How to achieve something what everyone wants ?

Started by Petari, 23-02-2023, 10:07:37

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We can agree in that everyone wants to be able to access, DL good old Atari ST family SW (what is in reality now practically freeware, called abandonware on some sites (which hold floppy images for DL) in form(at) good for today and tomorrow usage or just for trying it, see what kind of SW was on market, popular in 80-es, early 90-es of 20th C.
All we can agree that most important is to have flawless images, without errors, corrupted parts. And that is so now, with about 99% of what is online. What is bad is that there are some titles, known for not having any good images of them available, and no progress over 10 years. While I saw some of them offered in E-bay as original (usually never opened box) releases. Well, not surprising in World where most is interested for money in first place. Worse is that those who bought it, and if did that must be some retro people did not care to share image(s) of that SW . And why it is so bad ? They paid for it, so have it legally. Yep, but decades passed and it may happen(ed) that floppy from earlier not opened box is just not good anymore - data errors. Or it will be in not so far future. So, keeping it only for self they actually not preserve it. Preservation, sharing - work best together - well in case of not factually copyrighted SW.
Here to add that this years are last years of floppies from 80-es. Surely will be not usable sooner or later, but not so much later.

And here is the main question here: how to motivate people to do images, share them - what means sending them to some host. Well, it actually worked pretty well with some sites. Indeed atarimania is what hosts most of images, and myself sent there some.  Sadly, it is not really active at moment (thread about it on this forum) .
Very important too: instructions about how to make good images. That part is not so good - for instance man behind Pasti (STX) format was and is very 'sparsome' with instructions and description of his SW.
In latest 10-15 years some more detailed formats appeared, partially because Pasti is not good format for writing it back to floppies.  And there is people who claims that only really good way to play old Atari games is to use original floppies, or if that's not available faithful copies of them, still on real HW - so using floppy drive(s) . So, we have Kryoflux and SPC imaging devices and their formats. Will not go in details, just to say that image sizes are pretty large - in range of 50 MB for 1 disk. Not problem with today storage. Some made SW for checking, converting them. And of course, such images are needed because of diverse copy protections, special floppy formats not supported by usual ST, MSA formats.
Later emulator versions support their formats too. There are dedicated hosts with plenty of such images.

Well, people is different, and we are at something where is disagreement:  what way of running old SW, especially games is best today ?

1. Those who want to run it from original (or their exact copies) floppies, on real Atari HW .
Well, that actually means some extra investment(s) - device for writing such images. Floppy drive(s) in good shape. Floppy disks in good shape.  And latest 2 are just in extinction phase. Nobody manufactures them, so it is about how long they will last.
Personally I don't like this way, liked not it even 30 years ago. For instance I did not play Microprose F1 GP from 4 original floppies (or their copies - and it was not copy protected, but 'manual protected') just to avoid frequent floppy swaps. So, I placed all it on 1 HD floppy, using little packing, deactivated that manual protection - and it was almost like playing it from hard disk. It was in 1992.
Little later I had hard disk with my Atari ST, and that wanted to place games on it - what went in few cases easy, in some harder ...

2. Still using floppy drives and real HW, but using so called 'cracks' . Actually, it was very spread way in 80-es, early 90-es. I guess especially among younger people - because lack of money. Even price of new floppies was important factor. That resulted in so called 'menu disks' - where crackers placed as many possible games using diverse packing methods.  What they not mentioning is that it was not free in most cases - those illegal copies were sold for money in most cases. Of course, after that it was copied between friends for free. I was even intercepted by one pirate seller in middle of Computer Consumer Show in London,  1988 September - after seeing that I bought one original game he followed me to less opened area, and opened his jacket, full of floppies :-) 
This way is still easy, and there are many sites offering ST, MSA images without charge - but may be some adverts in all that process.
Downsides: there are errors in some cracks, slow game start, loading new levels (slow depacking is usual cause) and what I really hate: all those 'we are the best, f* the rest' type messages. Then diverse fancy intros, sometimes just too long, and not really helping in disk space usage. But they needed to show how good programmers they are.   This part is just not 'compatible' with true preservation. We want original, not pirate bragging, changed texts in middle of game, or even changed pictures, backgrounds.

3. Running games from hard disk (now rather Flash card) :
This was possible even in 1985, but of course hard disks where then exotic and expensive things, only few people had them with Atari ST . It changed gradually, so there was demand for it, especially after 2000.
Now, this is really complex thing, and I will not repeat here what I wrote in 'new game adaptations' thread here.
Just in short:  benefits: faster loading times, no need for floppy swaps. In later years: much more reliable that using floppies, and also much cheaper.
But it needs process of 'converting' floppy versions to files usable with hard disk. Not easy, and only max 10 people, crews dealt with it. Can say that Superior (crew) was first doing it seriously, with bigger count of games. For hard disks of those years (there is limitation of max 32 MB partitions in it).
As last, at least at moment I can call self, although there is someone who joined, so new releases are expectable after I abandon it). Last in meaning that I have site where new adaptations still appear.
Why calling it adaptations - see mentioned thread on this forum.
Other possible benefits: easy exit to Desktop from game, in same DIR where it was started. State saves - really helpful for harder, complexer games.
Other extra features, benefits: TOS version compatibility problems solved. There are even regional restriction problems solved, and it would be in more games if users took little effort and reporting problem.  Distribution/sharing of many games in 1 file possible. That resolves hard disk driver problem too.

