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Article #41 (74 is last):
Newsgroups: freenet.sci.comp.atari.product.8bit.reviews
From: aa700@cleveland.Freenet.Edu (Michael Current)
Subject: SpartaDOS / Operating System / commercial
Posted-By: xx004 (aa700 - Michael Current)
Reply-To: aa700@cleveland.Freenet.Edu (Michael Current)
Date: Tue Apr 21 19:42:32 1992


Reprinted from the A.C.E.C. BBS (614)-471-8559

 
 SPARTA DOS
 ICD, INC.
 1220 Rock Street, Suite 310
 Rockford, IL 61101-1437
 (815) 229-2999
 Set alone $39.95
 Set with US Doubler $69.95
 
 by Matthew J.W. Ratcliff
 
 Sparta DOS or Sparta DOS
Construction Set (SDCS) coupled with
the US Doubler is a hardware-software
package that's hard to beat. Sparta
DOS can be run on any
Atari-compatible disk drive. If you
have a 1050 with the US Doubler,
files can be transferred in
UltraSpeedTM -- three times faster
than normal, in single or true double
density. Sparta DOS provides flexible
ramdisk support and many other extra
features for XL/XE machines.
 
 When I first booted Sparta DOS, I
was disappointed to find that it did
not seem to be Atari DOS compatible,
despite all its nice frills. I
couldn't look at anything on an Atari
DOS disk. After a few minutes of
frustration, I got out the manual
(which is excellent) and did some
reading. Sparta DOS version 1.1 is
designed for the Atari 400/800
computers, and 2.3 is for the
XL/XE's. Both versions come with the
construction set package.
 
 The major difference between Sparta
DOS 1.1 (which is what I had booted
first) and 2.3 is the built-in Atari
DOS handler. Sparta DOS 1.1 would
just take too much RAM on an old
400/800 machine if the Atari DOS
handler were added. You can easily
transport files between Sparta DOS
1.1. and Atari DOS disks, with an
excellent file copy utility called
SPCOPY.
 
 I booted Sparta DOS 2.3 on my 130XE
and gave it a test run. It was quite
easy to use, since I'm familiar with
OSS DOS/XL. The two DOSs are very
similar in command formats. I put in
every disk I had, Atari DOS 2, 2.5,
OSS DOS XL single and double
densities. No matter what disk I put
in, Sparta DOS 2.3 could read it!
 
 With this DOS, I can read from and
write to any DOS in any density --
without any special utilities. This
single feature makes Sparta DOS the
most powerful disk operating system
I've ever seen for the Atari XL/XE
computer.
 
 Sparta DOS 2.3 is nearly two times
as large as most other DOSs (over
10700 bytes), yet it gives you more
working RAM in BASIC than any other,
as you can see in the table below.
 
 DOS Version           FRE(0)
 -----------           ------
 Atari DOS 2.0, 2.5     32274
 OSS DOS XL             30990
 (using DOSXL.SYS)      35214
 Sparta DOS 1.1         30734
 Sparta DOS 2.3         36176
 
 It does this by hiding much of
itself in the RAM that "shadows" the
operating system ROMs in the XL/XE
machines. Like OSS DOS/XL, Sparta DOS
remains in RAM at all times. Note
that Sparta DOS cannot read or write
an Atari DOS 3 disk, however. If you
are unfortunate enough to be using
this defunct version of Atari DOS, I
suggest that you scout around for a
good DOS 3-to-DOS 2 conversion
utility. Then make the transition to
Sparta DOS after converting your
files.
 
 Sparta DOS is command oriented.
Rather than selecting an item from a
menu, you enter a command (such as
DIR) for a disk directory. A menu
utility file is provided for those
who prefer it. It's unlike the Atari
DOS menu, but easy to learn and use.
The twenty-five most common Sparta
DOS commands are available from this
menu. This utility releases the RAM
it uses when you return to BASIC.
 
 One of the most frustrating features
of the XL/XE machines is the OPTION
key control of built-in BASIC. You
have to remember to press it at
power-up time if you want to go
directly to DOS. Not so with Sparta
DOS 2.3. You have complete control
over the built-in BASIC, with the
commands BASIC ON, and BASIC OFF. You
may execute BASIC OFF so the RAM
under BASIC will be used when copying
files. You can just as easily turn it
back on to return to programming.
 
 When initialized, you can create one
of two different types of Sparta DOS
2.3 disks. "XC" DOS gives control
priority to the cartridge (if any)
and looks for an AUTORUN.SYS file at
boot time. (Use this configuration
for AtariWriter and your printer
driver.) The "XD" version gives
control to DOS, after looking for a
STARTUP.BAT batch command file. I'll
cover more on batch files later.
 
 A feature unique to Sparta DOS is
the system clock function. Use the
SET command to set the date and time.
The current time and date will then
be "stamped" on every file you write
to a Sparta DOS disk. This is superb
for helping you keep track of the
latest version of your programs under
development.
 
 Use the TIME command to enable a
clock display. This function gives
you a twenty-fifth line at the top of
the screen that continuously shows
time and date. This feature works
flawlessly with Atari BASIC, OSS
BASIC XL, and MAC/65 (no conflicts
with DDT, either).
 
 When you execute a DIR command from
Sparta DOS, you get a list of files
with time and date stamps, and file
size in bytes -- not sectors. The
DIRS (directory short) command lists
the files in the more traditional
format. Sparta DOS even supports
subdirectories, something IBM PC
users may be accustomed to.
 
 Sparta DOS provides a logonmenu
utility, which makes use of
subdirectories. With your machine
language game files organized under
topical subdirectories (adventure,
arcade, etc.), the logonmenu (in the
form of an autorun file) program
provides access to as many as 1024
different game files on one disk --
if you have the space. This is the
perfect utility for organizing all
your machine language games from
ANALOG Computing.
 
