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System Essentials - Part 2
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Author:dhomas trenn
Published by:Amiga Informer magazine (US)
Date:November 1998

We continue this month discussing must-have utilities that enhance the operating system and increase the efficiency of everyday Amiga use. As always, this software has been tested and determined to be system friendly through extended periods of use.

A Watchful Eye
One of the common difficulties with installing software is that it does not always work the first time you try it. Sometimes the problem is caused by a missing or misplaced library, font or other necessary file. Unfortunately, most programs assume that everything is where it should be and do not bother to tell you if that is not the case. Many times the program will not start or in worse cases the program causes a system crash.

These problems can be extremely difficult, if at all possible, to track down. But, there is help available. Eddy Carroll's SnoopDos (Aminet: util/moni/SnoopDos.lha) is a must have for every Amiga user. SnoopDos works by installing a patch that monitors various system and AmigaDOS function calls. With SnoopDos on the watch, you will be told what an application is looking for, where it expects to find it and a lot of other possibly important information. Too much information? No need to worry, because SnoopDos can be told what function calls to monitor.

Over the years, developers have tried to improve on the Amiga requesters - each creating alternative libraries of functions with different enhancements. One of the more popular is the reqtools.library (Aminet: util/libs/ReqToolsUsr.lha) now developed by Magnus Holmgren, which provides impressive replacements for file, font, palette, volume, screen mode, query, string, and number requesters. A preferences editor is included that allows configuration of various requester options.

Because developers of other applications each chose to use their favourite requesters, applications have become inconsistently interfaced. To remedy this, the ReqTools archive includes RTPatch, now developed by Dave Jones, designed to watch for calls to other requesters and substitute the ReqTools requesters instead.

Keeping Time
Everyone keeps some kind of schedule, though perhaps some more relaxed than others, so a good clock would be useful. Ideally, the clock should appear on the currently active screen, so that we do not have to keep jumping screens to see what time it is.

Some applications, such as Directory Opus, include an optional clock of their own. One possibility would be to enable these clock options in each program, but that would really be a waste of CPU time. Why have multiple tasks all doing the same thing when we could just have one? There must be a better solution.

Unlike most clock programs, of which there are many, Thomas Igracki's ScreenClock (Aminet: util/time/ScreenClock.lha) is able to display itself on the frontmost screen. So, you can always find the time at a glance. You do not have to worry about it covering up other important information, because it adds itself into the right end of the title bar. It is fully configurable and includes options for date and cpu usage as well.

A nice alternative, or even a companion, to the visual clock is a talking clock. The simplest being one that uses the Amiga's built-in speech resources. TimeSpeak (Aminet: util/time/TimeSpeak.lha) is such a program, and in addition to telling you the current time, it will also tell you the date - if you ask it nicely.