Towerizing A1200 – part 3

This is a short post on the updated project.

I just found out that the PCMCIA port on the motherboard that came with the tower components is damaged. The right side ‘channel’ where you slide in either a cord or angle adapter was broken off ( the plastic ). I could live with that but then I noticed that one of the pins inside was horribly bent. Trying to fix it caused it to break.

I’m not sure, but I doubt a card will work in that now. I guess I could try once I get the harddrive started up. I’m also having problems finding the combo of adapters needed to get my CF card connected to the 2.5 connector. I don’t recall having this many problems 20 years ago!

More updates later.

A cheap and easy way to get wireless connectivity on your Amiga

Seems like everyone is going wireless these days. I would think that in the near future, even RJ45 Ethernet ports will start to disappear from computers and laptops.

Getting Internet connectivity on the Amiga has never been easy. The last of the classics were being sold in the mid 90′s, just before the Internet and World Wide Wide popularity explosion of the late 90′s.

However, it was easier to get an ethernet connection than it was to get a wireless connection. With the release of the prism2v2, the 3c589, and atheros wireless drivers on Aminet, there was at least some support for the chipsets, if you could get the hardware.

Amiga 600 and 1200 computers had an advantage in that they had the old-style PCMCIA connectors. Amigakit sells a wireless PCMCIA card certified for the Amigas with PCMCIA connections, and the software to set them up. This is probably the easiest way to go if you want the least amount of work to set things up as well as knowing you have a compatible card. It requires a working PCMCIA connection though and that’s only the 600 and 1200.

Besides the rebadged card sold by Amigakit, here a a few other cards that can use one of the 3 drivers above:

3com Etherlink III
Netgear MA401
Linksys WPC11

There are plenty more but I’m not going to list them here. The list above are the most common and are cheap on places like Amazon and Ebay.

There is another way to get wireless connetivity, but you have to have an Ethernet port first. There are solutions for all other Amigas though. Read on:

If you have a big box classic Amiga, with an ethernet card (like the A2065, HydraNet, X-Surf, etc), you’ll get an ethernet port. Also, some USB connections can use a USB->Ethernet adapter with the Poseidon USB software. Other classic boxes can use the PlipBox on the Parallel port for slow-ish ethernet, and on the cheap too! The only current problem is that the plipbox seems to be a DIY project. At least I haven’t seen anyone building them for sale to the public. But even an Amiga 1000 could use this, assuming there is a TCP/IP stack that supports the machine in question.

Now that you have at least an ethernet connection of some kind, the answer is to get a cheap Wireless bridge. This is a device that “bridges” a wireless connetion with an ethernet connection. There are a few devices on the market that do this cheaply. The ones I used came from Ebay for about $20 USD each. The Vonets wireless bridge is small, fairly fast and handles encryption protocols in hardware, freeing up the host computer from having to do it (I’d read that the pcmcia cards may need to use some cpu on the amiga to handle some advanced protocols).

Here’s a picture of the device:

Vonets

This device has two connections on it: One is an ethernet connection to your Amiga, and the other is a USB connection, only used for powering the device. If your Amiga doesn’t have USB ports for power, you can attach it to any powered USB connection. I believe you can even find some A/C power adapters for this purpose. Many powerstrips now include USB ports for recharging devices too.

The downside to most Wireless bridges is that configuring them isn’t easy for an Amiga. Some devices, like the belkin wireless bridge I once tried, can be configured via a web interface. It needed a new browser capable of CSS though, so IBrowse and others wouldn’t do the job. On Classic Amigas, use NetSurf or the 68k OWB port to configure.

The Vonets I showed here was only configurable via Windows using a proprietary bit of software (use the software on their install disc). I’m assuming that most people have access to a Windows PC, which is why I’m suggesting this option. The unattractive, yet simple UI wizard will show the list of Vonets connected, then the wireless SSIDs found, and ask for the protocols (it usually guesses right), and prompts for any passphrases. After it resets, it’s good for use anywhere that the particular SSID is reachable.

