Saturday, 20 May 2017

AmiKit X

This week saw the release of the latest AmiKit X, a very fancy Classic Amiga prebuilt setup using WinUAE to create a ready to run rather awesome looking Amiga  experience on your modern PC or Mac system.

Unlike previous versions of Amikit which were very inexpensive to purchase on release, this latest one is significantly more expensive to buy at EUR29.95 which suggests a lot of work has gone into this release.

You can still download the older v8.5 AmiKit for free though, if you want to get a feel for what AmiKit has to offer first.

There are bundle offers on their website to get both the Mac and Windows versions, and a Super Combo to purchase AmiKit and Flower Pot (AmigaOS 4.1 installation assistant):

Note that you still require the kickstart roms, which are available from Cloanto via the Amiga Forever 2016 package, which I have previously purchased and installed on my PC.

This of course brings me nicely onto my new laptop PC, recently purchased to replace my 6 year old Core i7 3.2Ghz Tower PC. This latest one is an Alienware 15R3 laptop, with Core i7 4.4Ghz CPU, 32GB memory, 3x1TB internal SSD, Geforce 1070GTX and external graphics amplifier for installing even higher end gfx cards in the future as needed... :-)

This machine is intended to replace both my PC, and my MacBook Pro. I wrote a rant on my Facebook page recently about my reasons for that - I won't bore you again with it here!

Demos runs very nicely on this new system!

In any case, it seems the perfect machine to try this new AmiKit X on!

This latest AmiKit X version includes (amongst many other enhancements) the Rabbit Hole functionality to allow windows applications (and Mac applications under MacOS) to appear to run within the AmiKit Classic Amiga environment.

The setup program is simple enough to follow:

Tell it where you want it installed and off it goes:

When done it gives the option to locate suitable kickstart ROM on the computer, which I ticked before clicking on Finish.

This then runs the AmiKit ROMFind utility, which then searches your computer to locate valid Amiga Kickstart roms to use with AmiKit:

Because I already had Amiga Forever 2016 installed, it was found in the default location above:

With that done, it is time to launch AmiKit X, which gives the options to Launch, Configure (WinUAE), Get OS (link if you don't already have Amiga Forever, AmigaOS3.9 or AmigaOS 4.1 Final Edition to proceed with the AmiKit X installation in WinUAE):

A Quick start guide for AmiKit X is included here.

In the configure option on the launcher above, you can configure the AmiKit X configurations created as part of the installation. We will fiddle with this later:

I closed this and went back to the Launch option in AmiKit X to start things off, using the default configuration already set in WinUAE - as normal with AmiKit, you need Workbench 3.1, AmigaOS3.9, OS4.1 Final Edition or Amiga Forever (CD or already installed) to proceed:

Since I already had Amiga Forever 2016 installed, I selected the AF Installed option, and it quickly went about copying the required Workbench files and setting up the AmiKit X system. It was completed very quickly:

You need to select your screenmode. Initially I used the default 720p resolution as suggested. We can change this later of course. Once done the installation is completed, and press Enter to reboot the system (within WinUAE):

On reboot we very quickly get the amazing AmiKit X Workbench screen, looking truly amazing for an out of box installation of AmigaOS!

Compared to AmiKit v8, I believe this looks much nicer, and has the Windows drives already mounted into the Workbench, ready for use.

The updated start menu and taskbar looks great and very functional, although I am a bit confused why the Amiga Shell is not included in the icons at the bottom by default - it is always the first thing I use to get to run my beloved demos!

Below you can also see the Rabbit Hole functionality included in AmiKit X, while I am browsing my Windows 10 drives and enjoying some demo mods through the registered EaglePlayer software.

Here is a closer look at the great looking icons included with AmiKit X:

Here is the prefs drawer:

You can use the Live Updater in AmiKit X to update the software from the internet as new updates are released for it. Network connectivity works out of the box too, which is great.

Via Morpheuz, you can modify a lot of features in AmiKit X, as with the previous versions of AmiKit.

