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R-Comp sneaks out VRPC graphics speed boost

By Chris Williams. Published: 11th May 2005, 14:54:40 | Permalink | Printable

Look but don't touch

R-Comp logoR-Comp are playing hard to get over the specifics of their "RISC OS Performance Enhancement technology" for VirtualRiscPC. Lurking at the bottom of an announcement issued today for a new Windows PC bundle running the VRPC emulator, is a mention of R-Comp's top secret graphics speed up tweak.

It's claimed that the improvements, introduced late last year, boost graphics based applications, such as Artworks, and allow the RISC OS desktop to run at 1600x1200 with "minimal performance hit", although with a screen refresh rate of 60Hz. Despite "allowing RISC OS to better interface with the graphics hardware" of the host Windows PC, R-Comp were disheartened after RISC OS magazines snubbed news of their work.

When we asked how their technology worked, R-Comp's Andrew Rawnsley replied: "With the best will in the world, that's the one thing I'm not saying, beyond the fact it utilises both hardware and software to boost graphic speed under RISC OS. In a sense, it came about by chance when I was experimenting with various ideas, and low and behold 'vroom!'"

The speed up does not rely, we're told, on the screen refresh rate although it's known that by lowering the refresh rate, the performance of the emulator increases. R-Comp ship LCD monitors with their PCs, which run at a refresh rate lower than that of CRTs.

Apparently, the company was shy to announce the enhancements, which we gather was news to VirtualAcorn, because R-Comp chose to roll out the update over time. Andrew continued: "It would have been rather tricky to pen a press release which didn't affect everything, concerning stuff that had already been shipping. As such, I figured it better to leave it until Wakefield, which is the biggest event of the RISC OS calandar."

As to the age old argument of emulation of RISC OS hardware versus native kit, the R-Comp boss added: "Would you rather pay 999ukp for a machine that is faster in most tests than an Iyonix costing 1299ukp, and get two real-world operating systems: RISC OS and WindowsXP. Or would you rather pay 1299ukp for an Iyonix, which only runs one. For most people the answer is fairly clear. There's still a role of pure ARM machines I guess, but it's a role that stems from emotion, and a fear on MS, rather than one based on performance and value."

In December 2003, STD unveiled an update to the graphics capabilities of VirtualRiscPC, much to the surprise of VirtualAcorn and other dealers.

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Discussion

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The Iyonix also runs Linux, which I'm sure is classed as a "real world operating system". Not sure about XP tho. ;)

Personally, I'd rather pay the extra and run RISC OS on an Iyonix. I've found the emulator experience doesn't deliver a smooth RISC OS desktop appearance. For example, the mouse pointer is jerky and often pauses for no apparent reason (tested with a P4 2GHz, 1GB RAM, 64MB GeForce 4, clean installation). Has anyone else seen this behaviour?

Another reason for running RISC OS is for the relative safety from spyware, script-kiddies and viruses, and being able to run a web server without needing to keep it up-to-date with patches. not because RISC OS is inherently more secure, but because the code to exploit holes just doesn't exist.

 is a RISC OS Userksattic on 11/5/05 3:24PM
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One thing I've noticed is that when running RISC OS in a VRPC window graphical operations like moving RISC OS windows about and redrawing is much faster than when running full screen. This is at the same resolution and colours (24-bit) and on an LCD Laptop at 1024x768. But running in a window when I need all the resolution I can get is not an option for me.

 is a RISC OS Userdansguardian on 11/5/05 3:26PM
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I run it on a 3.4Ghz P4 with a GeForce FX5600 and it's faster than my RiscPC in every way. :) No pausing.

