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An Amiga X1000 FAQ

from Amigaworld.net

This information below is received from Trevor Dickinson /tomazkid:

To kick things off, I’d like to offer A-EON’s thanks to the moderators of AmigaWorld for giving us the opportunity to use this developer’s forum to present more information about the A1-X1000 project to the Amiga community. Many of you have a lot of questions about A-Eon and the hardware we are producing, and this thread allows us the opportunity to present our answers in one place for your easy reference.

This first installment of FAQ answers has been compiled from some of the many public and private requests for information we have received since the A1-X1000 hardware announcement. These answers should help clarify some of the most frequently asked questions, but we know there will be many more. If you have a question that you would like answered, please send them by email to amigaworldfaq@a-eon.com and we will do our best to address them. Due to the sheer volume of questions we are unable to answer every question directly, but we’ll endeavour to answer as much as we can in this thread over the coming weeks.

FAQ Week 1

Q. Who is A-EON Technology and what relationship does it have with Hyperion Entertainment?

A. A-EON is independent company established to finance the development of new high specification AmigaOne hardware. The principals include Trevor Dickinson, Tony Moorley and Ben Hermans. A-EON is licensing the AmigaOne name, AmigaOS and related Amiga trademarks from Hyperion-Entertainment.

Q. Who are Ben Hermans, Trevor Dickinson, Tony Moorley?

A. I think Ben Hermans, who has been closely associated with Hyperion Entertainment and AmigaOS4 development for many years, needs no introduction.

Trevor Dickinson is an Amiga enthusiasts and part-time Amiga journalist who purchased his first A2000 in 1988, although his first computer was actually a Commodore PET 4032 acquired in 1981. Throughout the 1990s he used Amiga computers (A3000 & A4000’s) in his business for graphics, video and DTP and in recent years has sponsored many Amiga software developers through a Hardware Loan/Donation scheme.

Tony Moorley is Trevor’s close friend and business partner. They have worked together for 35 years in several successful non-computer related business ventures.

Q. Why is A-EON funding new hardware for the Amiga market?

A. To be honest it’s a labour of love for some of the A-EON founders (mentioning no names), however we still believe there is a real demand for high-end Amiga computers.

Q. Why was the teaser website made well before the X1000 is launched, and when can we expect to see an updated website?

A. First of all we hope you all enjoyed the teaser website as much as we did. Even thought we knew the answers, we really enjoyed the twisted mind games played by Andrew Korn, who devised the puzzles. It was good to see the Amiga community gripped by the puzzles and working together to solve them, and like most Amiga enthusiasts we really enjoyed the ride.

The puzzle pages were constructed because we knew the community was expecting to hear something about Hyperion’s MAP at that time, and we wanted to provide some fun and intrigue rather than taking the usual boring press release route. It was something for the Amiga community (although it attracted quite a bit of useful attention beyond) rather than a formal announcement, which will of course follow when the time is right, closer to release.

For similar reasons, we will have a more traditional corporate website at the A-EON address when we are ready to go fully public. To keep the community informed until then, we’ll be maintaining a small web presence with information summaries, updates, media, features and so on. Expect that to go live in about a week. Of course we will continue to provide regular updates through this forum.

Q. Who is designing/building the hardware? When can we know the details of the engineering team?

A. Prior to beginning the actual development, we assembled a hardware review team which included key AmigaOS4 developers. After some intensive research and discussions, the team drew up a “wish list” specification for the ideal AmigaOS4 computer.

Having decided on the specification, we located a well established company with a successful track record in hardware design and production and considerable experience with the PowerPC, and commissioned them to develop a brand new motherboard to our requirements. The design team responsible for the “Nemo” motherboard is a group of very talented and enthusiastic engineers, who have done an excellent job of producing a motherboard designed specifically as a power machine for the Amiga enthusiast’s market.

Our engineering partners are obviously a very important part of the story. We are sure the community will be as impressed with them as we have been. We anticipated the massive interest that the announcement of new AmigaOne hardware would create within the community and wanted the designers to be able to concentrate on finishing the project, which is why we haven’t formally introduced the partnership yet. We will of course release full details as soon as we can.

Q. Will the A1-X1000 hardware initially be released with AmigaOS4 or Linux? Will there be ports of AROS or MorphOS?

A. Although we are not averse to other Operating Systems being ported, our primary objective is to provide a modern power platform to showcase the advanced features of AmigaOS. The A1-X1000 has been developed specifically to run AmigaOS4 and will be supplied with OS4 from the beginning.

