You will have no doubt heard the phrase... Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me... or so the saying goes. According to wiki this sentiment is reflected in the common law of civil assault which states that name calling, unlike putting someone in fear of physical violence, does not give rise to a cause of action. It seems that New Zealand's law makers don't agree and are considering plans to make it an offence to send messages and post material on-line that is grossly offensive, indecent, obscene, menacing or knowingly false, punishable by up to three months imprisonment or a $2000 fine. OK the proposed laws are aimed at extreme cases of Cyber bullying, but posting abusive or knowingly false material could put an end to many a trolls promising career. How the New Zealand authorities hope to actually police this is unknown but the way they are sizing up the problem could lead to even more internet regulation and governance. Already companies are using evidence gathered from their employee's FaceBook, Twitter and other social media accounts to sack them for slagging off the boss or “throwing” a sickie. It seems “Big Brother” really is watching you?
The internet and the World Wide Web as we know it today has only been in existence for a very short time. Vint Cerf, one of the fathers of the internet, claims that 99% of the web's uses haven't even been discovered yet. And that is the root of the problem. The rapidly evolving medium is far ahead of Governments and lawmakers who are fighting hard to put the digital genie back in the bottle. While lawmakers struggle to come to terms with the digital age it is important that they don't upset the fine line between harassment, privacy and human rights.
It's Alive (part 2)
Not satisfied with creating the Live Mint and Wheezy USB images Pat Wall, our resident A1-X1000 Linux distro guru, has now created a Ubuntu 12.04 Live CD for the A1-X1000. The Live CD which has been specially configured for the A1-X1000 incorporates Darren Stevens latest 3.7.9 Kernel and has 3D support for selected 4xxx, 5xxx and 6xxx series RadeonHD graphics cards. The kernel together with all the necessary modules for the A1-X1000 are included allowing Ubuntu to be booted from the Live CD with the minimum or fuss or user interaction. 3D acceleration and on-board HDaudio are supported out of the box and you can even browse the web with FireFox from the Live CD.
As a test I decided to play a video file with MPlayer while browsing the web with Firefox. At the same time I ran the glxgears 3D demo and used Rhythmbox to play an Internet radio station. The Live Ubuntu CD coped with all tasks. It's a little slower to boot up than Pat's Live USB option but once up and running it performs reasonably well. Of course for best performance Ubuntu can be installed directly from the Live CD to your HDD but if you only have a passing interest in checking out Ubuntu and do not want to disturb your AmigaOS installation then running from the CD is probably the easiest option. The Live Ubuntu CD and simple operating instructions will be available in the near future on the new A-EON app store which is under development.
Many new A1-X1000 owners have been keen to experiment with Linux and several have created their own Linux kernels and distributions. A1-X1000 owners Marcus and xeno74 have created a new 3.8.7 kernel to solve problems which can occur with some RadeonHD graphics cards and OpenGL-based applications like SuperTuxKart or the Android emulator.
Breaking news: Darren Stevens and Xeno74 have now both produced working versions of the 3.9 kernel. Way to go guys!!
Music to my ears
Thanks to the work of Lyle Hazlewood, our very own AmigaOS Mozart, the A1-X1000's on-board HDaudio is now at Release Candidate status. Building on the previous work of Alex Carmona, Rene' Olsen and the original AHI drivers by Davy Wentzler, the A1-X1000's on-board HDaudio driver is currently undergoing final beta testing. To celebrate the event Alex created a little boot tune which plays the original A1000's iconic boot sound on the A1-X1000 when the AmigaOS 4 splash screen is displayed during start up.
The new AmigaOS HDAudio driver should be available via AmiUpdate in the near future for all A1-X1000 owners who have registered their AmigaOS serial numbers with Hyperion Entertainment. I've been celebrating the event in my own small way by using Tunenet and AmigaAmp to play my collections of golden oldies in glorious 32-bit high definition 7.1 audio. This includes a selection of Beatles, Kate Bush, Moody Blues and Vangelis. Hmmmm! do you think I'm showing my age? Mind you I also like Adele and Shakira (purely for her music of course!) Lyle is now turning his development talents to HDaudio recording.
Take me down to the ball game
I recently attended a (non Amiga related) business conference in San Francisco but while I was there I took the opportunity of meeting up with AmigaOS 4 beta tester Bill Bosari who is probably better known for his excellent AmiWest live web broadcasts from Sacramento each year. As usual Bill will be performing his recording duties again at the upcoming AmiWest show which is being held on October 18-20th. As with last year's show there will be a special pre-show event from the 16-18th. For more information please visit the AmiWest website.
While I was in town Bill took me down to AT&T Park to watch the San Francisco Giants play the San Diego Padres at America's favourite pastime. While we watched the game we sampled the typical baseball diet consisting of mounds of garlic fries, salted monkey nuts and enormous hot dogs all washed down with local beer.
There was no room for the cotton candy, ice cream or cheese straws let alone the burgers, pizzas, pretzels, popcorn and sandwiches which were on sale throughout the park. A goodnight was had by all and the 42,000+ home fans went home happy as Giants won the game 3-2, scoring the winning run in the bottom of the 9th innings. After the game I experienced one of the longest firework displays I have ever seen and I'm from England, the home of Guy Fawkes and bonfire night!
I was interested to read that Microsoft is involved in another anti-monopoly dispute over unfair business practices. Given Microsoft's past history of antitrust lawsuits and dominance in the desktop OS market you might think that there is nothing unusual about that? But think again! This time it's Microsoft complaining to the European commission about Google's alleged anticompetitive business practices.
It seems that Microsoft, whose Windows 8 launch has been less than spectacular, is heading a group of 17 technology companies who claim that by giving away Android free on the condition that Smart phone manufacturers also install Google Maps, YouTube and the Google Play app store, gives Google an unfair competitive advantage. Who would have thought? With Android powered Smart-phones shipping 500 million handsets last year (69% of all phones shipped) Google is coming to dominate the mobile market. Interesting times.
I started writing this blog while travelling back to New Zealand. It's been a busy and productive couple of weeks but it will be good to get back home to the summer down under. Actually the weather in Northern Europe was quite good until the Arctic blast which hit just as I was leaving the UK. I arrived back in New Zealand to sunshine, a water shortage and hosepipe ban.
Visiting the Magic Kingdom
On my trip to Europe I made another pilgrimage to AmigaKit's offices and this time I got the chance to check out their vast stock of Classic Amiga inventory. For an Amiga enthusiast it's a bit like striking gold.
They have a large warehouse stacked with all manner of Amiga goodies from brand new Classic Towers to pristine Amiga 1200 Magic packs and, as the saying goes, a whole lot more. No visit to AmigaKit would be complete without the obligatory photo of Matthew and Christopher.
So here they are once again.
The Cat (weasel) is out of the bag
If you are a regular reader of my blog you will know that A-EON commissioned Ian Gledhill to build on the excellent work of earlier developers to create an updated set of Catweasel Mk2 drivers for the AmigaONE X1000. Of course other Next Generation Amiga owners should also benefit from his work. While I was in AmigaKit's offices I got the chance to try out Ian's latest Catweasel Mk2 drivers on one of AmigaONE X1000 that was being tested before shipment to a customer.
I'm very pleased to report that, not only is the Catweasel very easy to set-up and use, the latest version of Ian's driver mounts DF0: (or PC0:) and, just like on a standard Amiga, it auto-senses whether the disk is DD or HD. Magic! You can insert any Classic Amiga floppy disk and it is instantly accessible. You can even create ADF image files if you wish.
The Catweasel Mk2 kits, complete with special cable and latest drivers should be available from AmigaKit in the near future. Needless to say I purchased a Catweasel kit from AmigaKit which is now safely installed in my own A1-X1000.
Following my visit to AmigaKit we drove to High Wycombe to meet with Paul Gentle and Adam Barnes the Managing and Technical Directors of Varisys Ltd, the developers of the Nemo motherboard. We reviewed the status of current developments and commissioned Varisys to manufacture another batch of Nemo motherboard to fulfil the demand on our pre-order list. Please click on the following LINK for more information.
I had a spare day in London before I travelled back home so I took the opportunity of visiting the Amiga North Thames user group (ANT) based in Enfield, North London. ANT is the oldest and longest running Amiga users group in the UK and still has a small but active and enthusiastic membership. The two hour journey across London from Heathrow airport by bus, tube and bus again on a bitterly cold day was well worth it to meet up with like-minded Amiga enthusiasts, even if Michael Carrillo (@MikeyC) jokes can be a little cringe-worthy at times. Sorry Michael.
I got to see Chris Young running the latest developer version of NetSurf 3.0 for AmigaOS 4 as Chris Handley demonstrate RunInUAE to Alan Ullmann (@DDNI), who was in London on other business having just flown in from Northern Ireland. Steven Croucher was demoing Classic Amiga games on his Chameleon with the latest firmware installed and Andy Costin, who is also ANT's Deputy Chairman, was working on his long term Classic Tower project.
There was even a new Raspberry Pi, which was brought along by David Southan, although much to his annoyance and disappointment it only had 256Mb of RAM and not the 512Mb version he ordered. Mike Woods (@MiggyMan) completed the ANT crew and was busy transferring gigabytes of data at USB 1.1 speeds which was not helped by MickeyC's temperamental Micro A1-c.
ANT are again organising the Amiga contingent for the upcoming U.K. Vintage Computer Festival, which this year is being run in conjunction with the Silicon Dreams Festival. The festival is being held at the Snibston Discovery Museum in Leicestershire on the 5-7 July 2013 and promises to be a massive show which celebrates all Retro computing flavours and will be well attended by the general public. This year the show is a 3 day Friday to Sunday event, with Friday being reserved for school groups and the weekend open to the general public. A-EON Technology and AmigaKit will be in attendance. If you are in the area come along, you might just hear some interesting news?
For more information please visit: Silicon Dreams & Vintage Computer Festival 2013
Chrysalis - Pack Ultimate revisited
French MorphOS enthusiast Yannick Buchy (@Papiosaur) has issued a revamped version of his "Pack Ultimate", a preconfigured collection of software, games and emulators for MorphOS. Continuing with his butterfly theme, the new 3.1.2 version is now called Chrysalis and as before requires a clean of MorphOS 3.1 installation. While Chrysalis may not be of interest to experienced users it will certainly be helpful for those who are new to MorphOS or have only a passing interest. For more information or to download Chrysalis please visit Papiosaur's Meta-MorphOS website.
