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TECNOLOGIE
22 marzo 2012
Technologies: AROS: Cooperare Necesse Est
The following is the translation of this post appeared on the italian blog on May 21,2011: despite almost one year is already passed by since that post, its actuality is still strong, especially concerning the new Directory Opus Magellan Cross Bounty and the recent Odissey Web Browser port by Fabien "Fab1" CoeurJoly; it summarize my basic idea about how the actual NG Amiga and like Operating Systems can find a way not to compete each other but instead, in a pure "divide et impera" fashion each one cover the different market segment and promote a better interoperability.


Sorry if lately i did not took care of my posts; might seems improbable but am still putting back the pieces from my SCALE exhibit; my main laptop started to behave erratically, with long pauses between keyboard inputs up to 10 seconds, USB that is not recognizing devices and sticks and browsers that regularly freeze when am trying to watch flash videos or trying to use google voice; [fixed last year with a re-format :NDR] to this add an increased workload (and a decreased paycheck :/) to have a snapshot of my actual situation.

There is an unfinished article here where am trying to talk about the ABIv1 development and the new kernel features (like VESA screen dragging and a further modularisation); there are still several details to be ironed out, including the optimisations made by Kryztof "Deadwood" Schmiechoviz(check) for some Graphics.library functions and the actual work in progress of Pavel "Sonic" Fedic concerning the graphic subset that will target Wanderer and the GUI; worthy to mention also the hard work made by Toni Wilen and Jason McMullan for the continuous improvement of AROS 68k, now also able to boot in some real hardware machines (despite optimization is still lacking); their work also have been helpful in improving AROS retrocompatibility and in making several native libraries that were not yet created work; lastly, i need to mention that Kalamatee continued its work in improving Wanderer and in its transformation in a modular tool, which should also be possible to add "plug-ins" (like the fanous tree view shown here some time ago).

But the real focus of this article is a post that I made on the Amiganews.it forum, proposing my personal point of view on how a cooperation could be set up between Amiga OS,MorphOS and AROS. Here is the post text:

I am taking the occasion to spin-off this amigaworld.net thread where, for the third(!) time in the last six months, somebody ask if there is a way to join forces between the three Amiga and like OSes.
Since am aware of the clear differences, both architecturally and philosophically speaking, existing nowadays between the several Amiga-like oses and also of the strong opinions among their developers and users, will not discuss of it.

Instead, will take advantage of the topic to underline some, for me, important points:

1) Amiga and like systems transversally cover almost all the available processors (ARM [hosted], PPC, X86, 68k for AROS, PPC on mac hW and pegasos for MOS, PPC fo os4 and 68k for classic) and price ranges (low for AROS, middle for MOS and classic HW, high for OS4);

2) is well known that Amiga and like systems are now reduced to a hobby market range with a very reduced number of users (probably all together in the single digit of the thousands) and that is a big no-no for any commercial venture since a ROI is not guaranteed;

Honestly i tihnk that those two factor are something that we should take advantage of: rather than try to have a dominating platform over the other two, right now i think the most important factor is make people aware that amiga and like systems exists, that there is a basic coherence among them and that all together cover most of the consumer computing; then would be good to work to increase the user base - no matter of what system and finally , once users are present, give them a way to use all three systems together in a workflow almost seamlessly.

Is my presonal opinion that Amiga and like systems have still appeal in the hobby market even among the non-amiga users that do not like the idea to user windows or mac and that consider linux too hard to handle properly: also, usually people does not have just one hobby: rather it might also be interested in side activities such as collections, robotics, ham radio, etc.

[brainstorm]
Think for a moment what potential can have for a person -probably even an ex amiga user that owns an old pc or an old ppc mac- and, due to the fact that those machine are by today standard and requirements obsolete, cannot use it; the possibility to have Morphos and AROS in those two machines running almost the same applications that communicate via network and therough AREXX keeping their own files synced or sharing the data processing - a case that i have in mind (because have a close experience with it) is about the fater of a close friend of mine, that used amiga to handle its Ham radio staton; right now i think is using windows but you can see how it might have been easier for him to use both AROS in the PC and the amiga, both communicating through AREXX; pity thisa example is purely academical since the ham radio software have never been ported on AROS.
[/brainstorm]

I assume the fact that, for an hobbyist that includes computing in its interests (possibly amiga and like), there is an added value in using its favorite machine to accomplish hobby related tasks. But, in order to reach this optimal situation i think that some level of cooperation are required: of course i cannot expect that all os4, morphos and AROS developers decide to join forces for it; what i consider more feasible instead is that some base ground can be laid down in order to increase the interoperativity.

This can be obtained providing both developers and users of adequate tools;
For the developers is important that some key libraries and technologies are available in all three systems to make the development and porting of application easier; those may be in example MUI, AREXX,SAMBA, AHI, LUA/RUBY/PYTHON, language bindings in the same style of Zulu and Zuby, maybe some extra tool such as QT and WxWidgets [there is lately some resistance to it due to the fact that those are not native toolkits, problem is we are in a chicken-and-egg situation: NDR]; every os can handle it in a personalised way but is important that base features and API need to be common or similar;

For final users instead, is important to have a way for the three systems to "talk" and "work" together: in example two portings of the same software can talk through AREXX,or a Lua or Python script that can be made run in two different Amiga Systems but it behaves in the same way and display in the same way thanks to libraries like Zulu (my favorite) that will allow to hae common GUI everywhere.

With this approach is possible from one side to keep authonomy between all Amiga and like Systems and also keep the hold on the market segment where the system has its main focus (advantage for the flavor-specific developers) and, from the other side users are allowed to use and interoperate the flavors in a coherent way (advantage for final users); as a plus, a similar versatility should look more viable for new users towards all flavors and with more users usually there is the hope that there might be more interest for investments from commercial entities on the technology [and - with some daydreaming, if and when somebody might decide to port AROS towards other non-amiga 68k machines (vecchi mac 68k, falcon, maybe even x68000) so to allow the use of AROS even in those systems and in the same time make AROS become a vaid option to still use those system proficently for their own hobbies].

Would like to hear other opinions about my viewpoint.


Despite the text above was supposed - beside its length - to be self-explicative, want to further explore what said above:

- the first important problem is not the disappearance of one of the Amiga-like OS, rather than the disappearance of the Amiga philosophy and way of doing things as a whole: there are very few users left (as said above, in the single digit of thousand overall) and,unless made for 'acts of love', is simply not feasible for complex commercial programs, not suitable for the so-called average Joe and, among geeks, is either considered extinct,useless or its existence ignored, also due to the fact that new generations never used one and also that those seems to have a more 'disposable' approach towards consumer electronics hardware and software.

Now, with the Amiga and like OSes stuck in a stuation like this, bickering among neighbors can only do more harm than good and ultimately lead also the most hardcore fans to think it is a lost cause.

