Friday, January 12, 2018

Alternative to Diavolo Backup Pro

As many of you know Diavolo Backup Pro has the ability to backup MovieShop video and audio partitions. It is a commercial program that is no longer supported or sold.

Fortunately for us, ABackup v5.22 (available from Aminet) is free, has recently been open sourced,  and has no problems in backing up MovieShop partitions. The only issue it has is that it cannot directly restore them. To do this, you have to fool ABackup, which seems to recognise only Amiga DOS partitions when restoring. So, make a quick format to the destination partition before restoring,  and then proceed with the restoration process to that quick formatted partition.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

MovieShop buffer underflow or overflow (by Steve Bowie)

Sometimes I get an error message when I Play (or Record) a scene which refers to a buffer underflow (or overflow). What causes this, and how do I fix it?

Issues to Ponder:

First, note that these conditions CAN be caused by many factors which prevent video data being read from or saved to the hard disk properly.
SCSI errors (improper bus termination, poor connections etc.) can result in damaged data being written to the drive (mangled JPEGs) or data flow problems. SCSI bus issues can prevent video being streamed to and from the drive quickly enough to satisfy system requirements. Usually, SCSI errors will show up elswhere as well - transient error messages from the OS (checksum and bad block errors), frequent lockups and drive validation problems, and intermittent bootup failures are typical.
External video problems (sync, cabling etc.) can also be responsible for poor frames being recorded (or NOT being recorded!) When bad data is encountered, obviously playback halts. In either case above, buffer underflow can occur even though the buffer settings ARE CORRECT! If you are pretty sure you don't have these kind of problems (you haven't added or removed any drives lately, and the system behaves reasonably well otherwise), read on....

The RAM Buffer:

MovieShop uses a RAM buffer (temporary memory space) to ensure smooth transfer of video and audio data to and from the hard disk(s). Some other NLE systems simply drop frames instead, and you have to hope no-one notices! Another benefit of this arrangement is that less expensive (and often faster) non-AV rated hard disks can be used on the DraCo.

Max Buffer Size:

The maximum size of the buffer allocated is adjustable - the location of the slider depends on the version of MovieShop you use. In version 4.x, it is accessed from the Settings/Project menu. Sliders are located in the upper part of the tabbed panels for Video and Audio. A similar slider is hidden away in MovieShop v.5, and can only be accesssed by opening the Advanced Options window - see below for instructions.
The max Video buffer setting defaults to 2 megs, and this is generally adequate on a DraCo (before the 32 bit DCM card arrived, the lower transfer rates of the Zorro II bus used by the VlabMotion card meant much higher RAM buffers were common.) Changing this number is generally not necessary, but if all else fails you could bump it up a bit as an experiment.

Record and Play Burst:

Much more important than the max buffer size, are the settings for 'Record' and 'Play Burst!' These settings limit the size of a single 'chunk' of data which can be written to, or read from) the RAM buffer. The default settings for both Video sliders is 256 kbytes. This setting generally works well. However some hard drives 'prefer' to read and write data in larger or smaller 'bite sizes,' just as some people like their food chewed to a finer or lesser degree. It's not uncommon that adding or changing a drive can dictate an adjustment. If you frequently see under/overflow messages on Record or Play - especially when the problem occurs well (15 seconds or more) into playback - adjustment could well solve the problem. If the problem relates principally to playback errors occuring just after pressing Play, see the discussion of 'Preload Size' below.
Please note: while the settings are adjustable for both Video and Audio, we have never yet encountered a problem with the default Audio settings, so the discussion which follows refers only to the Video settings.

Accessing Buffer Settings:

To access the adjustment sliders, you must open the hidden 'Advanced Options' window. Press and hold the 'Right DraCo' key, and press 'e'. The 'Execute Command' string requester will appear. At the cursor, type the command 'openwindow advopts' - don't enter the quotation marks - then press the Enter/Return key. The Advanced Options window should appear.
Click on the 'Buffer' tab. In version 5, this is where the max buffer sliders are found. The left side of the panel exposes the Video settings.

