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STD reveal USB, NIC, IDE combo-podule

By Chris Williams. Published: 31st Mar 2004, 22:00:51 | Permalink | Printable

Silicon tonic for the aging RiscPC [Updated] Trade-in options

With what looks like the most overloaded RiscPC podule card to be produced in a long time, Simtec Electronics has designed and manufactured what's been described as "the only RiscPC podule you'll ever need" and "how podules used to look". Their latest expansion card, called the UniPod, features two USB ports (with MassFS drivers), a 100MBit network interface and an IDE interface that supports up to four drives. A photo of it is below.

photo of the UniPod
The UniPod, with USB, NIC and IDE ports

The podule, which was commissioned by Stuart Tyrrell Developments, also includes a printer port and an econet-compatible expansion port. The pricing scheme of the card is also refreshingly trivial compared to other RISC OS product pricing schemes (Qercus subscriptions and MassFS spring immediately to mind): Buy a card for 99UKP and get one of the USB, NIC or IDE functions enabled. To enable other functions will cost 25UKP per interface although there's a price reduction if you enable all three. Pricing of the printer and expansion ports is to be decided and interestingly enough, developer documentation for the card will be free of charge.

Stuart of STD explained: "It is designed to give RiscPC owners a cost-effective expansion route. UniPod offers a plethora of functions to be performed within a single expansion card slot. This makes it ideal for those wishing to expand a RiscPC, or to prolong the effectiveness of a RiscPC as a secondary machine."

Prolong it certainly shall, and prolonging is just what the RiscPC needs, seeing as the machine will be celebrating its 10th birthday next month. The UniPod card is available now from STD, who we also pestered earlier today with various annoying questions, so here's the scoop from Stuart Tyrrell himself:

Q. That board looks a little crowded: can the RiscPC podule bus deliver enough power to all those interfaces?
A. "The production podule complies completely with the expansion card power specifications - it's something which I put in the requirements specification for obvious reasons."

Q. Your press release says the card is "32bit", what does that mean? Could you use it on an Iyonix, despite the Iyonix having USB, a 10/100/1000MBit NIC and fast IDE already?
A. "UniPod is a 32-bit expansion card (ie: it is possible to pass twice as much data per transaction as a traditional 16-bit podule).

"At the moment we're promoting the card for the RiscPC only, as, as you point out, the Iyonix has all the functionality already. We have not yet had time to investigate how much work would be involved to make the card function on the Iyonix, nor whether any likely sales would make that work worthwhile. The Iyonix X100 is not able to use podules."

Q. Any other plans for RiscPC upgrades?
A. "Yes."

Q. Is this your last, grand finale in terms of RiscPC upgrades?
A. "No."

Q. Will it be the Iyonix next?
A. "Maybe. We already have a few products for the Iyonix, although it's difficult to develop novel hardware for a fully-featured machine. Whenever we ask, no-one has any suggestions beyond writing drivers for PCI cards, which is really the realm of other software, not hardware developers."

Update at 10:29 2/4/2004
STD are now offering a limited-time part-exchange scheme for owners of separate USB, IDE and NIC cards: full details are here. Also, as stressed in the original announcement, enabling functions on the UniPod doesn't require users to return the podule to STD.


UniPod website - full pricings, details and also, don't be put off by the embargo date (and yes, drobe.co.uk does have permission)

Previous: STD really does support the Simtec USB podule
Next: Drobe absorbs Iconbar.com


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A bit early for an April fool...

Sorry to start off on price again but... Does this mean that prices of the individual cards are going to fall?

 is a RISC OS UserAndrewDuffell on 31/3/04 10:17PM
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It's about time a combination podule card was brought out.

 is a RISC OS Usersa110 on 31/3/04 10:18PM
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Oh please. This is awful. Anybody considering spending this kind of money on upgrading their Risc PC's should seriously get their head examined. Just put your money in the piggy bank and wait for grandma's pocket money so you can get a proper computer, not a mini-mobo on a podule.

 is a RISC OS UserSnig on 31/3/04 10:22PM
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I wonder what sort of data transfer rates can be expected through the IDE ports? Blitz speeds? Cheers!

