Amiga & AROS Archive

Back-ups on the Amiga X5000

Happy New Year everyone! I’ve got big plans for my Amiga projects in 2019, but thought I’d start off the New Year with a blog post on a not-particularly “exciting” topic, but an important one nonetheless: backups. As I am experimenting more with my X5000 and Amiga OS 4.1, I’ve been getting particularly “twitchy” that I didn’t have a solid backup/restore plan in place, particularly as some of my experiments will invariably go wrong and I’ll need a way to roll back my changes to a known-good state. I spent a few days researching and implementing a backup strategy that’s ideal for my needs and hopefully there will be something of use to other Amiga owners too. Developing and implementing a solid back-up strategy is not just something that’s important for computers running popular platforms like Windows, Linux, or macOS – there’s countless people who do all kinds of more or less important work on smaller platforms like Amiga OS to whom proper back-ups are just as important. This article is a great resource on how to get started with back-ups for Amiga OS 4.

Buying a Commodore Amiga 30 years later

A few months ago I watched "From Bedroom to Billions", it triggered some serious nostalgia and a lot of memories came flooding back. So on a whim, I decided to see if I could pick-up an Amiga on eBay to replay some of those old games that I loved as a child.

It turns out it's not too hard. There's a thriving community that still uses and loves the Amiga. There's also a fair number of people on eBay who refurbish and upgrade them with a 4GB memory card containing workbench and a bunch of software and games. This is very handy because, even if you did manage to buy the original games, there's no guarantee they will work due to the magnetic platters getting mouldy or damaged over the last 30 years. Yes, that's real life bit rot in action.

The market for older computers like these and associated modern expansion cards and add-ons to make using them a little less frustrating in modern times is actually a lot larger than most people seem to think, and anything from using SD cards as boot drives to things like ethernet and WiFi are often available as well. Even if you don't purchase these computers, it's still fun to browse sites like eBay to see what's on offer.

Classic Amiga emulation on the X5000

Speaking of Amiga, Mark Round has written a great blog post about running old AmigaOS 3.x software on AmigaOS 4, and the best ways to do so.

While I’ve been having a lot of fun with the new software written specifically for AmigaOS 4, the bulk of my software is still “classic” titles that used to run on my A1200. One of the first things I did when I set up my X5000 was to transfer my old Amiga’s hard drive over so I could continue running this library of software. I also wanted to set up an emulation of my A1200 so I can quickly launch a classic Workbench 3.9 session and pick up all my old projects and bits of code I’d written over the years.

Fortunately, the X5000 and AmigaOS 4 offers a variety of ways of running all your old software.

AmigaOS 3.1.4 for classic Amigas released

The new, cleaned-up, polished Amiga operating system for your 68K machine fixes all the small annoyances that have piled up over the years. Originally intended as a bug-fix release, it also modernizes many system components previously upgraded in OS 3.9.

Contrary to its modest revision number, AmigaOS 3.1.4 is arguably as large an upgrade as OS 3.9 was, and surpasses it in stability and robustness. Over 320K of release notes cover almost every aspect of your favourite classic AmigaOS - from bootmenu to datatypes.

This is not AmigaOS 4 - just making that clear here - but an updated version of AmigaOS 3 for classic 68K-based Amigas.

A Commodore 64 operating system with modern concepts

C64 OS has one goal. Make a Commodore 64 feel fast and useful in today's modern world.

It's a very high bar. The C64 was introduced in 1982 and has an 8-bit, 1MHz, 6510 CPU with just 64 kilobytes of directly addressable memory. It has a screen resolution of 320x200 pixels, and a fixed palette of 16 colors. But, it is an incredibly versatile machine. And it enjoys an active userbase and a great variety of modern hardware expansions.

The C64 has had many operating systems written for it, So why write another?

Some of these projects were designed to be experimental, or to demonstrate a point, rather than to solve a problem or to make using the C64 better. Others had good intentions but pushed the machine in ways it wasn't designed for, compromising on speed and usability in the pursuit of features available on more powerful computers. The aim of C64 OS is to work with the limitations of the Commodore 64 and enable it to become useful.

It never ceases to amaze me how much functionality programmers can squeeze out of old micros.

Running Amiga-like operating systems on QEMU

These are some notes on how to run Amiga like OSes (like AROS, AmigaOS and MorphOS) on QEMU that I've written to have some up to date info on the status and help new users. All this emulation in QEMU comes without any support and it's not expected to be complete or do everything one may desire or dream about. It's not a commercial product with a roadmap or any goal and still a work in progress which may never get finished. I'm doing it for personal interest and in my (limited) free time, no donations are solicited or accepted. So don't expect it to be anything more than a curiosity at the moment and its future depends on what the open source community makes of it. Keep this in mind when trying this.

