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==  Emulation Rambler:  CrossMAC/MaxDOS             By:  Jason Compton   ==
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It feels good to ramble once more.

On my agenda lately have been the two Macintosh filesystems, MaxDOS 2.0
from Media4 Productions and CrossMAC from Consultron.  In a way, it's a
battle of new vs.  old...Media4, while not strangers to software
development or the Amiga, are making their first attempt at a commerical
product.  Consultron, on the other hand, is responsible for essentially
defining MS-DOS filesystems for the Amiga...you know them well if you own
CrossDOS or Workbench 2.1 and above.

The goal of both programs is the same: to provide
as-transparent-as-possible access to Macintosh floppies, hard drives, and
A-Max/Emplant hybrids for AmigaDOS.  The requirements are a decent
graphical interface to get to where you want (Macintosh devices mounted as
AmigaDOS device), and, most importantly, functionality.

Let's cut right to the chase.  Both MaxDOS and CrossMAC do the job.  I
have no major complaints about their primary operation.

There.  Done.  I can stop now, right?

Well, ok, I'll tell you what the differences are.

Mounting the Mac stuff:

CrossMAC and MaxDOS get your devices mounted in fairly similar ways.  A
graphical interface asks you to select a drive, then a partition.  MaxDOS
requires you to know a bit more than CrossMAC does about your system (the
unit number of your SCSI hard drive, but it's a number between 0 and 6, so
you can only be wrong so many times...) but they both get the job done.
Another primary difference is that while MaxDOS will automatically
generate a mountlist entry to your specification, CrossMAC will go so far
as to automatically place the device in your user-startup.

Reading the data...or is it the resource?

Mac files are stored in two parts: a "data" fork and a "resource" fork.
If you'd like the technical explanation, check out the program manuals.
In short, one tells the Mac what the program's all about and the other
tells it what to do with it.  The system, in short, is responsible for the
reason you can double-click on virtually anything on a Mac and get a
program to pop up...or, the flip side of the coin, the reason it's so hard
to do something with a file if it DOESN'T make a program pop up...

Anyway: Both programs need some way to represent this on the Amiga, so
they show them as two separate files.  MaxDOS calls the resource fork for
the file "blah" as "blah" with a superscript 2 after it.  (Yes, I know I
can type alt-2 but I'd like to ensure that readers everywhere get the
drift.)  CrossMAC calls it blah.rs.  Either way, you get the point.
You'll primarily be interested in the data fork, but more about that
later.

Floppy, floppy, floppy...

It's interesting to note that MaxDOS needs Consultron's mfm.device to read
high density floppies.  (If you've got CrossDOS or Workbench 2.1 and
above, you've got mfm.device.  If not, you'll need to get it from
Consultron.)  MaxDOS can also handle all makes of Amax and Emplant
floppies.  CrossMAC, not to be outdone, also goes to the length of
allowing the use of A-Max hardware (I/II or II+/IV) to read low density
Mac floppies: either of the external drive type for A-Max I/II or the
shared-drive type for II+/IV.  Again, both do the job.

...But, I could care less about the resource fork!

Not surprising.  MaxDOS allows you to filter out data or resource forks or
just show both by commodity control.  I was unable to find such a feature
on CrossMAC.

How does this all look, anyway?

Both programs incarnate their disks as Workbench icons, which open into
standard windows, and so it goes.  CrossMAC will show all files, unless
hidden (another trick of the Mac operating system which can be
circumvented with these programs) as icons: either data icons, resource
icons, or their own 2-color icons taken straight from the Mac if they're
applications.  This is where some of CrossMAC's extras come into play, but
I'll get to those in a second.  With MaxDOS 2.0, there will be no icons,
so a "Show All" is prudent.  However, with MaxDOS 2.1, arriving "any day
now", the Mac icons will be displayed.

CrossMAC's extras: Not for the squeamish.

Consultron has included some goodies in their program that MaxDOS doesn't
counter.  Their usefulness...well, it'll vary on a case-by-case basis.

The first is VHex, a simple hexadecimal-code viewer which all Mac drive
data files default to.  (i.e., double-click on a Mac data file and you'll
get VHex.)  It's fairly primitive, nothing that DirWork doesn't do, but it
is nice to have as a default tool.

The second is Res_Extractor.  Remember what I said about resource forks?
This will allow you to pull those bits of code that tell the Mac what to
do out of the resource forks and look at them.  It's neat, even if you
don't understand it.

The next is Mac_File_Salv.  Not having any corrupted Mac disks, I wasn't
able to test it, but this program purports to try to save damaged files
from damaged disks.  Nice to know.

File_Type_Manager should be used only by astoundingly confident people.
It will, essentially, allow you to tell what was previously a MS-Word
document that it's now a font.  Of course, it won't WORK, but you can do
it.  A huge database of possible filetypes comes with, and you can change
them.

All of these are certainly nice to have, and don't hinder CrossMAC by any
means.  But they're also not necessary, and can be done with more
confidence on a true Mac.

So, what's the point, Jason?

The point is that both of these programs work.  CrossMAC is the more
polished of the two, but it's also got a $20 higher pricetag.
Functionally, they're indistinguishable.  My feelings at the end are
mixed.  The products are quality, and I recommend that if you need one,
you check prices and what functions you want and make your decision.  But
at suggested prices of $150 for CrossMAC and $130 for MaxDOS, you may also
want to give some thought to just going whole-hog and buying an Emplant.
It's considerably more expensive: about $330 will get you the deluxe
version, and then you need to dig up ROMs and System software, but you
also get the Mac programs themselves, not just file portability.

The choice, as always, is up to you.  These programs would make terrific
Amiga pack-ins, and I hope both Consultron and Media4 pursue that
possibility when this damned buyout is over with.

CrossMAC                               MaxDOS 2.0
Consultron                             Media4
8959 Ridge Rd                          2800 University Avenue Suite h1b-101
Plymouth, MI  48170                    West Des Moines, IA  50266
USA                                    USA
313-459-7271                           515-225-7409