Sqyrrel And ST-Effi for the Atari ST
When you've paid out hard cash for the hardware, it's good to find out that the software comes free. Ian Waugh examines some PD software which supports Yamaha's FX500 and QY10.
The first thing you have to get right is the name. It's not quite "squirrel", although there is such an arboreal sciurine rodent on the loading screen. Probably something to do with the letters QY in it. But names apart, the best thing about Sqyrrel is that it's free.
The next best thing about Sqyrrel is that it's a Bank Loader/Manager for Yamaha's QY10 (reviewed MT, May '91) which runs on the Atari ST. Briefly, the QY10 is a video cassette-sized workstation - dubbed the Walkstation - which contains 30 sounds, a 26-piece drum kit, 76 preset accompaniment patterns and an eight-track sequencer. It is 28-note polyphonic and eight-part multitimbral and even sports a mini keyboard.
The QY10 was also one of Yamaha's surprise hits of '91 (so much so that they underrated its appeal and under-ordered) and at a RRP of £249 it has sold very well indeed, thank you. It has a good MIDI spec and I'm sure many owners have been using it with a sequencer.
Sqyrrel has only one main screen and this shows three banks of 24 patterns labelled A, B and C. You can transfer these between the program, a disk and the QY10 and five new banks of patterns are supplied. Operations such as copying and swapping patterns between banks, copying one bank to another, printing a bank, clearing a bank and sorting banks alphabetically are all supported.
Below the three bank windows are three song windows, each holding eight songs which you can copy between song banks, sort, print and clear. An Inspect function shows which patterns in a bank have been used by a song.
A memory gauge shows how much memory each bank of patterns uses. You can store more than 100% in Sqyrrel but, of course, the QY10 won't take them all.
Sqyrrel comes with no instructions, not even a read me file, and, in fact, the program has been carefully designed so that you can use it without any. It does have extensive on-screen help and no QY10 user should have any problems with operation at all.
Sqyrrel isn't Gem-based but operation is very graphic. You can perform all functions with the mouse and there are alternate keypresses for keyboard buffs. Particularly cute is the Undo button whose function is intriguingly labelled "Panic! My Boss is coming!", and which punches up a mock spreadsheet on the screen.
What else is there to say? If you have a QY10 you'll find Sqyrrel a very useful utility - especially for free.
As Sqyrrel is to the QY10, ST-Effi is to Yamaha's FX900 digital effects unit. Well, as far as management facilities go, anyway. The FX900 can hold 100 effect settings in memory and the program has two banks, each capable of holding 100 settings. These can be transferred between the ST, a disk and the FX900 and there are copy and swap functions which work along similar lines to those in Sqyrrel.
There is a small notepad included in the program - which is useful for listing the uses you've put the effects to. You may think you'll remember what Squidgidooglum was used for - but you soon forget. You can even doodle here with the mouse but it's no drawing program.
The FX900's MIDI control channel can be set and the memory area to which individual effects are sent stipulated - you don't have to transfer them a complete bank at a time. You can also set the program change number which will be used for that memory area.
There is no info/help screen - as in Sqyrrel - but there are lots of pop-up help boxes. An FX900 owner should have no trouble using the program and there are keyboard shortcuts for most functions.
The two programs come on the same double-sided disk and will run on any ST although you'll require a hi-res monitor. They were commissioned by Yamaha Europe and made public domain which means they are free. Catches? None! Yamaha will even send you the disk in a nifty carry box while stocks last. In any event, you should be able to pick the disk up from any good PD library.
I suppose the main criticism is that the programs can't run as desk accessories which is, ideally, how all voice managers should operate. On reflection it seems a little short-sighted of the programmer but then, how can you complain when they're free? Parameter edit functions? Well, let's not be greedy, either.
Full marks to Yamaha for this bit of free product support. Wouldn't it be wonderful if all manufacturers supplied free managers with their hardware? And if ice cream was free in the summer? And if Escape to Victory was never shown on TV again? And if...
QY10 and FX900 owners, to get your free disk contact Yamaha's hi-tech Professional Music Division.
More from Yamaha Kemble Music (UK) Ltd, (Contact Details).
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Review by Ian Waugh