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All that comes in the mind of an italian guy moved to california
14 gennaio 2013
Diary: Technologies: Amiga / AROS: pointless bickering of a decaying world

Probably this will be considered old story from many of my readers, however i thought at the end is still good to post it.

This article was started with a more innocent motive at the begin of September, then to shelve it due to my Family visit in Los Angeles at the end of September; however i feel that is necessary to bring the cat out of the bag; i will still keep the original subject.

At the time i considered myself flabbergasted from what happened at the begin of September on the Amigaworld.net Forum: it gaves me at first a sense of despair on how the equilibrium that is building among the flavors might stall in every moment just for a word or (in this case) a theme. Things started in fact regarding a picture posted by Serk118uk on this thread on aw.net regarding the new version of Annotate on AROS using a morphOs theme by RainCaller, Christopher 'ChrisH' Handley added this remark:

Apart from mistaking AROS for OS4 (from a quick glance), it now seems that I'm going to mistake AROS for MOS. Doesn't that theme break some MOS copyright?

I would much rather AROS try to stand on it's own feet, rather than try to ape another OS that is (in many but not all ways) better than it.

The discussion went on a bit before to be put back on-topic; however, CrisH did not quit and put the same question on AROS-EXEC in this thread; plus he created a spin-off thread again in amigaworld.net here

Well this time am pretty pleased that the members of aw.net did not pay too much attention to the bickering of Chris, and its supposed idea that an amiga-like OS should not have skins of the competitors: since was possible, people always themed their oses, is more a sort of tribute than aping (people who can skin their OSes are a little bit more computer-literate) and, especially in the Amiga and like world, almost everybody know ups and downs of the other systems so they know is not the competitor, is just an aesthetic taste, not some malicious intent to deceive almost non-existing "n00bs".

Point taken, i still feel saddened by those threads; is really the title the most appropriate in my opinion to see how sometimes people that support Amiga and its offspring (legitimate or not) ends up shooting themselves in the foot; whether we like it or not, Amiga technology is already considered a thing of the past and even the knowledge related is slowly disappearing; so why still behave like it is still relevant whether a desktop environment is 'genuine' or 'polluted' from the other like-os and all this overzealous bickering?

Honestly amigans and like have IMO more relevant problems to solve: the original hardware and the accessories in example are starting to wear out; fortunately there are still some vendors that can provide original material, but in example is hard to replace or purchase an accelerator card or a graphic board non-standard such as picasso or bvision without ending on the huindreds of dollars/euros/pounds depending where are you located; despite this, ideas for replacement boards or alternate accelerator cards are substantially non existants or dead in the water, either for lack of documentation, for hard-to-understand still ongoing NDAs and limitations imposed from old hardware producers and, finally, for an absolutely crazy individualistic and ego-profit driven tendence of the amiga hardware designers that tend to keep progresses on their own personal projects secret and not to share with the community; recently following this thread i stumble in the pages of Majsta, a serbian(?) Amiga user that is working on its own accelerator card for A600 via FPGA; in the page Sharing he mention its own opinion, that i find pretty appropriated for this topic:

I just don't understand Amiga community. First of all we are in situation that things are stuck for 20 years or so and people who know something want's to keep that private. For what ??? They just don't want to share any ideas or knowledge or experience.

For past 2 years there are only few people who wanted to help me. Others just told me something like "You want to someone do all the work for you" or "Code speaks for itself don't need explanation???". Also those ones who created something related to Amiga hardware spend lot of time on most Amiga forums just to laugh at my work instead of giving support and sharing knowledge.

That is the main reason why Amiga is going nowhere.

I was thinking that they would like to see that someone want's to join them to work hard and share ideas. And if this situation continues Amiga will become nice memory and nothing more. In all my work regarding to PC, electronics, networks people wanted to help and all my life I helped others to learn but here in Amiga scene people are different.

And there is about 100 forums where I shared my knowledge and every time I found some solution I post it so people can learn from it so that they don't need to waste time and to continue their work. Working on this accelerator I spend thousand hours to do something that someone could do for only 10 minutes and still they didn't want to take that 10 minutes for me.

But they didn't understand that this work is not for me that this work is for all Amiga community.

They can't understand that era of money earning from and for Amiga is gone forever but if we unite we can do something. Few people are working on Amiga hardware and for them all others are just stupid to enter their circles and they don't want to waste their time to anyone who want's to work hard.

I started this project without any knowledge related to Amiga accelerators and Amiga hardware and now I m in situation to know lot of things. There are no open hard&soft databases. Where are the people who worked on old projects??? They only write something on the forums and laugh at those who are trying to create anything. They don't have will to start new projects or share ideas regarding old ones...

So Amiga community is just Talk Talk community.

A similar project on its preliminary steps (forum in italian) met a problem in which to save time they tried to use a more recent version of the minimig core but seemed that the minimig forum either removed the link or the forum tiself became read only.

