Friday, 15 April 2022

A500 mini is here

A500 mini Review - Part 1

It has been 1 week now since it’s official release which has given a lot of people a lot of time to review the A500 mini. We have seen a lot of very professional YouTube video makers in their offices, workrooms and studios make exceedingly good videos containing a great deal of content, I have watched Dan Wood, Retro Recipes just to name 2 and read a lot of very good blogs, now it is my turn.

What type of technology is this, a computer, a console or a toy? Well you can attach a working keyboard therefore it must be a computer however you can attach Xbox or PlayStation controllers therefore it must be a console or you could say it is light enough to be taken round to a friends house to play with for a while in which case it’s a toy. Whatever label you give it it will surely offend someone but delight many.

I see the word “Amiga” attached to this in so many searches online but can we really call it that? I’m not going to try and make my way through trying to guess who owns the name at this moment but I run emulation of many types a lot on one of my laptops, Amiga Forever, AmiKit and recently a PS3 emulator, none of this makes my laptop an Amiga or a PS3 or does it? I have another laptop, E.M.M.A. (Emulated Machine, My Amiga). which boots directly into Amiga OS4.1fe and I call this my Amiga laptop.

Whether it’s an officially licensed Amiga product or not I believe most can agree that it will always be called an Amiga mini.

I can say I was very excited to open the nice package that I received and was very eager to review, however life got in the way as usually does with this sort of thing, not to worry though here it is now with many photos including, what seems to have become a very important photo, the one of the serial number underneath.

I can honestly say I have not played with it endlessly and tried to get Workbench and Deluxe Paint working, I have just played some of the games and downloaded over 200 WHDLoad games to see how they played.

But first, lets start with what’s in the box, once out of the brown paper I found a bold and nicely printed box closely resembling the “Cartoon Classics” bundle from 1992, could this be a nod to a 30 year anniversary? On opening the box the machine is immediately visible covered with a nice transparent, moulded piece of plastic. My heart is now racing and I want to dig deeper.


Lifting the keyboard out and the tray that it sits on I find two red boxes one with a outline of a tank mouse and one with an outline of a joypad, each box contains that which is printed, one mouse and one joypad, I also found an HDMI lead and a USB to USB-C lead. I also had a lovely flash drive in the shape of a floppy disc.


I can't wait to spend more time with this beautiful machine and play more with the 263 WHDLoad games I've already downloaded. My short time using it I have already found that I am not keen on a controller with a D-Pad and much prefer a thumb stick or a joystick so I need to find an appropriate controller or a joystick.

More to follow once I have spent more time with the right controller that suits me. Also plenty of pictures to add.

Michael Holmes

Saturday, 1 January 2022

Happy New Year 2022


We at Blitterwolf would like to wish all
Amiga users, MorphOS users and AROS
users a Happy, Prosperous
and Safe New Year.


We will be bringing some interviews, reviews and competitions shortly.


Hope all is well with you all.


Enjoy.


Best wishes from Michael & Damien

Friday, 24 December 2021

Merry Christmas

We at Blitterwolf would like to wish

all

Amigans, MorphOS user & AROS users

a Very Merry Christmas

and a

Very Happy New Year



Everybody enjoy the season

and all it has to offer.


Interview with Paul Andrews (Second Interview)

Thank you readers for taking the time to read this interview, most will notice that it is the second interview with Paul Andrews but greatly needed due to recent news items.

The interview will begin with the usual questions as an introduction for our new readers.

FUN TIME, AMIGA TIME!

1. Hello and welcome from us at Blitterwolf, again, for this second interview. For our new readers could you tell us your name, country and occupation please?
A. Hi my name is Paul Andrews, and from the UK, and I’m the managing director of Retro Games Ltd, plus also director of several other tech and media companies.

2. We know of your first experience with computers, 48K Spectrum and other 8-bit machines, could you expand and tell us where you went from there, 16-bit onwards?
A. Both myself and Chris Smith had ZX Spectrums, and then Atari ST computers, our colleague Darren Melbourne started with a ZX Spectrum, then moved onto a C64 and then Amiga I believe!

