AmiWest 2020 Show Report

Date 26-Oct-2020 12:58:34
Topic: News

As previously reported on, the annual, two day long Amiga event AmiWest was held last Saturday. With the Covid-19 pandemic in mind, this year’s center stage was a live YouTube channel allowing people from all over the planet to follow the presentations that were given by a slew of notable Amiga users.

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The Amiga A1222 Tabor changes name, now in cahoots with ACube

The first presenter was Trevis Dickinson, CEO of Amiga manufacturer A-EON. In a keynote speech, Dickinson focused on the ongoing development of the Amiga A1222, previously known as the Amiga Tabor but now officially named the A1222 Plus. While no launch date was mentioned, Dickinson emphasized that “significant” progress is being made and that the actual manufacturing of the prototype boards - labeled version 1.3 - has been outsourced to none other than ACube - an Italian business known to a lot of AmigaWorld users for its involvement in the PowerPC-based Amiga Sam-series. Apparently, the 1.3 boards will serve as the last internal test bed before the batch of Early Adopter boards will be produced and shipped to the 100 users being part of A-EON’s Early Adopter Program, launched by AmigaKit in January.

Among the other improvements, Dickinson mentioned that the A1222’s Uboot firmware now is on par with the Amiga X5000’s code base and that the boot time from a cold, dark system to Workbench has now been squeezed to around 30 seconds. Allegedly, the improvements made to Uboot has further improved USB compatibility. Furthermore, Dickinson revealed that the A1222 now has working audio courtesy of respected AmigaOS developer Lyle Hazelwood’s efforts. To show off this presumed launch blocker, an A1222 running Kickstart 53.103 was shown and heard playing the introduction to Dickinson’s Amiga documentary movie Viva Amiga. Preparing for the upcoming release, Dickinson also announced that AmigaOS 4.1 has been further fine tuned for the A1222 thanks to AmigaOS developer Tony Wyatt’s work. Likely known to a lot of AmigaWorld users, one of Trevor Dickinson’s side projects involve the ExecSG kernel - the new AmigaOS core meant to replace the current kernel that still relies on a legacy code base. Dickinson said that the ExecSG team, which now consists of 16 people, is making “good progress” not including third party developers involved with some specific parts of the kernel. 24 bug reports are said to have a addressed a wide range of previous issues, improving memory allocation and memory pool management. A more thorough development update was given by AmigaOS developer Steven Solie’s concluding presentation (covered later on in this report).

Before wrapping up, Dickinson finally mentioned that version 2.0 of Enhancer - a suite of software components serving as an unofficial AmigaOS upgrade - is coming together in a promising manner and that release is expected before Christmas. If the promise holds water, 2.0 should appeal to Amiga users kitted with “selected” AMD Radeon graphics cards since it will collect the latest versions of the Warp 3D API (version 1.78) written by respected Amiga developer Hans der Ruiter, the widely used OpenGL 3D API (version ES 2.0) and RadeonHD drivers. It was not, however, explicitly said which Radeon cards will be supported. Moreover, and thanks to a new - and unnamed - video acceleration library, 4K video playback on the Amiga is said to be possible. As previously reported on AmigaWorld, the core portion of the Enhancer 2.0 suite has already been released for free to any Amiga user with an AmiSphere account.

IComp announces brand new Buster chip, employs Haynie and designs a new A1200 with HDMI and Ethernet ports

Just before the lunch break, Individual Computer’s CEO Jens Schönfeld gave an hour long presentation of some of the recent work made by his company. Schönfeld started off by emphasizing that the company will pursue its long term ambitions with the Amiga platform, despite the trademark disputes currently being fought in US courts. With that assurance in place, Schönfeld turned his attention to the company’s recently launched CA-PSU power supply unit, and why a lot of legacy Amigas still using Commodore made power bricks are struggling. It all comes down to power hungry third party expansions and Ohm’s Law, the CEO concluded. In a surprising announcement, Schönfeld then revealed that Individual Computers secretly have been working on a brand new Buster chip. As keen AmigaWorld readers likely know, the Buster chip is a highly sought after custom chip for the Amiga 3000 series, responsible for the Zorro expansion cards subsystem. In an equally astonishing announcement, Schönfeld explained that the new Buster is being designed by ex Commodore hardware engineer David Haynie. When given a direct question from the audience, Schönfeld confirmed that Haynie is in fact now on the company payroll. In further news, Schönfeld stated that work on the A1200 Reloaded - an enhanced Amiga 1200 replica - continues, and that its latest hardware revision now includes native HDMI video and audio output using RTG and scandoubled video modes, Ethernet connectivity and an all new version of AmiTCP with DHCP-support for 99% of all known routers.

