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TECNOLOGIE
10 febbraio 2009
Diary: Technologies: AROS - Happy new year with Fireworks show!!!


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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