Optimizing the Burst Settings:

As a general rule, identical settings for Play and Record seem to work just fine. Here's one way to determine optimal settings: Load a current project, then access the Advanced Options window as described above. Open the Scene list, and click on a typical scene, preferably one which lasts at least a couple of minutes. Before doing anything else, open the 'Status' window by selecting the Movie Shop menu item 'Windows/Status'. This little window shows three vertical 'LEDs' - the center one shows Video drive space in use; the right-hand strip refers to Audio space used. The left-most stripe is the one we're interested in. It shows RAM Buffer useage in real time.
Now we're ready - click Play in the Scene Control panel, and observe the activity of the buffer 'LED' in the Status Window as the video plays back. If the level of data in the buffer during playback is not being replenished by the hard disk quickly enough, the Buffer level will begin to decrease. It may take 15-30 seconds or more, but sooner or later there will be no video left to play from the buffer. Video playback will halt, and the 'video buffer underflow' error will appear ... the buffer has 'run dry!' Again, if this error occurs IMMEDIATELY on pressing play, see the segment below regarding Preload Size. (If it doesn't happen, you don't seem to have a problem - why are you reading this?)
Try a different setting. To begin with, don't get wild - just move the Playback slider one notch either way and try playback again. Watch for a change in the buffer useage pattern, as shown in the Status window. When you raise or lower the slider, you'll see a corresponding change in size of the 'jumps' the 'LED' displays on playback, but we're not concerned about that particularly. What we DO want to acheive is to find a burst size which our hard disk can happily live with - you'll know you're moving in the right direction when playback goes longer and longer before a problem occurs. Ultimately, you should quickly find an optimal setting permitting virtually endless playback without a glitch! Set the Record Burst size to the same setting, and you should have solved your problem.

Preload Size:

Also important is the 'Pre Load Size.' This setting determines how much data is preloaded into the buffer when you hit the 'Play' gadget BEFORE playback actually begins. Think of this setting as enabling the system to 'build up a little steam' before playback commences. (See above to locate this parameter's slider.)
Often, a hard drive will perform a themal recalibration shortly after playback begins. If the buffer was not sufficiently 'preloaded,' there might be no video data available in the buffer to permit continuous playback during this little 'hiccup.' Video playback would fail, usually resulting in a 'video buffer underflow' error. This slider defaults to 1 meg. Increasing the setting to 1.3 or 1.4megs will often cure a system experiencing playback problems that occur right after hitting Play.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Review: AmigaOS 3.9 for DraCo from CASH Multimedia/Patric Hofmann


 DraCo OS3.9


 A custom configured AmigaOS 3.9 cdrom for the MacroSystem DraCo.


 Name:         CASH Multimedia (Patric Hofmann)
 Address:      Wiehagenerstr. 13a 
               42499 Hückeswagen
               USt-IdNr.: DE199686268 
    Telephone: 02192 / 932095


 50.62 euros. But you must be a legal owner of AmigaOS3.9 and 
CyberGraphX v4 to install and use DraCo OS3.9. Either you are required to send a
proof of purchase of these other two cdroms, or you can just buy from them, 
of course, at an additional fee (AmigaOS 3.9 = 45.51 euros & 
CyberGraphX v4.x = 25.05 euros).
        Owners of previous DraCo OS3.5 cdrom can upgrade by paying 30.17 euros.
        A MacroSystem DraCo is of course required. But nothing is so simple: to be 
able to use this customized AmigaOS distribution, 24 MB of ram, about 200 MB of 
HDD space, and an Altais graphics card are required. So unfortunately, DraCos with
Altais Plus, or other graphic cards, are not supported. And if you have less than 
24MB you are certainly asking for trouble.

