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Icaros Desktop is a complete operating system for your PC. This basically means it may operate like Windows or Linux, you just need to install it on a spare blank parition of your hard drive. It cannot run your Windows or Linux software, though, because Icaros Desktop is based on AROS and it is designed to be somehow compatible with Amiga software only. When dealing with Icaros Desktop, you need to know the difference between "Native" and "Hosted", and between "Live!" and "Light". Let's start with...


When we say that Icaros Desktop can run either native or hosted, we mean that it can run as a whole operating system ("native") or like a simple application ("hosted").

in NATIVE mode, Icaros Desktop boots off your drive when your start your PC, and acts like Windows or Linux do. It drives your hardware and uses it directly, running AROS applications. To work on as many PC configurations as possible, Icaros Desktop provides a common set of drivers which should allow booting from SATA drives in IDE or AHCI modes, use USB and PS/2 peripherals and manage 1 core of your processor and max 4 GB of system RAM. A limited set of drivers for network, sound and video cards allow Icaros to use LAN/Internet, sound and 3D acceleration on SOME computers, but not all of them.

in HOSTED mode, Icaros Desktop runs like any other application, creating a "sandbox" where AROS programs talk with your host system's kernel and libraries through a sort of "translation" layer. This mode has many advantages: 1) it "boots" really fast; 2) it can access peripherals which are not directly supported by AROS, thanks to host system's drivers; 3) it can access host filesystem directly; 4) it is the perfect choice for 3rd party developers, because it's easier to test an application, a library or a new system feature when coding it; 5) it can now be used to start your host programs and use them to edit your AROS projects thanks to a new feature called HostBridge. It has also some disadvantages: many AROS features won't be available and there is a big difference between Linux and Windows hosted modes: while Linux offers a near-to native experience, Windows hosted is very experimental and will lack sound, network and 3D acceleration. You can still use it to test the system and your apps, though.


There is, however, a third way to run Icaros Desktop which may take "best of both worlds": installing it into a virtual machine. A VM is an emulated PC which can run on your PC. Your main operating system sees it like a program, but for your TCP/IP stack it's another computer on your network, and from the Icaros point of view, running inside, it's a real PC. The virtual machine exposes to the 'guest' operating system (Icaros) a set of emulated and para-emulated peripherals: a CPU with one or more cores, the amount of RAM you decide, virtual network, sound and video cards, a USB controller and or more big files acting like hard drives. Once Icaros will be installed onto a virtual machine, it will act as like as it was on a real computer. You just won't get 3D acceleration, but you'll have networking and sound. VMs are a slower than native and hosted, but provide a reliable and secure environment to run Icaros on. [VMware][VirtualBox][Icaros-VM]

Summarizing, that's what you can expect from Icaros Desktop:


Since the beginning, Icaros Desktop has always been available in two 'formats', the smaller Light edition and the larger Live! (yes, with exclamation mark) one. The former is just what Icaros Desktop considers its 'core' system: AROS files coming in nightly builds and some 3rd-party applications which are mandatory in a modern environment, like a multimedia player, an image viewer, a sound editor, a web browser, a PDF reader and, obviously, all the needed technology to run Amiga programs (which we call 'AmiBridge'). Although some amigans insist that these programs are not part of the operating system and should be put elsewhere, we consider them part of the Icaros environment and we kindly ask users not to move or delete them.

The Live! edition includes everything the Light has, and adds tons of free, shareware and commercial programs we've got the permission to redistribute. Icaros Desktop Live! needs a DVD-ROM or a 4 GB USB pendrive for the installation media, but offers all the best AROS may give you, already selected, tested and configured to run. Dozens of programs including, but not limited to: network clients, database, trial programs, sound trackers, image editors and viewers, games, emulators, mod editors and players, design programs and many, many other spare utilities. Long ago, the famous magazine Linux Format called Icaros Desktop Live! "the alternative operating system to frag your productivity" and if you'll install it, you'll easily discover why.


Feature Live! Light
Backported AROS files from ABIv1 yes yes
AmiBridge 68K environment yes yes
Base applications (Mplayer, OWB, ArosPDF etc) yes yes
Extra applications yes no
Development chain yes no
68K applications yes yes
Network support yes yes
Upgradable kernel yes yes
LiveUpdater yes yes
Runs natively on PC hardware or virtual machine yes yes
Runs hosted on Linux (Ubuntu/Mint & similar) yes yes
Runs hosted on Windows yes yes
Provides Qemu virtual machine for Windows no* no*

(*) The QEMU virtual machine for Windows provided with old Icaros Desktop Live! releases must now be downloaded as optional component from the Downloads page. Please look for Icaros-VM to get it.

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