With the dust finally settling on AmiWest for another year the Amiga community now turns it focus to Italy's annual Pianeta Amiga show which this year is being held in the historical city of Bologna, an important cultural, economic and political centre in the Emilia-Romagna region of Northern Italy. Pianeta is Italy's premier Amiga show and while the attendance will be nowhere near as high compared to the Amiga's heyday, it does not detract from the Pianeta event, which is always located in one of Italy's beautiful historic cities.
This will be my second visit to a Pianeta Amiga show. The first was to Empoli way back in 2007, just as ACube were about to release their Samantha motherboard (aka as the Sam440ep). I managed to sneak a private showing of a very early Alpha version of AmigaOS 4 running on the Samantha board. As this was my first trip to Pianeta I wrote a short visit report which I posted on AmigaWord.net.
Shortly after the show I purchased one of the first Sam440ep beta systems supplied in a nice black NeXus case. The alpha version of AmigaOS 4 was very buggy and unstable but, as it was the first new AmigaOS 4 capable machine after Eyetech departed the Amiga scene it was very welcome.
Since that time ACube's SAM systems have gone from strength to strength and no doubt some will be on sale at the show, along with A-EON's AmigaONE X1000 and Nemo motherboard. If you are are in the area or already planning to visit the show come along and say Ciao. Who knows, you may even get to see a few other little surprises?
If you would like to help the organisers cover the cost of running the Pianeta Amiga show please visit PayPal and make a small donation. Every little helps and will be gratefully received. I even donated towards their cause using my wife's PayPal account! At the time of writing the confirmed exhibitors include:-
* ACube Systems: Enrico Vidale, Max Tretene and Philippe Ferrucci
* A-EON Technology: Matthew Leaman (and me)
* AmigaKit: Chris Follett
* Bitplane Magazine: Nicola Morocutti and Stefano Guidetti
* MorphOS development Team: represented by Frank Mariak and Mark Olsen
....and as always there will be many more.
Where: Strada Maggiore #58, Bologna, Italy
When: 14-15 December 2013
AmiWest loose ends
One of my highlights of the recent AmiWest show, apart from the Cyrus Plus announcements of course , was swapping an A-EON sponsored Just Breezin' AmiWest T-shirt with former Commodore engineer Beth Richards for an unused and virtually new Amiga 1000 mouse.
The mouse was in pristine condition and still had the small piece of foam padding inside the roller-ball area to prevent the ball from moving in transit. Beth was also happy with her Just Breezin' T-Shirt as she had worked very closely with the late George Robbins, the Commodore engineer who is credited for adding B52 song titles to all of the Amiga motherboards he worked on.
A-EON continued that tradition with the B52 song title, Keep this party going on the Nemo motherboard and now Just Breezin' on the new Cyrus Plus board. Beth, who is a senior component design engineer with Intel, wore her Just Breezin' T-Shirt in honour of her former Commodore colleague during her AmiWest presentation in which she revealed secrets of her experimental work on the CD32 full motion video development and MPEG video compression that she was working on right up to Commodore's bankruptcy in 1994.
I picked up another unusual item at AmiWest when Daniel Kloczko, one of the SACC board members, presented me with an Amiga Guru novelty notepad which was created by Larry Anderson of larrymade.com. The front cover is made out of an old 3.5" HD floppy disk which was marked IBM format on the back. Well I suppose that's a good use for it. I'm just pleased that Larry did not use an old Amiga floppy.
By the way, look out for my AmiWest 2013 show report in issue 106 of Amiga Future magazine. In the same issue I've also given an in depth interview to Anton Preinsack who asks some hard hitting questions covering the Nemo and Cyrus Plus developments.
l'amiga belle - Alchimie X
My final Amiga show update covers the Alchimie X event which was recently held in France. Although this is not an Amiga specific show, it does give French Amiga enthusiasts the chance to celebrate and promote the Classic and Next-Generation Amiga scene to a wider computer audience. As one of the show's sponsors A-EON was provided with a display area and beta testers Alex Balaban and Ölrick Lefebvre graciously volunteered to bring along their own AmigaONE X1000 machines to demonstrate AmigaOS 4 in action on the fastest custom built AmigaOS hardware currently available. After the show Alexandre sent me a selection of photos. He apologised for looking a little bit tired in some of the pictures but, as he explained, after 8 hours of driving plus the extra time to set up the A-EON stand he was a little jaded. Something, he says, "that was not helped by the long days and short nights" at the three day event. Despite that they both had a great time and Alex was even "volunteered" to speak about the new AmigaOS 4 Vector-Port API.
Swiss Made Precision
When you think of Switzerland you probably think of snowy mountains, silky smooth chocolate, expensive watches, the financial gnomes of Zurich and possibly the Red Cross. Oh and then there's the Swiss army knife and the Vatican's Swiss Guard. So, to misquote a famous Monty Python expression, "what else did the Swiss do for us?"
Well there is also RELEC Hardware and Software Amiga who are located in Payerne about 55 Km north east of Lake Geneva. RELEC was the brain child of Emmanuel "XRAY " Rey who co-founded the company in October 1995.
As XRAY admits, "initially it was a bit a family business" and although he is the main driving force behind the company there is a team of dedicated Amiga enthusiasts who are always available to lend a hand, especially for important Amiga shows like the Colmar Multimedia Show or the Alchimie Event in France.
His team includes Nicola "SalternaOS" Raffinatore, who also handles translations and English and German communication along with Thierry "Tcherno" Rey, who XRAY describes as RELEC's super graphic designer. He can also call on Stéphane "Guibrush" Pitteloud, Benoît "Amigaouf" Wiblé and Fabien "Cali66" Meroz to lend a hand or provide the occasional customer support.
RELEC has continued to serve the Amiga community through good times and bad. Since the demise of Commodore and the collapse of the Amiga market, in XRAY's own words, "it has been necessary to find solutions to continue to serve and to give satisfaction to the users. It therefore became imperative for RELEC to adopt a very light structure. It is true that under these conditions, it becomes more a vocation than a business itself." (and I thought I was the only crazy one? ) RELEC distributes and sells Classic and Next-Generation Amiga products in Switzerland and other Francophone countries but, its products have also found their way to customers in Greece and the USA. RELEC always strives to distinguish its products and provide high added value for its Amiga customers. This is evident with "THE RED ONE", its customised Sam460 based system which it has especially configured for game players.
I'm pleased to reveal that RELEC has now joined the A-EON party and has become an official distributor for Nemo motherboards and AmigaONE X1000 systems.
I asked Emmanuel "XRAY " Rey to comment on the new distribution agreement, "Now with A-Eon, RELEC is proud to collaborate with the advancing AmigaNG and to propose powerful configurations worthy of a modern and efficient AmigaOS. Since 2 years we test the X1000, so it is with pleasure that we work with A-Eon and AmigaKit to distribute and promote the promotional offer. We look forward to test the CYRUS+ which should open the way for a new generation of powerful AmigaNG and hopefully accessible to a maximum of Amigans and non-Amigans ". I can only agree. The AmigaONE X1000 is assembled in Wales & Germany and now, with the addition of RELEC, it is Swissmade - a sign of quality and technical excellence.
To celebrate this event, and the delivery of the latest batch of Nemo motherboards, A-EON Technology is pleased to announce a special Christmas promotion on Nemo motherboard and AmigaONE X1000 systems. For more details please contact RELEC, AmigaKit or your participating local Amiga dealer.
By the way did I mention Swiss neutrality, Heidi, yodelling and cuckoo clocks?
At AmiWest a few lucky people were able to acquire the first copies of the Live Ubuntu Remix DVD for the AmigaONE X1000.
One person who has now installed the Live Ubuntu Remix on his AmigaONE X1000 is AmigaOS Development Team Lead, Steven Solie. In a double helping of good news he made the following post on the Hyperion Message boards, "I was working on Timberwolf last night via Ubuntu on the X1000. A HUGE THANKS to our local Linux experts for making Ubuntu "just work" so I can focus on Timberwolf. Kudos! I have the code and I was just finishing up the cross-compiler dev environment. I plan to send out a binary release once I get it all working to establish a baseline. Then we can add some 3rd party devs to the team and get moving again. I'll blog when the time is right." Excellent news all round I think.
So now its time for the AmigaONE X1000 core Linux team to take a well earned bow. Someone, who shall remain nameless, complained I'd made him look like a fat little hobbit in a recent image. So, as I do a lot of the Linux grunt work (testing and documentation), I've included myself in the picture. Matthew, this one is for you!
However, the Linux team are not resting on their laurels. Work continues on the Kernel support for the AmigaONE X1000. The 3.10.15 kernel is stable and, as Darren reports, has been moved to a LTS kernel now so it will get updates for quite a while. Experimental beta kernels 3.11 & 3.12 are also quite stable and should be uploaded to the A-EON website in the new future.
Christian is continuing to work on his SliTaz port, an experimental Linux system for experienced users, as well as releasing new versions of SuperTuxKart for the AmigaONE X1000 and non altivec equipped PowerPC machines. The Live Ubuntu Remix DVD for the AmigaONE X1000 will be available on the A-EON AmiStore in the near future.
