The Amiga. A platform with a history. Today, we are reviewing Amiga Forever, which was kindly provided by Cloanto, its manufacturer. The question I tried to answer during the usage of Amiga Forever was: does it have anything to offer to OS enthousiasts today? Of course Amiga Forever offers great functionality for Amiga fans, but what about the rest of us? Can Amiga Forever cater to more people than just Amiga fans?
To help me answer this question, Cloanto provided OSNews with a copy of the Amiga Forever Premium Edition. The premium edition contains 1 CD with the actual Amiga emulator and the various AmigaOS ROMs. You can boot into this emulator in two ways: you can launch it from Windows, or use it as a live CD. The latter uses KX Light (a modified version of Debian/Knoppix) to boot the Linux version of UAE, running AmigaOS 3.x. However, I could not test this feature, because my USB mouse/keyboard did not work. KX Light booted fine into AmigaOS 3.x, but I could not use it.
This disk also includes the Amiga Explorer, which enables you to access files on an Amiga computer (AmigaOS 1.2-4.0, MorphOS) via a null-modem serial cable, TCP/IP or a Bluetooth serial adapter. Included also are a number of classic Amiga games, which can be launched directly from Windows.
The premium edition also includes two DVDs packed with videos and pictures about anything Amiga related. It features interviews, product launches, speeches, and more.
The CD and DVDs come bundled in a nice DVD case with a proper description of what’s inside, screenshots, and system requirements. Also included in the box is a ‘boing’ decal, which makes it clear to anyone who is interested in operating systems that this computer can run AmigaOS.
Installing Amiga Forever is not a necessity, but recommended. You can run the emulator software straight from CD, but of course it will perform better if you install it onto your harddrive. Installation is also recommended because it allows you to save settings inside AmigaOS. It requires about 30MB of disk space, and it installs the emulators, the AmigaOS Kickstart ROMs, the games, and an update utility, with which you can update the emulators to their latest versions.
After installation, you can use the Amiga Forever Launcher to get going. The launcher lets you, well, launch the various aspects of Amiga Forever. You can load AmigaOS 3.x, 1.3, the configuration utilities for the emulators (WinUAE and WinFellow), the games and the videos.
Usage: AmigaOS 3.x
After clicking on the AmigaOS 3.x entry in the Launcher, WinUAE is launched with AmigaOS 3.x. Throughout the entire product, Cloanto refers to their version of AmigaOS 3 as ‘3.x’, for the reasons described here (quite complicated). In summation:
“In consideration of the ongoing litigation between different parties involved in the release of the product known as ‘Amiga OS 3.9’, Cloanto also considered it prudent to avoid altogether the use of the ‘Amiga OS 3.9’ label in the context of Amiga Forever. Therefore, although duly licensed by multiple parties to include the latest version 45 system files, Amiga Forever continues to refer to this set of files using the generic ‘3.X’ description, which Cloanto has been using ever since the release of Amiga Forever 1.0.”
As a result, I will do the same.
Anyway, AmigaOS 3.x loads in about 10 seconds to a fully functional desktop. The resolution is set to 800×600 at 8bit by default, so the first thing I did was change it. This offered my first challenge; this was my first ever encounter with AmigaOS, so it took a bit of searching before I found the proper tool to do it. Oddly enough, I can only use 8bit colour depth; 16 or 32bit doesn’t work. So I had to settle at 1280x1024x8bit.
All hardware was configured and working properly. I was a bit weary of that, since my mouse and keyboard are both USB; however, they worked fine, including the mousewheel so I could scroll easily. The network was also up and running; I was on the web with AWeb without ever touching a configuration panel.
The Amiga UI (the Workbench, even though strictly speaking only the file manager is called Workbench) looks quite similar to a MacOS desktop. Drive icons are located on the desktop (including CD drives and my Windows HD), there is a global menubar on top, and a row of icons on the bottom with which you can launch applications and configuration utilities.
The global menubar in Workbench works differently than the one in the MacOS, because the Amiga had a two-button mouse. This means that in order to access the pull-down menus in the global menubar, you first need to right-click and hold inside or the application window, or the menubar itself. This is confusing, and personally, I do not like it at all. However, one should not forget that I have been using the ‘normal’ way of accessing menus all my life, so it may just be a problem of ‘getting used to’.
Terminology in AmigaOS also differs from what we Windows/KDE/GNOME/OSX/etc. users are used to. AmigaOS uses a ‘workbench’ rather than a ‘desktop’ metaphor; this means that instead of folders, you have drawers; data files are called projects; and widgets are gadgets. So, instead of a ‘File’ menu, you have a ‘Project’ menu.
I have played with AmigaOS 3.x using Amiga Forever for a few weeks now, and I must say, the lack of protected memory really shows. Without any clear reasons, out of the blue, the OS breaks, and a reboot is required (‘press left mouse button to continue’). This is a major problem, and extremely annoying.
All in all, the AmigaOS 3.x part of Amiga Forever is well-built; the emulation works without a hitch, no configuration is required, and all the hardware is properly detected. The frequent crashes I experienced are due to the technical limitations of AmigaOS, and have nothing to do with the actual Amiga Forever package.
Usage: AmigaOS 1.3
AmigaOS 1.3 literally made my jaw drop. Even though the OS is of course horribly outdated, and it looks just as bad, the functionality of this operating system from the mid-80s is just stunning. For instance, the OS could convert any written word into speech, using different speeds, different voices, and different intonations (expressive, monotone). The second impressive aspect are the various demos: one of them shows a juggler juggling around metal balls– all in 3D. Take a look at the screenshot.
Another really cool feature is the ‘dragging’ of workspaces. The AmigaOS can have multiple workspaces (even at different resolutions) and you can then drag one workspace down to reveal the one behind it. To get an idea, take a look at the screenshot. Here you can see how I dragged the Robocity demo, which has its own workspace, halfway down, to reveal the primary workspace. Really cool, and definitely something I’d like to see in other operating systems.
The one major bug I encountered was that the colours randomly changed; you can see that the characteristic blue/orange colour scheme has vanished in the workspace-dragging screenshot. This happened numerous times, resulting in different colour schemes each time it happened.
In conclusion, AmigaOS 1.3 is, no surprise, rather useless, but impressive nonetheless. Cloanto has done its job rather well again; using AmigaOS 1.3 required no configuration whatsoever.
It is kind of difficult to draw a conclusion. As I already said, for Amiga fans Amiga Forever is a must-have, there is no denying that. It is probably the next best thing to using a real Amiga, and it requires no effort at all.
However, what about the original point of this review? Does it have anything to offer to OS enthousiasts today? I have to answer this question with ‘yes’. The premium edition which I used for this review might be a bit too expensive for non-Amiga fans ($59.95; EUR 53.41), but the download edition (which lacks the videos, the packaging, Amiga Explorer, and KX Light) is definitely worth buying ($29.95; EUR 26.68), even if it’s just to gain just a little more knowledge and understanding about this at-the-time revolutionary operating system.
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