AS MENTIONED last month, Kobrahsoft have released another useful program for +3 owners. This program fills the gaps of DICE (Issue 57), by allowing commercially-protected disk programs (as well as normal +3 disks) to be backed-up to another disk, or to tape. Protection systems for disks vary, but they are likely to get more sophisticated in time. It is likely, therefore, that programs like DB1 will need regular updating to keep abreast of the manufacturers' skills.
DB1 is an automatic copier program, but is not in the same league of friendliness as DICE. When the program is loaded, the screen shows a two-line menu, and no help at all. The program has a number of options, one (not on the menu!) allows a new disk to be logged in. The filenames on the disk are displayed, and can be selected by using the cursor keys and pressing S when the required filenames are pointed to.
Selected files can be transferred to a second disk, deleted, renamed or transferred to tape. The boot sector can also be saved to tape or disk, if it is in use.
Pressing G allows files on tape to be copied back to disk. Normal tape-based software can also be transferred in this way. A disk can also be formatted, in one of four ways (including Amstrad data format, giving 178K per side). The formats are no faster to access than the standard +3 format, however (unlike the CP/M format command).
The main facility of DB1, and the one which is easy to use, is the Clone command. DB1 first, annoyingly, asks for the original DB1 disk to be inserted for 'protection purposes' (explained later). Once this has been done, DB1 reads the source disk, and automatically figures out the protection methods employed by the disk manufacturers (hopefully). The clone disk is automatically formatted identically to the source disk as DB1 proceeds. The time taken to clone the disk can be very long, seemingly depending on how sophisticated the protection method employed is.
I tested DB1 with one of the Ultimate Collection disks, and ended up with a perfect copy in less than two minutes. Cloning Where Time Stood Still, however, took 4½ minutes. I tried a few other disks, which all cloned successfully - DB1 even cloned an unformatted disk (in ten minutes!).
DB1 is not fully debugged, so care is needed especially considering the limited prompts given by the program. For example, pressing T (to transfer) twice, with no disk in the drive, causes the program the hang, decrementing the MEM=counter constantly. However, when used correctly, I found no problems!
DB1 costs £12.95 on disk, or is available together with DICE at £19.95. It is therefore quite an expensive program, but a worthwhile investment if you own many commercial disk programs, assuming that all can be copied by DB1. Please remember that the policy of Kobrahsoft & CRASH is that programs like this must only be used for making private BACKUP copies just in case your disk should become faulty, not for distributing illegal copies around friends.
Final comment: I am very disappointed that DB1 itself is copy protected, and ironically it will not copy itself! Surely the whole point of DB1 is to protect the purchaser against disks being damaged. It is also irritating that DB1 has to re-read the master disk before each clone - especially considering that the disk is uncopyable, and DB1 cannot even be copied by the Multiface+3. If ever the DB1 disk is corrupted, Kobrahsoft will replace it, but may make a charge for the privilege. One code for the games producers, another for the copier-makers it seems...
'Not in the same league of friendliness as DICE'
'DB1 is not fully debugged'
'Ironically it will not copy itself'