What was my proposal, then?
1) that each flavor continues to take care of its main reference target hardware and their base core technologies, since full spectrum coverage from all systems combined is, and will repeat it more and more, a vantage point;

2) An agreement is sought on the technologies (like network protocol, scripting languages and IPC scripting languages like AREXX, interpreted languages with binding like lua and zulu, GUI libraries like ZUNE,MUI [and others if required]) and in a minimum subset of commands features and API needed to have an advanced interoperability between the systems; those are basic networking and distributed computing needs though, but Amiga os and like have been sorta left behind in this part:

To tell the thuth, those tools, especially the interoperativity ones should be part of every operating system; a (big) problem of the original Amiga OS was that the OS Maker support got lost in the moment on other systems small and home LAN were flourishing (though the same home maker did not do any effort to create a network infrastructure too as far as i know) and therefore Amiga OS was left behind until third party apps and stacks did not appear; however, is indeed a basic need now to have ways for applications and file systems to interoperate between them and between like OSes and with other OSes, o course.

If can also be done in a more amiga-ish way even better.



3) [is a necessary repetition] Is essential to be aware that right now the very same idea of what has been Amiga OS, its own philosophy, its user experience, its coding style and guidelines and the technologies related with it are endangered; in my opinion is very important to increase the external awareness of the EXISTENCE of Amiga and like oses, its usefulness on hobby projects and is available on omst of the processors and platforms (am a bit biased on this when i think on AROS but ppc is well covered by os4 and MorphOS too);

4) When the 68k AROS port from Jason and Toni started to deliver usable results i personally thought that this was the good time to propose AROS not only as a viable actively developed alternative for old 68k machines and homebrew hardware like monimig and Natami, but also as a viable alternate OS for other 68k platforms such as Atari falcon, the japanese x68000, and even (heresy!) ST machines and propose itself as a transversal OS for active retrocomputing use;

5) Last but not least [and another for me fundamental repetition] is the most difficult thing to do: change the way we are relating with each other; when the 'Red vs Blue' war was exploding on the net, i already stopped using proficiently Amiga and getting interested on it since at least a couple of years earlier and so lost (fortunately?) this part of Amiga history; as far as i hear from several users, seems that the actual state of things is broken beyond repair [in some cases perhaps kept artificially so] but then i can see people like Fabien 'Fab1' Coeurjoly, Itix and others help other developers to port their programs on other Amiga-like systems (see OWB, mplayer,screenrecorder); something even unthinkable just some year ago; all this reminds me the dynamics of a dying small country town like the one I grew up in Italy, as said in one of the answers to the same forum thread as above:

...am honest to say that i refuse to have a revenue oriented viewpoint at the situation, at least i refuse to think that there should be a winner system: main problemis to have a user base that is transversal to all Amiga and like systems, that should be the goal instead to behave like disputing neighbors in a small town in risk to disappearance thay, instead of working together to make tihngs such a tourims flourish to keep the place alive and thriving, mind only to fight with each other; yes because THIS is EXACTLY the actual situations; and while some of you might enjoy to be the disputing neighbor, i don't; since i used to live and grow in a place with people behaving the same way, i feel so frustrated to see all good work and a nice potential thrown away in name of some few ego-stroking personalities.



Nothing else to add, guess the above is self-describing; so now is time to act.
TECNOLOGIE
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.


BOH for AROS



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.
TECNOLOGIE
19 agosto 2009
Diary - Technologies - AROS: the king is naked and being hit by a bus...

For the first time I start to write the article in english instead of italian in order to give higher priority to the latest happenings. Will try to keep it short, considered lately I have been kinda late in delivering my usual articles.

So here we are with new ports: Fishy_fis recently ported Dosbox to AROS: despite some issues with the keyboard it mostly works and now allows to use old DOS applications and games, and even with some level of inaccuracy Windows 3.1. Paolo Besser shown in its blog how he was able to run the old Word 2 for Windows under Dosbox. Of course this does not mean that since we have dosbox and J-UAE we should not do new applications: AROS runs in much more powerful hardware than the old Amigas and DOS PCs and new programs using its capabilities are not only welcome but desired: furthermore (and this is not the first time i say it) writing new apps for AROS, will make it available, after a short work of adaptation, also for other Amiga OS systems, therefore three time (approximatively) the users.

Since some time ago i tried to write my own network application in amilua, seems that other people discovered the flexibility of zulu, and some small utilities start to appear.

Yannick "Yannickescu" Erb built WHD Menu, an alternate WHDload launcher in amilua that interfaces with E-UAE, and it looks pretty good: it includes screenshots (either coming from icons if in a supported format or from a screenshot directory) the list of titles and a custom interface GUI to configure it. Despite some minor tweaks (some tweaking is required by the user both on AROS side and UAE side according to the WHDload setting and path on the UAE machine) and the well-known limitations of actual Zulu (as the inability to dynamically update lists) the application has a professional look and shows the potential of the technology. I really hope that Mazze will be able to include callback hooks and hopefully an integration with the Cairo Library soon, in order to have our own base development language for newbies and rapid applications.

Last week the Poseidon stack had been put on validation and all users invited to contribute with their own bug report. I tested the custom AROS build with Poseidon provided by Paolo Besser in both my laptops, the old one, an ASUS a1300 p3/900 with 384 megabytes of RAM and 20 gig and the new one, a DELL vostro 1000 with AMD sempron 1,5 gig ram and 160 gig hard disk.

The test in the old laptop was kinda disappointing:poseidon did not recognized my USB OHCI hub and therefore none of the devices I plugged into it (platon defined my stack very old and bugged) while in the Dell vostro most of the sticks were recognized (beside an old staples 64 megabytes one pre-partitioned in two sections). I know a bug report has been filled for the SIS USB controller and also hear that Neil Cafferkey, haveing the same controller, was trying to see if there was a way to fix that.

You plug your device and a requester window pops up and, if you haven't made it before,it ask to name the device for DOS use and other parameters: this might souind normal to Amiga OS USB adopters that were used to this way of handle USB devices but for me, that i mostly used USB devices on windows, was a different approach: is not exactly a plug-and-play, can be more defined as a plug-configure-once-and-play, somewhat more expected in some occasions.

Some remarks on documentation: first of all, the Poseidon documentation is not available directly with the stack; it has to be retrieved downloading the Amiga stack from Platon's web site and is in AmigaGuide format, therefore the use of AutoDoc Reader is recommended; second of all, the way it was written assumes that the reader have a medium/advanced knowledge of the Amiga OS internals: in the AmigaOS world and time it was developed this made sense, since the only kind of Amiga user around was the die-hard one that used and abused its machine and can also do some little hardware repairs on it; obviously the AROS version of the documentation might need a rewrite, since AROS brings new users, sometimes completely unaware of the Amiga OS way of doing things and some other time not completely aware, as me and a friend of mine.

Will make a real world example: this friend of mine got an USB ethernet card with the dm9601 chipset,  that Platon declares supported on Poseidon documentation. Beside the fact that the card was not recognized properly because that version was not supported at the time (fixed), but we had no clue on how to use the card to get online.

