Thursday, April 9, 2020

The Easter preview, beta-testing and everything

by on Thursday, April 09, 2020
A new preview version of Icaros Desktop 2.3.0 is now available for download. This time, however, it won't be available to everyone, but to a precise audience only: patrons and beta-testers, in a nutshell whoever actively supports our distribution, either by helping me paying the fees or by providing bug reports and feedback. Public betas, by the way, weren't an habit for Icaros Desktop: once upon a long ago, we had an active team of developers and users who tested the distro, finding bugs and weak functionalities, reporting them to me, so I could fix them and release 'stable' versions and updates of the system. Unluckily, Icaros lost most of its beta-testers over the years, and this meant less bug reports, less fixing, less reliability.

For this reason, I started releasing betas to the public, even if this collided with the costy '$15 tier' on Patreon, which granted exclusive access to beta versions. I hoped this would have increased bug reporting but, honestly, the results I got weren't exactly the ones I expected: very few precise feedbacks, but a general feel of unstability increased. I also lost all $15 pledges, but this wasn't unexpected. Well, it's time to clean the mess and reorder.

No more unstable beta versions will be released to the general public, unless for special reasons (for instance, a Xmas present after many months of no updates, like it happened for v2.2 and v2.3), no more '$15 tier' on Patreon to access betas, but only two ways to get them:

  1. Becoming a Icaros Desktop betatester. This means being added to a mailing list, receiving a link from time to time to download a ISO of either Icaros Desktop Light or Live!, try things as soon as possible and report feedback or bugs to me. I might also ask to test specific functions when they are added to the distribution and, obviously, the beta-tester status expires if no any answer is given for a reasonable amount of time.
  2. Apply for a '$5 tier' on Patreon, which will continue giving early access to final releases and updates of Icaros Desktop and, starting with today, also to beta and preview versions. 
The $2 tier, which was previously used to friendly support the distribution with a little monthly fee, will now give access also to our video-tutorials, which were available only to patrons who pleged at least $5 every month.

THE NEW BETA

The new beta of Icaros Desktop 2.3.0 is available on Patreon, while the download link has already been sent to our beta testing mailing list. Follow the instructions below to apply for beta-testing.



New in this beta, from the Xmas one:

- fixed Lilcalendar database  > no unnecessary alarm when starting it the first time.
- added S:waitforfile to somehow replace C:waitnotify on unsupported filesystems
- added ComicOn to Extras/Multimedia > this program allows reading comic strips online, however this version does not work as expected and will be fixed
- added AmiBrixx to Extras/Games > new game
- added FIGlet to Extras/Misc > a command to create ascii-art text titles using a variety of fonts
- added AminetReadmeMaker to Extras/Development/Tools > useful if you publish on the Archives
- updated AnimWebConverter to v4.00 > new version of this great anim conversion tool
- updated LoView to v2.91 > picture viewer
- added SnapShoter to Tools > handles screenshots and recording
- ScreenGrabber and ScreenRecorder moved to Extras/MediaEditors > superseded by SnapShoter
- updated unrar to version 5.80 > compatible with current version of the famous compression tool
- fixed ZuneARC cfg file to handle unrar 5.80
- updated VIM to latest release > we now have 5.82 available!
- added Odamex (ag-odamex) to Extras/Games/DooM > new AROS tool for Doom
- added Jumpman to Extras/Games > new compelling game
- updated MUIMapparium to latest release > new version of this route planning tool
- updated InstallerLG to latest build > a mandatory replacement for Commodore and AROS installers
- added Chromium to Extras/OpenGL/Games > another compelling game, for accelerated cards
- added pgp/k to C > pgp and pgpk for AROS

