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

29May/12Off

eXciting times

Xena Warrior Princess correction,  AmigaOS Developer!

This is the story of one developer's quest for redemption of past sins as a Windows programmer by using his formidable coding skills to help the AmigaOS community!

Lyle Hazlewood - Xena coder

Ahem, back to reality………..

I've been playing around with "blinky" quite a lot recently. That does sound a little strange! It's a small utility created by Lyle Hazelwood to show the AmigaONE X1000 communicating with its onboard Xena chip (aka the XMOS XS1-L2). Thanks to the expertise and hard work of Lyle, the AmigaOS now has its first native programming tools and xena.resource. These allow the A1-X1000 to access and control the Xena chip from an AmigaOS command line without the need for an adapter board or JTAG cable. Thanks must also go to Segher Boessenkool whose code Lyle used to port the Xena tools to the AmigaOS. The Xena tools and resource have been included in a second interim update for registered “First Contact” customers and can be downloaded from the Hyperion Entertainment website.

Following the release of his Xena utilities, Lyle has volunteered to create the first Xorro application and we are sending him one of the prototype Xorro boards to allow him to demonstrate his “supernatural powers” for the greater good.  No pressure then Xena Lyle!

Visit Lyle’s web page for more information: Link

Classic Reflections

Following my previous blog I received several emails asking me for information about my “Classic Reflections” series of articles in the “Amiga Future” magazine. I’ve been writing articles for “Amiga Future” for about 5 years now. The subjects have been many and varied and have included articles about:- WinUAE, AmiKit, Amiga Forever, iMica & Icaros Desktop together with special features like “What is an Amiga?" and even the Android OS.

However, it all began in 2007 when I had the fortune to meet Robert Williams and Mick Sutton of the SEAL Amiga users group. Back then Seal was an active and thriving Amiga users group with members from the South Essex and North London area.  It also included Mac users (no accounting for taste ;-) ) and produced “Total Amiga”, a really excellent bi-monthly English language magazine which attempted cover all “Amiga” interests. Incidentally, I am indebted to Robert for installing Amithlon, the x86 AmigaOS port created by Bernie Meyer and Harald Frank, on a discarded Tiny PC I had lying around. Years earlier I had purchased Amithlon as part of the AmigaOS XL package from Haage & Partner but, apart from using it as a live CD, had never got around to installing it.

Anyway, I managed to convince Robert, who was the editor, technical guru and driving force behind “Total Amiga” to let me write a series of articles about the history of the Amiga computers released by Commodore and ESCOM.  The series, which was entitled “Amiga Retrospective”, was originally conceived as a review of the Amiga hardware but over time morphed into something quite different. I chronicled the Amiga’s rise, fall and subsequent rebirth through next generation systems and numerous community initiatives. I presented the highs and lows in the Amiga’s evolution and tried to cover all “Amiga” flavours in an objective and balanced manner. The first two parts of the series appeared in “Total Amiga” but when the magazine closed in early 2007 the series later transferred to “Amiga Future” and ran for another 3 years and 17 more episodes.

While writing "Amiga Retrospective" I would have liked to have included more information about some of the individuals and companies that played an intricate part in the Amiga’s story. The Editors at Amiga Future granted me my wish and the result is “Classic Reflections”, a new series of articles which asks the question "Whatever happened to?" I've already written five articles in the series which have covered the contributions made by “Gold Disk”, “Electronic Arts”, “Softwood” and “GP Software”. The next article, which appears in issue 97, covers "ASDG", the company behind ADPro and MorphPlus who went on to transform the special effects industry. Please visit the "Amiga Future" website if you want any further details.

Link:  Amiga Future website

22May/12Off

The Reluctant Penguin

Over the past few months I’ve been heavily involved in helping to port various GNU/Linux distributions to the AmigaONE X1000. My role has been to test each installation created by our Linux gurus and write the user installation guide. If I have to be honest, I’ve never been a big fan of Linux - there I’ve said it, please don’t shoot me! ;-) However, a few years ago I began experimenting with Linux on several “Amiga Next Generation” machines. This included Debian Woody, Sarge and Lenny on my A1-XE; Ubuntu 8.10 on my Pegasos II and Debian Lenny on my Sam 440 Flex.

I’ve also installed Ubuntu, PCLinuxOS and Fedora on several old PCs and Laptops and have played with numerous free Linux distributions supplied with various computer magazines. I’ve installed multiple Linux flavours under VMWare and even Linux under Linux using VirtualBox on a PC. (I admit that does sound a little geeky!)