Turns out that the device that has to be pointed to the TCP/IP interface is loaded in memory (and this does not mean RAM disk, just RAM) therefore there is no .device file to point; the device name should be simply declared either in the interfaces file in ENVARC:AROSTCP/db/ or, using the network control panel in prefs, first create a fake device file (like an empty text file), name it dm9601eth.device and save it in DEVS:networks/ to make it point from the TCP/IP interface.

That is a pretty singular Amiga way to handle some devices and is kinda unknown outside Amiga world; once again, considered that AROS aims, willing or not, to be the easiest gateway for newcomers to the Amiga World, it is my personal opinion that the Poseidon guide file should be provided with AROS and also re-written to ensure newcomers might be able to use it and configure it.

Beside this, there are also improvements on the part that requires Poseidon to boot from an USB stick; last August 4th, in the developer Mailing List, Chris hodges stated that:

Poseidon is now available at boot time by using the "enableusb" kernel parameter. However, as fat.handler or the cd filesystem are not available inside the kernel, booting from a fat formatted stick or CD rom are still not supported. Booting from SFS/AFS formatted stick or drive should be working, but I didn't test that.

Therefore we are in a situation where AROS COULD boot form an USB stick, problem is the stick is not seen from HDToolbox. Fortunately installAROS can be instructed to see the device in the same way that I explained before for the network NIC, writing the device name in the "device" text area if the "wipe disk" option is selected -  NOTE: I did not try that, since have no spare USB sticks to use, so please do not try to use this option, because i dont know if it might wipe your hard disk instead; this unless - as usual - you know what are doing and have back-ups handy.


Paolo Besser released the 1.1.3 version of the now well know main AROS distro, Icaros Desktop. As most of you probably already guessed, the most important feature is the inclusion of the Poseidon stack, but i would also like to point little contributions like the OWB quick handbook made by Nikos, as usual a new batch of system build files (from July 31st) and the inclusion of the LiveUpdater in the distribution.

[troubles with qemu, best fit and USB - and an annoying editor bug]
And so i decided to switch my old QEMU virtual machine with the old one. At first i found out that launching the new .bat file from a different position made QEMU exit with every selection I made form GRUB so i moved the new virtual disk and replaced the name in the batch file, and then it worked. Still, if i use QEMU and select a "Best Fit" option in GRUB, QEMU will close; since my screen is a 16:9 and the 1024x768 option is not feasible as window, i resorted to edit the file boot/grub/grub.cfg to add 800x600 modes, and found an annoying bug: deleting something in the middle of a string causes the first character in front of the cursor to overwrite all that is from him and the end of the line; had toe resort to press enter in front of all parts that i needed to modify to reduce the damage; hope this will be fixed on the coming builds because the fact that the main AROS editor is broken is kinda annoying.


The new annoying editor bug

Another thing that I wanted to check was whether Icaros in QEMU can handle USB devices thanks to Poseidon, so i looked in the net for a tutorial and found this wiki from the Slackware project where explains how to mount USB devices on it, well not exactly user-friendly but not even too complicated: first it is needed to switch in the monitor mode using CTRL+ALT+2, write the following command line:

usb_add host [vendor_ID]:[product_ID]

and switch again with CTRL+ALT+1.

In order to retrieve the vendor_id and product_id codes, since windows xp has no lsusb comand, I found this interesting freeware called USBDevView, that will show all usb devices installed in your system and all related data.


The USBDevView utility and, circled in red, the Vendor_ID and Product_ID codes required to mount USB devices in QEMU

Once i obtained the codes i tried to add my device in the way that was explained in the wiki, and had no feedback from inside QEMU. Now i dont know whether is poseidon fault, QEMU fault or maybe should have done something more than mounting the USB device, but my QEMU starts already with the -usb option and so i expected to be able to mount devices at will. Am accepting suggestions.

And, together with the very close completion of the Poseidon Stack, another interesting utility is about to be released for AROS: coded by Michal "rzokol" Zukowsky, SCANdal is a graphical fontend for Betascan (that is an Amiga OS port of the XSANE drivers from linux); is already gone out for MorphOS and will be out soon also for Amiga OS 4; thje actual development in the AROS side is actually stopped due to another Zune bug in displaying more than one radio button at once, hope Michal will be helped and find a workaround for it.

"Steril707" some time ago started to experiment using Rob's cairo port and see if it was able to take out something interesting from it: the result is what he called "Shotofop": a simple but effective graphic application that allow to do basic operantions such resize, crop, rotate paint and select parts of the paint. The first verison is quite primitive and it uses the Adobe Photoshop toolbar (but of course new and more original button will be used next); it also supoprts a limited number of layers. Steril plans ot implement partly the PSD file format too. I suggested him to get in touch with the author of SCANdal and find a way to make the two applications talk,it might be interesting.

Krzysztof "Deadwood" Smiechowicz ported latest MESA version 7.5 to AROS in shape of mesa.library; since AROS still have no hardware 3D support (delegated to the Gallium 3D bounty, and is still low - please donate!), all the rendering is actually done via software. So far GLU and GLUT are compiling but missing functionalities and incluided as dynamic libs, and SDL implementation is not done yet. In the past Deadwood ported the Eternal Lands Client embedding an old MESA version, now with the release of MESA as a library that will no more needed.

Not so good news from the Kickstart Replacement Bounty phase 1: i went to know through IRC that Greg "bheron" Casamento last month broke its leg and now is obviously focusing more on recovering its health; me and the AROS community wish him to get well soon.

Last month Amiga OS 4.1 has been reviewed from Thom Holverda of OSNews.com. An important preamble is that Thom started its informatic experience on BE-OS and Mac and is an active Haiku-OS supporter, therefore is mostly unaware of the "Amiga Way" of dong things, like our winndow system works, how libraries works, etc.

So the result is something that you can compare to a newbie introduction to the world of Amiga, and give what they call a fresh look on the actual platform state.

I might also say that he had some spot-on observations on things that I would like to see in example on AROS,IF one day will be decided to use draggable screens in Amiga OS style (Kalamatee and Rob actually dislike them btw):

What AmigaOS needs is a few default screens set-up, and the ability to drag and drop windows [and icons or files too when the screen contains a single app on my opinion - nda] from one screen to the other. Currently you have to manually configure windows to appear on certain screens, and while this is useful for running, say, old Amiga games, it's not very user friendly for new users like me. The feature has a lot of potential though, so I hope the AmigaOS developers can capitalise on it more in the future.

I am well aware that the commercial Amiga-like OSes are more advanced than AROS where i meddle almost daily (see iconification, interactive pointer and show as list),but some basic things remained the same, such as the way Amiga OS handle its windows, not clicked by front, or the need to update the workbench manually to show drives and files, and those are among the things Thom did not liked; while personally on the window handling topic I feel at home better on Amiga OS style (obviously), i sincerely miss the automatic update and snapshot in the windows icons and positions (AROS support automatic update, but not for FFS so far), and am not alone:

the file manager also doesn't auto-update its contents; you need to manually update a folder if you downloaded something new into it. There are 3rd party utilities that fix this problem, but I'd prefer it something as basic as this is part of the default installation.

...