To celebrate the fact that AmigaOS 4 now supports the latest in RadeonHD graphics card technology I contacted Amiga graphic artist Kevin Saunders to see if he could come up with a new poster which would commemorate the achievement. I threw him a selection of ideas and suggestions and as usual he made sense of my vague ramblings and managed to create a fitting tribute to the Amiga's past and future.
The breakfast of champions?
While in London I made some time to catch up with Simon Archer (@Rigo) one of the premier AmigaOS 4 developers and author of the CodeBench Development Environment for AmigaOS 4.1 as well as lead programmer for the excellent AmiUpdate utility. Actually to be honest we called Simon up late in the afternoon on the off-chance that he might be available. He was on a job but promised he would meet up with us in Central later later in the evening. Anyone who knows Simon, will also know he is fond of a small tipple and we met up with him for a few drinks in central London late one evening prior to catching the early morning Eurostar train to Brussels the following day. Needless to say we had an enjoyable evening and only just made our train. There was not a lot of time for breakfast but we managed to find the essential items before the train departed!
See Brussels and Die!
Well that's what it felt like after only 3 hours sleep, a hangover and a 15 minute run to the train station after sleeping through the alarm clock. I still managed to outrun Matthew, but to be fair he did claim he was waiting for the traffic lights to change! We made it safely to Brussels and met up with the Hyperion Entertainment management and the AmigaOS4 core developers. It was a productive meeting in spite of everything.
Power PC is dead - part 3
Servergy, Inc, the people behind the PowerPC server technology have now formed the PowerLinux Users Group (PLUG), an international users group to control and shape the future of PowerLinux software development for the OpenSource community. Servergy's William Mapp, the founder and President of PLUG said, “The vision and goal of PLUG is to provide an exciting international focal/inflection point to fuel the collaboration, innovation and growth of PowerLinux for industry, academia and government, around the globe.” OK Power Linux may not be of interest to many Amigans, but that fact that Servergy are promoting open source PowerPC to global Power Linux developers can only be good for the future of PowerPC hardware. Although PLUG is based in Austin Texas their meetings are to be broadcast live as a webinar to allow developers around the world to tune in and participate. The next meeting is scheduled for April 6th and will include presentations from Freescale, IBM, Oracle and Servergy. For more information please visit the Plug Website.
Sometimes coincidences just happen! You may recall that I had some "fun" dismantling an A3000 to access the Kickstart ROMS. Well I'm pleased to report that the work was not in vain. A few weeks later I was given a free A3000 and boxed CD32 courtesy of James and the Freecycle initiative. James, who is a retired Architect, used his A3000 to give himself a boost earlier in his professional career.
Now that he had retired he wanted to clear some space in his garage but did not want the throw the Amigas away. I was only too happy to take the Amigas off his hands. On investigation I discovered that the A3000 motherboard had suffered the dreaded leaking battery damage, but the case, Zip Ram, keyboard, external FDD, etc were all in reasonably good condition. I removed the damaged motherboard and installed a spare one I had put aside for such an occasion. After a short while I had the re-built A3000 up and running. Even the original SCSI HDDs were OK. Fortunately the CD32 checked out OK and after a quick clean was up and running. I also inherited boxes of floppy disks, Amiga technical and software manual, cables and other miscellaneous components. Thanks James.
I'm writing this blog as I prepare to leave the beautiful New Zealand Summer for a trip to the frozen lands of Northern Europe which is locked in deep midwinter, crippled by the continuing financial crisis and an evolving horse meat scandal. Sounds like some something from the Game of Thrones fantasy novel.
During my visit I am meeting with Varisys, the designers of the A1-X1000, to discuss the current production schedule and review plans for future hardware development. I also have meetings scheduled with several developers and other related "Amiga" companies and vendors. It's going to be a busy couple of weeks!
Form over substance?
I recently had to strip down an Amiga 3000 desktop to gain access to the on-board Kickstart ROMs. The A3000 is a stylish desktop machine which many regard as the pinnacle of the classic Amiga design before Commodore lost it's way. However, while it is indeed a superb model, from a purely practical viewpoint it is probably the worst big box Amiga to strip down and work on. To gain access to the motherboard you have to almost completely disassemble the machine. This involves removing the HDD/FDD carrier and somehow disconnecting the PSU, HDD and FDD cables which are hidden underneath. You then need to remove any additional Zorro expansion cards, the card carrier guide and finally the A3000 daughter board.
Don't get me wrong, the overall process is not really that difficult, especially if like me you have performed several Classic Amiga Tower conversions, but compared to the A2000 and even the A4000 desktop it just a lot more painful. That sleek and compact exterior contributes to the A3000's cramped and somewhat compromised internal layout. I suppose I shouldn't really complain, compared to the Apple Mac Mini, which is not designed for user access and needs a special putty knife and engineering degree just to open the case, at least the A3000 can be readily stripped down for service.
Breaking the Sound Barrier
AmigaOS developer, Lyle Hazlewood, sometimes know as Xena or Xorro (sorry Lyle) has added another string to his bow and perhaps another nickname, possibly Echo or maybe even Siren? I can see an image forming in my mind.
Not content with porting Bars & Pipes and Score to AmigaOS 4 he has recently taken up the challenge of debugging the AmigaOS 4 on-board HDAudio drivers for the A1-X1000. Of course sound on the A1-X1000's is already fully supported under AmigaOS 4 through plug-in PCI audio cards and the on-board HDAudio already works under various GNU/Linux distributions. However, building on the excellent ground work of Alex Carmona and Rene' Olsen, Lyle has already made good progress and the A1-X1000's HDAudio is no longer mute under AmigaOS 4. He is now in the process of adding the changes to the AHI driver and evaluating any remaining issues that need to be resolved. While this is very good news in itself, Lyle has also discovered, in conjunction with Sebastian Bauer the AmigaOS 4 USB developer, that USB sound also works on the A1-X1000 with the existing AmigaOS 4 USB stack and the A1-X1000's native USB ports.
He has written a test executable which will capture USB audio and then play it back. According to Lyle, "It works with all formats, simply capture and echo..to allow recoding and playback (in stereo) on the A1-X1000." It also works on Sam systems but there are slight timing issues that need to be fixed. Lyle is now working on a set of Non_AHI tools to allow testing and refining of the USB stack which will eventually lead to the development of an AHI USB sound driver for AmigaOS 4. Watch this space.
When is an iphone not an iPhone?
The answer is when it is manufactured in Brazil and runs Android.
The well publicised legal battles between Apple and Samsung has been raging in many counties, however in Brazil, Apple has just lost a trade mark ruling for exclusive use of the iPhone name. The Brazilian National Institute for Intellectual Property (INPI) has now reconfirmed the rights it had granted to local company, IGB Eletrônica SA, (formerly Gradiente Eletrônica), who registered the iPhone name in Brazil in the year 2000, a full seven years before Apple released its first iPhone and even a year earlier than the iPod, its first “iProduct”.
Apple brought the legal action after IGB released its Android-powered iphone Neo One, which retails for US$304 (£196), under its Gradiente brand in late 2012. Although Apple can continue to sell iPhone branded mobiles in Brazil, South Americas largest market, the ruling paves the way for IGB to sue apple for Apple for exclusive rights to use of the iPhone name. In China, Apple had similar problems and eventually paid 60 million dollars for the right use use the iPad name for its tablet in China. Apparently, IGB's chariman had previous announced, "We're open to a dialogue for anything, anytime... we're not radicals." Needless to say Apple has already lodged an appear against the ruling arguing that it should be given full rights since Gradiente had not released a product using the iPhone name until December 2012. Meanwhile in it's latest financial results Apple revealed its cash reserves has grown to US$137 billion dollars (£88 billion).
With these huge sums of money involved in trademarks disputes perhaps Stefan Burström, the former IBrowse developer, should keep a close watch on his own trade name. The MUI based IBrowse web browser, which was a rewrite of Amiga Mosaic, was released in 1996 long before any of the Apple "iProducts".
I recently attended the Multicore World 2013 conference held in Wellington, New Zealand organised by Nicolás Erdödy of Open Parallel. I got to rub shoulders with some of the leading lights in the multi-core environment including heavy hitters from Intel, IBM and Oracle as well as academics and multicore evangelists from around the globe. What did I learn? Well, to be perfectly honest many of the presentations and discussions were just a "little" over my head but I heard enough new buzzwords and acronyms to allow me to write the "Bluffers guide to Multicore Computing". One thing I did learn, that unless we can somehow change the laws of physics, the future of computing is in multicore hardware. With all major hardware developers moving towards multicore solutions the software is seriously lagging behind and the mainstream computing world is struggling to to keep up as many of the standard programming tools are not suited to multicore software development. Coupled with this there is an extreme shortage of talented software developers who are able to make the transition form serial to parallel software development. I'm just happy that Thomas Frieden is making progress with multicore support for AmigaOS 4 on the dual-core AmigaONE X1000. One step at a time.....
Also speaking at the conference was Poul-Henning Kamp a free lance software developer and one of the leading FreeBSD core developers. He participated in a several panel discussion and also presented details of Varnish Cache, an HTTP accelerator which he designed to speed up browsing of content-heavy dynamic web sites. As you would expect from a ardent supporter of free and open source software Varnish Cache is free and works with several Linux distributions. For more information check out the Varnish Cache website.
The gift the keeps on giving paying?
I recently replaced my old Windows server which runs my home network with a new HPZ220 desktop running Windows 7. OK, I know a “Windows” PC - please don’t shoot me. It was bundled with Microsoft Office Home and Business 2010 edition which included a free upgrade to Office 2013 when it was released.
I've no great liking for Microsoft Office and prefer to use Libre Office or Open Office on my A1-X1000 under Linux. However I occasionally need to use Office to handle some complex business documents which don't quite work under the open source programs. Anyway, today I received an email from Microsoft advising me that I could now take advantage of the “free” Office 2013 upgrade offer.