The argument about RISC OS being magically virus-free is just stupid. It's virus-free now because nobody can be arsed writing a virus for such a little-used OS -- that is the ONLY reason.

 is a RISC OS Userimj on 11/5/05 3:32PM
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Personally I don't like the emulation route. I'm currently using (better said, owning) a SA RPC. My computing needs have significantly lowered year after year, and now the only thing that force me to use a computer is work (XP) and some video stuff (98SE). That said, I don't like Windows, and I'm using it because of no alternatives (linux is not mature enough in video), but RO installed on top of Windows for me is rubbish. With emulation, you are on worse of both worlds - viruses. spyware, patches from one and limited use from another.

 is a RISC OS Userbernie on 11/5/05 4:11PM
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Frankly, if you completely ignore the Windows side, never ever use it, have VRPC run at boot, and install one of the freely available firewalls on the Windows side, you're pretty safe, even if you don't keep up to date with patches.

 is a RISC OS Usernunfetishist on 11/5/05 5:58PM
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<posting from Firefox cos the s***ty Oregano swallowed my last attempt!>

In reply to Bernie:

I disagree with you. With Virtual Acorn I can print at photo quality to any printer (and very quickly compared to RISC OS hardware), I can plug in any USB pen drive or camera and have it just work, I can drop to Windows at the click of a key (ok, 2 keys) to browse websites with Firefox that RISC OS browsers don't like, or to scan from a scanner or Multifunction printer/scanner/copier (Does RISC OS fully support /any/ of these devices?), I can run all 26bit software and at a far higher speed than any native RISC OS hardware.

No, I'd say that using Virtual Acorn you get the very best of both worlds. I would not now be using RISC OS at all if Virtual Acorn didn't exist and it would take a series of small miracles to get me back to native RISC OS.

As it is, I find myself using RISC OS more than ever before. Cheers!

 is a RISC OS Userfwibbler on 11/5/05 7:11PM
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I take my Iyonix to bed with me every night and hug it lovingly.

Hope this helps.

 is a RISC OS Usermoss on 11/5/05 7:15PM
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Back on topic (because I forgot to ask in my FlRST post), I wonder how much of a difference R-Comps speed ups make compared to a machine without them?

 is a RISC OS Userfwibbler on 11/5/05 7:16PM
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So is this the news hinted at on the Sunday Night News posting? If so, not very spectacular :(

 is a RISC OS Usersa110 on 11/5/05 7:26PM
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Getting SQL from drobe so keep losing post

 is a RISC OS Userarawnsley on 11/5/05 7:46PM
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OK maybe it is working now. Will keep it short. In testing with AWviewer and the artworks apple, we're seeing render times halve. When we demoed some of this at the last Wakefield user group, I think people were quite impressed with machine performance.

 is a RISC OS Userarawnsley on 11/5/05 7:47PM
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moss: Perhaps too much info there, but nice to see you like your Iyonix :)

 is a RISC OS Userandypoole on 11/5/05 7:49PM
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ksattic: The jerky mouse pointer problem was solved over about a year ago (May 04 update). The only annoying thing about it now is having to boot Windows first, and that it emulates an ARM 7 (which seems to prevent Ogg and streams working on DigitalCD, which IIRC is because it uses long multiplies there).

 is a RISC OS UserSimonC on 11/5/05 9:27PM
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Nothing but SQL errors here too.

 is a RISC OS UserTonyStill on 11/5/05 9:44PM
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The SQL errors should be fixed now - a fault crept in somehow, which was annoying. It's also a bit unhelpful to say things like "Nothing but SQL errors here too" :| If in future you find a problem with the site, email us the URL of the page causing the problem, and the error message - otherwise it's difficult for us to track down the problem.

Thanks.

 is a RISC OS Userdiomus on 11/5/05 10:34PM
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In reply to SimonC:

I find that the pointer still sticks when there is any significant hard drive activity such as when debatching mail for example.

Cheers!

 is a RISC OS Userfwibbler on 11/5/05 11:28PM
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Oh well, the Drobe post system ate my comments. Is this th reward for gaining the yellow triangle?? An error message appeared to check SQL syntax. Time to call site adm.

 is a RISC OS Userbernie on 12/5/05 12:52AM
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ssgfs

 is a RISC OS Userbernie on 12/5/05 12:59AM
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The jerky mouse pointer is fixed!!! And no one told me! This was one of the main reasons I've not taken up VRPC before now (previous experience with VA5000) - I always felt it just 'seemed' less smooth than a low spec 'Real' ROS machine - now I'm off out to get a copy - if only they'd get the Linux Version out - then I wouldn't need to reboot into windows to run an emulated OS - ah a crazy world!!!!!

