Firebee: the long game?

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Re: Firebee: the long game?

Postby BlankVector » Sun Mar 24, 2019 10:53 am

vido wrote:How about 68k emulator you ported it for coldfire?


You are referring to 68Kemu.
This is mainly an experimental hack.

vido wrote:I guess some 68k software would work using it under EmzTOS?

Yes, it can indeed run a few simple 68000 programs on EmuTOS for ColdFire. But it lacks support for GEM callbacks, which are widely used. And also a few other things.

But even if 68Kemu would run all 68000 programs, people would complain that EmuTOS has no driver for the FireBee extended video modes, and no USB keyboard/mouse support...
So my advice is just to use FireTOS for most usages.
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Re: Firebee: the long game?

Postby Mathias » Sun Mar 24, 2019 2:26 pm

warp12 wrote: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.
I do not see your point. It is mainly the 25 years old discussion "emulation vs. dedicated hardware". There is nothing wrong with emulation. Go and use Hatari or Aranym, they are fine. But others love hardware and worked - a lot - to make the Firebee come true and improve the plattform.

We cannot change the fact that Motorola abandoned our 68k processors, and many of the more than 100 people who contributed to the project see that Coldfire was the only compromize that will work. Moving the plattform to PPC for exampe would not have been possible with the limited manpower. A very well "FPGA-only" computer was already available with the Suska board, when we started the Firebee. So we did what was, and still is, possible. We created an Open Source computer that has still high potential! The fact that, even concerning the most expandable computer I know, nobody created any expansion (be it any PCI card driver, or anything) for the FireBee, shows in my opionion what a show of strength the ACP did with the few ressources that are in existance.
Every of our possibilities, be it Configurations (like the Suska), Emulation (like Hatari or Aranym), or real Hardware like the Firebee, has its pro an cons, and helps the entire plattform to move foreward. So as I said in the beginning, I do not see your point.
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Re: Firebee: the long game?

Postby MacFalcon » Sun Mar 24, 2019 4:20 pm

BlankVector wrote:
MacFalcon wrote:That means even st-low is working and displayed correctly with emutos?

EmuTOS for the FireBee can switch to ST-Low, yes. It uses the same resolution dialog as EmuTOS on Falcon.
But the picture is shifted due to bugs in the VIDEL implementation inside the FPGA. Fredi improved things a while ago, but AFAIK those fixes have never been released.

And remember: EmuTOS for ColdFire (including for the FireBee) can only run ColdFire programs. Classic 68000 progams will not run.


Okay, then it doesn't help me in my case :(

I don't have the feeling that my firebee is outdated in any way. I know with PC Emulation I could have a faster "Atari". But Emulation sucks :D I don't like it. It's like comparing a real girl to a plastic doll ;)

But of course Emulation is better than not have Atari at all.

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Re: Firebee: the long game?

Postby warp12 » Sun Mar 24, 2019 4:29 pm

Mathias wrote:
warp12 wrote: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.
I do not see your point. It is mainly the 25 years old discussion "emulation vs. dedicated hardware". There is nothing wrong with emulation. Go and use Hatari or Aranym, they are fine. But others love hardware and worked - a lot - to make the Firebee come true and improve the plattform.


My point was, the future of the Atari platform is better rooted in emulation than it is in dedicated hardware. When someone says, basically, "if you want to be able to run old Atari software, modern hardware isn't for you", that is ludicrous.

As I say, I have a ton of Atari hardware! But, I don't see the Firebee as a "real" Atari any more than I see a Mac or PC as a "real" Atari. But I do think of "what could be" if lean emulation were running on top of these modern systems.

To each their own, and as you say, every option has it's place.
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Re: Firebee: the long game?

Postby mikro » Sun Mar 24, 2019 6:59 pm

warp12 wrote:My point was, the future of the Atari platform is better rooted in emulation than it is in dedicated hardware. When someone says, basically, "if you want to be able to run old Atari software, modern hardware isn't for you", that is ludicrous.

