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Essential Software for the 512

Bernard Hill reviews the first in a new line of software specifically for 512 enthusiasts.

Product 512 Ramdisc Utility
Supplier    Essential Software
P.O.Box 5, Groby,
Leicestershire LE6 0ZB.
Price £14.95 Inc. VAT and p&p

A new software house has arrived on the scene. Essential Software consists of our regular contributor Robin Burton in collaboration with Mike Ginns in a new venture to supply software to users of Acorn micros. Their aim is to produce useful and novel utility software at sensible prices, and their first clutch of products is aimed at the undersupported area of the 512 co-processor. At the moment there is only one utility disc available, but more are planned.

The first release consists of an 800K disc containing three programs to help you organise your disc drives and create a RAM disc in memory, and works on DOS+ 1.2 or 2.1.

The utility MEMDISK supplied with the 512 is virtually unusable due to the ludicrous 90K overhead which it consumes, in addition to the RAM disc itself (see 512 Forum, Beebug Vol.7 No.4). This disc from Essential contains its definitive replacement.

The program RAMDISC (notice the English spelling!) performs an identical function but uses only a 1K system overhead - plus the size of your RAM disc of course. Furthermore, you're not stuck with drive M: as with MEMDISK; you can use any drive letter except C:, that's reserved for the Winchester, but any letter from D: to K: Sadly you can't expand the size of the RAM disc without deleting it, but you can make it any size you like (in 2K units), and here comes the best news: it's deletable without rebooting your 512.

This is the function of the second program on the disc: AMNESIA (good name that). Provided the RAM disc is empty, this simple command removes it from the 512's configuration and gives you back the RAM. Simple.

The third program on the disc is harder for me to find a use for, but in the old days of PC software, some packages insisted on using fixed drives such as A: or B: (or even C:). To the rescue comes DISCID, which allows you to interchange the names of any two drives. For instance, the command DISCID A: B: would swap drives A: and B:, or you could even swap drives A: and M: to run such oldfashioned software from the RAM disc. DISCID can also be used to remove drives from the system (giving "Invalid Drive Specification") if you're developing software potentially damaging to your Winchester, perhaps. Or it can just report on which drives actually exist.

The documentation supplied with the three programs is minimal, a READ.ME file on the disc which keeps the costs down, but when there is so little need for documentation that's no problem: I already have a shelf full of no-longer-read glossy manuals, and every set of bad parameters I've given the programs results in a sensible error message.

So there you are. £14.95 will bring you these three programs, but to my mind it's worth it for a RAM disc you can really use (and it works with the PC PLUS) and already I am finding mine indispensable. If you don't like the risk of running on RAM disc all the time, put your most commonly run utilities on drive M:; they'll load lightningly fast if you preface the command with M:.

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