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Alive! Magazine considers the (unsurprising?) demise of the Milan II...

Warning! This article picks up on large extracts from the official statement
issued  by  Ali  Goukassian on behalf of the Milan Team.  This  is  machine-
translated  from  the original German,  which means it is readable,  but not
brilliant.  The  full and unabridged original comes courtesy of Atari Active
Magazine, and can be seen there. (Thanx Carbon!)

Firstly,  the  official  press release gives a brief history of the  ongoing
design and problems of the Milan II.

 The Milan II

The  targets of the Milan system were clearly outlined:  It had a new  board
Design on base of the Milan I ago, which continues proven items in addition,
brings substantial improvements with itself.  So e.g. a AGP port or also the
support of SDRAMs.

A first prototype of the Milan 060 was to be seen on the fair in Neuss.

Against expectations, technical problems crept in again and again, for whose
resolution  additional hardware designers were engaged.  The integration  in
particular  of  the  AGP port,  in addition,  the SDRAMs prepared  hardware-
technically  under-waited difficulties,  which could be solved however after
viscous advancing in the late summer 2000. Just in this moment occurred what
had to occur:

The manufacture one of the two important log IC chips of the Milan (he takes
over the complete emulation of the not existing Atari hardware) was adjusted
despite  contrary promises on the part of the manufacturer and is  available
neither  in smaller numbers of items than remainder nor in large numbers  of
items than special production.

A shock for the Milan team,  because a scarce year work was in this chip. An
adequate,  counterpart  didn't  exist at the market,  which could be adapted

Together with the selling company AXRO the situation in the late summer 2000
was  discussed.  Together with our distribution and interlocutor it came  to
the  result  that  a  small computer company,  which  does  not  manufacture
quantities  in  hundred-out one hundred and abverkauft  this  problem  could
flower on a long-term basis again and again.

Alive  Comment:-  This  is the overt reason for cessation of  the  Milan  II
project,  a failure of a custom chip manufacturer to come up with the goods.
I  did read through the rest of the article,  and it is interesting to  note
the Milan Team's declining enthusiasm with 'obsolete' 68060 technology.  One
senses they were moving in the direction of a PPC hardware platform, perhaps
where they should have gone in the first place?

It  seems that the design phase dragged on too long,  as technology advanced
regardless. Shades of Phenix anyone?

This second extract goes into a little bit more detail about the second part
of Milan II,  the O/S. This seemed to be a project which was not going to be
a  feature  of the Milan II,  but was going to come into its own,  with  the
future PPC Milan?

 The new OS

In  this  moment a project was taken from the developer  drawer,  which  Uwe
Schneider,  Ali Goukassian, Michael Schwingen and Thomas Gottsch had already
prepared in November 1999 and had conceptionally held.  It was only going be
implemented in one of the future stages of hardware production,  in order to
save time.

It consists of a dual dependency on hardware and an independent layer.  This
step  had  to be carried out,  in order to bring Atari programs on  the  new
(future PPC?) Milan hardware to a runnable state.

While the independent layer takes up the instruction e.g.  for the access to
sound,  diagram or fixed disk, this instruction is interpreted and depending
on the hardware layer, which then transfers the actual access.

Thus it should be ensured that easy modifications in the hardware (Milan I -
Milan II) can be made at a low cost.

MagiC Milan again was changed so much opposite the standard designs the fact
that  it does not make any own access more on the Milan hardware but  its  "
transfers  "  desires to the hardware to the Milan TOS.  This step made  the
MagiC Milan development again independent of the Milan hardware.

Depending  on  hardware sections of the operating system Milan  TOS  by  our
developers  against a Linux core one exchanges at present.  This part of the
operating  system is not under any circumstances Atari specific,  but  works
excluding  the  interpretation of the hardware accesses on the part  of  the
operating system or the software.

And  Linux  is so far established today that drivers for the access  to  USB
interfaces, fixed disks,  Firewire interfaces, network cards etc. are always
available  shortly after appearance of the respective hardware  or  hardware

For  the  Milan crew it had meant previously they had  to  develop  specific
drivers for the hardware. For example, for responding to the Milan USB port.

But owing to the new concept the Linux core is embodied with the independent
part of the Milan TOS. This places the Milan TOS or the software, which runs
under  it,  a  request  of  an interface,  then this is transferred  over  a
standardized  interpreter to the Linux core,  which is only a few KB  large.
This  already  has  all the necessary drivers,  which are  freely  available
world-wide, in order to tie in any modern hardware, or hardware standard, to
the TOS.

Alive Comment:- Not much to add here,  this seems to have been kept back for
a  future  stage of the Milan project,  but with the death of the  Milan  II
hardware,  was  brought forward somewhat.  The idea of using a Linux core to
carry  out all the deep and dirty hardware specific stuff,  is  interesting.
The  idea  of  a  wholly portable,  hardware independent  O/S  is  developed
further, later on in the statement.