For my home, I know the SSID isn’t going to change so I feel comfortable setting this up once and then using on my Amiga. My Amigas only see an ethernet connection, not a wireless connection with protocols, passwords, foreign chipsets, etc.

My NextGen Amigas (the Eyetech AmigaOne XE and Micro-A1C) were simple to set up to use this on their built-in ethernet ports. I’ve also used this on my Amithlon laptop without problem. For the laptop, it has the WindowsXP partition that has the Vonets software, so if i ever take the laptop somewhere else, I can quickly log into windows, change the wireless settings, log back into Amithlon and I’m set!

Simple!

Towerized A1200 – Part 2

Well, a few months ago, I was watching eBay, trying to get my first NextGen Amiga motherboard (an Eyetech AmigaOne XE), when I spotted something interesting: An infinitive case with an A1200 motherboard installed. It was missing a side door as well as a front plastic panel. It did have a rev 2B motherboard, and the case had a PS/2 keyboard, and a powersupply with adapter.

The motherboard sits in a slide-out tray. Very good design. Unfortunately, it’s all plastic (apart from one shield behind the motherboard). The plastic snaps together and doesn’t feel terribly sturdy. Here’s a diagram of how it is put together:

The tower came from Europe and I’m in America so the first thing was to check to see if the PSU would need to be replaced. It said “switching” but I wanted to be sure. Fortunately for me, it was an auto-switching power supply. The power supply had a custom power connector that plugged into a rail in the slide-out tray. At the bottom of the case, a special connector that connected the power rail to the standard A1200 power plug. Here’s the rail with the connector at the bottom. You can see the keyboard ribbon as well, and the next picture is also a close-up of the power connector at the bottom:

It did come with a floppy drive and a RAM/FPU expansion, but no harddrive. Using my old 1084s, I could get the system up to the “insert floppy” animation. I didn’t have any Amiga floppies left though.

Over the next few weeks, I’d pick up more hardware. See my next post…

New Project: Classic Amiga 1200 … Towerized! Part 1

Okay, I realized that I have collected enough parts of the past year to be able to start on my next Classic Amiga Project: an A1200T. As I mentioned early in this blog site, my first Amiga was an A1200. Just before I sold it, I had wished to be able to towerize it. Back in 1996, there weren’t many options to do this, unless you wanted to break out plastic and metal tools or pay huge $$$’s to a company that was most likely overseas.

My inspiration for this project came from an Amibay user named Aquapuls. He was selling his amazing awesome machine in -> this thread <–. Here are a few pictures of his machine:

Here’s the breakdown of the specs:

  • Amiga 1200 Rev 2B motherboard
  • Micronik Infinitiv Tower for Amiga 1200
  • Micronik 6860 rev 5.42 Zorro Busboard
  • Blizzard PPC/060 accelerator
  • Scandoubler/FlickerFixer
  • Subway USB clockport card
  • Wireless PCMCIA network card on PCMCIA angle adapter & wireless antenna extension
  • SCSI & IDE controller cards with multiple memory card readers
  • GVP Spectrum RTG card
  • XSurf Network card
  • Plenty of harddrives, an optical drive and CF drive
  • plus much more

This dream machine was listed for about $4k on US Ebay for a long time. I don’t think he ever sold it, due to the high cost but it was quite a machine in any case.

My goal was to try to make something similar using parts I had or would acquire soon. I doubted, when I started this, that I would get a PPC card with Amiga OS4.1, but something good and classic running the latest Classic 3.9 would be enough.

So, with the proceeds of the sale of my 2nd Amiga 4000T in my Paypal account, I set out to see what I could find.

To be continued…

MorphOS 3.5.1 has been released (alternate download link)

Hello all,

It appears that the MorphOS team is pushing forward with another fine release of their PowerPC, Amiga-like OS: 3.5.1. The 3.5 release that showed up a few days ago had a flaw on boot-up for some machines so they quickly put up version 3.5.1 as a quick-fix release.

