CU Amiga Magazine CUCD woes

Yes, I'm back.

I get some E-mails and letters asking for the return of mat.readme, as if
it's some kind of soap that happens each month.

Actually a couple of things have to happen for a mat.readme to occur.
Firstly we need a disaster or series of disasters that warrants writing
about. Then we need some repair process that chews so much system resources
that I can do little else than yak away in a text editor.

Fortunately, for us, this hasn't happened for awhile. Since you're reading
this, we can assume that is has this month. In fact it's largely the same
set of problems as plagued CUCD10. I'm in the insane situation where I need
to remaster the previous month's CD and master the current CD in the space
of a day or so. So, for the first time, this mat.readme will go on both
CUCD15 The Director's Fix and CUCD16.

So on with the readme, let's tell a tale. This tale is one of the CU Amiga
Legendary Amiga affectionately known throughout the Universe as 'Bitch'.

For those who don't know, greetings from Earth! Seriously, Bitch is lies
at heart of CU Amiga and does everything that I do on the magazine.
Generally, if an application runs on Bitch, I review it. The CDs are
mastered on Bitch, the mailing lists are operated from Bitch 24 hours, CU
Online is developed on Bitch, Bitch converts every file and disk format
from the real world to the world of the Macintosh and so on...

Bitch was originally an A3000 with a GVP Spectrum graphics card, GVP IO
Expander and so on. When I first started at CU Amiga, the collection of
Amigas was impressive in quantity if not actual specification of any of
them. Either I got one and loaded it up with a decent system or... brought
in my A3000. The graphics card clinched it. No way was I staring at DBLPal
all day, no siree.

From those very early CD days, you might remember that all sorts of
ludicrous hacks were employed to put together a CD from a plethora of half
working hardware. Once a CD, can't remember which one, was mastered by
parnetting the entire contents over to an A4000. Not fun.

After that disaster an ultimatum was made to management; "Buy more gearum
or no CDum. No CDum, less moneyum.". This manager speak is highly
simplified of course, various sprinklings of accepted management keywords
such as 'communication', 'development', 'strengthen' and 'revenue growth'
were used in the original proposal. It seemed to do the trick. Someone
whould write a spewlib for generating management phrases, it would be most

You may also recall that plenty of times Bitch worked in her first
incarnation even though the laws of physics dictate that she should not
have. I'm talking about me using her for a day without realising she was
totally unplugged. A similar legend to the story of the original Amiga
prototype at Hi-Torro. In this case, this magical essense has something to
do with the Workbench that has been passed down from an Amiga 1000 OS 1.2
through various Amigas unto Bitch. Clearly it evolved some special powers
in this lengthy evolution.

I digress. In the end, managment agreed that we needed a major new machine.
A bright and sparkling new A4000T was ordered from Amiga Technologies.
Don't think they did us any favours price wise either. It cost a bomb and
the drive was dead as the rubbish mounting for it had come undone in
transit. The SCSI dip switches were labelled upside down and more...

However, the A3000 SCSI HD was moved into Bitch's new body and... (visual
image: wires and componants blend and move around the 4000T's motherboard,
breif stabs of electric charge ripple across the circuits, hard drives spin
up to impossible speed and the combined noise modulates into something that
sounds like a sigh). Ahem, yes well.

Bitch grew HDs, faster graphics and the single coolest thing; a Phase 5
Cyberstorm 060. Bitch was kicking ass with nary a Zorro slot free.

Until, of course, Bitch was lobotomised while I was on holidays in South
Africa. Mastering a CD direct to not one, but TWO SCSI drives was a
seriously ungood thing. Language totally breaks down when it comes to
describing how ungood this was.

After mourning the loss of one the greatest Amigas that ever lived, I got
on with installing a new set-up. This one based on Directory Opus 5 and
some other highly different ways of doing things. We'd just moved to new
offices where there was a proper corporate Intranet so with the addition of
an Ariadne card, Bitch was on the Net 24 hours to run the lists. This was
good. It was not so good that I had completely lost MatSERV, the mailing
list AI.

Things were good again but they'd never be the same. Bitch proper was
dead. Maybe she would have taken over the world otherwise? Who knows.

Well... without the mystical healing powers of Bitch, things went downhill
hardware wise. Things began to fail, the floppy interface was destroyed,
lengthy repairs didn't get it working. A strip to bare bolts and reassembly
fixed her, for a time.

Until the present time when Bitch died again. A complete hardware failure
with at least some CIAs smoked and componant level failures. Analogic
haven't been able to fix it. In the end, we've conceded and have a new
A4000T motherboard on order from Amiga International. A process taking way
too long, I might add. An Amiga International employee demanded payment up
front from us before they'd consider the order. <sigh> Old habits die hard
at Amiga International me thinks.

So what am I using now? It's a MicroniK A1200 tower system with most of
Bitch's hardware relocated to it. Amazingly it works but not with an 060
card so I'm forced to go back to a 50Mhz 68030. Also the biggest SIMM we
have is a 16MB job. I'm also having to use a Zorro II SCSI controller.
Overall the system sucks so hard that calling it Bitch wouldn't be right.
So I've christened it Poor Bitch. Laugh if ye must.

