Common Problems

Of course, Fractint would never stoop to having a "common" problem. These notes describe some, ahem, "special situations" which come up occasionally and which even we haven't the gall to label as "features".

Fractint (alas!) is still a DOS program. It runs well under windows, but there can be problems. Here are some tips from some expert users.

Jay Hill's Windows tips:

For starters, make sure the DOS window properties are set to 'Misc | Always suspend' = off. Unless you want the task to stop when it does not have focus. Also, you can put the Idle Sensitivity to high. Make settings on any other DOS windows you have open according to what they should be (or what you prefer).

If your DOS window is full screen, press Alt-Enter to make it a Window window. Then click on the MSDOS icon in the upper left. WARNING, don't do this in a high res graphics mode or in text mode (sometimes). The safest is F3 320x200 graphics mode. Windows likes that mode. If you have a high res image, hit 'X' to get the text screen and then Alt-ENTER to get the DOS Windows window... POW...your task will likely die. So ... don't do that:

Some DOS programs eat up to 50% or 80% CPU time just sitting watching for key strokes. Clearly, these should be suspended when they don't have the focus. A simple DOS prompt, I have found, eats little time.

Some web pages eat lots of time (watching prompt boxes) while others eat little (plain text or graphics with no links).

It has been noted here before, you can make a shortcut to Fractint.exe and tailor its properties. I use in the program tab: command line:

FRACTINT.EXE textsafe=save sound=off

Under the screen tab: Usage: Full screen. Under Misc: Allow screen saver=off.

You should coordinate your DOS windows according to what you are doing. I often change the settings for a short time, just to do some other task.

Damien M. Jones Windows tips:

This is what works for me. Your mileage may vary.

Create a shortcut to FRACTINT.EXE, right-click it, choose Properties. On the Memory tab: set all five drop-downs to "Auto". On the Screen tab: choose Full-screen and Fast ROM emulation, leave Dynamic memory allocation OFF. Under the Misc tab: turn OFF Allow screen saver. Turn ON Always suspend. Set the Idle sensitivity to about 1/4, closest to Low.

In the SSTOOLS.INI file, put textsafe=save on a line by itself in the [fractint] section. (This helps preserve your screen when you switch away from FractInt, but only works if Always suspend is turned ON.)

Having more than 8M of RAM helps too, that way Windows and FractInt aren't fighting over the same memory.

Hang during startup:

There might be a problem with Fractint's video detection logic and your particular video adapter. Try running with "fractint adapter=xxx" where xxx is cga, ega, egamono, mcga, or vga. If "adapter=vga" works, and you really have a SuperVGA adapter capable of higher video modes, there are other "adapter=" options for a number of SuperVGA chipsets - please see the full selection in Video Parameters for details. If this solves the problem, create an SSTOOLS.INI file with the "adapter=xxx" command in it so that the fix will apply to every run.

Another possible cause: If you install the latest Fractint in say directory "newfrac", then run it from another directory with the command "\newfrac\fractint", *and* you have an older version of fractint.exe somewhere in your DOS PATH, a silent hang is all you'll get. See the notes under the "Cannot find FRACTINT.EXE message" problem for the reason.

Another possibility: try one of the "textsafe" parameter choices described in Video Parameters

Scrambled image when returning from a text mode display:

If an image which has been partly or completely generated gets partly destroyed when you return to it from the menu, help, or the information display, please try the various "textsafe" parameter options - see Video Parameters for details. If this cures the problem, create an SSTOOLS.INI file with the "textsafe=xxx" command so that the fix will apply to every run.

"Holes" in an image while it is being drawn:

Little squares colored in your "inside" color, in a pattern of every second square of that size, in solid guessing mode, both across and down (i.e., 1 out of 4), are a symptom of an image which should be calculated with more conservative periodicity checking than the default. See the Periodicity parameter under Image Calculation Parameters .

Black bar at top of screen during color cycling on 8086/8088 machines:

(This might happen intermittently, not every run.) "fractint cyclelimit=10" might cure the problem. If so, increase the cyclelimit value (try increasing by 5 or 10 each time) until the problem reappears, then back off one step and add that cyclelimit value to your SSTOOLS.INI file.

