Living in New Zealand but originating from the Northern hemisphere does cause a certain level of seasonal confusion. I will never get used to a Christmas summertime. In New Zealand we are now heading into autumn but March will always mean the start of springtime to me. For a hemispherically challenged person like me it was great to spend some time in January/February back in the UK to sample some real winter weather. It was my first trip ‘home’ since January 2020 and the onset of covid-19. It was good to meet up with family and friends after three years of travel restrictions and lockdowns. It was also great to meet up with fellow Amiga enthusiasts in Athlone at Amiga Ireland 2023. It’s my second live Amiga event following Amiga37 in Germany, and as always the craic was excellent. If you want to find out more about the show, check out my Soapbox article in the current edition of Amiga Future magazine.
Showtime x 4
With the world opened up again it’s great to see live Commodore and Amiga shows being planned. I will be travelling to the UK in June to attend two very different Amiga events. The first is Retcon 2023, a now annual retro gaming festival established by Steve Bennet and his team which is being held on Saturday June 17th at the Greenford Community Center located at 170 Oldfield Lane South, London, UK. This year I will attend along with David Pleasance and hopefully we will be available to sign the newly released second and third volumes of our From Vultures to Vampires trilogy. If you are going to be in London around June 17th and are looking for some summertime Amiga fun you can pick up your ticket from Eventbrite.
The second UK Amiga show of the summer is Ravi Abbot’s ambitious Kickstart-01, his attempt to create a UK Amiga Expo to celebrate the UK’s contribution to the Amiga gaming and music scene.
Kickstart 01 will take place on July 1st & 2nd at Meadow Lane, the home of Notts County FC, the world’s oldest professional association football club founded in November 1862. According to the publicity, the show will include guest stars, traders, UK Amiga user groups together with a retro-themed Re-cap party with live music from DJs and musicians performing a mix of 80s demos, mods, drum & bass and dance music. Tickets for the show are selling fast and the Re Cap after party has already sold out.
If you want to attend what promises to be the UK Amiga show of the decade you can orders your tickets from here.
I am pleased to confirm that I am sponsoring Kickstart 01 as the gold sponsor on behalf of A-EON Technology.
If you think these are the only Amiga events planned for 2023 you would be wrong. Buoyed by the success of Amiga 37 Germany last year, Markus Tillmann has decided to push ahead with another show this year. Amiga 38 will again take place at the Wickrather Kunstwerk in Mönchengladbach on October 6th and 7th. I am pleased to reveal that once again I will be the gold sponsor of the event on behalf of A-EON Technology. If you are based in mainland Europe and have not visited Amiga Germany in the past then this is the Amiga show for you. The tickets should be on sale soon.
And of course let’s not forget AmiWest, probably the longest running Amiga event in the world. AmiWest 2023 is scheduled from October 13th – 15th, at the Holiday Inn Express Cal Expo, 2224 Auburn Blvd., Sacramento, California, USA. As usual, the main show will be preceded by the AmiWest DevCon on October 12th-13th.
I hope to be able to attend AmiWest this year having missed the past three years. Whether I attend or not, I will still be sponsoring the show on behalf of A-EON Technology.
There will of course be many more international Commodore and Amiga events throughout the year as the world says goodbye to Covid-19. So what are you waiting for? Get along to one of your local events and make some new Amigos! 🙂
Chatbots and intelligence
Back in the 1980s, expert systems, neural networks, knowledge based inference engines and artificial intelligence were the buzz words of the day. Fast forward 40 years ‘intelligent’ Chatbots and deep machine learning are generating similar hype and excitement. New Zealand based Soul Machines began developing lifelike digital avatars, powered by artificial intelligence, that can interact with humans in natural and intuitive ways. Their digital avatars are designed to look and behave like real humans, with natural facial expressions, eye movements, and speech. By combining computer vision with natural language processing and machine learning, the avatars can be used for customer service, healthcare, and education.
