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CSAReview: NetBSD 1.0
Markus Illenseer email@example.com
NetBSD-Amiga 1.0, official release version from November 1994.
[MODERATOR'S NOTE: This is an update to Markus's previous
review of NetBSD, kernel version 635, found in our review
archives in the file software/unix/NetBSD. - Dan]
Freely distributable Unix-alike operating system for Amiga computers.
Name: The Regents of the University of California, Berkeley
and many contributors.
Amiga port by Markus Wild of Zurich, Switzerland, with major
contributions from Bryan Ford and Mike 'mykes' Schwartz.
Merge with NetBSD-1.0 and major reworks applied by
Freely distributable under the NetBSD disclaimer; see the COPYRIGHT
NOTICE section, below.
SPECIAL HARDWARE AND SOFTWARE REQUIREMENTS
NetBSD 1.0 is a final release, so all information below is static.
New drivers and support for more peripherals is under development and is
probably implemented in a new release of NetBSD-current.
An accelerated Amiga (68030, 68040) with a working MMU
(memory management unit). This includes most accelerator
boards (e.g., Commodore A2630), the Amiga 3000, and others.
A working FPU is required.
NetBSD does support the 68040 processor.
NetBSD is untested on 68020 environments.
The stock A500, A1000, A2000, A1200, and A4000/030 computers
have no MMU and so will not run NetBSD.
Requires at least 4 MB of contiguous Fast RAM.
8 MB or more of contiguous 32-bit RAM is recommended.
Requires at least 15 MB hard drive space for a minimal setup.
100 MB hard drive space needed for a full installation.
Actual use of NetBSD may require much more space; for
example, a serious developer may need 500 MB or more.
HARD DRIVE SUBSYSTEM
Amiga NetBSD supports the following hard-drive systems:
Amiga 3000 and 3000T internal SCSI host adapter.
A2091 SCSI host adapter for A2000.
GVP Series II SCSI host adapter for A2000 and A500.
PPI Zeus SCSI host adaptor for PPI 040 board
Magnum SCSI host adaptor
CSA SCSI host adaptor
Supra SCSI host adaptor
IVS SCSI host adaptor
IDE Adaptor of A4000 and A1200
(and some others)
Currently NOT supported:
Any PIO adapter such as Oktagon and ALF.
Almost every SCSI hard drive is known to work with Amiga
NetBSD. This includes the range of Quantum drives, Seagate,
Wren, DEC, Fujitsu and IBM.
SCSI tape drives (QIC, DAT) and SCSI CD-ROM drives (ISO and
Rockridge extension) are supported.
Standard Amiga ECS and AGA chip set.
Retina Graphics Board is supported.
(Experimental drivers exist for other boards - see below.)
The bootstrap loader works with almost any version of AmigaDOS.
None - as far as your Amiga is running with it.
MACHINE USED FOR TESTING
Amiga 3000 with 2 MB Chip RAM, 16 MB Fast RAM
Fujitsu M2623F (400MB), Apple CD300, 2 Conner CFP1060S, HP DAT
Picasso II graphics board
A2060 ArcNet board
A2065 Ethernet board
["TTY-fighters attacking!" Con Solo shouted.]
For your own interest: I may use technical words which are very
common in Unix environments but meaningless to people who have never used
such a system. Amiga NetBSD may help you to enter the world of Unix, but
you will need third party help, such as Unix reference books and guidelines.
Amiga NetBSD-1.0 is the first freely distributable Unix for Amiga
systems, and enables the user to run a fully qualified Unix environment on
his own machine.
NetBSD takes over the Amiga, so it is not possible to run it
concurrently with AmigaDOS. So in this review, you will see references to
the "Amiga side" and the "NetBSD side" to indicate which operating system
(UNIX or AmigaDOS) must be running to accomplish a particular task. In
general, if a reference is missing, I am referring to the NetBSD side.
[Vitamin enriched for your reading pleasure!]
Amiga NetBSD is not intended to be installed by a novice in
terms of hard drive systems on Amiga. You definitely need to know how
to work with AmigaDOS HDToolBox.
