Make Your Mind Up!

By Robert Sprowson

Originally published in EUG #48

I was bombarded again by an EUG disk and I see that output is not only now on time but also monthly! As my subscription has ran out I thought I'd write and renew.

Something I've been itching to say is please decide on the EUG format and stick to it rather than chopping and changing from one to another! Over the past five issues, we've had the standard Mode 4 blue/white screen, an awful Mode 7 one, two black and white ones with difficult to find 'Help Menu's and now a full graphical display with black on green! I like the last one most but please remember that green is really hard to see on a TV.

On this line, please, please, please put back CODE6 [One of the previous means used to display text files like this - Ed] as CODE2 [The means used to display text in EUG #45, #46 and #47 - Ed] is terrible! I run my BBC either on a 14" TV or via a computer TV card. Both of them are unreadable in 80 column mode except from at point blank range. I was one of the people who solved problems with this earlier code so that it was possible for text to be displayed in 40 columns. Now I see all this good work undone!

Almost without fail, the disk has some errors on it. This month was the setting of PAGE to &E00 which crashes the BBC when trying to load some BASIC in, and there were a number of wrongly named 'Not found' errors in previous months. While for some this is a simple matter of PRINT f$, then renaming the appropriate file (or making a new !BOOT file!) not everyone is so capable!

Also note that your !BOOT files assume the machine is running BASIC. Don't forget to start with *BASIC before issuing BASIC only commands.

Why are your editorials/submission text files always missing crucial details? Don't forget that we're not you, so don't know where you live, who to make submission cheques out to or who you are!

On the configuration of EUG, it's now seventeen years since the BBC machines came out so I think we should be able to guess which machine the magazine is running on. So then, why not simply include the source to 'CODEx' on each disk with a SHIFT-BREAK assembling a version appropriate to the machine. PAGE and HIMEM can be read at run time, and accounted for, screen capabilities (e.g. 16k Model A or Electron without Mode 7) can be detected and the appropriate Menu program altered.

Similarly there should be no need to do separate builds of EUG for DFS and ADFS users since they're backwards compatible. What works in DFS will work on ADFS. This halves potential errors immediately.

The menu should also give the user the option to set things like width of screen to show text files, background colour, foreground colour and that button which returns to the Main Menu (e.g. M, DEL, f0) plus the printer options - so perforations can be skipped, etc. Most importantly, there should be an option to save these options so that when running the disk at a later date, it's all set up and ready.

I don't mind collaborating with Richard on this matter but the Menu System's "polished performance" should be sudden and perfect, as per the the notes on the Menu changes above.

Hope these pointers help with the running of EUG!

Robert Sprowson

By now you'll probably have noted that I have implemented a configuration menu and reinstated CODE8. Despite the rehashings of several magazines by Richard Dimond, a code that improves upon this one could not be guaranteed to work with all machines until now. Of course it includes a Mode 6 text viewing option you crave so happy, happy, happy!

Bugs did creep in with EUG #45 and #46 [Don't mention Sitting Target please! - Ed] especially with the game Sitting Target and I tried to correct the situation to some extent by publishing those errors reported with them in the next available issue. As you note though, because the error observations were in the 'Help Menu', it was not as easy to discover them as the bugs! These disks have been re-formatted now and can be exchanged if disk and sae are sent.

I initially decided to change to a Mode 4 graphical screen (with two colours) as I thought the familiar text one was rather uninspiring. Both it and the Mode 7 one were before I took the reigns of EUG but, as you point out, the Mode 7 menu was not popular. Many members liked the black and white EUG #45 and #46 screens but when EUG joined the AAUG, the Menu System had to be replotted to accommodate their logo. Rather than "chopping and changing" the menu, I am just 'developing' it - you'll see many subtle improvements besides the new configuration menu on this disk!

As noted, the User Group is operating a little differently as all Back Issues are being amended in the light of members' criticisms. That the !BOOT files didn't take account of BASIC is very useful and I have immediately remedied this.

On your assessments of ADFS and DFS though, I am floored. A DFS disk has a limit of 31 files on each side of a disk. The Menu program has to be rewritten to take this into account. There are usually around fifty files on an EUG disk. Whereas ADFS can split them into directories, DFS needs commands specifying it to turn over the disk when appropriate. Such commands give an error if ADFS encounters them!

Regarding the BBC A, the disks cannot be tested on this machine so compatibility is dubious. I don't think we need a Menu program for it or to have Menus for each type of machine. It could result in disks cluttered with more of what are essentially the same programs.

Your problems with EUG #47 are unique. The DFS EUG disks set PAGE to &E00 as many of the (longer) games include downloading code that takes unnecessary time if the ADFS PAGE of &1D00 is used on the DFS disk. But you are also correct in that the Electron User Group details need to be more clearly stated.

Dave E, EUG #48