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Alive 4
            Chosneck Issue 1

And here we are at last, the first issue of the long awaited Chosneck Falcon
diskmag,  from the rather silent Mystic Bytes,  has landed, and hit people's
hard  drives,  with  a  resounding thump,  or six resounding thumps,  if you
choose to count up the individual floppy disks involved in transporting this
from Nicky's erratic but occasionally amusing WinBox, to my Falcy tribe back
home. Was it worth all that waiting for?

About  a  year  ago,  Grey  had this idea to spice up  a  forthcoming  music
compilation, by bolting on a preview version of his new diskmag. What was to
become  'Chosneck',  or Garlic,  was first seen as an add-on to the "Edge of 
the Abyss" music compilation.  I remember it very well, being roped in for a
large  part  of  the pre-preparation,  even sneak previewing a  lot  of  the
articles,  as the spelling and grammar checker.  When 'Abyss' appeared,  the
Chosneck  part was clearly half-complete,  but even then there were  several
fascinating  ideas in the prototype stage.  Such as use of a high resolution
menu shell and equally high resolution screengrabs and pictures in the  main
part of the shell.

Another interesting departure,  not seen for some years since the last issue
of the DBA/Fun magazine, was that Chosneck was a Falcon only production. And
one new feature,  not seen anywhere before,  meant that it would only run on
the 14 megabyte 'Fat RAM' Falcons.  This attracted some initial condemnation
from die-hard 4 meg traditionalists, and at last year's Error in Line party,
quite a bit of sneaky cheap memory upgrading in order to see what they  were
missing!  'Abyss'  may  have done the Atari scene a big favour,  by  finally
taking  the  steam out of the "Four meg good,  fourteen meg bad!"  arguments
that pointlessly raged on the Dead Hackers BBS for months beforehand. Mystic
Bytes,  for  that simple service alone,  our deepest gratitude flies in your 

Now,  some months after the first proper issue was due, I remember that last
summer was suggested as a likely release date? It finally arrives.

First  impressions are of a bulky file download from the internet.  In fact,
we are talking a similar file size to the original Abyss music  compilation.
This  is  around  7  megabytes(!) So what do  we  get  for  this  prodigious
straining on the part of our modems?

After  splitting  the original download,  copying it to disks,  loading them
onto  a  waiting  Falcon,  and rejoining the archive,  we are ready  to  go.
Clicking  on the first likely clickable proggy thingy brings up a  nice  GEM
option  menu at the beginning.  This gives you settings for screen type  and
hertz options,  music replay khz rates, the option to run it with or without
the demo intro supplied by Remo,  and a nice warm feeling that this is going
to be a more professional and well thought out experience than average!

Of course,  this first time out, we select to run with the intro.  This is a
good  effort by GFA Basic and Falcon loving EIL newcomer Remo,  of  Coffeine 
demo  fame.  In  this  production,  you get to see a twirling of  3-D  voxel
landscaping. This comes across as slightly sluggish on a standard Falcy, but
it runs perfectly well,  and quite quickly on accelerated machines,  in this
case,  the  CT2  Falcon.  There is a neat transparent swirly tunnel  effect,
which  shows  off the credits receding into the far distance,  and  a  final
message from Grey, confirming his new marital status!

Swiftly  into  the main part now.  This continues the overall look and  feel
from the preview issue. So you get a high resolution menu shell. The menu is
located  on the left hand side of the screen,  with a lovely high resolution
'Chosneck'  logo occupying the remaining two-thirds to the right hand  side.
Accessing  the eight menu categories uses a point and click web  page  style
system.  Whilst  waiting  for one of the sub-menu's,  or an article to load,
more eye-candy, in the form of a lovely rendered 'Please Wait' screen floats
in  front of you.  Possibly the smoothest onscreen cappuchino ever to  grace
our Falcons?

