|★ APPLICATIONS ★ DISQUE ★ DISCPOWER : SUPERPOWER'S FOREGROUND ROM POWER MICRO POWER ★|
|Discpower (Amtix)||Applications Disque|
Putting aside the joystick for a day, GARY LIDDON takes a foreground ROM package out for a test ride...
Discpower from Superpower is an extension ROM aimed at those who want total power over their disk drive. Packed into a 16K EPROM, the package offers a sector editor, disassembler, a ROM reader and various other utilities. The package comes as a single chip so your first problem is to find somewhere to plug it into, as the Amstrad has no spare ROM sockets. Understandably, Superpower recommend their own external ROM board, and quite good it is too. but there are various others that should do the job just as well.
Discpower is a foreground ROM. so when you access it via the |DP command, BASIC is thrown out of the window and Disc power is banked in. Before accessing the ROM make sure that you have nothing valuable in memoir since choosing the quit function will wipe memory before giving you control of the machine again.
Once you've typed |DP the ROM displays a menu containing the options available. Probably most useful of them all is option one. Directory. Discpower's catalogue function is far superior to the BASIC CAT command allowing you edit and change the directory. The directory block on disk is read into a buffer area held in high memory. You are then put into the memory editor with which you can alter parts of the directory block and once you've made any alterations you save the directory sector back out again. This is incredibly handy as now it's possible to retrieve accidently erased files. The manual gives a clear and concise description of how to get back erased and even partly overwritten programs.
The memory editor used on the the directory function is best described as a fully fledged 280 monitor and is used throughout the package for editing and for various other options. Initially operating on discpower's 1K buffer sitting at A000, the memory editor displays a formated listing of the machine's RAM with hex on the right and its ASCII equivalent on the left. Using the cursor keys across the memory block, you are able to edit in hex or ASCII, changing between the two by pressing the back-slash key. At the top of the screen is a status bar showing the binary equivalent of the byte currently being edited and a one line disassembly taken from the cursor's position in memory. Also displayed on the status bar are the hex and decimal values of the byte being scrutinised plus a description of what you are editing. This depends on what option you entered the memory editor from. The editor is not limited to Superpower's IK buffer block. You can also edit any part of the machine's memory using all of the program's powerful facilities. Also included is a comprehensive block move function plus a disassembler, both these commands can operate throughout the machines memory and the disassembler may be directed to the printer.
On the main menu you'll also find functions for reading and writing disk sectors. With this option you can change any byte on a disk. Using the sector function you now have the amazing power of easily being able to thoroughly corrupt a disk beyond repair! The best thing to do is take the manual's advice and only operate on backup disks. Selecting sector edit, you are asked for the sector and track you wish to operate upon. Once chosen, the sector is dumped to RAM and you are given full control with the memory editor. If you want to change a particular file on disk with the memory edit but you don't know what sector it's contained in you can load it via the program load function. The first sector of the program is loaded into the memory buffer and subsequent sectors can be loaded using CTRL and cursor down keys.
In the utilities section you can find a disk backup option and file and disk display modes. Disk backup will copy any unprotected disk while very prettily displaying how many sectors have been copied. File display gives a graphics display of any particular file and the sectors it is occupying on the disk while disk display shows how much of the diskspace has been used.
All in all Discpower is one the most handy ROMs I've used to date. The price isn't extortionate but if you don't own a ROM board you'll need one. The only real gripe I have is that the when you return to BASIC, memory is wiped out. Superpower could have got round this by making Discpower a background ROM. Overall, though, an excellent product and extremely useful for various things. The inclusion of the monitor plus the clear and informative documentation make Discpower a very worthwhile package indeed.