10 BIG THINGS YOU CAN DO TO MAKE GENEVA WORK BETTER
1. Add memory to your computer.
One of the most common complaints heard 'round the Atari community these days is, "Wha' happened to my memory?" Folks aren't complaining about losing their minds; they're talking about RAM. Since we already know that Geneva only occupies a smidgen or two of RAM (if you give me some allowance for smidgen sizes in these days of large applications), what could be happening to the rest of the computer's memory?
The answer lies in the expectation factor. Once you realize that you don't need to quit one application before launching another one, the natural temptation is to keep both of them (or all three or four of them -- you know what I mean) in memory at the same time. Whoops! There goes that megabyte of RAM you used to have left over all the time.
Geneva also lets you load up on desk accessories like a kid pumping himself another six SoftServes at the Ponderosa dessert bar. There's no limit to how many desk accessories you can have running at once, so why not just load a dozen or more and have fun? Nice idea, except for that slam-bam RAM cram, thank you, ma'am.
There's a way to enjoy those desk accessories and still keep them from hogging memory, and I'll show you how a little later. As for stuffing RAM with simultaneous word processors, telecomm programs and other goodies, the best solution is in the chips. If your Atari has less than 4 megabytes of RAM, upgrade it now. It won't cost much.
2. Add an accelerator.
Three long-term champions of the Atari cause have been selling processor-chip accelerators for Ataris in North America for many years, and others have done it in Europe. Some of them are becoming hard to get, so this is the best time to shop for one. If your ST runs at 8 MHz (the standard speed of the original ST), it's time to consider having a 16-MHz accelerator put in. You can also get faster CPU chips, at higher prices. (A basic 16-MHz accelerator chip should sell for about $100, if you can still find one.)
Everything that matters works faster on an accelerated Atari compared to a standard one.
3. Trade up to a faster machine.
Sure, I know the facts; Atari's not making STs any more, so how are you going to upgrade to a faster ST -- to a Mega STe, for example? The used market is a vital source. Join either of the two most active online services for Atarians, GEnie or CompuServe, and check the electronic want ads. If you don't see what you want, post a message telling what you are looking for.
(Modems are really cheap, by the way, so you have no excuse here. A new 2400-bit-per-second modem sells for $40 by mail-order, and used ones are a lot less. GEnie has a wonderfully easy automatic connection thingamabob called Aladdin, so start with GEnie if you want everything easy.)
4. Buy a Falcon.
Falcons are the butt-ends of a lot of jokes in Ataridom, for no good reason. (Well, maybe for a lot of semi-good reasons, I'll grant you that.) Falcons run most of the standard Atari software, they're fast in many ways, they have gorgeous color displays, they're self-contained, they've got great audio capabilities and they can handle a lot of extra memory. Sure, a TT is faster, has a better keyboard and can drive a melt-your-eyes-out big-screen display, but TTs are no longer available new. (Atari says more TTs are coming, but no one believes this.)
5. Upgrade your monitor.
If all you have is a standard Atari color display, you're missing the picture. Under Geneva, you need all the real estate on the screen that you can get. (For one thing, having an out-of-the-way place to stick Geneva's floating Task Manager would be a great idea.) Atari's monochrome monitor is super-sharp and offers resolution almost as fine as VGA, the standard in the Rest of the World. Its picture is also clearer than most fancy-dan color monitors.
So what are you waiting for? Atari dealers (yes, Virginia, there is an Atari dealer in some locales) still sell new monochrome monitors, and used ones are readily available, too.
6. Get a graphics card.
Psst! Wanna know why Mega STe computers are so great? They've got VME! No, that's not some new kind of communicable disease; it's an adaptor-card slot at the back of the computer. It's normally covered, but if you take it off you'll see that there's an open slot there waiting to take the card of your choice.
Graphics cards fit right in, and you just plug a Super VGA monitor into the connector on the outside panel of the card. Super VGA monitors are amazingly cheap these days, mostly because the crazy people who buy MS-DOS computers have been buying zillions of them, and they use S-VGA monitors. A graphics card will let your Mega STe show hundreds or even thousands of colors, and, better yet, it will let you use a display that has three or even four times the resolution of a standard Atari screen.
Graphics cards aren't cheap, but they are bigger-than-big improvements to any Mega STe.
If you don't have a Mega STe but have a Mega ST, you still may be able to find a graphics card for the Mega. Used cards are available now and then, and some dealers may even be able to get a new one.
(If you have a TT, you have a VME slot, too. In fact, the TT and the Mega STe are like Boobsie and Bobsie in Las Vegas: twins when it comes to slots. Adding a graphics card to a TT is a great idea -- but if you're a TT owner, you probably already knew that.)
7. Add a faster and larger hard drive.
Didn't I just say a while back that you can run Geneva with a tiny hard drive or even no hard drive at all? Sure. It's not Geneva that eats up storage space, it's the other applications you'll find yourself using. Look at it this way: Geneva adds a functionality to the Atari that has been missing for years, letting you continue to work on one program while you start another, and encouraging you to try out new applications without the need to quit what you are doing just to run something else. When you become accustomed to this kind of freedom, this sort of power, you tend to DO more with your computer ... and that means you could end up looking for extra floppy disks to store programs and data on when your hard disk fills up. Life is simpler, smoother and more enjoyable when your hard disk doesn't fill up, so consider buying a bigger one.
8. Get a better word processor.
C'mon, the best Atari word processors are a LOT better than you might think, unless you've already tried the latest versions of the three or four top programs -- and they shine like never before under Geneva. Multitasking is only part of the improvement. How about menus that you can tear off and place off to the side of a document window? Geneva handles that for you (and for your word processor). How about 3D buttons in a button bar across the top of the screen? Geneva supplies those, too, if the word processor's own code has them available. How about faster-acting scroll bars and smoother mouse action? Geneva does that, too, by means of its superior code.
9. Buy a multitasking telecommunications program.
Take it from an old hand at telecomm operations: The absolute DUMBEST thing you can waste your time on is watching your computer screen while your telecomm program does an upload or a download. Geneva makes background telecommunications a simple matter. You do, however, have to make sure your software can work in the background. Some of the best telecomm applications haven't yet been upgraded to full multitasking capability, but the list has doubled in recent months, and it should keep on growing.
10. Get real. Get a fax for your computer.
It's not my intent here to suggest brand-name software in general (there are many great programs available for your Atari, and I'd be overlooking some excellent choices if I took sides), but in one area I must make an exception. An almost essential application for a serious Atari user is STraight FAX!, the send-and-receive fax program. It works exceptionally well under Geneva, too, disappearing into the background while waiting for a fax to come in or while pausing between scheduled fax transmissions.