Home > Amiga, Language research > Why Amiga is cooler than .net and the perfect embedded environment

Why Amiga is cooler than .net and the perfect embedded environment

I know, you probably think I’m just another fanboy trying to convince you to use a 30 year old, 16 bit operative-system. Or perhaps I’m just a lunatic with fond memories of my childhood gaming experiences.

No, I’m actually talking serious stuff here. Ok, here it goes:

Unless you have been living under a rock for the past 10 years, computing is heading full stream ahead into virtualization. Companies like VMWare have been doing this for well over a decade now, and before that there were thin-clients and multi-account Windows installations that was all the rage (or Linux, Or OS X for that matter).

Point is: companies are tired of getting boxed into a particular piece of hardware or processor.

MorphOS is an Amiga clone, but it's bound to outdated PPC hardware

MorphOS is an Amiga clone, but it’s bound to outdated PPC hardware

The solution is two-fold: You can go the way of VMWare and emulate a whole machine, from the bios to interrupts to USB triggers. An absolutely astounding piece of engineering if you ask me.

The other route is what Microsoft have been doing, namely to ensure that their programming tools are platform abstracted. The .net framework is more than just a framework or coding standard. It’s a virtual assembly language for a virtual processor which you implement in software. What happens is that the first time you run those bytecode assembly instructions, the JIT compiler assembles them into real, processor bound OP-Codes which run natively.

Have you heard anything like that before?

Amiga, really?

Now switch over to UAE and do a comparison: The UAE platform is, give or take it’s dependence on the host – a complete self-sustaining virtual hardware environment. It’s designed in much the same way as the .net HAL (hardware abstraction layer) is, and it has the benefit of running on a tiny kernel.

So while people may feel that Amiga-OS is long gone and dead, it’s actually now coming back as a perfect virtual environment. Why perfect? Because Windows 10 is still 800 megabytes (embedded preview) while AmigaOS 3.9 or 4.0 + linux kernel + bootstrap is less than 50 megabytes (!) And that’s the full OS with all bells and whistles.

A quick visit to AmiWeb to grab your assembler, your blitzbasic and your C++ compiler and you have a pretty awesome portable, virtual platform running on cheap x86 parts.

I sincerely hope there is a good coder out there that can revive Amithlon as an open-source system.

What the hell is Amithlon?

AmigaOS running on x86 without Windows or a dedicated host OS

AmigaOS running on x86 without Windows or a dedicated host OS

Amithlon is a tiny version of Linux which is designed to boot only one thing. In fact it’s just the bare bones of Linux, no applications, no X server or anything like that (just drivers, bash and rendering via the framebuffer). So it has just the ability to boot into a very small and compact setup. The boot-sequence does one thing and one thing only: boot into a custom-built Amiga Emulator. A JIT based environment which treats mc68k assembler as (drumroll) bytecodes (!)

Amithlon allowed you to install Amiga OS 3.9 on ordinary x86 PC hardware. So finally you could take advantage of cheap and powerful x86 parts and run AmigaOS at high speed using a custom JIT engine.

Where is Amithlon now?

For some insane reason Haage & Partner, which seem to have shipped this system a few years back, just shelved it. I don’t know why so many stupid decisions seem to haunt the Amiga, but this one really is the frosting on the cake. A fully working system which allowed Amiga to run fully abstracted on cheap x86 hardware! And they fu**** shelved it!

I would really like to see that system go open-source. Who has the code? Where did it go? It worked brilliantly yet H&P shut it down — why?

If you have the source, please please give me a PM and I’ll compile it, setup a SVN repository and GIT node and generally make it available to the masses.

  1. May 7, 2015 at 1:14 pm

    Aros beats that proposal in every possible way

    • May 7, 2015 at 7:15 pm

      Could be, but after looking for Aros… 1. Seemingly dead 2. Hard to find a way to pay to get the most updated version and 3. Not worth the effort… easier to get an Amiga

      • Jon Lennart Aasenden
        May 8, 2015 at 8:15 am

        I have thought about this myself. AROS is alive and kicking, has a truckload of developers (i think) and is more “modern”. But for me who just wanted to recycle some old hardware and get a super-amiga to play games on, getting OS3.9 to run on a PC seemed like a good idea.

  2. May 10, 2015 at 9:03 am

    Check out this for some history: http://www.amicue.org/ArchNewsLetter/2002Dec.pdf

  3. May 10, 2015 at 3:38 pm

    AFAIK, the Amithlon project was abandoned due to legal challenges by the copyright holders (e.g. Amiga Inc.) who threatened lawsuits and the like. There were some unofficial updates for a while, but even those seem to have died off.

    • Jon Lennart Aasenden
      May 16, 2015 at 2:42 am

      Yes that is true. But you can still “get” the official distro that was issued by Haage & Parner, and also a few others. The source-code was likewise pushed into open-source (i discovered) but with a 2.x kernel. Since a lot of driver and compatability work has gone into the kernel in later years, i feel that an update of the kernel target could be in order. But on the upside — getting a hold of the hardware Amithlon ran under is now dirt cheap! You can get a used PC with the right gfx card, cpu and ram practically thrown after you for $50 or less. A high end thin-client may actually have those specs, giving you the fastest amiga in history for literally pennies.

      • Chris Perver
        September 16, 2018 at 5:58 pm

        Bernie still has the source code (the actual bit of software that talks to the linux side) but it won’t be released. If you mount the SmallIRD file on a linux system, you can find the file. I think it is called RC or something. You would need to disassemble it to find out how it works.

        Yes, we do have a linux kernal source thanks to Gary Colville, but the linux kernel has changed massively since 2001, and to actually make Amithlon work now on an up to date kernel would be a mammoth task. And you would be continuously having to update it as new hardware comes out.

        Amiga Inc were really keen on selling Amithlon. The problem was H&P were distributing it without having paid for licences from Amiga for the kickstart, etc. I think it did get sorted out eventually, but then Amiga Inc mysteriously shelved the whole thing and that was that. I think that was one of the biggest mistakes Amiga ever made. I guess there were some who thought PPC was the way forward, and how can you sell Amiga hardware when the operating system runs far better and for less on a bog standard PC?

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