Unsurprisingly, Microsoft has poured $ billions in development of complementary AI technology. In 2018 Microsoft formed a partnership with Soul Machines to use its Azure platform to power the Soul Machines AI-powered digital avatars. Microsoft also formed a closed relationship with OpenAI, a leading artificial intelligence research laboratory that was founded in December 2015 by several high-profile individuals in the tech industry, including Elon Musk, Sam Altman, Greg Brockman, Ilya Sutskever, and several others. OpenAI aim is to create safe and beneficial AI which is used ethically and responsibly. In 2019 Microsoft announced a partnership with OpenAI and invested $1 billion in the company. As a result OpenAI now uses Azure as its preferred cloud platform to run its large-scale AI models and simulations and Microsoft gained exclusive right to license some of OpenAI’s technologies. OpenAI also agreed to work with Microsoft to develop new AI technologies that could be used in Microsoft products and services. This has led to the development of language models like ChatGPT, which was created by OpenAI and trained on Microsoft’s Azure cloud computing platform.
I decided to ask ChatGPT to define itself. It replied,
GPT stands for “Generative Pre-trained Transformer”, which is a type of neural network architecture developed by OpenAI for natural language processing tasks. The models use a deep learning technique called transformer architecture, which allows them to understand the context and meaning of words in a sentence. They are pre-trained on large datasets of text, such as books, articles, and websites, to learn the patterns and structure of natural language. Once trained, the models can be fine-tuned on specific NLP tasks, such as language translation, summarization, and question-answering. The latest version of GPT, GPT-3, has achieved impressive results on a wide range of NLP tasks and has been hailed as a breakthrough in the field of AI. It has been used to generate creative writing, assist with customer service chatbots, and even compose music. ChatGPT is designed to generate natural language responses to user input and can be used for a variety of purposes, including chatbots, language translation, and text summarization. Microsoft has integrated ChatGPT into several of its products and services, including the Microsoft Office suite and the Azure Cognitive Services API.
Pretty impressive reply. You are probably wondering why I am writing about this? Having spent many months and years researching and writing the ‘From Vultures to Vampires’ trilogy I wanted to see how ChatGPT would respond to a few Amiga specific questions. Unfortunately ChatGPT will not run in the Odyssey web browser under AmigaOS 4.1 so I was forced to use a Linux browser on my X5000/20 to get it to run. I asked ChatGPT to tell me about the Amiga computer. It dutifully replied,
The Amiga computer was a series of personal computers developed by Commodore International in the mid-1980s. The first Amiga model, the Amiga 1000, was released in 1985 and was notable for its advanced hardware capabilities, including custom chips designed specifically for audio and video processing. The Amiga gained a reputation for being a powerful multimedia machine that was capable of running advanced graphics and audio software, making it popular among video and audio professionals. It was also popular among gamers, thanks to its advanced graphics and sound capabilities. The Amiga’s operating system, called AmigaOS, was also noteworthy for its innovative design and capabilities. It featured a multitasking graphical user interface and supported preemptive multitasking, which allowed multiple programs to run simultaneously without interfering with each other. Despite its advanced capabilities, the Amiga struggled to compete with the IBM PC and Apple Macintosh in the mainstream market. Commodore eventually went bankrupt in 1994, and ownership of the Amiga passed through several companies before eventually landing with a company called Amiga, Inc. Today, the Amiga remains a beloved machine among retro computing enthusiasts and hobbyists, with a number of active online communities dedicated to preserving and developing software for the platform.
Not a bad summary I suppose. How about the Amiga demoscene, ChatGPT responded,
The Amiga demoscene was a subculture that emerged in the 1980s and 1990s around the Amiga personal computer, which was known for its impressive graphics and sound capabilities. The demoscene involved creating and sharing demos, which were short programs that showcased the technical and creative abilities of the programmers and artists involved. Amiga demos typically combined computer-generated graphics, music, and special effects to create a visually stunning and immersive experience. These demos were often distributed through bulletin board systems (BBS) and later on the internet, and were meant to be enjoyed by other members of the demoscene community. The Amiga demoscene was driven by a strong sense of competition and collaboration, with groups of programmers and artists working together to create increasingly impressive demos. Demos were often entered into competitions at demoparties, events where members of the demoscene community would gather to watch demos, socialize, and compete against each other. The Amiga demoscene played a significant role in the development of computer graphics and multimedia technology, and many of the techniques and innovations pioneered by the demoscene continue to be used in the fields of video game development, film production, and digital art.
Not too shabby either! For generic questions I found the answers were quite accurate but the more specific I made the query the more errors crept into ChatGPT’s replies. For example, who is A-EON Technology?
