AROS: Kitty on a Stick ;)

Even if the last post is not finished yet, i start this because a very important thing happened on AROS: Starting from March 9 nighty, AROS can be finally installed and boot from USB Sticks!

I wrote a basic tutorial on Arosworld.org on how to install using a simple 2GB stick. Despite an initial problem due to the fact that the stick was partitioned in two and one of the partitions was hidden, after I wiped it with a windows program called Hard Disk Wipe Tool, that can be downloaded at this link , i finally as able to install AROS on the stick. Of course I tried the stick in all the computers available at home: my usual old laptop, my new Dell Vostro and, this time, also my wife’s netbook, a MSI Wind u100.

Digital image
The MSI Wind u100 proudly shows AROS OWB 🙂

The old buggy USB controller of my old ASUS does not allow to boot from USB stick, and is just the next USB fault in a long list (it ever was unable to see any of the sticks and USB devices I tried on AROS since the early Michal Schulz’s usb.device tests); my Dell Vostro behaves a bit better, though it will boot forkm the stick if the “USB Legacy Driver” option in the BIOS is on – but that means no external keyboard and mouse: weird huh?

The best of the bunch was the netbook: called affectionately “blacky” from my wife, the wedding gift  MSI Wind u100 started from the stick with no glitches once I selected the stick from the startup menu; most of the hardware is supported: the wired RTL8168 network card and the HDAudio chip works nicely; of course the only missing components from this heavenly are the wireless chip and the external screen output (about the latter one got no clue whether can be selected as main from BIOS, need to check) but was nicely surprised from the performance.

Further tutorials and details can be found in this screen collection made by DizzyOfCRN, that also made a movie of its Samsung netbook booting from stick here, and more in general in this thread on AROS-exec.

Furthermore, paolone started a poll about how should he structure and what software should he put in a stick-friendly version of Icaros; the poll can be accessed from its blog.

I was a bit concerned about the lack of update from the AROS show lately, plus was waiting  for the promised interview to Matthias “Mazze” Rustler and i decided to check the pulse on Paul Beel aka Novaburstfor when the new updates might come out; pity that the answe was not encouraging.

In short, Novaburst said that slowly with the time he lost “the spark” on talking about AROS and that lately he is pursuing different interests; he also added that, at least for now, he will not update The AROS show, this means that (hopefully momentarily) one of most interesting insight voices from what happens behind the community doots got silent; i have a debt with the work of Paul; its periodical writings gave me motivation in checking first then support AROS and start my advocacy and, following, this blog. Hope to read you again soon, Paul.

Talking one moment about Mazze, he recently ported Jabberwocky, a well known Jabber Instant messenger App; in this moment the source was made sync with mainstream so that further versions willbe out even for AROS.

Last month I started some new little works for the AROS community giving my personal contribution in form of works: I created some wallpapers in several formats and uploaded it on the AROS Archives here, and I made a screencast where I show how to install the HDAudio drivers,how to test whether they are working correctly and how to file a bug report; the tutorial was made by me using AROS on Qemu, camstudio, Audacity and put together with premiere; it has been uploaded in Vimeo and can be seen here.

By the way, working at the tutorial was interesting and proposed me several technical problems; the first, obviously, was that since was working in an emulated environment could not propose the situation exactly as it should have shown; the second is that i realized that i need to write a script before to do a tutorial, else i end up having a lot of footage to discard (like 30 minutes for a 10 minute one) andis hard to make the voices match copying and pasting content; the last one was that I missed having a video capture software native on AROS (ok, we also miss audio and video editing software but lets take the problems one at the time) and, upon advice of Fabien Coeurjoly, i wrote to Ilkka “Itix” Lethoranta aobut making the source of its Screen Recording Program for MorphOS available; he gave its availability to provide the code and to help if somebody wants to port it; will let you know more details in the future.

The fact that now AROS is bootable from stick was for me the next critical mass signal, after the release of OWB and the completion of the Poseidon stack, that we can now aim at a largel userspace level; even though its “semi-perpetual pre-alpha stage” (sometimes the lack of smaller features to reach the alpha level frustrates me, i admit it, even though things look to progress fast), there is indeed an area where AROS can increase its user area thanks to its implicit advantages that can be already satisfied IMHO from the actual status (low memory footprint, fast start/shutdown and multitasking): that is the hobbyist area: think at HAM radio people, RC, Robotics, small hardware projects,etc. ; they already used Amigas in the past and have the feeling that the only reason they stopped using it was the death of commodore and the decaying of support; bringing them an Amiga-like OS in a x86 machine might be an ideal target.
Since is my intention to promote AROS for such uses, i started two threads, one in aros-exec and one in arosworld.org, where was trying to do some brainstorming; the thread on aros-exec has been deserted so far, while in the arosworld one got some responses from one of the users; gave me some insight of what might be (for me that am kinda out of the field) useful:

Amiga tinkerers should like Aros since its somewhat 3.1 compatible, with a cpu on steroids compared to 68k.
There were some articles that NASA (the ultimate tinkerers) were using Amigas at one time.
I wonder if they even know about Aros.
AFAIR most robotics people are using specific languages that may not be ported to Aros yet.At this time I think the main advantage of Aros for tinkerers is its quick boot and shut down.