[ Quick note: Some people might scoff at my elitism concerning what
kind of Amiga system I'm happy with using. I'm aware that Poor Bitch is
what a great many readers dream about, let alone Bitch. The key difference
is that I have to use this machine in an industrial capacity. Running a
whole bunch of taxing multitasking applications at the same time. Something
that I have to do all day. When I'm waiting for something to happen, this
is totally unproductive time. If I was at home, leisurely lashing up some
fun-o-rexx then it would be different ]

All this happened only a little while before CUCD15 having to be mastered.
Only the CD writer doesn't work with the Oktagon SCSI card. Oh dear. In the
end I brought in a PC, threw it on the Ethernet and transferred the entire
CD image at the princely speed of 300K/s. Well at least it wasn't parnet.
All this meant a new master generation time was over 2 hours.

On the first beta, Tony spied things that needed fixing. Quite a few
actually, so they were fixed and I pumped the second CD out. Little did I
know but the ISO settings in MakeCD had been changed.  I have no idea how.
This effectively invoked the wrath of the most buggy pile of code ever to
have been supplied with a computer as standard (besides Windows). You can
find this code yourself.

In fact, let us all stare into the face of Evil. Witness;

> list l:CDFileSystem
Directory "l:" on Monday 22-Sep-97
CDFileSystem               17676 ----rwed 21-Apr-97 10:35:48
1 file - 36 blocks used

17K of pure unadulterated Evil. Evil that many of you continue to use
since it was provided with your Squirrel CD-ROM set-up. Of course, CD32s
were born with this Evil in the ROM. That accounts for the fact that CD32s
will ALWAYS look like washing machines since they are Evil immitating
greater evil. 

Yes folks, technical explaination; If the ISO 9660 pathtables are not made
upper case and you rely on RockRidge extensions, the Evil Commodore CD
filing system completely breaks rending the entire disk useless. Naturally
every other CD filing system on the Amiga, even PCs and Macs will be fine.
No... It's JUST the C= CDFS. Just this poxy, scum encrusted, fly struck,
bastard pile of buggy still-born greasy code, the Commodore CD filing
system. I thought I'd take the liberty of telling you exactly what I think.

After CUCD10, I watched for this 'effect'. Heh, you can bet I was ordered to
by a publisher who doesn't understand the technicalities but who can
understands the bill for remastering and duplicating several thousand
CDs and sending them to people for free. Oh boy, yes I checked for this on
every other CD.

But... since without Bitch the generation time of making a CD was so long,
by the time I'd got to the second CD, the courier was reception waiting to
take away the gold disk. I took the master of CUCD15 and my last test was
to boot on a CD32. It booted, or appeared to, and Workbench appeared. There
was no NewIcons but otherwise it looked OK at a quick glance. Oh darn,
something's wrong but at least it basically works. It'll be fine for people
NOT booting the CD anyway, I thought. <cough>

So off it went to duplication with minutes to spare. Turns out, the
start-up sequence had only just worked, every second file was unreadable.
The FS doesn't report an error, it simply skips. If only LoadWB hadn't have
worked and the basic icons themselves weren't visible then I would have
twigged. As it was I was Bitchless, severely pressed for time and the
CD looked fine at first glance... Ta da, we have another CUCD10. I look up
and see the entire sky from horizon to horizon filled with fluffy white
clouds. These clouds are in a massive but distinctive pattern. It looks
just like this: :-(

I've been faced with the unpleasant task of explaining this to the
publisher, getting the OK for the money to remaster and reduplicate,
setting up the mechanism for collecting names and addresses and... the
phone rings hot so that we're getting very little work done in the most
important week of our schedule. Oh and I've just found that our CD Writer
has a hardware fault now too. <sigh>

Did this REALLY have to happen on the TFX CD? Is the bloody Pope Catholic?

That done, TFX is still usable by the vast bulk of the systems capable of
running the game at any decent speed. The instructions in the magazine
didn't have a lot of vital information since we didn't have the TFX manual,
not for lack of trying either. So the phone has rung hot with people want
tips on it and/or complaining about the 040 version not work. That reminds
me, I'm nuking the 040 version off this remaster. Something I should have
done from the start.

So... hopefully the TFX moaning will die down, the CD will be replaced for
those who wont/can't replace their filing system, Bitch will get a new
A4000T motherboard and things will return to normal.

But for how long?

Tell you something, not a lot of people have had sympathy for me having to
use an 030 again. Misery loves company would seem to be an appropriate
saying. I now long for the return of 060 and a fast graphics card greater
than ... well... a /lot/ anyway. Life would have begun at 50 but Motorolla
skipped that for the 60.

Bitch will be resurrected, whether she likes it or not. Send in your
mystically charged floppy disks to increase the chance of revival. All I
need is some place that does chicken blood and inscents at knock down

Mat - The stressed out Technical Editor of CU Amiga Magazine.

P.S. Oh, and my kingdom for a mouse that lasts longer'n a month.

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