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Article #51 (74 is last):
Newsgroups: freenet.sci.comp.atari.product.8bit.reviews
From: aa700@cleveland.Freenet.Edu (Michael Current)
Subject: UltraSpeed Plus OS / Operating System / commercial
Posted-By: xx004 (aa700 - Michael Current)
Reply-To: aa700@cleveland.Freenet.Edu (Michael Current)
Date: Fri May 15 18:26:47 1992


Reprinted from the Pandora BBS (614)-471-9209


UltraSpeed Plus OS
by Jeff Kyle

 Do you use an expanded 1050 or an XF551? Do you have more than 64K? Do you use 
a translator often? If so, or even if not, then you need the UltraSpeed+ OS 
package from Computer Software Services (CSS), sold for $69.95.
 The US+ OS is a collection of 3 OSs for your XL or XE machine. It contains the 
standard XL/XE OS, the UltraSpeed+ (US+) OS, and the XL-Fix+ OS (XLF+).
 The XLF+ OS is an OS that is as compatable as is possible with the 400/800 OS. 
This lets you use all the programs that would normally require a translator by 
just flipping to the XLF+ OS. By the OS being ROM, it is also possible to use 
400/800 cartridges that normal translators can't handle.
 Some commercial programs won't work with a ROM-resident translator, though. An 
example of this is the older Electronic Arts programs. However, by booting up 
and holding down SHIFT, the OS will be copied to RAM as if it were a standard 
disk-based translator, allowing these programs to run also.
 Also included in the XLF+ OS is a built-in Mach Ten Menu and writer. This is a 
program like the public domain Fenders that will load and run binary files from 
disk. When you boot up with SELECT held down, you'll enter it. It will let you 
load any of the first 22 files on a disk, get a directory from any drive, and 
write out a shorter form of Mach Ten menu to the disk. The shorter version will 
only let you load files from drive one.
 The OS also reverses the standard use of OPTION, in other words, to enable 
Basic, hold down OPTION, to disable Basic, don't hold down OPTION. It also 
speeds up the keyboard response.
 The UltraSpeed+ OS is much more. However, all cassette routines, the 1200XL 
function key routines, RAM and ROM check at bootup, the international character 
set, and the relocating handler routines have been erased to make room for more 
features. You'll probably never need them, but if you do, just switch down to 
the standard OS.
 If you have a high-speed drive, the US+ OS will automatically enable the high 
speed on 1050s with a Super Archiver, Happy Enhancement, US Doubler, Duplicator, 
Klone, and Density Doubler, or the unmodified XF551 drive. If you have one of 
those drives and are not using the high speed, this alone is worth the price of 
the OS. Now you can use UltraSpeed with any unprotected disk you own, and use it 
in any DOS you use. This allows you to do things like take an Infocom adventure 
and copy it to a high-speed formatted disk and run it in high speed, speeding up 
the disk access by approximately 3X. Once you've used UltraSpeed for a while, 
you'll never go back.
 The OS also gives you flexible command over the high speed. Pressing SELECT-
OPTION will disable the high speed, and START-OPTION will reenable it. Also, 
holding SHIFT or SELECT when formatting will format the disk in standard slow 
skew instead of high speed skew.
 If you've expanded your XL or XE to 256K or beyond, the US+ OS will 
automatically configure your RAM as a standard, configurable single or double 
density disk. The nice thing about this is being able to have a standard 
RAMdisk, compatable with anything. It's easy to format it and write out DOS to 
it, so whenever you want DOS, you can boot from RAM. Also, it is set up to use 
the standard 130XE 128K RAM banks last. What this means is that, if you have 
320K or more, you can have a full RAMdisk and run a program that uses 128K (such 
as Video Blitz, 130XE Koala Viewers, AtariWriter Plus, etc) without worrying 
about damaging anything in RAM.
 As in the XLF+ OS, the US+ OS reverses the OPTION key, speeds up the keyboard 
response, and darkens the background color. However, now you may change some of 
these along with doing some of the things the 1200XL owners could do with their 
function keys with your US+ OS, by using CONTROL-n or SHIFT-CONTROL-n. This is 
what you can do:CONTROL-8 will lock or unlock your keyboard, in case you don't 
want people messing with it. CONTROL-9 will toggle the internal Basic. This 
command only goes into effect upon RESET. CONTROL-0 will restore the normal 
background colors and slow cursor. SHIFT-CONTROL-0 will turn them back.  SHIFT-
CONTROL-7 will toggle the disk I/O noise on and off. SHIFT-CONTROL-8 will turn 
the screen DMA off, speeding up most processes by 30% or so. Any other key will 
reenable it, preferable SHIFT-CONTROL-A, which causes no character. SHIFT-
CONTROL-9 toggles the keyboard click.
 There are other custom keyboard functions with the US+ OS:one is the 
modification to press SHIFT-CONTROL-Clear instead of SHIFT or CONTROL-Clear to 
clear the screen. The only problem is that with Action!, SHIFT-CONTROL-Clear 
will normally bring you to the left side of the screen. This will no longer work 
in the OS. If you need it, just flip to the standard XL/XE OS, then switch back 
after you've used the key.
 Also, you may now press CONTROL-4, 5, 6, 7 as well the CONTROL--, =, +, and * 
to move the cursor up, down, left, and right. Also, by pressing CONTROL-Caps, 