Speaking of windows, the AmigaOS seems to have a more persistent problem with retaining window sizes - almost every application refused to remember window sizes, which really starts to get on your nerves after a few days.


The final conclusion Thom draws are good but not exactly the most positive around, and is not the first time those are reported on an Amiga board or blog:

The AmigaOS is cool. It's fun. For most of you, it will be a whole new world of technology to explore and play around with. It's also a well-implemented world, with a logical file system, flexible file layout (you can move everything to everywhere, seemingly), cool features like the draggable screens, and lots of other stuff. It's also remarkably configurable, and given more time, I would've loved to explore more of the innards of the system, to really be able to use the system to its fullest potential.

However, said fun and coolness comes at a massive price, and this time, I'm not talking about the price of the soft and hardware. Despite the lipstick the developers put on the system (in the form of transparency and other fanciness) it's still very clear that the AmigaOS is a relic, a thing from the past. The application portfolio is outdated, lacking, and incapable, there's no protected memory, and many configuration panels are overwhelmingly difficult to understand and use.

AmigaOS 4.1 just didn't let me in. It's like being invited by a friend to a party where you don't know any of the people there. Your friend promises to remain by your side and ease you into the group, but once you arrive, your friend wanders off into the crowd, leaving you by the sidelines. And the group of people have known each other for 30 years. And they're catching up to 30 years of shared history. And they really aren't interested in newcomers - this is a reunion, not a party.

Remember: those are the conclusion of somebody that used to get to know the world of computing starting form a different side of the fence; this means that many things and approaches that we Amiga/MOS/AROS users take usually for granted are approached with a different mind orientation, might take the example of somebody that started driving motor vehicles using automatic gear and instead somebody that started using directly stick-shift, with of course Amigans among the stick-shift users.

Being a returning Amiga User, and having myself not been actively involved in Amiga progresses after 3.1 (my 1200 system is a 3.0 and had no chance nor the money to update the software), i myself had to re-learn many of the glitches introduced with os 3.5 and 3.9, that made a nice fast and efficient system such as the original Amiga OS 3 in a much less efficient and patched kinda blob. But despite that i still have the Amiga mindset and that helped me a lot in the past; i went to realize that without my original Amiga Background a modern OS-4, MOS or even AROS might have looked, if not as dark as a linux, probably much more primitive.

That inspired my main answer in the board:

Well,is hard for me to be objective when a fellow OS is involved; Thom as an outsider of the Amiga world expressed its concerns about AOS 4.1; so far, i got to realise that the Amiga OSes, including my endorsed AROS are made "by amigans for amigans" in paraphrase to the usual saying for linux.
What I mean is that, when i got interested in AROS in 2006 and tried the live CD, the first thing that made me fell in love with it was the feeling similar to the one of using an Amiga OS, in good and in bad: there were undoubtely flaws, but were *our* flaws, stuff we Amiga users had to live with everyday.

Like the workbench: as file manager has always been not the best option: Directory opus or filemaster has been Amiga user best friends since 1989 to help overcome those flaws,and still Amiga and AROS users deal with it either with the commercial old Magellan or the open source dopus 4 revisited, in example.

And now some of the Amiga desktop paradigmas and usability might look outdated to people coming from other systems, while people like me , used that all the time, actually feel comfortable with the windows that does not stack on click, allowing to focus on the main task and handling stuff in the back; but again is all matter of perception and habits.

I am glad that after many years of inertia things started to move in the amiga world again, but the problem is there is a lot to catch up and so far good old Amiga OSes are now a niche market for aficionados and a hobby; and looks like it might stay like this for long time, and not aspire to be more until many of the flaws are catched up, though i have good feelings about the netbook market...

At the end my personal opinion is: if you never used an Amiga OS or like and want to have a taste of it but have no money to spend, the first answer is try AROS, considered it is free and runs in most x86 hardware (and in virtual machines too); then, once you got used to it, if you like it, you can go the next level and buy a SAM for AOS or EFIKA for MOS too, according to tastes.

So, as you can see i endorse in part Thom opinion: of course I would like to see addressed the main problems of Amiga OS/MOS/AROS, epsecially for the usability part; i also pointed on the factr that right now a real Amiga OS or MOS are hard to reach for any hobbyist with little money to spend and proposed once more AROS as main low-cost  and low commitment gateway to the Amiga world, despite its actual incompleteness, that thank god is slowly being addressed (but still no interactive mouse pointer, damn!); furthermore the upgrade of Wanderer is the topic of this discussion in Aros-exec, where somebody also proposed (once again) to port Ambient from MorphOS,considered that is open source (GPL licensed) and much more powerful than the actual Wanderer; against this there are two main problems: one is legal but minor - Ambient is licensed under GPL - and the other one is merely technical but bigger - Ambient uses extensively MUI 4 classes and Zune so far supports only barely MUI 3.8. Steve Jones gave the hint that he might have a way to obtain the Directory Opus Magellan source code (once some licensing problems are solved), but even that is a non trivial port, considered parts of it are written in assembler.

And, of course, porting applications and filling the gaps in AROS is pretty matter of lack of developers: despite new blood lately came in, still very few people have the knowledge required to handle the core system coding, and despite the actual progress, still AROS is not yet fully recognized as one of the Amiga-like extended family members, like is shown in a thread in Amigapage.it, here, translated through Google.


An interesting happening of the latest days in the Linux world, about the disappearance (now solved) of the main mantainer of CentOS (and also SVN admin, domain admin and holder of all the monetary donations of the distro) gives insight to what i heard slashdot users call the Bus Syndrome or,in short, how many chances of survival have a project if one of the key mantainers or key developers is gone suddenly missing (or, as a figure speech, hit by a bus).

Now, in AROS there is little organisation as known, but still the figure of Aaron Digulla, founder of the project, one of the admin of the aros.org domain and of the CVS server - therefore the one who can administer CVS accounts - has a primary importance; is well known to the Developer's mailing list subscribers that might take an undetermined amount of time between the request for a CVS account to Aaron and receiving the account datas. But What if for some reason Aaron will come to miss? I wonder: is its position and the fact to be the CVS admin essential for the prosecution of AROS? Michal Schulz [that finished recently phase 1 of EFIKA port and now is working on the ARM port BTW] is another key developer and i already expressed here my concerns for when he will decide to give up AROS development, wishing for all actual core developers to try to documentate as much as possible; now also considered, because of some server upgrade problem, the CVS certificate expired and it has been impossible to build nightly for a couple of weeks, it is my opinion and advice that since Aaron in the last couple of years dropped active development in AROS and is actively busy in other projects, might be a good thing if he decides to give Admin privileges to some of the core developers as a backup move, to prevent any incoming trouble that might happen to ther project in case he might be unable to attend it admin duties anymore.

