RISC OS vs. AmigaOSBy Chris Williams. Published: 30th Apr 2004, 22:16:48 | Permalink | Printable
Are we so dissimilar?If you asked us to list the troubling issues facing the RISC OS platform right now, the lack of more modern hardware support and the OS development split between Castle and RISCOS Ltd. would probably be there, right at the top, beating other problems like the USB split between Castle and Simtec and the gradual slowdown in software development.
The RISC OS 5 vs. 4 and native vs. emulation debates have waged for so long now, almost rivalling the epically proportioned Zap vs. StrongEd battle of olden times - all of which have resulted in a divided userbase and leading companies pressing ahead with conflicting visions for RISC OS. The situation can be painted quite negatively, so is this ship sinking fast, without a trace? Certainly not, as RISC OS still has a lot going for it, and it appears our platform isn't alone.
For instance, there's another platform out there that's had its share of owners, OS development splits, various hardware solutions offered and highs and lows: AmigaOS, the other platform that famously won't die and was best known for its games in the 1980s and early 1990s.
Much like RISC OS was kicked between Acorn, e-14 and Pace before settling down finally with Castle, AmigaOS eventually settled with KMOS, with Hyperion Entertainment doing the AmigaOS 4 development and Eyetech producing the hardware - an arrangement not so dissimilar from the Pace, RISCOS Ltd., MicroDigital Omega circle from earlier this decade.
The aforementioned hardware is the AmigaOne, an 800MHz G4 processor powered motherboard with an 'off the shelf' graphics card, USB and so on, that will eventually run AmigaOS 4. The G3, G4 and G5 PPC family of processors are also, incidentally, employed by Apple in their fancy range of computers. Before the Iyonix arrived, it was the case that RISC OS 4 was available but the MicroDigital Omega was not. The Amiga platform is the converse of this, as the AmigaOne hardware is available (with a Linux port) while users await the release of the much anticipated AmigaOS 4.
Before the AmigaOne, there had not been a new Amiga computer designed since 1994, which was also the year of the RiscPC's launch. So in the meantime, prior to the AmigaOne launch, Amiga users had instead upgraded their machines to 50MHz 68060 processors and a PPC second processors, much in the same way RISC OS users could bolt faster StrongARM cards (like the Kinetic), better graphics support (Viewfinder), USB and fast Ethernet support into their aging RiscPCs. In the same way that the Iyonix heralded a leap forward in terms of speed, the AmigaOne ought to run circles around previous Amiga hardware.
The AmigaOne's PPC processor also forces a shift in processor platform for the Amiga consumer market, reminding us of RISC OS's brave jump from 26bit ARM to 32bit ARM with the Iyonix's XScale. While RISC OS 5 users need Aemulor to provide 26bit emulation, AmigaOS 4 will include built-in 68K emulation.
The RISC OS development split and competition from emulators is not so different from the emerging AmigaOS clones: Pegasos is another motherboard powered by a PPC processor that runs MorphOS, an AmigaOS clone with 68K emulation support. There's also the popular UAE, an Amiga emulator for PCs, and AROS, an open source clone of AmigaOS.
"AmigaOS 4 is the official new version of AmigaOS for PowerPC, it runs on AmigaOne PowerPC motherboards. OS 4 is currently in development and is being tested by a large team of developers and dedicated users but is not yet available to the general public (although they can buy an AmigaOne and run Linux until OS4 is ready). Like MorphOS, OS 4 can run existing applications under 68K emulation," explained Robert Williams (no relation, but just another coincidence), editor of Total Amiga magazine, to drobe.co.uk.
Despite no longer being a mainstream platform, a fall from grace that must leave some Amiga users feeling as bitter as those RISC OS users who felt let down by the dramatic Acorn break up, and waiting some 30 months for AmigaOS 4 to be released, Amiga users are surprisingly upbeat. And who wouldn't with an 800MHz G4 processor waiting for you, after so many years stuck on a 50MHz platform. Nethertheless, we asked Robert why Amiga users online hold such a positive outlook.
"Amiga users are a pretty mixed bunch, I think if you follow the conversations on various web forums you'll find there is a fair bit of angst," observed Robert. "In particular there has been quite a spat between supporters of MorphOS and AmigaOS 4 as the 'successor' to the 'classic' Amiga. That said I think most of the users left are pretty dedicated and have decided they like the Amiga despite the fact that PCs are cheaper and have a much wider range of software available."
While we mutter and complain about the troubles that colour the RISC OS platform, it's clear that the issues we face and the breakthrough successes that surprise us, are not so unique to our platform. Although it's clearly easy to write negatively about RISC OS, the success of other minority platforms should be an encouragement to us all.
AmigaOS 4 and Eyetech
Total Amiga magazine
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