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Amiga Notes

Article from Sound On Sound, August 1992

Whether you're upgrading to the Amiga, passing a masterpiece to a friend, or perhaps planning a trip to your local studio, the ability to transfer MIDI files from one machine to another can be a vital skill. Once mastered, this particular talent can save both time and money, while allowing your creations to benefit fully from the additional hardware that quality studios can often provide.

In most cases it's unlikely you'll find an Amiga at the heart of your local 24-track. On the whole, professional musos tend to display severe Luddite tendencies — which obviously makes the ST a compelling purchase, and often means that this rather doddering and somewhat senile piece of silicon is frequently press-ganged into use to run the resident sequencer.

This being the case, if you've been wise enough to complete your masterpiece prior to booking studio time, you'll need to store your sequence on disk in such a way that the studio's computer can use it. Although it can seem a little unnatural to hear your creations driven by a PC, ST or Mac, it's often the most effective method of squeezing the very best from any studio session. The engineer invariably knows his or her studio, sequencer, and signal processing set-up backwards, and as a result can often apply effects and speed up the creative process immensely from the comfort of a familiar environment — which unfortunately is rarely that of the Amiga.


Let's assume that all the transfers will be from the Amiga to a destination machine. However, it's worth bearing in mind that all the processes mentioned work equally well in both directions. This is obviously of massive importance to any potential upgrader. If you have a selection of trapped MIDI files languishing on an ageing PC, ST or Mac, or on floppies from those machines, rest assured that their liberation is relatively simple.


The key to file transfer between this pair is their common ability to handle PC disks. The ST has this option as standard whilst the Amiga won't officially become PC disk compatible until Workbench 2.1 becomes available in the autumn. Having said that, the Public Domain has been fit to burst with numerous Amiga to PC conversion utilities for years. If you simply can't wait for the release of WB 2.1 with its built in CrossDOS option, the perfect alternative would be to invest in a shareware utility entitled MultiDOS.

MultiDOS is one of the latest and arguably the best conversion utilities around, being both simple to operate and easy to install. Once the PC device is mounted, your machine instantly becomes capable of formatting, reading, and writing standard 720k MS-DOS disks, and when the conversion process is complete all the active MS-DOS volumes can be unmounted with one single command, without having to re-boot the machine.

Once the PC device is mounted it becomes a valid Amiga-DOS volume and can be recognised by standard directory management utilities such as Sid, Opus, TDM, and so on. As a result, even newcomers can move and copy files with complete confidence, avoiding the occasionally complex syntax of the CLI or Shell.

When your files have been copied to the PC disk, you can insert the disk in the ST's disk drive and load the file(s) directly into a sequencer. The only restriction is that the disks used must be formatted on either an Amiga or PC. For some reason, although STs can read PC disks they do not format them correctly, and as a result it's best to format a disk yourself to avoid potential disasters later on.

If you're interested in obtaining a copy of MultiDOS, it's been given away in the August issue of Amiga Computing Magazine and should also be widely available though all the major PD libraries.


Amiga to Mac conversion isn't quite as popular as Amiga to ST, but on occasion it can be a vital, if perhaps a little more complex and potentially expensive, exercise. There are two basic methods of making the change. For those on a budget, or perhaps those who only require occasional use of the conversion process, the Mac's standard Apple File Exchange utility is the perfect answer.

Like the ST, the Mac cannot recognise Amiga disks directly, but it can read MS-DOS disks via Apple File Exchange. As a result, MultiDOS once again comes into its own. When your files are safely stored on a PC disk they can be imported directly to a Mac and read via Apple File Exchange for subsequent translation into the Mac's own file format.

If you're a multimedia type who needs to move large amounts of data, such as image files, along with MIDI information, the rather lengthy Apple File Exchange process can be a touch painful. The alternative is to employ direct file conversion with the assistance of additional software and hardware such as Mac-2-Dos (Silica Shop, (Contact Details)) and the soon to be released Sybil (Blitsoft, (Contact Details)).

The first of the two takes the form of a file manager and accompanying Amiga to Mac dongle which allows direct connection to an external Mac disk drive. Of course, this means expenditure for both the Mac-2-Dos system and the additional Mac drive. If you're willing to wait a few more weeks, Blitsoft will soon be offering an American import entitled Sybil, which will format, read, and write Mac format disks via standard Amiga drives, thanks again to an additional dongle.

The obvious attraction of Sybil is the saving on the cost of an external Mac drive; with the dongle and software combination coming in at around the £70 mark, it's much cheaper than the Mac-2-Dos system.

Well, I hope this quick lesson in communication will come in handy. Next month we'll return with a look at the very latest direct to disk hardware releases, plus an update on the new Amigas waiting in the wings.

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Publisher: Sound On Sound - SOS Publications Ltd.
The contents of this magazine are re-published here with the kind permission of SOS Publications Ltd.

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Sound On Sound - Aug 1992



Feature by Paul Austin

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