you not only can use the normal graphics characters, but also use the cursor 
keys without holding down CONTROL.
 By either pressing HELP-RESET or pressing SHIFT-ESC then pressing RESET, you 
can force a cold start of the computer. This is useful when you've got important 
files in the RAMdisk and the computer won't let you RESET out from a program 
normally.
 One powerful feature of the OS is it's ability to reconfigure drives for 
different numbers and boot from any drive, including RAMdisk. When you hold down 
START after a RESET (warm or cold start), you'll enter a menu that has lists 
drive 1-9 and what each is assigned as. Normally, they are all assigned to 
themselves, except drive 4 which is normally RAMdisk. Say you wanted drive 4 to 
be drive 1 and drive 1 to be drive 4. You'd press RESET and START. You then 
press C for configure, enter the original drive (1), then the drive you want it 
to be (4). Then you repeat the procedure for drive 4. It's that easy!
 With this menu, you can also change your RAMdisk number just with R for 
RAMdisk, then enter whatever drive you want it to be.
 Also built into the menu is a small sector copier, mainly for drive-to-RAMdisk 
or RAMdisk-to-drive copying. It will read the density, format the destination in 
the density, and copy the disk a sector at a time. If you want, you can do 
normal drive-to-drive copies, but because of the one-at-a-time approach, it 
won't be as fast as a standard sector copier.
 If you've entered the menu from a coldstart, you may also temporarily boot from 
any drive, just by pressing the drive number. This will swap the drives. By 
pressing SHIFT-CONTROL-6, you can "unswap" the drives and restore the drives to 
the original configuration. This won't reset everything, it just swaps back the 
drive you booted from. For instance, if you booted from drive 3, you could still 
use drive 1 if you referred to it as drive 3. Pressing SHIFT-CONTROL-6 will 
reset it so that drive 3 is drive 3 again and drive 1 is drive 1 again.
 Occasionally in the standard OS, an OSS "supercartridge" can be ignored due to 
it's bank selecting. The US+ OS sends a command to "wake it up" to eliminate 
this problem.
 You can also easily install an external switch to swap the RAMdisk and drive 1. 
With this switch, you can make RAMdisk drive 1 at any time.
 Unfortunately, if you use SpartaDOS, the reconfiguring will have no effect due 
to it's using custom routines, bypassing the OS. Also the Virtuoso player will 
always go to the "real" drive 1 instead of whatever is configured as drive 1. 
Also SpartaDOS will not boot from RAMdisk, allow the keyboard functions (without 
a KEY OFF command), or allow high speed with the XF551 drive. But if you MUST 
use this DOS, it is easily modifiable with a built-in patch called by a simple 
USR command that will modify SpartaDOS to allow these things.
 The new OS has removed the standard Self-Test routines and put in a RAM check 
supporting up to two megabytes. This is also the FASTest RAM checker I've ever 
seen. Also, in the same vien, the US+ OS frees up pin 17 on the PIA for easier 
one-and two-meg upgrades. Doing so will disable the self test and the standard 
XL/XE OS, but it will work.
 Before the OS, there was a problem is you turned your machine off and back on 
very quickly, because of the way the high-density RAM chips retain their memory 
for a few seconds after the loss of power. With the new OS, this problem has 
been eliminated.
 The US+ OS also supports a seperately sold RAMdisk write protect switch which 
will protect either your RAMdisk memory or all of the extended memory from 
writes.
 The documentation that comes with the OS is satisfactory. It explains all the 
functions in detail with many examples. It explains the functions and the 
installation completely. It would be nice if it told more of the technical 
information, but it is better than most information that comes with other custom 
OSs.
 Installation? I can't really say about the difficulty as I had mine installed 
by the author. But looking through the instructions, mainly it should be easy on 
the 800XL. On the XEs, most of the time the OS is not socketed in, but soldered 
in. If it is soldered in, you must desolder the OS, which requires a bit of 
soldering skill. Other than that, it is mainly soldering a few wires to some of 
the chips, plus drilling a 1/4" hole for the 3-position switch to switch between 
the OSs.
 And that's the OS! I have found very few compatability problems, but when they 
do arise, it's as easy as switching back to the regular XL/XE OS. Having all the 
special functions available is handy, as well as being able to boot from RAM.
 However, there have been problems when switching from the standard XL/XE OS to 
the XL Fix+ OS. Becuase of different locations, switching can occasionally make 
a program point to an something that can screw up your RAMdisk. This is rare, 
but it is a good idea to back up your RAMdisk before just jumping into the XLF+ 
OS.
 Other than that, I've had very few problems with the OS. It works as stated, 
and the keyboard functions work with most programs. At $69.95, it's a great buy. 
So if you'd like high speed with your drive, better RAMdisk control, or just 
plain more power over your computer, don't wait. Buy this OS!


-- 
 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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