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 I've always been fond of using 'alternative' operating systems. Back in the very early 90's when I first became aware of computers, we had an Acorn Electron, an 8-bit 6502 machine with 32K of RAM and a cut-down version of the BBC Micro's operating system. Sticking with Acorn (my parents are teachers, and brought home machines from the schools where they worked), I was brought up using RISC OS and fell in love with its elegance, its intuitive UI, and the overall unquantifiable charm of the platform.

Later, as Acorn faltered and eventually imploded, we bought a PC, and I fell into the Windows set. I learnt to get along with that machine, but it wasn't quite the same; behind the façade of a modern OS there was still that creaking 16-bit DOS lurking underneath to trap the unwary. Most games of the day still ran in DOS, or ran better there, and Windows '95 was hardly the paragon of stability or ease-of-use. We progressed upwards through Windows '98 and to XP, and I became something of a Windows fan through persistence and a lack of exposure to anything else. I was aware of the Mac, but derided it purely out of ignorance.

Having shed my fear of the classic Mac OS after trying it through emulation, I set about re-familiarising myself with the OS market. I discovered Linux and fell in love with the UNIX philosophy, and bought myself a second-hand Acorn Risc PC and remembered why I'd had so much fun as a child as the familiar RISC OS desktop sprung into life. I follow, though don't use, Haiku (the open source BeOS clone) with interest, and wouldn't mind trying it at some point. I use Mac OS X as my platform of choice and use Fedora on my work desktop, flitting between each without a problem.

But for all my dalliances with other operating systems, one has consistently eluded me after all this time. The Amiga, the little computer that could, was immensely popular as a games platform in the UK in the early 90's, but I never knew anybody who had one; we were all Sega fanboys and the Mega Drive was king. I own an Amiga CD32 as part of my games collection, but purely as a games machine - I've never used it as a general-purpose computer.

But I'm drawn to it like a moth to a particularly alluring flame; it's the one that got away, the platform with so much potential and promise squandered by mismanagement and legal chicanery. Finally, after many years in limbo when it seemed as if it might finally die out altogether, there is hardware available and a new and (more) modern version of Amiga OS available, version 4.1. Perusing the most prominent Amiga dealer's website, I could buy myself a SAM440 motherboard, complete with 733MHz PowerPC CPU and a minimum of 512MB of RAM, for £379.95. Not the most powerful hardware around by modern standards, but more than enough for an OS which once ran on an 8MHz 68000 with 256K of RAM.

It's not expensive, per se, but it would still be a significant chunk of change to blow on what is effectively a whim, but I'm sorely tempted. It'd be fun to try a new platform, and I can already see myself using it as a workstation and to keep various things like a constant IRC session running. If the worst comes to the worst, I could always throw Fedora PPC on it...


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