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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
10 dicembre 2008
Technologies: AROS: Small steps, Sparks; small steps...
ATTENTION: due to a strange bug on il cannocchiale blog platform, the aros-exec links does not appear correctly, therefore fix them in the address bar; hope this problem will be reparied soon...

The title is, for who remembers it, a catch phrase from the movie "Contact" and also one of the things that I took as philosophy of life; if you want to do something it is better to go slow pursuing smaller goals than try to do the big leap all at once when things are not going right away.

It means that, doing small steps,  the path to the achievement is followed anyway, slowly and one day looking around you realise that your goal is closer than expected. The secret is fragmenting big tasks in smaller, more affordable chores; taking those on and completing em means getting to the final goal a small step less, minor maybe but still a step less to go.

Of course i am thinking about AROS situation; let me show the actual latest small steps to the 1.0:

Stanislaw Sszymczyk has finished recently the bounty for the AROS self-compilation, a very important step for every operating system considered that, as somebody commented in the OSNews announce, some developers don't get interested in an OS until it reach this goal; so even simply this step might be a good thing and a reason to attract, in theory, new developers.

And with small steps even the new evrsion of VmWAROS is close to be completed: Paolo Besser announced the "feature freeze" for the actual version that si undergoing a massive beta testing before the public release.
Considered that, up to the last year, AROS was left without any official distro and the announced one, called Velocity, had to be cancelled by its mantainer, fishy_fis, due to personal problem and to a bad car accident that involved him.

Paolo Besser has achieved,with a combination of shell scripts, to create a simple UAE integration in the new version of VmWAROS. The integration system, called "Amibridge", use an idea already conceived by fishy_fis itself and put together by Besser on its own and allows to launch UAE and specific Amiga programs with the click of an icon on Wanderer.
Furthermore: thanks at my own initiative to get in touch with Whoosh777, mantainer of the Amiga and AROS port of Ghostscript to ask about a port of a new version.
Strangely, nobody ever gave to Whoosh777 any feedback on the AROS version of Ghostscript so he decided to keep it on hold.
AROS internals were changed since the last version of Ghostscript shipped and, despite mine and Paolo debug reports, seems like the new version of Ghostscript is actually not working correctly.
But Paolo found out that the previous version is actually still working fine and that allowed him to write another script that, through Ghostscript, creates jpeg previews of a PDF document pages on RAM and show them through picshow. The script has been called PoorPDF.
Last but not least, a slight esthetical improvement has been done by the cooperation of Ken Lester and its own famous Ken's Icons, portedt to AROS and customised for the occasion.
A well known feature of the ken's icons - the icon's different appearance between selected and unselected - brought to a review of the icon.library and of the way icons are actually built under AROS.

Nikolaos, here let us know that another historic problem of AROS - the impossibility to change CD-ROM in a drive without the need to reboot in order to see the new one - has finally been solved partially by Error; still, appIcons are not supported (appIcons are tye icons that shows up when a removable media is mounted) but is still another small step in the right direction.

Matthias Ruster is meddling with the port of Ignition, an Amiga OS spreadheet recently released open source under GPL 3: in the last month he achieved slow but remarkable progresses: first of all some essential parts for the program running, the gtdrag,pScroller and pTextEdit classes were added to the program repository in october; Matthias has been able to compile classes demos and make them partially work on November 19 [screenshot], then has been able to make the spash screen open in November 30 [screenshot]; the last known progress has been made on December 4, when he had been able to make the GUI start for a while [screenshot]; right now Matthias is working to make the preferences endianness safe; [edit: last update today december 11 Matthias has a working GUI and can insert text in the cells [screenshot] ]; hope in further updates soon.

According to the Bounty list on Power2People.com. on December 1st the first part of the Kickstart Replacement Bounty expired. The assigned coder, bheron, aslo known as Gergory John Casamento, chief mantainer of GNUstep, posted a first status report on the developr mailing list last December 5:

My apologies for not giving more status on this sooner, but I've been bogged down lately due to both business and personal matters. Currently Alex Perez [edit: MisterBIOS on #AROS] and I are working on this bounty. Alex has identified some hardware which can be used to burn the ROMS to chips which could be used in an actual Amiga. According to him this was difficult to find. I am trying to find resources to help me understand the existing ROMS better so that I can proceed with their replacement. [Edit: I helped bheron sending him a link to the Natami Knowledge Base website that includes part of the HTML version of the RKRM autodocs and Henrycase offered himself to purchase and send to bheron a copy of the Amiga Guru Book found in ebay, hoping it might be helpful]

I'm not disassembling them (naturally) but I have been trying to get hold of ROM kernel manuals and, to be honest, an ACTUAL Amiga... up until now I am using UAE with roms from the Cloanto CD-ROM Amiga Forever.

I have also gotten SASC in order to compile GCC so that I can build AROS under UAE. (like I said... still need Amiga hardware)

 I know that the deadline for this has passed and I assure you when I took this task on I thought I would have the time to accomplish it by the deadline (which was admittedly pretty tight).