Don’t get me wrong, in recent years the usability of Linux has improved in leaps and bounds for mere mortals like me. No longer do I have to spend hours downloading and burning multiple CDs, typing in hundreds of lines of unintelligible & incomprehensible code only for the installation to fail at the last step after many hours of work. Most modern Linux distributions are now quite user friendly and the installation process is much improved using streamlined Net install disks coupled with fast broadband connections. Linux is also blessed with a massive database of free productivity software and is supported by tens of thousands of active developers dedicated to the free software ideal. Despite all of these excellent improvements which have made Linux more accessible to a much wider audience, a PC running Linux is well………..still a PC.  It’s not an Amiga.

Having said that, I’m pleased to report that, thanks to the expertise, hard work and dedication of several AmigaONE X1000 beta testers and “First Contact” owners we now have five PowerPC Linux distributions that can be installed on the AmigaONE X1000 alongside AmigaOS 4. This includes Debian Squeeze 6.05, MintPPC 11, Gentoo, CruxPPC and Ubuntu 12.04 LTS. Which distribution is best? That is down to personal choice and preference. If you want a rock solid distribution, choose Debian Squeeze. If 3D applications and games are more important you might select MintPPC. If you prefer the most popular mainstream Linux distribution with a good-looking Unity 2D desktop install Ubuntu. Linux experts will likely want to install either Gentoo or CRUX PPC. Then again if you have the time, disk space and inclination you can install all five, then go back to using AmigaOS, for fun and relaxation. ;-)

After my foray into the Linux world it’s always good to get back to using the AmigaOS, whether it’s AmigaOS 4, AmigaOS Classic or one of the other “Amiga like” flavours such as MorphOS or Icaros Desktop. It’s like being with an old friend who’s on the same wavelength, puts up with your quirks and idiosyncrasies, laughs at your bad jokes and doesn’t mind if you smell a little. Hey, who said pass the deodorant!

Now I must get back to writing my next Classic Reflections article for “Amiga Future”. Whatever happened to “ASDG”?

11May/12Off

PowerPC is dead……………Yeah Right!

Apologies for (mis) using the slogan from the New Zealand Tui beer advert but I've seen a lot of posts in recent weeks about the final death of the PowerPC CPU for desktop computers.

Recently while travelling around the north of England I visited the National Media centre in Bradford. I picked up an interesting book on the history of the microcomputer revolution which covered all the models released from 1975-1998. Unfortunately, I'm old enough to remember most of them. However, I had forgotten the amazing variety and choice of desktop machines available for home users long before Microsoft and Intel came to dominate the scene. This was a frenetic period of technical advancement on both sides of the Atlantic and Japan. New machines were released, almost on a monthly basis, each with its own unique features and programming languages. It was an unprecedented period of choice and innovation which would shape the future IT industry. Models developed by a handful of enthusiasts were taken as seriously as machines from industry giants.

Of course this all changed with the introduction of the ubiquitous IBM PC and the subsequent PC clones, which introduced standardisation and compatibility and led to domination of the desktop market. Today, unless your requirement is for an IBM Power Server workstation (unlikely for a home user), your choice for a desktop PC system is limited to x86 variants, probably running a version of Microsoft Windows. Even Apple, who once "dared to be different" have joined the ranks of the grey masses, albeit with more stylish products. A recent survey reported that ~92% of the world's desktop computers run a variation of Windows. Despite making some inroads MacOS still only holds a ~5% share, while Linux (in all its guises) can only claim~1.5% of market share despite being the fastest growing mainstream desktop OS.

Against this global backdrop of x86 domination I suddenly realised that companies like A-EON Technology and ACube are really quite special and unique. It really quite staggering that we are designing and manufacturing custom built PowerPC desktop hardware for the tiny "Amiga Next Generation" market. Matthew Leaman (AmigaKit) and I recently met up with Varisys, our hardware partners, to discuss developments in the PowerPC field. They confirmed that new and exciting PowerPC CPUs are under development, some of which would be ideally suited to desktop applications. To mark the occasion of our meeting we stopped off for a quick photo shoot. Which brings me nicely back to my original comment.

PowerPC is dead...........Yeah right!

Paul Gentle (Varisys), Trevor Dickinson, Matthew Leaman (AmigaKit), Adam Barnes (Varisys)

PowerPC is dead.............Yeah Right!