Trevor's Amiga Blog created for Amigans on the AmigaONE X1000, X5000 & now the A1222

6Nov/19Off

Only the shadow knows!

With Amiwest 2019 well and truly done and dusted and I began writing this update as I was about to leave the USA to fly to Europe. Amiwest started a day earlier this year to accommodate a full extra day devoted to the Classic Amiga workshop on Friday before the main event. This meant Steven Solie's tradition AmigaOS DevCom began on Wednesday.

There were several contenders for this year's Amiwest quote of the show, a tradition which has grown over the past few years but actually started at AMIJAM 2013 in Calgary with the, "that's not what you said last night" quote. It spread to Amiwest the same year. I blame the Canadians Steve! 😉 (Steve replied, "Hey, weren't you at both shows?) Another good phrase was to be heard a couple of years back, when Eldee Stephens was told, "you are not on the list!"

What a difference a year makes!

Last year's winner was Daniel Mussener with his, "I really can't say anything bad about that", when describing a light American beer which Mark Ritter had given him to taste. (he couldn't say anything good either! ;-)) This year there were several really good contenders. Robert 'Goody' Goodlett's, "Noted!", which apparently comes from the military and is usually said by a superior to a junior when the said junior has just make a stupid comment or suggestion. Close second was Mark Ritter's or was it Steven Soile's, "I was at that party!" But the clear winner was Solie's, "Only the Shadow knows!" A quote from a cult US fictional detective series created by Walter B. Gibson which first appeared on radio in the 1930's and later in magazines, books, TV series and movies. The Shadow was a mysterious masked invincible crime fighter. The quote was used to good effect throughout the show, usually when someone asked a searching question. Hey who said, when is the A1222 going to be released?, "Only the shadow knows". 😉 A more complete Amiwest show report will appear in the next edition of Amiga Future magazine.

Show me the money! or [m68k] backend support in the new GCC compiler

If you are a regular reader of my blog you will know that John Paul Adrian Glaubitz, or Adrian as he prefers to be called, is maintainer of Debian SPE using the 'Atlantis & Pathfinder' code-named Tabor motherboards.

Show me the money!

Adrian reached out to fellow Amigan Alex Perez, of Rabbit Hole Computing and Inertial Computing, to alert him that the GCC compiler was being upgraded and there was a real threat that future versions would not include [m68k] backend support. The m68K migration work required an experienced GCC developer and would need a minimum of US$5,000 to pay the coding work otherwise m68k support would be dropped. Adrian created a campaign on BOUNTYSOURCE to raise funds to pay for development work. Alex immediately donated to the cause and passed Adrian on to me to help promote the funding campaign. As there was still $1,378K needed to reach the minimum funding goal, on Friday evening, after the Amiwest Classic Amiga day, Alex and I made a plea to everyone who attended the traditional informal Friday night gathering.

Bounty

Amiwest Amiga Community donation

We did a quick whip round and I agreed to make up any shortfall with assistance from Matthew Leaman of AmigaKit (although he did not know this at the time ;-)). Everyone in the room made a donation and we collected almost $500 in cash. We gave the money to Alex and he made the full donation of $1,378 on behalf of the Amiwest Amiga Community which ensured Adrian's [m68k] campaign reached its minimum funding goal of $5,000.

When we informed Adrian he responded with, "Wow, I'm speechless. Thanks so much and thanks to everyone to the community! You rock!" If you want to add your support to the [m68k] backend porting work please visit the BOUNTYSOURCE link. [Err, cough, ummm, Matthew we now need to pay Alex the difference. 😉 ]

ALICE & ALEX

ALICE (Ken Lester)

Talking about Alex and Rabbit Hole Computing, there were six ALICE laptops at the Amiwest show. This included one brought along by Ken Lester, one of the key ALICE developers and of course my own ALICE machine. In addition, Alex brought along 5 or six refurbished Lenovo ThinkCentre mini PCs which he has set up as mini ALICE desktop machines.

Alex and Ken demoing ALICE/ALEX to Michael Battilana

These tiny energy efficient PCs appear to work very well as a portable ALICE desktop and, just like the ALICE laptop, these mini PCs boot directly into AmigaOS or AmigaOS 4 Classic running on top of a Linux subsystem, complete with the cool "Rabbit hole" feature we developed for the original ALICE machine.

ALICE Desktop

The PC case even has a little red stripe on the front. I suggested Alex name his ALICE mini PC A.L.E.X. which stands for "Amiga Linux EXperience" but for some reason he did not appear to like my suggestion! 🙂

Euro travels

Amedia dinner celebration

Matthew & me with Laurent

After Amiwest I flew on to London to meet up with Matthew Leaman to discuss plans for the upcoming release of the AmigaOne X5000 Plus edition and Version 2.0 of the Enhancer Software pack. We also firmed up plans for the A1222 Early Adopter limited edition and a news release will be posted after I return to New Zealand.

Matthew and I then travelled to France and Luxembourg to visit Laurent and Frank of Amedia Computer to discuss future cooperation for European sales and distribution of AmigaKit's and A-EON's hardware and software products. It proved to be a very productive trip. We visited Amedia's offices and afterwards Laurent treated us to some traditional food from the Alsace region of France.

AmsteRJam frolics

While Matthew returned to Wales, I made my way to Amsterdam to attend RJ Mical's AmsteRJam 2019 party being coordinated by  Marvin Droogsma and Marcel Franquinet. Unfortunately RJ, who was visiting Ireland with Gary Koffler, before travelling on to the Netherlands, had to return to the USA for personal reasons. However, although the main event was cancelled a few intrepid Amigans, who had booked flights and hotels, decided to still travel to Amsterdam for an impromptu Amiga meetup.

Gary was loaded down with special RJ emblazoned T-Shirts created by RJ's boyhood friend Michael Schifferdecker, for everyone who was going to attend the original event. With RJ returning to the States, Gary rescued them from being donated to an Irish homeless shelter. Some were being picked up by a local Irish user group and Gary dragged the rest through London and on to Amsterdam where he passed them off to Marcel. Our perfectly formed little group of Amigans included Omar Cornut from France, Chris Collins and Robert Bernardo from California, Amiga artist and software developer Leo Schwab, and of course Marvin, Marcel and me.

AmsteRJam 2019 T-Shirt

I arrived in Amsterdam to a major traffic jam which had gridlocked the city. The major ring road system had been shut down for schedule repair works and my 25 minute journey to my hotel took over 2 hours. With the city in gridlock Marvin, Chris and Robert came to my hotel and we shared a meal, drinks and good company. The next day Marvin had arranged a Jenever tasting session at the Wynand Fockink distillery. The history of Dutch "gin" was very entertaining and the Jenever was very good too but drinking alcohol on an empty stomach is not recommended. (Don't worry your secret is safe with us :-)) Marcel booked a special Rijsttafel banquet for our little group. I had eaten Rijsttafel when I first visited the Netherlands almost 40 years ago. I had memories of a delicious multi-dish nasi Padang Indonesian meal adapted by the Dutch from Padang region of West Sumatra. Marcel managed to find a restaurant that could accommodate us on a busy Saturday night. I was not disappointed. The meal was very delicious and plentiful. Marcel and Marvin made our way back to my hotel, dropping off Robert at his hotel on the way. We chatted for a couple of hours solving the Amiga world's problems 😉 Unfortunately, I had to leave early the next morning for my flight back to London and onward to New Zealand. I want to thank Marvin and Marcel and my fellow team of itinerant Amigans for all the good fun and company. RJ we missed you but drank to your health on numerous occasions. Right that's it for this update. I'm sitting in London Heathrow waiting for my flight back to New Zealand.

Until next time..........................

AmsteRJam 2019 reflections

 

 

 

6Aug/19Off

On the road again

I can't believe it's been four months since my last blog as I prepare to depart the shores of New Zealand again for some more "Triple-A" Amiga fun.

Olav Fagerlund and me in Tokyo

Just where does the time go? In the intervening months I've met up with Amiga Enthusiast, Olav Fagerlund in Tokyo, while I was visiting my daughter in Japan, before travelling on to Europe with my 18 month grandson to introduce him to his 92 year old Great Grandmother in North East England. If you are a regular reader of my blog you might recall that Finn was born in NZ while I was in Sacramento attending the traditional Saturday night banquet dinner at AmiWest 2017. I certainly had a few drinks to celebrate that night. 😉

Timothy, Ben and me in Brussels

When I was in Europe I visited Timothy de Groote and Ben Hermans of Hyperion Entertainment in Brussels before travelling to Cardiff to meet up with Matthew Leaman the Managing Director of AmigaKit and my partner in A-EON Technology. While I was in Cardiff we welcomed the visit of Laurent Zorawski and Franck "Sheldon" Bednarski from Amedia Computer France and discussed possible future cooperation to help expand the Amiga market.

Laurent & Franck with Matthew & me

I've even managed to squeeze in a meeting in London with Timothy de Groote and Michael Battilana of Cloanto & C-A Acquisition Corporation as we tried to find a mutually agreeable compromise to the current legal impasse.

Me with Michael & Timothy in London

London or a late 1990s PC tower?

Although not successful on this occasion, it was still quite an enjoyable day and at least I got to see the spectacular view over a very misty and rainy City of London from the heady heights of the new Shard tower. Does every cloud have a silver lining? I certainly hope so.

On the road again!

As I pack my bags for the trip, I can't help humming that old Willie Nelson song, "On the road again". My first stop is Calgary to attend AMIJAM 2019, run by the Amiga Users Group of Calgary, at the invitation of AmigaOS 4 developer Steven Solie. I'll also be staying with Steven and his family during my short stay in Calgary. It will be a good chance to discuss future development plans for ExecSG. After that it's onward to Europe for a short side-trip to Brussels before travelling to Cardiff to attend A-EON Technology's DevCon 2019 organised by Matthew Leaman. It's always good to catch up with active Amiga developers to discuss the finer points of AmigaOS over a beer or glass of wine (or in the case of Steven Solie a coca-cola as he doesn't drink alcohol). Finally, it's over to Cologne in Germany to attend Gamescom 2019 in Cologne at the invitation of Andreas Magerl of Amiga Future.

This will be my first visit to Gamescom, which by all accounts is a massive affair and probably the largest video games show in the world (based on the number or visitor and exhibitor space).

Last year 370,000 visitors and 1037 exhibitors from 56 countries attended the event. I'll be joined on the Amiga Future stand by Daniel Mussener along with his AmigaOne X5000 and A1222 and together we will help promote A-EON's AmigaOne hardware, AmigaOS 4.x and of course Daniel's excellent selection of Amiga OS 4 games.

Gamescom 2019

I will also have my latest ALICE Laptop with me, courtesy of Alex Perez of Rabbit Hole Computing, and will be able to demonstrate the Classic version of AmigaOS 4.1 Classic and the AmiKit version of AmigaOS 3.x with it's unique Rabbit-hole features which allows mainstream Linux programs such as Firefox and Libre Office to be run from the AmigaOS workbench. While I'm in Cologne I will be staying with Daniel and his family and will get to meet his new baby daughter.

Before I return to New Zealand I will also try to squeeze in some other Amiga related business. It's a very busy schedule but, as I've said several times in the past, it's a hard life and someone's got to do it. 😉 Of course the trip is not just about Amiga fun and I have to attend to some other non-Amiga business too.

Standing on the Soapbox

Talking Amiga Future. While my blog has been quiet of late I have continued to submit my regular Soapbox articles to Amiga Future magazine which is published bimonthly in both German and English language editions. The next issue to be released is number 140 which probably makes Amiga Future the world's longest running professionally produced Amiga magazine. It has already surpassed the once mighty Amiga Format which ceased publication in May 2000 after 136 issues. Of course the circulation numbers of Amiga Future are a fraction of Amiga Format's in its heyday but it's still hard to believe that 25 years after Commodore's demise a professionally produced full colour Amiga magazine is still being printed. It's a testament to Andreas and his team of editors, contributors and translators....and of course the Amiga community who continue to support the publication by buying the magazine. Long may it continue.

