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Update4 - First Impressions

Thursday 9th February & AmigaOS4 is well on it's way to completion. Hyperion release the 4th update to the Pre Release version & we get testing! This version is provided as an ISO file (This is a CD image) & as such, installation is al all in one Package. You boot from the CD, then install from the CD. If you are yet to partition your hard drive, head to further areas of IntuitionBase for a guide on setting up your hard drive (SFS Walkthrough).

After installation, OS4 booted up after a single restart. Very painless indeed. In this article I intend to report some of my initial findings with Update 4 as well as test out the JIT emulator, Petunia.

What's new in Update 4?

One of the toughest choices after you install your favorite OS is, what to test first? Personally, I chose to drag the screen. This is a neat feature that has been with the Amiga since the 80's. It allows you to pull a screen down by using the menu bar along the top & see what your other programs are doing in the background. Right, so explaining it in words doesn't quite do it justice. Dragging the screens in AmigaOS4 is as smooth as it ever was. Not bad considering we're dragging 32 bit screens. A quick tap of the 'qualifier' key, Right-Shift or my middle mouse button, then allows the dragging of screens in any direction. An extremely useful feature in this is that you can drag & drop between screens. Open a file requester in one screen & drag the screen down. Drag & drop an icon from your Workbench screen onto this requester & watch it's path change.

With update4 you can drag screens again

After a little look through the contents of the new install, I decided to grab my Prefs settings from my backed up system, copied my fonts back over & began to bring over some PNG icons (After installing the latest Powericons from OS4Depot). Here is where I got my first Grim Reaper (The AmigaOS4 crash controller). This particular crash has happened before & may be down to the commodity, RAWBInfo. Occasionally, when dragging a PNG icon into RAWBInfo to replace an icon, a Reaper kicks in. Still, a swift click of Continue on GrimReaper & all the system continues without a shred of debris from the crash. The Reaper didn't happen again & my icon replacing continued.

For all you shortcut junkies, when cleaning up my new icons I noticed the new shortcuts for the menu option, "Icons/Clean up by". Right-Amiga+6, 7, 8 & 9 clean up by Name, Date, Size & Type respectively. This is as well as the "View by" options, still using Right-Amiga+1, 2, 3, 4 & 5 for an individual window viewing Icons, Name, Date, Size or Type. Thanks guys.

Heading back to some of the other directories & I found one particular special when I popped into Tools/Commodities. In here is a VERY welcome friend in the form of a CrossDos icon. Welcome home. I haven't used this yet but I thought some of you might like to hear that.

AmigaInput. This is the AmigaOS4's native game device handler. As well as allowing the connection of a huge number of joypads, analogue & digital joysitcks, AmigaInput has lowlevel.library emulation/support. What this means is, if you have any classic Amiga software that, for example, used to an Amiga joystick or CD32 joypad, AmigaInput will convince your old software that the old device is actually connected. Excellent for playing those classic Amiga games through E-UAE! At the time of writing, I do not have any native AmigaOS4 software that uses AmigaInput directly but this will come very shortly.

SYS:Prefs

Inside the Prefs directory there are now a couple of new features. A couple being:

  • Input: The mouse speed now has more a larger range. Standard speed is now known as 1:1. Tap the speed up a notch & it becomes 3:2, then 2:1, then 3:1 & 4:1. Very handy for lower resolution meeces that are a little slow. It also now goes the other way. 2:3, 1:2, 1:3 & 1:4. That's right down to a quarter of the speed. There should be a setting for everyone here now.
  • Picasso96: Not strictly a new feature but it's at this point that I realised I had extra screenmodes (Resolutions) & I hadn't even configured any. They wasn't in my Picasso96 screen mode list, but they were definately showing in ScreenMode. From Update 4, you can now configure your screenmodes directly from your DEVS:Monitors/ icon. Adding something along the lines of "MODE=1280x1024@75" to your tooltypes & AmigaOS4 will do the rest. Once you're used to it, this turns out to be very simple & effective to use.
  • Screen Blanker: At first it just didn't click that I was looking at a ScreenBlanker Prefs icon. Until I clicked on it. I thought I was going to see the usual ScreenBlanker window. Until I saw the new window.

    A new look for the screen blanker prefs A new look for the screen blanker prefs A new look for the screen blanker prefs

    And very nice it is too. A new module based screen blanker. Click on 'Module Preferences', as you'd expect, you get a preferences window pop up. Another nicey is that it pops up to the right of the preview view that you see & the changes you make to the preferences are reflected in real time in the preview window. Meaning you don't HAVE to click the 'Test Fullscreen' button to see how your changes look. However, if you DO want to test the fullscreen blanker, you don't have to close the preferences window. Just it click the test button from here.

