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Alive 9
CT60 Interim Report

    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
the CT60.

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
'hardware notes')

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
heat build-up.

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
failure again.

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
airflow direction.

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
speed beforehand?

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
audio streaming.

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!

Alive 9