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Main »» Reviews

Mikey_C's Micro A1 Review (15-Feb-2005)  Popular
(Read 13993 times)
Before reading further I suggest the following link is read first.

To sum up here are the highlights

? Case Chosen VIA Sereniti S2000 Case from ITX-Warehouse
(cost ?42 inc P&P - All prices in UK Pounds)
? Motherboard: Micro AmigaOne (3rd Revision) Consumer Version
courtesy of DaveP and Supplied by Stellar Dream
? Operating System Amiga OS4
? CDRW Drive
? 10 GB Hard Drive (Curtsey of Rudei)
? PC Keyboard and Optical Mouse (Standard PS connection)

The Event
As seen from previous link, Simon Archer had kindly agreed to build the machine from scratch at the Amiga North Thames Usergroup Meeting (ANT) which took place on Sunday February 13th 2005

Amongst those who attended were Total Amiga Magazine and various members of SEAL, as well as AmigaOne Productions and regular ANT Members.

Getting Started
Looking like a scene out of Tooltime, Simon Archer set about putting the computer together whilst I just looked on as his helpless sidekick.
Removing the 3 thumbscrews from the Sereniti Case. Revealed plenty of ample room to install the tiny Micro Amigaone Board, which measures 17cm Square or 6¾ Square inside it.

Having installed the board within, Simon set about installing the internal CD Read Writer and the Hard drive. The neat thing about the Sereniti case is the fact that by removing two small screws on either side the front of the case swivels on hinges. Allowing easier access to inserting the Hard drive and CDRW.

With the two media devices installed, Simon went on to attach cables. Sadly I had brought a standard IDE ribbon cable and not fast ATA, meaning that the hard drive and CD Rom will not work at their maximum speed for the time being until the cable is replaced.

Once that was accomplished the front Audio cables, power cables, to devices and to the mini motherboard were attached into place.

All that remained was to plug in the mouse, keyboard, monitor and power supply into the mains.

Power Up!
Switching on the AmigaOne for the first time, always a scary moment, produced a slight delay in proceedings when we realised that U-Boot wasn’t recognising the CDRW. After some fiddling about, with the order of cables, master/slave settings etc, we managed to get everything set up correctly and the Amiga booted into uboot properly. For those of you still in the dark, u-boot is a similar to a standard PC Bios menu.

Once in the cursor driven menu’s, setting up which devices, etc are installed and in which order to boot them, is reasonably straight forward.

Past that stage, the Amiga is ready to accept the AmigaOS4 Prerelease CD. Providing of course that you set the optical media to boot first!

At this point I have to say that if you are wondering how the install of OS4 goes, I’m afraid you are going to be disappointed since Rudei had already set up and installed OS4 on the hard disk previously. (Here’s one I made earlier)

Having typed all that, we did boot in with the CD at first to set the time/date locale and keyboard. Mouse settings.
Booting into OS4 was a cinch from then on, just a question of checking that the version of U-Boot on my AmigaOne was the latest version, (it was the latest public version, October 2004)
We reset the u-boot settings to make the Hard Drive boot first. Once that was done a progress bar along the screen appears which says “loading kickstart”

AmigaOS4 – First impressions.
Fast! Very Fast, Imagine a fast thing and then add some more fastness to it, then you get the idea how fast the bloody thing is! Add to that I am only using a standard IDE Cable.

How fast is fast?
Well to give you an Idea, I have an A1200T, FastAta power flyer (PIO 3) 256MB RAM, Bvision, and PPC Card. Given the fact with all the patches etc My A1200 will boot in about 45 seconds or so on OS3.9. Conversely my old AMD Athlon 2000XP With Windows 2K, 256mb Ram, Would boot in around a minute.
Well the Micro AmigaOne with a lowly 800mhz G3 chip, no altivitec, on board Made both look like they were ancient history. I haven’t timed the full boot time, but it must be about 30-35 seconds for a cold boot. Imagine how fast the bugger would be with the G4 replacement chip and faster ATA cable!
On a side note, a warm restart, (if you are a windows user, it’s the equivalent of doing a Start >Shutdown>Restart>Ok) took my Micro A1 about 9 seconds to fully initialise

AmigaOS4 – A longer look.
This is where at times it can get sad. I use my old A1200T mainly for web browsing, email, IRC, and a Jabber chat client called Jabberwocky.
Please bear in mind that AmigaOS4 is not final release so far though, I know that some of the stuff I am going to mention has already been addressed or is being addressed and is in the hands of OS4 beta testers everywhere.

First of all Sound. It doesn’t come up as default on. You have to set it up. Considering that this article is being written 1 full day after the machine was set up, I have not yet looked into how it is done.

OS4 native Applications.

1.Wookiechat. What can I say, this program run almost straight out of the archive. For those of you who don’t know, wookiechat is an IRC client and in my eyes a very competent replacement for AMIRC which is no longer being worked on.
In terms of features, it’s not quite up with AMIRC just yet, but it’s soooo close that it hardly matters. Wookiechat had some MUI classes missing, but the good thing about it is that it tells you what is missing. So that you can go and download the missing MUI libs and classes

2.Jabberwocky. At the time of writing this, I haven’t been able to get this multi chat client to work just yet. Unlike Wookiechat, Jabberwocky does not tell you what MUI libs or classes are missing from your system. Having looked at the readme, which contains a list, my heart sinks, there are so many to look for and download. Google will be your friend I think. I have Jabberwocky running on my A1200T, where it runs just fine.

3.IBrowse. Amiga web browser The version included on the CD is the native 68k version (2.3) this is a demo version. Meaning some features are disabled and it’s time locked to 30mins at a time. The problem is that apparently it has an incompatibility with the Micro A1. In practice it means that some pages hang and won’t display. This is apparently being worked on so I am told.

4.AWebPPC This doesn’t require any MUI classes but it has poor javascript support (unlike Ibrowse) and doesn’t seem to hold viewed history. However, it is noticeably faster than IBrowse because it’s PPC native. Alas, it’s hopeless on some sites like Yahoo groups, so you have to hope you can use Ibrowse long enough to get in to the read messages. Otherwise another computer is needed

5.Simplemail OS4. Amiga email client and my favourite. The OS4 version works just fine thank you. Again Simplemail needed some MUI classes but it was only a couple

6.Open Transport Tycoon – Wow no MUI needed! Works really well, fast responsive, smooth scrolling, graphics look great too!. Will be writing a review of this in the near future.

5.Pboom. AmigaOS4 Doom client. The OS3.9 version was fast, this one again, kicks the stuffing out of the old Amiga version.

Finally, the only other thing I have mucked about with so far is one of the new items in OS4/Prefs which is called Internet prefs. Here you can set up your TCP/IP internet or LAN connection. Enabling DHCP gave me instant access to the internet via LAN. Wish it had smb built in though, so that we can dispense with the headache that is samba.

In conclusion
I am very pleased with the system, it’s fast, it’s lovely and responsive. It needs some decent apps to make it kick arse though, The current Amiga Browsers are very poor in comparison to what’s available elsewhere. Also the MUI libs classes issue needs to be addressed. Surely an MUI type one stop shop solution would be best?

Special Thanks to Mick Sutton for the use of the photo's
Pic#1 - Me with the Micro A1 Board
Pic#2 - Simon Archer with the Sereniti case hinge mechanism installing Drives.
Pic#3 - Wiring Up the board.
Pic#4 - Kickstart Booting.
Pic#5 - Tower is finished
Pic#6 - Micro AmigaOne Completed and running! - Mikey_C
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