SmartDSK Cartridge Review 2
by Jim Notini



The following review was originally published in the Northern Illiana ADAM User's Group, (NIAD) newsletter.

So you say you're tired of always having to load your favorite ramdisk software from disk or ddp to set up your ramdisk options. Better yet, you're tired of having to load your favorite software programs from disk or ddp all the time, then having to reset the computer to move to another program for a short time and finally reboot the first program again. Well, the SmartDSK Cartridge is a terrific shortcut utility to use to overcome long program loading times.

The SmartDSK Cartridge (SC) was developed by Walters Software Co., to make it easier for ADAM users to boot up the SmartDSK Operating System (OS/9). This system also includes ramdisk set up routines which are easily the most advanced on the market today.

After inserting the SmartDSK Cartridge in the Game Cartridge slot in your ADAM, pulling the <CARTRIDGE RESET> switch toward you, will boot the cartridge program and operating system instantaneously. Options include: loading ramdisk, saving ramdisk, booting ramdisk, booting SmartBASIC V1.0, booting SmartBASIC V2.0, and SmartBASIC Plus, from the ramdisk, booting any drive, EOS start or SmartWRITER.

This booting from the ramdisk option eliminates the need to modify the SmartBASIC filename. You can load a disk or datapack with SmartBASIC V1.0, 2.0, or Plus to the ramdisk and load it in the blink of an eye, with this option. This also eliminates the need for special set-up disks or datapacks and, simply put, many programs may be loaded into the ramdisk to be booted superfast.

The advantage of this, is to be able to boot the SmartDSK Operating System, with the above options and access programs, in the ramdisk, superfast, by pulling the cartridge reset (which does not destroy any files or data stored on the ramdisk). The SmartDSK III utilities and SmartBASIC can be loaded into the ramdisk and booted from the ramdisk when the need arises. Any files copied to the ramdisk, will stay in place until ADAM is turned off, or a program, such as some Digital Express titles, destroys the contents, by using the memory expander for program purposes.

To start out, all you need to do is, plug the SmartDSK Cartridge into the game cartridge slot in your system. Once the cartridge is plugged in, you will not have to remove it, since it is invisible to your programs, when not in use.

Pull the cartridge reset and the SC main menu appears instantly. The main menu gives you the option of copying the contents of the ramdisk to a disk or ddp. This option is a tremendous timesaver, since you can set up a ramdisk before booting SmartBASIC. You can, for instance, save all your work in BASIC to the ramdisk, and, when finished, pull the cartridge reset to bring up SmartDISK Cartridge, and proceed to copy all your work on the ramdisk, to disk or ddp for future use. You may also copy any disk or ddp to the ramdisk. For example, a bunch of clip-art files to be used with The Print Works, or even copy your COPYCART media with the cartridges on it to the ramdisk. Once they are copied to the ramdisk, you can boot the ramdisk faster than you can any hard drive!. The last option, CONTINUE, takes you to the next menu of options.

This second menu allows you to boot the SmartDSK (the ramdisk). This is used when you want have an executable program, already copied on to the ramdisk, and you want to boot it up from the ramdisk. Examples of bootable programs would be SmartBASIC V1.0, 2.0 or Plus, any COPYCART media, and just about any program that contains a standard boot routine and directory. The boot drive options, allow the user to boot up a program that is in a given drive at the time. This option comes in handy since the SmartDSK Operating System remains in memory when the media is booted. Not all programs will be able to take advantage of the added capabilities of this new OS (such as SmartLOGO), but many more do than don't and the non-compatible programs load properly.

The last option to load a program, deals specifically with a couple of programs which are fully compatible and can access the new OS's capabilities. With the load program, you may boot from the ramdisk or a physical drive, either SmartBASIC V1.0, V2.0, Plus or SmartWRITER, as well as force an EOS START, which looks like an occupied drive, and tries to boot it, if a disk or ddp is already inserted. Note that for SmartBASIC V1.0 and V2.0 to boot properly, the original boot block must be used. If your versions have a modified boot block, they may not load correctly. Also, in order to get SmartBASIC PLUS (SuperBASIC Plus) to boot correctly, you will have to make some "patches" to the program. These are provided in the SmartDSK Cartridge Manual.

Also included in the owner's manual are detailed instructions on how to set up many different programs and use them with the SmartDSK Cartridge. For instance, SuperBASIC Plus, as is, is not bootable from the ramdisk, but with the supplied patch, in the Walters' manual, you can fix the problem quite simply.

A little experimenting will be needed in order to find out which programs are compatible and which are not. But as long as the programs you will be using don't set up their own ramdisk, or access the memory expander for expanded program size, or modify the OS, or boot block routine, you should have no problems. (Most DIGITAL EXPRESS, now called THE SOFTWORKS FACTORY, programs will not work correctly with this cartridge because they set up their own ramdisk routines and also use the expansion RAM for extra programming space).

To all you hackers out there, this is a definite must buy. Even if you aren't that experienced, the SmartDSK Cart is still a valuable addition and a tremendous timesaver, especially if you have a larger memory expander (256K & up), the true power of this cart will be realized. With a 64K expander, you will have to be a bit more careful as to how you are going to set-up the ramdisk, and whether you are going to put files onto the ramdisk. But it sure beats having to boot a couple of different disks or ddp's to get to a desired set up. Don't forget to save, to a disk or ddp, any information you saved to the ramdisk, before you power down your system, otherwise all that information will be lost once your power is turned off!.

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