 is a RISC OS UserThe Doctor on 31/3/04 10:26PM
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It'll just be a standard simtec IDE. (Along with a standard Simtec USB, and NET100)

 is a RISC OS Userjohn on 31/3/04 10:30PM
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Snig: I have to agree with you there. If I had 139 pounds to spare I would be saving up for an IYONIX. Then you get all these features anyway.

 is a RISC OS UserAndrewDuffell on 31/3/04 10:30PM
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As of yet I don't see a R05 Select. Until one appears, or my RPC dies, or I need something quicker, I'll stick with my RPC and perhaps upgrade it now and again.

 is a RISC OS Usersa110 on 31/3/04 10:34PM
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snig: it's not a mini mobo on a podule, try sticking to the facts if you're going to rubbish products! :/

 is a RISC OS Userjohn on 31/3/04 11:03PM
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Don't worry, it's just the new product whinge, wash, moan repeat cycle.

STD's made a new product, that whilst technically not super exicting, makes good use of trailing edge technology, and the price advantages that come with it.

 is a RISC OS Usermrchocky on 31/3/04 11:03PM
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In reply to john: I think mini was probably the wrong word. I meant to imply that it had most of the features of a new motherboard, but not all. With all due respect I wasn't rubbishing the product, only the user buying them. :) Entirley different of course. :S In retrospect pressing that ominous "Submit comments" button without thinking twice is probably a bad thing.

In reply to Chocky: How does it feel being on that high horse of yours? :D Ok, nice new product.. or is it. Is it my imagination or is it just a whole load of previousy podules bunged together in a nice mesh. If so, wouldn't this just be a dealer taking advantage of users thinking this is new, new, new?

I appreciate that this might be a solution for some users who want to save space in their Risc PCs. But I can't see any other reason why someone want to get this?

Oh dear, I seem to have ranted in a semi-tired state, this is bound to turn out bad. :(

 is a RISC OS UserSnig on 31/3/04 11:20PM
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Do I read it right, that ports are enabled by software? So I can buy it now for 99 quid, and then later enable ports as money comes to hand/need arises?

If so, that's a pretty neat idea.

 is a RISC OS UserDougal on 31/3/04 11:27PM
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Say you've got an RPC with no USB, no network card (or a slow one), slow on-board IDE ports (limited to two devices) and you need USB, NET100 and faster IDE - this is a very economical way of doing it.

I bought all the cards separately, and it's quite an expensive thing to do. This card makes it affordable for most people and might mean that people can continue to use proper RISC OS hardware until they can afford an Iyonix or Omega.

I think it's an excellent product.

 is a RISC OS Userfylfot on 1/4/04 12:32AM
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has anyone looked at the date

 is a RISC OS Usermicrobits on 1/4/04 1:59AM
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This kind of product implies that there is a significant minority of users out there with unexpanded RiscPCs. In a sense it helps more recent developments to filter down to this userbase. I think it's a good idea too.

 is a RISC OS Usersascott on 1/4/04 2:05AM
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snig: I have no idea what you're talking about. I've not patronised the item at all, In fact, I'm one of the few people that's saying positive things about it. So, the high horse comments are clearly from you and others. Or maybe you should lighten up :-)

My other point is that with so many other new RISC OS products (which this clearly is), people have had to have a good whinge before they appreciate it. ff's comments are right on the money - buying new cards separately is rather more expensive - plus you'd need at least a 2 slice RiscPC to fit them all in (depending upon what you already had fitted).

 is a RISC OS Usermrchocky on 1/4/04 5:59AM
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Seems quite nice to me. SWMBO would go crazy mental apes*** if I suggested spending Iyonix money on a computer; if this can replace the no-longer-supported RapIDE thing I've got, and add USB for 124, I might even buy one.

 is a RISC OS Usermikeg on 1/4/04 7:34AM
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Does the IDE interface require DMA to be enabled to perform at full speed? What is the speed increase (with/without DMA) over the standard IDE setup? The linked STD site above is unforthcoming re tech specs....


 is a RISC OS Userbucksboy on 1/4/04 8:01AM
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Don't think the IDE interface does DMA. It (the IDE on its own) seems the same speed in mine whichever slot I put it in (i.e. not that fast :/)

 is a RISC OS Userjohn on 1/4/04 10:49AM
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The speed benefits from IDE DMA on a RiscPC podule are somewhat marginal in many cases (I can't speak for the STD podule of course), which is why the RapIDE card doesn't implement it.

mikeg: RapIDE works fine, so what if it's no longer supported? ;-)

 is a RISC OS Usermrchocky on 1/4/04 11:03AM
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If it is not an April fool then this podule might solve my problems. 4 IDE drives replacing my rather old (and expensive) SCSI devices, Network and finally USB (which i was not interested in - until know). The only niggle may be the bandwith of the podule bus system...