Still about the ego clash is difficult not to remember what happened to the Amiga Guru Book in 2008, or some limiting licenses to open sourced components (Warp 3d in example with a license that forbid its use on mos and AROS);  however in a way or another i already discussed those topics, but the main persisting question is when we Amigans will put down our weapons and our flags and just enjoy our hobby platform, whatever incarnation is, without belittling ourselves and others?

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.

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.

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.
27 giugno 2010
Diary: Technologies: AROS: AROS on BBC and eaudio.device ported on AROS
Notice: since i have been really busy have little time to finish the other article;  now that have some moment available i think is important to mention those two good happenings in AROS land:

- first, saturday June 19 and 20, at the Vintage Computer Festival in Milton Keynes, was held the twentyfifth Amiga anniversary party; amiga users know about it because it also marked the first public appearance of the Amigaone X-1000, a new high-end machine with a dual core processor (even though at the moment Amiga OS can support only one); produced by Trevor Dickinson (an amiga aficionado and also estimator of AROS btw) in cooperation with Hyperion entertainment; a lot has been written about it on the Amiga Forums, in good andin bad, but my main focus is on the participation of ClusterUK development and its iMica stand, where Steve Jones proudly presented its range of AROS powered machines, inclusive of the new GMA950 drivers for intel graphic,written by Michal Schulz,  that grants a nice graphic performance boost. Myself tried the GMA driver on my favorite victim - my wife MSI netbook and my AROS stick some time ago and loved the fact that was running nicely in the external screen actually used by my old laptop; i tried to load a video and the experience was quite smooth and enjoyable; people can easily forget they are using a netbook. Among other initiatives of Steve, we also have the endorsement of the development of the Ganymede IDE - a new developing environment actually in progress made by Proto (dont know its real name sorry) - that should provide a more modern workflow under AROS; the project is commercial but, since Ganymede will be a quite high quality tool coded from scratch, guess developers might not be too bothered in spend some money on it. The interest of people towards the iMica stand, according to steve, was quite high; and was also nice to see younger people get interested in the Amiga technology.
Plus, an interesting twist is that BBC Click, one of the most important computer and technology TV shows in UK, interviewed Steve at the VCF; the interview was held by LJ Rich and will be aired on July 2nd; once a link will be available will be published in aros-exec. Interesting fact is that,according to Steve (since am not in UK and never seen the transmission so far), the show usually focus on consumer electronics and mainstream operating systems; so that appearing in a transmission like that is a sign of interest towards alternate platforms and an important occasion to show the existence to people normally quite oblivious to it.

the Imica stand at VCF - courtesy of Niels Bache - http://nbache.dk/

- the second good news is that the eaudio.device, a wrapper for the Amiga Paula chip audio.device to AHI system calls has been open sourced by its developer, Emmanuele Cesaroni. This device, originally developed for MorphOS, will allow the port of several Amiga software that uses the standard audio.device for their output and operations and, plus, will also allow emumiga to output the audio.device calls. The device has been ported on AROS by Krzysztof "Deadwood" Smiechowicz just two days ago and for test he compiled an Amiga Chiptune player, that is actually working.
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.
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

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
11 ottobre 2008
Diary: Technologies: AROS: Opinion: Alternative OS HELPS Open Source, and Linux too.
[Warning: this topic has been left open for whoever likes to add contributions to it]

It's my intention to start DIGG the english section, maybe will help to spread my opinions and make something more happen... Last Saturday I found a link in linux.com pointing at this article on pingdom about the ten most interesting alternative Operating systems in the future: as you can see, at the first, sixth and seventh place we have three Amiga OS-like systems: AOS4.1, MorphOS and AROS;

Beside that, something make me feel perplexed; i already mentioned it in this blog, but guess the time is come to talk about it again.

It is interesting see as still many modern Amiga and Morphos Users consider AROS a kind of resource waste, even despite aprts of AROS code got used for a variable amount of time both in MorphOS and in the new Amiga OS 4, not to mention AfAOS.

And instead is interesting to look as other alternative systems, as Haiku and ReactOS, beside their own problems are getting more aknowledged outside their original niche: it is quite understandable why: both are a valid and open alternative to their closed source counterpart and both are much more user-friendly than even a nowadays linux: beside the old rust between ReactOS and the Wine team for an unfounded topic, the environments are much more peaceful than the "holy wars-ridden" Amiga OSes territories.

And full rivers of words have been written, even in amiga forums, in how AROS allegedly denaturated the original Amiga OS philosophy and look and feel taking ideas from some linux and windows user interface guidelines: then, looking a bit closer in os 4.1, some similar things happened even there but nobody still noticed it, just add a ReAction wrapper and everything is accepted...

But today i dont want to rant about the usual Amigaland mess.

