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All that comes in the mind of an italian guy moved to california
13 aprile 2009
Diary: Technologies: AROS: Icaros Desktop v1.1, Amiga Users and the Peter Pan syndrome...
NOTICE: Due to an overzealous filtering method of "il cannocchiale" blog platform, the links to the AROS-exec Group might not work (because the presence of the 'exe' string in the name); therefore please instead of click the link directly, copy it, paste it in the address bar and fix it by hand in order to access to the forum, at least until i dont get in touch with the group admins ad whitelist the group name...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And, finally, another comeback of Stanislaw Sszymczyk, that released the 0.9.3 version of OWB: several bug fixed, optimised for better speed, the .htaccess login problem has been finally addressed and now OWB show a modal requester asking for username and password.
The latest OWB requires the latest codesets.library that can be taken from a nightly build .iso made after March 30. The new version, available for x86 and x86/64 can be downloaded from the sand-labs AROS OWB website.
19 marzo 2009
Diary: Technologies: AROS: on SCALE, iMica and OWB Beta

The Westin Hotel in Century Boulevard, where SCALE was held

Sunday February 22nd, despite is already noon the sky is cloudy, with all the clouds getting flat on the low quota high pressure in a sort of whitish steamy ceiling over the city of Los Angeles.

My wife drops me in front of the Westin Hotel's parking lot in Century Boulevard, better known from LA people as the "Hotel Strip" just above LAX then she starts the car and head towards north. Carrying my two bags -one of which is my laptop- i too start to walk towards the hotel main door excited.

Despite the opening might be good for some family drama, i am just talking about my arrive at SCALE (Soutern CAlifornia Linux Expo) for my AROS intervention, listed under the Open Source for Beginners section; i am expected to talk at 1.30 pm and have still one hour left so i go check in at the reception and they give me a speakers red badge, some promotional stuff (cloth bag, a XL american size t-shirt which i can use as a camping tent as much is oversized for me) and start walking towards the hall ehere will held my speak.

My speak is expected to last one hour only so i need to follow my script thoroughly; this is my absolute first advocacy in a convention; so far the biggest crowd I have been in front with was together with the choir I used to sing in italy as Basso chorist; we had the honor, together with other four choirs, to sing all together for the Pope in Porto Recanaty in 2005, with a crowd of around 600,000 people: too big to realize it.
Here i have not even ten people in a theatre with at least 100 places, but is different: this people is MY own crown and I am the focus of them, together with AROS that in my laptop, don't look at the best of its shape: my laptopis a DELL VOSTRO 1000 with AMD sempron, 1.5 gig of RAM, 100 gig hard disk, broadcomm wireless card, EHCI USB card (PCI\VEN_1002&DEV_4386&SUBSYS_022A1028&REV_00\3&2411E6FE&0&9D) and a Sigmatel sound card:  definitely not the most OpenSource friendly laptop but, as a take its defense, it was bought to work on it, not to advocate on it...

i tried to make it boot from the live CD and the first sensation is good: AROS seems to perform quite fast and well (despite the widescreen is not supported by my ATI card and the aspect ratio of the screen looks a bit weird) and my sound card give no signs of life; plus i was unable to set my virtual machine to get connected [now solved, but i opened at the time a topic on aros-exec here] and still did not had (yet) the OWB beta version to show. Despite that i have been able to use poorPDF as a slide projector and also to show the VmWAROS Wanderer desktop complete with Ken's icons.

Here I am in the Westin Hotel's Theatre B talking about AROS

The overall intervention lasted one hour; guess all my inexperience in doing introductions showed up - i admit it - in missing to fully follow the script that I prepared and in making the slides getting along iwth the speak, so at the end i jumped some slidesand in some cases i indulged a little longer in details rather than in the focus points; at the end i had to show the available software a bit on a rush, but i hope to have been able to transmit the enthuisiasm, my own and the community itself one, in developing and promoting the use and further development of AROS.

Well, not exactly "sold out"...

The public, those few that came, were surely with an amiga background: almost everybody knew what Amiga OS was and many of them seemed to approve the concept; there has been questions on the toolchain and about memory consumption but, in general, i am afraid that without showing adequately AROS on the run - as i haven't been able to that day - they considered the project just a small curiosity: or not? Wish to see how many contacts came to aros-exec from Southern California lately...

But guess that anyway i have been able to show the commitment and the passion of AROS supporters: if i sohuld choose a sentence to describe what I did that day guess will choose the one from Joe "Zonker" Brockheimer from its own SCALE intervention (page 16 of the enclosed PDF file): "Do something,even if it is wrong".