Right, that enough for now. It's a short update but I really need to finish packing my bags.

Until next time..................................

 

4Feb/19Off

Homeward bound

What a week! It started with the Amiga Ireland 2019 meetup in Athlone and ended with SWAG's Workbench 2019 club event in Chipping Sodbury with visits to Cardiff, in Wales and Aberdeen in Scotland sandwiched  in between. As I'm typing this update in London, England I can truly say I've travelled to all the counties that make up the geographic area of Britain and Ireland.

Amiga Ireland 2019

Following an uneventful journey from New Zealand to London, even transiting through Los Angeles was relatively painless this time, I made my way to Cardiff by coach from Heathrow airport to meet up with Matthew Leaman of AmigaKit. When I'm in Cardiff I usually have the pleasure of staying with Matthew's parents, Helen & Terry and their Old English sheep dog Henry. After spending a day in Cardiff to catch up on recent A-EON Technology business and recover from my Summer to Winter flight, Matthew, Christopher Follett (AmigaKit's technician) and I flew to Dublin to attend the Amiga Ireland show which was being sponsored by both A-EON and AmigaKit for the third year running. We met up with David Pleasance, the former Commodore UK Managing Director, in Dublin airport for the 2-1/2 hour drive to Athlone. Unfortunately, RJ Mical who had planned to fly in from California to attend the show for the first time, had to call off at the last minute because, according to RJ, his doctors wanted to bring forward an important medical appointment for “patching his intuition library” and despite his pleading they refused to delay the treatment to let him travel.

Iarla Reidy - Amiga Ireland organiser

Matthew ferried us safely to Athlone and after checking into our hotel we made our way to the Silver Oak Indian restaurant where the traditional Amiga Ireland Friday night dinner is held. It was good to see many familiar faces from previous shows plus a host of new people who where attending for the first time. As Matthew will confirm, I really like Indian food (understatement) and, after I ate my usual Chicken Vindaloo, we returned to the conference room in the Prince of Wales hotel to continue with the Amiga fun. A few hardy souls continued talking and drinking into the early hours of the morning and it was almost 4:00 am when Christopher and I finally made it back to our rooms. Matthew was more sensible and sneaked off around 1:00 am. Hey who said wimp? 😉 On Saturday morning we still managed to get up reasonably early. I set up the A-EON display which included a Tabor motherboard and copies of the Heroes of Gorluth, the new AmigaCD32 game from AMIworx which is sponsored by A-EON Technology, while Mathew laid out his AmigaKit wares. Although Amiga Ireland has a very strong Classic Amiga flavour it was good to see several next-generation machines on display. Allan Ullmann was kept busy throughout the show demonstrating applications and games on his AmigaOne X1000.

Mike Clarke using Bars n Pipes - AmigaOne X1000

I'm sure Lyle Hazelwood will be pleased that Michael Clarke of Psygnosis fame composed a tune using Lyle's AmigaOS 4 version of Bars n Pipes. Even better, knowing my interest/obsession in all things Commodore, Mike presented me with a Commodore LED watch dating back to the mid 1970s.

Commodore LED watch

Neil online via wifi and X1000 hamper basket 😉

Meanwhile, driver wizard, Neil Cafferkey took the most unusual case prize for his AmigaOne X1000 wicker basket system on which he demonstrated the latest version of the A-EON sponsored wifi driver. Expect more news soon. Although the show was dominated by Classic Amiga machines there was good interest in the Tabor motherboard, especially from the Polish contingent at the show. Dan & Ravi from the Retro Hour Podcast gave a presentation and John Shawler of the Amigaos Podcast made the long trip from the USA. Michael Battilana of Cloanto also made another appearance.

After show wind down gathering

What can I say about Amiga Ireland? The show is an excellent mix of Amiga games, competitions, presentations and interviews. One of the best parts of Amiga Ireland is the Saturday night wind down after the show officially closes. It's involves a trip to the local kebab/fish & chip shop for a quick bite to eat before heading to a private room booked by Iarla in a traditional Irish pub for discussions about preemptive multi-tasking and custom chipsets washed down with a liberal dose of local brew. Unfortunately this year Matthew, Christopher and I had to leave a little earlier than we would have liked as we had a 6:00 am drive back to Dublin airport. However this time it was me dragging Matthew the ''party animal" back to the hotel. 😉

From it's initial inception four years ago the attendance has grown year on year and according to Iarla Reidy, the founder and organiser, the 2019 show officially attracted 99 visitors. While the attendance has continued to grow the event has lost none of its Irish warmth and charm which, when mixed with good Amiga people and fun makes it a winning combination.

Only Amiga Ireland 2019

The only complaint I have is the room was too small for the number of exhibitors and people who attended. 😉 It's a great problem to have and Iarla has moved the venue to a larger room at the nearby Radisson Blu hotel for next year's show which is set for the 17th & 18th January, 2020. I plan to attend again and hope to see many of you there too! 🙂 For more information please visit Amiga Ireland's website.

Joining the legions of the undead

Way back in August 2013 I posted news that Igor Majstorovi was taking pre-orders for  the Vampire 600, a new FPGA accelerator that he was developing for the Amiga 600. Fast forward to 2019 and not only is the Vampire 600 available but a version also exits for the A500 with an A1200 Vampire waiting in the wings. Sold under the Apollo Accelerator brand, the Vampire is a Classic Amiga Accelerator that uses the Apollo core which is a code compatible Motorola M68K processor which is claimed to be 3 to 4 time faster than the fastest 68060 CPU. As each Vampire board is hand built there is a waiting list of eager Amigans so when I saw that Marvin Droogsma had a Revision 2.0 Vampire equipped A600 for sale at the Amiga Ireland show I was keen to add it to my collection. You might remember Marvin was the co-producer and MC of the highly successful Amiga 30th Anniversary show held in Amsterdam in 2015. However, I did not want to deprive another potential Vampire purchaser so I asked Marvin to let me know if the system remained unsold at the end of the show. Lucky for me it was still available and so I am now the proud owner of a Vampire accelerated A600. Incidentally, the silkscreen on the A600 motherboard is labelled as the A300 rev 1, further proof that the A600 was originally intended as a lower cost entry level Amiga. From revision 1.3 onwards the "June Bug" motherboards were relabeled as A600.

The Northern lights

Flying into Aberdeen

After the Athlone show we made our way back to Cardiff and the following day I travelled to snowy Aberdeen in north-east Scotland  to attend the AGM of a small high-tech company of which I'm a minor shareholder along with some of my former business partners. I haven't visited Aberdeen since 2011 and there has been many changes in the intervening years. The Western Peripheral Route has finally opened and, although not fully completed, has significantly reduced traffic congestion in the "Granite' city.

Triaxial inclinometers and magnetometers

As the home to the UK oil & gas industry, Aberdeen has always been a prosperous city but the effects of the oil industry downturn are still very obvious. When the oil price plunges, motorists may benefit from lower petrol prices, but the international oil & gas industry reduces its costs by closing down operations and drastically laying off staff. It's a brutal industry! My taxi driver previously worked for a specialist core analysis company in Aberdeen but was laid off two years ago at the height of the oil industry recession. It was still good to catch up with my old partners and we shared a whisky or two and put the world to rights. 🙂

Tabor News

After my short Aberdeen trip I returned to Cardiff and joined Matthew and AmigaOS 4 Team Lead, Steven Solie, who had flown in from Canada, in a meeting with the representative from the PCB manufacturing company that is coordinating the next Tabor motherboard run.

Tabor - AmigaOne A1222

It was a good meeting and another step towards the production of the Tabor motherboards and the AmigaOne A1222's official release. The company will manage the PCB production and organise the board re-spin which is needed to replace a few onboard components that are no longer available. Coincidentally, the PCB company has several facilities in the UK including one in Irvine, a town in North Ayrshire, Scotland where Commodore had its European Amiga 600s manufactured by Samina-SCI. It's also the place where ESCOM set up a UK assembly and distribution base which supplied my first non-Amiga computer ESCOM PC, a very disappointing experience if the truth be told. Irvine was part of Scotland's booming "Silicon Glen" economy which took a massive hit after the dotcom bust. In 2002, Samina-SCI closed down its Irvine plant with the loss of 750 jobs. Even more coincidentally, as a child I lived and went to school for several years about 7 miles from Irvine and later, after university, the first company I worked for had its headquarters nearby and I moved back into the area for a few years before the company relocated to Aberdeen.

Keith with his AmigaOne X5000 and A1222

Meanwhile, getting back to Tabor. All round Amigan, Keith Dumoulin from Canada, has continued putting the AmigaOne A1222 through it paces. He borrowed Matthew's prototype Tabor board to demo at the Toronto WOC Show in December last year but so far shows no signs of returning the board which is giving him a lot of fun. 😉 Keith has fairly typical Commodore & Amiga background. He started with a VIC 20, then upgraded to C64 on which he ran a two line BBS with a friend. He acquired his first Amiga in 1987 from a friend whose parents bought him an Amiga 1000 when he really wanted a Dell PC. (There's no accounting for taste. ;-)) He bought the Amiga 1000 at a discounted price and the friend got the Dell PC he wanted. Keith became instantly hooked and after several upgrades eventually traded A1000 in for an A500. He put his A500 to good use, printing menus for a few local restaurant and got in digital signage. He upgraded and modded the A500 and, after he got his first credit card, purchased a brand new A1200 and external hard drive. He sold his A500 and used the funds to upgrade his A1200 adding a 68030 Accelerator and extra Fast Ram. He also purchased a second A1200 to provide digital adverts using a huge projector in a country music bar. Yee haw! Keith began acquiring and restoring Amigas for his own use and to help others and now has a complete collection of Classic Amiga models. For a couple of years he was a member of the core Vampire testing team but more recently has developed a passion for next-generation AmigaOne hardware.

A1222 running AmigaOS under AmigaOS 4.1

He acquired a Sam 460CR board to try out AmigaOS 4.1 and was very impressed with the performance of the OS. So much so that he is now the proud owner of an AmigaOne X5000 and a member of A-EON's Amiga Developer beta test team.

Keith has been fine tuning UAE to optimise the performance of AmigaOS 3.9 on the AmigaOne X5000 and A1222. More recently he has also been comparing the performance of his AmigaOne X5000 running UAE 060 against his A4000 equipped with an 060@96 Warp Engine and Merlin RTG and CF card by running some classic Amiga demos.

Demo running on X5000 (l) & A1222 (r)

His conclusion: the X5000 can emulate a classic Amiga 060 running AmigaOS 3.9 with perfection. Of course most of the demos can be run directly under AmigaOS 4.1 and do not require UAE emulation, so why does Keith do it? And the answer is because with the AmigaOne X5000 and A1222 he can! 🙂

The French Connection

While I was in Cardiff, Matthew and I also met with Laurent Zorawski and Jean-Luc of Amedia Computer who made the long journey from France to Cardiff to discuss possible future cooperation to help grow the Classic and next-generation Amiga market and user base in Europe.

The French connection - Indian restaurant

After our meeting I introduced Laurent and Jean-Luc to the joys of Welsh cuisine by taking them for an Indian curry! 😉 I think it was the first time Laurent had tasted spicy Indian food so we made sure it was a mild dish. I think they both enjoyed the meal but found my Chicken Vindaloo a bit too spicy. We tried an "interesting" locally brewed Welsh ale but they really enjoyed the Indian beer served in the restaurant. Anyway the meeting was really good and hopefully will lead to greater cooperation in the future.

