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QUASAR DISTRIBUTION/CHRIS HAMES ONLINE CONFERENCE
[An IRC conference was recently held with Chris Hames, author of PC-Task
3.1, DirWork 2.1, and the wildly useful Degrader, to name a few. His
publishers, Quasar Distribution, were also on hand.]
jcompton Welcome, everyone, and thanks for coming to the Amiga
Report-Quasar Distribution/Chris Hames online conference. No sneaky
reprinting in magazines without asking. Our guests are Bytey, Chris Hames,
author of many outrageously useful Amiga products,and JustinD and PeterF
from Quasar Distribution. Justin, would you please introduce the
JustinD Well First and foremost we hace ChrisH (Chris Hames), developer
of PC-Task, DirWork, Degrader VMK and a few other odds and sods, PeterF
(Peter Fregon) is a director of Quasar Distribution, and apart from the
daily rigours of life in the Amiga business community writes most of our
user manuals, as well as offering Tech Support for DirWork & PC-Task and
finally me (Justin Deeley). I'm the other director of Quasar Distribution
and provide Tech Support for PC-Task, as well as doing bits and pieces of
manuals... I'll hand back to you now Jason.
jcompton Chris or Peter, anything to add?
ChrisH I am stupid enough to write the software, including emulation,
also to get up at 7:30am
jcompton BTW, Quasar has been nice enough to donate a PC-Task T-shirt and
a three pack of DirWork2, PC-Task 3, and a PC-Task 3 t-shirt. More on
that when people win them. :)
jcompton (BTW, the t-shirt goes to the first question. Congrats.)
Arc First off, let me say that all of you do truly rock, and deserve
a huge amount of respect for not only what you do for the Amiga community,
but as good coders as well... Heres my question. Q: Have any of you been
approached by UU/Jim Drew regarding work on the Emplant PC, and, will you
guys soon move your efforts into hardware rather than software?
ChrisH I was emailed by Jim years ago saying "we were going to license
your PC-Task but that company has already done so. Of course that wasn't
true and I have never heard of them. As for hardware, I don't plan to
require giant dongles :-)
PeterF Quasar Distribution has not been approached in any way.
Harv Hi. I have a two part question for you. Part (1): I own the
DevWare-packaged PC Task 2. How do I upgrade to 3.1 (DevWare never
notified me in any way) and what's the cost in US$?
part (2) - asuming I get 3.1, what kind of x86 emulation speed could I
realistically expect running windows '95 (can that be done?) on a 40mhz
030. GA done. thanks.
ChrisH I will let Quasar handle the upgrade question. But I would like
to add DevWare are bastards and still owe me money, rot in hell guys.
JustinD Upgrading from PC-Task 2 (DevWare version) is simply a matter of
providing us with some form or proof or purchase and payment for the
upgrade. Upgrades are priced at AUD $50.00 + AUD $10.00 shipping
(currently about USD $44.00).
ChrisH Windows 95 requires a 386 and hence can't be done with the
current release PC-Task. And any new release will be faster but I am not
going to estimate how much at this time.
BloodHaw_ Okay, I've heard that disabling multitasking, and having PC-Task
use the full CPU won't speed it up significantly, is this true, and why?
ChrisH Yes it doesn't make barely any difference. This is because a
high priority task gets most of the CPU time when multitasking i already
running. I did test this.
ChrisH Also if you go non-multitasking you have to write Hard dik
drivers for everything under the sun a well as the rest of the default
hardware etc. Not Worth it.
Tau (Amiga task switching is really fast.. that's why it doesn't
alias Tnxs for great pgms - when or will you support the Retina Z2
PeterF When we get one :-)
JustinD Screenmode Database support on the retina's part might also help
ChrisH Ww will support anything that supports the display database.
Frotz OK, so how do you see the current market changing, and how do
you compare this to a few years ago?
ChrisH The problem at the moment is that you don't have the new users
so for many products it is a hard slog. When new machines appear this
JustinD Market? What Market - no seriously the Amiga Market has been
doing some funny things over the last year. As for the next few years
that remains to be seen after EScoms conf. on the 30th.
JustinD If the outlook at that conference is rosy, I would expect
markets to become more active (for a while at least) as some buyer
confidence returns.. In the long term - we can only wait and see.. (oh
for a crystal ball that worked!)
Kai My english is not very well, so I will only ask two questions:
1. Will there be a Version of PC-Task, that emulates a better Processor
than the '286? 2. Will there be a version, that makes really use of
GFX-Carts Chunky-Mode? GA, Sirs!
jcompton (A question about support of higher processors than the 286 is
good for the three-pack. Congratulations, Kai!)
