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[Rant] Rant #1 :)ANN.lu
Posted on 04-Feb-2000 21:19 GMT by Christian Kemp9 comments
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Bob Washburne is the first to use the new "rant" section on ANN v2, intended as a kind of soap box for normal users to voice their opinion and perhaps get some people thinking. Anyway, please tell him what you think of his writing, and please tell me what you think of this concept. :)
There has been a lot of confusion in the past several months on just what the Amiga community wants in a new computer and, in fact, just what an amiga is. I hope the following thoughts will help to clearify the issue and perhaps even inspire some action.

What is an Amiga? An Amiga is one of those computers I have down in my basement. They have numbers on them such as 2000, 2500 and 1200. They consist of hardware, software and an OS. This is an Amiga. Period.

An Amiga is *NOT* a concept, a spirit, a community or a Way of Life (tm). All of us bought our Amigas because they ran really neat software really well. We continue to use our Amigas because they still do.

What do current Amiga users - the Community - want to see in the next generation box? We simply want a computer which will 1) run our current software as well as or better than our current Amigas. 2) allow us to use modern, i.e. fast and cheap, peripherals such as with IDE and PCI. 3) Have features which will bring us more neat software which can't be found on other computers.

What about the new computer being worked on by Escom/Amiga, ermmm, Gateway/Amiga, ermmm, Amino/Amiga? The facts of life are that any startup company must build a computer with sufficient appeal to make the company viable. By the time you do your marketing study you find that any computer design which is sufficiently popular will have no commonality with the current Amiga line. It may be nice, even neat, but it will be an Amiga in name only.

What about QNX? Nice kernal, but nothing Amiga here. They have been working on their desktop environment for quite a while, long before Collas ever approached them. They have offered to take their existing project and place the Amiga name on it, but that is the only thing Amiga about it - no software compatability and none planned. And QNX has possibly less support for hardware than the current Amigas do. Just try and find a web site or news group where people are busily writing drivers for QNX.

What about Linux? When you make a list of all the features missing from AmigaOS; shared memory, memory protection, SMP, etc., you pretty much come up with the specification for Linux kernel 4.x. And Linux would not be a bad choice to replace exec. BUT, that would take a lot of time and work. It has taken hundreds of programmers almost ten years to bring Linux to its present state. It will be at least another year to incorporate the rest of the features mentioned. Then you would need to rip the kernel appart to remove stuff not of interest to Amiga and then completely rewrite Workbench to run on this new kernel (And removing all refferences to the propietary chip set. So long, Agnes). Bottom line: it would take a large programming team at least two years to replace exec with Linux and still be software compatable with the current Amiga. A company as small as Amiga, Inc. cannot bring the resources needed for this project. And even if they did, it would not pay off for them.

What if AmigaOS is made open-source? Nice idea, but many problems;

  • Some of Workbench is covered by patents which are still owned by Gateway. So you can't just GPL Workbench.
  • You still need the massive rewrite to get around the OCS, ECS, AGA issue.
  • There are only so many geeks out there and for the most part we are all working on Linux and FreeBSD. How are we going to attract them to Amiga in sufficient numbers to make a difference?
  • Who is going to be in charge? There must be a kernel czar who decides what goes in and what does not. Otherwise you end up with many different, incompatable kernels. Linus Torvalds and Allen Cox do this for Linux. Who will do it for Workbench? Amiga, Inc.? (see above) Phoenix? H&P? COSA? Petro?
What about UAE? Great idea, if only it worked. Remember, the Amiga has several independantly programmable processors; CPU, copper, Agnes. etc. To get a single processor machine, such as Intel, to emulate this requires a LOT of horepower. My 233MHz AMD cannot fully emulate a 7MHz A500. I suspect that it will take at least a 1000MHz machine to emulate the A1200 fully. And then what do you have? A chance to preserve the past, but no path for the future.

Is there any hope at all for a *REAL* Amiga NG? Surprisingly, yes. Transmeta. The Caruso processor chip is supposed to be fast (400-700MHz), cheap ($70-$130 US) and able to directly run the binary code from any other processor without emulation. So all it would take would be for some enterprising company to design a motherboard with multiple Caruso chips. One then becomes the 680x0, one becomes Agnes, copper, Paula, etc. You would then have a computer which is fully binary compatable with the current Amiga line, but runs a 400/700MHz CPU with a 400/700MHz AGA chipset.