Rant mode ON:
I began the process of downloading the upgrade and what I thought would be a five minutes job took almost two hours. The first hurdle was finding my original Office Product Key. These days most PCs are supplied with the software pre-installed with Product Keys printed on a separate card. No problem, I quickly located the card and entered the details in the Office download page to verify my eligibility to the upgrade version. So far so good. The upgrade process confirmed my eligibility and offered me two upgrade options. Office 365 Home Premium and Office Home & Business 2013. On first reading the Home Premium offer seem too good to be true. It included installation on up to 5 PCs or Macs plus select mobile devices. It also included 20 GB of online storage and 60 minutes of free Skype calls per month and I could even keep my Office 2010 product. It sounded like a sales pitch from a home shopping channel or market trader and I began looking for the free set of kitchen knives!
Then I read the small print, it was available as part of a subscription service which included an annual (or monthly fee), presumably forever. I quickly dismissed that options and selected the Office Home & Business 2013 upgrade which allowed me to install it on one PC for free. Interestingly, the upgrade is not transferable and is only good for the life time of that device. Nice! OK time to download the upgrade. Not so fast. First I needed to create a Microsoft account. More delay. I filled the online document and after was informed I would received an activation email to confirm my account was successfully set-up and verify my registration email address. I waited 5 minutes and eventually received an email confirming that I had successfully activated my Office Home and Business 2013 account. OK now to login to my account to download the Office 2013 upgrade. However, when I attempted to login I was informed that I still needed to confirm my email address? Arrgh! It gave me the option of re-sending the activation email or changing my email address. I tried both to no avail. I was stuck in the endless activation loop.
When the computer says “no” it really does mean no! I checked the web forums to see if other people had difficulty with Office 2013 upgrades and found a whole host of similar misery. Having already wasted enough time on the upgrade I didn't really need I was about to give up when I noticed a file from Microsoft in my Spam folder. Although my account was activated it wanted me to re-verify my email address before it would let me login to my new Microsoft account. I clicked on verify and at last I could login to my account, however now I could not find any sign of the Office 2013 upgrade offer. No problem I thought, I still have the original upgrade offer email, I can can just go through the process again to get to the correct download page. Wrong! On entering the Product Key code I was informed that I had already activated the Office upgrade and could not do so again! I decided to give it one last try. I logged back into my new Microsoft account and after a bit of digging managed to find the download section. From them on the installation process was fairly painless and it took about another 15/20 minutes to download and install the software.
Rant Mode OFF:
The times they are a-changing?
So what did I learn from from Microsoft Office experience. Installing Windows software is never really a quick five minute job, despite what it says on the “tin”, but more importantly, Microsoft are trying to change their traditional software sales model by selling lower cost annual subscriptions rather than higher cost one-off licences. Microsoft are not alone and many software vendors seem to be moving towards the subscription payment model. To be honest this is not a bad idea from a business perspective and would probably help Amiga Next-Generation OS Developers. If the subscription process was combined with a regular upgrade cycle it would supply a consistent and steady stream of revenue to help pay developers and remove the need for irregular and expensive major upgrades. The price of AmigaOS 4 and MorphOS is not cheap and compared to MacOS X (~NZ$25) both are downright expensive. While the various AROS forks may be free they still lack the cohesion, focus and stability of the other "Next-Generation" Operating Systems and IMHO would also benefit from a coordinated funding approach. I for one would prefer to make a small and regular subscription payment if would help to promote development and provide more frequent updates. The subscription concept may be ideally suited to support software development in current Amiga Scene? Food for though.
Sometimes I forget just how international the Amiga community is and how much technology has advanced since the release of the first Amiga in 1985. Miladin Sudimac (aka Comi) sent me an interesting link to a thread on Voodoo Amiga, the Balkan Amiga forum. It seems that Igor Majstorovi?, a developer/coder from Banja Luka in Bosnia and Herzegovina, took it upon himself to create world's first FPGA accelerator for the A600….. just for fun. Igor, who had no previous Amiga knowledge or experience, appears to have a real passion and nostalgia for retro computing. He has been working on his Vampire 600 FPGA accelerator for 2 years and, according Miladin, it is now stable and Igor has moved on to optimising the code. The next stage is to produce 50 boards (after revision) with 8MB of memory and then increase this to 64MB. When Igor finishes the project he plans to release all his results to the open source community. Way to go Igor!
I leave the last word for Igor, “So I think that this could bring something to large Amiga community and that they need that web site with open hardware and software for Amiga. Also I have major support from some large electronic companies because there are also some nostalgic people who would like to see my project is working.”
If you want to find out more information or perhaps donate to the Vampire A600 FPGA accelerator project please visit Igor's Website. I've just made a small donation myself using my wife's PayPal account.
If you want to see a (simulated) Amiga Workbench running on a PC or Mac (in a web browser) please check out Michael Rupp's The Amiga Workbench Simulation (TAWS) website. Just click on "check it out" and be prepared to be amazed!
Achieving Warp factor......3D
"I cannae change the laws of physics!" or so Scotty would say on Star Trek - the original series. Then 5 minutes later he would do just that, allowing Captain Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise to once again save the day!
Our very own AmigaOS "Chief Warp3D Engineer" Hans-Jorg Frieden has been working hard to make Warp3D a reality for RadeonHD graphics cards.
In his latest progress update, he is happy to report that texture support is now implemented. According to Hans-Jorg, "There are still a few glitches that need to be taken care of but the triangles come out as textures and the shader interface is working too." As expected, he was able to re-use much of the R200 code. Also the texture support of RadeonHD cards is much wider than that of the R200, meaning there is virtually no texture conversion required. All good news.
Chroma keying will be required to get a flawless image in Wipeout XL but Hans-Jorg claims that it is now just a matter of doing the work and, "In any case, we're approaching a state now where testing can commence". Watch this space.
Meanwhile, AmigaOS graphics guru, Hans de Ruiter has tracked down a pesky bug which was causing minor graphic glitches with some RadeonHD 5450 cards on the AmigaONE X1000.
According to Hans the glitch, which was not present on slower machines, was caused by the faster speed of the A1-X1000 and the relatively slow speed of the HD5450. Anyway he has now fixed the issue and an updated RadeonHD driver will be available for the A1-X1000 beta testers in the next couple of days. All being well the updated RadeonHD RC1 driver will be available for all registered RadeonHD users to download from the A-EON Technology website shortly afterwards.
Case in point
Loriano Pagni, the talented Italian designer who created stylish cases for the MiniMig and C64 cartridge enclosures has just completed the prototype for his most ambitious "Amiga" packaging project. His Amiga 500 (and possibly A1-X1000?) inspired case, the X500 Plus, harks back to the A500's computer-in-a-keyboard design. According to Loriano, the X500 Plus case, which has been tested with x86 mini-itx and flex-atx boards as well as various Sam models, will be available in either black or white and will be supplied fully assembled with a USB keyboard.
It is also expected that the case will be suitable for the Micro A1-C, Efika and Mac Mini although these motherboards have not yet been tested. Included with the case is a 40mm silent fan, a slim SATA DVD-RW drive and SATA cable together with a 3.5", 52-in-1 USB card reader. The base and rear of the case are powder coated, black or white aluminium with a matt finish. Each X500 Plus case is hand built and will retail for GBP£259 plus postage and packaging. Only 50 units will be built and supplied on a first come first served basis. Other ordering options are available. For more information please visit Loriano's website or email Loriano at: amigarulez (at) hotmail.com.
3 into 1 will go!
With all the nostalgia surrounding the 30th anniversary of the SX-64 it got me to thinking about my favourite Commodore 8-bit computer. No it's not the Commodore PET which was my first computer or even the the C64 which was my second. Surprisingly enough, it's actually the C128D, Commodore's follow-up to the poorly received TED series (Plus/4, C16, C116 & C232). The C128 which was released in 1985, the same year as the Amiga, followed Commodore's traditional computer-in-a-keyboard design. The later C128D was built into a slim-line base unit which included an internal floppy disk drive and PSU and came with a detachable keyboard. It also bore more than a passing resemblance to the new Amiga.
I was brought up on Basic and Fortran and the C128 introduced me to Basic 7.0 and the wonders of CP/M. It was also the first time that Commodore formally acknowledged that the Basic, which it used on all its 8-bit machines up to that point, was actually licensed from Microsoft by displaying the Microsoft copyright notice on the C128 opening screen. Commodore originally licensed Microsoft Basic for a one-off payment for $25K, in a deal which Jack Tramiel squeezed out of Bill Gates back when neither Gates nor Microsoft had any financial or technical muscle.
It taught Gate's a valuable marketing lesson and helped to shape Microsoft's future software licensing policy. Although it was an excellent deal for Commodore at the time, it would come back to haunt them when PCs running MS-DOS and then Microsoft Windows began to dominate the market. The C128 was in fact 3 computers in one. It contained a 2 MHz MOS 8502 CPU which was backward compatible with the C64's 6510. It booted to its native 40/80 column C128 Mode which ran the new Basic 7, and later an upgraded Basic 8 which needed to be loaded from floppy disk. It also sported a C64 Mode running at 1 MHz which, unlike the unsuccessful TED series, provided almost 100% compatibility with the C64 and its vast catalogue of games and utilities.
But perhaps the most unusual feature was the addition of a 4Mhz Z80 CPU which allowed the C128 to run CP/M Plus Disk Operating System created by the late Dr. Gary Kildall of Digital Research, Inc. CP/M was a leading Microcomputer Disk Operating System in the late 1970s and early 1980s prior to the rise and eventual dominance of MS-DOS. CP/M has a large catalogue of software and utilities and unlike Commodore DOS, which was stored in ROM, it had to be loaded from floppy disk. Due to design constraints the Z80 only ran at 2 MHz in the CP/M Mode.
However, for me what made the C128 extra special was the release of GEOS, a GUI desktop operating system developed by Berkeley Softworks which made full use of Commodore's 1351 Mouse and Ram Expansion Units. GEOS was very successful and at its peak was the third most popular operating system behind MS-DOS and Mac OS. It spawned a whole host of official and third-party productivity software for Word-processing, DTP, Spreadsheets, Painting and Drawing etc, and for many years Commodore bundled it with its C64C package. Although GEOS was originally designed for the C64, the C128's superior hardware features (more RAM, 80 column display and faster serial bus) made it ideally suited to running GEOS and versions of the software were soon created for the native C128 Mode.
