Amiga 4000 owner again

I happened across a crazy deal that resulted in me being the proud owner of an Amiga 4000 once again ūüôā ¬† It was probably the mid 90’s that I’ve last owned an Amiga computer so with all the emulation testing I’ve done, I apparently caught the “Amiga” bug again.

A4000/40 @ 25Mhz, 16 MB fast ram, 2 MB chip ram. ¬†I’ve added 3.1 Kickstart Roms, a 250 GB IDE drive I had lying around, a SATA DVDRW/CDRW I had lying around with a SATA -> IDE converter. ¬†The floppy drive sounded horrible and failed to boot off the 3.1 Install disk, luckily WinUAE came to the rescue. ¬†Using an IDE to USB cable I was able to attach the 250 GB IDE drive to my Windows 10 PC and then use WinUAE to partition/format and install Workbench 3.9 to the A4000. ¬† ¬†Removed from WinUAE and insert in the A4000 and boot……and Workbench eventually displays (Using DblNTSC screen mode as my monitor will not sync to the low 15 Khz frequency of the native Amiga screen modes.

To add, ¬†I have a Video Toaster 4000 and…..(drum roll)…..the card I dreamed of owning during my earlier Amiga 4000 days……the Video Flyer! ¬† I can’t wait to start playing around with this. ¬†I have an external dual TBC so I can correct timing and/or genlock the signals to match on digital cameras to feed the Toaster’s switcher which then feeds the Flyer card.

I’ll have to do some basic comparisons between Amithlon¬†hardware and Amiga 4000 hardware….so far, of course, the Amithlon blows away the older A4000 (CPU performance, RTG video modes, newer mice/keyboards, etc..).

I was able to acquire an X-Surf 100 network card for the A4000. ¬†Installed and tested, though I am having a few issues with it. ¬†Large data transfers seem to cause a reboot, either downloading from the web or transferring from my NAS box via SMBFS. ¬†It’s very possible it is due to the Super Buster revision 9 in the system. ¬†I’m needing a little work done so I’ll probably prep for a one time shot at everything (re-cap, new memory sockets, add socket in place of Super Buster to upgrade to revision 11, etc..).

 

 

Rebuild time…

After many different apps installed and removed, partitions created, deleted, recreated with different filesystems (pfs3 vs. ffs) my Amithlon machine started flaking out when writing to the IDE hard drive (500 GB).  Not completely unexpected, this hard drive had been heavily used and moved from PC to PC over the years, finally finding its way in to my Amithlon setup.

My system has a SATA drive as the boot drive and the IDE drive was for the AmigaOS side. ¬†Using kernel 3.10, it couldn’t see the SATA drives installed and only presented the IDE Amiga drive in HDToolBox. ¬†There was a second SATA drive installed that I had for testing kernel 4 so I decided to rebuild my system on kernel 4 this time. ¬†I had specifically chosen the hardware inside so I don’t require any kernel drivers/modules….just Amiga drivers and OpenPCI drivers. ¬†AHI has Emu10x drivers for my sound blaster, OpenPCI has a driver for my Realtek 8139 Ethernet card and of course the vide card drivers are built in the kernel (Nviidia fx5500).

So…fresh, clean install of Amithlon running off kernel 4, fully patched and configured (sound, USB, network, smbfs, Google drive/Dropbox). ¬†Since I had to recreate the Picasso96Mode settings I grabbed SGrab off Aminet and made a few screenshots while writing up the process. ¬†Picasso96Mode use is now added to part 2 of the Installation Guide.

Amithlon under Virtualbox tweak

***Bonus tweak

It was mentioned to me that adding crusoe to the init string will allow Amithlon to boot in Virtualbox without the need to time a key press. ¬†I’ve tested and it does appear to function.

kern310 init=/linuxrc console_level=0 root=/dev/ram0 mem=512M initrd=smallird.gz vga=769 ramdisk_size=2310 cachesize=65536 leavepages=5200 video=dovesa crusoe

The “crusoe” option was used in testing with the Transmeta CPU, Crusoe, and isn’t needed for Amithlon machines using an AMD or Intel CPU. ¬† However, for whatever reason, it makes Amithlon boot under Virtualbox without needing to wait for the proper¬†timing of pressing a key to continue the boot processs.

