Amithlon

So I have AmigaOS XL now (QNX and Amiga XL/Amithlon cds).  Using some old PCs I had (one and old AMD Slot 1 900 Mhz CPU and one a “not as old” AMD Athlon 64 X2 3800+) I ran a few attempts at installing Amithlon.  I wasn’t having much luck with the newer 64 X2, the graphics card was just a no go (PCIE, 2 GB ATI something) so I pulled out the really old PC that had been sitting under my desk unused for awhile.  Interestingly, this old PC had a Soundblaster Live PCI card inside.  I was able to get Amithlon up and running on this system though I hadn’t figured out installing AHI yet (no sound), vesa video and the network card wasn’t supported.  Well, it may have been…I still hadn’t figured out the whole driver modules and kernel 3.10 or kernel4 vs. the stock kernel (emubox.gz) or new_emubox.gz kernel.  Oh well….it has that real Amiga feel, it’s hardware  vs. emulated and it’s OS 3.9.   I burn a few CDs with some utilities, primarily SysInfo as I’d like to see how it compares to WinUAE I was running on my primary Windows 10 PC (i7 @ 3.5 Ghz, 32 GB ram).  SysInfo runs…..and it isn’t that far behind in dhrystones.  Wait a minute, this is an old AMD Slot 1 900 Mhz CPU with 1 GB of ram, running near the same speed as my i7 system!  Ok…time to work on making it better.  eBay.  What can I say….they have nearly anything you want and sometimes it’s cheaper than you’d expect (and sometimes it’s way more than you’d expect).  Lets get a PCI compatible network card ($5.00) and a compatible video card  ($20, a GeForce2 MX400 64MB SDR 4x AGP).  Reading more,  I found that kernel 3.10 from Gary Colville would be the best choice as it supports the Nvidia card and the SB Live card.  The network card is supported with all the kernels.   Wow…accelerated graphics are sooooo much faster than vesa, and having the ability to go online is making this Amithlon system even more enjoyable.  But….the speed!  Such an old CPU and it runs AmigaOS this well….I need to make it faster.   What is available in Slot 1 above 900 Mhz…..well not much, actually pretty much nothing.  Okay…I have this other PC with the X2 3800+, let’s get it working.  Wait….kernel4 from Milan is supposed to fully support this motherboard.  Audio, Network, IDE and SATA.   I need to replace the video card…no AGP slots.  Time to pick up a PCI card…what do the forums recommend….an Nvidia FX 5200, so I grab one of those from eBay.  128 MB PCI card, maybe I can figure out Picasso96Mode and get better resolutions, like maybe my monitors native resolution of 1680×1050.  I still was on kernel 3.10 at this time as I had luck with getting things working with it and so I moved the Soundblaster Live card and the Network card over.   I just want the greater speed.  I had issues with the FX 5200 card, the connector required a breakout cable to give you VGA or DVI or whatever so I then looked to just get the best card possible.  For PCI based cards under Amithlon, it lead me to the Nvidia FX 5500 256 MB card (though 128 MB may actually be better…since the entire video card ram has to sit in the AmigaOS addressable memory space).  Another trip to eBay and another card arrives in the mail.  I had two 2 GB chips in this PC so they had to come out and two 512 MB chips needed to go in.  Wow….old memory (not too old memory anyway) is extremely cheap on, you guessed it, eBay.  $5.00 for a GB of memory (2 x 512 MB chips).  I actually followed Charlie’s guide on this system build as I wanted to make sure I was doing everything correctly.  I installed WinXP and patched it…which was an entire day of waiting, then using xfdisk I created a small fat16 boot partition and a larger &76 partition for AmigaOS.  Grub was now the bootloader allowing me to boot to either WinXP or to Amithlon (which actually boots to the DOS partition which runs the loadlin.exe program to boot the linux based Amithlon kernel).  I had the system up and running and it was now nearly twice faster than my Win10 i7 system (running WinUAE and using SysInfo as the test software).  Okay great, we’re running faster but I still don’t have sound, nvidia-1 screen modes only function at 1024×768 (1280×1024 blanked my monitor, though “builtin” vesa modes worked at the resolution) and the network card was 10 Mbit.  Let’s get kernel 4 working.  I yank the network card, enable the builtin Nic in BIOS and actually use Giggledisk in AmigaOS to copy kernel4 to the amithlonboot DOS partition (and edit the menu.lst file).   I copy the driver files over and booting with kernel 4 I now had 1 GB network connection, my hardware accelerated Nvidia card and decent speed. I read a few postings on various forums of getting high resolutions so I started looking at what I needed to do the same.  Honestly…I needed to learn how to use Picasso96Mode tool in prefs.  I grabbed my monitor specs and searched for VESA resolutions and found a great site that list various specs for resolutions from 640×480 up higher than I needed.  Knowing the specs of my monitor and having the information Picasso96Mode needed I was finally able to create a 1680x1050x32bit screen that made AmigaOS look great.  I also finally spent the time to install AHI 6 and have sound working.  Next on the plate….USB.  It would be nice to move files easily to/from the Amiga and my PC with a USB stick.  I was using FTP my NAS supports to move files back and forth but USB would be more convenient.

Around this time I also put out the call to my friends and family that if they had any old PC hardware stuck in a closet/attic or wherever……I’d like to have a look at it before they toss it.  I was given two systems (an old Dell SFF desktop and an HP mid tower along with a few PCI sound cards.  I’ve moved memory around, video cards around, drives around testing each system trying to find the most stable while still maintaining a nice speed advantage over WinUAE.

***When I was first started comparing Amithlon and WinUAE, WinUAE was getting around 60+ times faster than an A4000 in SysInfo on my i7 Windows system.   The latest version of WinUAE I’m now using results are 200+ faster than an A4000.  Nice improvements.   Still slower, though just a hair, than my latest Amithlon system***

To be continued…..

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