Where are we after this first year?
After a year of actual CT60 delivery and useage, plus the production of a
new batch, it's time to see where we are at right now. To recap, deliveries
started during the summer, more or less about this time last year. I
received mine fairly early on in August, but didn't get around to joining
this exclusive club until the end of November. Thanks to Stimpy, we were off
and running! Others had to wait for quite a while longer still, with the
chip supply problems concerning Vernal Elm, which was only slowly resolved.
Currently, there has been some good news. Firstly the Vernal Elm problem was
resolved satisfactorily, so we are all smiles again. Next, a new batch of
eighty CT60 boards was made. Deliveries are taking place as we speak. Now we
are two hundred and thirty users. This is great news, as the CT60 community
gets larger, and better supported, with more options generally. In my
opinion, the second batch production might just have tipped the Atariscene
balance in favour of fully accepting the accelerator, and away from people
thinking of it as somehow "exclusive" to a lucky few.
We remain to hear of Rodolphe's future plans. People are looking hopefully
at a PCI/USB interface being made, which would bring us up to date for
adding many modern peripherals. Then there is the Supervidel, of which, more
What are people up to?
Here is a quick review of the CT60 developers list. This does include some
new additions from the second batch of eighty. We also consider what has
been done, or perhaps not yet, since last year.
Didier Mequignon has been the most visibly busy and active person on the
list. He has a deserved first spot there. The last year or more has been put
into finishing the CT60 firmware. This has had several updates as the boards
have become more widely available, and the various bugs are teased out. He
has said that this has now more or less finished, and he will be going back
to working on Aniplayer shortly.
He was as good as his word, coming out with a major update for version 2.22.
There is more to follow, and we are looking forward to new versions as it is
one of a select few prime apps for the '060 class machine. I suspect that
future enhancements will be done with '060 in mind. We will be trying to get
an interview with Didier for this issue of Alive, so you can read in more
detail what his future plans are!
Patrice Mandin has been preparing for the arrival of CT60 for years, even
before Rodolphe started to design it! He is best known for ports of certain
very well known ID Software PeeCee classics, which really need a CT60 class
machine to run decently. He has been working on some SDL stuff, the GnuBoy
emulator etc. I'm sure there will be more to come from him.
Anodyne Software, Roger Burrows has maintained CT60 fixes for Extendos, is
potentially looking at new versions of Diamond Edge with FAT32 support, and
maybe even DVD writing for CD Writer Suite!
Florent Lafabrie, working on various GEM apps, he went into a lot of detail
in the MyAtari report on Icon Extract 1.2.
Joe Venor, one of the more mysterious developers, without an email or URL,
was working on the 'UMRS' or Universal Motor Racing Simulator. This has been
put back in favour of a game being developed jointly for the Jaguar and
CT60. It should look identical on both platforms, and it looks like the Jag
version is ahead. So take a look at that to see what you will be getting!
There isn't any other information around as to what that game is yet?
From the Reservoir Gods, there is not a lot of activity just yet. They are
stuck on kicking out some of their existing ST-based projects, people are
still asking about Fairyland, for Grud's sake! Of course, there is the
problem of the busy summer season in the software industry, house moves etc.
It looks like the CT60 ownership has widened, with Damo and MSG getting
their new batch CT60's. This hopefully increases the likelihood of something
happening in the following months. It is even money whether the first CT60
code will come from Pink or Damo!
Nature Bros are working on the very important SuperVidel. There is hopefully
some recent news elsewhere in this issue. As it is, we nearly had a
prototype system running at the Easter Outline party. To briefly add what
little I know, apart from being able to boost existing Falcon screenmodes to
new heights, there is also a dedicated 3-D engine to be added, and I seem to
remember something about MPEG firmware support earlier? They also have an
ultimate ambition of seeing their racer game 'Lotus/Reekin' Rubber' running
in 640 x 480 detail level, with full textures in truecolour! Also at the
last moment, they are coming up with their 'EtherNat' ethernet connector,
which bypasses the speed crippling effect of the standard cartridge port!
UPDATE! We now know that Ethernet will also have a couple of USB interfaces
as well as the ethernet connector! It will remain SuperVidel compatible, and
offers a comprehensive alternative to anything that Rodolphe might be
designing. The card is apparently nearasdammit finished on the design stage,
and Nature Brothers are anticipating a unit price level of around 100
Euro's. They will supply it with the core USB driver software, but other
people will have to pick up the slack to write drivers for specific
Evolution, in the person of Deez, have been the second most visible CT60
fans actually doing something. They have released a couple of intros. You
remember our review of the very first intro "1.0", since then, he has added
"Deeztort", a bigger intro seen from the Chosneck mag, and from which I sort
of remember one or two bits being previewed on Aranym over a year ago ;-) We
saw a preview of a bigger demo in the works which was shown at Outline. This
is most keenly awaited! This has slowed down through natural laziness and
the UK software industry overwork culture until after the summer! I wonder
if we'll get the chance to review this in time for this issue?
