeing previews and releases of new software in the commercial arena, also. The void left by Commodore and Escom's bankruptcies has been filled by some new software houses who see the Amiga as a viable platform even so long after the last new model was developed. So why can't a new online Amiga magazine be a success?

The bunch of us got together on an online service that shares the Amiga's uncertain future and decided to start what is now The Amiga Monitor by the power of Mike Webb's ideas. The only other online magazine of note was the Amiga Report (AR) and there was only one North America Amiga magazine left. Almost with the release of the first issue came the requests for mirroring. One request was from the most surprising place, The Amiga Web Directory (AWD), the premier Amiga information resource on the 'Net, which would put us alongside AR. With this quick popularity you have to wonder what is up. Are Amiga owners that starved for words about this machine? That answer is a definite yes.

I find myself at least once a month cruising by either the Amiga retailer (yes, we have one here in White Plains, NY) or a book store desperate to pick up an Amiga magazine. Is it to get information? No. I hit AWD and the Amiga newsgroups almost daily. There can be nothing in these magazines that I haven't seen already on the 'Net, either in the AWD's new links, the newsgroups, or the Amiga Network News site. I guess there is something we look for more than just news. It encourages us that there are those to whom this machine means enough to get them to take time out and put fingers to keyboard. As soon as you can get them to stop playing Zeewolf 2, that is. While I like some of the "latest and greatest" games on the GC, nothing seems to hold my interest like many of the old tried-and-true Amiga games of not too long ago, and I guess that is one of the reasons many of our readers are still around. Commodores seem to endure as if imbued with some supernatural power.

I have also found other neat things over the past year. With UAE I am able to travel down memory lane using the Gates Crate at my desk running Windows 95. I can run and explore every released Amiga operating system from 1.1 up to 3.1 on this Intel platform. Many of the old games that I read about but could not afford to buy are now made available since the companies that offered them are either out of business or are no longer interested in selling them. Take Kickstart and Workbench 1.1:

The only other place I had ever seen this is in an old Amiga 1000 manual I had picked up somewhere in my rooting through bargain bins. Now I'm using a Pentium 166 with 32MB RAM to run it. Remember, the Amiga this came with had a 7MHz CPU and 256k RAM. To see and compare this OS with the OS 3.1 it went on to become is like looking back at the early issues of the magazine. We, like the AmigasOS, have gone through changes to make us look and be better. Just look at Figure 2 to see how far the AmigasOS has come. I think I should like to write about this machine as long as people are still interested in them. If Gateway does right, that could be a long time to come.

Contributed by: Anthony Becker, Executive Editor

-Edited by Anthony Becker-
Write to him with comments of news at e-mail address