AMIGA alive

AMIGA alive

Thursday, August 17, 2017

New page: Best of the best - Amiga games you must have seen

Our take on the "Best Amiga games" / "Top 10 Amiga games" subject, from a slightly different point of view, where a Competition Pro joystick is not the only Amiga expansion device allowed, and exceptional technical achievement, sweaty pixel art or perfect overall style may put a game on the list.

Have fun with our...

Best of the best - Amiga games you must have seen

 

Thursday, August 3, 2017

BANG! There it is: Vampire V4 standalone & Vampire V4 Amiga 1200

And this is how things happen. You have an Apollo team, and a Vampire team, and Kipper2k and Majsta and all the others, and they just go the way, all the way.

Today has been announced Vampire V4, and what a beast it is: it comes in different flavours, including an Amiga 1200 version, and a standalone version.

Among it's features are the Altera Cyclone V A5 FPGA, 512MB DDR3 RAM, FastIDE with two connectors (40 and 44-pin), HDMI* video out, dual Kickstart-flashrom, USB, ethernet, and MicroSD storage. Additionally, the standalone version will feature two DB9 mouse/joystick ports.

From the official announcement: "The Vampire V4 standalone system will be a complete new Amiga system powered by the 68080 CPU core and the complete SAGA chipset (AGA compatible)."

Probably most interesting are three I/O ports on the new Vampire V4. Currently we have no information about these, but could this be the basis for a new standard of Amiga expansion devices? Will this be what people build upon, and make the Vampire V4 the new Amiga?

It has to be said, though, that there's some sort of question mark regarding the Amiga 600 version of the Vampire boards. The announcement of the V4 says "Amiga 600 with kippa’s adapter (if produced)", and assuming that "kippa" is "kipper2k", things don't look too well: recently, kipper2k left a note on his website (see sources, below) that he doesn't intend to continue making the Vampire 600 boards. Let's just hope this doesn't affect the overall roadmap of the Vampire boards, and that someone will build the adapter for the V4 600.

Anyway, exciting times we live in!

Congratulations!
  
http://www.apollo-accelerators.com/images/v4.jpg


*) probably, see sources below

Sources: 
http://amiga-news.de/de/news/AN-2017-08-00003-DE.html
http://www.apollo-accelerators.com/files/V4_announcement_v1_5.pdf
http://forum.apollo-accelerators.com/viewtopic.php?f=8&t=1804
http://kipper2k.com

vbcc - Volker Barthelmann's C compiler

The great compilers on AmigaOS (and for AmigaOS) like SAS/C and gcc (ADE/geekgadgets) are getting some serious competition by the name of vbcc, which is an acronym for "Volker Barthelmann's C compiler".

What makes vbcc great?

It...

...is cross-platform / portable
...can cross-compile for different targets
...is very fast
...produces small binaries
...has a clear concept, working default configurations, and is easily installed
...is actively developed with modern standards in mind
...still supports AmigaOS1.3 and plain 68000

Portability & cross-compilation targets

vbcc's portability seems to be near-perfect. It runs on almost all AmigaOS flavours (m68k/Classic, PPC/WarpOS/PowerUP, PPC/AmigaOS4, MorphOS), as well as on Atari, Linux, Mac and Windows, and can compile for almost all AmigaOS flavours, and different Atari operating systems. Building vbcc under Linux works like a charm, if you know what you're doing you can set up a cross-compiler environment in just minutes.

(Note that there's also a version for AROS, but it looks like it's outdated / incomplete / development has stopped. (?))
 

Installation

Binary and target archives are provided via e.g. AmiNet:
http://aminet.net/search?query=vbcc

Installation on Amiga can be done via the included Installer-script, which also copies a target's configuration files to vbcc's directory. The whole process is nothing magical, and can be easily applied to e.g. Linux. Very good.

Speed

Debugging software written by other authors, and porting software from other systems requires an insane amount of compiler re-runs. Combined with a large project this results in noticeable, sometimes painful time wasted just hitting cursor-up, return and waiting.

Compiling a "helloworld.c" type program (1.5KB of printf()s and the likes) with vbcc is about three times as fast as with gcc.

