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           The Emulation Rambler: Fallout from PCx vs.  PC-Task
                            By:  Jason Compton 
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Very rarely does an article in AR generate so much instant feedback from
readers...here's a sampling of the important or interesting notes gleaned
from last issue's review.  I've included comments and replies where
appropriate.

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From David P. Crandall, dpc@crl.com

THANK YOU!

I've been longing for a decent comparative review of these two products for
a long time!  I wonder about its accuracy though.  The current PCx demo
version is 2.1 - your review is of PCx 1.1.  I don't know if this would
make a difference, or if there were any significant changes to PCx, but one
would think that the newer version would be better.

I would greatly appreciate an updated review.

Furthermore, your conclusions suggest that PC-Task can operate at speeds
approximating half that of a real Pentium 100 (on a sufficiently beefed up
machine - as mine is - see my signature for details).  If this is true,
then it should have little trouble handling Windows 95 (although it may be
a little slow).  Have you tried Windows 95 on PC-Task? 

I ask because there are a couple small utility programs (WIN95 only) which
I need to run at home for my work.  I would rather spend some money on
adding 32 Megs or ram, CrossDOS 6, and PC-Task 4.2 to my Amiga than buying
another whole computer, but I wonder if this solution is feasible.  Any
thoughts?


My reply:

-    PCx's demo versions are numbered along a totally different scheme than
     the PCx release version.  So at the time I did the review (and still
     today) PCx 1.1 is the most up to date version there is.

     The benchmarks in the review should not be misinterpreted to suggest
     that either emulator can approach half of a P100's speed in real world
     applications.  And furthermore, neither emulator can run Win95.  I
     should have made this more clear, my apologies.  -Jason

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From Emmanuel Latour, emmanuel.latour@geac.com 

In your AR506 issue which reviews both of these emulators, you don't
mention that PCx cannot run Windows 3.1 in enhanced mode, which I believe
PC-Task 4.x can.

Also, you might want to take a closer look at serial emulation, it simply
does not work and I have gotten Jim Drew to admit to it.  He claimed that
the same is true for PC-Task 4.x and that this will be fixed in the
upcoming 2.0 version.

I tried both the PCx 1.1 and PC-Task 4.x demos and eventually bought PCx
many months ago.  The new PCx 4.2 demo now hangs on both my 4000T even with
a clean boot (no startup-sequence).

Although I agree that PCx is faster, its lack of full support for GFX
boards, Windows 3.1 in enhanced mode or communications programs, has become
a major annoynance for me.

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From Jim Drew, msdei@ctaz.com (author of PCx)

Hi, just read your review of PCx vs.  PC-Task, and I must correct some
mistakes and ask some questions:

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"Hardfiles are inefficient but useful-in-a-pinch ways to set up hard drive
compatibility--they're large AmigaDOS files which the program treats as a
physical device.  PC-Task and PCx also support real, dedicated partitions,
a much better choice.  Unfortunately, they do not share formats, and PCx's
is a custom filesystem, as opposed to a CrossDOS filesystem as PC-Task
uses."

Not true.  PCx uses MS-DOS format.  CrossDOS uses its own custom format,
which is not completely compatible with MS-DOS.  However, PCx *can* use
PC-Task hardfiles if you make DOS Drivers for them.

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"The CD-ROM compatibilities are not equal.  PC-Task has a decided edge.  
Very often, a CD would be recognized perfectly by the AmigaOS and by
PC-Task but PCx would refuse to read it.  This frustration is compounded by
another advantage PC-Task has over PCx: the ability to copy between PC and
Amiga drives at the PC prompt using special tools included with the
emulator.  That means if you can't read a CD on the PCx side, you're stuck
using clunky floppies to transfer data across."

Egads!  Not true!  We support the mounting of any PCx hardfile or partition
as an AmigaDOS (CrossDOS) device, and even provide the ability to create
the DOS Driver.  People are just using DOpus or the CLI to copy files just
fine.

Also, the CD-ROM problems you apparently experience have never been
reported by *any* customers, so I am not sure what we can do about this
problem...  I went out and bought the programs you had problems with and
they worked fine.  :-

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"Both offer sound emulation of the PC speaker.  PCx goes further to
implement a partial SoundBlaster emulation.  It's an improvement, and will
be nicer when it's complete."

Huh?  The SoundBlaster emulation is complete.  It is just v1.0
SoundBlaster, which did not have the FM Synth mode, and was mono only.  We
will have SoundBlaster Pro 16 support (via AHI) in v2.0.

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"In terms of compatibility, the major differences in compatibility come in
identifying their graphical capabilities to programs.  Modern PC programs
should have no trouble, but older programs which hit hardware may get
confused.  The King's Quest games are not fully compatible on either
emulator, for example.  But on the processor level, both emulators are very
well set up for what they're doing."

Please explain the problem with King's Quest!  You sent that to me and it
works *exactly* the same under PCx as it does my Gateway 2000 and IBM
ThinkPad!  What more do you want!?  ;-)

---------------

"PCx is somewhat cheaper than PC-Task--about US$20.  And you do get a lot
of emulator.  On the other hand, PC-Task 4.2 has the look and feel of a
more complete product.  The CyberGraphX support is wholehearted, the CD-ROM
driver works better, and the hard drive integration with the Amiga is much
better."

[Jim expresses a complaint about my evaluation of the competing prices
here, which I'll explain in my reply.]

Please explain the 'hard drive integration' comment!

I am sure glad the general public doesn't feel the same way about PCx.
:-)


My Reply:

-    First off, I have to admit the fact that I made a straightforward
     error in my comment on price.  At the time the article was written
     the price difference was actually substantially more than US$20
     through most PC-Task dealers.  However, the price of PC-Task 4.2 has
     actually fallen notably since then.  Software Hut now sells it for $95
     (a $35 difference in price, more than the $20 gap I mistakenly
     reported), but Visionsoft is advertising PC-Task 4.2 for $70.  So
     while I was indeed very wrong when the article was written, the market
     seems to be shifting to accomodate my error.  :)

     Jim challenges a number of my assertions about PCx's partition
     handling.  But in my e-mail exchanges with him where I asked him
     directly to point me to the sections of the manual which outline
     doing what he suggests (sharing partitions with PC-Task, reading
     PCx partitions from AmigaDOS), he neglected on more than one
     occasion to show me.

     Oh, and the newest PCx video drivers purport to fix the King's Quest
     bug (although it was a two-step process, a very interesting bug showed
     up once Jim fixed the video display issue).  Chalk another one up for
     PCx, then.  :)

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