Getting started with MiNT


I'm a long standing Atari user and MiNT novice.
There seems to be a dearth of the info on the simpler aspects of MiNT
Perhaps what I figure out as I try and get a basic MiNT setup running to my satisfaction will be helpful to someone, somewhere.

I once trod the MiNT path by installing the TAF distribution on my Falcon in order to get the Chimera web browser.
It worked... but in 4MB of memory it was slow and very limited. After I got CAB, my installation lapsed.

Recently I finally bit the bullet and started again. I am tired of uncompleted grand projects... so this time instead of going for a big installation I decided to try and install MiNT step by step, gaining experience and confidence with each change.

Fortunately I now have an Afterburner fitted to my Falcon with 32MB of FAST RAM, Nemesis, and the latest and greatest addition - a Nova graphics card with ATI Graphics Pro Turbo. I shouldn't forget my HP DAT drive, Toshiba 4x, CDROM, JAZ drive, 17" Idec monitor, and Roland SC88 Pro Sound Canvas (pity I am not musical!).
 

Caveat: What comes below may be innaccurate, will be incomplete, and only rarely updated.
Don't let that put you off dropping me a mail to point out my mistakes.



 

What can MiNT do for me?

 

What will MiNT cost me?

What are the alternatives?

A good site to use as your base for discovering MiNT is Jo Even Skarstein's Home Page


Getting Started

Step 1: Get the MiNT kernal loaded:

Go to the freemint distribution site at http://www.cs.uni-magdeburg.de/~fnaumann/mint/
and get a recent version of Freemint. (I think I am using V1.15.2B)
What is Freemint? - it is the version of MiNT under very active development/support by the guys on the MiNT mailing list.


Select the MINTxxx.PRG to match your cpu and put it near the end of your C:\AUTO folder.
Change the name to MINTNP.PRG (NP means no memory protection)

What is memory protection? - The operating system running on 030 and later cpus can stop programs messing with the portion of memory allocated to other programs. This can make the system a lot more robust. When a program crashes the other applications should be unaffected. However, some applications may rely on delving into each other's memory to communicate... so for initial stability we start by trying with memory protection off.


What benefits do I now see? Ermm. Not sure. I went straight to Step 2.
 

Step 2: Get GEM to multitask

First you need a multitasking AES (Application Environment System) to replace part of TOS.
I suggest you get one which is version 4.1 or better as that lets you iconify windows. (Otherwise you soon have multiple windows from different programs on screen and cannot see what is behind the top window. Iconize lets you shrink them to an icon at the bottom of the screen and then expand them later when you want them back)
The strongly recommended option is to buy N.AES (Woller Systems are at www.woller.com).
You can get English docs/RSC (along with a lot more MiNT stuff) at ftp://piwo.bl.pg.gda.pl/pub/atari/
N.AES is said to be faster, less buggy and far superior to AES4.1...but...
I am a cheapskate... so to start with I have found the 4.1 version which is an Atari beta release. You'll have to hunt around on the net for it, but if you look for keywords 'MULTITOS', 'GEM' and 'AES' you will probably find it. ;-)

Second, I hope you are already running a boot manager such as XBOOT as it helps switch back from the MiNT configuration if anything goes wrong or in case you need to do something which you haven't got working under MiNT yet.

Now create a folder C:\MULTITOS\ and put the AES .SYS file into it.

Also, find or create the MINT.CNF file. It may be C:\MINT.CNF,  but I prefer to keep it with related files as  C:\MULTITOS\MINT.CNF.
(Many people use C:\MINT\ instead of C:\MULTITOS\)
At the end of this file, you should have or put a line to load the AES. Try:
    GEM=C:\MULTITOS\AES.SYS
(If there is also a INIT= line then disable it by putting a '#' at the beginning of the line)

What benefits do I see?

Well it still looks and feels like the standard Atari desktop... but much better. I can run multiple programs at once. On my machine it all seems very fast and I you can turn on the Afterburner's Copyback cache for extra speed without suffering crashes.
Look below the accessories to see the list of currently running programs and pick one to switch.
Ctrl-click a program in this list to forcefully terminate it.
Add extra accessories to your boot setup - you are no longer limited to 6.
Add an icon to the desktop for drive U: and then open it. You can actually reach a file on any other partition through this virtual partition. It also contains some folders of information kept in memory which controls the multitasking.
I have been running NVDI 4.5, Everest, Kobold, Diamond Edge, DADE.PRG, Papyrus, Freedom 1.15, Cixread, Imagecopy, GEMAR so far.