Since another of my ideas was that there are some languages (rexx lua and, paying, hollywood) to provide a rapid application development, i asked whether there was way to interact with them using serial port (yup am still at that level), and that is its answer (longer but condensed):

I don’t know much about Amilua or Rexx, but high level languages are not designed to explore the hardware. Instead they are an abstraction layer to shield you from the hardware. I’d be suprised if you find a way. Besides, are there any modern devices that really use the serial port anymore? It’s really slow.I forgot to mention bluetooth technology. With support for bluetooth an operating system can interact with many devices that are fun to tinker with.Also do not overlook Midi. Many people have used Midi to sequence automated event timing, such as in light shows and animatronics.

As you can see, things are starting to look interesting (for me at least): it shows what might be needed for pepole to control devices through AROS: some good things might be bluetooth(not uspported) or MIDI (supported? got no idea, and Hitchhikr port of Bars and Pipes has been left unfinished for now); even HAM radio requires some kind of hardware, as said from a friend of mine  whose father is a HAM radio user and in the past used c64 and Amiga for its hobby; but he said that writing a serial driver should be trivial if somebody knows how to do it (neither me or him knows) -then, still talking aobut HAM radio, there is the lack of software problem; most amiga software found on Aminet is not open source or looks outdated, most linux software that can be ported resorts in GTK or QT (and the port is not trivial), not to mention licensing issues that might arise. Find new userbase and developers might help solve this part too: the most of the software around is ported mainly by three people: Mazze, Fishy_fis and Yannickescu; we also have occasional contributors that then disappears from the scene, like Masta1 that ported the main part of MAME engine but left the job unfinished (screen cannot be resized, missing GUI,etc). Others lack the time to contribute more, likg Craig “cjkiesau” Kiesau, that lately put in Aros Archives both the binary archive and the source code of ArosPDF so that the project can go on; as said in the past it is a port of xpdf on AROS and is GPL licensed.

Oliver “01i” Brunner is going on slow and steady in the Janus-UAE development, now pretty near the conclusion, though this did not satisfied the appetite of some hardcore Amiga Fans, as seen in this thread and also in this thread on Amigaworld.net: in short is the same old story; lots of people complaining about that AROS is not amiga os for brand/hardware/whatsoever else excuse, miss SMP, miss this miss that, does not integrate,etc.
Anyway, looks like another project, less ambitious and so far much less advanced, is trying to solve the problem of using legacy Amiga OS applications on AROS: will not be the final solution (since the idea is to have a local JIT 68k emulation that run the software and use AROS tools (graphics.library, gadtools.library, zune) to display the tool output – therefore is not going to work with those applications that use low-level Blitter and copper graphical output – but will indeed provide a glood level of backward compatibility for those workbench tools and applications.
The project is called Emumiga and has its own blog page, interesting styled in old amiga os3 with amigaguide-style links:) ; no downloads are possible yet but is possible to track down the progressing of the project; i sinteresting to know that the project use its own 68k emulation engine since the licensing of existing engines prevented the use in AROS.
So far it is possible to run some amiga shell commands and work is being done concerning the applications that use window gadgets; a proof of concept is the old Amiga clock; emumiga is now able to show it graphically on a window and use menus, even though at the moment the responsivity is still a bit slow due to the wrapping of AROS and old Amiga os graphical functions; expect things to improve in the future (the code is not even optimised yet).

clock_100406
Emumiga in action – the clock is the original Amiga OS one
(from Emumiga website)!

[the new commodore USA wedge – another AROS platform?]
Two weeks ago reading Slashdot I was greeted form this announcement of a supposed heir to the C64: turned out that a company called Commodore USA (that is actually a Florida based company that negotiated the brand name from Commodore Gaming and is actually the rights to the old logo of the twice dead Commodore) is about to sell a wedge shaped all-in-one PC (quite well known to the amiga crowd) as spiritual heir of the old “breadbox”; the machine in itself might be not that interesting – was origially called [name] and runs an Atom Processor together with Intel graphics card and Realtek HDAudio –  in theory all devices already supported by AROS, beside, obviously, wireless and SD card reader (a different beast from USB SD card). An interesting discussion arisen on the Developers mailing list; among the ideas it came out that, if Commodore USA would like to bundle AROS with their computers, it might be a good sign if they decide to support the development of AROS, either participating to the bounties, or contributing in development of missing drivers; plus is unresolved the legal implication of selling AROS in bundle with a system in the states, due to the different copyright laws; even though the most of old copyrights on the technologies are now are expired, is still a good idea being careful.

The article started with Neil Cafferkey work and end with another Neil Cafferkey work: the update and bug fixing of dopus is almost done, with also some help from Mazze and Sonic, especially in poointing some freezing bugs left; it is possible to follow the ongoing work in this aros-exec thread.

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