HISTORY - "THE DIGITAL UNIVERSE" version 1.7 for Amiga OS4.x


The last public release of The Digital Universe was v1.6.

BugFixes since v1.6

  1. Printing. If using the native printer drivers, a grim reaper would appear after a page had been printed. If using TurboPrint the bug was not evident. The printing error has been fixed so that using native OS4 print drivers now works properly.

    The Abort button did not always work when printing, especially if printing a display with a detailed planetary surface. It is now possible to Abort a printout at any stage during the printing process.

  2. Classification of Deep Sky Objects.

    Though most DSOs were classified correctly, some picked up a default classification of "Galaxy", for example Messier 3 is a globular cluster. The NGC data file has been updated to not only correct this bug but also to include more detailed classifications of objects such as the galaxy type.

  3. Fixed a memory leak that could occur if plotting was interrupted when drawing a large sized planet.
  4. Custom horizon did not draw in v1.6, now fixed for v1.7.
  5. Reports. Geocentric data was not corrected for precession before but was always precessed to DATE. Now all data precesses to the values selected in the user preferences. The Epoch for which co-ordinates are valid is shown at the top of the report.
  6. Planet Info. Unless precession was enabled and set to other than J2000, the planets showed incorrect info for the constellation they are meant to be in. Bug fixed for v1.7 so correct data is given in all circumstances.
  7. The Undo/Redo record became repeated if screenmode was changed, this is now fixed.
  8. Fixed a bug where in rare cases at high fields of view an area of stars, DSOs etc. did not draw and was left blank.
  9. Fixed a bug where screenmode did not change if new dimensions were chosen from within the ASL requester and the mode id had not changed.
  10. Improved the behaviour of the Alert Window when the maximum zoom size is reached. Now the alert will only display once and not display further messages when moving around the sky when at the maximum zoom level.
  11. Fixed a memory leak that occurred if many alert messages were shown in the same window.
  12. Some pens were the incorrect colour when DU was uniconified and twilight enabled. Now corrected.
  13. Fixed a bug where a grim reaper could occur on iconifying DU while it was set to autoadvance mode.
  14. When printing, stars were not drawn with a correct aspect ratio in earlier versions.
  15. Previously, Deep Sky Objects with sizes greater than 100 arcminutes lost the most significant digit. eg Andromeda galaxy size was shown as being 89.1 instead of the true value of 189.1 arcminutes.
  16. Finding stars. In some cases the wrong star could be found by the advanced searching mechanism, eg Mira would locate Mirach. The search will now always return the correct value.

New Features and Enhancements for version 1.7

  1. More detailed DSO classifications - see Bug 2 above.
  2. New Arexx Commands added.


    MOVE and LOOK commands replace the numerous LOOKNORTH, MOVEEAST etc. commands.

  3. All the FIND windows have a consistent GUI, including the criteria gadget and search button. This means the user can find an object just by entering its name or just a few characters from its name in the Criteria box.
  4. Planetary feature maps. The map sizes are no longer restrained to specific sizes. If available, Digital Universe can now use LARGE or EXTRA_LARGE maps to show far greater planetary details. Not all solar system objects have high definition maps but most planets now do.
  5. Reports object lists will now automatically update when any changes are made to the Misc Objects list, or misc objects toggled on/off.
  6. Reports now show the Epoch for which the data is valid. See bug 5.
  7. The original menu short-cuts of Right Amiga ] and Right Amiga [ for zooming the display are not too handy on some European keyboards. To avoid using the menu short-cuts it is now also possible to zoom into and out of the display using the numeric keypad + and - keys. The numeric +/- keys also have the feature that if they are held down the operation is repeated resulting in fast multiple zooms.
  8. Added two new buttons to the Control Panel and also the use of the CURSOR UP and CURSOR DOWN key to allow the general magnitude level of all displayed objects to be increased or decreased. If any magnitude level hits a limit then no further increase or decrease is possible and the individual levels in the Display Prefs Window would then need to be used.
  9. At wider fields of view (>45 degrees) the moon and sun are shown slightly larger than actual size. This is not as odd as it first seems, due to their brightness the moon and sun are perceived as being larger than their angular size suggests. All planets are drawn rounder (less square) for small sizes.
  10. The Undo/Redo system has been enhanced. In v1.6 only changes in the geometry of the display were taken into account (e.g.. changes in RA, Dec and field of view). Changes in time were not taken into consideration. In v1.7 time changes have been included in the Undo/Redo system. If using Auto mode, only the beginning and end times are counted as valid Undo/Redo events.

