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Amstrad PCW 16 - General Issues

White Screen

These machines won't power up correctly if there is a printer attached before the unit is configured. Disconnect the printer and boot from the emergency disk. Configure the machine and then reconnect the printer.

Mouse Not Working

The mouse supplied with this machine is a standard serial mouse. On the underside there is a switch, allowing you to select between:

"MS AM" & "PC AT"

The "AM" does not stand for Amstrad! The switch must be set to "PC AT" for the mouse to work.

The floppy drive will not read or write to a disk

If it is a new disk, then it must be formatted before it is used, by selecting the "Format" option from the "Disk" menu in File Manager.

Files saved in the "Cabinet" are lost, along with date and time settings.

These machines are not fitted with a hard disk drive. All data stored on the machine is stored in the EPROM and maintained by a rechargeable battery on the Motherboard. If this battery loses it's charge then all data will be lost. The battery requires a minimum of two hours continuous use to charge fully. You should always be advised to save all work onto disk (See page 44 of Users Manual).

Fonts not installed

Reinstall fonts through set system options on main desktop menu. Select different printer from list and then revert to original printer to reinstall fonts.

Machine Will Not Load

The PCW won't load, there is a green light on the monitor but a black screen. This could be due to the keyboard. To remedy the problem switch the machine off and unplug the keyboard. Then switch the machine back on it should then boot up. An error message will appear saying that a keyboard isn't detected. Reconnect the keyboard the machine will prompt you press the green key on the keyboard. If the machine then goes to the default screen then all is well.

The keyboard does not respond correctly

Try pressing Shift Control and task keys to clear the problem.

Date and Time are wrong

Set correct Date and time and leave unit on for 2 hours to charge the backup battery fully.

Machine locks up and cannot turn off at front panel

Turn of at mains and leave for 5 seconds to clear memory before restarting.

How can I save a document (or spreadsheet) and continue editing?

Press [Task]+[F8] - this performs a "Save and Continue" operation. Alternatively click on the "Tasks" menu entry at the top left of the screen and then click the "Save and Continue" entry.

The pictures throughout the user manual show an extra "Demos" entry on the desktop screens - I don't see this on my machine, am I missing something?

No, unfortunately the screens for the manual had to be produced very early in the project and at that time the software had some extra testing/demonstration functions which were only used during development to test things as each new feature was added. This is not an omission from the final software - just an error on the part of the person who produced the screen dumps.

Why is it that every time I start a new document or try to edit an existing one an attempt is made to read from the floppy even though there isn't a disc in there?

You have used the "change default storage" entry in the File menu of the File Manager. If you switch it back to cabinet normality will be restored.

Why is that often the first file listed when I try to import from a Locoscript disc cannot be read?

You will probably see that the file that cannot be imported has a name ending .GRP - this is a special, normally hidden, file used by Locoscript to record the group names so, for example, you might see a file called LETTERS.GRP on the Locoscript disk and the group it is in will be "LETTERS". It's not surprising that the word processor complains about such a file as it is not a Locoscript document - because it isn't!!. Similarly there may be other files on Locoscript disks (xxxx.JOY, SETTINGS.STD etc, etc) which are listed but which are not Locoscript documents. Presumably you will know the names of the "real" documents you have recorded on your own disks.

Can crashing the software actually damage the machine?

No, don't worry, the worst that can happen is that you have to reload the operating system from a Rescue Disc. Now I know that's bad enough but that really is the worst damage you can do to it.

While I can import files from an old PCW (Locoscript and CP/M) into the PcW16 I can't see any way to transfer things back the other way?

This is correct. The fact is that the system can happily read and write MS-DOS format floppy disks (PcW16 disks are effectively just a "normal" MS-DOS disk with some added bells and whistles) but it can only READ from CP/M (which includes Locoscript) format disks. This means that import from them is possible but export to them is not possible.

How can I go back and change my name and address details that I entered when I first set the machine up?

From the desktop access the Setup menu. On there you will find entries for changing the date and time and beneath that is an entry for "Enter user information" this is where you can change the details of your name/address/telephone number, etc. - At the end of that process a couple of new word processor templates (letter and fax) are created to include the updated information you just entered. Obviously this operation should also be performed if the machine is passed on to or sold to a new owner.

For the highly technically minded you may like to know that it is possible to create other "special" templates that take on the user information to build "normal" templates at the end of the process of entering the user info. Those files are made just like a normal template but you insert mail-merge codes where you want the items filled in with user details. The file must be saved uncompressed (so use Task+Shift+Blue in the WP) and after saving you should change the name from a .WPT to a .WTT (Wordprocessor Template template) and add any 3 characters to the end of the normal name. So if you wanted to create one for memos you'd actually make a new (uncompressed) template as "MemosXXX" and then use Task+R in the file manager to access extensions and change the file in the system folder from WPT to WTT. When the entering of user information is completed a new template "Memos" would then be created incorporating the user information wherever there were previously mail merge codes.

I'm preparing a book about the PcW - how can I produce screen dumps?

As you already know, the [Print Screen] key will send the current screen to a printer. If, however, you press [Shift]+[Print Screen] with an MS-DOS format floppy disk in the drive the screen will be written to disk in .BMP format (as used by Windows paint programs). Each time you capture the screen like this a numbered file with a name SCRSHTnn.BMP will be written to the disk.

Is it OK to always leave the machine plugged in and just switch it into "Standby" so that the power switch turns red rather than switching off at the wall and/or unplugging it?

