Archive for the ‘Amiga’ Category

Programa a tua vida

Quinta-feira, Março 28th, 2013

O post do Pedro Cardoso sobre o vídeo que anda por aí sobre o ensino/importância da programação fez-me querer escrever sobre a minha própria experiência.

Tive o meu primeiro computador aos 4-5 anos. Era um Timex Computer 2068, um maquinão na altura! Claro que inicialmente jogava alguns jogos que o meu pai me arranjava, mas mais tarde comecei a introduzi-los à mão de listagens em revistas (principalmente a Your Sinclair) e livros. Cheguei a modificar alguns jogos, e a fazer um que tinha um boneco e umas arvores no ecra (não me lembro qual era o objectivo, se havia um :) ). Foi uma coisa progressiva, e não me lembro quando nasceu a minha paixão pela programação.

O evento “abre-olhos” foi mesmo quando convenci o meu pai a comprar-me um Amiga 500. Estive um ano a chateá-lo, e ele obrigou-me a vender o Timex para comprar o Amiga! Mas aquilo era qualquer coisa de fora do comum… toda a indústria informática levou anos a apanhar o que o A500 conseguia fazer. Fiz algumas coisas pequeninas, e iniciei um jogo em BlitzBasic (o Vapour Trail). Já naquela altura programava “por objectos”, e desenhava as minhas naves e edifícios em 3D (usava o Imagine, Real3D e, mais tarde, Lightwave3D). As revistas da altura (Amiga Power e Amiga Format, ambas da Future Publishing) ajudavam bastante, e já na altura comprava software na Inglaterra (através dos anúncios das revistas).

Depois das BBSs (sim, sim, modems a 9600 bps e modo texto!), a web nos Amiga era muito utilizada (via modems também); a Aminet era o maior repositório online (e offline através dos CDs) de software com sources de Amiga, assim como o Amiga Web Directory era o nosso Google, e o pessoal era muito unido e partilhava o conhecimento de uma forma que hoje já não acontece. Bons tempos!

As coisas eram mesmo como o Pedro diz: se a vida te dá limões, faz limonada. Havia muito pouca coisa em português na altura, as revistas, livros, manuais, BBSs, websites, etc, eram quase todos em inglês; em pouco tempo eu já pensava em inglês, à noite, na cama!

Como eu tinha muito interesse pela modelação e renderização 3D, não me dediquei inteiramente à programação na altura. Queria fazer tudo: os gráficos, o som, o código. E jogar. Sim, porque os jogos no Amiga eram fantásticos, e eu tinha grandes amigos para o fazer comigo!

Com o tempo, descobri que a programação é mesmo o meu vício. A magia da tecnologia inspira-me. Hoje não tenho medo de programar nada, muito pelo contrário, é um desafio. De microcontroladores a computadores, passando por telemóveis, PLCs, marcha tudo. Acabei por ir parar à área da indústria, onde me fascina ver o meu software a controlar e supervisionar fábricas com máquinas enormes e poderosas, capazes de produções alucinantes. Às vezes fico ali no meio da fábrica, a apreciar tudo aquilo a funcionar, quase a ouvir os bits do meu software a transformarem-se em azeite. Ou vinho. Ou outra coisa qualquer que, amanhã, vai estar na tua mesa.

Mas eu acho que tive sorte. Um computador aos 5 anos, não era normal. Hoje é, mas não da forma que era antigamente, já não é preciso programar nada para utilizar bem um computador. E assim, tenho um projecto em curso de ensinar programação (e electrónica) a míudos (e graúdos também). Umas workshops de robótica, que espero eu inspirem os mais pequenos a entrar no maravilhoso mundo da ciência e tecnologia.

Assim nasceu a Intellego.

Nexus 7 (Andromeda) and Interference (Sanity)

Sexta-feira, Fevereiro 25th, 2011

Just had to leave my tribute here to these two demos that really amazed me when I was a kid… the effects and art were great (the Interference opening image is a classic), the transitions very well thought out, and the music… oh, the music… it is simply brilliant! :o

Nowadays, I always have with me a selection of musics from my Amiga days (I must remember to post the list), and these two are some of the best. Ever.

Hats off to you guys, even if 16 years later! ;)

P.S.: If you were an Amigan back then (this should bring back memories), and want to watch the demos again, just remember: nothing beats the real thing! Get your old Amiga out of storage and boot it up! :)

Amiga SBC: were are you?