3. What drew you to the Commodore brand and specifically the development of the A500 Mini?
A. Much as myself and Chris started with ZX Spectrums, obviously the Commodore brand was globally much bigger than Sinclair plus I’ve known Mike at Cloanto since the early 2000s, in fact my wife and myself had a memorable lunch many years ago with both Mike of Cloanto and Trevor Dickinson at the Radisson Blue at Stansted airport I recall, so I’ve known these guys a long time now.

4. How long has it taken from initial idea, through research and development to the release date of March 31st 2022, in UK?
A. We did include the rights to do this console when we did the original paperwork with Cloanto for THEC64, so we always had the option, so once the various THEC64 models and commitments were complete, obviously we cracked on, but having said that some licensing and other work had started in parallel with the last parts of THEC64. Past that Covid has of course has had multiple knock on effects in terms of timelines for manufacturing.


5. Could you give some of the specifications of The A500 Mini and are there any that couldn't be added?
A. THEA500 mini has primarily been made similar to THEC64 mini in that it’s more aimed at people who wish to play games, put it down, come back and play more etc. We hope to do the a full sized THEA500 if the mini sells well, in a similar manner to the pattern of THEC64 which would have more extensive features of course.

We have said it before but it’s worth mentioning all the models we make (THEC64, THEVIC20 and if we do THEA500 in a full sized version) are 100% NOT called ‘maxi’ that was just what some retailers started calling them, the minis are called minis, and the full sized versions the model name.


6. Does the A500 Mini run using recreated classic hardware or through emulation?
A. Emulation, the cost of doing it all in hardware just is not practical for mass market mini consoles sadly.

7. Who decided the number of games and which games to be included on The A500 Mini?
A. Darren Melbourne is the licensing director and he has been doing this for his whole adult working life. We have to work within a budget and the honest answer is Amiga games generally cost more to license than C64 ones, for obvious reasons, plus some companies either do not wish to license their games or the costs asked for some games are just too prohibitively high to be possible. We do not have huge margins on consoles, or the huge economies of scale such as Sony, Nintendo or Microsoft. We have sold good volumes for such a small company, but obviously not the millions of units the big games companies do, so we have to be realistic in these matters. But people can of course add and plus their own owned games via usb stick.

8. Can additional hardware be connected to the A500 Mini such as flash drives, external hard drives and CD Rom drives?
A. Not out of the box, but we are looking at some options working with third parties.

9. Will the A500 Mini be a purely gaming system or can applications be installed?
A. Day one it’s mostly games/whd compatible software, but never say never.

10. Will the A500 Mini be able to emulate any other OSs?
A. No.

11. Are there any planned updates for The A500 Mini in the near future?
A. Let’s release it first, but potentially, we have tried to do what is possible and practical with THEC64 range, we don’t earn any extra revenue at all, in fact lose money and time doing extra firmware updates but we have tried to support the users as best we can like they have us.

12. Do you have a favourite computer magazine, online or printed, past or present?
A. Popular Computing! It’s why we have done as an early venture Popular Retro, as a sort of tribute!

13. What are your thoughts on other recreated retro platforms such as the many mini consoles available?
A. They are all pretty cool, and we love doing our part of that bigger picture, obviously we try to make ours the best of course!

14. Have you noticed an increase in demand for your products as each of your new products is released?
A. We hope we now have a good reputation we hope for quality, usability and so on. So we are a more known factor now I guess for users, so people know what we do is real, exists, or will, not vapour wear, and you will get a quality product out of the box, plus retailers now have confidence in us as well.

15. We know of your fondness for gaming but are there any Amiga applications that you enjoy using?
A. I am biased of course, but I love the morals of Lost Patrol in that there are no winners in war, so that’s a good moral lesson from a great game.

16. What other hardware do you have in the pipeline?
A. Now that would be telling, but 200% we are just getting going, so be prepared to see and hear from us (and hopefully buy from us) many things for many years to come!

17. You told us that you had a lot of plans after the C64 Mini which we now know was the full size C64, can you tell us if there are further plans after the A500 Mini?
A. Yes many! Obviously we hope to do the full sized THEA500 if the mini version sells well, but as I mentioned before we have many other products in our pipeline!