But first, where to get Amiga NetBSD?
Before getting any of the archives, PLEASE get the FAQ (Frequently
Asked Questions) List, which should reside at the same places as NetBSD
itself. This list informs you how to install Amiga NetBSD, how much space is
needed, how to set up your hard drives, and much more.
If you have Internet access, you can ftp the needed archives from
ftp.uni-regensburg.de (the main site for Amiga NetBSD, there are
mirrors all over the world) from the directory:
The site is also reachable via WWW:
Also, some of the Aminet ftp sites mirror the NetBSD archive.
PLEASE DO CHECK your local mirror. NetBSD is *not* integrated in the AmiNet
archive, and hopefully never will - for several reasons. All official
NetBSD-1.0 mirrors should also distribute the Amiga binary distribution.
NetBSD is LARGE. You will need at least 10MB of "gzip-ed" archives to
have a standard NetBSD environment... and even more if you intend to work on
If you have no Internet access, then it is a LOT more difficult to
get Amiga NetBSD. Maybe you should ask someone to help you on Usenet
(comp.unix.amiga), either by sending you a tape or letting you copy it
directly from his/her hard drive. It's worth the effort.
NetBSD-Amiga 1.0 is made available on the "Meeting Pearls Volume II"
CD-ROM obtainable from your Amiga dealer.
NetBSD-1.0, the official release, contains a binary and source
distribution for the Amiga, as well as the official INSTALL text. So any
CD-ROM containing the official NetBSD-1.0 distribution should contain the
Amiga distribution as well.
You do not need a tape drive, but this is recommended, as it
eases the process of installing NetBSD. If you have either Ethernet
or PPP access, you probably will want to get only the basic kit at
first. This includes tools for Ethernet and PPP running TCP/IP; thus,
you can get the rest of NetBSD using a (local) network.
Also, the basic kit contains a Kermit transfer program, so it
is possible to get the required archives via modem or a null-modem
You need an 15MB partition for the root filesystem which is created
under NetBSD using a floppy disk as installation filesystem. This way the
installation is way easier than previous releases.
If you are careful, and if everything runs fine, you can start the
kernel using the supplied "loadbsd" tool.
You will hopefully see the Copyright information, and then some
numbers about your system memory. Then the kernel's built-in 'autoconfig'
logic detects the installed boards, such as graphics boards and SCSI host
adapters. Finally, the root filesystem should be detected and the system
boots into single-user mode.
You are running Unix on your Amiga now!
Now you need to play system administrator on your very own system.
You need to format the other disk partitions and copy the /usr tree from the
Once you have done the initial installation, the rest is easy to do.
Get the ksrc archive if you intend to compile the kernel yourself. A
generic kernel and the sources for it are supplied, too.
The review is split into two parts: technical discussion and general
HISTORY OF AMIGA NETBSD (technical)
NetBSD-1.0 is based on the last public release of BSD 4.4-Lite (the
networking-2 release) by the University of Berkeley, as well as integrating
some ideas from 386BSD. The Amiga port is largely based on the initial HP300
code distributed with 4.3BSD-NET2, and has become part of the official
NetBSD-1.0 source tree. Further NetBSD ports in the line will include support
for Mac, Sun3 and Sparc, DEC and other.
This port was done by Markus Wild in June 1993, and is based upon the
original HP port. As Markus Wild has a great deal of knowledge of Unix
systems, his first efforts were to compile the basic tools needed for the
Unix environment. This was done on the AmigaDOS side with GCC 2.4.3, which
he ported himself to AmigaDOS some time ago. His famous ixemul.library
finally found a successor.
After doing the initial port of the kernel (the basic
operating system of Unix environments), the next problems were the
basic root filesystem and hard drive support. Here, Markus was aided
by the Amiga Mach port, worked on by many other people, which had a
working SCSI driver but no freely distributable Unix server.
All in all, this was a lucky constellation, and Amiga NetBSD was
ported in less than a month!