I don't think anybody is saying that. For instance - I do 99% of Atari development in Aranym/Hatari but nothing beats the feeling of enjoying the final product (esp. coming from someone else) on the real thing.

But, I don't see the Firebee as a "real" Atari any more than I see a Mac or PC as a "real" Atari. But I do think of "what could be" if lean emulation were running on top of these modern systems.

But that is only your point of view. Same as I have never owned a Commodore and I am not interested in it doesn't mean I can't imagine someone else being interested. Same for obscure platforms like the Acorn or PPC Amigas or whatever. They like the ColdFire, it's a cool CPU, so why not. It's fun.

Maybe for you it's surprising but the amount of "hype" I got when I made them the first working mod/mp3 player was really nice. For them it was a "deaf" platform and whoa, out of nowhere we have sound! So it magically turned the enthusiasm of their user base the same way when back in the 90s Didier and Sector One guys released their MP2/MP3 players for plain Falcon. It was - fun! :)

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Re: Firebee: the long game?

Postby warp12 » Sun Mar 24, 2019 7:13 pm

mikro wrote:
warp12 wrote:My point was, the future of the Atari platform is better rooted in emulation than it is in dedicated hardware. When someone says, basically, "if you want to be able to run old Atari software, modern hardware isn't for you", that is ludicrous.

I don't think anybody is saying that. For instance - I do 99% of Atari development in Aranym/Hatari but nothing beats the feeling of enjoying the final product (esp. coming from someone else) on the real thing.

But, I don't see the Firebee as a "real" Atari any more than I see a Mac or PC as a "real" Atari. But I do think of "what could be" if lean emulation were running on top of these modern systems.

But that is only your point of view. Same as I have never owned a Commodore and I am not interested in it doesn't mean I can't imagine someone else being interested. Same for obscure platforms like the Acorn or PPC Amigas or whatever. They like the ColdFire, it's a cool CPU, so why not. It's fun.

Maybe for you it's surprising but the amount of "hype" I got when I made them the first working mod/mp3 player was really nice. For them it was a "deaf" platform and whoa, out of nowhere we have sound! So it magically turned the enthusiasm of their user base the same way when back in the 90s Didier and Sector One guys released their MP2/MP3 players for plain Falcon. It was - fun! :)

Live and let live.


I see your point. I was more thinking in terms of ultimate capability, for the future.
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Re: Firebee: the long game?

Postby Mathias » Sun Mar 24, 2019 8:40 pm

warp12 wrote: My point was, the future of the Atari platform is better rooted in emulation than it is in dedicated hardware.


OK, now I understand your thoughts better. Well, thanks for the flowers, but the FireBee is for sure not "the future". Threre are tons of other projects which drive the plattform foreward. But what I personally truely belive is: a plattform without dedicated hardware is dead. That may be quite special feeling, but it seems some others are thinking similar. So I will put my time into "dedicated hardware".
And for the records, as we are discussing "the answer to life, universe and everything" now; the in my opinion best option came from an CPU developer who will receive his Firebee the upcoming weeks. He suggested to keep the dedicated hardware, recently the FireBee, but emulate just the CPUs in future. Thus the "emulation" could always use the most modern CPUs but the coding efforts could be kept as simple as possible, as you don't need to emulate an entire platform, and could still keep special hardware, and one could basically update the CPU"Hardware".
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Re: Firebee: the long game?

Postby penguin » Sun Mar 24, 2019 10:44 pm

mikro wrote:
warp12 wrote:My point was, the future of the Atari platform is better rooted in emulation than it is in dedicated hardware. When someone says, basically, "if you want to be able to run old Atari software, modern hardware isn't for you", that is ludicrous.

I don't think anybody is saying that. For instance - I do 99% of Atari development in Aranym/Hatari but nothing beats the feeling of enjoying the final product (esp. coming from someone else) on the real thing.


This pretty much sums it up and is probably true for most developers creating applications for retro systems. I also use Aranym/Hatari for my magazine, but the software I write about has to run on hardware that's dedicated for TOS/GEM applications.