A-EON Technology is a computer hardware and software company based in Cardiff, Wales, UK. The company was founded in 2009 by Trevor Dickinson, a longtime enthusiast of Amiga computers, with the aim of developing and promoting new hardware and software for the Amiga platform. A-EON Technology is best known for its development of the AmigaOne X1000 and X5000, high-end desktop computers that run the AmigaOS 4 operating system. The AmigaOne X1000 was designed with input from the Amiga community and features modern hardware such as a dual-core PowerPC processor, PCIe expansion slots, and USB 3.0 ports. In addition to hardware development, A-EON Technology has also been involved in software development for the Amiga platform. The company has worked with developers to port popular software titles to the AmigaOS 4 operating system and has also developed its own software, such as the Enhancer Software package which adds new features and functionality to the AmigaOS 4 desktop. A-EON Technology has been an active participant in the Amiga community, sponsoring events and contributing to open-source projects. The company’s efforts have helped to keep the Amiga platform alive and relevant to this day, nearly four decades after the launch of the original Amiga computer.
Not too bad. A-EON Technology Ltd. is indeed based in Cardiff but was founded in 2012. Neither the X1000 or X5000 directly support USB 3.0.
The answers became even more convoluted when I asked it about the ‘From Vultures to Vampires’ trilogy of books.
From Vultures to Vampires” is a book written by Trevor Dickinson that tells the story of the evolution of Hollywood’s horror genre from the early days of silent films to modern times. The book takes a historical and cultural approach to the horror genre, exploring the social and political contexts that influenced the development of horror cinema.
I added the word ‘Amiga’ to my question. It then suggested that “From Vultures to Vampires Amiga” is a platformer game that follows the adventures of a vampire hunter named Victor Vector and his sidekick Vicky Vulture. The game takes place in a gothic world filled with monsters and creatures of the night, including vampires, werewolves, and mummies.
I added that it was a trilogy of books about the Amiga computer and got:-
From Vultures to Vampires” is actually a trilogy of books co-written by Trevor Dickinson and David Pleasance, the former CEO of Commodore International. The trilogy includes:
- “From Vultures to Vampires: The Complete History of the Commodore 64”
- “From Vultures to Vampires: Interviews with 20 Cult Film Directors”
- “From Vultures to Vampires: The Public Domain Software Story”
Triple d’oh! I then added David’s “25 years of copyright chaos and technology triumphs” strap line and got,
Thank you for clarifying. “From Vultures to Vampires: 25 years of Copyright chaos and technology triumphs” is a book co-written by Trevor Dickinson and David Pleasance, published in 2019. The book explores the history of the computer industry, copyright law, and intellectual property, focusing on the Commodore Amiga computer and its impact on the industry. The authors use their personal experiences and insights, as well as interviews with key figures in the industry, to provide an in-depth look at the challenges and triumphs of the industry over the past 25 years. The book covers a range of topics, including the history of the Amiga computer, the development of multimedia technology, the role of copyright law in the industry, and the impact of digital piracy on the industry. The authors also discuss the rise of open-source software and the impact of the internet on the industry.Overall, “From Vultures to Vampires: 25 years of Copyright chaos and technology triumphs” offers a comprehensive look at the history of the computer industry, providing insights into the challenges and innovations that have shaped the industry over the past several decades.
Still not really that accurate. I typed the series is about the fate of Commodore’s IP after the company went bankrupt in 1994. Suddenly ChatGPT was on the right track.
The book “From Vultures to Vampires: 25 years of Copyright chaos and technology triumphs” also covers what happened to Commodore’s intellectual property (IP) after the company went bankrupt in 1994. According to the book, after Commodore went bankrupt, the company’s IP was sold off to various entities, including Escom AG and later, Gateway 2000. However, these companies struggled to make a profit from the Amiga brand and its IP, and the Amiga community was left with a fragmented ecosystem of different companies and organizations. In 1999, a company called Amiga, Inc. acquired the rights to the Amiga brand and IP. Amiga, Inc. developed several new Amiga products, including the AmigaOne computer, but struggled financially and faced numerous legal challenges. In 2009, the Amiga brand and IP were acquired by a company called Hyperion Entertainment, which developed the AmigaOS 4 operating system and continued to support the Amiga community. Today, the Amiga brand and IP are owned by Cloanto, an Italian software company that specializes in retro computing. Overall, the fate of Commodore’s IP after the company’s bankruptcy was a complex and often tumultuous process, with several different companies and organizations owning and developing the Amiga brand and its associated technologies.