Their changelist can be found –> here

And a list of the new G5′s they support is found here <–

I do believe that the MorphOS team has made a wise decision over the past few years of supporting the Apple PowerPC machines. This, combined with their free (for 30 minutes at a time unless you register) OS, plus easily available (on ebay/craigslist, etc) and inexpensive PowerPC machines, gives potential new users a very easy and cheap way to experience Amiga NextGen.

Their support of the Apple G5 PowerMac machines actually make their vision of Amiga NextGen faster than Amiga OS4 on even the x1000 AmigaOne machines by A-Eon. The benchmarks show the PowerMac G5 2.5Ghz machines crushing everything else, including the 1.8Ghz AmigaOne x1000's.

It’s also good for Hyperion to have some PowerPC competition.

NOTE: I was having website access problems for the main MorphOS page, so I found a direct link to the install ISO image. Use this if you are also having link issues:

http://asgaard.morphos-team.net/morphos-3.5.1.iso

Amiga Web Browsers – part 2

The Modern Era

Now, step up to the modern era of web browsers for Amiga. After going over the software that has been around since the 90′s, let’s look at what we have avaiable today.

NetSurf:

NetSurf was originally started as a project to support low-end or resource-strapped systems that needed web-browsing capability. It doesn’t appear to be based on any other browser project and has support for modern CSS websites, which is a major plus. Javascript support is lacking but is being developed for the mainline NetSurf code, which means the Amiga versions will probably inherit them soon after they are working.

There is both Amiga OS4.x and OS3.x versions available. The OS4.x version is farther along at the time of this writing. You can see its webpage –> here <–. I had read that the classic version needed to be run on RTG-equipped Amigas, but some enterprising developers have made AGA-optimized versions of SDL that allow it to run on AGA classic machines with reasonable speed. I believe that the latest versions are available over in “The Zone!” section of the English Amiga Board (eab.abime.net). You’ll need membership access to reach that section though.

This is one of the two best, modern browsers you can get on classic Amigas, and the OS4 version is well respected. Time will only make this one better as the development is constant on the mainline code.

Merlin:
Merlin was an independent project that first saw publicity in 2009. It was billed as a CSS and Javascript-capable browser. No word on if it was derived from another browser or other code. The main website seems to be only available via the web archive for now. It saw development activity until about mid 2011, but nothing since.

As for it’s capabilities: it was a mixed bag. Some reported that it was almost usable, but the screenshots I’ve seen showed that it’s CSS rendering was still very much a work-in-progress. If the developer had more time and resources, it might have turned into a serious contender. As it is now, it appears to be an abandoned effort. It appears to be only compiled for 68k but tested with PowerPC machines in compatibility mode.

Orygin Web Browser (OWB):
The Orygin Web Browser was another attempt to make a web browser that could handle modern web technologies but still be able to work on low-resource devices. This made the Amiga a good candidate to receive a port.

OWB has been ported to AROS, AmigaOS4 and Amiga OS3.x. It seems to be based on code from the 2009-2010 era but still very usable. On OS3.x on Classic machines, I believe it also depends on SDL and RTG technologies. For classic machines that can handle the requirements, it is probably the best browser available. As mentioned above, for AGA, non-RTG Amigas, Netsurf 68k is still probably the best.

Orygin’s renderer is based upon Apple’s WebKit (which itself is derived from the Konqueror KTHML web-browser for Linux). Even though the versions for Amiga are based on versions of WebKit from a few years ago, it is still very capable.

I didn’t mention a MorphOS version due to the evolution of OWB in the MorphOS world (continued in the Odyssey section below).

TimberWolf:
Timberwolf is the VERY LONG awaited port of FireFox to the Amiga. There have been attempts to do this since Mozilla went open source in 1998. Many attempts started and failed. Apparently, there was a lot of infrastructure needed to make it work. Bounties for porting it sat unclaimed for years until 2012 when the Frieden brothers finally got FireFox 4 ported over into a beta test version. It is FireFox and it works but it is a bit slow and only available for OS4.1. On my Micro-A1C, it can take several minutes (up to 10) to even get past the splash-screen to the browser.

Until a more fully developed version comes along, I will continue to use alternatives. However, this was a great achievement to finally get the mighty FireFox for our system. Lots of memory and the fastest CPU are recommended.

