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Alive 9

             ST Magazine issue 132

We see a famous French ST mag finally come into a clearer view for the  rest
of us.  This is the first english-translated issue,  which is number 132. It
is  distributed in the UK by 16-32 Systems of Jagfest fame.  The issue under
review  is  dated for Oct 2003,  and covers Atari activity going on  through
that year.

To  take  our  first physical impression of the beast,  it has  a  soft  and
slightly  glossy  cover,  and  weighs  in at 36 pages.  The impact  of  that
generous  page count is lessened slightly by it being an A5 'booklet'  size.
So  it  looks more like a very upmarket fanzine,  rather than  a  news-stand
quality  mag.  The  cover  is in full colour,  with the front end showing  a
picture  of the CT60 getting its chips out for the lads!  This gives a tasty
hint  of one of the major features in the mag,  a full review of that  hefty

Having  suitably impressed the Atari print media starved masses  with  their
extravagance  of  a coloured outer cover,  the contents settle back down  to
being  shown  in a more sedate and familiar black and white.  The  text  and
screenshots are laid out in a very similar fashion to the late and  departed
'Atari Computing' magazine, of which I have fond personal memories.

The contents can be considered thus:

We  are introduced to the first text on the inside cover,  no hanging around
with the editorial.  The thoughts of Cyril Denis,  redactor in chief,  about
the new English language edition of the mag,  are given full rein here.  His
view for any more?  Well wait and see!  Incidentally, we have to thank Bruno
Aubin  for his "Mastery of Shakespeare's idiom and playing the  guitar  like
nobody else" for our chance to review this magazine in detail.

A functional contents page next, with a list of contents, thanks, and URL's.

'In  Brief' is a procession of fast and hot headlines.  They think that  the
CT60  being  available is worth mentioning.  Also various other items  cover
things  like the Jaguar Connexion,  and version updates of various  software
perennials  such  as  Draconis,  Highwire (then at  v1.4!)  Mymail,  PMDoom,
Nethack, and more.

Stepping lightly over the single page advertisment for a French  retro-gamer
mag 'ReVival,  we come to the 'Sharewares' section next. This is a series of
brief reviews. This starts with a bit of a bollocking for all those software
authors  who don't come forward with news of new versions of their work,  in
spite of being asked to do so! Up for review, are a bunch of games and apps,
which  are  all French in origin,  and in some cases,  these have never been
seen overseas before!  For example, I'm not sure if the game 'Bouche Cousue'
will  set  the world alight in the same way that a  Reservior  Gods  release
does,  but  I wonder how many more forgotten gallic classics there are still
out there?

Applications such as Hyp-view,  Fashion Icon editor, and the Xairon personal
organiser/calender  and  several others round out this  section  of  several
pages.  Hopefully  Cyril will get the response he is looking for in time for
the next issue?

A  double page spread concerns Cubase Lite,  which gives the lucky reader  a
list  of  mouse  and keyboard shortcuts.  Handy to have around  in  a  handy
portable A5 format, I guess.

The theme of higher-powered Atari systems gets off to a roaring start with a
four-page  review  of  Aranym,  the generic sort of  Falcon-like  in  places
emulator for Linux,  which can be tamed to run on things as diverse as Sparc
Stations  and the Pegasos PPC board,  not to mention common or garden wintel
boxes. The author is quite enthusiastic, in a market with a limited range of
options  (we  get  to CT60 nearer the end!) Aranym comes across  as  a  very
useful  bit  of kit.  Quite a lot of information about using it is given  as
well,  even  to  the  point of tailoring the linux core to let  your  Aranym
system  have  direct  access to the internet.  Highwire 2.0 from  a  virtual
system?  Cool or what!  Not to mention that certain games like Double Bobble
2000, and Bunion Canyon have been cited as running under it as well!

Eric  Hall,  of  MyMail,  blasts through an interview,  in which some of the
questions  seemed  to  be  hard for him  to  follow,  although  some  useful
information as to future developments is gained.

Something calling itself "GFA Punch",  which seems to be a concept and title
more familiar to regular readers. It provides a detailed dissection of three
lines  of  working  GFA Basic code,  and how it could be improved.  We  look
forward to an assembly language 4ktro listing in the next issue? ;-)

Next,  we have something scantily covered in the previous mainstream printed
mags,  although we did our bit to change this in Atari Computing.  Yes, it's
time  for  some demo reviews!  These are mainly concerning certain  releases
from the Error in Line 3 party.  The author is fixated on the Reservoir Gods
for some reason, as both 'Grimey' and 'Hallucinations' are covered, they are
generously screen-grabbed,  along with the 'Echoes' 96ktro. Coming in at two
and  a  half pages,  I guess that the 'Posh' demo would run to a  three-part
series in the limited space available!

