WHDLoad (And More)

by Eric Schwartz
From the AmiTech Gazette, May 2016

In the “Amiga stuff” world, a new “Silver 5” core for the Vampire V2 for the Amiga 600 was released earlier this month, boasting bug fixes, minor speed increases, programmable screen resolutions for the SAGA video modes, and improved support for the internal SD card and large IDE drive partitions. I’m still sitting on the interminable wait list for my own Vampire board, hoping I haven’t just been forgotten instead. With luck I’ll yet have the opportunity for a stupidly powerful Amiga 600. (So wish me luck—I could use some)

Apparently, there is a website called “AlternativeTo.net,” which lets users check for alternate possibilities to a particular piece of software (such as “Microsoft Office” or whatever). The site can also list available options for Amiga, MorphOS, or AROS as well, assuming options exist and someone has listed them to the site. Given time and cooperation, it could be a valuable resource to Amiga family users, as well as others.

In the short form news, a new port of Duke Nukem 3D for 68060 Amiga systems is released. Also, a new Hollywood plugin called “RapaGUI” is available, which is a tool kit for creating user interfaces that work across platforms, be they Amiga MUI, Windows, Linux GTK, or Mac. Seems like an impressive and potentially useful tool.

A common use for Amiga systems today, whether real hardware or emulated, is “retro gaming”—playing the vast library of Amiga games from over its history. The issue with a lot of computer gaming, not only Amiga, is different games may be written to specific Amiga models or configurations, and may not work so well on others, especially ones with newer or upgraded hardware or CPU. With Amiga games, where many are written to “bang the metal” (programming the hardware directly and tossing out the operating system for maximum performance), this is a frequent issue, and makes it somewhere between inconvenient and impossible to play the widest variety of Amiga games on a single system—or at least that used to be the case. Coming to the rescue was a software package called WHDLoad, which made it much easier to take your old floppy disk games and install them to the hard drive on your newer expanded, accelerated, (or emulated) Amiga hardware. It also added the option to load the games from, and quit back to the Workbench, as opposed to the usual business of booting from the game disk, and requiring a reboot or power off to quit. For convenience in Amiga gaming, WHDLoad is a pretty indispensable package. Originally it was shareware, displaying a registration reminder before a game started, but it has since gone freely available. WHDLoad’s intent is for you to use the package to install games you already own in their original form to your hard drive, but “pre-installed” WHDLoad distributions of many Amiga games can be found on the web to save you that trouble. Remember that no one condones downloading WHDLoad game distros you don’t already own (except large sections of the Internet population), so remember to stay legal. Depending on the specific game, some will require a switch to PAL or NTSC or non-AGA video modes, or to have an older Kickstart ROM image file available (usually 1.3). Most games I have played on my A4000T/060 work quite well, though certain games may have minor problems based on the quality of their “loader,” such as video display issues, small bugs (possibly ones in the game itself), or running faster than normal on accelerated systems. Regardless, WHDLoad is an invaluable tool for anyone who wishes to do gaming on more than a very basic Amiga system, or easily load their games from the Workbench or a central GUI hub program. If you enjoy Amiga gaming (and convenience), you should probably check it out if you don’t have it already.