Beside my own intervention i had very little time to wander around the expo: my wife could not park around the place (the parking fee for the hotel was a $14 flat fee and being at the end of the month cash was tight) and was waiting for me outside the hotel doing "pings" every two minutes:P therefore i tried to do a fast tour of the main lobby and i had the luck to meet Gregory John Casamento, a.k.a. bheron, GNUStep mantainer and assigned to the Kickstart replacement bounty in its own GNUstep booth: i introduced myself as an AROS advocate and had a short talk with him about the subject: he told me that is undoubtly difficult to retrieve reference material and also old hardware as well in order to complete the bounty (material such as Rom Kernel Manuals, technical newsletters, developers kit,etc). In case you want to provide some material to Gregory you can get in touch with him through his blog or his AROS blog, the AROS developer mailing list (subscription required)  or in aros-exec.

So in short this is the essay about my SCALE partecipation. If only i had the OWB beta under my hands a couple of hours earlier probably my introduction should have been even juicy than it has been, but then my network problems with VmWAROS surely could have made it look again stuck, who knows?

By the way, the most important news of the month and fo the whole story of AROS is that finally OWB beta is here!

After the first attempt made by Robert norris on provide AROS with a modern web browser trying to convert Webkit  and that lead to the december 2007 semi-working alpha version, able to navigate but slow quirky and quite unusable comes - also thanks in part to Robert's job - the AROS port of Origin Web Browser comes bringing javascript and CSS support, along with tabbed browsing and a download manager.

To install OWB is required to have a recent AROS build (february 19 or later) or to copy the files muimaster.library and arosc.library from a recent nightly build in your libs: directory.

For VmWAROS users Paolo besser prepared an update .iso based on a newer build that contains both the new required libraries and a stacksize icon fix (before of this update assign the stack size from an icon does not work). This update has to be used together with the VmWUpdate script. The iso can be downloaded from here.

Please BE VERY CAREFUL in doing the update and follow the enclosed .pdf file: i missed to read it and simply done the upgrade as a simple VmWAROS upgrade and lost amistart, the configIP stopped working together with arosTCP and, after i made the fatal mistake to try to reinstall the old version of VmWAROS with the installer i was greeted by a sudden reboot, followed by a skinnless error requester in old topaz font  "Mountfile 'AROS:Devs/DosDrivers/PIPEFS' is invalid: wrong number of arguments" and an OK button. Pushing the OK button the system rebooted and showed the same requester again, over and over. The only viable option I found to restore the system was to boot from a recent nightly iso and install again the system. Then, in order to get the net working again had to reconfigure AROSTCP by hand; so, in case you might do a mistake like mine and you might not find the instruction to do it on net (usually in the AROS wikibooks) am going to repeat it here:

  • in ENVARC: create the AROSTCP directory;
  • go through shell inside ENVARC:AROSTCP typing ENVARC:AROSTCP; the path at the left should become like 1.AROS:Prefs/Env-Archive/ArosTCP> ;
  • type echo "true" > autorun - will create the "autorun" file that contains the value "true".
  • from sys:system/network/AORSTCP copy the directory db inside ENVARC:AROSTCP typing those instructions:
    makedir db
    copy db sys:system/network/AROSTCP/db ALL
  • still in ENVARC:AROSTCP type the command echo "env:arostcp/db" > config - that will create the file "config" inside ENVARC:AROSTCP;
  • at this point follow the same instructions used for the manual configurations in VmWAROS, edit the following files: netdb-myhost, interfaces and static-routes, and then reboot the system.

Hmm, guess is about time to restart that project of mine to configure AROSTCP made in lua...

OWB open on my italian blog

Before and after the  problem I tested OWB on VmWAROS (form the office, where the virtual machine has no issues in connecting) and also contributed on its debug; the actual veersion 0.9.2 is already out and includes some of the fixes and features requested by the users; still there are some problems in sending attachments from yahoo (the attachment does not get recognized) and in saving mails in gmail; beside that my OWB experience has been quite pleasant; despite the obvious slowliness of the Virtual Environment enhances some small glitches such as the not full asynchronicity of CURL library (that load the page components), the browser is fast, mouse wheel is fully supported, the page rendering is quite good and the user interface, although a bit basic, is clean and enjoyable. If you want to see OWB in action, nikos posted avideo on youtube. Best performances can be achieved by assigning a stack size of 1024000.

Future plans for OWB include bookmarks and history support; furthermore, some threads are already started on aros-exec to propose a phase 2 browser bounty that should provide a plug-in system and a flash player port as in example SWFDEC or GNASH; for the latter one there are some concerns due to the results of a recent static port on Haiku - where with static port is meant that all libraries and dependences were included in the binary file - and that turned out to be quite heavy: 135 megabytes...

