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All that comes in the mind of an italian guy moved to california
20 settembre 2009
Diary: Technologies: AROS: Fall colors over the MESA...
Want to begin this article with a sad note: at the end of August my actual company decided to downsize and to change its location, and am among the laid-offs, so right now most of my effort in front of this keyboard goes in finding a new job in order to pay the bills and keep the apartment; hope to be able to dedicate time to my advocacy back soon (that of course means i will be employed): please cross your fingers...

[update in november: still no job, will let you know of anything].

The month of October looks like has been a bit unfortunate for this blog: several times, trying to look at the content, i was greeten from a white page: by the way the black-out (or white-out i might say) affects almost all the ilcannocchiale blogs: it is the second time that I sent notification to the webmasters about this and lately am starting to consider to move this blog in a more affordable platform, maybe even self-hosted.

But let's go back and talk about AROS. Right now the most important news in AROS front are the following ones:

As said last august, Krysztof "Deadwood" Smiechowicz ported version 7.5 of MESA to AROS, for now in software rendering mode only. Latter in the month he also ported GLU,GLUT and added a revised version of SDL that can use MESA. The addition of MESA as library allowed  people, especially Matthias "Mazze" Ruster to port some new games on AROS; among the contributions we have now Block Out II, a 3d Tetris clone, Abuse, a well-known platform game, a first attempt to port Open Red Alert (that later has been removed due to a bad bug in the upstream that prevent enemy AI to operate), 3d Pool Billiard (running kinda slow due to the software renderer, kinda playable if you keep the window at stamp size).

September news is that Deadwood decided to accept the Gallium 3d Bounty. Krysztof already started to meddle with Gallium 3d at the time of the MESA port; he started getting decent results, as seen in this movie here on youtube. Following those embrionic attempts, Deadwood compiled a version of GLExcess that includes the nVidia Gallium driver and, compared to the old software-only compilation, the difference is really remarkable.

The latest additions to the already rich porting gallery of Deadwood are the OpenAL/alut/ogg/vorbis libraries. Those libraries, as said from deadwood itself in AROS-exec, are used in several open source games to provide the sound experience; their porting will open the door, together with the perfecitoning of MESA and Gallium, to porting some open source 3d games, such as Warzone 2100, AssaultCube and Cube2; and is known the plan to use the hardware acceleration together with Cairo in order to improve Wanderer responsivity and performance, but as far as i know is all still related to Deadwood progresses.

Talking about 3d and Mesa, last month the e-zine The Vague came out for AROS using the last MESA port of Deadwood; e-zines are well known to amiga users thanks to the demoscene; though i was hardly been a follower, remember an Italian one made called Infamia - at the time even Tadsince1995 used to cooperate with it as coder - and reminding the experience I started The Vague. The AROS version is in the same .lha archive with the Amiga PPC and Morphos version; once double clicked the icon a requester ask to start either in full-screen (for 640x480 resolution) or windowed (as i started it being in qemu at 800x600x24 resolution) ,whether to use sound effects and the music replay rate. Nikos posted a youtube video of The Vague running on AROS here.

The Vague volume 1 on AROS

Its been exciting to see some good demoscene art and nice music on AROS: i liked The Vague and am waiting for further numbers, and possibly even more e-zines and (why not?) some AROS demos too :)

Last August the code of the Poseidon stack finally got released under APL and built together with the nightly builds, making so complete the Poseidon Bounty, the so far most contributed bounty in AROS history. I tried the stack on my old laptop, where a known incompatibility with the USB SIS controller so far occured, with November 12 nightly the USB devices are still not recognized, by the way. Once i find a way to download OWB from the nightly (writing the URL and then use wget to download it seems a good one), will post the dump of PCItool from my old laptop in order to help the debug.

Icaros 1.1.6 is already on the works but, since this blog post is kinda late, let me talk about the version 1.1.5, that I tried both as iso image on qemu and as live CD on the old laptop. So grub worked fine, but when I tried to select my sis900 network card with DHCP form the network control panel and press the "use" button in order to test OWB performance, the system froze hard. Everytime.
In defense of the network control panel, by the way, doing the same with the latest nightly worked pretty fine, apart the missing OWB in the nightly - beside an OWB folder and a OWB icon in extras/networking - for don't know what reason; i understand that OWB cannot be added to the nightly both for weight and license issues but my personal suggestionis to replace the actual useless directory with a script that might download the latest version on RAM, for new installs.