Cool!

Ryan

 is a RISC OS Userdrjones69 on 12/5/05 2:25AM
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I've just suffered from the main problem with VRPC. A Windows problem, probably due to a virus checker, has *****ed VRPC. I have had to re-install, but since MicroDigital [the machine is an Alpha] won't/can't reply to me, I'm locked out.

 is a RISC OS Usercharles on 12/5/05 6:27AM
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As for "Would you rather pay 999ukp for a machine that is faster in most tests than an Iyonix costing 1299ukp, and get two real-world operating systems: RISC OS and WindowsXP. Or would you rather pay 1299ukp for an Iyonix, which only runs one. For most people the answer is fairly clear. There's still a role of pure ARM machines I guess, but it's a role that stems from emotion, and a fear on MS, rather than one based on performance and value."

I understand R-Comp making this statement ... from their poing of view since they sell emulated RISC OS hardware only. But I think it's not fear on MS or emotion but the (at least still) utter safety considering the huge amount of viruses etc. which attack Windows systems and require you to not only keep firewall and virus scanner up to date, but to live with the odd attack which is faster than these checking programs, the regular security fixes, ad-ware scanning etc. That is we're talking at additional work, cost and that with still remaining risk of infection. Guess why I run email on RISC OS only!

 is a RISC OS Userhzn on 12/5/05 7:38AM
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To nunfetishist: "Frankly, if you completely ignore the Windows side, never ever use it, have VRPC run at boot, and install one of the freely available firewalls on the Windows side, you're pretty safe, even if you don't keep up to date with patches."

I wish you all the luck that that your way of working will not result in nice surprises... your chances are fair indeed, but you might be surprised by some malicious virus or the like though.

 is a RISC OS Userhzn on 12/5/05 7:42AM
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Acorn supplied all machines since 1994 with VProtect, that might have helped. Why would a user care why their machine doesn't have viruses?

Would you rather pay 999ukp for a machine that uses more electricity, needs more virus checking, spyware removing, secutiy updating than an Iyonix costing 1299ukp, and have to boot two real-world operating systems: RISC OS and WindowsXP and give you 2 ways for things to go wrong. Or would you rather pay 1299ukp for an Iyonix? For most people the answer is fairly clear. There's still a role for not pure ARM machines I guess, but it's a role that stems from emotion, and a love of MS, rather than one based on performance and value.

 is a RISC OS Usermavhc on 12/5/05 7:46AM
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mavhc: Frankly, the power issue is a non-issue. Modern PCs power management is very sophisticated indeed. You're talking a matter of pennies a year for electricity.

I don't understand the rest of your rant enough to reply.

 is a RISC OS Usernunfetishist on 12/5/05 9:22AM
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mavhc you may well find that the new RISCube ultras in the press release use less power than the Iyonix. And run quieter. And from what I've read on the Iyonix mailing list, boot times are similar, and indeed may favor the RISCube! Please don't judge products without at least spending significant time using them. As an aside, in hundreds of RISCubes we've so far only had one virus incident. In the same space of time, I've had to help more virused RiscPC owners (ex-school machines can be quite a problem). This may not be typical, but since machines now ship fully protected, so far it's been plain sailing.

 is a RISC OS Userarawnsley on 12/5/05 10:18AM
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It's saddening that you are pushing these Windows machines so hard, Andrew. I previously had a lot of respect for your dedication to RISC OS. Ex-school machines hardly stand up as fair examples, do they. I never caught a virus on my personal RiscPC, but the kids at the school I worked at certainly did a grand job of filling the machines with viruses and other junk. Now the same problem is found with Windoze boxes there.

 is a RISC OS Userarenaman on 12/5/05 11:27AM
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Its no surprise why he's pushing these Windows machines so hard, the sheer profit margin. He's gotta stay in business you know and its easy money.

