Friday, November 24, 2017

10 Years of Icaros Desktop!

by on Friday, November 24, 2017
It was a long, long time ago. A quite younger myself (Paolo Besser) presented AROS to some hundreds of people visiting Pianeta Amiga 2007, a still popular italian fair about Amiga products. While showing it at the event, I realized that the best way to advertise the open-source Amiga "clone" among the Amiga community was to prove it was already able to do things: AROS, in fact, was being developed for 12 years, but very little was known about its applications outside of its little community of developers and hackers. Most people believed it was simply too far, feature-wise, from AmigaOS and MorphOS to be actually useful for anything. This was, sadly, partially true. AROS hardware support was tiny, it didn't talk with USB devices, it had not hardware acceleration, it could barely do networking but it hadn't even a browser. There were many software pieces already in place, but almost nobody knew how to chain and take advantage of them. Moreover, most AROS applications were difficult to find and configure, so the best most people did with AROS builds was just downloading them from time to time, test the graphic demos, and forget about it 10 minutes later. A real pity: people poking with Lunapaint at Pianeta Amiga 2007 showed amusement and were impressed to see a common PC running an Amiga-ish operating system so nicely. Something more had to be done!


Right after the show, I started preparing a VMWare virtual machine to run AROS and the best applications it had to offer. On November 24th, 2007 the blogspot-based "" website went on-line, announcing the new project I was working on. Three days after, on november 27th, the very first release of VmwAROS was out. Presented as an "AROS environment running on a VMware virtual machine". There were already some different virtualization technologies to choose from but, as like as today, I went for the one which offered the best degree of compatibility with the OS. VmwAROS 0.1 was more a proof-of-concept than a real 'release'. It had many flaws like the italian language already selected by default, and initial scripts were quite ugly to see. There was even a silly bug in ConfigIP, a script I placed to help configuring networking. Although the AROS community was very tiny, got 500 page views in two days, which could be considered a sort of success, in ages where social networks barely existed. The virtual machine already brought programs like Lunapaint, WookieChat and MuiBase. And, while working on the second release, I added the PUB: assign, the first brick to what it would become MyWorkspace years later: a place used to share files with the host operating system, which could be reached through a FTP client. Thanks to YAFS, of course.

In the meanwhile, I started adding some valuable software that could be used out-of-the box, like the shareware episodes of DooM and Quake, and the complete adventure game Beneath a Steel Sky from my old friends of Revolution Software. Developers could write some AROS software with the Murks! IDE, whose original buttons had to be replaced to fit with VmwAROS graphic style (still based on AROS' default Gorilla icons). Right in time for Christmas, version 0.5 of Vmwaros was out on December 14th, 2007. Someone will probably remember the very big program bar on the bottom of the screen, which was delivered - as usual - by AmiStart.


The virtual drive started to grow, and some people got concerned about updating it. Obviously VmwAROS couldn't miss the opportunity to give its users something bare AROS didn't. So I created VmwUpdate, seed of the current LiveUpdater. VmwUpdate worked in a very weird way: it looked for a ISO file to provide newer components... and that made perfectly sense, since the 'distribution' was basically a nightly build of AROS with added components. User just needed to provide a newer nightly ISO, and VmwAROS system files would have been updated as well. Obviously, also regular Vmwaros updates were distributed as ISO files, so that VmwUpdate could use them flawlessly. Between v0.5 and v0.6 a compatibility problem arose: AROS used an unproperly versioned MUIMaster library and, when the issue was corrected, older applications simply stopped to work. This led me to provide both versions and a script to switch between each other when necessary. Luckily, all affected programs were corrected in a couple of months.

In the meanwhile, many things started to happen in AROS-land. On January 21st, 2008, I could download the first port of SimpleMail to AROS and I could write my first emails straight from VmwAROS. It's been a little great milestone for our operating system. A few days later, FryingPan was ported to AROS too, and I could add the 'shareware' version of this CD and DVD burning program as well. But the best had yet to come: Robert Norris made the first port of the Webkit engine to AROS, and on March 02nd, 2008, I could open some web pages under VmwAROS. Pages were not rendered with absolute perfection, but at least we could read and interact with the world wide web like any other operating system, and this had been a huge step forward. It's been a wonderful season for AROS: it could even run PlayStation games. But things were moving on also for Vmwaros, which would make its own bigger announcement so far...


