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AmigaOS 4.1 Update 1 Review

Introduction

Back in September 2008 I installed AmigaOS 4.1 on my MicroAmigaOne and it is still my main system in 2010, despite the fact I bought PowerBook G4 and regularly have touch with wide variety of Windows machines. There have been two QuickFix updates of AmigaOS 4.1 since then. The first QuickFix update was for the IDE drivers and the elf.library.kmod, while the second offered improved overall system stability, fixed shared object handling, Radeon Warp3D graphics drivers, increased performance of IDE drivers and fixed JXFileSystem issues. On 14 January 2010 I have read the news about the immediate availability of AmigaOS 4.1 Update 1, announced as the most substantial update to date provided for free to download by registered AmigaOS 4.1 users. I am registered user so I was very impatient to try it. The update comes as 154 MB big LHA archive. Inside the LHA archive there is an 318 MB big ISO file, which has to be burned into CD disk in order to boot the system from it. While waiting for the download, to be on the safe side, I copied the files from the SYS partition to my Archive partition, as they are, without any changes. Then to be even more secure, I archived the Workbench volume with the use of the LHA archiver with the following command line:
lha -er a Archives:AmigaOS41Backup.lha SYS:
Although there are other archive tools available for Amiga like TAR, GZIP, ZIP and LZX, the usage of LHA is recommended, because it is the de-facto standard on the Amiga and also easily handled on other platforms. The LHA preserves all the protection bits and the file comments, unlike ZIP, GZIP and TAR. LZX although giving better compression results, is not easily handled on other platforms. My System partition had only 281.9 MB in use, which come to 132 MB after archiving. I put the archive on memory card with the use of Chronos 80 in 1 Card Reader CR-561. Hyperion Entertainment does not provide label for the CD, so I created one by myself and placed it over the newly burned CD. For burning, I used the free MakeCD software.

Installation

AmigaOS 4.1 Update 1 CD with custom made label put in CD drive before boot. After putting the CD in the drive, I set the correct master/slave settings of the disk drives, to be able to boot from the CD. I made a soft reboot of the AmigaOS 4.1, trying to boot the CD, without setting it from UBoot. The CD started to load because the CD drive have lower priority number than the Hard Drives, but after the splash screen, the screen turned black and nothing else happened after. So there is no way to boot the AmigaOS 4.1 Update 1 CD with the Kickstart of the AmigaOS 4.1. I pressed Ctrl+LAlt+RAlt and then pressed the Enter key to enter the UBoot menu. From there I selected Boot Device Onboard VIA IDE CDROM and continued normal boot. The load of Kickstart files started, but this time the configuration was named AmigaOS 4.1 Update 1. After a short delay the AmigaOS 4.1 splash screen appeared, which is the same as before, then the Welcome Screen. AmigaOS 4.1 Update 1 CD Welcome screen shot with digital camera. From the Welcome Screen, the difference and what is new starts to get noticeable. Nicely tinted blue window on white background appeared, with the text Welcome to the AmigaOS 4.1 Installation CD. From here four options are available to the user. Moving the mouse over the selectable option icon, shows help text about the selection on the bottom of the window, so the user does not need to read any manual before, as this pop-up help text is good enough to guide about the possibilities. The first is to Set the Location and the Keymap of your computer and have the CD boot up in the language of your choice. The second choice is to Start the Hard Disk preparation utility and configure your drives and partitions.. I skipped these two parts and selected the third option to Start the AmigaOS 4.1 installation utility., but then I remembered that I did not QuickFormat my existing AmigaOS 4.1 install, taking into account that it is not recommended to install the update over previous install and do it on blank partition. There is possibility to do this from the Installation Utility, but I preferred to do it by hand, that's why I exited the Utility and selected the fourth option - Continue and start Workbench directly from the CD. AmigaOS 4.1 Update 1 CD Booted into Workbench from the CD. The BootDisk option can be used for emergency situations. It contains full Workbench installation from where all the utilities from Workbench can be accessed and even new programs can be installed to the RAM Disk and launched from there. Booting the CD to workbench also reveals the new icons which are slightly bigger than the previous default icons of AmigaOS 4.1 and little darker with stronger and more professional appeal to the user. All the Workbench icons look new and I like them more than the previous icons, not only because they are bigger, but also because they look more clear and easier to distinguish between each other. The title bar of the Workbench screen have text with the version of the OS running and the machine on which it is, in my case - AmigaOS 4.1 Update 1 running on IBM PowerPC 750 GX with 256MB Memory and Radeon 7000. The background is nice sky picture with binary digits and AmigaOS 4.1 BOOTDISK text. The default pointer is also new, with shadow and light red color, easy to notice, but not annoying to the eyes. On the bottom on the screen is the AmiDock ToolBar where with separators between the categories are put the three different tool options. These options are handy for the installation procedure. In the left are the Prepare Hard Disk, Localise and Install-AmigaOS 4.1 icons. On the center are the NotePad, Multiview, Shell and Unarc icons. On the right is only the AmiPDF icon and the rest to the right is blank. I formatted my DH0: partition with QuickFormat by opening SYS:System/Format and selecting the Device To Format. After successful finish of the Format, I launched the Installation Utility and installed the AmigaOS 4.1 Update 1. During the installation procedure, there is also option to format drives, but I had done this manually already. When the actual installation starts there is a small window over the Installation Utility, highlighting the major new improvements and features of the update, keeping the user busy and excited, so the installation went pretty fast for me, while reading all the good news. The whole installation procedure after the load to the second boot into the actual Workbench 4.1 partition took me less than twenty minutes.

