Amiga Source Code Leak
by Eric Schwartz
From the AmiTech Gazette, January 2016
There have been a handful of developments in the Amiga-and-related world, but there are a couple I’d like to focus upon this time. One, there is a public repository for source code of the Odyssey Web Browser, AKA OWB. OWB is a Webkit-based browser with versions semi-separately developed for most Amiga family platforms, the MorphOS version being one of the most developed. Having source code shared and centralized will hopefully boost development across all versions, and maybe boost the Amiga/Morph/AROS systems’ web browsing powers in general.
In a separate but related bit of news, source code for the classic Amiga OS (version 3.1) was leaked, presumably illegally, to file sharing and torrent sources. Hyperion went on record that their OS4 is safely un-leaked. It would seem Cloanto, who holds a pretty-much exclusive license on the classic OS versions, would be the most directly affected, though there’s also the possibility that someone unscrupulous could use the code to create a “Trojan” version of the OS which could hide malware for Amiga systems or even another system running that Amiga OS under emulation. This hasn’t been the first leak of this type, and likely won’t be the last. The Amiga OS, classic or otherwise, has limited power to make money nowadays, so I doubt this will have much of an effect on the market either way. Even Cloanto probably sells more Amiga Forever packages on the convenience of having emulator, Amiga OS, and software configured together than any exclusivity.
Perhaps it’s time for those who control the intellectual property that is the classic Amiga OS to just “own” this leak and officially release the source code publicly. As I see it, the potential benefits outweigh the downsides. For example, since the source code is said to include that of the Amiga Kickstart ROM, bug fixes and enhancements could be added to the Kickstart and a new ROM could be created, like would normally be applied with software patches, or like having the 3.5 or 3.9 system in ROM from the start. This may not be so appealing to those who would have to open their old systems and swap out a chip, but it could be a boon to those who develop “new classic” systems in hardware or emulation. Something akin to an Amiga 500 or 1200 which can use or boot from new terabyte-size hard drives or USB devices or SD cards without requiring extra software drivers could be quite appealing. Perhaps it could even go so far as to use all new CPUs or graphics hardware, which could still be classic-compatible and maybe even run metal-banging old hardware, as the abstraction layer is part of a low level in Kickstart. I’m sure someone with experience will tell me why that’s either very difficult or totally impossible, but you might never know for sure until you try. Developments in “new old” Amiga Kickstarts and operating systems could be shared in the community, and build upon one another to make an ultimate classic OS, though it may blur the lines between the 3.X classic Amiga systems and “next gen” ones such as OS4, MorphOS, or AROS. If developments in one arena can go to enhance another, it can’t be all bad though.
I strongly advocate the release of source code for any Amiga software which might otherwise be abandoned—not just operating systems, but productivity applications and games too. Some apps, such as Aladdin 4D and Personal Paint, have been “bought out” for future development for OS4 and others, which is a start, but we could use more, whether it be commercial development or releasing the source code for free public development. It would be nice to see Deluxe Paint or Brilliance or Moviesetter or Photogenics brought up to modern standards, running on newer hardware. Some software has moved on to other platforms like Windows and Mac and continue there, so there is little incentive to release sources, but I’d still be tickled to see sources for the old Amiga versions of TV Paint, Cinema 4D, or the venerable Lightwave 3D to continue life in public hands. I wouldn’t expect it to cause any real competition or issues for the Windows software with an extra decade or two of updates under its belt. Mostly it’s just selfishness. I’d like to see and use the software I already enjoy, but with more features or power afforded by new hardware and ideas. Regardless, I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one.