AmiWest 2006 Trip Report
Date 25-Oct-2006 21:41:37
|Everything you need to know about AmiWest 2006... with links!|
The second leg of my flight to Sacramento out of Seattle was delayed. Turns out they forgot something. They forgot to schedule a captain. A quick search and about 20 minutes later and we were back on schedule and rockin' after that mishap....
Friday evening many of the AmiWest vendors were sitting around a table discussing the state of the universe when Carl Sassenrath (designer of Exec) walks in. A nice surprise indeed. The conversation quickly turns to Rebol and the Amiga origins. After some time a few of us continued discussions in the AMUC/Troika/Hyperion hotel room. Warren worked on the Panda board while I made sure my MicroA1 was still alive. We all took a quick look at AmigaOS 4.0 on the MicroA1 while it was up and running. After some assembly concerns, Warren and I concluded it was not safe to power up the Panda in such an environment. I decided to scrap the idea of showing it running Linux at the show. I'd much rather have a working board for testing when I get home now that I am a part of the Troika testing team. Besides, it was only Linux and not OS4. Carl really did like the look of that Panda board with all those I/O options and I think he would even have purchased one right then and there if he could. Sadly, I had to explain the current state of things as best I could. This would become a common problem with the Panda board at the show the next day--people genuinely wanted to buy it but couldn't. The evening continued with discussions regarding Rebol and the future of computing for all of humanity. Carl begot us with stories while everyone mellowed out. Some of us got a bit too mellow and the party ended abruptly with hotel security pretending to be in charge. Oh well, we needed to get some sleep anyway.
In between my duties at the AMUC and Troika tables I had a look around the show room. The Amiga Users of Calgary (AMUC) had a MicroA1-C with all sorts of OS4 native software installed and some 68k apps as well. Everyone was invited to sit down and click away. The Troika table with busy with visitors all day. Pretty much everybody pointed to the boards and said they would like to buy one if they could--especially the Panda board. Beside the Troika table we had Hyperion showing off Gorky 17. SACC had a bunch of older Amiga software and hardware for sale near the entry. Software Hut had all sorts of goodies for sale and I heard they had good sales. AmigaKit and Individual Computers were in the corner and seemed to have brisk sales as well. Jens and Oliver had their amazing Clone-A project on display where you could see chips like Denise and Paula replaced by some small circuit boards with all sorts of wires running every which way. Warren took some time off and played Shadow of the Beast on this Franken'A500. I think Clone-A is a definite winner with all sorts of possibilities and Oliver has done a brilliant job reverse engineering the chips. Next door was Amiga Inc. which had a table but nobody to man it. Bill McEwen was supposed to have shown up with a prototype PPC board but bad luck struck when his son was hit by a hockey puck. Go ahead, blame Canada if you must. Bit by Bit Software Group had a busy table showing off their latest software development tools. Finally, we had Computer Connection with a mint condition AmigaOne-XE already patched and ready for sale complete for only $1000 USD. I was surprised to find out it did not sell and just about bought it myself.
During the show I had an opportunity to show off whatever working hardware I had running AmigaOS 4.0 and that meant firing up my trusty MicroA1-C box. I wish I could have shown off OS4 on some new hardware, I really do. Making the best of the situation I demoed Remote Desktop, Digital Universe and the latest ablit library still under development. Remote Desktop enables you to remote control a PC from your A1. Digital Universe is a work in progress port of a popular astronomy package started on Amiga, moved to Mac and is now coming back home. The ablit library adds alpha channel support to OS4 and is now being expanded to included Mesa, an OpenGL implementation. Only software rendering is currently supported but hardware acceleration is planned. The author decided not to wait for Hyperion's solution and I know I thank him for his efforts on this because we developers don't want to wait either. I was of course running the very latest OS4 beta on my machine so I showed off a couple of changes like the addition of built-in time zone support (finally!) and dragging files between screens with the screen dragging feature. I'm not sure if anybody noticed how much faster the machine ran thanks to the revamped memory system but I heard a comment the next day about how it felt like I had a G4 in that box.
The evening banquet had a high quality roast beef dinner. Not the largest selection but what was there was very high quality and I'd rather have high quality any day. A chair was left empty in Bill McEwen's absence as a sign of respect. The SACC awards were handed out first which was quite nice. Unfortunately, I don't remember who won what but I hope they do post that information on their web site. Jens did a light hearted presentation proving that the Amiga chip numbering system were actually coded messages from aliens that designed the Amiga. Not only that, using anagram techniques he was able to show more information hidden in the names of the Prometheus (Amy'05) and ColdFusion projects. Yes, it was sarcastic and entertaining but I think it also had a message for those obsessed with web forums and the like--you can figure it out. Carl continued with a "fireside chat" where Bill Borsari asked unprepared questions and Carl just talked to them. You can pick up most of it from the audio broadcast but you really had to be there to see the subtle body language and crowd response for the full effect.
The official show was over but a few of us continued the show in Borsari's hotel room. Once again Carl joined us while Jens and Oliver took a soldering iron to an A3000D which was stuck with a green screen. After much effort the A3000D just could not be saved but it was great fun watching the masters at work and enjoyed the conversations surrounding the surgery. Unfortunately for you, dear reader, what happens at AmiWest stays at AmiWest so next time you might just put in that extra effort to show up.
Sunday morning we met for breakfast as planned the night before. Discussions continued with how to save Amiga and get things back on track. I think Carl was genuinely inspired by our stories of woe and you can see some of his thoughts on AmigaWorld.net and also in his blog. Again, it is a real shame nobody had any new hardware to sell and we all lamented. Another year past and another year of lost opportunity.
The fun didn't end there as I had coffee with Individual Computers and friend and closed my evening with dinner with Brian Deneen (SACC President) and his lovely wife. Amiga in all its various forms was always the topic of conversation.
Show attendence was down this year (I'd guess about 80 at the show and 50 at the banquet) which I think is to be expected given the show date change and the lack of new hardware and software to buy. AmigaOS 4.0 is still not released and it felt like last year all over again but with a hint of something new for OS4 thanks to Troika's table display. The classic Amiga group was still holding out with a nice inflow of used software and hardware recently donated to SACC. Clone-A is poised to boost the classic Amiga scene even further for next year. There was absolutely nothing from the AROS, MorphOS or any other Amiga API clones at the show. So much for an Amiga community effort guys. Looking at the various web forums it seems to me that those other groups are all bark and no bite and I'm very disappointed in them. This was a golden opportunity to show off how they are a key part of the larger Amiga community and yet they are totally absent. Let's hope they get the message and actually come next year instead of cowering in web forums and IRC channels all day. 'nuff said.
A big thanks to the SACC volunteers for another great AmiWest show! Next year they are shooting for a two day event so I'm hoping to be able to host an OS4 DevCon and more thanks to the extra time. I'm remaining optimistic Amiga will make a comeback despite the state of things as they are now. Otherwise, why bother?