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scrottie (4167)

scrottie
  scott@slowass.net
http://slowass.net/

My email address is scott@slowass.net. Spam me harder! *moan*

Journal of scrottie (4167)

Wednesday August 25, 2010
03:09 PM

Amiga Ethernet

[ #40515 ]

Yesterday, I got my X-Surf 3cc Ethernet card I broke down and ordered for my Amiga 3000. There's some backstory about serial consoles, Sparcs, and the cluster, but it's not important. The 3000 was also packaged as a Unix machine, running a pretty standard port of SysV. It was the first Amiga standard with an MMU and SCSI. It'll also kick out 1280x resolution graphics at 2bpp. Commodore sold an Ethernet board for it along with Unix on tape.

The X-Surf is really an ISA card, probably NE2000, mounted in a little carrier. There are confusingly few pins attached and the logic on the carrier amounts to a few small 7400 series chips and one slightly larger chip that also couldn't possibly have enough logic on it to do what it does. And then just to convince you that your nuts, it adds an IDE port that alone has more lines than the one little adapter chip does. The Amiga really is a machine for psychopaths, by psychopaths. Everyone sits around all of the time trying to out psycho everyone else. Just take a look at the demo scene for the thing. Amiga virtually defined the demo scene.

I have/had Amiga OS 3.9 on the thing. 3.9 is post-Commodore death. Someone bought the rights and sold them and someone bought them and sold them and so on until a sue happy band of self righteous ruffians managed to convince the remaining user base buying the rights at garage sale prices entitled them to be king of the squalid kingdom so that they could go around lynching anyone else trying to do anything for the Amiga. Anyway, OS 3.9 is pretty recent as far as Amiga stuff goes, even though it's ten years old. Most people stopped at 3.1. 3.9 only came out on CD-ROM. The 3000 doesn't have a bay but it does have SCSI, so the CD-ROM, when needed, gets hung off the side with the case open. I could also set up an enclosure and plug it into the back. I could also probably buy one of those.

X-Surf's stuff did not want to install.

X-Surf actually had an installer, which is impressive. AmigaOS 3.x has a scripting language for installers and an interpreter for that. This installer gave you the choice of two TCP stacks. AmigaOS 3.9 comes with a TCP stack but you can still swap it out. It's a bit Windows 3.1-like in that regard. The options are GENESiS/AmiTCP and Miami. GENESiS, the AmiTCP configurerer and dialer that cames with AmiTCP, was shipped in a version requiring libraries not included in AmigaOS3.9 so it wouldn't run. AmiTCP would, and AmiTCP was on the HD, though buried a bit. Miami is shareware/crippleware. It required the same library, MagicUI, that I didn't have.

I spent hours sorting out what required what and what I did and didn't have and how these various packages worked and fit together. That's ignoring the device driver for the ethernet card which is straight forward. The Amiga has a directory for libraries (which end in .library; the Unix terseness is missing from AmigaOS even though a lot of the feel is there). AmigaOS3.9 also won't read iso9660 filesystem CDs. Perhaps some BoingBag update fixes that but the BoingBag updates themselves are large .lha archives. I'm avoiding plugging the serial line into a Unix machine and speaking kermit or zmodem or something to transfer stuff. I've been down that road. Eventually I burned AmigaSYS4, a version of AmigaOS3.9 with lots of add-ons and the various BoingBag updates on it, stick it in the Amiga, and was able to steal MUI off of it and get both TCP stacks running.

Amiga programmers love to do ports of Unix software and add GUIs. They've been doing this for ages. They've had gcc since the early ages of gcc, and I ran the Amylaar MUD driver on AmigaOS 1.3 to do development locally, also in the dark ages. Kicking around on aminet.net from the Amiga, I see PHP, MySQL, Apache, bittorrent, Python, bind9, samba, VNC, and all sorts of stuff. No one ports just the client. If they port the client, they port the server, too. In the case of AmiTCP, the suite of utilities you'd expect are there, such as host, finger, traceroute, and so on, but to configure TCP/IP, you run a little GUI program and it asks you questions. It took Linux ages to get to this point and Amiga was doing it long before. One of the extras on the Extras disc, even as far back as 1.3, was a version of emacs with drop down menus.

Completely unsurprisingly, the 16mhz 68030 processor running AWeb (which does some JavaScript) is vastly faster than firefox on my 1.2ghz Centrino Linux machine. Amiga programmers do not write slow software. It's entirely against their nature. Threading is fantastic. It'll do downloads, render several jpgs in the page, update the page layout as HTML comes across, and never lose snappy UI responsiveness. On firefox, I yank on the scrollbar only to have it ignore me and snap back, or else the scroll bar doesn't move at all, or the whole thing just goes away for a few heart sinking seconds, making me wonder if it just crashed.

My ambition is to get a desk in a shared office space going and stick this baby there with an updated video card that does high res, high bit depth graphics. If I'm willing to start replacing and upgrading chips on the motherboard, I can take the thing up to a gig of RAM, too, and NetBSD supports it if I ever decide I want to see how firefox runs on a 16mhz processor. What I'm really hoping for is someone to take the latest Coldfire chips from Motorola's spin off, Freescale, and do an 800mhz accelerator card for the Amiga 2000/3000/4000. That would RULE.

-scott

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