Commodore: The Final Years book

About year ago friend convinced me to buy “Commodore: The Amiga Years” book by Brian Bagnall. It described how Commodore company looked right after Jack Tramiel left. Buying Amiga company, release of Amiga 1000 and then A500 and A2000 times.

In April I backed another project by Brian Bagnall: “Commodore The Final Years” book. This one describes 1987 – 1994 period. From A500/2000 releases to company end.

There were many stories written/told about Commodore company. People saying that Ali Mehdi was main reason it collapsed and other theories. Brian Bagnall’s book gives better explanation than any story I have read before.

So why C= ended?

For me this is wrong question. I would rather ask “How C= managed to survive so long?”…

It looked like a mix of terrible management with good engineers. All those people working on whatever they want to design. And then moved between projects. With complete lack of deadlines (at least sensible ones).

All those crazy machines

For example Commodore 64D… It was an idea of adding 1581 disk drive into C64 case. Side effect? C64 users buying 1581 disk drives (because software released on 3.5″ floppies) and C64D people buying 1541 to get access to older releases on 5.25″ floppies.

Or whole work on Commodore 65… Wet dream of some of my retro friends. 8bit machine with superior capabilities (compared to C64/C128/C+4) but several years too late. Huge amount of work hours spent on designing 4502 CPU, VIC-III and other chips, prototype boards, operating system, new BASIC…

Then Amiga 300 (released as A600) which got any expansion possibilities removed. Only to not give a chance for GVP to earn money on extensions. I used that model. Was terrible but allowed me to have hard drive so I bought it instead of A500+.

All that work done on AAA chipset. Which was far beyond everything when they started but then quickly became not-so-magical when PC market got SVGA cards, PCI slots…

Company related stories

Book is not only how many computer models were on designers’ tables. There are many stories related to the company, people working there. How Commodore interacted with communities etc. How people worked in 80s/90s. Internet/UUCP use in those years. Hobbies of Commodore employees and lot more.

Impact on technology market

Some readers may remember CDTV model. It was Amiga 500(+) with CD-ROM drive all put in HiFi like case. But not so many knows about CDTV-CR one. It was cost reduced version based on A600. And much cheaper CD-ROM drive based on some cheap ‘diskman’ like one with electronics done from scratch. According to the book it’s creation lowered prices of CD-ROM drives for the whole industry.

Conclusion

For me this book (and previous one) are must read for any Amiga fan. Lot of interesting details about released (and not released) models, accessories, some notes about software. Many stories from Commodore employees and people cooperating with C= company through years.

My Amiga story

I was Amiga user in 1995 – 1999 years. First Amiga 600 with 425MB hard drive and 2MB ram. Then A1200 which I moved to PC tower case. At the end it had 68040 cpu at 40MHz, 64MB ram and 17GB hard drive (connected to FastATA controller). AmigaOS was nice, I learnt a lot but hardware became slow so I sold it in 1999 and moved to PC running Debian.

Thunderbird sucks

Mutt website says: “All mail clients suck. This one sucks less.” Then Mutt-NG adds “Mutt sucks less – but it still sucks!”. And this is true. Thunderbird definitely sucks. But I still use it.

I have three email accounts: private one (own server, Dovecot + Postfix) and two work ones on Gmail. And 240GB SSD for /home partition so from time to time I have to clean something. This time it was ~/.thunderbird/ taking about 48GB…

But 48 is still better than 100GB it took in past. Still far too much. So let’s check why it takes so much.

The biggest folder had 57900 files (1.8GB total). Thunderbird said it has 1801 messages, 48.9MB in total. Each message stored over THIRTY times. Maildir format, Gmail account.

Went to another folder. 823MB in 77345 files on disk. Thunderbird said 3107 messages, 30.7MB in total. Maildir format again, same Gmail account.

Ok, let’s check Dovecot one. Turns out that this one is mbox based. The biggest one was 2.1GB on disk, 526MB according to Thunderbird.

For each of them, I went with “repair folder” button which is “drop whatever is on disk and fetch again from server”.

And then went through folders and disk usage went to even 14GB. But now it started to fetch everything so time will show how it ends.

Bug reported. Do not care much will it get solved or ignored.

Alternatives?

Evolution was worse than Thunderbird when I tried to use it one-two years ago. Do not remember details now.

KMail is not usable due to lack of OAuth support for SMTP. There was code written for it but it is not available in Fedora yet.

