CT63 as main computer. Yes! in 2009! What’s it like to use a CT63 equiped atari falcon 030 in 2009? This is what LowRes will try to explore in this article. I must say that I’ve re-written it at least 3 times since I wasn’t happy with how it turned out the first two. Hopefully three is a charm.
In the beginning the article was an idea. How would it feel to have the ct63 as my only computer for just a week? The week became 3 months since my PC broke and I started using the Atari. After all 50% of my computer usage was Atari related. Chatting at irc, playing games, a bit of coding. The rest was my thesis, wasting time at youtube, reading the news etc. But let’s look at the available hardware first.
That would be an Atari Falcon +CT63 with 14MB STRAM and 256MB TTRAM, 40GB hard disk, a PeST adapter, a joystick and a jagpad. For networking, I got an ethernec adapter. The ethernec and the PeST are gifts from my good friend ggn whom I publically thank. Your friendship means a lot to me. The CT63 runs at 70MHz though I found it to be more stable at 66.6MHz. The PeST allows me to use a MS optical mouse and the ethernec to have internet access.
The software I use is Highwire for browsing (with some CAB for pages that cause highwire to crash – css overflow), AtarIRC for my IRC needs, aFTP for FTP, Aniplayer for music and video and FalcAMP for online radio. This document is written on Atari Works and oh I forgot to say that I use an EasyMiNT setup. What I couldn’t find was a mail client that could use TLS that my email provider needs. Webmail naturally doesn’t work. As for my Thesis, I read PDF’s with zVIEW and I have compiled with g++ 4.4.1 the software I’ve written. Unfortunately, and this is a big problem, I haven’t found a way to type Greek on the Atari in a way that can be easily read from other computers. And since my thesis is in Greek, I have a problem.. Still, simple txt files can be converted with a program I’ve found and compiled. Also that’s a problem for greek websites, so that I’ve no problem viewing them, but a hell of a problem writing. There are a lot more programs I use, such as Two in One and KKCommander, QED and 7up, Taskbar and more.
We’ve all seen benchmarks of the CT60, so no point in adding more. But since they are important I’d like to point out some. First of all the uptime, that can range from 10 seconds to 14hrs or until I shut down the machine. Once I figured out which programs to use and which not to touch, stability was increased a lot. I have found out though that sometimes NVDI or XBOOT crash on startup. Resetting the machine fixes it. Network speeds are around 400K/s locally and up to 100K/s on the internet. However with 99% of the downloads, speeds up to 30K/s are much more realistic. I’d have to stick with an average of 25K/s. There are more than 25 processes running at any given time, with an average of 28 and there are approximately 3GB’s of data sitting in my harddrive. A good cleanup will most likely eliminate about 200MB’s but since space isn’t really an issue…
Games and Demos
Unfortunately that’s where the CT63 fails to deliver. While applications are generally good, games and demos aren’t. Only very few of the falcon patched games by D-Bug and Klapauzius run, and things aren’t much better on the falcon only front. Falcon games that will run include Robinson’s Requiem CD (which benefits from the extra speed), Spice, Llamazap, Rave, Q-blue and RoadRiot 4WD. Steel Talons also runs but at a slideshow framerate.
With demos compatibility is also an issue with Underscore running like a slideshow until it crashes and Sonoluminszenz having the same effect. Various other demos will either crash or not run at all and only Beams taking advantage of the extra speed. Generally demos that make heavy use of the DSP exhibit slowdowns on the 060. I think that was explained in a previous issue of Alive. Stotro runs very well though and I am very happy for it :).
Games for the 060 simply don’t exist, with the exception of game engine ports, such as Doom, Quake, OpenTTD and SCUMMVM but I don’t play fps and SCUMM won’t run on my system. The 060 demos though, as well as the TBL ports are absolutely brillant. Please, more!
This is the only thing I must do on a computer, and sending mails but I’ve already discussed that. My thesis is a computer model – a simulation of a physical system that I’ve programmed in C++. Fortunately it compiled with relative ease on the falcon and it can now be executed here. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find a program that will do some of the calculations I need after I run it. So I either have to program it myself or use a PC. I could use the program Euler to do those calculations, but unfortunately that will not run on the 060. Not sure if a recompile could fix that, but I have been unable to recompile it. My knowledge of C is very limited.
That’s another problem I’m facing but that is mostly a problem of me not knowing enough about Atari coding. I have no problem with console coding, and I know nothing about GEM coding, so the problem is in something I’d like to do. Demo coding. So I would have to write a system that would get me at STlow and back to my current MiNT desktop, but that is something I have been unable to do. It’s OK you may say, go back to TOS. Well, not so easy.. Lack of knowledge means I constantly need to use material that is either online or in hypertext documents or in simple documents. That means I need a multitasking environment. All in all, I miss STEEM! GBE is great though :). And now I stop whining!
Well, you can play audio files and do other stuff as well. No problem there. Video is another issue. Apart from youtube that is out of the question, it’s not very likely you get to play a 320×240 divx movie, though the divx codec exists (aniplayer again). I suspect that the 060 can be just about fast enough (with the help of the DSP) but the slow bus bandwidth and the low colour depth might not allow it. It’s possible though that the supervidel or the radeon will fix that. I’d like to hear people’s opinions on the subject.
The transition from the PC to the Atari was a bit hard but now that I will go back to using a PC I find myself not that excited. I think that people who will switch to the Coldari, when that becomes available, won’t have a hard time to do so. It’s probably harder for me to go back to the IBM compatibles (remember when that was the word we used for them?) than staying on the Atari, but truth be told, there are a few things missing that do make life harder than it should.
I am very interested to see people’s responses on this article, what do you use your atari for, what would you like to be using it for and what do you miss from the days when the atari was your main computer?