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%% REVIEW: DesktopMagic v2.0 By: William Near %%
%% More than just a screen blanker... W.NEAR@genie.geis.com %%
Program: DesktopMagic v2.0
1875 S. Bascom Ave.
Bldg. 116, Suite 204
Campbell, CA 95008-2359
1-800-30-MDESK * Order & Product Info
(510) 548-7117 * Order Fax
(408) 374-7595 * Tech Support Hotline
(408) 374-7596 * Tech Support Fax
email@example.com * Tech Support Internet
73211,660 * Tech Support CompuServe
Description: DesktopMagic is advertised and described in the user's manual
as a complete system enhancement. It consists of a screen saver, mouse
speedup utility, and sound enhancements for the Workbench.
Suggested Retail Price: $39.95 + $5.00 S&H (direct from Mediadesk)
I paid 29.95 + $5.00 S&H from Creative Computers
System Requirements: 1MB RAM, Workbench 1.3 or higher, hard drive or second
floppy drive. Claims to support all major graphics boards for the Amiga.
System tested on: Amiga 2000, Workbench 3.1, GForce '030 accelerator @
50MHz., 1MB CHIP + 6MB FAST memory.
DesktopMagic came with a colorful, 44 page manual, three disks, a
registration card and an order card for a friend, all shrink wrapped
together. If you can get a friend to purchase their own copy of Desktop-
Magic directly from Mediadesk then you will receive two Sound and Artwork
disks for free.
DesktopMagic (DM) uses the standard Commodore Installer program which
makes the program easy to set up on either your hard drive or on floppy
disks. I installed DM on my hard drive which used approximately 2.1 MB of
storage space. DM does not create its own drawer, so make sure that you
create one either before you run the Installer program or from within the
Installer; otherwise, you'll have the DM files scattered all over your hard
drive partition. During the installation process you will be prompted for
which effects you want to be installed. The choices are:
OCS/ECS/AA - if you have the following: A500, 600, 1000, 1200, 2000,
2500, 3000 or 4000
Graphic Card - if you have a graphics card installed in your system
All Effects - if you would like to have every effect installed (it is
noted in the manual that all effects may not run
properly if the correct hardware is not installed on
your system i.e. some effects will only run correctly on
a graphics card equipped Amiga or on a WB 2.x+ system)
At the end of the installation process you are asked whether or not you
want DM to automatically run upon booting up your system. If you answer yes
the Installer will add a line to your S:User-Startup file. I chose not to
have the Installer add the line to my User-Startup and instead placed the
DM icon in my WBStartup drawer.
NOTE: If you have an A1200 or 4000 and a multisync monitor, you must be
certain that your monitor supports a 15kHz scan rate for some of the
effects to run properly. Also, if you have a graphics board you must be
certain that it offers Workbench emulation.
DM has a nice user interface which opens a small window on the Workbench
screen. To access the interface you can select the DesktopMagic menu choice
from your Tools pulldown menu on the Workbench or press <Shift> + <F1>. On
pre-2.x systems you can use the <Shift> + <F1> option only. The interface
consists of: an effects window with scroll bar, About, Demo, Global, Hotkey,
Effect, OK, Save, Audio, Quit and Cancel buttons, and finally Audio and
Effects check boxes.
* Effects window - This window lists all of the installed screen blanker
effects and uses a scroll bar to access them.
* About - This opens a small window with information about Mediadesk.
* Demo - When you press this button the highlighted effect will open its own
screen and run. Clicking the mouse button will return to the user interface.
While some effects are running a gadget box will open on their window for
* Global - When this button is selected the following choices appear on the
Timer - This sets the amount of time to wait until the
screen blanker takes effect. The allowed range is between 10
seconds and 10 minutes.
Volume - This controls the tunes and sound effects volume.
The setting range is between 0 and 64.
Pri - DM's priority can be manually set from here. The
range is between -30 and 0 with the default set to -20.
Mouse - This is a mouse speedup setting. The available
range is from .25 to 4.0. I found 2.0 to be about right for my
taste (this is somewhat faster than the highest mouse movement
speed under WB preferences.)
