Image runner for Atari ST(E) machines


Image in this case is exact copy of floppy disk in file. Most common image formats for Atari ST are ST and MSA (file extensions). Such images were developed for usage with diverse emulators, mostly on PC. There is STX (Pasti) image format too, but it is usable only with emulators. There are thousands of Atari ST floppy images downloadable on WEB, and  many people want to run (mostly games) from them on their Atari machines.
This small program will allow above for many (we will see how many %-ally by time) Atari ST games - to run them from floppy image files on real Ataris, without need to write images on floppies.
Of course, program is interesting only for hard disk owners. Principle of work is to copy image file in high RAM and restart TOS, then mounting RAMdisk as drive A, executing AUTO folder from image file etc... Hard disk driver is discarded, we have free low RAM, what is usually good for games, made for 'floppy only' Atari machines.
GEMDos file access and XBIOS A floppy read is mapped to RAMdisk. Access to logical drive B (even if no second floppy) is mapped to physical drive A.
  It works by most of Automation menu disks, and many others - where games are filed and compacted. But works not by games/menu disks where programs use direct floppy controller access. Such games can not be run without writing on floppies, except we do some changes in them, what requires expert and some time.
If see floppy LED activity by game start (and by level load), and game freezes, works not, it is very likely case of direct floppy cntroller access (called DMA loader often). Then may try other menudisk with same game, or write image to floppy. Of course then may happen that game still not works - reason is usually incompability with TOS version, but may be corrupted image too.
You need min. 2MB RAM for this to work. With 1MB can run single-sided floppy images (~400KB long ones).
In case that you have game in some DIR on Atari hard disk, but it runs not, you may try to write files in image file and run it with this program - point is in better RAM usage (for games) - may put executable in AUTO folder in image and similar. There are some utils for image handling. All it can be done on PC, with Steem for instance, or with FloImg. 

New version, for Falcon:  Same, easy usage. Best to run with drag & drop (see video). Of course success rate will be much lower than on some ST(E) machine. Many will fail right at start - menu, what is often coded Falcon incompatible. Then, even Desktop.inf is not compatible, sometimes Desktop will open in monochrome mode, so will need to switch to ST low. There is 2 exec in archive, 1 is for TOS 4.02. other for TOS 4.04 . Note: by holding down Ctrl key after running image file you may prevent AUTO start - good to see what files are in image. DL Falcon versions

Short video of running on Falcon:




Version for better compatibility with TOS 2.06: (April 2009): 
While keeping simple usage and fast work some improvements added. This is intended mostly for TOS 2.06 and (M)STE machines - it may set TOS 1.04 to run on STE or Mega STE, what will ensure running of more games. For instance Skychase and Iron Lord will work with it on Mega STE. So, if in DIR where floppy image is there is a file T14UIDUB.FIC (included), then it will install TOS 1.04 in high RAM. Otherwise it will work only with TOS 2.06. Regardless from which TOS will work user may set 2 things by running PRG (drag & drop image file into) : when holding Left Shift down by program start it will execute bootsector of floppy (image). It is needed by few games/menu disks. When holding Right Shift down by program start it will set TOS 1.04 (if installs) and image resident - so after pressing reset button machine will remain with TOS 1.04 and image file installed - this is welcome for menu disks with more games on. So, no need to run PRG again. 
You need to hold down proper shift key few seconds while starting PRG for correct detection.
In archive is another gaming help program: T14HIGH.PRG - which installs TOS 1.04 on M(STE) machines with hard disks - for games not liking TOS 2.06.
Of course TOS 1.04 requires additional RAM:  by Image Runner it occupies + 192KB. By  T14HIGH occupies 256KB, but there is space for hard disk driver too in that, so low RAM will remain exactly same as by working without hard disk (in case of compatible driver).
Download IMGRF2X


 
  Easy to use version  Versions for TOS 2.06, TOS 1.62 & 1.06, TOS 1.04 and TOS 1.02. Added support for combined floppies (SS with some data on side B), as AU_94 and AU_133.
In TOS 2.06 just drag & drop ST or MSA image file - so simple: animgif
Or associate extension(s) to PRG.

Short video showing how to associate extension ST with ImgRunner, on TOS 1.62, but it stays for other TOS versions too:


Notes about image formats:  ST format holds not physical parameters of floppies separatelly. It uses values from bootsector. They are correct in most cases. But some titles have invalid values in bootsectors. Very likely such titles will not work with Image Runner, since they use not regular filesystem. MSA format is better - it holds in header physical floppy parameters as track count, sectors/track and side count. Unfortunately, there is a lot of oversized floppy images on DL sites. Often there is too much track without need, single sided floppy imaged as double sized etc. It is useful to read what writes about how to copy such titles/menus and then doing new image only with used tracks. How? Writing out to floppy (some in good shape), and then imaging with correct parameters. Or better do it without physical floppy, in emulators...