SWAG Workbench 2019

My final mission before returning to New Zealand was to attend SWAG's (South West Amiga Group) Workbench 2019 mega club event in Chipping Sodbury, a short 25 minute drive north of Bristol. Unlike the Amiga Ireland show, Workbench 2019 was a special one-off double length club meeting running from 11 am to 10 pm for Amigans in the Bristol area of South West England. When I'm travelling around the world I always try to attend local Amiga gatherings if at all possible. SWAG's Brian Hedley knew I was attending Amiga Ireland 2019 and contacted me in June last year to see if I could also attend their Workbench 2019 event.

Me with Brian Hedley

Since I needed to be in the UK for other business I rearranged my schedule to attend their user group meeting. Once again Matthew drove Steven Solie and I to the show, although we arrived 30 minutes late because we missed our motorway exit as Steven and Matthew were in deep Amiga discussions. 😉

Mini Amiga - Speedball

Workbench 2019 had all the traditional Amiga elements: Recap surgery for ailing Classic Amiga motherboards; a Speedball tournament run by Dave Rowland; the complete range of Classic Amiga models including an Amiga 1500 with its original box in almost mint condition and an incredible mini Amiga with monitor and custom made packaging.

Speedball Tournament

There was even a SWAG HAM radio station which was manned by Steve Netting but it was under utilised due adverse ionospheric conditions. Steve, who now works for Redhat, had travelled from Finland to attend the show and presented me with a nice bottle of Koskenkorva Salmiakki , a black Finish vodka with a salty liquorice taste. It was extremely moreish. It was also good to meet Radoslaw "Ferin" Czernik one of our AmigaOne X5000 beta testers from Poland. I also recognised Andy Costin the deputy Chairman of ANT, the Amiga North Thames user group. Several ANT members like Chris Forrester are also members of SWAG and helped to swell the numbers at the Workbench 2019 event.

Me, Steven Solie & Tabor board

I gave a short presentation about my Amiga history and Steven Solie gave a brief overview of his long time involvement with AmigaOS 4 development, after which we jointly answered questions from the audience. During the Q/A session naturally I was asked for a Tabor update but it was question from Andy Costin which initially stumped me. He asked which Amiga would we rush in to save if our house was burning down. Steven said he had a fondness for his Sam460 and his AmigaOne X5000.

As I have a few machines I had to think long and hard but then I suddenly remembered the Kaikoura earthquake that hit New Zealand on November 14th, 2016. It was midnight and I had just got into bed. As I was trying to drift off to sleep the house began to shake. No problem I thought, it was just another earthquake and, like many others I had experienced since I moved to New Zealand, it would over soon. How wrong could I be! At a magnitude of 7.8 it turned out to be the second largest earthquake recorded in the last 150 years. Instead of dying down, after about 30 seconds the rumbling and shaking got more intense.

My house - X marks the spot

The house was now creaking and groaning and I could hear the metal shelves, in the room that housed my Commodore and Amiga collection, rattling loudly as the shaking became more violent. Books began falling off shelves and I heard a loud crash emanating from my office. I jumped out of bed and ran into my office and tried vainly to hold on to some the shelves as the whole house began to shake, twist and wobble. I knew it was time to get out when a Commodore 1942 monitor flew off one of the shelves. Realising I could not save any of the computers I ran back into the bedroom and grabbed my wife who, unbelievably, was still asleep in bed. We moved into the middle of the bedroom and like good Kiwis adopted the drop, cover and hold position. After about 2 minutes the noise and violent shaking reached a crescendo and then died down as quickly as it started.

Effects of the 7.8 earthquake

After the shaking subsided I discovered the power was out so I located a torch and went to survey the damage. Much to my wife's 'amusement' I went to my office first to check on my computers. Apart from the 1942 monitor and a few other scattered items, my PowerPC iMac G5, a used machine I purchased in the hope that MorphOS would be ported to it one day, had also taken a dive and the screen was damaged.  There was a nasty dent on the floor where the 1942 monitor had bounced but I later discovered it was still working. The rest of the house was OK although several glass and pottery items were broken. Our house is on the sea front and with the real risk of a tsunami we needed to get up to higher ground.

After the quake

Minor earthquake damage

With the power off we could not open the electric gates to drive the car up the hill so we had to walk along the beach before we could head up to higher ground. Fortunately the tsunami never arrived although in one part of New Zealand it was measured at 6.9m. According to GeoNet, the earthquake caused 25 different faults to rupture (a world record) and triggered the biggest local-source tsunami recorded in New Zealand since 1947. It also caused extensive coastal uplift, widespread landslides and landslide dams. It was the second largest earthquake in New Zealand recorded in living memory and in the week after the quake we experienced almost continuous aftershocks with over 4,000 recorded and, for a time, it felt like the ground was continuously moving. Although our house, which is mainly a wooden construction and is designed to flex and bend, escaped damage, several major buildings in Wellington city were damaged beyond repair and were later demolished. So my answer to the question of which Amiga did I try to save? It was either all of them or none of them depending on your point of view. In the end I decided to save my wife! 😉

4 musketeers or gang of 4? 😉

Anyway, back to the show. It was good to see both Victoria and Michael Battilana who also attended Amiga Ireland 2019 the previous weekend. I had a brief chat with 'Amiga Richard', another AmigaOne X5000 owner who is an integral part of the SWAG team. I know I often say this but I continue to be impressed by the sheer ingenuity and passion of the Amiga community and Workbench 2019 did not disappoint in that regard.

Classic Amigas

Unfortunately I could only stay for 4 hours as I was heading back to London to catch my flight home to New Zealand. The Workbench 2019 mega event was a great success with 45 people turning up on the day. It was supposed to be a one-off show but according to Brian the SWAG team are considering making it an annual event. I certainly hope they do. 🙂

Only Amiga SWAG Workbench 2019

That's all for now, back to New Zealand and summertime.

 

 

 

15Jan/19Off

Fukubukuro

Amiga Ireland Meetup 2019

This will only be a short update as I'm about to leave summertime in New Zealand to fly to the frozen Northern hemisphere to attend the Amiga Ireland 2019 meetup and SWAG's (South West Amiga Group) Workbench 2019 event. I will be joined at both shows with Matthew Leaman who will no doubt be bringing along a fine selection of Amiga goodies from his vast AmigaKit catalogue. This will the third Amiga Ireland show that I've attended and sponsored and I'm looking forward to catching up with Iarla Ó'Riada and his team. This year he has managed to entice former Amiga developer and all round entertainer, RJ Mical, to make a first-time appearance along with ex Commodore UK Joint M.D., David Pleasance who will no doubt be selling and signing copies of his book, Commodore: The inside story. A week later I will be attending my first ever SWAG event and I'm looking forward to making some new Amiga friends.

SWAG - Workbench 2019

Before I leave New Zealand I need to finish the third and final part of my 'X1000 backstory', a series of articles for Amiga Future magazine which reveals the many challenges and obstacles that were successfully overcome bringing the AmigaOne X1000 to market. Over the past four months I've been digging back through my old emails and files dating back to 2004 to remind myself of the history and lead up to the roller coaster ride surrounding the birth of AmigaOne X1000. Whatever way you look at it, the AmigaOne X1000 it is truly a unique machine. It's built around the Nemo motherboard, which was custom designed from scratch to run AmigaOS 4 and is powered by the exotic PA6T-1682M CPU, a high performance and power efficient 64-bit dual-core PowerPC microprocessor designed by PA Semi as part of its planned PWRficient range of PowerPC CPUs.

AmigaOne X1000 Lineage

PA Semi was a fabless semiconductor company founded by Dan Dobberpuhl who had previously been the lead designer for the DEC Alpha and StrongARM processors. The company originally had plans for a series of single core and multi-core PWRficient CPUs, including a 16-core version but its acquisition by Apple meant only the PA6T-1682M was ever commercially released. The CPU was used for military and industrial applications because of its performance, low power consumption & low heat generation making it idea for applications in enclosed spaces. As far as I am aware, other than reference boards and system created by PA Semi to showcase its technology, the AmigaOne X1000 is the only desktop machine powered by the PA6T-1682M that was ever commercially released. It you want to find out more about the birth of the AmigaOne X1000 you will have to order the latest copies of Amiga Future magazine from your friendly Amiga retailer or, better still buy a subscription. and never miss a future issue 😉

Boing Mania

If you read my blog or have seen me at an Amiga show you will know I have an interest, some might say obsession, with red & whites checks for some particular reason? 😉 I spot red and white patterns in the most unusual places and quickly grab my smartphone to record the image.

It's gotten so bad that people now send me their own "Boing Ball" photos and I've even indoctrinated my own children. 😉 My oldest daughter, who lives in Tokyo, alerted me to a design she spotted recently on a Fukubukuro "lucky bag". Apparently every New Year, stores in Japan begin selling these special mystery "lucky bags" which essentially contain their old or excess stock which they want to sell off. It's become a big craze in Japan and thousands of people line up, some times days in advance, to buy their Fukubukuro "lucky bag" in the hope of getting a bargain. The bags are only sold during the few days of January or until the stock of bags sell out, which can happen very quickly.

Maybe I should pass the idea on to Brian Deneen of SACC (Sacramento Amiga Computer Club) who organises the AmiWest show in Sacramento every year. At AmiWest SACC always has a large selection of old Amiga hardware and software titles for sale as they try to reduce their massive storage problem. Anyone for a mystery "Boing Ball" lucky bag?

That's all for now.

Happy New year to all

 

 

 

 

22Dec/18Off

I really can’t say anything bad about that……..

It seems like only yesterday I arrived back in New Zealand after a very enjoyable trip to California to attend the 21st AmiWest show in Sacramento. But with the summer in full swing down under and Christmas almost upon us I can't believe 2018 has flashed by so quickly. My trip to AmiWest always brings up a special phrase or saying that seems to resonate with that particular show. This year was no different and it was Amiwest guest speaker and developer extraordinaire, Daniel Müssener, who provided the words of inspiration this year when asked to comment on a particularly sensitive subject, he replied, "I really can't say anything bad about that", with the subtle implication that he could not say anything good either. 😉 I think he was commenting on the taste of an American beer, or could it have been the Scottish Malt whisky I brought with me to Amiwest? 😉 Anyway, we immediately picked up on the phrase, and used it at every opportunity during the show to great effect.

Smash and grab - déjà vu?

Waiting for Matthew before all the excitement

Unfortunately for Daniel, all of his clothes and laptop were stolen from our hire car in almost a repeat performance of the incident a couple of years ago when Paul Sadlik drove me, Matthew Leaman and AmigaOS 4 developer, Tony Wyatt to AmiWest. We parked our rental car at a busy diner in Pinole as we stopped for a coffee break on our way to Sacramento. Within minutes of entering the diner, with the car in full view about 40m away from our window seat, thieves smashed the back window and made off with Paul's briefcase and my airline carry-on bag. Paul lost his Apple laptop and car keys and a number of other items while I lost my passport, emergency cash, prescription glasses and two ALICE laptops plus my backup HDD and usb drive, all of which contained copies of my AmiWest presentation. Fun times indeed!

Smashed rear window of rental our car

Fast forward two years and Paul was once again driving Matthew and I to Sacramento, this time with Daniel Müssener, who was giving the traditional keynote speech at the Saturday night banquet. Paul picked Daniel and I up at SFO airport and we retired to a local bar while we waited for Matthew Leaman to fly in from the UK. Over a few drinks we solved all of the Amiga world's problems and Paul and I relayed our previous tale of smash & grab woe to Daniel. While we were waiting we received a call from Bill Borsari who invited us to have dinner with him and his son before we drove on to Sacramento. It sounded like a good plan so, after we collected Matthew at SFO, we drove to a nice restaurant in a quiet neighbourhood where we met up with Bill and his son.

Better safe than sorry - too late!