Quarta-feira, Setembro 15th, 2010

I would love to have a small SBC (single-board computer) Amiga, with an optional companion touch-screen display. :)

Something like a crossbreed between an Amiga A1200 and an Arduino Mega. A small, cheap, powerful, easily programmable SBC.

Imagine a small A1200-like system (on a 12×12cm board), running a dedicated version of AmigaOS 3 (light and fast, 3-second boot time), a 68030-equivalent CPU, 32MB RAM, an updated graphics chip (Sarah) with video out (Composite and VGA/DVI/HDMI), Paula audio, a comms chip (Vera) sporting Ethernet, RS-485, I2C, and GPIO (general purpose digital and analog I/O pins). 7-36V input power, very low power consumption (5W tops).

Advanced users could take full advantage of AmigaOS by developing full-fledged applications (full-screen graphics, lots of programming languages and platforms, control the booting process via Startup-sequence, etc). But for the system to be really popular, one should create a simple IDE (integrated development environment), like the Arduino’s, for the basic functions (GPIO logic, communications, and  some basic touchscreen graphics and widgets).

Sell it for 100€ each board. Sell it 125€ on a small enclosure, with DIN rail and wall mount adapters, and fast-connect headers on the GPIO pins. Sell a 6-inch touchscreen for 150€.

I’d love to have something like this for my projects (industrial control, home automation, telemetry, kyosks, points-of-information, etc)… maybe A-Eon/Hyperion will launch something like this after the X1000?

System choices for Home Automation

Sexta-feira, Novembro 27th, 2009

I’m studying the hardware and software for my Home Automation project, namely for the server and clients of the SCADA system. I won’t use Windows for these systems, because I need something that I can trust (and immune to viruses/trojans/attacks), and in the end it gets expensive. MacOS X and Linux comply (better at least) with that, and it’s relatively easy to find good, cheaper systems they run on.

But I’m studying how I can include Amiga-based systems on my project. The reasons for choosing an alternative system are simple:

* Lower power consumption, good for the environment.
* Supports smaller, innovative companies, good for the economy.
* Really small, efficient and fast operating systems.
* Secure (different from mainstream OSs, unexploited).
* Virus immune.
* Usually cheaper than a Windows system (the OS is payed separately, and usually needs better, more expensive hardware to perform well).

I won’t deny that the Amiga had a big impact on my life, during my childhood… a lot of what I know now was learned on an Amiga, and the Amiga community surely influenced many of my (good) choices in life. Including it’s spirit in my project can only bring good things!

As of now, my options boil down to this:

AmigaOS 4
Expensive system (~700€).
Dedicated hardware (ACube’s SAM440ep motherboard).
Hardware available commercially today.
Good performance.
Low power consumption.
Good operating system support of the hardware.
No JAVA.
Has SDL.
Good future perspective.
Developer: Hyperion.

MorphOS
Reasonable system cost (~300€).
Dedicated hardware (Genesi stuff), with support for some obsolete PowerPC G4 Macs (MacMini).
Hardware not really available, as of now only runs on obsolete systems (Efika/Pegasos/Radeon). Will certainly support the new Genesi Smarttop and Smartbook.
Good performance.
Low power consumption.
Good operating system support of the hardware (on the Efika/Pegasos at least).
No JAVA.
Has SDL.
Good future perspective.
Developer: the MorphOS team.

AROS (Icaros Desktop)
Cheaper system (iMica: ~250€).
Generic hardware.
Hardware available, but limited operating system support of the hardware (targets old x86 hardware), although the iMica is available, and can be used to give value to old computers with lower power consumption.
Good performance.
Low power consumption.
No JAVA.
Has SDL.
Uncertain future perspective, since it is developed by the community, with no commercial company backup (although this sometimes means nothing).
Developer: AROS community.

MacOS X
Normal system cost (MacMini Intel: ~500€).
Dedicated hardware (Apple stuff).
Hardware available commercially today.
Best performance.
Low power consumption (30W).
Good operating system support of the hardware.
Has JAVA.
Has SDL.
Good future perspective.
Developer: Apple.