On March 30th, 2008, Vmwaros left its VMWare nest to become a real distribution, "Which meant the ability to run VmwAROS directly on top of real hardware, taking all the advantages of it, when supported. - I said on this site - Last days' spare time has been used figuring how to convert all the work I've done before into a more flexible, adaptable one. A long work which grow up while I was doing it. Work that, luckily, I had not to place in the dustbin. I only had to take some smarter decisions and change paths here and there". First release of installable Vmwaros Live! was v0.7, released seven days after, on April 7th. This release could network straight from the CD-ROM and included all 3rd party programs, already unpacked, in Extras, so they could be indifferently installed either on SYS: or Work:. A pre-installed version on a virtual machine, more faithful to its root, was offered as well, called VmwAROS VE. It attracted many more visitors than the site opening: 4000 in 48 hours, instead of 500, but it was just an appetizer for the great success this version had: Vmwaros files were hosted on Amikit's website because at the time we didn't have a proper web space and, when Jan Zahurancik gave me access to his site stats, I couldn't trust my eyes: we got about 85,000 downloads for VmwAROS 0.7, with an amazingly high preference for the Live! edition. From April 14th to 16th VmwAROS moved more than 15 TB of bandwidth. It never happened again. Vmwaros Live! also appeared on two italian magazines and their covermounted DVD-ROMs: Computer Magazine and Linux Pro.

In the next months, two new versions of Vmwaros followed: v0.8 and v0.9. The former included the final version of Murks! IDE, many new games and a 'safe mode' loading an older (but more friendly to some configurations) kernel. The latter brought GRUB 1.99 as new boot loader, allowed to install AROS on SFS partitions and to snapshot icon and window positions (a long standing bug, corrected by Nick Andrews, prevented to do this before). On August 18th this site got its first restyle and, on October 11, version 0.9 got its first update 0.9.1: it was the also the first time a 'update' was included into the version number. On October 27th another great news: famous artist Ken Lester not only allowed me to use his icons, but he also provided many missing ones. Bye Bye Gorilla icons! The month ended on 31st with another exciting news: VmwAROS EXE, an experimental version of the Live! ISO already configured to run on a QEMU virtual machine. Later on, this would become integrated into the Live! distribution.

Another technology, however, was almost ready to debut. Since the inception of VmwAROS, people complained about lack of compatibility with Amiga games and applications. We already had E-UAE, a working Amiga emulator, but we could not provide original ROMs and operating system due to copyright issues, so we needed at least a way to help people configuring the emulator in an easier way. The first version of AmiBridge was announced on November 25th, and was really rudimentary: it allowed to "integrate" classic applications and run each one in a different instance of the emulator. This was well explained in a video embedded in the news page. In its first incarnation, AmiBridge just modified a line in AmigaOS 3.x startup-sequence to run, instead of Workbench, the desired application. All programs were forced to run in a fixed-size window, reproducing an AGA screen: it was really far from an ideal solution, or from a 'real integration' like AmigaOS 4.x and MorphOS one, but at least it was a beginning.


On December 15th 2008, one year after v0.1, VmwAROS 1.0 had been released. It featured a lot of improvements overs v0.9: it could shutdown the system on supported hardware (which means: no one), it supported wide screen resolutions, it brought AmiBridge and Ken Lester's iconset, it featured a complete development chain based on GCC 4.2.2, it could compile AROS itself, and it added GhostScript and the PoorX technology. PoorX was a very simple, yet effective and powerful tool which allows to call a an application and load a file through a script, when you cannot bind that application and file types. This allowed to do very nice things, for instance creating PoorARC, our first multi-format archive extraction tool, and PoorPDF, AROS' first way to open PDF files: it practically converted all pages of a PDF file into JPEG images, which were then opened by a picture viewer. Not very comfortable, but it worked.

VmwAROS 1.0 was then followed by a couple of updates. v1.0.1 added MPlayer, MilkyTracker, AROS-Amp, HFinder and the game client Eternal Lands; v1.0.2 added SabreMSN and, most important, USB mass storage support. On February 23th of the following year, Stanislaw Szymczyk ported the first "real" version of OWB to AROS: we finally had a full working web browser based on Webkit, which supported CSS and many modern technologies. I could even post the news from VmwAROS itself! On March 05, Stephen Jones announced his iMica systems, the first computers sold with VmwAROS pre-installed: for this reason, the day after VmwAROS 1.1 was announced. Version 1.0, in the meanwhile, got its first review on Amiga Future, issue #77. On March 14th, however, a very important change was needed and performed.

