Subject: Classic Mac OS computing on the Apollo V4 FPGA Amiga
In a recent post about the Apollo V4 Standalone FPGA Amiga clone I made the claim that the V4 may be the best new classic Mac you can buy. Obviously I worded that claim carefully. Good luck buying a new Macintosh that runs Classic OS anywhere.
I have a love hate relationship with Apple and Mac. Through the years, first in PC sales and then as an IT professional, being familiar with the Apple line of OS Classic and OS X systems has been a necessity. Mostly I end up supporting family members, friends and neighbors, but occasionally I run into these systems professionally too.
I've had many Macs, all the way from the original 128k to a core i7 Macbook Pro in my life. The majority of them have left to the refuse heap after dying prematurely. I don't do anything in particular demanding to Macs. In my subjective opinion, they just have higher failure rates than any other brand. Mac loyalists will gnash their teeth and call me a Windoze Fanboy here. The truth is from the earliest Macs - issues like "cracked cold solder joints" have been an issue for Macs. That issue was caused by cycles of heating and cooling, and a design where the logic board was at a 90 degree angle to the power board and enclosed next to an open CRT tube, air cooled with no fans. Apple has been emphasizing design over functional engineering since the beginning - and Mac durability suffers for that - but there is no denying it looks dead-sexy doing it. My current Macbook Pro is a 2012 i7 notorious for a Radeon GPU that cooks itself if you use the machine to do things that require a 3D GPU. It is pretty safe as long as you use it only for tasks that require the Intel HD graphics. Later MBP models resolved this by using Nvidia GPUs - only, the Nvidia GPUs also cook themselves. It is worth noting that these mobile GPUs were used in similar "cheap commodity windows PCs," at the time, and didn't cook themselves in those machines nearly as predictably as in Apple laptops. Only the Macs seem to really suffer from this issue on these GPUs. I'm not saying it is Apple's fault - but it is Apple's fault.
Despite this, I've developed an affinity for the Mac OS and several apps that are exclusive to this quirky personal computer lead by the Cult-of-Personality surrounding Steve Jobs. The problem is that despite having more Mac 68k and PPC classic machines at one point than any other retro-platform, almost all of them are dead. Leaky batteries and capacitors and cases that have become so brittle with age that they crack and break like porcelain are the most common issues. I have one PowerPC 8500 that seems fine electronically, but the case is slowly reverting to earth, and a Classic that only boots one time out of 10. My Quicksilver G4 seems to be a very solid machine, though. Macs in more traditional PC tower formats and iMacs seem to be sturdier stuff than their ultra-compact designs.
Knowing the writing is on the wall, and not actually interested in trying to keep additional ancient Macs alive - I started looking into emulation after I discovered Basilisk II on the PC. It is a nice program, but it is no longer developed. I run it on my i7, on my Note 10+ and on Pi and MiSTer.
It has some issues though. In particular, it chokes on the Liarware version of Ultima III - hanging, crashing the system, and in some cases, corrupting the hard drive image I use for the Mac emulator. It is a hassle to set up and configure. There is a GUI front end for most platforms that helps. Still, I'm not using Mac OS 8 or earlier as a daily driver. Sometimes I'll go months without visiting the Mac classic OS - and when I come back, having to re-learn how to launch the emulator as well as refreshing myself on how the OS itself works - well - this is one of the reasons I think FPGA is superior to emulation. It is generally one less abstraction layer between yourself and the classic platform you're trying to re-experience. FPGA simplifies configuring classic machines.
So I was excited when I saw that the Apollo V4 was being billed as a very competent Mac Classic OS emulator - and that the Coffin OS image had this built-in.
Instead of Basilisk II, Coffin and the V4 run an earlier predecessor of Basilisk II called "Shapeshifter".
While MiSTer will run the Coffin OS and there is an image for MiSTer floating around - sadly the Minimig 68ec020 core doesn't have enough horsepower to run it at a decent speed or color depth. You can get it to launch - but if you've got a PC or modern Mac, you're better off running Basilisk II. In fact, there is an image of Basilisk II for the ARM processor on the DE10 Nano that is the core of MiSTer - and this runs better than running Shapeshifter on Coffin on MiSTer/Minimig. It is inconvenient to install, configure and launch though - loading through the scripts menus instead of the core menus. MiSTer does have a perfectly good Mac Plus emulator that runs very old B&W Macs running system 6, but an FPGA Mac II core has never been released for any FPGA platform.
|Mac Plus core on MiSTer FPGA|
Shapeshifter however, is a different animal on the V4. Everything is set up with Coffin. There is a launcher in the menu bar that brings up a selection for OS 7.5 or 8.1. Click the button, and it will take you into the GUI. There you can tweak graphics, hard drives, SCSI, memory, serial, network and miscellaneous settings. You may want to. There is already a hard drive image installed and configured - so once you've got things where you want, click Start - and it will launch the emulator. However the drive images are a system drive of 300mb with 176mb available, and a Programs drive of 800mb with 154mb available - so there isn't a ton of extra room to load up your own programs or images. You can always create bigger volumes or remove installed apps that you don't need.
|Coffin R58 with Shapeshifter GUI on V4|
Click to view full size
System benchmarks with Speedometer 4.02 clock at a very impressive 70 times the speed of a Quadra 605 - a 68LC040/25 system. To put that into perspective, the PPC 8500 results are 530 times the speed of a Quadra 605. Honestly, this puts Shapeshifter on the V4 in the class of a low end PPC Quadra, not a 68xxx series Mac. In fact, in MacBench 4.0, the V4 running Shapeshifter clocks in a dead heat with a Power Mac 6100/60.
|Click on Image to View Full size|
After setting up the network in the Chooser and Control panels, the virtual Mac was able to see my G4 Quicksilver Powermac. This is an interesting observation about Macs. I have the MBP i7 running OS X, the PPC 8500 running OS 8.5, and the G4 running OS X PPC, and the V4 running 8.1 on Shapeshifter, as well as a NAS that is configured with Bonjour and Apple networking shares. The one consistent device that all the other devices can see is the G4 Quicksilver. I'm not sure if this is something I could tweak in the settings on the various machines to enable them to better talk to one another - but it works out in that I can use the G4 to get any Mac file from any of my Macs to any other - using the G4 as a bridge. The network uses the V4 device driver - but it appears to be a direct connection. I didn't need to have the Amiga TCP/IP stack up and running for Shapeshifter to establish a network connection. I'm not sure how that works, but I'm not questioning it. In fact, the TCP/IP stack in Shapeshifter seemed more reliable than the TCP/IP stack that V4 uses. I've had trouble with transferring large files via FTP and SAMBA from devices to my V4 - but large files transferred painlessly and without error from network devices to the Shapeshifter Mac.
Note here - I tried to enable Appletalk networking and file sharing on Shapeshifter, and it locked the emulator while booting into OS 8, hanging on an extension. I was unable to load with extensions disabled. Fortunately I had made a copy of the Shapeshifter folder - so simply copying the hard drive image back over the one I had FUBARed fixed the problem. I recommend you make backup copies of your hard drive image in case you experience a similar issue.
In any case, the networking is simple to set up and overall works well.
The official Shapeshifter page states,
"ShapeShifter is now obsoleted by Basilisk II which also runs on AmigaOS. This page is only kept for completeness."
Intrigued by the performance of Shapeshifter on the V4, I wondered why it was bundled with Coffin instead of Basilisk II. Unfortunately, I was unable to get Basilisk II running on the V4. I can get as far as having it launch the emulator window - but I never get as far as seeing a happy Mac icon. It tends to lock up the V4, requiring a Ctrl-Ctrl-Amiga to reboot the system. I suspect it has something to do with the unique video modes of the V4 - and maybe in the future we'll see it running on the V4. For now, Shapeshifter is the best game in town. The biggest limitation I can see is that Basilisk II will mount a local, native host drive system as a Mac drive, allowing you to easily copy files to your host, in this case, the V4, and then move them into your virtual Macintosh. That is a very nice feature to have, but with robust networking, is something that is fairly trivial to overcome in its absence.
Likewise, physical hardware like serial and floppies that do not exist on the V4 can't really be enabled or configured on Shapeshifter. Running Shapeshifter on a genuine Amiga, you can mount and read Mac floppies. Printing is also something I haven't figured out on the V4, and which may not be possible. Of course, you can always print to a PDF or other document, then copy it to a modern machine and print there. Color depth is set in the configuration menu as well, and seems to be dependent on the host OS system. On the V4, I've been successful using a color depth of 15 bit (32768 colors) and a Screen Type of CyberGfx/P96 at a resolution of 1024x768 in full screen. Running "windowed" will run the emulator with access to the Amiga desktop, but limits you to black and white in Mac OS. Running full screen, you cannot switch back and forth between the Amiga desktop and the Mac desktop without shutting down Shapeshifter as far as I can tell. You'll be limited to running Shapeshifter in a window, in black and white, if you want to use an Amiga screen grab utility to capture Shapeshifter, or you'll need to use the native MacOS screen grab (still the same key combos in OS X today).
This introduces some special challenges. The native screen capture on OS 8.1 saves in a long depreciated "PICT" graphics format. I couldn't find anything, including Corel Paint Shop Pro 4 - that could read this format. The G4 Quicksilver once again became the intermediary. I had to copy screen shots from Shapeshifter back to the G4, then open them there. This would launch Preview - possibly in OS 9 "Mac Classic" mode, and then I could save the image from PICT to a modern format like JPG or PNG. Figuring this out took me a couple hours.
|Using OS X PPC on a G4 to bridge the gap|
click image to enlarge
The reason for this highly accurate emulation and incredible performance is because the native 68k architecture doesn't need to be emulated when running a 68k Mac OS on an Amiga (or the V4). On a PC, this is an additional translation layer as the 68k instructions have to be translated to x64 architecture, processed there, then the results translated back to the 68k process in emulation. Running a Mac emulator on an Amiga, this step can be skipped. The Mac specific parts of the machine are emulated - but the processor core is already there at the hardware layer.
|Click for full size image|
Because the FPGA core on the V4 is in effect the fastest 68xxx compatible hardware clone in the world - it makes the V4 the best choice for emulating classic 68k Macintosh systems. Basilisk II feels slow and laggy on my core i7 with 16GB of RAM and a fast SSD drive. It feels as responsive and generally as stable as a real Mac on the V4.
There are some limitations. The memory assigned to the Mac in Shapeshifter is limited to the size of the largest contiguous block of Amiga memory. With about 500mb total on the V4, I found that this was limited to around 64MB of memory. Shapeshifter and Basilisk II are limited to OS 8.1, so Classilla, the Macintosh Classic Web Browser for OS 8.6 and 9 - wouldn't run. I get "Out of Memory" errors. I was hoping that Classilla on Mac would be better than aWeb or the outrageously priced IBrowse Amiga browsers. But let's be honest, even browsing modern websites on ancient platforms and browsers is an exercise in frustration and futility at best, even on "classic" machines far more powerful than these.
The Coffin Shapeshifter images come pre-loaded with a great selection of the titles that most people are going to want to use OS 8 for anyhow. Carmen Sandiego, Doom II, Heroes of M&M II, Kings Quest, Links Pro, Warcraft, Leisure Suit Larry and other familiar titles are already here - saving you the trouble of moving CD sized image files around and figuring out how to get them transferred to the Mac image. I was able to copy all of my essential utilities like Aladdin Expander 5.5, SitExpand, and StuffitLite as well as image viewers and other utilities. All of these installed and ran fine.
I haven't copied over any productivity applications like PhotoShop, Illustrator, or word processing. Really those things are novelties on machines this old - a neat way to see how far these kind of applications have come in 20+ years. They might run, and a well-matched version would probably run well. But you're not going to run old Mac 68k versions of Photoshop and Illustrator to avoid the Creative Cloud subscription model.
The website Macintosh Garden is one of several sites that is a Classic Mac version of Aminet. Unfortunately it isn't designed like aminet to support old systems with outdated browsers - so you'll need to connect via a more modern machine and then figure out how to get files from that machine to Shapeshifter. Fortunately, they have several 68k FTP clients. I was able to download "Fetch 2.1.2" and get it installed on Shapeshifter, giving me access to my NAS and the folders there.
|Click for full sized image|
One caveat - the V4, ApollOS and Coffin are all a somewhat unstable system in rapid development. I have had the entire machine lock up, and even spontaneously reboot or GURU while in Shapeshifter. Anyone familiar with classic Macs knows the uncertainty of restarting your Mac after a dirty shutdown or crash. Again, this is a reason to make frequent backup images of your drive image. In the course of writing this article, I had to hard reboot the machine several times. On a couple of occasions, Shapeshifter itself did seem to become unresponsive.
The ability to faithfully emulate a reasonably accurate Classic OS 7/8 68k Mac that runs at blazing speeds (relative to Classic II/68k benchmarks) is a big bonus feature of the V4 FPGA. Emulation itself is not perfect, and Mac Classics are a fairly neglected platform in Retrogaming/Retrocomputing circles (but then again, they were fairly neglected in gaming when they were still being sold new.) I've tried various solutions to continue to have Mac II experiences without relying on maintaining old, very unreliable 68k Mac platforms, and they've all felt like imitations. Shapeshifter on the V4 has been the most convincing "Non-genuine hardware" Classic Mac OS experience I've experienced, short of running OS 9 mode on my G4. The V4 has a price tag that is a bit steep if you are only buying it for the ability to emulate classic Macs - especially considering that relative to other platforms, genuine Mac hardware can be had cheap, if you can find it. But if you're interested in Amiga emulation and you want the best Macintosh emulation possible - if there is a better choice than the Vampire V4, I haven't found it yet.
Subject: Apollo Vampire V4 Amiga FPGA - 2 Weeks Later
After a little more than a week with the Apollo Vampire V4 Amiga FPGA standalone computer, I'm finally starting to feel a little comfortable with the platform. If you thought the first impressions were long-winded, I've got even more to say this time. Were my initial impressions of the V4 accurate, were my criticisms fair?
Let me start of by saying this. The V4 is currently a better FPGA Amiga than the MiSTer. It is probably the best Amiga you can buy right now, at any price.
But it is also more complicated, difficult to configure and operate, and frustrating to get set up and operating correctly. It is also less stable.
About the geographic/national culture barriers with Apollo/Vampire:
A big part of the problem is culture. This applies to both the culture of the community, and the geographic/national cultures involved in these communities.
Despite being a commercial, branded, "retail-boxed" product - the V4 is just as dependent on community support for the platform as the MiSTer. Unfortunately, the V4 community isn't as unified and cohesive as the MiSTer community. This may simply have to do with the "maturity" of the communities. The MiSTer community has a broader user-base because of its multi-core/multi-platform approach - and has been dealing with the logistic challenges of supporting the MiSTer framework for longer. There are a network of distributors, document writers, core developers, all well known to one another. It is largely an organic, non-coordinated effort - but the sites are established, well known, easy to find and generally information about "the right way to do a thing" is communicated quickly and widely through various channels. Significant changes that modify the previously conventional way things were done are rare - and usually an army of MiSTer fans are ready to adapt, modify, document and communicate anything that breaks. We saw this recently when the "Retrodriven" MAME scripts were discontinued by their developer, only to be quickly replaced and implemented by an alternative.
Apollo and the V4 is at a bit of a disadvantage here. They really have two lines of products at this point, their classic Vampire accelerators that act as upgrades sitting on top of an actual Amiga, and the V4, which is the same basic technology but operating as a stand-alone with no genuine Amiga required. Additionally, there have been multiple versions/iterations of their accelerator line. There is a lot of overlap - but there are differences too, between these devices.
This causes complications for Apollo. Their websites and other support groups have grown organically providing support for their accelerator communities as their business has expanded and grown - and the V4 doesn't always perfectly fit the model of their previous accelerators. Advice on the website that matches their family of accelerators may not be applicable to the V4. Some advice that works for their accelerators could even brick or damage the V4. If you've been part of the Vampire community for a while - this may all seem obvious to you. But if you've jumped into the Apollo line of products with the V4 and no previous experience - it can be very intimidating and confusing.
In addition, there are a number of loosely affiliated but "non-official" projects that are outside of Apollo but these projects are essential in my opinion to utilizing and enjoying the V4 to its full potential. Those projects are the V4 Boot Loader (V4BL) and Coffin OS.
One of the friends estranged in the previously mentioned whiskey-induced backout-drunk, free-for-all in Las Vegas was a guy who was a chip designer for Intel (how many of you have had street brawls in Vegas that included 5'5" East-Indian guys born and raised in New Jersey who designed parts of your Core i9 processor? Intel's rock stars really aren't like your rock stars.)
This guy worked a lot with Siemens, the German global electronics corporation. He would launch into epic rants about how difficult it was to work with Germans and how terrible their documentation was at the slightest provocation. I used to find it amusing to get him started and just sit back and watch him rage for 30 minutes until he had worn himself out on the topic.
"Man, I was reading the manual for my BMW, and I couldn't really understand their explanation of hill-descent..."
Wind him up and watch him go.
It was a real touchy issue for him that had caused him a lot of professional grief.
I kind of understand where he was coming from now. But I also think a lot of the problem is differences in cultural expectations and expression. We hosted a German exchange student for a year, and it exposed a lot of the stereotypes the US holds about Germans to me. Between language barriers and different cultural expectations - both groups hold a lot of preconceptions about the other. Germans seem to value honesty to an extent that can come across as blunt or rude to Americans. Americans have a more English tradition of being polite and politic in their interactions. We'll often turn a sow's ear into a silk purse, where the German is likely to bluntly say, "this is just a pig's ear."
|"She was hard to look away from, Ja?"|
The pervasiveness of this even filters down to the documentation. When you learn a different language, you start to realize that other cultures actually process and think differently than your native language does. Much of the V4 and related project is organized and primarily documented by Germans - and so I found that even the organization of the documentation was not what I would expect or prefer.
Several times, I read the document, asked questions, and was told, "if you had read the manual, you wouldn't ask this question," which of course, sounded like an impolite accusation to me, because I had read the manual. I would get defensive and insist, "I did read the manual, once I found it on your tangled website, and it didn't say any such thing." Later on I would reread the manual - and it did say it - just not in a way that I could process it until it was explained to me. This isn't from a lack of reading technical manuals or ability to comprehend. It was because of language barriers and probably even the way that thought is organized in German compared to English. On top of all of this, there is just a language barrier. English will be the second language of a lot of the people who are helping you set up your V4.
This has been a relatively constant theme in my quest to get my head wrapped around the V4, so I think it is worth mentioning. If you're not a native German speaker - constantly checking your own perceptions can only help you.
Finally, a less apparent regional difference in experience exists between many US and European Amiga users. As American users switched to VGA 386s, 486s and Pentiums, and 68020, 30 and 40 Macs in the 90s, the later Amiga systems with 68030 and 68040s and AGA graphics became almost as mythical as unicorns. On the other hand, the Amiga in Europe became a kind of starter/value computer, a successor to the C64 that could offer powerful modern gaming bundles at a significant savings over a gaming Intel PC. So, while many US citizens may have never operated an AGA Amiga running anything newer than KS/WB 2.0, most Europeans naturally progressed from earlier OCS/ECS Amigas up through AGA and RTG systems.
My methodology for evaluating the V4 consisted of comparing the accuracy and performance of the V4 to both a MiSTer and a genuine A500 accelerated with a Classic 520 68ec020.
So first, you'll hear this a lot - but it is because it is true. The V4 is early in its development cycle, and does not aim to be simply a recreation of any of the original Amiga systems. It is supposed to be an evolution from classic 68k Amiga line. This isn't just recreating a 68040 Amiga 4000. It is the next logical model of Amiga that an A4000 user would have upgraded to if the line had not disappeared.
To be honest, even with this caveat, I haven't really encountered any show-stopping incompatibilities. Almost every issue I've encountered just requires really diving into the issue, figuring out what is going wrong, and sometimes putting some significant effort into resolving it.