ChrisH I am working on PC-Task, processor, processor speed and graphics
speed being the priorities. I however make no guarantees about release,
as I might be run over by a truck tommorow.
PeterF Or a bus!
JustinD and we'd know who'd be driving :-)
ChrisH But any new major release of PC-Task would have to have higher
ChrisH As well as better gfx board support.
jcompton Justin or Peter, is Chris under any contractual obligations not
to get run over by a truck?
JustinD no. We'll just have to hope in that eventuality Fang gets
aquainted with the source quickly enough...
ChrisH jcompton: You know what these publishers are like, I can't
PeterF Did you want milk in your coffe Chris?
PlayGroun I have been told that PC-Task can use a2286 and a2386 hardware
ie a video card or a disk drive ? isn't that just for boards like the
ChrisH Only the goldengate bridge type card is currently supported. I
don't see other bridgeboard emulators being supported (or a need for it).
People often ask can you use the slots without a bridge card, the answer
to that is definate no.
JustinD As for cards running with PC-Task - video cards most likely
won't but we have users using everything from games ports to sewing
jalovick_ I havent played with PC-Task for a very long time .. so I dont
really know what your currently upto. My questions are .. Does it
support Gfx boards (not just the AGA VGA emmulation, like the last time I
looked), and will it run stuff that runs in protected mode ? I was hoping
for the 3 pack ... :) .. BTW, good work
ChrisH PC-task currently supports anything in the display mode database
(ie is RTG). Faster more specific stuff will probably appear in next
JustinD PC-Task currently supports any (as much as we can test it)
graphics card that allows you to select from the ScreeMode database. This
includes EGS, Picasso, Cybergraphics ....
ChrisH Yes it does run protected mode. Windows 3.1 requires protected
HeadQuake If we will see a RISC based Amiga in the future, any plans on
rewriting this fab 286 emulator for Risc Amiga (or just make it work under
Risc 680x0 emulation)? How do u look at RISC Amiga and the PC-task future
? Tried Pctask on 060 yet ? Ok, Thanx.. :)
ChrisH Yes porting to RISC wouldn't be any major hassle and would of
course increae speed a fair bit.
JustinD We haven't got our hands on an '060 yet (donations welcome :-)
but have had reports of benchmarks getting 15x the speed of an XT. No
Stopwatch tests yet though, and thats what would really give an indication
ChrisH I think the PPC (or similar) is the way to go for the Amiga
range and with a bundled PC-Task 486 Escom could do it very well. The
real question is how long would a port of the AMigaOS take.
ChrisH I only have a 040/25 (stock A4000) so I can only envy these 060
Gary Hi. Will you make a Pentium-on-a-card for the Amiga? It needs
all the speed it can get. Window should be useful?
ChrisH I am not a hardware type person. I could write the drivers I
jcompton As an aside, there are no active bridgeboard companies for the
Amiga at present. Vortex dropped manufacture and, well, we know what
happened to Commodore.
PeterF Not yet! Seriously though, at the moment we are concentrating
Hezu <Question>When shall we see new DirWork version which uses real
cycle gadgets (no stupid WB1.3 support anymore), windows instead of
separate screens in config, fixes the few bugs and so on? :) </>
PeterF Chris is always eager to improve his products...
ChrisH I honestly don't know when a new DW will appear. But when one
does it will use real cycle gadgets I assure you.
PeterF There are still HEAPS of pelple using WB1.3.
ChrisH And more than two filelists etc. But I have done minimal work
on it so far :(.
Tau (I can't see 1.3 users buying application software, though)
Rich Does the current PCTask 3.1 (Turbo/Standard) use dynamic
compilation of 80x86 code to 680x0? And if so, how is raw CPU
ChrisH No the current _release_ version does not do dynamic
compilation. THe turbo version does what I call static compilation :-)
ChrisH Dynamic is the next step and it does give much better speed
results than the nomal (interpretive) approach. ga
Tau (another name for this is cpu transcription, I believe)
Camaro what is the minimum memory requirements for turbo and non-turbo
ChrisH The turbo version requires a machiche with at leat 4Meg plus
free so you have to have a machine with 5 or more meg (continuos memory ie
not broken up on different boards etc).
JustinD Of course, the more memory the better because if things start
using Chip RAM things start to slow down...
ChrisH The normal version requires a min of 512K but you need 1Meg or
above to get 640K pc mem for emulation. ga
Tau how much of the 4M in turbo mode is left to the PC?