To finish, another interesting bounty has been rekindled last yesterday: since last year Bill Panagouleas' DiscreetFX acquired the sources for the Video Toaster suite, they also started a bounty for hardware-abstrtact and porting the programs including the ToasterCG suite on the modern Amiga-like OSes, including AROS. Since many of the programs,despite being made in C include parts written in assembly code (with exception of digipaint, being entirely written in assembly) that might be not a trivial work, but if done can surely help the actual lack of good video processing software on modern Amiga systems and also be used as base for new video applications.
TECNOLOGIE
17 luglio 2009
Diary:Technologies:Amiga / AROS: Hacko ergo sum

This time will not talk about lua programming, also because since many of the project that i tried to work in either got covered by somebody else, (like the network control panel or the amistart calendar). Am also still thinking on how to build some tutorial to explain the base concepts on how to generate a zulu interface.

Andrea "Afxgroup" Palmete' accepted the OS4 Depot Gnash os 4 port bounty: considered that  Gnash is a project under GPL license, it might be possible, once the bounty has been satisfied, to port it in other amiga-like systems with adequate modifications (being a os4 project it uses reaction for its - thank God quite basic - GUI); so far results are pretty good: youtube movies are working properly and flash applications up to version 7 are quite supported too; a summer of code task should bring to the mainstream project the actionscript 3 classes support. Personally i still hope that somebody might build one day an open source builder for flash contents: in the past there were attemts such as f4l but now the projects looks abandoned and the project that should have replaced it, called UIRA, was actually suspended for political/legal issues; the original developers made a call for new people that would have liked to bring it on....

In the meanwhile Stanislaw Sszymczyk continued to update OWB that, so far, reached version 0.9.7 [edit: 0.9.8 is already out]: it fixes some errors that brought 0.9.6 version (like inability to submit forms in some pages such as the aros-exec forum one) and features also a basic bookmark manager. Beside that, the cookie handling has been updated in the mainstream version and implemented (fixed a bit more too) in the AROS version.

I am also glad to announce that now the AJAX editor of my blog platform is working too unde OWB, beside the minor annoyance to need to refresh the page once i saved the content.



OWB 0.9.7 on my blog edit platform - the bookmark window is in the bottom right.


Paolo Besser is working too in try to improve its Icaros Desktop distro: recently, beside the new Icaros Desktop 1.1.2 release, he published a new Automatic Upgrade tool that will detects upgrades either from an .iso file, a CD-ROM or from internet, downloading a nightly.iso and using it to upgrade the system I tried it yesterday but it makes my QEMU environment close, guess because the disk ran out of space (my system partition is small) while downloading the nightly .iso from the net.

And Chris "platon42" Hodges is working on fixing the port of Poseidon on AROS: one of the main problems that Chris is having now is that he is lacking a real x86 hardware where to test on: its actual method of testing is to develop on VmWare, upload its latest binaries on the nightly buillds and have users with real hardware report about any problems it might arise.  So far some peripherals are recognized and some can also be mounted, but in other cases we still have either system freezes and hangups or the new inserte dperipheral might not be recognized properly by the stack. Once that is done, seems there still are some problems with the fat.handler, where in example the OS command copy does not work properly from FFS/SFS to FAT yet...

Matthias "Mazze" Ruster is busy, together with the YAM developing team in porting finally the well-known Amiga mail client on AROS; the port is virtually finished, beside a necessary bug hunting for some specific system-related flaws.

Last June 6 I had the occasion and the privilege to participate at a monthly reunion of the Southern California Commodore/Amiga Network (SCCAN) in the town of Castaic, north of the Los Angeles County and San Fernardo Valley, almost at the limit of the huge LA urban area. In the garage of one of those almost-cloned suburb houses i was greeted from Joew May, one of the members and the house owner. On ce the garage door slide up i faced its "laboratory": on the various crowded shelf i seen a c64, a sx-64 (c64 executive), several amiga 500, 1200 and a 3000 with or without external hard disk, beside three or four a2000 with toaster piled in a corner. After a while other members of the group arrived, included Robert Bernardo, the founder and brought further hardware and software; i therefore seen UAE on a eee-pc 700, i was able to see a custom version of the c-one board which also supported Minimig in its FPGA programming, the sx-64 mentioned above and other relics from the 64 era, including a plastic musical keyboard overlay similar to the one distributed by SIEL in italy.


An overall view of the SCCAN : from the left, standing Jerold - a guest movie operator; then Robert Bernardo sitting with white shirt and glasses, then standing Tim, the c-one user and, sitting on the right Matt with its eee-pc running UAE. Just next to Robert look st the pile of a2000 equiped with Video Toasters:)

It was a pity that, since my wife and my mother in law were with me, i wasunabvle to stay more than a couple of hours but it was nice to see some other people with a common ground to share; beside those little reunions, the SCCAN and the Fresno Commodore Club also organize in Las Vegas the Commodore Vegas Expo (or CommVEx) on the last week-end of July; as usual for budget reasons i cannot partecipate: this was a good edition with excellent guest (among those,Dave Haynie, RJ Mical and miss Jeri "C-One" Ellisworth !!!) but at least it is my intention to go to Castaic again next end of August/begin of September.

In order to show AROS to the SCCAN members, I thought it was about time to introduce it in a much better way than it happened at SCALE, where I introduced VmWAROS on virtual machine, full screen but no sound and the network still to be fixed; that of course was unprofessional and, am afraid, even unconvincing.

The stimulus to do that also came from the IRC channel, where an user asked how Icarosperformed on Virtualbox;  nic answered that he has been unable so far to make Icaros run on virtualbox properly and remembered - and me too -  that last year Michal Schulz made some fixes for AROS to run properly on it; other reason has been due to my subscription in the FSUGItalia board, where I introduced AROS and one of the users complained about the fact that VmWare was not an "open" virtual machine and was looking for alternatives such as Virtualbox.

So, at the end I downloaded and installed Virtualbox on my own machine and proceedted to look for make Icaros work on it.
According to an old multiplatform tutorial I should have first joined together all .vmdk files with the
vmware vdiskmanager, usually buindled with VmWare server but not with the player (thanks again to Kalamatee that provided me the file via IRC saving me from an approximate hundred megabytes download) and then I should have used qemu and convert the virtual file in a middle format that, using a Virtualbox tool, should then become readable from this one; and therefore I proceeded in all the iter to the Virtualbox converter... that was not there! Hoiw come?

A further search in google clarified that latest versions of Virtualbox can read VmWare virtual drives (nice to know having spent half an hour converting the files...) and so, once deleted the converted files I do the attempt to configure Virtualbox in run Icaros. The first boot attempt ends with the red pointer on the black screen and nothing else; considered that, whan I made my tests, the ata.device still were having big problems with AMD boards (and my Dell laptop has an AMD Sempron), i decided to follow instructions on Icaros site for unsupported SATA drives and so I  changed in GRUB the ATA=32bit string in ATA=nopci (ATA=nodma works too btw) and doing so i finally boot on Wanderer.


Icaros on Virtualbox: it works, despite some problems...
 
First of all I need to make clear that, unlike VmWare and qemu that adapt a screen refresh rate to the host machine speed and virtualisation capabilities, Virtualbox will run at full video speed (else known as 1-1 screen refresh) and will run excellent if your hardware support virtualisation else,like in my single core laptop, expect to wait up to three seconds for opening a wanderer window and show its icons.