And, talking about OWB, our Stanislaw Szymczyk , after a while where he took a pause from AROS development, released another new version of OWB. The Version 0.9.9 is downloadable, as usual, from the sand-labs web site and this time introduces, beside the usual flattening of several bugs, a loader, called StartOWB, that uses the artwork made by michaels and helps to track the long first loading (caused by the fontConfig cache building); beside that, now the main application menus are finally available with the right mouse button as for every other AROS application, giving it a standard interface. As far as i know,  the AREXX port in OWB is still missing, but hope Stanislaw will fix this soon.

The new OWB splash screen,designed by michaels

And then let's talk once more about the hidden hero of AROS, Matthias "mazze" Rustler: most of the software used on AROS has been ported by mazze, starting form several games (, then the unfinished port of Ignition Spreadsheet (that i still hope one day will be finished), LUA and its extensions, zulu and siAmiga - that are providing the base ground for several utilities, panels and give easy way for beginner programmers (like me) to produce something in AROS: the last fatigue of Mazze is the porting of Scout, the famous low-level tool for manage tasks under Amiga OS; undoubtely this might help to get rid of some annoying freeze of some shell windows or commodities, though for the well known lack of protected memory on Amiga OSes is still better to reboot the system as fast as possible.

Going further, any AROS user had to deal with the well known problems with our version of Dopus: despite being invaluable for file management, it has strong issues with advanced operations, such as extracting files, viewing pictures, even personalising buttons; this is due to the fact that this dopus port is pretty old (from 2000, if i remember clearly): now a new bounty  has been introduced in Power2people.org, for the port of the latest version of Dopus actually for Amiga OS-4 only; the bounty has been accepted by Neil Cafferkey and hope will improve this invaluable tool.

Last September once again Pianeta Amiga was held in Empoli, despite the fact that this year was held only at Saturday and the flow of people is really at its own minimum. This Year AROS was highly represented from, as usual Paolo Besser and, straight from the United Kingdom, Steven jones that brought its iMica platform. But here is the outcome according to Paolo Besser:

Thanks to Enrico Vitali and other well-known people of the italian Amiga community, the event has been amusing and interesting, but... well, I can't hide the mixture of bitter sweet feelings that left me only half happy. The good news, at least for Icaros Desktop, is that every visitor of the fair had the chance to see it in action, and most of them stopped at my table, asking for more informations or to see some demostration. I've also got many congratulations and many thanks for the effort, asking me for keeping up "the good job", but the bad news about all this, is that Pianeta Amiga this year lacked of visitors. Numbers had been fairly low (I've personally counted about 100 visitors) and the exhibitors themeselves were a tiny group that could comfortably stay in less space than the half area of the Palaesposizioni reserved to the event. "In the good old days you could see a crowd of people making long tails in front of the ticket booth - said Enrico while we were taking something to eat at noon - but today...", unluckily today's Pianeta Amiga loosely reflects the situation of the whole Amiga market. A tiny, fragile community which is hardly trying to keep its platform alive, even if the interest decreases a little more every year, and even if the whole IT market has completely forgotten the Amiga. So we have to thanks ACube, VirtualWorks, AmigaKit.com and everyone else that still persists, and spends money every year to organize a event which has just become a symbol, a tradition for the community, but which is practically perceived like a hobby, a nice meeting day with other people who share the same passion, even by people who professionally operate in the Amiga business.

It is sad for me to hear that despite the good news in the Amiga market (the SAM availability last year, the MorphOS on Mac Mini, icaros, iMica, Ares one, the settlement of the Amiga-Hyperion cause,etc., one of the last Amiga events is gone so unnoticed; despite my hopes, i think it is realistic that next year Pianeta Amiga might not be hold, if this is the trend; of course i expect thngs to change, but who knows....

Frustrations and disillusionment might hit even die-hard supporters. Many of the Aros-exec usual lurkers know Nikos: beside being a strong fan of the platform he is also one of the testers and one of the main bounty contributors ever, but in this thread he say that decided to take a leave from AROS, disappointed from the apparent lack of progresses, especially in the hardware acceleration section. By the way this happened just before Deadwood released its new MESA port and announced the start of the Gallium3d Bounty. The community reaction has been something you will rarely see in other open osurce community: almost everybody sent its own comment to nikos (including myself) expressing support; that convinced him to stay and luckilly for him, the new results on AROS seems to keep him busy...

