Studio management software, Cubase mixer maps, sounds and editor/librarian programs for a range of older synths are all up for grabs as an Atari developer posts his previously commercial work for free on the Internet. Derek Johnson tells you what's available and keeps an eye on the Atari news scene.
After last month's blow‑out on a two‑page review of the fab Squash It! sample editor from Electronic Cow (+44 (0)1426 281347, email@example.com and dspace.dial.pipex.com/electronic_cow/cownet.shtml — have you bought yours yet?), it's back to the usual monthly miscellany. But first, I'll just mention that a full version of Electronic Cow's Charming Chaos Atari algorithmic music generator is soon to be with us — stay tuned.
The majority of this month's collection of Atari snippets comes in the form of a 'blast from the past', as yet another family of previously commercial software becomes available for free on the Internet. The first Quinsoft software appeared around 10 years ago, and garnered positive reviews and user response. With the '90s shrinkage of the Atari market — due in no small part to a lack of support from the manufacturer, and their subsequent abandonment of computers entirely — Quinsoft quietly went the way of many dedicated Atari software houses. Quin Rice, the man behind the Quinsoft name, recently contacted SOS to let the world know that his company's range of software can now be downloaded from his brother's web site (at members.tripod.com/~warrian/), providing Atari users with yet another reason to get on line!
Before we look at the software, a few words: as mentioned above, it's free and distributed 'as is', with no support. Originally, Quinsoft software was supplied with full manuals; these are no longer available, so apart from any docs that might come with it, you're on your own. Luckily, the software is, for the most part, pretty logical.
The ex‑commercial programs include several librarian and editor/librarian packages, plus the intriguing Trax studio management software. Reviewed in SOS in August 1990, Trax was aimed at helping studio owners keep track of clients, and the money they owe! The package offers a track sheet — 8‑, 16‑ or 24‑track — which you use, not surprisingly, to log in a job by filling in the client name, date, facts about the session and what's on tape. Linked to this are the cue sheet (a list of what happens during the course of a particular track) and the mixdown page. This last page lets you keep track of any further audio that may be incorporated during a mix, such as sequenced synths synchronised to timecode on tape.
On the money side, a client and transaction list keeps track of who you've worked for, what you've done and how much you're owed. Invoices can be raised (and printed out), and when payment has been submitted the program can generate a receipt. If you'd like to know how much money the studio's bringing in, a statistical calculations window adds up all the incomings and outgoings and works out a total. There's nothing in this that an accounting package for any computer in the world couldn't do, but the novelty is in the way Trax is aimed at studio owners.
Trax actually had a successor, 18 months in development, which never saw the light of day — until now. Pravda (PRofessional Audio‑Visual DAtabase) is another studio utility that was conceived as an expansion of Trax, and is much more sophisticated. While some of the features will leave you scratching your head, and the (understandable) lack of documentation may have you scratching a partner's head as well, Pravda contains a useful collection of tools that's worth persevering with.
Similar client‑logging and expense‑tracking facilities to Trax are provided, but the program is much more of a virtual representation of your studio during a session. The track sheet is augmented by an onscreen mixer, where it's possible to log fader, pan and other mixer controls. Just the thing if you've got a non‑recallable desk and would like to keep a record of mixer settings for previous sessions. Note that making changes in one part of the program usually has effects elsewhere, so you don't need to keep updating the main track sheet. A range of printing options is available — including, believe it or not, a cassette label. Pravda will even generate a tuning tone (A 440Hz) and format floppies for you.
What might make Pravda still attractive to you if you don't run a commercial studio is its collection of studio‑biased calculators. The chord calculator simply provides a pictorial representation, on a two‑octave keyboard, of a range of chords, while the beat calculator offers a handy way to work out note values at a given tempo — which can be useful when programming timed delays on a digital delay, for example. An additional calculator window offers a set of related operations. First of all, you can quickly work out a song's tempo, playing time or length in bars if you know any of the other two parameters; this is great if you need to be able to fit a piece of music into a given time (for a jingle or ad, for example), telling you what tempo the piece needs to be, or how many bars you'll have to write if you want to stay with a particular tempo.
A range of useful sampler‑related calculations can be done too, for intelligently measuring sample time against RAM and sample rate. There are also calculators for working out pitch ratios, tape length to time (and vice versa) and voltage ratio to dB (and vice versa). Some of these calculations you won't find in any other software, even now, and they can be very useful.