This stands in stark contrast to a MiSTer where if it works on a similar real Amiga, it almost inevitably works the same way on Minimig on MiSTer. One could argue Minimig on MiSTer is more authentic to a genuine Amiga. This shouldn't be surprising, as Minimig/MiSTer aren't really trying to push the envelope - they're trying to authentically recreate machines from 25-35 years ago.
I really want to buy-in and support the goal and concept of ApollOS, and I don't think that is out of the question. ApollOS is a great concept, and very well executed. It is designed to really optimize the forward looking vision of the V4, and despite being early in its development cycle - it is very polished.
Let me take a quick aside here: Apollo support and sales will really encourage you to join the Discord channel.
Listen to them.
It is probably the best source of information on the V4 available today. Documentation and webpages may be out of date, new developments happen quickly. Run things by the Discord group before you attempt them. It'll save you headache and heartache. If you're considering buying, lurking there for a few days can't hurt.
As I struggled with ApollOS, members of the Discord constantly recommended that I give Coffin a shot. I resisted this, because I want to support ApollOS and see it grow audience and continue to develop. In my decades in IT, I've seen many inferior OS platforms and other technologies become dominant simply because the better one wasn't adopted. Gaining a critical mass of installed users is more important in many cases that being technically superior.
I had come across a pre-rolled version of Coffin R58 customized for MiSTer designed to take advantage of the new AGA/RTG modes the Minimig core on that FPGA device recently released. My interest in the V4 had finally encouraged me to buy a bigger SD for my MiSTer and upgrade to that newer core and set up Coffin there. This was partly so that I would have a good baseline of compatibility and performance to compare the V4 with something. All my genuine Amiga systems are OCS or ECS. I don't have a genuine AGA/RTG system.
That is a story for another blog - but I had difficulty getting the Coffin image running on MiSTer - and ended up employing WinUAE and copying things around manually to finally get the Coffin .hdf working right on Minimig.
ApollOS looks and operates like a clone of AOS 3.9 on an AGA Amiga. The Apollo team has made customizations and changes that are not well documented that make ApollOS a familiar but alien landscape where things aren't always where you would expect them to be. If you were a European that grew up learning the evolution of the Amiga OS gradually it might seem perfectly intuitive and obvious to you what is going on with ApollOS - but as an American who left the Amiga in 1993 and has recent experience that ends at ECS 68ec020 systems running 3.1.4 on CF, the leap is huge. ApollOS is the way forward for Amiga users - but the philosophy seems to assume that you've already experienced an A3000, A1200, or A4000, AGA/RTG graphics, and AOS 3.9.
If you stopped using Debian Linux around Sarge or Potato and came back around Buster - a LOT of your cheese has been moved. Someone who stayed with Debian the entire time might claim, "hardly anything has changed, it still works like Debian!" Especially from their perspective and experience, they would be right. But from your experience - many important things wouldn't work like you remembered or expected.
The jump to ApollOS was like this for me. Control panels weren't there, I didn't know how to customize settings, applications weren't installing or launching right. Combined with the AROS bios and very different physical hardware - I was overwhelmed with ApollOS.
Once I had Coffin running on the MiSTer, not yet stable or complete - I immediately felt more comfortable - things were in the places I expected them, I'm familiar with the MiSTer hardware platform, I understand loading the cores, where the ROMs are, setting up the configuration of the MiSTer core menu. It made me realize that Coffin on the V4 would be one less thing that I was confused about, one less thing that I was unsure if it was related to the issues or not. These things were confusing to me, and the documentation was sparse, not organized in a way I could get my head around, and sometimes out of date. I'd get different instructions on the Discord channel than I had read on the website.
As soon as I decided to install Coffin, I asked the Discord for advice - and most of the responses recommended installing something Called V4 Boot Loader, or "V4BL." This plan was quickly getting more complicated. I had decided just to build a CF card as a native V4 hard drive and swap out the ApollOS card inside it. Pretty straight forward.
Another problem I should mention here - Coffin hasn't, until recently, had a big web presence or official website. Even today, you can't download the Coffin distro from the website. It directs you to a torrent. Coffin lives in the same sort of "graymarket" world as MAME Rom Sets. The top hit on a search for Coffin is generally sites in Europe selling CF cards preflashed with Coffin as a "service". Hits beneath this site contain the Readme file for the Coffin distro, and that starts off with, "Coffin is free, if you paid for it, ask for a refund now." But actually finding the file without having someone tell you, "you grab it from a torrent," is easier said than done.
Vampire 4 Boot Loader:
V4BL is similar. There isn't an official V4BL website, full of docs and instructions. I won't say that these apps exist in the "Dark Web," - but they're certainly in a dim Web - they tend to be outside the reach of Google's webcrawlers. I'd provide links - but I think at this point, the people involved in these projects prefer it this way.
Right as I had made up my mind I just wanted to install Coffin alone - I had already bought a 64GB CF just for this purpose, I was convinced to just go with V4BL. That was a new adventure in German documentation I also found confusing and disorganized. The V4BL documentation comes as 54 Power Point style "slides" in PDF format and starts off talking about an install method that requires 4 SD cards, a CF drive, and WinUAE - but then seems to indicate the way it should be installed is a method called the Turbo Preload that operates entirely from a hard drive and WinUAE. After reading the documentation several times over a 2 day period and asking questions on the Discord, I started to conceptualize what the documentation described and thought I had enough of a handle on the Turbo Preload method to give it a shot.
I installed onto the 64GB CF I had bought. There were a few things in the documentation I wasn't clear at, but a couple tries later I had a CF ready for the V4 with both ApollOS and Coffin R58 installed on it.
Coffin on the V4 instantly made me feel more grounded, in control, and able to navigate the OS as expected. It didn't solve all my problems, but installs that were failing on ApollOS, like DCTelnet - were successful on Coffin. Compatibility seemed higher - and the overall operation was far more familiar.
But in subsequent testing, I found that a favorite tank game called "Firepower" wasn't operating right on the V4, in Coffin or ApollOS. More frustrating, - the same title worked fine on Coffin on the MiSTer and my genuine Amigas.
I spent 3 or 4 days chasing this issue. Sometimes it would run as good as on the MiSTer. Other times it would run better than on any Amiga I ever played the game on. Most times, it ran worse than on a poorly configured emulator.
Describing the issue on the Discord - it was attributed to PAL/NTSC and accidently switching modes using the hot-keys. There are hardware hotkeys that aren't described on the website or the included printed document - I think they're detailed in the tips.txt document on the ApollOS desktop. They're discussed a LOT in the Discord channel. The most important ones are the 3 keys usually to the right of the F-keys, often labeled Print Screen, Scroll Lock and Pause Break. In that order they switch to PAL, activate a "zoom" mode that I think "unscrunches" PAL, and NTSC. Below those Page Up and Page Down both are mapped to exit WHDLoad games, and F11 toggles simulated scanlines and F12 toggles Turtle mode, which is basically like a PC turbo mode button that will run the 68080 FPGA at a speed closer to an A1220 for games that run too fast, or throw the entire processor at games that can benefit from the 68080. In most cases, these should be left alone. WHDload should prep the V4 optimally for most games, shutting down the network and putting the machine in turtle mode so the game runs at a playable speed. Note that with Turtle mode activated, the Power LED dims. If you're unsure, hit F12 and note if the light gets brighter or dimmer.
So, I think I've had the V4 for 2 weeks, next Thursday will be 3 weeks. I've spent most of that time configuring and troubleshooting things that weren't working as expected, and learning about the device. I haven't actually "played" with it very much - I haven't done a lot of using it as an Amiga. A few sessions of games, a couple of downloads from Aminet, and a few Telnet sessions to my BBS at telnet.wallofhate.com - but mostly I've been reading documents, chatting on Discord and installing apps and operating systems. Compared to getting started with a MiSTer, I'd say the V4 has a much steeper learning curve, and more frustration, even for someone relatively well seasoned with FPGA and the Amiga platform.
There are some other things about the V4 that cause some concern. The process for flashing/updating the core, the kickstart and the SAGA video drivers is poorly documented, and making a mistake, using the wrong version, installing something you shouldn't can trash your OS, or even brick your V4. Again, consulting with the V4 discord before doing anything like this is a good idea. They also recommend having a "USB-Blaster" FPGA programmer - which can evidently unbrick a V4 after a bad flash. I bought a cheap one from Amazon - but haven't tested it yet. Veteran Vampire users almost universally say they do all their flashes using the USB Blaster. This requires opening your case, and connecting the USB blaster to a header. If you do it wrong, it can fry your V4, and that isn't covered under warranty. The software for the cheap USB-Blasters has to be downloaded from Intel, and it sounds like this isn't a very clear process, either. It is also worth noting that I saw at least one user brick his V4 by using the flash menu in the utility. I flashed mine from a command line utility, and had no problem. The guy who bricked his unit was pretty nonchalant about it for having turned a $600 device into a paper-weight - but he was confident that a USB Blaster would fix his issues. I'd be far less confident if I had been in his shoes. Along with a rapid and aggressive development cycle - this feels less than ideal compared to the process of loading cores on a MiSTer.
Apollo seems to assume their user-base is a very technically competent and experienced audience. I believe the MiSTer and buzz in the Amiga community means that they're going to see a less experienced customer-base with the V4 than with past FPGA accelerators they have produced.
Despite all of this, the Apollo team actually sells ApollOS and the V4 short. Many times I heard team members say, "remember, this is rapidly developing, and things aren't mature or stable yet," when apps didn't run as expected or the system was misbehaving. One thing I'm seeing a lot of people complain about, and I was experiencing for a while, was the system locking up intermittently or locking immediately after booting. It does sometimes freeze, or guru, just sitting there doing nothing. Sometimes it locks while loading a program, or exiting one. This is something I rarely encounter on my genuine Amiga or MiSTer, and I think the experimental, developing nature of the V4 absolutely contributes here. In most cases it is a minor inconvenience at worst - and let's be honest - if we grew up when Amigas were running our local cable TV provider, we all saw our TV with the menu guide crashed to Workbench or in the middle of a GURU meditation.
We know you did the A/B switch hack on the adult channels.
Expecting better stability from an FPGA clone than the original actual hardware was capable of is a bit of wishful thinking. The Amiga OS does not protect memory address space, and that is as true today as it was in 1987. Despite these concerns, I've been able to resolve every issue I've experienced so far. I'm not seeing the random freezing/locking since replacing my first 64GB build of V4BL with a 128GB V4BL build. I've added Amiga OS 1.3, 3.1, 3.14 and 3.19 and the appropriate Kickstarts in addition to ApollOS and Coffin R58 as selectable boot OSes. The apps I've had trouble installing, I've been able to find solutions.
But that really is part of the fun, right? Getting something new and learning how to make it do the things you want it to do.
The Apollo team knows they've got challenges with documentation. They're working franticly to improve that.
I think it is remarkably well developed for how long it has been available, and the amount of work that has already been put into it is an incredible achievement. ApollOS has a few rough edges - but it is actually a very nice AOS alternative and I prefer it in some ways to Coffin. Coffin is a garishly *pretty* OS. I think it is more pleasing to the eye than even OS X. Literally. But, it looks like a comic book OS. It is vibrant with well rendered icons with eye-popping colors and the color scheme of it all must have been done by someone with a graphics design background. The same is true of drawers and application icons. It isn't just the prettiest OS for Amiga - it may be the prettiest OS ever.
But it might be a bit too noisy and loud and flashy for some people - and it looks... fun. Some people want their OS to be all business, some want a more business-casual attire. Coffin isn't sorry for Party Rocking. It looks like a Honda painted color-shifting purple with neon accents under the ridiculous ground effects. I love it, but tastes are subjective.
ApollOS is a little more reserved. Still a pretty, well designed OS - but a little more buttoned down and respectable.
There are other minor differences. Coffin is more like a mainstream, unmodified AmigaOS in most ways that it operates - and seems to enjoy slightly superior compatibility and stability at present. It is probably necessary at this point in order to get the full potential out of your V4.
ApollOS is more forward looking, and probably has greater potential to become the future of Amiga OS.
What is the future of Amiga OS? Well - Right now the future of Amiga OS looks a lot like an Intel PC in 2003. The games that justify the V4 all have familiar titles. Gloom3, AmiQuake2, AmiDuke, Heretic, Hexen2 Quake, Diablo68k. These are titles that have been around, that show off the Vampire accelerators - and they run even better on the V4 than on previous generations of Apollo FPGA devices.
Hopefully porting classic PC titles to Amiga to show it could have been done isn't the only gaming progress we see on the V4. I'd love to see a port of the Liarware Mac version of Ultima III to native 68080 V4 code - maybe as a game engine with new adventure modules that could plug into it. No gathering reagents and visiting shrines to learn to become a paladin. Just open-world classic tile and turn based CFRP gaming. I miss that. Let the story happen mostly in my imagination.
I've just started to play around with Classic Mac OS emulation using Shapeshifter. My collection of 68k Macs have all succumbed to leaking batteries or bad caps. I'm down to a single Quadra 8500 PPC and a slowly dying Mac Classic that boots intermittently. My OS 7 and 8 days were looking numbered. I have a few titles on the Mac I enjoy every once in a while. I've got a G4 Quicksliver PPC that does a Mac Classic mode - OS 9 - but that machine is pretty long in the tooth for a Mac at this point too. Intel Macs, I have terrible luck with. I've lost a Core Duo Mini, a 2012 Macbook Pro i5, and currently have a Macbook Pro i7 I brought back from the dead - but that has the Radeon GPU notorious for cooking itself still active.
I've messed around a lot with Basilisk II, a Mac emulator. I have it on my PC (along with a Mojave Hackentosh running in Virtual Box), on my phone, and on my MiSTer. It isn't the most stable emulator, but hasn't had any development that I am aware of in years. This was something about the V4 I was excited about when I read about it, and I was disappointed when Shapeshifter wasn't part of the Apollo image. This is understandable. Apple is like, Nintendo, a company that doesn't appreciate when longtime fans want to re-experience long-dead titles that the company thinks there may someday be a way to squeeze more profits out of. They defend their IP as aggressively as Disney.
That cat is out of the bag with Coffin - though. Not centrally distributed, with no one taking credit for it - they really have no one to pursue and no hope of ever getting it removed from every corner of the Internet.
Good. Sometimes it is privateering, and that is patriotism - ask Sir Frances Drake. Other times, it is social protest.
"You wouldn't steal a car would you?"
I would if I were an English Privateer and it would help England in its conflicts with Spain. Aye, I would, matey. I would indeed.
|Be he implying what I savvy?|
|I'm sure I'll be hearing from your legal team, anyhow, though, Mr. Rose.|
The V4 is capable of playing fairly low quality MP3 rips and playing back videos - though your phone probably does better at either. When compared to the era of PC when a 68080 would have logically existed - it is arguable that the V4 does better at these tasks. Unfortunately, we live in a day when a Pi 400 can perform these tasks without breaking a sweat for $100. Still - it is pretty cool to open the audio player, load up a playlist, and let your *Amiga* handle the soundtrack in your study or office. I kinda like the low-fi quality of the audio playback.
Don't get me wrong, it isn't terrible. It is pretty good - but if you're holding modern audio and video PC playback as the benchmark you expect, you may be disappointed.
2D digital painting, 3D rendering, Spreadsheets, Word Processing - they're all loaded up here. I probably should have written this on the V4. Maybe my next blog, I'll set the PC up playing music, and write the article over there. I haven't really given this a spin. I haven't set up a printer. I'm not even sure if that is possible.
I hear the V4 is really awesome if you write code. Until they get Access and VBA running on it, I can't really say - as that is about the extent of my programming ability. If this changes, I'll be sure to report back.
|It looks like you're trying to relive the late 80s? Would you like me to tune Pandora to Fresh Prince Radio? |
Thanks to V4BL - I now have Amiga OS 1.3.3, 3.1, 3.9 and 18.104.22.168 along with ApollOS and Coffin a reboot away on my V4. V4BL softmaps the Kickstart ROM - rather than flashing the physical ROM - when switching between OS platforms. This makes it far easier to drop into different Amiga Operating Systems. They run well, too - and 3.9 looks particularly stunning on a V4. Still, after using ApollOS and Coffin - I can't think of many reasons I'd want to spend much time in any of the classic AOS variants. They simply can't take advantage of the features of the V4 without a lot of extra effort. Mostly I feel like they're a good way to test compatibility and troubleshoot issues. Of note - while I own a license for a spare A500 version of Hyperion OS 3.1.9 - the V4 requires the A1200 version - on account of the 68040 libraries. That cost me an additional $35. But adding an OS to the V4BL stack after building your initial image without redoing every OS on the CF isn't a very easy process at this point (I think - but I may have misunderstood the documentation). I did not add AmiKit XE - which I may come to regret. Despite not being installed - these options show in the V4BL where you switch your current OS. I haven't tried to see what happens if I hit those buttons. There are things about the V4 experience that I just don't know, and I'm afraid to try and break it and see what happens. Most of these questions though, if I can remember them, I get a fast answer on the Discord channel. Sometimes I get a couple of fast answers, and sometimes they contradict one another. But generally, the replies are quick and good.
There is doubtless far more that I haven't discovered about the V4, ApollOS and Coffin. I know there are internal upgrade paths. I haven't spent much time researching this. Something similar to the headers on the DE10 Nano and Pi - I've heard WiFi modules, Audio-Out DACs and RTC modules are available. I also heard that if they're designed wrong, you can fry your V4.
My initial impressions of the V4 were pretty accurate - but I understand them better now. The V4 is the best value in a stand-alone Amiga, FPGA or otherwise, that money can currently buy. I consider it more of a "real" Amiga, and Amiga successor, than the Amiga-One X1000 and X5000. To me not only are they priced out of the market to be practical - potentially costing more than a powerful, fully rigged Intel or AMD gaming rig with nice GPUs - but they're not genuine 68xxx processors at their core. You might as well be running WinUAE on that expensive gaming rig, or one of the *nix distros that simulates a native mode desktop Amiga experience by installing and launching into an emulator from a native install. That isn't what happens with the V4. You're running your 68xxx instruction code right on the FPGA - and that FPGA could theoretically be made into an actual chip, and it would run no different. The V4 is a native mode 68k core machine. Even regardless of this, the price difference, compared to what the V4 - makes an Amiga-One a real hard sell. It is like buying the Ferrari after you've seen a Supra for less than half the price eat it alive on the track.
The MiSTer has a very respectable, powerful Minimig core that is very stable, authentic, and compatible for less than the V4 - and that makes it a viable competitor. I can't ignore that. In addition, the MiSTer offers so many other cores that are also as mature and stable and authentic - and it is easy to set up, upgrade, maintain, and use. From the initial setup of your SD card, to the layout of the file architecture, to documentation, the network of the community, the wealth of information available on the web - the MiSTer is a very mature platform that has few barriers to entry for even the FPGA novice. The biggest problems with MiSTer are generally with the complexity of the core itself. They've made it easy to set up the ao486 core. You just run a script. Setting up Windows 98se on it though - is the challenge - especially if you're not familiar with older Win 32 platforms. The same applies to Amiga OS on the MiSTer. The MiSTer is no different than the V4 in that regard. But the MiSTer is easier to set up to the point where you can be sitting confused in the OS not knowing what to do next - and arguably safer too. It is difficult to accidentally brick a MiSTer. It seems as if you can follow the instructions perfectly, and still end up bricking your V4. If you have your MiSTer in a case, you'll probably never have any occasion to open it again, unless you're replacing or upgrading something. The V4 may require looking under the hood more frequently. For general, casual users the MiSTer is an incredible value. If you want a multiplatform system - the MiSTer is arguably a better value than the V4. The V4 does have a host of emulators - but it is no match for the breadth of platforms MiSTer supports - and it is still emulation on the V4, while it is FPGA on MiSTer. The odd exception here is Classic Mac. Classic OS on MiSTer is achieved by running Basilisk II on Linux on the ARM processor. The V4 emulates Classic Mac too - but on a genuine 68k CPU instruction set - taking one abstraction/translation layer out of the equation - and it shows. The V4 may be the best option available, period - for those who are interested in classic Mac OS. I can imagine buying a V4 simply for its Mac II capabilities.