    It doesn't stop here. Not everyone likes screen blankers & the Hyperion team have thought of you too!

    Built in DPMS support. It works too. Sadly I cannot test the Stand-By & Power Off options, but the Suspend worked prefect. There's even an option to ignore the mouse when you're on Stand by to save any accidental mouse knocks bringing your screen back up. There's also customisable Hot Keys for each function with a "Learn" button for your shortcuts. All we want now are some Screen Blanker wizards out there to build us more modules.

Petunia

Ok, this isn't a review per se but I have promised to test some applications out thgouth Petunia.

Initial reaction? This beast is FAST. It's that simple. Petunia makes some of your old software look & act modern. Complete with a Compatability Prefs program allowing the addition of problem programs, Petunia comes across as a serious, yet invisible, Interpreter/Emulator.

Photogenics 5: A very processor intensive graphics program that made even the fastest classic Amiga break into more than a sweat. If you've seen this in person you'll understand. On a classic Amiga, grab a 1024x768 image & fill a layer with the highest setting (29.5) Gaussian Blur. Go for a coffee & come back in a bit. Not so with Petunia. Fill the layer & in less than 15 seconds, you're done. You can even slide the settings up & down, give it a few seconds & see the changes almost in real time. Quality!

Needless to say, most of the other effects are less processor intensive than the Gaussian Blur & as a result most of them are near enough real time whether you apply a full layer or paint a layer yourself. How much fun is there to have with the finger smudge?

Photogenics demonstrating some effects

Next up, HD-Rec: Personally I am really waiting for a fully featured sequencer for OS4. Bars & Pipes has a lot going for it, but here is a dark horse. Previously, HD-Rec struggled on OS4 because the 68k interpreter in Update 3 & before simply couldn't cut it. HD-Rec would ALWAYS report a 100% CPU usage. Even when the program was idle. Add 2 effects to a track & it'd grind to a halt. You simply could not add real time (68k) effects.

This image on here shows 6 real time effects on the go (There's another 6 more running but I ran out of screen to show you). Look up the top right of the screen. 0% CPU usage. 12 effects & they aren't even denting the CPU. The only time the CPU usage bobbed up was when I was sliding sliders back & forth & actually changing the effect myself WHILE the audio was playing. Even then, the highest I saw was aroung 34% & when I had found the setting I wanted, down the CPU usage went again. I even got a message from HD-Rec saying I could not add any more effects. Time to extend that limit me thinks.

HD-Rec works again with update4

Just to make sure I wasn't doing anything wrong, I did get a little crazy & added more realtime effects until she just couldn't take anymore & stopped me in my tracks. One particular processor killer is the 10 band EQ. Remember this is all being emulated. These are not PPC native effects. HD-Rec shouldn't even be running.

By the way: HD-REC really IS a fantastic piece of software. If anyone out there is even slightly interested in making music on the Amiga. My vote is here.

Last up, Cinema4D: This had troubles in Update 3 so I was very interested to see what update 4 delivered in terms of Cinema4D stability. Some of you may well have seen my PackMan render from Cinema4D. It's going back a while but I find it a nice scene to test renders with. The original took my A1200, Blizzard 1260/50Mhz, 1:30:15 to render. I would disappear & play a game.

Through Petunia? 15 minutes. This is with the Depth of Field filter (Focusing) & 8x8 Anti-aliasing on Edges&Colour. In technical terms, that's quite a lot of anti-aliasing. As a matter of interest, I tried the render out without anti-aliasing as this adds more to the rendering time than anything else & we managed to render at the same resolution (1024x768) in 2 minutes. That very scene there. 4 light sources. 2 of which casting a hard shadow, 1 casting a soft shadow. A little reflection just to test it out & again, the depth field. 2 minutes.

Cinema4D renders faster thanks to Petunia

Again, these tests are under emulation on an 800Mhz G4.

@Rachy

What an awesome job you & the team have done on this. Excellent work... Really!

For a first impressions test I have to say that Update 4 is a stunning piece off work. It seems that every update isn't just a few new bits bolted on, there's a distinct jump in performance. Warp3D is another major leap. Shutting out the technical details for now, Wipeout 2097 is now running at 50fps at a Resolution of 1280x1024. Lots of pixels. Lots of 3D. The OS isn't even finished yet. This is just the tip of the iceberg & there's plenty more to come from Hyperion.

Right, I'm off to drag some screens around.

Written by: Russell "FuZion" Glover.

Edited by Jonathan GiGa Haddock

Published : 14th March 2006
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