Absolutely, that's exactly how it is designed to be used. You should never need to unplug the PcW or switch it off at the wall unless you intend moving the unit. Think of it just like a TV, video or microwave oven - those are devices you always leave plugged in and switched on it's just that they are normally switched to "standby" when you switch them off (via the remote control for example).

It is only by leaving the machine on in standby that it can "wake up" to sound an alarm when you have set diary appointments. Also, the battery that powers the onboard clock is a NiCad battery that periodically needs recharging (this all happens invisibly "behind your back"). If you leave the machine totally unplugged for several weeks (probably months) that battery will run down and when you next plug in and switch on the PcW you'll probably be asked to set the time and date again.

What is the spare 9 pin socket on the back of the machine, next to the mouse port, used for?

Nothing at present, it is a "serial port" that is spare and could be used in the future for connecting to other computers or to connect to a modem so that the PcW16 could be used as an email and/or Internet terminal.

How can I get Locoscript documents from the 3" disks on my old PCW into the PcW16?

Locoscript have a package called Locolink available which can be run on the old PCW. The PcW16 already has part of Locolink built in and if a cable connecting to Locolink running on an old PCW is detected when you call up the PcW16 file selector to Import a file, it will automatically offer the option of copying across files from the 3" disks on the other machine.

Has the method of deleting files in the file manager been changed?

Yes, it does not operate in quite the same way as described on page 136 of the manual. A lot of people found the original method a bit complicated so the method of operation has been changed to be consistent with the way the rest of the File Manager (and all other PcW16 software) operates. Once you have selected one or more files. When you then select Delete you will just see an "alert box" asking you to confirm that this is what you want. It is no longer necessary to select the files a second time before they can be deleted.

What does Freeing cabinet space mean?

Flash memory holds the files in the cabinet, it cannot be erased every time a file is written as this takes a long time and would reduce it's working life. So, instead, when a file is written to flash the old copy is left there but just marked dirty and the new one is then added. Eventually, when there are enough old, dirty files the software decides it is time to erase all the old copies to make some new, free space available. It is while it is doing this that you see the message.

Are there any "hidden" features in the software?

That's actually quite a broad question as there a number of things the software will do that weren't mentioned in the manual. Some of these were additions after the manual went to print and some are there mainly for internal use but others may well find them useful. In no particular order:

There is a very powerful but VERY DANGEROUS key combination which is if you hold down the right hand [Task], [Shift], [Ctrl] and [Red] keys at switch on the machine will automatically go into the process of loading a new operating system from a rescue disc. All files in the cabinet will be lost so you'd be very unwise to experiment with this without at least doing a backup first!

In the spreadsheet, if you click on the filename display on screen it will do the same as pressing [Task]+[F8] - that is a save and continue. Similarly, if you click on the box where it shows you the current cell it will immediately bring up the "Go to" dialog.

In the WP, tabs can be set and cleared most easily just by licking on the tab ruler display. This is far quicker than Change Tab Positions on the Style menu (though perhaps less accurate).

The File Manager has lots of hidden goodies but these should not be used by the uninitiated as you may render your system so unusable that it has to be restored from a Rescue Disc. Most of the functions can't be accessed unless the current folder being shown on screen is the cabinet "system" folder. So step one is to switch to that. After that, most of the extras cannot be used until the system folder has been "unlocked". This is done by pressing [Task]+X. You'll know you've done it right if there is an asterisk next to the cabinet percentage free figure. Once the cabinet is unlocked all those system files (the ones with ! in a box next to them) can now be deleted or have new files copied over them. Previously you would just have got a message saying the files could not be deleted.

Another of the File Manger "hidden" functions is [Task]+[#], this allows you to specify a file specification which limits the types of files displayed. So, for example, if you set it to be *.WPD then only word processor documents will be listed. Set it back to *.* (or just *) to make it show all files again. (To see the other file extensions such as WPD see the following description of Task+R)

If you use [Task]+[M] then when you next try to read a floppy disk it no longer has to be a PcW16 one - you can take a "normal" MS-DOS one and it's files will be listed with just 8.3 filenames instead of the special 32 character file names that PcW16 uses.

Using [Task]+[R] will reveal the three letter extensions on each file. For example, Word Processor documents are *.WPD, templates are *.WPT, spreadsheets are *.SS, etc. When you rename files (even without using Task+X or Task+R) you can specify an extension to be used to over-ride the existing extension by including a quote and three letters at the end of the new name. That quote must be the one typed using the key beneath STOP on the keyboard.

[Task]+[H] shows hidden files but this may be a bit disappointing as there only normally is 1 hidden file - a file that records information about the file manager's current configuration.

[Task]+[Undo] is VERY DANGEROUS - it formats the cabinet memory so that all existing files are lost and should only ever be used if you want to start with a "clean" machine. You MUST backup any files you want to keep first.

[Task]+[N] will get rid of the "index" file in the cabinet that holds the names assigned to FOLDER01, FOLDER02, etc. so they'll revert to the default names.

[Task]+[P] will force a purge of the cabinet. This is the process that often happens after files are newly written or deleted when you see "Freeing cabinet space", "Reshuffling cabinet", or whatever. Basically, remnants of old files remain even after deletion but are just marked as reusable. However it is only when a purge is performed that the space they occupy really is totally wiped and made ready to accept new files - as I say, this normally happens automatically when needed anyway.

Finally in the file manager there are a couple of shortcuts available using the mouse. The first is a quick way to access the System folder in the Cabinet or on a disc - just click the mouse on the word Cabinet or Disc that appears on the title bar across the screen. The other is a quick way to make the program read a floppy disc. Normally when you put in a floppy you have to access Change Disc on the Disc menu or press [Ctrl]+L, an even quicker way is to click the right mouse button.