AROS: The modern X86 Amiga, also the perfect question of "why?"

This is a short review of an OS that is both opensource and in it's early stages. If things change in the future, then there ya go.

So the last few days I have been traveling down the road that I wanted to wander around on as a kid. Let's call it Amiga street. I've been looking up everything I can about amiga's from the hardware (and learning an active port of debian with networking has been worked on for the 68k computers [I find this amazingly awesome and cool]) all the way down to the software and modern day things that have happened to the brand name. Surprisingly the whole shebang is still rolling albeit with a lot of the original workers on top of whoever is running the new company.

To get into amiga nowadays is rather silly, one would think. You need powerpc, and specific hardware, and this and that and whatever. Funnily enough if you wanted an amiga machine AROS is going to fit your bill and be even more efficient than your phone in resources. In a running state it uses 38 MB of ram at idle and with this at thought it doesn't surprise me that it boots almost instantly on basically any x86 or 64 machine you put it on.

AROS is fully compatible with other amiga-like OS's, such as MorphOS, and shares similar software between them such as the CSS, and either just recently or soon youtube viable, OWB Web Browser. AROS also allows you to run amiga software natively even on an X86 machine. However if you were to download the community port you could most likely run the software without emulation as you would need to on X86.

Past all of this a neat feature I would like to point out is that the system does not seem to care what you boot it on once installed to a hard drive. Much like many linux or Unix/Unis systems you can flip flop systems as they come and go and never lose anything. I find this helpful as my goal was to install AROS on a netbook that I like to play youtube, music, and emulators on as well as write stories and school papers on. Though, if the machine ever dies I can simply get another one for 30 buck and toss the hard drive in assuming the drive never dies.

Now on to the other half of the question my topic title poses: "WHY?"

Simple: you want to play amiga games in an amiga environment and do other things, again, in an amiga environment. Yes there are emulators and yeah those are great and all, but I always felt authenticity in that having a machine for something specific like this always felt better. That and VMWare runs slow as all hell and ain't nobody got time for that.

The positives are that this is essentially more open than even linux. By that I mean anything and everything is touchable and easy to modify. The system tree is easy to pick up after a while and apps are pretty straight forward. Most everything is in C, python, and lua, making this the BEST system, in my opinion, for learning how to program and remember classes. Speaking of which, AROS also makes sure to stay so close to amigaOS (being based on 3.1) that if there is a class file for something like MP3's or JPEG's (or whatever else) any app that wants to open multimedia files can do so. If a class file is missing it is easy to ping the IRC users or mailing lists or forums for help. In this sense it really feels organic and like using an actual amiga. It feels much more connected and... as stupid as it sounds to me, personal in that regard.

There are bad sides though. While the OS is technically in alpha still, for as good as I have seen it, things can be confusing. Screen Modes won't set until reboot (that being resolution, hz dipslay rating, color modes, etc.), window settings don't always save (as in setting a window a certain way when you open it and saving it to always be that way like on the old amiga's), and over all the system is not very descriptive like other OS's such as windows. In this regard the feeling of using an OLD OS is there as there actually is a manual you can download, or I believe, order from the creators and managers. I won't count them against this though as it is based on amiga 3.1 and this kind of just follows along with it all. And the stuff I said before about the community being so close knit on sites, IRC, etc... Yeah that's great and all, but I will say that it's not like the software repositories in linux or the regulated software on OSX, BSD, and the hail satan itself of WIndows.

All that being said this is quite the experience to have. It really lets me play with and use the OS that I saw at the library daily as a kid (our libraries had amiga 4000's until 2003 when they got imac's for the middle and elementary schools, then the amiga's went to the local library in town and are in storage doing nothing and not for sale, though I have asked), and even some day 3D print an amiga case and make a keyboard for my raspberry pi to make my own amiga with this OS. If you have a spare compe` laying around and nothing better to do and this piques your interest as much as it did mine definitely check it out.

And if I missed anything don't be a troll as I was not an amiga user as a kid so if I have missed anything please feel free to mention it :P

May I interest you in icaros desktop?

This is a distribution of AROS (for manly x86 systems - not some half-baked Raspberry cakes not even having a SATA connector) that comes with a boatload of useful extras and features a lot more polished UI as well as the integrated Janus UAE to seamlessly run m68k programs. Installation is about as straightforward as installing AROS itself - okay, maybe apart from the "partitioning the drive" procedure which is a pain in the rear when you want to run with a custom partitioning scheme.

Of course it comes with the same drawback as vanilla AROS itself... running it on the bare metal is rather tricky simply because the hardware progresses at a way faster rate than the developers can possibly keep up with (drivers) - unless you have a sufficiently "ancient" x86 machine sitting around.

