Readers Write

 

Issue 27

May/Jun 87

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A PAT ON THE BACK

Dear Les,

I read your editorial in issue 25 on the recent poll conducted by PAGE 6 and decided I had to make some comment about the reaction of some of the readers.

Obviously as an ATARI magazine you are obliged to cover the entire range of that product, be it 8 bit or ST. I feel that your magazine is the only publication that has a very good balance. The 8 bit owners (such as myself) are more than catered for with reviews, features and, above all else, great program listings.

I am of the opinion that listings are an integral part of the learning process and are very instructive as to how a program flows. Practice is better than theory! The utility listings you publish are top class, gaining rapidly on the Americans.

There is, however, one small criticism. I think that PAGE 6 should be a monthly publication because the games review section is a bit out of date by the time I purchase the magazine. Nonetheless, I will always look forward to getting my magazine every two months.

I am very interested in applications and utilities and would be grateful if any of my fellow readers would write to me to exchange ideas etc. If you could publish my name and address I would appreciate it.

Michael Casey, 3, St. Kevins Park, Kilmacud, Co. Dublin, Ireland

Thanks for the support which, fortunately, has been echoed by many other letters. So has that old request to go monthly, maybe one day! As regards reviews being 'out of date' I acknowledge that much of the software has been out for a while by the time our reviews appear but then not everybody rushes out to buy as soon as a program is released. Many of the other magazines hassle companies for pre-release versions of software so that they can be bang up to date but, whilst it is helpful to receive pre-release copies, I would rather we review exactly what you are going to end up paying money for. We generally review most things we get in the next available issue so if you can be patient you might end up spending your money more wisely!

 

 

AUTOBOOTING MENUS

 

Dear PAGE 6,

May I thank you for a fine publication. Until I found you some time ago I had a miserable time typing in listings from other magazines that would not run. Typo 3 is a gem!

Not all my problems are solved however, for example I would like to make an autoboot for disk menu's. At the moment, whilst I have a menu program that will run other programs I cannot get it to boot without typing RUN "D: etc. I would appreciate any tips.

Also where can I get information on such things as the Memory Map, internal architecture etc.? Perhaps you could publish a list of reference material and where it may be obtained.

Jack Collins,
Co. Limerick, Ireland

Unfortunately you can't write your own autoboot program just like that (well you could, it depends on how good a machine language programmer you are!). We did publish an autorun program many years ago but it will not run on XL/XE machines. If any reader can come up with a nice original autoboot program, preferably one which allows you to insert BASIC statements to customise the AUTORUN.SYS created, we will publish it.

Details of the memory map can be had from Compute!'s Revised Mapping The Atari. Expensive at 16.95 but the one book no self respecting programmer should be without. You can get a copy from your local dealer or even from the PAGE 6 Accessory Shop. Write for details.

 

 

BAFFLED....

Dear Sir,

Being new to computing, I think I am suffering from the same problems that a lot of users experience, that of being baffled by the technicalities. I can make the screen change colour, make sounds and print messages etc. but that is about my limit! Could you recommend a book that explains technical terms in English not in more technical terms?

One thing that has puzzled me is how the computer knows which group of DATA statements to read when it comes across a line such as RESTORE 14600 + LEV * 500 (from BERTIE). There must be something in the program to say which group is which.

Could you also tell me if there is an Atari User Group in the Brighton area?

T. Lyons,
Portslade, East Sussex

What I think beginners need before trying to understand the more advanced 'technicalities' is a good solid grounding in writing in BASIC. Probably the best book for this is ATARI BASIC- XL EDITION by Albrecht, Finkel and Brown and published by John Wiley. Work your way through it and you will have a good grounding on which to begin to understand the technicalities. From there on there are dozens of books to choose from, all good but each covering a different subject. Once you have the grounding you will be better able to determine which books are for you.

DATA statements are read by the computer from first to last unless RESTORE is used. Effectively, the computer has an internal pointer showing the current DATA statement is being read which is moved to the next statement as each one is read. It is important to read only the exact number of statements otherwise you will end up with Error 6 - Out of Data. RESTORE can be used to move the pointer to any line number, either forward or back, and can allow you to read the same data over and over. If you want to read DATA at line 1000, for example, you need to put RESTORE 1000 in your program just before you read the DATA. It is also possible to use variables in RESTORE statements as in the example you have given. The variables are set by another part of the program. In the above example, DATA for the screen is given at different points depending on the level. When the level (LEV) is 1 the DATA will be read from line 15100 (14600+ (1 *500)) . On level 2 (LEV=2) the DATA is read from 15600 and so on. Hope that helps a little, but the book above will explain more.

We are still waiting for the User Group in Brighton to send the details for our Resource File!

 

 

FIX YOUR OWN DISK DRIVE

Dear Les,

I have just fixed my 1050 drive and as the problem is similar to one that had previously afflicted my 810 I thought I would like to tell the world.

My 810 had officially been declared dead by an 'expert' so I dismantled it to find out how it worked. This included removing the sprung assembly, which presses a felt pad against the head. When I reassembled the sprung assembly, I though it seemed a bit weak so I gave it a little extra bend. Lo and behold the drive worked!

