Technologies: AROS: Small steps, Sparks; small steps…

ATTENTION: due to a strange bug on il cannocchiale blog platform, the aros-exec links does not appear correctly, therefore fix them in the address bar; hope this problem will be reparied soon…

The title is, for who remembers it, a catch phrase from the movie “Contact” and also one of the things that I took as philosophy of life; if you want to do something it is better to go slow pursuing smaller goals than try to do the big leap all at once when things are not going right away.

It means that, doing small steps,  the path to the achievement is followed anyway, slowly and one day looking around you realise that your goal is closer than expected. The secret is fragmenting big tasks in smaller, more affordable chores; taking those on and completing em means getting to the final goal a small step less, minor maybe but still a step less to go.

Of course i am thinking about AROS situation; let me show the actual latest small steps to the 1.0:

Stanislaw Sszymczyk has finished recently the bounty for the AROS self-compilation, a very important step for every operating system considered that, as somebody commented in the OSNews announce, some developers don’t get interested in an OS until it reach this goal; so even simply this step might be a good thing and a reason to attract, in theory, new developers.

And with small steps even the new evrsion of VmWAROS is close to be completed: Paolo Besser announced the “feature freeze” for the actual version that si undergoing a massive beta testing before the public release.
Considered that, up to the last year, AROS was left without any official distro and the announced one, called Velocity, had to be cancelled by its mantainer, fishy_fis, due to personal problem and to a bad car accident that involved him.

Paolo Besser has achieved,with a combination of shell scripts, to create a simple UAE integration in the new version of VmWAROS. The integration system, called “Amibridge“, use an idea already conceived by fishy_fis itself and put together by Besser on its own and allows to launch UAE and specific Amiga programs with the click of an icon on Wanderer.
Furthermore: thanks at my own initiative to get in touch with Whoosh777, mantainer of the Amiga and AROS port of Ghostscript to ask about a port of a new version.
Strangely, nobody ever gave to Whoosh777 any feedback on the AROS version of Ghostscript so he decided to keep it on hold.
AROS internals were changed since the last version of Ghostscript shipped and, despite mine and Paolo debug reports, seems like the new version of Ghostscript is actually not working correctly.
But Paolo found out that the previous version is actually still working fine and that allowed him to write another script that, through Ghostscript, creates jpeg previews of a PDF document pages on RAM and show them through picshow. The script has been called PoorPDF.
Last but not least, a slight esthetical improvement has been done by the cooperation of Ken Lester and its own famous Ken’s Icons, portedt to AROS and customised for the occasion.
A well known feature of the ken’s icons – the icon’s different appearance between selected and unselected – brought to a review of the icon.library and of the way icons are actually built under AROS.

Nikolaos, here let us know that another historic problem of AROS – the impossibility to change CD-ROM in a drive without the need to reboot in order to see the new one – has finally been solved partially by Error; still, appIcons are not supported (appIcons are tye icons that shows up when a removable media is mounted) but is still another small step in the right direction.

Matthias Ruster is meddling with the port of Ignition, an Amiga OS spreadheet recently released open source under GPL 3: in the last month he achieved slow but remarkable progresses: first of all some essential parts for the program running, the gtdrag,pScroller and pTextEdit classes were added to the program repository in october; Matthias has been able to compile classes demos and make them partially work on November 19 [screenshot], then has been able to make the spash screen open in November 30 [screenshot]; the last known progress has been made on December 4, when he had been able to make the GUI start for a while [screenshot]; right now Matthias is working to make the preferences endianness safe; [edit: last update today december 11 Matthias has a working GUI and can insert text in the cells [screenshot] ]; hope in further updates soon.

According to the Bounty list on on December 1st the first part of the Kickstart Replacement Bounty expired. The assigned coder, bheron, aslo known as Gergory John Casamento, chief mantainer of GNUstep, posted a first status report on the developr mailing list last December 5:

My apologies for not giving more status on this sooner, but I’ve been bogged down lately due to both business and personal matters.Currently Alex Perez [edit: MisterBIOS on #AROS] and I are working on this bounty. Alex has identified some hardware which can be used to burn the ROMS to chips which could be used in an actual Amiga. According to him this was difficult to find. I am trying to find resources to help me understand the existing ROMS better so that I can proceed with their replacement. [Edit: I helped bheron sending him a link to the Natami Knowledge Base website that includes part of the HTML version of the RKRM autodocs and Henrycase offered himself to purchase and send to bheron a copy of the Amiga Guru Book found in ebay, hoping it might be helpful]

I’m not disassembling them (naturally) but I have been trying to get hold of ROM kernel manuals and, to be honest, an ACTUAL Amiga… up until now I am using UAE with roms from the Cloanto CD-ROM Amiga Forever.

I have also gotten SASC in order to compile GCC so that I can build AROS under UAE. (like I said… still need Amiga hardware)

I know that the deadline for this has passed and I assure you when I took this task on I thought I would have the time to accomplish it by the deadline (which was admittedly pretty tight).