** It was recently discovered that the better approach would be to use a keyword of ‘nosleep’ instead of ‘crusoe’. ¬†Both give the same results but ‘nosleep’ is designed to bypass the interrupt it appears Amithlon is waiting on a response from, which doesn’t occur under the Virtualbox environment.

kern310 init=/linuxrc console_level=0 root=/dev/ram0 mem=512M initrd=smallird.gz vga=769 ramdisk_size=2310 cachesize=65536 leavepages=5200 video=dovesa nosleep

Current

I finally settled on a¬†Gigabyte GA-P35-DS3L motherboard based on a few postings by fishy_fiz on EAB and another site, Amiga.org. ¬† 3 PCI slots (Nic, Video, Audio) and heavily overclockable. ¬†Runing (2) 512 MB chips, a PCI Soundblaster Live, PCI Nvidia FX5500 256MB video card and a Realtek 8139 100Mb Nic it easily covers Sound, Accelerated video and Networking. ¬† It uses a LGA775 socket and I’m running a Core2Duo E8600 CPU at 4.0x Ghz. ¬†The system is blazingly fast. ¬†I’m bouncing back and forth between kernel 3.10 and kernel 4. ¬†I do this by the way I like to set up the system….a boot drive to hold the DOS partition used to initiate Amithlon and a second drive to hold AmigaOS. ¬†I like this method as I can just swap out the second hard drive with a completely different install of AmigaOS. ¬†Kernel 3.10 doesn’t like the SATA on this motherboard so I have a SATA drive as the primary boot drive. ¬†It currently has Windows 7 32bit and a small DOS partition on this drive and then I either use another SATA drive for kernel 4 or an IDE drive for kernel 3. ¬†I just disconnect the IDE drive and when the system boots I choose Amithlon (using xfdisk’s boot manager) which boots the DOS partition to a command prompt. ¬†I type loadlin @4small to launch Amithlon with kernel 4, of if the IDE drive is attached I type loadlin @3small. ¬† Since kernel 3 doesn’t see the SATA drive I don’t have to disconnect it. ¬†It runs a nice 234 times faster than an A4000 in dhrystones using SysInfo as the benchmark.

I’d also spent a decent amount of time running Amithlon under Oracle’s Virtualbox. ¬†It was a very painful experience as it seemed to boot Amithlon maybe 1 out of 30 or 40 attempts. ¬†Very frustrating when you are installing updates/patches and you need to do a cold boot. ¬†Control-windows-windows (Ctrl-Amiga-Amiga) was never a problem so simple Amiga reboots were fine. ¬†I may write a guide on running under Virtualbox but honestly I don’t see running it there, just run WinUAE for even more Amiga compatibility. ¬†You won’t get accelerated video under Virtualbox but you can get networking, sound and USB functioning. ¬† Booting under Virtualbox still has the occasional “not going to boot” issue, but I’ve found a way to boot nearly every time and detecting when it will not boot quickly so you can reset the Virtualbox session to try again. ¬†Basically….change your parameter for booting to show you the console and not the “boing ball” when booting, wait for the Moving PCI now to run and then the screen will pause. ¬†At this pause, strike a key. ¬†It should “kick” the boot process ¬†to continue. ¬†Don’t touch a key before this…or it will not boot. ¬†After the “moving PCI…..” and text that follows completes and pauses, if striking a key doesn’t re-engage the boot process, reset Virtualbox. ¬†I rarely have to do this…but even rarely means it still happens. ¬†The command for using console display instead of the boing ball is..

kern310 init=/linuxrc console_level=4 root=/dev/ram0 mem=512M initrd=smallird.gz vga=769 ramdisk_size=2310 cachesize=65536 leavepages=5200 video=dovesa

You’ll notice “console_level=4” instead of “console_level=0”.

Repeatedly doing the above (installing in Virtualbox and installing on different hardware) gave me a decent understanding of the boot process and how I like to set things up.   I created a new(er) guide on installing Amithlon which I hoped could get a few others up and running so that they could play in Amithlon and this expanded base of users could result hopefully in some new developments.   It also allowed me to collect more user data on what hardware works which helped in creating a list of supported hardware.

