[Oberon] Re (2): Copy or reinstall A2?

Liam Proven lproven at gmail.com
Wed Jul 21 17:07:44 CEST 2021

On Tue, 20 Jul 2021 at 14:32, <peter at easthope.ca> wrote:
> From:   Liam Proven <lproven at gmail.com>
> Date:   Mon, 19 Jul 2021 09:54:12 +0200
> > Doesn't anyone run A2 directly on x86?
> I Have but LinuxA2 is convenient & flexible.
> A Linux machine and an A2 machine can be networked. Otherwise have the
> two systems on one machine.  Linux with LinuxA2, Windows with WinA2,
> etc.
> Did you see my 2nd reply?
> http://lists.inf.ethz.ch/pipermail/oberon/2021/015968.html

I did see it, yes. I did not respond because I was not really sure how
to respond; I am sure what you are saying is true, but it was not
really an answer to my question. :-)

I think building a new installation from source is not really an
option for me at the moment -- I am still learning A2 and Oberon
itself and to be honest I have not got very far at all yet. Getting it
working on a physical computer was an exercise in this process.

What I have learned since I did it is a more specific instance of
something I already knew from working with classic Macintosh
computers, decades ago:

[1] Just because something is called $filename.ISO does not mean that
the contents are necessarily an ISO-format file. There are multiple
non-PC OSes out there that can handle CD drives and which can store
information on CDs, and be installed from CD, but using their native
filesystem on CD media.  Classic MacOS wrote HFS and HDS+ CDs and they
can be read and booted from on a classic Mac, but they are not ISO9660
media nor any other variant of High Sierra, El Torito or any other
optical-medium filesystem.

[2] Tools which can write an ISO file to a USB flash drive may
completely fail when presented with an ISO file that does not contain
an ISO 9660 filesystem. They will write it to the USB medium, but the
result will not be bootable or readable. The ISO file may boot a
virtual machine successfully, but it will not boot if written to USB.

(Examples: AROS, the FOSS Amiga OS.)

I also recently upgraded the BIOS on my Thinkpad W500  and although
the file was called something.ISO, it wasn't an ISO file and it
wouldn't work either written to a USB key, nor copied onto a
multi-boot tool on USB. (I use Ventoy:
https://www.ventoy.net/en/index.html It's very useful and a huge

But when I burned the IBM bootable updater to an actual CD --
something I haven't done in many years -- it worked perfectly, booted
a modified copy of IBM PC DOS, and updated my firmware correctly.

Looks like an ISO; is not an ISO. It's just _called_ ISO.

Well, looking back, the A2 ISO images may be the same. I think they're
called ISO but they contain A2 filesystems. I could not get it to boot
from USB, but I never tried writing it to floppy. I will do that next
time and I may have more luck.

> Incidentally, the Fox compiler in A2 is a cross compiler.  A
> relatively small investment of making a back end for the RISC machine
> would allow Fox to produce RISC object code.

Which particular RISC machine do you have in mind?

I was aware of this, yes, and I was considering trying to produce an
experimental ARM executable and seeing if I could run it on a
Raspberry Pi. I know it will not have any I/O without drivers for USB
etc., but maybe if I could get as far as writing something to the
screen, that would be progress.

I have also found another interesting very low-end RISC board recently
that might be of interest as a possible target for Oberon.

It is called a TTGO VGA32 from LilyGo.


The product page is very unhelpful and uninformative, but a helpful
poster on Facebook explained what one is to me:

The TTGO VGA32 is an ESP32 with interfaces for PS/2 mouse and
keyboard, and 8 or 16 color VGA, on specific lines. The software is a
base system called FabGL that acts as a base on the ESP32. It provides
numerous facilities for emulation of terminals, emulation of several
vintage processors, and for being directly programmable as a
stand-alone system.
A VGA32 can be built up using an ESP32 on a breadboard, following the
wiring on the FabGL github pages, or bought as a complete system from
LilyGO through one of their various distribution channels. The LilyGO
TTGO VGA32 v1.4 sells for less than the price of the connectors and
the ESP32 at retail, so it's an easy way to go, but if you have spare
VGA and PS/2 connectors around, making your own isn't difficult.
Here's the link to the FabGL github page:

The ESP32 is a widely-used 32-bit RISC chip. This is a dual-core
model. It costs about $3 in bulk and it's normally used for running a
Wifi+TCP/IP stack. There are versions with both Xtensa and RISC-V


I know it from a learners' home computer, the BASIC*Engine:

This is a 32-bit RISC computer, with VGA out, PS/2 keyboard and mouse,
about ½MB of RAM and 4MB of Flash, for $10 per unit -- less than the
cost of the connectors if bought in isolation.

It may be underpowered for A2 but I think it could be a good target for Oberon.

Liam Proven – Profile: https://about.me/liamproven
Email: lproven at cix.co.uk – gMail/gTalk/gHangouts: lproven at gmail.com
Twitter/Facebook/LinkedIn/Flickr: lproven – Skype: liamproven
UK: +44 7939-087884 – ČR (+ WhatsApp/Telegram/Signal): +420 702 829 053

More information about the Oberon mailing list