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Atarimax 5200 128-in-1 USB Flash Cartridge

Atari 5200 Flash Multi-Cart with USB Interface

©2010 Steven J Tucker

Chapter 3: Using the Multi-Cart Studio Software


The Multi-Cart Studio software is based around the concept of creating 'Workbooks' that represent the final configuration you would like programmed into your multi-cart.

Workbooks are like any other file, such as a Microsoft Word document, they contain your data and are not directly linked to any physical cartridge.

You can create, edit and save your workbook designs without ever needing to connect your cartridge.

Once you have used the Multi-Cart Studio to create the layout you desire for your multi-cart, then and only then do you need to connect your cartridge for programming.

Changes made to workbooks are incremental, so if your new workbook only differs from your current cartridge configuration by a small amount, for example you may have changed only one or two rom images, only those changes will be saved to your cartridge, saving time during synchronization.

Tour of the Multi-Cart Studio Software

The Multi-Cart Editing Control

This control is the main active interface to adding, removing and manipulating rom images to your workbook.

The numbers on the left are 'slot numbers' for the rom images in your workbook.

These numbers represent the position those games will have on your final cartridge.

This control is disabled when no Workbook is open.

Live Menu Preview

This control displays a view of what your on-screen Multi-Cart menu will look like when used on a real 5200. This display is updated in response to your workbook changes and will scroll along with the Multi-Cart editing window.

This control is not visible unless a workbook is open.

Style Editing Controls

The style editing controls allow you to change the text and appearance of the Multi-Cart Workbook on-screen menu.

These controls are disabled when no Workbook is open.

Event Log

This scrolling text window displays the current state of the software including cartridge connection and programming functions.

This control is always enabled.

Status Monitor

This area at the bottom of the window displays the current cartridge connection state, as well as the state of any current cartridge programming operation.

These indicators are always enabled.

Programming Controls

These controls start and stop programming of your cartridge based on the current Workbook contents.

These controls are only enabled when a Flash Multi-Cart is connected to the system.

The Status Monitor and Event Log

The Status Monitor

The Status Monitor bar at the bottom of the screen is where the state of the USB interface to your cartridge is shown.

If your cartridge is connected and visible to the Multi-Cart Studio software, the message 'CARTRIDGE CONNECTED' will be displayed in this bar, otherwise 'CARTRIDGE DISCONNECTED' will be seen.

The other indicators on this bar show the current state of hardware operations like synchronizing your cartridge. Should you need to make a bug report, please include the state of these indicators in your report.

The Event Log

The event log is a verbose display of status and error messages that occur while using the Multi-Cart Studio Software.

For example when adding a ROM Image to your workbook, if it is recogized by the internal MD5 database, its name and signature will be displayed in this area.

While Synchronizing your cartridge the current progress will be displayed in this window.

Should you need to make a bug report, please include any error messages displayed in this window.

When you plug in your cartridge the unique Serial Number of your device will be displayed in this window.

Creating a New Workbook

By creating a new workbook, you are essentially creating a new blank Multi-Cart document.

To this document you will add rom images and other customizations before synchronizing your cartridge to it.

Having this information stored in a normal document means you never have to 'hot edit' your cartridge and your Workbook can be backed up to CD-ROM, e-mailed to friends, etc.

To create a new workbook, select 'File' from the drop down menu, and then 'New'.

Your new blank workbook is now loaded and you can begin editing your multi-cart document.

To save your workbook to disk, select 'File' and then 'Save As' and give your workbook a name such as 'My Workbook.mcw'.

Note: '.MCW' is the file extension for Multi-Cart Workbooks.

Adding ROM Images to your Workbook

Adding ROM Images to your workbook is required if you want to have any games on your cartridge.

Note: All 32k, 16k "One Chip", 16k "Two Chip", 8k and 4k Atari 5200 ROM images are supported.

This is every 5200 game and conversion ever released except two, Bounty Bob Strikes Back and the 5200 conversion of M.U.L.E.

ROM Images must be in raw binary format to be recognized.

To add a ROM Image to your workbook, right click on the Multi-Cart Editing Window on the slot number you want to assign.

This will bring up the ROM Image Context Menu.

Select the 'Load ROM from File(s)' menu option to bring up the file select dialog, then select your rom image.

Another convenient way to add one or more ROM Images to your workbook is to simply drag those ROM Image from the Windows Explorer and drop them on the slot you want to fill in the Multi-Cart Editing Window.

If you drag and drop more than one ROM Image they will be added starting at the selected slot number, replacing any existing ROM Images without prompting.

The Multi-Cart studio software contains a MD5 database of around 350 known ROM Images and variations.

