Stacker 2.0

Brian Smithson (
Mon, 28 Oct 1991 19:12:42 PST

I finished upgrading from Stacker 1.1 to Stacker 2.0 last night.
Stacker 2.0 boasts a bunch of new features and improvements:

- faster compress/decompress
- smaller device driver
- now supports removable media and RAM drives (in the traditional sense,
not in the sense of the UltraLite RAM hard disk which were supported
in the old version too)
- has a disk defragger
- more config options
- menu-driven command interface
- "smart" installation (grrr... more about this later)
- other worthless stuff like DOS 5.0 and Windows support

OK, I should have done some timing tests to see if the compress/decompress
was *really* faster, but I didn't. I also didn't really check out the
claim that the resident driver was smaller. So sue me.

Nonetheless, I can report that installation did not go well. A couple
of things happened which I didn't like:

(1) As you may recall from my report on Stacker 1.1, my C: drive had a big
file on it called \STACKVOL.000 which Stacker used as a virtual E: drive.
That left very little space on C: -- just about 100KB total, of which
most was used by \MSDOS.SYS, \IO.SYS, \COMMAND.COM, \CONFIG.SYS, and
\AUTOEXEC.BAT. Also on the C: drive is a \STACKER directory which
contained the Stacker device driver and SCHECK.EXE (a CHKDSK for Stacker
volumes). The point of all of this is that on an UltraLite, you want to
assign as much of the C: drive to the Stacker volume as you can, leaving
room only for the files necessary to boot and get the Stacker volume
mounted. That all worked fine.

The problem was that Stacker's "smart" install program tries to dump
everything onto the C: drive: the new device driver, utilities like
SCHECK, a full-screen text editor (!?), the install program itself,
and even some files related to the hardware coprocessor you can get
for Stacker! Needless to say, this stuff didn't fit on my C: drive.
In the process of discovering this junk, I corrupted something and I
could no longer boot.

Booting from the ROMs still worked, so I "decided" to do a full
install instead of an upgrade. Praying that my backup would be
restorable (I backed up files, not the Stacker volume :-), I wiped
off the C: drive, did a SYS C:, and did a fresh install. On to
the second thing which I didn't like.

(2) After polluting my C: drive with all of those horrid files, the
"smart" install lets you select from a few menu options and then
create a Stacker volume. I figured I'd go ahead with it, even
though I knew that I'd probably want to remove it and make another
one somehow after I removed unneeded files. Well, it simply didn't
do it! No error message, nothing. It just came back as though it
had done its duty.

I plan to let the folks at Stac Electronics know what I think of their
install program, but I was able to use the SCREATE command directly
to create a Stacker volume. I'm happy to say that it no longer makes
you leave a minimum of 100KB uncompressed on a boot drive. In fact,
my first attempt left a mere 4096 bytes! Figuring I needed a little
more margin than that, I did it again leaving about 60KB. I'm using
it now and it seems to be working fine.

I still recommend Stacker (or some equivalent) on the UltraLite. I've
never noticed that the performance hit was severe enough to outweigh
the gain in disk space. If you have Stacker 1.1, well, I wouldn't
exactly kill myself to get to the store to buy an upgrade. If you
don't have Stacker, don't let my bad experience with the installation
sway you from getting version 2.0. Version 1.1 didn't have any of
that menu-driven junk and so 2.0 is no worse in that regard.

And now, a question for the list: can anyone out there think of a good
reason for defragmenting a RAM disk?

-Brian Smithson
 Motorola Inc., Computer Group, Commercial Systems Division
 2001 Logic Drive, San Jose CA 95134 USA, (408)369-4104, {apple | pyramid}!motcsd!brian