Ao far somebody in the developer list thinks bheron did even more than asked from the bounty requirement starting tasks required for the phase 2; those news are in any way very good because gives confirm on how Gregory took its task seriously and on its dedication on proceeding towards the bounty completion.

BTW, Gregory can ask a time extension for the bounty and, honestly, i am sure he will receive it: would also like to ask people  to help bheron in retrieve amiga ghardware in order to complete the bounty: bheron and MisterBIOS can be contacted through #aros channel ,the aros-exec forum and the AROS developer mailing list. This call is a personal initiative of mine, so in case they ask tell them you went to know through my blog.

Than another good new comes from the advocacy side: TADsince1995 held an AROS presentation conference last November 29 inside the Linuxmeeting in Palermo, sicily. The presentatio has been successful: AROS has been favorably received from the attendees; this is the outcome using the words of TAD itself:

As I previously announced, yesterday I presented AROS at linuxmeeting. It was a little success! The average age of people was under 20, but there were some older people who used amiga.

Both those who used amiga in the past and who didn't know what Amiga is were very interested. During the presentation I did a little introduction on the history of Amiga and then I showed them VmwAros running on qemu. Even if it was running slow on qemu they were amazed by aros speed!

In the afternoon I was able to show AROS running native on my Acer laptop at its full speed (thanks to people here who helped me on some issues regarding the installation). People reunited in front of the screen and cannot believe how fast the system booted up (about 6 seconds) and how fast applications loaded.

One of them said that he was interested on porting applications to aros and the organizer of the event proposed to start an aros local group.

This shows that AROS is not ignored because is old technology or for other futile reasons, going even against my own ideas that i put in this blog some time ago: looks like simply AROS is not known outside the Amiga communities despite the appearance in some italian and european magazines: probably at that time it was simply considered a kind of curiosity, and looks also like magazines have no more that power that they used toi have even in the latest ten years, internet now do a better job in updating people and giving informations, therefore seems that many people did not even see AROS coming through the press and therefore they underestimate and ignore its own existence.
Presentations such the one made by TAD or those made by Paolone in Pianeta Amiga and in Brusaporto last year are occasion to introduce people outside Amiga circles, or inside Amiga circles but that so far did not care about - to AROS; still too many people have the Amiga as a Games machinein their own mind, also because few bought something more than a base 500 or 600 and used it in video grpahics, multimedia or programming: at least its older brother, the commodore 64 in Italy got  a bit more serious reputation, beside the games one, in the very local and peculiar Totocalcio card processing system (Totocalcio is a game once very popular in italy: people try to guess soccer matches results, and can be played in a simple way or, using double or triple combinations per match, in a so-called "system" card: being based on statistic, many computer programs came out in order to help people win), even supported by a local industry called SIEL who at the time sold integrated c64/totcalcio card printer systems, i seen one still at work like five years ago: this kin of programs hardly make their way in the Amiga world and the most fertile ground for semi-professional use in italy for amiga was the video titling: probably if there was a PAL version of the toaster there should be still some amiga around....

And, at the end, sometihng about my persona commitment with AROS.

I started some time ago to write sometihng in lua: i downloaded the all-in-one lua distribution under windows in order to learn to program it' it is my intention to write a preferences requester for a fast network config under AROS; i am starting with lua from scratch, therefore from the most basic operations that every language has: operations, conditions and files input/output (and here i got stuck: haven't found a low level tutorial for that yet) and at last Zulu, the well known LUA extension for MUI graphical interfaces.
The text file inside extras/developers/lua gives just some Zulu commands list but expect you to be familiar with the internal MUI workings and does not tutor you in it.

A chat with Olivier2222 in #aros made me understand some basics on how to draw the GUI in the right way; will try to summarise it shortly:
Olivier 2222 made a comparison with an HTML page using <IDV> structures and its hierarchy: starting from the window object has to be added a vertical group first then, inside an horizontal group (that might contains some more vertical groups and so on)and then the objects inside all (like textfield, or dropdown,etc.) If you need a space between the objects you add a separator.

Using those (more detailed in the chat) advices I started to do a test GUI and i finally seen something appearing, then making it work will be a different pair of shoes.
Olivier2222 told me to give a look at the MUI 3.8 developer docs to better understand the inner workings of the various objects. He gave me mainly C examples but, since i think i got some basics now, i hope to share my knowledge once will know some more.

Furthermore, I sent an AROS presentation abstract for the next SCALE (Southern CAlifornia Linux Expo) that will be held on the last week of February 2009; if the abstract will be accepted that will be my fisrt official presentation; i am looking for suggestions in order to set up something good when will be the time.

As i said at the beginning, the small steps philosophy work: just go on one small steps at the time: results will follow.

[last minute edit: i knew i forgot something: netsurf. Looks like for the moment sszy put netsurf port apart but he still has a plan B....;)]
TECNOLOGIE
2 novembre 2008
Technologies:AROS: Going at a higher level of involvement
Well not one of my deepest posts today, more kind of a maintenance one...

