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Alive 3

                           Francois Galea aka
                          Zerkman of Sector One

What ? CD writing on an Atari ? That's just about as impossible as surfing
the web with an Atari and a good reason to buy a PC for.

Totally wrong.

Okay, yes, you might answer, maybe possible, but  the software, CDRecorder Pro,
is so extremely expensive. Wrong again since you don't need CDRecorder Pro. Not
to mention that Anodyne  Software just  updated their CDWriter  Suite, there is
also CDLab from  Sector One and  even though it  can currently only copy CDs,
it's a fantastic package for very little money.

So what do you need to copy CDs using an Atari ?

First, you need an Atari with a SCSI-hostadapter, a CD-Writer, a harddisk  with
about 800 MB free space and  if you  want  it more  comfortably, an  additional
CD-ROM. Furthermore, you need a SCSI-driver  which supports a kind of a generic
SCSI instruction  set. HDDriver does  that, HuSHI, AHDI and  some others don't.
CBHD does that as well which is free but not unproblematic. Then you need CDLab
which is shareware. It is fully functional without registering but it will only
allow 1x speed writing in  unregistered mode, and registering  seems to cost as
little as 25.- DM.

So what can CDLab do ? CDLab basically consists of 3 functions:
- CD copying
- CD-RW blanking
- TOC reading

CD Copying.
Pretty easy to  understand. You can select to  copy directly  from CD-ROM to
CD-Writer, use a temporary DAO (Disk-At-Once)-file which contains the CD-ROM
data (the only way to do it if you only  have a CD-Writer) or do a simulated
write which  can be  handy  sometimes  as it  might spare  you a few  ruined

CD-RW blanking
If your CD-Recorder is  capable  of handling  CD-ReWritables (CD-RW), you  can
empty a CD-RW using CDLab. This can be done quickly (basically only delete the
table of contents) or the hard way (delete every track).

TOC reading
TOC stands for table of content and if you have a CD with more than one track,
this might come in  handy as CDLab allows  to extract  Audio-data from CDs in
various  formats  by  reading  the  TOC and  extract  the  appropriate  track

Now copying a CD means handling a lot of data. A CD-ROM usually contains 650 MB
of data and for systems like the Atari ST, TT or Falcon this  quite a lot. Even
worse, if  you  have a  quick  CD-Writer  and  want  to copy  CDs as quickly as
possible your beloved Atari needs to handle A LOT of data in a very SHORT time.
In other words, an  Atari  520  ST  will not  copy a  CD in 4x speed. And  most
probably not  in 2x  either. Single speed  means  about 170KB/sec, which  might
appear little by today's standards, but it is a  lot for an Atari computer. And
writing to a CD-R does not only mean to  bring this data from the memory to the
CD-Writer but also to  get it  into the  computer from  either a CD-ROM or your
harddisk, so double the amount of data that needs to  be transferred to write a
CD in single speed.

In other words: A Falcon or a TT would be a lot better for using a CD-Writer on
an Atari. And even those are a bit slowish when it  comes to transferring data.
The older TTs achieve  roughly 2.5 MB/sec  over  their SCSI-bus, the newer ones
rather 2.2 MB/sec  to 2.3 MB/sec. This  is almost sufficient  for 4x speed (720
KB/sec) since the computer also needs to actively  control the CD-Writer. It is
possible to use a CD-Writer in 4x speed on a TT, but it definetly is the limit.
2x is the safer option for sure.

Same goes for the Falcon which has a relatively slow SCSI-system anyway. On an
untuned Falcon, the SCSI-Bus does  about 1.5 MB/sec, not really  enough for 4x
but pretty good for 2x. If you have an accelerated Falcon and a SCSI-harddisk,
unfortunately, this won't help much since the  SCSI-Bus of the Falcon does not
benefit from accelerated  busspeed, the pipe inside  the SCSI is the limit. If
you, however, can use an IDE-harddisk as  temporary space and if your IDE-disk
can copy with a bus-accelerator, you've just  won the lottery : 2.5 MB/sec and
more is easily possible then, enough to drive a CD-Writer in 4x with excellent

On the Atari ST/STE it looks a lot  duller of course. Forget the  original Mega
STE hostadapter and get a Link'97 for maximum  reliability. You should also not
forget that the more memory your  Atari has, the  bigger the buffer for data in
RAM is and the easier it gets for CDLab to compensate flaws in the data-stream.
A 1 MB Atari ST has to  completely fill and  empty its RAM  650 times to fill a
CD, a 4MB one only 167.5 times, not counting the memory CDLab needs for itself.
In other words, if you want to copy CDs on your trusty old ST, at least make it
a high-end Atari  ST. But writing  in 1x speed should  basically be possible on
almost any Atari ST.

Well, writing a  CD in  4x speed  doesn't  sound  very  hot nowadays  anymore.
However, copying a CD in 4x speed, even  with temporary file  on the harddisk,
takes roughly 40 minutes. Writing in 8x might spare you some minutes, but with
an interim-file it will still be roughly around half an hour.

(4x - best case 18,5 minutes without opening and fixating
 8x - best case  9.3 minutes without opening and fixating, however
      opening and fixating is about equal in speed on both)

So unless you don't want to copy masses of CDs, I guess 4x is a decent speed
indeed and absolutely sufficient.

And how  about CDLab ? Well, it does  its job  very well. The user interface is
excellent and easy to understand, it has online-help as well as bubble-help, it
has self-explanatory dialogues, shortcuts and it's 100 % reliable. It has never
crashed on me and on the Falcon, I only wasted 2 CD-writeables so far by trying
to copy  protected  CDs. Not to mention  that CDLab  copies  really  a lot. And
handles a lot of CD-Recorders, too.

Well, one disadvantage  remains - CDLab  only copies  CDs so far. It  is not
capable of mastering a CD like CDWriter Suite from Anodyne or CDRecorder Pro
from Soundpool can do.

But, it's  a shareware  program  and  it is still being  developed. It can  put
Image-files of CDs nicely to disk so  what is needed  now is a  program to turn
files you want to have on CD to a CD-image. And this is exactly what Zerkman is
working on right now. So far it is not finished yet, but i personally think the
worst part is done since the actual CD-Writing routines are already there.

So if CD-Writing or copying crossed your mind and you were jealously looking at
your friend's PC or Macintosh - don't look no more. CDLab  had a terrific start
as a CD-copy program, I'm sure it  will have a  terrific future as CD-Mastering

The Paranoid

Alive 3