AmigaOS 4 developer interview: Why it endures and what the future holds

To the surprise of many, the Amiga operating system endures, with developers continuing to eye new features for the venerable OS. We caught up with AmigaOS 4's lead developer to talk about the system's survival.
Image: Amigaos.net

Image: Amigaos.net

"What we have done is take the original designs and extend them where it makes sense. For example, the original Amiga shared library system is quite functional but also totally incompatible with everything else out there. Platforms like Windows can get away with this because they have a huge army of coders willing to do the necessary work to convert everything over to their systems.

"Instead, AmigaOS introduced a new shared object [.so] system which allows for the direct compilation of shared object libraries which are quite common. Of course, we would prefer developers use Amiga shared libraries but when you are the underdog, you sometimes need to bend the rules a bit to keep developers productive. Life is too short to rewrite libraries again and again just because your OS of choice is too stubborn to adapt."

The original systems for AmigaOS 4.0 were sold by Eyetech, and Solie said used models, such as the AmigaOne-XE and MicroA1-C, are still available. "There is also the Pegasos 2 created by bplan out of Germany which can run AmigaOS 4.1," he says.

Image: Amigaos.net

"New hardware models are currently made by ACube Systems. Their models include the AmigaOne 500 (Sam460ex based), Sam440ep and Sam440ep-flex. I use an AmigaOne 500 as my primary system and it is quite capable.

"A-EON Technology recently starting shipping its flagship model the AmigaOne X1000. The X1000 currently runs a preliminary version of AmigaOS. Demand for the X1000 was so great that A-EON needed it shipped as soon as possible. If all goes well, the X1000 will be the first Amiga system ever to support multiple cores as well."

In October Hyperion Entertainment announced an AmigaOS-based netbook. "Nothing much has been heard since then regarding the netbook but we do know it already runs AmigaOS."

"There are all sorts of rumours of additional hardware platforms and form factors from these companies," Solie says. "Hyperion is always on the lookout to increase its user base of course so any new hardware platforms that come along are seriously considered.

"You can still purchase brand new hardware and software from a small network on dealers. Most dealers deal with both the original Amiga hardware as well as the new stuff.

"It is a pretty tight community of users, dealers and developers."

The process for companies wanting to develop Amiga-friendly hardware normally involves a vendor contacting Hyperion when they have a new idea and negotiating an agreement to have AmigaOS ported. "The hardware providers usually provide the firmware; Hyperion provides the HAL [hardware abstraction layer] and of course the OS itself," Solie says. "Hardware drivers are written by either side of the equation or even third party contractors and volunteers.

"Hyperion's developers have provided input into new hardware developments in the past. Ultimately, it is up to the hardware developers to do what they think is best of course."

The fans

Although the system remains closed source, since Solie took the role of AmigaOS Development Team Lead back in late 2010 he has made an effort to build a sense of community around the project, increasing communication between the AmigaOS team, the system's user base and other developers.

"Up until recently, all communication was rather one way, with community websites picking up the slack," he says. "Now, we have a development blog, informational website, a support forum and a documentation wiki." These resources are primarily maintained by volunteers, but Hyperion provides servers and bandwidth. "The Amiga community is what keeps AmigaOS alive and kicking," Solie says.

There "have been plans" to move to a semi-open or open source model for development. "However, given the complex history of source code ownership this isn't something you can rush into," Solie says.

"In the meantime, I have been trying hard to increase the number of developers and their involvement any way I can," he adds. "For example, some third party developers are given special access to the development team for questions and support."

Image: Amigaos.net

Solie's first Amiga was the Amiga 1000. It was the first Amiga released by Commodore; it debuted in 1985, running a Motorola 68000 processor. "My last 68k-based Amiga was an A3000 which I used while earning my bachelor’s degree," he says. "For my final project I actually developed an OSI-based protocol stack which ran on two Amiga 3000s and used Ethernet. I remember the Ethernet cards costing a fortune back then."

"My first PowerPC-based Amiga system was an AmigaOne-XE by Eyetech. I was asked to join the beta testing team by Amiga Inc. back in the day. Over time, I took on more responsibility and had the chance to work on the OS source code itself.

"I was then asked by Hyperion to become the 'AmigaOS Development Team Lead' (a title I made up) to herd the cats if you will. I don't get a lot of time to code these days but I am still enjoying the experience."