There has been an excellent response to the Cyrus Plus beta test programme. The deadline for applications is at the end of December. Successful beta test applicants also have the option of having their name or nickname added to the Cyrus Plus motherboard silkscreen. However, the deadline for this option is earlier and is set the 15th of December. If you have registered your interest in joining the Cyrus Plus beta team and have not yet had a response from A-EON please send an email to contact(at)a-eon.com.
Please also contact A-EON if you have already sent in your documentation and have not yet received an acknowledgement confirming receipt. Incidentally, my application went in last week!
By the way, just in case you think Cyrus is getting all of the attention, work is continuing to improve support for the Amiga ONE X1000, which remains an integral part of the AmigaOS 4 development effort. The Nemo board is being used for multicore development under AmigaOS 4 and a couple of new drivers for A1-X1000 are in the works. Watch this space.
If you read my blog you will know that I have an interest in the commercial battle raging between Apple and Samsung, which is being fought in the law courts as much as it is in the high streets. It appears that, despite some of Apple's recent legal victories in the USA, Samsung is continuing to narrow the gap on its arch rival. In a recent survey of the most recognisable brand and logos in the Western world, Samsung has now moved up to number 2 spot and is closing in fast on Apple who are still in the top spot.
In fact Samsung is the only non USA corporation listed in the top ten. More interesting, in the third Quarter of 2013 Samsung was officially more profitable that Apple. However with the Christmas season coming up this could all change as, according to one report, Android users accounted for 40% of all Apple iPad sales on Black Friday, the USA traditional post Thanksgiving sales frenzy.
Arrivederci for now, next stop Pianeta Amiga.
Another year, another AmiWest show on the horizon. I'm just finishing off my presentation for this year's show and helping to finalise the A-EON Technology News Releases, which have become a regular feature of the AmiWest show in recent times. This year we will be announcing details about several of the exciting developments we have been working on plus one or two other little surprises! Once again I'm pleased to confirm that A-EON Technology will be sponsoring the show and entry will be free. So if you are in California come along have a chat with Matthew and me and buy the official T-Shirt.
When you know you are an Amiga Geek - Part 3
Talking about AmiWest 2013, I was starting to pack the essential items in my red (naturally) suitcase in preparation for travelling to the show when I suddenly noticed a disturbing trend! Sometimes a picture really does say more than a thousand words.
Happy Anniversary AmigaClub.be
While many eyes may be focused on the AmiWest show in Sacramento next weekend, Belgian Amiga enthusiast Dirk Baeyens contacted me to let me know that the Belgian Amiga Club (AmigaClub.be) is celebrating its 10th Anniversary with a special meeting on October 19th at the Ons Huis pub in Kruibeke, Belgium. Entrance is free and, as the location is a pub, food and beverages can be purchased and will be in plentiful supply.
Classic Amigas along with next-generation AmigaOS4, MorphOS and AROS are all supported and welcomed. So if you are in the area and want to enjoy some good Amiga fun or simply drink some excellent Belgian beer get along to their anniversary meeting. The organisers also report that the Ons Huis pub will be the new location for all future club meetings. For more information check out the Belgian Amiga Club's Facebook Page
What: Belgian Amiga Club 10th Anniversary meeting
When: Saturday 19 October from 13:00 to 21:00
Where: "Ons Huis" op het Onze-Lieve-Vrouwplein 9, 9150 Kruibeke, Belgium
Deutschland (Amiga) Forever
You may have noticed on the Amiga forums that Alinea Computer in Germany have begun supplying the AmigaONE X1000 system to the German market, making them the first Amiga retailer apart from AmigaKit to offer fully built AmigaONE X1000 systems.
Simon Neumann and Ricco Clemens founded Alinea Computer GbR in October 2004 to develop software and games for the Amiga. They also established an on-line Amiga Shop and handle distribution, web-design and printing. Alinea are based in Wehrheim on the north slope of the Taunus mountain range, about 30 km north of Frankfurt, and have quickly established an excellent reputation within the German Amiga market and beyond. I have two of their software products in my collection. The excellent AmiPhoto, a digital photo album and ANotice, a useful Workbench memo notepad utility.
In early 2010 Torsten Hees replaced Ricco Clemens as Simon's business partner, but Ricco remains closely connected with the company. I asked Simon for a comment on Alinea being the first AmigaONE X1000 retailer outside of AmigaKit and he replied, "We are very proud, that we have the opportunity to distribute the AmigaOne X1000 in Germany. We try our best so that we, as AmigaKit offer, a high quality Amiga system can offer the German Amiga users."
I asked him how difficult it had been to build and configure the first AmigaONE X1000 system, something that AmigaKit have been doing regularly for two years. He replied, "It was no easy way to the finished system, but we have overcome all the hurdles and hope we can meet all standards." Apart from supplying complete AmigaONE X1000 systems with AmigaOS 4.1 pre-installed, Alinea also offer a Linux installation service to create a dual booting configuration alongside the AmigaOS. I'll leave the last words to Simon, "We had a good cooperation with AmigaKit and we hope we can continue the good cooperation in future." If you live in Germany and want to pre-order an Amiga ONE X1000 from Alinea please send an email to Simon Neumann at email@example.com to express your interest.
You may have noticed over the past year that the number of Linux distributions that can be run on the AmigaONE X1000 has grown considerably, culminating in the imminent release of the Live Ubuntu Remix DVD. Over a dozen PowerPC Linux distributions can now be installed on the AmigaONE X1000, the latest being Lubuntu 13.10 and an experimental version of openSUSE 12.3, a Linux distro that is very popular in Germany.
This is down to the hard work and dedication of a small international team of AmigaONE X1000 beta testers and "First Contact" owners who have spent many long hours configuring the Linux kernel and various PowerPC Linux distributions for the AmigaONE X1000. They are building on the earlier work of several developers and beta testers who helped improve the installation experience for the initial port of Debian Squeeze way back in 2011. This includes Tom Crecelius, Ralph Holzer, Vicente Gimeno, Stephan Scheele, Hans-Joerg Frieden and of course Varisys themselves. The current A-EON Technology Core Linux support team includes Darren "Kernel" Stevens, Pat "Distro Jedi Master" Wall and the latest recruit to our Linux support team, Christian "Linux Wizard" Zigotzky.
The Linux Kernel for the AmigaONE X1000 now stands at 3.10 and includes support for 3D hardware acceleration with RadeonHD 4xxx, 5xxx and 6xxx series graphics cards. Our newest member, Christian Zigotzky, has been very productive and has contributed to the 3.10 Linux kernel and the openSUSE port for the AmigaONE X1000 as well as providing an Altivec version of SuperTuxkart, especially customised for the AmigaONE X1000. All three team members are volunteers and contribute to Kernel development, testing and porting Linux distributions for the AmigaONE X1000.
The Power of big money
In a previous blog I posted that IBM was forming an OpenPower consortium to licence its technology in an effort to promote its PowerPC platform. At the recent LinuxCon 2013 conference in New Orleans, IBM announced new plans to invest US$1 billion in new Linux and open source technologies for its Power Systems servers over the next five years. Apparently, the money is to be used to to help clients capitalise on big data and cloud computing in the post-PC era? As part of its initiative IBM opened a new Power Systems Linux Centre for developers, clients and partners in Montpelier, France to accompany the centres it had already opened in North America and Asia.
This new investment announcement comes twelve years after IBM infamously announced that is was backing the then unproven Linux platform with a US$1 billion investment. The executive director of the Linux Foundation, Jim Zemlin commented on IBM's latest investment pledge, “The last time IBM committed $1 billion to Linux, it helped start a flurry of innovation that has never slowed. We look forward to seeing how the Power platform can bring about further innovation on Linux, and how companies and developers can work together to get the most out of this open architecture.” In a statement from IBM, Brad McCredie VP of Power Development said, "Many companies are struggling to manage big data and cloud computing using commodity servers based on decades-old, PC-era technology.
These servers are quickly overrun by data, which triggers the purchase of more servers, creating unsustainable server sprawl. The era of big data calls for a new approach to IT systems; one that is open, customizable, and designed from the ground up to handle big data and cloud workloads.” Lisa Orr Johnson, IBM’s VP of Worldwide Marketing added, "One Power processor can replace 10 Intel CPUs. This, in turn, will drastically reduce datacenter power and cooling costs." Why should this be of any interest to Amigans you may well ask? With IBM continuing to pour money into support its Power Servers it means that there will be room and opportunity for competition from other PowerPC hardware developers and manufacturers to secure a piece of the growing server market which is currently estimated at ~US59 billion, of which IBM's share is around ~28%. The market is expected to reach US67 billion by 2017, and while it's currently dominated by x86 hardware, the upward and sustained growth in PowerPC based systems is expected to continue. That coupled with IBM's OpenPower licence should help to drive PowerPC development for many years to come. Altogether now......who said PowerPC was dead!
Pie in the sky?