So what happens now? The next few paragraphs give you an idea.


The  perspectives  look  today  on the one hand  fine,  on  the  other  hand
disappointing:  The  Milan  II  was  put on  ice.  Months-long  work,  which
swallowed  thousands of D-mark is dashed,  like the hope of many Atari users
to  be  able  to  call a fast Milan II their own.  This  is  to  be  charged
primarily to technical problems.

In  addition,  the  months-long attempts to draw venture  Capital  societies
(holding companies) from Germany into the Milan boat, in order to supplement
the capital clearly failed.

But  this  means the end of the project with nieces.  Milan computer  system
will  offer,  to  all who would still like a Milan,  the Milan I with 040er-
Prozessor. And also the Upgrade card on the 060-Prozessor are to be had.

In  fact at present nothing stands in the way of the possession of  a  Milan
with an 060- Prozessor.

Alive  Comment:- If I were Ali,  I would be talking up the prospects of  the
'060  upgrade  to  the existing Milan hardware a hell of  a  lot!   At  this
moment,  all  people  are  thinking about,  is the failure of the  Milan  II
hardware  to appear.  They take this as typical of the current Atari market,
and  decide  to lose interest.  Milan urgently need a rescue plan for  right
now,  never mind the possibility of new hardware in a year's time!  It'll be
too late by then!

There is also the question,  totally not discussed in the press release,  of
where  the software developers who signed up with Milan,  are going now?  Is
there any attempt being made to keep these on board?  Is there even anything
of substance from the developers as yet?

Finally,  I'm  not  sure  to what extent family members should  be  involved
('project  with  nieces'?)  but  that is  probably  a  translation  inspired

And after that? Well keep reading..

The step,  which is now done,  is to be looked toward Milan III.  And but at
present two scenarios are to the selection,  which build all together on the
fact that the Milan TOS (and thus the essay MagiC Milan) already soon it  is
almost hardware independent could:

One  decides  for  an Linux core adjustment on e.g.  AMD  hardware  (Athlon,
Duron) and standard board peripheral device. In the course its is selected a
board,  which imports only in this country be acquired must.  Conditions are
fulfilled like a large Flash EPROM.  This can be still a TOS based computer,
which starts directly from the chip.

The  arithmetic performance became with this solution proportionally to  the
assigned.  And  with a 400MHz-Chip the performance of a 060-Prozessors  very
far  ue bersteigen already grows processor.  One begins (if necessary own) a
PPC  G3/G4-Board,  which  is  ago the 68060-Prozessor still  naes,  so  that
starting from 350 mc/s more than one doubling of the arithmetic  performance
achieves  w ue rde here.  So that the TOS uft also under these processors  l
ae,  a 68k-Interpreter is integrated,  which uft differently than Windows or
MacOS  based  emulation,  even ae ndig natively l ae and a  high  arithmetic
performance  erm  oe  resembled.  F  ue r version b) was  opened  a  license
partner,  that  toward  start  of  2001 h oe  chstmoderne  G3-PPC-Boards  to
manufacture at present and as OEM product at Milan sells to w ue rde. Here w
ae  RH gew ae hrleistet that the computer altogether approximately  1700 DM.

Alive Comment:- Gawd, that last paragraph was a mess, wasn't it? Still, they
seem  to  be  talking  about  Milan III as a  PPC  based  design,  with  the
aforementioned Linux core Milan O/S, controlling the hardware accesses. They
also  seem to be discussing the 68K emulation built into the PPC chip as  an
option.  The 1700DM end user price, is very similar to the proposed Milan II

But  wait,  here's  some  more about the new Milan O/S,  it seems it can  go
hardware independent now!

The  entire  operating  system,  approximately  2 MB,  can  be  operated  on
processors such as AMD,  Intel,  PPC or even,  RISC,  Aplha and Toshiba at a
comparatively small expenditure.

Thus  the  Milan TOS with MagiC Milan becomes one of the  smallest  portable
operating  systems,  with  which  the software (differently than  e.g.  with
Windows CE) does not have again to be compiled, in order to run on different
processors.  First  versions of this new operating system symbiosis  already
had to be seen in October.

Alive  Comment:-  Hey  cool!  If they can do anything with this,  how  about
existing  TOS machines too?  I've got a nice Falcon,  hopefully soon to be a
CT060 based machine,  which could make use of this.  We're really spoilt for
choice for O/S's in the Atari world these days!

