Before I begin, let me just say that I was very very excited about getting my OS upgrade. The first serious OS upgrade in more than five years. I had my advance order placed back in April when Software Hut began taking them. I could hardly wait for the shiny new CD, the first official Amiga Inc. product to my knowledge to be released on a CD. With 650 Megs of space on that baby, surely a sign that there were great things on it. Someone told me I shouldn't worry about fixing something that wasn't broke. It was never a need to necessarily fix something that was broke, merely bringing us up current with technology.
Upon receiving the product, I was very impressed with the packaging, but I noticed that the box was a bit small and light. For the same amount of money in the past, we received hard page documentation and the program on floppies. It is a well known fact that CDs are cheaper to create and ship than floppies. Don't get me wrong, I love the CD with its red and white boing ball label, but I am just saying it is less expensive to produce. There was also no hard page documentation, but instead a very thin pamphlet on installation instructions in English or German. The lack of documentation left me a bit annoyed and leary of installing it. It took me a week or so to finally take the leap.
Finally feeling that I was comfortable with the install, I proceeded to install the required elements (the CacheCDFS and the Pre-WB3.5 files). When I kicked off the installer, I was pleasantly surprised. It was a MicroSoft-ish installer on it's own screen. I tested it on both a 16-color and my CyberGFX screen. On the 16-color screen the high color photos did not display (which is to be expected), but on the CyberGFX screen, it displayed high color images as it did its work. I never really pay much attention to installers, but I noticed sounds being played as the installer progrressed where appropriate. This was done in moderation and was a good show of the possibilities.
I found that the install was not as straight forward as I had hoped. I followed the instructions and my machine would not come up. I had to mess with it for a while to determine the problem. Even now I am not totally sure what I did to remedy the situation, but I finally got it running. A little tip for others installing theirs, I would rename your S:startup-sequence and S:user-startup before you do the install and copy the standard 3.1OS startup-sequence into your S: directory. This will avoid any other programs you have installed from running. It will not delete or otherwise disrupt you programs, it will just prevent them from running. This will provide a good baseline for your install. There will be no question if some other program is causing you problems, it will only be the OS running. Then slowly add the other programs back in a few at a time and run you system to see if there are any problems. Make sure you read the readme file on the CD. There are several popular pataches that seem to kill the OS and must not be installed. A note for anyone running DOpus Magellan II, the 3.5OS overwrites your LoadWB command. You must rename LoadWB as LoadWB_old and copy your LoadDB from OPUS5:c directory to C:. There is also a patch on the GPSoft website to fix some glow icon issue.
Not to sound too critical, but after all these years with no serious improvement in our Operating System, they graciously give us Glow Icons. These icons do look good on a high color screen, but now you have a screen with a few of these new icons and a bunch of old icons. If they really wanted to go that extra step to impress us, why not include a sampling of icons for other popular programs or generic ones that we the user could assign as we see fit. I must admit that the glow icons make it easy to tell when the icon is selected, although I never suffered much from this problem.
Miami, was the choice for a TCP/IP stack for the Amiga. This was a wise choice in my opinion. This is by far the most superior program in its class, Holger Kruse even went to the extent to create his program so that it can multiple GUI can be used with it. This program is easy to use and easy to set up. The only down side to this is the fact that this program is the demo version and times out after 30 minutes or so. Amiga Inc, indicates on their CD that an OEM version will be coming out, but they released this statement without the consent of the author. Hopefully, at the very least, Amiga Inc, can release a key file of some sort that checks for 3.5OS and verifies the OS3.5 serial number.
For the web browser a special version of AWeb was created. This program brings the term cripple-ware to mind. I realized that this package is for the low end internet user, but this version looks more like an advertisement for their product than anything. My system has 20 Megs of Fast RAM and 2 Megs of Chip RAM, and an 040 processor, this AWeb ran terribly on my system. I can understand the colors not working out right, but it did not want to display all the images at once and was generally annoying. I would have preferred to seen the demo version of IBrowse v1.22 sold with this package. At least IBrowse would do SSL transactions. What low-end user never intends to purchase anything on the web? It would appear that this was the only browser choice available since Amiga Inc. does not want to be like the rest of the Amiga community and deploy an MUI product.
The email client is a program called AmigaMail. I liked the name of the program, but from there my opinion dropped. I use YAM, an MUI-based shareware email client. This program has a tremendous amount of flexibility, where AmigaMail has none. To say that this program is a no-frills email client would lead you to believe it has more functionality than it has. This is an ultimately basic program. I have configured many email clients and I have yet to get this one to work. If I were a new user, I would have given up by now and just started cursing out the parent company for the sloppy work.
Let's look at the basic low-level internet user for a moment. There is no software with the OS to create a web page, WYSIWYG or otherwise. There is no FTP client. I know people who can hardly type a letter to save their lives who want web pages. Even if they figured out how to get them written, there is no means to get the pages on the internet. A TelNet client would have been nice too, but I guess that is aimed more at the power user.
How about file systems? Where are our breakthrough file system upgrades? There are several new file systems out there that give us dramaticly increased speed for our old hard drives. You have to go to third party solutions such as Smart File System, or my personal favorite Professional File System 3. These file systems offer much more speed and reliability over the current FastFileSystem. Bug fixes is all they seem to offer in this area.
Let me also point out the changes in the screenmodes. Before with 3.1, you could run a 1024x768 resolution screen and only use 512 colors. This conserves our precious RAM. Well, the new OS assumes we have an abundant amount of RAM. The number of colors the screen runs at is dictated by the resolution. So, at my normal 1024 x 768 resolution, I am forced to use 64,000 colors.
The readme states that you must disable various commonly used programs, such as MagicMenu and ARQ. Since these programs cause the OS to crash, they advise you to turn these off/remove them. If enough users had these programs running on their systems, why not include them in the OS. Get the authors permission and modify them to work with the OS. I like ARQ it replaces the boring standard requestors and gives you sounds with them. They could have easily included it in the OS and had an option in the WB Prefs to turn it off for the low end users. Well, I guess I have taken a step back, never to regain it.
Let's take a look at the CD-based documentation. Let's forget that it is not hard page, for a moment. Let's forget that Amiga has never given us a good set of docs. These docs seem to be even more devoid of information. The manuals require a lot of RAM to properly view, which the average user probably won't have. Then they graciously give us PDF files of these manuals that cannot be printed from an Amiga (unless you happen to find some third party PDF viewer that works on Aminet). Further, I found no reference to the new programs that came with the package, such as AmigaMail, Mounter, etc.. The whole set of manuals has almost always been geared to the complete computer neophyte, but where are some basic instructions on these programs?
If you are a serious Amiga user and intend to stay with the platform, then this is a sensible product, but otherwise I would recommend other products for the same money. Products such as PFS3 (a new defacto file system) actually speeds up access to those same old drives or Directory Opus Magellan II that used as a workbench replacement gives you FTP and configuration possibilities for complete handling of all your files (like PDF files) which Amiga Inc. must think we don't need.
My rating is 3.5 stars out of 5. I was overall unimpressed by this release and felt I did not receive my money's worth. PPC owners may have a different opinion.