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==  Archos Overdrive CD-ROM                   By:  Paul Moore            ==
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PRODUCT INFO

Archos Overdrive CD-ROM for Amiga 1200.  Also known as the `Zappo' CD-ROM
drive in the UK.  With version 9.0 of the driver software.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION

The Overdrive CD is a PCMCIA device that allows you to access Amiga CD-ROMs
such as the Aminet and FIsh range and also to read discs intended for the
IBM PC and Apple Mac.  In addition to this it also comes with CD32
emulation which gives yo u the ability to run most games software for C='s
console.

COMPANY INFO

I got mine from Special Reserve, a games club in the UK.

P.O. Box 847, Harlow, CM21 9PH 
Tel. 0279600204

The UK distributors are 

       Name:       Indi Direct 
       Address:    1 Ringway Industrial Estate,
                   Eastern Avenue,
                   Lichfield,
                   Staffs
                   WS13 7SF
     
       Telephone:  0543 419 999
       FAX:        0543 318 079

In the US, several companies have started stocking the Zappo version, such
as Amiga Warehouse (1-800-258-0533) and the Software Hut (1-800-93-AMIGA).
Check out their ads in Amiga World for the best prices.

PRICE

I paid 185 UK pounds for mine, a basic drive and installation s/w.  At the
moment there is a packae being sold containing several games for around 225
UK pounds.

REQUIREMENTS

An Amiga 1200 or 600.  The CD32 emulation will not work with the A600.  The
s/w will run from floppy but a hard drive is recommended.

Your PCMCIA slot must be free as this is the method used by the CD-ROM to
connect to your computer.

COPY PROTECTION

None.

MACHINE USED FOR TESTING

Amiga 1200 2mb chip, 4mb fast with GVP A1230-II 030-40/4 accelerator.
(Tested without accelerator) 1 internal 880k floppy drive.  1 external
880k Power computing PC880B floppy drive.  IBM 170mb internal IDE hard
drive.  Amigados 3.0

INSTALLATION

The program installs from two 880k floppy disks.  However there is
apparently a bug in the installation which prevents installation on
systems with 1 disk drive .  Necessitating manual installation.  Special
Reserve, where I got my drive have re-written the script for those with
only one floppy.

REVIEW

The Overdrive CD comes with a PCMCIA interface which connects easily to the
slot , providing you have enough space.  The interface lead I was supplied
with was quite short, so the drive has to be close to your setup.  Phono
leads are supplied which you use to pass through the Amiga audio so you can
hear both internal Amig a sounds and CD soundtracks.  I was supplied with a
very large power supply which prevents another plug being next to it on my
extension lead.

As I had two drives floppy installation was not a problem.  Using the
standard Commodore Installer it was a simple matter to install the
software to hard disk.  This involves altering the startup-sequence names,
so be aware that some software that doesn't use the s:user-startup may
write to the wrong file - the startup-sequence is renamed
startup-sequence.std . 

If you are booting from CD, you must hold down either the left or right
mouse button at bootup.  The left button brings up a CD startup control
screen from which you can select keyboard settings (to patch the CD32
controller to) 3.1 or 3.0 graphics emulation, whether to use fast memory
or not and whether to boot up kick start 3.1 from a file if you have it.
The settings are saved to disk so that you can use the right mouse button
to boot directly.

The drive comes with several utilities, a Photo CD viewer called Carousel,
A CDD A Audio player program and a little program which opens the CD door
when you click on a button on screen.  A file is automatically set up in
sys:env/sys/ to direct saved game files to a directory of your choosing.

Soundwise it has been said that on some models the mixing levels of Amiga
and CD audio are a little low.  I didn't find any problems with my unit,
the audio is v ery clear.

Okay, to work! I'll look at various CD formats and how they were handled.

Standard AmigaCD-ROMs.

A standard IS0-9660 level 2 Amiga CD-ROM presents no problems at all.
Having access to one of the PD CD's is simply amazing - all that software
available to you , and no download times or costs.  I tested Aminet 3 and 4
and they both worked perfectly. 