Technical background: Usual way of loading data, programs is via filesystem functions of TOS. It means loading files, file fragments by named files, from (named) directories. About 40-50% of Atari games (rough estimation) works on that way. Other way is loading data, code by position on disk. Inside it we have again 2 ways (talking about loading from floppies): load using XBIOS call (#8)  or by direct HW (FDC) access. So far, I saw only 2 games using XBIOS floppy read: Sundog & Black Cauldron. Direct FDC access: it is necessary in cases when usage of regular TOS functions (XBIOS, GEMDOS) is not possible, and it occurs when game uses very low RAM area, what is normally reserved for TOS workspace. The reasons for such RAM usage are usually: need for all RAM in machine (of 512KB) for game, using some special, non-standard disk stracks with purpose of copy protection and/or to put more data on them. Most advanced and quality games usually use mentioned direct FDC access and all RAM in machine: from bottom up to 512K (or to 1M if game needs so much). In case of using filesystem some 50KB (or more by higher TOS versions) is reserved for TOS, so there is less for game self.
Image Runner works so, that replaces regular filesystem calls to floppy A with access to newly created RAMdisk containing image. So, when game gives command to read something from floppy A, it will be redirected to reading from RAM.
When it works:  in all cases where game uses regular TOS file access or XBIOS floppy access, and no copy protection and/or any direct FDC calls. So, games like Flight Simulator 2 will work fine. Then, cracked versions of games using regular filesytem and some copy protection will work too, as crack removed copy protection (what usually uses direct FDC). Example: Millennium 2.2 .  Even games using very low RAM may work, but only in cases when everything is loaded at start, and no further floppy access (called singleparted often).
When works not:  games using direct FDC access, as mentioned. Examples: Armour-Geddon.  Then, even by cracks where we have regular files on floppies it will not work  if crack self uses direct FDC instead TOS functions. Explanation:  intention of crackers was allowing easier disk copying, and not running from hard disk.




Download older versions   - see attached TXT files for details. Usage
Source code

How it works? Couple short demo video, recorded from real ST machine: 
Fast mount. of A105 and start of Xybots  
Mounting without reset - Pacland
Mounting ST image and running of Backlash   Mounting MSA and running Spiderman
Mounting and running Lotus 2 on Mega STE    Elite on Mega STE
Note: decompression of Backlash is shortened - irrelevant here.
Sundog - rare one which uses XBIOS - works on 1MB machines.
 Similar: Running Dungeon Master from special RamDisk  - get files on  http://dmweb.free.fr/?q=node/881  .

  Some games adapted for run from hard disk


  Table with results of running some games via ImgRun on Mega ST with 4MB RAM, TOS 1.4:

207 Automation Menu Disk 000 Myth 10 W
208 Automation Menu Disk 000 Sinbad 10 F
209 Automation Menu Disk 001 Crystal Castle 11 W
210 Automation Menu Disk 001 Empire strikes Back 11 W
211 Automation Menu Disk 001 Northstar 11 W
212 Automation Menu Disk 001 Robotron 11 W
213 Automation Menu Disk 001 Star Raiders 11 W
214 Automation Menu Disk 001 Sentinel 11 W
215 Automation Menu Disk 001 WC Soccer Manager 11 W
216 Automation Menu Disk 002 es Eagles nest 12 W
217 Automation Menu Disk 002 Joe Blade 12 W
218 Automation Menu Disk 002 Trantor 12 W
219 Automation Menu Disk 002 Plutos 12 W
220 Automation Menu Disk 002 Virus 12 W
221 Automation Menu Disk 003 Arcade Classics 13 W
222 Automation Menu Disk 003 Delta Patrol 13 W
223 Automation Menu Disk 003 Football Manager 13 W
224 Automation Menu Disk 003 Mercenary 1-2 13 SE
225 Automation Menu Disk 003 Revenge of Doh 13 W
226 Automation Menu Disk 003 Rolling Thunder 13 W
227 Automation Menu Disk 003 Super Huey 13 W
228 Automation Menu Disk 004 Airball 14 W
229 Automation Menu Disk 004 Missile Command 14 F
230 Automation Menu Disk 004 Mission Genocide 14 W
231 Automation Menu Disk 004 Moon patrol 14 W
232 Automation Menu Disk 004 Scrabble Deluxe 14 W
233 Automation Menu Disk 004 Starquake 14 W
234 Automation Menu Disk 004 Xevious 14 W
235 Automation Menu Disk 005 Deathstrike 15 W
236 Automation Menu Disk 005 Streetgang 15 W
237 Automation Menu Disk 005 Typhoon Thompson 15 W
238 Automation Menu Disk 006 Army Moves 16 W
239 Automation Menu Disk 006 Better Dead Than Alien 16 W
240 Automation Menu Disk 006 Joust 16 W
241 Automation Menu Disk 006 Missle Command v2 16 TOSV
242 Automation Menu Disk 006 Pinball Factory 16 W
243 Automation Menu Disk 006 Rockford 16 W
244 Automation Menu Disk 006 Thundercats 16 W
245 Automation Menu Disk 007 Asteriods Delux 17 W
246 Automation Menu Disk 007 Diablo 17 W
247 Automation Menu Disk 007 Karate Kid II 17 W
248 Automation Menu Disk 007 Ocean Battleships 17 W
249 Automation Menu Disk 007 Overlander 17 W
250 Automation Menu Disk 007 Vampires Empire 17 W
251 Automation Menu Disk 008 Backlash 18 W
252 Automation Menu Disk 008 Goldrunner 18 W
253 Automation Menu Disk 008 Major Motion 18 W
254 Automation Menu Disk 008 Ninja Mission 18 W
255 Automation Menu Disk 008 Q-Ball 18 W
256 Automation Menu Disk 008 Revenge of the Mutant Cammels 18 W
257 Automation Menu Disk 008 Spook 18 W
258 Automation Menu Disk 008 Super Breakout 18 W
259 Automation Menu Disk 009 Blue Angels 19 W
260 Automation Menu Disk 009 Chubby Gristle 19 W
261 Automation Menu Disk 009 Eliminator 19 W
262 Automation Menu Disk 009 Enduro Racer 19 W
263 Automation Menu Disk 009 Nebulus 19 W
264 Automation Menu Disk 010 Black Lamp 20 W
265 Automation Menu Disk 010 Leaderboard + tourn 20 W
266 Automation Menu Disk 010 Pengy 20 W
267 Automation Menu Disk 010 Veteran 20 W
268 Automation Menu Disk 010 Whirligg 20 W
269 Automation Menu Disk 011 Cricket 21 W
270 Automation Menu Disk 011 Hotshot 21 W
271 Automation Menu Disk 011 Lands of Havoc 21 W
272 Automation Menu Disk 011 Mudpies 21 W
273 Automation Menu Disk 011 Quadrallian 21 W
274 Automation Menu Disk 011 Soccer 21 W
275 Automation Menu Disk 011 Tennis 21 W
276 Automation Menu Disk 011 Thrust 21 W
277 Automation Menu Disk 012 Beyond Ice Palace 22 W
278 Automation Menu Disk 012 Deflector 22 W
279 Automation Menu Disk 012 Skychase 22 W
280 Automation Menu Disk 012 Shackled 22 W
281 Automation Menu Disk 012 Space Killer 22 W
282 Automation Menu Disk 012 Time Bandit v2.1 22 W
283 Automation Menu Disk 013 Electronic Pool 23 W
284 Automation Menu Disk 013 ST Karate 23 W
285 Automation Menu Disk 013 Super Hang On 23 W
286 Automation Menu Disk 013 Super Sprint 23 W
287 Automation Menu Disk 014 Elite 24 W
288 Automation Menu Disk 014 Helter Skelter 24 W
289 Automation Menu Disk 014 Stargoose 24 W
290 Automation Menu Disk 014 Vixen 24 W
291 Automation Menu Disk 014 WS Baseball 24 W
292 Automation Menu Disk 015 Return to Genesis 25 W
293 Automation Menu Disk 015 Star Ray 25 W
294 Automation Menu Disk 016 Bombjack 26 W
295 Automation Menu Disk 016 Federation of the Free Traders 26 W
296 Automation Menu Disk 016 Football Manager II 26 W
297 Automation Menu Disk 016 Mouse Trap 26 W
298 Automation Menu Disk 016 Screaming Wings 26 W
299 Automation Menu Disk 017 Cybernoid 27 W
300 Automation Menu Disk 017 Tetris 27 W
301 Automation Menu Disk 017 Indy Jones 27 W