Ao far somebody in the developer list thinks bheron did even more than asked from the bounty requirement starting tasks required for the phase 2; those news are in any way very good because gives confirm on how Gregory took its task seriously and on its dedication on proceeding towards the bounty completion.

BTW, Gregory can ask a time extension for the bounty and, honestly, i am sure he will receive it: would also like to ask people  to help bheron in retrieve amiga ghardware in order to complete the bounty: bheron and MisterBIOS can be contacted through #aros channel ,the aros-exec forum and the AROS developer mailing list. This call is a personal initiative of mine, so in case they ask tell them you went to know through my blog.

Than another good new comes from the advocacy side: TADsince1995 held an AROS presentation conference last November 29 inside the Linuxmeeting in Palermo, sicily. The presentatio has been successful: AROS has been favorably received from the attendees; this is the outcome using the words of TAD itself:

As I previously announced, yesterday I presented AROS at linuxmeeting. It was a little success! The average age of people was under 20, but there were some older people who used amiga.

Both those who used amiga in the past and who didn’t know what Amiga is were very interested. During the presentation I did a little introduction on the history of Amiga and then I showed them VmwAros running on qemu. Even if it was running slow on qemu they were amazed by aros speed!

In the afternoon I was able to show AROS running native on my Acer laptop at its full speed (thanks to people here who helped me on some issues regarding the installation). People reunited in front of the screen and cannot believe how fast the system booted up (about 6 seconds) and how fast applications loaded.

One of them said that he was interested on porting applications to aros and the organizer of the event proposed to start an aros local group.

This shows that AROS is not ignored because is old technology or for other futile reasons, going even against my own ideas that i put in this blog some time ago: looks like simply AROS is not known outside the Amiga communities despite the appearance in some italian and european magazines: probably at that time it was simply considered a kind of curiosity, and looks also like magazines have no more that power that they used toi have even in the latest ten years, internet now do a better job in updating people and giving informations, therefore seems that many people did not even see AROS coming through the press and therefore they underestimate and ignore its own existence.
Presentations such the one made by TAD or those made by Paolone in Pianeta Amiga and in Brusaporto last year are occasion to introduce people outside Amiga circles, or inside Amiga circles but that so far did not care about – to AROS; still too many people have the Amiga as a Games machinein their own mind, also because few bought something more than a base 500 or 600 and used it in video grpahics, multimedia or programming: at least its older brother, the commodore 64 in Italy got  a bit more serious reputation, beside the games one, in the very local and peculiar Totocalcio card processing system (Totocalcio is a game once very popular in italy: people try to guess soccer matches results, and can be played in a simple way or, using double or triple combinations per match, in a so-called “system” card: being based on statistic, many computer programs came out in order to help people win), even supported by a local industry called SIEL who at the time sold integrated c64/totcalcio card printer systems, i seen one still at work like five years ago: this kin of programs hardly make their way in the Amiga world and the most fertile ground for semi-professional use in italy for amiga was the video titling: probably if there was a PAL version of the toaster there should be still some amiga around….

And, at the end, sometihng about my persona commitment with AROS.

I started some time ago to write sometihng in lua: i downloaded the all-in-one lua distribution under windows in order to learn to program it’ it is my intention to write a preferences requester for a fast network config under AROS; i am starting with lua from scratch, therefore from the most basic operations that every language has: operations, conditions and files input/output (and here i got stuck: haven’t found a low level tutorial for that yet) and at last Zulu, the well known LUA extension for MUI graphical interfaces.
The text file inside extras/developers/lua gives just some Zulu commands list but expect you to be familiar with the internal MUI workings and does not tutor you in it.

A chat with Olivier2222 in #aros made me understand some basics on how to draw the GUI in the right way; will try to summarise it shortly:
Olivier 2222 made a comparison with an HTML page using <IDV> structures and its hierarchy: starting from the window object has to be added a vertical group first then, inside an horizontal group (that might contains some more vertical groups and so on)and then the objects inside all (like textfield, or dropdown,etc.) If you need a space between the objects you add a separator.

Using those (more detailed in the chat) advices I started to do a test GUI and i finally seen something appearing, then making it work will be a different pair of shoes.
Olivier2222 told me to give a look at the MUI 3.8 developer docs to better understand the inner workings of the various objects. He gave me mainly C examples but, since i think i got some basics now, i hope to share my knowledge once will know some more.

Furthermore, I sent an AROS presentation abstract for the next SCALE (Southern CAlifornia Linux Expo) that will be held on the last week of February 2009; if the abstract will be accepted that will be my fisrt official presentation; i am looking for suggestions in order to set up something good when will be the time.

As i said at the beginning, the small steps philosophy work: just go on one small steps at the time: results will follow.

[last minute edit: i knew i forgot something: netsurf. Looks like for the moment sszy put netsurf port apart but he still has a plan B….;)]