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Amiga Notes
Published July 1995

There has been plenty happening on the Amiga scene this month — not least final confirmation of Commodore's buyout. Paul Overaa explains...

During the last few weeks, the news has arrived that every Amiga owner in the world has been waiting for. Commodore has been sold, and the future of the Amiga now looks safer than it has done for a long, long, time. Escom, the German company founded by Manfred Schmitt (and one of the biggest PC manufacturers in Europe) have saved the day, and snapped up the previously ailing Commodore operations for a cool £10 million. Admittedly, there are still various details to be ironed out, including the future of the stock currently held in the Philippines, and the future of the UK Commodore division, but basically, the deal is signed, sealed, and delivered. Escom have even provided general outlines of the path they will follow to get the Amiga on the road to recovery again. As well as producing sound and MPEG cards, they've indicated that they'll be re‑launching the A1200 and A4000 models, and perhaps even a very low‑cost A600. In the longer term, an Amiga‑compatible PowerPC is also being considered, but, needless to say, it's far too early to start getting excited about developments of this sort. Getting existing machines back in the shops must obviously be Escom's first priority, and the chances are that they'll be doing this with a vengeance!

The fact that Escom were able to outbid Commodore UK is, in hindsight, not surprising. They are a massive organisation that already have an annual turnover of over £500 million. It was of course Escom who recently purchased the Rumbelows store chain, gaining over 250 additional retail outlets in the UK alone. When you consider that the company already has twice that number of outlets throughout Europe (along with substantial direct sales facilities), it becomes clear that this is a company with an awful lot of financial and marketing power.

One worry that has already been aired is that Escom's organisational muscle could mean uncertainty about the future of CBM's UK division. Escom is clearly capable of handling the UK marketing operations on their own, but they do in fact have three options available. They could take over the existing UK operations and staff as they stand, set up a new UK leg utilising some ex‑CMB staff, or they could go it alone and start from scratch with their own people. For my money, the worst case scenario, namely the total non‑involvement of the CMB UK division, will not come to pass. In fact, I suspect that the reason the UK team pulled out of the bidding process so quickly was that some sort of deal had already been concluded to secure the future of a large chunk of the existing CBM UK operations. Whether this hunch is correct or not remains to be seen, but preliminary discussions between Escom and Commodore UK have certainly already taken place.

Of course, getting the basic Amiga wheels moving again after all the delays is going to take time. In fact, it will probably be at least August before any real signs of movement are seen in this respect, and much longer before any new products arrive. But what is important now is that the future of the Amiga is safe (probably safer than it was originally) and that, for most Amiga owners and developers alike, means that the biggest obstacle has been overcome!

Octamed v6

The new version of OctaMED Pro has now officially arrived, and although there are a variety of extra facilities thrown in, the big attraction is proving to be the program's improved user interface. You notice the changes as soon as the program loads, because the screen is now split, with a main control window, and separate tracker editor and information windows. The tracker editor display has undergone several changes, including the addition of scroll bars and a sizing gadget, whilst the bar equalizers, which were previously part of the tracker display, have now been given their own separate window.

One new feature of the latest release is that it can handle both 8‑ and 16‑bit sound samples. Options for temporarily freeing up the Amiga's audio channels have been added (so that other music programs can be run without having to quit OctaMED completely), and those long‑awaited MIDI file type 0 saving and MIDI file type 0 and 1 loading options have also arrived. There are new file compression facilities (XPK and Powerpacker), and provision for saving modules as executable files, as well as support for MAUD, AIFF and PC .WAV samples, a Toccata Capture window for users of Toccata soundcards, and improved internal buffer arrangements. A tempo operations window has also been added to allow easier tempo conversion. It's not just the program itself that has seen changes, either — the new package now comes with a printed tutorial manual!

One of the most important new features, however, is the provision of ARexx support within OctaMED Pro itself (the stand‑alone player program has of course been controllable via ARexx for a long time). The new ARexx commands are quite exciting, because external ARexx macro links will now enable users to perform very sophisticated edit operations automatically.

In the main, the changes are clearly for the better, and it's quite obvious that a lot of work has gone into the new version. In the UK OctaMED Pro v6 costs £36 (including postage). OctaMED v5 users pay only £26 (including postage). Other price arrangements are available for MUG (Med Users Group) members — full details can be obtained from Seasoft Computing on 01903 850378.

More Illusions

You may remember that a few months ago I mentioned quite a useful Amiga sample editing program called Aural Illusions. Nicholas Blatchford, the program's author, has informed me that a fairly substantial upgrade (to version 2) has recently been carried out, and this is almost ready for release. To the best of my knowledge, the new offering will be made available as a free upgrade to users of earlier versions of the program, but watch this space for further details!

Nick has, incidentally, also recently released six public domain sample disks created with the Aural Illusions program. The disks themselves are a fairly typical collection of sounds, with a healthy smattering of nice chords, twangs, effects like helicopters and hurricanes, and some even stranger noises. As always, some sounds are likely to be more useful than others, but the interesting thing about this collection is that none of the samples have actually been 'sampled' in the conventional sense. All sounds have been created from within Aural Illusions itself, and then saved as standard non‑compressed 8‑bit IFF voices at 28.185kHz, so they provide a good indication of what Aural Illusions can do. The disks are entitled Sample Illusions (vols 1‑6), and are again available from Seasoft Computing (tel: 01903 850378).

Amiga News In Brief

    Golden Image have recently announced some hefty price cuts on certain pieces of Amiga hardware. The Multiface III card for the A2000/A4000 is now £69.95 (from £129). The Octagon SCSI2 A2000/A4000 controller is down to £89.95 (also from £129), and the Tandem CD/IDE controller price has been cut from £69 to £49.95. Finally, the AlphaPower IDE controller for A500/A500+ machines falls from £99 to £74.95. For details of these and other offers, call Golden Image on 0181 900 9291.
    A commercial version of Dave Haynie's popular DiskSalv program, called DiskSalv 3, has recently been released. This disk backup/recovery program (which started life as a public domain offering) can be used for checking disks, recovering data from disks after a crash, and a variety of other tasks. The program costs £30, and further details can be obtained from Almathera on 0181 687 0040.
    There still seem to be a lot of Amiga users who don't realise that the Commodore amigaguide hypertext reading system, now an integral part of the Amiga's system software, can be obtained separately for the price of a PD disk. If you get hold of the Fred Fish No. 920 disk, you'll find the amigaguide library, all the various tools and files needed to make the amigaguide system work, and some documentation and examples. So, if you didn't get this hypertext software with your Amiga, then providing you have a machine running Workbench 2 or greater, you now know what to do!
    The third issue of the free Wordsworth newsletter has just been mailed to users of Digita's popular Amiga word‑processing program. So, if you are a registered user and have not received your newsletter copy by the time you read this, then give Digita a ring on 01395 270273.