Firebee: the long game?

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Re: Firebee: the long game?

Post by Cyprian »

thats the sades part...
Mathias wrote:In fact we planned an "ST-Mode" in the beginning of the project as 3rd compatibility layer, before we lost all VHDL developers.
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Re: Firebee: the long game?

Post by Mathias »

Cyprian, at the one hand you are right, at the other I am glad to not have to support the "retro crowd" as well ;)
The machine works well as GEM machine – what was always our first aim. And also with the Suska, there is a weel working FPGA configured "ST" for a decade now, and the MiST as lowcost alternative followed. So all the needs are somehow fulfilled for us as community. Of course it would always be nice to have more things done, but that's live, and you cannot expect everything from a volunteer project in fastest time. For me it is just important to not "finish" as some point, and drive things forward. The possibilities are here, the users are still highly interested, and everything is completely Open Source, so we will never again run into some dead end. That is future prove in my opinion.
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Re: Firebee: the long game?

Post by piku »

Mathias wrote:
piku wrote:but IMHO the future is quite clearly in FPGA
As if the FireBee would not contain a huge and good FPA from the beginning, ... Let me remind you – as honorable member of the ACP project that you are – that most of the FireBees Atari chips are VHDL from the Suska project!

Sorry guys, but it is oblique to disucuss FPGA configurations of other projects and present it in opposite to the FireBee. Pass over the free 68030, 68060, or whatever 680x0 configuration and it could be implemented to the FireBee right away! And as you know there was always the plan to implement an 68k CPU inside the FPGA for compatibility/legacy from the beginning on. I am tired to explain the grand possibilitys that this piece of hardware offers.

The FireBee works for 10 years now, and it contains the same Cyclone III that the (still unfinished and proprietary) Vampire uses now.
Mathias you misunderstand my point and I think it's because I wasn't clear. When I say the future I mean the future of retrocomputing on 68k entirely. While FPGA's will continue to get faster they aren't going to make new 68k or coldfire chips. This means the ideology behind the firebee is also what I think the future is. The only problem the firebee has is 100% temporary which is related to developer resources to fix remaining issues. It's very comforting to think that some day I can learn VHDL and enhance or fix the system myself. This of course is something you will never get with the closed source vampire. The vampire just serves as an impressive demonstration (to me) of the possibilities down the road of cpu in fpga.

Perhaps I shouldn't have discussed that in the firebee long game thread because it isn't exactly relevant to the original topic in a clear way. If we wanted to get to that the answer is simple. The firebee is an amazing platform that waits for the right developer to solve remaining issues in hardware and software. The system is usable as a regular user with emuation filling in gaps. The system is usable as a regular software developer. The system is insanely flexible for use as a hardware developer who wants to build something amazing. There is no long game because the project is completely open. In reality the methods and ideals of the firebee project ARE The future including the heavy use of FPGA in the firebee as well.
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Re: Firebee: the long game?

Post by piku »

Mathias wrote:For me it is just important to not "finish" as some point, and drive things forward. The possibilities are here, the users are still highly interested, and everything is completely Open Source, so we will never again run into some dead end. That is future prove in my opinion.
It's a completely open source project about a platform that hasn't released a new machine in over 25 years and never will and yet here we all are. It will not finish even if some developers come and go.
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Re: Firebee: the long game?

Post by AEWHistory »

joska wrote: Mon Mar 25, 2019 8:57 pm
AEWHistory wrote:Does anyone know what the long term goals are for this hardware?
I've had my Firebee since 2011, but unfortunately it has seen virtually no use the last few years. There are several reasons for this, but to me the single biggest problem with the Firebee is it's CPU/MMU and the lack of support for it in MiNT. The rest of the machine suits my use fine, despite it's many quirks. It is the fastest dedicated hardware out there (some here has spoken about emulation - not interesting at all to me), it has lots of RAM, big resolutions with Falcon compatible 16 bit pixels, can use real keyboards and it runs MiNT/XaAES very nicely which is all I need.

