The Gig of Ham

One geek's contributions to the series of tubes

Dec 12, 2018 - 16 minute read - amiga retrocomputing sysadmin howto

GuruNet Review and Install Procedures

Sorry for this page missing for a bit, I had a hardware failure. In yet another Amiga post, let’s talk about adding networking to an older machine. The “big box” Amiga systems, (2000, 3000, 4000) have the ability to add a Zorro network card. The 600 and 1200 allow for adding a PCMCIA network card, but there are some issues with those (we’ll get to that). But if you have anything else, you’ve been in a much harder task to get some networking. You can use a serial interface and good old PPP/SLiP but instead, we’re going to talk about something else. The PLiP Box and the GuruNet.

Most (all?) Amiga systems have a parallel port. You can use it for a number of things, but finding a parallel printer in the 21st century is much harder than it was in the 90s. The advantage of the parallel port over the serial port is it’s speed: you can transfer a whole 8 bits at a time instead of a single bit at a time via the Serial port. Back in 2012 Christian Vogelsang created the plipbox based on an Arduino and the Ethernet Shield. My friends over at ElectronicsIsFun.com took that design and simplified it (hardware wise) into a nice single board solution with the firmware already on it called the GuruNet and make it for sale. It’s one board, and works out of the box (no assembly required). The design isn’t changed, so the same plipbox drivers still work. I have a few of these and use them on my A1200 (mainly because there are reset and lockup issues with using PCMCIA cards on the 1200 specifically) and A2000 systems. It’s also a much cheaper alternative if you want to play around with networking without shelling out for a full blown X-Surf-100 or ZZ9000 card for your big box systems. I have and love my X-Surf-100 and my ZZ9000 is on order. No complaints about them, other than price and on something like an A2000 the X-Surf-100 is very much overkill for the old Z2 bus.

GuruNet hardware

GuruNet Photo

The GuruNet is simple by design. The board only had three primary connectors: the parallel port, the Ethernet port, and a micro-USB power connector. Sadly the board does require external power, but it uses very little of it. A simple external USB battery pack will power the system for hours. I was unable to get the device to consume more than about 80mA during normal usage. After applying power, you only need to attach an Ethernet cable and plug into your Amiga.

Compatibility Issues

We’ve tested the GuruNet on as many different Amiga hardware variants we can. Everything has worked well, except Amiga 2000 systems with Accelerator boards. We’re still trying to figure out why, it doesn’t matter if the board is a first party A2630 board or a third party GVP board. As long as the board is installed, the GuruNet is detected but won’t send or receive packets. If you have any ideas on why this may be, please reach out. But testing on A1000, A500, A600, A1200, A3000, and A4000 systems work without issue in every configuration we had access to. We didn’t try the GuruNet on systems with a accelerators which already provide Ethernet, for obvious reasons.

Driver installation

Once you have the hardware attached, we need to contemplate software. First is the driver. You can download the driver from the plipbox GitHub linked above, but it comes in ZIP format. To make life easier, I made an LhA archive for easier use. For the rest of this tutorial, I’m going to assume you have the LhA binary installed and in your path for easier access. You will also need to move the files for the driver and for your chosen software stack below (the files are listed at the beginning of each section). Since some of the files are large, they will not fit on floppies. I tend to use NComm and connect my Amiga to another machine via the serial port or use a GuruModem to transfer the files using the ZModem protocol. It can be slow, but it’s reliable. I have a blog post which explains how to get NComm setup if you are interested in that path. Otherwise…I leave it to you how to get the files to your Amiga.

Installation is simple, simply extract the plipbox-0.6.lha file to your RAM: drive and copy the files therein:

lha x plipbox-0.6.lha RAM:```

There is one critical file and two optional files. The critical one is the `plipbox.device` file. The `dev_test` program will check that the hardware is connected. The `udp_test` program allows for testing network speed. Each of the files comes in three variants: `_RELEASE_000` is the generic version that can be used on any Amiga. The `_RELEASE_020` variant can be used on an Amiga with a 68020 or better processor, and the `_RELEASE_040` variant can be used on an Amiga with a 68040 or better processor. If you do not know which you have, use the generic one. The following commands will install the generic driver and the two optional programs, fell free to adjust to your liking:

COPY RAM:plipbox.device_RELEASE_000 DEVS:network/plipbox.device COPY RAM:dev_test_RELEASE_000 C:dev_test COPY RAM:udp_test_RELEASE_000 C:udp_test```

With the driver installation complete, we need to install a TCP/IP stack. There are several TCP/IP stacks you can use with AmigaOS, I’m going to cover EasyNet (and EasyNet Pro, the install is identical) which can be purchased from Amigakit, Roadshow which can be purchased from [APC&TCP Software](APC&TCP Software), Miami, and MiamiDX which are free and can be obtained from aminet. All of these installers are larger than can fit on a single floppy, and several require dependencies so once you pick your stack jump to that section to get all the necessary parts and transfer them to your Amiga:

EasyNet

EasyNet is the graphical interface for the old AmiTCP stack, and is maintained by AmigaKit. It’s not my preferred stack, but it’s very easy to setup and use.