 DraCo Vision (aka DraCo cube), 80 Meg Fast RAM. 
        To begin with, you are assumed to have a working DraCo System installed, 
from which you will have to create a bootable floppy with the contents of the 
BOOTDISK drawer present on the DraCo OS3.9 cdrom.
        Afterwards, you will have to boot the DraCo from this floppy, and it will 
start copying a lot of files to ram, to a recoverable boot volume (RAD:). It will 
take quite some time. Afterwards, you will be required to eject the floppy and 
warm reset the DraCo.
        The DraCo will now boot from the RAD: volume. Now you will have to 
partition and format the drives. Two partitions are required: "Workbench" for 
system files, and "WORK" for additional application programs.
        Later, you will need to copy the WORK and Workbench files to your 
partitions by double clicking on two icons set for those purposes. This will take 
ages to finish. At some point the installation script will prompt you to insert 
the original AmigaOS 3.9 cdrom in order to update the DraCo AmigaOS.
        Finally you are asked to remove both floppies and cdroms from the DraCo, and 
coldboot to end the installation. 
        To begin with, documentation is scarce and lacking in many areas. The only 
documentation is only available on the cdrom itself, both in german and english, 
but it does not come with any printed information. No hardware requirements are 
mentioned whatsoever, and the english docs are clearly not very well written. 
Also, installation instruction are not so clear and there is no mention of 
hardware requirements.
-Some custom desktop wallpapers with DraCo themes are included.
-There are many GlowIcons which are DraCo themed, they look very good.
-AmigaOS 3.9 BoingBag #1 is installed by default
-There is a nice Amplifier skin
-the author included a well layed out, and eye candy L shaped dockbars created with 

-Resource pig. It requires 24MB of ram when an AmigaOS 3.9 system requires just 6MB. 
This alone is a proof of how unoptimised this setup is.

-CybergraphX v4 is installed but has not been properly updated 
-Too much wasted space. About 200 MB of HDD space are required, when AmigaOS 3.9 
only needs about 30 MB. Yes, I know there is additional software that fills that 
space, but nothing worth justifying that much. I consider this, unneeded bloat.
-Duplicity of functions in many programs. Why would you put two filemanagers 
(ClassAction and EcoDisk) and two mp3 players (SongPlayer and Amplifier)? 
It does not make sense to me, just pick the better featured program, and 
remove the other.
-Some applications have been downgraded for no reason at all. For example, 
Amplifier is at v2.26 instead of v2.34 from BoingBag #2.
-ToolManager despite its awesome look, comes configured with many shortcuts of 
commercial software that are non existant in this cdrom, but probably present at 
the author´s machine. Dissapointing at least, and even more when you consider how 
unfriendly Toolmanager is for reconfiguring its docks.

-Minor annoyances: Why would you want an icon for the Fonts drawer? An InstallLogs 
drawer, really? Useless additions.

-The installation floppy is a torture: You are required to build from the cdrom a 
boot floppy, which should be in either Amiga HD format (1760KB) or HD DraCo format. 
Common Amiga DD floppies (880KB) are not suitable because the author took a 
questionable desition to include too many files, and some of them were clearly not 
needed. In fact, I actually managed to perfectly build an 880KB DD Amiga floppy 
suitable for installing this distribution by removing some useless files.

-Installation is awkward and involves swapping cdroms and floppies. It could have 
been much easier and straight thru.

-It is not completely the fault of the author, but there are more recent updates of 
the software which is included, and this could bring a lot of enhancements, new 
features and bugfixes. Why the hell didnt he update the operating system to 
AmigaOS 3.9 BoingBag #2, when at the time it was feasible?
-There is software which is essentially useless nowadays (StrICQ).

-The installation does not contain some DraCo specific commands, and some of the 
DraCo components are not the latest and greatest, but they do certainly work.

-Neither MovieShop, nor AdPro+MorphPlus are included. A DraCo without Movieshop 
is as usefull as a car without wheels. 
-MemIcon commodity doesnt have the DONOTWAIT tooltype enabled.
-Some DefIcons are wrongly configured 

-No support at all from the author, not even in forums.
        Despite you are encouraged to send the author an email to solve your 
doubts, there is clearly no formal support, as the author states he is not even 
a programmer and this is not an officially endorsed distribution. No updates have 
been released and will likely never arrive, as the product seems it is no longer 
for sale and contacting the author seems impossible too. 

        If you ignore its numerous shortcomings and complex install, it is a very 
good looking and workable DraCo distribution, which makes it a good addition to 
the scarce DraCo software arsenal. Usualy installing AmigaOS 3.9 on a DraCo is not 
the easiest of tasks, and requires some advanced Amiga & DraCo knowledge, and this 
cdrom seems to have an easier workaround for this. Anyway, I personally find that 
50 euros is too much money for this 3.9 distro, but then if you have a DraCo you 
might probably have the spare cash to spend on it anyway.
        I would have probably chosen another path, and tweak a cleanly updated 
AmigaOS 3.9 install for my DraCo but I have to acknlowledge this cdrom is 
definately suited for the average skilled user that cannot do it, or doesnt want 
to take the time to.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

