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Old 06 March 2002, 16:51   #1
Korodny
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Proposal for "Amiga today" FAQ

Okay, this is my proposal for the FAQ. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated. And don't hesitate to tell me if you're missing some stuff.

Who/what is Amiga Inc., who "owns" the Amiga today?

In Summer 1999, two former employees of Gateway-Amiga founded their own company "Amino Inc.". At december 31st, 1999, they bought the Amiga brand name, the intelectual property and a license to use related patents from Gateway for 5 million dollars. They immediately renamed their company to Amiga Inc. Amiga is now a privately held company located in Snoqualmie, Washington.

What is AmigaDE?

AmigaDE ("Amiga Digital Environment") is Amiga Inc.'s main product. It is not related to the "classic" Amiga in any way.

Basically, AmigaDE is an Operating System. But unlike other Operating Systems (Windows, MacOS) it is not compiled to run on a certain processor, it runs on a so-called "Virtual Processor" (VP) instead. This Virtual Processor does not exist as real hardware, but it is heavily optimised to be as easy (and fast) to emulate as possible. In fact, emulation of the VP is efficient enough to come very close to native code. There are VP emulators for a lot of different processors (e.g. x86, PPC, MIPS, Alpha, StrongARM...).

The fact that AmigaDE is built upon that Virtual Processor makes it "hardware agnostic": The Operating System itself (aswell as any application written for it) will run on any processor - as long as there's a VP emulator available for it. Amiga Inc. describes this concept as "Compile once - run everywhere".

Software developers benefit very much from this concept: To support different platforms, they don't have to "port" their application to a different processor or a different OS. They just develop for AmigaDE, compile their application *once* and it will run on every device that has AmigaDE installed.

Another advantage of AmigaDE is that it can run "hosted" on another OS (just think of WinUAE and you get the concept). You don't have to reboot your machine into AmigaDE, it simply runs on top of your main OS.

But it can also run native (being the only OS on your computer), if ressources are low (e.g. when running on a PDA), if you want to get the best performance or if you don't need any other OS.

And finally, AmigaDE is completely "scalable". It detects the ressources that are available and automatically adopts its feature set. Imagine AmigaDE running on a full blown desktop computer: It would offer support for 3D hardware, a skinnable GUI and a powerful desktop. The same AmigaDE running on a PDA would (due to the low ressources) be just a simple 2D GUI (graphical user interface) and an application launcher. Even applications running on AmigaDE can automatically scale down to match the available ressources (imagine a raytracer that automatically offers realtime previews only if powerful 3D hardware is available).

Is AmigaDE suitable for desktop computers?

There are already typical desktop applications developed for AmigaDE and Amiga's ultimate goal is to have AmigaDE running everywhere, including desktops. Currently it runs hosted on various "alien" Operating Systems (Windows, Linux, WinCE, Unix, Symbian) and native on smaller (embedded) devices like PDAs or Settop boxes.

But releasing a native version for desktop computers proved to be impractical at the moment, due to several reasons:

1. Amiga is/was extremely low on cash. They simply do not have the ressources that are required to develop and support a native desktop OS (just think of the x86 market with its myriad of different configurations). This will/should get better once DE takes off (in fact, is *is* already getting better).

2. AmigaDE is based on TAO's "Elate" (see below). Elate is targeted at embedded devices and the like. It lacks stuff like Memory Protection or Virtual Memory, which is essential for a desktop Operating System. TAO refuses to implement this technology at the moment.

So a native desktop version of AmigaDE has been put on hold for now (of course, you can still run DE hosted on your current OS). Instead, development of the classic AmigaOS has been restarted (see below).

Who is TAO? How are they related to Amiga Inc.?

AmigaDE is not entirely Amiga's own baby. It is based on technology developed by TAO. Basically, TAO delivers the VP concept, the VP emulators and further low-level stuff like the kernel or the DOS. On top of that, Amiga develops the GUI, the desktop, and all multimedia related stuff (3D/2D APIs, filetype handling etc.).

So what about AmigaOS 4? What's that?