BECOMING A BETA TESTER

If you wish to apply to Icaros Desktop beta-testers mailing list, please send me a private message either on Aroex-Exec (ae.amigalife.org), or by email to paolo(dot)besser(at)gmail(dot)com, or on Facebook (send a PM to Icaros' page), with the subject "I wish to apply to Icaros beta tester list" and specify a valid email address. In order to become a beta-tester, the following are required:
  • Being expert of Amiga-like systems
  • Being able to test Icaros Desktop on compatible hardware, or in a virtual machine
  • Being able to test Icaros Desktop either in native or Linux-hosted mode
  • Have a spare computer or a virtual machine to test Icaros with (no complaints about broken data/setup will be accepted: beta software is beta for a reason)
  • Being able to write down all necessary steps to reproduce issues
Have a nice Easter, even if I know that - for many of us - it will be just another day at home. :-|

Installing Icaros Desktop onto the Hard Drive

by on Thursday, April 09, 2020
This video shows how you can perform a clean installation of Icaros Desktop onto the hard drive. The whole procedure is described on the user manual, and this video covers the following situation:
  • Installation from CD/DVD-ROM
  • 2 AROS partitions already created (AROS and WORK)
  • Default packages for the Live! version
  • FTP file share being activated at first post-installation setup

The user manual can be downloaded from the Download page.

Monday, April 6, 2020

Not the best "beginning of the year" so far, but...

by on Monday, April 06, 2020
In Italy there's a old motto saying "anno bisesto, anno funesto", which we might translate into "leap year, fatal year", and it basically places its roots into superstition. Rationally speaking, the need for adding a 29th day to February every four years just compensates a 6-hours error accumulated by our way of computing years, and the fact that this year is '2020', and not '2019' or '2021' or '10767', is just a matter of convention. I never believed into fate, or into numerology or other forms of new-age superstition. But, that's odd, this year can really be considered a very unlucky one, at least according to the news during its first three months. My country (but others are following) is dealing with the scariest and hardest crisis since the end of World War 2, and probably this is not the right time to think about light matters like an AROS distribution, but I would like to thank some people here.

First of all, I would like to thank our patrons for their support, and anyone who still donated to Icaros in the latest weeks. I have some good news for them, at the end of this post.

This site remained untouched since last Christmas, and not a single news or screenshot has been posted here. This can be an issue for a project like ours. Well, reality is that Icaros Desktop didn't proceed with the usual pace, for a series of reasons: I continued collecting 3rd party software from people releasing it on Aminet and on the Archives, but I could start integrating it into the distribution only recently. In the weeks before, I had been quite busy at work and all my spare time was taken over. Moreover, there had not been so much progress on the AROS side, at least on ABIv0, while almost all the effort on ABIv1 has been directed to the M68K flavour, in order to make it work as best as possible on Vampire cards. I cannot blame anyone for this. For the last 10 years, Icaros got much attention and time from AROS developers, and now it is something else's turn, with different goals and a different vision. Icaros Desktop, however, will continue refining its features and adding new ones, while continuing its difficult and very slow transition to 64 bits.

Second, I would like to thank people on AROS-EXEC and Amigaworld who continued advocating the project. It's so sad to read that x86 AROS is "completely useless", by people who have actively collaborated to its success until yesterday. We've always done this for fun, but all this delusion and bad wording is not funny at all. Get real: not only we'll never catch up with Windows or Linux, but we've always been aware of this since day 1. We're only making our best to do something different, something good, even if it's difficult. Demotivation is not something which will help here.

Third, let me thank some people in particular. Michael Riddle for his improved BMP datatype: I could finally run Xabier Payet's SnapShoter on AROS, which always crashed at startup, before I installed the bmp datatype he kindly sent me. SnapShoter is amazing: it handles fullscreen and portion grabbing, taking both still and videos, it includes a post-it like function and has even an integrated image editor; so I sent an email to the author asking for permission to include it with the distribution. Let's cross our fingers. :-) [update: permission gotten :-)]


Then I would like to thank Nicola Scendoni for his efforts on the hosted soul of Icaros Desktop. We share the same idea of what HostBridge should (and can) do, and I sincerely hope this will bring many "former Amiga, now Linux" lovers to join us.