Dead Hackers have updated various small utilities, and have released one
intro with Ephidrena this Easter, this was not too bad for a quick three day
hack! There will be a lot more to come I'm sure, just don't hold your
Escape (No) has been very quiet as usual. They don't seem to be in any hurry
to join the CT60 demo arms race, but one German language news site reported
that the Dope O/S for the Atari Coldfire was being ported to the CT60?!?!
According to MyAtari, Ray of tSCc is working on an '060 optimised 3-D engine
which will be Open-GL like in character, and made available to whoever wants
to use it.
Mikro, he is doing some CT60 demos but only AFTER he's done his Falcon DSP
demo! C'mon mate, let's see them!
Nerve of Ephidrena is reported to be looking at porting Amiga demostuffs to
CXT, the new co-editor of Alive has now got a CT60, he has mentioned Lethal
Xcess for the CT60!
Frank Naumann is a very important addition to this list, as a major Freemint
and XaAES maintainer. An '060 kernel is only a matter of time away?
Thomas Binder, is restarting work on the Thing desktop! This is seriously
cool news, alongside that of Frank Naumann, this offers the main area of
interest in developing a totally modern O/S and desktop combination. I'm
happy with my Magic/Jinnee combination now I've cooled it down to stability,
but any decent new alternative will be worth more than a quick look.
Jan Thomas is a second-wave developer,added late to Rodolphe's list. Again,
no form of contact is available. He was looking at making a USB to DSP port
host adaptor, with the relevant drivers of course. If this gets anywhere, it
could be a real boon, at least for using some types of USB peripherals? How
fast can the DSP port throughput data anyway? Also, this could be useful for
all types of Falcon, not just the CT60. It would also be an interesting
competitor to anything in that area which Rodolphe may be making.
Jonas Danielsson is working on possibly something we can nominate as the
"Least Wanted"(!?) This is a Windowze lookalike desktop for the Atari?? It
looks like he has done some work on it too, according to the status page on
Roldolphe's site. I don't know, would that appeal to you? I'm happy with my
current Jinnee desktop, but could well check out any new versions of Thing
that come along.
We are most urgently waiting for lovely Thomas Bergstrom of New Beat
Developments. I want a CT60 version of Ace! On which note, how are those
third party Ace replayers from different people coming along?!
UPDATE 2! We add two significant new players as the year end gets nearer. We
greet Earx who has released an early preview of a brand new virtual light
machine (VLM) for the CT60, and Zorro, a French coder who is preparing the
revolutionary 'zView' with higher end machines in mind. The latter of these
is intended to mature from a sophisticated picture viewer, into a USB
compatible digital camera picture transfer application! These both have
separate articles in this issue of Alive! about them,elsewhere in the issue.
There are other developers at work, but these are the main features of
How stable is some software in reality?
XBoot has been reported as a troublemaker in some quarters. I've found that
it sometimes throws a few bombs across the Magic loader piccy. This does not
affect the subsequent loading of Magic/Jinnee and its continued safe
operation. Other people have had to get rid of XBoot altogether. I have
found that XBoot itself is killed off at the start if the cache is not set
in 5ms delay mode.
There seems to be a wide range of stability levels, according to the
underlying health and tolerances of the host machine. A good example is
Nvdi. This one can manage without it, I've managed to clean boot without
problems, others can't, which seems to make it follow the behaviour of the
earlier CT2, where Nvdi was mandatory to avoid GEM crashing.
The UIS III File selector is generally okay, but can sometimes crash when
attempting to save and change directories. On further examination, this
could have some basis in the overheating problems noted subsequently. (see
The Atari 800 emulator is generally ok. It does not like some files,
especially those with sampled sound, or doing very weird stuff with the
POKEY emulation? This is consistent in operation with the CT2, the only
difference being that of speed. The '060 shouldn't be an issue, as Atari 800
was largely developed on an Afterburnered machine.
Apex Media (in the form of 'Apex Intro') was found to be very stable and
good in operation. I feel I can rely on this software. An initial concern of
glitching at the deepest level of zoom does not affect the rest of the
program, plus this does not occur all the time.
