MultiCart, CopyCart+ and Coleco Game Copy
Review
by George Havach & K.A. Marner

 

CARTRIDGE BACKUP PROGRAMS COMPARED
By K.A. Marner

We have taken the best cartridge backup programs available for the ADAM and compared them based on research by George Havach into Copycart+ (last reviewed Aug-Sep 88) from MMSG and Multicart Backup from Best Software as distributed by ANN with additions by myself on Coleco Game Copy (last reviewed Oct-Nov 90).

 

Title: Multicart Backup
Manufacturer: M.W. Ruth Co.
Media: Data pack
Rating: 9

Title: Cartcopy+
Manufacturer: MMSG
Media: Data pack or disk
Rating: 7


Ever since reading the Hinkles' Hacker's Guide to Adam and learning that it's really possible to copy cartridge games to data pack or disk, I've been waiting for some clever hacker to produce a commercially available utility for this purpose. And now, wonder of wonders, two have hit the market almost simultaneously: "Multicart Backup" from M.W. Ruth and "Cartcopy+" from MMSG. Price-wise, Cartcopy+ has the edge: $15 versus $19.95. But, although they both work extremely well, there are significant differences in their convenience to the user.

First off, I must admit it's a real kick to be able to transfer a familiar ColecoVision game to data pack or disk--and not just one, but several, one after another. The instructions for Multicart Backup say 8 to a data pack and 5 to a disk, but it turns out these are minimums, because the games themselves are of varying length. So it's not unusual to get 8 or 9 complete games on one side of a disk, with no problem; and if you use both sides (a "flippy"), that's 15 to 20 cartridges on one diskette! Now, that's compactness for you. And away into storage can go your cartridge collection!

To tell just how close you're getting to running out of space, though, you need to be able to read the directory structure generated by either utility. In this regard, Cartcopy+ is more direct: the named game files (type "C") it creates are actually readable with SmartBASIC--in fact, they can even be copied (with MMSG's earlier-released utility "Backup+"). Multicart Backup's unique directory is "stacked" at the end of block 1, where it can be read only by the utility itself or a block editor, like Uncle Ernie's Toolkit.

It turns out that, despite its more sophisticated coding, Cartcopy+ is less accurate in determining the size of any cartridge: it rounds off in multiples of 4 blocks. On the other hand, Multicart Backup registers and records the exact size to the nearest block. This translates to less wasted space on your "soft" media, and thus more games per tape/disk. It's neat to learn the actual lengths of various games. So far, the shortest I've seen is Q*bert (only 8 K), and the longest are Football, Tapper, and Dam Busters (32 K each). Lots of others are 16 or 24 K, with a few oddballs: Mouse Trap, 11; Centipede, 15; Victory, 19. I think this kind of information is a real bonus.

For what it does, Multicart Backup is a lot shorter (2 versus 8 K) and easier to use than Cartcopy+. Its quick loading time--1 second to main menu, whereas Cartcopy+ takes 4 seconds to load and displays its flashy title screen for another 16--makes for less waiting to get down to game play. Both utilities require a specially formatted medium ("target") to work with; Cartcopy+ can create its own target, whereas Multicart Backup must first be transferred to the target with a backup utility like "Packcopy." But Multicart Backup's target can then be used either to add new games or to play existing ones; Cartcopy+'s target is for game play exclusively.

Overall, Multicart Backup's no-frills approach is more to my liking. For one thing, you select games with the keypad, not the keyboard, as with Cartcopy+, so it's more "kid-oriented." (Games are for the child in us all!) And I found Cartcopy+'s title-screen display a bit tedious; loading time from data pack or disk is long enough as it is. Of course, the whole advantage of a PROM cartridge is its near-instantaneous loading and its durability, so running games from "softer" media is actually a step backward. But the compactness of data storage is a big plus--not to mention being able to peek into all that proprietary code!

A final note of caution: Neither Cartcopy+ nor Multicart Backup sufficiently stresses the DANGER of inserting or removing cartridges with the system powered on; Multicart Backup's instructions even tell you to ignore such warning signs as the printer tripping or the screen freezing up, and just to hit COMPUTER RESET. Bad advice! I learned the hard way: the next day, my screen display was zapped--probably some component on the video board FRIED. Hi ho, Honeywell... So, if you're going to enjoy the convenience provided by one of these utilities, be SURE to power down in between cartridge changes; otherwise, you'll risk blowing it in a big way.

Note from Mark_Coleco: CopyCart+ v1.0 only copies cartridges that are upto 24k properly, sometimes it works for 32k carts but not normally, its very unlikly to copy 32k carts. To copy upto 32k properly you need CopyCart+ v2.0 which is a disk only version, and its copy protected itself. There where atempts to move it from disk to ddp but knowone at this time was able to do it.

Also for CopyCart+ v1.0 users, there is a SmartBASIC Public Domain Patch program (PATCHER) that fixes the cartridge dumps made with v1.0 , once a cart is copied to a ddp it then can be patch to work properly. I never used it but if you have a 32k cart copied and its not working, you can try the patch.

Rich Drushel had this to say about CopyCart+ v2.0: If it's disk-only software and copy-protected by means of a specially-formatted "bad" block, then the only way around the protection is to disassemble the code to find the bad-block check, and patch around it using a block/byte editor like FileManager. If the fail condition is just a JP to SmartWriter, that is a fairly easy 3-byte code sequence to find, then disassemble around (i.e., you don't have to regenerate the whole thing to source in order to understand enough to fix it.

If there is a "bad" block on the original disk, you could find it with the old DOS utility program Anadisk (by the same people who did 22Nice), or else by just trying to rip a disk image file in DOS -- it should fail.

 

Coleco Game Copy (Public Domain)
Reviewed By:  K.A. Marner

I have to say that this is the best all-round game copying software not only because it is in the PD and is readily available but it also contains utilities which allow you to control the files on your medium. There is no fancy loading screen, just a menu which loads in 5-6 seconds after which you can withdraw the disk/ddp and work entirely from the menu.

Playing a game is an option from the menu and you select which game with the use of the arrow keys. Game Copy does not create an EOS directory so it would be harder than with the previous 2 cartridge backup utilities to separate the individual files and manipulate them using media utilities such as Uncle Ernie's Toolkit or File Manager. However, Coleco Game Copy does have an option to selectively file copy the games.

There are no instructions with Coleco Game Copy but you should be able to grasp its features by experimentation and through reviews

 

Some Features of this Public Domain Program: Coleco Game Copy. From NIAD issue 59-60 dec/jan 1990 This is a self-booting Coleco cartridge and media copy utility. Features include; Copy cart to dpp/disk, Play Cart, Display directory, Creat new directory, load program onto ddp/disk, Selective file copy of games, Duplicate ddp/disk, Verify ddp/disk, Write 00s to all blocks (reformat), Make a backup directory/Get a backup directory, Print directory on printer, Delete, and Convert old ddp/disk format to new format. Make a backup copy of this media immediately and use the backup to save the copied cartridges too!
 

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