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Review: Shapeshifter 3.4 by Christian Bauer
By: Jason Compton
I really have no excuse for not getting to this sooner.
ShapeShifter, in just one short year, has become the new de-facto standard
for Macintosh emulation on the Amiga. And really, it only took a few
When released by Christian Bauer last year, ShapeShifter sent shockwaves
through the Amiga community. A shareware Macintosh emulator? The full
version a mere US$50 or so? No hardware to buy, and it works more or less
as well as Emplant?
Yes, really. And since that initial release, ShapeShifter has paved the
way for the continuance and spread of Mac emulation on the Amiga. At the
same time, its open architecture has encouraged third-party developers to
improve on it.
ShapeShifter consists of a shareware demonstration program, offering all of
the features of the main program except one--the ability to use whole hard
drive partitions as Macintosh partitions. This is a notable restriction,
as this is the fastest method of access, but not an insurmountable one, as
SS supports the slower "filedisk", a large AmigaDOS file containing a
To function, ShapeShifter requires a 512k or 1 meg Mac ROM image. While
virtually every Mac has a different ROM, ShapeShifter supports most of the
flavors, and these ROMs can be found on currently used 680x0 Mac
models--meaning there is not likely to be a supply shortage any time soon.
Unlike the Emplant, no direct hardware method is provided for imaging the
ROMs in the Amiga itself. Instead, the legal theory is that you purchase
the ROMs and take the image from a real Mac using the included utility. In
effect, your purchased ROMs are the "legitimacy" for ripping the ROMs from
an office machine or the local computer store.
ShapeShifter, like other multitasking Amiga emulators, requires a special
boot program to remap a small section of memory.
SS allows the configuration of one or two monitor use (if you have an
external graphics card). It allows you to use the Amiga Workbench (largely
for show, as it is not a very fast option), a standard ECS or AGA
screenmode (rather slow in more than 2 colors, more so than Emplant was),
EGS or CyberGraphX. In addition, the specification for an external video
driver is included, and to date there have been several, including one
speeding up AGA performance (at the cost of additional fast RAM) and one
allowing use on an A2410 card. The Amiga pointer can be substituted for
ShapeShifter supports Amiga high density floppies as Macintosh compatible.
Some problems have been reported with the Dell high-density floppy, but
when CrossDOS 6 is present (as is recommended for proper Dell use), these
seem to clear up.
SS allows the use of a direct SCSI connection for CD-ROMs and the like.
Memory constraints are similar to those found on SS's predecessors, Emplant
and A-Max IV. Count on losing a few megs to emulation overhead. In
addition, 040+ users are strongly nudged towards using the 1 meg ROM.
Graphics cards require fairly large allotments for proper buffering. Under
all these circumstances, therefore, consider 10 megs of RAM to be a
Direct Amiga serial and parallel support is available, as is the ability to
use Amiga networking hardware. It is even possible to run MacTCP in
conjunction with AmiTCP, but I have not personally attempted this.
In action, ShapeShifter floors me. To be fair to Emplant, SS is not as
impressive as Emplant is in native Amiga screenmodes, except monochrome.
But once a graphics card is added, SS really shines. The continuing
support and expansion of ShapeShifter to accomodate more cards and more
systems has been quite impressive, however, in stark contrast to the
"Emplant PCMCIA" fiasco.
One of the real benefits to being a ShapeShifter user is the ready support
found worldwide. A number of "starter filedisks" exist, including the
freely distributable System 7.0.1 and 32-bit extension, to get novice users
up and running with minimal fuss and without having to deal with floppy
As ShapeShifter has recently become Draco-compatible, it seems only fair
that the benchmarks should be reserved for such a copious display of power.
At this time, our Draco benchmarks are not yet available, however. We hope
to have them ready soon.
If you're at all interested in Mac emulation, you owe it to yourself to
check out ShapeShifter.
Available on Aminet in misc/emu.