The V4? It is a very specialized, dedicated vehicle among FPGA devices. It is a hot rod. It is designed for actual enthusiasts. Like some of the motorsport edition cars out there - the designers and engineers have tried to make it a practical daily driver - but at its heart, it is a track vehicle.
The people who I know who own these vehicles and never have a complaint are the ones who knew what they were getting into and bought that model anyhow. They understood that it wasn't going to be as simple as hopping into a Maxima or Camry every morning and making the drive into the office. That they had bought a car, that even in "comfort mode," would still put them into the center divide if they weren't paying attention and forgot how much power they were sitting on on a slick day. Those guys love their motosport division editions.
I think there is more than a bit of this spirit in the V4. You'll need to arrive already an experienced driver in the twisties, or willingly to learn quickly how to toe-and-heel or how to induce oversteer in a corner and control a drift with throttle, brake and clutch.
This is a performance Amiga. It may occasionally have a rough ride, concerning rattles and some unpolished edges. If you understand going in what it is, when you've got it flat out on a straight, and it still has more to give and you're pushed back in your seat trying to catch your breath - you'll probably have a stupid grin on your face while having too much fun to even notice. If you just plan on driving it around town to do errands - you may have bought the wrong ride.
It is really a lot of fun.
Subject: Death Magnetic is Metallica's best Album since Ride The Lightning
If you've come here from a link looking for my review of the Vampire V4 FPGA Amiga Computer, the link you followed points to my most recent blog. The blog you are looking for is HERE, instead...
Now for something different than usual - I'm not a rock journalist or critic - but I do have some opinions on Metallica's evolution and career - I wrote these casually on my BBS, but at some point, it turned into more of a blog article, so I thought I'd share them here to reach a wider audience - mostly in the hope that maybe this link will reach Lars Ulrich at some point.
So, Death Magnetic is Metallica's best album since Ride the Lightning. I know people think that Master of Puppets was their best album - but they're wrong. Ride the Lightning was the peak of Metallica's talent - and I believe it was absolutely *entirely* the influence of Cliff Burton.
Master of Puppets was produced while Burton was still alive, it was the last Metallica album with Burton influence -
|Master of Puppets Target Demographic|
By And Justice For All - Lar's ego is fully unchained, and Metallica has gone from a Guitar metal band to a DRUM metal band. The balance is off on so many songs, where the drums *distract* from the guitar, where Lars is showboating entire songs, and where the formula of drum heavy intros is consistently emphasized. The guitar seems like an afterthought. There were a few songs on this album that struck the right balance - "One," being a megahit, and "Dyer's Eve" being a track I really like from the album - but overall - things are headed in a bad direction. The James and Lars show was in effect. Metallica was huge, Kirk it seems was just collecting a paycheck, and James and Lars had taken over as Co-Captain of the ship in Cliff's absence.
The Wiki even reveals evidence of what I've been claiming for 30 years...
At the instruction of Hetfield and Ulrich, Newsted's bass guitar was made almost inaudible. According to Rasmussen: "After Lars and James heard their initial mixes the first thing they said was, 'Take the bass down so you can just hear it, and then once you've done that take it down a further three dBs.' I have no idea why they wanted that, but it was totally out of my hands." In 2009, Hetfield said that the bass was obscured as the basslines often doubled his rhythm guitar, making the instruments indiscernible, and because the low frequencies were competing in the mix with his "scooped", bassy guitar sound.
Newsted was not satisfied with the final mix: "The Justice album wasn't something that really felt good for me, because you really can't hear the bass." Steve Thompson, who mixed the album, was also unhappy, and blamed Ulrich for the decision; he tried to quit the project, but was blocked by management. Rasmussen said in 2018: "I’m probably one of the only people in the world, including Jason and Toby Wright, the assistant engineer, who heard the bass tracks on And Justice for All, and they are fucking brilliant."
In 2019, Hetfield and Ulrich said they had mixed the bass low not to belittle Newsted, but because their hearing was "shot" following heavy touring and they "basically kept turning everything else up until the bass disappeared". They decided not to adjust the mix for the remastered 2019 reissue, saying: "These records are a product of a certain time in life; they’re snapshots of history and they’re part of our story … And Justice for All could use a little more low end and St. Anger could use a little less tin snare drum, but those things are what make those records part of our history.""
...And Justice for All is a musically progressive album featuring long and complex songs, fast tempos and few verse-chorus structures. Metallica decided to broaden its sonic range, writing songs with multiple sections, heavy guitar arpeggios and unusual time signatures. Hetfield explained: "Songwriting-wise, [the album] was just us really showing off and trying to show what we could do. 'We've jammed six riffs into one song? Let's make it eight. Let's go crazy with it.'"
This was Metallica headed into their "Napster is Theft" stage as Lars became the dominant public face of Metallica - and they were headed to peak popularity with audiences far outside of the metal crowd - crossing over into some strange land of Heavy Metal Arena-Filling Jock Rock doing Monster Rock Shows with Van Hagar.
The Black Album was the last Metallica album I bought, and I didn't buy it immediately on day 1 of release. Increasingly, like Stephen King - it seemed like Metallica was delivering misses with their creative efforts - songs that no matter how many times I listened to the album, they didn't grow on me.
I think the Black Album is a strange album - there are good tracks on it. "Enter Sandman," was as huge as One - and a great video. "The Unforgiven" and "Wherever I may Roam," are very listenable songs, "Nothing Else Matters," is this album's Fade to Black and...
And - Yes, exactly this. Metallica had begun to rely on a formula. They were being called "Progressive Speed metal" by critics because of the experimental things they were doing with sound, timing, arrangement - but they were also just repeating the basic format of earlier albums. I called *this* back then too. I was increasingly a critic of Metallica as their influence, fame and popularity grew ever larger - (to my shock.) Most of the tracks on this album, I can't put a song to the title. "Holier than Thou," "Don't Tread on Me," "Through the Never," "Of Wolf and Man," "The God That Failed," "My Friend of Misery," and the "Struggle Within." 5 of 12 tracks I recognize. I know this was a problem because a song on this album came on my shuffle recently. I thought, "I don't recognize this Metallica song, I should give it a chance." I did. About 1:30 into it - I hit skip.
After this came Load and Reload...
And here is Lars, once again quoted in the Wiki, making excuses and blaming it on Jason Newsted:
""Some of that stuff was pretty cool," remarked Lars Ulrich of the album and its sequel. "With Load, it was disappointing that some people's reaction to the music was biased by how they dealt with the pictures – the hair and all that crap [see Artwork, above]. People have come up to me years afterwards and said, 'I never gave the record a fair chance because I couldn't get beyond Jason Newsted wearing eyeliner.' But 'The Outlaw Torn', some of that shit is pretty fucking awesome.":
There is nothing to make me believe Jason Newsted is what took Metallica off-track, and everything to make me think that Cliff's death and Lars becoming more or less the public face and manager of Metallica is what increasingly steered their ship onto the rocks. Screw you Lars. You were the problem.
There were little side projects during this time - Metallica was starting to become one of those mega-bands entertaining ridiculous hubris-filled ego projects - like their album with the San Francisco Symphony orchestra, which was basically the orchestra playing backup and being drowned out by James on guitar and Lars on drum. Instead of letting the orchestra bring the songs to a new level, it was like they were there just to add a background track to a remastered version of classic Metallica songs that had been reworked to make Lars and James the center of the attention. At this point, Metallica having a bassist or not didn't matter, and it was even easy to forget that Kirk Hammet was still a member of the band. Metallica was basically a two man band, James for his voice, his guitar playing rhythm, and Lars on Lead Drums.
Load was the first album to receive any significant critical reception.
Even here, there are tracks I liked. I did not buy this album. It wasn't WORTH buying. Until it Sleeps, King Nothing, Hero for the Day, Wasting my Hate were the most memorable tracks from this album. Metallica is now down to 4 tracks on a 14 track album that were memorable when at the beginning, every song on every album was worth the listen. Even the initial non-favorites grew on you with repeated listening from Kill 'em All and Ride The Lightning. There is maybe one song On Master of Puppets I skip.
Reloaded arrived with more negative criticism. I'm not going into detail - but it isn't worth the bandwidth to download it from Napster, despite it going triple platinum on release. More rockstar-excess hubris including having the indigenous Nose Harp players of Where-The-Fuck-Ever doing bizarre nose-harp solos arrives on this album (I'm looking at you, Lars - the idea to include nose-harp players has your diminutive signature written all over it. James didn't discover Nose-Harp players and go, "we've got to include these guys on our next album!" You did.) Or throat singing, or whatever it is.
(Interestingly - they've changed history on this. I saw an MTV interview once that covered the "da-da-da" lyrics - and it was an old man, Mongolian or Himalayan - that they showed singing like this. That was the influence for the weird old lady making "da-da-da-da-da" noises. if anyone can find a link to this interview - please contact me so I can add it to this article.)
"Fuel," "Unforgiven II" and "The Memory Remains," (despite the nose harps) are the only titles on this 13 track album that made any impact. I literally saw a video of Lars trying to sell an MTV VJ on the concept, and he was an unironic precursor of Aldous Snow from Get Him to the Greek discussing how it wasn't for HIM to call himself a White African Space Jesus, that was up to Metallica's FANS to decide as he marveled about how incredible the nasal throat singing of these old people who lived in the mountain ranges of Naples or wherever were the PERFECT addition to Metallica's forward moving metal.
By St. Anger I didn't even give a fuck anymore. I don't recognize the title of a single track on the album. Metallica had been eclipsed by Sound Garden, the Smashing Pumpkins, and hell... the Offspring. The ship was on the rocks.
Metallica knew it too. Lars was being mocked constantly for his position on Napster when it was BECAUSE of bootlegs they had become the metal behemoth they were - despite receiving no early airplay and small indy label releases.
Metallica had built their reputation among an audience of mostly poor, disenfranchised white males by recognizing their culture and cultural values. The integrity of being in a hopeless situation and having little but your honesty and transparency and valuing that above all else was a reoccurring theme for Metallica. Contempt and disdain for the shallow, hypocritical behaviors of "regular, acceptable" society and culture - for the pursuit of material things and success as defined by other people, for economic and social competition - appealing to these ideas was a huge part of how Metallica had generated their original fanbase.
St. Anger, despite selling well - fell to only double platinum on release - and received the most brutal critical reviews of any Metallica album so far.
I remember hearing tracks from it, and initially thinking, "wait, this is at least a return to their original sound..." and then, nope. Something went wrong - I don't know what it was. Maybe the critics who were paid to figure it out got it right:
PopMatters reporter Michael Christopher said "St. Anger dispenses with the recent spate of radio friendly pleasantries in favor of pedal to the floor thrash, staggered and extended song structures, quick changes and a muddled production that tries to harken back to the Kill 'Em All days. All attempts fail miserably."
Again, Lar's comes forward to ignore criticisms and blame critics and fans:
The album's snare drum sound was widely criticized. Ulrich dismissed the criticism as "closed-minded", and in July 2020 he affirmed that "I stand behind it 100% because, at that moment, that was the truth." In 2017, Hetfield said, "There are things I would like to change on some of the records, but it gives them so much character that you can’t change them ... St. Anger could use a little less tin snare drum, but those things are what make those records part of our history."
At "that moment," Lars - Metallica was churning out shit and selling it as music. You should release your next 6 albums for free digital distribution - to pay your fans back for the 30 years of selling them crap and living a rock-star lifestyle for it. You OWE them that, you bald Danish-Hobbit Phil Collins wannabe.
But wherever Metallica was headed with St. Anger - When I heard the first tracks from Death Magnetic - I realized they had found what they were looking for. The problem is, by 2008, I didn't care anymore. I'd honestly stopped caring at least 5 years earlier - maybe longer.
The tracks have the feel... I've been listening to them. They have the energy.
But I wonder... at my age - if it is Metallica feeling nostalgia for their early career, their early sound, the early time in their evolution of band when they were still authentic and not a polished, packaged, slick and rehearsed corporate money making machine - when they weren't a *franchise*...
Or if it is just Metallica, Inc. exploiting a formula that they know is the only thing that might revitalize their flagging careers - as surely as an irrelevant and fading Aerosmith leveraged Run-DMC to give their band another 25 years or relevance in Rock before they were reduced to playing free shows at County Fairs.
With Metallica, I'm inclined to believe it is the latter.
On learning that the album was released early in France and subsequently leaked onto Peer to Peer networks, Lars responded, with uncharacteristic humility:
"We're ten days from release. I mean, from here, we're golden. If this thing leaks all over the world today or tomorrow, happy days. Happy days. Trust me. Ten days out and it hasn't fallen off the truck yet? Everybody's happy. It's 2008 and it's part of how it is these days, so it's fine. We're happy."
Later telling USA Today,
"By 2008 standards, that's a victory. If you'd told me six months ago that our record wouldn't leak until 10 days out, I would have signed up for that. We made a great record, and people seem to be getting off on it way more than anyone expected."
This was followed up by the announcement on the Metallica website that the song, "My Apocalypse" was in need of a "mood setting" introduction when played live. This intro was made available as a free download so that fans could, "learn it to prepare to sing it at future live shows."
Finally, a 90 minute broadcast between Metallica and Dave Grohl ended up going on for two hours.
Death Magnetic got a lot of comparison to Kill 'em All. I get where that comes from - but there will never be another Kill 'em All from Metallica, just like there will never be another Too Fast for Love from Motley Crue. Both albums are raw, underproduced, freshman efforts by young artists who haven't had a lot of commercial expectations placed on them yet, and who are still figuring out their art and full of ideas.
Many will scoff at comparing Kill 'em All to Too Fast for Love - but they're both early looks at bands that would define and dominate their genres in metal, with similar energy, intensity and raw energy. Motley Crue are the biggest posers in Hair/Glam/Rock Metal. Whatever flavor is currently the favorite in this demographic, Motley Crue are trying to redefine themselves as the pre-eminent band representing this subculture of rock. Likewise Metallica are the biggest posers of Speed/Thrash/Hardcore metal and its derivatives. Both bands will adopt whatever conventions are necessary to stay relevant with changing tastes among their audience. This is actually less problematic for Crue - who never promised not to be trendy. It wears worse on Metallica, though Metallica has been more subtle in their changes over the years.
All of this sounds less like organic revival of a flagging band and more like a carefully orchestrated marketing campaign - scripted exhibition posing as actual competitive pro-Sports. LeBron returning to Cleveland and winning a ring for the Cavs.
Its fake. Metallica is a Corporate franchise. They're Metallica, Inc., now - and like any corporation, they'll do whatever they can to stay dominant and competitive in their market, including faking returning to the roots of who they were when they were genuine musicians. A team of marketing experts studied Metallica's history, noted the same things I've described here, and the board of their label got together with Metallica and told them that this is what they were going to do - and they had no choice.
Oh, also, Lars, we feel it would be good for your image if you appeared in Get Him To The Greek as a washed out rock-star living a life of excess, sleeping with the super-model ex-wives of other rock stars. It will be gentle, but we're going to mock your life of indulgence and excess. Research shows being self-deprecating on SNL skits really helped Justin Timberlake turn his image around - and yours needs a serious makeover with the fans. You're disliked. That Napster thing was a terrible mistake.
|So, then, Russel Brand calls you a "little Danish twat"!|
Still, I'd rather have this modern Disney Theme Park version of Metallica than the shit that came between. I'm not going to pay for it. Lars Ulrich doesn't need another DIME of my money, or anyone else's money - for the rest of his natural life, even if he doesn't change whatever lifestyle he is living one bit. Neither does James. At this point, any profits Metallica gets will be benefiting their grandson's grandsons. It may be fake - but at least you can pretend that none of the shit came in between, and that Metallica remained a great band through their entire career, while listening to the tracks from Death Magnetic.
I'm going to give the music a chance - but the band is like Disney's Star Wars - it will never be the real thing - just a pale imitation that some corporation bought the rights to.
Subject: The Apollo V4. The Future of the Amiga?
I've been interested in the Apollo Vampire accelerators since 2018, when I first was introduced to FPGA at a Commodore convention in Las Vegas. That particular trip to Vegas was a complete disaster, taking a sudden turn into drunken rants, first fights at 2 in the morning on Freemont Street, and irreparably damaged long term relationships.
|Come to Vegas, it'll be fun. We'll have a good time...|
Learning about FPGA was probably worth it all. I'll make new friends, and my MiSTer never accuses me of being an alcoholic.
Ok... this is going to be long. I've got a lot to say about the V4, and a lot to say getting there:
I got into FPGA the expensive way - by simply buying things from Europe and waiting weeks for them to hopefully arrive. Back then - FPGA retro-gaming was still a developing thing in its infancy. Items were hard to track down, many of them were DIY projects that required a fair bit of electronics and/or programming skill - and projects would spin up, have a production run, then disappear - making those products hard to find. At the time MiST was the dominant FPGA platform, and so I jumped in. With a wide variety of cores, and built in DB9 and Midi connectors, it seemed like the best purchase.
But another platform was gaining a lot of buzz. While waiting for the MiST to arrive all the way from Yugoslavia - I started researching its "successor", the MiSTer. While you bought a MiST ready assembled, in a case, ready to go - the MiSTer was more of a concept you put together from off-the-shelf parts and components you either assembled and built yourself or bought from - generally from guys who were electronics hobbyists who built these things on the side for some extra income. So, I decided to take a gamble - and bought a DE10 Nano and an IO board with 32mb of RAM.
The problem with getting into FPGA, especially at that time, is there weren't a lot of objective reviews or advice on what the best purchases were. After I bought the MiST, someone mentioned, "you shouldn't have bought that, the MiSTer is really the future of FPGA..." after I bought the expansion board, someone mentioned, "you bought a non-reference IO board - it isn't a genuine MiSTer board, you should have bought one designed to MiSTer specs." In the case of the IO board, I picked the one domestic manufacturer I could find, not wanting to hassle with lengthy imports through customs from Europe. The board actually worked fine for me in service - it just had the user buttons in offset places so regular cases didn't work. By the way, at the time, there were few choices for regular cases, so I bought a 3D printer and learned how to print my own. Today you can buy a MiSTer, fully assembled, in a professional case, from one vendor, if you're in Europe or the US. Back then - you had to dig around on the Internet for information, a lot of it conflicting - and no matter what you bought, afterwards it always seemed someone would tell you, "you shouldn't have bought that." Frequently it came down to you had to purchase whatever was available for sale at the moment - because once supplies ran out, it might not be available again, and the other choices might be impossible to purchase at the moment, and might stay that way, too.
So, over the next couple of years, the MiSTer became clearly the most dominant, flexible, and affordable FPGA system on the market. I've purchased other FPGA products since then, like the Collectorvision Phoenix Colecovision clone - and spent a lot of time on both the MiST and MiSTer - but the MiSTer's development and community has left competitors in the dust. I own two.
Throughout that time, I've watched Apollo and kept up on news regarding Vampire FPGA devices. I had wanted to upgrade one of my Amiga 500 systems to a Vampire accelerator - but for the last couple of years, they've only been available on occasion used, and they were very expensive. In fact, for most of that time, most genuine Amiga accelerators have only been available used and at marked up prices. When I finally found a retail vendor that had the Classic 520 accelerator in stock - I jumped on that. Afterwards, a lot of people told me, "you shouldn't have bought that." As it turns out, I really like the Classic 520 - and shortly after assembling this system I came on a deal for a couple of Amigas, one with a more highly regarded Individual Computers accelerator. That unit has the ACA500, along with an ACA1221lc and ethernet. It was certainly a score, but at the same time, for my needs, the Classic 520 is a much more straightforward device.
So when Vampire accelerators started to become available for the Amiga again, I wasn't as enthusiastic in my desire for one.
But over the last several years, there has been a lot of buzz in Amiga circles about a FPGA device called the Vampire V4 standalone. This is a dedicated FPGA device that claims to not be emulation or simulation - but the roadmap to a genuine hardware evolution of the Amiga line of computers. A prototype in FPGA designed to eventually be a genuine modern hardware Amiga. Knowing what FPGA is capable of, I was very excited. First the development prototype was demoed at Commodore conventions in Europe. Then some early retail versions were sold at conventions in Europe. They were out there. I joined the wait list, and waited, and waited - and never heard back - though increasingly, people in the Amiga community were being contacted and receiving theirs.