JustinD tau: 1MB is usable under DOS. The Turbo version uses 4x the
memory you allocate to the emulation
whizzkid 1> Will a future verion of PC-task be able to handle writes to
the TCC: device from amiga-dos while running PC-task? 2> Will dirwork be
enhanced to be a 'workbench replacement' like Directory Opus 5 ??
ChrisH It is possibility, The AMiga pc filesystem (CrossDOS etc) would
have to be notified if MSDOS has writes pending or done but you still have
the situation with a MSDOS cache holding info that is still to be written.
So in my opinion it would require some heavy MSDOS coding.
JustinD Why do people want to replace workbench ? I Like workbench...
I feel that a program like DW complements WB. As to the future... Chris
ChrisH I don't instend to make DW a WB replacement. Just a complement.
kscully I have a 2 part question. (1) Will you do any other emulators
in the future, possibly MacTask or something? (2) Why the large price
jump between PCTask 2.x and 3.x? (About $100 US)
ChrisH I don't intend on writing a emulator of another machine.
MacTask was the biggest possibility but since ShapeShifter has appeared
that chnce hs seriously decreased.
ChrisH You can buy PC-Task direct from the publisher at Australian RRP
$129. V2 used to cost $60AUD here. I don't see any $100 increase.
JustinD The price increase was due to PC-Task 2 being available as
Crippleware. A published version had to compete with this. Also, support
costs money, and we don't charge users any extra for it, but we do like to
cover our costs.
ChrisH It ws easy for DevWare to sell it cheap since they still hven't
paid me what they admit they owe.
ChrisH I must point out SoftPC costs a fortune.
ChrisH And Amiga users that buy software are few and fr between
JustinD Also, in the US, the version published by DevWare at some stages
did not contain a printed manual (disk based docs only).
jcompton Let me jump in here. Mostly for Justin and Peter, I
suppose-have you given any thought to talking with Mr. Bauer of
Shapeshifter fame? It seems you could offer an Emplant alternative at,
what, 1/3 of the price?
jcompton (Emplant meaning combining PC-T 3.1 and SS against Emplant Mac
PeterF Could be a possibility... But remember, we don't want to be
caught up into LARGE, HUGE and COSTLY legal wrangles, with LARGE
MULTINATIONAL corporations :-)
ChrisH PeterF: And don't forget the patents :-)
PeterF Oh yes.. I forgot about those
JustinD ChrisH: and those incredibly long .sigs :-)
PeterF And no 80 columns :-)
jcompton So, is that a "we're not going to tell you"?
PeterF It's with our lawyers :-)
PeterF Though seriously, everything is a possibility. SS works very
well and it is great for those A1200 users!
Frotz I'd really like for you folks to do an ad that directly compares
your emulator with emplant's promises/delivery...
JustinD We do not comparitive advertising. We do not consider it a fair
form of advertising (especially in many of the forms its used in)
BluThundr My question goes back to the last version of PCtask that I seen.
I was going to purchase it, however, I am not wanting to use a hardfile, I
would rather just buy another 200 meg hd, but I have never been able on
older versions to make the math of the partition work. Does version 3
support hard partitions better than previous versions?
JustinD Version 3 has better documenting of partitions. I use it with
Real MS-DOS SyQuest cartridges as HD's (easy for different setups).
ChrisH Yes. All you have to do currently is go to HDToolbox nd change
the DOSType to use a real partition.
jcompton I can answer that from experience. Yes, absolutely.
MrGandalf I'de first like to thank you for still supporting the Amiga in
development, we truely need more people willing to go out on a limb and
believe the Amiga isn't dead.
MrGandalf Question: What type of hardware does PCTask support with a GG2+?
Does it support it as it would a normal PC bus?
ChrisH Well it doesn't support memory mapping things currently like VGA
cards etc. It does support port type things like serial cards etc. The
AMiga is still my choice machine that is a pleasure to work with. thanks.
JohnUnix Thank you. I think that cross platform (read PC) compatibility
will be important. Do you intend to approach Escom to have PC-Task
bundled with the new machines? Thank you for supporting the Amiga through
these bad times :-)
PeterF It would be great if all new machines were bundled with PC-Task.
PeterF The Amiga would be a much more sellable machine. Definitely
jcompton It wouldn't be bad if they were bundled with Degrader, either.
Tau (having to bundle degrader would be bad PR, IMO)
jcompton We'd have Chris rename it "Enhancer". :)
ChrisH Call it Boot Menu I say :)
Tau (I'd be happy enough if they were bundled with AmigaOS :/)
MrGandalf It would surely help the Amiga market.
JustinD Yep. A Bundled machine with PC-Task, Degrader, ShapeShifter and
a licensed MS-DOS and MacOS
ChrisH I would love escom to bundle. And thanks to users who support
(buy) the products.
