Monday, May 18, 2015

New Acube Systems Firmware for Sam 460CR

Today Acube Systems released a firmware upgrade for the Sam 460ex and Sam 460cr systems and I quickly rushed to install it on my Sam 460CR. It is nice to get a new firmware so soon after buying the Sam system.

First here are some shots from the old Sam460CR firmware that came with the machine - initial power on:

Old U-Boot Preferences Menu:

 Old Boot Select Menu:

I was disappointed to find that they charged money for a firmware upgrade for a system. It is the first time I have ever had to pay to upgrade firmware on a computer.

That said, it was not that expensive, and I was keen to try it. So I coughed up the EUR9 (+Paypal fees) to buy it from Acube's online shop which is linked from their website here.

The features list for the updated firmware are listed by ACube as:

- new redesigned GUI with an 'amiga' style, enabled via Menu->Video Options->Console->Silent
- unified support for Sam460ex and Sam460cr boards
- support for USB EHCI, now booting from a SD card is very fast
- better support for USB devices
- removed 2 GB limit for USB sticks
- better compatibility with newer Radeon HD graphic cards
- introduced a new menu entry to change the x86 gfx BIOS emulator accuracy. If your graphic card
  show some visual problems on startup, try increasing the x86 BIOS emulator accuracy
- new DDR2 boost settings: read, write, read + write (up to 5% speed increase on reads and up to 
  10% on writes)
- DDR2 boost setup done from a new menu entry
- added support for old Permedia2 graphic cards, for 'history' reasons :-)
- added 'ping' command

- corrected a bug in the serial port GPIO configuration

Particularly of interest to me is the better usb support, memory boost, better compatibility with newer Radeon HD cards and the removal of the 2GB limited for USB sticks.

I then downloaded the lha archive as prompted, and burned off the included ISO, ready to go:

There are simple instructions to follow, but unlike the X1000 CFE firmware upgrade process, the Sam 460 firmware upgrade is very easy:

After it boots from the CD, you then press Space to start the firmware uprade:

And off it goes...first, erasing the firmware:

Then writing the new firmware:

Firmware update complete, ready to power off/on after removing the cd from the drive:

The new firmware looks very different indeed when the 460CR is powered on:

The U-Boot preference menu:

As mentioned in the readme included with the firmware software, there is an option In the Preferences Menu, Under Video Options > Console, to simplify the display to be a little more Amiga-like by changing the Console to from Verbose to Silent:

Here are some of the other U-Boot screens in the new firmware - the memory boost options, disabled by default:

It was a little disappointing for a paid update that no new multi-boot functionality was included. I particularly expected it to be possible to dual boot MorphOS and AmigaOS 4.1 with the new firmware but it appears mostly the same as before:

Last but not least, the System Information screen:

After changing the Console to Silent, a different boot sequence appears, which looks a lot nicer, packaging the AmigaOS4.1 initial kick layout file boot sequence into the firmware screen in a more integrated way:

I do like the upgraded look to the update firmware - the Silent option on the console makes it much nicer boot sequence too in my opinion - below is the initial boot of the AmigaOS 4.1 Final Edition disk - other multi boot options can appear here also, but no idea how to add MorphOS 3.8 to it:

AmigaOS 4.1 Final Edition still boots and works as normal after the firmware update:

MorphOS 3.8 also booted up after the firmware update - like the old firmware though, the nice boot menu for AmigaOS 4.1 is not visible when booting MorphOS...

I will play with it some more later on as I have limited time today, but wanted to show people what the upgrade firmware looks like and what to expect.

To be honest I had hoped for more multi boot options, preferably with a easy to setup multi-boot functionality for MorphOS 3.8 / AmigaOS 4.1 Final Edition multi boot, and indeed Linux too.

The graphical touches to make the firmware look nicer are welcome of course. I still think this could  have been released as a free firmware update though.

Looking forward to the next update with multi boot support for MorphOS 3.8 and AmigaOS4.1 on the same hard disk or separate disks, and hopefully that will be free for people who bought this upgrade...

In the meantime though, thanks to ACube for their work in updating the firmware and new features - it is certainly an improvement.

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