Welcome to 3rd text interview. Today's guest is Retrofan, guy behind Real AmiKit project. This is a version of AmiKit for real Amiga hardware. From this talk you will learn about Fernando, his inspirations and a lot of stuff about classic Amiga world.
1. Your first contact with computers? You were always interested in customization of operating systems?
Well, first of all thanks a lot for your interest in this system and for helping publicizing it to more Amiga users...
My first contact with computers was like in 1981. My father always liked to look for new watches or the new improved calculators and then he bought me a Casio PB-100. It was able to run Basic. I was like 11/12 years old and I used to read things on magazines and I liked to read about the Vic20 and so -he also bought me later the Casio PB-110 in 1983 that I keep working-. Two years later the Spectrum 48K and the Commodore 64 were in the market and then a new subject was added at school: Computing.
We had several Commodore 64 computers in the class to learn Basic. I started and I enjoyed that a lot and then I asked my parents to have a Commodore 64. It was very expensive, so they bought me a Spectrum 48k, the rubber keys one.
I'm very grateful to them for that.
That had to be like in 1983/4. I have this photo from 1986 http://eab.abime.net/showthread.php?p=757996
I liked to write pokes and small programs in my Speccy.
2. Your first Amiga? Type and configuration? Which Amiga are you using now?
Lol, I didn't have an Amiga back in the day, I'm a newcomer, sorry.
How did I start with Amigas?
Five years ago I saw I could use a C64 as a keyboard using a Keyrah. I bought a broken one, but then I wasn't able to get rid of the internal board, so I started googling and after getting some chips and soldering, the C64 was running fine, so I started using it. Later a friend of mine told me as a joke I should get an Amiga I had to search on Wikipedia what it really was. Then I fell in love with it so I bought a complete packed Desktop Dynamite A1200 for 50 pounds. It had included a Hawk ramboard, and I started using a preconfigured HD using AmiSYS.
I'm actually using an A1200 with an ACA1230/56, an Indivision AGA MKII, an internal CD rom, a RapidRoad and I use an Orinoco Gold card with Wifi from the Pcmcia using RoadShow. I have installed a Prisma Megamix card that is beta still.
I recently sold a desktop A1200 with BPPC and Bvision and many other things: http://eab.abime.net/showthread.php?t=58868
3. How did you discover passion for patching AmigaOS 3? It was before or after "meeting" AmiKit for WinUAE?
After using the Hawk for a while I got the opportunity to get a Blizzard 1260, and it was too fast for running the CWB packs I was installing then. I was using AmiKit in the PC and I saw a guide about how to install it for real having RTG and so, but I just started trying to use it with my specs.
4. Your inspirations? Is it plant to bring the most advanced version of AmigaOS 3.x for a classic hardware?
My inspiration is just my tastes, what I like. It has to look great and it has to run the fastest the better. I like AmiKit in general, but I like to add a lot of things and also to give more options with MorpheuZ so you can select with some clicks what setup you like more. I'm always open to suggestions and I like to search for new programs. In fact sometimes those programs just don't exist, but I'm very grateful to have been answered not only with how-to's but also with complete programs or scripts, or sometimes with just small changes. I always have to give thanks to a lot of people in every update. The first thing that made AKReal possible was icon.library by Peter Keunecke, but about help in many things, nobody like Thomas Rapp.
5. Tell us something about your work? How all of this happened? Did you start with AmiKit on WinUAE and then tune it for real hardware, probably yes? This work was made on real Amiga or in WinUAE?
It all started for real. This is an example:
It didn't exist an improved icon.library then so I couldn't use png icons, they came later. Dopus5 -Magellan- wasn't open source by then even, so I had to search for the program and updates.
Those were the times when Cammy was very active in the forums and explaining for example how to use the Fullpalette prefs or how to use ImageStudio or many things. I learned a lot with her. I miss her being so active.
Thanks a lot to Cammy and also to Rebel_CD32 for a lot of things..
Later I learned how to use CyberbugFixAga; a patch to save chip memory that helps a lot.
6. How hard was it to "port" so advanced system on classic hardware? Do you have some beta testers? It's a lot of possible Amiga configurations.
I had some at first, four at some point even. But the idea is to install each time less new different things to AKReal, and at the end just add the AmiKit for Pc updates (the ones that can run). I don't have much time actually, so I go adding things one by one, so I don't need but to try them a lot. When I install a new program I tell the bugs to the developer and he tries to fix them if there are any that I find. For example I recently found a bug with MUI4 while using the Scalos preferences (yes, there are a lot of configurations), and they have now fixed that. I'm actually (today) asking for another MUI option that I would like to have.
7. What was necessary to change in AmiKit to bring it to real hardware? Jan is developing AmiKit for the years. Did he help you with your work?