Once Amiga Inc. realised that they would need another one or two years to make a native desktop version of the AmigaDE available, they had a problem:

They still wanted to target the general desktop user. They could offer hosted versions of AmigaDE to desktop users, but to get the best performance and the most functionality out of it, they would have to control the host OS too. Obviously, Amiga Inc. does not control Windows or Linux, so they had to come up with another solution.

That's when they remembered that they already had a pretty good (though somewhat outdated) desktop OS available: AmigaOS. They decided to continue developement on this one - it would allow them to offer desktop users the best performance/feature set possible until native desktop versions of AmigaDE are available.

Additionally, this would ensure that the existing community (developers, traders, user groups, users - the infrastructure in general) wouldn't be dead when they finally aimed at the desktop market again.

And finally, they could use AmigaOS to implement technologies which are not needed for a hosted AmigaDE (or AmigaDE running on embedded devices) but are essential once AmigaDE will run native on desktop computers (3D driver support, a hardware abstraction layer etc.).

AmigaOS4 specs?

- completely PPC native
- does not need the custom chips anymore (but can use them, if they are available)
- backwards compatability for existing Amiga software (as long as it doesn't do any "nasty" things)
- complete GUI (Graphical User Interface) overhaul, completely skinnable GUI
- Virtual Memory, Ressource Tracking, Memory Protection
- all major components will get updated (Filesystem, TCP/IP stack etc.)
- transparently integrated AmigaDE

AmigaOS4 will run on the AmigaOne (see below) and classic Amiga computers equipped with PowerPC accellerator cards.

What is AmigaOS5?

Once both AmigaDE and AmigaOS4 have been established and AmigaDE gained a significant market share, both systems will merge to form the native desktop version of AmigaDE.

Details on AmigaOS5 are sketchy at the moment. Just imagine AmigaOS4 beeing rewritten in VP (and therefore being as "hardware agnostic" and scalable as the AmigaDE currently is) and you get the idea.

What's the AmigaOne? What OS will run on it?

When Amiga Inc. still planned to release a native desktop version of DE, they came up with the concept of the "AmigaOne". An AmigaOne was basically a machine with up-to-date specs and any processor supported by AmigaDE. The "One" in "AmigaOne" stands for "unifying": Due to the concept of the AmigaDE, you wouldn't have had to worry about the specific hardware you are using: "just buy what gives you the best price/performance ratio. If you've got a Alpha based computer lying around, that's fine for us".

Now that the plans have changed, an AmigaOne is simply a PPC computer with PCI and AGP slots, USB and IDE on board and FireWire either on board or as a PCI card. The AmigaOne will run AmigaOS4. The A1 uses only standard, of the shelve hardware. In fact, it looks pretty much like a Mac hardware-wise.

Some AmigaOnes (there will be different models) will offer the possibility to attach an A1200 motherboard. With such a motherboard attached, an AmigaOne will be able to run software (e.g. games) that require the Amiga custom chips that were used in earlier Amiga models.

Amiga Inc. itself is not building hardware anymore. Any hardware manufacturer that has developed a machine that matches the AmigaOne specifications can license the trademark "AmigaOne" and label his product "AmigaOne".

The most famous AmigaOne is the AmigaOne1200, developed by Eyetech (http://www.eyetech.co.uk), but there are other hardware manufacturers working on AmigaOne compatible machines.

Last edited by Korodny; 07 March 2002 at 19:40.
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Old 06 March 2002, 23:28   #2
Twistin'Ghost
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Excellent stuff, dude. I am finally starting to understand all of this stuff.
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Old 07 March 2002, 00:40   #3
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Yes I agree, good info Korodny
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Old 07 March 2002, 01:20   #4
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Great info Korodny . All these new products associated with the Amiga name confuse me no end.

Just a thought, can anyone add something about Amithlon/AmigaOS XL (are these the same?).
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Old 07 March 2002, 02:18   #5
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Okay, here's some info regarding the new emulators:

What are Amithlon, AmigaXL and AmigaOS XL?

"Amithlon" and "AmigaXL" are two different commercial products. Both are Amiga emulators running on x86 hardware, just like WinUAE or Fellow. You can't purchase them seperately, they are only sold as a bundle. That bundle is confusingly titled "AmigaOS XL". Publisher of AmigaOS XL are Haage&Partner (http://haage-partner.com).