This would be a great leap forward for Amiga technology. And if the board was designed well, you could also sell it as an SMP Linux system. This would provide the market volume necessary to pay back the development costs and then some.

And it would be a flexible platform from which the Amiga could move forward. Open sourceing Workbench makes sence at this point as now, with the performance pressure off, we would have time to rewrite the proprietary stuff out and the new features in.

So, any comments?

Any takers?

Bob Washburne

Rant #1 :) : Comment 1 of 9ANN.lu
Posted by metamiwoo on 03-Feb-2000 23:00 GMT
Hi Mr !
I think your forum of discussion is a great idea.
I'm personnaly a French user. In my country, Amiga is not famous... For me,
Amiga is not just a "thing that can load our software". If it was that, why don't
we all get UAE ? you said that Amiga emulation is too slow but with a G4 600 Mhz...
No Amiga isn't just that. Ok, it's not a religion... but it's maybe a way of life
as it symbolizes for many the feeling of freedom. For me, Amiga means Fun, Smart
and Innovation. I remember the Amiga 500 : so powerful, so innovative, so
incredible, so faaaaaast ...
Amiga has survived until today because many think of it more than just "a box
that can load my software".
For me, Amiga deals well with Tao : it changed computers in 80's and its destiny
is probably to change computers in 2001... ;)
Thanks for reading.
Regards, Metamiwoo.
Rant #1 :) : Comment 2 of 9ANN.lu
Posted by Luca on 03-Feb-2000 23:00 GMT
In reply to Comment 1 (metamiwoo):
Hi,
Amiga may not be famous now in France (just like any other country), but had a large number of followers. I lived in Paris until '97 and there were 3 monthly magazines and several shops. Also france used to host innumerable Demo competition. Hope the future will be as bright as the past.
Luca
Rant #1 :) : Comment 3 of 9ANN.lu
Posted by Mark Olsen on 03-Feb-2000 23:00 GMT
> There are only so many geeks out there and for the most part we are all
> working on Linux and FreeBSD. How are we going to attract them to Amiga
> in sufficient numbers to make a difference?
I think that Amiga is the computer with the highest percentage of the users being coders.
We have enough already, we need no unix bastards :)
Oh, and add comment from the "Read more" doesn't work.
Rant #1 :) : Comment 4 of 9ANN.lu
Posted by Rodney Entwisle on 04-Feb-2000 23:00 GMT
I have an itching to correct a few of the statememts made by Bob Washburne.
First many of my freinds DO want their current software to run on any new machine they buy. But the reality of todays marketplace is that 99% of them want their "Windows" based software to run on any new machine. Most of wat they do now is happily done on windows software. I am one of only a few I know who wants some current and older Amiga software to run on any future machine.
Next I HAVE to correct the speed estimate of running WinUAE at 1000Mhz. I can easily get WinUAE to emulate a full A1200 at full speed (CPU and chipset) on a PII400 machine. On my 500 Mhz machine I run much faster. Unfortunatly most critics of UAE forget that to emulate the chipset you need "X" amount of CPU time... once you have reached that point and passed it you still only need "X" CPU time to emulate the chipset... so going past X will allow for much faster CPU emulation. It would be stupid to emulate the chipset at twice its hardware speed wouldnt it?
And finaly... The comments on using the Crusoe to emulate a faster Amiga are badly thought out. He obviously forgets that he had just mentioned that there werent enough Amiga users to currently support an open source WB... then there wont be enough to support the far more expensive Crusoe adaption... then there is the cost of so many CPUs in one box. Even if they are cheap. A developer might be gest to emulate all the chipset in one Crusoe... Assuming someone wanted to take on the impossible task of finding enough users to support such an expensive task.
Rant #1 :) : Comment 5 of 9ANN.lu
Posted by Ian on 04-Feb-2000 23:00 GMT
In reply to Comment 4 (Rodney Entwisle):
While the cruso is a flexabile CPU capable of running a downloadable microcode making it compatable with a variety of processors should you choose to make it so does NOT mean it can emulate Fat Agnes or Deniese. Can it process analog video? Lock video to sync? No. Could you make it emulate a 68K at a very fast speed? Yes. But would you want to? remember the Commodore 128? How much software was written for it? Not much because it was a C-64 too. Emulation is not always a good thing.
