Friday, September 5, 2008

Beta that stills, beta that comes...

In the latest days, people started asking me for news about the incoming VmwAROS 0.9, and obviously the fact that I recently announced it would be soon available didn't help. Reality, however, is far more complex than it seems. So, let's summarize the actual situation.

1. the emergency mode issue

AROS had recently changed its bootloader from GRUB to GRUB2, which is a really good move, since it allowed booting from a SFS system partition. SFS is a far more reliable filesystem, it allows AROS to load system files quickier and it should be stabler than old FFS. For this reason, I had to throw away my old VE environment and redo it from scratch - or almost. Everything went fine and I had a working SFS envirnoment.

The problem is our emergency mode kernel. I hoped that simply changing bootloader would save the day to people with uncompatibile hardware, but unluckily those problems still exist even with newest kernels. I tried different approaches to this problem. Neil Cafferkey has been the nicest and most patient person of the world, trying to help me (he has made several recompile of the kernel, trying to mix oldest ata.device to new code), but with no luck: emergency kernels always stopped booting AROS after managing sfs.handler. So, there is a good chance that SFS partitions won't be available at boot, in emergency mode. Anyway, I had no time yet to test if a FFS partition would do the job, sorry.

2. the Grub2 mystery

Then there is a "little" issue discovered using Grub2: if you are a unlucky person, installing AROS on the free space left on the drive by a Windows partition, might destroy your Microsoft installation. Well, you may argue that VmwAROS is a friendly operating environment, but I bet you'd prefer to keep your Windows installation safe. For this reason, I decided to stop any updating effort on the Grub2 side until the bug will be fixed. Turning back to Grub1 is a viable option and it should keep compatibility with emergency kernels too, but I have still to decide what to do, since it would require another effort to redo things.

3. Please forgive me for a little demotivation

I'm an optimist kind of guy and I always see only the filled half of the glass. But I can't hide my worries and sadness to see so many talented people leaving - or planning to leave - AROS development. Any open source project alternates times of joy and enthusiasm and times of tireness and disillusion, AROS is not an exception and, in my 5+ years of presence in the development mailing list, I've already seen many of them. The difference, now, is that AROS is no more a romantic dream but instead a concrete and usable operating system, with a little but growing users base. For this reason, it has already got more attention from industries (ACube, Genesi, Cloanto among them) and media (printed magazines, websites, etc), and also from more demanding users, who probably can't wait for their lovely OS to be completed. All these things could stress and potentially hurt anyone, so what I'm basically asking here is for a little more patience by users, and a little effort to developers to keep the boat sailing. All I can promise, is that I will continue updating this distribution the best way I can.

4. Take this like a exhibit of good will

Since there are so many reason to delay VmwAROS VE and Live! beta 0.9, please keep your installation of the 0.8 version: maybe it lacks some of the most modern features of plain AROS, but it works. Since I'm also going to take some vacation now (I need to stop from my work and everything computer-related for a pair of weeks), please take the following as a little gift and a sign of my good will:

> Download Preview of VmwAROS VE beta 0.9 (260 MB)

You'll need 7-Zip for your operating system to extract files and VMware to run them. This is a sneak preview of the next version of VmwAROS. Please keep in mind that there are some know issues (just read the README.TXT file included) and the manual is still from 0.8 version (no time to update it, sorry). Since it is a preview only, there won't be any Live! version of this: for the new Live! distribution you'll need to wait for a stable release in the (near, I hope) future. To run this Environment you need the same hardware and software requisites of VmwAROS VE beta 0.8.

Please keep in mind there won't be any support for this version, use it at your own risk. Any suggestion, however, is very welcome in our support site, or at the address support(at) Good luck and... "make code, not war". :-)