With the 1050 drive the symptoms were the same. On booting a disk, instead of getting beep, beep, beep etc. all I got was beep, (long pause), beep and then 'boot error'. I went straight to the pad assembly and found that the plate which lifts the pressure pad up and down did not have its full range of travel due to the upwards pointing prong on the slide assembly underneath. I tweaked this prong away and the pad could then reach the head. The disk drive was fixed.

The trouble is, I have no official knowledge of the working of disk drives so I am not sure whether what I have done is right! Any comments?

Paul Martin,

Ferryhill, Co. Durham

The first time my drive went wrong it cost me 20 (and that was at a cheap rate!) to have it repaired. All the repairer did was adjust the pressure pad. Next time I did it myself. The main problem seems to be that the pressure pad which pushes the disk down on to the head below gets compacted with use and ends up exerting less pressure on the disk and therefore on the head. Whenever a drive fails to read or write, I just take off the casing and carefully rough up the felt pressure pad, removing any oxide that has built up. It has worked every time.

 

You don't even have to dismantle anything (apart from the case) but make sure that you don't damage the head below. Try inserting a disk the wrong way round to cover the head before getting to the pad. Whether you do this yourself is entirely up to you (I don't accept any responsibility for clumsy hands!) but it may be better than paying somebody else up to 50 to do the same thing!

 

 

THE TRANSLATOR

Dear Les,


I have several games written for the 400/800 Atari's but can't run them on my 800XL. Is there a program or utility to make a transfer to XL possible?

 

I have tried a program from one of Atari's suppliers but the instructions were so poor that I eventually gave up. Can you help?

Michael Kloss,

Tamworth, Staffs

If you use disk, you can buy a disk from the PAGE 6 library of public domain software for 3.95. Ask for Disk #36. This includes a good translator program that seems to work on the majority of programs. Full instructions are included. There are, however, one or two programs that will not run on the XL, no matter what so you might still be unlucky. I hope not.

 


STARTING A USER GROUP

Dear Les,


I am an Atari User of about five years and I've seen the dramatic turn round in the fortunes of our common interest. I've gone from a 400 which cost me over 300 to a 130XE which I picked up (with a 1010 thrown in) for 49.99!


I am thinking of doing something locally to propagate Atari and I really need some
advice on the pitfalls involved in starting something like this. Any advice would be gratefully accepted. Is there an association of User Groups for instance?

Peter Lock,
Royal Leamington Spa, Warks

User Groups in general tend to be fairly informal and rarely conform to any set standard. It needs a strong minded individual to start it up, build it up and keep it going and it often ends up being a 'shepherd and sheep' situation. You need to be strong to survive. You might like to ask someone like Ken Ward of NUGGETT in Norwich who is one such individual who has fought long and hard for Atari both locally and nationally. He has tried to set up a national association of Atari users groups and might put you in touch with others. He might also be able to warn you when to expect the nervous breakdown! Ken's address is 45, Coleburn Road, Lakenham, Norwich, NR1 2NZ.


Atari themselves have finally re-awoken to the benefits of User Groups and may be able to give some help, but they really need help themselves from some of the existing User Groups (see News item).

 


SMARTSHEET PROBLEMS...

Dear Sirs,


Have you had any complaints about Smartsheet? I found that it will not handle some calculations if the results are a string of digits. This seems to be a string length error?

D. Hunt,

Oakham, Leics.

 

 

...ANSWERED

Dear Les,


Thank you for your reply on Smartsheet. Further study shows that the error occurs
when dividing two cells which gave an answer longer than 8 digits e.g. 10 / 3 = 3.333333333 etc. In the program this would become A and LEN(A$) would then be 10.

 

The problem occurs in line 1270 which tries to deduct the length of A$ from 8 resulting in a minus number which subsequently causes an error in OUT$. I amended line 1270 as follows


1270 L=8-LEN(A$):IF L>8 THEN L=0:OUT$(CP,CP+L)= CL$:OUT$(CP+L,CP+7)=A$:
RETURN


The program now runs but it cannot handle small numbers in E format.

W.J. Charles,

Swansea

 


REVISION C ON CASSETTE

Dear Sir,


You published a program in a recent issue by Brad Finney installing Revision C Basic on disk. Would it be possible to amend this program for the benefit of cassette users such as myself?

 

Some of the programs in PAGE 6 will not run on my 800XL, the most recent being FORKLIFT. Every line checks with Typo but I keep getting Error 9. I take it that this is caused by the faulty BASIC. Is there any way round this error or do I have to get Revision C?

Jas Wallace,
Stonehouse, Lanarkshire


Is there enough call for a cassette based version of Revision C? FORKLIFT will definitely run on an 800XL so it looks like the problem is indeed a faulty BASIC. You could try LISTing the program to a new cassette, switching off and then ENTERing the program again. It might well run. If it doesn't, and you are convinced you have no missing lines or errors, then Revision C is the only answer.

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