posted by Dmitar Butrovski on Wed 13th Sep 2006 16:04 UTC
IconIt was 1997 and in these dark ages of the Amiga history, a few brave ones have embarked on a seemingly impossible journey. It is difficult to start from a clean slab, but complete rewrite of the AmigaOS Application Programming Interface (API), in open source domain, was the only option for Amiga community to gain control over destiny of the beloved platform. The Amiga Research Operating System (AROS) was born. Under, at times slow but steadfast progress, the vision is nearly complete. Not only is AROS almost feature-for-feature complete when compared to AmigaOS 3.x, but it has excelled many of the original design specifications.


What made AROS fundamentally different from other AmigaOS rebirths since the demise of Commodore and those who tried to follow, most notably MorphOS and AmigaOS 4.0 pre-release, is that it is not tied to an esoteric hardware platform. AROS is developed to run on any low-spec x86 system - the most common PC hardware on the planet. I have a native install on my obsolete Pentium 200MHz box and I’m happy to report – it flies. Today, AROS runs natively on x86, and can be hosted within a number of operating systems such as Windows and Linux. For those traditionalists, AROS port is underway for PowerPC platform, and more recently there are even talks about port to ARM processor for handheld and embedded devices.

Enter the Cat

If installed natively, AROS uses GRand Unified Bootloader (GRUB). The native AROS installation boots in a matter of few seconds (that's on my obsolete PC). If you ever used AmigaOS 3.x, you will feel right at home. The famed RAM disk, the System hard drive and CD-ROM (if any loaded) icons are stacked in the upper-left corner of the workbench. Actually, in AROS the workbench is called, intriguingly, the Wanderer. Context menu at the top will give you information on the available system resources. The graphical user interface (GUI) behind AROS is developed in Zune. Zune is an object-oriented GUI toolkit which is a clone of the well-known Magic User Interface (MUI) product for AmigaOS. Developers have opted for a ‘cartoonish’ look and chunky 3-D make-a-statement icons which are professionally designed and go well with the whole Amiga theme.

For users used to Microsoft Windows, I should note that windows in Zune operate differently than windows in the Explorer shell. There is no clutter of pull-down menus at the top of application windows. Instead, right-click anywhere on the active window and a complete menu associated with this application will appear next to the mouse pointer, or in the context bar. Then, just select a menu item of choice while holding the mouse button. Similarly, Wanderer (desktop) itself is a window, and right-clicking anywhere on it will list various menu options in the context bar at the top of Wanderer. From there you can access GUI-related settings, objects and actions such as AROS shell (a command line interface), take a desktop screenshot, execute a program or a command, or reboot or quit AROS. It’s just that easy.

A sexy toon cat is the AROS mascot. You can meet her at the Wonderer About window. There, you can also find the build date of your installation, information on the AROS Public Licence, as well as who are the authors and contributors to the project.

Know Your Windows

Before we delve any deeper, let's just look at some GUI basics. Double-clicking on the System icon will open a new window listing contents of the System disk in iconified view. Folders (in AROS they are called drawers) are easily identifiable by a composite icon which has a manila folder as a background and another icon, usually depicting the drawer theme, in the foreground. Therefore, each drawer is uniquely depicted. Clicking on any drawer will make it selected. Right-clicking mouse while a drawer or a file is selected will give additional file options in the context menu. For example, select Icon , then Information from the pull-down menu and you will see additional information such as file name, type, size, date when it was last modified, file protection (which you can change) and so on. Similarly, you can also rename or delete any selected file or drawer, or just open it (which is equivalent of double-clicking on them). You may notice that each time a drawer is opened, its contents will be listed in a new window.

Some of the described actions can be completed using shortcuts listed next to a particular action item in the context menu. For example, a selected drawer can be opened using the Amiga key + O shortcut. Amiga key you may ask? Well it is the Windows key on your keyboard but we all know who first invented it. The Window item in the context menu has a few options you may want to explore further such as creating a new drawer, various sorting options, switching between iconified and listing view, opening a parent drawer, updating (refreshing) the window contents and so on.

Now let's have a look at the window controls themselves. Window title is at the top and it lists the full path, for example System:Demos/Zune. In the far upper-right corner is a control to move the window to background or foreground. On its left is a control which will toggle the window between its current and a much smaller, stamp-like size. Then, we have vertical and horizontal sliders and their controls. In the far lower-right corner is a control for window resizing, click-and-pull action. Finally, clicking on the push-pin at the top left corner will close the window.

All this will give novices a good summary how to navigate in Zune GUI – it is not meant to be a tutorial. Now, let's explore the AROS System drawer and some of the things included in the build.

Table of contents
  1. "AROS, Page 1/4"
  2. "AROS, Page 2/4"
  3. "AROS, Page 3/4"
  4. "AROS, Page 4/4"
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