Problems?
.TTP and .TOS programs don't run.
My STING/MYMAIL setup doesn't work (Apparently STING and this version of MultiTos are incompatible, I may have to explore an alternative such as GlueStick? or MiNT-Net?)
I have been warned about using Diamond Edge. The suggestion is to avoid be careful to only to use it on TOS partitions (not V-FAT, Linux or Minux) and not to access a partition with another program whilst Edge is working on it.
Loading SI.CPX into Atari's XCONTROL crashes. Time I trashed SI.CPX as it apparently is incompatible with the Afterburner.
WDIALOG - I'm advised to ensure I have a recent version 2.04 or newer and to run it from GEM.CNF and not the AUTO folder.

Step 3: Figure out how to get .TOS and .TTP programs to run

You need to install one of the programs which provides windows for TOS/TTP programs to run in as they do not use GEM windows.
I'm not here yet!
(I'll have another look at TOSWIN2.4 when I get the time. Yes I do have TOSRUN defined)

Actually it sort of works:

I have defined TOSRUN to point to the caller app.
It opens a console when I boot.
TREE_CHECK and SCSIDRV.PRG output goes to the console.
I can run TTP and TOS programs from the TOSRUN menus.

What doesn't work is double clicking TOS programs from the desktop.
They give me the message "NewDesk ! failed to lunch ARC.TTP" etc.

I am off home to try a suggestion. Add lower case TTP and TOS names to the TOSEXT lines. More documentation if it works.

Step 4: Start to use long filenames on a partition

"Easy! Just set the VFAT-variable in mint.cnf. E.g VFAT=D,E,F will enable long filenames on these partitions, as long as they are TOS-partitions."

Later I expect to use the flexible ext2 filesystems.
One hint was get debugfs (unix prog?) to help solve any problems on the filesystems.

Step 5: Find myself an AV server

What is an `AV server'?
It is a program which undertakes to handle communication between other programs which follow the 'AV' protocol. It makes it possible to do things like drag and drop between applications. If you are multitasking you probably want this.


The smart thing to do is to get the Thing desktop. I still haven't totally given up the idea of reinstalling my beloved NeoDesk someday but I will probably come around in the end.
 

Step 6: Get my internet connections working again

Apparently if I get N.AES then STING will work again. The alternative is to install MiNT-Net (which I suspect means a leap into unix filesystems)
 

Step 7: Setup a unix environment and become a unix wizard.


Things I junked

STING - I understand it is not currently compatible with MiNT (I couldn't get it to work either)
MultiDesk - actually that went a long time ago. It isn't needed under MiNT as you can have as many .ACCs as you like.
NeoDesk - You can use it but THING is a far better AVSERVER. If you remove it then remove NEOLOAD.PRG and JARxx.PRG from the AUTO folder too.
LGSELECT fileselector - another thing I left sometime ago in favour of Selectric
Selectric - doesn't support long filenames. I am currently using Freedom 1.15. Boxkite is also recommended by others. I haven't triued it for a long time but what I remember is it had the look and feel of Selectric with long filename support.
 


What I don't/didn't know?

What is vcons
"Virtual consoles. You get 10 fullscreen text-consoles or 9 fullscreen textconsoles and GEM. Switch between the consoles with <ALT>+<F1-10>. Very handy, but a pain with your graphics-card (the consoles will always appear on the Videl, so you either need a second monitor or a switch)."  (I do have a second monitor ;-)

What I can forget about

One of the problems I find in getting my head around packages like MiNT is that one comes across all sorts of programs "for MiNT" which one avidly collects over the years one is intending to install MiNT.
Then when you get down to trying to install it you spend more time sorting through your collection of related MiNT stuff than it would actually take to do a clean install from fresh material from the web. So to help speed this process I hope to list some things which you might find 'for MiNT' but which are obsolete, not needed, or just that there is a alternative which is probably the way to go.

ALERT.ACC - superceeded by MiNT Setter (?)
MINIWIN - superceded by TOSWIN (?)

come on ... mail me some ideas.. I am sure there is a lot more I could junk!


Links list

If you are looking for (much) more detailed info then try joining the MiNT mailing list. You will be deluged with emails discussing esoteric details - thank god someone cares and thanks to those dedicated souls who make it all possible.
I suggest you check out the archive below first. You should find instructions for joining the list in some of the posts.

The Sparemint site is a excellent source for news and packages of unix like stuff.




You can email me using oskelton as the username at this isp (I won't write it here to protect myself from spamming robots)