By Colin Fisher-McAllum

"The Ultimate Floppy Disk Copy Tool"


E-Copy is another German product translated into English and distributed in the UK by System Solutions. Packed in the usual A5 plastic wallet is a DD disk and manual. The first thing that struck me was the wire bound manual [Did it hurt? - FFF]. My preference is for loose leaf manuals of this kind as they stay flat when open on the desk. I hope this is the new style for all System Solutions product manuals. As you would expect the manual is clear and well laid out. There is even a 2 page chapter on "Disk Theory" that is an interesting and informative read.

Following the installation procedure as printed in the manual, I was surprised to see the installation had failed. You are asked to enter the serial number from the disk and then, "A keycode, which you have to invent, this is a private and personal code"... BUZZZ Wrong! As well as the serial number on the disk is the word "Schluessel" followed by... you guessed it, the keycode. Installation complete.

Strangely enough, E-Copy is a disk copying utility. It can run as a program or accessory and the manual says it's multi-tasking friendly, but more of this later. The main interface has most of what you need to action on view, the rest is tucked away in the drop down menus. Top left is the area for selecting Source and Destination. Top right is the dialog for manually setting the the destination disk parameters. Across the middle are eight buttons with pre-definable disk format settings. Below this are the Copy and Format options. Finally at the bottom are the six main action buttons - Copy, Format, Read, Transcopy, Clear disk and Quit. The interface is very pretty and functional. There are keyboard shortcuts for most actions.

Let's go for a little stroll through some of these options. Source and Destination are the obvious 'A' & 'B', but below each is a Steprate option. This like many of E-Copy's functions are best left to the default settings unless you know what you are doing. That said, the steprate is the time in milliseconds the read/write head is moved from one track to the next.


The main display

We have all come across the Manual Disk Parameter settings before in PD programs like Fastcopy 3. By increasing the number of Sectors and Tracks on a disk we can squeeze every last extra byte of storage space from a floppy. Clicking on one of the preset format buttons you will see the disk parameter settings change to indicate the relevant number of sectors and tracks. It is a shame E-Copy does not display the bytes each of these settings would create. Right clicking on one of the default format buttons brings up a dialog where you can edit the button to your own requirements.

When copying a disk it is possible to get E-Copy to check the destination disk and only format if it is needed. This is a good time saver. The option is actually a "Tri-state-button" - on, off and inbetween. If used in conjunction with the Get Disktype option the destination disk will be formatted to the same settings as the source disk. If a standard sector size is selected [9, 15, 18 or 36] you can use the Fast Format option to speed up the formatting of unformatted disks. Multiple Jobs is useful if you have a number of disks to work on. This is not just a multiple copy option, it is also for writing, formatting and disk clearing. You will be prompted to enter the next disk when required. When copying, if the source disk is too large to fit into memory, E-Copy will read and then write the first portion of the disk to as many disks as your require. Pressing Read On will read the next portion of the source disk ready to copy to you disks. You can set up a GEMDOS hard drive partition as a buffer where data is written as a file during a copy action. This is useful if you have little free RAM. To protect against writing over valuable data there is an Analyse option. If enabled, before any destructive process [format, write or clear disk], E-Copy will scan the disk for data. If present you can, if you wish, take a look at the data before continuing.

If you have a DD disk of data that you want to copy to a HD disk, you can use the Transcopy option. This reads the used sectors of the source disk into memory where the calculations are made to compensate for the new boot sector and FAT directory size before writing the data to the new disk. This is not just for copying from one density disk to another, it is useful for disks of the same density that have differing formats.

A quick way to delete data from a disk is to erase its FAT. The Clear Disk option does this and it's much faster than deleting the files or re-formatting the disk. Basically you are just removing the information that tells your computer where the data is contained on the disk, not the data itself. Therefore when you write to the disk you will overwrite the original data.

During all functions a window containing an action bar is displayed to let you know how things are progressing. If at any time E-Copy comes upon an error - a bad sector for example - you will be warned, and depending on the task you are carrying out be allowed to take the appropriate action.


E-Copy Action Bar

Using the Read option you can read the contents of a disk into a buffer ready for copying. At this stage it's no different to using the Copy option. However once the data is in memory you can get E-Copy to create and save a 'DiskIMmage' file. This is a powerful feature for if the image is saved to a hard disk you can keep a .dim library of all the disks you most need to copy. Depending on the TOS version you have, you could launch E-Copy by drag-and-dropping an image file, or install E-Copy as an application to run when you double click on a .dim file.

At this stage I think a little tip may be useful. During my usual system backup I found that Diamond Back 3, if used in compression mode, doesn't like the .dim files and upon finding one causes a system crash. This can be very frustrating if it happens towards the end of backing up a 500Mb partition! I suggest you configure DB3 to not compress files with the .dim extension.

The Boot Sector area is well covered with the ability to write an anti-virus to your disks. E-Copy will also check each disk you put in your drive for 15 of the most common viruses. Saving and loading of boot sectors is also available.

So there we have had a little stroll through some of the easy and useful functions of E-Copy. What I haven't mentioned yet is that it can cope with, if your drive is suitable, Extra High Density [ED] disks. Also I have not gone into the User Defined Formats, but as much of it was way above my head [an ordinary user] I thought it best not to try. Suffice to say you can set the Interleave Factor, Spiral Factor and Gap Size giving you real control over the final disk format. All are well described in the manual.

Running E-Copy as an accessory on a single-tasking system you cannot run or quit other applications. You can however load an application like Papyrus and continue to write your masterpiece [or E-Copy review, like I am doing now] while the accessory is creating multiple copies of a disk in the background. All works well - the screen updates are a tad behind my non-professional typing speed but it is not obtrusive. From time to time you are prompted to insert the next disk. I even managed to save this document to my hard drive while the floppy was being written. Excellent!

No matter what settings I tried with E-Copy, I could not get the background copying to work under MagiC 4. Both the manual and System Solutions tell me there should be no problem. Given the 93% rating in issue 84 of ST Format, I must assume it is indeed possible. I asked my Co-AtariPhile, Kevin Beardsworth, to try on his system... he too failed to get E-Copy to work. My advice is, when you place an order, you ask System Solutions to confirm that E-Copy will work in the background under MagiC 4. Because if it does it would truly make E-Copy a must have utility for anyone who regularly processes floppy disks.

Using the 'Starter' utility that come as part of the Window Commander package you can get E-Copy to be automatically launched and run a job. It's well worth writing the simple script that is needed for each job you regularly have to carry out.

If the background function worked for me under MagiC 4 this would have been an unqualified glowing endorsement of a very fine and professionally produced product that was well worth the price.

Contact:System Solutions on 01753 832212


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