Almost  as  a  space filler,  and very belatedly,  a review of that 1998  RG
classic, 'Bunion Canyon' fills up half a page.

The  best  has  been saved until almost the end.  This is a five  page  CT60
review by Pascal Ricard.  Quite a lot of ground is covered,  from describing
the board itself, through to installation and using it with certain favoured
applications.  This article is heavily illustrated throughout,  with photo's
of the unit,  screengrabs of the config and flash tools dialogue boxes,  and
even  what looks like Rodolphe's original schematic blueprint for the  CT60.
The author seems to like what he has got, a common reaction to us all!

The end is in sight,  but a bunch of diskmag reviews distracts us first.  We
are  pleased  to  see  a  screengrab of the front  end  of  Alive  issue  7.
Undercover  24  also  finds  a  place here,  although  we  are  warned  that
"Moondog's sharp tone will not please to everybody!" Ah well, a risk we will
have  to  take,  Eric's a lovely guy when you get to know him  better!  Even
Chosneck,  the  third  issue (the one before the current issue two,  for the
benefit  of  the  terminally  confused!)  gets  a  mention  and  a  gorgeous
screengrab of the "excellent magazine", according to their reviewer.

Letters  to the editor,  and subscription details,  with cover illustrations
from  past issues pop up right at the end,  no English language subscription
yet,  they  are  still  deciding whether to kick out more of  these  english
editions in the future.

And  then  it is all over,  to the rearmost cover,  which has many  coloured
screengrabs  all jumbled together in a demo/diskmag/CT60 motif!  Truly  this
has been an experience, but has it been worth the money?

Well  yes it is.  Maximum points and respect are due to anybody who makes an
effort with such a time and cash consuming,  and space limited media such as
paper.  For all the problems we have in putting a worthy diskmag together, I
really don't envy the job of the ST Magazine team at all. Especially as they
are under pressure to release issues reasonably regularly.  In this case, it
is quarterly, but going on for bi-monthly in the more recent past.

The style reminds me a lot of a franglicised version of Atari Computing. The
english  translator,  Bruno  Aubin has done a very good job.  There is  very
little sign of the text being derived from a French language original. Apart
from  isolated  words  and phrases which hark back to  the  original  mother
tongue,  this  is  nearly  perfect.  The retention of the  remaining  little
linguistic  "flaws"  only  adds to the charm of the  whole  venture,  in  my

Content-wise,  they  have been very ambitious in a limited amount of  space.
Covering  two  major  accelerators,  a shedful of releases  and  updates  of
different  genres,  not  to mention some technical and coding stuff,  not to
mention  an interview.  I get the impression that they had a lot to cram in,
and  the  CT60 and Aranym reviews might have unbalanced the  whole  issue  a
little bit.  I guess that more and bigger pages are out of the question? ;-)
That's another thing that appeals about diskmags, although there is a lot of
space to fill,  when you actually get down to writing for them, you can just
stretch  out  your ideas and style,  and relax,  not worrying about  article
length or filling up a word-count too quickly.

At  the  time of writing this review,  I'm not sure if there will be  future
issues of the ST Magazine english language edition? I hope there is going to
be,  and  I'm sure many other people would be interested in a new  viewpoint
and some fresh news from the ST Magazine team.

It's comparable to Atari Computing in quality (high-end amateur)
A very good French to English translation!
Has a generally easy and accessible style
There is a wide range of topics covered
There are a couple of must-read texts (Aranym and CT60 reviews)
They are demoscene and diskmag aware (Hooray!)
You are left wanting more!

Small pages (A5) size (Can't be helped if it costs more to make it bigger)
Most articles and reviews are brief, constrained by the size limits
By the time it has got to us, a lot of the mag is old news from last year
You are left wanting more!!

A  final note,  it has been confirmed that issue 133 will be available in an
English language edition shortly!  16/32 Systems are looking into setting up
a six-issue subscription system, to maintain the momentum. RAAAAY!

CiH for Alive Diskmag,June '04

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