Stanislaw also prepared a bug tracker for OWB that, after a little stay in google code, now hgas been relocated for good in sand-labs, together at the OWB download link. The description page of all work occurred in OWB,instead, is still here.

Another innovation made by Stanislaw Sszymczyk is the possibility to build AROS parts outside the source tree: in other words is now possible to compile AROS in other directories beside those supposed to be used in the source tree; this characteristic comes out handy for the development of alternate versions of applications (such as hosted, native, with or without debug output) in parallel; plus, with updated cross-compilers it is also possible to compile binaries for different processors at the same time (sam,efika,i386,i3856/64,etc.) and that allow to the developers to only run "make" to update the components without need to reconfigure everything.
So far the compilation outside the source tree can be done on few applications only due to the fact that some tools need to get required files from the source tree and that might cause problems; furthermore is not possible compile both inside and outside the source tree at the same time yet.
(Thanks to Nick "Kalamatee" Andrews for a better explaination of the function).

Recently the boot mechanism of AORS is changed: if the system is updated with a recent build it is required that the file aros.boot is present in the root of the system disk; said file needs to be copied manually form the build iso, else the system will complain about a bootable drive missing in the hard disk and will not proceed further.

Steve Jones can be an unknown name to the most of the new member of the Amiga/AROS community and for those that left Amiga as main system before 1995/96 while for the old guard members this mane is linked to the Siamese System, the system created to readdress Amiga graphical output on PC graphic boards through RTG and that was supposed to be one of the cornerstones of a PCI based Amiga system; the plug on thje project has following been pulled by Gateway and nothing came out of it.
Now Steve comes back in the AROS landscape introducing a new compact PC machine based on Intel Atom with selected hardware for the best performance under AROS, and is equipped with the latest VmWAROS distro version: the machine name is iMica (purposely reminds Amiga) and the price is quite affordable, around 250 UK pounds - around 400$. The AROS support has also been endorsed by Kalamatee efforts in provide a working network card drivers; on the sound side iMica uses for the moment a SoundBlaster Live with EMU10k chip (supported and proven working), in the hope to see more sound card drivers available in the next future; as usual, if somebody has experience in low level programming and wish to join the developers team for writing new drivers is welcome. More informations about iMica are available in the AROS Show.

Pavel "Sonic" Fedin has released a new beta of the Windows hosted AROS; despite still has problems in the refresh, also due to the way AROS actually manages themes, this new version will allow developers and users to run AROS in Windows without the need of a virtual machine.
To distribute the Windows-hosted version, Pavel resurrected the old Snapshots functionality of Aros.org; the latest version of AROS windows hosted can be downloaded here.

Michal Schulz is still going on in the Efika port of AROS; being the most of the code done, now he is focusing in optimizing the port; just the last March 9th, Michal released a new test iso downloadable here, to fix some third party MUI classes instability that caused Zune preferences to crash or not to be launched at all, and he further fixed USB stacks including a OHCI bug that brought not to update some periferals status or to retrieve some "zombie " periferals;  then ha added a new Efika port feature: a specific debug that will show precise particulars on where a program or a library crashed; in the todo list of Michal there will be also some way to prevent AROS to freeze in case of system crash in a similar fashion to the os4 Grim Reaper.

Oliver Brunner is still working at its Janus-UAE; latest features are the amiga public scerens support as AROS screens and the GTK-MUI GUI update made similar to the windows UAE in order to handle the full screen support.

Fabio "Allanon" Falcucci has recently released a pictures and thumbnails viewer made with Hollywood and that uses its own SCUI-lib routines for the user interface; the program, called LookHere, can be downloaded here.

And to finish, good news from Paolo Besser: the version 1.1 of VmWAROS is in progress; Paolo decided to increase the version number due to the new boot system and devices fix as mentioned above. The new version shows very interesting features, as the IconDress script, that allows to exchange icon sets extracting it from .ipkg archives and replacing the actual ones; new applications will be bundled such as the new ArosPDF by Craig Kiesau, the new MPlayer build and, of course OWB; and last Paolo intends to give a mahjor clean-up to the distro, removing those applications that still use the old muimaster.library which is responsible for the non functioning zune Preference panel. The removed applications list is available in this thread on Aros-exec; in the same thread Paolo ask those applications developers to recompile it linked to the latest library version so that he will add the fixed application again to the distro. The latter is particularly important for Simple Editor and for marranoFTP, especially the latter one, having no other FTP clients available on AROS.
10 febbraio 2009
Diary: Technologies: AROS - Happy new year with Fireworks show!!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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....;)]



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