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/// Usenet Review: Magic Workbench
By Thomas Baetzler
A collection of icons to replace the standard Commodore-supplied
icons. To quote from MagicWB's ReadMe file:
"[This] is not 'just another useless Icon compilation!' It
is far more different. [...] This package contains all standard
system icons and more (actually 60 different icons) painted in a new
completely different style: They look very 3-dimensional, have 8
colors, have gradient fills, feature click-and-push animation if
being clicked onto to simulate a pushed button and even more..."
Name: Martin Huttenloher
Address: Parkstr. 11
Telephone: ++49 (0)8362-81104
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org (Internet)
DM 20.00 or $20.00 (US)
SPECIAL HARDWARE AND SOFTWARE REQUIREMENTS
If you don't have the AGA chipset, I strongly recommend a
flicker fixer or some kind of graphics board that lets you
use the Workbench in a flicker free HighRes-Interlaced or
better display mode. While MagicWB can be installed on any
kind of system, it doesn't look too good on displays with
non-proportional pixels. For example, a 640x200 display
would make the MagicWB icons look much too tall.
To unpack the MagicWB archive, you'll need at least 1.7
megabytes of RAM or hard disk space. Installation might be
difficult on floppy-based systems with less than 2 MB of
memory and custom Workbench disks.
The MagicWB icons are created using the enhanced AmigaDOS 2.x
coloring scheme, so you'll need at least Workbench 2.0. If
you want to use one of the fancy backdrop patterns, you'll
also need to pick up the "NickPrefs" package by Nicola
Salmoria, which can be found on AmigaLibDisk (Fish Disk) 780.
None. However, all MagicWB icons are marked with a tooltype
">>>>>>Icon by Martin Hottenloher <<<<<<".
MACHINE USED FOR TESTING
My test setup includes:
o Amiga 2000, ECS chipset, Kickstart 2.04, Workbench 2.1
o Commodore A2630 68030 accelerator with 4 MB of 32-bit memory
o Commodore A2320 FlickerFixer
o Picasso II Graphics Enhancer
o CTX 14" MultiScan Monitor
I'll admit I had to be forced to try out the MagicWB package. I had
been using the normal 4 color HighRes Workbench for ages, and I saw no need
to change things around, especially not to some colorful interlaced mode.
But then my Picasso II arrived, and peer pressure got the better of me. Now
I'm perfectly happy with the new look of my Workbench, and I'm not thinking
of switching back any more.
The installation should prove no major problem once you've read the
"LIKES AND DISLIKES" and "BUGS" sections of this review. Just go ahead and
see what you get! Alternatively, you can have a look at Martin's Workbench
by clicking on the "Show MagicWB" icon. Modifications include the switch to
an interlaced display with eight colors. Also, all of the standard system
icons will be replaced with their MagicWB counterparts. The supplied utility
"Update Drawers" brings the new "Magic" look to directory structures on
other partitions of your system. Once you're done, you will see the new
professional look of your Workbench.
MagicWB also comes with a large collection of nice-looking backdrops
that can be installed on your Workbench. They sure do look nice, but if
your Workbench version is lower than 3.0, you need NickPrefs to install
them. See "BUGS" on my experiences with this package.
You pay for all that glitz with some trade-offs: the MagicWB icons
are quite a bit larger in size than the old ones, so they take up much more
space on your hard disk. They also take longer to load, since the
installation seems to fragment your hard disk a bit. However, this is
quickly cured by backing up and restoring the disk, defragmenting it.
Alternatively, if you're courageous enough, you might try one of those fancy
disk reorganisation programs.
Switching from 4 colors non-interlaced to 8 colors interlaced also
carries some performance penalties on older systems, since the increased DMA
bandwidth required to display such a mode effectively slows down blitter
operation. If you wish you had your old fast-scrolling shell back, you might
try Bernhard Moellemann's ScreenManager, which lets you open a dedicated
public screen in your favourite screen resolution to run your shell(s) on.
This shouldn't be a problem on AGA machines!
Running MagicWB on the Picasso II graphics board in 800x600 pixel
resolution is a pleasure to behold! :-)
Another problem of running an interlaced display is the inevitable
flicker in the first scan line of the display that my A2320 display enhancer
creates. A cheap work-around to this is using the "BorderBlank" commodity
which can be found in the subdirectory os20/util on the Aminet ftp sites. I
remember having heard of some program that would blank the first line of the
display to avoid that problem, but I seem unable to get a pointer to it. Any
[MODERATOR'S NOTE: Some monitors allow the first line of the
display to be raised high enough to be hidden by the monitor border
itself. This is another way to solve the problem. I do this at
home on my NEC 5fg. - Dan]
You might also run into trouble trying to run your collection of
hard-disk-installed games. Some commercial games evidently don't like
interlaced Workbench displays! You can kludge around this by fixing them
with a startup-procedure that explicitly switches back to a non-interlaced
screenmode of your choice. The "ScreenMode" preferences program supplies a
"Use" keyword that lets you specify a screenmode preferences file to use.