Odyssey Web Browser (also called OWB or MUI-OWB)

At the time of this writing, the King of Amiga browsers has got to be Odyssey. For a long time, it was only available for MorphOS, but has lately been getting Amiga OS4.x ports, after a lot of negotiation with the main developer as well as a hefty bounty to port and open the source up.

It was originally derived from Orygin Web Browser, but the author admits that, over time, he’s been replacing many portions until now, very little of the original OWB is left. It is, confusingly, still called OWB by the author and uses an icon very similar.

What makes this one the best of the current crop? Basically it comes down to the fact that it keeps up with the latest in web technologies. The author (“Fab”) manually integrates new versions of Apple’s WebKit (the core of their Safari browser) into this code throughout the year. Also, he’s improved on things from the original OWB. For example, there is a real download manager window that the old OWB didn’t show. His was also the only version of an Amiga Browser that could play embedded videos (HTML5 type) when other Amiga Browsers had to launch external players.

Now that there is the porting to Amiga OS4.x, and the opening of the source, there will probably be an AROS port and more improvements and contributions by the developers in the Amiga World.

There is also an effort to build/port a PowerPC Javascript JIT compiler plug-in to greatly speed up modern browsing with Odyssey.

Amiga OS4.x users will first need to get to the latst code to get the MUI4 port before they can run the new versions. As of this writing, the latest version of the Amiga OS4 port of Odyssey isn’t quite up to date with the latest MorphOS version but they should soon reach parity.

Fab’s MorphOS archives are found –> here <–

Amiga Web Browsers – part 1

Unless you are just using your Amiga to play retro games or to run something specialized like a video toaster, you’ll probably want to be able to surf the web. If there was one absolutely essential app for any computer these days, it’s a good web browser. The Amiga has many to choose from but only a few can handle modern day websites. Here’s a quick rundown of each browser I could find:

The Low End

Lynx: Lynx is a text-only web browser that’s been around for a very long time. It’s superfast, due to the fact that it doesn’t have to download anything but the html text. It doesn’t support Javascript or CSS and has no images. I doubt if tables or frames are even shown. No screenshot, you’d only see a console anyway. I could only find ALynx, the latest of which was dated from the year 2000 and another one just called lynx from 2007.

Amosaic: The first graphical browser of any popularity was Mosaic in the 90′s. I believe both Netscape and Internet Explorer were derived from this project. There was an Amiga port called AMosaic that was used widely in the mid to late 90′s before others came along. I believe it used Amiga datatypes to render images and play sounds.

Voyager: A company called Vaporware arose out of Europe to deliver what was, at the time, some really good internet-related, Amiga-specific software. Their old website is still there. The first version of Voyager was released free as a gift to the Amiga Community. Version 2 and 3 were registered to users for a small fee. This web browser had some simple javascript support. It also supported Amiga datatype rendering and had early support for frames. I used to use it with my Amiga 1200 in 32 color mode back around 1996. There is still a support ftp site that has updates until about mid-2002.

AWeb: AWeb was a great, fast and available early on. It was another late 90′s browser that had some support for javascript, tables, frames, etc. The developer eventually left the Amiga-scene but opened up the source code on his way out. The code was ported to PowerPC Amigas as well. It was also bundled with OS 3.9 making it one of the more widely used ones. While it can’t render modern pages very well, it isn’t bad either and is still a fast browser. It surprised with some of the pages it could render. Check out the AWEB official website.

IBrowse: IBrowse was, in my opinion, the king of Amiga classic web browsers. As with others, it supports a lot of the web standards in the late 90′s and maybe early 2000′s, it also support some javascript, uses datatype plugins, had great bookmark management and download management windows. It was and still is a great example of Amiga-style when it comes to software. It’s just a shame it never got the updates to keep it current with modern standards like CSS. The website shows that the last major release was version 2.4 in 2006. However, experimental flash player plug-in support continued to be released as late as 2011, so there is still some life (albeit minor) in this great web browser. It was commercial software and, at the time, worth every penny.