The final marvel is that Pravda will even work as a desk accessory, albeit in a slightly cut‑down version with no printing facilities, so you can have it loaded (memory permitting — the DA needs 500K) alongside your sequencer.
Quinsoft's instrument‑specific software all runs in hi‑res mono, but many of the programs also work in colour — my system isn't colour, so I wasn't able to check which ones. Being ex‑commercial software, some of the packages come as installers with authorisation routines. In these cases, Quin suggests entering a value of 100 and any name (probably your own) when asked for a serial number and user name. By the way, where an install is required, it can be to hard drive if you have one. Ignore any docs referring to registration.
Quinsoft editors all feature a simple main window, laid out in a clear fashion with logical graphics or parameter boxes, drag‑and‑drop librarian windows, and all the right options for getting sounds to and from synths and on and off disk. Even if you already have an editor (for your ST or another computer) for the synths concerned, you might like to check out these programs to access the loads of free sounds that are provided with them. Editor/librarians were produced for the Casio VZ1, Roland's Alpha Juno 1 and 2, Kawai's K4/K4R, and Oberheim's Matrix 6 and Matrix 1000. A computer‑based editor is, of course, the only way to create new sounds for the Matrix 1000, which is essentially a 'preset' synth with no front‑panel editing.
Separate librarians are available for Yamaha's FB01 and the rest of Yamaha's 4‑op universe. There are already plenty of PD and shareware editor/librarians for these instruments but, as mentioned earlier, each of the Quinsoft ones is supplied with a huge selection of new sounds. Quinsoft also produced a couple of Toolkits: the one for Korg's classic M1 synth offered a librarian for sounds and combis, plus some extra utilities, while the one for Alesis's Quadraverb multi‑effects unit combined a librarian with some limited editing features. Both include a selection of new patches. Patch collections are also available for Yamaha's DX7/TX7, Kawai's K1 family and Ensoniq's ESQ1; a SysEx dumping utility is provided.
The range of downloadable goodies is rounded off by a collection of mixer maps for Steinberg's Cubase — users of other platforms should be able to access these mixer maps, though they may have an odd appearance. Currently available are maps for Roland VS880, Emu Proteus 1, Roland SC50 Sound Canvas and Sequential SixTrak. More sounds and mixer maps (including mixer maps for the PC) are planned for the future.
One of the most significant bits of news in the Atari/Falcon world in recent months has been the release of Behne & Behne's NVDI v5.1. This is the grandaddy of screen accelerators, and is favoured by many serious ST users. If you've ever been irritated by the slowness of screen redraws on your aged Atari, blame your computer's OS. Those bits of the Atari's OS dedicated to screen‑handling are notoriously slow, and third parties were quick to step in with an alternative. NVDI is also a font and printer manager, and the latest version is truly multi‑platform, working under all versions of TOS, and many alternate operating systems (including MagiC PC and MagiC Mac) and compatible with many Atari graphics cards. NVDI costs £59.95 including VAT (plus £3.95 for UK orders, £8 ROW) and is supplied with a full English manual. Users of NVDI v3 or v4 can upgrade t0 v5.01 (complete with new manual and floppies) for £29.95; to upgrade, your original NVDI disks must be returned.
A couple of months ago, we announced the sad demise of the Floppyshop public domain library. This month, we've learned that the library has been passed on to a company called Falcon's Nest — don't worry, they cater for all Atari users, not just those of you with Falcons. Customers can order using the original Floppyshop catalogue numbers (if they already have a Floppyshop catalogue, that is), and there are plans to produce regular printed updates. The catalogue itself is available on disk. Contact Falcon's Nest with an SAE for further details.
This column has often touched on using the Atari to access the Internet, expecially as an easy way to get hold of software. However, we've never talked about actually creating web sites on the Atari, which is where Cadenza's Web.Wizard v3.03 comes in. This is a suite of programs that makes light work of putting together a page from scratch. It actually automates a lot of the hard work: tell it what you want, and the software works out the necessary HTML without you needing to get your hands dirty. I've only had Web.Wizard for a little while, and I may return to it in future when
I've spent more time with it. In the meantime, check out www.cadenza.cyberstrider.org if you want to visit an example of a Web Wizard‑generated page. Cadenza are using CyberSTrider to distribute Web.Wizard; it costs just £10 (plus £2 postage UK, £4 postage ROW), with cheques or international postal orders payable to CyberSTrider.