IMHO, the Amiga was the OS linked with a generational leap in audio and graphics hardware. A robust shell and UI that was exntensible and smooth with fast multitasking rounded out the platfrom. It was that and in 1985 superior graphics at an unheard of low price. Just updating the OS and adding an emulation (haqrdware or not) layer is not enough. The Amiga must reclaim is throne as king of multimedia. It must support HDTV in and out. Analog A/V edit and capture. Realtime gigapixel rendering. No dumb-ass 2GB capture limits like with most PC solutions. Remember when the Amiga first appeared it was NOT the OS that made people go WOW. It was the sound and graphics in a machine that did for under $2K what one costing 10K+ did elsewhere.
Sure, give the new machine standard expansion abiliies : use PCI, AGP and USB. But on the mainboard there must be a break through A/V engine. One that is fully DMA like the old Amiga. It must do multi-channel MPEG2 at HD resolutions. It must capture and encode analog audio and video. It must do dolby digital and DTS. It must do 3D as well or better then the PC state of the art.
In other words it must be an Amiga for the 21st centruy.
Rant #1 :) : Comment 6 of 9ANN.lu
Posted by the man in the shadows on 04-Feb-2000 23:00 GMT
In reply to Comment 5 (Ian):
I say go way beyond just AGP PCI and others. There's new specifications that are being adapted every day almost. About five percent of the Amiga community know what an AMR really stands for and even a percentage out of that know what DDR is. Don't just take existing technology that's out there but also take what's being looked at by other ISO innovators such as Apple, Motorolla, and Intel. I mean really, the Crusoe is really neeto-jack-keen and all but I personally don't think that it is the right processor for the job. Now when it comes time to create the portable style Amiga systems, yeah the Crusoe would be perfect. Another thing that should really happen is satisfying the current Amiga lust - ATX motherboards to current spec (beyond the BoXeR). It is apparent that is exactly what Amiga Incorporated is attempting.
From there, satisfy the next crave - Portable Amiga. But not just in the notebook fashion but also in the "palm" style as well.
Port the further developement of the OS into different processors using Tao's kernal for the "code morphing" design. This way, the entire system could actually "compete" with the growing Linux community.
Push the Amiga out there into lands never thought of like car stereos, VCRs, DVDs, OS layers and more. Market the idea to companies that develop cable boxes and GPS systems. Tie in with major companies like worldspan (makers of expedia) to create a large scale mass networking like what "Inet 2" is supposed to be like. Open further developements by purchasing some of the older technologies and incorporating them into the strategy.
One of the things that Amiga was best at was to take something completely new to the computer field and do magic with it on the Amiga.
Rant #1 :) : Comment 7 of 9ANN.lu
Posted by Colin Thompson on 04-Feb-2000 23:00 GMT
Bob,
I agree with most of your assessment of the situation. However your comments
about UAE were off the mark.
UAE was never intended to extend the Amiga, but to preserve it for all time like
a fly in amber. I can assure you that any 400Mhz Windows box can give you a good
approximation of a 1200, and then some.
From first hand experience I can tell you that WinUAE running on an 875Mhz
Athlon is a dream. And these faster processors will be the standard in the near
future.
Colin
Rant #1 :) : Comment 8 of 9ANN.lu
Posted by Steve Crietzman on 04-Feb-2000 23:00 GMT
Great article :)
I just wanted to make some comments on the "open source" issues
mentioned in this article, and give a brief breakdown of why they are
not a problem. To be fair, though, these "problems" are common
misunderstandings I have seen in many places.
Custom chip dependency: Can be easily removed. Look at the DraCo.
COSA and AROS both feel the "custom chip" problem is over exagerrated.
It's not the OS per se that needs them, but programs that "bang the
hardware". Again, think of the DraCo. The key is to remove any
remaining hardware dependencies, thus making AmigaOS hardware
independent and one hop, skip and jump away from full blown
portability.
Attracting programmers: COSA has 150 registered developers. In
addition to the AROS developers, we have more than enough. AROS's
so-far limited developer base has brought them a 60% complete clone of
