HPLX.NET REVIEWS Super Software Carousel
Publisher/Manufacturer: Thaddeus Computing
Price: $79.95 upgrade / $129.95 non-upgrade
Ever since the legendary day when Stanley Kubrick called up the authors of Software Carousel and requested that they make a 200LX-specific version of their delightful little task switcher, the palmtop world has been hooked. Sure, the 200LX by itself is a darn handy machine. But a great deal of that handiness comes from the fact that the palmtop can run DOS programs. Software Carousel lets us cram a dozen virtual palmtops into the same physical unit.
For a while, however, it looked like Software Carousel was going to go the way of Educalc and Ace. Version numbers had stagnated, copies were getting hard to find, and there was even rebellious talk of categorizing it as "abandonware."
Now, Thaddeus Computing is distributing a much-welcomed update, version 7. And not only that, but they've put together a little package called Super Software Carousel designed for today's larger RAM drives and flash cards.
The upgraded version of Software Carousel fixes several bugs that the older versions had. Switching back to a System Manager work area will no longer cause the screen to be corrupted, thanks to a patch. Flash cards are no longer in danger of being killed by a poorly-timed write. And the infamous June 13, 1998 bug ("JuneBug") has been fixed. So there are compelling reasons to upgrade. But these are just issues with the underlying Software Carousel itself; we're here to look at the part that makes "Super" Software Carousel so Super.
The concept of Super Software Carousel is surprisingly simple and elegant. There are two schools of thought in the Software Carousel camp: one side advocates opening several work areas, each with a single application running, and then switch around between these. The advantage here is that you know exactly which area to go for each program, and can access each one in seconds by switching work areas. The disadvantage is that most of us have many more DOS programs than we can create work areas for.
I must admit, this was largely my way of thinking, until I tried out Super Software Carousel. In a flash, I saw how wrong I'd been.
Super Software Carousel is firmly in the second camp of Software Carousel users. The idea here is to run your DOS work areas in a manner similar to the Application Manager: switching to work area 2, for example, brings up a graphical menu from which you can select programs to run. The program runs, and when you're done, the menu loads again. That way, you're never out of touch with your applications.
Super Software Carousel comes pre-configured with three work areas, a System Manager area you use like a normal 200LX, and two DOS application work areas. The HDM graphical application launcher looks very similar to the Application Manager, with a few advantages (you can specify zoom mode and color settings, for example) and disadvantages (i.e., hotkeys can only be letters, not numbers or symbols). Work Area 2 is for utilities and other applications. Thaddeus includes a wide variety of freeware and shareware applications here, including LXPic, PalEdit, StereoShell, Vertical Reader, and DBView, among others. Work Area 3 is for games: a huge number of entertaining applications for the palmtop come built-in, including Tetris, Reversi, Solitaire, Power Chess, and others.
The installation of Super Software Carousel was incredibly simple. Thaddeus distributes it on CD-ROM, so you put the CD-ROM in your drive and (for flash installation) copy the contents of the \ADRIVE directory over to your flash card, or (for RAM drive installation) copy the contents of \CDRIVE to your palmtop. Then, a quick addition to your AUTOEXEC.BAT file and a reboot will get you going.
The CD-ROM from Thaddeus also includes an EXTRAS directory, chock full of over 30 utilites and games that you can add to your setup, including BGFax, Commo, FlexPad, Remote Commander, and Seahunt. It also includes the demo versions of WWW/LX and 200Buddy, for your convenience.
Some people have criticized Super Software Carousel on the grounds that it's nothing a person can't do just by downloading all the software themselves and setting up HDM. This is missing the point; Thaddeus has provided an excellent selection of utilities and probably the finest collection of 200LX games ever assembled. Not only that, but if you have commercial DOS applications you want to run on the 200LX, now you only need to add icons for them in your work areas-- no need to run them by hand, or go through and set up an HDM work area yourself. For many people using the 200LX, the savings in time is not only worth the extra cost of Super Software Carousel, it's worth MORE-- because they would never have the time to figure out how to set it all up themselves.
Personally, I have installed Super Software Carousel and not only use many of the applications it came with (especially the games! :) but have installed many applications of my own choosing, including Derive 3.0, GPSCGA, Windows 2.03, dBase IV, acCIS, HelpPC, the Collins English Dictionary and the Collins Multilingual Dictionary, and World Travel.
Of course, Super Software Carousel has its problems. Chief among these is the large size it takes up. The full suite of applications takes up just over 2.9MB. People with RAMdrives smaller than 8MB, or small flash cards, may need to delete some of the games or applications to run it.
Overall, I'm happy with Super Software Carousel and will be using it until Thaddeus comes out with an upgrade.
Got a large RAM disk or a big flash card? Go for it! You won't regret it.
Copyright 1999, David Sargeant.
Last Updated 1-2-1999