In this case I wanted to change the resolution from 720p to 1080p, which is easy enough to do by clicking on Resolution above, then selecting Full HD 1080p. When done, reboot the system for the changes to take effect. It will try (and fail) to change the resolution before rebooting, but cancel that and reboot - all will be well.

Have to admit AmiKit X looks swish on my 27" Thunderbolt display at 1080p.

Looking closer you can see the Aminet link at the bottom initiates a pre-configured Aminet FTP connection to make downloading files very easy, thanks to the Dopus 5 integration built into AmiKitX.

The updated taskbar and start menu looks great:

Being able to access the AmiKit hard disk programs from the taskbar is very handy too:

Naturally of course from here it didn't take me long to try out some of the included demos on AmiKit X:

It was around this point that I hit some problems that are worth noting. The default configurations of AmiKit X are emulating a 68020 A1200 only. I assume this is because it decided itself to use the A1200 kickstart. I didn't see any option to select something else, unless I missed something obvious.

You will need to adjust the settings to use 68060 CPU in WinUAE to be able to run the newer AGA demos that need an 060 to run.

Simply press F12 to get the WinUAE config screen to make the necessary adjustments as below:

With this done, the AGA demos then worked as expected, taken from my Amiga 4000T hard disk backup kept on my Windows 10 hard drive, which is mounted under AmiKit X automatically:

AGA demo time, starting with 2017 demo from Focus Design - Hoffman makes the best mod music!

TBL's Rift (from 2014) also being run through it's paces.

Not sure why it claims 88% CPU - from where I was sitting it runs silky smooth and actually faster than a real Amiga with 68060 can run the demo...probably need to adjust that a bit.

WHDLoad games work well also, although please note that the version of WHDLoad included with AmiKit X is not the latest version - I recommend updating it to the latest version.

In my case using Amiga Forever as the source during the installation it copied all the required kickstart rom files to the right place under Devs:Kickstarts, but if you used another method (eg. Workbench 3.1) please check and make sure these files are copied there first as WHDLoad needs them to run.

Here is Agony WHDLoad running under AmiKit X:

There are plenty of included applications to try out too, like Perfect Paint:

Vice C64 emulation:

There are many applications to try out, and the audio ones (AmigaAmp, Delitracker, Eagleplayer and many more) are great too! Here is Hivelytracker, a chip tune tracker, another inclusion on AmiKit X:

Homebank accounting software is also included:

This is just a small sample of what is available, there is plenty more to try out! Netsurf, IBrowse and AWeb internet browsers are also here, straight out of the box.

A full list of the 380 programs included is here.

MicroGoldEd is also included, along with the full registered version of MUI 5.0:

I plan to add my purchased copies of Hollywood 7, Cubic IDE and many other applications to this installation in due course.

The speed of AmiKit X and boot time under this PC is fantastic. I understand considerable work went into optimising the boot speed of AmiKit for this latest version and it certainly does boot fast!

ISO mounting is also included out of the box, below I have mounted a freshly purchased and downloaded ArcaOS 5.0 ISO for installing on my PC via Virtual Box.

For those curious, ArcaOS was released this week and is the newest version of IBM OS/2 - yes it is still under active development, like AmigaOS! Who would believe it in 2017!

Dropbox functionality is also present to enable syncing of files between Windows Dropbox and under AmiKit X. Although I imagine this is useful for some people I have no use for this so I haven't tried it as yet.

I wanted to try out the Rabbit hole functionality next. In essence the idea is that when you launch a file that requires a program from the host PC to run (eg. docx, pptx need Word and PowerPoint), or click on a web link (Edge / Internet Explorer), it launches the respective program from AmiKit X.

You can also launch some programs direct from the Rabbit hole drawer with some examples already included:

In my case running "Host Prefs" launches Windows 10 Control Panel, Notepad runs Microsoft Notepad and Chrome launches the Chrome web browser. I noted that VLC, Steam and Skype didn't work, even though I have them installed on Windows 10. Not sure what is happening there.

