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Comparison of Some Amiga/PC Data Sharing Solutions

 

TOPIC

Q: What is the difference between Amiga Forever, the Siamese System, NFS, Samba and other Amiga/PC integration tools?

 

DISCUSSION

A: The Amiga Explorer networking software, which is part of Amiga Forever, connects an Amiga to one or more Windows computers, showing the contents of all Amiga drives on the Windows Desktop (see picture). "Drag and drop" of Amiga files becomes as easy as moving files on the local machine. Amiga Explorer usually requires just one setting to be configured (the COM port to which the Amiga is attached, or the IP address of a networked Amiga), and provides support for Amiga and emulation-specific features (e.g. virtual ADF, HDF and ROM files).

The freely distributable Samba software, which runs on top of TCP/IP, does provide a very good degree of bi-directional networking capabilities, but it is much more difficult to set up and configure than Amiga Explorer. Other commercial solutions we are aware of, including the Siamese System, and the NFS Amiga client included with AmiTCP/IP (that can be used with NFS servers such as the one included with Microsoft's Windows Services for Unix, from Intergraph/SSC and others), do the opposite of Amiga Explorer, by making PC files available to the Amiga side.

With Amiga Explorer, the Amiga side acts as a server, i.e. the Amiga drives are seen on the Windows Desktop (but the opposite is not true, i.e. Windows drives do not appear on the Amiga Workbench), and configuration requires the setting of a single value (serial speed, or IP address of the Amiga). Also, by implementing a high-level Windows namespace extension model, Amiga Explorer can pack several requests for data (e.g. to view the contents of a directory) into a single request to the Amiga and a single reply from the Amiga, improving the response time compared to data transfer solutions working at the file system level. This is especially useful when connecting two computers over a serial cable, which does not provide a connection as fast as Ethernet, for example.

The Siamese System, which is not available any more, provided a very interesting approach to Amiga-PC integration. This combination of hardware and software resulted in the Amiga (a "real" Amiga with a Siamese network card) becoming a terminal server, with the Amiga screen being rendered on the PC, on which the client software was running. The Siamese software, written by Paul Nolan, excelled in reducing the required bandwidth, for example by transmitting instructions for high level actions (rather than simply refreshing entire bitmap regions) wherever possible, however while providing support for RTG screen modes it was not compatible with the original Amiga screen modes. The same functionality originally provided by the Siamese System can now easily be provided by an emulation package like Amiga Forever, which is faster, more compatible, and does not require an Amiga to be connected to the PC.

After the demise of Commodore in 1993-1994 and before software emulation of Amiga hardware became popular, several other, hardware-based, Amiga-PC integration concepts and prototypes were released. One of the most interesting ones was the Access Amiga-on-a-board ISA card by Mick Tinker and Steve Rencontre. Unfortunately these boards never enjoyed any commercial success. Besides being more expensive than a low end Amiga computer, they required an additional monitor to be connected to the PC in order to display native Amiga screen modes. Also, as original Amiga components and spare parts were getting older and more difficult to find, it was hard to provide the quality and support that computing customers were getting accustomed to. In comparison with hardware-based solutions, emulation has the additional advantage of being upgradeable and reconfigurable to emulate a certain CPU or RAM configuration, if required for compatibility reasons.

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Article Information
Article ID: 13-103
Platform: Windows
Products: Amiga Forever, Amiga Explorer
Additional Keywords: None
Last Update: 2008-10-25
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