    The number of undo steps has been increased to 50.


    If AISS is enabled and the AISS system installed, the navigation buttons in the control panel will be more aesthetically pleasing.

    If NOFLARES is enabled then stars will be drawn with purely spherical symmetry, otherwise stars are drawn with a cross flare by default..

    If BRIGHTERLINES is enabled then constellation figures, names and boundaries, RA/Dec lines, Horizon and ecliptic lines are drawn 35% brighter.

    If CONTROLPANEL is enabled, the Control Panel will be automatically opened on starting The Digital Universe.

    If VERTICALPANEL is enabled, the Control Panel will have a vertical aspect as opposed to the default horizontal panel.

    See New Feature #36 for info on CUSTOMMENU.

    See New Feature #37 for info on NOLOGO.

  12. Star plotting improved to give a higher dynamic range per magnitude difference. This gives a more realistic looking sky. The stars also appear brighter so the user may wish to lower their default magnitude setting in the Display Settings Window for stars and planets. As mentioned in the above section, stars can be drawn as round or with a cross shaped "photographic" flare.
  13. Grid lines and constellation figures and boundaries were previously too prominent, whereas it is more important to see the stars and other objects. All grid lines have been toned down so that the stars are more prominent. However, depending on monitor and graphics settings some people may find the new, less prominent lines, too faint. If this is the case, set the BRIGHTERLINES tooltype or use the equivalent CLI parameter mentioned above.
  14. Hierarchical labelling of stars and Deep Sky Objects. Previously if a star or DSO had more than one designation then a single object could be labelled up to three times, depending on the users display settings. Now only one label will be shown in order of hierarchy.

    Stars - Name, Bayer, Flamsteed number. DSOs - Name, Messier number, NGC number.