What it is not is what it attempts to be - a modern Falcon. The design is too far from the Falcon to be even remotely compatible. With the exception of the partial Videl compatibility there is nothing "Falcon" about it at all. There is no Falcon sound hardware, and there never can be (unless someone comes up with a hardware patch for the missing FPGA<->sound mixer analog connection or a separate DAC board). Compatibility with legacy software is even less than clones like the Hades and Milan thanks to the CPU differences. But if you're looking for a clone to run GEM software on it's not a bad choice at all.

People are talking about implementing the DSP in the FPGA, not sure how to tie that in with the existing sound hardware. I see no point in a DSP, it will contribute virtually nothing to compatibility and it will be slower than using the CPU for new developments.

After using the Firebee as my main Atari for around four years I switched back to the Milan for GEM-stuff. Yes, it's slower but still plenty fast enough. It's more stable, and most importantly MiNT's memory protection works on it. I miss full HD in 16 bit from the Firebee, but that's it. For legacy stuff and games/demos I have a Falcon060.

There is still work being done on the Firebee, and one day I hope to find some use for it again.
I haven’t been back in ages and never got around to thanking you for your message, but thanks so very much. I admit that it isn’t what I wanted to hear.

Of course what I want to hear is pure fantasy: that Jeff Bezos suddenly remembers he was an old Atari fan and loved TOS (yea, I have no idea if that is true…. Almost surely not, though I run into old Atari users all of the time.) and has decided to resurrect the Atari we all love. First he buys Atari back from the twit who owns it now and plans to slap the Atari name on hotels and whatnot (or so the rumor goes). Then he will sink $20b into making it a vibrant platform based on what we all knew and loved. How is that possible? It isn’t really, for a slew of reasons, but damnit this is my fantasy so get out of my head!

Anyway, as for the Firebee, I was hoping to see more development and interest by now. Unfortunately, as we get older and fewer in number I suspect that this is the best it will get. Still, I continue to hope. For now I think I am going to build myself a dedicated emulator machine. I have a bunch of old motherboards, RAM, cases, etc. I figure a 2 or 2.5ghz P4 and 4gb of RAM should make for a solid emulator. Now what I really want is to find some paint: Atari grey and blue. Then to turn a case, keyboard, and monitor into a fauxtari. Maybe I’ll start a thread about where to source the paints or something…

If there is any good Firebee news that I have missed I gladly welcome replies, of course. Reading this thread has been really nice even if I forgot to follow up before.
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Re: Firebee: the long game?

Post by Gamer »

AEWHistory wrote: Sun Mar 17, 2019 2:20 am So I think I once had an account here, but damn if I can find it now. So to christen my new account, I figured I would start by asking about the Firebee. Does anyone know what the long term goals are for this hardware? For example, is there a desire to try to rebuild a small mass of TOS users to keep the OS alive? Will there one day be an option for add on RAM and video cards? I know that drivers would be an issue for the video cards, but I would pay someone to make drivers for the cards that I’m interested in and give them to the community, so that’d open up at least some choices.

Also, it seems to me that the Firebee org could really find itself latching onto a not so insignification number of sales among musicians if the Firebee could replicate the tight timing that the original ST had with MIDI. AFAIK, no modern computer has managed to do what Atari did in 1985 with a 1ms timing tolerance. I think that the Firebee has MIDI built in (going from memory here) but has the implementation been compared to the original ST line by some musicians?

I realize That this is asking a lot for a project that is on a volunteer basis, but I just wanted to ask. I can’t wait to be able to afford one..... Wish I had never sold my 1040STe. How many Atarians have said that?
Hello. When I received my Firebee, I had three things that I wanted and was hoping for. I wanted to be able to run Calamus SL. I wanted to be able to surf the Internet. I wanted to have fast graphics through the use of a video card. I am still waiting on those , but I still happy with my Firebee. I am hoping that Netsurf will soon be extremely functional and I am hoping for the long awaited PCI backplane that will allow a graphics card to be hooked up to my Firebee. I wish Didier would mass produce the one he has on his Firebee.

I am lucky that I still have my 1040STE, A Falcon 030 and my regular ST. I just did not have the heart to part with them.

But for now I will just wait.
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Re: Firebee: the long game?

