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Meridian, Softwood

Amiga Notes
Published August 1994

Paul Austin brings you the latest Amiga news, starting with an update on the Commodore takeover situation...

Commodore remain tight‑lipped about who they are holding talks with regarding a buyer for the company, the Amiga technology or both. When the manufacturer filed for protection of the Bahamian courts at the end of April, management were confident that a financial backer would be announced within two weeks. But as SOS went to press almost two months later, Commodore were still unable to confirm which company would be taking them over. Nevertheless, they continue to claim that a take‑over announcement is imminent.

According to reports in the computer trade press, at least four potential buyers have had talks with Commodore bosses during recent weeks. Speculation on bulletin boards and within the computer industry has named practically every electronics giant as a company ready and interested to take on the Amiga technology. Many industry pundits believe Far Eastern manufacturer Samsung to be the most likely.

Meridian Take 3D Graphics System

Meridian Software (Tel. 081 543 3500) have just taken on UK distribution of Impulse's Amiga raytracing software Imagine 3. The latest revision of the 3D animation rendering system has scores of features. Among them is a range of object creation tools which include Spin, Sweep, Extrude, Bend, Taper, Shear, Pinch, Fracture and Split. A spline editor enables PostScript fonts to be imported into the software. It also has automatic bevel control and allows spline manipulation of curves. There are more than 100 procedural textures, a wide variety of attribute tools and kinematic states, and a stage editor to make animations and realistic movements easy.

Emerald Creative Technology (Tel. 081 715 8866) are selling upgrades for owners of Imagine 2 (including CoverDisks) and users of any other 3D program for £93.45. The recommended retail price for those new to rendering is £595.

The Missing Machines

Now that Commodore's US office is all but shut down, and nearly everyone has moved on to other things (Dave Haynie, for example, designer of the A2000, A3000, and much of the A4000, has joined many other former West Chester workers at Scala's US office), the lid has been pulled off some of Commodore's 'Skunk Works' secret projects of the past — and it's a disappointing story for Amiga users. According to Haynie, Commodore had been smoothly on track for the release of AGA computers in the spring of 1992. Unfortunately, some personnel changes at the top of the company (including the hiring of the man responsible for IBM's colossal flop, the PCjr, as head of Commodore's engineering division), caused a change of plans, and the AGA was delayed for more than six months. These are the machines we might have seen had it not been for some very bizarre management decisions:

  • The A1000+: An $800 32‑bit AGA system with IDE hard drive, in an updated Amiga 1000‑style box with a separate keyboard.
  • An Amiga 3000 updated with a 68040 microprocessor, the AGA chip set, SCSI on the motherboard, and an AT&T 3210 DSP chip. This machine would have offered much better performance than the A4000, but at about the same price.

Instead, the engineers were re‑ allocated to work on the Amiga 4000. Joseph 'Augi' Augenbraum, a former Commodore hardware engineer who worked on the A1000+, said: "One of the main reasons for the redesign of the A3000+ into the IDE‑based A4000 was that Commodore management had an emotional attachment to the case design. This was originally created for a Commodore PC which was cancelled".

The Amiga 600 was originally going to be known as the A300, and was to have been an ultra‑cheap computer that would have filled a low‑end market below the A500+, which would have continued in production. Instead, it was redesigned into the A600, which ended up costing more than the A500. The engineers were also told to design another computer, which turned out to be so bad that none of Commodore's divisions would order it: the A2200. This was a stripped‑down, IDE‑based Amiga 3000 that was held in such high disdain in engineering that employees referred to it as the 'A1000jr'.

RSI Sufferers Find Tabby Relief

Some users of the Tabby stylus and pad computer control are finding the device relieves Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) symptoms, according to the manufacturer, Micrograf International. The firm claim that a Mr Leyland of Manchester wrote to them, saying he had been suffering from considerable wrist and hand pain, which meant he couldn't lift his arm. He wrote: "The symptoms cleared up while taking a month's holiday, only to return when I resumed using a mouse. But since receiving the Tabby, the problem, the pain, and the inconvenience has disappeared firmly and definitely". Tabby was developed as a easier‑to‑use and more natural alternative to the mouse, although Micrograf had not foreseen the possible medical benefit.

Cheaper Words From Softwood

SoftWood have slashed the prices and increased the availability of their word processing and desktop publishing packages Final Copy II and Final Writer II. The company say a recent customer survey has revealed that while users were satisfied with the software, many had difficulty in finding a local supplier. To resolve this problem, SoftWood has set up a department to sell directly to Amiga owners and dealers, and at the same time has passed cost savings on to buyers. Products will be delivered free of charge, and a no‑risk guarantee promises to refund customers if they find the software doesn't live up to advertised claims. SoftWood's product manager Tony Bullock said: "Our latest steps mean that all Amiga owners now have easier access to the best Amiga word processors and publishers, at the best possible prices".