 Spcopy and xcopy are the slickest
file copy utilities I've ever seen.
Spcopy, for 400/800s, has the Atari
DOS 2 handler built in, for moving
files between it and Sparta DOS
disks. These copy utilities can
transport files between any DOSs, at
any density supported.
 
 You can easily set up source and
destination parameters and then get a
directory of the source file disk on
the screen. Files to be moved can be
SELECTed and tagged or untagged with
the SPACE BAR. Pressing START moves
all tagged files, prompting for disk
swamps for a single-drive copy. This
copy function buffers as many files
in memory as possible. With
UltraSpeed (tm), this copy function
is extremely fast!
 
 Atari DOS 2.5 supports ramdisk for
the 130XE as drive D8: only. OSS
DOS/XL does not support a ramdisk at
all. Sparta DOS supports not one, but
two ramdisks on the 130XE! You may
use the RD130 command to specify any
drive in the system (that doesn't
conflict with a floppy) as a
507-sector ramdisk for the 130XE.
 
 The RDBASIC command creates a
ramdisk for the 130XE or the 800XL
under the built-in BASIC, which is
fifty-nine sectors. This is rather
small for a ramdisk, but it can come
in handy as a working disk buffer
with the COPY command, as you'll see
below. Sparta DOS provides ramdisk
utilities for expanded memory Atari
800s.
 
 Unlike OSS DOS/XL, the Sparta DOS
COPY command is built in. Version 2.3
can move from/to any other DOS disk
with the COPY command, with no
special utilities required. (Both
source and destination disks can be
non-Sparta DOS types.) Here's where
you'll find one of the few
limitations of Sparta DOS. The
built-in COPY function doesn't
support single-drive copying. This is
no problem if you have a two-drive
system, or a 130XE with the ramdisk
for intermediate transfers. The
spcopy, xcopy, and menu command
utilities all support single-drive
copying, however.
 
 I must point out two minor, but
important, caveats with Sparta DOS.
As the manual specifies, separate
filenames in the copy command with a
space character ( ), not a comma (,).
If you use a comma, Sparta DOS thinks
it's some sort of wild card or
subdirectory specifier. This may give
you an error, but I've even destroyed
a file this way. Future versions of
Sparta DOS may allow the comma
separator.
 
 Write protect disks until you're
accustomed to Sparta DOS. Underline
characters are legal in Sparta DOS
filenames, such as D1:FILE_1A. Take
care that you don't copy files with
such names from a Sparta DOS disk to
an Atari DOS disk, since the
underline character is illegal under
Atari DOS.
 
 Sparta DOS can execute a series of
commands from a batch file. When
booted ("XD" version), it will search
for a file called STARTUP.BAT and
execute the commands therein, if
found. I use the following batch file
to set up for work with my MAC/65
assembler:
 
 ;RAMDISK D3: Setup in progress
 RD130 D3:
 ;Moving Source Files now
 Copy D:*.M65 D3:
 ;Date and Time Please
 SET
 TIME
 CAR
 
The lines that begin with a semicolon
(;) are "comment" or REM lines.
Sparta DOS just prints them to the
screen, so you know what's happening.
Batch files can be executed from DOS
by preceding the batch command
filename with a minus (-) character,
like -BACKUPS. A PAUSE command is
built into Sparta DOS. It prints a
prompt to the screen, Press any key
to continue, and waits for a
keypress. This allows your batch
files more control over the system.
Your batch files may even call BASIC
and run a program for you.
 
 Files may be erased and, with some
limitations, unerased. Individual
files may be protected from
overwriting. The entire disk may be
"soft" protected with the LOCK
function. You may initialize an Atari
DOS 2 format disk with the AINIT
command, or a Sparta DOS disk with
the XINIT function.
 
 Directories, subdirectories, and two
formatting types are accessible from
Atari BASIC with new XIO commands --
well documented in the manual. The
text goes into great detail about the
technical aspects of the "command
processor" for advanced programmers
who wish to write their own Sparta
DOS command files. Sparta DOS even
provides a keyboard buffer utility
that allows you to type up to
thirty-two characters ahead.
 
 By the time you read this, there
will be a version of Sparta DOS that
will run with BASIC XE. The 1200XL
computer will also be supported.
Sparta DOS fully supports the
ATR8000. Many other utilities are in
the works, such as a sector copier,
to make Sparta DOS even more useful.
With this DOS "construction set," you
can easily create a system disk with
all your favorite command files,
specific to any hardware you might
own.
 
 I'm hooked on Sparta DOS. If you
have an XL/XE machine, I highly
recommend it. If you have a 1050
drive as well, then I think you'll
find the ICD doubler and Sparta DOS
the ultimate DOS system for your
Atari. This is a good DOS for Atari
400/800 users, too, but you'll have
to put a little more effort into
moving files between Atari and Sparta
DOS disks. 5
 
 Author's biography:
 
 Matthew J.W. Ratcliff is an
Electrical Engineer in St. Louis,
Missouri. He has been programming in
BASIC and assembly language on the
Atari since 1982. He's also active in
telecommunications and is a remote
Sysop on the Gateway BBS, (314)
647-3290. He is also one of the
Sysops here on the Atari Users
Group.


-- 
 Michael Current, Cleveland Free-Net 8-bit Atari SIGOp   -->>  go atari8  <<--
   The Cleveland Free-Net Atari SIG is the Central Atari Information Network
      Internet: currentm@carleton.edu / UUCP: ...!umn-cs!ccnfld!currentm
     BITNET: currentm%carleton.edu@{interbit} / Cleveland Free-Net: aa700





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