  15. Time Advance lock now defaults to Alt/Az at startup because we start looking due south and not at a fixed RA/Dec. Certain operations will set the Advance Lock, e.g.. looking to a particular direction will set Alt/Az, finding a star, DSO or constellation will lock to RA/Dec and finding a solar system object or misc. object will lock to that object. A new gadget in the Status Line will display the current Advance Lock setting. This gadget shows only if the display size is large enough (> 1000 pixels).
  16. Modelling proper motion of stars no longer needs the Epoch Date to be set as DATE as in older versions. The Epoch is only required for precession of co-ordinates NOT for the true positions of stars.
  17. Coloured rendering now applies not only to planet feature maps but to planets drawn as "stars" and also to the actual stars themselves. Stars that are 4.5 magnitudes brighter than the limiting value are shown coloured according to their spectral type.
  18. Labelling the constellations now uses several sizes of font, this improves readability when the field of view is very large and at lower screen resolutions. The constellations in the background are now labelled at high zooms (low fields of view) whereas previously there would be no label on most occasions due to the label being at a fixed position.
  19. When zooming into the display, various elements would become out of range with previous versions. Now all lines will still show even at very high zoom levels. This improvement was originally intended to fix an OS4.1 problem in updates 1 and 2 which will most certainly have been fixed in OS4.1 - update 3. Only older versions of DU will be affected by the temporary OS4.1 bug as version 1.7 has a workaround leading to a much better drawing method.
  20. Streamlined the method used for non-fast labelling of objects. When the fast labels option is disabled Digital Universe uses routines for better placing of object names to improve readability, the placing routines are now significantly faster than in previous versions.
  21. Amidock support. Digital Universe registers itself as an OS4 application and places an icon on the Amidock. This icon can perform various functions such as uniconify, bring the DU screen to the front or quit the Digital Universe application.
  22. Restructured the menus, so that some of the items previously in the Project Menu are now more appropriately in a new View Menu.
  23. Added two new View Menu items to allow the toggling of Twilight and Night Palette settings without having to go via the Display Window. The keyboard short-cuts are Right Amiga L and Right Amiga N.
  24. The Control Panel can now be shown either horizontally (the default) or vertically. The panel no longer has a title or drag bar making it neater. The panel will open by default at the top left of the screen below the title bar. It can be moved to any desired position using CTRL AMIGA as qualifiers to the left mouse button. The Control Panel position is automatically snapshot on exiting The Digital Universe. The menu item Project -> Control Panel now toggles the open/closed status of the panel.
  25. Lunar Features. If the option is enabled to display planet names, then features on the lunar surface are also labelled. The number of features labelled, starting with none at all, progressively increases as the user zooms in to the moon.
  26. When drawing DSOs, DU now uses the objects minimum size and position angle (if available) to draw elipses for the NGC objects instead of drawing just circles. The Information Window will now display both maximum and minimum sizes when appropriate.
  27. Printout is no longer just black and white but use a greyscale shading. Printed text is improved with differing fonts for constellations, planets etc. The milky way is now included in the printout. The modelled location is now printed in addition to the local time.
  28. If planetary features and also phases are enabled (default) the planetary shading is much more realistic. The phase is no longer on/off marked by a sharp terminator but accurate shading depending on the position of the sun is used.
  29. It is possible to disable the drawing of the milky way if desired.
  30. Input handling. A small delay has been added before moving the mouse will commence a zoom drag box or angle measurement. This prevents occurence of accidental zooms into the field of view. Another longer delay is now used when zooming or angle measuring that will allow the operation to be aborted if the mouse is held still for 1.5 seconds. During dragging operations, information is now shown at the left hand area of the Status Line.
  31. Time Window. Date and time are now separate gadgets. There are additional pop up gadgets that allow the time to be entered from a list in 15 minute increments, or the date to be entered from a pop up calendar.
  32. Misc Object Settings.

    It is now possible to display the orbital parameters for objects in the "Selected Objects" list, previously you had to find the object in one of the many source files and click its entry in the left hand list. The windows for "Selected Objects" are read only and do not allow editing of the data.

    It is now possible to open multiple Misc Object Edit or Read windows.

    If data in one of the source files is changed, and the object is also one of the "Selected Objects" the data applying to the selected object is automatically updated.

    It is also possible to open one source file and open an Edit window, then open another source file but still be able to edit the orbital data for the object from the original source file.

  33. Display Settings. Added an option to hide stars, and deep sky objects that are below the horizon. Grid lines, constellation names and planets are still shown.
  34. Digital Universe can now use 32 bit pointers. If you wish to use the old planar pointers then delete or preferably just rename the Pointers drawer within the Digital Universe directory.
  35. DigitalUniverse now uses a DOUBLE CLICK before showing any object information. A single click is ignored, thus preventing accidental opening of Object Information windows when not intended..

    NOTE: SHIFT and DOUBLE CLICK both centres the object and also displays its information.

  36. Custom Menu GUI option. (Disabled by default)

    If the CUSTOMMENU tooltype is enabled or du started with the same CLI parameter, the default "Like Workbench" settings can be modified to look better on the Digital Universe screen, especially if using the Night Vision palette. A heavily themed Workbench using images for the Screen Titlebar cannot be modified, but if using plain colours or simple gradients the menu system can be much improved in fitting the general DU environment.

    The setting defaults to OFF so your usual Workbench settings will be used unless the tooltype is enabled.

  37. Custom Logo GUI Option. (Enabled by default)

    The Digital Universe will by default use its own custom screen bar logo. There are two sizes available and one will be used which is most appropriate for the users default Workbench GUI settings.

    The logo may not fit well with all GUI themes that users may have installed so the tooltype and CLI argument NOLOGO can be used to revert to the one in their default "Theme".