It was recently reported that the Raspberry Pi Foundation had just manufactured its millionth Raspberry Pi single board computer. If you didn't know, the Raspberry Pi is actually manufactured in Wales, with the company churning out up to 12,000 units a day. The BBC claims it is set to become the best-selling British computer since ZX Spectrum or BBC Micro, but at around £30 each will never earn similar revenues to it 8-bit ancestors. Eben Upton, the founder of the Raspberry Pi foundation, whose day job is the Technical Director and ASIC architect for Broadcom said, "I remember being told this was an unsaleable product", "But we've already surpassed the sales of the BBC Micro - my childhood computer. There was a latent need for something like this." This is undoubtedly very good news, but as I posted in an earlier blog, the Raspberry Pi was touted as an educational game changer that would encourage kids to take up a career in computing and IT. So far, according to the BBC, the Raspberry Pi has "inspired middle-aged hobbyists around the world to invent all sorts of weird and wonderful things, from a Pi-powered bear leaping out of a balloon to any number of robots, musical instruments and vehicles". As Upton admits this was not the intention and the focus must now be on education.
However, as the BBC reports, "the keenest young people will find a way to get into computers, but the majority, if presented with a Raspberry Pi for Christmas, will probably stick it in a drawer and go and turn on the XBox." It's good to know that the BBC agrees with my assessment. I hope Upson and the Pi Foundation achieve their lofty goals, but personally, I prefer another computer that is also assembled in Wales (and now Germany).
Ni all fod ond un Amiga un X1000 .... Amiga am byth ; and now correctly in German:
Es kann nur einen Amiga geben, (einen) X1000...Amiga Forever
(Thanks to Thomas Kölsch for the corrections)
Thanks to the folks at AmigaPlanet.gr who send me a copy of the inaugural issue of Retro Planet, a new full colour Retro computer and Amiga magazine for the Greek speaking world.
Next stop, Sacramento!
I'm now safely back in New Zealand following my whistle stop tour to Canada to attend the AmiJAM 2013 Amiga show in Calgary. It's almost 30 years since my last visit and the city has changed over the intervening years. It's population has continued to grow and now exceeds 1 million making it Canada's third largest city. Look out for my AmiJAM 2013 show report in the next edition of Amiga Future magazine. While I was in Calgary I was the guest of Steven Solie and his family who looked after me and made sure I did not get into any trouble. During my stay I was able to dispel a few Canadian stereotypes. People do not say "eh" at the end of every sentence. Nor do they say "aboot". It actually sounds more like a cross between "aboat" and the British way of saying "about". Also I did not see a moose or the Royal Canadian Mounted police in their distinctive red coats and wide brimmed hats. I did eat pancakes with maple syrup for breakfast though!
A-EON or AEONS?
I used to be a Geologist, but I'm alright now! Apologies for the geological joke, but while I was in Calgary Steven and his family took me for a day out to the Royal Tyrell Museum in Drumheller, a town situated in the Alberta Badlands about 68 miles north-east of Calgary in an area know as Dinosaur Valley. The region is a kind of miniature Grand Canyon and the dry coulees and buttes of the Red Deer River valley are littered with the most concentrated dinosaur bones beds anywhere in the world.
Drumheller certainly lived up to it's claim as the Dinosaur capital of the world with its museum home to the world's largest collection of complete dinosaur skeletons all retrieved from the surrounding area. If you ever find yourself in this region the museum is well worth a visit, but allow a couple of days to visit the museum and the surrounding area. Better still, take a guided tour of Dinosaur Provincial park in nearby Brooks and see the Museum's dinosaur "hunters" in action.
When you know you are an Amiga Geek! - part 2
It's rather reassuring to meet other people who are just as crazy about the Amiga computer. If you read my blog you will know that I recently I met with David Aiau who is dedicated collector and even has more AmigaONE X1000's than I have!
During my recent trip to Canada I met up with a number of fellow Amigan enthusiasts, but I was surprised to learn that AmigaOS 4 Team Lead, Steven Solie is just as geeky I mean enthusiastic! Not only has he painstakingly customised his white AmigaONE X1000 "Boing Ball" tower case, he has a special number plate on his car. He even purchased a couple of the "Boing Ball" plushes produced by fellow AmigaOS 4 developer Costel Mincea, which I can confirm were not for his four year old son!
Play Expo 2013
If you are planning to be in the North West of in England in mid October you might want to check out Play Expo at Event City in Manchester.
This is the second year of the show which celebrates all forms of current and retro gaming hardware and the organisers are already forecasting attendances of ~30,000 for this two day event. The show format has also been revamped and now includes four distinct areas ensuring there is something for everyone:-
- re.play - retro computer systems, arcade/pinball machines and the PCLAN zone featuring classic networked FPS, Realtime Strategy and Driving games
- now.play - previews of the latest games and hardware from companies Nintendo, Ubisoft, Namco-Bandai and Oculus Rift, etc.
- pro.play - casual and competitive tournaments including FIFA, Mario Kart, Halo and Minecraft plus the UK qualifier for the Super Street Fighter 4 Capcom Cup with a trip to the USA for the winner.
- cos.play - costume competitions and dealers/traders
AmigaKit, as they did last year's show, will displaying their wares in the re.play area and will also be representing A-EON Technology. Not only will they have a large selection of goodies for Classic and Next-Generation Amigas, they will also have AmigaONE X1000 systems available for sale on the day. So get along to Play Expo meet up with Matthew and Christopher and grab yourself an Amiga bargain.
What: Play Expo 2013
Where: EventCity, Manchester, England
When: 12-13 October 2013
I continued to be amazed by what talented developers are achieving with field-programmable gate arrays (FPGA). I was already aware of the Chameleon cartridge developed by Jens Schönfeld of Individual Computers.
The Chameleon, which is an is an extension of his earlier C-One work, emulates multiple Retro computers including the C64 and Amiga and can be plugged into the C64 cartridge slot or used as a standalone unit replacing the computer, the floppy drive and the heavy power supply. An optional docking station is also available which provides 4 joystick ports and connectors for an Amiga or C64. The Chameleon comes with many extra features as standard including a Turbo mode, 16MB Ram expansion, battery backed real-time clocked and full 1541-emulation.
At the AmiJAM 2013 show I got my first taste of the MCC (Mulitiple Classic Computer) system from Arcade Retro Gaming.
Like the Chameleon, it is an FPGA based device, which can emulate a Classic Amiga, the Commodore C64 and an Atari 2600 computer together with several other cores including the ZX Spectrum and the Apple II. Unlike the Chameleon, it's only available as a standalone device and is supplied in a tiny case which includes full Micro SD support and is equipped with connections for a joystick, mouse & keyboard, and can be connected to a TV using a high quality s-video connection. Check out the links provide for more details about these "amazing" retro products.
In search of the Holy grail of graphics boards
In my quest to find the best RadeonHD graphics card for my AmigaONE X1000 I've tested another two cards in the 6xxxx and 7xxx series. Don't get me wrong most, if not all of the cards work well with the AmigaONE X1000 and AmigaOS 4, but when it come to size, power requirements and fan noise level not all RadeonHD cards are created equal. For my latest tests I selected two powerhouse cards at the top of the Radeon HD range.
The XFX HD 6970 and the Sapphire HD 7970 vapor-x. Both cards use one PCI-e slot, but because they are dual width they block the slot immediately below. Both are also very long cards and take up a lot of space. It's a good job the that the case supplied with the AmigaONE X1000 "First Contact" system had enough spare slots and is large enough to take the extra length of these enormous cards. The HD6970 is supplied with 2GB of GDDR5 memory and require 3 additional power connectors. One 6-pin PCI Express power connector and one 8-pin power cable that users two 4-pin PSU connectors. A special jumper cable is provided which connects the two 4-pin connectors from the PSU to the 8-pin connector on the card.
If you think that is bad, wait until you try to connect the HD7970. This power hungry monster is supplied with 3GB of GDDR5 memory and needs additional power supplied from four (yes, you read it correctly - four) 4-pin connectors from the PSU. Two jumper cables are provide to connect the four 4-pin connectors to the two 8-pin connectors on the graphics board. My A1-X1000 system is fully loaded with 6 additional HDDs, a DVD ROM drive, and a Catweasel Mark II connected to a FDD so I had to disconnect some of the HDDs to free up two of the additional 4-pin connectors needed to power up the board.
The HD6970 has one on-board cooling fan, while the HD7970 has two. You might think that this would make the HD7970 card twice as noisy but you would be wrong! In operation under AmigaOS 4, the dual fan HD7970 is much quieter that the noisy single fan HD6970. Having said that, the noise from HD6970 is still less than the CPU fans on my G5PowerMac and iMac machines. As a test, to check that the noise levels were not related to AmigaOS issues, I tried both cards with the new Live Ubuntu Remix DVD. The HD6970 worked fine and 3D graphics hardware acceleration worked as expected, but the fan noise level was still the same as under AmigaOS 4. However, the HD7970 would not boot to the Ubuntu desktop, although I could still use Ubuntu through the console interface. So both cards have their advantages and disadvantages.
Personally, even though it is quieter, I would not recommend the HD7970 because it requires 4 additional power connectors, which is not good if you have a lot of other HDDs etc installed in your machine. Also, if you want to try out Linux, the Live Ubuntu DVD does not currently work with this card. However, although the HD6970 works fine with both AmigaOS 4 and Linux, the on-board fan is far too noisy compared to some of the other Radeon HD cards I have tested. So out of all the 16 Radeon HD cards from the 4xxx, 5xxx, 6xxx, 7xxx series I have tried with my AmigaONE X1000 which one do I prefer? Currently my favourites are the PowerColor HD6850 and HD6870, Both work fine with AmigaOS 4 and Linux. The Sapphire HD5670 and Sapphire HD7750 are both fan-less and passively cooled cards and work fine under AmigaOS 4 and Linux, although the HD7750 currently does not support 3D acceleration with the Live Ubuntu Remix DVD. However, as always the final choice is up to you.