If your ROM Image is recognized by the current database, it will be automatically assigned a menu friendly name and rom image type.

If your ROM Image is not in the current MD5 database, you may be prompted to select the ROM Image type and the default menu name will be the file name of the ROM Image.

Please note that slot number 128 is not user assignable. This slot contains the on-screen menu software and self-test programs.

Removing ROM Images from your Workbook

To remove a ROM Image currently in your Workbook and make that slot blank, right click on the desired slot and select the 'Clear Slot' menu option.

Both the ROM Image and its description will be removed from your workbook.

Changing the menu name of a ROM Image

To change the name of the ROM Image that will be displayed on the Multi-Cart menu, right click on the name and select the 'Edit Menu Title' menu option.

Note: The display on the Atari 5200 screen is limited to 40 characters per line, minus a few characters used for the slot ID number, so you will be limited to around 35 characters for your menu description.

You can view exactly how your menu entry will look by viewing the 'Live Menu Preview' on the right hand side of the Multi-Cart Studio Workshop window.

Moving ROM Images around in your Workbook

To swap two slots in your workbook, just grab the slot ID number shown in the left column, for example 001, and while holding down the left mouse button, drop it on the slot ID number you wish to exchange it with.

While dragging a small arrow will appear to assist you in selecting the correct place to drop the ROM Image.

Customizing the look of your Multi-Cart menu

The look of your Multi-Cart menu can be extensively customized.

Changing the Character Sets

The Atari computers (and the Atari 5200) display text on the screen using a soft font called a 'Character Set'.

The Multi-Cart Studio software includes a selection of these character sets and will let you preview them live before having to make any changes to your real multi-cart.

The Multi-Cart Studio supports the use of up to 3 Character Sets at once. One for the Top title line display, one for the body of your multi-cart image slots, and one for the instructional display at the bottom of the screen.

By default in a new workbook, these character sets are assigned the default Atari 5200 font.

Lets start by changing the font for the body of your menu entries, since this is the most visible font.

Click on the 'Listing Font' button on the main Multi-Cart Studio interface.

This will bring up the Character Set Preview and Selection window shown here.

This is a interactive window that will display the complete character set and allow you get a magnified look at any of the characters by just hovering your mouse pointer over it.

To select a new character set, just use the drop-down menu at the bottom of the dialog to select any of the pre-installed character sets.

As you select a new set, the character set preview will automatically update to show you the full contents of this character set.

If you like your selection, press 'Save' to add it to your workbook, or 'Cancel' to do nothing.

Once you have added the character set to your workbook, the Live Menu Preview on the right side will update and display your menu in the new character set, exactly how it will appear on the real Atari 5200!

You can now change the character sets for the top and bottom lines of the display if you desire.

The Multi-Cart Studio comes with a number of character sets, but if you would like to add your own Character Sets, just deposit those files into the 'Character Sets' directory in the Multi-Cart Studio installation folder.

Changing the Gradient and Listing Background Colors

The Atari 5200 supports a custom color background to its text mode display.

You can change the background color for the top line, body of entries and bottom line of the multi-cart menu.

Note: The Top and Bottom lines of the display are not yet rendered 100% in the live menu preview. These lines use a progressive gradient display on the real 5200 that is not yet supported by the live menu preview. When selecting colors for these two lines, you are selecting the 'starting' and 'ending' color of the gradient, so some fine tuning using the real cartridge may be required before you can get it exactly the way you like.

Lets start by changing the background color for the menu entries.

Click on the 'Listing Color' button on the main Multi-Cart Studio application to bring up the GTIA color selector.

The GTIA chip in the Atari 5200 can produce 128 colors by combining 16 colors with 8 levels of luminance for each color.

The pick chart shown for selecting your color is an approximation of these colors as seen on NTSC television displays.

To select your color, just click on it with the mouse and the Live Menu Preview will be updated to reflect your changes.

Changing the Header and Footer Menu Text

The header (top) and footer (bottom) lines of your multi-cart on screen menu will by default display a title and instructions on how to use the menu.

You can change the text of these lines to anything you desire by pressing the 'Header Text' or 'Footer Text' buttons no the main Multi-Cart Studio interface.

These changes will be reflected immediately in the Live Menu Preview.

Remember to Save Changes to your Workbook

After making any changes to your workbook it is very important that you save your workbook to your hard disk.

Synchronizing will save the contents of your workbook to cartridge, but unless you save your workbook to disk, you will lose your ability to make incremental changes to the current cartridge configuration and will have to build your workbook over again the next time you start the Multi-Cart Studio software.


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