Last modified on 9 August 2006, at 05:58

FutureOS

Revision as of 05:58, 9 August 2006 by 217.111.43.50 (Talk) (Plug and Play?)

FutureOS main screen

Introduction

FutureOS is a application starter, disuised as OS for the Amstrad CPC6128 and 6128plus developed by TFM. Its development continues from 1990 up to now. The applications of FutureOS can be up to 512 KB in one piece. FutureOS has a memory management system, which divides RAM into 16 KB blocks. Further the file-system works with 24 Bit, files can be up to 16 MB long. FutureOS provides some standard utilities (like copy or format a disc; copy / rename / erase / type / print a file etc.). Further applications are delivered for disc or hard-disc. FutureOS is written in machine code.

GUI

The Desktop is divided in two sections. First a icon-section, where you can choose your functions. Second there is a section below, where you can browse through directories of discs and hard-disc partitions. Applications can call the GUI as an subroutine. FutureOS is said to be easy to handle, after learning how to work with it. The icons are fixed, so you will work with the same desktop.

Hardware

The OS supports many of the hardware available for the CPC. This is said to also be for new hardware like the CPC-Booster+ and the CPC-IDE-Interface/Symbiface.

Software

FutureOS is compatible with the CPCs native data-, file- and format structures (f. e. File-header, Disc-formats). But it is not compatible with native AmsDOS or CP/M programs. FutureOS and compatible applications can be downloaded at: www.FutureOS.de.

Requirements

The core of the OS needs 64 KB ROM. Compatible products are EPROM-cards, the ROM-RAM-BOX, Symbiface, RAMcard or similar products. If you don’t own such a card, you can take a look at FutureOS by using a very precise CPC Emulator (WinCPC, Caprice, WinApe). The core of the OS itself is executed directly in (EP)ROM where it is divided in four 16 KB blocks. It jumps between the ROMs with the help of a little common area. So all the RAM of your CPC is saved for applications and data. Furthermore it contains memory management and file-handling. From AmsDOS/Basic you can start FutureOS with the RSX commands |OS or |FDESK. If you use |FDESK you can leave FutureOS and get back to BASIC where you have stopped before – the first 64KB have been preserved. FutureOS only runs well on a CPC6128 or 6128plus, because they support the RAM configuration &C3 (which is essential for the mouse arrow of the GUI).

Supporting it all

The idea of FutureOS was not only to develop a fast, easy programmable OS which is able to deal with big files and applications. One point that lead to the development of FutureOS was the wish that it should be possible to support all hardware (ever made for the CPC) with just one OS. Remember, there are 3.5” B-drives, Vortex F1-D-drives, hard-discs, real-time-clocks, serial interfaces and much more. Every piece of hardware has its own software (DOS on Eprom, drivers or whatever). Sadly all these software packages for expansion hardware aren’t compatible under AmsDOS L.

FutureOS was designed to work with all known hardware expansions for the CPC. You can use a 3.5” B-drive, external Vortex F1-S or F1-D, a serial interface (or two!), different RAM expansions and maybe a hard-disc (Dobbertin HD20 or CPC-IDE; CPC-IDE since system .9). All that is reported to work properly together.

Most of the low level system resources can be accessed freely, e.g you can use interrupt mode 1 or 2 (standard under FutureOS). Using IM 2 is mandatory when designing expansion hardware.

A programmer can use almost all Z80-CPU registers. In contrast to the regular case, FutureOS allows to freely use both set of registers (the only exception is the I register, which is used when IM 2 is active). Further you can use the RST vectors and the Interrupt-Entry at &0038 (IM 1) for your own programs.

Plug and Play?

If you connect a hardware expansion to a CPC, FutureOS will automatically detect that expansion, initialise it and make it accessible. The architecture of the OS allows you to add and remove hardware on purpose. An example: You add a trackball, you use it, then you connect and use a joystick and then you use a proportional mouse for example. You can turn external hardware in the configuration-bytes on or off.

Drives, hard-discs and mass storage

Standard OS like AmsDOS, CP/M or MS-DOS work only with one drive (or partition) at one time. If someone wants to use another drive, they must leave the actual drive and activate the new drive (AmsDOS: “|B” /// CP/M and DOS: “B:”). FutureOS doesn't have that restriction. You can use up to eight drives and up to four hard-disc partitions at the same time. Further you can work with IDE-hard-discs since system .9. To select devices just click the drive-icons and partition-icons of the corresponding devices you want to use. And then click the DIRectory icon. Now FutureOS reads all the directories in RAM and you can work with all the files of all selected devices. FutureOS buffers all directories in expansion RAM. That speeds up file handling. For example a 178 KB file can be read (or written) in less than 9 seconds. Normally a FutureOS application is loaded in about one or two seconds from floppy disc or faster from hard-disc.