I found a pleasant surprise! A version of Graoumf Tracker 0.8777
(SJX/Vectronix fixed) that runs on the CT60!! I also found that it does not
use fastram when attempting to load a very large Sh3 produced modfile into
the 4mb STram. There is a slight tendency to crash, which is about the same
as it is normally ;-) The major visible improvement is in the hugely speeded
loading and converting times. This is still heavily DSP dependent in playing
Aniplayer 2.21, let's take a look at movie playback. Generally there are
some good results. The MPEG sound seems to be unoptimised, but Didier said
that he was looking at this in forthcoming Aniplayer versions. At that
point, it should be able to play low to medium sized MPEG with soundtracks
decently. The pausing or skipping with DSP replay should be eliminated.
Right now, we can play a 320 x 240 size Lord of the Rings movie trailer
decently (without the soundtrack). It is running somewhat in excess of 100%
cpu time, but still looks okay. It will be interesting to see what
Supervidel can add, firstly in terms of killing the bus/screen access
bottleneck, and also adding some dedicated MPEG replay assistance later on.
There has been a new version of Aniplayer released since I started writing
this article. This is version 2.22, the first for a long time. This is
covered in more detail elsewhere. The main new feature is the fact that .MOV
files compressed with Sorenson video can now play back. There are other
things added too.
I've also managed to playback some good quality Ogg Vorbis sound files at
around 70-80% of cpu time. (We are close to the maximum with 192kbit/sec Ogg
files on a 66mhz '060 mind!) There is no DSP to assist there. This is not
dissimilar to my early experiences with mp3 playback when running that
solely off cpu.
Hardware notes. Things I've noticed now that I've had the time with it.
Getting to know a system better is a process that can take a while, in some
instances, months before you realise fully what is going on when a certain
set of operating conditions is reached.
The prime example of this is in considering the CT60 operating temperature.
A question posed recently on the CT60 support BBS produced a very wide
variation of what were considered as 'normal' operating temperatures for
different installations. Mine, which normally runs in a range of 42 to 43
deg C, was at the higher end, but not necessarily the highest, Nevertheless,
I've suspected for a while that there was a temperature or cooling issue
lurking on my CT60.
There are several factors which could combine to produce heat-related
problems. Firstly the '060 used was one of the 'ordinary' 50mhz variety,
clocked to 66mhz, it was not one of the cooler-running 60mhz developer
chips, or one of the fabulous 100mhz capable chips. This means that it is
probably running very close to its limit. Secondly, my CT60 is cased in the
original Falcon casing. What scores for keeping it neat loses out on
temperature build-up, as the closed case is a perfect trap for building up
hot air inside. This then cannot disperse quickly enough. Thirdly, Stimpy
did a brilliant job on re-using the original 40mm diameter fan supplied with
the Falcon by Atari Corp directly over the '060 heat sink. This works pretty
well, but I think not quite as well as the larger fan supplied by Rodolphe
with the CT60.
So in effect, this means that my CT60 is slightly undercooled to start with,
and placed in conditions almost intentionally designed to promote excessive
So what happened? Depending on ambient room temperature, the CT60 would take
a little while to build up to the 41-43 deg c range. If running in Magic,
web browsers tended to fail first, crashing out randomly, and ultimately
causing a catastrophic exception error 4, followed by a series of forever
scrolling exception error 2 messages. Total wipeout in other words. It is
possible to get Magic back at this stage, but even without using the
internet, you are likely to experience random crashes, sometimes of Jinnee,
and Magic then recovers and boots it back, or sometimes the full error 4
At this stage, TOS remains viable and stable, and most applications run from
it are okay, although I think the Atari 800 emulator is vunerable to this
temperature level. Other applications which might wilt under the heat remain
to be discovered.
My suspicions about the temperature effect were confirmed with a recent
spell of very hot weather. Hot and humid outside conditions, typically 30
deg c raised the internal system temperature to a peak of 46 deg c. Then the
failure rate also raised itself drastically. Magic refused to boot at all,
crashing out even before we got a desktop. But the main sign that things had
got horribly bad, was that even the precious few CT60 intros had problems
running, with 'Traal' crashing halfway through! Now this never happened to
any demos before!
Also Aniplayer, normally a reliable performer, started to throw up errors on
playback of animations. On the other hand, you might reasonably ask what am
I doing, using a computer in the middle of such hot weather! Well I would
like to check on my emails and updates of certain websites if nothing else.
It got so bad, that I had to revert back to my CT2 for any substained
internet useage during that period.
But it seems there is a cure!