Bill warned us that car thieves were becoming more sophisticated and some were using RFID devices to detect laptops in the back of cars. I needed no second warning. Having been bitten previously, this time I left nothing to chance and took both my briefcase and suitcase into the busy restaurant with me. I must admit it did look a little strange wheeling my large red suitcase into the restaurant. Paul took his briefcase and, as usual, Matthew made sure he had his passport with him. Daniel had two bags, one which contained an old laptop which he needed for his presentation, and the other all his clothes and toiletries for his AmiWest visit. The neighbourhood looked safe with residential apartment buildings and lots of parked cars so Daniel decided not to take his bags into the restaurant.

Park Smart - a bit late for Daniel & Paul

We had a very nice meal in the busy restaurant but when we returned to our car we discovered the back window was smashed and both of Daniel's bags were gone. Deja vu or what? We reported the theft to the police, more for the rental car insurance purposes than in hope of recovering Daniel's stolen property, and made our way back to SFO airport to exchange the car. The rental car attendant who processed us said that there was an epidemic of car break-ins in the San Francisco area, with rental cars being particularly targeted. He said he had personally processed seven cars during that day for the same reason. As we walked through the car rental terminal we started noticing multiple warnings about "parking smart". We picked up a replacement rental car and Paul drove us to Sacramento without incident.

Dazzling Daniel

The next day Daniel bought some brightly coloured new clothes and a 'matching' laptop on which to recreate his Amiwest presentation and banquet speech. I really can't say anything bad about his choice of colours 😉 but his banquet speech was truly inspirational. Anyway, if you are planning to hire a rental car in the San Francisco area do not leave anything of value in your car. You have been warned! However, don't let that deter you from visiting the AmiWest show. It's a great celebration of all things Amigan and even thought Daniel lost all of his belongings he really enjoyed his first taste of the AmiWest experience. When I asked him for a comment, naturally his first reply was, "I really can't say anything bad about Amiwest" 😉 More seriously, he followed that up with, "The show was fantastic, the people were fantastic. I had lots of fun and really loved this very positive and familiar atmosphere. And I think I made some great new friends! Thanks a fortune to those who made it possible to get me there and to those who took extra care of me, especially Paul Sadlik, Bill Borsari and Trevor. Hope to see you all asap again!" He really can't say anything better than that. 🙂

Gearing up for Tabor

Last month, Adam Barnes, the former CTO of Ultra Varisys and several of his colleagues, attended AmigaKit's offices in Cardiff to help Matthew and his team prepare for production and support of the Tabor and Cyrus+ motherboards. In preparation for the work visit, Ultra Varisys shipped six pallets of stock containing a mixture of Cyrus+ motherboards, both tested and untested, along with prototypes and safety stock for both Cyrus+ and Tabor.

The A Team (L to R) : Neil, Adam, Chris, Thusy & Matthew

Also included were a selection of lab and test equipment and a small stock of broken motherboards for test purposes. Prior to the visit, the AmigaKit team of Matthew, Christopher and Joshua set up a dedicated laboratory to house all of the new test equipment. To compliment the equipment supplied by Ultra Varisys, they added bench power supplies along with several dedicated computers for diagnostic testing and flashing of FPGAs and firmware. The technology transfer meeting lasted almost five days and was wholly dedicated to A-EON Technology's AmigaOne hardware, including production issues and other technical matters. These included:

  • The motherboard bring up process for Tabor and Cyrus including firmware, software and hardware diagnostic techniques
  • Setup of test rigs on benches
  • Advanced fault finding procedures for Tabor and Cyrus
  • Overview of the internal documentation prepared by Ultra Varisys for each product line
  • Advice and support on production matters including recommended suppliers, sourcing BOM, CEM manufacturing, schematics and production data review

Keeping the faith?

To facilitate the technology transfer, AmigaKit suspended its normal daytime business operations to concentrate on the Tabor/Cyrus work. To make up for the lost time, the AmigaKit team worked overtime from 6pm - 11pm every evening to service and support its regular Amiga customer base. I would like to thank Matthew and his team for all their support and hard work and look forward to exciting times in the New Year.

Talking about Tabor, active AmigaOne A1222 beta tester, Domagoj Ožanic, sent me a couple of photos of road signs to Tabor, which is apparently a religious retreat about 25 Km east of Zagreb, the capital of Croatia. Could it be the church of the Amiga perhaps? Well Croatia does have a Boing Ball on its flag. 🙂

Developing the Amiga Network

Serving the Amiga community since 1994

Cast your mind back to March 1997. It had been a particularly difficult time for Amiga enthusiasts following the very short lived and ultimately fruitless ESCOM era. However, when the news broke that Gateway were the new owners it looked as though the Amiga had been saved once again but this time by a company with proven management and massive resources. On March 26th, Wayne Hunt the owner and webmaster of Amiga.org, posted the news that Amiga.org, supported by the North Alabama Society of Amiga Users group, was rolling out its newest web venture, the Amiga Developer Network. Wayne wrote that the new site "is dedicated specifically to all aspects of development for the Amiga Computer, past, present and future. We're still in the process of adding things on an almost constant basis but you can expect to find discussion bases, technical specifications, developer contact information and about everything we can find to post to help you develop for the best (and some would argue ONLY) multimedia personal computer in the world. All questions and constructive feedback is welcomed as we're working hard to make this effort a central point for the Amiga developer community." The Amiga Developer Network was not linked to either Gateway or Amiga International but Wayne had a close working relationship with Gateway's Darreck Lisle, and in an interview he gave to Obligement webzine in August 2009, he commented "Darreck Lisle was THE MAN as far as the site was concerned, and I lived and breathed the idea of Amiga.org becoming the community arm of Gateway's Amiga. Alas that was a short-lived dream as we all know."

A-EON Technology Amiga Developer

Gateway's brief flirtation with the Amiga is now a distant and fading memory but it's good to know that the soul of the Amiga Developer Network still lives on.

Amiga Developer Coding Weekend

With work on the Enhancer Software v1.5 update in full swing, in early December A-EON developers Andy Broad and Kevin Sherratt travelled to Cardiff for a long weekend of coding fun. Together with Matthew Leaman, they worked from Friday through Sunday on an intensive Enhancer Software coding jam.

Multiviewer and Warp3D Nova

In a ground breaking first, Andy integrated the power of Warp3D Nova into the Multiviewer utility allowing it to bypass Picasso96 and use the raw power of the GPU and the graphics card's video ram to display images and draw 2D graphics. MultiEdit was also upgraded and has now a restore option to recover a document in the event of a power failure or system crash while editing a document. On power up or reboot it offers the user the option to recover the document. AMIStore, which was migrated to a new server by Matthew over the summer, also received several updates. Expect to see Enhancer Software v1.5 released in the very near future.

Linux Corner

X1000 Fienix with 4.20-rc7 kernel (screengrab: Christian Zigotzky)

While A-EON's AmigaOne hardware has been developed to run AmigaOS 4, it good to know that it also runs other PowerPC operating system like Linux & MorphOS. Being able to run PowerPC Linux distros on our hardware is very important as it allows A-EON to fully test all the onboard components and validate the overall stability and performance of the hardware. It also provides AmigaOS 4 users with access to mainstream productivity software, applications and even games that are not readily available under AmigaOS 4. We are very fortunate to have a large and growing team of Linux enthusiasts who help to ensure that our AmigaOne hardware supports the latest Linux kernels. In the past few months the team has released the stable 4.19 kernel for the AmigaOne X1000 & X5000 and are currently testing the 4.20 and 4.21 kernels. Linux specialist Casey Cullen released Fienix, a new customised Linux distribution based on Debian Sid, which he created for PowerPC machines. Thanks to the efforts of the enthusiastic Linux team, Fienix runs very nicely on the AmigaOne X1000 & X5000.

Christian's Amiga mancave

Christian Zigotsky is a very active and key member of A-EON's core Linux support team who has written installation instructions and provides Linux support for all of A-EON Technology’s hardware including the AmigaOne X1000, X5000 and A1222/Tabor beta system. He has created numerous PowerPC Linux images for the X1000 & X5000. These include SUSE Tumbleweed 20170924 PPC64, Fedora 26 Server PPC64, Debian Buster/Sid PPC64 along with Debian Sid PowerPCSPE for the A1222. He also created the MATE PowerPC Remix 2017 distribution for the AmigaOne X1000 & X5000, a fork and unofficial successor of the dropped ubuntu MATE 17.04 PowerPC distribution. He ensures that A-EON's hardware supports all the latest Linux kernels and creates some Linux kernel patches as well as compiling and releasing Mesa for the X1000 & X5000. I asked Christian for a brief overview our recent Linux AmigaOne Linux highlights :

X5000 Ubuntu Mate 4.20-rc7 kernel (screengrab: Skateman)

  • Sound problem was fixed in SuperTuxKart
  • A non-altivec version of VLC, the streaming media player, was released for the AmigaOne X5000
  • New Linux  installation instructions completed
  • A new Mesa version was released for the X5000 and X1000
  • An updated MATE PowerPC Remix distro was released
  • Updated Linux installation instructions
  • Improved AmigaOne TV support  for Analog TV cards, DVB-C streams, TV sticks, TV software, radio, kernel support for various tuners, YouTube with ViewTube, game consoles connected to TV devices, etc.

I'm totally amazed by the sheer energy, productivity and enthusiasm of our Linux team. They devote countless hours ensuring that our AmigaOne hardware supports all the latest Linux kernels and PowerPC distributions. How they keep up with testing the myriad of kernel release candidates I will never know but I'm just glad they do.

Getting shirty!

If you've had a chance to get your hands on a copy of David Pleasance's book, Commodore: The Inside Story, you will have read the chapter written by Colin Proudfoot, Commodore UK's Joint Managing Director, on their shirt sponsorship deal with Chelsea FC.

 Commodore & Amiga sponsored Chelsea FC Shirts plus FA Cup Final special

In 1987 Commodore UK was one of the first companies to sponsor a major English football team when they paid to have the Commodore logo on the Chelsea football shirt. The sponsorship deal continued until Commodore's bankruptcy in 1994, although in 1993 the Commodore logo was replaced with the Amiga logo. According to Proudfoot, "Football sponsorship was an effective way to get name recognition and brand awareness, the cost per eyeball minute, as the media folks say, was very worthwhile." As part of the sponsorship contract Commodore had to pay win bonuses, depending on how successful Chelsea were each season. Winning the Premiership would cost Chelsea another $1 million with lesser amounts for high place finishes. Likewise winning the FA Cup was another $1 million, while finishing runner-up was $500 K and there were similar bonuses for success in the League Cup. To mitigate against the "risk" of Chelsea's success, Commodore UK usually took out insurance with Lloyds of London. In the 1992/93 season Chelsea did not win any sponsorship bonus for the League or FA Cup but they did reach the League Cup quarter-final which resulted in a bonus payment from Commodore UK which was covered by a small claim against their Lloyds of London insurance policy.

Colin Proudfoot wearing the Chelsea FA Cup Final shirt, with me and his partner Anneke at AmiWest 2014

Before the 1993/94 season, Chelsea appointed former England international Glenn Hoddle as its player-manager. The optimism surrounding Hoddle's appointment coupled with the previous year's insurance claim resulted in greatly increased insurance premium quote for the 1993/94 season. Rather than pay out the additional money Commodore UK took a unique approach to the problem and if you want to find out more you will have to read David's book which is available from all good Amiga retailers.

As it happens, Chelsea did not win any sponsorship bonuses for Premiership or League Cup in 1994 but they did reach the English FA Cup final losing 4-0 to Manchester Utd in the process. Although Chelsea lost, Commodore UK saved a lot of money with the unconventional insurance policy it adopted. Ah those were the days! Fast forward to 2018, Chelsea have recently announced a record 5-year sponsorhip deal worth £50 million with South Korean car manufacturer, Hyundai to have the car maker's logo on the sleeve of the Chelsea shirt. Chelsea already make £40 million a year from its main shirt sponsors, Yokohama Rubber and a further £60 million from its kit-maker Nike. How times have changed!

