On June 3rd, 2004 I've recieved my Copy of the Pre-Developer Release of AmigaOS 4.0, a product that we all have waited for sooo long is now...HERE! :)
This short review will reflect my first impressions when installing and also using the Pre-Release, which will be referred to AOS 4 from now on (I know, it is NOT the Final...). I must warn everybody that I'm an Amiga since 1989, so don't expect a very objective review :) I'm an Amigan and will defend my beloved System at all costs.
Part 1: Preparations before Install
I have bought my AmigaOne XE in July 2003 together with Debian, and of course it was running Debian until the AOS4 CD arrived, so my HD was already installed with a lot of Linux Software, which I do not need anyway. So decision was made not to save anything from my System but let the AOS4 Installer re-initialize the complete Harddisk (80GB).
Before actually starting the installation one must update the U-Boot Firmware to the latest Version from 12-Apr-2004 (v1.0.0), which ships together with AOS4. As usual there are a ISO and a Floppy Version on CD, so take your favourite choice and upgrade first the U-Boot as described in the short installation docs.
I would recommend to make the Installation Guide available on a second machine, so you can read the instructions and simultaenously execute the listed commands on your A1, at least this was at great help for me (copied the InstallationGuide folder to my WinXP box and read them locally there).
I had some trouble when trying to update the U-Boot from Auto-Boot CD, after entering the usual diskboot 500000 2:0 command U-Boot does in fact starts loading the Updater, but returns silently to the prompt and does not execute the updater at all.
After setting the U-Boot Env variable set autostart yes followed by the diskboot command the updater finally executes and flashes the new U-Boot.
[UPDATE: I've read that bootm should also work without autostart var!]
After an reboot one must add some additional U-Boot Parameters and verify also some settings inside the U-Boot menu. For all these stages I REALLY (!) would recommend to follow the Installation Guide word-wise, this way you avoid any trouble, at least this all works fine for me.
Part 2: The First Boot from CD
After all required pre-installation tasks are performed it is time to actually boot the System from CD for installation.The boota command starts the loading of AOS4 directly from CD, and the loading process is IMO very fast when you remember that a lot of 68k emulated Code is still there and also the IDE device is not running in DMA mode currently.
It took about 50 seconds to get the first screen of AOS4, and this was the moment when I really got my good old Amiga Feeling back :) The first requester popped up stating that you should setup your Locale/Keyboard/Mouse Settings for installation. When working with these preferences you will notice nice improvements everywere, i.e. The Time Preferences have now the possibility to sync the System time with a NTP server, which works very fine here. Also the keyboard settings give me a big smile on my face, as the Amiga has now finally ISO-8859-15 aka Euro Support build in!
After setup these prefs the good old Amiga Installer starts and asks you if you wish to prepare your Harddisc for use with AOS4. As I have written above, I wanted to kill my complete Harddisk for usage with AOS 4, so after confirming the question with Yes, the HDToolBox (now called MediaToolBox) starts and shows again a huge improvement over it's 3.9 counterpart, as you can now control CD-Rom, Hds and many other devices all controlled under this very nice tool. Amazing IMO.
To prep your Harddrive you should again follow exactly the instructions listed in the Installation Guide, as you need to add a second-level Boottool and of course the RDB Block to your harddisk. The Installguide states that it should be possible to use Classic Amiga Hds, too but I have none available (my A4000/060 still works 24/7 days here), so this was no option for me.
After performing all the required steps the Partitioning was the next action item to perform.
The InstallGuide states that you should give your Boot Partition at least 100MB and that you also should leave about 500MB space free (unpartitioned), this should be used later as virtual Memory when the paging system is working and implemented. Well, I have a 80GB harddisk installed in my A1, so a 100MB Workbench sounds strange to me, and I've decided to use the following partitions:
DH0: (Workbench) – Boot Partition with 1.1GB
DH1: (Anwender) – All non-system related Tools with 10GB
DH2: (Coder) – My coding partition with all required Compilers etc. set to 10GB
DH3: (Storage) – For everything else like MP3 etc. Set to 54GB
All 4 partitions are using the new DOS/7 FFS Filesystem with support for Long Filenames! AFAIK you can also install Classic FFS filesystems if you wish, but for me this was no option as I want to have a clean install after using my Classic System with all upgrades since 1989 without any re-install...