But it is still an experience to be had - especially if you grew up with Commodore's machines and OS. Still beats the living c**p out of Windows' Metrocalyptic UI as well as a motherload of Linux desktop environments even nowadays (in terms of usability).

That makes so much more sense than running ancient Amiga hardware, old PowerPC macs, or an expensive bespoke PowerPC system.

Thanks for posting I'm gonning to check that out.

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It makes more sense than running a classic m68k based Amiga or trying to cope with the crash-happy X1000 PPC boxes. The classic machines are so old that keeping them alive is a major problem for anyone not skilled in repairing electronics, and the AmigaOne machine is also starting to become dated and it never ran really stable to start with - just ask anyone owning one or having owned one.

Although, even a rather good working x86 "Amiga OS" version doesn't really solve the problem that it isn't that suitable as a daily driver due to lack of software. While there is a vibrant community out there keeping things alive and a insanely vast collection of software on AmiNet and a lot of ports to AROS... you'll be hard pressed to find software to make it your daily driver. Be it word processing software or just a web browser that can deal with nowadays sites. It's the same problem as trying to use a PowerPC Macintosh... the software isn't there (in terms of features) anymore.

That being said, it is still a wonderful experience and in terms of a niche/hobby OS it is clearly one of the very few ones that works. AROS - which is also the underpinning of icaros - is 99.9% Amiga OS 3.1 compatible; that's a landmark neither Haiku nor ReactOS have reached in a decade. While AROS/icaros can run m68k programs in a seamless emulation layer... do not expect to run old Amiga games which totally circumvented Kickstart, they will not work. Any game that can be installed to the hard drive or can be launched through the Workbench will actually work (given you run AROS/icaros on suitable hardware or in a suitable VM environment) - for anything else you really need a emulator like WinUAE, fs-uae or Cloanto's AmigaForever.

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Thanks for your reply. In @FaunCB other Amiga thread (a mod should probably merge them) this subject got touched on, my view is backed up by your answer - it's something interesting to play with.

Still, it has spurred me on to set up FS-UAE on a machine I am running PC-BSD on at the momemnt. I'm also going to now try your icaros suggestion as well. I had all my old Amiga hard drives cloned into disk files that UAE can read already; not to mention stacks of ADF floppies that I created back in the 90's before putting my A1200 out to pasture.

Then to dig out Deluxe Paint 3 and see if I can improve a picture I started back in 1991 on my A600 when learning how to use gradient fill...

I couldn't find anything about AROS on here but some mentions on some random threads. If there was a post it'll be back some ways away so I don't see a reason to merge them and confuse people. Besides it's a review of my experience and a blog. No reason to.

I am going to say something though about Icaros: it's a bit of a pain in the ass. I installed it on one machine and it is like it burned the CD so i couldn't use it again, though that may have just been the machine I was using. Also don't try running it off a USB by copying it over through DD, tried that as well and it didn't work. If you want a specific machine I hope it has a disk drive!

I have icaros on a machine and yeah the machine is from 2004/5 :P I also have the AspireOS flavor on a netbook after the icaros CD killed itself.

To anyone who wants to use this on a laptop, the wireless utility is a bit tricky. Someone made a scanning utility.

^^^ This is what I want to see in a linux distro's but they've come so far along that it seems like that may never come around again, which does suck, but oh well. I like these little independant distros.

I would have worded it a little bit nicer but you are right. dd'ing the ISO onto a USB stick, like you do with almost any Linux distro for quite a while now, is a total no-go. You need to burn a real CD - okay, DVD in at least icaros' case - and have a CD/DVD drive to install it on the bare metal (USB attached SuperMulti CD/DVD burner FTW!).

That said, this is where the "tricky to run on the bare metal" comes into play. I have icaros kinda happily running on an - by today's standards - very old AMD Athlon 64 X2 255 Dual-Core (Gigabyte 870A-UD3 motherboard, 8GB RAM, NVidia GT480) - trying to install it to the bare metal of my main 5960X/ASUS X99-A/Titan X rig doesn't go well; way too modern for AROS/icaros (confined to a VBox VM).

As for the disk drive ... yes, you certainly need one to import your Amiga floppy disks into ADF images. Not a real problem either, there are tons of USB floppy disk drives on sale (retailers, online stores, eBay) and you can even buy floppies themselves (though not in your 'store around the corner' anymore). Anyhow, while not the perfectly legal solution you can grab yourself ADF images from the net; not really that hard to find.

I hope you also pulled yourself a copy of your Kickstart ROMs - the many *UAE emulators do need a copy to work properly.

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If you wanted to install on X99 I might laugh at you. It honestly works better on lesser hardware. It comes from a big endian background where you really don't need 16 gigs of ram and all that silly nonsense. I love it XD Makes me feel like I'm using powerpc but I'm just using whatever I have laying around!