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A Year in Review

Author:Neil Cafferkey
Date:2011-07-03

Once again, the news has been long delayed, mainly because we've been too busy adding features and fixes to AROS. In fact, so much has happened in the last year that what follows is only a selection of highlights.

AROS 68k and other new platforms

An important new chapter has been opened in AROS's history with the development of a stand-alone AROS port for the original Amiga computers. This should also be of great interest to people using WinUAE to run old Amiga applications. Such is the level of compatibility, the AROS ROM image can even boot original Workbench disks as old as V1.3. This development will hopefully also lead to improved integration of original Amiga software into AROS on x86 platforms and elsewhere.

AROS's platform support has continued to diversify in other directions too. A Linux-hosted ARM port has emerged, and new hosted ports for Mac OS X support three different CPU architectures. And AROS may soon become even more portable with the recent development of new iOS and Android ports.

Graphics

On the PC-compatible/x86 front, a lot has been happening too, particularly in the area of graphics. The Intel GMA graphics driver has been extended to support a wider variety of chipsets, and also now works with laptop LCD displays as well as external monitors. The Nouveau and Gallium based driver for nVidia graphics cards has been improved too: as well as increasing its speed and hardware support, it has also become the first driver with hardware-accelerated alpha-blending operations.

A notable graphics feature from our Amiga heritage has also been introduced to AROS: most native graphics drivers now support screen dragging and scrolling. These include our drivers for nVidia and Intel GMA chipsets, as well as the generic VESA driver.

Apart from the graphics drivers, AROS also received some additional graphics libraries: egl.library and openvg.library. The first provides portable GL initialisation and window management interfaces, while the second is a vector graphics library accelerated using Gallium. Our port of the SDL library has become more polished too, with improvements to features such as SDL-to-GL integration, leading to a more enjoyable gaming experience.

Wireless networking

Two significant milestones in network support for laptops have been reached. Firstly, a modern and secure wireless networking stack has been added to AROS. The first driver to use this infrastructure supports many popular cards with Atheros chipsets. Secondly, support has been added for a wide variety of mobile broadband USB devices.

Other improvements

Debugging support and error reporting have been improved. Misuse and mismanagement of memory and other resources by applications is now more easily detected, and error reports now include stack traces showing where the error occurred.

A lot of fine tuning and ease-of-use improvements have been made to various components. The FAT filesystem handler has received a number of important bug fixes. Native graphics drivers are now typically activated automatically for detected graphics cards, and the AC97 and HDAudio sound drivers usually need no manual configuration before use. And at last, AROS is no longer stuck with one unchangeable mouse pointer: the standard pointer to use can be chosen in a new pointer preferences program, and applications can change the pointer to suit different situations. The AROS shell has become more sophisticated, and now has a scrollable output history, as well as support for more modes and some bug fixes. AROS's handling of GUI themes has also become significantly faster. Finally, another piece of the backwards-compatibility jigsaw has been filled following the transformation of Regina into a much more complete ARexx clone.

Wider developments

AROS now has a third distribution available in addition to the regularly updated Icaros Desktop and AROS Broadway. The new AspireOS distribution is aimed mainly at the Acer Aspire One 110 and 150 netbooks, but may also be interesting to users of other PCs looking for a lightweight distribution.

Many applications and games have been added to AROS's software selection in recent months. Some application highlights include AmiFig, Protrekkr and Open Universe. 3D games such as Cube, AssaultCube and Super Tux Kart (with a popular kitty car!) put AROS's 3D graphics enhancements to good use, while many 2D games such as Giana's Return and Mega Mario have also arrived. We have added a number of emulators too to allow even more retro gaming fun to be had.


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