About a week ago, someone in a thread mentioned they had put themselves on the wait-list, and two weeks later, had gotten theirs. This is important to note - as it actually should have been a warning flag. I went back to the Apollo site, put myself back on the wait-list, and the next day, I was contacted and told I was eligible to order. Excited, I ordered, made payment, and settled in from what I expected would be the long delay in delivery from Germany. I ship back and forth with a friend in Germany on a regular basis - and shipments sometimes take 4 weeks or more to arrive. I was shocked when it was exactly a week later that the Vampire arrived.
|Bonus Swag - stickers and authentic German Gummibaren|
I bought the device figuring that I'd work out any details when it arrived. I spoke with someone about the advertised packages and prices - and was told there were new packages. They were actually more affordable, but included a smaller 32GB CF instead of the larger one advertised. Having set up Amiga CF hard drives with the ACA500 and the Classic 520, as well as .HDF images on UAE and MiSTer and MiST - I wasn't too concerned about this, and I figured I'd probably be flashing my own kickstart and installing my own AmigaOS anyhow - and it would probably be cheaper to buy the least system offered and buy my own CF and make my own custom OS image, anyhow. Besides, the lower price took some of the sting out of the terrible USD/EU conversion of about .77% on the day I bought.
Either way, they get you, don't they?
At any entry level price of ~500 Euro, it means either way - the V4 isn't a cheap solution compared to the MiSTer - which can be had fully kitted out in a case for under $400 - and offers probably a hundred different cores that it can run.
But compared to what you would pay for a genuine AGA/RTG capable Amiga, if you can find one - the V4 is a relative bargain. I didn't buy a V4 to compete with a MiSTer, although there certainly is competition there - I bought it as an alternative to dropping between $800 and $3500 for a 1200, 3000 or 4000 - all of which would be 25 year old, might need recapping, are hard to maintain and source repairs and parts for, might have iffy PSUs, and could have a host of other problems.
As an aside, I purchased one of the first Amiga 2000s available in March, 1987. I upgraded it with a SupraRam card. I don't remember if it is was an 8mb or 4mb max, but I know RAM was so expensive I only had it half populated. I also added a SupraSCSI card and had a Miniscribe 20mb hard drive in there. I killed the second 20mb Miniscribe when I put it on the chain without termination, not knowing about that. Eventually I may have put a bigger second drive in there, I don't remember now. I never upgraded to KS 2.0 or Workbench 2.0 and by 1991 it was just a big, glorified gaming console to me. I sold it in 93, and hadn't really touched an Amiga outside of a few attempts to get a Basic Amiga up on WinUAE and running Great Giana Sisters from ADF - until I got "recommitted" to Amiga retro-computing in particular after the street-brawl in Vegas.
So a lot had changed since I left the Amiga world and when I really came back. I had to relearn about OCS, ECS and AGA. I had to learn all the changes with AmigaOS after 2.0. I had to learn about RTG, about Gotex floppy emulation - relearn configuring startup-sequence and what paths held what information on the hard drive. I had to learn which companies owned which parts of the Commodore intellectual property, and I'm still learning what that means - because on a lot of things, there are opinions you have to filter out from facts, related to the Amiga. Most of that learning came when I bought something, like the Classic 520, and had to learn about it in order to get it working. It wasn't a cheap re-education on 30 year old technology that no longer leads to a lucrative career path in Information Technology. I've been involved with Amigas since the beginning. My friend's A1000 in 1985 is why I bought my 2000 in 87. I've learned, forgotten, and relearned about the Amiga over a 30 year period. Because I do not use an Amiga as my daily driver and may go periods of time, I find that I forget what I've relearned as fast as I've learned it, as I move onto new projects that take me away from the Amiga.
I am not invested in the politics of Cloanto, Hyperion and other companies involved in the Amiga market. I am neutral, impartial, and largely intentionally ignorant of the various legal challenges and cases between these companies. In some regards, it reminds me of poor relatives fighting over the estate of a relatively successful family member.
Bring that back around to the Vampire - Apollo and the Vampire are a somewhat controversial company and product in the Amiga community. A lot of that can be traced back to "Original Hardware" purists who insist that a Vampire accelerator or a V4 is not a real Amiga. Those who prefer emulation tend to attack the Vampire as an expensive emulator when you can get a Pi for under $100. I've written about my opinion on this in other articles - but I disagree. There is a huge difference between emulation and FPGA, and hardly any difference between well-implemented FPGA and authentic hardware.
I believe FPGA is more like a competitor making a "clone." None of us use genuine IBM PCs today - we all use PC clones. A clone can be inferior, comparable or superior to the original it tries to copy.
So the question is, "is the V4 an Amiga clone comparable or superior to the original hardware it tries to copy?"
The answer is - maybe.
In the Apollo literature, reading their forums, and talking to their team-members on the Vampire discord channel - you get a feeling for the philosophy of the Vampire team. They want to make a new Amiga - an evolution of the Amiga. They're not trying to recreate the past - they're trying to move the past forward.
This is one of the big misunderstandings between the MiSTer community and the V4. Alexy Melnikov (Sorgelig) has stated several times that the MiSTer is about preserving and recreating classic machines, as they existed. He had been resistant with the Amiga to add "modern" features like ATA and RTG which he thinks have little practical purpose in retro-platforming on the Amiga. His priority has been in faithfully recreating the widest variety of classic retro platforms for the MiSTer. I think he has achieved that goal admirably.
The design motivations and goals between MiSTer and the V4 are radically different, and depending on your desires, either one may please or disappoint you.
I am a casual user interested in re-experiencing the Amiga platform as I knew it between 87 and 93, when I owned an original Amiga. In my short experience with the V4 - MiSTer has a huge lead in this regard. You shouldn't just stop reading here - because there are important qualifiers to come.
The V4 ships exclusively with AROS, a genuine KS Rom clone. Many will be familiar with AROS as the default ROM on UAE - you see two cat-like eyes instead of a regular Kickstart, and then your Amiga image fails to boot. You replace the AROS rom with a real Kickstart, and things suddenly work right. I'm not faulting the AROS rom here. This is just the breadth of a lot of people's introduction and experience with AROS as a KS replacement.
The V4 also comes with ApollOS - or maybe it is ApolloOS - it is referred to as both in different places on the Apollo/Vampire websites. In any case, ApolloOS is itself a modified version of the Aros OS - which is a somewhat confusing project itself. Aros is a project to create a multi-hardware platform AmigaOS compatible OS. Apollo has gone in and stripped out all of the code designed to make Aros multi-platform compatible, optimizing the OS for 68k processors, specifically their 68080 as implemented in FPGA on the Vampire 4.
There are many layers of abstraction and complication here. In a nutshell, as you receive the V4 in the box, it isn't running a genuine Amiga kickstart, and it isn't running a genuine Amiga OS, and it isn't running a genuine Motorola 68k silicon CPU - it is running a Apollo 68080 prototype running on FPGA.
And it looks gorgeous and runs fast. It is initially overwhelming if you're not familiar with AROS. It is a big leap forward for someone used to non 68030/40/60 Amigas. It feels like an Amiga - but things aren't necessarily where you expect them to be. Part of this is that Apollo has done some customization to AROS themselves. They've implemented Directory Opus 4.0 as a Workbench replacement and made other customizations to optimize ApolloOS for the V4. Those of us who have had no previous experience with AGA/RTG and 68040 processors or above may feel a little lost initially.
But in that sense it feels like the future of the Amiga line. People didn't know what to make of Windows 95 at first - because it had changed the paradigm of Windows 3.11 so much. Any OS has experienced this kind of evolutionary change where people were initially resistant to the changes because it moved their cheese. If you're coming from Workbench/AmigaOS 1.2, 2.0 and 3.1.x - you're probably going to feel lost at first. I sure did.
The V4 is still relatively young in its development cycle, and has already made huge strides forward from its initial release. Things like the Ethernet Port and SD card were there, but not active yet, on the first V4s received by the public. Those work now, more or less. But development is rapid. When I first got my V4, the SD was active, but only as a large file-transfer device. It couldn't be made a bootable hard drive. Since then, a developer on the Discord channel has worked out booting from the SD and is currently improving this feature's stability. Shortly it should be rolling out as an official consumer release.
Currently the V4 has USB ports, but they do not support a full USB stack - so they only work with specific devices. I knew this buying the V4, and opted not to buy a keyboard and mouse from Apollo. I figured among the piles of hardware I own, something would work - and I was right. I have a Razr Chroma gaming keyboard and a Logitech mouse that worked, although several other devices failed. Unfortunately, I didn't want to use my $125 gaming keyboard on my Amiga - but a quick search of the Apollo Site for recommended peripherals found an inexpensive keyboard available on Amazon. I thought the Speedlink Lamia really fit the V4 aesthetic best, and as a bonus, it was only $24.
My next obstacle was that the V4 only has audio-out over HDMI. Most of my displays are monitors, and have neither built in speakers or HDMI-audio passthru. Somewhat ridiculously - the only display I have that supports HDMI-audio-passthru is a Samsung CHG90 - a 49" curved very high-end gaming LCD hooked up to my i7 gaming tower. Because I am using displaylink to connect the tower to the monitor, I had extra HDMI ports open on this display - so it became the illogically logical place for my V4 to live. Evidently there may be future plans to output audio from the V4 through other methods - but for now, the V4 relies on output of audio over HDMI - something you should be aware of before purchase.
While I was getting all of this sorted out, I only did some cursory things on the V4. Changed my desktop theme, perused the selection of pre-installed software, and tried to familiarize myself with the new OS and its differences.
Great Giana Sisters is kind of my benchmark for Amiga systems. How well it runs, how authentic it sounds, how genuine the response is to my muscle memory - is how I subjectively tell what feels like a real Amiga compared to what feels like emulation or recreation.
Once I got the V4 hooked up to the CHG90 and speakers hooked up to that, I fired up GGS - and found that the experience was very authentic to playing on a stock Amiga 2000. So, on a MiSTer configured with a 68ec020 and running KS 3.14, and on a genuine Amiga 500 also with 68ec020 and KS 3.14 - Giana Sisters runs fast. The rainbow scroll at the start is fast, the music is fast, and the gameplay is fast. I enjoy this speed boost - it makes the game a little more exciting. But I know that the KS 3.14 rom and 68ec020 introduces some weird sound glitches in the soundtrack on both a MiSTer and a genuine Amiga. This is solved on either by dropping to KS 2.0 or earlier and a 68000 processor.
On the V4, it runs as if it were on a native pre-KS 3.1, straight 68000 Amiga. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. It feels absolutely authentic to the actual game on platforms it was intended to run on. When I mentioned this speed on the Discord, someone suggested I might have Turtle mode on. There is a Function key switch to slow down the FPGA for certain games that run way too fast in the native 68080 speed of the V4. I did not have that switch enabled - but maybe the WHDLoad config of the preloaded game accounts for the processor speed somehow. I haven't had a chance to investigate further.
Anyhow, as an initial test, I felt that this boded well for the compatibility and authenticity of the V4.
I then attempted to install DCTelnet to try connecting to my Retro Citadel BBS, The Sanitarium, via Telnet. I was able to connect to my network via ethernet, bring the network up, open aWeb, connect to aminet.net, and download the dctelnet.lha, unarchive it, and install it. On trying to execute the program, I encountered difficulty with the presentation of the drawer. Instead of opening to a view of the installed icons, it presented a text list - much like a modern Windows Explorer can be configured. Unfortunately, it wasn't readily apparent on how to change this to an icon based view - and this was not something I had encountered on an Amiga before. Clicking on the executable in the text view asked for arguments, click on the .info file for the executable brought up the .info properties. I attacked the issue another way, changing to the installed directory via CLI and launching the executable there. I was greeted with a "First Run" dialog about the default display size, told that I could change this in the preferences, and then...
At this point, I really needed the drawer to be in the default icon view to be comfortable trying to troubleshoot what was happening.
And that was a problem. While the V4 comes with a document on the desktop with some tips, and there is a help file in one of the drawers, there isn't any real documentation that explains how AROS works or how ApolloOS customizations affect operations in the OS. So, I went online to RTFM. The problem is, I really didn't know the question to ask. I wandered around the Apollo websites. When I talked on the Discord channel about the problem and said things were different than AmigaOS and I was overwhelmed and didn't know how to manage my way around the ApolloOS, one of the Apollo team members, who I won't name, instead of answering my question, demanded,
"How is it different? It is just the same. What kind of Amiga systems have you used?"
Later, someone else on the Discord chat managed to explain that Directory Opus was being used as a Workbench Replacement with ApolloOS, and pointed me to Dopus documentation, which helped me get a handle on making the changes I needed to make the desktop appear more familiar to me.
Their website is confusing. Apollo has several Domain Names that are loosely connected and linked to one another, but not a cohesive site.
Additionally, these sites have contradictory information compared to one another, and to the manual included with the V4, and the "Tips.txt" file included on the ApolloOS V4 desktop.
I decided to try and flash my core. The Download page describes the latest stable core Gold2.12 (release data 13.03.2020).
Describes a Vampire 4 Standalone Release Core:
Release5_7905.jic released 2021/01/12
And the Wiki describes using a USB-Blaster as the preferred method to install .jic binaries - while the included manual available at:
says that the recommended method is to use flashrom.exe to flash the .jic.
But even that is wrong. I checked with the Discord channel first, and they advised me that "VampireFlash" is the correct utility to use to flash the .jic file.
An additional problem was that the documentation on how to verify your core wasn't consistent with what I was seeing - but what I was seeing wasn't consistent with being on the previous core either. The Discord channel also helped me work through the steps on this until they were fairly certain I was on the older core.
On the issue with the desktop appearance, as I was discussing with other members of the group, one person said, "you don't get an OS manual with a PC."
To which I responded, "yes, but I can go down to Barnes and Noble and buy 'Windows for Dummies', or take a Windows course at my community college."
Someone else suggested that the V4 group are engineers and coders, and that this is a group that hates documenting. I don't think this is unfair. Having worked in IT with engineers, developers and coders for 25 years, I know that getting these folks to document their work is like herding cats. I think this is a big part of the issue. But you can't tell your users to RTFM when the manual is spread over 4 or 5 locations and some of those documents contradict one another or have outdated information. Apollo needs a team coordinating and consolidating their sites and making sure that there is a single repository for information and that this information is kept up to date. This is just a truth of their business model and as they grow, this issue is only going to get worse if they don't address it soon. It could become a major problem. Unlike MiSTer - which is a volunteer community with no single "company" really owning the product or the profits - Apollo and the V4 are an actual company, selling an actual product - and their website and documentation needs to be at a higher level than the MiSTer GitHub and a string of YouTube videos made by community members. Although - even that would be a good start. For right now, my advice is before you do anything, run it by the discord channel.
Some additional confusion existed in that although the web advertises with 128gb CF cards, the package I was told was available only included a 32GB card - but on arrival, I could only find 16GB accounted for. Talking to Sales via e-mail they advised that only 16GB is partitioned and formatted, and they provided a link to a YouTube video explaining how to partition and partition the remaining 16GB.
Finally - and this is more amusing than anything else - the order page advertises that the V4 comes with "Powersupply (EU/World)." But when I opened the package, I found a USB PSU with EU style prongs, and the box was completely in German. I don't know any German, but looking at the PSU it looked like maybe you could flip the prongs. Reading the box, I saw
"Mit Aufsteck-Adapter zum Betrieb an Euro- und USA- Steckdosen".
And wondered to myself... "what is a Euro und USA steckdosen?"
Sure sounds like "Stick those in," especially if you say it in a bad German accent.
Could it possibly have both Euro and USA style stick-those-ins?
So... I did the reasonable thing and took photos of the box, and sent them to a girl I know in Germany - who confirmed that it did say something about being Euro and US compatible, and that you slid off the Euro plug and there were US prongs underneath. After a few minutes of playing with it, I got the Euro adapter to slide off, revealing the US prongs, and only then I noticed a little imprinted "push" with arrows on the Euro adapter part. On the Discord, several other people who had just replaced their USB PSUs were shocked to hear that the included PSU was convertible - so I'm not the only one who was confused by this.
There are a lot of little details that aren't documented. There seems to be a lot of confusion and lack of communication with the Apollo team. They're developing rapidly at this point, moving quickly, and things are changing fast. I'm not angry or upset. But the criticism is fair. They've got a vision, they've been good at communicating their vision, they've developed and delivered the product of their vision - but they're far behind on organizing and documenting it. To be fair - we are still in an "early adopter" stage of the V4 release and it is a grass-roots retro-platform (if one with grand ambitions) - so we can assume that for now the people buying and using these will mostly be fairly technical people with expertise working with poorly documented information technology. I think that as the MiSTer has gone more mainstream and the barriers to entry with that device have become less challenging, we've seen less technical users arriving more frequently - and I think the buzz about the V4 will draw some pretty inexperienced newer Amiga users to Apollo's product. It would be good for Apollo to get as far out in front of that as possible, either in making sure that buyers know that previous strong Amiga experience is a prerequisite, or in having the processes in place to really do some hand-holding with users that aren't experts in the Amiga.
So, for me, most of these are just minor quibbles with the first major "consumer release" of a new, somewhat experimental product sold mostly to people who open up and break electronics as a hobby and then RTFM to figure out how to fix what they've broke.
What about the device itself?
The device is professionally built, professionally packaged, and comes ready to plug in and go. The quality of the build is very good. The AGA/SAGA/RTG display is incredible, and ApolloOS is a beautiful AmigaOS alternative that really leverages the incredible resolution and color capabilities of the machine. The bundled software is carefully curated to highlight the next-generation potential of the V4 - and it does. Full videos, MP3s, fantastic demos, and a great selection of games, utilities, and other software really highlight what the V4 can be. The internet suite is a decent selection to get you started doing most of the things on the 'net you would want to do, and if you've struggled with aWeb on a traditional Amiga, or even on MiSTer - you'll appreciate that although it isn't a modern browser, it seems very fast rendering pages that will display on an Amiga with aWeb. Those first few hours with the bundled applications I was very impressed.
The compatibility unfortunately is not fantastic. I don't know if this is the AROS Kickstart, ApolloOS, or the core itself, or maybe a combination of all 3. Once I got my mind wrapped around everything and felt more comfortable with the system - I started downloading files from Aminet.net and had trouble with installs either failing or working but the application failing to load. This may be partially or completely Operator Error - and I will continue to troubleshoot those issues. I think part of the issue is that ApolloOS uses ZUNE (an Aros MUI replacement) instead of MUI. They do offer a StartMUI script which unloads Zune and starts MUI. At any rate, this is part of the complexity of what Apollo is attempting here. MUI is a somewhat complicated step over a stock Workbench experience on an actual AmigaOS installation. Now we're dealing with ZUNE and MUI on Aros. Add dependencies like ClassAct into the mix - and you've got a lot things to keep track of and an increasing likelihood of incompatibilities. I'm hesitant to jump into adding things until I understand how they'll interact with ApolloOS and the AROS Kickstart. In either case - there may be some extra bookwork required to try and get certain packages installed and running, if possible at all.
In most cases, I did find alternatives to my standard favorites that installed and ran OK under ApolloOS. FTP clients, Telnet/SSH clients, and related programs.
What about games?
Let me be blunt - if you're a casual Amiga user only interested in playing old games - a MiSTer is a probably a much better choice.
First, my methodology. I've had an .hdf image of Amiga games for a while. I copy that .hdf from system to system. I use it on WinUAE, I use it on MiSTer - I've even extracted the folder and copied it on the physical CF drive in my A500 systems. If I pick a random game and run it - it generally works.