Schönfeld briefly mentioned that Individual Computers were minutes from release version 3 of the Amiga RTG system P96. Schönfeld suggested that the update can be thought of as major, and that one of its new features include screen dragging - a classic user interface functionality unique to AmigaOS. Users having bought P96 the last 12 months will be upgraded to version 3 for free, Schönfeld concluded. The new version of P96 can now be bought from Individual Computer’s store. Finalizing the presentation, Schönfeld reassured any fans of the Catweasel floppy controller that the project isn’t forgotten, despite being unavailable to buy for several years. Schönfeld explained that Individual Computers are currently swamped with work - perhaps a solid confirmation of what last year’s Amiga trade shows in Europe have suggested; despite the judicial proceedings churning thru the justice system and the negativism propagated on some fora, the Amiga community is teeming with activity.

ExecSG multicore support now running, memory protection may come down the road

Saturday’s line of presentations included a mini workshops covering Python and REBOL development, and ended with Amiga heavy hitter Steven Solie giving an update on ExecSG. Solie started by giving a brief introduction to ExecSG and its sub components, and then started addressing the development that has been made since the Amiga Ireland event back in January, when a similar presentation was made. ExecSG currently runs on eight different kinds of PowerPC-powered Amigas, ranging from Blizzard’s old PowerUp cards meant for the Amiga 1200 and Zorro based big box Amigas to brand new Amiga X5000 and Amiga 1222 setups. Solie underlined that one of ExecSG’s key features - multicore support - is now effectively working, and implied that improvements are expected down the road.

In an unforeseen announcement, Solie continued by revealing the ExecSG roadmap - a rare move in the Amiga community, where profound secrecy is usually the norm. Although no dates were given, the plan shows that last remaining percent of the A1222's FPU-emulation needs further polishing, that the A1222's audio driver needs optimization and that video RAM management needs tweaking to properly allow for 4K video playback. Solie also said that work on a new "preloader" will help speeding up the OS boot process further, and that internal 64 bit addressing support intended for graphics drivers is planned for the kernel. Tying to Dickinson's keynote, Solie elaborated a bit further on the planned ExecSG multicore support, referring to it as half of the planned workload. The multicore support will eventually include so called load balancing, allowing the Amiga to divert calculations to the CPU core that is best suited for the job at hand. Solie regretted not having a visual demo to show, but assured that both cores are "active" and "reported as running" on his Amiga X5000/20 workstation.

Looking for additional help, Solie re-emphasized that the ExecSG team is welcome to new members and encouraged anyone interested to contact him by e-mail (steven at solie dot ca). With an evident nod to the legal red tape, Solie jokingly claimed that the team is "100% lawyer and lawsuit free". When asked by the audience, Solie explained that while proper memory protection for AmigaOS is not currently on the roadmap, it's still on the team's radar. "We have so much else to do", Solie laughed, revealing that a limited memory protection is actually planned for with each OS task having its own protected memory space. When asked by moderator Bill Borsari, Solie acknowledged that multicore support is the team's top priority right now. Just like the Amiga A1222 project, the launch date for the ExecSG update remains unclear. Solie did, however, confirm that ExecSG is currently planned to be released "along with the official ISO" without going into any details about what the image file will contain, and what party will actually release it. Appearently frustrated by how slow the top brass decisions are made, Solie stated that he does see progress being made within the higher ranks and that he and the rest of the team are eager to let the Amiga users enjoy their work.

Wrapping up his own presentation, Solie described the current Amiga A1222 preformance is "great" albeit "rocky", and that it's expected to get "much more stable" once the FPU emulation issues have been sorted out. These problems are expected to be resolved with an overhaul of the Amiga's math IEEE libraries.

Break out the sunglasses and the sunscreen - you're gonna need them

Summarizing the first day of AmiWest and its presentations, it seems evident that the recent surge of interest in the Amiga and the laborious efforts invested in the OS, its hardware and applications bode for a bright future. The Amiga’s best days are certainly yet to come.

This article comes from AmigaWorld - Amiga Community Portal

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