(Cross-compiling on your gigahertz-multicore Linux box is ridiculously fast, compared to Amiga-speeds. A 66KB sized sourcecode file with some includes and a few precompiled objects attached compiles in what can legitimately be described as no time.)

Size of binaries created by vbcc

A quick check gave these results:
1568 bytes of source code, helloworld.c type, #include <stdio.h>
gcc binary without ixemul.library usage (libnix): 25580 bytes
gcc binary (with ixemul.library usage): 18636 bytes
vbcc binary (vbcc's vc.lib): 4868 bytes

Porting programs written for SAS/C or gcc

vbcc sits somewhere in between: it has good built-in support for AmigaOS, but lacks some of SAS/C's features, and currently has limited support for GNU/POSIX. You may want to add some own inventions. If you add new header files and/or libraries for compatibility (e.g. from gcc/ADE/geekgadgets or libnix), you will run into (resolvable) conflicts. While SAS/C and ADE/geekgadgets provide additional developer tools (e.g. make) required in the build process, vbcc is (basically) just a compiler.

Cross-compiling binaries for AmigaOS on other operating systems

As has been said before, installation is simple, and almost identical on all host systems, and so is cross-compiling. Under Linux, two changes were required to make vbcc-Linux compile a previous vbcc-AmigaOS project: add compiler config option "+aos68k", and add Linux include path to NDK_3.9/Include/include_h directory to config file "aos68k" to Linux paths.

Impressive!

Overall, the impression left by vbcc is utterly positive. There are a few flaws, e.g. some error messages could be more precise, gcc's __FUNCTION__ and __LINE__ macros or a substitute would be very helpful, and AROS host and target modules would really be nice, but it works fine on different platforms including classic AmigaOS, is easy to use, creates quality code, is fast, etc. pp. and best of all it all comes with superb cross-platform capabilities: the concept of exchangable host and target modules is an invaluable tool for cross-Amiga-platform development, and may help unify the scattered Amiga landscape.

Huge THANK YOU to Volker Barthelmann and co-authors (vasm, vlink), and iComp GmbH for sponsoring vbcc m68k-AmigaOS!


Sources:
http://sun.hasenbraten.de/vbcc/
http://blitterstudio.com/setting-up-an-amiga-cross-compiler/
http://blitterstudio.com/setting-up-an-amiga-cross-compiler-windows/

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Building the TerribleFire TF530r2, Part 2: Obtaining the components

So I've made the descision to try to build a TerribleFire TF530r2 accelerator. The TF530 uses SMD components, which are really small, but the overall number of components is quite low. Based on that, I decided that with good eyesight and accepting some fail-rate it should generally be possible to build the thing.

Disclaimer: This is not an instruction. Use at your own risk. No responsibility taken for whatever you do. Safety first. Kids, dont try this at home. 

Parts and cost

As we know, the docs of the TF530 can be found at: https://github.com/terriblefire/tf530

The readme file contains a BOM (bill of material), of which columns 2 to 4 are relvant for component indentification. It takes some time to get used to specifications and naming. When looking for parts, keep an eye on the "Package" (column 4 of BOM), which in some cases describes the required type (shape/layout/...). Also sometimes you will find out there are variations of components, like for industrial use, made of different material, etc., which are identified by some suffix appended to the name given in the BOM. Finding the matching socket for the 68030 CPU can also be a bit tedious, it has a special layout.

And of course there's the PCB (circuit board) itself, which you can order from dirtypcbs.com: http://dirtypcbs.com/store/details/1330/tf530-rev2b-zip

After hours of searching the internet, I got this impression:
- the PCBs are really cheap
- parts are generally available
- some parts seem to be a bit rare and can only be ordered from one or two retailers
- few parts are cost relevant: CPU, FPU, sockets for CPU and FPU, and SRAM
- the socket / connector to the Amiga's original CPU socket is a critical part that's rare, thus comparably expensive

I decided to go with a 40MHZ 68030RC CPU, 40MHz 68882 FPU, and will not use industrial parts, which cost more and are probably more reliable, but I'm assuming there are no extreme temperatures etc. on the TF530. For the 68000-socket connector I'll try to modifiy some other pin connector (2.54mm pin grid).