Linux (DSL, Ubuntu, PuppyLinux, …)
Cheaper system (~300€).
Generic hardware.
Hardware available commercially today, and can also be used to give value to old hardware.
Good/Best performance.
Low power consumption (40W).
Good operating system support of the hardware.
Has JAVA.
Has SDL.
Good future perspective.
Developer: the Linux community.

Preliminary observations
It’s not easy to choose the OS by reading these facts. I took a look at AROS, but I’m yet to see AmigaOS 4.1 or MorphOS running, and using the OS is an important part for me. Also, I have to make a bit of development on the three and see wich one feels better.

My emotional side tells me AmigaOS might be the way to go, but it seems to cost more than a Mac or Linux system. From this simple comparison AROS is the best value and MorphOS (assuming it will run on the MX Open Client “Smarttop” from Genesi) is as strong a candidate… I’m eager to try them out, and I’m sure testing sessions will be lots of fun! ;)

Java on the AmigaOS

Terça-feira, Novembro 3rd, 2009

I’m into some retrogaming lately, mainly on the Amiga. This made me look at the Amiga scene, and I’m really happy about the recent events.

Another one of these is that apparentely, Hyperion is going to push Java onto AmigaOS 4.2! Even if not a complete/modern version, having a Java VM on AmigaOS is (IMHO) mandatory.

Things are looking good for this (seemingly?) dead platform!

Alchimie 2009

Quarta-feira, Outubro 28th, 2009

Vou só deixar aqui uma nota de relevo para uma party que vai acontecer em França, nos dias 6, 7 e 8 de Novembro, e que me parece ser muito interessante (principalmente para antigos Amigans como eu). Chama-se Alchimie 2009.

O tema recorrente é, claro, os sistemas alternativos (Amiga, Ubuntu/Linux, Haiku, …). Este ano, os temas são a robótica e a computação ecológica (baixo consumo e eficiência). Parece ser tudo malta muito fixe e criativa, dentro do antigo espírito saudável do Amiga, e os assuntos abordados são também eles muito interessantes!

Tenho imensa pena de não poder ir (simplesmente não dá)… mas vou colocar a data na minha agenda e para a próxima vou lá estar! ;)

AmigaOS unchained

Sexta-feira, Outubro 23rd, 2009

It has finally happened! It’s great news to see AmigaOS free from it’s legal disputes! Hyperion seem to now have full rights to develop it for whatever hardware platform they desire.

I hope they give the OS a clear roadmap, even if it is primarily targeted to a niche market (like the embedded one, where I think it could have some following). And I also hope they realize that their most probable early adopter userbase will be us Amigans. We nerds that had Amigas 10-15 years ago, and that now have twice that age at least. I think they need to target us first.

Like I’ve seen the honorable Zetr0 say on EAB, the boing ball is on their side now. Let’s see what they do with it!

Amiga Research Operating System

Sexta-feira, Janeiro 23rd, 2009

Estive a dar uma primeira voltinha com o AROS, e gostei muito do que vi! Para quem não sabe, o AROS é um sistema operativo desenvolvido de raiz, pensado para ser API-compatible com o AmigaOS 3.

A ideia é ser um OS moderno, que corra em várias plataformas (mas principalmente em arquitectura x86), e onde se possa recompilar o software escrito para AmigaOS 3 com poucas ou nenhumas alterações.

A ideia é muito boa, funciona por bounties (se pegas num projecto e o fazes, podes receber dinheiro por isso das donações), e não precisamos de hardware específico. Não posso correr o AmigaOS 4 sem uma Sam440, mas este posso começar já a explorar (e, quem sabe, contribuir)! E o AROS tb já corre na Sam440!

Gostei mesmo do que vi, e vou preparar um dos meus PC antigos especialmente para correr o AROS!

P.S.: A gatinha do logo foi desenhada pela Eric Schwartz!

The Amiga: tool or toy?

Quinta-feira, Novembro 20th, 2008

These days, things tend to be dominated by the biggest powers; there is always one or two big names that usually dominate some market. And when there are smaller contenders that start to have dimension, the big guys usually just swallow the small ones whole (getting rid of competition and gaining valuable assets in the process; they were gaining market share after all).