Is it just me though or are they seriously over-priced? I could probably build a high spec PC and put VRPC on for like 600 quid or something. Would have to check the price of VRPC as it has never interested me in the slightest. The only way i'd part with my Iyonix is if a much faster Iyonix 2 came out.

 is a RISC OS Userianscott on 12/5/05 12:09PM
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CJE policy on RISC OS native or emulated hardware is: We try to encourage native hardware so do not do VRPC+Desktop Windows PC only VRPC+Laptop as no native RISC OS laptop is available!

 is a RISC OS UserCJE on 12/5/05 12:12PM
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ianscott: I'd be surprised if you could build a real "high spec PC" for much under £500 (which you'd need to to stick VRPC on top for your £600), just taking components into account, especially if you're building a cube-style box. And once you've added the time needed to build it, test it and install the software, you've got another hundred or so (at reasonable rates). Then add delivery and a small profit margin and you're already beyond RComp's prices!

TBH, I think RComp are getting unfairly bashed for these machines. They're not badly priced for what they are and have advantages if you want a PC. Many of us require a PC (I absolutely require MS Word for work, for example), and getting RISC OS on the same box is a very nice extra.

 is a RISC OS Userjohnpettigrew on 12/5/05 12:19PM
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Arenaman - actually ex school machines are perfect examples - a large proportion of RISC OS machines bought and sold these days aren't Iyonixes or RISCubes, they're 2nd hand older machines. RiscPC or VRPC kit still accounts for 80+ % of our software sales. Maybe more.

Anyway, this is a crazy conversation. If you can't get over the presence of Windows, then there's nothing I can do, is there? Our customers buy them to run RISC OS because they do that quickly.

For record, *software sales* (which is still my main business) for use with VRPC exceeds that for use on Iyonix. So next time anyone feels like knocking VRPC, try and remember what actually funds the development of RISC OS software.

Bottom line. I paid 900+ukp for an Iyonix which is unusable (it eats hard discs and floppy discs for breakfast) and castle couldn't fix it. Each OS upgrade makes it worse. So I use RISCubes as my main RISC OS machines 10+ hours a day. And you wonder why I promote them???????

 is a RISC OS Userarawnsley on 12/5/05 12:24PM
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The only thing that is sad is that VirtualAcorn machines are so much more capable than native RISC OS hardware

 is a RISC OS Userfwibbler on 12/5/05 12:28PM
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I think maybe I came over a bit vehemantly there - didn't mean it that way. The VRPC argument just seems to go back and forth rather frustratingly. People either accept it or they don't. People either want such machines or they don't. I perfectly accept that many drobe readers will want pure ARM (drobe is, after all, the premier bastion of RISC OS). But please don't criticise people that *do* want VRPC systems. I heard a very sad story on the phone yesterday where certain user group members had actually made fun of (and been rude to) a customer who found that pure-ARM didn't do what he needed. This kind of belittling of people is a very worrying trend.

If RISC OS is to survive, we all need to get behind each other. I may not have had the best Iyonix experiences, but I still write Iyonix-targetted software (eg. MusicMan or the 32bit versions of DialUp etc). Actually I had an idea for an Iyonix-only project last night - not sure whether it'd be popular enough though, but I'm playing around with the idea.

Don't hate people because they don't all go for the same systems. Just be glad money is being spent on kit that runs RISC OS, and that that money can then be used for software development etc. I know people don't like me talking about money, but for those of us who make RISC OS our livelihood, it is important to keep tabs on the ecconomics. As long as I can keep on funding software development for RISC OS, and putting food on the table, then I'm happy.

 is a RISC OS Userarawnsley on 12/05/05 12:39AM
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I don't think R-Comp's prices for their Windows/RISC OS hybrid machines is that unreasonable. Sure, you could buy a very meaty machine for 600 quid, but then that wouldn't including the licence fee for RISC OS and VRPC, which doesn't come all that cheap. That, and Andrew and the other guys at R-Comp are providing technical support for it. If you rang up PC World and asked them about VRPC, they'd gibber at you.

 is a RISC OS Usernunfetishist on 12/05/05 1:16PM
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Whilst I'd like to live in a world where there's no need for VRPC, I don't. I use it because I wanted a laptop, and it's also pretty handy to run Windows software too from time to time (well, I play games on it every now and then). It's been used pretty heavily, and nearly all the serious stuff has been on RISC OS. Unfortunately it's getting harder and harder to see any benefits offered by native RO hardware over VRPC - keeping Windows patched up isn't really all that onorous, if you've a decent Internet connection, and if a Linux version did appear then there would be even less room for argument, other than emotional ones.