JustinD True. If users didn't buy the products we couldn't keep support
MisterX Hi all. My question is one of speed. Just what config would u
need to get some decent speed out of a software emu with your progs, not
having used on of them. Also, if the speed is no so good, why emulate
windows + vga?
PeterF To get the most out of PC-Task, you would use a hard disk
partition, CGA graphics, and a fast machine!
ChrisH Depends what you call decent I suppose. I Wouldn't wnt to run
windows without 40Mhz 030 or higher. I have run windows on A600 :-)
JustinD In my experience with support, the average user of PC-Task who
is running Windows is just bringing home some work from the office.
jcompton The EGA is quite nice, now that the infamous Wasteland Bug has
been fixed. :)
Tau chris, how long did it take to boot Win on A600? ;)
JustinD it was 25 mins :-)
ChrisH Tau: 25Minutes I think it was
JustinD then again there are some people who use PC-Task for playing
games (like Jason here)
jcompton JustinD: And Lotus.
ChrisH Don't ever expect software emulation of 8086 on 68000 to get
faster than 1/3 speed. That is being very optimistic.
Arc Q: A two-parter. :) What feelings do you guys have towards
Escom? And will any new packages besides new versions of Degrader,
DirWork and PC-Task be added to the lineup soon? (If so, can you tell us
JustinD Escom - we'll know more after the 30th I suppose but with
appointment of Peter Kittel I think things could be positive. They seem
to have far more money than any of the other parties people though would
be good for the Amiga
ChrisH Well I don't know Escom. So far so good, they hven't make
ridiculous claims and they do seem to intend to get machine production
going and AMigaOS developement continuing.
ChrisH As for other software, I have too much on my hands now,
Justin/Peter are a different matter..
JustinD In fact I'd even heard on the grapevine that ESCOM are planning
to do something with OS3.1 (like doing it themselves) so I think they at
least have a good financial head on their corporate shoulders....
PeterF Quasar is always on the lookout to publish new products. But
its now use mentioning them until they are ready. Otherwise, it's just
dracon I know this is going to sound weird but..will PCtask ever have a
winsock.dll that will interface with amitcp or the like to run network
connections? Thanks.. ( If this is already able to be done..sorry I'm
not a huge PC-task user ;)
JustinD Network support hasn't been an often requested feature from
current users, although I see it would have its uses..
ChrisH Well not in the near future. I would like to do a lot with
PC-task. But I am the only porgrammer and have to devote my time wisely.
That isn't high on priority list (it is way low).
PeterF We are working on genetic engineering to increase productivity
RobB Greetings! Is PC-Task 68030 , 040 optimized, or are there any
plans for such? Thanks!
ChrisH 68020 and 68030 are _very_ similar. I haven't really found
enough situations where the 68040 optimizations slow the 68020/30 so it
hasn't become a issue.
ChrisH Let me assure you that if I got a decent speed difference doing
seperate versions I would and will if I do in the future(060 to chris
Intrd ok well id like first to say big thanks to all at Quasar to
still believe in amigas!!! 8-) And id like to know your positions about
the future of the amiga devlopment of your products and what yah think of
ESCOM! i am also a Software devloper and we are looking the thing
positively but it will be nice to see we are not alone 8-)
ChrisH In case it wasn't made clear before I am not part of Quasar,
they are my publisher. I am a freelance programmer.
PeterF I think a lot of developers have left the Amiga over the last
year. But we can hope that they will come back once Amigas are produced
again. I'm optimistic
JustinD The future of Amiga Development of our products - well as long
as there is a viable Amiga market here, we'll continue to support the
Amiga. As for ESCOM, well as long as they support developers better than
Commodore did, the future could be positive...we just have to wait and
ChrisH Escom can only improve things. If they get 060 based A4000's
out that will allow high end user to keep with Amiga. As well as A1200
etc for the majority of users.
ChrisH So I am hopeful that escom will move things forward enough to
keep the Amiga alive.
JustinD I don't think developers would care if they had to pay up to
$1000.00 for a support program , if it worked!
MrGandalf Question: Does the current version of PCTask support real
copressor (FPU) emulation? If not, will a future version?
ChrisH No FPU has been done so far, just takes time. Not many
applications that I would recommend for emulation use FPU. It is on the
higher todo list.
cyberfm Did anybody at Quasar try PC-Task in conjunction with text modes
& cybergraphics displays yet ? I only get inverse text here. No idea why
this happens (The 3.1 manual says that pc-task 3.1 is running without
problems with cybergraphics)
JustinD Yes we did try that and we get the same problems with text
modes. However Mode13 is considerably faster with Cybergraphics (ie.
fades in Wolf 3d occure in real-time)
ChrisH We recommend running the text modes in native mode currently for
best speed. But I think that color problem with cybergraphics in text
modes with be a cybergraphics problem but we will work it out either way.