I finally got around to downloading version 3.3 of MorphOS for my G4 PowerBook. Again I decided not to perform a complete re-installation but selected the upgrade option as I have customised my machine and also have Papiosaur's excellent *Chrysalis 3.2 pack installed and didn't want to go through the whole process again. As usual the installation was quick and painless and on reboot my customised Ambient desktop was displayed without any problems. The latest 3.3 version is described mainly as a bug fix and on the surface there are no major differences. I was keen to check out whether my TP-Link TL-WN310G Wireless 54Mbps PCMCIA card was initialised automatically on boot up. I soon discovered that my Wifi card still has to be manually set up each time the machine is powered on. It's not difficult, it just means opening the Network preferences and selecting the Wifi card from the list and re-saving the settings. I don't know if this problem is a feature of my particular Wifi card or is the same with all Atheros 5000 chipset cards? However, I'm pleased to report that my Logitech wireless mouse now works OK. I also tested MorphOS 3.3 install on my G5 PowerMac and it again it booted to the Ambient desktop without any problems. Somewhat perversely, I also tried it on my G5 iMac, but as expected it did not work, which is no real surprise because it not yet supported! I quickly tested, but did not install MorphOS 3.3 on my Pegasos 1 & 2, Mac Mini and eMac, again with any issues. I will perform the full installation when I have some more time, but for now, so far so good.
*Note: Chrysalis must be installed over a clean installation of MorphOS 3.3
Latest Update: Chrysalis 3.3.1 now available
Recently IBM announced it was forming an OpenPower consortium to licence its technology in an attempt to breathe new life into the PowerPC platform. It plans to open up its intellectual property, much like ARM has done, to hopefully create a broader base of users and system manufacturers. It seems IBM main aim is to licence its newer Power8 processor, but it has also indicated that it is prepared to license its earlier Power designs.
At the time of writing four companies have signed up to IBM's OpenPower consortium. Google, Nvidia - the GPU chip maker, Mellanox Technologies – a networking and switch chip maker and Tyan – a motherboard manufacturer. A bit late in the day, you might think, but better late than never for Big Blue.
Also now that PowerPC was announced to have "Little Endian" support Breno Leitão of the Linux Technology Center revealed that he would like to enable it on Debian as a ppc64el architecture. According to Leitão, " I have been working internally at IBM on a Debian rootfs that runs on this architecture. As a plan, I am looking, in general, to have this architecture included on sid, first, and then being moving towards stable." As our Linux Distro guru Pat wall commented, "(it's) always good to see something new happening in the PPC word " It's not all good news from IBM though, especially as the company recently had lay-offs and asked its hardware employees to take a forced one-week furlough with one-third pay.
A-EON Technology app store utility - coming soon to an Amiga near you.
My next stop on the Amiga trail is my annual pilgrimage to the AmiWEST Amiga show in Sacramento. Once again A-EON Technology and AmigaKit will be jointly sponsoring the AmiWest event and this year we hope to be making some "interesting" announcements! Hey who said I was a tease? You know you like it!
The main show starts on at 6pm on Friday October 18th with the traditional Classic Clinic. Steven Solie, AmigaOS 4 Team lead, will be holding another pre-show Programming Workshop which commences on the evening of the 16th. He will be assisted by Paul Sadlik and other AmigaOS experts and has promised prizes for the best students.
AmigaKit will also be taking orders for the AmigaONE X1000 at the show, so come along and grab yourself a special deal and join in the Amiga fun. Thanks to sponsorship, entry to the AmiWest show is free to all Amigans for the fifth year running. There will be a small charge for PC and Mac users, payable to me in cash, in small brown envelopes!
I'm writing this blog on the eve of my flight to Canada to attend AmiJAM 2013 organised by AMUC in beautiful downtown Calgary. It's many years since I was last in Calgary and, although I've made several visits to AmiWest, this will be my first trip to an Amiga show north of the border. I'm really looking forward to meeting members of the Amiga Users of Calgary and if you are in the area and want to talk Amiga, call in and say hello, but please note I may be a bit jet-lagged!
When: Saturday, September 7, 2013 from 10:00-17:00
Where: Dundee Realty, 840 7th Avenue SW in downtown Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Web Link: AmiJAM
An alternate reality?
The other day I received an invitation from Amiga graphics guru, Hans de Ruiter to test out the Oculus Rift VR headset. If you are a regular reader of my blog, you may recall that I subscribed to the Oculus Rift Kickstarter project and purchased several headsets for AmigaOS 4 developers to play around with. Having not had a chance to try our one of these devices I accepted Hans' invitation and drove over to his place which is about 45 minutes away. The Oculus Rift headset is supplied with three pairs of removable lenses to switch the focal distance and possibly enable you to use the headset without glasses if you are near of long-sighted. With the correct lens pair installed it is possible you could use the headset with glasses or contact lenses. However, although I am slightly short sighted, we decided not to change his current lens configuration and calibrated the headset for my use with the pair that was already installed.
Although the Oculus Rift headset has generally had rave reviews, people have complained about the relatively low resolution of the developer kit (640×800 per eye producing 1280x800) which means you can see individual pixels very clearly, and even the black pixel edges. The LCD's response time also causes ghosting/blurring when you spin your head around quickly. As Hans said, this probably wouldn't be noticeable if you were watching a movie, but is noticeable when exploring virtual worlds or playing games. Fortunately, the consumer version should address both of these issues. However, as Hans reported, the response time to head movement is definitely good, so it does feel like you're looking around a virtual world when you rotate your head. The manufacturers recommend that, at first, you use the headset for short periods to build up your "resistance" to motion sickness. Hans admitted to me that he can now use the device for 15 minutes without feeling any nausea, so it was with some trepidation that I tested the device as I have a low tolerance to motion sickness. For me at least, the low resolution pixels were not a distraction as I used a combination of joystick and head movement to walk around the virtual world demo of a Villa and garden in Tuscany . It was very impressive, complete with birds, floating blossom and blue MorphOS butterflies. You can walk up stairs, look over balconies and even down down over the edge of the cliff to the beach and shoreline far below. However, after about 10 minutes exploring the the virtual world my "virtual headache was real enough. Despite, this I was really impressed with what has been achieved so far. Will this latest attempt to bring Virtual Reality to the masses be a success? Only time will tell.
Out of curiosity, Hans plugged the Oculus Rift into one of the USB ports on his AmigaONE-X1000. The USB stack reported that it was a "Tracker DK" made by "Oculus VR, Inc which as Hans said, is nothing remarkable but still reassuring nevertheless. Incidentally on the drive over to meet Hans I passed a street sign for West Chester! Now how's that for a virtual reality coincidence?
I have just completed another edition of my Classic Reflections series for Amiga Future magazine. Well that's actually not true, I completed Part 1 of Whatever happened to Great Valley Products? Part 2 will have to wait until I return from Canada. Although I knew GVP as a manufacturer of quality SCSI hard disk cards and RAM boards I had not quite appreciated just how productive this company had been during the Amiga's heyday. I was approaching my usual 30K characters limit when I realised that unless I split the edition into two parts I would not be able to do justice to the contribution made by this active and dynamic company who, in 1993, was ranked at number 155 in Inc Magazines top 500 fastest growing privately held companies in the USA. Look out for Part 1 of Whatever happened to Great Valley Products? in issue 105 of Amiga Future. In the meantime pick up a copy of issue 104 and read about the new M.A.C.E. game and find out "What really happened to MacroSystem?"
Big Brother 2013
Following the news that Big Brother really is watching us it seems that the New Zealand government is keen to join the ranks? Despite a lot of protest and dissension from the general public, parliament has narrowly passed new legislation, by a vote of 61 to 59, that gives the GCSB, New Zealand’s version of the NSA, extra surveillance powers to assist the police, Defence Force and the Security Intelligence Service.
Opponents to the new law claim that the new powers will open the door to the NSA-style monitoring of New Zealand citizens and sounds the death knell for privacy rights in New Zealand. According to a recent poll carried out by Fairfax Media-Ipsos three quarters of New Zealand’s population is “concerned by the law.” One New Zealand resident who is is perhaps more concerned that others is Megauploads founder Kim Dotcom, who is currently fighting extradition to the USA to face charges of alleged criminal copyright infringements, racketeering and money laundering related to the cyberlocker site. Dotcom has been a vocal critic of the new bill and tweeted his condemnation when the legislation was passed. Now there's a surprise! In the latest twist in the saga, Dotcom has stated he is considering forming a new political party which he promises would bring New Zealanders a new submarine cable, fair Internet pricing and no more data caps.
....and finally......when you know you are an Amiga geek!
Recently I celebrated one of those "special" birthdays and received a customised card through the post from an Amiga well wisher. It's a good job the number of candles and "Boing Balls" did not match my actual age. Apart from being a fire hazard it would be a bit like the famous (mis) quote from one of my favourite Scifi books and films, "My God—it's full of Boing Balls!" (With apologies to Arthur C. Clarke ) Geek mode off!