Other video problems:

If you are using a VESA driver with your video adapter, the first thing to try is the "vesadetect=no" parameter. If that fixes the problem, add it to your SSTOOLS.INI file to make the fix permanent. It may help to explicitly specify your type of adapter - see the "adapter=" parameter in Video Parameters .

We've had one case where a video driver for Windows does not work properly with Fractint. If running under Windows, DesqView, or some other layered environment, try running Fractint directly from DOS to see if that avoids the problem. We've also had one case of a problem co-existing with "386 to the Max".

We've had one report of an EGA adapter which got scrambled images in all modes until "textsafe=no" was used (see Video Parameters) .

Also, see Video Adapter Notes for information about enhanced video modes - Fractint makes only limited attempts to verify that a video mode you request is actually supported by your adapter.

Other Hangs and Strange Behavior:

We've had some problems (hangs and solid beeps) on an FPU equipped machine when running under Windows 3's enhanced mode. The only ways around the problem we can find are to either run the Fractint image involved outside Windows, or to use the DOS command "SET NO87=nofpu" before running Fractint. (This SET command makes Fractint ignore your fpu, so things might be a lot slower as a result.)

Insufficient memory:

Fractint requires a fair bit of memory to run. Most machines with at least 640k (ok sticklers, make that "PC-compatible machines") will have no problem. Machines with 512k and machines with many TSR utilities and/or a LAN interface may have problems. Some Fractint features allocate memory when required during a run. If you get a message about insufficient memory, or suspect that some problem is due to a memory shortage, you could try commenting out some TSR utilities in your AUTOEXEC.BAT file, some non-critical drivers in your CONFIG.SYS file, or reducing the BUFFERS parameter in your CONFIG.SYS.

"Cannot find FRACTINT.EXE" message:

Fractint is an overlayed program - some parts of it are brought from disk into memory only when used. The overlay manager needs to know where to find the program. It must be named FRACTINT.EXE (which it is unless somebody renamed it), and you should either be in the directory containing it when you start Fractint, or that directory should be in your DOS PATH.

"File FRACTINT.CFG is missing or invalid" message:

You should either start Fractint while you are in the directory containing it, or should have that directory in your DOS PATH variable. If that isn't the problem, maybe you have a FRACTINT.CFG file from an older release of Fractint lying around? If so, best rename or delete it. If that isn't the problem either, then the FRACTINT.CFG included in the FRAINT.EXE release file has probably been changed or deleted. Best reinstall Fractint to get a fresh copy.

Some other program doesn't like GIF files created by Fractint:

Fractint generates nice clean GIF89A spec files, honest! But telling this to the other program isn't likely to change its mind. Instead, try an option which might get around the problem: run Fractint with the command line option "gif87a=yes" and then save an image. Fractint will store the image in the older GIF87A format, without any fractal parameters in it (so you won't be able to load the image back into Fractint and zoom into it - the fractal type, coordinates, etc. are not stored in this older format), and without an "aspect ratio" in the GIF header (we've seen one utility which doesn't like that field.)

Disk video mode performance:

This won't be blindingly fast at the best of times, but there are things which can slow it down and can be tuned. See "Disk-Video" Modes for details.

Sound card output isn't working:

If you get the message "FM hardware not present" when trying to switch on output from your sound card then check that the drivers you installed with the card have set the BLASTER environment variable. To do this go to a DOS prompt and type SET, this command will list a bunch of lines like this:

one of these should look like:
    BLASTER=A:220 I:5 D:3

or similar, it's the A: entry that's important. If you don't have the variable set then try putting the line:

in your autoexec.bat file, though be warned that if your sound hardware isn't compatable or has its base i/o address set differently to the 220H, then unexpected things may happen as fractint tries to write to hardware that isn't there.

If you get no warning message but still can't hear anything then try to alter the volume of your card's output using whatever utility came with the card. For windows 95 doubleclick on the small loudspeaker icon on your task bar and play with the sliders, you may have to go to the mixer properties menu and enable the control for the FM output to appear, this may be called 'synthesizer', 'FM', 'midi', or 'legacy' depending on your hardware. Also fractint is unlikely to be able to continue sounding notes when running in the background under windows 95, so you'll need to keep switching back and forth until things are set right.

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Noel Giffin,