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…..

Amiga

As mentioned in the “About me” section, I am a former Amiga owner. ¬†I started computing on a Commodore 64 as a teenager and was mostly in to gaming though I did try a little assembly programming. ¬†I had read an article about the Commodore Amiga and when a local user group was hosting a presentation I made the effort to attend the event and see it in person. ¬†I was blown away. ¬†I’d played with the Ti 99/4a, Atari 400/800, IBM pc and of course my C64, but this Amiga 1000 was unbelievable. ¬†The Boing Ball demo was impressive but what really got me was when the demonstrator had the lines demo running and then pulled down the screen to show workbench running behind it. ¬†Amazing. ¬†Sold. ¬†Had to have it. ¬† I bought an A1000, 256K ram expansion, monitor and external floppy drive. ¬†A bit later I added¬†an A2000 with Video Toaster, 2 DPS-IV TBCs and an ethernet card. ¬†The A1000 was sold to purchase an A3000 which was then sold to purchase the A4000 which received a Video Toaster 4000, Emplant Mac emulator, EGS24 RTG card, WarpEngine4040 with 32 MB or ram onboard and another ethernet card. ¬† Eventually all this turned in to “rent” which I regret to this day. ¬† Commodore was bankrupt, my dreams of video editing* weren’t going anywhere and I was selling/working with PCs (DOS and Win3.1). ¬† Having an Amiga didn’t make sense at the time. ¬† This was probably around 1995-96.

*I was offered a job video editing with Video Toaster systems but it would have required a move and actually doing something I “hobbied” into something I “worked” so turned it down. ¬†Probably another mistake of the past.

I would reminisce about the Amiga with other former owners whenever the subject came up of “remember when computers…..” which happened more than you’d expect ūüôā ¬†I always hoped to pick up another A4000/Toaster combo but this time add a Video Flyer and finally do some editing.

So here we are in 2015. ¬†I think it was the news reports of the “Amiga 30th Anniversary” on the internet that sparked my interest. ¬†I had played with C64 emulators on some of my older PC systems with so-so results but now I had some decent computing hardware at home…are there any Amiga emulators? ¬† Web searching found WinUAE (http://www.winuae.net/) and some more found a site English Amiga Board (http://eab.abime.net/) which had the current WinUAE dev posting updates and replying to users! ¬†Wait…someone is still actively working on an Amiga emulator?? ¬† I had to check it out. ¬† Downloaded, found some “roms” and “os” images (I have purchased Cloanto’s Amiga Forever 2016 package and AmigaOS 4.1 FE for classics……so there) and realized I remembered very little about using an Amiga. ¬†Some forum reading and web searching and I found some pre-fabbed installation setups….but none were as I had used mine. ¬† I joined EAB in August of 2015 so I could be more involved. ¬† Oh..by the way….WinUAE is awesome. ¬†It is an amazing emulator of the Amiga (whatever model) as long as you have the correct kickstart Roms and Workbench disk. ¬†You can configure your system to be exactly like or as a powerhouse of upgraded components (JIT enabled, lots of ram, fastest possible, RTG modes). ¬†I played around with this for quite some time, all the while looking at tweaks and improvements others were doing to their “Amigas”. ¬† ¬†I was amazed that my nice i7 Intel system running WinUAE was getting results significantly faster than my old A4000 ran (SysInfo, dhrystone results). ¬†WinUAE is awesome!

Wanting even more performance I started searching and learned of a software package called Amithlon. ¬†It was an attempt to run AmigaOS on native x86 hardware. ¬†This was out after I was out of the Amiga scene so I had to do some research. ¬† Reading….the biggest standout I encountered was that it was “blazingly fast”, “wickedly fast”, “fastest Amiga you’ll ever experience” and so on….. ¬†Hmm…this sounds like something I want to try for myself. ¬†No Amiga chipset support, requires specific older x86 components (old AGP or PCI graphic cards), tricky to install and…….was abandoned/discontinued because of poor communication and handling of licensing of AmigaOS roms. ¬† It might be difficult to acquire, and not even remotely possible to acquire legally as the original released and sold media were apparently not legal.

To be continued…..(Amithlon)