Magazine CDs are pretty scarce at the moment, let's hope that this changes
in the future.  Amiga User International produced a series of CDs called
"Amiga CD!" of which there have been three so far.  I have the third and
found it to work very well.  You'll need a CD32 controller to get the best
of multimedia menus such as Amiga CD!'s CanDo interface. 

Amiga Format produce an occasional special called Amiga CD32 which contains
game demos and some interesting PD files.  It uses a multimedia interface
too which a gain requires a CD32 controller or use of keyboard emulation.

A magazine called CD32 Gamer is the most regular CD magazine at the moment,
which consists mainly of (unsurprisingly) games.  The issues of this I
tried all worked fine.

Audio (CDDA) CDs

The CDDA audio program supplied is pretty good.  Earlier version of the
software were a bit eratic, with tracks skipped sometimes, but v9 seems to
operate pretty well.  Insert an audio CD, click on the CDDA icon that
appears, and a similar interface to the CD32's audio player pops up from
which you can play/fast forward /rewind/skip/shuffle/random play to your
hearts content.  There is a time elapsed /to go option too.  If you prefer
a more Workbench friendly interface for Audio C Ds, a program available on
Aminet called YACDP works with the drive if you change the device to
cd.device rather than scsi.device.  Not all options work, but it's worth a
look.  In play, Audio is excellent.  Well, as long as you play something
decent :-)

CD32 Games

The big questions; Do they work? What about Akiko? How compatible is it? 

Yes, most CD32 games *do* work with the drive, especially with the new
version of the software.  You may need to do a bit of fiddling with the
boot options (CD) ocassionaly, but you should get there in the end. 

The first game I got for my drive was Microcosm...  couldn't resist it.
This is probably the only game that actually uses the Akiko chip, and the
only place it's use is evident is in the intro animation to Microcosm.  If
you play this full-screen it flickers quite a bit.  Play it quarter screen
(like the in-game anims) and it's fine.  The game plays fine - no flicker,
no slow down.  It works. 

Acid Software's Starwing/Starfox lookalike Guardian was next.  Again it
works okay, the only problem being you need to reset it after a game if
the music was on, which is a shame.  Other than that it's fine.

My favourite CD game so far though is Virgin/Revoloution's Beneath a Steel
Sky.   It's stunning.  It's a graphic adventure in true Monkey Island
style, but with an elegant interface, great graphics, sounds and on CD
Speech.  That's right, speech.  Every character comes to life with full CD
voices.  No problems there, except some might not like the code system for
saving games since you need to get to a code before switching off or
restart from the previous code.  Maybe they'll think of CD-ROM owners in
the future and provide a save to hard/floppy disk option.

Other demos I have, such as Simon The Sorcerer, Alien Breed: Tower Assault,
Marvin's Marvellous Adventure (which is a great little game IMO), Arcade
Pool, Litil Divil, Heimdall II and Banshee worked fine too.  Kid Chaos,
Cannon Fodder and Top Gear are three demos which I've been unable to load.

Bear in mind that these games need at the very least a joystick, preferably
a six button CD32 controller.  I use a Competition Pro controller which is
excellent and far superior to the Commodore model.

CD's intended for PC's

Why read them if you can't load the programs?  That may be true, but there
are a lot of resources you can source from PC's.  With Mainactor and
AmiFlick you could convert .AVI and .FLI animations to ANIM format (or just
run them but the speed won't be too great).  You can use Adpro, Image FX or
a shareware package like Im agestudio to convert the TIFF,BMP and PCX
pictures you'll find on PC CDs.  You can use AmiSox or Soundmachine to get
at the .WAV and .VOC samples on the CDs, and of course you'll be able to
read text files and soundtracker mod files.  3D fans could convert
3D-Studio objects for use in Lightwave and so on.  There is plent y you can
do with a PC CD, so the many coverdiscs for PCs can be of some use.  T hey
work fine with the Overdrive.  I found the PC Format magazine CDs to be the
best for graphics, mods, anims, sounds etc.  that could be converted, for
only a few pounds.