Having compiled the entire root filesystem, followed soon by
an easy port of GCC 2.4.5 was very easy, the kernel could then be
compiled under NetBSD itself, along with the rest of the environment.
Amiga NetBSD has been published and distributed over the Internet to
interested developers and supporters. A mailing list was created, and
bugs, features and wishes have been discussed. Amiga NetBSD has a
At the time writing this, NetBSD-Amiga has been fully
incorporated and merged with the NetBSD-current source tree for the
kernel. This yields into a stable and even commonly supported kernel
with many more features.
Current maintainer of the Amiga part of the NetBSD-current
tree is Chris Hopps. Major development is done by Michael Hitch,
Niklas Halquist and Markus Wild. Many others do contribute their
You may wonder why a Unix environment is needed for the Amiga.
Well, this is a serious question, but there is no real answer. The
users and developers of Amiga NetBSD have various uses for it:
interest in doing the port, use of Unix programs at home, easy support
and easy access to University resources, etc. They share their love
of pure Unix environments.
Currently, Amiga NetBSD takes over the Amiga, so it is not possible
to run AmigaDOS programs under NetBSD using all the resources of Intuition
and Exec. This may change.
It is possible to mount (read-only) Unix File System (UFS)
partitions on the AmigaDOS side. This helps you to copy files from
NetBSD to AmigaDOS. You can also mount (read-only) AmigaDOS
filesystems on the NetBSD side. This allows the two sides to share
common resources (i.e., TeX fonts, compiler include files, and much
Amiga NetBSD is a true multitasking and multiuser operating
system and allows system sharing in an intelligent way. Running in
conjunction with existing Unix environments (i.e., at a university),
it is possible to connect the Amiga running NetBSD to networks via
Ethernet and PPP using a true TCP/IP stack protocol.
The X11 window system is available in a version of X11R6. It uses
shared libraries (yielding smaller binaries). X11 on Amiga NetBSD requires
a third party graphics board such as the Retina or cirrus based boards like
Picasso II, Piccolo and Spectrum, but a monochrome version would be feasible
for the standard Amiga display. A color X server for ECS or AGA is currently
Amiga NetBSD is binary compatible with some other UNIX system.
Even more, future NetBSD versions will support various third-party binaries,
such as SunOS, HP-UX and possibly Amiga Unix executables.
Supported drivers are:
(list not complete!)
o SCSI for hard drives, QIC tapes, CD-ROM, and DAT tapes.
o Internal IDE adapter A4000 and A1200
o ECS and AGA console driver with overscan resolution (VT200).
o Retina console driver with different resolutions (VT200).
o ASCII keyboard (qwerty) driver, possible to load localized
o Mouse with up to 3 buttons
o Joysticks with up to 3 buttons (no real use yet).
o Internal serial port up to 38400 baud for terminal or modem.
o PPP and SLIP TCP/IP driver for serial port connections.
o Internal parallel port for printers.
o A2065 and Ameristar Ethernet boards.
o Floppy disk drives
o Audio (at least for more than a simple audio bell).
o Retina graphics board driver for X11
Currently not supported:
o Multi-serial boards such as the A2232 and GVP I/O Extender.
Experimental drivers are available for:
o Cirrus based boards: Picasso II, Piccolo, Spectrum
o Fastlane SCSI driver
o MFC-II multiserial board
o Ariadne Ethernet
The documentation which is needed to install Amiga NetBSD is the
above-mentioned Amiga NetBSD INSTALL text. The official INSTALL guideline
is provided with every NetBSD-1.0 distribution.
There is no documentation but the standard man pages. These online
manual pages help you to use the basic tools, such as the shell or formatting
disks. The problem is that you need to have NetBSD running first.
As Amiga NetBSD is a full flavored and full grown Unix system, you
need third party documentation to provide help for system administration and
The installation process has been eased quite a lot. A floppy
serves as initial filesystem to boot. Slightly automated, the binary
distribution can be installed from almost any media - even network and
I like the very incredible fact that Amiga NetBSD is STABLE. My
Amiga runs Amiga NetBSD-1.0 for months now, and I have not had any kernel
And as it is FREE, there seem to be many more productive users and
developers than ever for an Amiga Unix system.