The C128D and GEOS combination gave me my first taste of a mouse and windows driven graphical user interface and prepared the ground for my eventual transition to the Amiga. It also opened my mind to trying more exotic disk-based operating systems. Ah those were the days! Although nowhere nearly as successful as its predecessor, the C64, it's estimated that at least 4 million C128 & C128D's computers were sold between 1985 and 1989.
Footnote: My original C128D was destroyed in a Texas thunderstorm in 1988 when lightning stuck the house. With the insurance check I purchased my first Amiga computer - an A2000HD. Divine intervention or what?
If you read my past blogs you may have noticed my reference to Servergy Inc, a new company based in McKinney, Texas which is developing PowerPC based server hardware (CTS-1000) and a Linux-on-Power development platform (P-Cubed). Servergy claim that its Cleantech PowerPC Server saves up to 80% in power and space saving costs compared to conventional server technology.
Interestingly, the company has not gone unnoticed by the mainstream media and EETimes, a leading electronics industry magazine for design, development engineers and technical managers, has just placed Servergy at #4 in its “Global Top 10 List” of the most disruptive start-up technology companies for 2013. In its analysis EETimes acknowledged Servergy under the headline, “Elusive startup pits IBM Power servers against x86, ARM”. According to Wiki, a disruptive company or innovation helps create a new market and eventually goes on to disrupt an existing market displacing an earlier technology. In business and technology terms this relates to, "innovations that improve a product or service in ways that the market does not expect, typically first by designing for a different set of consumers in the new market and later by lowering prices in the existing market." It seems that Servergy is attempting to create a sea change in the server market by developing low cost, energy efficient PowerPC hardware. Who said PowerPC was dead? For more information please read the EETimes article
Darren "Kernel" Stevens has been up to his tricks again and has released a double serving of Linux goodness for the AmigaONE X1000. His latest experimental kernel build supports the most recent stable Linux 3.7.4 kernel and also includes full support for 2D/3D hardware acceleration for RadeonHD graphics cards up to series 6xxx. Darren is still working on RadeonHD series 7xxx card support. Again, if you have been following my blog you will know I have been trying to fill all the slots in my AmigaONE X1000 which is not an easy task given the expandability of the computer. However Darren has again come to the rescue and, following a request from "First Contact" owner Zappa2009, he has added kernel support for high speed USB3.0 PCI-e plug-in cards under GNU/Linux.
The A1-X1000 now fully supports USB3.0 data transfer rates up to 5 Gbit/s while maintaining backward compatibility with USB1.1 and 2.0 devices. Zappa2009 has confirmed that his USB3 HDD, Pendrive and SDXC cardreader all work fine on his A1-X1000 under Linux. I also managed to track down one of the USB 3.0 cards and have successfully tested it under MintPPC on my own A1-X1000 with my USB 3.0 HDD. All we need now is the new USB 3.0 AmigaOS 4 drivers to be completed. Please visit the Hyperion Entertainment Message Boards for more information.
After installing the USB3.0 card I still have two slots free in my A1-X1000. One is reserved for my new Xorro board which is en-route from AmigaKit which leaves one PCI-e slot left to fill.
Now, what can I install in this spare slot?
It's sometimes said that bad news always comes in threes? Whether this old wives' tale is true or not the computer world has lost a few interesting characters in recent weeks.
Internet freedom activist Aaron Swartz who helped create Reddit and RSS was found dead last Friday in his New York apartment. The brilliant and controversial 26 year old internet prodigy apparently took his own life a few days after US Federal prosecutors insisted that he go to prison for allegedly committing computer fraud by downloading millions of articles from JSTOR, the MIT academic database. Swartz, who suffered from depression, faced up to 35 years in prison if found guilty of the charges. Forever the activist, Swartz also founded Demand Progress an organisation which worked to prevent the US SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) from becoming law and encouraged hactivist groups to carry out D.O.S. attacks to protest both SOPA and the US Department of Justice's shut-down of Megaupload (see below). His family claim he was hounded to his death by a “criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach”, which was bent on making an example of him. At his funeral, Tim Berners-Lee, the father of the World Wide Web told a newspaper, "We felt the indictment was nonsense and that he would be acquitted,". Whether you regard Swartz as a hero of free speech or a digital villain it sad to see a talented life, full of potential extinguished at such a young age.
Closer to home, Barry Altman, the founder of Commodore USA LLC, also passed away last month at the age of 63 after losing a year long battle with cancer. His company, Commodore USA, which is based in Pompano Beach, Florida, licensed the Commodore brand from Commodore Licensing BV and certain aspects of the Amiga brand from Amiga, Inc in 2010.
Although his marketing strategy and early public statements caused some confusion with the existing Commodore and Amiga communities he successfully masterminded the production of several PC based systems under the Commodore brand including the Commodore64x, an Intel x86 based PC that was built to resemble the original C64 “bread box” case design. The machine was originally shipped with Ubuntu 10.10 before Commodore USA released Commodore OS Vision, a heavily customised version of GNU/Linux Mint.
Meanwhile the Amiga community also lost one of it's leading technical gurus when DCE founder and Managing Director Thomas Dellert passed away on January 7th after suffering from a serious illness. In 1987 Dellert founded DCE Computer Service GmbH in Oberhausen, Germany as a service shop for wholesale dealer and consumer markets. His company quickly evolved into a leading Amiga repair shop and in 1993 was nominated by Commodore as the European Amiga Repair Service Centre. After Commodore's demise DCE continued to develop numerous expansion options for Classic Amigas including the SX32, various G-Rex PCI busboards and the ScanMagic flicker fixer, etc.
DCE also collaborated with Power Computing for plans to develop the A5000 and A6000 Amiga clones based on an advanced A4000 motherboard under Amiga Technologies, Powered by Amiga initiative. Unfortunately neither model was released as a commercial product. However, in April 1999, prior to Phase 5's liquidation, DCE bought the licenses to manufacture Phase 5's range of Amiga PowerPC accelerators and graphics cards under it's own name.
I even have a couple of DCE manufactured Cybervison 64/3D boards in my own collection. DCE also worked closely with bPlan on the production of the Pegasos I & II systems for Genesis.
All that's remains to be said is R.I.P.
SX-64 Global Party
On a happier note, January marks the 30th anniversary of the SX-64, Commodore's all-in-one "luggable" computer which was based on the C64. Also known as the Executive 64 and sometimes the VIP-64 in Europe, the SX-64 was also the first full colour portable computer. To celebrate the event Dutch Commodore enthusiasts Berry de Jager is urging SX-64 owners to organise SX-64's gatherings at their local coffee shops to expose the modern world to the wonders of portable computing - 1980's style . At the time of writing SX-64 events, which commenced on January 20th, are being planned by user-groups in the Netherlands, France, USA and Canada.
I performed my own homage to the SX-64 in New Zealand by plugging in the Commodore International Soccer cartridge and challenging the SX-64 to a sudden death one-off match at Level 9. After a shaky start I managed to win the game 4-2. It's good to know that all the hours of practice I put in with my original C64 in the early 1980's really paid off! I remember when I finally beat the C64 at Level 9. I was one-nil up and under extreme pressure. Suddenly I broke away and scored a second goal with 25 seconds left to play. Knowing that the C64 could not score 2 goals in the time remaining I simply dropped the joystick and performed a celebratory dance around the room. Ah, victory never tasted so sweet! Ahem, of course I used my C64 for more serious applications as well!
The Golden Ticket?
Internet millionaire, New Zealand resident and FBI fugitive Kim Dotcom, the founder of Megaupload, the file hosting service which was shut-down by the US authorities last year after Dotcom was arrested on copyright and racketeering charges has taken a leaf out of the “Willy Wonka” play book. To promote Mega.co.nz, his new file-locker web hosting service, he took over the Giapo Ice Cream Parlour on Auckland's Queen Street to distribute free tubs of Mega ice cream and T-shirts to a large and enthusiastic crowd. However, as a publicity stunt ten of the ice creams tubs contained Mega's own golden ticket which entitled the winner to attend the official Mega.co.nz launch party which was held at Dotcom's Coatesville mansion on January 20th, the anniversary of the FBI backed raid on his NZ$30M north Auckland home.
The raid, which formed part of a coordinated string of linked raids across the world, masterminded by the FBI, to take down Dotcom's empire before a planned IPO which would have seen Megaupload listed publicly with a value in excess of US$2.6 billion. At it's peak Megaupload carried 4 percent of global Internet traffic earning an estimated $25 million a year from advertising and another $150 million through its paid, faster, unlimited Premium service. The trouble was Hollywood and the Entertainment industry claimed the earnings were made off stolen movies, songs, videogames, books and software. The FBI agreed with them and shutdown Dotcom's Megaupload webserver.
Despite, facing an extradition hearing in August this year, which, if successful would see him sent back to the United States to face numerous internet piracy charges, Dotcom has launched his new Mega venture. In a recent publicity statement he said, "In the dark ages enemies of progress burned books, now today they are burning websites. Mega is going to be the website to end all that.” "He added, “The new Mega file-locker site will provide a secure place for internet users to store and access files, but will offer much more than Megaupload”.
Mega promises a revolution in online privacy with one-click encryption for every user, creating an online data haven for internet users which will lock secrets away from the prying eyes of the world and presumably Hollywood and government agencies. Whether Kim Dotcom is a modern day Robin Hood and champion of internet freedom or merely a digital pirate out to make a quick buck off other peoples work I'm sure we haven't heard the last of this larger-than-life character.
Hardware Loan scheme
When I acquired my first Next-generation Amiga back in late 2004, a Micro A1-C housed in an Antec Aria case, I quickly discovered it was remarkable little machine but unlike the Amiga's heyday there was dearth of quality software for AmigaOS 4.0 which was still a pre-release version at that time. Initially I tried to generate interest on AmigaWorld.net in creating a sinking fund to support the development of critical software needed to make the AmigaOS 4.0 more attractive to a wider audience.
