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Image runners ?

Posted: Sun Feb 21, 2016 8:36 am
by Symoon
I have plugged my ST again a few weeks ago, along with its UltraSatan, and wondered if there were other Image Runners than IMGRF (Image run fast) ?
It's an excellent piece of software but a significant % of the menu disks or games I tried seem to crash when run (I'm not blaming the program as I didn't check if it was a memory problem or whatever), and doesn't deal with all the existing disk image formats.

So I was wondering: is there any other program doing the same job? Maybe that could run other disk file types (STX or whatever?)

Other option of course being to seek and get the HD adapted software, but my question is intended for a quick "download .STX and test" or "make image and test" situation.

Re: Image runners ?

Posted: Sun Feb 21, 2016 9:04 am
by AtariZoll
I'm who done that IMGRF. On it's page is explained why is not possible to run all SW. There is support for ST and MSA formats only, and that is enough. No way to use STX images - they are done for emulators, which run on 50-2000x faster computers . In theory, you could use STX image on Atari self, but then:
1. It self would eat up to 2MB RAM.
2. Code to dealing with would eat another 500KB.
3. Work of SW would be terribly slow, so you would become a coffee junkie :D
4. All above is actually not possible, because game code allows not calls of STX handling code.

It was compared often to Virtual CD SW for Windows. I must say that basic concept is same. But main difference is that in Windows you don't have direct HW access - everything goes via OS, drivers - because that's the only way with modular computer, where can have diverse disk controllers, graphic cards, etc. In case of Atari there is always same FDC chip, so lot of SW, mostly games does direct access to it. That can not be translated on fly to hard disk access. So, Image Runner can run only SW which accessing floppy via TOS.

I'm currently about doing new version of Floppy Image Runner - that will work in way that images will not go in RAM, but will be accessed directly from hard disk. That self is not hard to achieve, but doing it so, that no RAM is occupied with hard disk driver is little harder - and it is very useful, since lot of SW is sensitive on RAM area address from which run. Called memory problem too - even on 4MB machines you may get error in case when program's start is higher in RAM than max value for proper work - and hard disk driver with it's buffers is what usually causes it.
Not using RAM for images gives other benefits: may have much larger images, up to 32MB, so can join all files from multifloppy SW in one image.
The concept will work best with cartridge based mass storage - because then all driver(s) can be in cartridge, not taking RAM.

Re: Image runners ?

Posted: Sun Feb 21, 2016 9:10 am
by Symoon
Thanks for the quick reply!
Ah, I understand, lower level format means more code thus memory and CPU are required.
No point doing something for "all formats / all software" if it can only work on a few machines indeed.

EDIT: BTW, good idea to try and use less memory! Keep up the good work, IMGFR is already much appreciated ;)

Re: Image runners ?

Posted: Sun Feb 21, 2016 1:39 pm
by Ragstaff
Perhaps slightly off topic but just wanted to thank you for IMGRF, AtariZoll. I was just reading your instructions and getting it working today, as we started going through the old, dusty PD library which MACE (Melbourne Atari Computer Enthusiasts) used to run in the old days.
All ~750 floppy disks contained MSA images... I'm not sure why (easier to make copies of them, to mail out to people for the old library admins?), but your program made it much easier to explore the contents than I thought it would be - we copied them onto an SD card, put it in an Ultrasatan, and used IMGRF to explore on a real STE.