Solie has heard of "pockets" of people using AmigaOS 4 for commercial work, but these days Amigas are primarily used by hobbyists. "It used to be that production studios used Amiga systems to create cutting edge graphics. Those days are long gone. This is purely for the fun of it now."

"I find primarily long-term fans still invest in AmigaOS and the Amiga hobby in general," he adds. "We also see some new customers returning to try out AmigaOS on the brand new PowerPC hardware platforms which are still available. Since the launch of the AmigaOS website, there have been a lot of people poking around and some go so far as to invest in some hardware.

"Once in a while we also see a brand new customer. Somebody completely new to the AmigaOS, i.e. young, and looking for something different. Since AmigaOS lacks applications, new guys can create a few applications and be treated like a rock star.

"There is a bit of money to be made as well in terms of donations and bounties. I think it is the instant fame and attention new user and developers receive is what convinces them to stay — again, the fans.

"The main draw is simplicity. AmigaOS is simple enough to be understandable and controllable without having to resort to experts all the time."

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Comments

Bardamer

1

Only Amiga Makes It Possible !

Davide

2

Very nice read. Keep up with the good work.

I use AmigaOS. The system is fast and responsive.
"Remember when computing was fun?

Jim

3

What a load of BS. A-EON hardly shipped immediately, they announced the product would be ready by Summer 2010 and then it was a year and a half late. It was even a year late for people who preordered!

OS4 itself is almost ten years out the gate but is still in beta. Buggy, slow, crashy, just go read the forums at amigaworld.net. OS4 doesn't even support USB2 yet nor does it have 3D drivers.

The flagship X1000 was originaly pitched as being a game changer because it has an XMOS chip on board and also a proprietary slot connected, but despite having been in development now for over two years OS4 doesn't support these features. OS4 also doesn't even support the typical onboard hardware such as audio, graphics, and networking. Instead the user must purchase PCI cards supported by OS4 to offload these functions. Not to mention that this X1000 system costs over $3000 USD and is slower than a $300 PC you can pick just about anywhere.

Don't even get started on the total lack of software! Virtually ALL of it is Linux ports. There is really only one choice when it comes to a web browser, OWS. The OS4 dev team tried to port FireFox but that effort (called Timberwolf) so far has fallen rather flat, resulting in a crashy and slow application that after three years is barely out of the alpha phase. Remember FireFox 4? You will when you use Timberwolf because that's what it's based on.

You want Amiga? Look up AROS, MorphOS, and UAE. AROS is an open source AmigaOS workalike which can run natively on your PC or under Linux. MorphOS is a commercial effort which also runs on PPC systems and unlike OS4 has solid developer support in the form of actual software, not empty promises. UAE is the venerable Amiga emulator which can run on a regular PC, Mac, etc. Any and all of these options have better support and reliability than OS4, and will cost you thousands less to stand up.

Kamel Biskri

4

Nice and honest interview thanks for that.
A former Amiga user waiting for a cheap machine to comeback.

Kamel

In other words, jim is a MorphOS fanboy.

5

Because he invested in a pegasos back then.
MorphOS isn't AmigaOS and isn't any better then AmigaOS, AROS and MorphOS has even less developers and the claim thats it more reliable than AmigaOS makes you look as retarded as a hipster Apple fanboy, why is it more reliable ? because it is according to you or just because it so happens that you don't have AmigaOS ?
Oh, UAE ? come on....

If you don't like Amiga, then you just could say it like this, "I prefer MorphOS over AmigaOS however" instead going AVGN/Adolf Hitler all over it.

Michael Schauber

6

AROS and MorphOS are the more advanced Amiga systems in the market. OS4 offers nothing more than a glorified UAE clone.

kimmok

7

@jim
>Buggy, slow, crashy, just go read the forums at amigaworld.net.

Mine is not too crashy. A little slow on 667Mhz without L2 on heavy crunch, but super fast on things like disk I/O.

> OS4 doesn't even support USB2

It does.

>yet nor does it have 3D drivers.

It does. But not full open GL yet and not for r700 and newer radeon cards.

> XMOS chip on board and also a proprietary slot connected, but despite having been in development now for over two years OS4 doesn't support these features.

It does. Even though only first developer versions of support SW is out.

>OS4 also doesn't even support the typical onboard hardware such as audio, graphics, and networking.

It does. But not on x1000 yet.

>Don't even get started on the total lack of software! Virtually ALL of it is Linux ports.

Not true. Even though more original SW is wanted.

>The OS4 dev team tried to port FireFox but that effort (called Timberwolf) so far has fallen rather flat, ...