Yes, but mainly at first, when I knew less. He is also a very busy man with a lot of work and versions in his hands. I like that he likes what I do, we share a lot in common, we both love AmiKit, but remember he developed it, we all should thank him for that, no matter what version of it you use.
8. Probably you have a big knowledge of AmigaOS and patches for it? It was process that you learned by yourself - somethings like learning by doing?
Hehe. YES. That's rare, but I had no idea about writing a script even, so at first I started just making changes and googling for answers or asking in forums. When I first looked into MorpheuZ I coudn't understand anything. Now you can see it's like three times larger than the original. I also developed for example Better Config by myself. It lets you install a better config to have for example RTG and many configurations if you've got or you just emulate a Picasso IV Zorro III. I'm sure it can be improved, but it works perfectly well. In AKReal there are also a lot of small scripts that make it all work everywhere. They are are simple (well, or not) things one by one, but they all make it to be great.
When I first wanted to share my AmiKit Real version I had no idea about how I could share all of the files so the user could install them in his Amiga; I couldn't share a complete working system as there are a lot of copyrighted files that OS3,9 installs. Then I had the idea (by my own) to delete all of the existing files of OS3.9 and then make an installer for Windows!. You coudn't use it with Dopus, only extracting the files on Windows as I say. Later, in the first or second update I had the help to make an installer that works for real in the Amiga. I finally changed the update system and with Jan's help now it is integrated in the internet Live Update, so AKReal checks for updates everytime you boot, and it will download and install them with a couple of clicks ;).
Also at first, the very first days, I had the idea that it would only be nice for running it using just 16 colors. Then I was told and I realized that the system looks just much better using the palettes I use (actually PeterK's one), no matter the amount of colors you use. Of course the more the better.
Better Config and some other programs also detect what amount of colors you are using and then they change the images they use for it to look better. For example the MorpheuZ image when you open it, the IBrowse preferences change or the AmiKit logo image when you boot.
When I don't know how to make something I ask others, like Thomas Rapp that is always there teaching me or sometimes just making it for me, as there are a lot of things I couldn't do with my knowledge. That's how the Amiga comunity works, you only have to be patient. It's the same with other developers: if they like what you are trying to do they will help you a lot.
Also everytime I want to add any program I have to ask for the permission. Everytime I've contacted the developer I've obtained the permission. For example for Personal Paint I couldn't get the permission, but thanks to Mike Battilana from Cloanto and making an installer using WGet now you are able to download and install it using Ken's icons with a couple of clicks if you've got just an internet connection.
Now talking about Ken Lester, he also helped me to create a complete set of his icons that I remapped to use 16 colors images instead (they load much much faster). I've got an installer for them and also for the Mattahan's ones. Mattahan also gave the permission to use his png images that I adapted one by one. These icon packs are available to download from the AmiKit site and they are thought to be installed over a freshly installed AKReal.
9. Few months ago source code of AmigaOS 3.1 leaked. It is not legally to use it. Maybe so old system should be released as open source?
It would be great, but I don't thing that would happen, so stay with what you've got. Of course as I say, that would be great.
10. What do you think about AROS Vision (68k)? Theoretically it should be a better solution for real Amigas than heavy patched old AmigaOS 3.x.
It will be great when we have the A1200 Vampire V2. It can be the future of course for some people, but a lot of users like the Amiga only as it was, so better to have it just as another option. I don't think people will use AROS as a Windows or Mac substitute, and neither to his vintage WB. It is actually very difficult to introduce just an improved OS3.9 like AmiKit is, so it can be more difficult to convince people to run AROS. Maybe if the hardware allows and in a future, who knows?
Also I wouldn't say heavy patched as you say but heavy tried instead.
11. Do you use any of next generations Amiga systems? I'm taking about AmigaOS 4, MorphOS or AROS. For sure any of this could be inspiration to make AmigaOS 3.x better?
I've only used OS4,1 for Classics in the real thing, and when I got to the part where it has to use an emulation for playing games I just thought I was losing time.
12. You are very experienced in patching classic AmigaOS. In your opinion what is better: version 3.1 or 3.9? What is better to make your own perfect AmigaOS?
OS 3.9 is the best AmigaOS out there. There are some Boing Bags that make it better, but only the two first ones are official, so we only can give support to them. AmiKit and AKReal also add a lot of improvements in the Startup-Sequence that make it run better. In my distro I also added options to use an ACA accelerator better/faster.
I also like to give support to new important hardware. I talked with Jens Schönfeld from Individual Computers and he allowed me to give the option to install the drivers for the Indivision AGA MKII. I also added some great configurations for it that you can install using MorpheuZ in AKReal. It has a full screen SuperPlus 800x600 configuration that I made with the help of Ratte and Hansel and also a HighGFX one using 800x600 too.
In my next update I will also add another nice one.