The Jog Shuttle/DraCo Wheel

This is a pretty good accessory if you come from the video world. It is a peripheral that connects to the serial port of the DraCo and has several buttons with different associated Movieshop actions, and most importantly a small wheel that upon user rotation, lets you proportionally travel between Movieshop scenes.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Zorro II compatibility

Unlike the popular Amiga Zorro II slots, the DraCo has a series of "compatible" Zorro II expansion slots, that due to some design flaws on its implementation, ultimately led to the fact that not all Zorro II expansion devices work with the DraCo. What follows is an updated attempt to outline what Amiga Zorro II cards have been reported working, and which devices have proven not work at all. If a device is not listed here, it simply means it hasnt been tested, so it may or may not work (please report your findings).

A.C.T. Prelude Soundcard OK  
Alfadata/BSC Multiface Multi I/O NO  
Aliendesign Repulse Soundcard OK Toccata emulation
ASDG Dual serial board Multi I/O NO  
Commodore A2065 Ethernet OK  
E3B Deneb USB + Flashrom OK  
E3B Highway USB OK  
Electronic Design Framemachine Digitizer NO  
Great Valley Products IOExtender Multi I/O NO  
Great Valley Products Anet Ethernet NO  
Hydra Systems AmigaNet Ethernet NO  
Index Information Harlequin Graphics card OK  
Individual Computers RapidRoad USB NO Driver is problematic
Individual Computers X-Surf Ethernet+IDE OK  
Individual Computers X-Surf 2 Ethernet+IDE OK  
Individual Computers X-Surf 3 Ethernet+IDE OK  
Individual Computers X-Surf 100 Ethernet OK  
Ingenieurbüro Helfrich Peggy MPG Video Decoder NO  
Ingenieurbüro Helfrich Peggy plus MPG Audio & Video Decoder NO  
Ingenieurbüro Helfrich Piccolo Graphics card OK  
Kato Development Melody Soundcard NO  
MacroSystem Maestro Pro Soundcard OK Not in MovieShop
MacroSystem Retina ZII Graphics card NO  
MacroSystem Tocatta Soundcard OK  
MacroSystem Vlab Y/C Framegrabber OK  
MacroSystem Vlab Framegrabber OK  
MacroSystem Vlab Motion Digitizer OK  
MacroSystem Maestro Soundcard OK Not in MovieShop
RBM Digitaltechnik IOBlix Multi I/O OK  
RBM Digitaltechnik IOBlix ethernet Ethernet OK Buggy and slow
Supra SupraModem 3400zi Modem NO  
Team 4 Video Kasmin Graphics card OK  
Utilities Unlimited Emplant Emulation + SCSI + 2xSerial NO  
Village Tronic Ariadne Ethernet + Multi I/O OK  
Village Tronic Ariadne II Ethernet OK  
VMC/Individual Computers Hypercom ZII 3+ Multi I/O OK  
VMC/Individual Computers Hypercom ZII 4+ Multi I/O OK  
Zeus Electronic Development Connexion Ethernet OK  

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The component module & the infamous Alpha coprocessor board

Very little facts are known of this board which never passed the prototype stages due to its fragility. It was supposed to attach to a header in the DraCo Motion/Vlab Motion and provide component output.
I have never seen a picture of this device, but it is absolutely not a rumourand it is based around the Philips SAA 7165 chip.

Speaking of rumors, many times during the life of the DraCo, Macrosystem advertised about a DraCo Direct card for rendering video effects in realtime. It was supposely a kind of coprocessor card based around a DEC Alpha processor at 233 Mhz (this was in a time where the Alpha processor was the king of the hill). The truth is, that this card never even reached the prototype stage.

DraCo memory map

DraCo has no memory at all at zero address, unless the AmigaOS MMU setup is still active,
and then it's only virtual.

DraCo memory starts at 0x4000 0000, 0x4200 0000, 0x4400 0000, 0x4600 0000,
with at least 4 MB in the first slot, and not more than 32 MB in each slot.

The AmigaOS MMU table is somewhere in the first 2 MB.

A full 128 MB DraCo looks like this with NetBSD:

memory segment 0 at 40000000 size 00200000
memory segment 1 at 40200000 size 07e00000