The AmiGBG2003 fair was held in Gothemburg, Sweden on Saturday,
Last year's AmiGBG was the first of its kind to be held in Sweden in a long
time. This novelty attracted some 400 visitors last year. This year the
attendance was a lot poorer - one of the organizers (the nice fellow known as
Sharakmir on the 'net) estimated some 140 persons in attendance during the day.
Personally I thought it felt like more, but clearly the crowded floor of last
year was not repeated this time. Part of this might well be that the novelty of
an Swedish Amiga fair has worn off; but the lack of availability of AOS4 had
probably the biggest impact on people's willingness to travel from afar.
I just got back from the show, after spending some hours on the train home. I
thought I'd share some of my impressions. First of all I want to make clear that I made no notes or recordings, but are reporting straight from memory. If I get some facts wrong, I'm sure someone will correct me. Also, I didn't visit all exhibitors to the same extent. So if I miss someone, it's not intentional. Just writing off the top of my head here.
First off - the enthusiasts, the user groups, the hobby developers, the people
forming the backbone of the Amiga community.
ACG Gothenburg - they had this nifty Amiga nostalgia corner showing some classic demos. They also had a cool two-player setup - best described it as a board with two integrated joysticks with buttons, like the front of an arcade machine - where Rocketz deathmatches were played. They held a wide range of the classic
Amiga models of old. Like the A1000 they were running Shadow of the Beast II on.
Also they displayed an alluring range of original games (their packaging).
Unfortunately they were not for sale (or they thought I looked too shady to buy
them, I don't know... )
The norwegian Amiga magazine Amitopia (soon to be distributed in USA if I
understood it correctly) held a corner selling magazines and playing Payback.
Next to them were "Explosives, Brother!", an Amiga inspired music group that
were present last year too. Walked by and someone happened to have a sid of "The
Last Ninja" running. Ah, the memories...
Richard "Dawnbringer" Fhager released the latest version of his game "BabeAnoid"
on the fair. Nice clean Arcanoid-with-a-lot-of-twists-game. Many people were
trying it out under his watchful eye. The game is free and can be downloaded
from his website: http://hem.fyristorg.com/dawnbringer .
Ole-Egil and Justin was there showing AOne:s running Debian Linux. Nothing much
new there (except that Ole-Egils beard has grown out of bounds...), the news in
this area came, as expected, from Alan Redhouse (see below)
The editor of Azine, Magnus Andersson, was there, selling mgazines and
memberships to ACG. Azine is Swedens biggest Amiga magazine, and is run by ACG,
Amiga Computer Group, that unfortunately didn't have as large a presence as
large year (they do have quite some bit to travel, it should be mentioned).
There were several other user groups there, too many to mention and I didn't
talk enough with them as to give any proper review of their activities. I leave
that up to others. But they all contributed to the mood and experience of the
fair. Notables were the Swedish Atari Club, some guys controlling a mechanical
head with an Amiga 1200(?) and of course Amiga Rulez, the Swedish Amiga news
Now on to the commercial players and seminar holders in general.
I talked a bit with Jens Schönfeldt (spelling?) of Individual Computers about
his new Delphina soundcard. A nice guy, very entusiastic about his product.
Currently the Delphina is a Zorro-only board, but it will be expanded by the
"Flipper" add-on (making it the Delphina-Flipper") which essentially creates a
card having a PCI connector on one side and a Zorro connector on the other,
making this soundcard viable for e.g AOne in the future. The Flipper will also
add stuff like MIDI ports. The card is, according to Jens, outperforming e.g.
the Soundblaster cards by far in sound quality due to using a very high quality
AROS was present both with a exhibitor table and in the seminar schedule. One of
their representatives (whose name I didn't catch, sorry) held a nice
presentation of the increasingly useful AROS desktop. So far (he said), the
Workbench itself has quite limited use (lacks a graphical file manager among
other things - only a very rudimentary version is working as of yet), but most
"under the bonnet" stuff were done. He displayed some cool effects not present
in original AOS3, such as arbitrarily shaped windows (he had one shaped like the
female cat logo of AROS) and having transparent areas of a window (he clicked in
the empty arc under the cat's tail, and marked the window behind it). A clever
use of layers indeed. Overall AROS seem to be progressing well, albeit slow.
Only some 15 developers are actively working on the project for the moment. I
know for one that Johan "Graak" Forsberg took a lot of pictures of this
presentation (and probably of every seminar, he said he had taken 140+
pictures), so more of this will hopefully be forthcoming.
Genesi was in attendance with five Pegasos machines running MOS 1.2 (from what I
gathered). The representatives were were friendly and handed out wads of
T-shirts (with the "I have a gift for you" wrapped-in MOS package) to anyone
even just looking in their direction. I sat down in front of one of them. First
time I tried MOS actually. The desktops they use for the fair (and I suppose all
fairs) are very nice. Looking very professional. The wireless mouse is perhaps
not as clever to use for fair presentation - it's a little poor in reacting on
the surface they had avaliable, and that affects the impression on screen. And
the keyboard is absolutely horrible. But of course, those things are hardware
cosmetics, unique to these showcase boxes, and have nothing to do with the
system per se. But first impressions are important on shows such as this.
Something to think about until the next fair perhaps.
