sam440ep, AmigaOS 4.1

Let me in!

You all of course expect some sort of conclusion, some sort of word on whether or not the AmigaOS is worth the hefty investment it requires before you’re allowed to use it. You expect me to say “don’t waste your money on this” or “run out and buy this stuff, you won’t be disappointed!” The truth is, however, that judging a platform like the Amiga isn’t as simple as that.

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 The application portfolio is outdated, lacking, and incapable, there’s no protected memory, and many configuration panels are overwhelmingly difficult to understand and use.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.

AmigaOS 4.1 seems to cater too much to the past, instead of looking forward. The developers are catering to the ever shrinking group of classic Amiga users, instead of trying to capitalise on the strengths of the platform to try and bring in new people like myself. I simply don’t get the idea that the developers are trying to advance the platform.

So, to get back to my original question: is the Amiga platform worth its hefty admission fee? It will completely depend on what kind of person you are. If you’re a long-time Amiga user, or you have very fond memories of the platform, it’s certainly a good investment and you won’t be disappointed.

However, are you a geek like myself, with a more general interest in operating systems and software, then it becomes really hard to justify spending all this money to get an operating system that is by no means modern, and which – it pains me to say – will be nothing more than a very expensive toy. Consequently, I have to add that if money is no issue for you, my point becomes moot.

Now, what if we look at the sam440ep without taking the AmigaOS into account? After all, the lovely tiny board can run a whole lot more than just the Amiga, such as AROS, FreeBSD, and various Linux distributions. A single sam440ep (smaller than the flex variant) with a 667 Mhz cpu, 512 MB DDR RAM, ATI Radeon M9 64Mb and 5.1 audio onboard will set you back 558 EUR (incl. Taxes) which isn’t all that much for such a PPC board. If you’re building a power-efficient, passively cooled, and small system for running Linux or BSD, this is an excellent piece of kit, well worth its price.

I haven’t yet had the time to test other operating systems on the sam440ep system, but I’ll try and see if ACube will allow me to keep the machine a few days longer so I can do a few quick tests.

Rests me to say that despite my complaints, it’s been a very fun ride, and exploring the Amiga has broadened my horizon in a positive way. I feel privileged that I am in the position to test soft and hardware like this, for free, and I would like to thank ACube for giving me the opportunity to do so. They have been very helpful during the entire process, and it’s clear that the small Italian company really knows what it’s doing. They have a solid hardware line up, and as a geek, I am very, very grateful that companies like this still exist to cater to the niches of the geek world.

Without companies like ACube, we geeks would live in a far bleaker world. Remember that.


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