After I have finished the partitioning and clicked on Save to Drive it is required to reset your A1 so that the changes can take effect. I was very amazed how fast the Reboot was, and I found it very nice that the normal Reset does not jump back to the U-Boot, but instead performs some kind of „Warm-Reset“ bypassing the U-Boot start, which is completly different than linux behaves, and I must say that I love this :)
After rebooting from CD you need to format the Disks before starting the install, at least the Bootpartition must be formatted of course :) Do not format the Disks in „Normal“ mode, this took about 1.5 Hours on my 10GB Partition! Just use the „Quick Format“ Option which initialized the 54GB Partition in about 30s.
Now you can start installing AOS4, this took here about 5-7 Minutes! After installation you will be asked for your favourite Screenmode. Make your decision remove the CD from drive and either use the Resetbutton on your A1 or reset it via Keyboard (on PC Keyboard use STRG + LEFT-WINDOWS + RIGHT-WINDOWS).
After a short period the AmigaOS 4 finally starts, the wellknown Deskop pops up and you can now start exploring the Pre-Release.
The first thing I've noticed when the OS was started: The fonts are now anti-aliased! Yay, looks great and gives the whole desktop a much better professional look IMO. After checking out the installation (most of the tools/utilities are known from the AOS 3.x line) I've started to install the supplied SDK, which takes around 200MB if you decide to install it completly, but you get also a lot of nice tools like gcc 2.95/3.3.4, gdb, all header/include files etc. I had no time yet to further check the contents of the SDK, but a first check let me smile again :)
PART 3: How it works
Next I was very interested to see how the 68k Emulation works and copied some of my good old Classic Amiga Tools to AOS4, these are in particular: Dopus 4.17, CED 4.2, Diavolo, Aweb Demo Version from AmigaOS 3.9 and some of the network tools I'm using here like Samba, Yam etc.
Except Diavolo which seems to have major problems with restoring data from backup files everything works fine, really fine! I would not expect that high level of compatibility in the PreRelease, also because the JIT is currently not implemented, but I can use almost the complete Software I've used for years now for developing, so this is definitively rocking the world ! :)
Next and final step was the configuration of the TCP/IP stack Roadshow. Well, I was very suprised to see such an easy setup for my LAN here, just start Sys:Prefs/Internet, enter new Interface, fill out all required things like IP address, DHCP (if required), DNS, Gateway and optional servers/routes etc. click save, go to SYS:Devs/networks, double-click on the newly created Icon and Voila, you are online! This is even simpler than the MiamiDX Setup I'm using on my A4000, so I can only say:
AMAZING WORK OLAF!!!
AFAIK Roadshow has everything a TCP stack must have, but again I had no time yet to dig further into the setup and configuration, my A1 is now able to use the internet and also access my Windows/Linux Boxes, this is currently enough for me. And as a nice side-effect my amiga goes online everytime I reboot, nice work!
BTW: For Windows and Samba Share Access I'm using the smbfs.lha package that can be found on aminet. It is in no way a replacement for Samba, but does a very nice job when it comes to quickly access a SMB share. I really recommend to everyone to take a look to it.
As last installation step I've taken the native AOS4 distributed.net Client that is available on http://www.distributed.net, configured it and made a benchmark run. Happily the result was exactly the same that was achived under Linux: 2.67MKeys/s (G3 @ 800Mhz). I let the box now crunching non-stop on RC5 for about 24hours, no problems occur and I'm using the machine heavily now while the client is running.
Part 4: Final Conclusion:
I'm absolutly suprised what Hyperion has supplied with the Pre-Release. I expected some kind of a „dirty hack“ where everything is mixed together, with a lot of crashes and problems, days of installation issues etc etc. What I actually got was a CD with everything you need to install the AmigaOS 4.0 Pre-Release in less than one hour without any problems, at least here for me. Amazing!
I could write even more, but I want to start developing now, expect new releases really soon :) And I think that other users will write reviews, too!
So happy Computing on the new Future, which starts for me on June 3rd, 2004 :-)