4. SW emulators. Since latest years of 20th C. Atari ST emulation on PCs exist. And as computing power increases better emulators appeared. What is really compatible and good for running Atari ST SW is:  Steem and Hatari. And they are still developed (well now called Steem SSE) . It is surely cheapest way, and probably most using it - even if they are not so active at forums. Diverse floppy formats are emulated too.
Hard disk usage too, although it is limited, outdated by some versions.

5. HW emulators. Yeah, those FPGA devices. And of course Atari ST(E) (still no Falcon, TT emul. as I know) is emulated too. I know about Shushka, MIST, MiSTer . They use mostly freeware, open source code.
Surely it is what has future for those wanting not running via SW emulator, and prices are not so big. Plus can emulate plenty of old computers, consoles.
There are still some smaller errors in ST(E) emulation (MiSTer) , and I'm sure that by time all it will be solved. Just about time when latest real, original Atari STs will extinct  :)
Good side of HW emulators is that no floppy drive with them (needed) - although I'm sure that there are some who would like it :-)  Support for diverse image formats is still limited, but time is big power ...

How to achieve preservation good for all listed user/usage way categories ?  In next post here ...


So, someone wants to DL some specific game, and asks about where, what release is best to DL - on some forum for instance.
What comes usually, and it is sad part: will get answer from some old pirate, who of course recommends his 'crack' . Or some fanboy(s) of some pirate/cracker crew. Similar is with so called hard disk 'patches' - my/our is the best ! While same ones called my error report about Potsworth and Co. floppy crack release, on their forum 'trolling' - yeah, really sad how low some can sink. What about fixing it instead being arrogant ?
Nope. On forums arrogance is allowed. For some.
All in all it is just that recommendations are extremely subjective, pushing only own stuff, own sites and like. 
What people/users need is objective and detailed info about Atari SW, games.
Instead 'our is best' give them important details:  HW requirements - on what machines work, what is min RAM .  Then TOS version compatibility - there is lot of it not working on some TOS version(s) . And there are regional restrictions too.
And something very important: SW test results. What in case of some game should be about is it playable thoroughly without errors. Sure, that may need plenty of time, loving that game, and like.
And here we are at why cooperation, sharing task of testing is needed. That's the only way to cover about 4000 titles - as much I guess that exists for Atari ST family.
For instance I released hard disk adapt of Son Shu Shi, based on only available crack. I tested only first level. After few weeks someone wrote me about problems on second level - and I traced it, and the cause is corrupted game data in some section(s). So, should find other source. Nope - there are other releases of it by diverse crews, but all are based on same source - corrupted one. Well, instead testing, playing they added their usual blah - so useful  >:(
And I did what could - added text about bad data in game source, appeal to dig out original, so we will have this fine game complete ...  No progress in over 10 years.



  And talking more about 'no progress in later years' : forums should give some help in preservation, where to get,  how to play, set up computer/emulator, etc ...
  But what we can see is: lot of posts from newcomers, with very basic questions. And answers are not much better.
It is more important to be 'polite' instead to say to someone that is wrong. Example (there is thread here about that post at AF): thread starter called U.L.S 'Unlimited System'  ;D  . I really can not imagine how it came out.
Nobody corrected it in that thread, actually there are only couple replies, and that's actually good - because they are totally worthless.
  Things are just so low now that I can not get over it. Well, not only in Atari forums, forums. Whole situation on Planet is very bad, because leading specie is on totally wrong path in last decades. As one of main reasons I see lack of clear, opened talk. Then mentality which prefer to 'win' over other people, other nations and like. For instance for some is most important to 'win' in some talk, discussion. While knowing things well, not making logical and other mistakes is what everyone should go for. Nope, coming with diverse good sounding arguments is what goes in most cases. Like 'current war causes this inflation' - said my some leaders. So, how to expect that ordinary people will act better ? This inflation started before this war. And what caused war ? Earthquake or people ? What caused D-Bug to abandon their 'game patching' - similar bullshit as with inflation - they blame something really not possible to cause it - me, "because I stole ULS code and use it in my game 'patches' " .
Why should be that reason to abandon it ? They are team, I'm alone, so they could do more of it than me ...
 In other thread I wrote about how ULS is not universal. Yeah, just another case of big words, not covering facts. Like in commercials, article names - they say Climate control device for in fact air cooling device - that's what most people has in their homes. Climate control device does 2 things more: air refreshing (with filtering incoming air) and air humidity regulation too. Or they call LED TV TVs with LCD displays, because there is LED background light in them. That's actually intentional misleading. Because there are real LED TVs on market in last 10 years, and they cost still much more. Aim is to give to potential buyer impression how super, latest technology it is, and most of buyers just have no sufficient knowledge about all it. Well, similar with Atari forums - and stays for both sides - question givers and answer givers - just like in shops - sellers have very low knowledge too . But in World controlled by ... it is OK. Knowledge will not increase sales. Let's watch superpower movies, and everyone will be happy, and see way out from this misery  ;D
There is way out, but it is not easy. First step would be to realize what is more important in life - power over others or good, fair relations with others. As I remember we are humans, not gorillas.