  38. Multi Object Window. If double clicking over several possible objects a list is displayed for the user to choose which they want to view the information for. This window cannot now be snapshot but opens just to the left and below the object, similar to a Pop Up Menu. If the user needs to move the window this can be done using the CTRL AMIGA Left Mouse Button combination.

  39. Finding objects enhancement.

    After finding an object a small help bubble will appear at the position of the found object showing its name, this bubble will disappear after a short time. The name is derived from your FIND parameters so may not necessarily be the one that would be displayed. For example searching for M31 will display the name Messier 31 and not Andromeda Galaxy.

    With the exception of extended objects such as constellations and large clusters as the Pleiades and Hyades, the mouse cursor will show as a Telrad type pointer. Moving the mouse will revert to the normal pointer. When the pointer is in this "found" state, one click of the left mouse button will display information for the particular object. The Multi Object Window does not appear with a list of available objects as the user will only be concerned with the object found. The telrad pointer will time out after a while and then the normal double click is used for information and if there are several objects the Multi Object Window will be shown.

Databases and Helpfiles for version 1.7

  1. ngc2000.dat replaces ngc.dat - see bug 2 and bug 15 above.
  2. New arexx.guide file specifically covers the Arexx interface.
  3. New file flares.dat for drawing star shapes.
  4. More planetary feature maps in several different resolutions.
  5. Replacing of many old low quality deep sky images with more up to date and higher resolution images.
  6. Several Arexx example scripts are provided in the Rexx folder.
  7. Display setting presets can be loaded from the Presets folder. These can only be used from within Arexx scripts.
  8. milkyway.data replaces older file mw.data
  9. Config files are now 180 bytes instead of 172. This allows the milkyway setting, objects below horizon hidden and brightness settings to be saved. DU will still read older v1.6 config files. If an older file is used, DU w ill assume default settings of milkyway enabled and brightness level of 0 and objects below the hoizon are visible..
  10. duintro.mp3 renamed as duintro. Any datatype supported sound file can be used, a users custom tune may not necessarily be an mp3.
  11. DU uses a new format for storing its selected Misc Objects (this is now in fact the same as that used by the source Misc Object data files). To avoid using an old file by mistake the file is now renamed to du.miscobjs instead of du.miscobj
  12. Renamed orbit files with numbers with leading zero to aid sorting in Directory Opus etc. Resized the NASA satellite files.
    Renamed comets_current.uof to comets_c2000.uof as they are no longer 'current'.
  13. Updated the 20 brightest asteroid orbital elements in the orbit file asteroids_numbered01.uof. If you have any of these in an updated OLD miscobjects file then copy the new data accross. If using the default file, the information is upto date already.
  14. Added new orbit file, satellites_100_brightest.uof This file repeats some of the objects in the older files, but use the data in this new file in preference to any for the same object elsewhere. The elements in this file are upto date for 2012.

    Note: This file can be updated online using the supplied Arexx script !

  15. DULogo.jpeg is now DULogo without a file extension and is an fact a PNG. Any datatype image can now be used so the logo is not limited to one particular image type.
  16. New file in orbits directory called "satmags", this is used in conjuction with an updated "tle2uof" file to incorporate magnitude data when updating satellite orbital parameters.

Current Known Bugs

Only one known at the current time. So report any you find ! Bugs not reported tend not to get fixed.

  1. Only applies if the CUSTOM MENU option is enabled. (Status Minor)

    If the user has set a Simple Gradient for their Screen Title Bar, *AND* the gradient angle is set to 180 degrees (which is actually a good setting) then the modified gradient customised for The Digital Universe screen does not use the required pens. This can easily be worked around by using a gradient of 179 degrees or 181 degrees in your GUI Prefs, the results are indistinguishable from 180 degrees and the DU custom bar works as it is intended.

Under the Bonnet Stuff

A lot of work has been done on the Digital Universe code that will not be readily seen by the end user. The code has been tightened, optimised and will hopefully be much easier to maintain for future development.