PeterF Same thing happens with EGS. The EGS libraries do not support
everything the OS does.
Arc Q: 1) Have any of you heard any other whispers on the Grapevine
you can tell us? Please? :) 2) Also, have you considered a joint
hardware/software solution for PC-Task down the line? Like a small
Zorro-II card with the chip(s) on it to do x86>>0x0 conversion at the
Arc 3) ... If you could send a message directly to Escom.. What
would it be?
JustinD Whispers on the grapevine.. None that I can tell yet:-)
ChrisH 1) I heard Justins girlfriend is the devil. :)
JustinD ChrisH: She can be ;-)
JustinD As for what I'd tell ESCOM. I've already (in e-mail with Peter
Kittel) told them what I consider to be one of the most impoartnt things
they can do - support developers as they are supported on other platforms
PeterF Chris, don't tell them about the quad 060 board
JustinD or "The Corner" Gfx card
ChrisH PeterF: I told you to keep your mouth shut about the double-quad
ChrisH 2) You might as well use a real 80x86 if you are going to go
ChrisH 3) Escom bundle PC-Task (cost them next to nothing anyway) get
machines out, get AMigaOS developement RTG etc going, work on 060 card.
Get a kick ass PPC machine running AAmigaOS going.ga
kscully I was wondering if there will be another version of Degrader,
and if so, what improvements might it have? I really like Degrader, and
the only thing it doesn't do is boot me into 1.3. :)
Tau (isn't it kind of time to get rid of the stuff that has to be
PeterF Tau: Yes
MrGandalf I would hope so...
ChrisH I don't know if I will get the free time. I would like to add
MMU and kick 1.3 support for better compatibility but time just seems to
Frotz OK, what I'm wondering is if your product will run Netscape, and
if it's possible to enhance a future version specifically for things like
netscape... since the amiga is lacking in this particular area.
PeterF Run Netscape under ShapeShifter. Would be faster... Sorry
ChrisH Currently I wouldn't recommend that sort of sstuff. Maybe next
N`Kognito as talking about disappearing time earlier: have I understood
right that you're currently mostly concentrating into PC-Task and leaving
DW and Degrader kind of secondary products?
ChrisH Yes that is a fair statement. PC-Task pays the bills, and they
need paying :-)
JustinD Definitely agree with Chris there :-)
PeterF There is only one Chris. Thank God.
Arc Q: Whats Quasar's policy in reards to hiring shareware authors?
Do you actively seek out good authors in the Amiga community, or do you
wait for them to come to you? You have to admit, there is a huge array of
extremely well-written software for the Amiga out there. Also.......
Arc And lastly, are those damn Mentos "The Fresh-Maker!" commercials
from Australia or Canada? :) I had a debate over dinner about this last
jcompton Arc: I think they're German, actually.
PeterF At the moment we don't hire programmers. Royalties are paid.
But we are willing to publish any good software :-)
ChrisH We have crap commercials about them!
Tau on that note, how should an author contact you? ;)
JustinD I don't think they're from Australia as they seem to be dubbed
pretty badly. Probably from Canada - which side of the road are the cars
on - we drive on the left here...
JustinD ChrisH: about the programmers ?
ChrisH Royalties are paid, gee that is strange for a publisher. :-)
PeterF A software author just has to phone/fax/e-mail... That's all
JustinD Quasar can be comntacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or by
PeterF We don't pay Chris, because he does it for the love of it
ChrisH PeterF: It seems so.
JustinD ChrisH: Who do you think we are? DevWare?
ChrisH If you were DevWare I would be in court with you.
PeterF But for other authors we have no problems
PeterF Courting us Chris.. How nice!
Lighty Hi Chris! Just wanted to ask what your favorite directory
PeterF JPDir ??
ChrisH DW is such a cool product I just pirted it. :-)
JustinD Actually I'd agree with Chris Here. DW is the only choice :-)
ChrisH Ask Justin. DW all the way. If you want things done fast and
simple. Get DirWork the mans dirutil.
jcompton Ok, I think that concludes the remotely serious part of this
conference. Thank you, Chris, Justin, and Peter for coming so early in
the morning, and thanks to everyone else for showing up.
ChrisH Thanks to the people who buy software!
MrGandalf Many thanks to those that still support a great machine.
PeterF Yes, definitely thanks to all who have supported and stuck with