Moreover, I would like to thank Salvo on AROS-EXEC, who kindly asked me to add econding options to OGG and Flac formats for Wave files. The option is now included in Magellan, and - for now - they encode WAV files at fixed compression/quality ratios. I already have some nice ideas about how this can be furtherly improved, so stay tuned and... thanks again for all your patience, Salvatore!

Then, a sad news about this site: as of today, I can't reach mirror files stored on lezard-visuel.com, the site which has been helping us from the beginning of our journey. While I'm trying to contact them, I hope this will just be a temporary issue. Lezard-visuel space is really precious to your distribution.

...and now the good news for our Patrons: I am uploading a new beta version of Icaros Desktop 2.3 which will be available to them only, at least at the beginning. You will receive notification of its availablity as soon as possible.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Icaros Desktop 2.3.0 Christmas Preview now available for everyone

by on Thursday, December 19, 2019
It's Christmas again! And, as like as we did three years ago, when we early-released a preview version of Icaros 2.2, we would like to repeat ourselves with a quite advanced beta of Icaros Desktop 2.3! After a short patrons-only early access, this new version of the distribution is now available for download (only the Live! edition is being "released" this time).

But what's new, exactly? Well, if you followed our recent development, you'll find in this version everything we put in last october's early preview, plus a far more advanced, simplier to use, version of HostBridge (this is for Linux hosted users only, though). Isn't this enough? So why not playing guitar with Frets/C++, AROS port of Frets on Fire? You will need an accelerated card to enjoy it, and even better a Guitar Hero controller to make the most of this game, but if you're into Bemani/Music games, you won't stop playing this for months! And if you're a more serious user, you can now show and edit spreadsheets from OpenOffice and Excel, while Icaros keeps track of your meetings.

WHAT'S NEW

Many things changed since version 2.2.8 and it's time to make a recap.

NEW PROGRAMS
- updated fpc and components to latest release
- added LEU 0.07 to system/Utilities
+ replaced Leu icon with a new one from Icaros Desktop
+ added Spreadsheet filetype to Magellan
+ edited Spreadsheet def_info file to open them with LEU
- Added flac and ViewT to C
- Added Picture Datatype creation package in Extras/Development/Build
- Added ZuneHexEditor to Extras/Development/Tools
- added Ezekiel to Extras/Misc
- added UserMenus to Commodities

This is really interesting. ALB42 created a tool we really missed so much: a program that could read spreadsheets from modern office applications like Microsoft Excel and LibreOffice. And the best new is: it can also modify them! Yes, you can enter fields, change values and see applied formulas updating results in real time. Obviously, the program is still at its first stages, but simple spreadsheets will work flawlessly. I haven't called it a 'complete spreadsheet program' because the current interface includes just the most common tools, but LEU has great potential. 


CHANGED FUNCTIONS
- added LUA Scripts filetype to Magellan
+ removed duplicated DOpus manuals to save space
+ removed pointless double check when deleting files
- changed behaviour of Magellan's "Archive" button
+ destination archive filename now requested to user
+ fixes former single-files compression errors
- Lua is mandatory: moved it from Development stuff to SYS:Tools


I have corrected a long-standing issue with the Archive button in our interface, which was not able to handle single files being compressed. With the old implementation, you had to select at least two files and left or right click to create a LHA or a ZIP archive including both. The functionality has then been extended to TAR archives using the central button, but the real news is that these actions will now ask you the name of the resulting archive, letting you save it where you prefer, and you can now compress single files as well.

- removed DigiClock from WBstartup, now running from Commodities
- cleaned up DigiClock directory, sources now in Extras/Documentation
- updated Icaros Settings to add options for calendar and clock

DigiClock is a commodity and should stay with other commodities. There were many unneeded files included with Icaros Desktop (mainly executables for other operating systems) and they have been deleted to save space. All distributed files have been included in the archive provided with Extras/Documentation which is, by the way, the place to find the sources for included programs, when available. Icaros Settings has been updated to reflect the change, with a new tab handling user-interface related programs being launched at startup.


