General Bits

By Mark Bellis

Originally published in EUG #28

Firstly, the Repton Infinity stuff in EUG #26 by Dominic Ford.

Unfortunately the files will not work with either the BBC or Master 128 versions of Repton Infinity that I have. I realise that your instructions were for Elk files, from the "eG." directory names, but I am sure that the Game files for the Elk or Master cannot be of wildly different sizes. However, the length of each file is 1330 hex, which doesn't correspond to the lengths of any of the standard Repton Infinity datafile types for the BBC or Master.

Perhaps you could look into this please, Dominic or Gus.

Secondly, Inkjet printers for the Beeb and the enquiry from Terry Mulchay. I have an Integrex Colourjet Series 2, which does 300dpi colour or mono, with a few fonts (more available on cards) and an A4 sheet feeder. Their address is as follows:

  Integrex Ltd
Church Gresley
Derbyshire DE11 9PT
Tel: (01283) 551551
Fax: (01283) 550325

When I last bought cartridges from them, black ones were £21.50 and colour ones £28.50. Both do around 1,000,000 draft/500,000 LQ characters or 85 A5 pictures respectively. (Almost 5p per LQ page or 40p per picture.)

The printer does have a resident HP-deskjet simulation, but I think it is only the standard font sizes defined within the printer:

  • Courier 10 and 16.6 (Typewriter characters)
  • Letter Gothic 10, 12 and 16.6
  • Times Nordic (various sizes) (Good enough for a CV!)

I have written the software for the company, and received a due discount on the printer. If anybody needs the same kind of software for their printer, send me a list of its VDU codes (They're different on all printers nowadays!) and I will alter the software to suit.

It comprises a screen dump - in ROM by default, so that it can be activated from a Function key (Even during some games!) or so that star commands can be used to print disk-based bitmap files.

It will also print files in Modes 0, 1 or 2 in any of eight colours, and you specify the palette at the time you type the command. I put in a *HELP facility to explain matters too.

The unfortuate thing is that I don't know if the company ever managed to get it to work from a ROM chip. The program had to be downloaded to a PC on a serial link so that the PC could blow the EPROM!

I know the software works perfectly on a Master 128 though. More enquiries welcome... ;-)

Thirdly, PCs. Terry Mulcahy enquired about serial links from Beebs to PCs.

May I recommend an article by Alan Pickard in Electronics #57 (September 1992). The article gives details of a serial link, and file conversions - including WORDWISE (I assume that View would be easier as if you don't use tabs or overrun lines, the text is nearly pure ASCII).

A program called PROCOMM+ is required for the PC. I dunno how to get hold of it. Maybe Maplin Electronics can help.

On the topic of buying a (Spit!) PC though, my sister recently bought one to take to University ('cos all former students know that there's a massive computer system logjam after Easter, when all the finalists are struggling with their 20,000 word dissertations). I asked my uncle's advice, 'cos he's a computer consultant, and he recommended that:

  • Unless you are going to do a lot of mathematically-intensive work such as the Mandelbrots which I like to plot on the Beeb, you don't need more than a 100MHz processor (as you will rarely, if ever, even approach 100MHz performance even on a 200MHz one)! 120 or 133MHz is the current standard it seems, unless you specifically go for the fastest you can find.
  • 8MB of RAM may not be sufficient, so get the full 16MB, so that your 100MHz processor can actually run nearer its spec!
  • You will never need more than 800Mb of hard disk - even though the standard these days is at least 1.2Gb, 'cos you will never get close to filling it (I suggested that one possible exception is if you decide to write a book!).

    My uncle has a total of 640MB, and is not worried about space 'cos he hasn't used the first half of it yet.

The PC my sister bought was a 133MHz, 16Mb RAM, 1.2Gb Hard Disk Compaq Presario, for about £1,800! Don't ask me where a student gets that kind of money from!

I wonder how long it will be before 32Mb is the standard. Six months maybe? That's the trouble with PCs. Unless you are prepared for your machine to be out of date as soon as you buy it, don't buy one!

For now, I quite enjoy my perfectly-fast-enough 2MHz, 128K RAM, 640K floppy disk Master 128. It even does 36 colours simultaneously - see my article in this (or next, knowing Gus) issue.

Us Beeb users do have the advantage of a screen size of only 20Kb, as opposed to 2Mb for a good PC picture.

I have considered a RISC PC, but that again is a parallel rat race, with the ARM chip constantly developing, so I've opted for the quiet life.

Oh, sorry, I've rambled again... ;-)

Mark Bellis, EUG #28