«It has been a suffered decision, since after a whole year of development and public relations, some important reviews on sites and magazines, the VmwAROS name had become really popular among the community, and a name change may confuse people. However, I finally had to agree that it was also a bit misleading. VmwAROS had born in november 2007 as a "complete AROS environment running on VMware" but, only 6 months later, it has been released for the first time as a complete, live distribution for PC. I spent many and many hours of my life explaining this in Amiga-related forums but, after a whole year of so, there were still too much people that thought VmwAROS was simply "AROS for VMware", which is not anymore or, at least, it is only half true. From now on, there will be no more VmwAROS, but Icaros Desktop instead.» - Saturday, March 14h, 2009.

So, VmwAROS 1.1 just became Icaros Desktop 1.1 and was released on March 27th. It brought a quite long list of improvements over 1.1, including OWB and links to web/cloud applications, the introduction of Janus-UAE 0.3 in AmiBridge, Picasso (and fullscreen) support under emulation, the ability to integrate Amiga Forever 2008 files, ArosPDF, Drascula, support to encrypted DVDs and many others. VmwUpdate changed name to Updater and overall system speed and stability sensibly improved, due to a hard work of bug fixing on the AROS side. First update 1.1.1 was launched on April 30th. It added sound support under QEMU and VirtualBox through AC97 AHI driver, the network preferences program TCPprefs, ICU and Cairo libraries. Updates could still be performed using Updater and AROS nightly builds, however this choice was discouraged because it would have reverted icons to the standard Gorilla theme. For the first time ever, Icaros was shown running in a netbook. With the help of Stephen Jones, AmiBridge could start applications straight from an icon.

In the following months, I released a new version of Updater called LiveUpdater. With the help of Yannick Erb, Icaros could connect to its main server, check for updates and download them. Also automatic updates were supported, however, activating them could stop the bootsrtap procedure for a while, until time-out, if the server was not reachable, so I disabled this interesting function. Downloading the new updater was mandatory to get and correctly install update 1.1.2, released just in time for my birthday. It brought Protrekkr and DosBox, which could be used not only for DOS games, but also to run Windows 3.1 (and its applications) under Icaros Desktop. It updated AmiStart to provide a much more professional look (and a better start menu) and let AmiBridge run 68K applications in a more automatized way. It also supported other editions of Amiga Forever, from 2006 to 2009.  On August 1st version 1.1.3 had been released, and it brought another great addition to AROS: Poseidon USB stack from Chris Hodges. Later on, version 1.1.4 updated SDL, MESA and Poseidon as well. But, above all, it introduced the Light edition of Icaros Desktop, which incuded (and still includes) only the mandatory system and application files, leaving most of the 3rd party programs to the larger Live! edition. Short after Poseidon port, another incredible development was coming on AROS: Gallium 3D, brought to us by Krzysztof "Deadwood" Smiechowicz.


Last months of 2009 had been spent enhancing Icaros in any possible way. Not only we added Gallium 3D but, in the meanwhile, we reworked AmiBridge to run also games and demos straight from their ADF files. So, when Icaros Desktop 1.2 and update 1.2.1 were released, people could enjoy easy emulation of Amiga computer (ROMs needed to be provided, though, from Amiga Forever or any other legal source) and, best of all, something the other Amiga-like environments did not provide: modern shaders on hardware 3D accelerators. It's been an AROS-only feature for many years to come. Icaros 1.2 also introduced many other cosmetic and functional enhancements: a new exclusive windows theme, the great ZuneARC archiver, a slightly better Poseidon USB stack, some really artistic wallpapers from Wilhelm Steiner and abraXXious, many new games and emulators, a slightly better OWB and even the first demo of a commercial game for AROS, BOH.

