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Pace internal ROS 4 uncovered

By Peter Howkins. Published: 11th Feb 2005, 19:19:03 | Permalink | Printable

We're so nosey

Admitting to being a version number junkie, you may know that Peter Howkins runs a website dedicated to tracking the changes in version numbers of the components of RISC OS. After acquiring an ex-Pace RiscPC that packed an internal version of RISC OS 4 from an online auction, you could say Peter hit a goldmine. Here he explores the RISC OS 4 branch he found in use at Pace.

It's reasonably well known that in the chaos that followed Acorn's decision to close their workstation division, the code of RISC OS was split among several parties. RISC OS Ltd got the rights to make a desktop version of the OS. Pace employed the OS in the form of NCOS for use in embedded devices, which eventually ended up with Castle, and Element 14 (as Acorn renamed themselves) kept a copy for themselves before being gobbled up by Broadcom. With these different versions of the OS being developed separately, a confusing split occurred in the previously sane numbering of the component modules of the OS.

The RISC OS on the RiscPC I bought from a Pace source seemingly fits somewhere between RISC OS 3.80 and RISC OS 5 on Castle's Iyonix PC from 2002. 3.80 is a version of the OS that was given to Acorn's Registered Developers in 1998 in preparation for the failed Risc PC 2 Phoebe launch. The developers' version was to allow programmers to test their software on the new OS, and this internal stream of RISC OS was never formally released.

Like the developers' versions before it, this version from Pace is designed to be softloaded over the top of RISC OS in ROM, and this is very useful in a development environment as it means you can use and test new builds without having to burn or flash a new set of ROMs for each change.

Dating from 2000, this version is confusingly called RISC OS 4.00 aUUP00-00 (08 Aug 2000) and postdates RISC OS Ltd's 4.02 by almost a year. It appears to show a confusing split in version numbers between RISC OS Ltd developed code and Pace/Castle developed code that continues to this day.

It uses the desktop sprite theme from RISC OS 3.80, that will be familiar to all RISC OS Ltd RISC OS 4 users, except it has classical blue folders and a nice 3D rendered Acorn Nut Logo for the switcher. It also features modules present in NCOS and RISC OS 5, such as 'OS Version' and 'DHCP Client'.

Many of the minor glitches of RISC OS 3.80, particularly the poor window layouts in the !Configure application, have been resolved by this release. It feels a lot more finished that 3.80 but there are inconsistencies, still. For example, on boot up you are told you're running RISC OS 4. But in the switcher info window, you're told it's 3.7. The splash screen during boot up says the OS was released in 1998, the switcher info says 1996 and *FX0 returns 2000.

In use, RISC OS 4.00 has been fairly stable, but I have discovered that it doesn't really like my KVM switch box, and often when returning to this machine after using another, it would be locked solid, requiring a hard reset to recover.

Most of all it show that sometimes you can pick up some really weird stuff on ebay.



Pace 'RISC OS 4' module list

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Next: Desktop Repton Plus review


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Interesting, still a shame though the OS was split in so many versions along the way... but what I'm wondering about is if this is also the 32 bitted version of OS4 which apparently was done by Pace and ended up in OS5 for Iyonix?

 is a RISC OS UserhEgelia on 11/2/05 8:39PM
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Erm? My local School, (the one I went to) has NCs with RISC OS 3.8 on it, however this still feels like RISC OS 3.7

It certainly was not for deveopment, as there was about 40 of them.

 is a RISC OS Userem2ac on 12/2/05 1:39AM
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hEgelia, It's still a 26 bit version, though perhaps is a step on the way towards the 32bit version.

em2ac, interesting, though can I check if you mean RISC OS 3.80 or window manager 3.8? Versions of NCOS did come with wimp 3.83, 3.87 and 3.92 though RISC OS 3.80 itself comes with Wimp 3.99. I've seen NCOS boxes that network loaded most of the desktop parts of 3.6, so it's possible that it could load OS 3.80 parts, but given how secretive Acorn were being about 3.80 in the run up to the RPC2 launch I'd be surprised if it ended up at a school.

check this for more info [link]

 is a RISC OS Userflibble on 13/2/05 11:36PM
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Ah, so this'll be one of the builds after ROL and Pace did some working together. I hadn't realised how much fed back from ROL to Pace. Although, that said, ROS 5 is missing some of the niceness of 4 so perhaps this is a bespoke build rather than something more official.

What do you think?

-- Spriteman

 is a RISC OS UserSpriteman on 14/2/05 12:52PM
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The very first version og RISC OS 5 I saw on a protype Iyonix also had the classic blue folder icons, but it wasn't long before they turned slanty.

Cheers ---Dave

 is a RISC OS Userdruck on 19/2/05 5:16PM
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