Initial low-level porting of AmigaOS4.1 to the A1-X1000 hardware is already complete. Work on device drivers is progressing nicely, and this is what the AmigaOS developers will be concentrating on for the next little while. The A1-X1000 hardware brings a lot of features, such as PCI-e, that are new to the Amiga platform, and of course AmigaOS has to be updated to take full advantage of them.

We will keep you updated with progress on the Operating System as the team reaches new milestones, and we hope to post some screenshots of AmigaOS4 in the near future.

Note: More information will be added after issue #83 of “Amiga Future” magazine is released in early March, which contains an interview with Trevor Dickinson.

FAQ week 2: Xena and Xorro

This week’s Q/A update focuses on the features and capabilities of the Xena customisable chip and the associated Xorro bridge slot which have certainly generated a lot of interest with the Amiga community.

Questions: Does Xena have access to main system RAM? Will there be an expansion board with more XCore chips available upon release of the X1000? (TJ Marsden) How many Vcc/Gnd pins are in Xorro? (Len) Will there be an AGA emulator for Xena? Why did you pick Xena? Why are you including it on the motherboard instead of as an add-on? (Too many to mention in many variants).

Answers: As we get closer to launch, we'll provide a technical spec of the Xorro slot. This is something our hardware people will provide, so please forgive me if I get any of the details wrong! I’ll answer to the best of my knowledge, but you’ll have to wait for the full details.

Xorro has 9VCCs and 38 GND lines, configured very similarly to a standard PCIe 8x connector. The biggest difference is that Xena uses +5v lines where the PCIe connector calls for +12v lines. Xena shares connectivity with a series of CPU GPIO connections to the Xorro JTAG port for control and debugging. The rest of the Xorro slot exposes Xena’s data links to the outside world.

The exact layout of Xena’s I/O isn’t something that can be stated because it’s a software configurable thing. That is part of what’s so interesting about it! The data pins can be configured in a lot of different ways depending on the application, but in terms of wiring we have roughly one quarter of Xena’s output lines connected to the CPU local bus and three quarters to the Xorro slot.

It is not our intention to try to use Xena for AGA emulation. We haven’t even looked into the feasibility of it, it’s just not a good use for Xena. This kind of task is much better left to the CPU. Please don’t think of Xena as simply being a few extra MIPS of CPU power, that’s not what it’s about at all. The XMOS hardware excels at configurability which makes Xorro and Xena a very exciting combination for hardware hackers. We expect people to use this to make interfaces to all kinds of legacy devices, as control hardware and so on. It’s also an event driven rather than an interrupt driven processor, able to respond near instantly to input, a real advantage for precision data sampling or ultra low latency state machines, for example. That makes it suitable for some quite different applications to a conventional processor. We suggest people visit www.xmos.com to do some reading, and take a look at all the work being done by enthusiasts and hardware manufacturers with the XMOS hardware if they want to understand more about this.

A-EON is concentrating on getting the X1000 out, and does not currently have any firm plans regarding expansion boards. We imagine it will take some time for people to come to grips with Xena’s capabilities before there’s likely to be much use for a multi-processor expansion board.

It was suggested to us by our hardware partners who have a lot of experience working with XMOS products, and we were convinced. As for why Xena, the answer is simple. It’s a cheap addition to the board, so this is hardly a deal-breaker as far as the AmigaOne X1000 is concerned. We’re making the most powerful AmigaOne yet regardless of Xena. On the other hand, we wanted something special, and Xena provides that and as an added bonus, we have now specified the new 500MHz variant which gives Xena a 25% performance boost. By including Xena on the motherboard we ensure that every X1000 owner has one, and that makes it a baseline feature that is safe for 3rd parties to support. By including Xena, we give the X1000 certain capabilities that no other computer has as standard.

In some ways, you could say that Xena is a gift to the Amiga’s geek heritage. It’s going to be difficult for many people, even experts, to really get to grips with the idea quickly, simply because it’s non-conventional. I doubt many people foresaw all the tricks you could pull off with the Copper, either.

Bonus question: Isn’t it dangerous providing people a slot that they might damage their computer by connecting the wrong voltages to? (Various)

Answer: Please don’t connect your microwave oven into your PCI slots, or wire your USB ports to the mains. Computers have connectors, as otherwise they would be rather pointless. Xena is no different in this regard than any of the other connectors. Don’t plug something into it that isn’t meant to go there, and don’t apply random voltages to the pins. We don’t really understand this question.

Finally, thanks to everyone who sent in questions, keep them coming.