Another AROS-friendly machine recently surfaced: provided by Pascal "Phoenixkonsole" Papara, the ARES one is an AMD Athlon x2 powered machine provided in a small tower case, bigger in size than Steven's Atom powered iMica; the graphic card is a performing nvidia GeForce 7200 with 256 megabytes DDR2  video RAM; phoenixconsole expects support from Gallium3d in order to enhance 3d capabilities; the machine hosts 1 gigabyte 800mhz DDR2 RAM (can be expanded up to 8 gigs) and can host up to four 5,25" devices; has a DVD/RW drive and a 3,5" floppy drive (foreseeing a catweasel support); it has a SoundBlaster Live as sound card and the network card is a Realtek RTL8139d that has a RTL8139 family chip and, quite interestingly, just today Hitchhikr released an rtl8169.device driver that in theory should support it. Paolone had occasion to test it with its Aspire One netbook and said it works nicely, adding another device to the netbook puzzle (right now still wireless and sound are unsupported on Aspire One).

Phoenixkonsole also plans to put in bundle with Ares One Icaros Desktop and a suite of programs for AROS including: the registered version of FryingPan and the incoming AROS Port of Cinnamon Writer: the latter one fills another software gap under AROS, presenting the first Word Processor available for the platform.

Cinnamon Writer is about to spice AROS

Now, if only Ignition port were finished we surely might had a decent AROS base office suite, together with MuiBase; the actual problem in finishing Ignition is non trivial. According to mazze itself in this thread on AROS-exec, it is depending from the actual order of "struct node":

Problem is that AROS has the elements of "struct Node" wrong on X86. This is supposed to be fixed with ABI V1. Unfortunately, Ignition makes *heavy* use of linked lists.
I could:
-continue porting when V1 ABI is released

-fixing list handling in Ignition which would be a lot of work which wouldn't be any longer necessary when V1 is out

-compiling me a version of AROS with the right order of Node. I could continue porting but I couldn't release the result until V1 is out.

All sucks somehow.

Further in the thread, phoenixconsole ask for how long might still take to Staf Verhaegen to finish the ABI 1.1; Staf's answer does not look too encouraging:

If I don't get help months to years from now. Problem seems to be that for being able to work on ABI V1 you need very good knowledge of AROS internals, Amiga OS internals and low level programming. It seems it is difficult to find people that have these capabilities and want to do it as their hobby activity. Additionally no glory or money can currently be gained by it.!!!

Staf is quite right: actually very few people have the required knowledge to help him in fix the ABI, and the actual AROS documentation, that should help provide that kind of knowledge is still kinda incomplete: lately even the quite famous "Linux lady" Carla Schroeder wrote two articles about the importance of documentation in Linux magazine: they can be found here and here, hoping to give guidelines for the actual coders, and maybe some non-coder to help therm in write it.

Simone "samo" Bevilacqua finally ported BOH to AROS, and it behave nicely even under qemu! BOH is one of the new generation commercial software available on the Amiga platforms (a little but, considered the platform diffusion, important avantguarde of a hopefully bigger production that include even Cinnamon Writer itself) and has been prepared for all the Amiga platforms so far: os 4, morphos and now even AROS. Despite some gitches with the sound due to the SDL libraries (and i expect things to imnprove thanks to the recent Deadwood work), the game runs fine even on qemu.


This coming year, God and Cash willing, is my intention to attend once more the Southern California Linux Expo in Los Angeles; will introduce the new features of AROS, the Icaros distribution, the new software and, if possible, even a native AROS box. Will write more about it soon; just mind that if somebody want to help me next february can get in touch with me at the email on the right side of the blog - the Get in Touch with Simone Bernacchia link, that I will repeat here, just remember to replace the sentences between square brackets.
10 febbraio 2009
Diary: Technologies: AROS - Happy new year with Fireworks show!!!

My A1200/030 still working fine despite three years of inactivity

Sorry if i was not around lately, I have been in Italy for the christmas holidays and also had my religious marriage there. Now that I am back to the states, is time to talk again about AROS.

While i was abroad,i was, when pssible giving a look at AROS progresses using my PC in italy: a celeron with dial-up connection at 56k, therefore i was unable, due to lack of bandwidth, to see the newer deoms posted on Youtube and Vimeo until I came back to the states.