AmigaOS. Excellent work by anyone's standards. If we can multiply
their developer base tenfold, and give them the official AmigaOS
source code to work with, both thanks to COSA, I think we can easily
get an AmigaOS clone completed.
Who will manage it? COSA/AROS. Both groups form a symbiosis. We will
be doing an article on this soon, but to cut a long story short: AROS
do direct, main AmigaOS development work, COSA polish it off and act
as a Free Software Foundation for the Amiga world. We will handle
business, legal, administration and money issues for AROS, as well as
AmigaOS commercial marketing and sales.
GPL? No, not GPL, but this is not important so long as the code is
freely available and it is possible for us to reach a compromise with
Amino/Gateway regarding patents (Amino's lawyers are working on this
for us already.) Blind adherence to the Open Source Definition or Free
Software definition may not be possible for the kernel, but we'll use
it wherever else possible. The important point is:
Portability - COSA/AROS want an AmigaOS that is portable, fast and
efficient, and an AmigaOS 3.x clone. Not a replacement, and not
"similar in style", but a direct clone. It IS AmigaOS, afterall.
GUI, APIs (libraries and devices), the lot. Source code compatibility
between ports on different platforms will be preserved. For
C/C++ programs, only a recompile would be needed. AmigaOS eventual
availability for Intel x86 (PC), PowerPC (PowerMac/Amiga/POP), etc. I
realise some may cringe at the mention of Intel x86, but let's be
realistic, that's where 99% of the computing market is these days.
What's more, they won't try a new OS unless it's free to try. Be
learnt this lesson. We need to learn it too. Getting AmigaOS
available for the PC and without charge means Open Source, period.
I just wanted to say I agreed with the article. What people, many
many people want, is something as Amiga-like and Amiga-inspired as
humanly possible, Amiga through and though in design and
philosophy, while still making progress and moving on. Progress
should not supercede the importance of continuity; both should be
symbiotic.
That's what COSA (now called Open Amiga) and AROS is here for. We're
here to make AmigaOS open source, make it portable, make it free, and
thus attract many new people to trying it, and give us momentum once
again. Even better still, no QNX, Linux or Tao kernel in sight.
We realise that a significant portion of the Amiga community do not
want any solution that does not have AmigaOS at it's core and we are
very sensitive to that. We were formed as the "Save the Amiga
Campaign", afterall. We were here to listen to the concerns of
the community. COSA tries to represent "Classic Amigas who want
progress" as best we can.
And while we support and are encouraged by Amiga's plans, we are
trying our best to develop a strategy that will satisfy those who
crave a logical successor to the Classic Amiga, which is as compatible
as possible to the existing Amigas, the 1200s, the 4000s, etc. Amiga
need to satisfy those individuals as best as possible in order not to
offend them (I am constantly reminded by Tom Schmidt's "not an OS,
not a box" disaster). Tao's success, IMHO, depends on keeping the
Amiga community happy and as unoffended as possible ;)
I believe there's more than enough room for both Tao and the Classic
Amiga.
Tao will no doubt be a much more successful and popular alternative,
but we still need to do something for the Classic Amiga (the OS, at
least, the heart of and soul of the Classic Amiga in my opinion).
Anyone interested in Open Amiga / AROS's plans should feel free to
contact me, as well as anyone that wants to see *progress* for the
*Classic Amiga*. That's what we're all about.
Best Regards,
Steve Crietzman
Prez, Open Amiga.
Rant #1 :) : Comment 9 of 9ANN.lu
Posted by Mark Olsen on 04-Feb-2000 23:00 GMT
In reply to Comment 7 (Colin Thompson):
> From first hand experience I can tell you that WinUAE running on an 875Mhz
> Athlon is a dream. And these faster processors will be the standard in the near
> future.
Except it is not like a real Amiga. The Windows version relies on DirectX for gfx, while the UNIX version relies on X. Which both suck.
Lemme ask you: Can you take your harddrive from your Amiga and put it into your UAE box, and then have the files ready for use ? NO!.
Under Linux, you could mount it onto the UNIX native filesystem, but comments, attributes etc. would be gone.
And there are other cases where UAE simply don't match a real Amiga. Including speed.
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