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For immediate release|
The A1G3-SE is now ready!
The AmigaOneG3-SE is now production ready and orders for discounted developer/dealer/OS4 beta-tester boards/systems are now being taken (but only until by midnight on Sunday 24th March GMT 2002) for delivery in April. This closing date is necessary so that we can assess the volume required in this initial production run and place the order with the manufacturers. Purchasers of these boards will also be able to obtain a discount on the full user version of OS4.0 when it is released.
If you have previously applied for beta-tester or dealer status YOU MUST REAPPLY as we no longer require beta testers for the A1 board itself, only for OS4 and applications that run (or should run!) under it. Please order via our website here. If you are a dealer, please mention this on your order, and a dealer price will be forwarded to you.
The main production run will be timed so that boards are ready at the same time as the consumer release of OS4, probably in May 2002.
The developer/dealer boards and (at least) the first run of production boards will be shipped with soldered-on G3 PPC CPU's running at 600 MHz which will give a remarkable speed increase over any existing G2 (Blizzard/Cyberstorm) PPC accelerators for the Amiga. Soldering the CPU in place - rather than using BGA sockets or chip carriers - allows us to keep the reliability very high and the costs as low as possible. (BGA sockets and/or carrier board options add a huge amount to the cost of the board).
As OS4 versions (or applications software) are developed which make use of the Altivec processor in the G4 we will make a G4 version available, again with a soldered-on chip (probably the 7441 at 700 MHz). It is possible that we could produce a socketed chip-carrier version, but only if we can engineer the costs down so it adds no more than 15% to the costs of a board with a soldered on CPU.
In October 2000 when we laid out the design for the A1, there was no commercially available 'northbridge' chip (the interface between the CPU, memory and PCI bus) in the relatively small quantities that we needed, at an economic price. 'Southbridge' chips were available (these handle the system timing, interrupts etc and, traditionally also embed the lower speed peripheral functions such as IDE, USB etc), but clearly these do not come with a built in A1200-PCI bridge - which would have to be built in custom logic. It therefore made economic sense to build a custom southbridge chip which incorporated the A1200-PCI bridge - but without the integrated peripherals (which were available on separate chips at low cost anyway). Things were going nicely on the original A1 design until May/June . . . but not much - and certainly not enough to allow us to even consider going into production - was happening on OS4 at that stage. We therefore ramped down hardware development work and concentrated on finding a workable solution to make OS4 happen.
By the time OS4 development had been signed off in early November the world had moved on. Commercially available PPC northbridge chips were available, and coupled with off-the-shelf southbridge chips, were able to deliver better price performance than the original A1 custom chip design, and (since the big boys had already been using them successfully) without the risk of bugs intrinsically present in any custom logic implementation. This meant that the only custom logic function needed was for the PCI to A1200 bridge.
Alongside this many people had expressed a wish only to have a stand-alone A1 board, without the need (or ability) to run hardware-hitting applications. In addition Hyperion have been making better than expected progress in decoupling the chipset dependencies in the OS with a result that it will cease to be reliant on the Amiga chipset at a very early stage of the OS 4 release cycle. (Of course hardware hitting applications will, to a greater or lesser extent, still need access to a genuine Amiga chipset). Given this, we thought it would be sensible to try to provide Amiga chipset availability as an a option, so that the main A1 board would not have to carry the cost of providing this connection - in terms of PCB and component real-estate, and in requiring a custom tower to mount it in. The upshot is that Escena has come up with a solution which allows the bridge to the A1200 chipset to be made from a PCI card, via ribbon cable, to the A1200 edge connector. The use of a ribbon cable also helps solve the 'will it work in an xyz tower' problem, as there is (within limits) quite a wide range of A1 & A1200 relative board positioning that can be used. This A1200/PCI bridge will be an additional cost item for those who need it.
Over the past year or so since the original AmigaOne specifications were first published we have had a lot of private - and more than enough public - feedback on what people would like to see in the AmigaOne specifications over what had been published. Of course several of these wishes were completely commercially unrealistic (eg - I paraphrase - "Why don't you produce a Gameboy-sized and -priced AmigaOne with the power of the top SG workstation that runs on one AA cell for 6 months, and is user upgradable - and still runs my A500 WB1.3 games from floppy") - but there were also lots of sensible comments as well.
The main useful feedback that has come out over the last year concerning the original design - and the way the AmigaOneG3-SE addresses these can be summarised as follows:
As far as the CPU is concerned the first series of boards will use a 600 MHz G3 CPU and will come with this soldered in place, thereby keeping the costs as low as possible. As G4's fall in price/become more available we may also offer a soldered in place G4 CPU option as well. If we can engineer the costs of a socketed/chip carrier version with CPU to be no more than 15% above the price of a soldered-in CPU equivalent then we will consider producing these versions.