Having all those old-style icons lying around on your Workbench tends
to be a problem, too. Don't be afraid to try to create your own icons! All
you need is IconEdit and some paint package! Maybe Martin Huttenloher will
provide generic MagicWB icon layout templates in IFF format in a future
MagicWB comes with a large, 58 kilobyte ReadMe file, detailing the
installation, history and concept of MagicWB. There's also a license
agreement and the usual plea for shareware contributions.
LIKES AND DISLIKES
I don't like the way the MagicWB installation copies its new icons
over the existing ones, overwriting your existing tooltypes, and without
saving the old icons first. The installation should provide an option to
back up the old icons someplace. A suitable method would be to "cd" to the
SYS: partition and run something like
1> cd sys:
1> lha -r a old_icons #?.info
which recursively collects all existing icon files into an archive. Now, if
you want to restore your old icons after you have installed MagicWB, this is
done easily by unpacking the archive again:
1> lha x old_icons
Copying over the old tooltypes to the new icons is a bit more
difficult. This should be handled in an updated version of the installation
program. Maybe Martin Hutteloher could try out Stefan Winterstein's
"ICONtrol", which can be found on AmigaLibDisk (Fish Disk) 603. This
utility lets one replace the image of an existing icon with that from
Giving away a fully operational shareware package shows the author's
trust in the Amiga community. However, my personal feeling is that more
people would be willing to register if the author made clear what kind of
incentives he's offering. You know, I just love to have those shareware
registration certificates and specially labeled disks around. :-)
While MagicWB includes all of the standard icons, you'll probably
discover that there are thousands of old-style icons left on your Workbench.
:-( Converting all of them over to the new "Magic" look should prove too
hard a task for any single user. In an effort to motivate other users to
contribute their custom-made MagicWB icons to a common pool, I've uploaded
the archive "MagicIcons.lha" to the directory wb/misc on the Aminet ftp
sites. New icons include my favourite commodities like "Tool Manager",
"TWA", "ASwarm", "MFR" and "Exploding Layers".
COMPARISON TO OTHER SIMILAR PRODUCTS
I've seen a lot of icon collections in my time, but there's nothing
that comes close to MagicWB in quality.
The "Unpack MagicWB" script didn't work properly for me. The
dearchiver complained that it had problems creating some files. This is
either fixed by unpacking the archive from hand, or by replacing the call of
"lhx" in the script with a call of LhA.
I experienced random crashes and gurus after installing a full
MagicWB. At first I figured it might be a problem with my newly-acquired
A2060, the the new release of the Picasso II software, or even a nasty
virus. However, by chance I was pointed to the true culprit:
> From: Tom Jones <1:147/2020.5@fidonet>
> Date: 29 Aug 93 15:23:26
> Newsgroup: fidonet.AMIGA
> Message-ID: 3e3af5da%FidoNet@p5.f2020.n147.z1.fidonet.org
> Subject: Majic WB gotcha!
> I just solved a problem someone else might find interesting to know
> about. After installing [MagicWB] my editor started crashing the
> whole system, usually guru 8000 0003, when I saved the message. (I first
> noticed it using Textra 1.13a as the editor for April point software.) This
> had not happened before, now it was every other message.
> To cut to the chase, I found one thing that cured it: not using NickPrefs
I'm forwarding a bug report to Nicola Salmoria.
[MODERATOR'S NOTE: I have seen many reports on USENET that NickPrefs
may cause system crashes, especially under Kickstart 3.0. - Dan]
Quoting Martin Huttenloher: "Registered users will receive one free
update of MagicWB on a specially labeled disk. Further updates will be
available for a nominal fee covering postage and handling; i.e., about DM 5
or $5 (US)."
MagicWB gives your Amiga Workbench that professional look that you've
come to envy on systems like NeXT. You really should give it a try. I'd rate
it 4.5 stars out of 5.
You can contact me at:
email@example.com (until October 1993)
firstname.lastname@example.org (send CC: to here please)
Thomas.Baetzler@mil.ka.sub.org (slow but reliable)
Medic BSS, 2:241/7454.2@fidonet (very slow but reliable)
Thomas Baetzler, Herrenstr. 62, 76133 Karlsruhe, FRG
Voice: ++49 (0)721 29872 Medic BBS: ++49 (0)721 496821
Copyright 1993 Thomas Baetzler. All rights reserved.
Reprinted with permission.