Eventually I decided to create and fund my own Hardware Loan scheme to put Next-generation Amiga's into the hands of talented developers.
I contacted Eyetech and Troika to purchase new hardware and reached agreement with Hyperion Entertainment for support of developers I managed to sign up to the Loan scheme. I received a tentative quotation from Alan Redhouse of Eyetech, but as luck would have it, although it not made public at the time, he was about to leave the Amiga scene and unfortunately Troika's hardware never materialised. To get the ball rolling I began purchasing used A1-XE's , Micro A1-C's and Pegasos II systems and motherboards off the internet and sent them to AmigaKit for refurbishment and rebuild. It was a slow start but picked up when ACube brought out their Sam440ep machines. In all I've probably donated/loaned 16 or 17 systems over the past 7 or 8 years.
Recipients of my loan hardware have been many and varied and have included developers like AmigaOS 4 Team Lead, Steven Solie and even Carl Sassenrath, the creator of the Amiga's multitasking OS kernel.
Fortunately, over the years bounty schemes have now been created for all Amiga flavours to help promote and support software development, including AmigaBounty.net of which I am one of the moderators. However, my Hardware Loan scheme is still going strong and at this moment in time I have two system (an A1-XE and a Sam440ep) available to loan out to needy developers. So if there are any AmigaOS 4 developers who are in need of a loaner machine please make contact by sending an email to me at contact (at) a-eon.com.
Life in the fast lane
It's always good to hear positive remarks from independent, third parties. Recently A1-X1000 owner, Guillaume Boesel (aka zzd10h) posted a question on the Linux MintPPC forum about using two graphics cards in his A1-X1000 under MintPPC. Guillaume had installed a Radeon 9250 card alongside his Radeon HD6670 for use under AmigaOS 4. However, he discovered that the presence of the Radeon 9250 card affected the 2D/3D graphics performance of the RadeonHD 6670 under MintPPC 11. He posted a request for help on the MintPPC forum and following advice from @rkmugen, another forum poster, was able to to get 2D/3D working under MintPPC 11 with both graphics cards installed.
He posted his glxgears test results to the MintPPC forum which elicited the following response from @rkmugen. "HOLY C**P, those are some sweet FPS numbers! Congrats on getting both cards working... simultaneously! Better still, Jeroen Diederen (aka Linuxopjemac), the creator of MintPPC 11, commented in the same thread, "Very well done and indeed, those glxgears numbers are even better than my pretty recent MacBook 2,1 ! Congratulations!"
OK glxgears may not be the ultimate 3D benchmarking utility but it's really nice to know that non-Amigans also appreciate the power and performance of the A1-X1000. To view the full thread please visit: Linux MintPPC
Liberating Office : A1-X1000 style!
Thomas Frieden, the freelance software developer and core AmigaOS guru who is porting Libre Office to AmigaOS 4 recently sent me a progress update report. Although this is a long term project he is making excellent progress and has finally reached the VCL, the visual components library, which is basically the abstraction of the window system, widgets, user input etc.
According to Thomas, "this is the last "big" obstacle to be overcome. Once this works, it should be possible to get a first binary (which will most likely crash). " However, I was more interested in his attached side-note which read, "I had one component ("official" Unicode support library) which couldn't cross-compile correctly, so I built that on the X1000, configure and all. Worked quite well. The A1-X1000 is a dream Amiga, really, it's speed is great, and I really look forward to seeing it use all cores!" All I can say is, don't we all Thomas, don't we all.
It's that time of year when people make and often promptly break their New Year's Resolutions.
I must admit, although I don't make any resolutions, I do use the start of a new year to reflect on my achievements (or lack of them) during the past year and set my goals and objectives for the year ahead. As I mentioned in my last blog I think 2013 is shaping up to be a very interesting year for the Amiga community. Now what about those New Year's Resolutions..............
I remember the days of trying to cram multiple expansion cards and HDDs into my overheating A4000 desktop and eventually, like so many others, I ended up performing a tower conversion to gain the extra space and cooling.
About 7 years ago when I acquired my first Next- Generation Amiga, an A1-XE, I also purchased a Sil3112 Serial ATA (SATA) controller card. Although it was not possible to directly boot AmigaOS 4 from the Sil3112 controller I wanted the option of using the much faster SATA HDDs. However, compared to my A4000, the A1-XE was more than fast enough and I never got around to installing the Sil3112 card. Fast-forward to November 2012. The AmigaONE X1000 was designed as a truly expandable machine for Amiga power users and hobbyists. Remembering my A4000 experience I wanted it to be able to easily accommodate all the extra cards and HDDs that I might throw at it. As a beta tester I have multiple versions of AmigaOS 4.1 installed on my A1-X1000. At the very least, this includes the latest beta releases, a clean copy of the current official version and my stable AmigaOS 4.1 beta installation...plus several backups. Also, as I maintain the GNU/Linux installation guide, I have up to 12 PowerPC Linux distributions installed on a variety of media from SATA HDDs, external USB HDDs, USB pen drives and even an IDE HDD carrier.
So including the DVD optical drive my 4 SATA ports and one IDE port are fully occupied. Since, the A1-X1000 is blessed with 8 internal HDD trays and multiple PSU leads I decided I would like to add some additional HDDs to hold the ever expanding number of PowerPC Linux distributions that the A1-X1000 supports thanks to the excellent work of Pat Wall and Daz "Kernel" Stevens. I managed to find the discarded Sil3112 card and installed it in my A1-X1000 together with a standard HDD and my new SSD. Actually, I'm still in two minds about SSD. Yes they are quiet, have no moving parts and in theory are much faster that tradition HDDs and unless you are into high-end video editing you are unlikely exceed the maximum number of read/write cycles. The manufacturers have assumed that you're more likely to discard the system for obsolescence before you start running into read/write errors. However, they are expensive and have a smaller capacity and if you are an Amiga user built in obsolescence might be a concern - we run our machines forever.
However, I digress. To my pleasant surprise the Sil3112 card worked out of the box and before long I had installed Debian Wheezy on the SSD and a full back-up of my working AmigaOS 4.1 system on the HDD with both devices running at full DMA speeds. All was well for a couple of weeks until I rebooted my machine following the installation of another round of OS 4.x beta updates. On reboot my Sil3112 card was not recognised? Obviously, I thought, something in the update was causing problems. Not so! After reversing the beta test updates, thank goodness for Simon Archer's AmiUpdate & System Rollback utility, the problem still remained. The Sil3112 card was visible in Ranger but any attempt to access the card via IDETool caused a "Grim Reaper".
To eliminate any potential AmigaOS 4.1 issues I attempted to boot Debian Wheezy from the SSD but again the card was not recognised. I then booted into MintPPC from another SATA HDD but still the card was not detected. After seeking the helpful advice from other beta testers I decided the card must have failed. However, this was not before I had removed every HDD, unplugged every cable and reseated every internal card and Ram module. Of course this had no effect but some old Amiga habits die hard. As a final test I transferred the Sil3112 card to a Micro A1-c and confirmed that the card was indeed faulty.
I managed to track down a SATA 3114 PCI 4-port controller to replace the faulty Sil3112 card and I'm pleased to report that this card also worked out of the box and the new HDDs are back up and running.
The card was correctly reported by Ranger in AmigaOS 4 and eight devices were recognised by GParted in Debian Wheezy. The only question now is what can I install on the extra two SATA ports? Incidentally, the PCI-e version of the Sil3114 card also works fine in the A1-X1000.
There's a hole in my bucket?
Do you notice that sometimes when you try to solve one problem you often create several more? When I decided to test the Sil3112 card in my Micro A1-C the first thing I discovered was the internal 3V lithium coin cell battery in the Micro had died. This manifested itself as a blank screen with no other sign of life when the machine was powered up. If you are lucky (and quick) you can remove the old battery and insert the new one without losing all the stored uBoot variables. This of course assumes that your battery is not totally flat.
On this occasion I had a spare CR2032 battery and was both lucky and quick and on power-up the Micro booted to Workbench as expected. The dead battery was the BR2032 variant and registered a mere 0.36V without any load. The new battery measured a healthy 3.3V. Most Lithium cells have a nominal terminal voltage of 3v however over time their voltage output isn't perfectly uniform. Because of the different design, the BR-type cell provides a more uniform voltage but near end of its life the terminal voltage drops rapidly. CR-cells however, exhibit a more gradual decline in voltage and may have a longer life in circuits designed to tolerate a wide range of terminal voltages. Although BR cells don't last as long, apparently they are better suited at sitting unused for long periods of time and can also operate at a higher ambient temperatures. So if your Amiga is likely to be off for long periods or you like to work in an oven then a BR cell might be a better option. However, they are more expensive than their CR counterparts. There is one major advantage of coin cells over the old 3.6v NiCd barrel batteries supplied in the big box Classic Amigas. Although not unheard of, whether it's the BR or CR models you rarely have to worry about leaking batteries eating away your precious mother-board. (see below for more details).
Having confirmed the the Sil3112 card was faulty I noticed that the Micro A1-c only had the original 256 MB Apacer PC133 SODIMM Ram installed. Unfortunately, most early next-generation machines are extremely sensitive to Ram type and the Micro A1-C is no exception. The Apacer Ram works well but I knew I had acquired some 512MB Ram modules which I had intended to try out. This included a Kingston KVR133X64SC3/512 and a Crucial CT64M64S4W75/512 Ram module which IntuitionBase reports are both compatible with the Micro A1-c.
Unfortunately, neither Ram sticks worked. With the Kingston RAM installed the Micro A1-c booted to Workbench and immediately locked up. With the Crucial Ram installed the machine would not even boot up. I also had a stick of Kingsmax MSGC23S-38KB3/512. Although this is not reported as being compatible I decided to give it a try anyway. Again it gave similar negative results. I replaced the original Apacer RAM module and the Micro booted normally. I suspect that the two "compatible" units might just be faulty as they were donated to me a few years back. Since I had the machine up and running I decided to install AmigaOS4.1 Update 6 and I'm please to say that the upgrade proceeded without a hitch. As you might expect, this little diversion ate up several hours of my day. At least the effort was not totally wasted.