18. I'd like to close the interview by asking if you have any further comments, thought or general musings?
A. I’d like to thank the hundreds of thousands of people who have bought one or more of THEC64 range we have done so far, and for those fans, I’d like to say a huge thank you, and also we have not finished with that range yet, so we hope we can bring a few more dreams to life for those people yet. Also we would like to thank the fans and press for the great reaction to THEA500 already, and we can’t wait to get it into all your hands!

Thank you for your time and I sincerely look forward to testing and reviewing the A500 Mini.



Michael Holmes

Thursday, 16 April 2020

The OS4 Pre-release Preview Part 5: Bang! When it's done.

Disclaimer: The information provided here is for historical purposes only. The details herein would be considered obsolete and were correct at time of writing. It is here to provide a timeline of past OS4 features as well as complete the series.


The OS4 evolution
Well we're finally here, the last part to my OS4 review, never thought we'd make it, huh? Sometimes, I never did, I write more things than I would ever say. :-) Despite the long progression of my review, progressing as much as OS4 has, I must say I don't think it could have come at a better time. You see, AmigaOS4 has just received another update, said possibly to be the last before the final 4.0+ version comes out, and it could be considered in only a 10MB download to be a major revision at that. That's because of a few more OS modules being released, that could change your life, well, could; which I will go into detail here and explain what it means.

There is a new updated kernel, which improves compatibility across different PPC CPU types, includes other improvements and fixes some bugs in the 68k emulator. Namely FPU instructions, meaning more 68k software will run more fluently and won't crash like it used to if that happened.

New IDE device drivers are included, both for the internal hardware and Silicon Images PCI cards, now supporting full UDMA hardware transfers on those machines capable of using it. As well as standard parallel IDE the later brand is also supported with not one but three Serial ATA cards!

A new Picasso96, graphics library and monitor drivers are included. Vertical blanking interrupts and YUV Overlay support in the 3DFX Voodoo driver amongst the improvements, should help graphic operations become more smooth.

A new version of Warp3D has made it. With hardware multi-texture support for Voodoo 2-5 and Radeon 7000 to 7500, later Radeon (like mine) support is in progress.

A major addition: WarpUP! Although OS4 is an Amiga PowerPC OS, that didn't mean it could just run classic PowerPC software right away. In fact it had better support for 68k programs, and could only run OS4 native PowerPC binaries. Now this expands the software base of OS4 compatible apps, able to run at last WarpUP PPC software like OS3.9 could, and about time too.

A new shell and command set has made it, along with more documentation. I am yet to check this out fully even myself.

A new Intuition and Reaction GUI with improvements, including Preferences, Datatypes and Locale.

The Roadshow TCP/IP stack has seen an update along with a new onboard Ethernet driver.

Lastly, not mentioning any other hidden improvements and fixes, is a new version of the included Sirion USB stack. Including a usbprinter.device, allowing you to use a USB printer, subject to drivers of course. But all in all, excellent! That's what I call progress, for the new Amiga platform. 


The final say
Yes I have the final say on OS4 at the moment, then you can read all of the special features I have prepared at the end, I hope you can enjoy the big finish I have left for you in this journey to the end. Before I do, here is just another update to what else is new in AmigaOS, and my thoughts on it as well.

Prefs has a new addition giving a GUI to the firmware. Named UBoot, this preferences editor covers all non-volatile RAM settings stored for the boot up process. A lot friendlier than working with a BIOS, which were not used too much usually, and makes things a lot easier when settings need to be changed. Almost a bizarre one is a RANDOM DOS Driver hidden in Storage. Reading anything off it will give back an endless stream of random data, usable perhaps for certain scripts and programs, and a strange addition indeed. Unarc has seen a major speed boost, now compiled native, this certainly is a welcome addition. And now archives can be extracted without dragging along like they used to, if you noticed them taking too long, even the biggest ones I threw at it took only seconds to unravel the contents. The last thing to be updated, would be the documentation, as there still is a lot to go but this is being built up bit by bit. Even so, it still contains almost one meg of reading material, made up of over 120 files. So this is definitely not lacking in that regard.