Second, might be a mistake in my configuration but the Virtualbox network bridge tends to make exclusive use of the network, therefore forget to browse from AROS and windows at the same time; ti make sure the bridge does not give me any problem, i disabled it when i dont use VB, and will keep it like that until i dont understand what to do about it, or somebody will suggest me a workaround.

Third and last, the sound "kinda" work if i set a compatible sound card (AC-97 with a supported chipser) in the virtual machine, but the sound test make a kind of attempt of a sound (sound like BEEreberebereberebeepp-p-p, instead of a two seconds Beep) and then it freezes badly the virtual machine.

So for now Virtualbox is still there, sitting in my disc; probably i will do some more experiments in the future; about me i decided to switch to plan B and try the QEMU option.

Hopeful to have a better result (also because to what an IRC member told me) i decided to install the VE version of Icaros, that also includes KQemu, and follow the instructions given by Paolone in its web site for installing a QEMU environment on a netbook here, with some interpretation, of course. And the final result was really good: double clicking on the executing .bat file shortcut, Icaros start at full screen (i have another.bat file for work in a window), the sound seems to work properly, tried with milkytracker  (this .mpeg file make freeze and quit qemu environment btw) and the network works fine thianks to DHCP.


Icaros on qemu: finally something to show for evangelisation :)


Despite that i still gave problems in transferring files: considered the (damn!) net sandboxing system of qemu, making a subnet with IP addresses like 10.2.xx that is not visible from outside, this mieans that in order to transfer files i have to FTP from inside qemu towards my machine; and that is complicated from the fact that my machine does not have a static address, being used mainly through wireless. I tried a simple FTP address on it but so far it did not work, art least i was unable to see it from inside qemu. When i have some time will install the XAMPP package (doing web sites i need it even for work) and will set filezilla server.

But those were not all the experimentations that I made so far: when the Network control panel came out had the pretty insane idea to make a personal "emergency live-CD" with all I needed to go on line, like OWB, a IRC client, YAFS and the FTP using as base a nightly; this because my old laptop has a malfunctioning DVD drive that can read only CD-ROMs. Therefore, I found a copy of Magic ISO maker and started to experiment burning images. For my perosnal disappointment i have been unable to make any progress: either the CD booted showing a mangled scren or they did not boot at all (but they were showing if i boot from another original nightly). So, seems that so far the only way to make a bootable CD is to build AROS using the toolkit from source;  knowing that the GRUB boot file for AROS is called eltorito (yuo, same as the mexican food restaurant chain) i tried to make point the bootable option to it, still without success so far. Any advice for me?

Going on with my activities, lately had occasion to work again on the translation of the Amiga Programming Guide by Gianfranco "ShInKurO" Gignina; he prepared a SVN repository on Google Code for allow other people to partecipate. Since am already susing SVN at basic level from my office in linux shell, i thought that was a piece of cake to handle. But, as usual, murphy decided to pay me a visit. To contribute I decided to download TortoiseSVN, a SVN client for windows that provide a graphical user interface integration. I already prepared the translation of the new parts of chapter 5 but, despite I did inserted the google code repository and the generated password in the settings (as https too) i have been unable to commit in the repository.My caontribution has been uploaded by ShInkUrO itself, which I sent it via email; i really hope to fix this soon.

And, to finish for this time, let me provide an interesting link that I found on the net: the "how to survive poisonous people" talk made by the SVN developer's team and hosted on Google video: it talks about problems that might arise when some community members are, to say it soft, "less cooperative"; thank God this happens less in AROS environment, but is still a good source of advice.



TECNOLOGIE
28 maggio 2009
Diary:Technologies:AROS: the long and painful road to 1.0

I needed to take a leave a bit from the blog scene because my main laptop has been infected badly by a virus so that had to reformat and reinstall my OS: plus as bonus the backup DVDs i made looks like have errors and so i might be unable to recover my old AROS virtual disk: thank god i used to work my lua scripts on Windows and have copies on my SD card.

Anyway, despite Przemyslaw "Qus" Szczygielsky fixed its TCPPrefs control panel for AROS,this does not mean that I should abandon my lua Network config project: the problems withmy computer stopped me for a while but am ready to go on: at least i hope the related aros-exec thread should be a good didactic reference point for whoever want to start an Amilua project. Anyway, is my intention to post a tutorial when will have some free time.

I already set up the user interface: both mazze answers in the thread and some lua regular expression tutorials helped me in parsing the configuration files and do backup copies of it (in a bit rudimental way, parsing them and writing in a new renamed file via script), so what else is missing?
First of all I need to set the graphical frontend gadgets according to the preferences set in the files, including pre-set the cycle gadget on the actual network card; second i need to write the new configuration with the user set parameters. And last, if i would indulge in a little ego trip, a menu with a voice to show the about window ;) .


My Network Config Amilua app and part of the debug output window

Once done with this control panel, I would like to write sometihng to manage the Amistart calendar: one of the few widgets for Amistart, that also should be taken as example for those that want to write some more - is not happening yet, dont know why ;  another idea tingling my mind is to write a simple bookmark manager for OWB but so far there is no way to make OWB open a new address using the DOS getURL command and it is only possible to use the command OWB [url to launch] in order to open the program: it is not possible to use it with an open session: the old one needs to be closed first; i tested it personally.

At the begin of may I helped on write the AROS website status update: in this one I asserted that the latest months progresses brought AROS on the verge to be available for a daily usage; but in order to reach this goal still several obstacles need to be overcome, both on software availability, and on the system stability and affordability.

Neil Cafferkey still continues in its work on the ata.device; being this a critical piece of AROS, every time he or somebody else put its hand on it there is the risk something that used to work might break and, once it was fixed, might make it wonder how the hell was able to work before, but first let's get the facts: An updated ata.device patch has been provided with the Icaros desktop 1.1.1 upgrade; the upgrade has been temporarily removed by Paolo Besser itself due to the fact that on computers with southbridge board AMD SB600 or with similar architectures severe data corruption occured writing data in the disc partition; beside this, several users were greeted with a black screen and the red pointer with no further boot progress. For those the solution, was less drastic, citing from the Icaros website:

If you can't boot Icaros and the process stops after the red pointerappeared on the screen, please do as follow to fix the issue:

- turn on PC
- choose a resolution from Grub's menu but DON'T press Enter
- press 'E' instead
- move cursor after "ATA=32bit" and change it either to "ATA=nodma" or "ATA=nopci" (depending on what it works for you)
- press Ctrl+X to continue booting

Ifbooting has success open /boot/grub/grub2.cfg with the AROS editor,search for the "ATA=32bit" string and replace it with "ATA=nodma" or"ATA=nopci". You can do this easily, using the 'replace' option in the'search' menu of the editor.

At the same time, in answer to the problem exposed by Paolo Besser, Neil Cafferkey unveils what happened in the developer's mailing list:

I think I've found the cause of these problems: we don't set the
controller's timing registers.