Libre Office update

As I revealed in my AmiWest presentation, the Libre Office 5 beta version for AmigaOS 4 is finally nearing completion. That might sound like a strange comment since the beta version of Libre Office 4 was released to testers almost a year ago. Unfortunately, a specific mechanism in version 4 was not possible, or rather, could not be fully implemented in AmigaOS 4. The result was instability and crashes which the developers could not hope to get under control. Fortunately for us, Version 5 of Libre Office, thanks to its need to run under Android, has refined this mechanism in a much more portable way allowing it to be implemented under AmigaOS 4. Therefore the decision was made to ditch version 4 and move on to version 5. It was unavoidable to do this step, and even though it took a good while (remember that this is a side project that is only worked on for a week each month if and when the developers have spare time) we're now back at more or less the same state as when we left version 4 behind.

Testing Libre Office 5

The UI works (minus some rendering errors that are being worked on), and you can actually type text and save and load documents. There are a couple of minor issues that still need to be addressed before the first Libre Office 5 beta is released and these issues should be addressed next month. It has been a long, challenging and expensive project but hopefully it will soon start to bear fruit.

Rapturous encounter?

Well no, not yet anyway. As I write this update, I'm sitting looking at a very expensive, heavy but at the moment useless lump of electronics and metal sitting in the corner of my office. Hey who said an AmigaOne! 😉 In August last year I ordered a Talos II Secure Workstation from Raptop Computing Systems.

Talos II Secure Workstation

You may have heard of Raptor as the company that launched a failed crowd funding campaign in October 2016 to create inexpensive low cost IBM POWER8 Workstations. By low cost I mean by mainstream POWER8 computing standards. The complete 12-core Talos workstation with 256GB of DDR3 ECC RAM, installed in a customized, heavy-duty chassis with a choice of an AM FirePro or nVidia Tesla graphics card and built-in 4TB RAID1 supplied with either Debian or CentOS plus pre-installed would set you back US$17,600. As the crowd funding campaign progressed, Raptor introduced  several 'lower' cost options including a desktop edition for US$7,100 and a motherboard for US$3,700. Neither options were supplied with POWER8 CPUs which had to be ordered separately. Their goal was to raise US$3.7 million but when the campaign ended on January 14th, 2017 it had attracted 268 backers (including me) but was only 14% funded. Having failed with the crowd funding, Raptor completely revised its approach.

My Talos II Certificate

In August the company announced it was re-launching the Talos II programme but this time with IBM POWER9 processors which it claimed would be faster, more affordable and consume less power. As IBM had not yet released POWER9 to the general public, Raptor decided to instigate a pre-order with full payment up front to help them actually develop and build the systems they planned to sell while they waited for the release of the POWER9 CPUs towards the end of 2017. Anyway, as I needed a secure independent server for all my technical and business data, what better than a new POWER9 based system. I ordered a crazily high specification machine, what do you expect I am a big box Amigan at heart. In addition to all the standard Talos II features it included two 18-core PowerP CPUs, 96 Gb of DDR 4 Ram, an LSI 9300 8-port SATA interface card  together with a Radeon Pro WX7100 Workstation graphics card and a 500 Gb Sumsung Flash storage drive. I paid my money and waited for the system to be developed. With the price I paid including shipping and NZ import duties I could have purchased 8 or 9 complete AmigaOne X5000 systems which can actually run AmigaOS 4, MorphOS and Linux.

Almost one year after I placed my order the machine finally arrived. It was very well packed and had survived the long journey to New Zealand. The machine is a very heavy beast and extremely noisy but seems to be extremely well engineered. It is a server of course so I suppose the noise is to be expected, although I might have to set it up in the garage or the garden shed IF I can ever get Linux installed.  I ordered the system with PowerPC Linux pre-installed but it arrived with instructions to download a WIP Linux image from the web.

Inside the belly of the beast

I suppose I shouldn't complain as the certificate supplied with the machine indicated my system was Order Number 1. It might explain why none of the installation procedures work. I have to admit trying to install the beta Linux makes my initial foray into the Linux world with the AmigaOne X1000, X5000  and A1222/Tabor seem like a walk in the park. OK I am the first to admit I am no Linux server expert, but I have installed various Linux distributions on multiple PowerPC and x86 machines in the past. I even supervised the Linux support for the AmigaOne X1000 and wrote the early installation guide before the first Ubuntu Live CD was produced by Pat Wall. The Talos II Secure Workstation is really aimed at a Linux administrator in a data centre and to be honest, I've been so busy with other pressing work over the past three months that I put the Workstation in the corner and forgot about it. However, it's now time to actually get it working as I need to create a backup SVN for some important source files. I've now written to Raptor Computing asking for assistance. So for the moment all I can say, is watch this space. 🙂

Scala WS500

If you followed my Classic Reflections series which was published in Amiga Future magazine, you will already know that one of my articles explored the history of Scala, Inc, a digital signage business founded by Jon Bohmer, a brilliant young Norwegian teenager. Scala was one of the most successful Amiga based businesses and is still recognised as the brand leader among companies providing digital signage software solutions. It is claimed that Scala almost single-handedly rescued the Amiga business market  in Europe and Commodore even agreed to let Scala re-box some Amiga models, starting with the A1200, to sell as a Scala branded machine. There were even rumours that Scala developers in Scandinavia were working to create a Workbench 4 operating system from scratch.

It some respects both rumours were true. Scala did re-brand A4000's and Amiga CD32s as Scala workstations and built A1200 tower systems to use as Scala InfoChannel Players but the company soon converted to PC based hardware following Commodores bankruptcy. After writing the article I became intrigued by Scala branded Amiga hardware and when Chris Collins, a friend and AmiWest stalwart, informed me that a Scala WS500 was listed for sale on eBay I just had to take a look.

Scala WS500 internals

According to the Big Book of Amiga Hardware (BBOAH) the Scala WS500 was designed for use as a kiosk and is based on a European PAL based Amiga CD32 with an SX-1 attached which are all installed into a rack mounted Scala branded case along with a PSU. A dongle is also supplied which is needed to allow the Scala presentation software to run. The eBay seller would not ship outside the USA so Chris kindly offered to place the bid on my behalf and take delivery of the unit if he won the auction.

I advised Chris of my maximum bid and left him to it. We did not win the auction but the seller contacted Chris to say he had another couple of units and I could have one if I was willing to pay my previous maximum bid amount. Chris paid the seller on my behalf and brought the Scala WS500 system to AmiWest. I displayed it on the A-EON table along with Chris' AmigaOne A1222 beta system. Both units generated a lot of interest.

The Scala Dongle

After AmiWest, with the help of Matthew Leaman, Chris arranged shipping of the Scala WS500 to me in New Zealand. As soon as it arrived I opened up the case and confirmed it included all the components listed on the BBOAH website. The CD32 itself appeared brand new and still had the protective plastic on the CD32 lid and case badge but did the unit actually work? I connected a monitor, mouse and keyboard and powered up the system. To my pleasant surprise it booted into the Info Channel player menu first time. So now I have a working Scala display system to add to my Classic Amiga collection. Whatever can I find next? 😉

Winter Showtime!

I'll be winging my way to the Ireland and the UK next month to attend the Amiga Ireland 2019 Meetup and the South West Amiga Group. I will be joined at both events by Matthew Leaman, the Managing Director of A-EON Technology and owner of Amiga Kit. If you are going to be in either area come along for a good honest chat about all things Amigan, but please remember no hidden recording devices. 😉 As the old saying goes, what happens at an Amiga shows stays at Amiga shows. All that remains to be said is:

Merry Christmas to all Amigans whatever your preference, generation or hue!

 

10Oct/18Off

Planes, Trains and Automobiles – minus the trains

I'm sitting in Wellington airport, waiting for my first flight to carry me to San Francisco for my now annual pilgrimage to attend AmiWest in Sacramento. First of all I must apologise for the scarcity of news from me over the past few months. I actually started this blog in late July when the Northern hemisphere was sweltering under record summer temperatures. Down-under in Wellington, New Zealand the winter had been the usual mix of cool bright sunny days, high winds and driving rain. While the Northern part of our planet was recording record breaking temperatures it was pretty typical winter for us Southern types. Spring is well and truly here now (my Northern hemisphere brain will never get used to Christmas being summertime) and it already seems ages since my trip to Europe in June to attend three very different Amiga related computing events. Fortunately my European trip took place before the heatwave hit and and the weather in Durham, London and at Pixel Heaven in Warsaw, Poland was very pleasant. It did rain quite a bit during my short visit to Cardiff where I met up with Matthew Leaman and checked out A-EON's weekend Coding Jam. My final event was RetCon, a traditional retro gaming festival organised by the Greenford Computer Club in London. All very different events and all very enjoyable nonetheless.

Amiga fan at Pixel Heaven 2018

However, I digress. Back to the reason for my blog tardiness. I know it might come as a bit of a shock, given my Amiga passion/obsession (delete where appropriate) but I do actually have a life outside of my Boing Ball tinted goldfish bowl. I know, its really hard to imagine! 😉 I've been really busy helping several of the non-Amiga related startups I work with. As usual it's the usual mix of good and bad. If you think negative equity is a swear word you have not experience the wild and wacky world of trying to grow a startup business.

Anyway, just to prove there are people even more Boing Ball obsessed than me I was going to post an image from Pixel Heaven but, unfortunately, the Airport wifi won't let me update the image. It obviously thinks it's Amiga p?rn! 😉 You will just have to take my word for it (for the moment).

Adios Amigans, next stop, San Francisco.

 

 

20Mar/18Off

We are Amiga!

I can't believe it's already March, just where has the time gone? I suppose a trip to Athlone to attend the Amiga Ireland 2018 Meetup in mid January helped to soak up some of the time. 😉 Once again, Jarlath and his crew made us feel very welcome, although the stories of drinking horse's milk took on an entirely new meaning thanks to a few pints of Guinness and some good Amiga company (MsMadLemon you know who you are).  David Pleasance, former Commodore Managing Director and I gave a couple joint Q&A sessions and during one of them I talked about the special bond that we all share as Commodore and Amiga enthusiasts, which without all of us keeping the dream alive there would be no Amiga. Kenny Gaughan recorded my "We are Amiga" comments and posted them on his Sensible Blogger YouTube channel. I was quite pleased with myself, thinking I had invented a new inspirational Amiga slogan on the spur of the moment but, on checking later, I found someone else had already beaten me to it a few years ago! Such is life. 😉 However, while I was in Europe I managed a quick side trip to AmigaKit's offices in Cardiff to pick up a shiny new motherboard to take back with me to New Zealand.

Daniel Müßener in gaming mode

Towering Achievements
Over the past few months I've had fun helping to test beta versions of Daniel Müßener's Amiga based port of Tower 57,  a dystopian, steampunk top-down shooter game with 16-bit inspired pixel art and destructible environments being developed by Pixwerk. Although the game was being developed for PC, Mac & Linux machines additional stretch goals were included for game ports to AmigaOS4, MorphOS and AROS. I backed the Kickstarter campaign in the hope that the stretch goals would be achieved and fortunately the campaign raised enough funds to realise this aim. Daniel Müßener took on the task of creating the Amiga ports and has worked really hard to make the Amiga version very special indeed. The PC and Mac versions were officially released in November last year and, as a Kickstater backer, I've played the game on Steam on my PC. Yes I actually have a PC. 😉 However, I have to say Daniel's Amiga ports are very impressive. Using his advanced coding skills he has gone above and beyond in his attempts to optimise the game making it eminently playable, even on least powerful machines. He provided a special benchmark reference saved game to show how his Tower57 game port staked up against the official Steam release.