So finally what do I have to say about the Amiga OS4 Pre-release? First I'm happy something was finally done with AmigaOS and the Amiga platform after all. Sure, the official end result isn't what all Amiga aficionados wanted including even me, but in the end someone got out there and put in the hard yards, and brought us something at last. And isn't it that which matters? For that I'm thankful, and decided to make the commitment to the AmigaOne and OS4 platform. Of course being on the AmigaOS4 and AmigaOne lists does make it easier too when I have a problem or are wondering about something. This is especially so now as not only are there a few beta testers happy to offer a hand and collect bug reports, the two big brothers (solidarity brothers!), Thomas and Hans-Joerg have just joined the list and I haven't wasted the opportunity asking them all sorts of technical questions. Even with their limited time being the two head honchos of the AmigaOS4 team, they are happy to help the end users, after all if they were not keen users of OS4 themselves they would not be here. OS4 wouldn't either. I am sad that none of the actual Amiga hardware will be rejuvenated and brought to life once again, but that is the cost of leaving it too long, and currently the AmigaOne was the best choice to run the OS on. And, slowly but surely, it will make use of more and more PC cards. And being able to use more off-shelf components will definitely help, both the OS and the hardware. In any case, it is finally good to show off a new Amiga item in years, how long have we been waiting for that? Sure, the AmigaOne will take the place of my Amiga A1200, but it won't "replace" it, as you can't just beat the original. This is made true at the meetings, since the classics gets lots of attention, and lately it seems even more so. People more interested in old Amiga's than new Amiga developments? Good on you guys, keep it up, for I share that myself as well. That's why my Amiga user group has such a diverse and wide range of Amiga fans, and another reason why I am happy to still be able to go to an Amiga user group, because it proves Amigans are still alive and active in the scene.

 


Two men enter, one man leaves
Similar to the situation the warriors went through in the fighting arena in that film, Mad Max III: Beyond Thunderdome, when there are two existing technologies competing one is bound to win out in the end. And the other is, sometimes sadly, to be left behind, perhaps dead and buried. I have two such scenarios here, AmigaOS and the AmigaOne. Both have their warriors, and the results of each battle are shown, those left behind as the losers appear on the left. And those who rise up to be the winners appear on the right. Take your seats, place your bets, and cheer on for your favourite warriors. This is to be a fight to the death, with no other correspondence entered into, for two men will enter, but only one man will leave alive. Without further ado, let's enter the arena, it's time to get it on!

AmigaOS: The software battles
Out
In
32-bit 4G HD limit
2048G's max HDs!
ROM based Kickstart
Disk based Kickstart
Exec 3.1 68k
ExecSG 4.0 PPC
Single shared memory space
Virtual split memory space  
68k Hunks
PPC Elfs
Native Graphics
Picasso96 RTG
2D Graphics
Warp3D
Draggable screens
Off screen dragable windows
Window outline dragging
Solid window dragging
GadTools
Reaction
Right mouse menus
Context menus
Outline fonts
Anti-aliased outline fonts
ASCII
UNICODE
30 char filename limit
107 char filenames 
3rd party disk doctoring
OS4 Partition Wizard
HDToolbox
Media Toolbox
Blacked Blanker screen
Blacked Blanker DPMS
Genesis
Roadshow
Guru Meditation
Grim Reaper
AmigaOS 3.9
AmigaOS 4.0!
 
AmigaOne: The hardware battles
Out
In
Kickstart ROMs
U-Boot firmware
68k
PPC
SCSI
IDE & SATA
Atari joystick ports
PS/2 ports
Parallel
USB
Zorro  :-)
PCI  :-(  
AGA
AGP
RGB
VGA
Copper
GPU
CIA
VIA
Chip RAM
Video RAM
Paula
SoundBlaster 
A2065
Onboard Ethernet 
Floppies
USB keys
CD's 
DVD's  
Classic Amiga cases
Customised tower cases 
Amiga Classic
AmigaOne!