The native ARM solution needs to stay ahead of VRPC in some area - if VRPC can do everything an ARM based machine can, at the same speed or faster, for the same or a lower cost, then there's simply no logical reason for sticking with ARM.

 is a RISC OS UserSimonC on 12/05/05 5:00PM
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Andrew: I would not accept an IyonixPC, or any other computer, that behaved as you say yours does. I would take the company who sold it to the cleaners if they refused to relace it with one that worked. The straw that broke the camel's back, causing me to sell my previous RiscPC, was all the money I paid Castle to make the damn thing stable (it was built by them) and they failed impressively. As did CTA. Now, older and wiser, I would have asked Trading Standards for a little help.

None-the-less, I believe it's very valid to debate and hold an opinion on VRPC, because the fact remains that it causes *some* people who might have bought an IyonxPC to buy a Windows box. It strikes me as an atrocity to have a RISC OS computer, famed for their stability and reliability, relying on Windows to run. If you successfully crushed native desktop development, then all future RISC OS machines would then require Windows (as it stands now).

What about printing via Windoze, and using WinAMP underneath VRPC? That ties RISC OS into Windows for certain facilities, which surely starts chipping away at incentive and business potential of developing native solutions. If some bright spark develops a way to use MSN Messenger on Windoze via a shell on VRPC, then a certain company will lose sales of a certain messenging package called Grapevine... Just to give an example of why I oppose VRPC on anything other than laptops.

I wonder how many VRPC users increasingly switch to Windoze for Web browsing, Java, messaging etc...

I do see that it makes you money, Andrew, and consequently helps fund RISC OS software development, which is clearly good, but I am very uncomfortable with VRPC being pushed as superior to native kit, as it is encouraging people away from the platform and onto emulation. No OS survived as a commercial market via emulation and I think it should be used with caution, that's all.

 is a RISC OS Userarenaman on 13/05/05 00:36AM
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"It strikes me as an atrocity to have a RISC OS computer, famed for their stability and reliability, relying on Windows to run."

It strikes me as an atrocity that people still think that RISC OS is stable and reliable, especially when compared to any modern OS, say, designed in the past 10 years.

"If you successfully crushed native desktop development, then all future RISC OS machines would then require Windows (as it stands now)."

I see your crystal ball is on form. How of course you know that they'll never be a Linux or MacOS version of VRPC, or any future emulator, is anybody's guess.

"What about printing via Windoze, and using WinAMP underneath VRPC? That ties RISC OS into Windows for certain facilities, which surely starts chipping away at incentive and business potential of developing native solutions."

Why duplicate effort when somebody's already gone to the trouble, and it's likely to be better than anything an independant author could produce?

"I wonder how many VRPC users increasingly switch to Windoze for Web browsing, Java, messaging etc..."

I imagine less than the number of people who have left the RISC OS scene outright because of the complete lack of decent applications to do these things natively.

"No OS survived as a commercial market via emulation and I think it should be used with caution, that's all."

Apart from MacOS, and to a certain extent, the BBC Micro, of course. (Both systems used emulation while migrating to superior hardware.)

 is a RISC OS Usernunfetishist on 13/05/05 01:18AM
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RISC OS generally is stable and reliable. I don't believe I claimed it was perfect, as you seem to be inferring.

"I see your crystal ball is on form. How of course you know that they'll never be a Linux or MacOS version of VRPC, or any future emulator, is anybody's guess." Can't you read? I believe I said "as it stands now". Meaning, of course, that at the moment, VirtualRPC requires Windoze to run. If it was on a minimal Linux installation, that would be better. But whatever OS it runs on, it still requires another OS, which is not really ideal... plus of course, it's running on x86 hardware for which it was not designed.