I'm giving this visibility so hopefully QEMU's PowerPC support for these Amiga-like operating systems can be improved.

Amiga 600 FPGA (MiSTer) conversion

Here's a heads up I am quite happy to be giving: today is going to be an Amiga/BeOS/Atari day on OSNews. Let's start with this story about converting an Amiga 600 to a FPGS-based emulation machine.

That said, a couple of months ago I ran across the MiSTer FPGA project spearheaded by sorgelig. This project is based on the Terasic DE10-Nano board which has a decent sized Altera Cyclone FPGA paired with a dual-core ARM Cortex-A9 CPU. Sorgelig has designed a number of add-on boards that allow the DE10 to interface with additional devices. He also has ported (and improved) many cores for this board, including the Minimig-AGA core which provides a very nice recreation of the Amiga from a 500 to a 1200.

After buying a DE10 and getting the Minimig-AGA core running on it, I was immediately infatuated with the quality of "emulation" on this thing. It felt much more complete than the UAE4ARM and Amiberry emulators and the video quality looked much nicer. Not to mention, the near-instant power on (and off) felt more like a real Amiga. Following in the footsteps of my previous Raspberry Pi conversions, I decided to convert an Amiga 600 to FPGA as the 600 case fits so nicely on my desk.

As the author notes, this is not a simple or straightforward mod, as there's 3D printing involved. Still, it's a fascinating process to document.

Classic Amiga assembler tutorial

If you want to write Assembly programs for the Amiga you can either work directly on a real system or use a cross-compiler. I prefer to work on my Linux system because, as much as I like retro architectures, I also like the power of a good Unix system and a modern editor.

Cross-compiling is a very simple concept: instead of compiling source code and creating binaries for the architecture you are running the compiler on, you create binaries for a different architecture. In this case the host architecture is Linux/amd64 and the target architecture is Amiga.

As this is not the only project I am following at the moment, I created a directory to host everything I need for the Amiga development: compiler, documentation, scripts.

Exploring assembly on the Amiga, part 1, part 2, and part 3.

Amiga benchmark tests using Tower57

Trevor Dickinson of A-EON Technology compares the performance of the newly released game Tower57 on various AmigaOne configurations running AmigaOS 4.1 and PowerPC Macs running MorphOS:

It's probably no surprise that the AmigaOne X5000/20 comes out on top by quite a margin. The AmigaOne X1000 was no slowcoach either and pushed the G5 PowerMac into third place in my tests. It was also really good to see the AmigaOne A1222 giving the 2.5 Ghz PowerMac a run for its money. However, the really good news is that all of the Amiga Next-generation machines compared favourably with the commercial Steam release and were all very playable.

I'm quite surprised by the performance of MorphOS 3.10 on my PowerBook G4 1.33Ghz - even on its paltry 512MB RAM (upgraded yesterday to 2GB). The browser is quite worrisome due to WebKit not being built anymore for PowerPC/big endian so it's quite slow, but everything else is quite smooth. I'm planning on upgrading the mechanical hard drive to an SSD for an additional little boost, but it's nice to see that such old machines can be revived with something other than a custom Linux installation.

A history of the Amiga, part 12: Red vs. Blue

Ars Technica's long-running series on the history of the Amiga continues, with part 12 published today. As always - required reading.

The year 2000, which once seemed so impossibly futuristic, had finally arrived. Bill McEwen, president of the new Amiga Inc., celebrated with a press release telling the world why he had bought the subsidiary from Gateway Computers.

"Gateway purchased Amiga because of Patents; we purchased Amiga because of the People." It was a bold statement, the first of many that would come from the fledgling company. Amiga Inc. now owned the name, trademark, logos, all existing inventory (there were still a few Escom-era A1200s and A4000s left), the Amiga OS, and a permanent license to all Amiga-related patents. They had also inherited Jim Collas' dream of a revolutionary new Amiga device, but none of the talent and resources that Gateway had been able to bring to bear.

The Amiga world is one of the strangest subcultures in technology. I can't believe it's still going sort-of strong, and in various flavours even.

Blender’s prehistory: traces on Commodore Amiga

The following article is a historical look at the era that spawned the first raytracers for home computers, a predecessor to Blender among them. It's possible thanks to the fact, that, for the first time, the program and source code of said predecessor are publicly available.

Today Blender is one of the industry leaders, but it started quite small, three decades ago. If you ever wondered when and where some of the most iconic Blender conventions like "right-click select" or 3D cursor originated, it's then, in the Amiga era, even before Blender was born.