I guess is pretty clear that all the hype around free software has become more than a philosophy: Since money started to run around Linux in the server market the free software transformed itself in a political matter, with internal fights and different -- sometimes opposite -- ways to look at the open source: form the Stallmanian obsession for the purism to the Novell conduct, all surrounded by ego trips and currents: just think at how Kernel programmers are criticizing Canonical for not contributing enough to the Kernel (despite the fact that Canonical is working to improve the final experience for the user and in the desktop development); by the way the programmer criticizing Canonical is working for Novell, and Novell is considered as a Betrayer for their agreements with Microsoft on some patents that MS might decide to enforce against Linux.

By the way, speaking of zealotry, is not known to everybody that last January 23rd 2008 Stallm,an itself has "excommunicated" [EDIT: ok, that is a big word, just removed aros from the link list] AROS because of its requirement of using proprietary roms in UAE and about the recommendation to find them through the purchase of the Amiga Forever package: here is the original mail from AAron Digulla as appeared in the Developer Mailing list:

Richard Stallman just let me know that they deleted the link to AROS on their link page (http://www.gnu.org/links/links.html) after I had a longer discussion with him.

The reason is that they only want "free operating systems that have a *policy* not to include, or *recommend*, non-free software."

In our case, we recommend the use of "Amiga Forever" which is non-free software (it contains the Amiga Kickstart ROMs) on http://aros.sourceforge.net/documentation/users/applications/euae.php which means we are in violation of the GNU philosophy.

I had a longer discussion trying to figure out what is going on and the net result is that we're in a similar situation as Linux which can run MAME but Linux doesn't advertise MAME but we do. I'm not sure if it would be worth the effort to delete this page or to move it into the E-UAE package. It feels hypocritical to me to behave as if we didn't recommend UAE while we do recommend it for stuff that doesn't run on AROS itself.

Richard, of course, has a very strong opinion about this and I guess you can't change the world unless you are ready not to make concessions.

So if that topic comes up on AROS-exec or anywhere else, keep a cool head, don't flame Richard or the GNU guys, handle this professionally. I'm not very happy with the decision but OTOH, I doubt that we have many visitors coming from gnu.org (especially since only two other OSs are listed there) and no one will probably even notice the change.

Furthermore, Michael Battilana from Cloanto is actively supporting the Amiga community and us, so I think recommending his product is the least we should do.

And, if we see it with a cold mind, is just a taste of the aforementioned politics. [EDIT: Thank God, the community does not consider follow GNU guidelines strictly a priority nor is important for AROS cause so far things have been handled professionally and business went on as usual].

Sometimes i also have the sensation that several people in the Linux community thinks that developing alternative open source operating systems might be considered a theft of resoueces from what looks like is been decided to be a full focus on linux and other linux-like ooperating systems and distros. The comments in the Pingdom thread gives quite a good overview on the general opinion, defining alternative systems as "Windows 9x bad copies" (even the Amiga Oses:P).

Many of those that wrote the comments by the way, comes from new generation computer users, grown up with windows or linux and of course ignoring or considering obsolete other operating systems before; it is clear as they don't see any need or reason for something different: i might say they don't know there might be something different.

And so they not even understand as the simple existence of other operating systems in the open source universe is important: so as AROS and other alternative systems are using and re-implementing code from linux so the opposite - linux using code from Aros and other alternative systems - might happen and sometimes is happening; in example ReactOS adn Wine exchange code between themselves for a better Windows compatibility and even Amiga OSes got benefits from Linux code: the old ixemul the newer CigWin, most recently even Netsurf, a browser born in RiscOS and ported even on linux under GTK; linux can also benefit using in its code - when the license allows it - code from ports under AROs and other alternate systems. The existence itself of other options "non-linux" beside linux and its distros is a basic part of that "freedom of choice" professed by advocates and one of the essential characteristics of the Open Source philosophy: every one choose its "weapon", the one that fits best with its own modus operandi and how to deal with computing.

Also, the know-how of different people turn out to be good for the operating systems technical exchange.

I already mentioned in past the Kickstart Replacement Bounty phase I and wrote about the assignment to Bheron.

That is all that is shown in the bounty description under the power2people web site: i admit that surely does not look exhaustive. This because, according to one of the developers, the feature showing the bounty assigned coder bio has not yet been implemented.

So, through the comments to the assignment in aros-exec at last it has been possible to know the identity of Bheron. Its real name is Gregory John Casamento and this is the bio from the aros-exec comments:

I've been doing software development for about 18 years. I'm currently an independent contractor.. I own a small company called Open Logic Corporation (not the one at openlogic.com, they took my name 6 months after I got it). I'm currently the chief maintainer of an FSF project called GNUstep, you may have heard of it. ;) I've done everything from C, Objective-C, C++, Assembly on x86 and 68k, etc etc. I was a proud Amiga owner when I was younger and did a lot of C programming on it before Commodore went away. I'm glad for the opportunity to help AROS out. :)

So looks like he is got a great resumee and reliable competences; i put in the links its personal blog in order to follow its progresses on the bounty, if he decides to talk about it.

I will keep this article open in order to add any further precisation and comments to come.



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