It turns out that including shipment from different retailers we're still in the "around 100EUR" range for a complete accelerator board, which is an acceptable risk.

So I placed my orders.

Sources

TF530r2 PCB (circuit board) from dirtypcbs.com:
http://dirtypcbs.com/store/details/1330/tf530-rev2b-zip
You probably want to order a "Protopack (+/-10)" which is the cheapest option, and gives you (about? +/-?) 10 boards to play with.

I ordered most of the parts for the TF530r2 from these retailers:
http://www.tme-germany.de
http://www.reichelt.de
http://www.darisus.de
http://www.conrad.de
http://www.mouser.de

68030 CPUs and 68881 or 68882 FPUs are available on eBay.

Additionally, I ordered one or two individual parts via eBay directly from China if there was a good offer.

Special thanks to the very friendly and helpful guy at CONRAD store (Munich, Moosach) who recommended to buy a soldering station and gave lots of information, you're doing a fantastic job


Delivery & Conclusion

The overall time spent on obtaining the parts has to be somewhere around 20hrs, for research, talk, orders, and purchases at local stores. 10 weeks went by from placing the first order to receiving the last one.

Everything arrived properly packaged, and hopefully it's the correct parts... I'll just have to trust them on this. ;-)

Blue TF530r2 PCBs look great, my "protopack (+/-10)" contained ten pieces. On first visual inspection one of them that has a tiny flaw between two IC soldering pads - maybe that's the "Protopack (+/-10)" option? Less quality control than ordering "10" (pieces)? I'll be using that flawed one for some SMD-soldering warm-up practice.

Overall I had one or two issues with the ordering process, but I'm pleasantly surprised how well everything worked, including resolving these issues.

Next time we'll see what we've missed so far, and be doing our first soldering tests - watch out for part 3 of our series "Building the TerribleFire TF530 accelerator board"!

 

Sunday, July 16, 2017

AMIGA alive 02: M-Tec Mastercard SCSI controller installation (Video)

"AMIGA alive 02 - M-Tec Mastercard SCSI installation" is out! This time we're installing a SCSI controller into our Amiga 1200. Hope you enjoy it, and as always comments are welcome!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ocWHlwpQioo

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

"Quasarius" - new oldskool arcade shoot-em-up for the Amiga

Do you like Space Invaders? Do you adore Deluxe Galaga? Do you remember Phoenix? Then this is the game for you!

https://ralizasoftware.neocities.org/images/quasarius6.png
Collect boni, earn extra ships, get the hi-score - Quasarius is a (very) classic Space Invaders type shoot-em-up game for Amiga by Raliza software. The graphics are simplistic, but perfectly moody, as is the soundtrack. "Quasarius" was written in BlitzBasic by Rafael Lima, with music provided by "Akira". It should run on any Amiga with at least 512KB RAM and OCS or above. (It has been reported that it doesn't run on Kickstart 1.3, though.)

You can download Quasarius for free from:
https://ralizasoftware.neocities.org/amiga.html

It's donationware, so consider making a donation if you like the game, encouraging the authors to continue developing for the Amiga. The developer already announced he's like to do a - probably (very) classic, too - side-scrolling beat-em-up game.

Here you can see Quasarius in action:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C1FTDCHjdB8

Sources:
https://ralizasoftware.neocities.org/amiga.html
http://www.indieretronews.com/2017/06/quasarius-amiga-gets-very-arcade-like.html

Cloanto releases Amiga Forever 7


New features include the ability to autostart the PC into any Amiga configuration, enhanced PowerPC emulation support, custom content folders and playlists, and a "playerless" title playback, preview and editing experience.

As always, "Amiga Forever" probably is the most complete Amiga emulation distribution: includes official Amiga ROMs and operating system, latest versions of WinUAE and WinFellow, applications, games, demos, videos, one-click player interface, ... (depending on "Amiga Forever" version/edition)

https://www.amigaforever.com/gfx/nav/af-170x80-2x.gif


Sources:
https://www.amigaforever.com/
https://www.amigaforever.com/news-events/af-7/