They weren't the only additions to. The operating system could finally host aliases (shortcuts) on the workbench screen (.backdrop support), change shape to mouse pointer, change windows theme safely and, for audio lovers, more audio chips got supported thanks to AHI HDAudio and Envy24T drivers. Stability increased as well. In the following months, development of version 1.2.2 proceeded quite well, with some very nice additions already planned... however sometimes the fate plays against good intentions: right before finalizing it, my hard drive suddendly died, bringing with itself all latest changes. Luckily, some days before I had uploaded on the site a good work-in-progress version, which was "promoted" as official release on May 28th, 2010. After couple of weeks, I could recoup all work I had done before and release update 1.2.3. It included the driver for Intel GMA 9x0 IGP, Nuveau 2D and 3D drivers for Nvidia cards, updated MESA libraries with hardware acceleration, OpenAL audio drivers and some new interesting applications like BigBand and AmiFig. Moreover, Windows shares could be mounted through SMB and other computers on the local network could be remotely managed through RDP and VNC clients. Finally, we could do some serious gaming on AROS! Times change, however, and on August 27th, 2010, Icaros Desktop started its own page on Facebook.

Icaros 1.2 was the release which got more updates. On October 1st update 1.2.4 went online. Again, it brought many new applications like OpenUniverse, LodePaint, Annotate, and the wonderful platform game MegaMario. Some inner working of AROS shell were changed, so I had to fix AmiBridge, LiveUpdater and other scripts here and there. Version 1.2.4 also brought the diskimage.device which allowed to virtually mount disc images, and MAME entered the emulators drawer. Some important enhancements were made to RTL8139 network driver, GMA 900 video driver and HDAudio driver.

On november 20th, 2010, two new important features were added by update 1.2.5: MyWorkspace and Remote Workbench. I must admit that the former had been a suffered decision, but it was necessary. As former amigan I always loved the freedom to place things wherever I wanted, but the more Icaros Desktop grew in complexity, the more I needed to set a place to point all applications outputs to. Moreover, with 68K integration getting near, I needed a place I was absolutely sure I could point the emulator to, no matter what user configuration would be. That's why MyWorkspace: became the central place to exchange data for Icaros applications. Although I couldn't allow people to choose MyWorkspace real path, I tried to be smart enough to bind its drive to the Extras one. In other words, MyWorkspace follows the Extras and Development directories when you install Icaros onto the hard drive. Some scripting was added to manage this place also when Icaros is running from the boot media. Remote Workbench mimics Windows' Remote Desktop and uses a VNC server to allow management of the Icaros box from another machine of the local network. Last but not least, AmiStart bar on the bottom of the screen got reduced to the current 'compact' layout.

Version 1.2.6 was mostly remembered for ThumbNailGun, BOCHS, MESA 7.10, EGL, Giana's Return and AmiBridge improvements. Since Wanderer could not (and can not yet) show picture previews instead of icons (and that's strange...after all is something that current computing speed and datatypes could handle), I asked Yannick Erb if he could write a little CLI command that would create .Info files of specified images. Yannick replied (the same day or so) with dt2thumb, which I combined to a script (for Wanderer) and then re-used with Directory Opus 5 in later Icaros releases. BOCHS is a old, slow but functional virtualization program like QEMU, VirtualBox and friends. It's the only one that has been ported to AROS. In order to make it useful for something, I also provided two disc images with FreeDOS and Linux DLX, so you can now open a "DOS prompt" or a "Linux shell" on Icaros too. Unfortunately I couldn't run ReactOS on that, nor I could provide a Windows 98 based image for copyright reasons, but the latter worked fine.

With the addition of MESA 7.10 and EGL libraries, Icaros became a better place to run games on (and maybe to develop too), while Amiga and ST lovers could find a better suited AmiBridge environment and a pre-configured Atari ST emulator. Icaros Desktop was getting funnier and funneir: version 1.2.6 brought also Giana's Return for AROS, a great "fan clone/sequel" of The Great Giana Sisters, a masterpiece of the '90s published by Rainbow Arts for Commodore 64 and Amiga. The game is still one of the best Mario-like platformer ever. Icaros 1.2.6 included also a little gem for Intel GMA users: the new driver brought back to AROS one of the finest and most iconic features of Amiga computers, screen dragging. This ability was then extended also to VESA drivers on March 27th, too late for inclusion, but absolutely in time for the colorful release of Icaros Desktop 1.3, happened on June 1st 2011.