Post Installation Procedure

AmigaOS 4.1 Update 1 Workbench with PostInstall Window and opened drawers. After the first boot of the freshly installed AmigaOS and Workbench, just like before, a PostInstall window appeared. From here further configuration options are available to the user, making his Amiga usage much easier. Just like in the first installation window, moving the pointer over the selection icons, shows the user text with help about the selection. The first is Review or change the Location and Keymap settings of your computer, where I changed my time zone and main language and then tested the Keymap. First thing I noticed while doing the Keyboard test was that Caps Lock key was working with my dirt cheap unbranded Chinese multimedia keyboard unlike on my previous AmigaOS 4.1 install, but the Cyrillic keymaps were not working. I returned back to the locale preferences, cleared the languages and instead of bulgarian_ISO-8859-5, selected bulgarian_Amiga-1251 and now the Cyrillic letters were possible to be typed in, not only for Bulgarian ISO-8859-5, but also for my custom made Bulgarian QWE-8859-5 and even the Macedonian ISO-8859-5 was usable. Excited with the easy fix of the minor problem, I went to the second Post Install Option to Adjust the settings of the screen that Workbench is displayed on. This option launches the SYS:Prefs/ScreenMode icon and bring the ScreenMode preferences. During the install I selected 1920X1200 as my Max Resolution, although my monitor does not support it. I saw that such high resolutions were available for selection, but instead of manually removing the unsupported resolutions from the monitor tooltypes, in AmigaOS 4.1 Update 1 is a new feature to detect the monitor settings automatically, which I selected in the Monitors tab of the ScreenMode preferences. After a reboot I had only resolutions which the display can handle and no need to worry anymore. Very useful new feature of the operating system. After playing and testing different resolutions, I restored to my previously used and went to the further configuration of the system.
Next option is to Configure your sound card. I clicked on it out of curiosity and it opened the AHI preferences which are for the sound, but there was nothing to change from the default, so I clicked on Cancel.
After the sound is the Set up your Network connection option, where I very fast was able to correctly configure the network card and connect to the Internet.

Contributed Programs

AmigaOS 4.1 Update 1 CD - Contributions install utility program with selected options. Final option of the PostInstall window is to Select and install contributed programs. Thirteen applications for daily usage for the different uses of the Amiga are included here with the option to install them in any drawer and to automatically add them to the dock. AISS version 4.7 (05.01.2010) is a collection of images for use in various applications. AmiDVD is a burning utility for creating and burn of CD and DVD real disks or just image files. AmiFTP and pFTP (Pete's FTP) are utilities for transferring files via the FTP (File Transfer Protocol). DiskImage Device is handler for various image formats, very useful for mounting images files of CDs and floppies. Directory Opus 4 and DiskMaster 2 are file management utilities for easier copy, move, sort, rename, delete and archival of files. With DvPlayer the user can play MPEG movie files and other formats if registered. IBrowse and Origyn Web Browser are web browsers for surfing the Internet. IBrowse is provided with version 2.3 24.43 (22.2.2006). OWB is version 3.23 from (30.12.2009). SimpleMail and YAM (Yet Another Mailer) are e-mail clients for usage of electronic mail correspondence. TuneNet is nice music player. I use it very often to listen MP3, Sony Playstation, MOD and many other music formats. Provided is very new version - 0.9244 (01.01.2010). All the programs are written for Amiga and not ports from other platforms. They offer great compilation of extra software bundled with the Operating System. Although not all the computer uses are covered with these programs and there are two choises for some activities, the programs are powerful, yet easy to use and very stable on my configuration. The possibility to choose between two options is up to the user. Every application has its pros and cons. For example IBrowse is very fast, have Download Manager, Password Manager, Cache Explorer and many other useful functions, but does not render correctly CSS pages. OWB is much newer browser, renders properly almost all the pages, but does not have managers for passwords, downloads or cookies. The 4.1 Extras Installer after installation of the programs, renders their names to green color. If it is started again, the installed program names are in red color, while the not installed before or the deleted programs are in black font color. Very handy to manage and try the software.