CPU Idle - This controls the amount of idle time that the
CPU has available before the blanker will activate.
If the CPU does not have at least this amount of idle time
then the blanker will not be executed. The range of this
setting is between 0% and 99% This is a very nice feature,
especially if you've ever used the C= Blanker
and had it freeze on the screen while printing
or doing some other CPU intensive activity.
* Hotkey - The Hotkey button allows the user to define two key
combinations, one to open the DM interface and one to instantly activate the
chosen screen blanker.
* Effect - When this buttons is selected the screen information displays two
input fields. One field is for entering a sound file to be executed and the
other field is for selecting the tune that will be executed whenever the
chosen blanker is activated. Also, any parameters specific to the chosen
blanker will be shown at this time i.e. number of objects on the screen,
* OK - Selecting the OK button after making adjustments to DM's operation will
save any new changes to DM's operation and close the user interface.
* Save - Saves the user's changes to DM's operation and leaves the interface
* Audio - The audio section allows the user to assign sound files to be
triggered when certain system events occur. The user can assign sounds to:
Events, Keys, Program, Text and Time.
The Events include: Alert - Visual warning message similar to
ASLReq - A program opens a requester window.
AutoReq - The OS opens a message window.
Open screen - A screen is opened.
Open window - A window is opened.
Close screen - A screen is closed.
Close window - A window is closed.
Disk - A disk or removable cartridge is
inserted or removed from the drive.
DisplayBeep - A warning message given by an
Left Button - Pressing the left mouse
Right Button - Pressing the right mouse
Start DM - Starting the DM program.
User Timeout - After a user-specified amount
of inactive time the sound
will be triggered.
The Keys include: ALT, Left Amiga, Right Amiga, CTRL, ESC, F1-F10, Numbers
0-9, RETURN, SHIFT, SPACE, DEL, HELP, etc.
The Program selection will assign a sound file to be played each time the
specified program is loaded.
The Text choice allows the user to assign a sound to a text string.
The Time choice allows the user to assign a sound to clock functions
including: full hour, Midnight, 1/4, 1/2, 3/4 hours. This is a nice feature
for making your clock chime with different sounds at several time intervals.
NOTE: DM does not use standard digitized sound samples or have support for the
use of standard MOD formats. You must purchase a program called Face the Music
from Mediadesk in order to compose your own songs to be used with DM. All of
the sound samples are in the .HSN format, the samples are created with a
program called CrazySounds by, you guessed it, Mediadesk. CrazySounds is NOT
available for the Amiga, only for the Atari and Windows platforms. I think
that this is not a very good idea considering the vast number of MODs that are
available to the Amiga community and IFF sound samples. Could Mediadesk just
be trying to get a few extra bucks out of the end-user?
There is a RAM/DISK cycle gadget which enables the user to decide if the sound
files should be preloaded into RAM or loaded from disk as needed. Loading from
disk can slow things a tiny bit, but it will save on the use of CHIP memory.
A sound priority cycle gadget is included which allows the user to prioritize
the execution of triggered sounds. These priority options are mainly useful if
you have sounds assigned to the
keys and the mouse buttons. When you press a mouse button and then you
instantly hit a key you can decide in which order the sounds should be played.
* Quit - Exits from the DM interface without saving any changes made.
* Cancel - Closes the DM window and saves any changes made but does not
activate those changes.
DM comes with 29 effects for blanking the screen. The effects include:
Aquarium - See the fish swimming in the tank. This is a nice effect.
Blackscreen - Just as the name implies, it turns the screen black. A
boring effect for a screen blanker, but it doesn't
require as much CHIP memory as the other choices.
Blanctris - This one is a Tetris game which is played by the computer.
It comes in two versions, one for ECS machines and one for
graphics board equipped machines. A nice blanker.
Checkered Race - A checkerboard pattern scrolling towards the horizon.
Sort of a nice effect, but the horizon is gradually
shaded and doesn't seem to ever change. I thought the
idea of a screen blanker was NOT to leave the same
image on the screen for a long period of time.