In the weeks between 1.2.6 release and june, AmiBridge scripts had to be rewritten, and it was for a great motivation: Oliver Brunner finally added to Janus-UAE the feature everyone was waiting for: desktop integration for M68K apps. Older AmiBridge scripts basically launched a UAE session for every 68K program ran from AROS, while now we just had to run UAE and then let Wanderer open the others inside of it, once it was running. A new "AmiBridge" folder was added to AmiStart, and scripts were rewritten to fit Janus-UAE's new needs. After first introduction of AmiBridge, this was Icaros' second big step towards 68K compatibility. With Icaros Desktop 1.3 came also the Services preference program (which replaced some very old RequestChoice-based configuration scripts written by me) and LiveUpdater's update packs instead of older ISOs. With Icaros 1.3, I cleaned up the little big mess of pointless programs that didn't work correctly, or at all, with latest updates of 1.2.

On august 24th, update 1.3.1 was released. It completed Amiga 68K integration and allowed to start the 68K environment at boot, making it always available to old applications. To be honest, it noticeably slowed down the whole system and some times it hanged AROS completely, but it had been a great addition anyway. Updates 1.3.2 and 1.3.3 shortly followed. They added support to Fermi-based GeForce cards, RTL8187B wi-fi cards and SoundBlaster 128 PCI cards, which also introduced sound on VMware. Intel GMA driver got hardware 3D acceleration and version 1.3.3 fixed a huge list of UI bugs, thanks to the never forgotten "AROS papercuts initiative". Version 1.3.3 was then followed by four patches, which gradually fixed Wanderer bugs and added windows iconification, a basic UI feature which was still incredibly missing at the time. On January 26th, with patch 1.3.3-4, the life cycle for version 1.3.x was complete.


Icaros Desktop 1.4 was released on March 09th, 2012, and it has been one of the most successful, most appreciated release ever. It brought a lot of improvements on any area: stability, drivers, user experience, applications, 68k support, networking. It brought Krzysztof Smiechowicz's port of OWB for MorphOS (with all the Zune class that were needed), the full version of FryingPan and Davy Wentzler's Audio Evolution 4, the most professional music studio program available for the Amiga platform; it introduced print support to PS files and printers and, thanks to Jason McMullan's work, it could run Amiga games and demos using AROS Kickstart. Another step towards independence from copyrighted software was done. Icaros was ready to run Amiga software, browse the web, print documents all by itself.

Sadly, on April 10th Commodore's founder Jack Tramiel left us forever. On April 11 and May 24th updates 1.4.1 and 1.4.2 were released. 1.4.1 updated OWB and included GLMark 08, SchismTracker, Duke Nukem 3D (shareware levels) and Sqrxz 3. 1.4.2 brought WildMidi with GUS patches, Unarc and new versions of OWB (again), MPlayer, Janus-UAE and others. But the best news came on June 14, when free 68K support through AROS M68K was announced. Few days after, our efforts were covered by Australian Computerworld site and it got Slashdotted. Icaros 1.4.2 was soon replaced by 1.4.3 and, on July 18th 2012, version 1.4.5 was released (1.4.4 was skipped). It included the accelerated Turrican clone Hurrican, Claus Desler's Cinnamon Writer and, for the first time, a complete M68K application running on Icaros Desktop through AROS for Amiga: Ignition. AmiBridge had been extended to use AROS M68K (with the optional choice to use AmigaOS from Amiga Forever as usual) to run old Amiga software. Freedom from the Commodore legacy was complete. Icaros 1.4.5 was then patched twice.


With Icaros Desktop 1.5 file organization changed forever. Most important applications were "promoted" outside of Extras, and were moved to System, Utilities and Tools depending on their nature. It was, and sometimes it still is, one of the most discussed decisions, but it was and it is needed to automatize and better manage the creation of Live! and Light editions. Until version 1.4, building the Light edition basically needs a manual rework of Extras contents, and keeping track of changes was extremely difficult, leading to issues during updates. On November 12, 2012, few days before actual release, a new version of this site went online. But changes were not just cosmetic: behind the scenes, I replaced the old Fedora machine I used to build Icaros with a newer, Ubuntu-based one (the one I still use today), Krzysztof Smiechowicz backported (for the first time) the AROS kernel from the more advanced ABIv1 to our (still current) ABIv0, and AmiBridge got many enhancements to customize the 68K environment. I started asking many old Amiga publishers for permission to include their old software in the distribution and the result has been Icaros 1.5, released for the first time on January 3rd, 2013.

It included a new 68K drawer in Extras with TVPaint, Real 3D, AmiBlitz and others. New kernel brought compatibility issues with some PC configurations, so for the first - and last - time a LKE, Legacy Kernel Edition of Icaros Desktop was released as well: it included the same features, but was exclusively intended for people with regressions on hardware support. While the mainstream edition had GRUB 2.0, the LKE edition still used the older 1.99 release. This experiment was never been repeated again.