Furry Battery Syndrome
Having lost my original A2000 motherboard to a leaking NiCd battery several years ago and seen the damage caused to several A4000 motherboards I'm very sensitive to furry battery syndrome. The white fur is caused by leaking battery fluid which is highly corrosive and can seriously damage your precious Amiga motherboard. This is a particular problem if you leave your Amiga powered off for long periods of time or you leave your machine in storage. To reduce the possibility of leaking battery damage it is recommended that, at the very least, you remove the NiCd battery from you classic Amiga. You can either de-solder the battery from the board or if your prefer just snip the 3 legs with wire clipper pliers to remove the battery.
If you want to replace your original Amiga battery use either a NiMH variant or better still replace it with a Lithium coin battery kit such as those supplied by AmigaKit.
These batteries are much less likely to leak and, in the case of the coin cell unit, make the battery very easy to replace in the future. The problem is not restricted to big box Amiga owners. Plug-in cards, like the A501 memory card for the A500, also contain NiCd batteries and can suffer from similar leakage issues. Don't take chances with your Classic Amiga hardware. If in doubt remove that old barrel type battery.
Note: If you do decide to install a Lithium coin cell remember they are not rechargeable. To prevent damage the battery kit supplied by AmigaKit contains a small circuit board. Without this fix your coin cell might just go bang!
A number of people have contacted me recently to say they like the Classic Reflections articles I write for Amiga Future Magazine. Its always good to know that my work is appreciated. To be perfectly honest, I get a great deal of personal enjoyment and satisfaction researching and writing the articles. The fact that other Amigans actually read and enjoy them too is an added bonus.
With Amiga Future about to publish it's 100th issue it won't be long before it overtakes the number of issues published by Amiga World, the first ever Amiga Magazine. All I can say is, long may it continue for many more years. Now what really did happen to..............?
Telecommunications - Amiga Style
A1-X1000 betatester and Classic Amiga enthusiast Carl Moppett (JurassicC) has been putting his A1-X1000 to good use to save his company time and money and improve the service to its customers. Carl is an engineer with a large UK based Telecom company and has used his Amiga to streamline fault detection and analysis in its customer support group. According to Carl, digital TDM (Time Division Multiplexed) telephone exchanges, such as the Nortel DMS100 and Marconi System-X have been around since the late 1980's. Although they have evolved into multicluster units designed to handle today's massive call volumes, fault detection and tracking still has its roots in the late 1980's/early 1990's.
Apparently there are thousands of these exchanges throughout the world, including the UK, Europe and USA, which are used by all the major Mobile and Fixed Line telecom providers. Telephone Exchanges are essentially huge computers running proprietary operating systems that pour out tonnes of logs for every little task they do. Consider an A1-X1000 set to serial debug level 10. Now imagine being able to set this debug level 10,000. Analyzing the sheer volume of serial debug data would be almost untenable. So all that logged data needs to be captured and processed in as close to real-time as possible. The logs need to be be sorted and prioritised and presented in a human readable format so that problems can be quickly identified to allow support teams to take the necessary corrective action to prevent or reduce service downtime. That is the massive task facing telecom providers. A single issue could go unnoticed in all the logged data resulting in a hardware failure that affects paying customers.
That's where Carl's A1-X1000 came to the rescue. He created a special App using Hollywood on his A1-X1000 which he cross-compiled for his employer's x86 machines. The App strips the data logs, sorts them into categories and presents them in either HTML or MS-EXCEL format which then links into the vendor documentation and performs trend analysis. Carl estimates his App is already saving his employer in excess of 350 man hours per year. Way to go Carl. Now what about that pay rise?
It's a small (Amiga) world!
Michael and Karen, the parent's of James, my daughter's partner, are visiting New Zealand at the moment. They hail from Minnesota's Twin Cities in the USA and have traveled south to visit their son and escape the winter freeze for a few weeks. Nothing unusual about that, but on meeting them for the first time yesterday they were particularly keen to see my Amiga collection? I incorrectly assumed that my daughter had informed them (or should that be warned them) about my Amiga obsession. Not so. Apparently Brad, a friend of theirs from Chicago is also an avid Amiga enthusiast and when he found out they were visiting us in New Zealand he was keen for them to take a few photographs of my Amiga collection. So Brad, this picture is just for you. Both my daughters, Emma and Rachel, grew up with Amiga computers and Rachel even composed the AmigaONE X1000 boot theme (talk about keeping it in the family). Unfortunately, her partner James is an Apple user. I suppose there is no accounting for taste?
.....and finally, all work and no play?
Xeno74 and TommySammy have created a new version of SuperTuxKart for PowerPC GNU/Linux systems capable of running Gallium 0.4 or higher with 2D/3D gfx card support. On the A1-X1000 this includes MintPPC 11, Debian Wheezy, Ubuntu 12.04, Fedora 17 beta and Red Ribbon RC6, etc. It is also compatible with certain PowerMac G5 models and the YDL Powerstation. The improved version of SuperTuxKart includes many new features including a Story mode, a new challenge set and improved AI, a reverse mode, skidding and better collision physics. Several new tracks (Green Valley and Blackhill Mansion) and updated tracks (XR591, Fort Magma, Jungle track and Sand) have also been added together with new music and updated menus. You can download SuperTukKart version 0.8 from the following LINK
I'm writing this blog to the sound of the annual Christmas pop song medley playing on the radio and with shops and cafes adorned with images of robins, Santa Claus, reindeer and snow. Even in New Zealand, where it's approaching mid summer and the pohutukawa trees are in full bloom! So while the Northern hemisphere freezes, down-under we are looking forward to our traditional Christmas barbie on the beach. Having said that, after a few days of sunshine it's now raining again and Wellington is living up to its title as the original "Windy" city.
But, the really good news is the world did not end on December the 21st as "foretold" by the Mayan prophecies. I noticed one 2012 "doomsday" website which had been predicting the end of times has now (unsurprisingly) changed it's message. It claims we are now entering a new beginning. A period of renewed enlightenment, peace and harmony with hope, change, love and understanding. Actually that not a bad idea, whatever our preferred Amiga flavour - Strictly Classic, Red or Blue, Emulation or Next-Generation, lets make 2013 the year in which we all work together for the greater Amiga good. By the look of it, I think it's already shaping up to be an excellent year.
When Amiga hardware wizard, Jens Schönfeld (Individual Computers) introduced his Catweasel universal floppy disk controller in the Summer 1995 little did he know that it would become one of his most successful products. His original plan was to design a hardware-only HD-floppy disk controller to allow the Amiga to use a standard PC floppy drive. Unfortunately, this proved unsuccessful and he continued to work on the problem for a several months. Finally after an all night session on a PC based CAD system he came up with the prototype ISA model.
For company he had the TV running in the background and early in the morning he noticed an episode of Catweazle, a BBC TV children's programme, about an old, eccentric, dishevelled and smelly (but lovable) 11th century wizard who accidentally travels through time to the year 1969. Jens thought that Catweazle was a cool name for his new board but changed the spelling to Catweasel to avoid potential issues with the naming rights. Later, he designed Kylwalda as a companion device to Catweasel which was a simple adapter that lets you use one floppy drive with two floppy controllers which he named after Catweazle's pet toad.
If you check Jen's posts in popular Amiga forums he often uses words like "electrickery" and "wiesel", terms which hark back to the original Catweazle TV series. Jen's first Catweasel design supported the A1200, big-box Amigas equipped with Zorro slots and PC's with ISA slots. He went on to create several Catweasel versions and device drivers were written for AmigaOS 4 by Kjetil Hvalstrand (NutsAboutAmiga) for the Mk IV model based on the original cwfloppy Linux driver created by Michael Krause. Amiga Developer Ian Gledhill later created additional device drivers under GPL for AmigaOS 4, MorphOS and AROS. With the inclusion of RunInUAE in the latest AmigaOS 4.1 updates we decided it would be a good idea if the A1-X1000 could also read standard Amiga floppy disks. The Mk IV model, which works well in the AmigaONE X1000, is now out of stock and there are no plans for any future productions runs.
However, the good news is there are stocks of the Catweasel Mk2 model and additional units can be manufactured. With the hardware side sorted we still needed device driver software and who better than Ian Gledhill the developer of the most recent drivers for all Next-Generation Amiga flavours. Although this is predominantly for the A1-X1000, owners of other Next-Generation machines will also benefit. The Catweasel drivers are now complete and AmigaKit will be stocking the new Catweasel Mk 2 bundle with the device driver and interface cable in the New Year. Details will be provided on the AmigaKit website when the Catweasel kits are available.
A slice of Raspberry Pi?
I've been following all the hype and excitement surrounding the Raspberry Pi single board computer. OK I know that the Raspberry Pi is not meant to be a computer powerhouse but more a fun "toy" to teach today's youngsters the joys of basic computer science in schools. If little Jane or Johnny spills their coke or treads on the board the low hardware costs means it's not a financial disaster for the school or the parents. One commentator described the Raspberry Pi as the Sinclair Spectrum for the modern age. Personally I'd rather think of it as the C64 but then again I always had a Commodore bias! Having seen a Pi system in action running Linux, the experience is not exactly life in the fast lane. However, there are lots of unusual and exciting projects being attempted with this low cost hardware.
Therefore I was very interested to learn that Pat Wall, our very own Linux Distro Jedhi Master, had emulated a Raspberry Pi systems on his AmigaONE X1000 using QEMU. QEMU which, according the Wikipedia, is short for "Quick EMUlator", is free and open-source software that performs hardware visualisation. It emulates CPUs through dynamic binary translation and provides a set of device models, enabling it to run a variety of unmodified guest operating systems. Simply put QEMU allows you to emulate any CPU and operating system, on almost any hardware. It also provides an accelerated mode for supporting a mixture of binary translation and native execution similar to VirtualBox and VMWare Workstation. It can also be used for CPU emulation for user level processes, allowing applications compiled for one architecture to be run on another.
Pat has filled his emulated Pi with Raspbian, a GNU/Linux system based on Debian and optimized for the Raspberry Pi hardware. According to the developers Raspbian, which was completed in June 2012, is supplied with over 35,000 packages and pre-compiled software optimized for best performance on the Raspberry Pi. The developers have somehow managed to get the LXDE desktop running in a mere 39MB RAM, which is really quite amazing. According to Pat the emulation is not that speedy, compared to running GNU/Linux natively on the A1-X1000, but never-the-less it works perfectly.