My guess is that when DMA *did* work with older driver versions, it was
just a coincidence: ata.device re-set the drive mode that the BIOS had
already set, so there was no need to change the timing registers.

If we want to use a drive in a mode that the BIOS hasn't set, we need to
set the controller's timing registers to match that mode. Unfortunately,
there is no single standard for these timing registers. This is why Linux
for example has numerous PATA drivers: one for Intel, one for ATI, one for
Silicon Image etc.

This problem probably became more apparent because the new driver version
checks the cable report register bits to determine if the 80-wire cables
necessary for high-speed UDMA are present. My mistake was to assume that
all PCI controllers followed the T13 spec for these registers, but I
should have realised that that was unlikely given that the spec was only
published as recently as 2003. The T13 spec is implemented by Intel (and I
only have machines and emulators with Intel chipsets to test on), but I
suspect that T13 were actually following Intel's established design. Other
manufacturers have incompatible controller registers.

So on non-Intel controllers, the driver will incorrectly determine that
only 40-wire cables are installed, and downgrade the DMA mode from say
UDMA5 to UDMA2. Since the timing will then be wrong, data corruption is
likely to occur.

As a solution, I propose that, at least in the short term, ata.device does
not attempt to set a mode for any drive, but simply detects and uses the
mode already set by the BIOS. I hope that this will not lead to a
degradation in performace in most cases: in my small sample, BIOSes in
modern machines seem to set the best available mode for each drive by
default. I have this fix working locally. We already rely on the BIOS to
set addresses for PCI devices and enable bus-mastering, so this is just
one more thing.

In the longer term we could look at setting timings ourselves, but this
looks like a complicated procedure, and probably wouldn't give any
performance gain in most cases.

To help confirm my theory, I set a disk in one of my PCs to MDMA mode in
the BIOS instead of UDMA, and ata.device failed to access it after it put
the drive into UDMA2 mode. It had worked perfectly when the BIOS had set
it to UDMA (UDMA1 as it happens, but probably close enough not to cause
errors).

once the ata.device was fixed, the icaros update has been restored and is now available again for download.
In the Icaros Website Paolo expressed the fact that, despite he is doing the best to offer maximum stability and performance with the most recent system libraries and programs, sometimes it might happen that some components were not fully tested, also because is hard to test all hardware configurations, and especially for a small volunteered project as AROS; Paolo also assures how, despite the actual problem, the actual situation is even improved, considered that  now AROS boots even in machines where was unable to boot before, and that, thanks to the fact that the actual users and testers are aware of the beta nature of the syatem, damage was pretty limited; those kind of accidents might happen in open source projects- without mention Linux and its well known breakages - i might not say it happens often, but it happens.

Recently Neil also worked on fix other ata.device problems, including the fact that the device thought there were two DVD drive in case a SATA DVD drive was used. The change of the device enumeration system is also planned.

Neil is actually checking DHCP system, due to the fact that, once the shell command arostcp stop is given (or  a CTRL-C break command, as is called in unix environments), the DHCP stack become unresponsive and bring the CPU usage to 100%.


At the same time Michal Schulz worked on improve graphic performance on ATI Radeon - same graphic card that he as on Efika; bot Michal and Nik  "Kalamatee" Andrews  seen how the themes design (bad) implementation is among of the culprit in slowing down Wanderer performance - this in a fairly slow system such as Efika is much more perceived ; therefore Michal worked hard in accelerate several display redraw functions and the performance on ATI radeon both on x86 and PPC are improved quite dramatically.
Kalamatee, beside its actual task in improving and modernizing Wanderer, is considering whether to take the Graphic Subsystem Bounty, but so far nothing more is known about this topic.

And, at last, a rare happening in the actual Amiga oses landscape: with a joint effort, users from both Amiga OS, MorphOS and AROS partecipated to reach the $4000 goal set for the Poseidon USB Bounty: Thanks also to the initiative of a community member, that offered to double further received offers, the actual bounty quota is at $4170. Chris Hodges, the author of the Poseidon stack, started to work at the port - which source code will be open - and the stack will be released on the APL license; this will also allow other Amiga-like oses to port and to update extend and improve the stack code.

Outside the Amiga communities (with maybe the exception of the Haiku os) the bounty system concept might sound unknown - considered that in example a bigger open source player system such as Linux usually projects are founded from those government and commercial entities interested in their further development and maintenance; for smaller projects and communities, instead - such amiga-like oses -  the bounty system is the major (almost unique for AROS) source of funding. Therefore projects like this really are funded from the community and literally belong to the community, in a sort of similar fashion to the gothic cathedrals in the middle age.

And now a last word on the Aros-exec portal: last May 22nd the portal, after another virus exploit, was once again closed: now, after a week, the portal is finally back online using an updated and exploit -free xoops version and also a nice blue-metal new skin. I by the way remember that aros-exec is mainly a development-oriented portal; is my advice to point final users to the more user-oriented portal Arosworld.org. test
TECNOLOGIE
13 aprile 2009
Diary: Technologies: AROS: Icaros Desktop v1.1, Amiga Users and the Peter Pan syndrome...
NOTICE: Due to an overzealous filtering method of "il cannocchiale" blog platform, the links to the AROS-exec Group might not work (because the presence of the 'exe' string in the name); therefore please instead of click the link directly, copy it, paste it in the address bar and fix it by hand in order to access to the forum, at least until i dont get in touch with the group admins ad whitelist the group name...

Sorry if i took so long in write the SCALE article and other news last time: looks like i need to learn to be a bit more short, considered that an equal if not higher amount of time is needed to translate the article in english so all you international readers are found reading one month old news.... therefore new passphrase is "write less, write often" :) [and as you can see, in pure open source fashion is another "when it's ready deadline - Happy Easter to everybody :P ]

A little Parenthesis for the recent bad luck of the Aros-exec portal that has been hacked three times in the latest two weeks, the last recorded one on Friday april 10th with a malware-loaded pdf file brought through an iframe; looks like finally the attack was contained and the web site came back to normal, but for those emergency situations the alternative is to go in the other AROS portal usually less frequented (that is bad, is a good one, i also mirror my articles there), called arosworld.org.

Good news: finally I managed to use network from my personal laptop at home! The solution was simple but kinda hidden from the average user eyes, and i stumbled on it casually; i needed to check whether my used network stack (wireless in my laptop) is correctly mapped as Vmnet0, using the program vmnetcfg.exe, located in the same program folder of the VmWare Player; there is no icon on the start menu so find it is matter to look for it. Usually Vmnet0 is mapped on the ethernet card of the computer while the main network I use in my laptop is the wireless one so I had to set Vmnet0 to map the wireless network first. Once done, i finally had no further problems with the network.