Yesterday I copied those files onto an SD (more about this in a minute) and then onto the V4. To be fair, many of them worked without a hitch. Ultima 3 worked fine. Additionally - some AGA titles that have until recently been out of reach on my actual ECS Amigas or the MiSTer also loaded and ran fine. But many others did not. Bards Tale 1, Archon, Phantasie, DeluxeGalagaAGA and others failed to launch, launched and then crashed, or even locked up the machine completely, requiring a soft reset. But titles that I know work on MiSTer and my physical Amiga, like Archon - failed to load on the V4. Interestingly, Archon was one of the earliest Amiga titles, developed for a 1.2 KS Floppy Amiga 1000 - and it did not work on the A2000 or A500 "back in the day". I've always figured that the version available today has been patched at some point. It is one of the titles that hard locks the V4, requiring a soft reset.
The SD slot is very small, and difficult to get to between the power connector and the HDMI connector. I actually managed to stick the MicroSD in the small gap *between* the slot and the case. It is also worth noting, it is the kind of slot that you push to eject.
I strongly recommend V4 owners invest in one of these:
(Addendum. The placement of the power and the HDMI prevents using an extension cable like this with the V4, as the tapering design of the SD extension cable is too wide at its maximum extent to fit between those cables. If someone comes up with a better solution, let me know.)
The stability of the Minimig core on MiSTer seems much more solid and mature than the V4. Sometimes I get hangs at power-on requiring a soft-reset. I've very rarely had to do a soft reset on MiSTer in the couple of years I've been using it as an Amiga. I've even experienced hangs requiring a soft rest while it was sitting there dormant. That is a bit of a concern to me.
But Minimig on MiSTer has been "in the wild," generating bug reports and improving incredibly from where it was just 2 years ago - with an aggressive upgrade cycle. Given a couple years of aggressive development by Apollo, how stable might the V4 core be?
So, is it a choice between MiSTer and V4? Going back to my original claim - V4 is more about moving forward with an evolution of the Amiga into what it should have become - and likely at this point there would be a lot of legacy titles that were no longer directly compatible if the Amiga and 68k CPU had survived and evolved into a 64 bit world. Lots of DOS and Windows titles no longer work on a modern Windows 10 system, requiring emulation and DOSBox and other fixes to run. It is plausible that a 68080 optimized version of UAE ported to Amiga might be the ultimate way to get complete backwards compatibility on a V4. 68040 and higher Amigas have compatibility issues with very old titles as well - so we can't expect absolute and complete compatibility from the V4. Finally, the development team is making progress every day on new core improvements, on improvements to the ApolloOS, and I assume to the AROS KS replacement. The V4 has a lot of potential to morph into a fantastic, stable and highly compatible modern hardware Amiga - and it is quite possible that new titles intended solely for the V4 will blow us away and be virtually exclusive to this platform and the 68080 CPU. You can already do things like Diablo on the V4 that you can't really achieve without the acceleration and the specialized features that the V4 has. There are things you can't do with regular acceleration that you can do with the Vampire accelerators for the actual Amiga. The Apollo accelerators and the V4 are more about looking ahead - and some things looking back may need to be let go of to get there.
On the other hand, there are exciting rumors about potential developments for the MiSTer that may make the processing capabilities of MiSTer on that device far more competitive with the V4. I'm not going to go into details on that, yet - but if the rumors come true, it will be as much of a game changer as AGA and RTG coming to Minimig on MiSTer was.
I don't intend to be hyper-critical of the V4. But I want to give my honest impressions of the device. It isn't fully mature, it has some issues, but I think it is a bargain for a machine that blows the doors off the big-box Amigas. Rather than buy an A1200, 3000 or 4000 to add to my hardware collection - I think the V4 is a great way to scratch the itch for a very fast, very powerful, hardware Amiga with ATA and RTG capabilities and not just that, but enhancements. I think the people that claim the V4 is too expensive don't really understand the concept. The V4 does not currently really compete in the same space as the MiSTer, or RetroPi. It isn't so much if one is better than the other - it is about you personally knowing what you want and setting your expectations accordingly depending on which one you purchase. I think there is room in the Amiga community for both of these devices, and the more people that buy both the better it will be for the entire Amiga community. I want Apollo to be successful with the V4, and to continue to develop this alternate branch of the Amiga family as a powerful and compelling alternative to the other branches, including AmigaOS 4.0 on PPC and MorphOS and other evolutionary attempts at keeping the Amiga concept relevant.
From what I've seen of the V4 so far, I believe Apollo has the most possibility of achieving success in that goal. I mean, the V4 really seems to compete more with things like the AmigaOne X1000 and X5000 than with RetroGaming platforms. Around $700 for an FPGA 68080 vs. a couple grand for a PPC Amiga One? The V4 has the potential to sell enough units to make it a viable product line. The AmigaOne is always going to be a kind of luxury machine for Amiga loyalists with large bank accounts. But our belief in that vision as purchasers is the only way we'll achieve that goal.
Another important distinction is that the MiSTer rides on top of the DE10 Nano, which is only affordable because Intel subsidizes the price as an educational board for FPGA learning. That could end at any time, or Intel could decide to capitalize on it and figure out a way to profit directly from MiSTer. In any case - Apollo owns, designs, and manufactures the V4. They have much more control over the manufacturing and design process of the core of the V4. MiSTer is a ride that will end one day, we just don't know when - and we'll have to find something to replace the DE10. Apollo can keep producing more V4s as long as there is a demand and it is profitable - and can design future improvements to this design as well. It is one of the reasons the V4 costs more than a MiSTer. If someone were building MiSTer's from the board up using a custom engineered FPGA - it would probably cost similar to what the V4 costs.
Finally, the MiSTer is very easy to configure for different configurations, including different Kickstart Images, CPU and other hardware configuration, and disk images. The V4 is not as easy to set up to be multiple *different* Amiga systems. It is designed to be one consistent hardware Amiga. You won't switch between 68000, 68020, 68080 on the V4. You won't switch between reboots between KS 1.2, KS 2.0, Aros KS. They have a utility called VampireMap that evidently allows you to select a particular KS image - but I haven't looked into that much, yet.
In many ways, the V4 is more like the Collectorvision Phoenix - an FPGA Colecovision clone designed to be a replacement for a true Coleco, down to compatibility with original hardware and cartridges. The Collectorvision can technically run other FPGA cores - and does currently support the Atari 2600 core - but primarily, it exists to be one thing, a Colecovision.
|At $200 - many people called this too expensive, too.|
My ultimate goal would be to see less conflict and competition among the Amiga community and more collaboration, assistance and sharing. I think the MiSTer team and the Apollo team helping one another would be great for both platforms, and excellent for the end-users. There has been too much division and conflict in the Amiga world for too long, and it has held the platform back and stunted it. Too many talented people who refuse to work with other talented people - to many rivalries instead of partnerships. Too much litigation. It is unlikely anybody is going to get Zuckenberg or Gates rich off of the Amiga - so instead of fighting one another and causing rifts in the community - it would be great if we saw more unity in it. Ultimately I want this for a selfish reason. I think it will benefit me - in better Amiga products to spend the last 30 or so years of life left to me playing around with.
If you've read this and it has helped you understand who the V4 is for, and you think that is you - I recommend you snap one up. You're unlikely to regret it.
Subject: Fauci Lied , People Died
Today on Facebook, The Cautious Optimist links to an article on Democracies and Double Standards that addresses Fauci's lies about mask efficacy in the early days of the epidemic:
This was something I believe Donald Trump was good at. Analyzing and understanding the actual motivation of his opponents. If you catch a liar and ask him the reason for his lie, do not believe that reason. You've already established he is a liar. He will use your trust against you again. Fauci is a liar. He has lied multiple times to the American public during this pandemic. He is lying about the reasons for his lies, as well.
Fauci has explained that he recommended against wearing masks early in the Pandemic because the experts and authorities were afraid that the public would buy up masks and cause a shortage of them in the medical industry.
Here is the truth. In January 2020, as Covid was first hitting US Airports, my family was dropping our daughter off in Chicago for her freshman semester at college. The news was breaking that a new, possibly pandemic infection was out of control in China, and had broken containment and was now being seen in other locations across the globe. One of those early places it showed up was international airports, and one of those airports was O'hare, which we had flown through to get to Chicago and would be departing from to get back home.
So, as a precaution, I went to the local Target on The Loop to pick up a box of disposable masks. They were out. So I went to a Ride-Aid, who was also out. I went to every likely store that might have masks, and all of them were out. Finally we found masks at Blick's Art Supply. The last two.
Now I'm ahead of the curve on things like these, being a bit of a hypochondriac and spending some time on the Internet on sites that most of you dismiss as crackpot tin-foil hat destinations. I had known about the Chinese virus for months, had seen the scariest videos of what was going on in Wuhan, and had been raising the alarm to my amused family and friends. "There goes Donovan again!"
But my little sub-culture is a super-minority of the population. Everyone like me rushing to buy masks does not explain a run on disposable masks that early in the breaking pandemic.
When we returned home, I went to Target and Rite-Aid and Walgreens, and all were out of masks, too.
So I asked on Facebook for friends in different cities to check their local stores. They were all out of masks, as well.
This was a national shortage of masks in consumer retail marketplaces in January of 2020, 3 months before Fauci would recommend that masks could make it worse.
I tracked down some fabric "anime" masks with cute little prints on them of scowling faces, bear faces, vampire faces - and we wore those, looked ridiculous and ignored Fauci's advice. I couldn't figure out why he was lying to the American public at the time, but I knew he was lying. I knew in Asia they were all wearing masks, as they do for any pandemic. Critical thinking says that when dealing with an infectious, possibly airborne disease, any barrier you can put between you and the infectious agent is generally better than none at all. Fauci gave birth to the anti-masker movement and their claims that masks make things worse, not Donald Trump.
But I have been at a loss to explain why Fauci lied. I think I've realized why, though.
The shortage of masks available consumer retail was caused when the US Federal Government rerouted all shipments of masks to healthcare, before January of 2020 - 3 months or earlier before Fauci was recommending against masks.
What this reveals is that the US Government knew before then how badly this was going to impact not just the United States, but the entire globe.
Fauci's advice against wearing masks was a containment strategy designed to prevent panic among the citizens of the United States.
They had been lying, a lie of omission - in not giving the US population advanced warning while the Federal Government tried to mobilize to get out in front of it. They lied because they thought that telling the truth would cause mass-hysteria among the citizens of the US. Then like most lies, they had to make more lies, that increasingly made less sense to those paying attention, all to cover up the original lie.
Because the original lie was that they knew far earlier than they told us what was coming. That is what all of Fauci's lies are about - trying to keep us from realizing that the original shortage of masks reveals that the US Federal Government knew what we were about to experience and kept that from us.
"For our own good."
We've always known that the US Government, that the UK Government, that all Governments, will lie to their population to try and prevent mass-hysteria. If the US Government knows a meteor is headed for New York City right now and that there is no way to evacuate in time, they're going to do nothing, and then act as shocked and taken by surprise as everyone else when it happens. If they know that they can evacuate, but it will cause mass national hysteria to do so, they will sacrifice New York City. Other national Governments who also had advanced knowledge will also play along complicity. Any whistleblowers will be discredited as conspiracy theorists. This isn't Hollywood fiction - it is the reality we live in.
And the Wuhan virus is proof of that truth.
But the problem isn't so much that we know this is true. It is that we know it and remain determined to be blue-pilled about it. Nobody digs this far with the question of Fauci's lies because they don't want the answer.
They pursue the question just far enough to prove the point they are after - and then they all stop asking questions. They see that beyond the point where they stopped asking, they start revealing truths they do not want to face.We're never going to fix the problems only asking the questions that lead to answers we're comfortable knowing. We've got to rip off the band-aid and think critically enough that we get to the answers that disturb us profoundly and rip the veil of innocence and ignorance from our eyes. We have to ask the hard questions and accept the unwanted answers. In this case - the US Government knew the truth and hid it from us because it was already too late to change what was coming.
The Cautious Optimist was right on the verge of asking, and answering this question, and stopped short. The essay he linked to by Richard Samuelson was right on the verge of asking, and stopped just short, too. I don't think I am smarter than either of these two - I think they stopped because they don't want the answer. Until we learn to start asking the questions we don't like the answers to, and accepting the answers no matter how distasteful we find them - we will continue to operate "business as usual".
The "experts" will continue to tell us what we must do, even if they are not doing it themselves, and we will continue to do as we are told.
That isn't just their fault, as much as it is our own.
Subject: BitCoin, CryptoCurrency, Liberty and the Surveillance State
"Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."
The mainstream press has recently been on a crusade to expose that this quote was Ben Franklin writing on behalf of the Pennsylvania General Assembly to the Penns family, the proprietary family of the Pennsylvania colony, in regards to a tax dispute.
Frankly, I don’t think the context Franklin came up with the idea matters, as the concept applies broadly to many, perhaps any scenario where someone barters to trade us increased security for decreased liberty. Pointing out that Ben Franklin didn’t mean this as a manifesto against 2ndAmendment Gun control legislation doesn’t make the quote any less effectivewhen employed as a criticism against those laws.
It is an example of the sophist intellectual dishonesty of the political Left when they try to discredit the quote. I don’t care about the words or who said them or what issue they were said in relation to. The words resonate with a concept rich in moral truth.
I do not trust anyone who would deny the obvious and manifest truth of this quote. Anyone who claims to not see – is certainly trying to trade you the illusion of a little personal safety in exchange for an unfair transaction in your personal liberties.
Jan suggests that these currencies are used to illicit illegal transactions, fund terrorism, and otherwise make the world a less-safe, more criminal world.
She is not wrong. I don’t own any Crypto Currency, and do not plan to own it – but it is certainly a favorite transaction method for the underworld.
But it is also no doubt a safe-source of funding for legitimate insurgencies fighting against oppressive regimes all over the world. Jan’s simple approach of buying our domestic security will come at the cost of disempowering those who would stand against tyranny and oppression.
At what point does this slippery slope stop? Encryption, the restriction on unreasonable search and seizure, and countless other protections of US Citizens against the tyranny of unchecked Government are also abused by criminals.
A Surveillance State so omnipresent and complete that they move to block anything they cannot strictly monitor and control is worse than an Authoritarian State. Such a Government is a truly Orwellian State. Such a government is double-plus-Authoritarian.
Right now Crypto Currency and anonymous alternative networks like Tor and i2p are havens from criminal activity and transactions. If you’re not familiar with these alternative networks, most of them work by riding on top of the regular Internet you use every day. You may have heard them referred to as the Dark Web or Darknet. You’ve probably read sensationalized stories about how they have been used for human trafficking, child pornography, international drug dealing and arms sales and other very scary and very terrible things. They have been. But they’ve also been used in regimes like Iran and China to avoid incarceration, torture and death for daring to stand up and disagree with the authoritarian dictatorships under which those countries are ruled. These technologies were never developed to assist criminals, they were developed to ensure liberty. There is a weird catch-22 in that ensuring libertyprovides opportunity for criminals.
Make no mistake though – these alternatives do not make criminals, (or just insurgents fighting for liberty from oppressive rule,) unconditionally safe from being caught engaging in their activities. We know that TOR is used by extensive criminal networks because authorities have infiltrated, caught, arrested and prosecuted those engaging in criminal activities on the TOR network. Authorities want to sacrifice YOUR liberty to make THEIR jobs easier. Politicians want to do so in order to make their control of your liberties more complete.
Likewise, Crypto Currency is only one step in obfuscating an illegal transaction. The goods or information still has to be transferred, the conspiracy acted upon, the players organized. Tangible actions must take place.
The Government will appeal to those who simplify the issue to terms of, “if you’re not doing anything wrong, you don’t have anything to hide.”
That is a terribly narrow and selfish view to take on these issues. There are people who are doing nothing wrong who have every reason to hidewho are depending on these technologies to protect them.
This should not be a partisan issue. I have no more faith in the Republican party than the Democrats, even with Trump in office would not eventually give in to this temptation. Our Government, the Governments of most of the first world, see the power of technology to solve problems as an irresistible tool. There is nothing new in this idea. JRR Tolkien describes this metaphorically with the One Ring – irresistibly absolute power that is irresistibly corrupting. No matter how good your intentions in wielding this kind of power, you will inevitably abuse it and become the thing you were afraid of. Unfortunately, the world of men is failing us, and the odds of an unlikely diminutive hero of pure heart coming to throw the danger into a lake of fire is increasingly remote.
At this point, the best thing for global human society might be massive solar flares that set our technology back a hundred years. I grew up at the dawn of the computer revolution, I’ve been bullish on the technology my entire life, and I made my career in Information Technology. I currently believe that technology is a bigger existential threat to humanity than weapons of mass destruction or bioengineered viruses. I honestly don’t see any other options. Either we reset the clock on the genie of predictive algorithms and data warehousing that rely on the ability of modern machines to calculate and empower sorting the signal from the noise, or we slip into an ever more Orwellian, dystopian future of constant surveillance and oppressive government.
Subject: Emulation vs. FPGA
Today I did something I have been meaning to get around to for a while, but I've had other projects going on. I recently purchased a Pi 400 - just for the nostalgia of having a simple computer that is built into a case with keyboard. I knew I didn't need another Amiga, but I also knew that I was going to load it up with FS-UAE and play around with that, as well as the other projects I have in mind for owning yet another Pi. The RPi 400 is a pretty neat little box - and so far I'm really enjoying playing around with it.
So I finally got around to copying my .hdf files from my MiSTer over to the Pi and configuring WinUAE to as closely replicate my MiSTer configuration as possible.
I own 3 Amiga 500 systems. Two of those have 68ec020 accelerators. One is a a 25mhz clock speed, the other is 30mhz, I think. I also have an Amiga 600, also with a 683c020 accelerator - the clock speed escapes me at the moment. All of them have around 7mb+ of Fast Ram and 1mb or more of chip Ram. I also have Goteks on the accelerated A500s and the A600.
|They're all in this picture somewhere.|
The MiSTer has a 68ec020 too - but at 100mhz, and something like 382mb of Fast RAM. It is essentially the same as the genuine Amiga systems, except far more powerful and with features like HDMI upscaling built in. Feature for feature, there isn't really anything on the Amiga systems that aren't on the MiSTer, and there are things that would cost a lot more to add to the Amigas, if they were possible at all.
|MiSTer running ao486 and Myst on Win98|
I'm not real pedantic about details. I know that my main Amiga has a Classic 520 accelerator on it - and I always forget what the name of the one in the other one is (Update, ACA500+ with ACA 1221lc and NetSurf 500)... it is a major, popular one though. I have no idea what is even in the A600. I'll look it up at some point and update what they all are. They're plenty fast, they've got nice features a lot of Amiga owners would kill for, and it isn't cheap to put together an Amiga like any of these. You'll pay at LEAST as much as for a MiSTer, especially in the US, and probably more.
|The A500 with Classic 520|
And in my opinion, the MiSTer feels every bit as authentic for the most part - other than that it won't read real 800k floppies off DF0: and doesn't have a real serial, parallel, comp, RCA stereo, RGA and related ports on the back. The sacrifices here minimal compared to the advantages - especially since MiSTer has added RTG support (which I haven't delved into yet).
In fact, I've taken .hdf files and copied them onto CF so that my emulators, real Amigas, and MiSTers can run the exact same image/drives - and I've taken CF cards and copied them to .hdf images to go the other way. Execution between the MiSTer and the genuine hardware is virtually impossible to tell apart. The differences are in directing my TCP/IP stack to go out over the UART on MiSTer vs. over parallel on the Plipbox on a real Amiga for Ethernet access - hardware things like that. Once you do that, though - the experience FTPing, surfing the web, or telneting into retro-BBSes feels identical, as well. Configured nearly identically, running the same hard drives/hard drive images - the machines perform nearly identically - excepting actually physically different hardware differences.
But not the Pi 400. I configured FS-UAE as nearly identical to the physical machines as possible. 68ec020, 3.14 ROM, same drive images, configured as the same drives, same amount of chip and fast ram. Then I booted up and launched "State of the Art" by Spaceballs.
And at first I was thinking - "this is pretty good. It doesn't seem..."