At one of the last Amiga events in Germany, the Amiga Internet and
Usenet Meeting '95 in Karlsruhe, Amiga NetBSD was used on 10 of the attended
150 machines. During the meeting, the Ethernet driver for Ariadne was
introduced, and the networking tools, such as ftp, telnet and even IRC were
used at the meeting itself (with about 70 machines connected to the local
I like the fact that I can compile almost every neat UNIX tool such
as gnuplot, tcsh, emacs, TeX with almost NO effort. Mostly there is even no
change in the Makefile needed -- just compile it!
What I also like is the fact that I can learn to administrate a Unix
System of my own. This is harder than one might expect.
DISLIKES AND SUGGESTIONS
I dislike the fact that the developers are spread round the world -
but alas, this is *Net*-BSD :-)
COMPARISON TO OTHER SIMILAR PRODUCTS
I have been using Unix environments for more than 7 years now:
mostly as a standard user, but also as software developer and system
administrator. This was mostly at my University and a company I worked for
some years ago.
Comparing Amiga NetBSD to any other Unix platform is an interesting
problem. Let's start with the Unix systems available for the Amiga: Amiga
Unix and Amiga Minix. Unfortunately I must say, I have not worked with
either of these systems enough to do a full comparison.
Amiga Unix is a the best SYSTEM V R4 port I have ever seen before the
Solaris OS for Sun Sparcstations was shipped. It is a commercial product and
comes with printed manuals. It has many advantages to Amiga NetBSD as yet,
because it is older and has been used for a long time now. It is stable but
has its problems. The current situation of the Commodore Inc. yields
to the conclusion that AMIX is no longer supported.
Amiga Unix has switchable consoles and supports multi-serial cards,
X11, and audio features. It does not support SCSI host adapters other than
A3091 and A2091 (a GVP driver seems to be available though). Sources to
important parts of the kernel are missing, so it is almost impossible to add
Amiga Minix is a very good port of Minix based upon the theory of
Prof. Tanenbaum. I don't know if one can actually compare Minix to
NetBSD: I believe one shouldn't. Minix was developed to show how to make
an operating system.
Amiga Linux is still under construction. The group around Hamish
MacDonald has some minor advantages over the NetBSD community, but only
recently the networking code and more important the graphic support has been
implemented. They also have to deal with the "strange" features of the
original Intel 386-based kernel code - Linux is developing more and more a
horizontal layer for more platforms. I wish them good luck: we can use the
It is not possible for the NetBSD community to make use of any of the
Linux code due to their use of the GNU copyleft. NetBSD is distributed
under the Berkeley copyright (see end of article for a copy), which
essentially allows free use of sources, as long as the University and its
contributors are granted proper credit in any documentation and/or
advertisements. So the consequence of this is that the Linux groups can use
NetBSD code if they want to, but not vice-versa. Amiga Unix sources can't
be used, as they're copyrighted by Commodore, although they would be quite
useful to get support for the multiport serial board, for example.
Amiga Mach seems to have died due to the lack of a freely
distributable Unix server. As CMU has had problems distributing their own
server, Amiga Mach never had a working environment. Luckily the work made
for Amiga Mach could be used for NetBSD. Also, it looks like the entire
Amiga Mach group has switched to NetBSD; anyway, Niklas Halquist still
intends to port the Hurd Unix server.
This leads us to compare Amiga NetBSD with other Unix platforms,
such as Sun OS, Ultrix MacUX and AIX. This is a very difficult task, and I
don't really want to do this. Simply let's say that NetBSD is as easy to
handle as Sun OS (for Sun3) and more simple to use than Ultrix (Digital).
It is funny to see that Amiga NetBSD is more stable than IBM's AIX ever was,
but AIX is by far more complex of course.
