AmigaOS 4.1 Update 1 Released

It seems like only yesterday, but in fact it’s already six months ago. July last year, we published our review of AmigaOS 4.1 running on ACube’s sam440ep motherboard, and here we are, six months later, and Hyperion has released AmigaOS 4.1 Update 1. This free update brings with it quite a number of new features, and since I still have the sam440ep on my desk, I could test the new features first-hand.

The most important conclusion I drew in the AmigaOS 4.1 review was that while the AmigaOS is cool, fun, and a whole new world of technology to explore, it also felt like a relic, something that while looking nice and modern, felt more like something from yesteryear than today. This was not aided by the fact that AmigaOS 4.1 just “didn’t let me in”, as I put it.

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.

Well, a few things have happened since then (obviously not because of that silly review). The biggest news of course has been the unveiling of a brand new, high-end Amiga: the X1000. Accompanied by a rather intriguing marketing campaign, the X1000 has the Amiga community excited, and if there’s one community that deserved good news, it’s this one – if only because they remained loyal during the dark days years of lawsuits and dirty infighting.

With new hardware comes new software. Hyperion, the company behind AmigaOS 4, has remained very tight-lipped about the software aspect of it all, but seeing the X1000 comes with components and features no other Amiga has ever had, it’s only logical to assume AmigaOS 4 is in for a serious round of improvements. Heck, the CPU alone would require an SMP implementation, and I’d say that justifies a jump to 5.0.

So, in 2010, we’ll have the X1000 covering the high end, while the sam440 from ACube will continue to cover the low end. Before we reach that dichomoty, however, Hyperion continues the development of AmigaOS 4.1 for the AmigaOne, Pegasos II, and sam440, and I can tell you – if this is a taste of what’s to come, then we’ll be having a good meal.

While most of the changes appear to be relatively minor, their impact is not. No better way to illustrate this than by looking at a new feature of Workbench: file manager windows now auto-update. In the original review, this was one of the many issues I had with the file manager, so I’m very glad to have it fixed. Amiga die-hards can still turn it off if they want to (why would you, though?).

Another one of those small changes that makes the AmigaOS feel a little more welcoming is having click-to-front enabled by default. On previous iterations of the operating system, the default behaviour was that you had to specifically click the bring-to-front widget in a window’s titlebar; since this widget is tiny and often obscured by other windows, I found this quite frustrating. I guess I’m not the only one, since click-to-front is now enabled by default, allowing you to double-click anywhere in a window to bring it to front.

There are more far-reaching changes too, of course. There’s a whole new system-wide notification system (think Growl), something the AmigaOS didn’t have before. Intuition has seen improvements too, such as improved rendering, allowing for things like drop shadows on windows. Video memory consumption has also been reduced, and theme support has been improved (and a new theme included).

Workbench has seen more improvements than just the addition of the autoupdate feature. A Startup preferences panel has been added so you no longer need to work with the WBStartup folder. Icons are now scalable, and a new icon set (beautiful!) has been included too.

We can also find a number of improvements when looking at the internals of the operating system. Stability has been improved on the sam440 (actually, AmigaOS 4.1 for sam is out of beta now), and the memory management system has been reworked to increase reliability and efficiency. Paging to and from the harddisk has been improved too. On top of that, hardware detection should be better now (DCC support!).

There’s more to this update than what has been mentioned here, so be sure to head on over to Hyperion’s website to get the details.

Overall, this free update brings quite a number improvements to the AmigaOS, although none of them are earth-shattering. Still, this update shows that Hyperion is willing to make changes to how the AmigaOS works, even if that means altering decades-old customs. With the brand new hardware on its way, this is very good news indeed.


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