This "integration" means you shouldn't have to switch back and forwards between the host OS (Windows 10) and the AmiKit X full screen Classic Amiga environment to run applications, and should appear "on top of" the AmiKit X workbench.

The idea being it looks like it is kind of integrated, like this example (via Windowed AmiKit X that I cropped) of Notepad.

The illusion of course would work better if you ran an AmigaOS theme on Windows 10 that makes the Windows 10 program windows look the same as the AmiKit X ones...

This trick has been done on the A.L.I.C.E laptop setups using AmiKit X also - I saw this very well at the Adelaide Retro Computing Group meeting last year when Trevor Dickinson brought his A.L.I.C.E laptop to show this with Linux programs running on top of AmiKit X:

In theory this functionality means you could run AmiKit X as your main desktop and just launch your everyday programs from it.

Sounds great...except for me it didn't work as advertised. Maybe because I run more than one screen. Actually, I run three, one 30" Dell TFT on DisplayPort, one 27" Apple thunderbolt display and the laptop 1080p display.

AmiKit X gets confused about which screen to open the application on, and as a result the application opened usually appears on a different screen than the one running the AmiKit X environment in full screen.

To compound this annoying behaviour, AmiKit X drops out of full screen mode every time an application is launched via Rabbit hole and minimises to the taskbar, meaning I have to find it again to maximise it back to full screen, destroying the illusion even if it did open on the same screen...

I tried modifying the WinUAE settings (Display and RTG board sections as below) to force it to use one specific monitor for RTG modes and normal Amiga display modes (the same monitor as the default screen Windows 10 is using as the main display), but the behaviour of RabbitHole didn't alter - it minimises the AmiKitX full screen to the taskbar everytime.

I also tried on both graphics cards (before people say I didn't try it) but it still worked the same way.

Perhaps your mileage may vary. I should test this on a single laptop display I suppose but multiple screen configurations are not uncommon in this day and age and I don't want to have to stare at the tiny laptop screen and be undocked in order to use this RabbitHole feature.

I also couldn't find any documentation on how to add other application launchers to the Rabbit Hole drawer so I couldn't try that out yet either....if someone knows how please let me know as I want to try it!

Anyway, I guess it doesn't matter that much since it is just an illusion anyway (not true integration) but I think people should be aware of the multi-screen limitations at this moment. Hopefully this will be fixed in time via an free update for customers.

In summary, AmiKit X offers a hell of a lot of features and inclusions, and the pre-built environment is wonderful and saves us all a huge amount of time. To build the very basic AmigaOS 3.1 or 3.9 environment into something even remotely close to what has been achieved here would likely take weeks of effort. Time most of us don't have anymore!

For that significant work alone, AmiKit X is worth the outlay!

Saturday, 29 April 2017

Icaros Desktop 2.2 and Classic Amiga upgrades

My apologies for the lack of blog posts recently. This has been due to a long personal illness, a death in the family involving travelling to Japan and also work being incredibly busy. Sorry for this but it was beyond my control!

But despite this I have not been idle with my Amigas and indeed have been busy doing work on Icaros Desktop 2.2 upgrade on my Acer AspireOne, Classic Amiga upgrades for my A1200, 2000 and 4000D, and even doing more work on my Amiga 4000T too!

Icaros Desktop 2.2 Xmas Special edition was released at Xmas 2016, and I finally got around to upgrading my Acer AspireOne to the latest version:

Installation was done via a burnt iso and attaching a USB DVD drive to the Acer AspireOne to boot off the CD to start the installation:

I have covered Icaros Desktop 2.0 installation on this machine on this blog here if you want to see more details. I also covered it's install in brief on a more normal PC here. The new version hasn't changed that much but is worth doing.