I also been able, to my own delight, to put back on duty my old 1200 in order to retrieve some more material to post on the net, such as old .mod files and found out how, after three long years of total inactivity, is able to boot perfectly (unlike my Macintosh Performa 6400, that cannot see its internal drive), and had the feeling of a real Amiga system on my hands; this brught, of course, in doing some comparisons with my actual AROS system that am using right now.
Beside AROS is basically an AmigaOS 3.1 clone, now its usability is of course improved from its ancestor and, despite some bad system hand due to Dopus, or some keyboard shortcut not working as expected, the experience is pleasant. If somebody would be able to fix the glitches, it might be even improved.

I recently installed the version 1.0.2 of VmWAROS in my virtual machine: following the instruction i first installed version 1.0 and then, once I retrieved the update ISO, AROS found it and mounted it on the desktop (and this is already a good improvement) and I simply had to make the "VmWUpdate" script run (its icon is under my software/System Apps in the Amistart menu); it updated everything quite fast, in around five/ten minutes. I will make some more tests in the future, also considered that am preparing < a href="http://scale7x.socallinuxexpo.org/conference-info/schedules" target="_blank"> my speech for the SCALE expo next February 21st (1.30 to 2.30 pm PDT program track B).

2008 has been the best AROS year so far: important bounties like self-compile and SAM-440 port have been accomplished: the first one, in particular, as stated from me here[link] has also raised considerably the porting of other applications from other operating systems, together with the GTK-MUI library developer by Kalamatee for E-UAE; furthermore, the development of VmWAROS reached its first milestone and now, at 1.0.2 version has bvecome even more stable and mature getting its own characteristics such as NewIcons (in a special verison for AROS made by Ken Lester itself), the PDF file reader PoorPDF and AmiBridge, a basic integration script system between UAE and AROS.

But the most exciting things begun to happen towards the end of the year: among them the ongoing port of Ignition, a nice spreadsheet program ported by Matthias "Mazze" Ruster

, then the port of mplayer made by Krysztof Smiechowicz starting from the Morphos port mantained by Fabien Coeurjoly; it is actually an "early beta" and has a quite basic GUI but has finally brought in AROS a decent video and audio support; then there is the OWB port by Stanislaw Sszymczyk that deserves to be treated apart.

And then we have the work of Michal Schulz, still ongoing with its own two bounties - the AROS Efika port and the USB mass storage bounty - its lalatest contributions on AROS before to dedicate itself full-time on the ANUBIS project: not too long ago he stated on the IRC channel that he had been able to boot an AROS CD throug USB CD-ROM: later in its own blog, Michal explained more deeply what was still lacking for an adequate handling of the USB CD-ROM on AROS:

Every modern USB presents itself as a SCSI conforming bulk-only mass storage device to the system. Therefore, in order to do any IO operations, I have had to do them in the old good SCSI style. Therefore, the mass storage class do contain a DirectSCSI method and exposes it to rest of the world.

What a coincidence! I have added a few-lines long implementation of HD_SCSICMD to the .device layer of mass storage. I have started AROS in QEMU and forwarded the USB->PATA converter with a DVD attached to it and AROS CD inside (I didn't want to test anything special, but it was the first CD I saw on the desktop). AROS booted and stopped. Then, the timeout errors appeared. A lot of them. A bit disappointed I've left my desk and did something else. Suddenly, the CD started to spin and AROS booted from USB CD device! Great!

A short investigation showed, that the CD filesystem used in AROS performs the INQUIRY SCSI command with a fixed size, whereas the USB protocol provides a much shorter data in return, which leads to a timeout. Then, it tries to get the full-sized TOC and such. Anyway, AROS team will either need to fix CD filesystem a bit, or I will have to give up 10 second timeouts in mass storage and introduce four pipes there: two of them with very short timeout (100 miliseconds or so) and two with the 10 second timeout.

So now AROS can mount and boot even from the majority of USB sticks; considered that the transfer protocol supported so far is USB 1.1, the best results can be obtained with SFS, that takes around one minute to boot; for some reasons both SFS and FAT are not supporting cache durinf the data transfer and, therefore, are quite slower.

Still from Michal Shulz, we have good news even on the EFIKA port: the last January 26th Michal put on line a first beta version of AROS for EFIKA here, followed by a second version here due to some problems from Open Firmware in retrieving all packages: Other than that, Michal is aware that this version has still big glitches and has been released for debug purpose. According to him The Efika 512 source tree, once upgraded the sources with the latest contributions, reached the size of 150 megabytes, including a complete GCC tolchain and some more utilities.

