Tuesday, April 26, 2016

double DD

Backing up your files can be a pain in the .. neck .. but you would be gutted if you lost any precious data! So here is a simple method to duplicate your Ultrasatan's SD card which is not only effective but takes very little effort. The requirements are a Mac with an SD slot and a basic knowledge of the Terminal program.


 - IDENTIFICATION -

Firstly, eject your SD card from the Ultrasatan and slide its "lock" switch to write-protect it. Insert it into your Mac (if a warning appears then click on the "ignore" button). Load up Terminal.app (within Utilities folder) and type in this command:
diskutil list
This will display information to help identify the SD card - look for the capacity of your card. Mine is 8GB as you can see in the clipping, below. Thus my card is "/dev/disk1"
/dev/disk1 (internal, physical):
 #:     TYPE     NAME     SIZE     IDENTIFIER
 0:     *                 8.0 GB   disk1

If you would like to verify this information, type in this command :
diskutil info /dev/disk1
Within the output, you will see a line confirming that this is indeed our SD Card :
Device / Media Name:      SD Card Reader


 - BACK IT UP -

Type this command to backup the SD card (enter your password when prompted)
sudo dd if=/dev/disk1 of=~/Desktop/st-backup.img
Leave it to complete and after a few minutes you should have a file on your desktop called "st-backup". Now eject the card from the Apple Mac and reinsert it into your Ultrasatan - not forgetting to slide off the lock switch! I recommend zipping your newly created backup file and then storing it somewhere safe, like iCloud or Dropbox.


 - RESTORES -

Perhaps you have a spare SD card idly doing nothing? So long as it's the same capacity as the first, we can easily restore our backup file onto this using the command :
sudo dd if=~/Desktop/st-backup.img of=/dev/disk1

 - AND FINALLY -

Of course, there are numerous different methods to secure your data and here is just one. It's the backup method I personally prefer because the dd command is simple and powerful. I hope this is of some use to Mac & Linux users, sorry but I wouldn't know about Windows. Any questions then just gimme a shout and I'll be happy to help.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Atari STM


I've always had a secret longing for the sleek Atari STM computer before it became bloated with an internal PSU and floppy disk drive (STFM). I've just bought one off eBay for a meagre £14 and it's in superb condition too. Needless to say, I now require an external floppy drive and PSU so I cannot wait to get this beast working :-)

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Double Dragon 3 - Rosetta Stone



Today I wanted to feature an Atari ST game which would help celebrate St George's Day so I figured something dragon-related would be great? I tried a few games but I wasn't in the mood for those and nothing else caught my attention. Then I remembered Double Dragon 3 - oh come on, it has "dragon" in the title!

For all those wondering what England's ST George's Day is all about... :-)


You just don't mess with guys that look like THAT but I gotta laugh at the fun artwork throughout!!


Double Dragon 3 takes you on a trip around the world with the initial clash beginning in America. You're instantly thrown into the thick of it because these streets are filled with thugs - all intent on giving you a good-hiding!! There are lots of kicks and punches which can be acted out with cool animation through responsive controls.

It's immediately obvious this game was designed for Hollywood-style action over any pseudo-realism which that's fine by me! The baddies are awesome and can attack in groups making for a frantic, full-of-laughs, joystick-bashing fun. I got a Golden Axe vibe at times and, throughout, I enjoyed the barrage of silly, arcade-styled fighting.



Come on, get up and take some more smackin'!! Yeah, I can take on anybody GRR!!


Ah, he's big... Well, they say that the bigger they are... (I hope that is true!!)


Gameplay is well balanced, without ever being overbearing and occasionally shops are available to offer you some cool power-ups, including weapons, and more. I soon discovered a jumping/flying kick which is very effective. However, repeating the same move soon bored, so out came my joystick waggling skills to uncover other hidden moves and before long I found a spinning vertical kick! Yes, now I wonder what else there is to find...

Visually, I love the grungy streets and the sprites look just as mean. Scrolling is smooth and the characters have neat animation. Music is fine on the title screens and crunchy YM effects nicely complement the frantic gameplay.

Overall, Double Dragon 3 is a bucket load of fun with great graphics to boot. I'm genuinely shocked how much I'm enjoying it so highly recommend you enjoy some of its kick-ass action for yourself. Top marks from me!!