As I have a few Next-Generation Amiga machines (*understatement*) I decided to perform some of my own Tower57 benchmarks. Although as I have often said, I'm not a great fan of benchmarks, it was good to be able to test the Amiga Next-Generation systems against mainstream computers. The results are quite remarkable. Unfortunately, I could not get the AROS version to run on my machine because I need to update my version of Icaros Desktop, a job I put aside for another day. Fortunately I have a good selection of AmigaOS and MorphOS machines to keep me busy. I used the full true colour version of Tower 57 rather than the reduced 16-bit version for lower powered machines for my benchmark comparisons. The model of graphic card also has an effect on the frames per second (fps) performance of Tower57. As you might expect, more powerful graphics cards produce better results. So in all of the tests with my AmigaOne machines, I used a middish-upper range passively cooled 1Gb Radeon HD7750 graphics card. All of the MorphOS based Apple machines used the standard built-in graphics cards they were supplied with.

Tower57 benchmark - PowerBook/MorphOS

It's probably no surprise that the AmigaOne X5000/20 comes out on top by quite a margin. The AmigaOne X1000 was no slowcoach either and pushed the G5 PowerMac into third place in my tests. It was also really good to see the AmigaOne A1222 giving the 2.5 Ghz PowerMac a run for its money. However, the really good news is that all of the Amiga Next-generation machines compared favourably with the commercial Steam release and were all very playable. Now what was that about benchmarks? I've always absolutely believed in them! 😉

Tower57 benchmark - AmigaOne A1222/AmigaOS4.1

The good news is that Daniel has now officially released the game for all Next-Generation Amiga systems so there is no excuse for not trying out the game yourself. Even better, Daniel has now included an auto-updater which checks online to see if a new version of the game is available for your hardware. If it is, you have the option of downloading the Tower57 executable. If you don't have a suitable Next-Generation machine (shame on you ;-)) you can always try out the Steam version on a PC.

Read all about it!

I finally received my copy of Commodore The Amiga Years book by Brian Bagnall. Having contributed to the original Kickstarter project I was a little peeved to see the book for sale on Amazon four months ago and long before I received my Kickstarter reward package. In fact some of the attendees at Amiwest 2017 in October last year already had a copy of the book. Brian did post an apology to all Kickstarter backers which read, "The one painful part of this for me is that places like Amazon got the book before you, the backers. I’ll trace back how this happened right to the start. As you might guess, the book printer prints all the books at the same time. They won’t print your Kickstarter books first, then print the books for the public at a later time (two book printings would be inefficient and excessively costly)." Anyway, enough of my moaning.

My Amiga Years Kickstarter reward bundle

My Kickstarter pledge level entitled me to several eBooks and I received the download link on Christmas Eve, which was a nice present. In late January I finally received my signed copy of the book and a number of extra goodies including another copy of his earlier Commodore book, a FAT Agnus poster, two nice Amiga Years bookmarks and a couple of Amiga Corporation business cards revealing me as the Director of Hardware Engineering. OK Brian you are forgiven! 😉

I suppose the real question is: was the book worth the wait? I read Brian's original book, On the Edge - The Spectacular Rise and Fall of Commodore when it was first released way back in 2005. So thirteen years on does his latest book, which concentrates on Commodore's Amiga years, but not necessarily just the Amiga of course, provide any more information compared to his original book. If you go by the number of pages one would have to say it certainly does.

Future Amigan - start them young I say!

He has split the Amiga years into two volumes, the first of which is just over 500 pages and covers the period 1984 to 1987. Assuming the second volume, entitled The Final Years, is a similar length, then this is almost double the length of the original On the Edge book which was approximately 560 pages and covered the period 1974 - 1998, including a short one page prologue about Jack Tramiel. Irrespective of the length of the book, the important question that needs to be answered: is the book worth reading? Like Brian's original book, it is very well researched, contains lots of first hand interviews and inspiring stories and should appeal to anyone who has an interest in Commodore and the Amiga. If you did not participate in the Kickstarter campaign you can still order the book from Amazon.

Talking about Commodore books, David Pleasance will soon be releasing his own inside story of his life and times at Commodore. His book, entitled Commodore : The Inside Story was funded by another Kickstarter backed campaign. David spent 12 years at Commodore in several senior managerial and international roles. He has promised to reveal all the dark secrets behind the company that dominated the 8-bit computer revolution, created the world's best selling personal computer and launched the revolutionary Amiga before declaring bankruptcy in 1994. His book was originally intended to be his own true recollections of his time at Commodore but the project has grown and now includes chapters from other key Commodore individuals who have promised to share their own personal Commodore tales. Again if you did not contribute the original Kickstarter campaign don't despair,  you can still pre-order a copy of the book directly from David's website.

Polaris - the Amiga's new North Star

Commonly known as the North or Pole star, Polaris is the brightest star in the constellation of Ursa Minor and is located almost at the North Celestial Pole, the point in the sky where all the stars seen from the Northern Hemisphere appear to rotate. Actually, the North Star is not a single star but a combination of several stars which add to its brightness and was used by early explorers in the Northern Hemisphere for navigation. It's probably quite apt that AMD called its 4th generation graphics architecture Polaris and produces a series of graphics cards in its Radeon RX 400 & 500 range. Even SONY's PS4 Pro is powered by Polaris graphics technology. With graphics card technology advancing so fast in the mainstream computing world, AMD's Radeon Southern Island graphics cards were rapidly becoming obsolete and difficult to find. Even the newer Oland based Radeon R7 240 variants are becoming increasingly scarce. In order to have a supply of readily available cards for our new AmigaOne hardware it was vitally important to create drivers for the Polaris based Radeon RX cards as soon as possible.

We are really fortunate to have a talented developer like Hans de Ruiter working on projects for A-EON Technology. For the past six months he has been hard at work creating the new Radeon RX graphics driver for AmigaOS 4.1 to support our AmigaOne hardware. It has been a long and difficult task and, as Matthew Leaman commented, made more difficult by "non-existent hardware documentation and endianess issues."

Radeon RX graphics cards

After a number of beta test releases, Hans has now issued version 1.6 of the RX driver to the Enhancer Software beta-test team. This is the pre-release version which has full 2D hardware acceleration and compositing implemented.

Tower57 - AmigaOne X5000 with RX580

As a double test, I installed a Radeon RX580 (Polaris) card in my AmigaOne X5000 and ran the Tower57 game. I'm pleased to say the card and game performed very well. I also tested a passively cooled RX460, along with an RX550 and RX570 and all of the cards performed well in my AmigaOne X5000. When the RX driver is finally released it will also fully support 64-bit VRAM, breaking the 256 Mb graphics RAM barrier, and Warp3D-Nova.

The Golden Child makeover

Cast your mind back to mid 2011 and the ongoing beta test programme for the yet to be released AmigaOne X1000. While the other 95+ beta testers were having fun helping to test the AmigaOne X1000, I had delayed receiving my Nemo board. The delay was all in a good cause. It allowed Varisys to use my board to perform all of the system tests and health checks over an extended period of time on the new Rev 2.1 design. More importantly for me at least, it allowed all the other beta testers to receive their boards as soon as possible. Varisys shipped my board to AmigaKit in August 2011. When Christopher Follett, AmigaKit's technician, opened the shipping carton he discovered that Varisys had wrapped the box containing my board in gold wrapping paper to denote its unique status. He immediately nicknamed my board the Golden Child. AmigaKit installed my Nemo board into a nice Boing Ball modified white Fractal tower case and, for several months, continued to use my X1000 as their in-house test system. Eventually, AmigaKit shipped my system to me in late 2011 just before the AmigaOne X1000 'First Contact' edition was commercially released. Several months after I received my machine, I started having issues with the main case PSU until eventually it died altogether. Fortunately I was able to trace the fault and after a quick soldering job my X1000 was back up and running. My AmigaOne was fully loaded with six HDD's, a CDROM together with a RadeonHD graphics card, Sound and Ethernet cards as well as a Catweasel Anniversary edition. Every so often I would experience problems with certain devices not recognized on power-up. At the time I put it down to AmigaOS 4.1 beta updates I was installing but when I started to test various PowerPC Linux distributions the problem still occasionally arose. Fast forward to 2018. Actually it's hard to believe that seven years have passed by so quickly.

The Golden Child - AmigaOne X1000 - 2018

I finally decided to replace that dodgy PSU unit in my X1000 tower. On checking the Fractal website I discovered that they had a special limited edition White and Gold Define R5 tower case for sale. It just had to be. Didn't the Golden Child, the motherboard that proved the Nemo Rev 2.1 design, just deserve to have that case? 🙂 Fortunately the limited edition case was available to buy in New Zealand so I ordered it along with a new PSU.  As soon as it arrived I quickly reassembled my AmigaOne X1000 system and on first power-up she immediately booted to the Workbench screen. I'm pleased to report that all of the previous PSU problems have disappeared and my Golden Child looks really good in her new surroundings. Apparently Nemo can be a girl's or boy's name so my AmigaOne X1000 is definitely feminine.  😉  After a couple of weeks of almost continuous use I have to say my AmigaOne X1000 has never performed or looked better! 🙂

Keep talking

The recent death of Dr. Stephen Hawking, the preeminent theoretical physicist, cosmologist, author and all round genius got me thinking about the first time I read his book, A Brief History of Time when it was published in the late 1980s. I read the book twice and could still not get my head around some of his intricate mathematical concepts about life, the universe and everything! It wasn't until my wife bought me the illustrated version complete with colour pictures, published in 1996 that a I finally started to understand some of his advanced theories about space and time. 😉 I also remember a very iconic British TV commercial in which Hawkings appeared in the early 1990s to promote BT (the leading UK telecommunications company). The advert was part of BT's It's Good to Talk campaign which, while obviously aimed at promoting the company's business, had it's central theme that we, as human beings, have accomplished our greatest technological achievements by talking and our greatest failures by not talking. His message was clear, "All we need to do is make sure we keep talking". The commercial inspired English rock band Pink Floyd to compose the song Keep Talking for their 1994 album, The Division Bell which included Hawking's distinctive synthesized voice sampled from the BT advert. Pink Floyd again used his voice on the track “Talkin’ Hawkin’ ” in  their final studio album, The Endless River, released in 2014. With all the miscommunication and mayhem happening around the word today, we really need to make sure we keep talking, listening and communicating. RIP Stephen, the word will miss your brilliant mind.

AmigaOne A1222 update

Talking about communicating, I receive a lot of requests for information about the release date for the AmigaOne A1222. At AmiWest 2017 and Amiga32, in agreement with Hyperion Entertainment, I was able to present the first public showing of the AmigaOne A1222 running a pre-release beta version of AmigaOS 4.1. I was able to demonstrate that AmigaOS4.1 is very stable on the A1222 which also fully supports the latest RadeonHD 3.x, including the new 64-bit VRAM feature, along with Warp 3D Nova and Warp3D-SI. However, I did reveal that work was still ongoing on the Audio and Ethernet drivers and well as FPU optimsation. The A1222 has not been totally cut-off from cyberspace since the AmigaOS 4.1 beta iso included a driver for an inexpensive USB-to-Ethernet device which allowed the A1222 to connect to the web. A number of the beta testers, including me, have been using the device for online access and I even wrote and posted an earlier blog using the device/driver. The USB-to-Ethernet device was a good stop-gap measure but obviously not suitable for the final AmigaOne A1222 release.

Remote Desktop on AmigaOne A1222 to Windows PC

I'm actually writing this blog using a combination Odyssey and Remote Desktop on my AmigaOne A1222 to test out a new on-board Ethernet driver written by AmigaOS 4.1 developer Rene' Olsen. 🙂 .

I'm pleased to report that Rene's driver appears to be very stable and works well. I've downloaded multiple copies of the latest Enhancer Software v2.x beta archives and installed numerous programs and utilities from AMIStore and transferred gigabytes of data over my LAN without any problems.