I should at least say that Sun3's are the platforms to which NetBSD
actually can compare best. Both are based upon Motorola M68K CPUs, and both
do not require very special hardware. Of course, Sun OS is older and
wiser. A Sun3/60 or Sun3/80 has almost the same amount of RAM and speed as
a normal A3000.
Why I don't want to compare those Unix implementations? The
machines they run on are some 100 times faster than any Amiga. These other
Unix implementations are enhanced to deal with very specific hardware and
are intended to run for several users at the same time without problems.
A project like NetBSD has bugs. I reported all my bugs to the
NetBSD community and even tried to fix some myself.
No such support.
You need to have Usenet access at least, if you want to stay in
contact with NetBSD developers. If you persuade your favorite Amiga magazine
to publish more articles about NetBSD-Amiga, it would sure help us!
None. Absolutely none. Even if you destroy your hardware. You have
been warned. Warning also applies if you get addicted on NetBSD :-)
The product offers a fair way to turn your Amiga system to a real
Unix workstation: a true multitasking and multiuser system for a cheap
Professionals might consider this product as a big advantage for
their needs. And as it is freely distributable, it has to be compared to
the original Amiga Unix, of course.
On a scale of 0 to 5 stars, I give Amiga NetBSD 4 stars.
Unix is a registered trademark of AT&T.
Sun OS is a registered trademark of SUN.
Ultrix is a registered trademark of DIGITAL Equipment.
AIX is a registered trademark of IBM.
Amiga is a registered trademark of Commodore International.
386BSD is a registered trademark of Williams & Lynne Jolitz.
MacUX and Finder are registered trademarks of Apple Computers Inc.
Gameboy is a registered trademark of Nintendo Inc.
This is the original disclaimer under which NetBSD and especially
Amiga NetBSD is distributed:
* Copyright (c) 1990 The Regents of the University of California.
* All rights reserved.
* Redistribution and use in source and binary forms, with or without
* modification, are permitted provided that the following conditions
* are met:
* 1. Redistributions of source code must retain the above copyright
* notice, this list of conditions and the following disclaimer.
* 2. Redistributions in binary form must reproduce the above copyright
* notice, this list of conditions and the following disclaimer in the
* documentation and/or other materials provided with the distribution.
* 3. All advertising materials mentioning features or use of this software
* must display the following acknowledgement:
* This product includes software developed by the University of
* California, Berkeley and its contributors.
* 4. Neither the name of the University nor the names of its contributors
* may be used to endorse or promote products derived from this software
* without specific prior written permission.
* THIS SOFTWARE IS PROVIDED BY THE REGENTS AND CONTRIBUTORS ``AS IS'' AND
* ANY EXPRESS OR IMPLIED WARRANTIES, INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, THE
* IMPLIED WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY AND FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE
* ARE DISCLAIMED. IN NO EVENT SHALL THE REGENTS OR CONTRIBUTORS BE LIABLE
* FOR ANY DIRECT, INDIRECT, INCIDENTAL, SPECIAL, EXEMPLARY, OR CONSEQUENTIAL
* DAMAGES (INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, PROCUREMENT OF SUBSTITUTE GOODS
* OR SERVICES; LOSS OF USE, DATA, OR PROFITS; OR BUSINESS INTERRUPTION)
* HOWEVER CAUSED AND ON ANY THEORY OF LIABILITY, WHETHER IN CONTRACT, STRICT
* LIABILITY, OR TORT (INCLUDING NEGLIGENCE OR OTHERWISE) ARISING IN ANY WAY
* OUT OF THE USE OF THIS SOFTWARE, EVEN IF ADVISED OF THE POSSIBILITY OF
* SUCH DAMAGE.
This review represents my honest opinion. Your mileage may vary, so
tell me about it! If you use this review in any way - republishing for
example, the author requests at least a copy of the used media. Special
thanks to the disk magazine 'Amiga Gadget' who did so in the past.
Copyright 1995 Markus Illenseer. All rights reserved.
You can contact the author at:
Kurt Schumacherstr. 16