Thread: WinUAE Rant #1
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Old 25 September 2001, 05:52   #1
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Join Date: Sep 2001
Location: Melbourne/Australia
Posts: 89
WinUAE Rant #1

The trouble with WinUAE

WinUAE could be the greatest Amiga Emulator ever to hit the internet, if only it was 100% stable. Now Amiga fans have to switch to WinFellow to achieve the best Amiga emulation. But before I gripe on about WinUAE, I'd like to talk about emulation.

Emulation started back in 1995 as the popularity of the internet was growing at a rapid rate. Emulation is a term used to mimic the exact hardware of a computer, handheld, or console. This means that you can play a game that used to be on a machine that you owned (eg: Nintendo) again and again. I can remember playing Boulderdash on my Commodore 64, and with the aid of an emulator called CCS64, I still can.

Dozens of games for many systems come in one or more files called "rom images" or "disk images". The only difference between the two is that "rom images" are files containing the memory from cartridges that you put into consoles like the Genesis/MegaDrive, the Super NES, and the Atari 2600, while "disk images" are memory from actual disks that you used to insert in your C64, Amiga, Apple IIe, or the Amstrad).

Since these images are illegal to download from the internet unless you own the actual game, today, the software cops known as the Interactive Digital Software Association (IDSA) attempts to destroy your memories, and will shut down any web sites that allows you to have access to the memories. Amiga images, on the other hand are completely legal to download, as web site administrators ask game companies for permission to distribute their games on the internet free of charge. The necessary operating system and bios the Amiga requires to boot up, KickStart and Workbench, are still copyrighted by Amiga, Inc. and can only be obtained if you order Cloanto's wonderful Amiga Forever CD-ROM. These also come in the form of one or more files making up the images.

A year later after the introduction to emulation, the emulation of the Amiga got started with the release of DosUAE, and later, Fellow. These emulators were capable of mimicing the Amiga's basic hardware, including the OCS/ECS chipsets, the 68000 CPU, the input/output devices, and the Paula sound chipsets. Later, more CPUs were added to both emulators, and hard disk emulation was introduced.

Several ports to different operating systems were made with UAE, including the Solaris, Unix, MS-DOS, Windows, and Amiga (an Amiga emulator for the Amiga. If you still own an Amiga, this would be most useful if you want to compare the speed of the Amiga emulator and your Amiga. I would very much like to see a PC emulator running on my PII-400).

Programmers of both emulators dropped their DOS ports, continuing to work with their Windows ports. Both emulators were stable at the time and Fellow maintained its stability up until the last release. WinUAE last stable release was 0.8.8R8 (0.8.8 R8) and now the latest version of WinUAE is 0.8.17R1. 0.8.8R8 was much stable for me - no choppy sound, no graphic corruption, add to that a smoother frame rate). In 0.8.8R8, you had two options to output the sound: WaveOut Looping and DirectSound Looping. WaveOut Looping was the one I used since using DirectSound Looping produces more choppy sound, and there was no option of changing the sound buffering. There were also options that let you change the sound's frequency, stereo mode, sample type, and whether you want sound or not.

After this release, versions got out of control. Since 0.8.14R1, there was more choppy sound than there ever was as CodePoet removed WaveOut Looping, leaving us with no choice than to use DirectSound Looping. What the hell was wrong with WaveOut Looping? Then we have to fiddle with the "sound buffering" option that was added in this release so sound lags didn't occur. WinUAE's sound was alright until CodePoet removed WaveOut Looping. Bad move.

In 0.8.8R8, setting WinUAE to refresh the graphics "every 2nd frame" caused no problems with the frame rate, as "every 1st frame" produced choppy sound. In 0.8.14R1, I had to use "every 3rd frame" if I wanted no choppy sound but this produced a much choppier frame rate than before. And at that time, WinUAE didn't support AGA chipsets properly or did it have support for save states like many emulators did.

As I said, 0.8.17R1 is the latest version of WinUAE and this version has worse problems than before. To not experience choppy sound, I had to set WinUAE to refresh the graphics "every 4th frame", then I got the worst frame rate ever. Not only that, I had to change my screen resolution to 800x600 16-bit because it stated in the known issues section of the README file: Centering modes will crash this release of WinUAE, if the window-size is. Since I had my resolution set to 640x400 16-bit just to view the graphics in a full screen, it did exactly that. While the game is loading, I had found that doing this dumped me back to Windows, without any message whatsoever. Whether or not I used screen centering in 800x600 16-bit, I keep looking at a large rectangle on the top-right hand side of my monitor. Also a new feature "Synchronize emulation with audio" did not have any effect, whether it is turned on or off.

Some people have also complained that as new versions were released, the graphics in some games got worse (eg: Kid Chaos).

So in conclusion, instead of WinUAE getting better every new release, it is exactly the opposite - worse and worse. Either new bugs are discovered in every release, or bugs that were found in the previous releases were not fixed in later ones. It almost seems that my PII-400 doesn't fit the bill anymore. More people, besides me, have complained about WinUAE's problems up to this release. It sometimes makes me want to learn C++ and write a much stable Amiga emulator to complete with both WinUAE or Fellow.

A word to CodePoet: If you decide to bring out new releases is to test the new release out first and eliminate any bugs found, then release them. Don't bring out a new release if there are bugs that you need to get rid off. Until you guys get it right, it looks like me and other users either have to use the stable 0.8.8R8 or switch to WinFellow. Sure it doesn't support save states yet or proper AGA emulation, but at least it can run many games out there.

Disagree with me or not, that's my logical conclusion.

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