What happens if you buy an entry level board and want to upgrade it in a year or so's time? Well exactly the same as when you bought a similarly priced accelerator a couple of years back and want to upgrade to a faster one (but this time you get a free computer attached!). You either sell it privately or trade it in to the dealer where you purchased it. In fact in the PC market, despite all processors being socketed, hardly anyone ever changes the CPU to improve the computer - they nearly always have to buy a (at least) a new motherboard as well. We're just being upfront about it!
To keep prices down and quality up we are having the boards manufactured in the Far East. Delivery to us in the UK is around 4 weeks from our placement of the order with the manufacturer. The developer/dealer boards will be ordered will be ordered on 25th March and allocated to those that have placed their orders, including payment details, by midnight on Sunday 24th March GMT. Cards will not be charged until the boards are shipped.
The main production run order will be placed by us when Hyperion have told us that they can commit to release OS4 as an end user product. Hyperion's web site will give updated OS4 release information on a regular basis. We will then invite Amiga dealers to place firm volume orders with us for shipment on a first-come-first served (FIFO) basis. There will be a minimum order volume and technical support requirements to become an AmigaOneG3-SE dealer. The revised A1 dealer requirements will be published on the mailing list at www.yahoogroups.com/group/a1dealer.
Dealers (and end users) will be required to purchase one copy of OS4 with each AmigaOneG3-SE mainboard or system. Dealers will be able to purchase OS4 direct from Hyperion.
Dealers are free to set their own end user prices both for the AmigaOneG3-SE boards and for complete systems to take account of import duty, localisation of support, documentation etc. However our recommended pricing for the AmigaOneG3-SE motherboard, inclusive of a 750CXe 600 MHz G3 PPC processor but exclusive of local taxes and shipping charges, is UKP350, USD500, EUR600.
OS4 pricing is determined by Hyperion but is likely to be UKP42.50, USD62.50, EUR70.00 (excluding local taxes) when bought with an AmigaOneG3-SE board or system. The standalone prices for OS4 (for use with the CyberstormPPC etc) are likely to be UKP51.00, USD74.00 EUR84.00 (excluding local taxes & shipping).
A limited number of developer/dealer AmigaOneG3-SE boards will be available for delivery in April to those placing orders by midnight on Sunday 24th March GMT. These will be fully functional and tested boards identical to those produced in the first production runs. These developer systems will be shipped with Linux PPC and UAE PPC on CD (for you to install) and a beta version of OS4.0 will be available for download from the Hyperion website - to board purchasers - from the Hyperion website. Eyetech will not be offering any direct support for the installation of Linux PPC or UAE PPC except via our website pages. If you feel that this task may be beyond your capabilities then please do not order the developers board - it is not meant for you.
These developer boards will be offered at a 10% discount over the regular price (ie at UKP315/USD450/EUR540 (excluding local taxes and shipping). There will be a further 10% reduction on the price of the end user version of OS4 when published, for purchasers of the developer board. (Dealer terms for these boards will be posted on www.yahoogroups.com/group/a1dealer).
What versions of Linux does the AmigaOneG3-SE run? The board currently operates with TurboLinux PPC and we are currently sorting out an installation of SuSE Linux for PPC.
Can I buy a version of the board for running Linux PPC only? We are currently considering making this available. However you should note that it will not be possible to run Amiga OS4 on such a board without purchasing a special copy of OS4 which comes with a firmware update ROM. This is (obviously) to prevent OS4 piracy which is essential if Hyperion/Amiga Inc. are to continue to develop OS4.
Will MorphOS run on the board? The AmigaOneG3-SE is designed to run Amiga OS4 & beyond, and Linux for PPC. It is likely that MorphOS could be made to run on the AmigaOneG3-SE by someone committed to port it but that will not be endorsed or supported by either us or Hyperion.
Where can I buy it? The AmigaOneG3-SE is being distributed on an 'Open Distribution' model. That means that there will be no territorial or market exclusives, and any bona fide incorporated body that can meet the requirements in terms of technical support and minimum order quantities can sell the AmigaOneG3-SE (and OS4). If you feel you qualify (or know a dealer that ought to be interested) please see the dealer information page.
What sort of memory does it take? The board has 2no 168 pin SDRAM sockets each capable of taking an 133MHz SDRAM DIMM of up to 1GB. DIMMs do nor have to be of the same size, but should ideally be from the same mainstream manufacturer and should be of the buffered variety.
Will I need the A1200/PCI bridge board? We anticipate that a 'fully retargetable' version of OS4 - that is one without any Amiga chip set dependencies - will be available with, or very soon after, the first public release of OS4. This means that any applications software which does not rely on the availability of specific Amiga hardware (or rely on specific drivers that hit these chipsets) should work fine without the PCI-Amiga bridgeboard in place. We are referring to these as 'Retargetable Applications', and in general they are the applications which will run using add-on graphics, sound, serial, parallel etc cards. Other applications which need access to one or more specific Amiga chips to run - such as scrolling games and programs like Scala - will need the bridge card present.