"Why duplicate effort when somebody's already gone to the trouble, and it's likely to be better than anything an independant author could produce?" Platform preference perhaps? Why buy a Mac, when the same software is available on Windoze? Personally, I'd rather be able to do things in one OS rather than switching between two or more. Therefore, if I chose RISC OS, I would prefer things to be done natively.

"I imagine less than the number of people who have left the RISC OS scene outright because of the complete lack of decent applications to do these things natively." ...he says, completely ignoring the forthcoming Firefox for RISC OS and the other goodies Peter's porting project could yield. Encouraging users to move to emulation is hardly helping plug these holes, but decreasing incentive for programmers and businesses to embark on ports and original Internet software.

"Apart from MacOS, and to a certain extent, the BBC Micro, of course. (Both systems used emulation while migrating to superior hardware.)" I look forward to the superior hardware that VRPC and/or RISCOS Ltd have in the pipeline, in that case. If they are not doing this, then I fail to say how your argument is relevant.

 is a RISC OS Userarenaman on 13/05/05 01:49AM
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"I imagine less than the number of people who have left the RISC OS scene outright because of the complete lack of decent applications to do these things natively."

Just to add, yes, I agree with your point. In the past, the lack of decent Internet capabilities has been a real problem and no doubt lost the market droves of users. I should have said that now Peter's Firefox port should hugely reduce the problem. After all, Firefox is a real-world, multi-platform browser. Now RISC OS is on the way up for Internet capabilities, it seems absurd to encourage users away onto emulation where they will no doubt just use Windoze Firefox or Internet Exploiter instead of RISC OS ports and applications.

 is a RISC OS Userarenaman on 13/05/05 01:54AM
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Dare I say it? Why not simply move RISC OS to the x86 hardware? Emulation would no longer be an feasible option :)

 is a RISC OS UserGulli on 13/05/05 09:27AM
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"RISC OS generally is stable and reliable. I don't believe I claimed it was perfect, as you seem to be inferring."

Well, it's hardly famed for it, considering almost everything's better on this point, and if it were famous, more people'd use it. :)

"Can't you read? I believe I said "as it stands now"."

Sorry, I'm not used to people condtradicting themselves within the same sentence.

"plus of course, it's running on x86 hardware for which it was not designed."

It wasn't really designed for xscales or even StrongARMs, either.

What I was refering to about duplicated effort, is that having VRPC rely on Windows for printing means you get a much greater choice of printers, basically because some of them nobody but the manufacturer knows how to drive.

"I look forward to the superior hardware that VRPC and/or RISCOS Ltd have in the pipeline" Shrug, using x86 perfectly matches the pattern that MacOS and the BBC Micro followed.

 is a RISC OS Usernunfetishist on 13/05/05 09:29AM
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"Sorry, I'm not used to people condtradicting themselves within the same sentence."

Sorry, I'm not used to having to explain simple, every-day English language to native speakers.

"What I was refering to about duplicated effort, is that having VRPC rely on Windows for printing means you get a much greater choice of printers, basically because some of them nobody but the manufacturer knows how to drive."

I understand this point and see the attraction, but do you see what I am getting at? That it is making RISC OS, a separate OS, rely on a different OS (in this case Windows) to do certain tasks? I see this as a negative thing.

 is a RISC OS Useranon/62.169.216.219 on 14/05/05 5:26PM
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Do you a) assume that things will never exist on RISC OS, and therefore people should run another OS as well or b) tell them to wait until they do?

The more people using emulation the less reason there is to write software to fill the gaps, especially if it's free on the system you're using to emulate.

Without an OS running natively on hardware you're dead.

Has anyone measured the amount of power an Iyonix uses?

 is a RISC OS Usermavhc on 15/05/05 00:49AM
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An Iyonix uses quite a bit. Also remember that the top user of power in modern computers is rarely the CPU. (Consider the screen, high-speed hard discs, the video card, and such)

 is a RISC OS Usernunfetishist on 15/05/05 1:09PM
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Does anybody have the ability to take system energy usage measurements? Or have a pointer to such data? I vaguely remember reading somewhere that modern x86 chips draw 100W, which seems extravagant. (Actually maybe that was for future machines or high end servers or something.)