None of these products are official Amiga Inc. products. The publishers do have official AmigaOS licenses from Amiga Inc. though. It should be noted that these emulators are a "dead end" solution: They won't run AmigaOS4 or AmigaDE.

What is Amithlon?

Amithlon is a heavily modified Linux kernel, used as a HAL (Hardware Abstraction Layer). This kernel initialises the hardware and starts a 68k emulator (this is the only process running on the Linux kernel) which then boots AmigaOS. In fact, Amithlon is more an "68k processor emulator" than an "Amiga emulator" because it doesn't emulate the Amiga Custom Chips.

Amithlon is extremely fast due to the following reasons:

1. a very good JIT emulator written by Bernd Meyer (the author of the WinUAE-JIT patch).
2. the lack of Custom Chip emulation
3. there's no host OS eating up ressources

Another advantage of Amithlon is the fact that the AmigaOS running on it has lowlevel access to all the resources of the computer. You can access CD writers, it could theoretically use AmigaOS' 3D hardware support (Amithlon authors don't have a license to use it) and it allowes proper use of a TCP/IP stack.

But Amithlon is not targeted at gamers. Its lack of Custom Chip emulation does not allow you to run old games.

Amithlon has AmigaOS 3.9 included. Official support site is http://www.amithlon.net

What is AmigaXL?

AmigaXL is a port of WinUAE to QNX. It comes with a full desktop version of QNX. Compared to WinUAE, it's emulation speed is slightly improved, it also benefits from the more resource efficient host OS (QNX). AmigaXL is a full Amiga Emulator, in contrast to Amithlon it comes with full Custom Chip emulation.

AmigaXL has some minor improvements over WinUAE: the AmigaOS running on AmigaXL has Virtual Memory and it is possible to start QNX applications directly from the emulated Workbench.

AmigaXL has AmigaOS 3.9 included.

Last edited by Korodny; 07 March 2002 at 19:42.
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Old 07 March 2002, 02:26   #6
Korodny
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Thanks for the positive feedback
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Old 07 March 2002, 02:58   #7
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Thanks again I didn't realise both of those products were included with OS3.9. Interesting....
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Old 07 March 2002, 03:44   #8
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@TikTok:

Sorry, my fault: Amithlon and AmigaXL have AmigaOS 3.9 included. AmigaOS 3.9 does *not* have Amithlon/AmigaXL included.

I edited the posting. For my German ears the original version made sense, but now that you misread it, I see that in English it can have a totally different meaning
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Old 07 March 2002, 05:38   #9
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Once again, a very nice job Korodny. Is there anything left out? Maybe a small bit on 3.5/3.9/PPC? These three I know, but with those added, we should have a full-blown FAQ for the modern Amiga.
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Old 07 March 2002, 06:58   #10
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I knew Korodny would do it I agreed with Twistin in the thread where he proposed this, but the PC crashed (when not!) and taht bit I forgot to retype :P

This is good info... Korodny, here goes another request: tell me about WarpOS, because I dont understand squat about it!
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Old 07 March 2002, 07:04   #11
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Another little doubt... will AmigaOS4 run on PPC-powered Amigas?
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Old 07 March 2002, 10:22   #12
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Once we get all of our Q's & A's out of the way, we can compile this all into one tidy document and could maybe make a sticky message in the hardware forum?
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Old 07 March 2002, 19:44   #13
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Okay, here's part three

(I edited the first part (Akira: Yes, OS4 will run on current Amigas with PPC cards) and the bit about emulators (added a note that these are "dead ends").

Amiga and the PowerPC processor

In 1995 (when Amiga was a subsidiary of the German PC distributor Escom), it became clear that Motorola's 68k processors were a dead end: Motorola were part of the PPC consortium and were not interested in further developing their 68k processor line.

Amiga Technologies decided that new Amigas should be equipped with PowerPC (PPC) processors. There were several reasons for this decision:

1. PPC processors are the superior architecture and at that time were quite a lot faster than their x86 counterparts
2. Motorala wanted to boost the PPC platform, so Amiga expected them to support the move towards PPC (as they did when Apple moved to PPC)
3. Perfect Mac emulation (which was a major selling point)
4. Most of the commercial Amiga developers regard a "move to x86" as the ultimate death blow for the Amiga.