The Amiga Consciousness

There exists a global community, a loosely knit consciousness of individuals that crosses boundaries of language and artistic disciplines. It resides in both the online and physical space, its followers are dedicated, if not fervent. The object and to some extent, philosophy that unites these adherents, is a computer system called the Commodore Amiga. So why does a machine made by a company that went bankrupt in 1994 have a cult like following? Throughout this essay I will present to you, the reader, a study of qualitative data that has been collected at community events, social gatherings and conversations. The resulting narrative is intended to illuminate the origins of the community, how it is structured and how members participate in it. Game industry professionals, such as the person interviewed during the research for this paper, will attest to the properties, characteristics and creative application of the machine, and how this creativity plays a role in the sphere of their community. I will examine the bonds of the society, to determine if the creative linage of the computer plays a role in community interactions.

The Amiga community is probably one of the most fascinating technology subcommunity out there. Lots of infighting, various competing Amiga operating systems, incredibly expensive but still outdated hardware, dubious ownership situations - it's all there. Yet, they keep going, they keep pushing out new software and new hardware, and they're in no danger of falling apart.

Amazing.

Programming AmigaOS 4

Amiga Future has published the first 5 parts of a series of AmigaOS 4 programming tutorials online (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5).

We were shocked when we realised that while we've covered several subjects in programming for AmigaOS 4 in Amiga Future there's been no extensive coverage of all of the many aspects. Additionally, since the release of OS4, quite a lot of time has passed by, and during that time new programming treasures have sneaked into the SDK virtually unnoticed. It's been nine years since the authors did a similar series in "Amiga Magazin". So, we're launching a new 15-part series starting with a short peek at the SDK and the available development environments.

The Faery Tale Adventure: a personal history

The Faery Tale Adventure was a computer game that I created for the Amiga in 1987. It was moderately popular for its day, and was ported to a number of platforms, including MS-DOS and the Sega Genesis.

I decided to write this account because, much to my surprise, there is still interest in the game - I occasionally get fan email or inquiries as to whether there will ever be a sequel. And so I thought it might be interesting to tell the story of how the game came to be, and what happened afterwards.

An account by David Joiner of a game he wrote for the Amiga. One of those stories that's just fun to read, no ifs and buts. Grab a coffee and enjoy.

Amiga 1000 Phoenix motherboard replacement project

First post of the new year - I hope y'all had a good one - and we're talking Amiga.

In October of 2017 I found a really nice accelerator card on Ebay for my stock Amiga 1000 - the Blizzard Turbo Memory Board. My original thought was I would install it into my 1000 and lose the side-car RAM expansions to regain some valuable desk space. Plus - 8MB? That’s gobs for the work I personally do on my Amigas. It was originally designed for the Amiga 500 or 2000 and additionally gave a modest speed boost of 14 Mhz. From my personal experience, 7 Mhz is plenty for the vast majority of Amiga games and software. However in some rare cases 14, 25 or even 40 Mhz can greatly improve the user experience with some math-intensive games and software. This little board seemed the perfect fit for my 1000’s needs.

I then got to talking to the seller on Ebay who was based in Australia. After a short amount of time I came to learn that he had in his possession an ultra-rare Phoenix board, too. Within a few days, money was exchanged and the Phoenix began its long journey from Australia to Seattle, Washington.

This is one of those stories where you just sit back, grab a warm drink, and just enjoy.

Adding a Graphics Card to an Amiga 500

Always after ways to push the trusty Amiga 500 to new limits, I discovered a post on the German A1k.org website about someone who had fitted a graphics card to his A500. This was a feat I felt I should replicate. I'm almost, but not quite, there. However, there were lots of hoops which needed jumping through first...

It's Amiga weekend, apparently! This story is a bit more hardware-focuseed, obviously.

Ten years of Icaros Desktop

It was a long, long time ago. A quite younger myself (Paolo Besser) presented AROS to some hundreds of people visiting Pianeta Amiga 2007, a still popular italian fair about Amiga products. While showing it at the event, I realized that the best way to advertise the open-source Amiga "clone" among the Amiga community was to prove it was already able to do things: AROS, in fact, was being developed for 12 years, but very little was known about its applications outside of its little community of developers and hackers. Most people believed it was simply too far, feature-wise, from AmigaOS and MorphOS to be actually useful for anything. This was, sadly, partially true. AROS hardware support was tiny, it didn't talk with USB devices, it had not hardware acceleration, it could barely do networking but it hadn't even a browser. There were many software pieces already in place, but almost nobody knew how to chain and take advantage of them. Moreover, most AROS applications were difficult to find and configure, so the best most people did with AROS builds was just downloading them from time to time, test the graphic demos, and forget about it 10 minutes later. A real pity: people poking with Lunapaint at Pianeta Amiga 2007 showed amusement and were impressed to see a common PC running an Amiga-ish operating system so nicely. Something more had to be done!

Icaros is probably the best and easiest way to experience AROS - and thus, an AmigaOS-like operating system - today. Great work, and here's to another ten years!