The other menu controls are pretty simplistic. There is the 'Undo' key to go
back  at  any point.  There seems to be no back links this time around?  But
they were barely visible before,  to be fair. There is also the 'Escape' key
to quit the mag altogether.  We also get some music changing controls at the
bottom of the menu part of the screen. The high resolution looks better on a
VGA screen, but is okay on RGB too. The text font for articles is a lot more
readable than before,  a criticism of the preview issue which must have been
the  first  thing  to be put right!  There may be a problem  with  some  RGB
screens,  especially  TV's,  as  the overscan text displayer fills the whole
screen up.  In those cases,  you tend to lose a small part of the text.  The
text  displayer  uses  a  white font over a  textured  background.  This  is
reminiscent of the system used in the Falcon editions of the DBA mag (issues
11-14.)  The other 'surprise' is that you can click on underlined  words  or
titles  in  the  text  to get to the  screengrabs  and  piccies.  These  are
generally  high resolution too,  and must account for a large proportion  of
the 7 megabytes used?

There  aren't that many options for the text displayer.  You can scroll down
using the mouse pointer,  or a step at a time with the arrow keys.  There is
no  text  colouring,  linking system,  word search, line search or any other
options.  On  the other hand,  there is a much more generous display area or
text window than is usual.

It  tends  to be sluggish on standard machines,  so any extra speed you  can
throw  at  it  is helpful.  The displayer seems to keep nothing  at  all  in
memory,  so  it has to reload each and every screen,  even the main and sub-
menus.  Chosneck does respond well on an accelerated Falcy, so maybe this is
the  first CT2 diskmag?  It seems to unpack from within a zipfile used as  a
linkfile,  which  is interesting.  Maybe this is the most efficient means of
storage?  It just means a compromise on the overall speed. There is a choice
of  modfile  music,  with  a  couple of good modfiles from the  not  so  bad
composers  505  and  Seabrush.  We would assume that  many  different  music
formats,  including multi-channel ones,  are available to this shell.  There
seems to be no selector to turn the music off?

Some  people  reported  problems with earlier,  less  bugfixed  versions  of
Chosneck.  Mr  Pink  seemed  to suffer in particular?  For this review,  I'm
working from the second and final bugfixed version, and I can report that it
works fine on both my CT2 box,  and my normal Falcon.  These are running the
TOS versions 4.04 and 4.01 respectively.

Now  we  turn  to the contents.  These are divided  into  eight  distinctive
sections, accessible from a sub menu. Starting at the top, the first section
is  called  'Let  us entertain you.' This has about five  articles  in  all,
mainly  editorial  in nature and with some heartfelt  greetings  from  Grey.
There is also some readers feedback for the preview version of Chosneck here

The next section is called 'Unforgettable Gatherings'.  This concentrates on
scene  parties  and the like,  with a larger section of eleven  articles  to
choose  from.  So  we  get to read reports from the Paracon 3,  with  Oliver 
'Paranoid' Heun talking from the organisers viewpoint.  There is quite a bit
of  material from the world famous Error in Line Part 2,  which is nearly  a
year ago now, but only seems like yesterday!  We get reports from Felice and
Saulot,  each  offering their own viewpoints on the matter.  There is also a
realtime  diary of the event written as it happened by various people,  some
drunker  than  others!  Other  EIL related texts,  include  a  dispassionate
comparison  between  the first and second parties by someone not  a  million
miles removed from the writing of this textfile.  There are even more greets
from  Grey.  We  also  get  to see some advertisments for  events  to  come.
Unfortunately,  due  to the delay in release dates,  these tend to be just a
bit  too  late  for  the events concerned.  The 3rd  Alternative  party  was
happening, when Chosneck hit the streets. The advert for the Last Party 2001
suffered  from  a technical glitch,  as it didn't load,  and the shell  quit
entirely at that point. This was the only article that did that though.

Within the EIL articles in particular,  we get to see lots of very revealing
pictures  from the event.  There are one or two of these that the author  of
this  text  would  be very happy if they got lost again!?  The  pictures  in
general  make  use  of the higher screen resolution  for  a  nice  'collage'
effect, where several images are combined into one big one.

Third  down  the main menu,  is something called 'Famous Bodies Get  Naked'.
This  is  the  interviews section,   with lots of people  spoken  to,  their
personal  and  private  bits prodded around,  and answers  given.  This  was
perceived as one of the best textual components of Chosneck,and who am I  to
disagree?  There are ten interviews in all,  with famous scene personalities
such as Winio of Cobra, Ear-X of Fun, Remo, Strider of Supremacy, Moonwalker 
of MSB,  and a 'live at EIL' intervioew with myself among others.  There are
also  a  couple  of  interviews  with the authors  of  the  STEEM  and  STew
emulators.  In  this  case,  I get the feeling that the STeem interview  was
carried out somewhat earlier than mine!?