Post by AEWHistory »

Gamer wrote: Sun Oct 31, 2021 12:13 pm
AEWHistory wrote: Sun Mar 17, 2019 2:20 am So I think I once had an account here, but damn if I can find it now. So to christen my new account, I figured I would start by asking about the Firebee. Does anyone know what the long term goals are for this hardware? For example, is there a desire to try to rebuild a small mass of TOS users to keep the OS alive? Will there one day be an option for add on RAM and video cards? I know that drivers would be an issue for the video cards, but I would pay someone to make drivers for the cards that I’m interested in and give them to the community, so that’d open up at least some choices.

Also, it seems to me that the Firebee org could really find itself latching onto a not so insignification number of sales among musicians if the Firebee could replicate the tight timing that the original ST had with MIDI. AFAIK, no modern computer has managed to do what Atari did in 1985 with a 1ms timing tolerance. I think that the Firebee has MIDI built in (going from memory here) but has the implementation been compared to the original ST line by some musicians?

I realize That this is asking a lot for a project that is on a volunteer basis, but I just wanted to ask. I can’t wait to be able to afford one..... Wish I had never sold my 1040STe. How many Atarians have said that?
Hello. When I received my Firebee, I had three things that I wanted and was hoping for. I wanted to be able to run Calamus SL. I wanted to be able to surf the Internet. I wanted to have fast graphics through the use of a video card. I am still waiting on those , but I still happy with my Firebee. I am hoping that Netsurf will soon be extremely functional and I am hoping for the long awaited PCI backplane that will allow a graphics card to be hooked up to my Firebee. I wish Didier would mass produce the one he has on his Firebee.

I am lucky that I still have my 1040STE, A Falcon 030 and my regular ST. I just did not have the heart to part with them.

But for now I will just wait.
Damn I envy you!
I sincerely wish I could say the same. Back in 1996 I had a 1040STe with 4mb ram and TOS 2.06 installed, an SC1435, an SM147, a nice dual hard drive, and a wonderful collection of software. However, I was starting my PhD work in history and needed to get myself a computer that would be more useful during my studies. Things like a word processor with more advanced citation abilities was critical. Sadly, I was also dirt poor. So I sold the entire collection to someone in Florida. Ever since then I have wanted it back. I wish I still had the guy’s address, I’d have gotten the whole thing back years ago. So I have made do with emulators, but I miss those Atari computers so much.

I decided recently I was going to make a dedicated emulation machine. I am looking for the right color spray paint and I’m planning to paint and old case Atari grey, put on some blue accents maybe (Atari blue of course!), and do a few other cosmetic things to make a fauxtari. Not sure what to do about the keyboard and mouse yet. The old Atari mouse was a PITA even back then, with the ball roller getting badly gunked up, but I will figure out something that more or less fits.

As for the Firebee, eventually I will likely get one, but for now it is just too much money and does too little for me to justify it. I wish I had more money. If anyone finds some let me know….
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Re: Firebee: the long game?

Post by vido »

As for the latest FireBee developments.
It is not just for the FireBee but there is new GBE (GFA Basic) also for the FireBee and new MyAES which makes FireBee much more software usefull (= running faster) with prioritising top application running under FreeMINT.
Now I am happy OperTTD player in full screen (1920x1200 TC). :)
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Re: Firebee: the long game?

Post by Eero Tamminen »

AEWHistory wrote: Mon Nov 01, 2021 7:52 am I sincerely wish I could say the same. Back in 1996 I had a 1040STe with 4mb ram and TOS 2.06 installed, an SC1435, an SM147, a nice dual hard drive, and a wonderful collection of software. However, I was starting my PhD work in history and needed to get myself a computer that would be more useful during my studies. Things like a word processor with more advanced citation abilities was critical. Sadly, I was also dirt poor. So I sold the entire collection to someone in Florida. Ever since then I have wanted it back.
I continued using my 4MB-expanded STfm with monochrome monitor, by doing text with TeX under MiNT, with vconsole providing speedy text console.

The most slow thing was PovRay, even for stamp-sized images, but at least Mgif allowed viewing JPEGs nicely in monochrome monitor by alternating between 3 differently dithered screens, so end result looked like somewhat flickery (72Hz / 3 = 24Hz) grayscale.
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Re: Firebee: the long game?