Last March 26th has been finally released Icaros Desktop version 1.1 (so far known as VmWaros): i already talked about it last time and can only remind the most important new features:
- recent build of AROS;
- added IconDress script for a fast icon set changing system wide in just a click;
- added Janus-UAE;
- added OWB;
- a new PDF-reader, ArosPDF,based on xpdf by Craid-Kiesau;
- improved stability;
- new Wanderer version with added icon options and status bar;
- updated several applications, including amimemos, simpleeditor and MarranoFTP (still with some bugs though)
- added application-switch and screen-switch keyboard shortcuts windows-style;
- globally improved E-UAE performence and upgraded amibridge scripts;
- added nic for RTL8168, the actually built-in iMica network card;

further informations are available on the distribution site itself; plus The italian IT oriented website Punto Informatico for the second time mentions here the Icaros Desktop release, putting it in the last minute news. I set up Icaros desktop last saturday in my VM and found it very stable. There are still some problems with in example the Zune class Betterstring.mcc that in some applications, such as WookieChat, shows just the last typed character; the reason of this behavior is actually being investigated, also because Paolo Besser said that in its installed system it dont see that behavior, present in the builds that he make.

Steve "ClusterUK" Jones updated Amibridge scripts; since the original cripts by Paolo Besser ised to delete and rewrite the user-startup under E-UAE, the method implemented by Steve allows not to delete the user-srtartup and load simply the chosen application in its own Janus-UAE window, that later can be closed through commodities or closing gadget, so to have a tighter integration between the AROS desktop and the Amiga 68k applications. Despite there might be still some work to be done, including the double pointer problem - Steve says - the target is getting close. The script canbe downloaded from here.

An interesting, and a bit pathetic thread started - or i should say restarted, considered that it represents itself every now and then - some days ago on amigaworld.net and successively even on osnews, about an x86 port of Amiga Os 4.1; a small but noisy minority of users made hear their voice on how the Amiga OS future should go, as happened for Mac OS, through the Intel processor family also considered some key events, such as the purchase of Freescale corp. from Apple and the closing of other manufacturers, that have left a strong uncertainity halo on the PPC platform.
Hyperion some time ago let know their opinion and  that they do not have intention to port Amiga OS under x86 - due, as most readers pointed on the thread, to a combination of low ROI, high porting cost, high piracy risk that might make the operation a huge loss - and is also interesting to see how, once reminded this and also stated that at the moment AROS is "the only game in town" on x86 and x86/64 platform, those people literally thrown out something that can only called tantrums in the fact that was not a REAL Amiga-labeled os, that was NOT os4, etc.

I do wonder sometimes if some Amiga user suffer of a peculiar Peter-pan syndrome form or else...

I have to be honest: this kind of aggregating all together around the Amiga "Brand" was something that made sense when I was younger, a way to express an identity and a social role and to stand from the bunch: i used to have a painted "I <3 my AMIGA" sticker on the back of my black Fiat Panda around 1995 to 1999 but then, once started to work and to use different systems made me feel the inadequacy of hanging hard on a single platform: the coup-de-grace came when, in order to do a big gig i had to add some removable storage and so I went to buy a zip drive and a surf-squirrel; i never been able to make it work properly due to the fact that my ViperEC030 RAM area collided with the PCMCIA access and therefore every single time i tried to access the drive, either via shapeshifter or from the Amiga side, the system hanged up pretty badly and had to resort in buying a power mac aside (no, using less ram was not a viable option).

Then, several years later, my rediscover of AROS in a moment in which was looking for alternatives to my fast-decaying "alternative"xp install on my old laptop, made me reconsider the option of an Amiga OS-like system and of its philosophy: it was much more user friendly than linux and a well known environment for me; a deeper immersion in the AROS community made me realise its big potential as Open source system and as ideal prosecutor of the Amiga OS philosophy: fast, lightweight, modular, user-centered and can run fast even in less recent and cheap hardware. The big plus the fact of being open source: mantained and updated by the community itself, it guarantees an indefinite long life to the system and allows the flow of new ideas and philosophies, beside the possibility to be used in commercial systems that would like to use it (as in example Natami) without the need to pay licence fees or to stipulate binfing OEM contracts; in short as i already said, an ideal solution for the diffusion of the Amiga philosophy and methodology. What i see instead is still several old school Amiga supporters stuck in their principles like "intel outside" and "Amiga is a full Hardware and Software complete solution, and is the ORIGINAL one", and whines about wanting anything that has the "Amiga" brand: reminds me closely the monologue of Eddie Murphy in the "Eddie Murphy raw" movie when he talks about its experience when he was a kid and was asking the mom for a McDonald burger (watch it and laugh here) and, having instead received a home-made burger (better than the McDonald one for sure) he start crying because other kids that have the McDonald burger fools him; luckilly growing up the sense of what is important changes and so when Eddie is grown up he craves for the mom's house-made burger (the moment of the admission here at 3:30): in my own head i see AROS as the mom's burger and Amiga OS as the McDonald's burger; vantages are visible: your mom can make your burger the way you like instead of McDonald's that being a big industrial franchising has its own easy-to-make-fool-proof-recipes-and-cooking-methods (see the book McDonald's behind the arches to know more about their procedures), but both things have their reason to exist even in relation to the number of people they need to serve: right now Amiga OS and MorphOS have a number of users too small to become mainstream and afford the jump to the x86 platform making sure they will see a decent Return of Income from a non-indifferent effort.
So, if you look for AmigaOS on the x86, AROS is here already and, as already said, being open source, can be expanded from anybody who has the skills to do it; the proposal of AROS now, in this very moment, thanks to the self-compilation, to OWB, to the (partially) working USB stack that allows to use external medias that started to glance in the eye of several hobbyists ,returning amiga users and, hopefully, even on the eye of more business-oriented people such as Steve Jones, who give AROS installed in bundle with its iMica; as i said this is finally the right time to introduce AROS at a higher number of people, for now mainly hobbyists and geeks, then, once solved the lack of software problem, even for less tech-savvy people.

And in the sense of improving AROS a good new is coming from the developer's mailing list: Jens Langner and Pavel "Sonic" Fedin are cooperating in order to compile Betterstring.mcc in the cross-compiler without passing through MetaMake (the AROS building system); therefore now the Betterstring class for AROS will be added directly from mainstream and removed from the source tree; in future Jens plans to make other classes, such as NList and TextEditor, compile from the cross-compiler and therefore to be released together with AmigaOS and MorphOs updates; Jens also plans to port YAM - the most known open source mail program for Amiga OSes - for AROS.

Nik "Kalamatee" Andrews is actually working in further improvements of Wanderer: some pictures appeared on AmigaNews.it and a Demonstration Video made by Kalamatee itself on Youtube shows the Wanderer windows holding a win-style directory tree at the left and the already known status bar on the bottom: the interesting fact is that those features will be in future handled as external modules and therefore enabled or disabled at will; that show the intention of Kalamatee to make Wanderer a more modular system easy to customise and upgrade, even with third party modules that will surely appear.

And, finally, another comeback of Stanislaw Sszymczyk, that released the 0.9.3 version of OWB: several bug fixed, optimised for better speed, the .htaccess login problem has been finally addressed and now OWB show a modal requester asking for username and password.
The latest OWB requires the latest codesets.library that can be taken from a nightly build .iso made after March 30. The new version, available for x86 and x86/64 can be downloaded from the sand-labs AROS OWB website.
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