13. Are you interested in new hardware for Amiga 68k? Now we have some impressive projects like: Sonnet PowerPC or Vampire for A600. Are you "fan" of powerful 68k or maybe PowerPC option? What about Amiga Reloaded?
The Vampire is the best thing that has happened in years in the Amiga world. I'm a fan of it, but I'll have to wait for the A1200's version. I believe that AKReal is the OS it has to use. It is actually working well in the A600 as Kipper2k has told me.
PowerPC will be nice for people using real hardware, and the Amiga Reloaded is nice for people that want a new board if you have a lot of money and not an old working one.
14. As we talked: Vampire (FPGA) II for Amiga 600 is coming. Do you think Real AmiKit can be more usable on this? For now, I have tested it on my 060 and it's not so fast as it should be. Of course it's only my opinion.
I don't actually have an 060, but you can see how fast it runs with an ACA30/56 in my videos. I know from Kipper2k that AKReal is actually running very well on his A600. I can't tell how compatible it will be though, as it wasn't designed for ECS. They are also implementing RTG with Picasso, but as I don't have an A600 or the Vampire I can't help as much as I wish.
I'm sure that when I have a Vampire 1200 I will implement their Picasso drivers and it will be incredible, the best and fastest Amiga using RTG, playing MP3's, radio streams, games and all what you can think of..
IMHO AKReal will be the best OS to use the Vampire of course.
15. Continuing performance and stability topic. Have you got some tips and tricks that should be considered before installing your product on the real Amiga? Real AmiKit has features like PNG icons, AfAOS and many more. It's nice touch, but it's reducing performance.
Yes, they all reduce performance. Do not use AmiKit unless you've got a good 030. There are anyway some things you can change to make it faster. I made a post about that: http://eab.abime.net/showpost.php?p=1023470&postcount=425
16. Do you become some donations for your work? And one more: should our developers try to sell for small money apps and games to get some cash for hobby?
Yes, I think developers should receive something just to keep some interest in making new things. In my case I'm not interested in the money, but I know that when you make a donation it is just because people really like what you are trying. So I'm not corncerned in receiving 5€ or much more, I prefer having five 5€ donations than one of 100.
I haven't had many donations, but a few ones, maybe 5 in total in three years of developement. I just need them to know that there are people that Really like it. That's what makes me happy.
17. Our community is divided: AOS4, MOS, AROS and classic Amiga? Can we reunite again? Maybe FPGA (Vampire cards) are turning point for community?
I don't think the Vampire can use OS4 or Morphos by now. They are thinking in adding AROS and that would be nice I think. Maybe in a near future it will be possible to use the others.
I don't know, I prefer OS3.x, but of course it is nice to have more options to play with. If they could run extremely fast then maybe some users would like to use an old Amiga for daily use, but that is still far ahead.
18. AmigaOne X5000 is coming. What do you think? And what do you think about A1222 Tabor? AmigaOS 4 under WinUAE is a great success. Maybe it's better solution - powerful Intel with emulation instead of expensive hardware?
I better don't talk about what I don't know, and I can't tell till I see at last some reviews. About OS4 I don't use it much as my PC's are slow for that under emulation. The computer with which I'm writing this now is a Commodore 64 with a mini ITX inside: It was the first one fully working ever.
19. For new users of Amiga: what Amiga can you advice? Is better to use one of pre installed systems or build it from scratch?
I built two Amigas from scratch, by parts, as it was cheaper a couple of years ago, but actually I think it is better to buy a complete and reccaped A1200 if you can find any not so expensive. Later you can get a cheap ACA from Individual Computers if you are just planning in playing games.
About making your OS from scratch you can always start with OS3.1 and try adding things, or you can also install BetterWB by Gulliver -nice distro- and also go on adding new things. That's up to the users tastes. It's nice to investigate how things work, what they need and how they behave, fast or slow, more or less chip ram use, looking better against running faster. That's what I like to make; I don't waste much time playing games but improving the OS, that's what I like more.
20. Future plans? Is it hard to maintaining Real AmiKit? To get updates new patches and more?
The next update will take a while, I'm slowly adding things and I'm also trying a Prisma Megamix board that is beta still. I would like to add an option to use it if you've got it.
21. Our future? Community and future of Amiga? We are getting older, is there any chance to put Amiga in more usable form?
That depends on every user. I think the average user wants the Amiga for playing games and to listen to some mods. If he finds he can make that under a wonderful environment then many of them can like it. Anyway there will always be a lot of users that just want the OS3.0/1 they used back in the day, it is a matter of wanting it as it was or wanting to get the most of it.
Greetings to all of the Amiga users, all of the community all over the world. Take your old miggy from the box and use it. If you join some Amiga forum like English Amiga Board, Amiga.org and others, or maybe some local forum, you'll remind the great times you had using one of the best computers ever. If you don't have the real thing try using WinUAE or other emulators.
Thanks to all of you too for keeping using it. Keep the Amiga spirit alive.