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                             3.1, 3.0, 2.1...
                           By:  Jason Compton 
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I took the plunge from my trusty 3000, which had served me well for some
time with AmigaOS 2.1, into 3.1.

I was skeptical, to say the least.  After all, anything that requires
taking out the drive bay of a 3000 had damn well be special, because it is
NOT the easiest job in the world.  (Actually, it wasn't such a bad thing,
the machine certainly needed a dusting.)

After a few weeks of playing around, getting a feel for the new 3.1 OS,
and watching where software is going, I came to this conclusion-

While 3.1 isn't for everyone, and may well be difficult to justify right
now for 3.0 users, it's going to be more and more important.

The immediate improvements were clear.  Better boot-menu.  (Still not as
good as a whack with Degrader, but if you need a PAL-switch or
cache-disable in a hurry, it'll do the trick.  Faster Intuition responses
to commands.  CD-ROM filesystem support (yeah, it's not perfect, but it
works.)  New manuals with funky stone texture pictures (but no handy dandy
shelving unit as with 2.1.  Pity.  At least they fit in the 2.1 manuals'
places well.)  Commas in the Workbench memory indicators.

Seriously, though, system operation as a whole is improved.  But faster
window-renders and a few new devices may not be enough to motivate people
to shell out the kind of money that's being asked.

What SHOULD motivate the consumer, though, is the direction software is
moving in.  Already, the writing on the wall is there for those interested
in graphics work-3.x is the way to go.  The release of Photogenics, as an
"AGA or 3.1 plus graphics card" piece of software could be motivation
enough for some.  Actually, that's not exactly true, as Photogenics seems
to work just fine in 3.1 under ECS 16-color operation, but it's tough to
appreciate 24-bit manipulation in 16 color greyscale.

The next good reason is CyberGraphics, the new graphics-card system that
is rapidly being ported to most, if not all, available cards for the
Amiga and picking up the slack left by a Viona (developers of EGS) which
has become a bit disillusioned by the current state of the Amiga market.
CyberGraphics requires 3.0 or better, and developers like Almathera
(makers of Photogenics) are incredibly enthusiastic, fortelling it as what
RTG can and should be on the Amiga.

Networking software is also leaning in the 3.0 direction.  Programs like
AMosaic and Grapevine IRC are considerably more stable under a 3.x
environment.

You also get datatypes (which, if nothing else, are a convenience to make
life more straightforward and simple).  AmigaGuide is enhanced (you know,
one of these days, we're going to take advantage of it...AmigaGuide under
3.1 adds the backslash as an identifier, which is why you 3.1 users see
the title screens as garbled.  We'll have to make a decision one of these
days...)  One-stop JPEG and GIF viewing is at hand.  Some Workbench
conveniences like picture backdrops can be attained without semi-hacks
like NickPrefs.

You do wind up giving up things like NickPrefs and ARQ (losing the latter
does bother me a bit), as they don't agree well with the 3.1 environment.

However, the bottom line is that support for ECS machines has not been at
the top of the list for any of the Amiga buyer candidates, and while I'm
all for supporting whoever winds up making new Amigas by buying new
machines, there's still a good deal of life left in ECS machines
(particularly 2000s and 3000s, which by virtue of being slot-boxes can
expand considerably to keep up)...and 3.1 is a step in catching up.