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Apollo Team Activity Report (August 2020)

Renaud Schweingruber
(Apollo Team Member)
Posts 380
09 Aug 2020 10:22

Best things are often unexpected so should this Activity Report be (that is the only way I have found to try to hide the fact we have been too lazy to wrap up such report before). Benefit of this is that we have gathered a lot of information to share. Sit down, relax, attach your seatbelt, Apollo Team space shuttle will now take off.
Vampire V4 Standalone
A gigantic number of hours has been spent on the graphic subsystem during last months and core went nearly through a complete rework of it.
Coming from core revision 7383, we can highlight improvements from that new 7649 release:
• Lots of AGA improvements increasing number of AGA games working perfectly
• Full support of Amiga mouse on DB9 port
• Support of Picture-in-Picture for applications like RiVA, meaning that a fullscreen can now be displayed into a window. In other terms, you could now play a video in a Workbench 1.3 window.

• New improved audio channel features
  o Audio 16bit long sample support 64MB
  o Audio more volume bits
  o Audio free positioning /panning L/R
  o Audio one-shoot mode

• New improved Sprite Feature
  o Sprite 16 color mode
  o Sprite 256 own reserved Sprite color register
  o Sprite Indirect mode, making Sprite maintenance much easier to code

• 32-bit Copper
• ModeID video feature - which allows easier coding of Chunky screens
• Chunky is now fully in sync with VBL
• Chunky is now programmable by copper
Biggest noticeable change is now that core will display a fixed resolution and merge Amiga native output and RTG in it. Lower resolution than the one displayed are scaled into that fixed resolution meaning that you will not get anymore those constant resolutions changes like with previous core and experience an instant screen opening.
Some choices had to be done to find best compromise between displaying Workbench in an usable resolution while maintaining good scaling quality for games. In current stage, incoming core will open a 960x540 resolution on your monitor and display perfectly any WHDLoad game. Disadvantage of this is that Workbench cannot display higher than 960x540 at the moment. We might be thinking about providing a core with 720p resolution but with a “not so good” scaling of WHDLoad games to fulfil wishes of everyone.
Because of this big change, a driver update is required and SAGA Driver Package is updated accordingly from version 2.3.
AROS and ApolloOS
The decision was made in team to fork the existing AROS source-code in order to speed up the development of its m68k branch. The reasoning of this choice is that AROS embeds at the moment a lot of code for different platforms (x86, ARM, 68k) which is not relevant in our case. Being able to remove all that unused code will ease development (shorter compile time, easier understanding of code), bring quickly improvements on the table and possibly improve performance of the bunch.
Our goal is to improve AROS 68k support and level up its compatibility with AmigaOS3 to the best state possible. Embracing that goal, some brave team volunteers started to maintain that fork and code is fully available on GitHub: EXTERNAL LINK 

If you are interested into digging in it, complete and easy compiling instructions are available here: EXTERNAL LINK 

To show and demonstrate improvements made, team also started to work on a complete distribution based on it, called ApolloOS which can be downloaded and tested here in its last build:

Thanks to the effort and devotion of team, the GOLD2 branch for V2 accelerators is still evolving with the goal to improve that branch as much as possible. We all know that FPGA for V500 and V600 is very full but that does not forbid us to bring on fixes for them.
GOLD2.13 will bring improvements on those topics:
  • On V1200, both motherboard IDE, PCMCIA, and Vampire FastIDE will be working at the same time
  • On V1200, ChipRAM speed has been bumped to 7.0MB/s, bringing now the fastest ChipRAM bandwidth available with any A1200 accelerator
  • Backport of unified turtle mode V4 with PCR bit, meaning now that Turtle Mode can survive reboots if needed (for i.e. games or demos on floppies)
  • FPU fixes on FSQRT instruction
No ETA yet, some work is still required to bring it to a state where we are will happy and confident upon its release.
We are moving from Slack to Discord
Slack has been very useful for the V4 support channel at beginning but we are seeing a lot of limitation that can barely be lifted even with the paid version. It is why we have been testing Discord for some weeks to make sure that if we ask people on Slack to move, it would offer them a better experience.
Discord has quite a lot of benefits over Slack:
  • No loss of history, you can rewind logs ad vitam aeternam
  • Built-in video conferencing feature
  • Mobile app is faster than Slack’s
  • It’s been used by a lot of people in the retroscene, switching from one server to the other is made with a single click
To support that transition as smoothly as possible, a bridge between Slack and Discord has been set up so you will not miss anything if you are a bit late in joining Discord.
In next days, an email will be sent to all Vampire customers to inform them about the existence of that new Discord server.

Link to our Discord server : EXTERNAL LINK 
If you were not living on the hidden side of the moon for the last 6 months, you might have noticed that our world had to endure some unexpected events because of COVID-19. This had a direct and instant impact on production of Vampire boards and will probably continue to show its effect until things get better around the planet and especially in China.
Like nearly any hardware manufacturer, we do source our parts in Asia and are enduring huge delivery delays, when things can even be delivered, since some shipments even got lost. Someone committing today on an ETA or saying that delivery problems are solved is obviously wrong and should not be trusted.
There is a lot of demand for Vampire boards that we were already struggling to fulfill but that pandemic situation just did put even more pressure on our shoulders.
We are very sorry for it and since this is out of our control, we expect your comprehension and patience. It will take time but we are not forgetting any of you.
Positive side of that sanitary confinement is that since we could not focus on production, we had the opportunity to improve some processes of it for the future. For example, the Vampire V4 Standalone had some layout improvements which removes some manual solder steps. So when we will again be able to produce, it should go faster than it was before.
On the software side, we have new Vampire related applications materializing at the moment:
  • Milkytracker is getting full native Vampire Audio support thanks for the repeated efforts of neoman and Marlon
  • Alynna Trypnotk is working currently on a bootable version of the microSD driver. You can follow that work here : EXTERNAL LINK 
  • Jan made his AmiKit distro compatible with Vampire V2 and V4 : EXTERNAL LINK

Smartroad 78

Posts 116
09 Aug 2020 17:33

Lots of good stuff :D

Is the RTG on the V4 is going to be limited to 960x540? Am I understanding that right? Does this mean you can't have Workbench on a 1920x1080 resolution any more (for example)?

Red Bug

Posts 22
09 Aug 2020 22:14

Awesome ... !!! I also saw the video about ApolloOS by Manuel Jesus and I'm just blown away by all this progress !!! Thx a lot for all this work - see all those old titles and the m68k getting new life on a free platform is just amazing. I suppose there's a donation button somewhere ? I'm thinking about making a donation because all this really deserves a financial support.

Amiga 4Life

Posts 102
10 Aug 2020 01:54

Thanks... the activity reports are always great...

Eric Gus

Posts 478
10 Aug 2020 03:50

Would be nice to eventually have a VCONTROL option to change the fixed resolution used so higher WB rez can be set.

CD32 Freak

Posts 25
10 Aug 2020 06:03

Thanks for interesting report. However, if you write 'the Vampire V4 Standalone had some layout improvements', we are then of course very curious what they are. So could you share some images of the new board? After all, the internet is a visual medium ;-)

Tim Noyce

Posts 156
11 Aug 2020 20:13

All great news. Just received my V4SA yesterday. I've been following this project for a while, and it's really nice to see things are still improving.

Michal Pietal

Posts 236
14 Aug 2020 08:17

Lots of great news!  Thanks Renaud!

posts 8