But it seemed to be quite a big task to port the AmigaOS to PPC (and to force all software developers to adopt their applications immediately), therefore Amiga choosed a step by step approach:

The next Amiga computers should have been equipped with two processors: Both a standard 68k processor (as used in previous Amiga models) and a PPC processor. This would allow both Amiga and 3rd party software developers to migrate their software slowly to the PowerPC without the need to rewrite complete projects immediately.

The "Walker" prototype that was demonstrated at several shows back then already was prepared to accept a PPC processor next to the 68030 that was already fitted to the motherboard. Unfortunately, Escom went bancrupt in 1996 and the Walker never made it close to production stage.

But the well known 3rd party hardware manufacturer Phase5 adopted the idea and in 1997 presented his PPC accellerator boards for Amiga1200, 3000 and 4000 models. These were dual processor boards (as proposed by Amiga earlier) with the 68k processor running the OS and all applications. The PPC processor acts as a "co-processor": Only applications that are specifically adopted will use the PPC processor for CPU intensive tasks.

Unfortunately, the design Phase5 used (had to use) suffered from several limitations: First of all, the PPC processor has no L2 cache at all, which results in very slow memory access. Additionally, the fact that both processors share the same ressources (e.g. memory) makes switching between the two quite time consuming. So the PPC cards turned out to be much less of a performance wonder than the users had hoped for. Basically, they only make sense for real time consuming tasks that do not use the OS very much (e.g. games or calculating complicated picture effects in a paint program).

What is PowerUp, what is WarpUp/WarpOS? What's the "kernel war"?

In dual processor systems, the PPC processor is completely independent from the 68k processor and the AmigaOS. That means there has to be a seperate kernel running on the PPC processor that is starting and managing the PPC tasks. Phase5's PPC kernel is called "PowerUp".

PowerUp wass not just an unimportant, intermediate solution: Phase5 planned to offer PPC only systems in the future, running a PPC native version of AmigaOS. The PowerUp kernel was a very important part of this strategy.

Haage-Partner, one of the most important software developers at that time, didn't like the PowerUp kernel and developed a replacement for it, called "WarpUp". They never admitted it officially, but they probably had two main reasons for this:

1. They wanted to boost their own compiler system "StormC" (which was - of course - the first compiler to support WarpUp and the one with the best support for it)
2. They had their own plans for the Amiga's future and didn't want to give Phase5 the advantage of controlling the PPC kernel used in PPC Amigas

Only one kernel could be active at the same time, so Amiga users wanting to use both of them usually had to stop all PowerUp applications before starting a WarpUp program (and vice versa of course).

In the following months, the socalled "kernel war" broke loose. Phase5 started to implement certain "Anti-WarpUp" measures in later models of their PPC cards while H&P developed hacks to circumvent these. Both parties accused each other of using dirty tricks to make the opponent's kernel look bad and praised the superior design of their own kernel. None of the solutions was backed officially and support by 3rd party developers was split equally among the two.

The kernel war further hampered the sale of PPC accelerator cards. All in all, only ten thousand PPC cards were sold.

In 1999, Phase5 went bankrupt. WarpOS became the official PPC kernel delivered with AmigaOS 3.5/3.9 (see below). A PowerUp emulation layer for WarpOS was released. It looked like H&P had won the kernel war.

In 2002, the whole thing looks just hilarious: Now that a PPC native AmigaOS finally is developed, neither WarpOS nor PowerUp are used. Instead, it is based on a new (and superior) kernel, a reimplementation of AmigaOS' own kernel Exec.library. AmigaOS4 is backwards compatible with WarpOS though.
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Old 07 March 2002, 19:51   #14
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@Twisting:

I'll post something about OS 3.5/3.9 later on. And I'd be honored if that stuff ends up as a real EAB FAQ
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Old 07 March 2002, 21:54   #15
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Shit, only ten thousnd PPC users?? I thought they were shitloads more! hah
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Old 07 March 2002, 22:25   #16
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Since I'm a bit overflood with the new server & co, SuperMods are encouraged to create, add, correct, expand, and increase the quality of the " Amiga FAQ, tutorials & EAB's rules " section !