But  a reproach,  which one cannot make for Milan of computer system is that
that  in  this  house the things not finished w ue  rden.  Because  as  only
manufacturers  Milan of computer system succeeded in bringing an  executable
040/060-Computer  to the price eligible for financing in  circulation.  With
this  step  Milan  succeeded in proving that  here  uncoordinated  technique
Freaks at working is not the only way, but that concepts and clear lines can
be transferred up to readiness for the market.

Herein the enterprise differs from numerous companies, which let intelligent
and  talented people operate senselessly for many years,  without  supplying

Alive Comment:- That last paragraph,  can you bottle irony and sell it as an
aftershave?!  The  Milan  II  failure  seems to be just  such  a  'senseless
operation'?  The  onus is on Milan Computers to quickly snatch success  from
the  jaws of failure.  The perceptions of Milan,  by the average Atari user,
and potential core customer, are not good at the moment?

Ali  really  has  to do something good,  and very quickly,  to  turn  things
around,  before they can start acting pleased with themselves, in the manner
shown in the last two paragraphs!

Some slagging off of the original Milan II hardware now follows.

The Linux core idea,  which trusted to transfer itself the team not promptly
to  be  in order not to stop the Milan II according to schedule,  seems  the
only  load-carrying solution.  It nevertheless gave concern whether it could
succeed  on  an 80MHz-Computer to intersperse and also whether it  would  be
enough  to  use a main processor which had become  outdated  technologically
hopelessly as the 68060.

These concerns are extinguished with an impact.

Alive Comment:- Well, if you will keep waiting too long, it's not surprising
that hardware specs become obsolete.  Moral, we don't want it super-perfect,
we want it yesterday!

The  Milan  could live on already soon on efficient platforms  and  let  the
operating  system  on  competitive  hardware,  loved  by  us,  continue.  In
particular  the perspective to receive G3/G4-Boards wakes nevertheless  many
hopes,  because  such a computer would not only underline the breath of  the
non-standard  one - it would arouse much world-wide interest.  And this  way
seems  also  economical to be more lucrative,  because nevertheless  now  no
hardware  production  connected  with  high  risks  must  be  carried.   The
developers can itself on an area - which operating system - concentrate.

And  so it is only one question of the time,  until the new Milan III can be
on  our  desks.  This  1.  to  2  would  know  realistic  estimates  to  the
consequence. Quarter 2001 the case it is. But as said: Then, as super modern

And  up to then there are the Milan I - 060 for all those,  which would  not
like  to do already today without speed.  We ask for your understanding  for
the fact that we decided us not to produce an outdated hardware standard  in
the  long run but the expenditure on capital assets amounts to some  million
German  Marks.  And even if you,  dear Atari fans and we know that 80MHz are
sufficient, in order Atari software with highest speed to operate - one will
be able to put this not close to the mass of the computer people.

Alive Comment:- The mantra of the hardened Atari user - "Yeah,  right, we'll
believe it when we see it!"

That  last  paragraph, are they making the Milan 1 '060 upgrade or  not?  It
really  isn't  clear from this translation?  A case of MHZ numbers  snobbery
taking over and killing it off? I think they are talking about their reasons
for  not  producing the Milan II at the same time,  but don't make it  clear

If one intersperses the Milan TOS (project name TOS 6) in the future however
as  " Easy Computing Environment " - thus a working environment  for  simple
computers which can be served -, in which it runs on a variety of platforms.
Additionally  another  strand  refers to hardware on the  basis  of  a  non-
standard power PC system, then one has a real chance to be considered by the
world public of the computer-interested users and media. We could learn that
in  the course of the passed months.  In the future we will inform you - now
we know the route of march of the Milan once more - regularly about  events,
both in the Internet, and in the paper publications.

Ali Goukassian and the Milan team

Alive  Comment:- I'm not quite sure what to make of this in the  end.  Milan
seems  to have pretensions to being a world-class platform,  if not up there
with  Windows,  certainly  running alongside Mac or Linux.  Ali has taken  a
hard-nosed  commercial decision to downplay the Atari heritage,  and opt for
current  hardware  standards,  and an O/S which is hardware independent.  If
Milan  can  bring a new machine to the market and soon,  this may be a  good
long-term decision for them.

At the same time, there seems to be a certain amount of poor decision making
on  display,  evidenced by the fact that Milan II took as long to gestate as
it did, only to be killed off in the final hours before birth. The loss of a
key custom component may well have proved insurmountable, but this has to be
set  against  growing  doubts from inside the company,  about  the  hardware
philosophy as a whole,  gradually undermining the project?  Will this repeat
itself  if either the new PPC Milan III,  or the new portable Milan O/S  run
into unexpected problems?

I  fear the majority of Atari scene people,  and a lot of long term  general
loyalist  users  will  have made up their minds about  this  story  already,
considering this the latest failure,  in a long and eventful history full of

CiH - Alive Magazine - Oct '00

Alive 1