Kick and punch your way through using either floppy or your hard disk.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Buggy Boy


Buggy Boy is great and the ST received a fantastic conversion with gorgeous aesthetics that suit its style perfectly. This is a no-frills arcade racer that doesn't take itself seriously - it's simple, extremely addictive and I love it.

However, there are a zillion videos scattered throughout YouTube land so I thought I'd make something a little different... My video emulates the game running on my 16Mhz Mega STe which is ludicrously fast and rather silly. I don't know why I made this, but I did!! So I hope you enjoy what is nothing but a silly recording!! :o)

Downloads are available from 8BitChip or D-Bug and they fully support this zippy ST, unlike the floppies...

Friday, April 08, 2016

Stardust


Stardust was released late in the ST's life by Bloodhouse in 1994 and it's not only one of the last commercial games ever released but is actually an STe-only product. Developed by several famous names from our great demoscene (thank you Aggression) these guys managed to deliver a wicked twist on the original Asteroids format.

Stardust not only plays similar to that arcade favourite but also adds modern content. Such as ludicrously awesome aesthetics which are quite stunning - it's not all for nothing because they compliment fantastic gameplay.


Here is the War Plan. I think it says, "Kill everything and don't die!!"

There are a total of five levels and each contains six missions which are all host to a variety of rocks and the expected dangerous baddies. After each level is completed, you are required to travel through a wormhole-like tunnel onto the next part of the galaxy like something from Buck Rogers or Starwars!! These tunnels are filled to the brim with oncoming rocks for you to dodge or destroy - which is definitely no easy task.

Bonus levels pop up regularly and feel similar to a certain Thrust clone... Now, these are optional but you will be daft to ignore the fun. So don't be daft!! Of course, it wouldn't be right without End-Of-Level Bosses and each mission has them. These guys are tough so beware! Much perseverance will be required during these enjoyable romps!


I gotta say, blast rocks has never looked so great!! Wow, these backgrounds are stunners!

Stardust is something else and on another level. However, the basic mechanics are pretty much what you would expect so it also feels more-or-less the same, expected experience. Which is actually very awesome because you can jump straight in and begin playing without much of a learning curve. Heck, dodge and shoot!

The controls are also familiar: left and right will manoeuvre your spacecraft around. Pushing upwards will thrust you forward into hell. Don't worry, we have a shield which can aid during those sticky moments. Finally, our ship's main weapon is more than capable - perfect for gratifying rock-blasting!! Nothing wrong here, folks.


Wow, this looks the part alright. Damned hard but it's mind-blowing STuff!!

Graphically, Stardust is glorious. Everything is bold and colourful with stunningly-smooth animations. The rocks are also something else with jaw-dropping 3D renditions that look beautiful. I've not finished yet - everything is running in overscan!! Yep, not only does it look HOT but it's in overscan which means lots of extra pixels to blast.

Equally impressive is the audio with beautiful examples of thumping stereo tunes, accompanied by BAM!! BAM!! BAM!! DMA sound effects. This is one game that's gonna blow your socks off. If I can offer one piece of advice: crank up the volume!! I guarantee you will love everything Stardust delivers so turn it up :-)


It doesn't only look fantastic but everything moves so smooth and incredibly fast!!

This is a spectacular showcase of what the Atari STe was capable of when in the hands of people with talent and commitment. These guys didn't rehash an old idea or produce a weak Amiga port. No, they unleashed a product which feels fresh and exciting. Stardust is a joyride of rock-blasting thrills and a perfect shoot 'em up!!

Download for floppy or installed onto a hard drive.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

uIP-tool


Update: there's a new version of uIP-Tool available for download.
I've not tested it myself but I'm eager to see what's new / fixed!!

As you may have read in my previous article, I purchased the NetUSBee which is a gorgeous slab of hardware available from Lotharek. Its ethernet socket offers the potential to connect to the outside work or even your own Mac/PC and Mariusz Buras has developed a program to do just that - uIP Tool.

This will transform your Atari ST into a file server without any configuration. Just load it up and it will automatically assign itself an IP - which you enter into Google Chrome on your Mac/PC. Now you can access the Atari ST and begin transferring files. NetUSBee with uIP-tool is the perfect combo and I really love this incredible setup.

Help for those using WiFi

If your router is in a different room (so WiFi) then you might be thinking uIP-tool isn't compatible for your setup? Not so. My router is located downstairs so I bought myself a very short ethernet cable to physically connect the Apple Mac to my Atari STe.