302 Automation Menu Disk 017 Magnetic Tank 27 W
303 Automation Menu Disk 017 Spy v Spy 27 W
304 Automation Menu Disk 017 Tetra Quest 27 W
305 Automation Menu Disk 018 Buggy Boy 28 W
306 Automation Menu Disk 018 Dragon Lord 28 FE
307 Automation Menu Disk 018 Eco 28 W
308 Automation Menu Disk 018 Floid the Droid 28 W
309 Automation Menu Disk 018 Phantasm 28 W
310 Automation Menu Disk 018 Wizball 28 W
312 Automation Menu Disk 019 Battle Probe 29 W
313 Automation Menu Disk 019 Sorcery + 29 W
314 Automation Menu Disk 019 Where Time Stood Still 29 W
315 Automation Menu Disk 019 XOR 29 W
316 Automation Menu Disk 020 Artura 30 W
317 Automation Menu Disk 020 Galax 3D 30 W
318 Automation Menu Disk 020 Garfield 30 W
319 Automation Menu Disk 020 Moonbase 30 W
320 Automation Menu Disk 021 Altair 31 W
321 Automation Menu Disk 021 Battle zone 31 W
322 Automation Menu Disk 021 Enforcer 31 W
323 Automation Menu Disk 021 Fernandez must die 31 W
324 Automation Menu Disk 021 Nigel Mansell's Grand prix 31 W
325 Automation Menu Disk 021 Uridium 31 W
326 Automation Menu Disk 022 1943 32 W
327 Automation Menu Disk 022 Captian America 32 W
328 Automation Menu Disk 022 Leathernecks 32 W
329 Automation Menu Disk 022 Rampage 32 W
330 Automation Menu Disk 022 Slap Fight 32 W
331 Automation Menu Disk 023 Flying Shark 33 W
332 Automation Menu Disk 023 Snafux 33 W
333 Automation Menu Disk 023 Strip Poker 3 33 W
334 Automation Menu Disk 023 Turbo Cup 33 W
335 Automation Menu Disk 024 Bank Buster 34 W
336 Automation Menu Disk 024 Offshore Warrior 34 W
337 Automation Menu Disk 024 Return of Jedi 34 W
338 Automation Menu Disk 024 Two game 34 W
339 Automation Menu Disk 025 Harrier Strike Mission 35 TOSV
340 Automation Menu Disk 025 Hellfire 35 W
341 Automation Menu Disk 025 IKT Karate + 35 W
342 Automation Menu Disk 025 Metrocross 35 W
343 Automation Menu Disk 025 Pacmania 35 W
344 Automation Menu Disk 025 Pepsi Challenge 35 W
345 Automation Menu Disk 025 Solomons Key 35 W
346 Automation Menu Disk 026 Driller 36 W
347 Automation Menu Disk 026 Mach 3 36 F
348 Automation Menu Disk 026 Millipede 36 W
349 Automation Menu Disk 026 Truck 36 W
350 Automation Menu Disk 027 Foundations waste 37 W
351 Automation Menu Disk 027 Live and let die 37 W
352 Automation Menu Disk 027 Pandora 37 W
353 Automation Menu Disk 027 ST Protector 37 W
354 Automation Menu Disk 028 Fire Blaster 38 W
355 Automation Menu Disk 028 Frostbyte 38 W
356 Automation Menu Disk 028 Netherworld 38 W
357 Automation Menu Disk 028 Stormbringer 38 W
358 Automation Menu Disk 028 Xenon 38 W
359 Automation Menu Disk 029 Alien Syndrome 39 W
360 Automation Menu Disk 029 Barbarian 39 W
361 Automation Menu Disk 029 Fuzzball 39 W
362 Automation Menu Disk 029 Space Station 39 W
363 Automation Menu Disk 030 Atax 40 D
364 Automation Menu Disk 030 Cracked 40 W
365 Automation Menu Disk 030 Exolon 40 W
366 Automation Menu Disk 030 Haunted House 40 W
367 Automation Menu Disk 030 Speedball 40 W
368 Automation Menu Disk 030 Timeblast 40 W
369 Automation Menu Disk 031 Daley Thompsons Olympic Challenge 41 W
370 Automation Menu Disk 031 Growth 41 D
371 Automation Menu Disk 032 Bionic Commandoes 42 W
372 Automation Menu Disk 032 S.D.I (Cin) 42 W
373 Automation Menu Disk 032 Star Battle 42 W


Legend:  W-works    SE-screen errors   F-freezes   TOSV - wrong TOS vers. (game); D - to desktop
As may see, most of Automation menu disks is usable well. This is because practically all games are filed, and no direct floppy controller access.
Of course reasons for not working can be several: tos version, hardware version and even RAM amount in machine. On TOS 2.06  will work less title than on 1.4, for instance.
Longer list - first 125 Automation menu disk results

 Trackcopy program - Vers 0.9:    ST, MSA image creation and load/write to floppy, changing image content. Now Falcon compatible.tracc09.png Download

anotherflo.png
Many game save positions on floppies - it works regardless from how game is started/installed. So, never keep floppy with valuable datas on it in drive while playing. Games can write anywhere on floppy, format it etc. And it is not good to hold floppy in drive in any case - floppy rotation will just erode magnetic surface. Use just some work floppy for faster start of machine.
       

   P. Putnik ,  April-June 2007. March, Okt. 2008, April 2009, April 2010.

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