Sorry about the title for this month's blog but since my return to New Zealand, following the Silicon Dreams show and and my trip to Italy, the Wellington region and the top of New Zealand's South Island has been subjected to a number of severe earthquakes and multiple aftershocks. The most recent, which measured at 6.6 on the Richter scale, occurred while I was dining with friends in the aptly named Duck Creek restaurant. When the earthquake hit we "ducked" for cover under the table. Fortunately, no one was hurt and a bit like James Bond's vodka Martini we were shaken but not stirred. Like many New Zealand resident's I've become addicted to the Geonet website which monitors and tracks all the latest wobbles and shakes. I've attached a screen-grab from the Timberwolf web browser running on my AmigaONE X1000 which I captured after the large quake about week ago. Incidentally, I transferred my AmigaOS System partition, which includes my Timberwolf installation, to a new SSD disk drive. Timberwolf worked fine for me on my AmigaONE X1000 (on an SFS partition) but since moving to the SSD drive (again an SFS partition) it's like a new program. It's now extremely fast, very usable and reliable. It boots to my home page in 3 to 4 seconds. The only issue I have is a Grim Reaper when shutting it down, but since I leave Timberwolf running all the time, I can live with that for the moment. As for the earthquake aftershocks, they are continuing but are slightly less frequent.
OUYA or OH-NO?
Having caught the Kickstarter bug after sponsoring several developer kits for the Oculus Rift VR headset I decided to support the OUYA Kickstarter project by pre-ordering one of the tiny Android micro-consoles which were available for the princely sum of US$99. Not that OUYA really needed my support, having raised a total of around US$8.5 million to become the second highest earning Kickstarter project to date. After several delays to the original delivery schedule, my package finally turned up in New Zealand while I was travelling around Europe. The OUYA project was founded in 2012 by game industry veteran Julie Uhrman. OUYA runs its own version of the Android operating system and is an indie-friendly game playing micro-console which plugs into your TV or Monitor via an HDMI cable and allows you to downloads games from the OUYA store.
In essence it's a kind of Steam device for Android with the exception that is allows you to download and try out all the game titles before you commit to the full version. In many ways the marketing concept is very similar to a modern ink-jet printer in that the manufacturer will sell to you a very cheap printer and then recoup its outlay by selling you very high priced replacement ink cartridges. You quickly realise this when you have to enter your credit card details during the initial device set-up just to access the OUYA webstore to check out the free games. OK perhaps OUYA is not quite like the printer cartridge model. At least you can try out all the games before you decide to buy, and that is currently a problem for the OUYA platform. It seems that most owners are content to play the freemium game offerings but are not willing to shell out their hard earned cash to upgrade for the full version. In July Uhrman revealed that 73% of owners had not paid for any games. Even at a paid conversion rate of only 27% for all games downloaded that number is very high when compared to Smartphone games.
However, OUYA game developers aren't exactly making much money at the moment. The top paid game TowerFall, was downloaded 2,000 times in the first month, generating $21K for its developers after OUYA's commission. While Hidden in Plain Sight sold 1,900 copies generating $4.4K in revenue. However, Knightmare Tower, made by Juicy Beast, was downloaded 49,000 times, but only 2,100 gamers went on to actually purchase the game netting about $6K for its developers. Wind-Up Knight, which was downloaded 15,000 times made less that $1K with just 150 gamers opting to pay for the full version. OUYA realise this is a problem and are keen to encourage exclusive game development for the platform. It has established a $1M Free the Games Funds which will match donations on Kickstarter between $50,000 and $250,000 for developers who commit to making their games exclusive to its console for at least six months.
Budding game developers can also sign up to develop for the platform. A free ODK is available for download and developers can use their OUYA device to check their in-progress builds and access the Developer Portal. It's very early days for the OUYA platform and it will be interesting to see where it goes from here. Have I purchased any games yet from the OUYA web store? What do you think?
Having been tempted by OUYA I finally decided to sample some some Raspberry Pi. (Note to all those who insist on calling this device the Raspberry "P" "I", its pronounced "pie" as in the Greek letter and mathematical symbol with the same sound. "personal peeve/rant mode off: OFF" )
If you don't know what a Raspberry Pi is, (have you been living in a cave? ) it's a very low cost, credit-card sized ARM-based single board computer that plugs into a TV or Monitor that was developed specifically for the educational market to teach children about programming. The developers claim the device is powerful enough to be used for many of the tasks that a desktop PC carries out including word-processing, playing games and high-definition video.
At the recent Silicon Dreams show I talked with an engineer who was using a Raspberry Pi in a home security system which his business developed and sold. He had originally used some Windows CE based x86 hardware attached to a special touch screen. The build cost for the system was around £750 for the combined package. However, he had replaced the x86 hardware and Windows CE licence with a Raspberry Pi running Linux. The total build cost, including the touch screen, had reduced to ~£170. He claimed the Pi system, as well as being cheaper, had so far proved reliable and had more features that the x86 hardware it had replaced. Even better he did not have to reduce the sales price for the security system.
Anyway, for about the same amount of money as the OUYA micro-console I was able to purchase a Model B revision 2 Raspberry Pi system complete with 512MB Ram, a preconfigured SD card together with a case, cables and wifi keyboard & mouse. Having heard so much about the marvellous little board I was very keen to get it up and running. The SD card was conveniently pre-configured with special NOOBS install software that includes six operating systems which makes it very easy to set up the Pi for the first time or recover and re-install the software in the future. The OSs include Raspbarian, a remix of Debian specially configured for the Raspberry Pi. Two media centres, RaspBMC, optimised for the Pi and OpenELEC. Also included is Pidora, a Fedora Pi remix along with RiscOS and ArchLinux for experimenters and experienced Linux users. Having been closely involved in the evolution of Linux support for the AmigaONE X1000 I chose to install Raspbarian, partly because it is the recommended OS for the Pi and also because Pat Wall had already emulated Raspbarian on his AmigaONE X1000 under QEMU.
This is were my story becomes less enthusiastic. Even though the Pi has been widely adopted by hardware enthusiasts and hobbyists, its primarily aim is to teach today's kids the basics of computer programming. However, booting into Raspbarian is not exactly a stimulating experience. If you have used any modern Linux desktop distribution, in many respects Raspbarian is like stepping back into a Linux experience of yesterday. OK no problem, it not supposed to be about fancy desktops and graphics but about getting kids excited about computers and programming without the need for expensive hardware. However, I soon discovered that many things do not work or at least are not supported out-of-the-box. Audio does not work, neither does YouTube video and there is no means to play 1080 videos either even though that feature is supposedly supported. Of course this could just be due to the version of Raspbarian supplied with my machine? Raspbarian also shows up the Pi's lack of CPU horsepower so be prepared for an underwhelming Linux experience. In addition, several commentators have criticised the use of the closed source Broadcom ARM CPU which requires strict NDA's. Not exactly the best approach if you want to learn about CPU architecture?
If you are an experienced Linux enthusiast I'm sure you would be able to quickly install all the extra files and utilities needed to solve some of these issues, but to the average new user it would prove a much more difficult task. I also wonder how many of today's teachers, fed on a diet of Windows and Microsoft Word will cope? Having said all that I'm still amazed what has been achieved with this tiny piece of hardware. It is very impressive, especially for the very low purchase price, but don't believe all the hype that is floating around. The Raspberry Pi hardware, while certainly impressive, is not a panacea for all ills. Will it get today's kids surrounded by a multitude of Smartphones, consoles and tablets more interested in computing and programming.......call me cynical, but I very much doubt it. Give me a C64, BBC Micro or even a Sinclair Spectrum and a 6502 or Z80 assembler any day......or am I just showing my age?
Recently I was visited by AmigaOS 4 & A1-X1000 beta tester David Aiau who was in Wellington for a few days with his wife.
When it comes to all things Amigan, David is probably as obsessed as I am and we had an enjoyable time discussing our mutual passion. I gave him a quick tour of my Amiga domain and demonstrated the latest version of the Ubuntu Live Remix 12.04 LTS for the AmigaONE X1000. The Live DVD is about to go gold and will contain the customised version of SuperTuxKart along with a demo of Hyperion Entertainment's Gorky 17 game.
The Ubuntu Live Remix has a number of other cool features which include full 2D/3D hardware acceleration with selected RadeonHD graphics cards; the ability to play 1080 videos and YouTube video clips. Firefox and Libre Office are included on the disk along with the GIMP image editor and the Scribus desktop publishing program. The VLC media player, MoviePlayer and Minitube are also included together with a whole host of other software and utilities.
While he was visiting, David also found time to "test" the OUYA game console and proved quite adept at playing Natural Soccer, a top down football game inspired by Kick Off and Sensible Soccer, two games which were very popular on the Amiga. However, I think he would have scored more goals if he had the full use of his left hand!
In the ultimate Live DVD demo, we played an online YouTube video in Minitube and the Boing Ball animation video in VLC with the glxgears 3D demo running while browsing the web with Firefox, all from the Live DVD.