Finally something that resembles what the trilogy of books is actually about. So the message appears clear to me. You need to refine your questions and know what answer to expect otherwise you might find that you are reverting to the old GIGO computer science concept of ‘garbage in, garbage out’.
A regional Australian mayor, Brian Hood, is threatening to become the first person to sue OpenAI if it does not correct ChatGPT’s false claims that he had served time in prison for bribery. He was actually the whistleblower who revealed the corruption in the first place. His lawyers said “they sent a letter of concern to ChatGPT owner OpenAI on March 21, which gave OpenAI 28 days to fix the errors about their client or face a possible defamation lawsuit.”
If you want to try ChatGPT for yourself check the following link, but remember, the information you receive may or may not be correct. You have been warned.
Unfortunately ChatGPT did not work with the latest Odyssey browser under AmigaOS 4.1 producing a blank screen. It did not work with Wayfarer or OWB under MorphOS 3.17 either. It worked with Firefox on my PC but I wanted to see if I could use it under PowerPC Linux on my X5000/20. Before doing that I tested it with Linux Mint on an old PC but got the same blank screen. So I decided to install Casey Cullen’s latest version of Fienix 6.0.1 on my X5000/20. Casey began working on his Fienix distribution in late 2017 after Ubuntu announced they were dropping mainstream support for PowerPC after the 16.04 LTS release. Although Debian has great support for the PowerPC architectures Casey wanted to create a distribution which was “specifically focused on desktop/workstation/notebook use cases and emphasizes user-experience.” His began working on a special Debian fork which he originally called Rally OS but he was never really happy with that name. He liked the name “phoenix” but thought it did not sound very original so he made up the name ‘Fienix’. If you want to learn more about Casey’s Fienix journey check out his interview with PowerProgressCommunity.
I originally tested an earlier version of Fienix Soar, running from a USB drive on my X5000/20 in 2020 but I never installed it to a HDD. This time I decided to install it to a spare SATA HDD I had lying around and I have to admit the whole installation process was very simple. I downloaded the Fienix installer from the X5000 Linux forum on Hyperion Entertainment message boards. I transferred and expanded the image to a 16Gb USB pen drive. I had to replace my RX570 gfx card with an older RadeonHD 6850 model which is supported by Linux and has the benefit of GPU hardware acceleration. I inserted the USB drive in my X5000/20 and powered-up the machine. I stopped the boot process to access uboot to enter the Fienix boot commands:-
setenv bootargs root=/dev/sdb2 rootdelay=5
fatload usb 0:1 1000000 uimage-6.1
fatload usb 0:1 2000000 cyrus-p5020.dtb
bootm 1000000 – 2000000
The X5000/20 booted to the Fienix desktop. I was able to run programs from the USB drive but I wanted to install Fienix to the HDD. The process was extremely simple using the install icon. I selected the SATA drive for the installation and left Fienix to install. When the installation was complete I powered down the machine and rebooted.
On entering uboot I reset the bootargs to the sata HDD:-
setenv bootargs root=/dev/sda2
fatload sata 0:1 1000000 uimage-6.1
fatload sata 0:1 2000000 cyrus-p5020.dtb
bootm 1000000 – 2000000
The X5000/20 booted to the Fienix desktop without a hitch. I will need to set the boot commands in uboot so Fienix automatically runs from the X5000 boot menu without the need to type the commands in every time. I tried ArticFox, which is the ‘Firefox’ browser supplied with Fienix but I got the same white blank screen with ChatGPT. Fienix has access to a whole host of free software through the Synaptic package manager so I downloaded the lightweight Gnome web browser and tried ChatGPT again. This time it worked fine. Incidentally, I was not able to edit my blog under Artic Fox but the Gnome web browser again worked although it was a little slow for text input in the visual editor mode.
Fienix is supplied with a special ‘Fienix Companion’ which provides additional information and support and allows you to install a curated suite of additional apps that Casey has put together. This includes a GPU enabler which allows you to turn on hardware acceleration if it is supported by your graphics card. From my work on multiple PowerPC Linux distributions on the X1000, I knew that I needed to edit the X11 configuration to obtain hardware acceleration with my RadeonHD graphics card under Linux. I contacted Christian ‘Xeno74’ Zigotzky, our Linux guru who ensures that A-EON’s X1000 and X5000 are supported by the mainstream PowerPC Linux kernel. He reminded me of the simple edit I needed to make to the 10-compat.conf file.