How does the Amiga/PCI bridge card work? Can you make one for my Amiga x000? All Amigas (with a few minor exceptions) use a common memory map where the specific chip register addresses, chip memory, Kickstart ROM etc are located. These are all in the bottom 16 MB of the Amiga's memory map so they can be accessed via the 24 bit address bus 680x0 CPUs used in early and low end Amigas. The bridgeboard maps 16 MB of its address space to this 16 MB address space of the A1200, providing address, data & control lines to read and write to the chipset and I/O (eg parallel, serial, FDD, HDD, PCMCIA, etc) registers. The PPC MMU maps the 16 MB of the PCI card's address space to the lower 16 MB of address space in the emulator's memory map, so that any application programs wanting to read or write to addresses in this region will read and write to the actual Amiga chip set registers (ie as the application programmer intended) via the PCI bridge. The interface between the PCI card and A1200 edge connector will use special chips - similar to those used in some microprocessor emulator boards - which ensure the integrity of the data.
In theory we could also use the same PCI card with an A3000/A4000 CPU connector (or possibly even an A2000 CPU socket header) to access the chipsets in these machines. Whether these actually get built will depend on the commercial case for doing so once volume boards are shipping.
What sort of tower case does the board need? The AmigaOneG3-SE board is a full size ATX board and needs a 250W or greater ATX PSU. We recommend you purchase the board first before selecting your tower, or buy it from an official AmigaOneG3-SE dealer, either in component form or as a ready built system. We recommend that a 'super-midi' sized tower (such as the T05AC model which we sell) is used to give plenty of expansion space. Naya Design are also producing some very stylish designs specifically for the AmigaOneG3-SE which will be available via us or you local dealer. Full details will be posted after Easter.
I've already bought an A1200 tower in anticipation - what are you going to do for me? The main reason behind the new design is to deliver much better performance at a much lower price than was possible with the AmigaOne-1200 design. Although no price was actually released, our pricing indications were that 'the AmigaOne-1200 would be comparable with the price a top end PPC accelerator from phase5' - ie around UKP550/USD800/EUR900 ex VAT & shipping. One of the means of delivering this better price performance is to allow the AmigaOneG3-SE to use a standard ATX form factor case, not the custom-modified, more expensive EZTower-Z4 / Elbox Tower / Power Tower etc. Obviously, even if you buy a new tower now for the AmigaOneG3-SE and put your custom Amiga tower out to grass, you have still made substantial savings and performance gains over what the AmigaOne-1200 would have cost.
However for those customers who have purchased an A1200 tower direct from us between 1st January 2001 and 15th March 2002 and who order an AmigaOneG3-SE board direct from us we will give you a brand new T05AC tower (without PSU and clip on plastic panels which you can swap over from you existing EZTower-Z4) free of charge.
Is the AmigaOneG3-SE the same as the MAI Teron Cx? No. During the period leading up to the OS4 development agreement being signed we evaluated the Articia S northbridge chip for possible use in a redesigned AmigaOne. We concluded that it was the most cost-effective chip for the design and proceeded to draw up some new specifications for an uprated, more cost-effectively engineered AmigaOne, the AmigaOneG3-SE. Clearly using the Articia S instead of Escena's custom northbridge design meant that both the schematic design and the PCB layout would be entirely new. MAI logic are a chipset manufacturer, not a PPC motherboard manufacturer, but they had commissioned a low volume, high cost evaluation board, the Teron Cx, to help sell their chipsets. The Teron Cx was never designed to, or intended to, go into volume production. We therefore asked them if they could recommend a design company who was familiar with using the Articia S in PPC motherboard design. They recommended the same (Far Eastern) company that designed their Teron Cx evaluation board.
The new Eyetech AmigaOne design obviously shares a lot of commonality with the Teron Cx board, but more than a cursory glance at the specifications (ATA speed, integrated ethernet, custom firmware, number of active PCI/AGP slots etc) - and the price - of both boards should be enough to convince most people that they really are different designs.
However if you remain unconvinced you are of course perfectly welcome to purchase the Teron Cx evaluation board. It costs $3900, misses many features of the AmigaOneG3-SE, and won't run OS4.
I bought a Party Pack and claim my $100!
The Amiga DE SDK Party Pack is an Amiga Inc. promotional program
and has nothing directly to do with Eyetech, Hyperion or any of
the AmigaOneG3-SE dealers. Amiga Inc. will be handling the
administration of this program directly and will announce the
procedures to be followed when the AmigaOneG3-SE goes on sale