I use Timberwolf only to access my network NAS GUI as it's the only browser on any AmigalikeOS that works with Lacie NAS dashboard (I have tried also with MOS and AROS).

What is needed next for AOS4:
- more SW
- more drivers
- SMP
- cheaper 1GHz+ HW

SLayeRDK

8

More info on AmigaOS 4
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AmigaOS_4
More info on AROS
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AROS_Research_Operating_System
More info MorphOS
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MorphOS

It would be nice if some commenters on anything amiga threads would be more civil.

Plexus

9

Ehhh People complain but they not use the actually system they complain about..
My A1k X1000 is Fast, robust and very funny with AmigaOS4.1 u5.

not like people describe before, buggy slow etc.

what is wrong with some people today??? too little pussy or what?

Frederick

10

AmigaOS4 is quite stable on my Sam440, it's even very fast considering the hardware

Sure AmigaOS lacks a proper memory protection cause its original structure (only some internal parts are protected under AmigaOS4) but the same problems afflict other Amiga like system aswell ..

The same problem about software (not so mutch) but as hobby system is quite usable and funny to use

AliveMOon

11

I have a problem with me!
Difficult to get OS4 compatible computer!
I use the machine is still classic 68K!
Computer games, general word processing, graphics, video edit, e-mail, etc.
Works well for a long time.
PowerPC to be that well-run modern applications.

ArosLoverBoy

12

AROS is UAE emulator clone written by Janus, and is rally slow in real hardware and WinUAE, how is that for trolling :-p, get a life people, we go around drag etch other down…

revs

13

BME kill amiga dreams

Akzsif

14

AmigaOS it is historically Amiga operating system. MorphOS and AROS are just only clones. Both of these systems were created to help Amiga but after more than 10 years of development brought only community split. Amiga has no chance without cooperation all sides of community. People responsible for creation projects like AROS and MorphOS are egoists. They want to be part of Amiga world but they don't help Amiga at all. There is no sense create two Amiga-like systems with all disadvantages of genuine AmigaOS. Instead of one good AmigaOS all of these developers give us three outdated operating systems from previous century. Community should send to hell all of these developers. Well organized community should speak about one modern AmigaOS, not two clones and one system created in spare time. Amiga today is obsolete and Amiga community today is obsolete. There no future for Amiga, is it?

NinjaDNA

15

Nice to see AmigaOS/Amiga getting some publicity, Hyperion AEON and ACube and many developers and fans are keeping the Amiga alive ,and thats a very good thing :)

sadf

16

Ordered me an Amiga os4 machine (Sam 460) after reading this. i dont care if the amiga is old school, i like computing because it's fun, and so, i like alternative os.Looking forward to post from my sam next time!;)

Mike Brantley

17

Thanks for the well-written and informative interview with Mr. Sollie. I'm a longtime fan of Amiga computers but mostly the Amiga operating system, and I'm thrilled that the latter, at least, is still alive and under development. I get great enjoyment and productivity from creative applications from both modern times and the classic era with my two AmigaOS4 computers based on ACube's Sam440 motherboards. I'm very much looking forward to owning -- and will very soon -- the comparitive powerhouse that is the X1000 from A-Eon. Don't get me wrong; Mac OS X, Linux and even Windows7 get some of the daily grind ground up here. But my AOS machines are the computers I enjoy most. Keep this party rocking, folks.

Robert

18

Excellent review. Good to see the AmigaOS alive and kicking in 2012.

AmigaOS 4.1 update 5 is very fast, stable and more importantly is fun to use! :-)

Peter

19

Interesting! I ordered ten X1000 systems to my company today!

treke

20

I'm following the AmigaOS's life since the early nineties (and i learned about its former life). I owned one A1200 with an MTec 030 accelerator board and it was good even for my Computer Engineering univ studies at the time. In 2000 I have put the A1200 to the shelf.
As a SW engineer, having architected some SW systems, i like the Amiga OS concept, which was designed by Car S, AFAIK. It has very good responsibility assignment of the core components and the definition of types of those components (libraries, devices, resources, etc ...). Though, the messaging system could have been designed better - with creation of Msg boxes which could evolve to be protected now.
But - all in all It has foundation that still can be built upon, IMHO.

