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Escom News

Amiga Notes
Published August 1995

Amiga users in general are clearly over the moon about Escom's rescue package [see last month's Amiga Notes — Ed], and all the signs are that the recovery of the Amiga in the marketplace will be swift. Escom have a factory in China set up for Amiga production, and have said that the existing range of machines will be back on the shelves within three months (in time for those all‑important Christmas sales). With around 250 UK retail outlets likely to come on stream (Escom have recently purchased the Rumbelows chain), and the company stating that they are very happy to sell through independent retailers, the Amiga's future looks much safer than it has done for ages. The situation concerning Escom's CBM UK connections, however, is still unclear at the time of writing (the end of June). It seems as though a new UK company called Amiga Technologies is being set up, but nobody is saying whether all, some, or none of the existing CBM UK staff will be moving to the new company. By this time next month, of course, all will have been revealed!

There's no doubt, incidentally, that Amiga software developers are very enthusiastic about the overall situation. New products (previously frozen until the Commodore fiasco was sorted out) are being dusted off and readied for release. There are a number of new Amiga books already in the pipeline as well. The race now is to get all of these into the shops over the next couple of months, so that there will be plenty of new products to sell with the new machines.

Amiga CD News

There have been a couple of quite different CDs released recently that are likely to be of particular interest to Amiga musicians. One is a CD‑ROM sound/music collection, called the Terra Sound Library, which provides a ready‑made selection of Amiga‑oriented music material. Needless to say, there are an awful lot of sound samples (about 265Mb) on the disk, with everything from short dings to larger pieces grabbed from the soundtracks of motion pictures and TV series, such as The Muppets, Star Trek, and Monty Python. There are also hundreds of MIDI files, utilities (including player and composer programs), and a collection of demos on disk. If you are new to the Amiga music scene, and are looking for a way to build up a sample library quickly, this disk is certainly worth examining. The Terra Sound Library costs £19.99, and is available from PD Soft (Tel: 01702 466933).

The other disk with a strong Amiga connection is an audio CD produced by Kevan and Gareth Craft. As well as being the authors of countless tracker module songs, PD utility and sample disks (and publishers of MIDICraft, the disk‑based magazine), Kevan and Gareth have now found time to produce an audio CD called A Drop In The Ocean. This 12‑track offering of original material shows exactly what it is possible to do with Amiga sequencing software — all tracks on the album were sequenced using Amigas running Music X! A Drop In The Ocean costs £10.99, and a public domain support disk is also available, containing song lyrics in various forms, docs, and pictures, along with an OctaMED version of one of the CD's instrumental tracks. You can obtain more details from Seasoft Computing on 01903 850378.

Sample Playing Blues

I've had a couple of letters recently from people wanting to know how they can make their IFF sound samples play by double‑clicking on their icons. The first thing you need is a 'command style' sample‑playing program. I use Playsound which is part of the software that comes with Ramscan's Audio Engineer package, but there are various pd utilities (for example SuperSound) which can also be used.

The idea is to place the sound playing program in your c: directory and then make that sound playing program the default tool for all of your sound sample icons. To do this, just select each icon, pick Information from the Workbench's Icons menu, type the player program name into the requester that appears, and save the changes. If you do that for all your sound samples, you'll be able to open your samples window and play any of them just by double‑clicking on their respective icons. This is far more convenient and flexible than loading samples into a menu‑based player program, especially if you have a hard disk machine, because the number of samples that you can access in this way will be limited only by the capacity of your hard drive!

Musical Arexx

Now that ARexx is part of the Amiga's system software, its popularity is growing, so I thought it would be useful to mention one music‑related use of this scripting language that would be quite easy to experiment with — namely the remote ARexx control of OctaMED tracker song modules. The freely‑distributable OctaMEDPlayer program which comes as part of the OctaMED Pro tracker sequencer package includes a set of ARexx commands suitable for almost all music and multimedia control applications (see the 'OctaMEDPlayer Arexx commands' below for details).