Post by Gamer »

warp12 wrote: Sat Mar 23, 2019 6:37 pm
vido wrote:
warp12 wrote:The problem is that the Firebee is not really powerful, modern, or all that configurable. Ultimately, it is just destined to be another dead, outdated, hardware platform...like a 1985 machine. It's mostly there, already.

However, pc hardware continues to evolve...and will, for a long time. That is why, imo, emulation is the best solution for the platform. As far as "behavior of an ancient one"...well, why can't you have both capabilities? Look at the Amiga Forever package. Something like that for the TOS platform would be fantastic.
We already have both capabilities!
And why would you emulate "not really powerful, modern, or all that configurable" computer on really powerfull, modern and all that configurable computer?
I don't really understand what you are saying. You are saying it is better to not have legacy support than it is to have legacy support? That it is better to have your cake, but not eat it, too? Do you think that having a powerful TOS machine means that it cannot support legacy software? These are not mutually exclusive, from a hardware standpoint.

You are saying that the best solution for the future is a 266 mhz cpu (not even fully native 68k compatible), with compact flash storage, and very limited expansion?

Obviously, this platform is not attracting many new "power users". Of course people would like to use their old favorites on a new system. But, emulation allows both legacy support and scaled performance increases.
Yes, I agree that this platform is not attracting any new power users. It started out that way though. What it needs, I think, is a PCI backplane device so that a graphics card can be attached. Then programs like Netsurf will function better. It would be great to have a program, when run, would allow more old Atari ST programs to be ran. You know, something like was made for the Falcon. It just would be great to be able to hook up a floppy drive to the Firebee and run old ST programs. It also needs more programs that are written specifically for it. Whether or not this comes to light is anyone's guess. Let's hope things turn around.
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Re: Firebee: the long game?

Post by joska »

Gamer wrote: Sun May 08, 2022 3:15 pm What it needs, I think, is a PCI backplane device so that a graphics card can be attached. Then programs like Netsurf will function better.
Quite the opposite IMO. I have used Ataris and clones with PC graphics cards for 25 years now, and what is nice with the Firebee is that you can run at full HD and NOT have to use a graphics card that's incompatible with 100% of software that does not use the VDI only. Ok, a PCI graphics card would be faster but then you would have to live with yet another thing that causes compatibility issues.
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Re: Firebee: the long game?

Post by vido »

I am here with Gamer. Mostly I use only GEM and VDI compatible software. PCI graphics card would be a another (faster) option and not something would be removed from the FireBee. But I also agree (if we would have also fully working ST modes) existing FireBee graphics modes are big plus/bonus for it.
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Re: Firebee: the long game?

Post by Gamer »

vido wrote: Mon May 09, 2022 6:03 am I am here with Gamer. Mostly I use only GEM and VDI compatible software. PCI graphics card would be a another (faster) option and not something would be removed from the FireBee. But I also agree (if we would have also fully working ST modes) existing FireBee graphics modes are big plus/bonus for it.
Yes it would be great to have working ST modes in the Firebee. If it did have these, my Firebee would get more use. I still use a Falcon 030 and have a regular, ST, a STe, a STfm and a Stacy packed away. I am really tempted to get them all out and set them up again. Pretty soon I will have a new computer desk (57" wide) put together and will have the Firebee setup right next to an Atari VCS. Also a Pyra and a Pandora will be there also. Not giving up on the Firebee. Will still search for ways to use it. Hopefully there will be some developers that will make the task much easier.
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Re: Firebee: the long game?

Post by PeterS »

Even just the ability to run ST modes in window would be good.
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Re: Firebee: the long game?

Post by shoggoth »

Personally, I think it would make a big difference if the 68k compatibility layer could be ripped out and bolted on top of EmuTOS, so the thing could be rid of the main atrocity (FireTOS).
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Re: Firebee: the long game?

Post by vido »

shoggoth wrote: Sat Jun 25, 2022 1:29 pm Personally, I think it would make a big difference if the 68k compatibility layer could be ripped out and bolted on top of EmuTOS, so the thing could be rid of the main atrocity (FireTOS).
I agree this would be really cool. As selectable option preferred.
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