So why i do not own one next gen Amiga when I'm so found of the technology ?
A: No solid basis. The Sam460 which has a good price/perf ratio (to amiga land) lacks some drivers, so i won't consider it till they are ready. I just wonder that noone from the dev team considers that ?! Should be prio nr.1, IMHO. Remember the fat microsoft guy screaming "developers, developers, developers,.." on video ? You won't get a mass of developers till you provide them a complete product, especially for that price.

Other than that, it looks sufficient to me for development. Has a browser and usable SDK - from what i heard.

tombernd

21

I really liked the Amiga a lot and stuck with it way beyond the Commodore breakdown until 1998. But now there are at least two very good Windows alternatives available (Linux, Mac OS X) and that's why I don't see myself working on an Amiga ever again.

Picture Booth Adelaide

22

A family member linked me to this resource.

Thanks for the details.

rATdrAgOn

23

Woohooo!

You can't argue with believers.

And it is true.
OS4 is a blame of all things, you known as an Amiga. It is wrong fundamentally. Morphos (hell, yeah), and AROS is the way.
And they're not clones, they are the only way out for Amiga to the future. :)
I own some Morphos and OS4.x machine. I use them daily basis. Morphos is far more usable, than os4.x. Period.

Cheers
- a true blue troll :) - made by Hyperion, and teh rael Amigaaa(h) (C)(R)(TM) way of the computing. :)

vox

24

Great interview, explains a lot, thanks Steven!
AmigaOS 4 is not e.g. up to Linux but is way ahead OS 3.9, and it should improve more

Howard

25

I still find the basic structure of Amiga OS superior to the major operating systems out there. Windows with its stupid registry and the way it handles disks and devices, and Linux tied to gather with huge numbers of scripts, with layer upon layer of complexities. With the success of Android, I've never understood why such a simple, logical system, and of such a very small footprint, like Amiga OS, wouldn't be ideal in today's computing market. I guess it would take someone with vision and some cash to make it happen.

David Payne

26

"..Instead of one good AmigaOS all of these developers give us three outdated operating systems from previous century..." One could replace "AmigaOS" with *nix but who says this about Unix, BSDs & GNU/Linuces, despite much older origins than Amiga OS?

In both cases efforts have been wasted re-doing things, but the ability for developers to fork off free software projects & do their own thing also reduces the waste of conflict.

Personally, I believe the feeble hands of various claimants of intellectual property rights have kept all Amiga like systems out of the mainstream. They could have had a smaller piece of much bigger pies if they had not always prioritized legal action.

And Amiga OS should have been on smaller platforms before such hardware was able to run Microsoft or *nix OSs. An Amiga desktop is a niche in what's becoming a backwater.

Vojin Vidanovic

27

Interview is very OK and shows many ups and downs on a rocky road. Its not always Hyperions fault on delays, since they didnt fund the development until end of court case and couldn`t make decisions alone and Amiga Inc hold very littke interest to OS4 until their AmigaDE failed to materialize.
MorphOS is way more optimized because is longer in development, AROS is cross platform like Linux and OS4 is catchimg up fast, that is I will say. I use AROS on PC, OS4 on SAM and am getting PowerBook to run MorphOS

paolo besser

28

@Howard: "With the success of Android, I've never understood why such a simple, logical system, and of such a very small footprint, like Amiga OS, wouldn't be ideal in today's computing market". Just three motivations: lack of SMP, lack of protected memory, lack of common development tools, libraries and middleware like Java and mono/.net. I love AmigaOS simplicity (which is REAL simplicity, not the one that hides complexity with a nicer GUI) and I miss it on current mainstream operating systems, but the only place where I see some industrial application for amigoid systems is the embedded market, where a small footprint OS with well-written applications (that won't crash just because one has written in the wrong memory space) can deal with low powered configurations. Take the Raspberry Pi, for instance.

Arexx

29

"Take the Raspberry Pi, for instance. "
Oh no, not again.

Brian

31

Actually there was as defacto protected mode. I don't recall offhand the package name (my copies of the AmigaFora libraries are in storage) but if you had a 68030/040 equipped Amiga it implemented virtual memory, complete with protection, by patching the hell out of the interrupt vector table. Message passing was patched to do copies instead but there wasn't much, if any, speed hit due to the faster memory. You also had protection on the cheap by using Enforcer and MungWall but it really didn't help much besides letting you know how/why some program crashed due to memory violations. I used to have those both running 24/7 as it was another test I made aside from virus-checking on uploaded software for the Amiga Fora.

Talk about some ancient history ;-). Perhaps I'll take a look at rejoining the community.

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