Contributing to an open source project is - or at least should be - also a social moment: several people work together in their own free time to a common interest and a common goal. Things might be a bit more complicated when all the working people is scattered around several thousand miles between americas, europe and australia.

Let's tell the truth: if internet did not existed, probably not even open source communities might have been existed, or maybe not so much of it  and widespreaded as they are now.

The working and cooperation instruments are surely less evolved than the ones that can be found in a professional working environment, well not true: i used svn and vim in a recent task at work, and used eclipse in another; anyway, usualy many communication problems got solved through mailing list, instant messenging and IRC.

Despite IRC is considered "out" from new generations, is still a very useful and interesting instrument for group chat and talking.

i mention IRC because in the latest two weeks had occasion to find the "IRCous" skills of pidgin, my default messenger and miranda, the backup one; therefore i have been able to connect quite regularly in the official AROS channel; there "i seen things you humans cannot imagine", if i want to be geeky and cite Blade Runner...:)

It is quite exciting to talk directly with someof the most important AROS system and software developers such as Michal Schulz, Maag^da, Stanislaw Szymczyk and the others.

See Maag^da introduce its new Autodoc for AROS, having Szymczyk and Schulz talk "live" about the latest developments in their own bounties (congratulations, Stanislaw: the bounty is almost done!) and exchange with them ideas and opinions - despite is not a new thing anymore and despite i haven't been an avid IRC user but just a casual user before - is a step forward from being a simple forum lurker and an avid news reader: it makes you "be there" and get some job done actively.

I just downloaded LUA for windows and started to give a first look in SDLBasic, knowing the latter attempts of Mazze in porting it under AROS (with no avail at the moment). I also collected some ideas for some script applications i would like to do, not world changing utilities but still something...

[edit: i gave a first look at the zulu documentation: the lua/mui interaction look quite basic and low level, i sincerely hope to understand something on it; by the way, considered that i have to start from scratch, hope that in the next future will get i better...]

I am also trying to understand how to build some window themes, once i will find the way to make my virtual aros-box communicate with the network.



TECNOLOGIE
23 settembre 2008
Diary: Technologies: AROS: Documentation Documentation Documentation brings Developers Developers Developers!!!
Hoping Ballmer did not patented its citation :P

Well, cause of my job duties this is not at all a new topic, but think is good to bounce it here. The Amiga Os 4.1 on Sam good new is a week old and probably, when it will be possible, will treat it here too but for now let's do business as usual.

One of the latest topic comments in my last article in the italian forum (translated here btw) was from Tadsince1995 and brought me to forward it and enrich it in Aros-exec:

(translated from italian:)
So, after Robert Norris, even Michael is going. The biggest problem is not only that they will not work anymore in AROS, but will be a huge disgrace the fact that so far those are the most prepared developers, therefore their own knowledge luggage, shared by very few little people, will be lost.
I (tadsince1995) always supported a "Documentation bounty" because there is a GRAVE lack of documentation for the low level part of AROS. Nothing about the USB stack, almost nothing on how to write drivers, etc. How an operating system can proceed if newcomming coder have no ideas in how and where to begin with?

Especially the fact that, obviously, people have other committments and there might be no time to do reverse engineering on the code, while having some good tutorial might save them lot of time.


And here is my enrichment:

I support fully the point of view of Tad: this is my personal request for Michael, for Robert, if he is still around, and for all low level developers: do not only leave the source available: do not assume people to have same skills as you: PLEASE DOCUMENT LOW LEVEL AROS, for the sake of future development following your contribution:

Amiga/AROS scene is too little to expect people to find enough documentation (outdated at most), and Amiga/AROS internals are too different from others to expect the inner workings to be understood easily.

Therefore the usual Open Source method to read sources in this case cannot apply fully.

[there was a withdrawn part to avoid discussions]

To the people still at work:

you know this project needs developers and, IMHO, if not a schedule -by philosophy-, at least it needs a post-it in the border of the screen where to step the fundamentals, in short: "a plan".

Forget one moment about ports: i think the system needs to be finished and polished. I have ShinkurO and others complaining sbout buggy MUI classes, myself in the verge to do a review of AROS for a magazine being a bit frustrated from the lack of visual feedback from the system as cursors or messages; LUA working but zulu not fuilly implemented in case somebody needs to write new applications, not only games (thanks mazze for your efforts in trying to build SDLbasic).

[end withdrawn part]

I feel emotionally involved with this project and , as Paolone, i think it has more potential than even eople here can expect. So, let's try to work in a synergistyic (collaborative) way and pave the street for newcomers as much as possible.


That is, my personal message at the community; i really wish AROS not to sink, i already said in past and will continue to say it in the future.

My personal contributions are actually in helping ShinkurO together with Tadsince1995 in translating its Programming guide for Amiga Oses and in writing a review of AROS for a magazine, even if both activities are going on slowly in the free time due to the aforementioned job duties.
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