Where and when mistake was made?

I am tired of useless discussions. Tired of “we are talking about servers and desktop, not toys” which needs to happen in EVERY arm64 discussion sooner or later. It was that way in “Qt: GL or GLES on arm64” thread on debian-arm ML or recently on #debian-boot when I tried to find out how to get graphical installer working on arm64.

There was a mistake done at some point probably. Maybe aarch64 should start with A72 cores, GICv3 and multicore server chips. And mobile market get fast v7 cores at same time. To make a clean split.

On arm64 Fedora has graphical installer for last few releases. Took a while to debug X11 and kernel to find out why it requires config file when it should not. We wrote some patches (better than ones in linked post) and got them merged. I can take Mustang, put graphics card and install operating system using keyboard, mouse and monitor. Just like it is on boring computers.

Debian? Same machine, same config — you need to grab serial cable and second computer. Because it is Arm system so it is supposed to be one of those small toy boards people give to kids to play with, right?

Sure, I could sit and discuss with people but it does not work. You always get someone with ‘I use R/Pi zero as a desktop’ (or other insane setup) and then thread dies as every normal person leaves.

So sorry, but I do not plan to spent any time on improving operating system installers. Never mind which distribution it will be.

AArch64 on AWS

I woke up today, looked into news stream on my phone and bang! Amazon announced Arm systems being available in AWS. Nice!

Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7.6 is one of operating systems available from day one. Boots, runs and all the boring things you expect from operating system. It is nice to see new systems run RHEL out of the box.

So, what to do with such EC2 instance? I know that some people plan to move their x86-64 based cloud infrastructure to aarch64. Several projects will add them into their pool of AWS instances to have another architecture available in their CI systems. Lot of people will run one just to check how it differ from their daily x86-64 systems.

As those are not bare metal systems you are not able to run OpenStack or play with virtualization but if you are using containers (Kubernetes on Arm anyone?) then it probably can be something to play with.

Red Hat Platform Enablement meeting week

Last week I was in Vancouver, Canada again. At the time when Linux Plumbers conference took place. But it was not the main reason as I went there to meet people from Platform Enablement team at Red Hat.

Linux Plumbers

The idea was simple — gather everyone in one place at same time and let them talk. Conference was selected to give something else to do at same time. And we were visible — for 473 attendees about 60 was from Red Hat.

Red Hat team before going for team dinner

I was talking with most of RH people to find out who they are, what they are working on etc. It ended in a lot of interesting discussions. Also many talks with non-RH people. The ‘so you are IBM now’ phrase happened just a few times.

There were funny moments too. Like one when Dave Airlie responded with “ah, you are the ‘arm64 + radeon guy'” ;D

Vancouver

As there was no breakfast option in ‘The Burrard’ hotel I went for a walk to find some. Davie street is full of bars, diners, restaurants (but most of them open at 11:00). Interesting graffiti, cannabis stores (as it is now legal in Canada) and lot of LGBT rainbows everywhere.

Toronto

Due to one of my flights being cancelled I had to choose: weekend in Vancouver, weekend in Toronto or rebooking whole trip. So I decided to go to Toronto and meet friend there.

On Saturday I meet Karol and we had long walk. It was good to not discuss about ARM or OpenStack — we went for visual effects instead as this is Karol’s area of expertise. Maya, Houdini, Renderman, Mr. X, ILM, Pixar and other names were going over. I was told “they work on Houdini in that building” and later “here Maya is developed” ;D

So I asked about photo realistic movies — are they possible now? Turns out that yes, they are. But it is too expensive to make.

During weekend I did over 20 kilometers by just walking through the city. Some random photos below:

It was great week. Despite sleep deprivation ;D

20?8 is year of acquiring?

In 2007 I started working for OpenedHand. They became acquired by Intel in 2008. Today I am working for Red Hat (for over 5 years now). And we have 2018 and it became acquired by IBM.

I came back home in the evening with plans for some cider and episode of some TV series (probably “Ozark”). But when I landed on a couch and took a look on my phone it shown set of notifications. Telegram, Facebook, Messenger…

And all of them were about one thing: Red Hat being acquired by IBM. First I looked and sources were Bloomberg and CNBC. At that phase I thought “ok, it can be a rumour” so my answer was “can not comment”.

But then I went for Red Hat mailbox. And there were links to more serious places: IBM newsroom and Red Hat announcement.

Looks like tomorrow will be interesting day. Full of reading mails.