Running OWB on AmigaOne A1222

Even better the driver appears to be on par and perhaps a little faster that the standard OS4 network driver for my RTL8139 Ethernet card. Incidentally, Rene' also wrote the driver for the USB-to-Ethernet device so I suppose it's no surprise that the initial release of his Ethernet driver works so well. I've attached a couple of screengrabs showing Remote Desktop and Odyssey on my A1222, two programs which are always a good tests of network performance. The driver has now been issued to the A1222 beta testers for thorough stress testing. Rene' received some help from Justin Hibbits who was recommended to Steven Solie by Alex Perez. Alex is another A1222 & X5000 beta tester who has a particular fondness for Linux. Justin is a committer at FreeBSD who, according to Steven, is looking for help with the FreeBSD port. If any Linux motivated A1222 beta testers want to help Justin complete FreeBSD for Tabor/A1222 please make contact and I will pass on your details. We already have the Atlantis and Pathfinder Tabor boards working 24/7 building Debian SPE thanks to the work of  John Paul Adrian Glaubitz.

Portable Portia

Hans with PORTIA proof-of-concept prototype

Not only is Hans de Ruiter a graphics wizard, he is also a fully fledged member of the modern maker culture. 😉 Not content with helping to drive AmigaOS graphics development, in his spare time he is working on a special DIY Mini-ITX laptop project. He is using his Tabor beta motherboard as the trial basis for a portable AmigaOne laptop which we have codenamed PORTIA (PORtable Tabor Inspired AmigaOne). Of course, as Amigans you will know that PORTIA was also the name given to the original Ports and Audio custom chip in the very first Amiga. Later its functionality would be expanded and the chip would be renamed PAULA. In true Amiga spirit, Hans is developing his DIY laptop kit for people who enjoy making stuff and who would like to build a laptop from parts they choose themselves.

Portia prototype keyboard & screen

The PORTIA variant is especially for AmigaOS 4.x fans who want a fully-featured portable machine that runs AmigaOS 4.x natively and includes full 3D graphics acceleration via Warp3D Nova 3D which, according to Hans, "will be the fastest path to a true AmigaOS laptop within an acceptable time-frame and cost". While Hans is in full control of the project, A-EON Technology has agreed to assist him with commercialisation to help minimise the production cost of the DIY kit parts. Hans demoed his proof-of-concept PORTIA prototype at AmiWest 2017 last year.

If you want to find out more about Hans' DIY laptop project, please visit his Kea Sigma delta website. You can also subscribe to his mailing list to receive regular video updates from Hans as he progresses along his PORTIA journey. His latest video describes his complete redesign of the laptop battery holder.

Into the Blue

Frank Mariak - MorphOS 3.10 - AmigaOne X5000

At the AmiWest 2017 and Amiga 32 shows in October last year I saw demonstrations of MorphOS running on the AmigaOne X5000/20. Fresh from a major operation, Paul 'Acill' Rezendes still managed to travel to Sacramento to demo a beta version of MorphOS 3.10 on his AmigaOne X5000. He was scheduled to give a presentation on the main screen but unfortunately, due to an incompatibility with his graphics card and the hotel's AVS, he was unable to use the hotel's large screen. All was not lost however as Bill Borsari used his hand-held video camera for a closeup one-on-one Paul's MorphOS demo. A week later in Neuss, Frank Mariak demonstrated the latest beta version of MorphOS running on the X5000. Unlike the traditional MorphOS screen and icons that Paul showed at AmiWest, which date back to 2005, the new version sported a much cleaner and modern look. More importantly, it appeared to run very well on the X5000.

MorphOS 3.10 beta - Live mode on my AmigaOne X5000

Recently I got the chance to try out the latest beta version of MorphOS 3.10 on my own AmigaOne X5000/20. First of all I had to remove the Radeon HD7970 graphics card that I had installed and replace it with another Radeon HD card that MorphOS fully supports. I tried a couple of cards before settling on an MSI R6670 (HD6670) which seemed to work OK. After that, the installation process was quite fast and painless. I do like the MorphOS CD Live mode that lets you try MorphOS before you install it. The Live mode allows you to set up networking and audio from the CD which enables you to browse the net with OWB or play tunes with Jukebox. A very nice feature indeed. I haven't had a lot of time to try out MorphOS yet but in general it seems to run very well on my X5000. I don't know when MorphOS 3.10 will be available for general release so please don't ask me. 😉

RetCon - retro gaming festival

If you are going to be in the London area on Saturday 16th of June why don't you make your way to the Greenford Community Centre to attend the RetConFestival, a retro gaming festival organised by the Greenford Computer Club. Former Commodore UK MD, David Pleasance will be at the show and by that date he should have copies of his book for sale and signing. I will also be attending the show and will be talking about my Commodore and Amiga passion (hey who said obsession?). Tickets are currently on sale through Eventbrite and according to the organiser, Steve Bennett, even at this early stage they are already selling well. So come along and meet David and me and let's have some Triple-A fun! 😉

....and finally Boing Ball pictures of the week

The Boingcaster

The Boingcaster by Thomas "Rocking" Frieden, our own resident AmigaOS software genius, rock guitarist and artist! Who would have known?  🙂

Cool Boing Ball warmers 😉

And if that is not enough for you, Jamie Krueger, the owner and developer of BITbyBIT Software Group LLC presented me with a great selection of Boing Ball warmers (or coolers), knitted  by his wife, when we met up at AmiWest 2017 in October last year.

Jamie has a very interesting Amiga history and is of course the owner and developer of BITbyBIT Software Group LLC. He is well known for AVD, his SDK Browser for AmigaOS4 and even spent a short time working under under Bill McEwen at Amiga, Inc. What I did not realise is Jamie is also an avid Amiga collector and has a fine collection of Classic and Next-Generation Amiga machines. He was an original AmigaOne X1000 beta tester and is currently working on both the AmigaOne X5000 and A1222 machines. A freeware version of Jamie's SDK Browser for AmigaOS4 is available on AMIStore for download.

..........until next time

 

 

31Dec/17Off

2018 countdown

As 2017 draws to a close I wish all Amigans a very happy, prosperous and most of all, safe 2018.

AmigaOne A1222

AmigaOne A1222 video link

AmigaOne X5000 - Happy New Year

New Year countdown from New Zealand video link

Happy New Year & Tau Hou hari from New Zealand

26Dec/17Off

What a story!

In disguise on my way to the Commodore story

What a year it has been! I can't believe it has passed so quickly. Having just returned from attending the Premiere of the Commodore Story documentary in London I've just booked my flights to attend the Amiga Ireland 2018 Event in January. It's a hard life being an Amigan but as the saying goes, "someones got to do it!" 😉

All that remains to be said is: Merry Christmas and Season's Greetings to all Amigans everywhere.

15Oct/17Off

A Doubleheader

I'm not talking about two back-to-back baseball games but the upcoming AmiWest 2017 and Amiga32 shows which I will be attending this month in Sacramento, California and Neuss, Germany. I'm pleased to say that, once again A-EON Technology is a major sponsor of both Amiga shows. I leave the shores of New Zealand on Wednesday evening next week and arrive in San Francisco on Wednesday morning. I'll let you work that one out. 😉 I'll be meeting up with Paul Sadlik and Matthew Leaman at SFO airport for our now traditional drive to AmiWest. Hopefully this year we will arrive unscathed and I will still be in possession of my passport and A.L.I.C.E. Laptop. After AmiWest I'll be winging my way to the UK for some business meetings before flying over to Dusseldorf with Matthew Leaman where we are being met by Amiga32 show organiser, Markus Tillman. For me Amiga shows are not really about the hardware or software on display but about the people I get to meet and the triple-A (After Amiga show Activities) fun and games we get up to at the event. If you have never visited an Amiga show before you are really missing out. You get a chance to meet up with many of the people you seen posting on the Amiga community forums and for some strange reason they are just so much friendlier in person. 😉

AmigaOne A1222 Update

AmigaOne A1222 at Amiga30th Anniversary in 2015

It's been a while coming but we hope to present the AmigaOne A1222 at both the AmiWest and Amiga32 shows later this month. Actually, the A1222 has been displayed running Debian PowerPC Linux at numerous Amiga shows over the past two years. The machine also made a sneak appearance in the Amiga family group photo taken at the Amiga30th Anniversary celebrations at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California in 2015. I even had a video of AmigaOS4.1 running on the A1222 playing under Linux on the A1222 at VCF SE 5.0 retro show in Roswell, Georgia in April this year. This time however, the plan is to show AmigaOS 4.1 running on the AmigaOne A1222 in a live public demonstration for the first time. Although there is still some work needed to done on audio and Ethernet drivers before the AmigaOne A1222 can be commercially released, the FPU optimization appears to be progressing well.

AmigaOne A1222 running AmigaOS 4.1 Beta

As a test, I decided to write this blog on my AmigaOne A1222 using the latest version of the Odyssey web browser. Odyssey handles the WordPress dashboard quite well although not everything works perfectly. Resizing images after they have been inserted is a bit problematic under Odyssey but apart from that, most other operations appear to work OK. Was the A1222 up to the task? Apart from the hassle resizing images, which is common to all AmigaOS 4.1 machines, I was pleasantly surprised by the A1222's performance. I even managed to grab a short video of the AmigaOne A1222 in action. Now let's just get the commercial version released!

An Amigan's tale

As I've mentioned on several occasions, I frequently receive unsolicited emails from satisfied Amigans thanking me for keeping the Amiga dream alive by helping to produce new Amiga hardware and software. The other day I received such an email from Paul 'Acill' Rezendes. He wrote, "I am having a lot of fun with the (AmigaOne) x5000 and its changed my feelings drastically on Amiga NG. Its been my new go to machine now for all my Amiga needs. Its VERY nice, and I hope to see it continue to advance." I have to admit, when I receive emails like this, especially from someone like Paul who is so knowledgeable and active in the Amiga scene it really does make it all worthwhile. I contacted Paul and asked asked if he could provide his Amiga backstory for my blog and this is what he sent back:

"I grew up in Santa Clara, Ca. and was exposed to computers at an early age. My first Amiga was an A1000 back in late 1986. I saved up for it from doing yard work and money earned from delivering newspapers. Once I got a real job when I was 15 I started to upgrade it. The first thing was RAM and a 20MB SCSI drive, then I moved on to the Amiga 3000 when it was released taking advantage of the trade up program commodore offered. I had this Amiga 3000 all the way up to joining the Navy in 1991 and upgraded it heavily over the years. When I finally sold it for the money to get a Pegasus II machine and run MorphOS just before they were publicly released.

Paul's AmigaOne X5000 Pack

The Amiga has been a part of my life since the beginning of its release up to today. As a MorphOS user, I was never in the group of fans that caused trouble with the OS4 fans during the times when it got ugly several years ago. I have had an Amiga in my possession of some type from 1986 and have been a member of some spectacular Amiga users groups. The most known being SACC (Home to Amiwest) and in the past BAAUG (Bay Area Amiga users Group), FAUG (Fremont Amiga users Group), TOGA (The other Group of Amigaoids) and a few more I am sure I missed from the heyday of the late 80's and 90's. While I served in the US Navy from 1991 through 2012 I learned a lot of the current skills I have now that many of you know me for that helps to keep these great machines alive."

Paul with his AmigaOne X5000

"I met Amiga users from around the world and still keep in touch with many of them today. Currently I have a CDTV, A500, A600, A2000, A4000T, several MorphOS compatible Macintosh machine from G4 PowerBooks all the way up to the G5 PowerMac and my new pride and joy, the X5000! Not knowing what to expect for several years with OS4.1FE and not having the money to justify the expense of a machine that can run it I put it off to the side as just a novelty of the Amiga. The only real experience I had of it was with my 4000T, and it was painfully slow and not very usable over what 3.9 would run. Talking with Matt (Leaman) and watching it advance over the years at AmiWest I decided now was the time to get one. I was very mistaken in my belief that it wasn't a replacement for classic systems I love so much, in fact its now my main Amiga machine! Its replaced the 4000T that I have upgraded with nearly everything you can put it in, and it runs CIRCLES around it! Classic applications, games, productivity apps, web browsing and more all work better than 3.9 on what I believe is one of the fastest A4000T machines in the US with its 75Mhz 060 and 410Mhz PPC equipped CSPPC. Its truly remarkable."

