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===========================================================================
                         IPISA 96 -- Sixth Edition
  Vincenzo Gervasi                                    gervasi@di.unipi.it
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Yes, in Italy it has become a kind of Christmas tradition: turkey, gifts
and IPISA.  This year, the biggest Amiga developer-oriented conference in
Italy was held on November, 30 in the familiar ISU Auditorium that, despite
all the doom and gloom that can be found in the c.s.a.* newsgroups, was
filled with over 430 developers, dealers, journalists and power-users.
This means that attendance has grown steadily for the fifth consecutive
edition!


The Proceedings and some gifts

All participants received a 60-pages booklet with the conference
proceedings (entirely produced with LaTeX on the Amiga) and *three*
CD-ROMs.  The first of them, produced by the IPISA committee, contained
stuff related to the presentations made at the conference in the current
and previous editions, several recent large distributions (Fred Fish's ADE,
Linux and NetBSD for the Amiga) and many other files, documents, and
archives useful to developers (mainly definitions of standards, FAQs etc.).
The other two CDs were generously donated by Cloanto Italia of Personal
Paint fame: no less than the complete Personal Suite 6.4 CD and the famous
Kara Font Collection!  Also, participants received Sun Microsystem's "Java"
white papers (100 pages of interesting half-marketing/half-development
ramblings), free copies of the leading Amiga magazines in Italy, special
offers and discounts from several dealers and so on.


Starting Talks

After long pilgrimages to the conference's bar (due to the abundant
snowfall of the morning), the crowded hall could assist to the first
presentations.  After a brief introduction by Sergio Ruocco, chairman of
the organizing committee, Vittorio Calzolari delighted the attendance
reporting his experiences with the "Plug'n'pray" feature of a well known
operating system.  Given the nature of the subject, Vittorio had no problem
at reinforcing the idea of everyone in the hall that other computing
environment aren't as shiny as the marketing folks would like us to
believe.


Games, CD-ROMs and the Amiga Software Industry

Immediately after Vittorio, Francesco Leonardi and Giuliano Pochini
presented VoXel, a new graphic rendering engine tailored to draw fast 3D
landscapes.  The voxel technique, albeit less precise than the more common
fractal-based and polygon-based ones, is many times faster, and proves
particularly useful in interactive games.  The authors are planning to
release a spaceship-flight simulator in the first months of 1997. 

Another game-centered presentation was the one by Vittorio Ferrari, showing
his own VEGA: an engine for "Lucas' Arts"-style adventures.  Vittorio
showed off a prototype of an adventure built with VEGA, which proved indeed
quite nice (a demo should be released in a few months).  Luca Danelon and
Matteo Forniz gave a talk on their experience in Amiga CD production (they
are the people behind the nice "Amy Resource" series), while Andrea
Galimberti and Fabio Rotondo presented another adventure construction
system called DOOPSI. 

While VEGA is script-based and geared to internal use, DOOPSI offers a
number of GUI-based editors, thus allowing everybody to produce his own
adventure.  On the other hand, VEGA offers a few more features, so the
competition is open.

The last speaker of the morning was Michele Battilana, head and soul of
Cloanto Italia, that presented some data on the evolution of the Amiga
market.  Michele shocked many people among the attendance when he revealed
with a malicious double-click that the (Amiga) program he used to project
the slide on the overhead screen, was indeed running on a Win-NT laptop
thanks to UAE!  The sudden appearance of the NT desktop, however, did not
ruin the appetite of the crowd, and access to the refectory required
several minutes in the queue (the lunch was included in the admission price
of the conference: around US$38, DM60).


The Future of IPISA

After the lavish meal, Sergio Ruocco talked about the future of IPISA.  In
the opinion of the organizing committee, IPISA should open its doors to
other "alternative" systems (Linux, BeOS, NetBSD, Java machines and so on)
starting from the next edition.  The proposal, that gained a
less-than-universal consensus, aims at making IPISA a unique forum for
"rebels" that don't want to accept Micro$oft's "I'll rule the world"
attitude.  Other goals announced for the next edition were a more
significant international presence, both in attendance and in talks, and
the extension of the conference to cover two days instead of one.


Java, BeOS and Linux

Marco Zandonadi followed with a short note on Java and its strong influence
in reshaping the computer industry, a subject already familiar to many AR
readers.

The next presentation was one of the more interesting ones: the first
Italian show of the Be-Box and its BeOS.  Jean Calmon and Christophe
Droulers, both from Be Europe, demoed this very nice system that really
amazed the attendants.  Seeing four Quicktime movies, two midi streams, two
Mandelbrot programs, a 3D rendering manipulated in real time and several
other applets all running flawlessly together in the bi-processor Be-Box
led several people into unconfessable theft temptations.  Looking at BeOS
today reminded me of the thrill under my spine that I felt some ten years
ago, when I touched for the first time an Amiga.  We are lucky, that old
spirit was not lost: even in the case of the worst outcome for our beloved
Amiga, there will be an heaven for us digital romantics.

After BeOS, Linux took the scene, with a presentation by Carlo Daffara of
the latest Amiga release distributed on the IPISA CD.


Speedy Trends: Hardware, PowerPC and 3D Packages

Paolo Canali, undisputed hardware guru, followed with an overview on the
advances in digital technology: digital-analog integration, parallel
systems, advanced memory subsystems and complex custom chips -- on this
latter point, Phase V's announced dates on their dream-chip Caipirinha were
judged by Paolo as "optimistic, but not unrealistic". 

Unfortunately, Phase V was absent from the conference: Wolf Dietrich was
already scheduled for the Amiga Fest in Toronto, and Gerald Carda (Phase
V's Technical Director), who was appointed to participate, had grown very
sick.  So, Jurgen Haage and Michael Rock (from Haage & Partner) took upon
them the task of showing off the PowerUp board from Phase V.  They demoed a
Mandelbrot program, compiled with H&P's StormC 2.0, running on the PowerPC;
the gain in speed over the 68060 version was quite evident, even on the
Prototype (and slower) PowerUp card.  With the new StormC, porting a
program to PowerPC is just a matter of selecting an option in a requester:
"PowerPC" is listed alongside with "68060", "68040", and so on!

The last presentation was held by Massimiliano Marras, with his Tornado 3D.
Tornado is not just yet another raytracer and modeler: its code was finely
tuned for the 68040 and 68060, resulting in an impressive speed of the
software: what other programs render in 10 seconds, Tornado can in a
fraction of a second.  The net result, almost miraculous, is that the user
can manipulate the previews in real time with the mouse; and we are talking
about colour previews (full colour or dithered), with flat or Gouraud
shading, transparencies, textures and many other features!  Beyond its
speed, Tornado 3D has other advantages, but a full review is better left to
some more experienced 3D artist.  Tornado should be available in a short
time, at a price defined by its author as "competitive".


Final Remarks

So ended IPISA 96.  It was very heart-warming to see so many Amiga
enthusiasts gathered together, as well as seeing the fruits of ongoing
development and knowing that we are not left alone in the dark, struggling
against monopolists...

It appeared clear from the conference that many routes are opened to the
evolution of the Amiga.  IPISA 97 will tell us which of them was to be the
winning one.