He wrote, “For enabling hardware acceleration manually, please edit or remove the file /etc/X11/xorg.conf.d/10-compat.conf (or something similar to that). If you don’t want to remove it then change the “driver” from fbdev to radeon in this file.” Christian also reminded me that Dave ‘Skateman’ Koelman used two graphics cards in his X5000 to support OS4.1 and Linux/MorphOS. I have written about Dave’s work on multibooting OS4.1/MorphOS/Linux on the X5000 in my articles for Amiga Future, but if you want a quick overview check out this post on amiga-news.de.
After testing ChatGPT I received a link to an updated version of ArticFox v41.0 created by Riccardo Mottola which Christian had compiled for Ubuntu 10.04 and higher including Fienix.
It inspired me to install the complete ‘Fienix Companion’ collection. This included Libre Office, GIMP and a multitude of other productivity titles. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that audio worked without any issues and my Xerox ColorQube 8570 network printer was automatically recognised and I was able to print with ease. YouTube videos also played well in full screen mode and my network speed was comparable to my Windows PC. 3D software also ran well once I updated the 10-compat.conf file.
I contacted Casey to thank him for his Fienix work and especially for his ongoing support of the X5000 & X1000. He replied, “Overall, I think Fienix is coming along nicely. The X5000 is a great machine to run it on, I thoroughly enjoy mine ;)” Of course I could only agree with him! 🙂 I made a small donation towards Casey’s Fienix work. If you want to support him please send a donation to link.
Now I have Fienix up and running with 3D graphics hardware acceleration I would like to follow Skateman’s lead and create a 3-way multibooting system with OS4.1 and MorphOS. I’ve just ordered a PCI1 x4 to PCIe X16 riser cable to enable me to install two graphics cards in my X5000/40. I predict fun times ahead.
Talking about the trilogy, I’m pleased to report that David Pleasance has confirmed he has finally engaged a printer for the second and third volumes of the Vultures to Vampires trilogy. He recently posted,
Hello good people – many of you have been requesting an update from me regarding the delivery status of Commodore the inside story (German edition) and From Vultures to Vampires (Volume 2). I won’t repeat all the issues as to why this project is so delayed, but because it is, all the costs involved have gone sky high. Clearly I would prefer to not lose money, so I have (with amazing help from my printing agent) found a top quality printer based in India, who quoted a price low enough for me to not lose money and I have now placed the order. There is of course a compromise to be made and that is an additional 4+ weeks for delivery, because of the geographic location Shipping from India, the books are expected to arrive with us circa mid June. That is the ETA to our collaborators in Germany. Just to remind you all that by us shipping from Germany should avoid any issues with Customs/Import duties etc. Shipping to UK should only be 2 or 3 days later.
Volume 3 has been completed for some time and should now be in the hands of proof reader Dave McMurtrie. I’m pleased to reveal that Dave Haynie generously wrote the foreward for volume 3. Dave you are the man!
I was just about to post this blog when I received an email from Christian Zigotzky revealing he had compiled Pangea Software’s Nanosaur I game for 32-bit non-altivec Linux machines. The game, which was originally created by Pangea Software for Mac PCs, was ported to PowerPC Linux (and several other platforms) by Iliyas Jorio.
As Jorio writes, “Nanosaur was released in 1998 by Pangea Software as a Mac exclusive. It was a pack-in game on Macs that came out around that time. It was a breathtaking showcase of the capabilities of the newfangled QuickDraw 3D technology.”
I’m not really much of a game player these days but I wanted to test the 3D performance of Fienix on my X5000/20. I downloaded the compressed file from Christian’s website and extracted the software. I’m pleased to report it installed and ran without any problems with full-screen 3D animation and audio. Christian also reported that active MorphOS developer BeWorld is porting Nanosaur to MorphOS.
Although I much prefer running AmigaOS 4.1 or MorphOS on my X5000 it’s still good to have access to the extensive range of free mainstream productivity software that is available from the Linux repositories. The additional game or two is also very welcome. However, using Linux does remind me how silky smooth Amiga next-generation operating systems are in comparison.
The final word
I had hoped to have some A1222+ news to report but that will have to wait for my next update.
Until next time……………………………