In the computer world, things are very similar: There is one big giant, Microsoft, and then the alternative, Apple. Linux comes as a community effort, difficult to deal with for it’s nature, but then again it is not much in the way of competition. Although things have improved immensely lately (Ubuntu springs to mind), Linux distros tend to be geek-oriented, and some simple task require a lot of fiddling around for the general user (and, too often, terminal shenanigans).

In my youth, there was more in the mix: the PC was a horribly grey machine, with a clear target: business. Then there was OS/2 running on PCs, and a few less-known OSs. The Mac was expensive, elitist, forward-thinking, closed and incompatible. The Atari was a machine I never had much contact with, but was very popular too. Then there was the Amiga.

A very interesting machine, with a ground-breaking form-factor, innovative, dedicated and powerful hardware, lots of expansion options, and a reasonable price tag. The AmigaOS was elegant, small, fast, efficient, multitasking, and very advanced in many ways (some even today). It had everything to become The Platform, but it was not to be. Still, it had many years of prosperity (mainly as a games machine, before the Wolfenstein era, wich broke the “business” tags on PCs), before evolution simply froze and the platform was slowly abandoned until it became a small niche market.

Today, after years of effort (and also lots of destructive criticism) from the Amiga community, things seem to start shaping up again. Hyperion has held on to the AmigaOS and kept (slowly) developing; and finally, it seems we might actually have some (easily accessible) hardware to run it on, with ACube’s Sam440.

But is it really worth the bother, in these days of megacorporations? I think it is.

The Amiga might still have a future in dedicated, embedded, industrial, public, and mobile environments. Niche markets, I know, but I don’t see the Amiga getting up there, stealing market share from Microsoft or Apple anytime soon. So, what do we need to be sucessful in the short run?

First, Hyperion should make sure the OS is ready to fulfil integrators’ desires. It’s great to have an amazing desktop OS, but they should address the embedded needs too. We need Java (1.5 at least), we need a stable OS, we need a good set of drivers, we need easy networking, we need simple and secure remote access, etc. I would love using AmigaOS for my industrial and domotics projects!

Then, the motherboards should be priced lower quickly. I don’t mind being an early adopter, and pay 500 Euro for the board alone to play around and start development, but it must come down to at least 200 Euro before integrators can start considering it. Maybe the new Flex board will be within this price range.

Identity might not be a problem now, but in the future we should better define the Amiga computer. The boards should probably be sold with special enclosures, to give identity and soul to the machines.

For the long run, there is this problem that the Amiga does not have a single company behind it just now. Amiga Inc. today is a slim, modified shadow of it’s former self, and has nothing to do with the original Amiga vision. The vision has survived in the core of the community. Lots of great talents keep the spirit alive today. But I think we need more in the long run, we need a name and a brand, a sound strategy and a banner we can rise. Or maybe I’m just thinking “Apple” too much.

I hope Hyperion get to keep AmigaOS from the lawsuit. At least they are showing good work done, not vapourware, and probably deserve to reap the rewards of their work.  

Here’s hoping the Amiga can make a real comeback this time.

(Finally) Back for the Future (hopefully)

Terça-feira, Novembro 4th, 2008

It seems we may have a “new Amiga” in the market! Well, it’s a new motherboard, capable of running AmigaOS 4.1, and it’s called Sam440ep. It’s actually available to purchase on the Net!

I would have liked to see a trully new Amiga; I mean a full computer, with a name, and a distinctive case. More like a Mac than a PC. Relec have done something like that with The Red One.

If you know Amiga’s history, you won’t be asking why Amiga Inc. haven’t done that themselves. Still, I think this opens up a lot of space for Amigans to build their machines in special/custom/modded cases and brag about it!

I know it’s been years since news like these made a significant impact on the market, the Amiga today being mostly regarded as a very small niche market of people holding on to old hardware. But an Amigan is always an Amigan, and we have a reputation of being clever, inventive, innovative, rebel and fun geeks. The AmigaOS has always been a reflection of this status: a simple, out-of-the-ordinary, highly efficient, yet powerful operating system.

Hyperion seem to have done quite a remarkable job with the AmigaOS up until now (Ars Tecnica seems to think so too), and we finally have something to run it! Plus, we also have AROS running on the Sam, and some Linux flavours.

(Maybe Pedro Gordinho can give us his artistic vision of the new Amiga?! I’ll post it should he find the time to do it.)

I look forward to having an Amiga again! And Christmas is just around the corner…