The EasyNet install comes on a CD-ROM. This is great if your Amiga has a CD-ROM, but if it does not the contents of the CD-ROM can be read and put into a LhA archive using something like WinUAE and then that archive transferred to your Amiga and run out of a drawer. Everything you need is on the CD, if you have EasyNet Pro that also includes some additional applications we don’t cover in this install guide.

Upon inserting the EasyNet CD, it should appear on the workbench: EasyNet Install Screenshot

Open the CD to reveal the installer and some drawers. The drawers are for extra software, we only need the installer for this guide: EasyNet Install Screenshot

The installer is fairly simple, you can just use Novice mode: EasyNet Install Screenshot

Informative installer is very informative, in case you forgot what we are installing. Hit proceed: EasyNet Install Screenshot

We installed the driver previously, we should be all set here. Hit proceed: EasyNet Install Screenshot

I’m hoping this is a clean install for you, if it is not press Abort now. If this is a clean install, press Proceed: EasyNet Install Screenshot

The defaults are fine: EasyNet Install Screenshot

I typically use the standard icon, but you’re welcome to pick what you like: EasyNet Install Screenshot

Adding the commands to user-startup is required: EasyNet Install Screenshot

This handler will let you connect to SMB (Windows) shares later. The defaults are fine: EasyNet Install Screenshot

Yep, we need to configure it now that the install is done. Press Proceed: EasyNet Install Screenshot

Yeah, yeah…Continue: EasyNet Install Screenshot

Enter your name to personalize your copy. Your license number may differ and that’s fine. Agree to the terms and register to continue: EasyNet Install Screenshot

Now we want to choose the plipbox.device, if it’s not listed then there is some other problem and you can cancel and run this config program after getting the device installed. Otherwise, choose the device and press Save: EasyNet Install Screenshot

If you have EasyNet Pro, you can use DHCP. Otherwise, you will need to set a static IP address. Put in settings appropriate for your network and hit Save: EasyNet Install Screenshot

Now all you need to do is press “ONLINE” to connect to the network: EasyNet Install Screenshot

That’s pretty much it. You may get an update XML error on connection, that’s fine and can be ignored. If it connects then you are ready to skip to Applications.

Roadshow

Roadshow is my preferred network stack on the Amiga. Mostly because it’s easy to setup and forget about. No applications to run, the TCP/IP stack just configures and starts at boot. It’s very Unix like, where it’s completely configured with some simple text files and just stays out of the way. This also means it needs no dependency packages to run. Like EasyNet it’s a fork of AmiTCP, but it’s also very streamlined, extremely well documented, and the most up-to-date TCP/IP stack for the Classic Amiga. I’m not going to cover all the steps necessary to install, you should read the excellent docs in the archive (they come as a PDF in the LhA for easy printing and viewing from modern machines). But I will cover the basics.

Let’s make a Drawer on DH0: called Installers and put the contents of the Roadshow package there. Feel free to adjust as necessary: Roadshow Install Screenshot

Now we can open that drawer and start the installer: Roadshow Install Screenshot

No novices allowed here: Roadshow Install Screenshot

We really want to install, not just pretend. I also assume this is the first TCP/IP stack you have installed, if not you should abort and remove the old one first: Roadshow Install Screenshot

If you have an accelerator card that you don’t always use, I would say No here. Otherwise say Yes: Roadshow Install Screenshot

The default location is fine: Roadshow Install Screenshot

The install is fairly quick: Roadshow Install Screenshot

…and doesn’t have a lot of options: Roadshow Install Screenshot

Roadshow doesn’t include a device template for the plipbox, so I typically copy the X-Surf-100 profile and modify the device line as shown below. You can find the details of where those files are in the Roadshow install guide: Roadshow Install Screenshot

Now that roadshow is installed and the profile created, go ahead and start it. The command line tools like nslookup and ping should work to verify connectivity. Now you’re ready for some Applications.

Miami

Miami is an independently developed TCP/IP stack, unlike EasyNet and Roadshow it’s not based on AmiTCP. It was commercial software, but the license keys for it were publicly released when the software was abandoned by it’s developers. In addition to Ethernet it supports PPP, SLIP, and a variety of other connectivity options. However all this power comes at a price: it’s big, and it requires MUI to operate. So, here are all the parts you need:

I’m going to assume you have a HDD on DH0: with a drawer called Installers where we can extract the various installers for this process. You can adjust the commands in the screenshots accordingly to your tastes.