And for those suggesting to spare fpr the Iyinox. I do not know how much britsh workers eran, but here, south east of the channel, the price different between this podule and a fully new computer is remarkable.

Sincerely Hauke

 is a RISC OS UserVLIW on 1/4/04 11:06AM
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snig: I would buy it. My SA Risc PC has no usb or network, and I'm beginning to feel the need, but cannot afford a usb podule, and a network podule, and then in future possibly faster IDE (requiring a second slice...). A podule that offers an all in one solution costing only 99 for the card then 25 to enable different ports is a fantastic idea. I for one would definitely buy it! :) Plus it would keep me going while my Iyonix fund increases at its laughably slow rate :(

 is a RISC OS Userj5m1th on 1/4/04 11:10AM
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Econet? 2nd Printer port? April 1st?

 is a RISC OS Userjess on 1/4/04 11:25AM
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jess: April fool or not, my point still stands, that if this is a genuine item I would buy it for its functionality. It offers three things I need in one podule. ;)

 is a RISC OS Userj5m1th on 1/4/04 11:39AM
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If it /is/ an April fool then it is an ill-timed one. The article was posted on 31st March. Cheers!

 is a RISC OS UserThe Doctor on 1/4/04 11:58AM
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for the big picture: [link]

looks genuine

 is a RISC OS Useregel on 1/4/04 12:01PM
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Having just looked at that, that printer port is a bit too short. Cheers!

 is a RISC OS UserThe Doctor on 1/4/04 12:15PM
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That's because it's an Econet port.

 is a RISC OS Usermrchocky on 1/4/04 12:20PM
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Ah, that might explain it. What's that connector just to the right of it then? Cheers!

 is a RISC OS UserThe Doctor on 1/4/04 12:31PM
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doctor: I hope it's not an april fool, but it does seem too good to be true, however if it is I reckon STD'll get enough orders justify making it for real.

 is a RISC OS Userjess on 1/4/04 12:49PM
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Doctor> That's a USB device port (As opposed to the USB host ports, which are on the extreme right of the picture)

Chocky> I imagine that's a MAU port, not actually an econet port per-se. Ie, it's the same as the port on the back of the A3020... the two thin long black connectors on the card must certainly be for the standard econet card. Interesting choice of socket, though...

 is a RISC OS Userimj on 1/4/04 12:50PM
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This forum continues the discussion in article: STD reveal USB, NIC, IDE combo-podule

 is a RISC OS Userpiemmm on 02/04/04 12:35AM
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Trade-in options: Let's clean our attic: a Watford Electronics IDE podule and Digital Services DCI-2 NIC, would it work? Anyone software to make it work on a RiscPC?

 is a RISC OS Useregel on 02/04/04 1:55PM
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Is it just me, or is STD's website down?

 is a RISC OS UserJGZimmerle on 03/04/04 9:59PM
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It is down because it is hosted by onepointnought.com aka iconbar.com

 is a RISC OS UserAndrew Duffell on 04/04/04 10:07AM
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STD have switched to new hosters in the meantime, until the new DNS settings propogates, you can find their site here: [link]

Chris. Just me.

 is a RISC OS Userdiomus on 04/04/04 1:06PM
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I'm very seriously considering purchasing the UNI podule. I'm assuming the IDE part of the podule is essentially Simtec's IDE podule, so therefore will it work ok with a CD R/W and an IDE Zip drive?

 is a RISC OS Usermfraser on 08/04/04 6:14PM
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Perhaps, you could phone ro email STD to ask.

Chris. Just me.

 is a RISC OS Userdiomus on 08/04/04 7:20PM
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Thanks Chris

I've emailed them, but as their domain's down at the moment I can't see them getting it for a while. Plus it's a bank holiday now.

 is a RISC OS Usermfraser on 09/04/04 08:11AM
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