It takes a while to run through the installation as a lot of applications, games, and utilities are installed along with the Aros system files to ensure you have a system that is quite usable out of the box. It looks like the installation has now finished - reboot time:

After the reboot is setting up the usual locale parameters and video modes:

Configuring sound output via AHI is next up, followed by iControl preferences:

Next up you can choose whether to use Dopus Magellan in Workbench replacement mode or the Wanderer GUI. Personally I prefer Magellan.

You can also configure extra features like web server, ftp file sharing and VNC enabled Workbench functionality:

That done, we now have the upgraded Icaros desktop 2.2 system:

The updated look from the previous Icaros 2.0 version is welcome, with the white and black borders contrasting nicely with the blue, and easy to navigate thanks to the Magellan integration:

Here is the Dock in action, including a Start button functionality, showing below the CloudDrives program that allows syncing of Google Drive and Dropbox files to your local Icaros machine - very handy (note that purchase and registration is required to enable write access to the cloud based drives):

Next up was configuring Icaros to use the VGA out on the Acer AspireOne to output to my 32" LED monitor:

Annoyingly I found that my custom made Ducky Zero Amiga keyboard doesn't work with AROS (or MorphOS either), so I swapped in a cheap and cheerful AmigaOne x1000 USB keyboard which worked straight away. Sometimes cheaper is better! :-)

The screen above shows Icaros running at 1920x1080 from the Acer AspireOne - impressive for such a little machine.

Delving deeper into AROS, here is some shots of the AROS Shell, and default editor:

Here is System Explorer and System Properties windows:

Moving up to the 1920x1080 resolution, you have some serious space to play with on the Workbench:

Here is Cinnamon Writer, MPlayer playing back an MP4 and a nice AROS image being displayed with the default viewer.

Next is ZuneView, an interesting program for viewing and simple manipulation of pictures:

As with other NG Amiga's, video playback beyond 720p is not possible at the moment, so keep the video files 720p or less.

Also included in Icaros Desktop 2.2 is Putty Squad, run via emulation on Icaros!

Looking around the AROS system folders reveals nice icons and a familiar Workbench experience!

You can of course change the theme to OS4 style, AmigaOS 3.1 style and many other options too via the Theme Manager:

I was having issues with the network drivers though, which also happened to me on the previous Icaros 2.0 installation, but so far I can't remember what I did to fix it!

Lunapaint is another included program for creating pictures. And yes, I suck at graphics so I am not even going to try!

I have to say the Icaros Desktop 2.2 does look very nice:

Also included in the Icaros Desktop 2.2 Xmas Special edition is a preview of the upcoming Final Writer 7, to be released initially for Icaros (AROS) before other Amiga platforms to follow later.

It looks nice at this stage, though is still a bit buggy and needs more work. It is nice to see the progress made on the program so far though.

Icaros Desktop 2.2 Xmas special edition is a worthwhile upgrade for those who have the right hardware that AROS fully supports, like the Acer AspireOne. I recommend checking the compatibility of your proposed system before jumping in with Icaros (or AROS) to make sure it supports it.

Moving on to my Classic Amigas!

I have been focused on finishing my builds, including adding Rapid Road USB and X-Surf 100 cards to my Amiga 2000 and Amiga 4000D:

Here is a closeup of the Rapid Road installed in the A4000D:

You can also see the Big RAM 256MB expansion card is installed underneath the X-surf 100, along with the Picasso IV, which includes a built in scan doubler for native Amiga resolutions, output through the same VGA output as the RTG output. Together with the 127GB IDE HD, Cyberstorm 060 installed and fixing the floppy drives so that they both work again, this machine is very nice now:

So I turned my attention next to the Amiga 1200, which I have already covered a lot of it's project work on this very blog. I won't cover it's hardware specs as it was covered in those blog entries extensively. Please review first if you are not already up to speed!

Since then, I have removed the AmiKit Real built CF card that was being used on the A1200, so I could use it on the Amiga 2000 Vampire build project I covered here and here.

Having done this, it necessitated a new build on another CF Card on the Amiga 1200. I also took the opportunity to get a 90 degree converter from Ebay that allows me to mount the CF Card much nicer in the A1200 case.

