Saturday, 24 December 2016

Merry Christmas

We at Blitterwolf would like to wish


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.

Thursday, 8 December 2016

The OS4 Pre-release Preview Part 3: The Final Countdown

Having a browse
Lets see what new things we can find on the new Workbench. Bringing up the Workbench volume we see all the usual familiar faces of drawers. Internet has been with us for a while, what’s changed? Well, lots. First Internet has not, unlike previous versions, got any browsers or email clients inside. What’s here is some other new icons not seen before, all related to each other. And to the new OS4 TCP/IP stack, Roadshow. Here we can create a new network connection, edit another or put one on-line. I have made both a dial-up connection and a LAN network over Ethernet, and once you know your way around the new system are simple to set up. Copying a PPP network from a Miami or Genesis setup requires more work, as does setting up an IP-filter or IP-NAT type Internet sharing, currently by mostly editing text files. The setup uses “Connections” to name your setups, and “Interfaces” which contain information on the conduit or hardware they use. Interfaces are added during boot, to facilitate the automatic setup of LAN networks, other Connections brought up manually. For general Internet use I’ve had no problems, and even those nasty PCI WinModems are supported. Modem types supported are Generic, Lucent, Sierra and assorted Rockwell chipsets. Including K56Flex, V.90, V.92 and X.2 protocols. Once online there is even a window showing the connection stats and a graph for incoming and outgoing data streams.
IBrowse 2.3
For Internet browsing IBrowse 2.3 is included, where you can install anywhere, but it is only the 68k demo version. And the default email client, AmigaMail, is missing. Not good signs, though everybody is using either YAM or SimpleMail, Voyager or AWeb. YAM currently is still only stable at 2.4pl 68k, the new PPC is still in beta. And after using it, it shows. SimpleMail has PPC, as does new AWeb APL versions. Voyager remains like IBrowse at 68k, though sometimes does crash. On the whole, there are Internet support programs, which as usual are mostly third party utilities. And it could be like this for a while yet. As with most Amiga Internet programs, you probably picked up that the apps I have mentioned require MUI. So where does this come from and have they actually used MUI for the user interface finally? Not quite, MUI is included and it’s a native PPC version, however it’s there only to support MUI apps such as the included IBrowse and likewise, isn’t a registered version. But, we all know MUI is fairly useable as it is.

Preferential treatment
As well as items being shifted around in prefs we also have a few newbies to play with. AHI is there for the new sound system support, being able to set mixing on inputs and outputs, as it is full duplex capable. And there is even a 7.1 multichannel mode, just when you thought it would be good enough for Amiga to even have 5.1. The proposed AmigaInput is there, controlling arrangement of input devices as in the keyboard, joystick and mouse. ASL controls the position, size and other relevant things for the file, font and screenmode requesters. Why this isn’t called Requesters for instance I don’t know, as ASL is an acronym for Amiga Standard Library, the programmers API for invoking such a requester, which is not something a user needs to contend with. DOS is a new one allowing us to set stack and buffer sizes, requester time outs and also activating a new feature. Where a window will pop up if there is an unknown assign, asking if we want to assign or mount. Font is similar except now supports anti-aliased fonts and caching as well. We also have some new fonts to play with, as well as the old bitmap classics. GUI is a big one, with too much to mention. As it suggests, we can select the pen colour arrangements here, how the window border and gadgets look. How the new menu system operates, with now menus appearing under the mouse pointer, and if you like sticking on screen. We finally have the option to centre those system requesters, which I feel should have been there in 3.5 Now we see some progress. IPrefs has also been merged with GUI, along with Reaction. Funny as it seems currently, screen dragging is still in the GUI, even if we can’t do it. What we can do however is now drag windows off screen just like, ahem, Windows. We can also drag windows around solid ala OpaqueMove and in an interesting move, we can now re-size windows with the contents scaling in realtime. Quite a set in there. There is Internet, another Internet setup program, this manages the interfaces, sets up routes and gateways, hosts, DNS, Servers and Services. Very similar to the Miami and Genesis GUI’s. Next up is PopupMenu, although menus are already configured there is another prefs editor for pop menus, allowing to set font styles border thickness and spacing. There is a Presets drawer, containing complete Workbench GUI setups, known as themes. You can go a predefined resolution, or select from here separate Patterns, Pointers and Sounds. There are a few bells and whistles. Screens is another new editor, affecting what happens to newly opened screens, the closest to a mode promoter. You make a list of screen names, and what screenmode, font, GUI settings and type of palette to apply. Time looks familiar, still looking like a calendar and good as one, though new tabs has appeared, one for setting local time and the other for retrieving it off a remote server. USB will be of interest, the editor simple, specifying attachments and log reports. The rest of the preference editors I haven’t mentioned will be pretty much unchanged, if not so. But I found Serial to be missing. Pertaining to the new graphic system is Picasso96Mode, a very technical utility for setting up RTG mode parameters. Not for the light hearted, even I am afraid of it.

Device Development
Yes there has been some in the Devs department. To begin with included datatypes as standard are Amiga 8SVX, ILBM, FTXT and AmigaGuide. Plus AIFF, BMP, GIF, JPEG, PNG and TIFF.