Then I started noticing some graphic artifacts and glitches on the display I didn't remember being bothered by on MiSTer or a real Amiga. I wanted to consider that maybe the glitches are just more noticeable because of the UAE upscaling filter displaying on a 27" LCD - but the genuine Amigas are all on 27" Acer 15khz LCDs via db23 to db15 vga adapters. There is upscaling going on on all of the comparable machines too. So I fired up the MiSTer - and these glitches and artifacts are simply absent on its display. It is obvious to me, the Pi is not as fast redrawing the screen. You can see it struggling to redraw the lines as it updates frames.
I fired up the MiSTer, and the graphic artifacts and glitches were absent. Everything was far smoother. Fades and transitions were clean and did not stutter or jerk or pause.
A little further into he demo, there is a silhouette of a woman dancing on a background that fades from green to light blue, right before a transition to 3 geometric shapes pulsating around the screen. Here there is an interesting observation. Those frames, the woman and the 3 geometric shapes, glitch on my MiSTer, but they also glitch on my genuine Amiga. The screen is kind of offset, with a ghost of itself on the top part of the screen - like a horizontal sync issue. Like PAL trying to display on NTSC, maybe.
|Here on MiSTer - but Identical on an NTSC A500|
There is no sign of this glitch on FS-UAE. That is, where a real NTSC Amiga has an issue with the demo, the MiSTer has the exact same issue with the demo - but FS-UAE doesn't display this glitch.
|Here on the Pi400 on FS-UAE|
At the same time as the transition to the 3 objects - FS-UAE slows down both in on-screen speed and audio playback. It lags at this section, where the graphic glitch shows up on genuine hardware and FPGA. There is something intensive going on during this transition - and it causes the sequential processing of emulation to choke out. I watched the demo several times to this point, and every time on UAE, it becomes choppy and slow at this part. This slowdown was not evident on the real Amiga or the MiSTer. In fact, both of them operated identically through this transition.
|As the figure divides into these 3 shapes, the Pi slows down markedly|
Finally, I configured FS-UAE on the Pi 400 as a 68040. The artifacts between frames and during fades remained evident, but the slowdown at this transition was no longer perceptible. But it is no longer as close as possible to an "apples vs. apples" comparison as possible at that point, is it? We're saying that the Pi emulating a 68040 can operate as smoothly as a real Amiga or MiSTer executing as a 68ec020. The MiSTer does run as a 100mhz 68ec020, so we're out of the world of actual, real-world physical CPU speeds at that point with FPGA too, though. In fact, the 68ec020 on the MiSTer runs faster than an Amiga 3000 68030/25 by a significant margin in raw MiPS. I'm not sure I see this "cheat" as a disadvantage or something that robs authenticity. It seems like an advantage, to me.
But in any case, it seems that if the Pi 400 and UAE can't really keep pace with a real or FPGA 68ec020, then if you crank it up to a 68040 and just brute force your way through performance - that it might be faster than the real Amiga 500 or MiSTer - but it still is probably struggling compared to a genuine 68040 Amiga. And the screen redraw glitches were still evident - and the sound was a little off... so those UAE filters and the abstraction layers between the Amiga OS, the virtual machine it is running in (UAE) the OS it rides on, and the hardware it ultimately talks to - causes inaccuracy that speed alone can't overcome. I don't think that these issues are ultimately just something that more brute force execution speed will overcome. I think they're inherent in the translations that take place between the emulated machine and the physical hardware layer with emulation. Tighter coding and other programming tricks may mask or reduce these problems - I think it is possible for emulation to be as authentic in recreating the actual hardware experience as FPGA is. But, at least with FS-UAE, that isn't the case today. It also seems like a lot of work to achieve this, when FPGA has already achieved that goal, today.
Now, I'm certain that some will argue I probably didn't "fine-tune" UAE enough, or the Pi enough. I'm just running on a stock NOOBS Rasbian distro. Maybe RetroPI would help. I'm not overclocked. Everything is pretty much set at defaults.
But this is the problem. The genuine Amiga and the MiSTer - don't really have - or need "fine tuning". You set them up specifically within a particular range of stock Amiga configuration parameters, and that is what they run as. If you can dial it in to run more like a genuine Amiga, I don't see that as an advantage. Once you tell it what Amiga you want it to be, that is what it should run like.
Others will argue, "well, sure, but if you were doing it on an intel Core CPU or AMD Ryzen instead of ARM..." but there are sunk costs in that solution that potentially exceed the Pi, the MiSTer and the genuine Amiga combined. Also, now your squeezing that emulation into a PC you most likely use for modern gaming, watching movies, Facebook... Personally, I still see these issues on my Surface Pro 5 i7 with 16gb of memory - so I don't really believe that it is an ARM vs. x64 issue. If more horsepower is the solution, I don't believe an i9 with 64gb of RAM, a gaming SSD, a Gaming LCD, and an NVIDA RTX 3080ti card offer enough horsepower to overcome these issues. Brute force isn't there yet, if that will eventually make emulation as authentic as FPGA is already today.
Now, I'm not trying to take a dump on anybody's personal solution or preference. They're all good solutions. Real hardware has a unique set of hassles, from having to replace bad caps and old power supplies to being expensive, and rare and difficult to find repairs for if you can't DIY. FPGA is relatively cheap, as genuine hardware becomes rarer - but still expensive compared to a Pi for a device that exists only to recreate old machines. FPGA development is still behind the emulation scene on some cores, and actually isn't powerful enough to deliver some of the most desired cores that an ARM based Pi can already deliver.
Ultimately, any of these platforms is a great way to re-experience these platforms - depending on your personal desires and expectations. If you're not super concerned with a highly genuine and authentic experience, and you want something powerful and/or inexpensive that will be able to run emulation up to the PSx - you can't beat a Pi. In particular, if you're experiencing these retro-platforms for the first time - you may not notice the issues. You don't have muscle memory for Super Mario World on the SNES - so you won't realize that something is wrong with the timing and that is preventing you from completing a world.
But someone who grew up with a NES is likely to find that they can't Turtle-Bounce on Super Mario Bros. on the Pi - but put them on the MiSTer, and they'll get it right the first time. If you have a great gaming PC, and you just want to casually experience these titles - emulate on them. Emulation is fantastic today - compared to the early days of the retrogaming scene. It is easier to set up, it is easier to configure controllers for, and it is stable and despite not being perfect, reasonably, sometimes even incredibly - accurate.
Real hardware, if you have the money, the time, and the dedication to keep in operating condition - is obviously the most authentic experience you can get. No matter how we try to recreate the drive click or head seek of an Amiga floppy - the minute you hear a real one doing its thing, you can't deny the recreation is a pale imitation. The smell, the feel of the keyboard, the simple physical shape of the hardware. Even modern recreations like "TheC64" don't feel quite right, hardware performance aside. It is cool that those options exist, and we should support the companies that put them out - but a TheC64 will never be the same as a real Commodore 64 breadbin. A lot of this is intangible. There is something in knowing you own and that you're playing on the real original thing.
|Just be prepared for a lot of this.|
But the tests I've described here - anyone can do them. I'd be glad to set up at a Commodore convention or user's group and perform these tests in front of anyone with doubts about my methodology or honesty. Eventually someone will do side by side videos, measure times - do a deep level analysis of the cycle timings that will document the experiences I describe. If you do the side-by-side comparisons I describe here, you'll note the same results I describe. MiSTer is a nearly perfect modern retro-creation of the Amiga. FPGA is a silver bullet for affordable, accessible, supportable retrogaming that is as close to the real things as you can currently get. FPGA is not the same as emulation, and emulation is not as accurately authentic as FPGA at recreating the platforms retrogamers want to re-experience. For me, it isn't subjective, it is objective - it is observed and tested and I am confident I can recreate these tests in any situation. My subjective opinion, based on that - is that FPGA is the superior solution for me. Weighing the advantages and disadvantages of genuine hardware, FPGA and emulation - if I had to choose to live with just one of those choices - it would be FPGA, and currently - it would be MiSTer.
Subject: Libertarians, does the boot taste better to your own tongue?
"There is nothing left to argue or debate. Yesterday they literally stormed the Capital. Today they want to say it’s the same as protests this summer. Sorry it’s not one is the high crime in this country the other isn’t even be pursued by the law.
There is no reason. No logical talk works. I’m just blocking them taking notice of where most the crazy talk come from and ignoring those places."
submitted by /u/JZP1120
Anyone who has interacted with Libertarians has probably at some point heard the phrase,
"I may not agree with what you are saying, but I'd fight to defend your right to say it."
Lately, it seems the voice of a lot of Libertarians aligns more clearly with the political Left on this issue.
"I can situationally split hairs to decide just vs. unjust expression, attitude or opinion - and if unjust - I will stand aside as you are silenced."
Since the riots in Autumn, I have been warning my friends on the political right, "if people are so disenfranchised and feel so hopeless because of their position that they are willing to resort to insurrection and tear down the symbols of their State - that speaks to a real problem. Comfortable people do not riot."
I believe that about the BLM movement, the AntiFA movement, and I believe that about the riot in D.C. yesterday.
Yet, on the Reddit Libertarian sub, I encounter posts like the one above.
I saw countless Libertarians during the BLM and AntiFA riots celebrating the civil disobedience, justifying it as a valid response to the hopelessness that the rioters felt. They supported the destruction of billions of dollars of personal property - they supported events that resulted in innocent citizens being beaten, even killed. They supported mobs demanding that patrons at restaurants raise their fists and chant "Black Lives Matter." This went on for months. Dozens of innocent people lost their lives. Small businesses were burnt to the ground.
And they called anyone who disagreed "statists" and "bootlickers".
Yesterday, an angry mob of disenfranchised citizens who feel so desperate and unrepresented stormed the Capitol and engaged in violent protest. We can assume that their motivations were not materially different than the protesters who burnt down entire cities this past fall and winter.
These same "Libertarians" are now claiming this one is "high crime," and "treason" - a "perversion of the Democratic process of the nation." They're celebrating the use of force by the police against the protesters, claiming the enjoyed watching it.
Very few ACTUAL Libertarians are brave enough to stand up and call this hypocrisy out:
The Left believes ideas can trick me and mislead me, that I am not, individually - capable of making the best decisions. That I am not smart enough to figure it out for myself. The Right feels this way too, on certain subjects. If you object to this intelligently enough - the counter from either side is,
"Well, rational people capable of critical thinking of this sort are rare. We have to worry about the collective gullibility of society."
To do that, both sides apply a "slowest ship in the fleet," approach to legislation and Governing.
Legislation and Government set the most restrictive limits - and the idea seems to be, "if you're smart enough to deal with the thing we've restricted, you're smart enough not to get caught doing it, or to have a way of getting out of the punishment."
This results in exactly the two tiered justice system that Libertarians claim to despise. The wealthy and powerful and connected and smart get away with everything, are allowed to break all the rules - and the poor and powerless and disenfranchised and weak get crushing punishments for any infraction they get caught committing.
Regardless of if you believe yesterday's civil disobedience in Washington D.C. was justified or not, regardless if you believe the BLM and AntiFA civil disobedience across the nation over the last 6 months was justified or not -
The people who participated in all of these events feel passionately enough about the issues that drove them to civil obedience to put themselves in harm's way. In many cases, they felt so disempowered that they had decided that the only response that would work was to use the ultimate expression of dissatisfaction - violence.
The Senate, it seems - responded largely by deciding, "If you are so angry you are going to threaten our safety, we're going to dismiss your point of view and do exactly the opposite of what you were hoping to achieve."
This seems like a very natural human response to being threatened or being made to feel physically vulnerable, or just challenged in general. "You think you're going to scare me into doing this? Instead I'm going to do the exact opposite, and use your behavior as justification for dismissing your reasons completely, rather than considering just why you were so angry that you behaved that way."
It very rarely diffuses the situation. Disregarding the anger and desperation of the radical Left is dangerous. We need to listen and dialog and try and reason with the radical Left to deradicalize it.
The exact same statement applies to the radical Right.
I've said this a number of times - we act like we live in the worst time in human history - when in fact, we live in the most progressive time in human history. A female person of color will soon be the first Female Vice President of the United States in history. Like Obama's two administrations - this blatantly refutes the idea that there is systematic White racism designed to prevent people of color from achieving the highest positions of power in our Nation. You can't hold the first opinion and explain how the second situation could be. Not with rational and consistent logic, anyhow. The reason usually offered is, "because white men are losing their position of power and dominance in society."
So... that means that pervasive, institutionalized, systematic white racism in America is failing. So, why are People of Color so angry and frightened and disenfranchised? The opportunity exists, and more and more PoCs are achieving "The American Dream," even the American Dreams that are out of reach for more than 99% of the white population of America.
We used to often hear that racism manifested it in the idea that every white mother told her son before bed, "one day you could grow up to be President," and that this was something black mothers would never suggest to their son.
Clearly we live in a world where a black father could tell his daughter, with conviction, "one day you could grow up to be President," and not feel like he was lying to her.
At no time in the history of the United States could this be said before. It isn't the riots and unrest that made this happen. It isn't Trump, or Biden, or Democrats, or Republicans. It isn't Hollywood programming us to accept social ideas. This has been going on since the founding of our nation. We've constantly moved the needle as a society on who has access to the ideals of American values. Every decade or our nation's history has been better for more people than the previous decade, and very rarely has the needle of this progress moved backwards.
But there is also no doubt that not only are white males losing their influence and power in our society - but the needle is also moving backwards for them as a group. They can openly be stereotyped, their characteristics and habits and beliefs and values and behavior used as caricatures in comedy, exaggerated, used as foils in entertainment. It is acceptable to say and believe things about whites that are not acceptable about any other group in society today.
People of Color are not "out of the woods," for facing obstacles and discrimination and hostility in our society based just on the color of their skin.
White men (and white people in general) are justifiably fighting desperately not to have their status reduced to the point where they face the same threats, if they're not facing them already.
Both claims can be true. Both claims are demonstrably true based on the desperation displayed by segments of our society.
The BLM/AnitFA riots were months on end of lawlessness, violence, protest and destruction, most aimed at society itself. Those riots did more self-harm to their community than to the targets of the anger manifest in those riots.
The riot in DC yesterday actually came too close to comfort to those actually responsible for the division and anger in the United States today.
Yet the BLM/AntiFA riots - that mostly hurt ourselves - are "standing up to the system" and threatening the actual system was "a threat to Democracy."
I'm not saying this is a correct or incorrect assessment of either set of events.
I am saying that in December 1773, depending on your perspective - either:
A bunch of insurgent rebels and terrorists attacked the dock in Boston, rioted and destroyed material goods owned by legitimate merchants and business interests and set off a series of events that led to the destruction of the government of the colonies of the United States.
And by yet another, a band of patriots frustrated by the injustice of a corrupt government rebelled with cause and drove out a tyrannical Government to be replaced by one intended to serve as subjects to the citizens, instead of the other way around.
In either case, insurgents or patriots, those who engaged in the Boston Tea Party were driven by a conviction that their government was so corrupt and disinterested in their welfare that in their desperation they felt that violence was the only course of option left open to them.
This is the detail that is being overlooked in ALL of the civil disobedience, protest and rioting. If they are justified or not - both sides are so angry and desperate, have lost so much faith in the mechanism of the system, that they believe violence is the only option left to them.
Rather than taking sides about when violence is justified or not - maybe we should figure out how to have dialog that prevents the violence from ever erupting?
Subject: A PC Wizard has Carpal Tunnel Wrists
"How do you think he does it, I don't know... what makes him so good?"
TLDR: There are two kinds of SSL/TLS certs - CA Signed verified certs and Self Signed unverified certs. Both give you an encrypted session that can't easily be hacked. If you get the address from someone you trust, you are theoretically just as safe with a self-signed cert as with a CA verified Cert. Read below for full details.
For a long time people have called me some variation of a PC wizard. In the past, it has always meant, "he is really good at computers," but lately - I feel like being a PC wizard has actually become perceived as something like being a master at arcane mystical knowledge that is unknowable and out of reach to the majority of the population.
Recently I put up a private-blog and web/telnet BBS at:
(Note, I had you directed to the landing page, which is just a webpage, and just plain old HTML in HTTP, to allow the broadest range of users to connect without dire warnings. This has been corrected and the link now works.)
Feel free to visit and create an account if you want to hear even more of my thoughts, ramblings, opinions and experiences.
I had decided, like many of my friends and associates - that I had lost faith and trust in the large corporations that increasingly have a choke-hold on the flow of information on the Internet. John Gilmore is famously quoted as saying, "The Internet interprets censorship as damage and routes around it". This is true. The decentralized design of TCP/IP, the backbone protocol of Internet traffic - is designed to break traffic into packets, and send those packets out over multiple routes to the destination, and to reroute if one route is broken or unreachable. Sites like Facebook and Twitter became whirlpools of self-contained Internet traffic - destinations like a digital Hotel California, where you can check in any time you want, but you can never leave. The trick is, you opt into this Faustian agreement - by simply becoming so consumed with all of the content contained within Facebook's network that you seldom venture outside it. When you do, you go to some other dominant destination. Twitter, Google, Amazon. They don't need to worry about the Internet routing around censorship, because you're only consuming data within their private networks, which they control the flow of information within. Increasingly, they assure you that anything outside of their network is "fake news," is "untrusted". It hasn't been "fact-checked".
So, I put up an alternative. The number one reason people tell me they don't visit the website is because they get an ominous warning in their browser that "This site's identity can't be verified and may be trying to steal your information."
The alert above warns that "Your connection isn't private," and then describes that "attackers might be trying to steal your information from secure.wallofhate.com (for example, passwords, messages, or credit cards.)"
This is where being a PC Wizard comes in. People see this warning and they imagine that hackers are going to use a site to infiltrate their PC and gain access to their banking and financial records, watch them on their security webcams, and take control of their connected refrigerator and other appliances.
The warning is technically true. The site claims to be a site, and it can't be verified that the site is really who it claims to be. If you get an e-mail or text telling you that your Bank of America card has been compromised, with a link to click on, and you click it and get this message - then by all means run away. They're trying to get you to enter your account information on a fake site so that they can then log in to the real site and get access to your account. That is how a phishing scam works.
But if a friend you trust gives you the URL to his personal or private website and you click on it and get this message - you're fine to proceed to the site - especially if you're smart enough not to use the same account name and password on his site as you use on your Bank of America and Verizon accounts.
Here is how this works. In the early days of the internet, we used a protocol called HTTP (Hyper Text Transport Protocol) to connect to sites on the WWW (World Wide Web). For most people the WWW has become the internet. It wasn't a big problem when you just logged in and read a page. But as web pages became more interactive, and started to hide behind account logins that required passwords and had confidential information - this became a concern. When people started using public shared locations to access those sites, it became a HUGE problem. HTTP in an unencrypted, plain-text (or clear-text) protocol. Anyone sharing the network with you can look at your traffic and see everything you type in and send to the server with HTTP. It was very easy for hackers to go to a Starbucks or airport or hotel lobby and set up something called a "Man in the Middle" attack, where you thought you were connecting to Starbucks, but you were really connecting to their PC, which was impersonating Starbucks. Their PC would in turn hand you off to the real Starbucks connection, but all your data passed through their PC, where they would log it and steal it.
So, HTTPS, or SSL became popular. It is an encrypted tunnel protocol version of HTTP. Your PC connects to the destination site, they share some magic information back and forth, and set up an encrypted tunnel before any user information is exchanged, before any log-in or post is written or account information is viewed. It doesn't matter if there is a man in the middle, because the data isn't in clear-text. They can see that data is going back and forth if they hijack your connection, but they can't see what that data says. Of course, hackers figured out how to crack that encryption, and so now it is a cat and mouse game of the encryption improving, and then the hackers cracking the encryption algorithm, and then a stronger encryption algorithm being designed.