O1i accepted the Phase 1 UAE Integration bounty: the results achieved so far are quite good: UAE opens its amiga windows under AROS, the amiga pointer is synced with the AROS one ad the integrated windows, that now runs at almost full UAE speed, can be re-arranged, mopved and resized from AROS controls. At htis moment there are still things not working properly in the integration, such as menus, closing gadget, border gadgets and non-workbench screens. The border gadgets, according to o1i are the hardert to get implemented; plus at this moment is not possible to launch Amiga OS programs from Wanderer; it is required to have an Amiga OS window open(such as workbench or a shell prompt) to launch the programs.

Mmartinkna posted a screenshot of AROS running under Parallels Desktop in Mac OS X; From what Paolo Besser wrote in its blog, Parallels Desktop is offering a better experience compared to VmWare, also because sound is working there. For the best experience possible, Paolo advise to set AHI preferences as AC97 (both for Music and for Unit 0) and to set ConfigIP to use the RTL8029 card.

Kalamatee has recently uploaded in SVN the beta version of its RTL8168 PCI and Gigabit NIC driver, asking for testing in the forum. Having still several glitches the driver is not considered workling; he is also trying to fix further the ata.device,especially for what concerns the legacy compatibility list.

Stanislaw Sszymczyk is the best purchase made by the AROS community in the recent times: its skills as programmer were already highlighted from the accomplishment of the self-compile bounty and now are further confirmed from its new task: the AROS OWB port; the first screenshot posted before christmas, desipite being just a google page with wrong colors and basic fonts, made me get strongly excited; the further status updates came so fast that it was looking unreal: OWB can already adequately show complex pages like Google maps and Google docs.
And, as a bonus, Stanislaw, going on with the development, enriched the toolshed available for the porting of new software: the new SDL port fromthe mainstream solved the messed-up colors problem seen in the first test screenshot and the new version of SSL, the 0.9.8j got ported too.

Since the Bounty requirement list asked for a Zune Interface for the browser, and also that the browser itself might be used as a zune component, the solution adopted by Stanislaw, once he realised that for some reason the AROS Genmodule generated code was not liked at all from the Webkit code, to write a static library that interfaces between the C++ webkit code and the C zune code; being the WebView interface properly implemented there has been no further problem: the screen redraw is incremental and therefore there is no need to redraw the page completely as the Webkit port of Rob used to be; the only reason that made Stanislaw not use the graphics.library instead of SDL was the missing alpha channel support in the first one.
Stanislaw thanks in its page Jorg Ströhmayer for the good organisationof its code in the OS4 port; that helped him in build the GUI onm Zune; he also revealed that "has been a pleasant experience" code again under MUI: its own tests with RegisterClass and its limitations made him build its own personalised tabbed browsing class complete with closing gadget.
Writing the class took Stanislaw around one week of work and brought him of fix some Zune bugs and to better understand its inner workings; the final resulting class bring OWB to be able to do tabbed browsing. Another requirement for the bounty was the use of Datatypes; Stanislaw's opinion is that the best Datatypes use should be for image decoding: actually OWB use internally an object hierarchy belonging to the ImageDecoder class, that implements different libraries according to the file format to decode; therefore Stanislaw wrote a new class that uses datattypes to decode pictures but this class use is actually limited from the following factors:

  • Picture datatype doesn't support progressive image decoding
  • AROS datatypes.library has no support for DTST_MEMORY source type
  • PDTM_READPIXELARRAY metod of picture datatype returns a data array with 0 values in alpha channel, requiring additional time-consuming processing

Because of that, the class had to inherit all those restrictions and therefore the image got decoded only once its data is all in memory, using also temporary files for that (and of course missing the progressice decoding); this limitation set back the Datatypes support only for those file formats that are not supported elsewhere.
For the future Stanislaw plans to add UTF-8 character set support to AROS, to use Zune widgets for handling forms and to allow more applications to use the Browser class at the same time; the latter one, according to its blog, due to lack of results has been momentarily set apart.

The latest surprise is coming from James "Jahc" Carroll, author of WookieChat: just some days ago he ported finally its SabreMSN on AROS, filling another important gap in the software landscape of the operating system. James needed the port of Open SSL to port the application; the port has been made by Stanislaw Sszymczyk; some components such as codesets.library are not supported or are faulty but the port of SabreMSN shows as AROS finally is achieving some room and respect in the Amiga developers heart, also thanks to the hard work of its developers and supporters.




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