First we need to extract the MUI runtime to the Installers drawer: Miami Install Screenshot

If all goes well, that will extract successfully: Miami Install Screenshot

The Installer program that comes with MUI is newer, and needed for the rest of the install process if you are running a stock 3.0 or 3.1 system. If you are running 3.1.4, 3.5, or 3.9 you can skip this step: Miami Install Screenshot

Now we can launch the MUI installer: Miami Install Screenshot

The installer should come up, but the novice installer is a gotcha. Use the Intermediate User installer instead: Miami Install Screenshot

We want to install for real: Miami Install Screenshot

We’re installing Magic User Interface, in case you forgot: Miami Install Screenshot

Ensure the package will want to install installed on a drive other than the OS by default, but we don’t want that: Miami Install Screenshot

Install in the Workbench: drawer instead, and press “Proceed”: Miami Install Screenshot

I typically install all the image sets: Miami Install Screenshot

You need at least English: Miami Install Screenshot

I typically do not install the demos (they are for developers anyway), so press “No” here: Miami Install Screenshot

Once MUI is installed, you will indeed need to reboot: Miami Install Screenshot

Once you have rebooted, let’s get the Miami archives extracted. First the main: Miami Install Screenshot

…then the MUI pack: Miami Install Screenshot

…then the generic runtime (you can substitute the 020 runtime here if your machine supports it): Miami Install Screenshot

Now you can navigate to the drawer and find the installer: Miami Install Screenshot

Launch the installer from the Miami drawer, and Install for real: Miami Install Screenshot

The default location of SYS: is acceptable: Miami Install Screenshot

If you have installed the 020 pack, you can choose it here. Otherwise use the “68000/010 version”: Miami Install Screenshot

If you do not at least pick Standard then there will be no icons (others are fine as well if you OS supports them, but at least choose standard. Do not pick “do not install new icons”): Miami Install Screenshot

You need to choose the MUI pack, as it’s the only one we have installed (and it’s the best supported): Miami Install Screenshot

Yep, we still want to use MUI: Miami Install Screenshot

Assigning the Miami: alias is required, so do it: Miami Install Screenshot

Also allowing the installer to make the changes to user-startup is recommended: Miami Install Screenshot

The installer will copy files, and eventually finish: Miami Install Screenshot

And now we can quit the installer: Miami Install Screenshot

The Miami program should be installed on your system drive now: Miami Install Screenshot

Next we need to extract the Miami Keys to the Miami: folder: Miami Install Screenshot

Now we need to launch the Miami-Init program to setup the connection, it’s installed next to the Miami icon but typically needs to scroll to be seen: Miami Install Screenshot

Launch Miami-Init to continue: Miami Install Screenshot

Enter the plipbox.device for the device name and press “Continue”: Miami Install Screenshot

Now that the device is setup, you should be able to launch the Miami control panel: Miami Install Screenshot

The settings will be loaded from the Init program, and you can simply press “Online” to connect. If everything worked correctly, you can move on to the Applications section.

MiamiDX

MiamiDX is an independently developed TCP/IP stack, unlike EasyNet and Roadshow it’s not based on AmiTCP. It was commercial software, but the license keys for it were publicly released when the software was abandoned by it’s developers. This is the Deluxe edition which has some streamlined UI but requires more system resources over regular Miami. In addition to Ethernet it supports PPP, SLIP, and a variety of other connectivity options. However all this power comes at a price: it’s big, and it requires MUI to operate. So, here are all the parts you need:

I’m going to assume you have a HDD on DH0: with a drawer called Installers where we can extract the various installers for this process. You can adjust the commands in the screenshots accordingly to your tastes.

First we need to extract the MUI runtime to the Installers drawer: Miami Install Screenshot

If all goes well, that will extract successfully: Miami Install Screenshot

The Installer program that comes with MUI is newer, and needed for the rest of the install process if you are running a stock 3.0 or 3.1 system. If you are running 3.1.4, 3.5, or 3.9 you can skip this step: Miami Install Screenshot

Now we can launch the MUI installer: Miami Install Screenshot

The installer should come up, but the novice installer is a gotcha. Use the Intermediate User installer instead: Miami Install Screenshot

We want to install for real: Miami Install Screenshot

We’re installing Magic User Interface, in case you forgot: Miami Install Screenshot

Ensure the package will want to install installed on a drive other than the OS by default, but we don’t want that: Miami Install Screenshot

Install in the Workbench: drawer instead, and press “Proceed”: Miami Install Screenshot

