Choosing a distribution

For many running Windows, Mac, or playing games on a gaming console, the idea of choosing an operating system may seem odd.  But for many of us, the ability to choose not just one, but many various operating systems is part of what makes computing so much fun.  Not just because we find exploring different operating systems to be enjoyable and challenging, but because there is not a single “one operating system fits all” solution.  Different operating systems are better suited for different projects or products.

The distributions that I investigated were:

AROS official nightly build

This gives you the latest and greatest (well, more on that below).  It also gives you a very minimal install.  If you want something mean and lean that you can customize and keep very trim, this is a good place to start.


This is a very interesting option.  The ISO image for R3.5 contains four operating systems in one, so to speak.  The page claims that you can run Linux, AROS x86, AROSm68k, and Windows applications directly “out of the box”.  It is also interesting because there is an ARM port of AEROS.

I have not yet played with this distribution, but it is my next big “to do”.  My thoughts are to have a nice, lean environment for development based on Icaros Desktop, and a full-blown, everything is installed environment for testing and for gaming.  I’m thinking that second environment will run AEROS.  I’m also going to investigate AmiCloud, their cloud solution which will help me tremendously when sharing development tools and projects between platforms and machines.  So I’m pretty psyched about AEROS, I just haven’t devoted any time to it yet.


Another hacker, same age as me but in Norway, put together AspireOS.  To me, it seems to aim towards a easy-to-use user experience, which is great.  Not quite a set-top console box, but a “I just want it to work” experience.  What he has put together is impressive and I encourage you to take a look at it.  For me, I felt that Icaros Desktop had more polish and more stuff “just worked”.

AROS Vision

AROS Vision is built/port of AROS for classic Amiga hardware.  It seems the goal is to provide a newer, maintained and updated operating system for legacy hardware.  I currently have two Amiga 1000s in storage, which is also 2,300 miles away from where I am currently.  I’d like to explore legacy hardware again someday, but it isn’t high on my priority list.  Alas, I can’t give any feedback on AROS Vision.

AROS Broadway

This also looks to be a fantastic distribution, focused on a polished end-user experience.  Until you get to the download page, with disclaimers that it is an alpha release and to expect a lot of problems.  So I didn’t give it a chance, not yet anyway.  I was too green myself to start with something that was expected not to work right.  But I’ll definitely be going back to take another look as it matures.

icaros desktop

This is one of the best distributions around.  It is very well organized, with an outstanding user manual and lots of pre-installed software.  Installation is a breeze.  However, using any AROS distribution for the first few times is daunting if you’re not familiar with AmigaOS, and Icaros Desktop is no different

In summary…

I spent many hours searching through websites, forums, and blog posts, trying to learning nearly everything from the ground up.  For now, I have AROS running in VirtualBox on Mac OS 10.10.5 (Yosemite).  It runs extremely well, with full support for video, audio, and networking.  This “machine” is focused on development.  My goal is to be able to contribute back to the community, using a combination of native and cross-platform development tools.

I’m sure there are a lot more tweaks that I could do.  It is really a whole new world for me, one that I did not have a chance to really jump into 30 years ago.  In some ways, the world of Amiga is much larger today than it was even at it’s peak.  I find the possibilities are a lot more exciting today than I did back then.  I think that is partly because I did not have the resources, skills, or experience then that I do now, which I believe will make it so much more fun this time around.  It is so rewarding to see something so simple and clean running on modern hardware.  I expect it’ll be even more rewarding once I’m able to contribute back…

The next AROS machine that I want will be a server dedicated for AROS.  I want a “high end”, highly compatible machine, with hardware specifically chosen for AROS compatibility.  I want it to be a full-blown multimedia entertainment center, complete not only with music, videos, and movies, but with emulated gaming for every gaming platform that currently has emulation available.  And there are a lot of them!


Author: Jon Robertson

Software developer, Commodore hacker, and a fortunate husband and father!

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