OK using the A1-X1000 to emulate an OS created for the Raspberry Pi is total overkill I know, but I learned two new things. First. The A1-X1000 can readily emulate other CPU architectures and OSs using QEMU; and secondly we now have another Linux distribution that can be installed on the A1-X1000, albeit through QEMU emulation. Thanks Pat, I think? Now about the GNU/Linux Installation guide rewrite.............
PowerPC is Dead! - Part 2
The Raspberry Pi might not have it all it's own way in the low cost, single board computer stakes. There are a couple of PowerPC options which have recently been announced that, while not as cheap as the Raspberry Pi, are both under US$200! Freescale have released the TWR-P1025 module as part of its Freescale Tower System portfolio, a modular development platform which it claims enables rapid prototyping and tool re-use through reconfigurable hardware. Interestingly, the TWR-P1025 processor module, which includes a QorIQ P1025 dual-core PowerPC processor can also be operated as a stand-alone single board computer development platform. More details can be found on Freescale's website.
Servergy announced a Linux-on-Power development platform called P-Cubed at the recent Ubuntu Developer Summit in Copenhagen, Denmark. According to its developers, "the computer is an all-in development board catering primarily to enterprise Linux programmers, but is can also be used by educators and serious hobbyists as well."
"It features Power Architecture in an SoC (system on chip) that encompasses high-end hardware, including multi-core with hardware virtualization, which help the board to deliver a level of quality that is not available for other similar solutions."
Apart from Ubuntu the new board will support Debian, Fedora, and openSUSE. Again the CPU is PowerPC dual-core and although the final price of P-Cubed has not yet been revealed it is expected to retail for less that US$200. For more information please check out Servergy's website.
With over a dozens companies now developing hardware who said PowerPC was dead?
(Power) Mac the knife!
I recently contributed to a MorphOS.pl bounty to help port MorphOS to an Apple PowerMac G5 machine. Wiktor "Pampers" Glowacki, the co-owner of the MorphOS.pl portal is supplying the PowerMac machine and Mark 'BigFoot' Olsen has undertaken the task of porting MorphOS. The 3000 Euros needed to open the Bounty was donated in record time and the G5 machine is being shipped to South Africa, where Mark Olsen currently lives. Under the requirements of the bounty Mark has to port MorphOS to a Power Mac G5 model from A1047 7,3 - M9747LL/A series within a 3 month time-frame from receipt of the donated hardware. If successful, he will take ownership of the PowerMac hardware. Although not required for the bounty, support of other PowerMac G5 models is not precluded. However, support for the Bluetooth module, the AirPort (WiFi) module or multicore CPU support is not required.
In anticipation of the bounty being completed, and after taking advice on the correct model to purchase, I managed to track down a couple of reasonably priced G5 machines in New Zealand.
Unfortunately, I ran into a typical problem I've experienced when buying used hardware. One of the machines, an elegant iMac iSight was shipped in its original Apple packaging and arrived in good shape. However, the second machine, a very heavy 2.5Ghz PowerMac G5 brute was very poorly packed and arrived damaged with part of the metal frame bent where the box had been dropped in transit. Really annoying! Fortunately both machines still booted to Mac OSX OK but I was quite surprised how noisy the fans were on the PowerMac which constantly wound up and down as I put the machine under "stress" by browsing the web. No such issues with the iMac however. The moral of the story, if you going to buy any used hardware always ask the shipper to double box the package and use extra insulation to reduce the risk of damage in transit. As an Amiga collector I've lost count of the number of times I have received damaged items through the post, usually caused by a combination of inadequate packaging and heavy-handed couriers. "Soapbox" rant mode off.
Now I just need to sit and wait patiently for the MorphOS port, altogether now ............ "two more weeks"
As I sign off for the last time in 2012 all that remains to be said is Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to one and all.
Let's keep this party going!
The Power of One Radeon HD
Frank Menzel, one of the clever developers at AmiBoing (& Entwickler-X) recently posted a YouTube video to show the performance boost that the new Radeon HD drivers can provide even on a lower powered entry level machine. He has written a special parallax scroller which included multiple parallax layers and plenty of high resolution bitmaps/textures which is part of a Pig-run game that is in development for AmigaOS 4. He used a Sam440/733 Flex which only has a PCI bus and installed a RadeonHD6450 using a PCIe to PCI bridge. He carried out a series of comparative video performance tests of the HD6450 card against a Radeon 9250 and the result are very revealing. In 800x600 window mode on a 1920x1080 Workbench the Radeon HD card outperformed the 9250 by 236%. Pretty good, but on a full screen 1920x1080 HD Workbench the Radeon HD outperformed the 9250 by a massive 1450% and achieved an average frame rate of 31fps as opposed to 1-3fps with the 9250.
It should be added that the Radeon HD6450 and 9250 are relatively low-end cards and the PCIe HD6450 was restricted by running on a PCI bus. Imagine the performance gain with some of the more powerful cards in the Radeon HD series on an AmigaONE X1000. All I can say is bring on Warp3D and Gallium. Pig-Run YouTube Video
Hans de Ruiter, the developer of the Radeon HD drivers for AmigaOS 4 wrote on his website, "The Radeon HD 6450 leaves the Radeon 9250 in the dust. The Radeon HD 6450 can render the scroller at full HD at smooth frame rates whereas, it bumbles along at ~1-3 fps on a Radeon 9250. If this were a game, then it would only be playable in full HD using the 6450. What these results show, is that the Radeon HD cards really are a game changer". A full report and analysis can be found on HRDLab's website.
Pieces of 8?
When I was travelling through various airports during my recent trip to AmiWest and Amigakit I spent several hours whiling away the time in various airport "Duty free" electronics stores checking out the latest mainstream digital goodies. As you might expect the stores were full of PCs, Laptops, Netbooks, Tablets and smart phones. However, what was a little surprising was the number of systems running the latest version of the Windows operating system. Of course I'm talking about Windows 8. Whether it was San Francisco, Hong Kong or London Heathrow Windows 8 based products were everywhere. When I returned home to New Zealand I found all the computers stores pushing the same hardware. Love them or hate them you've got to be impressed by the sheer marketing power of Microsoft and the relationship they have developed over the years with mainstream PC retailers. Of course computer stores want and need to sell hardware and Microsoft need to sell its software licenses so it's no surprise that Windows 8 is getting a lot of publicity and shelf space. If you have not yet seen Windows 8 in action, (do you live in a cave? ), it is claimed to be Microsoft's attempts to seize the tablet era without losing its Windows advantage. The software is touch friendly and more socially connected and more importantly, the major hardware manufactures are creating special designs to match its "unique" features.
Is Windows 8 any good? It probably doesn't really matter as the company controls over 90% of the world's desktop OS market and with its dominant position is now going after the mobile space. With Microsoft's own Windows 8 Surface tablet about to hit the stores should Apple and Android (Google) be worried?
Could Android be our new Gynoid?
Hidden among all the Windows 8 machines I can across a new (to me) Android Netbook/tablet. Nothing new you might think, but while the salesperson was directing me to the sleek, stylish and expensive Sony Windows 8 Notebook with a duty-free price-tag of £850,
my attention was drawn towards the ASUS Transformer Pad, TF300T complete with a mobile docking station and version 4.1.1 of Android Jelly Bean with a much lower price of £350. I have been using an Acer Iconia TAB A500 Android Tablet, but over the past year I have been using it much less. To be honest Android is very usable but IMHO a tablet is no substitute for a Netbook or Notebook if you have serious work to do while you are travelling. I also use Android on my Samsung Galaxy SII smart phone and although this has replaced the Acer tablet for most of my quick access mobile needs it is again no substitute for a Netbook.
Enter The ASUS Transformer Pad. This has the best of both worlds. When connected to the keyboard it looks like a slim, compact Netbook. Not only does it have a full QWERTY keyboard and Touchpad, it also has an active Touch screen you would expect to find on a high-end tablet. It also comes complete with 32GB of internal storage, a USB port, an SD card slot and 8GB of free online storage. The TF300T is powered by an NVIDIA Tegra 3 4-Plus-1™ Quad-core CPU which supports super smooth 1080p HD video playback. New 3D video effects have also been added but ASUS claims that the unit still has a 15+ hour battery life.
As you would expect it endorses all of the 'touchy, feely' concepts common with other Android tablets and is highly geared towards social networking. The customised Android keyboard nicely protects the tablet screen and can be easily detached if you prefer the full tablet experience. However, if you are really serious about working while on the move, the TF300T is supplied with Polaris Office, a mobile office suite which is compatible with Microsoft Office documents, better still a version of Libre Office is also in the works. Overall it is an excellent product. So did I buy the Windows 8 Sony Netbook? What do you think?
And then there is the reality. For my sins I've been running a Windows Vista server to control my home network. As you might have guessed, as an Amigan, I am not the typical Windows user and do not change out my hardware every year. Despite all of its drawbacks I have been using a Vista machine and for the past 4-1/2 years if has performed OK once the inevitable Service Packs were installed. That was until a few days ago when suddenly the HDD went "clunk". Fortunately I had all my valuable data backed up on my A1-X1000 and a series of USB HDDs. Actually I had an early lessons of the potential frailty of HDDs. My first Amiga 2000 in 1988 came equipped with a massive, for the time, 2oMB HDD. From new, the drive failed to spin-up until the A2000 had warmed up. Gently tapping the drive would encourage it to spin-up and once it was up and running it worked fine until the next time I powered up the A2000 from a cold start. Obviously, I changed the drive out under warranty as soon as I could. However, this early experience made me paranoid about backing up valuable data, something I make sure I always do.
Re-learning old tricks!
During AmiWest, Len Haggblad, a Canadian Amiga enthusiast, confided that he had been trying to buy a Phase5 CyberstormPPC accelerator to upgrade his Classic A4000 system.
I knew I had sent a faulty CSPPC card to J.J. Boulet of Amiga Repair Centre in France several years ago and that he had returned the board to me in working order. However, I kept the card as a spare to back-up my working CSPPC systems. These boards have become increasing scarce over the years and continue to sell for a premium on eBay, often at levels up to and exceeding the original purchase price. I took pity on Len and promised to check out the board when I returned to New Zealand.