Core Utilities

Use the Desktop to start the embedded utilities, you can use the joystick, a mouse, a trackball or a light-pen. There is no command line. The user interface is graphical, you just click on icons and files to select them for subsequent actions. For example you can copy, format, verify or refresh a disc. You can copy files in a multidirectional way. This feature allows you to copy files from different discs (and partitions) to different discs (and partitions) at once. Example: I tag files on drive A (User 0, 90 and 240) and hard-disc partition K (user 0, 12 and 180) and now I want to copy them to drive B. It's also possible to copy the same files to different target drives or hard-disc partitions. If the user wants to use those files again, they can just click the Re-Tag icon.

Files, Filenames, Fileheaders and more

Filenames can use all 256 different characters, and you can use User-numbers from 0 to 254, except &E5 (this marks a deleted file). If a file is erased under FutureOS, this file is not only shifted to User &E5, being completely purged from the directory. If a bunch of files is deleted the improvement becomes obvious. FutureOS renames and erases files video oriented, it’s very comfortable and fast, because the buffered directory is only written once to disc (? - meaning not clear). Furthermore one can show files on-screen (scroll up and down), print files, print directories, rename files (user and name). You can type a file and you can show the file-header. When typing a text-file one can define columns and lines of a window in which the text should be presented (overscan can be used). When looking at file-headers you can look at the file-header of a normal AmsDOS file or the icon-like file-header of a FutureOS program can be displayed. An AmsDOS file-header has 128 bytes, but only few bytes are used (loading-address, file-length, start-address…). Under FutureOS this 128 byte file-header is expanded, and every byte is used. The FutureOS file-header has two advantages: A file has now a 24 Bit length and can have a physical RAM select. Therefore a file can be defined to be loaded everywhere in the external RAM. Another feature is the fact that a FutureOS file-header can contain a graphic-icon, a text-icon or a short description of the file. But FutureOS can still work with old AmsDOS file-headers.

A little Machine monitor

From the Desktop you can call a little machine monitor. This monitor provides features like editing of CPU registers and I/O ports, display and edit memory (or the content of the ASIC of the 6128plus). Memory blocks can be copied or initialised. Finally it is possible to call a routine (with defined CPU registers and memory). The monitor is piece of help for developing programs and for testing new hardware. Even the brand new CPC Booster+ and the CPC-IDE/Symbiface were supported.

Programming environment

Programming for FutureOS is just like programming for Z80. You can use the routines provided by the OS and you can use the routines of FutureOS. In simple words your program can call the Desktop like a subroutine. An example is GMSK (or programs which use CBM). This program asks the user to tag some source pictures; the program calls the Desktop and the user can now insert a disc, read the directory and tag all the files needed. This achieves a uniform working environment throughout all programs.

How to program for FutureOS ?

Z80 Assembler

You can use an assembler for AmsDOS or for CP/M. Work like usual and save the code to disc, then just activate FutureOS through the RSX command |OS or |FDESK. Now you just have to run the newly assembled program. And that’s it. After that you can return to the OS where your assembler is running. Switching between AmsDOS and FutureOS is quite fast, and using |FDESK allows to come back to AmsDOS with intact first 64 KB or RAM. For programmers the file #E is of interest, it contains all needed EQUates. You should use #E as part of your source code. All the OS-routines are explained in detail in files ROM-?.DOK. The OS variables (EQUated in #E) are explained in file #D and in the FutureOS handbook.

Programming in C for FutureOS

If you don’t like to program assembler, you can use a very common and fast programming language: C! For example you can use the CP/M version of Small-C or a Windows-based cross-compiler of the C language. The only thing you have to do is to use FIOLIB.C instead of IOLIB.C. The file FIOLIB.C contain all C functions to use FutureOS system-calls. You can use a normal C program compile it, assemble it, link the object-code with FIOLIB (an all other needed libraries) and add an header to the *.COM file with COMFU.COM. To start such an C-program under FutureOS you have to start the RUNC-environment first. RUNC strongly expands the features of FIOLIB. Thanks to RUNC it is possible to store functions in E-RAM, that means that you have more main memory for your C applications! This way the length of your C program only depends on connected RAM. Further information is provided at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/FutureOS/ and www.FutureOS.de.

CBM – A menu system for FutureOS

What is CBM? This Command Bar Menu system provides an user-interface for nearly every thinkable program. It is not part of the OS itself, but takes strong advantages of the OS system calls. However, since the source is available, you can adapt CBM for all your FutureOS-programs very easily. Have a look at some of its functions. For example you can choose your colours, screen-mode (for editing, not for CBM) and interface-language (which is preselected through your configuration), deal with files and data. And the best is you can add your own functions to the Menu “Prog.Functions” 1 and 2. That’s enough space for all applications. For example the MP3-Player for FutureOS takes advantages of CBM.

The End

FutureOS is for programmers who want to be able to escape from the conventions of the original machine. Due to its fast file-handling and memory-management it is ideal for bigger programs (up to 512 KB). Some examples are: word processors, scientific mathematics, graphics, sound (especially MP3), spreadsheet, management of big amounts of data, bigger games and programming languages. On the other hand FutureOS can be used as a very fast tool for managing your data, especially copying discs & files and to manage all the things that would normally require several separate programs.

Web links