ICAROS KEEPS TRACK OF YOUR MEETINGS
- added LilCalendar to Utilities
+ Icaros now loads LilCalendar at startup to follow your schedule
+ added LilCalendar hide/show script in S:, with icon in AmiStart

This required an incredible lot of work. I've been in contact with Nathan Hesterman, author of LilCalendar, since the day he uploaded it to aminet. I've helped him finding bugs and ironing out the user interface, begging him with feature requests. He's been incredibly friendly and let me fullfit a need I felt for many many years: a program which would start with Icaros and remind my schedule when needed. But, in order to keep the workbench clean, I had to set up a quite complex mechanism using the Activatewin utility. When Icaros Desktop starts, Lilcalendar is hidden to your sight, but it's working in the background. You can obviously change this behavor with Icaros Settings, which has been updated to handle this (Note: LilCalendar is OFF by default on hosted Icaros).


QUICKLY CREATE YOUR ICONS
- added IconPoser to Tools
- moved IconEditor from Utilities to Extras/Design

Quickly create your double-state, PNG icons using IconPoser, which was originally created to help develop this distribution... but it can be handful also to Icaros users!



A NEW HOSTBRIDGE!
- backport from Icaros 64: updated icaros launcher for linux hosted mode
- modified Linux installation script to allow 32bit Icaros run on a 64bit system
- fixed Linux installation script to install ifconfig command, if missing
- updated HostBridge files (PathConv) to handle ASSIGNs
- added 'dotconvert' and 'sync_app' to handle .desktop files
- Linux applications can now be added at startup

- HostApp now replaced by sys:Linux and sys:Windows
- fixed: Icaros linux scripts now use 'cat' instead of 'more'
- no more pointless "pendrive installer" script on Linux hosted

I wish to talk a little more about the 'rework' of HostBridge we're making with Nicola Scendoni, who is heavily helping me on the Linux side. Since its conception, HostBridge was meant as a way to let hosted-ÀROS interact with the hosting system, no matter if it was Linux, or Windows, or even something else. So you could use HostBridge to start Linux/Windows applications from Icaros, use them to load files as if they were simple shell commands, but this is only the surface of this feature. When digging it more deeply, you could discover that it can effectively used side by side to host's user interface or even replace it to some extent. Nicola and I, in a nutshell, are working in this direction and, in the future, you will be able to use Icaros Desktop as a complete desktop environment for Linux, with all the advantages it would give you: the simpleness, friendliness and tradition of Icaros Desktop, and the strenght, power, modernity and security Linux delivers.

Scribus is a free DTP program for Linux, running on the upcoming Icaros desktop environment for Linux
This "Icaros Desktop Based Linux Desktop Environment" doesn't have either a name or an official release date yet, but the real news today is that most of its current technologies have been backported to mainstream Icaros Desktop and you can use them by yourself. For instance, during installation HostBridge detects all installed Linux applications and make them available when you first run Icaros Desktop. If you install other software afterwards, you can either refresh icons or add new programs to the AROS side using a script. Moreover, there were many issues found by hosted Icaros users that have been addressed in the new version. If you installed hosted Icaros on a 64bit Linux distribution, it didn't work until you installed also some 32-bit libraries. This has been handled with the installation script, which now downloads them from your Linux distribution repository and installs them automatically. Modern distros are not providing the ifconfig command anymore, which is still used by our scripts. This has been handled as well. Please remember our scripts are tailored for Ubuntu and Ubuntu derived distributions only, you will have to adapt them to other distributions by yourself.