It's certainly not anything new and started after the release of MagiCMac. So for almost 25 years, hardware was available that's more powerful than anything Atari ever produced and is faster than any clone depending on the host system. Despite emulation being available and the FireBee's hiatus (the project was started shortly after the demise of the Milan II and resurrected years later) I only know of one application developed with emulation in mind: Calamus SL.

A system that only exists through emulation is in my opinion pointless. A dedicated hardware is inspiring developers. You'd not see software released for a virtual "Super ST" (or Super Lynx, Super Jaguar etc.).
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Re: Firebee: the long game?

Postby tjam » Mon Mar 25, 2019 9:44 am

Is there any plans for new FireBee batch?

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Re: Firebee: the long game?

Postby Mathias » Mon Mar 25, 2019 3:13 pm

The plan at the moment is to collect a lot of serius preorders, and, once the shipping of the recent series is done, to talk Medusa into producing another batch. But at the moment we cannot promise anything. But if you like to make a new series come true, drop us a mail with your preorder if you are sure you like to buy one in 2020.
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Re: Firebee: the long game?

Postby vido » Mon Mar 25, 2019 7:34 pm

BlankVector wrote:You are referring to 68Kemu.
This is mainly an experimental hack.

Yes I am referring to it. Even if it is an experimental hack it works. I can use Photoline, Texel, ... with it under FireTOS.
So it is worth especialy to optimize it or develop further.

BlankVector wrote:Yes, it can indeed run a few simple 68000 programs on EmuTOS for ColdFire. But it lacks support for GEM callbacks, which are widely used. And also a few other things.

But even if 68Kemu would run all 68000 programs, people would complain that EmuTOS has no driver for the FireBee extended video modes, and no USB keyboard/mouse support...
So my advice is just to use FireTOS for most usages.

Well ... you have to start somewhere if you want progress. So this is not unimportant thing!
What is lacking it can be written when somebody finds motivation or reason to do it. If EmuTOS has no driver for the FireBee extended video modes it doesnt mean it wont have it. And if we predict thai it will have it some day you wont need to worry about 68k emulation as it is allready done! ;)

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Re: Firebee: the long game?

Postby joska » 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.
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Re: Firebee: the long game?

Postby BlankVector » Mon Mar 25, 2019 10:44 pm

vido wrote:If EmuTOS has no driver for the FireBee extended video modes it doesnt mean it wont have it.

For this to happen, the first step would be to publish documentation about the FireBee extended video modes. If I'm not mistaken, such thing has been missing for 10 years.
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Re: Firebee: the long game?

Postby MacFalcon » Mon Mar 25, 2019 11:17 pm

joska wrote:
Compatibility with legacy software is even less than clones like the Hades and Milan thanks to the CPU differences.


I don't agree in that point. I also had a Milan for many years and I feel more software is running on the firebee. Mp3 player, games (Arkanoid) and such I was missing on the Milan.

But anyway I agree it's an awesome machine, as it is the firebee.

A st Emulator on the firebee would be nice (for games)... And support for USB Joysticks... That should be possible.

My daughter is using the firebee for school stuff. She's satisfied with it and for the stuff the firebee can't do she is using her mobile phone. That's how it is these days ;)
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Re: Firebee: the long game?

Postby joska » Tue Mar 26, 2019 8:26 am

MacFalcon wrote:I don't agree in that point. I also had a Milan for many years and I feel more software is running on the firebee. Mp3 player, games (Arkanoid) and such I was missing on the Milan.


I have a Milan060, mxPlay works fine with it. As for Arkanoid, that game was specifically modified for the Firebee. But I agree that it has potential, now that Fredi has moved ST-RAM into the FPGA RAM it's possible to implement a "proper" ST. With software emulation of the CPU a lot of ST games - especially the ones that has been HD/Falcon-fixed - could work. But while CPU emulation would work fine in this case, it is not a good solution for GEM-stuff since speed will suffer greatly.

MacFalcon wrote:And support for USB Joysticks... That should be possible.