To provide uIP-Tool with a working IP address I enabled the Mac's Internet Sharing and that was that. Sorry, I don't own Windows but I expect a similar function exists...

 1) load up System Preference (via the Apple menu)
 2) click on Internet Sharing (view me)
 3) choose WiFi in the dropdown menu & tick the ethernet box (view me)
 4) lastly, tick the box left of "Internet Sharing" to activate this service.
 5) now quit System Preferences.
 6) load up uIP-Tool on the Atari ST and note the IP it displays for you.
 7) enter this IP into your web browser to remotely access your Atari ST. Job done!

Monday, April 04, 2016

Mouse Trap


Billed as "old in style but brilliant in design" is Micro-Value's 1987 platformer, Mouse Trap which is based on the original Acorn Electron game!! I've always loved platformers. No, not the Mario or Sonic kind but the older ZX Spectrum kind that I grew up with: Chuckie Egg II, Manic Miner, JSW, Monty Mole, Saboteur II, etc. Oh boy, that list is near-endless... Anyhow, as you can imagine, I was very eager to give Mouse Trap a try.

We are Marvin The Mouse who desperately wants to win back the heart of his ex-girlfriend that left him for another. She must be quite the materialistic female when you think about the plan he's come up with to win her back? Scrounge dozens of lethal rooms looking for precious items. Yep, that'll work. Hmm, women...


No, he's not floating but simply in mid-fall. And that aspect took me a while to fully master...


Wow! Those colours... This game is incredibly different from the norm and I love that.


Some levels are quite simple. Not only to look at but complete very quickly. Like this one!

This is a cruel and unforgiving platformer: make one mistake and it's often impossible to go back and try again - which usually means a life lost. Each screen is level, so you cannot progress further until all items are collected on the current screen. Finishing each is a matter of working out the best route rather than the quickest. However, there is a time limit, so hit the 'F' key to pause - now study the layout to figure out the best route through.

Mouse Trap looks like an 8-bit platformer but with the ST's extra pixels and colours. It's kinda weird too. Plus it has the oddest sprites: check out the old man with the big nose who appears on level two!! (I hear you should hide behind a wall to avoid him at all costs). Others are either excellent or plain crud: like the floating skulls which use an awful design, yet somehow it works perfectly here. Music is eerily enjoyable but press M to turn it off!!

Controls are excellent. However, I admit that I initially found them a little fiddly and quite perplexing. For example, if you're facing left and then tap "right" to turn around, then Marvin will not only do this BUT he will also walks a couple of steps in that direction too. I'm used to Manic Miner, so this frustrating mechanic took me some time.


This baffled me at first but it's actually a lot easier than you realise. Love the sinking ledges!


Some of the levels are far simpler than you first think. Just take your time...


There is the odd dodgy screen but then it redeems itself with this blue beauty!

Mouse Trap is a charming platformer with an incredible variety of screens - all as difficult as they are addictive. You're always drawn back for that one-more-game! The only negative aspect is the lacking save-game feature and that absolutely baffles me. Especially as there are so many levels to plunder (ie, forced re/play). Come on guys, a simple password system for each level would have worked so well here. Not good.

Overall, that is my only quirk - which makes me wonder what they were thinking. Anyhow, having said that, I have really enjoyed Mouse Trap because it's a blimmin' excellent platformer. Top marks from me!!

Download for hard disk or floppy.

Can you beat my current Hi-Score? I didn't think so!! :p

Saturday, April 02, 2016

FloppyShop


For those of us old enough to remember Floppyshop, you will be pleased to hear that Chris Swinson has brought back to life their entire catalogue. That's right, it's all here and, unlike the old days, everything is completely free of charge!! All that is required is nothing more than a click of the mouse to relive those PD days.

Each disk is split into the original 16 categories and I'm currently hitting the games... How predictable of me!

Art & Graphics / Astrology / Clip Art / Communication / Demos
Disk Mag / Educational / Fonts / Games / Programming / Midi
Music / Product Demos / Sound / Utils / Word Processing

Anyhow, everything you once saw advertised in the latest issue of ST Format is now available to download. Kudos to Chris for supplying this wonderful service. I have already downloaded tons of disks and I hope you guys do also :-)