OWB is not enough for your needs? Use Firefox or Chrome instead!
You can spot even the first backports from Icaros 64. Yes: some of these features were originally developed for the 64bit edition and then ported back to the mainstream one. While the rework of MyWorkspace is much a 'under the hood' thing, the new ./icaros script for Linux hosted Icaros is a great addition to this distribution. It now behaves like a command, so you can give it arguments to customize your next Icaros session as you wish. Here's a little summary of new options:

./icaros             starts Icaros Desktop
./icaros -q | -s   shutdown running sessions of icaros desktop
./icaros -r         restarts icaros desktop
./icaros -v  variable value     changes value of envarc/icaros/variable
./icaros -a  variable value     adds a envarc/icaros/variable and its value
./icaros -d  variable               removes a envarc/icaros/variable and its value
./icaros -l          lists available variables and values
./icaros -f          force fullscreen for this session
./icaros -u          updates hb links to host applications (Linux only)
./icaros -U         deletes older ones and updates hb links to host applications (Linux only)
./icaros -x         stops ./icaros execution (used in combination with -a and -v)


CLEANER MYWORKSPACE
- backport from Icaros 64: MyWorkspace management scripts
- updated MyWorkspace scripts to handle localized user directories
- MyWorkspace now using HOME: for Linux hosted version

- updated windows and linux hosted setup scripts to reflect changes

MyWorkspace now works differently if you're using Icaros native, hosted on Linux or hosted on Windows. When running natively and on Windows, the usual directory called 'MyWorkspace' is created with all its subdirectories, and ASSIGNs for Documents, Pictures, Downloads etc point there. However, current Linux distributions provide common places in user Home directory for all these things, so there is no need to duplicate them. Icaros Desktop now detects if user changed locale settings on the Linux side, and modifies AROS ASSIGNs (Pictures:, Mousic:, Documents: etc) accordingly.


AMISTART SETTINGS WILL SURVIVE UPDATES
- fixed: AmiStart now saves its settings in Envarc:Icaros
+- no more overwriting of AmiStart settings during updates
+- Added the new Hosted setting to AmiStart for Linux hosted environments
+- AmiStart settings now identified as 'Custom' after modifying bar items

This was a long standing bug, which has finally been corrected.


GAMES! GAMES! GAMES!
- added Saga to Extras/Games
- Added AmiFish and StockFish to Extras/Games
- added Frets-on-fire-CPP to Extras/OpenGL/Games

Icaros Desktop is FUN! Play guitar (well, almost...) with Frets on Fire C++ or chess with AmiFish (versus the AROS build of Stockfish, or another human being as opponent).


A LOT OF SOFTWARE UPDATES
- updated EasyRPG-Player to v0.6.1
- updated SQLMan to latest release
- updated Timekeeper to v1.09
- updated MCC TextEditor to v15.53 beta (i386 and M68K)
- updated HivelyTracker to new version 1.8
- updated InstallerLG to latest build
- updated VIM to latest release
- updated ModExplorer and cut off _AROS from program name
- updated ActivateWin to handle windows from process name and id
- updated VAMP to latest release
- updated ZunePaint and ZuneView to latest release
- updated spu.datatype to latest release
- updated potrace to latest version
- updated MUIMapparium to latest version
- updated AnimWebConverter to v3.00

OTHER ADDITIONS
There are also many other little/great additions and enhancements here and there, like the following:

- added deark to sys/C
+ This version is setting RPTAG_PenMode for AROS in every situation
- added new BMPX datatype from Miker
- added/replaced many missing icons (shell, AAEDT and others)
- created a new directory in Extras, "Trackers" for all audio trackers
- moved all trackers out of Extras/MediaEditors, changed description
- moved Protrekkr to Extras/Trackers: no more available in Light edition
- created the new alias 'ltasks' to replace broken TaskList command
- created S:ctask to check if a specific task is running
- fixed a bug in LiveUpdater not copying new Icaros settings in Env-Archive

Many features of Icaros are being reworked, enhanced, modified to make them more robust and easy to use.


Please also remember this is just a beta: you can already use it instead of your old 2.2.8 installation, but there might be still some little issues to address. Let us know what you think in our forum @Aros-Exec!