The Live DVD is the simplest way to sample Ubuntu on your AmigaONE X1000 if you don't want the hassle of a hard disk installation. It is very easy to start the Live Ubuntu session. Simply type the following command from CFE>
batch -fs=iso atapi0.1:bootdvd0.1
The command can be also saved as a boot menu item so it does not have to be entered every time. Booting from the Live DVD is obviously slower that booting from a hard drive installation, but once up and running you can access all of the installed programs the DVD has to offer. However, you can also install Ubuntu from the DVD should you wish to create a permanent installation on your hard drive. The Ubuntu Live Remix was created by Pat Wall, our Linux distro guru, with the A1-X1000 kernel supplied by Darren Stevens. Amiga graphic artist Kevin Saunders also created several unique desktop backdrops to complement the Live DVD as well as designing the CD cover art. The Ubuntu Live Remix DVD together with a digital download version will be available on the new A-EON app store in the near future.
Meanwhile German Amiga enthusiast and AmigaONE X1000 “First Contact” owner Christian Zigotzky has joined the A-EON Technology Linux support team.
Christian works as an IT specialist for a company in Munich and provides network and server administration as well as porting software to OSX. He also a member of the SuperTuxKart team and has produced customised versions for the A1-X1000 and several other platforms. He has already contributed to A1-X1000 Linux effort by creating an experimental 3.10 kernel which incorporates drivers for the 7xxx series Radeon HD graphics cards. Welcome aboard Christian!
Resurrecting the undead Amiga 600
If you follow my blog you may recall I posted information about the Vampire 600, a new FPGA accelerator for the Amiga 600 being developed by Igor Majstorovi.
Well I'm pleased to report that Igor is now taking pre-orders and at the last count had received over 80 registrations. In fact he has received so much interest in the Vampire 600 that he has temporarily suspended work on the A500 variant to take care of all the pre-orders. The Vampire 600 is priced at 90 Euro plus shipping and for this you get an FPGA emulated MC68000 or MC68010 or partially emulated MC68020 running in excess of 6Mips and support for 64MB of Fast RAM with 32MB autoconfig (at the moment). If you want to place a pre-order or just find out more information about the project please visits his website.
Restrictive Practices? - Part 2
Microsoft is again involved in a restrictive practice dispute and once again it claims it is the injured party. Apparently Google has blocked Windows phone user's from watching video's with its YouTube app, citing violations of its terms of service, because Microsoft has failed to write the code in HTML5 as stipulated by Google. Microsoft claim that the issues are "manufactured" by Google who do not apply the same requirement to their own platform. It claims Google is deliberately raising false barriers to restrict the growth of Windows Smartphone which currently has about 5% of the world market. Meanwhile Android phones continue to dominate the Smartphone market with almost 80% of all units sold worldwide. Even Apple's share has dropped to under 15%. Who would have thought?
I was walking through Wellington City the other day and came across this sign hanging outside a liquor store. Hmm! RTDs anyone? I just had to take a picture.
For the uninitiated, of which I was one, RTD means premixed Ready To Drink and not Robert Trevor Dickinson!
Update: 3.7 aftershock just as I posted this blog!
Well the Silicon Dreams show has come and gone and although the attendance was not as large as the organisers would have liked, nevertheless al least there was a small but steady flow of visitors to the Amiga Zone. Unfortunately, due the layout of the Discovery museum, the Amiga Zone was not located alongside the main computer exhibits, but at the back of the museum underneath two suspended light aircraft which cut out a lot of the ambient light. Apart from the A-EON Technology display the AmigaKit table, manned by Matthew and Christopher had a good selection of Amiga goodies on sale. The ANT (Amiga North Thames) user group set up multiple AmigaOS 4 machines and Raoul "Swisso" Penel brought along a small part of his Amiga hardware and software collection. The Amiga Zone was completed by Ravi Abbot representing MorphOS, who was displaying an old G4 PowerMac and Mac Mini. Unfortunately, the AROS table which was a late entry, was not even in the same area and was located in another dark corner in the fashion section.
For once the British Summer delivered hot weather with temperatures in excess of 30C and that, coupled with the Wimbledon Tennis final, certainly contributed a lower than expected turnout. I visited the AROS table on the Sunday to ask him to relocate to the Amiga Zone but he had obviously decided to enjoy the weather and/or tennis as his area had been vacated. However, I got to talk to a person who had built his own Tangerine Microtan65 8-Bit computer, complete with home-made circuit boards. Who said only Amigans were crazy!
When I see an Apple Store I have the irresistible urge to set all their machines to display Amiga websites. So when I came upon the Apple Flagship store while I was walking along London's Regent Street I just could not help myself.
I went inside and began setting all the iMacs, Mac Books and iPads to A-EON's Facebook page and my blog page before I was approached by one of the assistants who wanted to know if I needed any "help"! I know it's a little sad but I blame the boss of company I worked for in the 1980's. He was the president and co-founder of a US based multinational company. He was a real character and although he ran a billion dollar company he never lost sight of his roots. He was a technology freak and was always into the latest gadgets. I introduced him to the Amiga and he purchased one of the first A2000 Video Toaster systems.
However, he also had a mischievous streak and at one particular Industry Trade show he signed up for a free tour of the research and development facility of his main and much larger competitor. It was only at the last minute the company realized that he was in the tour group and directed him away from the main group of people as they arrived at the facility. He spent the hour being carefully guided around and away from the main research areas. Magic!
It makes my little Apple protest seem quite tame by comparison.
After the Silicon Dreams show I made my way to Udine in North Eastern Italy for meetings with Michael Battilana of Cloanto and Enrico, Max, Philippe and Nicola of ACube. It's a beautiful region, not far from the Italian Alps and very close to the Slovenian, Croatian and Austrian borders. On the plane I sat next to a couple of PhD theoretical physicists from Cambridge University who were travelling to Italy to attend the wedding of their special "friend". When I arrived at Trieste there was a low key reception committee to whisk away a number of my fellow passengers including the two students I had been talking with on the plane.
I soon discovered that the local Italian newspapers were full of stories about the "secret" wedding of McLain Southworth, the brother-in-law of Larry Page the co-founder of Google, which was supposed to take place in California, but was actually in nearby Croatia which was only half and hour away.
It seems Larry also attended the wedding, no doubt flown in by the private Google 767 jet which was seen in nearby Croatia. All I want to know Larry, is where was my invitation?
The meetings with both Michael and the ACube boys were very productive, but more on this later. Of course the superb local food and wine weren't bad either and the restaurant also contributed to the atmosphere with red and white checked tablecloths.
Prior to the Silicon Dreams show Matthew, Christopher and I visited the offices of Varisys, our hardware partners and designers of the Nemo motherboard which is at the heart of the AmigaONE X1000.
During our visit we saw another batch of production Nemo motherboards undergoing final pre-delivery testing prior to being shipped to AmigaKit. Support for the Nemo hardware is continuing unabated. Lyle "Mozart" Hazlewood has now completed the AmigaOS 4 on-board 32-bit HDAudio driver which now supports recording as well as playback along with S/PDIF optical output. Shortly before the show Pat Wall created a new version of his Ubuntu Live DVD for the AmigaONE X1000.
The updated Live DVD, which includes a simplified installation process, allows Ubuntu to be run from the DVD or installed on the A1-X1000 alongside the AmigaOS. At last installing Linux on a "Next Generation Amiga" is totally automated and no more difficult than installation on a PC. Darren Stevens brought a copy of the Live Ubuntu DVD to the show and booted up one of the A1-X1000 in Live Mode. Amiga graphics artist, Kevin Saunders is now producing some custom desktop backdrops to complement the A1-X1000's Ubuntu theme.
While the AmigaONE X1000 remains A-EON's flagship product, we were also there to see the latest prototype of a new motherboard that we had commissioned Varisys to design. The new board, codenamed Cyrus Plus, will be an eventual replacement for the Nemo board. The revision 2.0 prototype contains a Freescale P5020 CPU which is a 2 GHz, 64-bit dual-core PowerPC SoC. The Cyrus Plus board will also accept the new P5040 when it becomes commercially available in greater volume. This is a 64-bit quad-core PowerPC Freescale CPU which operates up to 2.4 GHz. As with Nemo, the new board will now undergo a rigorous testing phase before a small batch is produced for developers.
Once that process is complete an additional batch of boards will be manufactured for a reduced beta test programme, which all being well will commence towards the end of this year. The first Cyrus prototype board was completed at the end of last year. It's replacement, the Cyrus Plus 2.0 was delivered to Varisys just two days prior to the show and both prototype boards were on display at the Silicon Dreams show along with black and white versions of the AmigaONE X1000. Who said PowerPC was dead?
While I was visiting Michael in Udine I got to play the Angry Birds game on his Roku XS Internet video streaming receiver box. Nothing really special about that you might think, but look again. Both Dale Luck and Carl Sassenrath, two of the Amiga's original key developers, now work for this company. The tiny Roku XS streaming player has undergone many improvements over the past couple of years and it's price/performance ratio is nothing short of amazing. In the UK the Roku XS unit can be purchased for £49.99 ($99.99 in the USA) and connects directly to most TV's and home wifi networks. It also includes an Ethernet port for wired home networks.
It allows instant access to over 300 channels of movies and TV shows through your existing subscriptions, such as Netflix, NOW TV, or Spotify. A remote control makes using the devices even more user friendly and of course you can also play games. Now back to those Angry Birds.... For more information check out the Roku Website.