I could have taken the top off the machine, and may yet try this, which
would solve the heat build-up in the casing. Instead, I opted to blow more
air through the part of the casing occupied by the CT60. An air blower with
a very bodged airflow redirection did the job, and over the space of 5-10
minutes, managed to drop the internal temperature back down to a range of
36-38 deg C. I can probably get it a bit lower still with a more efficient
It seems that we are back below the safety limit for Magic, and internet
clients, as I managed to knock the internal temperature of my CT60, which
had been left switched on a while, back from 42 deg c, and went online with
it, and then continued happily without a flicker of a problem for a couple
of hours after. Well at least I can now properly identify any stability
issues which are down to strange behaviours in specific software. These are
much rarer occuring, and aren't fatal to the system as a whole ;-)
So to sum up
70 degrees - Reported failure of '060 chips in this temp range? Probably not
when heavily overclocked like these though!
50 degrees - Nominal CT60 temperature warning indicator.
46 degrees - Panic stations! Magic crashes on booting, demo's crash out.
Highest level temp in hot ambient conditions.
42-43 degrees - 'Normal' operating level, Internet clients and Magic prone
to crash, TOS and apps running from it are generally ok.
36-38 degrees - Extra cooling, Magic/Jinnee is now stable, certain internet
clients are much better behaved. WE HAVE REACHED STABILITY
HOLY GRAIL! YAAAAAAAAY!
From last time, where I said things were in the early stages, but I had got
it to where I wanted to be then, we are now at what I would call an
'Advanced Interim' stage. The other more subtle and hidden lurking hardware
problem has been found and rectified, and overall system reliability can now
be objectively judged. It is also a lot happier with prolonged daily use
under Magic than before.
Other notes on hardware
The serial port performance is still 100%! I've managed to connect every
time to the internet. Hard disk read-write speed has been hugely improved,
especially with the internal IDE, Aniplayer can load a 42 megabyte animation
into memory in just over 12 seconds! Even slow external SCSI devices seem to
be have been given a new lease of life. My normally sluggish double speed
CD-ROM from 1995 and my non state of the art 100mb ZIP drive have both
noticeably improved. Or was it the case that they were never running at full
I've found that Aniplayer tests okay with higher bitrate on MP3's, typically
192kbit/sec gives it no problem, even 256kbit/sec will play. This lays
conclusively to rest the initial worries over DSP communication issues on
What's to come in the next year?
Since I started this article, some more changes have come in at dizzying
speed. Firstly, the full impact of the 'Ethernat' card has hit us, as it
will also provide the USB connectivity solution that we were awaiting from
someone like Rodolphe, as well as a new Ethernet solution. Secondly, a kind
gentleman called Gildor has been very productive recently.
He has been spotted in the midst of a porting frenzy, firstly starting with
an open source full-texture 'Quake' style 3-D engine called "Yeti". This
runs very decently on a CT60, and has the potential to be made into some
interesting things. Out of incidental interest, the lower resolution version
is semi-playable on a CT2 class machine, but forget it for a standard
Falcon! He then took to porting some SDL-based ports of classic games, such
as Castle Wolfenstein over to the CT60. I can only comment on this
indirectly, as the SDL libraries only seem to run decently under Mint. That
will have to be an adventure for the next issue of Alive, I think!
Nevertheless, ten out of ten for effort, and I've got a feeling there is
more to come from that direction? Such as, what will Patrice Mandin do next?
And third on the list is our faithful friend Didier Mequignon. Apart from
restarting Aniplayer, Didier has ported over 'Mplayer', a Linux based media
player, which gives the CT60 the capacity to play DvD's for the first time!
This is still an early work in progress, and is restricted to the 100mhz
class CT60 for DvD playback. Don't give up on Aniplayer just yet!
Here are a few predictions to be going on with;
Over the next 6-12 months, we are anticipating the delivery of the Ethernat
and then Supervidel cards. Both of these will take the CT60 to a new level.
I think that we might see the first signs of some original native coded CT60
games, although ports will predominate still.
We will finally see the first full-sized demo's for the CT60, the next big
Atari party may well have to have separate standard and accelerated Falcon
Aniplayer will be reworked to benefit fully from Supervidel, when that is to
There's the magic (ahem!) of Mint, especially if you want to play those SDL
ports. The new Thing desktop and '060 Mint Kernels will be must-have items
There will be one major surprise which benefits the CT60, which none of us
can guess at right now!
And with that, we'll see where we are next time!
CiH, for Alive Mag,July '04..
MISSHTAKE! - I do owe someone an apology from a cock-up from the June issue
of MyAtari and the CT60 "First Impressions" article. This is to Satantronic,
who should not be confused with Mikro! The 'first impressions' was based on
some very early notes for my Alive 8 article, in fact these were more
initial emailed reactions when I first installed the thing. By the time it
got as far as Alive 8, sanity and fact-checking prevailed, but this early
version escaped to the pages of MyAtari, sorry guys!