I sat down with MOS. One of the first things that interests me when trying a new
OS is configurability, so I opened up the prefs. There are plenty of good
configuration utilities. You can have the windows go outside the window borders,
you can have the menus pop-up under the mouse and have them behave in various
ways.Apparently you can have keyboard shortcuts to plenty of actions, which is a
must for me, and good to see. So far there are no prefs to change the looks of
native gadgets directly (you have to create a style to do so). This will be
remedied in the future, I was told. Overall the system is quick (but that bloody
mouse is a drawback when judging this). Clicking is certainly responsive and
windows start up quickly. Frogger ran some movies at good speed. Small things
like getting a file manager when left-clicking on the background is also a nice
touch. Unfortunately the system is still having stability issues. The system
locked up two times for me during my half-hour testing run, and the mouse cursor
slowed down to a crawl on several occations (and that wasn't a mouse problem).
However these problems seem mostly located in certain modules (such as the
integrated skinning feature that apparently was rather newly implemented from
what they told me). I can imagine the slowing of the mouse being some sort of
debug stuff, but I don't know. Summa sumarum MOS looks and feels rather nice and
have some fine touches and good attention to detail. But it is definately not
complete yet for a wide ignorant audience. It still has a very real "beta" sense
over it. In my most humble opinion of course.
Genesi held a seminar early on, but unfortunately I missed it. Someone else must
fill in the details on that one.
Gunne Steen of GGS data sold stuff all day long. I picked up a copy of "Tales of
Tamar". Doubt I'll have time to play it seriously any time soon though... In
time for the show, a batch of new Pegasos boards arrived for GGS data. People
were able to buy them right there on the show. I don't know how many, if any, he
sold though. Gunne also held a small seminar showing Linux running on the
Pegasos, and also some short displays of starting programs in MOS. I assume the
bulk of MOS demonstration was made at the Genesi seminar I missed.
Alan Redhouse of Eyetech came empty handed to the fair. Everyone had hoped he
would have a bunch of AmigaOneG4-XE:s with him, but that was not to be. It was
planned up to the last minute. But the boards, arriving from the far east
certification got stuck in Cologne. Far east certification you ask? Originally
the plan was for the manufactured boards (manufactured by the plant somewhere in
Asia) to be quality assured by Eyetech and delivered to customers at the rate of
QA-completion. But the manufacturing plant and Eyetech both decided it was too
expensive to ship eventual faulty boards back to Asia for fixing. So they hired
a professional QA firm in Asia to do the extensive checkups directly. This means
that the boards arriving in Europe will be complete for delivery, and the
through-flow to customers will thus be quicker. As always a matter of economy.
We would have had the boards today had the mail delivery been kind. Starting
monday, GGS data should have them and will begin shipping them out to pre-order
customers, if I understood it correctly. No info was given as to how many boards
we are talking about in this first shipment.
Alan held quite an extensive speech on the AmigaOne platform and the future of
mainstream Amiga applications in general. All of it was recorded by at least
three cameras, so I hope clips will be made available eventually. He started off
debunking some rumors that have been floating around. He stated very firmly that
the AOne in general and the Articia in particular held no performance hampering
bugs (referring to the latest revision that is now shipping). He also repeated
the presently stated information about MAI being a fabless company and Eyetech:s
role in bringing the boards into bigger quantity production. Alan and the
president of MAI apparently have a very close business relation, being into
contact several times a week. Alan also adressed the overall problems inherent
in the AOne + AOS4 project. One being to get info from the big chip
manufacturers. Particularily Motorola and VIA were very lack with handing out
technical support to such a small player as the Amiga effort, lack to such an
extent that lots of work and time was needed were it could have been avoided.
Alan seemed very impressed with IBM though. They had been very helpful and
supportive. He said that such good relations had been established to IBM that he
was seeing some major collaboration with them in the future. Other problems he
mentioned, we already know about, such as Hyperion being forced to take on
external projects to fund development. He presented the already complete
blueprints for a more public retail-friendly AOne. I'm not sure if this was the
AOne-Lite or if I confuse the names (I think he also talked about another new
board, but my memory is failing me here). It is very clear though that any
future AOne models is completely dependant on the sales of the current model
It is clear that Eyetech and Hyperion is looking for ways to establish a wider
market for their boards-and-OS combo. It is a harsh economical reality out
there; Alan is, counting positively, expecting a sale of around 10000 AOne
units, ranging up to 30000 if people from the sidelines start buying in en
masse. To get economics of scale more has to be done. On the hardware side
Eyetech will sell the board as linux servers (the low power consumption and
accompanying low heat dissipation being the major selling point). But AOS4 is
(reading between the lines here) already being done with it being a viable
integrated OS in mind. A rock-steady, small footprint OS to run embedded devices
might be just what the doctor ordered. But Alan asked us to not make too much
fuss about it, so I won't. As always, there are many plans for the future, and
only time will tell what comes to frutition.
Someone asked the inevitable question: "Give an estimate: How far away is AOS4?"
And Alan pondered. He rubbed his moustache. He looked up into the sky as if
calculating in his head. You could have heard a pin hit the floor as a room of
Amigans held their collective breaths. Then he said: "Oh...I think they are some
1500 km away or so." Life in Amiga-world returns to normal. "When its done" is
still the invariable answer, the one frustrating but fair constant in our little
world of computer turmoil.
Overall, I was satisfied with travelling a total of six hours to and fro
Gothenburg to attend AmiGBG2003. As always, I am extremely impressed with the
people taking time out of their busy lifes to arrange an event such as this. Not
to mention all the entusiasts coming from afar to set up tables to display what
they create with, and enjoy about, the Amiga. It was also nice to be able to put
a face to some of the people one normally only meet on the Internet. Thanks to
all of you guys (especially all the people I forgot to mention), and hope to see
everyone next year!