Next stop: AmiJAM 2013
When: Saturday, September 7th
Where: Dundee Realty, 840 7th Avenue SW, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
In just over 4 hours I'm setting off for Wellington airport and ~50 hours later will have swapped winter for summer when I arrive at my eventual destination, in the future and back in time. Which is quite apt really because, later in the week, I will be attending the Silicon Dreams & UK Vintage Computer Festival which celebrates the silicon chip age of modern and retro computing. Hopefully by the time the show starts on Friday I will have semi-recovered. If you are planning to attend please call by the A-EON Technology booth and help keep me awake. I can't promise any scintillating conversation but at least we can talk Amigan and use phrases like pre-emptive multi-tasking, Custom chipsets and hardware compositing without people thinking we are slightly deranged and a bit geeky! Who said knock, knock, knock Penny?
I'm also hoping we can show a few interesting things at the show but as usual we are hard up against the deadlines so no promises. However, come along and have some fun and, at the very least, I'm sure AmigaKit will have their usual selection of Classic and Next-Generation Amiga goodies to tempt your credit card. I will attempt to update my blog from the show and provide interesting titbits of information as and when they arise.
To help us commemorate the event, Amigan Lars Nelson has created a special Retro/Nouveau "Boing Ball" Animation to celebrate 28 years of the Amiga and the AmigaOS. I will post a link to the animation after the Silicon Dreams show. I Hope to see some of you next weekend.
Sometimes I'm a little surprised when I read comments claiming that nothing is happening in the Amiga world! I look around and marvel at the many exciting developments in our active community. In the last month alone they have been new releases of Amiga Forever and AmiKit for emulation lovers. The MorphOS team has just released MorphOS 3.2 with new 3D and PowerMac G5 support. The AROS inspired Icaros Desktop has also received another welcome face-lift and if AmigaOS 4 fans are feeling left out, fear not, as work is continuing behind the scenes to add many new revolutionary features. Classic owners are also being well catered for with both new hardware and software and I haven't even mentioned A-EON Technology's ongoing projects and developments. It's an interesting time to be an Amigan, whatever your hue or flavour.
Warp3D & Libre Office Update
Warp3D development was put on the back burner while Hans-Joerg, the Core AmigaOS 4 developer, concentrated on his main AmigaOS 4 commitments, but he is now devoting a little more time to completing the project. One major benefit of the Warp3D work is that, as posted on the official AmigaOS Blog, Gallium will benefit substantially from the experience gained with the hardware accelerated drivers for the Evergreen series 5xxx & 6xxx RadeonHD graphics cards. All I can say is bring it on! More good news on the LibreOffice front. The binary is now fully built and weighs in at a massive 400MB with an additional 120MB of shared objects! Thomas reports that's even bigger that the Firefox port. However, now the work really starts. This is a long term A-EON funded project so no promises on a potential completion date. Anyone who says "two more weeks" will be taken out and shot!
Tripping the VR Rift
Almost a year ago I contributed to a Kickstarter project to help develop Oculus Rift, a new Virtual Reality 3D Headset designed for video gaming. I made a pledge for several developer kits which were due for delivery in December last year. As with most development projects the delivery date slipped but I'm pleased to report that the Developer kits have finally turned up and are now in the hands of key AmigaOS 4 developers. Initial reports on the performance of the headset are encouraging, but if you suffer from extreme motion sickness the device might not be for you. One of the AmigaOS 4 developers who is testing the Oculus Rift kit provided the following report:-
"The head tracking is awesome. You will have a hard time noticing any delay between moving your head and a reaction of the picture. Even moderately fast head movement is instantaneously transferred to the screen. The 3D perception it offers is tremendous. I played a bit of Half-Life 2 with it, and for the first time you actually get a sense of sizes... other characters in the game feel so life-like, not just flat polygons on the screen but actual objects. If something zips past your head, you instinctively duck away. The immersion you get from that is fantastic".
However there are also some negatives. The screen themselves aren't that great and the current 1280x800 resolution means that pixels are quite visible, more so since the black border around them pronounces them. If you are prone to sea sickness using the headset for even a few minutes can cause quite a bit of nausea.
Even experienced VR gamers have reported this problem. Apparently the motion sickness does subside with more extended use. One of the reasons, apparently, is the way that the default set-up of the Rift demo works, it's not quite optimal in generating the correct eye separation. Another issue is that the tracking itself only tracks head rotation and not head movement, so even though the rotation is almost perfectly replicated on screen, the movement isn't. Of course this is only the developer system and the developers want to correct this in the commercial version. All in all, the Oculus Rift headset is a step in the right direction and although there is a lot of room for improvement, it is already very promising. A high-definition prototype, running at a crisp 1080p resolution was recently demoed at the E3 Expo is Los Angeles. As for potential AmigaOS 4 drivers, again this is a long term project and all I can say is, watch this (cyber) space!
Look out for the next chapter of "Classic Reflections" in issue 103 of Amiga Future magazine and discover what really happened to Mick Tinker of Index Information/Access Innovation. Tinker, who described himself as "an engineer with an Amiga mission", was a talented British design engineer who worked quietly behind the scenes before emerging as a leading Amiga hardware developer in the post Commodore era. His was one of the first companies granted a license, under Amiga International's "Powered by Amiga" initiative and he is credited with helping to save the AmigaOS 3.5 release when it was under threat of being scrapped by Gateway. Tinker created a series of innovative Amiga designs culminating in the famed but ultimately doomed BoXeR motherboard.
Amiga Future magazine, which is published 6 times a year, is available in both English and German language editions and you can order your copy from the Amiga Future website or your local Amiga retailer. Better still take out a subscription and don't miss another chapter of the "Whatever happened to?" Classic Reflections series.
Linux Corner - Taming the Kernel
Darren "Kernel" Stevens has been hard at work building the latest 3.9.5 Linux kernel for the AmigaONE X1000. The new kernel supports full 2D & 3D graphics hardware acceleration for series 5xxx & 6xxx RadeonHD graphics cards and under test performs very nicely with Pat Wall's Ubuntu 12.04 LTS distribution. Darren is still working on support for series 7xxx cards and details will be provided as soon as they are available. The 3.9.5 kernel will be available for download from the A-EON Technology website in the near future.
Meanwhile several "First Contact" customers have been experimenting with the wonders of QEMU emulation on their AmigaONE X1000's. To date they have successfully installed various Microsoft operating systems, including Windows 98, Windows XP SR2, Windows 2000 SP4 and Windows NT4.0. This is in addition to an ARM Raspberry Pi emulation running Debian Raspbian.
In common with most emulations the speed would not win any awards but applications such as word processors and spreadsheets are perfectly usable. However the emulation first prize currently goes to AmigaONE X1000 beta tester @Musa, for successfully installing the latest Icaros Desktop Live iso on the AmigaONE X1000 under Qemu emulation. Who would have thought it, an Amiga Replacement Operation System running under Linux on an emulated single core 32-bit x86 CPU on the AmigaONE X1000 with a 64-bit dual core PowerPC CPU. The mind boggles.
The cost of fruit - a true measure of inflation?
I'm sure most people saw the news that an original Apple 1 motherboard signed by Steve Wozniak was sold at auction in Germany for more than US$650K. Apparently the board, which was purchased by anonymous buyer in Asia, was one of the first 50 machines built by Steve Wozniak in the garage of Steve Jobs' parents. It's quite ironic that more recent used Apple hardware, fetches only a fraction of it's original retail price, unlike Classic Amiga hardware which in many cases still commands a healthy premium. What price a signed Commodore MOS Kim-1, an Amiga Lorraine prototype, or even a Revision 1.0 Nemo motherboard? OK, perhaps not US$650K .......... do I hear US$649K?, $648K?, $647K?.........sold to the anonymous buyer from Asia!
Back in the real world, I'm pleased to reports that AmigaKit is now stocking the official licensed Boing Ball Tower case which is available in either black or white and includes the engraved "Boing Ball" front panel. The case is compatible with ATX, Micro ATX and Mini ITX motherboards.
AmigaKit also now have the Catweasel Mk2 kits in stock which can be purchased with an optional compatible floppy disk drive, updated Catweasel AmigaOS 4 drivers and a special connection cable - great for reading and writing Amiga or PC disks or running your Classic Amiga games straight from the original floppy disks under AmigaOS 4.1. (see Retrospelsmassan 2013 below)
Iridescence - MorphOS Style
If you are a regular reader of my blog you will know that I already have MorphOS installed on several Pegasos I, Pegasos II and Efika systems as well as an eMac and a G4 PowerBook.
I finally got around to downloading the latest MorphOS 3.2 version to install on my PowerBook and the two Mac G5 devices I recently acquired - an iMac and a 2.5GHz PowerMac. After burning the 3.2 image to a CD I decided to try it first on my very noisy PowerMac. Whoever complains about fan noise should listen to one of these beast first. I'm pleased to say it booted to the MorphOS installation screen, but I had to interrupt the boot process by holding down the Alt key to get to the PowerMac's boot menu to select the CD. Using the C key method didn't appear to work and I had this issue with all the devices I tried. Anyway, I decided to put off the full installation for another day but was still able to navigate around the Ambient desktop and browse the web with OWB. So far so good. I did not see my iMac included on the list of supported MorphOS devices, but I decided to give it a go anyway. As you might expect it did not work. Finally, I wanted to upgrade the MorphOS 3.1 installation on my PowerBook. Despite what it said in the installation instructions I decided to perform an update, not a clean installation. I know, I know RTFM. Anyway I'm pleased to report that the update actually worked. Also, as I'm lazy, I downloaded Papiosaur's latest Chrysalis Pack 3.2.1 iso which, although not officially endorsed by the MorphOS team, has been specially configured for MorphOS 3.2 and allows you to obtain and quickly install a complete preconfigured MorphOS environment with all the Amiga and MorphOS software you could possibly want to install and much more. The iso is massive 584MB and the installation takes quite some time, but when you are finished you have a nice looking and, better still, fully loaded MorphOS system.