Macintosh CDs

As you may know every mac file has a resource fork and a data fork. WHen you ins
ert a Mac HFS disc this is accounted for by the drive which produces a
seperate file for the resource and data forks.  As with the PC CDs there is
no problem reading them and you can access sounds, pictures and so on.
There is a mac .snd dat atype on Aminet and you can access pictures with a
suitable image processor.  The commercial CrossMac or, from Aminet, Resgrep
provide tools to extract files fro m a resource fork in a similar manner to
the Mac's ResEdit.

Photo CDs

I was unable to test this feature as I didn't have any Photo CDs, but there
shou ld be no reason why it doesn't work.  The new version of Carousel
allows searching of non-kodak CD's to find Photo CD pictures (say on a
compliation of different Amiga programs).  The software seems stable
enough.

Other CD software

You may be aware of Commodore's video format, CDXL. If you have Dos 3.1 you can 
view CDXL movies with Multiview.  If, like me, you don't then you'll find a
program such as cdgsxl on a magazine or compilation.  CDXL movies work fine
and are very smooth.  I was impressed after seeing some very jerky mac
Quicktime movies.  It would be nice if an Amiga Quicktime player or
converter existed but to my knowledge, none do.

There is no room for a Video CD expansion on the drive, maybe a trapdoor
one will appear from someone in the future.  MPEG files can be played, in
software with a suitable player, but don't expect miracle speeds!

DOCUMENTATION

The Overdrive comes with a photocopied booklet in French, English and
German.  It is quite good, and explains the basics pretty well.  Ther is no
index, it is only 30 pages per language.

LIKES

Just having a CD-ROM drive makes a great difference.  The level of
compatibility is high, and the software supplied with V9.0 is very stable.
The use of the PCMCIA interface is very well thought of as it allows you
to continue to use your Tr apdoor expansions.

DISLIKES AND SUGGESTIONS

I dislike the size of the power supply for a start, but the type of supply
will probably vary as it's a generic one.  A longer lead might have been
better for some, although I'm happy enough.  I would like to see more
utils with the drive, pe rhaps a CDXL player with a GUI interface.  The CD
uses the CIA timer which interferes with the occasional PD application
such as PlaySID and the AGA Spectrum Emulator, necessitating disconnection
(or booting without loading the CD drivers) if you wish to use them.

COMPARISONS TO OTHER SIMILAR PRODUCTS

Gasteiner produce an interface, no CD included, which allows you to connect
a Mitsumi FX001 or FX001D (The Overdrive comes with the double-speed
FX001D) This in terface and CD combination turns out to be more expensive
than the Overdrive and the interface isn't as nice.

Hisoft are producing a SCSI interface for the A1200 and A600, which will
allow you to connect a SCSI CD-ROM.  This gives you a lot of choice, but
CD32 compatibility remains to be seen. 

If you have an accelerator with SCSI option (eg GVP A1230-II) you can connect a 
generic CD-ROM drive this way. CD32 compatibility will not be included though.

BUGS

The Install script on v9.0 of the software apparently has a problem with
one disk drive machines..  shouldn't be a problem if you know how to use
your Amiga, but could affect beginners.

After a buggy start in earlier versions, the new software seems pretty
stable.   One bug I found is in the CDDA player.  If your CD has more than
20 tracks (like say the new Beatles: Live at the BBC CD with 35 tracks on
one CD) you'll be unable to play track 21 and above with the supplied
program.  The program YACDP, a vailable on Aminet will allow you to play
those tracks though.

VENDOR SUPPORT

Excellent.  When I heard V9 was avaliable I wrote to Special Reserve and a
was phoned up by a very helpful chap who, before he sent out the update
made sure I had a second drive and wouldn't have a problem.

WARRANTY

There is a year's warranty on the drive. 

CONCLUSION

An excellent product which is a must have for all A1200 owners, and A600
owners wishing to get into CD-ROM on the Amiga.  Hopefully it will provide
a boost in terms of the number of Amiga CD products we'll see in the
future.

NOTICE

This review written by Paul Moore for Amiga Report and is freely distributable. 
Contact me if you wish at:

Fidonet: 2:259/2.19
Internet: Paul.Moore@p19.f2.n259.z2.fidonet.org