Let’s setup a new fresh Amiga 500 using Amibian!
Hi 8-bit friends, today we’ll talk about another mighty computer of the 80s: the Amiga by Commodore, one that I really love (I still have my original 500 model bought when it came out).
In my case, for example, I want to keep the real Amiga machines as safe as possible: an emulated one comes really handy for this purpose, and also it’s really easy to take it on the road, since the two ingredients are a Raspberry PI (here I use the RPI 3 model B, but other RPI models are supported as well) and a Linux distro called Amibian.
Let’s see how it’s possible to setup a classic Amiga 500 with Amibian (of course if you own the roms of the other models you can emulate one of them, instead). By the way: there are two methods to have a legal Amiga ROM: by buying it from Cloanto (please refer to their dedicated site AmigaForever), or making a dump of your real Amiga rom by using transrom. With the first method you support further development of “Amiga Forever” so this is cool and maybe the easiest way, with the second you get the exact copy of your own real rom chip, from your real machine (transrom comes with UAE, then it’s easy to run it on the real Amiga if you have for example a Gotek drive, highly suggested – anyway this is all extra stuff for the purpose of this article).
Amibian (here we are using v1.4) is a Linux distro which is fine-tuned to boot the Amiga emulation in just a couple of seconds: faster than the original system!
Besides having at your disposal an emulated Amiga, you also have the power of the underlying Linux distro; I love the fact that the Amibian shell comes with the classic Amiga look: topaz font, white foreground and blue background.
So here we go: download the Amibian image from https://gunkrist79.wixsite.com/amibian, extract the zip archive with your favourite software to get the .img file (I’m using Windows, but of course you can use Mac OS, Linux and so on).
Format your microSD card (choose FAT32): you can use SDFormatter or even the disk manager built-in in Windows, as I did (be extremely careful if you use the second approach and select the SD card!)
Then put Amibian to the SD card by writing its image using the handy application Win32DiskImager (after completion, say “no” in case Windows asks for further formatting operations)
Now it’s time to get some software for the new Amiga: in this example we are dealing with the classic 500 model, so we refer to Workbench 1.3 and Extras 1.3 (I will skip how to convert your real floppies to .adf images, since the focus of the article is, once again, Amibian; anyway having a Gotek drive as DF1: with an empty ADF it’s a nice way to proceed)
On a separate USB pen drive (formatted as Fat32) copy the roms and the adf files, then insert the microSD in the RPI, connect all the cables of the RPI and the USB stick to it, turn on the TV/monitor and finally the PI itself.
After the splash screen at boot (above, this is the one I selected in the settings), what you see at first is the Amiga emulator GUI: press the “Quit” button to get back to the Amibian shell (command line):
now type: raspc to enter the configuration screens
choose the option “Expand Filesystem” so that every file on the microSD will be available to Amibian, then choose “Finish” and from the shell type: “reboot” (without the quotes) to restart the system
When the emulator GUI comes up again, press the “Quit” button to exit to the shell
and type raspc
so now if you want you can change the international settings:
if this is your case, choose “Localisation Options” and you’ll see the following dedicated screen:
there you can select the keyboard layout, timezone, etc.
(note: another boot option you can choose is “Wait for Network at Boot”, in case you want the net available from the beginning)
Le’ts go on with the first time setup:
from the Amibian shell type ‘mc‘ (without the quotes) to start the file explorer Midnight Commander (tip: start it by typing “mc -a” if you see other characters instead of lines in the UI; later on, if you want, when you feel comfortable with Linux you can quickly setup this in your personal “.profile” script)
In MC go to the USB drive containing the kickstart rom and the adf files: /media/usb; by pressing F5 copy the kickstart in /root/amiga/kickstarts and the adf files in /root/amiga/floppies (you can select multiple files by pressing Shift, they are highlighted in yellow). When finished, press F10 to quit MC.
From the Amibian shell type “menu”, then “3” to start the Amiga emulator (which is UAE4arm)
It’s time to set the options to emulate the Amiga 500 model:
Configurations > Amiga 500 OCS 512KB > press the “Load” button
ROM > choose the kickstart rom you saved earlier on in /root/amiga/kickstarts
RAM > Chip > 1MB (we want to emulate a 1MB expansion card)
Floppies > DF0: > Workbench1.3 (path: /root/amiga/floppies)
Floppies > DF1: > Extras1.3 (path: /root/amiga/floppies)
Input > Autofire > off (just a personal preference)
Save the configuration, to avoid repeating all of this: Configurations > give it a name > set the description in a meaningful way > press the Save button
Press the “Resume” button to run the emulation (you can alwasy bring back the emulator GUI with F12)
And here’s the Workbench 1.3 in all its glory 🙂
or maybe you prefer to compose some new mod music with Protracker 2.3d? (you can get it here: https://www.pouet.net/prod.php?which=13359)
Remember to unmount your usb drive before removing it physically; from the Ambian shell type “umount /media/usb” (without the quotes), then you can unplug it. And don’t forget to type “poweroff” or “shutdown” to shut down the system properly, preserving your SD card.
We wish to thank Gunnar Kristjansson for his friendly help and for this awesome work.
Ok… now code something new for the Amiga! Don’t just play games 😉 See you!
Some bonus info:
Some useful commands (Amibian shell) if this is your first time with Linux
ctrl + l (resets the terminal)
ctrl + r (reverse search in shell history)
man mc (manual about Midnight Commander)
nano filename.txt (text editor)
df -h (info about disk space, in human readable format)
uname -a (info about the version of the distro)
top (load of the machine)
apt-get install lynx (how to install new software: Lynx is a text-only web browser)
Amiga shell, if this is your first time with it
endcli (closes the window)
ESC + c (clears the shell)
How to manually setup HDMI Audio (in case you need)
From raspi-config: Advanced Options > Audio > Force HDMI
Then from the Amibian command line:
hdmi_mode=18 ← this sets mode 1024×768@60MHz DVI in case the GUI is larger than the screen
save (ctrl + o) and exit (ctrl + x)
Full screen display
Display > untick 4/3 Ratio Shrink > 768 as width
you can use the one of the Playstation, you see it as: Input > XPAD Twin Shock
How to update Amibian
from the Amibian shell type:
How to update the firmware of the RPI
from the Amibian shell type:
apt-get install rpi-update
An emulation of the C64 (and more) inside Amibian!
from the command line type: getbonuspack
(~500MB of bonus content)
Here’s the C64 emulation (thanks to the excellent Vice):
And, last but not least, if you want an Amiga retro case for your RPI you can get one at https://retropicases.com