Usage

AmigaOS 4.1 Update 1 - SilverGreen Theme with opened windows. After installing all the programs for further test, I went to actually seeing what is new and explore the AmigaOS 4.1 Update 1. In the SYS:Prefs/Presets is available new predefined theme called SilverGreen. It looks very nice but I am used the default AmigaOS 4.1 theme and restored it back by double-clicking on the Revert to Last Saved icon in the theme's drawer. The composition engine make the look very nice, but it also requires lots of resources. In AmigaOS 4.1 Update 1, it feels faster and seems to use less memory for me, but I turned it off in the GUI prefs, and restored the speed to the system. Generally after turning the eye-candy off, the system started to feel slightly faster than before, on exactly the same computer, configuration and screen resolution. To make the system the same like before, I restored my settings from the backup folders for the dock and the S:User-Startup scripts. It took me approximately two hours to restore the previous settings, because on the Workbench partition I had not only some programs, but also many settings files, cache files and icon tooltypes. Although the new installation procedure took very little time, I spent much more, restoring my old preferences and settings. An upgrade option in the next updates will be nice.
In the Prefs there are several new icons. One of them is Notifications. The first tab in this preferences program is Application List where the applications supported by the RINGHIO server are listed, including the RINGHIO itself. The Notification is new feature for AmigaOS. TuneNet is present in the Applications list and already makes use of the feature, with showing small pop-up messages about the current song. Other utilities available in the Applications are NOTIFICATIONS - the preference editor for the Ringhio server, AmiDock, ScreenBlankerPrefs, YAM, DvPlayer, DiskImageGUI, MPlayer and AmiFTP. In the Preferences for the Pop-up Message Preferences the Global Theme, Screen Positioning, Screen Coverage, Cover of Amidock and Drop Shadows can be configured. The Ringhio server can be stopped from the third tab.
AmigaOS 4.1 Update 1 preferences programs - Notifications, URL, WBStartup and DiskImageGUI. Another new icon in the prefs is the URL which brings the preferences for the new feature of AmigaOS 4.1. From here various Internet protocols can be configured for usage by different clients, for example FILE by web browsers, HTTP, HTTPS and WWW also by web browsers, MAILTO by YAM or SimpleMail.
The third new icon is the WBStartup bringing WBStartup preferences. There is no SYS:WBStartup drawer in the AmigaOS 4.1 install anymore and its function was given to the Workbench itself. In the preferences there are startup modules which are actual programs installed in their appropriate places on the Workbench, so the user does not need to move them anymore and later forget where to return. AmiDock, AsyncWB, DefIcons, RAWBInfo, ClickToFront, ContextMenus and RinghioServer are the utilities presented by default. I added the MMKeyboardServer in order to be able to use the multimedia buttons of my keyboard and noticed that my Caps Lock key was not working anymore. Oh well.
Not only some icons are new in the update, but also the other preferences are with newer versions than on the previous AmigaOS 4.1 CD. In the ScreenBlanker Preferences, there is new module called BoingBall by Costel Mincea, dated 11.1.2010. After installation of the DiskImage Device, in the SYS:System there is new icon called DiskImageGUI which comes useful for people who prefer to select the files from ASL requester than from CLI. With the installation of the device two new devices are present to the system - ICD0, for the mounted CD images and IDF0 for the mounted floppy disk images. I easily mounted the AmigaOS 4.1 Update 1 ISO image and was able to browse the contents and even install some programs for it. The system did not distinguish it between normal CD and mounted image. There are also the new TCP and URL devices. These devices can be used for directly accessing files on the Internet, like I used to have FTP installation of Internet programs for my unexpanded A1200 where all the required programs for Internet surf, chat and e-mail were stored on FTP server. I was using only a single floppy disk with TCP/IP stack and MountFTP.