The good, the bad, and the just plain buggy 
The following is a non-exhaustive list of software tested on OS4. We have a good list of well behaved software that presents no known problems and acts as it should. We have a blacklist of bad software that just doesn't play by the rules, either completely disobeys the style guide or just does both and will probably just freeze the whole system from a standing start. Or it might just need a classic system component not existing any more. Then we have the just plain buggy, this software might appear to work fine then when you least expect it, it starts performing a boom crash opera. Sitting between the good and the bad, this stuff can't be trusted. And OS4 already has plenty of work arounds for badly written software, even popular ones that might perform illegal activities, have to be trapped and taken care of for the safety of the system. 

As well as the lists, I also have added few extras, to provide extra information current at the time of testing. These are codes appearing after a name, the legend explained here. P means I have personally tested it, I specifying it won't install normally; a work around must be employed, a ~ tilde for behaviour specifies that is acts good usually then sometimes slip up; these programs are safe to run and the situation can be overcome, and a % for limited functionality. Buggy software will have condition codes. Finally we have any comments that relate to the program.

I’ve divided the lists into good and bad. On top of this I’ve also provided a native list with native OS4 ports of titles. Now, let's get listing.

The good news
Productivity:


AHIRecord


AmFTP 
(P)

AmFTPd, AmigaAMP, AmIRC, 


Ampifier, AmTelnet, ArtEffect


ARTM 
(P, %)
Don't press Hardware!
ArtStudio 
(P, ~)
JPEG I/O crashes
Bars&Pipes 
(~)

BlackIRC


BurnIt
(%)

Class Action


Cygnus Ed
(~)

Datastore, Diamond Box 
(P)

Diavolo 2000, Digital Universe (Non-FPU)


DirOpus 4 
(P, ~)
Read module can crash
DiskImage, Elastic Dreams, Envoy


FinalCalc 
(I)

FinalCopy II 


FinalData


FinalWriter 


Flamingo


FlashMandel 


Frogger 
(P)
But runs slow
FryingPan 


FxPaint 
(P)

GBRoute 
(~ )

GoldED


HD-Rec 
(~)

HomeBank 


ImageFX, ImageStudio


Imagine 
(P, I, Non-FPU)
Open wrong size screen
Jabberwocky


MakeCD 
(P)

MoneyMatters, NewsCoaster


P96Speed 


PageStream 
(P, I, ~, %) 

PC-Task 
(P)
Can also run slow!
PerfectPaint, Photogenics


PowerPacker 


PPaint, ProCalc 


SBasePro4, SnoopDOS


SoundFX 
(~, %)

StormC 
(P, %)
But can't debug
ToolsDaemon, TurboBase, TurboText


TVPaint, Typeface


TurboCalc 


Visage 
(I)

Voyager 
(P, ~)

Wordworth 


World Construction Set, XTrace



Games: 


ADOM


AmigaThrust  
(P)

Aqua 
(P, I)

Beyond Zork
(~)

Centurion  


Diamond Caves (P)
(~)

Earth2140 (I)


Eat the Whistle, 


Exodus: The Last War, Heretic II 


MahjonggTiles


Myst 
(P, ~)

Nemac 4 
(~)

NightLong


Payback 
(P)

Puzzle Bobs 


SimEarth 
(~)

Simon the Sorcerer 


Software Tycoon 


Soliton, Tales From Heaven 


Taskforce 
(P, PD)

The Feeble Files


TSOTM 
(P)

Wipeout 2097 




The bad news
Productivity: 


WebDesign, XCad 
(P)

DPaint 
(P)
Needs split screens
Vista, PCx


Samplitude Opus 

Needs Paula
OctaMED 

Needs CIA
iFusion 

Also needs CIA + WarpUP HAL
Tornado3d 

Needs dongle




Games: 


Abuse, Bubble Heroes, Colonization, 


Battle Chess, Shogo, Freespace 
(P)

StarFighter 
(P)
Uses AMOS
Gloom's 
(P)



The native news
Productivity: 


Audio Evolution 
(P)

AWEB 
(P,~)

DiskMaster2, Frodo


SimpleMail 
(P)

YAM 
(P,~)


Games: 


Blobwars, Crimson Fields


Duke Nukem 3d 

Needs data
Quake 


Quake II


StarFighter 

! Unrelated to Amiga game
Zombie Apocalypse (P)
(P)