As you can see, without it, things are cramped in the A1200 case, with the hard disk sitting uncomfortably on top of the very hot Indivision AGA board, and underneath the Rapid Road USB:

Here is the new adapter installed:

I also bought a new CF Card, preloaded with Workbench 3.1 from Amiga Forever (Cloanto) to get me started quickly:

As you can see it makes the A1200 much cleaner and less likely to be affected by overheating components:

Along with these items I also received the latest Amiga Future magazines for some catch up reading, and the new Classic Amiga boxed games Projekt: Lila (From AmiWorx) and Enemy 2 (from Anachronia).

I haven't had time to play the games yet but hope to do so soon!

I also took delivery of a SCSI2SD v6 card from the local Australian supplier CodeSrc:

The intention is to use this on the Amiga 2000, together with the new (old?) hardware I got for it recently too:

The SCSI2SD can be programmed and SD Card SCSI drives setup via Mac or PC using software downloaded from the maker's website - in my case I chose the Mac OS software as I am using a MacBook Pro to do the setup.

the utility software looks like this, and allows you to define the SCSI compatibility, as well as defining SCSI termination and per SCSI drive mappings:

In my case, I set these settings as below:

I then stepped through the devices, turning on the SCSI target, setting the SCSI ID, device type, device size and so on. I recommend setting the Device size and then using the Auto button to automatically calculate the start sector and sector size for you:

The rules of SCSI still apply. Make sure each device uses only one unique SCSI ID, and that you don't have conflicts with any SCSI ID's already present in your system.

In my case I setup three scsi drives on the SD Card since it is an 8GB SD card. 2x2GB and 2x4GB drives.

With that done I wrote the changes out to SCSI2SD device and disconnected it from the Mac, ready to try out on the Amiga 2000.

This gets me onto the topic of the Amiga 2000....

Last time I worked on it, it was as a Vampire 500 installed Amiga 2000 system. Although it was running well enough on the upgraded Gold 2 Core I did earlier this year as shown below, I found that I couldn't run any whdload games and demos on it. For me this was a complete deal breaker and not something I expected when installing the Vampire 500 in it.

It is VERY fast with the Vampire installed though, and the extra memory and SAGA RTG HDMI driver is wonderful and I know more is to come with the Gold 3 core supporting native Amiga output avoiding the need for multiple screens or switching VGA to HDMI on the same screen (as I did).

I worked with the folks at the Apollo team IRC to try to resolve the WHDLoad problem but I couldn't get a solution that worked, even after installing the latest WHDLoad that is supposed to resolve some of the Vampire related issues with it.

Not willing to wait any longer for a "fix", I decided to downgrade my Amiga 2000 back to an 030 setup, but utilising some of the new hardware upgrades I bought for it before the Vampire arrived (many that I didn't get to install).

I will do another project to install the Vampire 500 into my Amiga 500 later on, keeping the CF card and all the work done so far on the Amiga 2000 build for it. Stay tuned for that build!

So I put back in the 1.3/2.0/3.1 Kickstart switcher and 68000 CPU into the Amiga 2000.

I already had a Commodore 2630 Accelerator board for the Amiga 2000, which has a 68030 and 68882 FPU installed, but the revision of the board meant that a newly released Individual Computers 116MB ram upgrade I wanted to install on the card was not compatible with that revision!! frustrating!

So I tracked down another A2630 on Ebay that had the correct revision, which was shipped over from the USA and I eventually got it:

Here is the close up view of the 030 and 68882 fpu. Normally there is a metal cover on this - I took it off for the photos:

Flipping the card over you can see the ram expansion port:

And here is the new BigRAM 2630 ram card from Individual Computers, intended to be installed on the A2630 card to expand the FAST memory on the Amiga 2000 to 116MB!

For a very long time, the 8MB fast memory limitation on the Zorro 2 bus on the Amiga 2000 has relegated my Amiga 2000 to storage most of the time, as it couldn't run the later AmigaOS software that needed more memory. But with this expansion, this is no longer an issue!