This part gets a little complex. It is the part where people start going, "You've got to be magic to understand IT." To enable SSL/TLS the site owner adds a thing called a "Certificate" to their webserver. It is a file that verifies that the site is who it says it is. It makes sure the names all match. I can't just put up a server called "https://google.com". The Internet has to be sure that every site on the internet is unique and matches a known IP address. This is how you type in a site name and get there. You talk to a thing called a DNS (Domain Name Server), and the DNS server looks at the name you want, looks at a list of names, finds the name you are looking for, turns that into a numeric IP address, and then sends you there. It is a little more complex than that - but that is the basic way it works. But I can get the domain name support.ru and then put "google" in front of it on a server and create a server called "https://google.support.ru" This is far different than a site called "https://support.google.com" One is obviously real to an IT pro, the other is obviously fake. But to an average user, they both look like Google's real support site. But I can also send you a link that LOOKS LIKE "https://support.google.com" in an e-mail, but then redirects you to a site "https://google.support.ru" and that even might trick some IT pros if they're not paying attention. Certificates make sure that the site you are going to matches the name of the server. So, if the cert is for "support.google.com," the cert needs to be issued to "support.google.com". If it isn't, it'll warn you that there is something wrong with the cert when you try to connect. Which it should.
The browsers, made by companies like Google and Apple and Microsoft, started adding these ominous warnings designed for the lowest common denominator of Internet User, that warned if something seemed wrong with the Certificate. If there was a mismatch between the name on the cert or other issue that could possibly indicate the site was fraudulent.
At the time the idea was that if you were accessing a site over the Internet - the cert needed to be verified and issued by a trusted 3rd party authority. These are called Certificate Authorites, or CAs. They are a handful of big corporations not unlike Facebook, Microsoft and Apple - who have the sole authority to issue "trusted, signed certificates". Generally speaking they charge money, and it isn't cheap, for a certificate - and they make you go through some fairly involved hoops to verify you are who you are and you actually own the site for which you are getting a cert. It isn't an inherently bad thing. It actually does make the Internet more secure and more trusted.
But this is where average users not understanding the technology becomes a problem. When Information Technology started down this route, the idea was, "If you are hosting a public Internet site that anyone can connect to, you need a CA issued trusted signed certificate - but if you're hosting an internal company or business webserver, the IT staff can tell the employees/users to just ignore the frightening warning message that the certificate isn't trusted."
So, the industry came up with a thing called a "Self-Signed Cert". That just means that the website operator knows they are the site they claim to be, knows they own the site, and doesn't need to spend money or jump through hoops to make the site secure, encrypted, and available to their employees. In fact, a site with a self-signed cert that is administered by competent IT security professionals is safer than a site with a CA signed cert that is administered by morons. The number of security breaches at high profile sites over the years proves this is true. The cert itself doesn't make you, or your data safe. The knowledge of the people running the site, and your own knowledge, are far more important to your data security than a Trusted vs. an Untrusted certificate. To be absolutely clear - everything else being equal - a self-signed certificate has the same level of encryption and security as a Trusted Cert verified by a Certificate Authority - assuming you trust the site operator.
The problem seems to be that people don't understand the frightening message their browser puts up when they hit a site that has a self-signed certificate. They think maybe their browser knows something they don't - that it has detected some sign that the site has been faked. If the user knows the site and received the site address from a trusted source - their web browser knows less than they do about the authenticity of the site. All the browser knows is that the site has a cert that is self-signed and not issued by an official Certificate Authority. That is literally all the dire warning about "attackers trying to steal your information" means. Your web browser doesn't know this - it just knows that this is something that attackers trying to steal your information sometimes do.
Increasingly - this results in a troubling situation. It reinforces the tendency of average users to stick to large, official corporate websites and to run away from safe, but self-signed ones . Certificates become more like a license and registration to host a "reputable website". A secure SSL/TLS website is a secure SSL/TLS website - even if it is a scam site, the data transferred is encrypted. If you were connected to a scam website, other cybercriminals in between would not be able to see the encrypted data transferred between you and the scam site, if it were over a SSL/TLS connection. Only the cybercriminals on the other end would have access to that data. SSL/TLS is secure, regardless of it the site is self-signed or used a CA verified cert. So self-signed sites are more like pirate radio. Unlicensed and unregistered sites that haven't gone through an official verification process. In the early days there was a lot of talk about the "Democratization of the web," and how it would allow everyone to have a voice that can reach anyone else. SSL/TLS is, perhaps unintentionally working against that goal at this point. More accurately, it may be being intentionally abused by the Big Tech industry to silence voices that Big Tech doesn't want heard. If so, all that Big Tech is doing is using consumer ignorance about the technology to scare them away from sites that do not use CA issued certificates. This is probably not healthy overall for the web, for the consumer, or for the spread of knowledge. Too few big corporations control the flow of information in our society - and unfortunately SSL/TLS has become a tool that helps them maintain this control.
SSL/TLS is necessary and a good thing - but consumers need to understand it better - and browser companies should consider changing their warnings or linking to better descriptions of what those warnings mean. If they're going to scare the public about sites that do not have CA issued certs, maybe it should be their responsibility to educate the public better, as well. Right now their approach is either lazy or intentionally disingenuous. One is irresponsible, the other approaches being evil. The question I increasingly find myself asking is who is bigger threat to me, the scammers that want to steal my money, or the corporations that seem to want to steal my voice?
Subject: The Definitive Post on Wearing a Mask (or Not).
So, if you're an anti-masker - your argument probably goes something like, "the individual virus is too small to be stopped by a mask."
Let's apply this concept to underwear. If you're wearing underwear, and you go to cut a silent one - and it turns out you just sharted yourself instead - it doesn't take a lot of visual confirmation to confirm that the underwear caught a lot of particulate matter that would have entered freely into the environment otherwise. Now, if people are nearby, they're going to be aware that you've had a malfunction. They're going to smell that you've shit yourself. That is aerosolized particulate fecal matter from your balloon knot entering into their nasal passages and lungs. It is something unpleasant humans don't like to confront - but if someone farts or shits themselves near you, and you smell that, molecules of airborne particulate matter from their ass are now entering your body.
The more physical barriers between their dirty penny and your nasal passages, the less you'll smell the results of their misadventure, because the less of that airborne particulate matter that reaches your olfactory sensors.
So, the best case scenario is that the mouth-breather that just inadvertently sharted themselves didn't have a particularly violent shart, was wearing very thick underwear and pants, and you were wearing a very efficient mask. If all of these factors are true, you may be standing right next to the guy and not aware that he just literally shit himself. This means little or possibly even no detectable fecal matter from his musky nether subway has entered into your nasal passages. Ideal, huh?
The worst case scenario is that you're at a nudist resort, sitting down on a lounge by the pool, not wearing a mask, and the guy was standing with his ass pointed directly at your face when he decided to let loose what turned out to be a violent asspolsion of rocket propelled diarrhea into your face. There was no barrier between his ass and you - and you're going to literally take it all on the chin, and the mouth, and eyes. Breath it in... you're going to be able to identify exactly what that guy had for dinner tonight. Taste the rainbow.
There are various degrees of exposure depending on the combination of what the Sharter is wearing between his one-eyed-winking-wonder and you, the Shartee are wearing over your face - but one thing is certain - ANY barrier between your face and his asshole is going to reduce your exposure to anything that is ejected from his glazed donut.
I don't think I should have to spell it out, but some of you Anti-Maskers literally should be wearing Depends - so just to make sure you get it:
Any mask works on the same principle. The virus is invisible and odorless - and maybe that is what is making some of you struggle with the logic of this. If you could SMELL the virus, you would be aware when you were getting a very LARGE dose of it compared to where you just caught a whiff of it - and you would eventually realize when your protection was so good you couldn't even smell it at all, even if it was around. But it doesn't work that way.
As for "Masks are not hygienic, they catch and trap moisture and germs and become breeding places for infection." Ok, Swampass. How often do you change your underwear? Keep your same pair of skivvies on for too long, and you're going to encounter the same unpleasant results. I don't see you walking around justifying going commando because it traps things near to you that you would rather be further away. This is why your mom told you to change your underwear everyday. It is why you throw away a disposable panty liner. Because if they're doing what they're supposed to do, they're supposed to get gross. That isn't a good excuse to disregard wearing these things.
Ultimately, the mask controversy seems to mostly come down to a partisan divide where the most vocal people are defining their allegiance or opposition to one side or the other by either demanding that you wear a mask or refusing to wear a mask under any circumstances. Logic says that any barrier worn between the infected and the environment is going to reduce the amount of the virus freed into the environment. Any barrier you wear between the environment and your breathing passages is going to reduce the amount of everything in the environment transferred into your breathing passages. We can argue endlessly about how much that reduction is, and if it is enough of a reduction to prevent infection on a case by case scenario - but we can't argue that the barriers reduce transmission. This isn't partisan political opinion - this is physics. If you're in a sealed environmental hazmat suit with a closed air-supply - the transmission between you and the outside environment is absolutely *zero*. It is all downhill from there, all the way to the worst case scenario, someone who is infected with no mask ejecting a huge and violent expulsion of the virus in both aerosolized and saturated ejected matter into the environment, and you having no barrier between that expulsion and your mucous membranes.
I also get the feeling that a lot of the folks who are opposing mandatory masks because, "they're reducing my liberty," are the first people to dismiss when women demand to go topless because we let men go topless. Their argument in the latter case usually comes down to, "society has decided that it is inappropriate for a woman to go without a shirt in public, and it is generally OK for a man. That is how a society works."
I don't disagree with that premise. Societal norms have decided that male breasts are not provocative for public, all-age settings, and that female breasts are. It is just part of the social contract - and good members of society accept that, even if they think it is unfair.
Guess what - The same thing applies here. Societal norms right now have decided that your uncovered face is inappropriate at Costco. It may not be fair, it may not be right, it might not be helping anything. That doesn't matter. As a whole, society thinks you should be wearing a mask in a crowded public place at the same time. If you think this is a violation of your civil rights, then at the very least you're going to have to admit that a woman should be able to peel off her top and bra in any public place where she gets the urge.
The tribalism over this debate is the most annoying thing of all. Both sides have turned it into another "if you're not with us, you're against us," zero-sum partisan position. Both sides are virtue signaling which political side of the spectrum they are either by their insistence that everyone wear masks or adamantly refusing to wear masks no matter how reasonable the request is. Coming from the Left, this is basically business as usual. Virtue signalling comes as natural to their political ideology as a duck to water.
Subject: Relive the 80s with RetroGames "TheC64"
|The C64 next to an original C=128|
For the price, this is hard to argue with. I've only given Gateway to Apshai a spin so far, the real test will be loading up Crossfire on it and seeing how good my score is compared to on the C128 and MiSTer... but I already have a real good feeling about this. RetroGames should make a version that is *just* a USB keyboard for emulation and FPGA devices. I'm going to end up buying at least one more just to do that with a Keyrah, most likely.
This ABSOLUTELY scratches my itch for the look and feel of a Commodore breadbin. With Vic-20 mode, it hits two desires at once, in one space. As modern equipment, it can be easily replaced if it fails, and I am not worried about PSUs of death blowing hard to replace chips or leaking capacitors and other hardware failures.
If you're a casual user interested in reliving the games or experiencing them for the first time - this is almost undoubtedly your BEST bet currently. Easier to set up and about the same price range as a Rpi - less expensive than a FPGA solution - no USB to PC 101 key keyboard mapping to deal with. It just has a lot of upsides.
From what I've heard, the downside is that setting up additional games requires a little effort in renaming some files so they'll be recognized. People complain about the plastic feeling cheaper - meh... Yeah... *kinda* but... it doesn't feel TOYLIKE. Some people complain about the keyboard. It was never a keyboard you MISSED originally, as far as feel, play, ease of typing on. The keycaps feel a little cheaper than on the original - but hell... the thing is under $120 euro. For that price - it is IMPRESSIVE that the thing has a full working keyboard at all - and it isn't any worse than any other Mitsumi membrane keyboard than I can tell, so far - granted that I haven't tried to post a message on a BBS with this or really even even made sure the keys all work.
|Click image for larger view.|
Sitting right next to a real C-128 that I have over $200 euro into the Ultimate 1541-II invested in - I feel pretty confident if I had gotten TheC64 first, I probably would have stopped my quest for Commodore 8 bit retro hardware there. This is TERRIBLE news for people profiting over inflated prices for Commodore 8 bit equipment - because with this thing out, I'm not buying a real, tested Vic-20 or Commodore 64 for more than $50... and I'd probably want to pay less. If you're speculating on a stockpile of old Commodore 8 Bit equipment - you may want to unload as quickly as possible. When these things flood the market, the current bubble in the US for original Commodore equipment is likely to pop.
The carousel is awesome for Retro gamers who are new to the Commodore 8 bit - you're not going to have to learn all the weird BASIC based I/O commands to get a game up and running - at least, not the 64 titles that are built in - and there is enough there to keep you occupied for a while, and some pretty good titles, plus some interesting ones I've never tried before. Once you get bored with those, you can always add more via a thumbdrive attached to one of the 3 USB host ports. There are two on the side intended for USB joysticks, and one on the back intended for memory. You can always add a powered USB hub to any of these if you find you need more USB expansion.
If you're some sort of "real hardware, never emulation," purist, you're never going to buy something like this anyhow, and your opinion doesn't actually matter. We know how you feel - you have every right to your opinion, and if that is what makes you happy, do what you want.
But really - you're not getting much more out of your genuine original hardware experience than this is delivering, for most users - in my opinion. That is based on 10 minutes playing Apshai and browsing the menus - so that opinion COULD change - but so far, I saw nothing to make me think it will.
The microswitch joystick is ALSO pretty damn good as a Competition Pro clone. It feels just like one. I hear the shaft breaks. That is too bad - but it is sturdy built. Maybe just don't use it for any of the Epyx "Games" series. Even if it breaks, I feel like it would be good parts for a DIY 3D printed USB Competition Pro clone. Having your cheap joystick break is really part of the original Commodore experience, anyhow.
|Click Image For Larger View|
(Note: On Facebook, Alfonso Martin adds: "Don't worry about the amperage. The important is the voltage (5v). If the amerage is lower, maybe TheC64 won't work and the PSU overheat, but if the amperage is higher you want have any problem. Any phone charger 5v and more than 1A is OK (I use one of 2A)."
I'm not an expert on electrical voltage and electronics, and I know over and under voltage can cause problems, but I have no idea how much amperage matters. Proceed with any advice here on using a non-included charger at your own risk.)
There is my mini review on this thing. I'll update once I get a chance to set up a USB drive and test drive it some more. So far, it is a thumbs up.
Subject: Cultural Marxism and Gender Theory (and other group identity exploitation).
Does it matter? I frequently see the Right wondering what is responsible for the rise in popularity of socialism on the Left, especially among the young. The tweet above illustrates the effectiveness of Identity Politics in distracting people on the Right (and Center and Left,) from the actual goal, while leading the groups that the Right focuses on toward adopting the socialist spectrum.
Let me elaborate. It doesn't matter if the people in Academia who originated the various theories that drive Identity Politics did so with a goal to lead those groups to adopting socialist values - if it was master planned - "cultural Marxism," or if it was an organic process. Let's define the difference.
Cultural Marxism suggests that socialists have a master strategy. They intend to divide people - by class, by race, by theological views, by gender identity, by sexual preference, by gender. The goal is to make people identify a common enemy of "the people". The framework of this strategy exists in the Communist Manifesto - describing the proletariat, the bourgeois and the class struggle between them in which the worker is exploited ruthlessly by the ruling wealthy capitalist elites. Cultural Marxism expands on this idea. Class is just one mechanism by which the ruling elites oppresses the laboring class. Cultural Marxism proposes that the wealthy elites ultimately control economies and resources along group identity - and that the ruling group identity is straight white Christian males.
Everything else springs from this idea. Straight White Christian Males are the singular, precise enemy of liberty, freedom, and equitable distribution of resources, labor and social obligations. They maintain their power by a system of institutionalized discrimination against everyone who is not a straight white Christian male. LGBTs are oppressed for their sexuality. Muslims and other non Christian belief systems are oppressed for not being Christian. People of Color are oppressed for not being white, and women are oppressed for not being males. Finally, anyone else is oppressed by having the Patriarchal notions of binary gender forced upon them.
The goal here isn't to liberate LGBTs, non-Christians, and women, or to free society from a restrictive cultural view of gender. The goal is to make people identify as belonging to these groups and all see a common enemy in the society and culture of Straight White Christian Males.
People on both the Right and the Left confronted with the idea of Cultural Marxism used in this manner tend to reject it as Alt-Right conspiracy theory associated with white nationalism, sexism, homophobia, and other anti-social value systems. Unfortunately, this view of Cultural Marxism is very popular among radical, militant members of the Far Right. Just because those people like this perspective on the goals and agenda of the Left, doesn't mean it isn't really the goal and agenda of the Left, though.
Liberals will argue, "I'm not a socialist - but I believe in equality for PoCs, for women, for LGBTs. Your argument against Cultural Marxism seems to suggest we should continue to maintain a status quo that promotes racism, sexism, homophobia and xenophobia."
That is only if you accept the premise of Cultural Marxism that our current Western European economic model and government is inherently racist, sexist, homophobic and xenophobic.
The truth is that our current society has been more progressive about rights for all of these groups, and all groups, than any other society in history - leading to the point where these groups are empowered to reject the very society which empowered them. Nobody is denying that there wasn't discrimination and oppression of groups in the past, or that white males enjoyed a position uncontested at the top of this society for most of its history. But the current framework has brought individual liberty and economic opportunity to more people globally than anything else that has come before it or existed alongside it.
But if you believe this or not isn't important. What is important is that this is how Cultural Marxism is supposed to work. Liberals will inevitably see arguments against Cultural Marxism as arguments for discrimination, and not concern that they are advocating abolishing the current system of social economics and government that has benefited all people - not just straight white Christian men. The issues of equality make them ignore that the solution offered in all cases - is socialism.
So it becomes an academic question if the process of Cultural Marxism is driven by a roadmap or happens organically. My belief is that it was set in motion with a plan, understood exactly as described here, with the intent of disrupting the current society. Academics like Bret Weinstein have admitted and described this motive. Ironically, Bret became a victim of the division this kind of Identity Politic creates. The intellectuals and academics who have promoted Identity Politics as a social disruptor of the status quo understand exactly what they are doing, exactly what it does, and are promoting it for exactly this intent.
But your garden variety Democrat isn't aware of this, and generally only hears about it from ranting Right Wing White Male conservatives like myself. So although it is a social and economic theory that originates with the far Left in academia - it gets associated with Alt-Right conspiracy theorists. Which is very convenient for the Left. It works best when the people adopting it only see it immediately - as they believe it benefits them - when they are unaware that the benefits they see today are simply part of a larger goal that ultimately does not.
Now, I believe that even the people who understand it, like Bret - are frequently convinced that implementation of Cultural Marxism is both necessary and for the good. Bret believes in the claims of global climate alarmism. He believes that there is systematic oppression by a ruling class of white males to keep the entire rest of society subservient and dependent. He believes that there will be dire consequences if we do not disrupt this status quo and replace it with a superior system. Ultimately though - the people who will benefit the most - the extremely wealthy and politically elite - want consolidation of power and wealth for themselves. The promise of Democratic Socialism, described as imagined implemented in Northern European nations like Finland is just a distraction. Ultimately what billionaires and politicians desire is something more like China - or Venezuela when it was functioning. Workers, doing work, for society - as a collective, as directed by a Government that provides them with what they need not what they desire.
But worse than people like Bret knowing what they're doing and being convinced it is for the greater good - is bright conservatives that miss the big picture and focus on the distractions that actually drive and fuel the machine of Cultural Marxism.
The tweet above is one example of how this mechanism works. Someone adopts "gender neutral pronouns". The person adopting those pronouns probably isn't driven by the larger goal of Cultural Marxism. Cultural Marxism has simply offered them a solution to their own confused sense of gender as an alternative in a world that they feel tells them they must be one gender or the other. The people who reject this don't understand that they are empowering the goal of Cultural Marxism in dividing people into groups that either defend the status quo or tear it down. They just react to the obvious biological insanity of the claim that your gender is a social construct and whatever you feel it to be. This promotes a hard-right and a hard-left where there can be no dialog or compromise - and that is good for Cultural Marxists - because they're not interested in dialog or compromise. They want to tear down the status quo and rebuild it with their own design. The people driving these conflicts, on both sides, are simply useful idiots to the architects of Cultural Marxism. Even Ben Shapiro and Jordan Peterson get caught up in this trap.