I managed to track down my spare board and installed it in one of my working A4000 CyberstormPPC enabled systems. It booted up first time to AmigaOS3.9. As a more complete test, I decided to create a new AmigaOS4.1 installation and partitioned an old IDE HDD. The installation went fine but when I attempted to reboot the system all I got was a blank screen and the rhythmic clicking of the floppy disk drive. As a check, I re-connected my old drive and successfully booted into OS3.9 once again. What could be wrong? I had remembered to locate the boot partition in the first 4GB of drive space and decided the HDD, which was very old, was probably faulty and managed to find another one hidden in the cupboard. I re-partitioned the replacement drive and performed the installation once again. Again I got the same result and, as the ever clicking floppy disk drive continued to mock my failure, a little light went on in my brain.
I decided to read the installation guide! Almost the very first thing I read "Adding a file system into the Rigid Disk Block (RDB)". I had totally forgotten this step, which is not required on an Amiga Next-generation system. I quickly installed the L:SmartFileSystem and re-partitioned and formatted the HDD. I re-installed AmigaOS4.1 and after a short delay was surfing the web with IBrowse and OWB. Magic.
And the moral of the story is. "You" are not as clever as you thought "you" were and always RTFM!
An unexpected journey
On Wednesday 28th November I got the chance to attend a function organised around the World Premiere of The Hobbit, Kiwi film director Peter Jackson latest movie, to meet some of the companies leading the next wave of New Zealand's global screen and digital adventures.
Not only did I get to see some of the stars of the film walk down the red carpet I also met some of the excellent people involved in the local film and TV production industry. Better still, I also got the chance to talk with several game developers who are working on the next generation of online game engines. Interesting stuff. Oh and I managed to have a few drinks as well. A good afternoon all round.
..and finally, Oppa Amiga Style!
With the strangely addictive Gangham Style video breaking the YouTube all time record for number of plays (~897,000,000 at the time of writing) it was a nice surprise to receive my own "tribute" in the form of an anonymous JibJab video card parody. They had obviously see my previous "outstanding" disco performance in the "dancing Trevor" video.
Visit to Aladdin's cave
After AmiWest 2012 I flew back to the UK with Matthew Leaman to visit AmigaKit's new facility in Cardiff. Earlier this year AmigaKit vacated the two industrial units they have occupied since 2005 and moved into much larger premises in West Cardiff which has enough additional space to support their continuing expansion plans.
It was an interesting and surprising visit and what I saw certainly underlined AmigaKit's ongoing commitment to support all flavours of the Amiga community. However, despite their close association with Next-Generation Amiga systems (AmigaKit is the authorised distributor for A-EON products and a major re-seller of ACube hardware) the largest part of their business is Classic Amiga support.
Their invoicing & stock control system is still run on an Amiga 1200 converted tower system and all invoices and shipping documents are printed from the A1200. Talk about practicing what you preach. They have a massive stock of new, Commodore manufactured, A1200 motherboards and an equally large supply of new A1200 cases and original Commodore packaging. They also have a warehouse full of Amiga goodies that makes my Amiga collection look very small. One of life's cruel lessons, someone always got a bigger boat Amiga collection!
Over the past few years AmigaKit has also developed many new hardware and software products to help Classic Amiga users keep their aging machines running smoothly. These includes numerous widgets and gadgets to keep even the most enthusiastic Classic Amiga modder very happy.
At AmiWest, even former Commodore engineer, Beth Richards, purchased a number of items to patch up several of her Classic machines. Her purchases included a 4GB Compact Flash hard disk drive with AmigaKit's OS-Install pre-installed and a Lithium coin battery kit to replace the leaking (furry) battery in her Amiga 2000. Check out AmigaKit's website for a complete list of parts and accessories for your Classic Amiga.
Link: Classic Amiga goodies
While I was visiting another batch of 25 Nemo boards was received from Varisys and Chris, AmigaKit's lead technician, was busy assembling and testing four more AmigaONE X1000 systems which were due to be shipped out that week.
Sorry for the poor quality of the Nemo Tower photo (blame Matthew )
>>>Life in the Fast Lane>>>
While I was at AmigaKit I also got to see the two new Classic 68k accelerators recently released by Jens Schönfeld of Individual Computers. The ACA1232, which is compatible with the A1200 and ACA 500, includes a 33 MHz 68030 CPU with MMU and is supplied with 128MB of Fast Ram. It includes a 1MB MapRom feature and is also PCMCIA compatible and achieves a respectable 7.89 MIPS with SysInfo. An optional realtime clock module is also available.
The ACA620EC is designed for the A600 and is supplied with a 16.67 MHz MC68EC020 CPU and supports up to 12.3MB of Fast Ram. It also includes a 1MB MapRom function. These accelerators are already proving to be very popular with Classic Amiga owners and AmigaKit has already had to increase its order to keep up with demand.
Lucky Number 8
AmigaONE X1000 Linux gurus Darren Stevens and Pat Wall have gone and done it again. Thanks to Darren the A1-X1000 now supports the recent Linux 3.5.7 kernel and, better still, it now includes full support for 2D/3D hardware acceleration for RadeonHD 6xxx series graphics cards (as well as 4xxx, 5xxx cards). Now I can use my single slot Radeon HD 6850 with both AmigaOS 4 and Linux. Thanks Darren.
Pat has not been idle either. Not content with providing Live USB Flash drive images for Debian Wheezy and MintPPC 11, Pat has now produced a Live USB image based on Red Ribbon RC6, a PPC64 GNU/Linux distribution derived from Debian Wheezy with support for Cell BE which was recently released for the PlayStation 3. Red Ribbon is a lightweight distribution that contains only free and open source software.
The Red Bibbon image can be installed on a USB Flash drive or USB HDD and allows "plug and play" Linux operation on the A1-X1000 without the need for installation to a HDD. It also has the added advantage that, unlike a Live CD, it can be updated and customised with the vast collection of productivity software, utilities and games which are freely available for download from the Linux repositories. With the addition of Red Ribbon, the A1-X1000 now supports 8 PowerPC Linux distributions.
"Bad Boy" Tommy
AmigaONE X1000 beta tester Thomas Blatt (aka TommSammy) recently attended the 3-day Bad Bramstedt 2012 event with his A1-X1000 system.
He demonstrated AmigaOS 4.1 Update 5 on his A1-X1000 running a compilation of games and productivity software, including Timberwolf and test versions of AbiWord 2.8, Gimp 2.6.11, and Andacious 3.2 courtesy of the developer Edgar Schwan.
Never mind the "Red v Blue" wars, at AmiWest 2012 the battle was on to find who could wear the most "appropriate" T-Shirt to mark the event.
Steven Solie, AmigaOS 4 development team lead, looked like winning the day with his "Full Frontal Nerdity" offering but he was pipped at the last minute by Lyle Hazlewood of Xena/Xorro fame with his "When in doubt try another hole" T-shirt, which I'm reliably told was not a reference to the colour of the A1-X1000 audio sockets?
All I can say is: "Lyle, knock, knock, knock"; "Lyle, knock, knock, knock"; "Lyle, knock, knock, knock", you are the man!
I had the pleasure of meeting and talking to former Commodore employee Beth Richards who is a new member of the SACC user group, the organisers of AmiWest. Beth worked in Commodore's special chip design group from 1990 until the bankruptcy in 1994.
She worked on the Grace and Beauty chips for the cost reduced CDTV and the Akiko chip in the CD32. She brought a rare CR CDTV to the show which included a HDD and 3-1/2" FDD. Apparently only 64 of these devices were every made. Amazingly there were two of them at the show. It was interesting to hear some of the stories and insights from the Commodore days. However, I could not quite understand her strange reaction every time Medhi Ali's name was mentioned?
One man's meat........
It was really good to see the AROS presence in the form of Jason McMullan and Sam Crowe at this years AmiWest. So with AmigaDave (unofficially) representing MorphOS and the usual strong AmigaOS 4 and Classic contingent the whole Amiga community was represented. Nice to see .... and there was no fighting, except during the Amiga trivia quiz contest which was won by the all conquering "Invisible Men" team which included, Matthew Leaman, Jason McMullan and yours truly! We rocked!
I received a lot of questions from attendees at AmiWest about the future availability of the AmigaONE X1000. The (third) production run is currently underway and AmigaKit receive boards from small batches from Varisys on a regular basis. Matthew confirmed that he will be contacting all customers who have lodged their interest in the X1000 as each new batch is received. Additional production runs will be scheduled should demand continue to exceed the supply.
Move over Xena....enter Xorro
I really enjoyed the presentation by Lyle Hazlewood our Xena warrior princess expert who presented an update of his Xena/Xorro development work. Lyle has updated his Xorro tools and created the first Xorro project which included a fast serial capture and SD Card.
I must apologise to Lyle for my inappropriate Xena makeover. This was his first visit to AmiWest but Lyle was instantly recognised by most of the other attendees, usually with the phrase, "Hey, I know you, you are the guy in the dress!" Ooops sorry Lyle. To "redress" the balance I've attached a real picture of Lyle. Anyway, with AmigaKit due to stock Xorro boards next month now is the time for all A1-X1000 hackers to start planning their own Xorro projects. Lyle also revealed exciting news about the new "Bars & Pipes" port for AmigaOS 4.
Thanks Xorro um, I mean Lyle.
Suffering for art?
Anyone who has seen me at various Amiga shows knows that I usually wear a red & white "Boing Ball" tie and belt.
For this years AmiWest, following a worldwide web search, I managed to track down a pair of "Boing Ball" checked shoes.
Unfortunately the only shoes I could find were 1/2 a size too small. At the end of the first day my feet were just a little sore! For the fashion conscious the shoes are from the Vans' skate board range - Excellent!
The carnival is over
Pictures from the traditional after show dinner at a local Sacramento restaurant featuring some of the hardy organisers and attendees who just refused to go home.
......and finally, many thanks to A1-X1000 beta tester Val Marti for lending me his machine to display AmigaOS 4 and the Wheezy Live Flash drive installation.
Signing off from AmiWest 2012.