Version 1.5.1, released at the end of January, should have fixed problems temporarily addressed with the LKE edition, but a severe bug which could cause data corruption on FAT devices was discovered and fixed by Neil Cafferkey, so this update had been replaced by a patched version after 24 hours. On May 09th update 1.5.2 was released, and mostly included updates for software, drivers and system files. It also included an updated AROS shell manual, with all new commands introduced/documented from the former edition, written by Joao Ralha. But the best enhancement of the time had still to come: on October 7th, 2013, I released a public "work in progress" version which included Directory Opus 5 "Magellan", which I immediately started to customize. I didn't tell this at the time, but the public "Experimental version 1.5.2" actually was a pre-alpha of Icaros 2.0, since it already included a much more advanced backport of AROS from ABIv1. This first beta was followed by a second one on November and a third on January 2014. People were teased, in the meanwhile, with some videos about practical advantages of the incoming "next" release. Like this one showing how to run C64 games on the distribution. On January 22, a fourth WIP version was released and the fifth followed a couple of week after. The glory days when every week AROS got new features and programs might be already gone, but in the 1.5 era I discovered many things I always overlooked. First one, how to hack LUA scripts to fit my increased needs: for instance, to extend the old Services prefs program into the current Icaros Settings.


Icaros Desktop 2.0 was officially announced on August 21st, 2014. It's been the first "major release" of the distribution six years after v1.0. It was so important that I gave to Andreas Magerl the exclusive right to preview it on his magazine, Amiga Future. I'd explain new features here only after issue 110 was out.

Icaros Desktop 2.0 was then presented at Game Over indie developers fair in Milan, and it was finally released on Helloween. It has definitely been something BIG. It took 18 months of development and fine tuning, but included dozens of new features: a much improved user experience through Magellan (which replaced Wanderer at startup), a new kernel backported from ABIv1, the new TLSF memory manager, a heavily polished 68K support, the option to use ScalOS, the brand new version 1.23 of OWB, and more, more, more.

New UI was built around the idea of a "file managing toolbox", where user could actually do whatever he/she wanted to do with files. Magellan listers were customized with a cosy toolbar performing most common operation, while on the top right corner of the screen another 'floating' toolbar could do less common things (like, for instance, checking sizes of directories, or if selected files fitted on a destination media, etc). Unluckily, this bar didn't get the popularity I hoped, so I removed it in version 2.1. The Magellan based UI actually was (and is) much more powerful than the Wanderer one, and to help people understanding new operations, I even made some videos (in my ridiculous English, forgive me...).

First update (2.0.1) to new Icaros was released on December 10th. It basically fixed most bugs found by users on AROS-EXEC, but it also brought back an option that classic Amiga lovers asked for much time: the ability to "run Amiga as a service", in practice running AROS 68K or AmigaOS in Janus-UAE in the background, and start 68K application from Wanderer (Magellan could not handle them with a double click, but the right click -> WBrun option was a good workaround). The second update 2.0.2 was released on January 14, but it was flawed by bugs and regressions, so it has been replaced some days after by version 2.0.3. Starting with version 2.0.4, GRUB menu would be reduced to just two main options: default settings for Icaros Desktop, and advanced options (which included the ones from previous releases). If you had a Windows system as well, it would have appeared as third option in the main menu. It also brought OWB 1.25 and the chance to play YouTube videos (and other HTML5-based sites as well). But... hey... where's Icaros Desktop 2.0.4 gone? It never happened, because on March 13rd, 2016, it turned into version 2.1.

Other than OWB 1.25, Icaros Desktop 2.1 included also an updated version of Magellan, the Google Drive handler (then extended to support Dropbox as well), a configuration tool written by me, handlers for NTFS-3G and EXFAT filesystems and many, many updates to 3rd party programs.  The usual quirks and bugs discovered by users were fixed a month later with update 2.1.1, while on June and September also updates 2.1.2 and 2.1.3 were released. They added some useful new features like SMB support for Windows 7 folders, DropBox handler, the Mapparium program and a faster RTG driver for AROS M68K, which slightly improved emulation speed.  On December 21st, 2016, I decided to make a little present to the Icaros community, with the release of Icaros Desktop 2.2 X-Mas Special Edition. It included an alpha release of Final Writer.

