I don't believe the moon landings were faked. I don't believe we're ruled over by shape-shifting lizard overlords. I don't believe an unlucky Nigerian prince really wants me to have £$1.3 million. However, like a growing number of nutters — or, as we like to be known, concerned musicians — I do believe there's something very awry in DAW Land in terms of how sloppy MIDI timing can be.
Like some of my comrades, I've abandoned the pastel-hued seductions of Logic Pro and its siblings, and returned instead to the neutronium-solid timing of the magnificent Atari ST. In the process, I scoured the web in search of some alternative to the good old floppy shuffle and found the UltraSatan disk (USD). Originally developed by Jookie (http://joo.kie.sk/?page_id=192), the UltraSatan I bought was manufactured by Lotharek and is readily available through eBay or his site. This doodad is a metal box around the size of a large USB hub, which connects to the Atari's ACSI port and fools it into thinking SD cards are hard drives. Yes! Solid-state mass storage for my beloved Atari!
I was immediately very impressed with the build quality: the metal casing is calmly solid and puts a lot of major manufacturers to shame. At the front of the USD there are two SD slots with accompanying status LEDs. The back of the unit houses the ACSI port, a tiny but sturdy power switch and a power inlet in the form of a microUSB socket. As long as you've got a powered USB hub nearby (or phone adaptor), the UltraSatan is happy. Also included in the package was an 8GB SD card pre-formatted as a boot card, and the ACSI cable to connect to the ST. Lovely!
I tried the USD with my Atari STFM to start with and had no luck, I suspect because my ACSI port in that machine was dodgy or perhaps the TOS (Atari OS) didn't meet the minimum required version of 1.04. But when I next tried it with my 1040STE, the UltraSatan booted immediately and multiple hard disk drives (HDDs) popped up on my Atari desktop. It felt strange, navigating the supplied SD card partitions — I'd never been able to afford an HDD for my Atari, so seeing all this data so easily at hand was quite surreal. Lotharek very kindly stuffs the SD card with a huge amount of Atari demos and games, as well as the freeware HDD driver software ICD Pro that makes the whole thing work in the first place. As I'm a serious reviewer, I'm going to pretend I got straight into the nitty-gritty of HDD driver configuration. In reality, I played Arkanoid for two hours. Don't tell anyone.
The UltraSatan is one of the best-made and beautifully simple bits of gear I've ever bought. It just works. Running Notator SL with the added convenience of HDD storage, hearing the gorgeously tight MIDI timing I've been missing all these years is a spiritual experience. If all you've ever had is margarine, butter seems like a big deal about nothing. And if all you've ever experienced is shonky modern DAW MIDI timing, you may wonder why old people mutter about Ataris. The UltraSatan lifts the 20th century Atari ST's storage into the 21st century, and makes this computer a formidable MIDI-sequencing option once again. And there may be more to come: Jookie has developed a new unit, the CosmosEx (http://joo.kie.sk/?page_id=384), which looks, potentially, to be a step up from the UltraSatan in terms both of functionality and ease of use. Jyoti Mishra