Sticky thread in other sub-forum (like hardware) should always point into this big one (example here), in order to centralize all our FAQ.

Thanks for all those great articles Korodny.
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Old 08 March 2002, 10:09   #17
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Excellent stuff Korodny!

You answered manof my questions in a single thread!
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Old 08 March 2002, 10:35   #18
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I had a hunch I wasn't the only one whose head was spinning from the dizzying array of modern Amigas out there. It's almost as if in a short time, a whirlwind of various hardware and software appeared and if you idled, you fell behind. For a moment there, I was afraid I was the only one out of the loop. The timing was perfect for Korodny to leak his knowledge on the subject and I am very glad it has turned out to be so helpful to so many people.

Yet another reason why EAB is the place to be. Hey, that would look good on a t-shirt...
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Old 08 March 2002, 11:11   #19
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That was Interesting...Great info
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Old 08 March 2002, 19:32   #20
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Thanks a lot for all the encouring feedback! I'm glad I could help (for once

Okay, here's the bit regarding OS 3.5/3.9. Probably the least interesting for most of you, as these are "old" products.

I think that should cover most of it, unless somebody finds some of his questions unanswered ?

AmigaOS 3.5

In 1997, the US-based PC distributor Gateway2000 bought Amiga Technologies. They were mainly interested in the patents related to the Amiga, but when they found out that there was still a big and demanding community, they decided to do something with the technology.

Gateway established Gateway-Amiga Inc., located in Seattle. Amiga Inc. was intended to be the Research&Development center, while the German-based Amiga Technologies should have acted as the marketing and distribution division.

In the following two and a half years, Amiga Inc. made lots of announcements (some people counted thirteen), none of which came true. It seems they were constantly stopped by their parent company, which had no real clue what to do with the Amiga.

One of those announcements was AmigaOS 3.5. A quite ambitious project, with several key enhancements. But after a few months, Amiga Inc. started to lay off developers working on the update and the progress reports were removed from the web site.

At that point, the German software company Haage&Partner started to apply for a license to develop OS 3.5 on their own. In early 1999 Amiga Inc. finally agreed and the update was officially announced (again).

When OS 3.5 was finally released in September 1999, the reactions were quite mixed. Due to financial reasons, the update did not include new Kickstart ROMs. This severely limited the possibility for major enhancements. There are a lot of new features in OS 3.5, but most of them are not yet used to the full extent. H&P were completely new to the OS business and the installation procedure aswell as the overall stability of the OS were somewhat lacking. Nevertheless, OS 3.5 finally removed some long standing problems and included lots of third party patches and extensions that had established over the years into the OS.

AmigaOS 3.5 is still pure 68k code. Amiga Inc. was not interested in a PPC port. OS 3.5 was a financial loss for Amiga Inc.

Amiga OS 3.9

In 2000, when Amiga was sold to Amino Inc. and was now an independent company again, H&P (and several other commercial developers) approached them over and over again, to finally get the permission to do a PPC native version of AmigaOS. Amiga Inc. didn't have any plans with the existing Amiga technology and blocked such attempts.

But when Amiga realised that they would not be able to release various announced AmigaDE-related products on time and they were evaluating the need for a PPC AmigaOS4 anyway, the changed their mind and gave H&P permission to do another update for 68k-based Amigas. H&P had already done a lot of work for OS 3.9, so they could release it only four weeks after it was announced, in December 2000.

AmigaOS 3.9 is best described as "OS 3.5 done right". Most of the functionality that was introduced with v3.5 is now used to its full extent (multitasking Workbench, powerful filetype recognition...). It's described as "the most stable AmigaOS version since 2.0" by most people using it. Still, it didn't include new Kickstart ROMs and no major enhancements. That's why many people refer to it as "OS 3.5 with a lot of Aminet tools thrown in". But the overwhelming majority of OS 3.9 users is quite happy with the update.

AmigaOS 3.9 is still pure 68k code. It is the final OS update for 68k-only Amigas. Future versions of the Operating System will only run on PPC processors.
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