Further test

Because my main system since years is AmigaOS 4.x, I have the know-how to do more complicated procedures in order to achieve desired result, which the users of other Operating Systems have for granted. When browsing the contents of CD or DVD, the default contents of the folders are not viewable from Workbench, requiring from the user to go to the menu Window->Show->All files and then if I open a subfolder, the contents are not shown and I have again to select the same menuitem. This is not an issue anymore with AmigaOS 4.1 Update 1. Once selected to show all files, Workbench shows them even if subfolder (daughter window) is opened. However, Close parent automatically when browsing is not turned by default, leaving me with many windows opened on the Workbench, requiring closure. But on the other hand the Update drawers automatically is turned on by default, so people who are used to see the updates in the folders immediately, will not be surprised that the Amiga does not refresh automatically by default. Although there are more entries in the Compatibility preferences, some of my daily tools worked like before, some of them even better, but other programs work worse. Personal Paint 7.1 does not trash the screen anymore when loading new pictures and saves me the refresh I had to do every time to see the pictures clear. WarpSNES works fine and does not crash anymore. TurboCalcMagic 3.5 which I use often does not show menus anymore, so it can be used only with the toolbar icons. The AmOric emulator still renders the system unstable, but not more than before. Other classic 68K emulators like ASp v0.89 and PC-Task work okay, and even slightly faster. After creating 320X256 screen mode with the Picasso96Mode preference program, I was able to play the old games and emulators on full screen with the normal resolutions. Games like CrossFire II are very nice to play and they work flawlessly. Proof that the system is faster was the game Indigo under E-UAE. Indigo had quirking sound when playing and especially during scroll under E-UAE on my AmigaOne. After installing the update, it is perfectly playable and with USB Joystick as well. AmigaInput used to be very buggy in the previous versions of AmigaOS 4.x and I was little suspicious that all the bugs are fixed. AmigaOS 4.1 Update 1 - Emulators and Games running on the Workbench screen. First I saw that the two USB Joyspads (SPEEDLINK First Strike USB and SPEEDLINK Strike 2) I have are recognized with different names, although they were recognized with same names before. This was one of the reasons that there were no possibility to use two joysticks at the same time. So it is fixed. The Joystick flush bug is also fixed, so I did not need anymore to add my custom program in the startup to fix it. After calibration of the joypads in the AmigaInput preferences program and saving the settings, played games with joystick and not only me. For first time since I bought my AmigaOne there is a possibility to play on the computer with two Joysticks. Finally the PowerPC based Amiga can be used as Amiga like in the 1980ies and 1990ies. Two players were gaming together with two joysticks back then. Now they can do the same.
The major problems seem to be fixed, but some minor which were present when I was last installing AmigaOS are still there. Opening the Media Toolbox still renders my Internet connected machine unstable, crashing the Network connections. The rtl8139.device is still buggy, even more buggy than before. With the previous version if I have too fast connection, the speed drops to very slow. Now with the new driver, if my connection is too fast, the Internet connection is lost, and I have to restart the connection, without any option to save some online work for example, like before. That is why I put the old rtl831.device dated from 24.07.2008 in the place of the new dated from 2.11.2009. TuneNet makes nice use of the notification system and also the sound is much less quirky than before, especially when surfing. But when changing radio stations it plays some sounds from the previous station for a second after the newly selected have already started to play. This is not nice to listen by the people around, to whom I am showing my system. The biggest disappointment for me in this update is the good old AmigaShell which is still the same like before, without any updates. It is very outdated in its current form, without tabs support and history slider.

Optimization of the System

I love to play with the Amiga and since the early days of my Workbench usage I always try to make the system as fast as I can, without killing any functionality or at the expense of other features, only removing the eye-candies. Just like in my previous AmigaOS 4.1 install, I edited the SYS:Kickstart/Kicklayout file and commented out the unnecessary modules, which were loaded but not used. After removing the composition effects, the system is fast enough. I did not need to choose lower resolution or screen mode with less colors for speed. With my AmigaOne, on Radeon 7000:1152x864 ARGB32 16MColors mode, the windows pop up instantly, so I do not need to optimize it more. Partition Wizard still does not allow optimization of JXFileSystem volumes, but I happily optimized my SYS: partition for faster transfer from it. I optimized my older Workbench FastFileSystem partition as well.

Conclusion

AmigaOS 4.1 Update 1 is good step in the right direction for AmigaOS. It have many improvements and fixes of old annoyances, making it good enough for daily usage by different people with various lifestyles. I use AmigaOS since more than 16 years already. Thanks to the constant updates it is still up to date and strong alternative of what other Operating Systems can offer. With the current features and the constant support by the developers and the community, the Amiga will stay around for many many years. AmigaOS 4.1 Update 1 shows how the Amigans can be productive and more happy than ever before. Some of the new features were suggested by the users of the system and they were added, even if they were either against the Amiga philosophy or too hard to implement. This means that the AmigaOS developers are listening to the community and its users in order to achieve better product for everyone.

Comments: Connection Error: Access denied for user 'drhirudo_bimbo'@'localhost' (using password: YES)