MorphOS 3.2 promised new 3D and Wifi support which I was keen to test on my PowerBook. First the good news, 3D support now works. It's not perfect yet and I noticed some graphics artefacts when testing 3D games like NeverPutt & NeverBall, but it's a good start. I discovered that my PowerBook's on-board Wifi was still not supported although wireless PCMCIA cards with the Atheros 5000 chipset now worked thanks to developer Neil Cafferkey who also has created AmigaOS 4 drivers for Atheros AR5000-series PCI cards. I found details of known working Wifi cards on MorphZone and purchased a cheap TP-Link TL-WN310G card from eBay. The card arrived as I was typing this blog and is now installed and working in my PowerBook. As reported by others, the LED's don't work on the card but that does not seem to effect performance.
However every-time I power up the machine I have to re-enter the Network preferences to re-initialise the card, but at least I now have Wifi more or less working. So at last I have a truly mobile Amiga-like computing platform, if only the battery life was a little longer and the PowerBook was not so heavy! I also had some minor mouse issues. My Logitech wireless mouse refused to work and an old wired USB mouse had to be connected after MorphOS had booted to be recognised. My Logitech wired USB mouse works OK as does my A-EON "Boing Ball" mouse. So what's the overall impression of my new mobile MorphOS powered laptop. Pretty darn good so far. However, despite the excellent MorphOS software, the Apple branded hardware is still an Apple, not an Amiga. It funny how old Commodore loyalties are difficult to shake.
Retro Mania part 1 - Retrospelsmassan 2013
Last month, the good people of SAFIR, the national Swedish Amiga users group, took part in Retrospelsmassan 2013, a major retro computing exhibition held in Gothenburg, Sweden. Although the show celebrated all retro computing platforms, the Amiga computer was one of the shows main themes and the one day event attracted an amazing 2800 visitors.
With responsibility for the Amiga effort falling on the shoulders of Stefan 'shoe' Nordlander he contacted me prior to the show for permission to demonstrate some of the advanced AmigaOS4 software and features on two AmigaONE X1000's provided by "First Contact" owners Krister 'kicko' Skrtic and Johan 'CD32' Wahlström. I put him in contact with Lyle Hazlewood and provided several poster files for the event.
Krister connected his pro-synth keyboard to an AmigaONE X1000 through MIDI and demonstrated HDRec, and Bars and Pipes supplied by Lyle Hazlewood with full 32-bit audio output courtesy of Lyle's newly released on-board HDAudio driver. Meanwhile Johan showed off Amiga emulation and some great native AmigaOS 4 applications like Cinnamon Writer. Another popular destination was the Amiga game area, hosted by Peter 'zmurf' Mattsson where demos and games such as the AGA vesion of Tracker Hero were displayed on a big screen projector for everyone to enjoy.
Other parts of the Amiga community were well represented including a world premier of the remarkable "Amy the Dream Clone", an updated "Amiga" motherboard complete with Zorro and SCART connectors built from scratch by Mr. Andersson. Stefan also set-up the Café8bitar table which had an AmigaOne-XE with a Catweasel and a combo 5.25" and 3.5" floppy drive to demonstrate how easy it is to run classic Amiga and C64 and games under emulation with AmigaOS 4.1. Apparently the simplicity of running the first Zork game straight off floppy impressed many retro gaming fans.
Johannes 'Yasu' Genberg, the editor of Amiga Forum, a high quality Swedish language Amiga Magazine, was also in attendance and appeared to sign up quite a few new subscribers on the day.
According to Stefan the SAFIR and Café8bitar booths were very well attended throughout the day, "The AmigaOne X1000 was very well exposed, a lot of visitors young and old was very interested in AmigaOS and it's possibilities. Although this fair was focused on retro gaming, the A1-X1000 did show a glimpse of the future of the AmigaOS. And I for one did see a lot of happy faces."
Congratulations to Stefan, Krister, Johan and all the crew of SAFIR Sweden who worked hard to make the Amiga contribution to Retrospelsmassan 2013 a great success!
Retro Mania part 2 - Silicon Dreams & Vintage Computer Festival G.B. 2013
If you are going to be in the Midlands of England in early July you might want to take some time visit the Silicon Dreams and Vintage Computer Festival G.B. which is being held in the Snibston Discovery Museum in Coalville, Leicestershire on the 5-7 July. According to the organisers this is Britain's first festival to celebrate the silicon chip age. The Amiga community involvement is once again being coordinated by Mikey_C the President of ANT (Amiga North Thames user group) who also organised the Amiga contingent at the highly successful Vintage Computer Festival held in 2010 at Bletchley Park, the home of the UK National Museum of Computing. It was also the first public showing of the AmigaOne X1000
However, unlike the earlier VCF show the combined Silicon Dreams & VCF GB event celebrates both modern and retro computing and promises to attract an even larger crowd than before. So come along and meet A-EON Technology and AmigaKit who will both be exhibiting their wares.
The Silicon Dreams show is a 3 day event, with Friday 5th reserved for school groups and the weekend (6th-7th) open to the general public. If you are in the area and like computing and love Amigas come along and share our joint passion. I may even reveal a secret or two?
Retro Mania part 3 - RetroPlanet Magazine
Chris Papadakis, the owner of the Greek Amiga Forum, AmigaPlanet, has created RetroPlanet, a new independent Greek language retro computing magazine which specialises on the Amiga and other retro computing platforms and consoles including the Amstrad, Spectrum, Mac and Dreamcast etc. The first issue is due to be published in July 2013 and will include special articles about games, an expanded retro market section, plus other special and exclusive news about retro software and hardware. I feel particularly honoured as the inaugural issue also carries an interview with me! So if you want to find out about my dubious footballing skills on a small island in the Mediterranean pick up a copy of the new magazine. I also reveal a few things about my Amiga passion. The magazine is intended for the entire Greek speaking world and the publishers plan worldwide shipments. Non Greek speakers needn't feel left out though as special articles from the magazine will be uploaded to the AmigaPlanet Blog English language pages.
PowerPC is dead - part 4
In May this year the Power Architecture Advisory Council, the body which oversees PowerPC standards, announced the public availability of the new Power ISA Version 2.07. According to their press release the new version, "is a major advance for the server and the embedded Power architecture. Major extensions include enhanced logical partitioning support with multiple logical partitions running concurrently on a server environment processor, the new Transactional Memory facility for data access synchronization, an expanded Vector facility that supports a broad range of business analytics, e-commerce, and infrastructure applications, expanded performance monitoring facilities for server and embedded systems, new storage control features for server and embedded systems, accelerated exception handling for Linux and AIX operating systems, and many other enhancements."
Although primarily focused on server applications and the Linux and AIX operating systems the fact that companies like IBM and Freescale continue to advance the Power standard can only be good news. The Power ISA 2.07 documentation is available online from Power.org and if you are having difficulty sleeping at night can I suggest you download and read the full transcript. It only runs to 1526 pages. Hey, who said PowerPC was dead..........boring!
Too late for Commodore!
Under proposed changes to the intellectual property legislation in New Zealand, software will no longer be patentable. If the law passes it will mean that, in NZ at least, the innovative IT industry will not be stifled by constant threats of lawsuits from multinationals wielding their huge patent portfolios. OK I admit that does sound a bit weird. However, it's almost 20 years too late to save Commodore, who in reality had a lot more problems than the US$10m XOR patent dispute which finally brought its empire crashing down, but this NZ law change is good news I think?
Fly me to the Loon!
New Zealand was again in the news after Google launched Project Loon, its balloon powered internet trial from Tekapo Airfield located on the 40th parallel south in New Zealand's South Island. According to Google 2/3 rds of the world's population does not have internet access. The cost of providing the necessary infrastructure, especially in remote regions, is prohibitive and Google see their Loon project at a potentially inexpensive solution. If the trial is successful Google want to build a "ring of balloons" flying around the globe on stratospheric winds to provide inexpensive 3G internet access. The project is is the brainchild of Google's special X division - the people behind Google Glass and driver-less cars. The pilot test, which began in June, will see 30 balloons launched from Tekapo which will beam Internet service to a small group of testers. Assuming the pilot test is successful, Google will use their experiences to refine the technology for the next phase of the project. Google claim that, apart from providing internet services to remote regions, special balloons could also quickly be deployed to create high speed internet communications in the event of a natural disaster. Tekapo Airfield was chosen as a symbolic gesture because of its close proximity to Christchurch, New Zealand's second largest city, which is still recovering from the 2011 earthquake which totally destroyed its Central Business District.
It seems that Uncle Sam's Big Brother really is watching............. us all!
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.