The official release of Icaros Desktop 2.2 went online on June 1st, 2017, after a complete restyle of the website. It's been the first release including hosted installation for Windows and Linux, allowing to run the system like any other application. It also introduced Hostbridge, a new technology which allows to run host applications, or to open AROS files with Windows/Linux programs of your choice (just imagine the "Rabbit hole" option of Amikit, but with a different approach). Icaros 2.2 included also the acclaimed ZunePaint image editor and many, many updated programs. Last update to Icaros was 2.2.1, released on June 26th, 2017, which fixed the usual issues with new releases.

Well. That's done. We made a very long journey together. Let's see where this adventure will bring us in the future.

Paolo Besser

Thursday, November 16, 2017

A plea: let's bring Folio to AROS!

by on Thursday, November 16, 2017
Some advanced options of Folio being used.
While thinking about new features to add to Icaros Desktop, I landed on Morphzone and stumbled upon a very interesting project by Andé Siegel, the Folio word processor. Feature wise, it is quite far from being like big office suite applications like LibreOffice Writer or Microsoft Word, but it is easily comparable to Windows Wordpad and many other modern editors coming with mainstream operating systems and Linux distributions. You can import files, you can edit texts, you can change font and style, use tables and add pictures to your documents. In a nutshell: you can do with Folio most of things you would normally do with any word processor, including, and this is an obvious feature in 2017, printing to PDF files. But Folio's best feature is not what it does, but how it does it: from your web browser. You do not need a Internet connection at all, because all needed files and components are stored locally on your hard drive. André published long ago a 'tech demo' of Folio (let's call it 'version 0') which needed OWB 1.23 to properly run on MorphOS: people who already updated it to 1.24 needed to step back to 1.23. At the same time, however, I could already run it on AROS' OWB 1.25 with no issue (see screenshots).
Folio "v0" running on Icaros Desktop
I could print to PDF using OWB export option and even print to a PostScript .ps file using AROS printer driver, the only problem I got was that Folio user interface got printed as well, with the document, at its beginning. In the following weeks, André brought his program to version 1, which was then released free of charge on MorphZone. Unfortunately, the new version does not work anymore on AROS, probably due to some Javascript issues. It does not work correctly on Windows Firefox as well, but on MorphOS OWB it should work properly, so making it work again on AROS should not be so terribly difficult. The software comes with a LGPL license and further development is bound to users good will (please read: donations). So, if noone of you would dig into the Javascript code assembled by André, please consider to leave him a donation, tagged with a "please port it to AROS" request. So far, and until Final Writer will be completed, this is the fastest and more viable way to finally get a modern word processor, able to deal with current file formats, running on AROS.

> Folio's page on MorphZone

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

New AROS videos from Stephen Jones

by on Tuesday, September 19, 2017
[updated] Our old and dear friend Stephen Jones (you'll surely remember him for his iMica computer systems) has made two three amazing videos about setting up an AROS computer from scrap parts. They are very interesting, since include some tips and hints you should take into account, if you'd like to build the perfect Icaros-computer.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Monday, June 26, 2017

Icaros Desktop 2.2.1 is ready!

by on Monday, June 26, 2017
First update to Icaros Desktop is now available for download. This is a bugfix-only release, so no new features or programs are added to the distribution. People who haven't downloaded and installed Icaros Destkop 2.2 should choose this one instead, while users of Icaros Desktop 2.2 should update their installation using LiveUpdater.

Icaros 2.2.1 fixes some italian translations as well. Not much, but Wanderer's menus are a starting point...


- removed duplicated FinalWriter demo from Utilities
- removed duplicated MESA demos from Extras/Demos
- removed other duplicated files here and there
- replaced make with AROS one, now it should find makefiles as expected
- Aminet's version of make moved to Storage
- replaced ata.device with better working one
- replaced most AROS system files with newer components
- added alternative ATA device to advanced boot options
- removed faulty rtl8168 network device
- updated AROS 68K ROMs for playing games and demos
- started updating italian catalogs, starting with Wanderer menus


1. prior to anything, download Icaros 2.2 patch 01 to fix a mistake in Icaros-Sequence. Instructions are provided here.

2. download the update pack from our download page and save it wherever you like on your hard drive. Don't use RAM disk since LiveUpdater requires a reboot.

