CU Amiga Magazine CUCD woes

Yes, it's finally here. For the first time in the long history of
CUCDs, CUCD17 has a neil.readme! So why this one, and why not the
others you ask. As Mat explained in the readme on CD16, they aren't a
regular feature, and are usually written in the midst of chaos as all
around him goes pear shaped.

The normal procedure is for me to complete my part of the CD (which is
almost all of it) and then send it to Mat for him to add whatever
needs adding at their end, like some readers' contributions, web sites
he's collected and the contents of the cover floppies. He then fiddles
around fixing anything that needs fixing and breaking things that I've
spent a lot of time getting just right (Mat, I'm keeping the original
of this readme, I'll know if you've edited it :) (Tut tut Neil, as if I
would do such a thing! - Mat) So the last minute panics tend to happen
to Mat, not me, although I get more than my fair share of problems
to deal with.

This month, saw the announcement of "The Great Departure" shortly
before the CD deadline. Mat's leaving will obviously affect the way in
which we complete the CDs, so I was asked to do all the final bits
here, but with me no extra time available. "No big deal" thought I,
until he casually mentioned a "few" readers' contributions on floppy
disk that needed putting on. "Post them to me" says the idiot as he
carries on fixing the CD ready to be posted at the weekend.

Saturday shortly before noon, the CD is nearing completion when
there's a knock at the door. I'm greeted by a postman carrying a big
sack, full of readers' contributions. I learned a valuable lesson that
day, never trust a Technical Editor who's working out his notice.
( <grin> - Mat)

The CD was already very full, so all those reader disks have been held
over for a month, hopefully to bring you a bumper Reader's Special. 
At this point I'm feeling fairly relaxed. The icon snapshotting is one of
the most lengthy tasks in producing the CD, taking up to two days,
despite the use of a lot of arexx automation. This was done, PC-Task
had just been uploaded to the CU Amiga FTP site so I could install
that, run the index creation script and cut a gold CD. I had already
burnt a gold CD on Friday night, so I knew the startup scripts etc.
were all working, but I hadn't been there when the CD image was
actually created, this led to the "Big Oversight"

With plenty of time I decided to rewrite a couple of the Wirenet web
pages before cutting the CD. It's a two stage process, first an image
of the CD is created on another hard drive and then this image is
written to a blank CD. Writing the image to the CD always works at
exactly the same speed, so I know just how long it will take, but
building the image depends on the complexity of the file structure on
the CD. What it really hates is directories containing lots of small
files, such as the CDIDs in the CDROM drawer. but this is on every CD,
so it was taken into account, I know that the image usually takes
30-40 minutes to create on my A2000/040.

MakeCD shows the creation speed as it makes the image, this is usually
around 300-350K/s, so I was surprised to see it drop to 250, concerned
when it dropped to 200, worried when it reached 150 and words failed
me long before it reached the depths of 70K/s.

By this time I'd realised the "Great Oversight". If you've already
looked through the CD you'll have seen the large collection of icons.
The impact of a few thousand CDID files on the creation time was
nothing compared with the effect of my poor 040 and Zorro-II SCSI card
hitting a directory containing 70MB of icons. Assuming an average
size of 4K, that comes to almost 18,000 small files. The CPU meter
showed 100% load (when it could grab enough CPU time to update it's
display) and my Amiga had all the responsiveness of a ZX Spectrum
running Windows95. ( Nice analogy! - Mat)

The only thing that didn't slow down was the clock on the wall, the
time when I needed to start transferring the image to the CD in order
to catch the post approached, and passed. Eventually the image was
done and I started to cut the CD, knowing I was ten minutes too late
(the postman is never late on a Sunday).

No time for complicated testing, a quick boot from the CD in the A2000
and then shove it in the CD32 to list a couple of deep directories
(guaranteed to fail with the Commodore CDfilesystem if anything is
wrong with the CD master). Jump in the car and redline it to the
Sorting Office, arriving just as the postman was getting back in his
van after emptying the box. That's what I call cutting it fine.

I went home and cut another CD, only taking 35 minutes this time as
the image was already done, for some more thorough testing and then
a large drink.

First thing Monday morning I ordered a Blizzard 060 card with on-board
SCSI, and now the clock is going even slower as I wait for ParcelForce
to deliver. But the worst was yet to come.

I rang Mat later Monday morning, and the CD hadn't arrived!!! After
the Canary Wharf bomb, suspicious looking jiffy bags tend to get
delayed at the sorting office. I could have finished the CD at a nice
leisurely pace on Monday, sent it by overnight courier and still got
it there before the Royal Mail did. But then I wouldn't have had such
a good excuse to buy an 060.

I really do hope this first neil.readme will also be the last for a
long, long time... (<chuckle> -Mat)

Neil Bothwick - CU Amiga CD Compiler -

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