Here is the new card attached to the A2630:

While on my spending spree I purchased the X-Surf 100 and Rapid Road USB for the Amiga 2000.

The Rapid Road USB simply clips on to the X-Surf 100 to provide USB 2 functionality on the Classic Amiga!

Here it is installed in the Amiga 2000, along with the Prisma Megamix that I installed during the Vampire build earlier. It will remain in the Amiga 2000.

I then installed the Rapid Road USB drivers on my 1GB SCSI HD to enable USB support.

Next up is an Octagon 2008, originally purchased so I could use my SCSI CDROM drive in the Amiga 2000 with the Vampire, which conflicted with the scsi.device installed in the Commodore A2091 SCSI controller I had installed before:

I removed the old hard disk that came with it, and attached my 1GB SCSI HD from the Amiga 2000 A2091 controller card:

I also attached the SCSI2SD card, daisy chained on the SCSI bus:

Here it is installed in the Amiga 2000:

With all the cards now installed in the A2000, things are a bit busier inside!

Amiga 2000 being worked on, as the C64 and Amiga 4000D provide demo stimulation while I am working on it...

Initially I spent quite a bit of time getting the 1GB SCSI install of AmigaOS3.9 updated to support Picasso96 and reinstalled my Picasso II RTG card. It has a passthrough for the native Amiga display, which is already scan doubled using the Indivision ECS installed on the Amiga 2000 previously.

Next I turned my attention to getting the SCSI2SD working. Initially I thought it would be easy - HDToolbox picked it up right away:

But after this is where things went wrong with read the drives correctly, but failed to write the RDB information and partition setup information to the devices, meaning it didn't allow me to format the drives, etc.

Frustrated with that, I hooked up my usb hard disk and played some mp3's via the Prisma card while I thought about the problem - you can see the extra fast memory from the new BigRAM 2630 card - I also have 2MB Chip memory via the MegAChip add on:

After many hours of trying, checking forums, blog posts, upgrading the firmware and lots of advice that the v6 SCSI2SD was very picky about working on some systems, I decided to give up on it for now, but I will try again later on.

On the positive side, all the WHDLoad games and demos that refused to work on the same Amiga 2000 system when the Vampire was installed now work perfectly on the same system without the Vampire. This confirms that it was the Vampire at fault and makes my decision to downgrade the right one for me.

With that I moved onto the Amiga 4000T, which has been shelved for a long time now due to a failure of the hard disks (both of them!). Because I have a Deneb USB card with the Flashrom area preloaded with the updated kickstart roms from OS3.9, the disk failures results in seeing the insert disk screen for OS3.9 on power on - a rare sight indeed:

At the time I was depressed so much about this hard disk failure as I also lost some data on the 127GB HD that I can't replace. It took me so long to build that A4000T setup and I dreaded having to do it all again so I shelved it for quite a long time.

This past week though I decided to take the plunge and do it all again...

I installed the TrueIDE onto the Buddha IDE controller on the A4000T to run a new CF card setup of AmigaOS 3.9 BB2. It has two partitions on it, one as the backup partition of the system partition (both bootable). In addition the new replacement 60GB IDE hard disk also has a bootable copy of the system partition installed. (I want a larger IDE hd but that is the biggest one I have at the moment)

And on top of that, I have a SD to IDE converter installed, and that SD Card also has two partitions with the same copy of the system partitions. I copied that to another sd card for safe keeping so I should be safe for the future...the build still has a very long way to go but it is getting there....

This means that all my Amiga except the Amiga 1000, CDTV and CD32 have USB and network support, making data transfer so much easier. :-)

As an aside I saw that auction on Ebay this past week for the same Amiga 4000T I have being sold for over AUD$7000!!! Crazy! No plans to sell mine - I love it too much!

Whew. It has been busy for me in Amigaland of late and hopefully this gives some insight into what I have been occupied with for the past month or so!