Cloanto Answers Some Common Questions

From time to time we become aware, through direct user emails and newsgroup posts, of some questions related to our Amiga products and projects. We always answer directly to all inquiries, but we would also like to publicly try to answer and clarify some of the more popular issues.

No doubt, a frequent question is about our plans with respect to PowerPC Amiga expansion boards. Last year, when we released a PowerPC version of the Personal Paint blitting library, we were very proud to be among the first to release some PowerPC code for the Amiga. Since then, we did not port entire packages to the PowerPC. This is because porting a complex program like Personal Paint, for example, is not just a matter of simply "recompiling" it, or at least it is not with the development tools and the PowerPC libraries available so far. We still plan to do this for Personal Paint 8, which is designed with more code portability in mind, if the PowerPC will be accepted and endorsed as an official Amiga platform, or if tools emerge that make it possible to port Personal Paint to a PowerPC system by using the same code as for the 68K version. In this latter case, we might even port Personal Paint 7.x.

Another issue is that the original Personal Paint PowerPC blitting library released last year does not work with newer PowerPC expansion systems. This blitting library was tested both by Cloanto and by the manufacturers of the boards (who were aware of our release plans), and originally worked flawlessly. After the release of the library on the Personal Paint 7.1 CD-ROM, the PowerPC expansion systems were changed in a way that created incompatibilities with existing PowerPC software, such as this library. We changed the code twice, and released it on Aminet, in the biz/cloan directory, and we also shared our source code with the developers of the expansion systems, but given the continued and repeated incompatibilities, we now feel that the maintenance overhead does not justify the performance improvement, and, as explained, we are looking at the whole matter from a broader perspective. To completely solve this issue, we recommend to use the standard 68K blitting libraries, which are used by default by the program. In our tests with Amiga systems having both a PowerPC and a 68060 CPU, the 68060 blitting library was only 10% slower than the PowerPC library. It is to be expected that PowerPC Amiga systems will only be able to express their full potential when the complete Amiga OS and all new software are entirely compiled for the PowerPC. Before this occurs, and unless it can be verified that at least some software which can justify the overall investment is available for the PowerPC and runs considerably faster than on a real or emulated 68K Amiga, we recommend to use 68K Amiga systems such as the 68060, or emulation.

It is no secret that, while the power of the CPUs used in PCs doubles about every 18 months, we became aware of the fact that an Amiga can now be emulated quite well by other systems. In some cases, which can only increase rapidly over time, emulated Amiga systems are already cheaper and/or faster than silicon ones. Whatever the official Amiga of the future will be, whether it will be based on a PowerPC, or on a different (non-68K) CPU, it will need emulation to run the current Amiga OS and applications (which have now officially been defined as "Classic Amiga"). We plan to continue supporting Amiga emulation and other means of integrating the Classic Amiga with different platforms, as we have successfully done with the Amiga Forever package. We will also continue to invest in the Amiga, preferably by focussing on development on one official platform, rather than politics related to the use of one CPU or the other. In any case, we plan to release new Amiga products before next Christmas.

These are hard times for commercial Amiga software developers: sales are low, and the uncertainty about the future has never been as high as it is now, since we don't even know what the new Amiga OS we have to write software for will look like. We hope that we had a chance to clarify some doubts about our own future, and we thank all users for their patience and continued support. It appears that it is now our turn to be patient and wait to see what the future will bring.

For additional information related to these topics, please refer to the following recently-updated documents:

Personal Paint Frequently Asked Questions
http://www.cloanto.com/amiga/faq.html

Amiga Emulation: Good or Bad for the Amiga?
http://www.cloanto.com/amiga/forever/emulation_good_bad.html


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