For new or adapted games - yes. For legacy software - not really. The majority of games will install their own keyboard handler and only work with IKBD devices, joysticks included. So while it may work for some games, it won't for others so you need to have an IKBD solution anyway. Unless you add IKBD emulation in software of course, which you can do when you're already emulating the CPU.
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Re: Firebee: the long game?

Postby vido » Tue Mar 26, 2019 9:22 am

MacFalcon wrote:A st Emulator on the firebee would be nice (for games)...

BlankVector ported old version of Hatari which works on the FireBee. But it is slow. Optimisation would be needed to gain the speed.

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Re: Firebee: the long game?

Postby MacFalcon » Tue Mar 26, 2019 10:45 am

vido wrote:
MacFalcon wrote:A st Emulator on the firebee would be nice (for games)...

BlankVector ported old version of Hatari which works on the FireBee. But it is slow. Optimisation would be needed to gain the speed.

Yes, I have seen that. But I think there might be a less cpu demanding way to emulate an ST on the firebee.

@Joska: I agree that Arkanoid is patched specially for the Firebee, but noone has achieved anything like that for the Milan. What is a pity. There were also a few Milan games announced that never saw the light of day :(
But also Philia and Elansar and Alice´s Moms rescue work on the Firebee... I don´t think they will on the Milan, or do they? (Really have no clue).
So for me it´s the better solution as I can do my Office stuff with it and play some games with the kids.

Take care!

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Re: Firebee: the long game?

Postby Bengy » Tue Mar 26, 2019 1:54 pm

Just FYI - after ordering my FireBee in 2015, I just received word it's ready to ship... and I couldn't be more excited. I'm definitely playing the long game ;)

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Re: Firebee: the long game?

Postby lp » Tue Mar 26, 2019 3:33 pm

MacFalcon wrote:
joska wrote:
Compatibility with legacy software is even less than clones like the Hades and Milan thanks to the CPU differences.


I don't agree in that point. I also had a Milan for many years and I feel more software is running on the firebee. Mp3 player, games (Arkanoid) and such I was missing on the Milan.


That might be true in regards to the Milan as it had less hardware than a Hades. I owned a Hades for over 10+ years and I can assure you the FireBee falls short on legacy compatibility when compared to a Hades. NAES won't even work out of the box. One reason I never bought a FireBee.

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Re: Firebee: the long game?

Postby MacFalcon » Wed Mar 27, 2019 6:22 am

Just of curiosity: can the Hades play mp3? I mean aside other tasks? My milan060 could, but nearly 100% CPU was used...
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Re: Firebee: the long game?

Postby lp » Wed Mar 27, 2019 3:56 pm

The Hades060 shipped over-clocked @ 60Mhz. Not sure what the CPU load was since playing music wasn't a priory as I have a 7 disk changer on my home audio system with a remote. ;) It also plays YM chip tunes since it has a Yamaha chip, just like an ST/TT/Falcon.

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Re: Firebee: the long game?

Postby MacFalcon » Thu Mar 28, 2019 1:00 am

Sounds like a nice machine :cheers: Wish I had one back then!
Thanks for letting me know!
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Re: Firebee: the long game?

Postby piku » Sat Apr 13, 2019 2:18 am

I have a firebee and I like it though it's broken right now and getting repaired. (Very early original batch). I think it represents the best choices of the moment but IMHO the future is quite clearly in FPGA. Like MiST and Vampire. I have one of each of those and I am impressed by both.
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Re: Firebee: the long game?

Postby Mathias » Sat Apr 13, 2019 8:18 am

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.
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Re: Firebee: the long game?

Postby Rajah Lone » Sat Apr 13, 2019 8:50 am

Reading this thread makes me a little sad. If some people think full compatibility is mandatory, then use emulators or the old machines.

Firebee developpers have worked hard enough on the hardware, operating system and developement softwares. This computer is usable and really fun if you like GEM applications and games.

So in other words: f u c k legacy. Don't use other's, make your own.


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