Final Copy II can be bought for £49.95, and Final Writer II for £74.95, both from SoftWood Direct — Tel. 0773 521606. Owners of either program can upgrade to Final Writer II at special prices.

On‑Line Entertainment

Reviews of Britain's most popular films, books and theatre productions are the latest addition to the CompuServe (Tel. 0800 289378) online database. The service — based on information from Central Press Features — also carries reviews of the most popular videos and previews of six TV soaps. It is one of more than 80 basic services to which subscribers can have unlimited access for about £6 per month. "Our UK products now include forums, news and travel services, company information and historical stock pricing", said CompuServe's Andrew Gray, "and we will be adding more of these services on an ongoing basis".

Clampdown On Illegal CDS

Computer and video games trade body ELSPA have warned of a flood of illegal compact discs, containing pirated and pornographic material. The warning follows police raids initiated and spearheaded by ELSPA's new crime unit, which have led to investigations into alleged criminal conspiracies to produce and supply illegal CDs. Three police forces are carrying out further investigations, and six arrests have already been made. Some of the discs uncovered by the investigations have contained up to £20,000 of business and leisure software on a single CD — with titles as diverse as Lemmings and AutoCAD PC design software. "Not long ago, software publishers saw the use of CDs as a way to combat piracy, due to the prohibitive cost of the copying equipment needed to cut CDs", said ELSPA's John Loader. "But now, ROM writing equipment used to chemically write on special gold‑coloured CDs, called CD‑Rs, costs as little as £2,500.

"The huge capacity of CDs, combined with the low copying cost, now pose a real threat to the entire commercial and leisure software industry", added John. Anyone with information on illegal software is asked to contact ELPSA's Crime Unit on 0386 830642.

Animation Challenge

A contest giving animators the chance to show their work to the rest of the world (and to win computer hardware and software) has just kicked off. The Animation Contest 1994 is being run by California‑based Fresno Video Production, who are accepting submissions for 2D and 3D graphics sequences to be put on a video tape. Entries will be judged on originality, creativity, and use of equipment available. They can be put together using any computer and software and then put onto tape. Anyone who has their submission accepted for inclusion on the tape will be able to have their name, studio name and phone number advertised in the closing credits free of charge. It is hoped that hundreds of entries will be included on the video, which will go on sale before Christmas in various television standards, including NTSC, PAL and Secam.

The closing date for entries is October 14, but write for more information to Anim Contest, PO Box 9839, Fresno, CA93794 USA. Alternatively, telephone 010 1 209 277 1188.

Virus Disk Prevents Widespread Infection

A compilation disk containing some of the best virus checkers has been put together in an attempt to prevent the spread of the destructive programs among Amiga users. Called simply 'Virus Checker Compilation', the disk has been compiled by Wolverhampton Amiga user Craig Holmes, and its contents include Virus Checker 6.41, LVD 1.75 and Virus Z II 1.07. Other utilities are available on request, and the disk is updated immediately upon the release of a newer version. Craig commented: "There is a need for virus checkers to be spread amongst the Amiga community, thereby preventing the emergence of a situation like that on PCs, where viruses are a continual problem".

The disk can be bought by sending £1. 50 or greater to Craig Holmes at 23 Rocester Avenue, Wednesfield, Wolverhampton, West Midlands WV11 3AU.

Diary Date

  • July 22‑24, 1994.

Computer Deals '94.

Venue: Olympia, London.

(Tel. 081‑906 8773).

An all‑formats computer show to fill an event gap during a traditionallly quiet period.

News In Brief

    Bruce Smith Books (Tel. 0923 893493) have published another Amiga book — this time a guide to Workbench 3's features. Amiga Workbench 3 A to Z describes everyday use of the graphical interface in step‑by‑step terms, and there are more in‑depth tutorials on setting up the computer via its utilities. The 256‑page book costs £14. 95 and should be available now.
    Diskotech (0591 2242) has announced details of a large collection of animated colour fonts for the Amiga. The firm claim that each font is compatible with art programs such as Deluxe Paint II and works with all models of the computer, and in every screen resolution. The fonts can be used for both animated and static titles, and extra graphics enlarge the mix and match capacity. A Moviefonts two‑disk package costs £15, and includes five fonts and a catalogue.
    The Federation Against Software Theft lobbied MPs recently to tighten existing copyright laws. The computer industry is concerned that an estimated £300 million is lost each year through illegal software copying — and this could increase with the emergence of new technology.