John Gilbert gets stuck into another monthly helping of QL goodies ...
FRANCE has come to the rescue of unhappy QL owners who can't get enough - software, that is.
Pyramide Software, through its British agent Rio Promotions Limited, has just released five packages including a 3D space game called Wanderer, the educational language Turtle Logo, a utilities package and an icon driven graphics program called QL Peintre.
Wanderer uses two-tone glasses to achieve a startling 3D effect. As you move through space in this slimmed down QL version of Elite the stars hurtle towards you and enemy space ships close in.
If you hit a space ship only the part which you damage is blown off. Several salvoes will have to be launched before you can blow it to bits - unless you are lucky with a central smash.
I have only seen a preview version of this game - a full review will appear next month - but already it is the best up-and-coming game for the QL. The French are putting us to shame.
Two Pyramide products are utilities. Nucleon is a set of five routines which make up for some of the inadequacies of SuperBasic. Leonardo is a drawing package similar to GraphiQL. As well as including commands to draw shapes and fill in areas of the screen, it also allows you to use a host of textures as a background. Sketch is similar to Leonardo but produces simple shapes for use within your programs. Whereas the latter is for creating complex drawings, Design is used for enhancing the screen display. Nucleon also includes a character generator which, when used with a compatible printer, will produce bold, italic or user-defined characters. It can also be used to produce icons on screen.
QL Peintre - no relation to the Sinclair Research product - is a design package providing all the options you would find on an Apple MacIntosh, plus colour. Commands for shape drawing, shading and colouring are accessed as icons displayed around the edge of the screen.
Turtle Logo is an implementation of the famous graphics language used in schools and developed at MIT by Seymour Papert. The language can be accessed at its simplest level for drawing shapes using the on-screen turtle cursor, or for artificial intelligence projects such as list processing. The language already has a high profile in schools and is ideal for teaching children in computing.
QL Remember is a sophisticated database on which you can store 400 entries containing up to 150 categories of two lines each. Information can be recalled using key names or phrases. Pyramide says the package can be tailored to any application including storage of memos, names and addresses, agendas, reminders and messages.
Pyramide's final contribution to the British software market is OTH 3D. Even here the company's programmers have not been satisfied with a version of Othello consisting of tiny counters on a small, quarter screen, board. They have produced 3D Othello in which the board is displayed in a way similar to that of Psion Chess.
It is a fast mover, dedicated to the addict, but beginners should find the pace of play easily adjustable to their standard. If you're not an Othello groupie the 3D graphics will draw you into the game and, using it as a trainer, you will soon be able to pit your wits against human players.
All the programs from Pyramide can be obtained only by mail order, at £19.95 each. The company is hoping to go into retail outlets but will wait to see the response from QL owners.
Despite the doom and gloom of the past months a source close to Sinclair Research has told me that the company is intent on saving its planned QL family of machines by keeping the research going on two additions to the range.
The first, and most likely to be launched this year, is a standard QL with 3.5in floppy disc drives linked to its body instead of the flimsy microdrives. The new design is provided for those who would not think of buying a QL because of the microdrives, and Sinclair Research seems to have accepted the limitations of the 'mass' storage device. Software compatibility is still an issue but products which use channels, rather than being restricted to the MDV_ command, should be usable on a disc-based machine.
The launch was due in February but was cancelled until the balance of old QL stock is exhausted. Our source also stated that, although Sinclair was technically correct in saying that the QL was back in manufacture, the machines which were coming out of the factory had old serial numbers and were probably old - repaired - stock.
The other launch, which is unlikely to occur this year as development has been frozen - is a 68020-based machine. It will contain a 32-bit data bus and be more in line with Sir Clive's original ideas for the QL. Unfortunately, if Sinclair is unable to put the 3.5in disc version on the market the development of the 32-bit machine could be frozen forever.
Two years ago, two clubs were set up to deal with problems which QL users might have. Both QLUB and IQLUG are still running, although the former is getting more coverage because it is run by Sinclair Research. It is the official face of Sinclair, unlike the friendly face of IQLUG, an organisation which provides help not because it feels obliged to, but because its members own QLs and want others to benefit from their experience.
IQLUG is run by Leon Heller and Brian Pain, both experienced in running user support clubs due to their links with an independent BBC users' group. Heller is the chairman and voice of the club, while Pain is secretary and publisher of IQLUG's monthly photocopied magazine QUANTA.
Membership is by subscription to the magazine. The club deals with members' problems, provides hardware and software at offer prices and has a substantial library of software, most of which has been written by QUANTA readers.
IQLUG also runs workshops covering a range of subjects, such as the use of QDOS and how to write structured programs using SuperBasic. More information about IQLUG can be obtained from Brian Pain. Next month I will be covering QLUB, Sinclair's official support service and Psion Support to show the joys and problems of becoming a member.
Whatever the size of your company, if you have any QL products which you want reviewed, or tips for fellow QL users, or perhaps queries about your machine, send them to John Gilbert, QLink, Sinclair User, London.