Paul in AmiWest repair mode

"As a Navy trained electronics engineering technician I have developed a passion for fixing things. I used to repair Amiga boards and did upgrades on the side for close friends and club members up to about two years ago. While browsing various forums I came across a member that did work through eBay that admittedly didn't know the Amiga, but did recaps on them anyway. I saw the poor quality of the work and also read horror stories of people having machines killed by him. I was asked over and over by those that knew what I could do for some help and had requests to go public. So that's what I did. I now do several systems, game consoles and of course the Amiga on the side in my spare time. Getting them done can be slow since I travel a lot for my full-time job, but I treat every board I get as my own. They come out like new once I give them the "Acill" treatment and I love the praise and support I get for doing them. I try to keep my costs as low as I can so I can pass it on. Usually I break even on parts, but I love to do it and love the thanks in return!" Now that what I call a true Amigan. Thank you Paul for sharing your Amiga journey.

AMIGAAA! at SAKU 2017

Courtesy Finnish Amiga User group - SAKU 2017

I read somewhere that Finland has the best education system in the world and the most heavy metal bands per capita. Which only goes to explain why the Amiga scene is alive and kicking in Finland. One Amiga show I really must try to visit one day is SAKU event organised by the Finnish Amiga Users Group. I was contacted by Tapio Koivuniemi, an AmigaOne X5000 owner and one of the SAKU organizer who requested some A-EON posters for the show. Although I mailed the poster in plenty of time, as luck would have it, they arrived four days after the event. I guess it's a long way to Finland from New Zealand. I asked Tapio for a brief after- show report and this is what he sent me:

AmigaOne X5000

"Saku 2017 was held on 30th of September in Oulu. The event got good publicity with a local major newspaper showing Amiga 1200 on 'events this weekend' - page. The total number of visitors is hard to calculate as  the event was open from 2PM to 12PM so total 10 hours of Amiga. Anyway more than 70 persons wrote in the guest book, so probably the total amount of visitors was around 150 people. What was nice - lots of families and children enjoying classic Amiga games and of course latest demos of Tower 57 and Wings Remastered. Lots of new things were shown - the AmigaOne x5000 first time in a public event in Finland, new version of MorphOS (3.10) and FPGA powered MIST and Vampire V2+ on Amiga 2000.

A4000 driving 5 monitors

There was also an Amiga 4000 running five  graphics cards and five monitors, just awesome. Lots of children enjoyed games like Lotus2, Superfrog, Stunt Car Racer, Skidmarks and Sensible Soccer. The Sensible Soccer tournament was arranged later in the evening with really good prizes too (shirts). The tight tournament ended with challenges for a re-match for the next year (I lost the final 2-0 😉  What was especially nice was to see so many young players enjoying Amiga games.

Kids playing Tower 57 on an AmigaOne X5000

Especially Tower57 was successfully played as a 2-player for a looong time by two young girls. Other NG games that people seemed to enjoy were Voxel Bird and M.A.C.E. Beside the gaming, the Viva Amiga - documentary was shown, what a great movie, it's just like watching one hour long Amiga trailer 🙂 Lots of current and past Amiga developers were visiting the event, main organisers being jPV guy responsible of new RNO - apps and Mr. Octamed Teijo Kinnunen (who joined me for couple of beers after the event (was it called AAA on your blog ;-))."

Thanks for the SAKU show report Tapio. It's good to know that the Amigan triple-A effect is alive and well in Finland.

Dr AmigaDOS I presume?

Russell Island, Queensland, Australia

OK I admit it's probably a bit over dramatic! Traveling to Russell Island off the coast of Brisbane in Queensland, Australia to meet Colin Wenzel, the main AmigaDOS developer cannot be compared to Stanley's historic meeting with Dr David Livingstone on the shores of Lake Tanganyika in 1869. "Dr. Livingstone, I presume?" Livingstone responded, "Yes", and then "I feel thankful that I am here to welcome you." I don't think Tony Wyatt or me said anything quite so profound or memorable when we met Colin on his island retreat for the first time.

aerial view Russell Island

If you have followed the development of AmigaOS 4 you will know that Tony Wyatt is a very active developer and beta tester with a string of AmigaOS 4 developments to his name. Colin, on the other hand, has earned the deserved reputation as the leading AmigaDOS guru following the evolution of AmigaOS 4.1. What were we doing at Colin's island hideaway you might ask?. Tony came up with the idea that we should upgrade Colin's AmigaOS4.1 developer experience with a shiny new AmigaOne X5000 system. Like most AmigaOS developers, Colin set his system up years ago and does all of his development work on a very slow system compared to the AmigaOne X1000 & X5000 AmigaOS 4 powerhouses now available. This is not a unique phenomena. For many years Tony himself used an aging A1-XE system for all his development work, even after he acquired his AmigaOne X1000 system in 2012. However, a few years ago he finally moved his development over to the X1000 and was truly amazed by the transformation. So much so that he now claims the AmigaOne X1000 is the best Amiga ever made. (that is until he moves his development system to the X5000 in a couple of years time ;-)).

Colin 'AmigaDOS' Wenzel

Anyway, Tony knew that Colin would benefit from a similar AmigaOS developer epiphany. So we ordered a Cyrus Plus P5020 motherboard from A-EON and planned the trip to Russell Island. Tony made the long drive 922Km (523 miles) drive from Sydney to Brisbane in Maccas**, his heaving customised minivan which he has driven all over Australia. I had the shorter and less stressful four hour flight from Wellington to Brisbane and Tony met me at the airport for our short 45 minute drive to Redland Bay where we were picking up the car ferry for the ~1 hour trip to Russell Island.On arrival, our instructions were to drive directly to Colin's house. The Island is only 8 km long and 3 km wide and with one central road it was only a 5 minute ride to Colin's house set among native trees in a heavily wooded area. After we made our introductions we got straight down to Amiga business. Unfortunately, due to the "remoteness" of Colin's island, the DHL Express service could not guarantee the board would arrive before our visit and of course it didn't!

X5000 demonstration with Odyssey web browser

Tony had anticipated this outcome and had brought along his Cyrus Plus motherboard which he had installed in an old PC case to give Tony a demonstration of the X5000 in action. The internet speed and capacity on Russell Island is very low but Colin was keen to try the Odyssey web browser playing Youtube videos, something he can't really do with his current system. Having passed the Youtube test, Colin gave us an online tour of the Island's houses via several real estate websites. He followed that up with a drive around the whole island which of course didn't take very long and in the evening treated us to a very tasty Chinese meal and a few drinks while we chatted about the Amiga's past, present and future.

TV & VCR sales and service

Colin has a very interesting background. For many years he ran his own business, COL's TV Shop, a TV & VCR sales and repair center in Mooloolaba on Australia's Sunshine Coast about 100 km north of Brisbane. As an early Amigan he found himself setting up or repairing Amigas for his friends although it was not a part of his main business, it certainly grew over time. He got into AmigaDOS programming almost by accident and taught himself the coding skills which would prove so valuable later on.

Colin feeding birds with raw meat

Eventually, after a health scare, he decided to retire from his day job and move to the tranquil peace and quiet of Russell Island with its full time population of less than 2,000 inhabitants, although tourists and day-trippers like Tony and I swell those numbers. When he first moved, his was the only house on the block. He does have a few neighbors now but is still completely surrounded by native Australian flora and fauna and every day he feeds raw meat to the kookaburras, magpies and other birds who turn up for their daily treat. As a self trained coder, he became involved with AmigaOS 4 very early on and wanted a project he could get his teeth into. Someone (Olaf Barthel?) suggested AmigaDOS needed to be converted from 68K to PowerPC and the rest is history. 15 years later he is now the acclaimed OS4 AmigaDOS expert. Colin's skill does not stop at programming and as an electronics engineer he designs and builds his own circuit boards for marine fishing net locator buoys.

Tony's Maccas-chinations

I was really intrigued by Tony's do-it-yourself minivan with its homemade fuel injection and transmission systems so I asked for some background information and this is what he sent me:

Tony and Maccas

"Maccas was conceived in 1995 when we were on holiday in Alice Springs in a Nissan van (two-wheel drive) and I decided that I was going to build my own four-wheel drive campervan, since there were so many places in the outback that we could not go without four-wheel drive. I bought a long-wheelbase two-wheel drive van (fairly new) and an older short-wheelbase four-wheel drive van. With the advice, guidance and eventual approval of a local licenced engineer, I swapped the running gear between the two vans and sold the short-wheelbase van as two-wheel drive. The project was originally called "The Macrobus" (as distinct from a VW "Microbus"), but the name was soon abbreviated to "Maccas".

Maccas on the car ferry

Maccas took all of 1996 to build and was first registered in December 1996. Maccas has his own home-designed and built fuel injection (my hardware and software) and his own transmission (I had to join the gearbox and transfer case together with a custom adaptor section). His cabin section/living area runs off 24 volts, which feeds the lights, fridge, water pump, microwave and a DC-DC inverter to keep the vehicle battery charged. The fridge runs off 12/24/240V, auto switched. The microwave contains my own electronics. There is also a 1 kW 240 VAC inverter/24V 50A battery charger.

on the road again

There are several small computers in the bus - one for the engine control, one for the User Interface on the dashboard, one for the four-wheel drive actuator (electronically controlled, of course). Each device uses a Motorola 68HC11 micro. These micros are mounted on small PCBs and sold by a guy in New Zealand for minimal cost. I use them everywhere. I code for them in C or assembler, the compiler runs under Windows but I use my "luggable" Sam 440 to upload code to the CPUs and/or capture debug information."

When you scratch the surface of any Amigan you soon realise the unique and talented people like Paul, Tony and Colin who were drawn to the Amiga scene and, even better they are still contributing to its continued development and survival. Long may it continue.

Retro Planet Revival

Four years ago I was interviewed for the inaugural edition of Retro Planet, a new Greek language magazine completely devoted to retro computing.

Retro Planet 4th Birthday

I can't believe the last four years have passed so quickly. It seems only yesterday that AmigaKit shipped the first commercial AmigaOne X1000 system in December 2011 following a successful beta test programme. The AmigaOne X5000 began shipping late last year and the new entry level AmigaOne A1222 machine is not far behind. Over the same period the focus of A-EON Technology has shifted to include more software content to support the hardware that is being developed. The Retro Planet interview was probably the first really in-depth interview I had given up to that point. It ran to almost 6K words and covered may topics including a discussion about the high NRE costs associated with small volume development and manufacturing. Although the magazine is printed in Greek, an English language translation was later posted on the Retro Planet website. The new interview follows the same in-depth format as the original and again runs to over 5K words. If you don't speak Greek I'm sure the producers of Retro Planet will again post an English language version in the future.

Linux Corner

Just your usual Linux desktops?

I am just amazed by the sheer volume of work that the key members of our core Linux team get through. Almost every day they are generating new kernel builds for our hardware, creating updated Linux PowerPC distributions and contributing the greater Linux cause. While our AmigaOne hardware is designed for the AmigaOS it's good to know that it is also helping to support the ongoing development of Linux PowerPC distributions.

...and finally

A future Amigan on a C128

I'm writing this update as I await the arrival of my first grandchild. The birth was due last Sunday and, at the moment, it does not look like the baby will arrive before I leave for San Francisco on Wednesday. Fortunately I have a very understanding wife & daughter and they have given me clearance to travel to Amiwest and Amiga32. I would expect nothing else really as both my daughters grew up using Commodore and Amiga computers. They played learning games on the C64, completed their high school work on an Amiga A2000 and went back to playing games on an Amiga CD32. 😉 Rachel wrote the special boot sounds and music for the AmigaOne X1000 & X5000 as well as music and sound effects for several animations and demos.

.....until next time Adios Amigans