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Booting a PC into Workbench

 

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Q: Can I configure the PC so that it boots into Workbench instead of Windows?

 

DISCUSSION

A: Yes, but the Amiga emulation environment can only run on top of another operating system, such as Windows or GNU/Linux, where it can take advantage of hundreds of thousands of existing hardware device drivers. This underlying operating system can be more or less "thin" and hidden.

The Amiga Forever CD-ROM includes the KX Light boot component, which allows the PC to boot from the CD, loading a lightweight GNU/Linux environment before starting the GNU/Linux version of the UAE emulation software, with the Amiga Forever preinstalled Workbench and application environment. This is the same environment which is normally accessible when Amiga Forever is run under Windows (from CD or after installation). No configuration is required on the PC, other than making sure that the option to boot from CD is enabled in the PC bios, and that the CD is in the drive when the CD boots. All PC disks are accessed in read-only mode by the KX Light environment, making this a safe environment to experiment with the Amiga emulation.

In the case of Windows, the emulation software uses the DirectDraw system to get efficient low-level access to hundreds of different display cards, DirectInput to support a variety of joysticks and other up-to-date input devices and the network interface and protocol drivers to let the emulation access the internet and your LAN. The emulation also has access to all file systems which the host system has drivers for, including NTFS, ReFS, DVD-ROM, etc. If the emulation could not use the numerous existing graphics, sound, file system, SCSI, IDE, TCP/IP, DSL, CD-ROM, DVD, Blu-Ray, USB, FireWire, wired and wireless networking, 3G, WiMAX, Bluetooth, modem, input and many other drivers and configuration options, somebody would have to write new drivers and user interfaces for all of these PC devices. In practice, there are not enough people and resources to do this. Even GNU/Linux, to make an example, had great difficulties to reach a reasonable initial set of PC hardware drivers.

Should you need to run the Amiga emulation on a PC without installing any software, please consider that the Amiga Forever CD-ROM also contains ready-to-run Amiga configurations which do not require installation. Just insert the CD on a Windows system and as soon as the MenuBox launcher appears (if AutoPlay is enabled, otherwise right-click the CD to start) click once to select the desired configuration, which will start immediately, usually in full screen mode. After you are done just eject the CD - no files on the PC will have been changed. In this way you can use Amiga and PC applications side by side, without rebooting the computer, and without installing any software (which for example at work or at school may not always be possible). Unless the software which you need to use requires access to files on the CD, the CD itself can even be removed right after the emulation has started and the system has completed booting.

It is possible to configure the PC so that the underlying operating system is hidden, and the emulation automatically starts in full screen. Under Windows this involves three steps:

  1. Removing or changing the Windows boot graphics

  2. Logging on automatically

  3. Automatically starting the emulation.

To remove the boot graphics on Windows 9x, add the line "logo=0" to the "[options]" section of the hidden system file "MSDOS.SYS" in your boot drive's root directory. If instead you prefer to create your own custom graphics, you need to place a BMP file (320x400 pixels, 256 colors) named "LOGO.SYS" at the root of the system volume (or the host partition, if the system volume is compressed). Special programs exist to add color cycling to the boot graphics, but in general any program capable of saving in BMP format (e.g. Personal Paint as included in Amiga Forever) can be used. If your system already had a LOGO.SYS file, you may want to rename it, so you have a backup copy of the original. Under Windows NT the boot logo is stored inside the system directory, can have any size (the initial screen resolution is that of the Administrator account), and has one of four possible names, depending on the system type (workstation or server) and the color-depth (16 or 256 colors): "winnt.bmp", "winnt256.bmp",  "lanmannt.bmp" and "lanma256.bmp".

The next step in order to make Windows boot as discretely as possible is to have it log on automatically. You can do this using  the Microsoft Tweak UI tool that is a component of the PowerToys utilities (free download from the Microsoft Download Center), and setting the "Log on automatically at system startup" option. Warning: disabling the requirement to log on, any user will have access to your computer (like on an Amiga).

Next, make sure that your default WinUAE configuration ("Default.uae") is set to open in full screen mode and has the "Show GUI on startup" option disabled. Now, drag-and-drop a link to the WinUAE program file to the Start Menu, "Programs/Startup" folder, and you are done: the PC will boot without showing the Windows logo, it will log on automatically, and it will start WinUAE with your favorite settings.

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Article Information
Article ID:13-129
Platform:Windows
Products:Amiga Forever
Additional Keywords:None
Last Update:2008-10-25
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