I typically install all the image sets: Miami Install Screenshot

You need at least English: Miami Install Screenshot

I typically do not install the demos (they are for developers anyway), so press “No” here: Miami Install Screenshot

Once MUI is installed, you will indeed need to reboot: Miami Install Screenshot

After rebooting, we can extract the MiamiDX main archive: MiamiDX Install Screenshot

…and the MiamiDX MUI archive: MiamiDX Install Screenshot

Now we can find the MiamiDX drawer: MiamiDX Install Screenshot

…and launch the installer, installing for real: MiamiDX Install Screenshot

You want to ensure that MiamiDX installed in the SYS: drawer: MiamiDX Install Screenshot

You also want to choose at least the standard icon: MiamiDX Install Screenshot

We need to use the MUI pack since that is all we installed: MiamiDX Install Screenshot

And use the MUI GUI since it’s the best supported: MiamiDX Install Screenshot

Installing the sanamni.device is fine: MiamiDX Install Screenshot

Adding the Miami: alias is required: MiamiDX Install Screenshot

Allow the installer to modify user-startup for you: MiamiDX Install Screenshot

And now the install will copy files: MiamiDX Install Screenshot

Now the installer is done: MiamiDX Install Screenshot

Before we proceed, we need to install the keys for MiamiDX from the archive: MiamiDX Install Screenshot

Now we can find the MiamiDx tool, but we need to run MiamiInit first which is typically to the right of the MiamiDX tool: MiamiDX Install Screenshot

Scrolling typically reveals it: MiamiDX Install Screenshot

The copy should be registered: MiamiDX Install Screenshot

Next we want to setup “Ethernet” hardware: MiamiDX Install Screenshot

Give it a name and choose the plipbox.device: MiamiDX Install Screenshot

Create a new Interface of type “Ethernet” and the interface is “Internet”: MiamiDX Install Screenshot

Next we can choose the hardware we just created and assign it: MiamiDX Install Screenshot

By default, DHCP is what most users want. If you want/need static addressing you can set those here: MiamiDX Install Screenshot

Finally in the Database menu is where you add DNS servers. The Google Public DNS servers are a good fallback if you don’t know what to put here: MiamiDX Install Screenshot

At this point you can launch the MiamiDx application and connect to the Internet. If that all works your ready for…

Applications

Now that you have a working TCP/IP stack, you’ll probably want some applications. Aminet is full of them, but there are some shortcomings you should be aware of. The modern Internet is changing, and becoming a lot less friendly to older machine. I wouldn’t recommend trying to use your classic Amiga as your daily driver. FTP is becoming harder and harder to use for transferring files, most of the mail clients for the Amiga only support legacy mail protocols (which most people no longer use), and the SSL/TLS situation is…bad. With the Internet rapidly moving past TLS v1.2 to v1.4, and most apps being build against AmiSSL which only supports TLS v1.0 (which has been deprecated for being dangerously easy to hack), your choices are limited.

All of that being said, let’s talk about transferring files. If your other machines are Windows you can use Amiga Explorer but I’ve found it to be unreliable. I have found that sticking with old reliable FTP works best for me. I use either NcFTP or the FTP client build into Directory Opus 5 for moving around large amounts of files. I’ve used vsftpd on Linux and Xlight on Windows without issue as a remote server to upload/download from. You can also use wget to pull down files from remote web servers on your network as well (the Internet is again tricky because of TLS).

Web browsing is possible, with a lot of caveats. The biggest being that the modern web is designed for Google Chrome, which is very much not going to run on AmigaOS. My go-to browser last year was AWeb which works, but is slow. The biggest problems are the previously mentioned TLS issues and that this browser is old so JavaScript/ECMAscript is very limited and you will be amazed how much of the Internet requires that now. That said, AWeb is free. If you’re willing to shell out a few bucks, iBrowse is back, under active development, includes TLS1.3 support, and has a better JavaScript/ECMAscript engine. iBrowse is my go-to browser these days.

There are of course other uses for giving your Amiga TCP/IP access to the Internet. But, those are the primary reasons I connect mine to a network. For me, the magic of the Amiga is the software and hardware of the Amiga - so being able to get software on and off my machines easily is what I strive for.

Final Thoughts

The reason we wanted to build the GuruNet was to make a ready to go network adapter that may not be the fastest, but has the broadest compatibility with the Amiga user base at an affordable price. It’s not the best, but it is available for purchase and with this guide hopefully easy to get up and running. I find it’s a great way to move large amounts of data (like WHDload archives) on to my Amiga in an fairly simple way. Please reach out if you are developing any new network apps for your Amiga and use the GuruNet or if you have any suggestions for other apps you find useful!