To start the OctaMEDPlayer program running from within an ARexx script, the AmigaDOS Run command can be used. You do, however, need to follow this with a WaitForPort command, because the loading of OctaMEDPlayer takes time, and it is necessary to pause the script until the player is actually up and running (otherwise its ARexx port will not be found). The following script fragment asks ARexx to start up the player program, executes the WaitForPort utility and, once OctaMEDPlayer is active, logs into its communications port:

address command 'run OctaMEDPlayer'

address command 'WaitForPort OCTAMEDPLAYER'

address 'OCTAMEDPLAYER' /* speak to player program */

(note that the port name for the OctaMEDPlayer program is, as you might expect, called OCTAMEDPLAYER).

From this point on, all commands for external programs will be sent to the OctaMEDPlayer utility. So if, for instance, the OctaMEDPlayer program was in the c: directory, and we wanted to load an OctaMED module called 'mysong' from drive df0: it would be done by issuing the instruction 'loadmod df0:mysong'. This could then be played simply by issuing a 'Play' instruction. Put all this together, and you end up with a script looking like this:

address command 'run c:OctaMEDPlayer'

address command 'WaitForPort OCTAMEDPLAYER'

address 'OCTAMEDPLAYER' /* speak to player program */

'loadmod df0:mysong'


And that's basically all you need to tell the OctaMEDPlayer to load and play a song module. Try running this script with your own songs, and, once you're happy with the basic ideas, start experimenting with some of the other commands that are available. Because of its small ARexx instruction set, the OctaMEDPlayer program is extremely easy to learn how to control — so if you are new to ARexx, and fancy playing around with some example scripts that actually do something useful musically, this utility provides a very good place to start!

Octamedplayer Arexx Commands

  • PLAY Plays the current module.
  • PLAYALL Plays all songs of a multi‑song module.
  • CONT Continues playing.
  • STOP Stops playing.
  • LOADMOD <filename> Loads a song module.
  • SONGNUM <song number> Selects a multi‑song module song number.
  • GETSONGS Returns the number of songs in current module.
  • QUIT Closes down the OctaMEDPlayer program.

Amiga News In Brief

    It's not just Escom who have shown faith in the Amiga of late. Paradigm Data Systems are fully convinced that, as it is relaunched, the Amiga will quickly again establish itself as the only real 'power' computer available at an affordable price. They are, in fact, so confident about this that they're launching a new division dedicated purely to Amiga software development. With the emphasis on both games and creative applications, the company are keen to establish contacts with professional programmers, PD authors, graphics artists and so on, with a view to nurturing new and existing talent. If this sounds like your cup of tea, why not contact Paradigm on 01633 450292 for further details.
    Imagine v3.2 is now available, and subscribers of the constant upgrade program (priced at £99) should already have received their new version. Both Imagine and the 'constant upgrade program' are available from Creative Technology (0181 7158866).
    Indi Direct have slashed the price of their Zappo CD‑ROM unit from £199.99 to £159.99 — and they are also packaging the new VII.2 software with each unit now sold. Thse types of cuts are in response to the dropping prices of CD‑ROM drives in general, forced about mainly by pressure from the PC marketplace. This is good news for Amiga owners, who in the main have been paying more than they should for CD‑ROM drives. More details from Indi on 01543 419999.
    Phase 5 have announced that their 64‑bit CyberVision graphics board will hit the Amiga marketplace shortly. It's a Zorro III card with a high‑speed 64‑bit blitter, and could well be the fastest Amiga graphics card yet produced. Thanks to the driver software, CyberVision is said to integrate totally with the Amiga's operating system, allowing true 24‑bit screen resolutions (up to 1600 by 1200 pixels). One special feature of this card is that it has hardware support for Planar to Chunky conversion (it is this conversion task that effectively slows down many other graphics cards).

Two models are being supplied: a 2Mb version which will cost £329.95, and a 4Mb offering which comes in at £439.95. Both products are being supplied with Photogenics Light — a special version of Almathera's brilliant Photogenics package. For more details, contact Gordon Harwood Computers on 01773 836781.