DOSDrivers contains some features spoke about. We have icons here supporting on-the-fly writing to not only CDRW’s but DVDRW’s as well, with support for both DVD-R and DVD+R formats. Originally featured just for Mt. Rainier there is also support for drives without this, which would be using the old packet writing method, supposed to be slower than the mountain variety. Currently only SmartFileSystem is supported for writing, so this is only useful between OS4 machines for the time being, and making personal backups. With my own use I have found some problems with it. Although I can successfully format and prepare a CDRW for use, and I can copy anything to it again and again with it writing away, once I have done this the CD remains locked in the drive. I cannot eject it, even bringing up the FormatCDRW utility for preparing does no use, which includes a “Stop formatting” gadget I pressed in case that was needed. But no, that just seemed to keep going on even without writing and never came back, how much time did it need? I had to hard reset the machine in order to reset the CD drive, perhaps it was a driver situation with my drive, so this feature does need work. It can also be confusing having to work with another DOS device to write access it. Another feature touted for CD’s was access to CD tracks as files, and this appears too, literally actually. If you pop in an audio CD, with or without data, a volume will appear and all the tracks are accessible as AIFF files. On data CD’s this appears in the root directory, and in use appears to work well. What seems to be missing, apart from CacheCDFS, being replaced by a CDFileSystem is multi-session or multi-volume support. Just like Windows, only one session will show up, and will be the only one accessible. This need (of mine) should be added in the future. What does work fully is RAD, as this is included too. Even the ability to recover is still retained, and remount the device at boot, not only a soft but a hard reset still will key RAD survive reset. And you can also set it to boot as well, just as we used too. Since RAD used to use chip RAM and this is now virtually unlimited, you set RAD to be whatever size you like, and even boot off it if have the wish too. That’s good stuff. The ZIP icons are still there, as well as some usual system icons, some now are mounted when booting except being internal because of different hardware configurations being taken into consideration. We also have AUDIO we can copy to for sounds. And a new one TEXTCLIP, for storing, you guessed, it text clips. What is interesting is that ENV is now an internal mounted volume, similar to HappyENV and other utils that provided an ENV volume instead of a directory.

A heap of new KeyMaps appears in this release, in a new format too. Dozens of language and variants are supported through the keyboard, as are 16-bit UNICODE character sets. These files are mainly to convert original Amiga RAWKEY codes into an ASCII representation, so those codes are still provided for programs, automatically first converted from the input type be that a PS/2, USB or even Amiga keyboard. Two Monitor variants are supported, Radeon and Voodoo. I haven’t tested the Voodoo driver, but Radeon worked straight off the bat with my 9200SE. Previously a bit under supported under Linux, but well supported under AmigaOS, and I had much less trouble getting my card to work. Other card features such as TV out modes are yet to be supported in OS4.

A new one again related to Roadshow is NetInterfaces. These are automatically added for access at boot, and if you have a LAN set up, will appear here. Of course it is duplicated in Storage if you want to disable it at boot.

Finally, Printers, hasn’t changed much. In fact the 3.9 system is used presently, until they update it. Printing isn’t yet perfect, printing a standard text dump works fine, but anything graphical doesn’t in my own personal experience. This means that programs that just print ASCII will be fine, but others such as Wordworth, paint programs and web browsers will have problems. Others have had better luck, and even TurboPrint will function.

It’s hydromatic, Systematic
Of major importance here in the new OS is the GrimReaper. Lying in System to be used just by the...system, of course. The Grim Reaper replaces the old Software Alert and Guru Meditation requesters, and is perhaps the only program that might possibly surpass all previous attempts by third parties to improve the information and usefulness of the Amiga crash requester. The current feature set is big now, allowing you to play around in it with the new options available. The first window presented upon a crash is still a bit technical, though they have managed to include a name, and the old 68k alert number is till used along with some jargon related to what happened on the PPC side of things. I hope it contains more detailed info in the future, as we don’t all have a PowerPC or a RKM by our side to decode what those codes mean. At least I don’t anyway. Options include killing the task, rebooting, continuing, attempting to attach it to the PPC GNU debugger GDB, ignoring errors and giving more info. By going more into it will bring up more pages of information, all tabbed on top. General lists the state of all the PowerPC general and status registers including 68k emulated registers, to the right is listed more information about the crash including what OS module and function it happened in if possible. Crash Log controls the log level output, and if to send it out over serial. Stack Trace will follow through backwards what was happening in the OS to hunt the crash down, and also to generate the trace. Memory Dump will show a hex dump of memory integral to the crash region. Disassembly is interesting, showing the actual instruction that caused the crash, in PPC code. In future this will also be able to disassemble the 68k parts if the code was running in the emulator. Finally System Information will detail the machine’s hardware, what devices and libraries are active in the AmigaOS system and running tasks.

TypeManager looks to be a replacement somewhat for Intellifont, or a successor to anyway. This allows you to install external fonts you have into the system, and a fair amount are supported, so the new font engine is a fairly modern piece of software engineering. Supporting multiple Types such OpenType, TrueType, PostScript, PFR, BDF, PCF and Windows fonts, if any of those letters mean anything to you, less to me. The beauty of this is that even old 68k applications such as Wordworth are able to utilise these fonts as they still use the usual system font routines for opening and selecting these fonts.

The Shell has had a slight update, more inside than out, it seems. The new shell window now has tab completion, similar to the Linux bash, but decides on it’s own what do when a multiple choice exists and gives you no option of anything to select. Just like with OS3.9, what was done with the shell just annoyed me, so I do what I do with every update to AmigaOS. And that is to install KingCON straight away, tried, tested and true to form. Even having the same version of KingCON with no progress always seems far ahead and any official OS shell updates. Perhaps they should just give up what they are trying to do and just include all the functionality of KingCON, that way they could KISS all the problems good bye. By Keeping It Simple Stupid.

New to the System is USB support. In here we have icons for starting and stopping the USB stack. And it won’t start without it. Future OS versions are meant to support USB at boot, so this is obviously an early version. Currently, USB devices such as keyboards, mice, storage and card readers are known to work.