Clock - The current system time can be displayed either digitally or
in analog mode on the screen. You can have the clock move
around the screen or stay stationary.
Cockroaches - Cockroaches crawl around the Workbench screen and smear
things up with their little feet.
CrazyWorms - Worms move across a copy of your Workbench screen and eat
it up as they go. I tried this blanker and it didn't seem
to eat a copy of my Workbench, instead it put up its own
screen to use (disappointing.)
Curtain - A little creature pulls a curtain down over your Workbench
screen. This effect just turns your Workbench a solid color.
Eyes - Opens pairs of eyes on the screen that blink periodically. Nice
Fireworks - Rockets fire up onto you Workbench screen and explode in
several different colors. This one has options to change
how the fireworks look. You can make the explosions
glimmer or fade. This is a very nice blanker.
Flying Breakfast - Cups of coffee, eggs, egg cups, jars of jelly and
alarm clocks fly across the screen.
Fractal - This one comes in two versions, one calculates the fractals
with normal accuracy while the other calculates the fractals
with double accuracy. The double accuracy calculations run
at half the display speed of the normal version, but they
LFigures - Animated curves and lines randomly drawn using Lissajous'
Life - Graphic interpretation of the Life Algorithm. I found this one
Lightning - Lightning flashes across the screen with a variable number
of branches on each bolt. Very nice effect, especially in
a darkened room.
Lines - A takeoff on the standard Workbench blanker. A nice effect.
Meltdown - Watch your Workbench screen melt before your very eyes.
Another nice effect, but this one should have some user
defined parameters such as: the speed of the melting and
the size of the chunks that melt etc.
Messages - Places a scrap of paper on the screen with a user defined
message written on it. Nice for an office environment.
Mountain - Uses fractal algorithms to calculate a 3D mountain in
either wire frame or solid modes. This one requires a high
amount of CPU usage, but is one of the best blankers avail-
able in this package.
Mower - A small man with a lawn mower appears to mow your Workbench
screen and turn it into a field of grass. This one has poten-
tial, but the man and mower are crude renditions and it never
did mow my Workbench screen, instead it used its own screen.
Disappointing at best.
MyAnimation - Allows the user to place one of his own IFF-ANIM format
animations in the program to be used as a blanker. A
nice addition if you're handy with DPaint's animation
MyPicture - Another nice addition that allows the user to load one of
his images (IFF) and use it as a blanker. The picture then
moves randomly around the screen.
Password - Lock the system from unauthorized use. After this blanker
kicks in, with a black screen (yawn), whenever the mouse is
moved or a key is pressed the user is prompted for the
correct password. This would have been better implemented
in the user interface as a separate option which would
coexist with another selected blanker. As it stands, you
have to choose between system security and a neat blanker.
Plasma - Colorful wavelengths of color scroll across the screen.
Another one of the better effects available in DM. You can
adjust the wavelength for varying effects - nice.
Puzzle - Breaks up your Workbench screen into little blocks and
shuffles them around the screen. This is another blanker with
great potential, but the user has no control over the speed
at which the blocks are moving around the screen. If you've
ever used the Tiles effect in BlitzBlank (PD) you'll see the
pieces fly around your Workbench screen at lightning speeds
(depending on your CPU), but they just pathetically crawl
under DM's control. What could be more impressive to users of
other platforms than seeing your Ami move graphics around at
top speed? This used to be one of my favorite effects, but
not DM's version of Puzzle.
Rain - Raindrops fall from different directions across a darkened
Workbench screen. Boring.
Spotlights - This one is supposed to move spotlights around a darkened
Workbench screen, but I could never get this one to work!
The documentation states that a four color Workbench is
required. I certainly don't want to limit myself to four
colors on my Workbench just so I can use this effect.
BlitzBlanker had a very nice version of this one which
was another of my old favorites.
Stars - This blanker comes in two versions, one for ECS machines and
one for graphics board equipped machines. This one scrolls
stars forward or sideways (sidewards as the manual states!) on
a black screen. The stars can be made to spin left or right,
or you can just leave them going straight ahead. This is
another one of the better effects in DM.