'Scene  Community' is given over to the more speculative or polemic side  of
discussing the 'scene'.  This shows the way with nine articles.  There is an
interesting  and  intelligently written viewpoint on the use  of  extensions
such as CPU acceleration, RAM expansion, and use of the FPU within the Atari
demo  making  community by Paranoid.  Nice one Oliver!  We also get to  hear
about such novelties as recording Falcon demos in DivX format, to give those
unlucky PeeCee owners a peek,  this one written by Spiny of Torment.  We get
another  viewpoint on this by Trophy,  who supports the use of a PeeCee as a
form of very powerful 'Falcon add-on'!

'Power  without the price' starts off a demo scene history,  right back from
those early cracking and menu making days.  More to follow in future issues?
There is a revealing piece from Grey about Mad Buscher's stroppiness at  the
issue of C64 demos being shown at EIL.  There is a piece written immediately
post  EIL,  in  a  hazy  glow of happiness about the  scene  revival  called
'revised  expectations'.  We  also see some gradually gathered 'scene  news'
from  Grey.  So  we get to hear about a possible revival of the  XM  Tracker
'Growl  Tracker' on the cards.  Remo joins tSCc,  International Karate Plus,
the  classic  C64  game  is on its way at last  to  the  Atari  8-Bit?  Most
interestingly, an item going back to the latter part of May 2001 discusses a
new  Mystic  Bytes  megademo  called 'Nile',  with  a  summer  2002  release
suggested?  Better  get  going folks!  To end this bit,  there is a small but
nicely  formed  'hidden  screen  surprises in  classic  demos'  text,  which
includes a couple of well stashed away Easter eggs in some relatively recent
Polish releases.

'You  Won't Believe it' follows hard on that.  Handily subtitled 'Extracting 
Juice from Dry fruit!' This is a smaller section,  with just three articles.
These concentrate on some of the latest developments for various  8-Bitters.
Such as the appearance of 'Doom' on a Speccy.  Not one version,  but two? Or
perhaps  a  Windows-like GUI for the Atari 8-Bit.  It's not a  wind-up,  the
screen grabs are all there, you can see for yourself! Also, you can IRC with
your  Atari  XL,  if  it is linked as a linux terminal  to  something  else,
apparently. Next issue, web browsing with an Oric?!

'Letting  us Survive' is a fancy title for an advertisments section.  We see
three  in  total.  One deciding it is worthwhile to subscribe to  the  print
magazine 'ST Computer'. Another is for various hardware add-ons to the Atari
8-Bit,  and  lastly,  we  hear of a revival of a previously defunct software
producer for the 8-Bit called Sikor Soft.

'Cocktail'  means a riot of general miscellany.  This is the biggest section
of  Chosneck,  with  thirteen articles in total.  The style of the thing  is
somehow  typified with the kicker-off article,  a cooking section by Trophy,
where Fuji-shaped cookies are lovingly baked, then eaten... Mmmmm!

Alternative  gaming follows from Saulot,  this is a lengthy and enthusiastic
piece  about  fantasy roleplaying games,  and tabletop models.  A history of
computers takes a look at a book written in 1974! 'People of the Microworld'
is  a  translation  of a Polish article on the first (or  farce)  family  of
Atari,  and  is  chiefly  memorable  for the  ultimate  scary  hairy  family
portrait.  For people with weaker stomachs, and unable to face the original,
Leonard Tramiel is the one that looks most like Jeb the Hillbilly.

The  Big  Atari  Story  follows  that  excess  of  facial  hair,  with  some
interesting  personal  recollection by Trophy on how he got into  the  whole
Atari game. This article possibly contains one of the killer comments in the
mag  "I've  learnt  to  hate the communists  and  why...  They  were  colour 
stealers."  A little piece on the Lynx from Grey follows that,  and a  quick
review  of  the  album I'm listening to at the moment  whilst  writing  this
review,  'Exciter' by Depeche Mode.  Mr Byte seems to like it, and I do too,
even  to the extent of letting certain lyrics from it contaminate the 3  Alt
realtime text. (We're in the recycling ideas room, heh heh!)