This same strategy is being used with People of Color, with the gender confused and fluid, with women, with LGBTs, with religion. It is being used to divide any group identity along partisan lines. It is being used in fiction, movies, television, comics, books and magazines. It is being used in gaming, electronic and traditional. It is being used in computers and electronics. Identity politics is a wedge that is being driven into every aspect of our society where people find common ground, to divide them along lines almost universally described as "gatekeepers" and those who are being excluded - and the gatekeepers are always straight white Christian males. The excluded? Everyone else.
Yes, preferred gender pronouns are ridiculous as they are being practiced right now. Even if a person has reassignment surgery to make them superficially the opposite gender - clinically they still remain largely biologically their birth gender. We probably need to find a compromise as a society that accommodates people who go this far in gender reassignment while making sure that clinically, in an emergency, we are aware that what is outside doesn't match the biological reality inside that person. But having the fight here is where Cultural Marxists want us to be fighting. When someone points out the actual framework and foundation of the agenda of the Cultural Marxists, they respond by gaslighting. They do this effectively - and I think it even happens organically. People who do not see the actual agenda dismiss it when revealed as Far Right paranoia. Meanwhile their influence grows stronger and their reach further while we fight the little battles and do not see the cultural war we are actually in.
Subject: On Red Flag Laws
What a Red Flag law is the ability to go, "This guy is a LITTLE crazy, but not so crazy we're going to institutionalize him, or take away his ability to buy a chainsaw or rent a box truck. We don't want to take the time to meet that burden of proof. Instead, we want a less strict burden of proof, and all we're going to do is take away his guns."
But if you can meet that standard of evidence - then the person deserves not just to have their 2nd amendment rights suspended, but their actual liberty suspended.
Subject: Game of Thrones is set on a Post Apocalyptic Earth
The Earth of A Song of Fire and Ice is titled on its axis, with the North pole becoming West and the South becoming East - and there was a great tectonic upheaval. What was South America ended up sideways at the new Southern tip of the planet, North America stacked above that, with the east Coast and West crushed, compacted and flooded. The tip of Texas, Florida, and the horn of Maine all face nearly East. Africa fell between the Far North of the United States and Europe, it's cape now shattered and pointing North-East on the globe. Europe and Asia rotated slightly, causing the cape of India to point nearly East and lifting the Pacific Rim North East of it, Japan nearly due North of it. Antarctica came crashing into the coast of Japan and China - and the Wall is actually the Trans-Antarctic mountains. This only becomes apparent when you see the division of the 7 Kingdoms. You would never assume this looking at a map of Westeros and Essos where the boundaries of kingdoms are not defined This way.
|Click for Full Sized Image - click linked image to magnify|
Interestingly, there is an 80s post-apocalyptic Fantasy series featuring barbarians, sorcerers, monsters and warlords called Thundarr the Barbarian. It is a brutal medieval world where surviving humans live as serfs and feudal subjects and wizards with cyber and genetic enhancments seek the ancient technology of the fallen society of the ancients in order to control the world. Thundarr fights them with a flaming sword and his sidekicks - a cyber wookie with a metal jaw and a sorceress in a very tight one-piece speedo. The concept art was by famous comic artist Jack Kirby, who also drew another similar post-apocalyptic comic, Kamandi, the Last Boy on Earth. Kirby also arguably created the popular modern interpretation of Thor. Both were very heavily influenced by Planet of the Apes. Thundarr the Barbarian features a moon cracked in two when a stray celestial body rips between it and the Earth, unleashing seismic, geography-altering cataclysm on both.
Speaking of Thor – the Marvel interpretation is very heavily influenced by the Ancient Alien astronaut theory that had its genesis in the early 70s. All of these genres deal with the idea of lost knowledge and regression from a previous age of science so advanced it appeared to be magic or divinity in the dark ages that followed.
Terry Brook’s Shannara series is also set in a post-Apocalyptic high fantasy world – and I felt that the description of the completely barren wastes and the skeletal, abandoned buildings at the end of the Dohtraki’s journey through them was very similar to the discovery of an ancient human city of rotting skyscrapers in The Elfstones of Shannara. I believe the city had a very similar name – Bones of the Ancients, if I remember right.
I just had an epiphany about Essos:
I think it may be Africa. And that would be consistent with the scale of Essos to Westeros. It actually probably works. And - if I'm right, the Red Wastes is the Horn of Africa - so, South Africa is the site of the huge, ugly scar in Essos. :
|The US, India and China in Africa with room to spare|
|A little photoshop, and Africa jumps right out at you.|
There are a number of other post-apocalyptic Game of Thrones hypothesis floating around out there on the Internet – and most of them support my general thesis and expand on it.
This is a good place to start:
If you doubt my theory – read the link above or watch the video. It might convince you that there is more to A Song of Fire and Ice than initially visible on the surface.
Subject: Why the Democrats diminish the value of being a citizen:
Now - all that I've said above applies to Capitalist societies to some degree - but you have far more latitude to opt out, or to decide when, where and how you want to contribute - or to make demands on what you expect in return for your contributions. The State has far less latitude to tell you what you MUST do. Generally, in a Capitalist Democratic society, the State will tell you only what you CANNOT do with very few exceptions.
The Leftist State tells you what you cannot do, but also what you are *required* to do.
This is the critical difference.
Subject: The New Little Mermaid, 2019 Outrage Edition
|Bearded Egg Heads White-Knighting for the Poor and Oppressed|
|Fucking White People and their... Mermaids...|
Heh. This meme - though... Disney doesn't have a black Princess for 70 years - and the SECOND one they get is just a left-over, hand-me-down Princess - and they're upset about the middle-American white audience upset because they consider this cultural appropriation? Maybe blacks should have a problem with DISNEY. They delivered an Asian princess and two Pacific Islander princesses and a Native American princess in that time - and they were all unique characters - not recycled characters that got famous as white characters. It is like Disney is saying,
When black people go running out to make this movie a box office hit that gets all kinds of awards you know who will be collecting every last dime from it? Black people? Nawp. This guy, and a bunch of guys who look just like him.
|Bob Iger, not to be confused with Bog Seger.|
|I'm not saying I agree with them.|
Literally - a Hollywood Jew worth more than a quarter of a billion dollars is going to make tens of millions of dollars feeding Black America a recycled story they already know about a half-white, half-fish girl, intentionally dividing people along partisan lines and ethnicity - and he and other Hollywood elites have convinced you to be angry at the working class middle-American white people who are upset because they see Hollywood appropriating their culture and reselling it to other ethnic groups after telling them for years that they were bad people if they dressed up as an Indian or a Geisha for Halloween.
Wow. Just... I mean... he *deserves* to be a billionaire. That is some pretty impressive slight-of-hand. A 500 million dollar hat trick - and the poor white people and poor black people are both picking the wrong hat. Fighting with one another over if a girl who is half-carp has to be black or white.
Meanwhile Bob Iger walks to his Scrooge McDuck sized bank vault. Laughing the whole way.
Subject: How Leftists Win
Subject: Sacramento Government Votes to Steal Private Land From Citizens
We never vandalized or destroyed this area as kids, because it was a special place to us too, I think. Fights happened at Reichmuth Park and Bahnfleth Park and at Sam Brannan and John Cabrillo - but I can't remember there EVER being a fight on the levee.
It was *special* for us because it *was* private, it *was* secret, but it was also *shared* with anyone from that local community. Not with ALL of Sacramento. There are plenty of places along the American and Sacramento river for that. The beaches and trails and pathways and docks - everything along these private stretches of the Sacramento River in Land Park and Greenhaven - are pristine and cared for and kept up and free of the disregard that the rest of the levee path experiences as open and public accessible land.
If this area had been as open to the public as Natomas when we were kids, there would have been bums and addicts propositioning us and exposing themselves to us and trying to assault us when we were 13 year olds playing tag in the brambles and ivy and poison oak along this stretch of the river. The wildlife would have been run away by the pollution and waste. Human waste would have littered the paths and trails.
This *will* happen if they make this stretch open to the public. It will go from being a special little preserved, natural primitive part of the wilderness of Sacramento, right in the heart of the city - to just another place littered with plastic bottles and food wrappers and needles and diapers and whatever else people who *do not live there and are not attached to the area* pack in and leave behind when they go.
This will ruin one of the last wilderness areas a 10 minute bike ride from Downtown Sacramento. And the people who think they believe in PRESERVING nature are the ones who are driving it.
My childhood is along these levees - and this literally will become a pass for the mentally ill and addicted to shit all over it. It was always my dream to eventually own a home on Piedmont facing the river. This is just another decision that will ensure my wealth will never be part of the economy of Sacramento again.
Subject: Jaime Lannister and redemption
So, let's take a minute to talk about Jaime Lannister. I know Daenerys is getting most of the attention right now - but more than a few people have raised complaints over Jaime's character arc over the last several episodes.
I don't see any such problem with Jaime's inconsistent and frequently incoherent behavior. The character of Jaime Lannister has been deeply conflicted, troubled and self-critical at least since he lost his hand back in season - whenever.
His character has consistently been portrayed as not incredibly gifted at anything but being a good looking, wealthy Lannister son. He was never a great soldier or knight. Even when fully-able - his reputation as a swordsman was not feared. He wasn't a great military strategist either. He has mentioned several times over the course of the series how he isn't the smartest and frequently not only makes unwise decisions, but the least wise decision in any given situation. He frequently is treated as incompetent and incapable, whispered about behind his back and only accepted because of his family's influence. He is treated, even among his own people, as the spoiled rich kid who wouldn't have anything if not for his father's influence.
At the same time, he has inconsistently shown the potential to be very kind, compassionate, and caring. He is actually the most nurturing person in a family renown for their cold, calculating cruelty at worst, indulgent, narcissistic disinterest at best.
No one can deny that Tywin is a hard hearted son on a bitch to his family and those in the way of his political aspirations - yet Tywin developed a rough affinity for Arya that I still find difficult to explain. He had to know that a Stark girl was on the run about her age, he was a very astute man, and he knew that this errand-boy hiding right under his nose was actually a girl at a critical time of unrest in his kingdom and he never really pursued it. Maybe being selectively stupid wasn't just his son's curse, or maybe being inconsistently compassionate was in his heart too. I never found a satisfactory answer to this plot-line in the series.
Tyrion, on the other hand, begins the series as a self-indulgent narcissist who drowns his sorrows in alcohol and whores with little concern for the things those around him are suffering.
The entire family is deeply dysfunctional from the start. We know these are just some of the most superficial psychological issues affecting House Lannister when the series begins. The depths of depravity that the Lannister family engages in are far more severe than those described here - and Jaime Lannister is right there with Cersei committing the most disturbing of these events, from the first time we meet them.
Yet, Jaime begins his transformation from 2-dimensional evil-Lannister son as early in the series as Tyrion. The first time we really see Jaime's compassion and inherently good inner nature is when he barters to prevent Brienne of Tarth from being raped. But we see it again with his constant interactions with Tyrion when accused of killing Joffery, and later, killing their father. Throughout the series, we see this constant interaction of Jaime with other people that portrays him as a good person caught in terrible circumstances who consistently makes terrible decisions. He isn't 2-dimensional.
In fact, Jaime is one of the best developed characters in a lot of modern cinema, on TV or the big screen. He is, ultimately, a relatively good approximation of a character of Shakespearean tragic proportions. He has such potential, we see so much hope over the course of the series of his growth and redemption. We become certain his inner-goodness will win out over the choice that we must know is wrong. And up until the most recent episode, we were allowed to entertain that this might happen.
But it didn't.
Because Jaime isn't supposed to be a protagonist that we see grow and change to overcome his liabilities. Jaime is supposed to be a tragic figure - not one redeemed, but one failed.
And, his failure was utterly predictable. He loved the members of his family with a unshakable loyalty. His little brother killed his father and Jaime still found it in his heart to justify that patricide and forgive Tyrion for this, to aide him in his escape and to assist him several times thereafter.
His love for Cersei was stronger than no other, of course, twisted as it was. He knew she was going to die. He didn't return to save her, to rescue her, to fight by her side. He returned to die with her. It was completely consistent with his character. He went to fight at Winterfell because of the goodness of who he was. He slept with Brienne of Tarth because of the goodness of his heart, facing a future that looked very certain to be the end of both of them. And when they both survived and he realized how formidable Daenery, her armies and the remaining members of House Stark were - he certainly surmised that even weakened, they were going to run down the forces at King's Landing and destroy the forces of House Lannister.
This was not Jaime Lannister's story, or Cersei's, either. It is not the story of Daenerys either. Cersei was not the actual antagonist any more than Tywin was. Daenerys is, in the final episode, the antagonist the entire time, it turns out. I do not think Jon Snow is the protagonist, either. I think over the last several episodes of last season and of this season, it has become clear who this story has always been about. It is why we spent so much time with her and her traveling companion, and then with her by herself, watching her complete the transformation into who she has become. This is the most fully developed character in the series and has been for some time. Her older sister, by the way, had been developed to actually be the most logical choice to actually sit as the Queen of the Seven Kingdoms once the dust settles.
When I think back, I can't help but see it. Game of Thrones, the television series at least - is the story of Arya Stark and her time with the Hound and then at the House of Black and White.
Jaime's role was to die with his sister, tragically - but true to his character. That is what he did. I don't think it makes him irredeemable. It actually illustrates that his motives were always conflicted and questionable but generally not actually evil. I'm good with the way they died, by one another, in the catacombs under King's Landing, as their world and their unspeakable union came crashing down on them. It was symbolically tragic - and better than seeing someone else actually kill Cersei out of revenge.
Subject: Setting up a TCP/IP stack with Minimig for the MiSTer FPGA
Pre-requisites - you'll need to know how to copy, move, uncompress and install files on both your PC and Amiga, and have a basic understanding of how PCs work.
FPGA devices synthesize retro computers at a hardware cycle-accurate bare-metal level. They're not emulation. They're the closest thing to the real equipment you can generally get. MiSTer is probably currently the most popular one on the market. Minimig is an FPGA core (a set of instructions that make the FPGA device configure itself as a particular retro-computer) that configures an FPGA platform as a classic Amiga.
I used a combination of two tutorials to get online and setup with an Amiga supporting SSL 3.6 - which isn't good enough to browse most modern HTTPS sites, but is better than nothing.
The first is this YouTube video by Douglas Compton.
The second is Jimmy Johannson's walkthrough on how to set up MiamiDX located here.
Both were essential to me being able to set up Minimig with network connectivity.
If you have already set up a virtual hard drive file for your MiSTer's Minimig core (often called a .hdf file) - and you follow the tutorials in the above video and webpage, installing the recommended software - you'll have an Amiga hard drive image that boots to Workbench and has an installed TCP/IP stack (MiamiDX), SSL/HTTPS support up to SSL 3.6, and a Browser that also supports up to SSL 3.6, iBrowse. Please note that Douglas Compton's walkthrough recommends the Roadshow TCP/IP stack. Roadshow is still supported, and expensive. If I were installing on a real Amiga I planned on using as a regular daily driver, I might consider it. This is more for the challenge of setting it up, so I disregarded Roadshow and went with Jimmy's walkthrough for MiamiDX instead. You probably should also.
To enable all of this, in your core setup menu, you need to enable the UART, set it to PPP, and reset the UART once you get everything above all set up. That allows MiamiDX to pass through a virtual serial-port null-modem to the MiSTer's on board Ethernet. This is a fairly complex networking concept - but don't worry about the technical jargon. The point is, the Minimig core can see the MiSTer's network connection if you enable it, and get out onto your local network and even the Internet.
|Click on any image to view in full size.|
|Don't ask me. Google Is Your Friend. ;)|
Then, on my MiSTer, I opened up an FTP session using an app called AMIftp that is available from Lysator, at this link - here. Once connected to my NAS, I navigated to the /emu/Amiga folder and downloaded MiamiDXKeys.lha to a directory on my Minimig .hdf.
Note - I got AmiFTP itself over to my .hdf image the old fashioned way. We'll sidetrack for a minute here to discuss that.
The initial barrier to all of this is that if you download a pre-built .hdf file or if you build one yourself - once you get done and copy it over to your FPGA device - it is kind of difficult to make any modifications to it. The easiest way is to use an Amiga floppy disk image file, called a .ADF file. This is a file that represents a virtual Amiga disk. You mount it using the FPGA menu and it appears on your Workbench just like a real floppy would if you inserted it in a real Amiga's floppy disk. Then you can copy files over from it. There are two problems - making an .adf file above 880k, the Amiga standard size for a DSDD 3.5" floppy, requires you to really know how to operate an Amiga. If you do - you probably don't need this blog to help you out. So, most files you're going to download are going to be too big to be copied onto an .adf image.
Also the files you find today for installation on an Amiga hard drive aren't going to be in .ADF format. They're going to be the Amiga version of a .zip file - which is called a .lha file.
The easiest way around all of this is to use a PC emulator. WinUAE, UAE4ARM, or the Mac version will all do. These emulators all share a common feature that Minimig doesn't have. You can make a subdirectory on your local PC seen as a hard drive on your emulated Amiga. So, you download the files in your PC, you copy them to the directory you've set up in your PC Amiga emulator, then you boot your emulated Amiga and copy the files from the PC directory recognized as a hard drive onto a .hdf file.
It is a multi-step, kind of confusing process that is prone to operator error and requires moving a lot of things around. What I did was this... I created a decent sized .hdf called "fileXfer.hdf". I set up WinUAE to boot from a boot disk, have a hard drive that maps to the PC directory where I store the files, and then also map the fileXfer.hdf image. In the Amiga emulator, I copy the downloaded files from the Windows directory to the fileXfer.hdf drive. Then I shut it all down, and I map a share to \\mister and copy fileXfer.hdf over to my Amiga images directory on the SD on it. Then I go to the MiSTer, boot minimig into my default .hdf image Workbench, add fileXfer.hdf as a secondary drive, reboot, and copy the files from fileXfer.hdf to my Amiga .hdf I use for MiSTer.
Like I said, it is a hassle, and it is fairly easy to make mistakes that could potentially screw up your emulator or the .hdf you're using with your Minimig core on MiSTer. Without a network connection though - it is often the easiest way to get files from the real world onto the virtualized hard disk used by Minimig on an FPGA device like the MiSTer.
So, that is the process I used to get AmiFTP onto my Mister. In part that is because although MiamiDX has a built in FTP client, it isn't enabled until registered - and as we noted above, it isn't supported and can't be registered anymore. So... hoops... if you want to play with Retro-computing, you're going to have to learn how to jump through them.
So... that is the basic process I used to get ALL of the software mentioned here from my PC, where I downloaded it, onto my .hdf image on my MiSTer, where I installed it, except for the key crack that I used to upgrade MiamiDX from a trial version to a full version.
So, as I mentioned above, I downloaded the keys then copied to my NAS. I used AmiFTP to connect to my NAS, and copied the keys to my Amiga directly. There I copied the file, a .lha file to my RAM: disk. I un-archived the .lha file, which created 3 files I copied into the same directory where MiamiDX was, and closed and reopened MiamiDX and verified it was now seen as a registered version.
This is how you would handle virtually ANY file, including WHDload files - which are hard-drive installable versions of Amiga games that normally only load from floppy disks (or .adf floppy images). You could, conceivably, FTP directly to an external site, or even browse a website that doesn't require HTTPS 4.0 or higher and download directly to your Minimig that way - but the Amiga in general just isn't really well suited to navigating the modern, encrypted, secure Internet. It is better to have your PC handle that part, move the files to a local FTP server, and copy the files from the FTP server to your Minimig machine that way. You're going to have better results searching the web for the files you are looking for, getting the sites they are on to respond, and get faster download speeds once you do that on a PC, Mac, Linux or even ARM based device than on an Amiga. Unless you know exactly what site and it is a site intentionally made to be "Amiga friendly," like amiga.org or aminet.net most of the web has become too complex for older 16 and 32 bit machines to really surf anymore.
If you have any questions, feel free to contact me via The Sanitarium BBS/The Amiga Archives at http://wallofhate.com