Tunnel - This one moves rectangular shapes in a night sky. Sort of
like flying through a tunnel made up of shapes. Nice.
All of the aforementioned effects require varying amounts of CPU usage
ranging from Very Low to High. If you want to use some of the nicer effects
then you'd better have an accelerated machine. Also, most of the effects
require a lot of CHIP memory.
LIKES: I liked the easy installation of DM using the standard Commodore
installer program. I had the program up and running in a matter of
The user interface is well thought out and easy to use.
Most of the screen blanking effects are nice, but most of them
require large amounts of CHIP memory and don't offer much user
The addition of the pulldown menu choice under the Tools menu on
Workbench makes it easy to access DM's user interface.
The sheer number of features included with the package make it worth
the cost for the most part.
Even though the program was written in Germany, the manual and
interface lack the presence of misspelled words, grammatical errors,
and punctuation errors so often found in imported software. Bravo!
DISLIKES: The lack of a built-in mouse blanker. Some of the screen blankers
also blank the mouse, but others leave the pointer on the screen
- not a good feature of a screen blanker.
The user should be able to select which screen mode the blankers
will run in i.e. Hi-Res Lace, Euro36, etc. As the program is
written you have no control over the screen resolutions used or
the number of colors.
DM lacks a random feature that would allow the user to specify
which blankers should be active and then have the program
randomly select a blanker from that list. Now, you must select
only one blanker and stick with it. If you want to switch blan-
kers you must manually enter the DM interface and select a new
blanker to use. There should also be an option that would
randomly select a blanker from the active list and run the first
one for a user specified amount of time and then switch to the
next blanker in the active list etc. This feature alone would add
much more flexibility to DM and cut down on the boredom factor
when seeing the same old blanker time and time again.
The blankers should have the option of being loaded from disk, as
needed, like the sound files can.
The Password feature MUST be implemented separately from the
blankers. Why can't we have system security and a neat blanker at
the same time?
Some of the blankers need more user control settings and some of
them have no control at all when they really should.
DM should support standard MOD formats for the tunes and IFF
digitized sound samples. The user has to either buy the tunes
creation program for his Amiga or suffer with the limited tunes
supplied by Mediadesk. Also, the sound samples are in a weird
format which is supported by a single program that isn't even
available for the Amiga.
I've saved the BIGGEST fault of DesktopMagic for last. When DM is
loaded directly from its Workbench icon or from the WBStartup
drawer upon booting ALL associated files are loaded into your
CHIP memory! What this means is that on a 1 meg CHIP machine you
can end up with as little as 250k of CHIP memory left. I usually
start out with 800k of chip on my Amiga 2000 after all the other
Workbench launched programs are executed and all devices are
mounted. I've watched as DM eats as much as 500k of CHIP memory
from my 1 meg (CHIP) system. This forces the user to choose
between using DM and using ANY other application due to the
shortage of precious CHIP memory. I turned off all sound file
loading and this saved about 100k, but I was still down to about
350-400k of CHIP memory. This doesn't lend itself to running more
than one small application, let alone ANY multitasking.
SUMMARY: I would recommend DesktopMagic to any user who has 2 megs of CHIP
memory in their machine. If you have two megs of CHIP memory to spare then
you won't really miss the memory that DM eats and you could enjoy all of
the benefits that this program has to offer. On the other hand, if you have
a 1 meg CHIP machine then I would say avoid DM until this major problem is
resolved in a future update. With only 1 meg of CHIP memory you will be
limited in the number of other small applications you can safely run. With
a 512k CHIP and 512k FAST memory (total 1 meg) machine I believe that you'd
only be able to run DM and nothing else - that's if DM didn't GURU your
system trying to use all of your CHIP memory!
I contacted Mediadesk's tech support by phone and by Internet mail. The
representative acknowledged the CHIP memory problem (yes, he called it a
problem too!) and said that the programmers will be working on it for the
next release. As it stands, I have chosen not to run DM on my system after
spending $34.95 for it because I can't do any serious work on my system
without the extra 500k of CHIP memory used by DM. I've gone back to my old
Commodore Blanker and will await the update to DesktopMagic, which I WILL