DOWNLOAD

You can find the download link here. Please read our release notes there carefully:


Friday, November 22, 2019

More changes to hosted MyWorkspace

by on Friday, November 22, 2019
With the precious help by Nicola Scendoni, we are trying to enhance the integration between AROS and Linux when running Icaros Desktop in hosted mode. Many things are changing, with one of them being how current MyWorkspace subdirectories and their ASSIGNs will be handled. Back in 2009, when I decided to add the 'MyWorkspace' drawer to Icaros environment, I wanted to mimic how Linux "/home" and Windows "\users" directories behave, placing also some nice subdirectories inside, for Documents, Pictures, Videos, Music and Downloaded files (let's call them 'user projects'). More recently, with the addition of Magellan, also a Desktop directory was made, to let people store their files (and not only aliases) on the workbench. This makes sense on a native installation, because these folders do not exist on AROS. But on hosted installations, where user project folders already exist, there is no need to create them again.

There wouldn't even be the need for MyWorkspace at all, since we have Home: for the same purpose. And, inside Home:, all Ubuntu-derived distributions already place the same subdirectories for user projects, so there is really no need to recreate them. So, starting with Icaros 2.3.0, hosted installations will use these folders instead. Unluckily, changing some ASSIGNs is not enough, because Linux and Windows behave differently and, worst of all, directory names change when setting a different locale. So, for instance, your $HOME/Pictures directory becomes $HOME/Immagini when switching to italian language. This means that if you change language in Linux, your Icaros installation has to reflect your change immediately or, at least, at the very next session. 


This is, exactly, what I am working on these days and, after a lot of scripting, it's what I'm getting right now on my development machine. I still have to decide if this will lead to some new ability also for native users: after all, once the gears are there for a more dyamic management of MyWorkspace on hosted, it shouldn't be difficult to give native users - at least - the chance to modify names for the same directories. 

By the way, our integration effort goes far beyond this. I can not officially announce or anticipate anything at the moment, but if you follow our facebook channel, you may see some very exciting screenshots released from time to time... Like these ones:



Friday, October 25, 2019

No more AmiStart settings overwrite

by on Friday, October 25, 2019
There are many little changes I should have really made long ago. One of these is changing the way AmiStart preferences are handled. You should know that Icaros Desktop provides three different settings for its lower side application dock:

1. Compact - the default one, at the center of the screen, with selected applications and no task management on the bar (window management is available, though, in the "Start menu" on the left corner)

2. Full - almost the same application shortcuts on the left, followed by tasks list populating when opening windows and programs

3. Custom - ideally, your own customizations that should be accepted and kept like they are. In theory, because this setting never worked and was somehow a "keep it like it is" option in Icaros Settings.

Well, this implementation has always been really poor, due to my very basic skills when done. The ugliest consequence was the fact that your customizations to the bar were lost every time I decided to change the default applications shown within the icons bar. This happened because I went for an even uglier solution: inside the System/Amistart directory, you would find the following ones:

AmiStart - the program itself
AmiStart.info - its icon
AmiStartCompact - ready to be used icon for the compact layout
AmiStartFull - ready to be used icon for the full layout
sm.prefs - preferences file for the full layout
smlite.prefs - preferences file for the compact layout

A mess. And Icaros Settings handled these files in a very dumb way, renaming the proper info file into AmiStart.info, so that either AmiStartCompact+smlite.prefs or AmiStartFull+sm.prefs were used by AmiStart. This was, and please accept my apologies, plain stupid. A far smarter solution would have been keeping a single icon file (so: AmiStart.info only) and change sm.prefs according to your selected behavior. Luckily, from now on this will change. First of all, starting with Icaros 2.3, there won't be all those files anymore, but I created the /shape/sm directory in AmiStart's one, populanting it with three different settings: full (as usual), lite (the compact one) and... well, "Hosted", a new setting which includes also host applications imported with HostBridge. Since AmiStart.info's tooltypes will now point to Envarc:Icaros/sm.prefs, settings will survive to updates. Unless you decide to change behavior with Icaros Settings, obviously: in this this case, your current settings will be (obviously) overwritten.

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