A speculative "what-if" piece  about a PS2 Linux add-on kit, written by some
amazingly talented bloke, never heard of him before, is next. Then something
about  the  Atari Source Code Central Project.  If it takes off,  then never
will  demo  coders have to create so much from scratch again.  Fear  Factory
follows  with  more  music.  In  the home straight now,  and we get  to  see
Trophy's  take  on Western Culture in the computer age,  and a follow up  to
that  last article simply called 'Culture'   Finally,  there is an inverview
with  the  organiser  of the Last Party 2000,  which was a bit  of  a  lowly
attended washout. Still, he remains optimistic for the future.

'Till the Next Time',  is the final sub-menu,  and consists of just a single
article  from  Grey along the lines of "It 'ain't over until  the  fat  lady

There  is a good selection of articles,  written by a number of enthusiastic
contributors.  There are gaps in the overall coverage,  as Chosneck tends to
miss  out  on software reviews,  apart from one very brief review of  Alive!
Which  was nice.  Maybe there might be more reviews for the next time?  This
would  also reflect a wider spread of contributors,  although Grey seemed to
be  purposely  avoiding  putting  in reviews,  to  avoid  being  like  other

Bearing  in mind the time elapsed,  there could have perhaps been a few more
textfiles?  However, we hear from Grey that they were let down by the 'empty 
promises'  of  other  wannabe contributors,  who then  didn't.  That  sounds
disturbingly familiar to my ears! For a strongly pro-Falcon diskmag, running
on fat RAM Falcons, there is a surprising interest in the Atari 8-Bit scene.
This strongly reflects the Polish perspective on the scene, and it makes for
some interesting reading.  Maybe there should be more in that vein in future
issues,  say, a history of demos on the 8-Bit, showing lots of lovely screen
grabs,  and where it is all likely to head next?  This inspired me to switch
into Sinclair black box loving nostalgia mode, from a time even earlier than
these guys got going, for my part of this Alive! editorial.

There are other issues to consider.  I'm still uneasy about the overall size
of  the thing.  There is probably a good explanation as to why it has got as
big as it is,  and I'm sure Sqward and Grey are doing their best to see that
it  fits  together as tightly as possible.  But my own diskmag editor's  gut
instinct  still feels that Chosneck could go on a crash diet in relation  to
its  filesize,  and  not lose any quality from the final production?  An old
diskmag editor remembers a time when "diskmags" were so called, because they
fitted onto a disk!  Even Maggie, with the most provocation to 'go large' in
later  years  with  its over the top textual sizes,  managed to  resist  the
temptation to go hard disk only until the 10th Anniversary issue.

On  the  other hand,  no-one seems to have complained about  the  downloaded
filesize, and everyone seems to love the epic high-res grandeur, that is the
overall look and feel of Chosneck, so who am I to complain?

Another,  almost  incidental  issue,  is that Grey and company seem to  have
opted for a high-profile 'Flagship' Falcon only diskmag.  I feel that surely
there  is  scope  to reproduce the articles,  which I think are  worth  more
widely seeing, in an ST-friendly format, or licensing someone else to do so,
or maybe even setting up a web friendly version that everyone can see?

We  look forward to further issues,  and hopefully at shorter intervals than
the long wait between the preview, and this first full issue.

In our final assessment, nice issue one, Chosneck team, keep it up!

Ambitious, glossy, and professional look and feel. 
Offers a genuinely different viewpoint from the "usual" diskmag. 
There's a wide range of good articles. 
A nice selection of interesting pictorial material as well. 
Does justice to the concept of Falcon diskmags as a higher end production.

File size very large in relation to the contents? 
Menu shell and text displayer sparse on options. 
Tends to be slowish loading and formatting on standard Falcys. 
Many of the contents worth sharing with the wider Atari community, no plans 
to do this at present, which is a shame.

CiH, for Alive! Mag, Feb '02

Alive 4