3. run LiveUpdater (from System drive -> tools -> LUPD) and reboot

4. choose the File option, locate the update pack on your local drive and accept to proceed. Wait for unpacking and updating to finish

5. enjoy!

icaros-sequence bug blocking LiveUpdater

by on Monday, June 26, 2017
Today I found a mistake in icaros-sequence, preventing LiveUpdater to work as intended. Please download this patch to fix the issue (instructions about installation will follow). The bug is in this section:

01. ; RunMe if proper settings are made 
02. if exists sys:dvdmode
03.   execute s:dvd-startup
04. endif 

05. IF ${Icaros/1sttime} EQ "True"
06.  execute S:1sttime-setup
07. EndIf 

08. IF ${Icaros/2ndtime} EQ "True"
09.  execute S:2ndtime-setup
10.  echo "false" >envarc:Icaros/2ndtime
11. EndIf

12. ; create MyWorkspace
13. execute S:myworkspace-startup

these lines enable DVD mode when Icaros Desktop is running from the read-only optical media, launch a couple of scripts (if they exist) that must be executed before the GUI and enable the ASSIGNs for MyWorkspace and subfolders. So where is the mistake, exactly? If you notice the sequence, MyWorkspace's script is the last one being executed but... what happens if either 1sttime or 2ndtime setup scripts need to address MyWorkspace's assigns? Run LiveUpdater on Icaros Desktop 2.2 and discover yourself! Unfortunately, I introduced this bug while working on HostBridge. If you ever ran it once, you'd know that HostBridge will, first of all, extract all files from installation archives and complete Icaros setup. It will also create MyWorkspace folders so, in the end, when bringing back control to Icaros-Sequence, myworkspace-startup script will find the right directories and proceed normally with ASSIGNing them. If I just moved back lines 12-13 between lines 04 and 05, I'd have gotten ugly ASSIGN errors when installing Icaros in hosted mode, forcing user to reboot Icaros in order to use it correctly. Baaaad solution.

So I had to modify also Windows and Linux hosted installation scripts, to make them create MyWorkspace folders and subdirectories. In the end, I could let both LiveUpdater and HostBridge work as expected, although a false-alarm error message about a directory that can't be created will appear anyway (until I'll fix this as well, obviously).


1. download the file here.
2. extract files in a temporary directory (RAM drive will fit as well)
3. enter the directory and double click on the runpatch script

It will basically replace your current icaros sequence with the fixed one from Icaros 2.2.1. Once done this, please also upgrade Icaros Desktop to v2.2.1. Did I mention the update is now available for download? ;-)

(no, it will the topic of the next post...)

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Networking with Icaros hosted on OpenSUSE Linux

by on Saturday, June 03, 2017
Icaros Desktop should be usable in hosted mode under any Linux distribution, however startup and configuration scripts were written with Debian-based distros in mind (in practice: Icaros should work at its best with Ubuntu, Mint and derivatives). Unfortunately, we simply haven't the power, the time and the resources to support other Linux 'implementations', but luckily we have a very smart community of proactive users helping us even without asking them! So, if you have issues configuring the network on your hosted installation of Icaros Desktop running on OpenSUSE, please read and follow these instructions from AROS-EXEC's user Superchicken:

"After 2 months of tinkering, I finally figured out how to make networking work in Linux Hosted Icaros on OpenSuse Linux.

After installing, Icaros can ping the host controller, but cannot access or ping the outside network and no internet access.

The problem is that SuSEfirewall2 is not configured properly and blocks IPs that are not configured. Turning the firewall off WILL NOT work as the virtual networking adapter won't work when the firewall is off in OpenSuse.

You need to edit the SuSEfirewall2 config file at /etc/sysconfig/SuSEfirewall2 and find the line with "FW_FORWARD_MASQ" and change it to reflect what adapter is forwarded to what IP. Ex:


The first IP will be your host adapter IP address (use your host's IP here). The second IP being the Icaros GATEWAY IP, not the adapter IP inside Icaros. Then tcp and port 80.

After saving the file, you need to restart the firewall using
"sudo systemctl restart SuSEfirewall2". After that you will be able to access the internet with Icaros. Since the adapter is not started at boot, you will need to restart the firewall after the adapter is started. To do that, I just edited the "tap_on" script to include "sudo systemctl restart SuSEfirewall2" AFTER the adapter is brought up.
After this, you are ready to surf the internet in Icaros hosted by OpenSuse."