"It strikes me as an atrocity that people still think that RISC OS is stable and reliable, especially when compared to any modern OS, say, designed in the past 10 years. " I'd be interested, Rob, in knowing what you count as a modern, stable OS which was designed in the last 10 yrs. Linux may or may not be stable, but it is based on Unix which is ancient The current mac OS is based on unix, IIRC. Windows - >10yrs old, and ...not apparently more stable than ROS, in my experience.

 is a RISC OS UserLoris on 16/05/05 1:26PM
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Tony: Lots of RISC OS weenies seem to think that the peak power usage of a CPU in someway has some meaning. Very rarely do they actually pull that much power. Although they might do when running VRPC if it doesn't idle. (ie, RISC OS spins the CPU pretty chronically normally, even when it's doing nothing - that might get pulled across to the emulator always doing work.)

Even then, I don't imagine the whole CPU would still be in use. (For example, I imagine VRPC makes very little use of the FPU, or perhaps even the SSE stuff.)

 is a RISC OS Usernunfetishist on 16/05/05 3:34PM
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Considering what Windows has to do it is far more stable than RISC OS. I maybe a RISC OS fan, but if I had to choose between a modern Windows system running a critical system, and the latest RISC OS version - I would pick Windows everytime. It has far superior fault tolerance and protection mechanisms.

 is a RISC OS UserWalks on 16/05/05 4:10PM
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Hey, I qualify as a weenie now do I? Kewl. That would explain it though, if that 100W was a rare demand rather than the average. Do you know what the typical range is, in normal use? I appreciate your point about busy-waiting.

I'm still interested in what OS you meant by your "modern OS" comment. Did you mean Windows XP or MacOSX, or something else? (I think I was quite diplomatic about Windows above, by the way).

James, your comment seems to be a bit of a double edged complement. And your choice between 2 OSes seems a bit restrictive. I believe many people would claim Linux as the right tool for many critical systems.

 is a RISC OS UserLoris on 16/05/05 5:59PM
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Tony: Well, my 1.7GHz Celeron desktop PC chews around 60W when running full-pelt (that's playing a 3D game making use of the accelerator, the hard disc, and obviously the monitor.)

Windows, MacOS X, Linux, are all modern OSes. Hey, Windows NT, which is at least 10 years old, if not 15, is modern in comparison to RISC OS under the bonnet.

 is a RISC OS Usernunfetishist on 16/05/05 6:53PM
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Right, thanks Rob. How did you measure that? :considers turning off all other electric appliances then watching the electric meter go round. Although we can't do a fair comparison, unfortunately.

regarding operating systems I'm sorry, I thought you meant something else. I mean Linux must date back decades, and current windowses are NT based, designed as you say well over 10 years ago.

 is a RISC OS UserLoris on 16/05/05 8:01PM
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Tony: "How did you measure that?" I asked my UPS. "I mean Linux must date back decades, and current windowses are NT based, designed as you say well over 10 years ago." That just goes to show how out of date RISC OS is.

 is a RISC OS Usernunfetishist on 16/05/05 8:35PM
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People may claim Linux is the right tool for critical systems, but then people also claim that RISC OS is more stable than other operating systems...

The main problem with using Linux as a basis for critical systems is that it is open source. As a result there is no one who can be held responsible should things go wrong.

 is a RISC OS UserWalks on 16/05/05 8:37PM
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Walks:

Given that Windows has so much to do, I agree that it can be surprisingly stable.

However, this is one reason why RISC OS may well be more appropriate in terms of stability than Windows.

If I were intending to just run a single dedicated task, I'd be much happier running it on RISC OS. I'd probably even run it single tasking. With Windows, one of the biggest problems is that you can never by entirely sure what it's going to do in the background (accept an RPC call, shunt a program to virtual memory, start downloading an automatic update etc.) There are tens of services running by default that could have an effect on a critical system.

The relative simplicity of RISC OS in this context can be very useful.

 is a RISC OS Userflypig on 16/05/05 9:05PM
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James: People who claim that RISC OS is stable, let alone more stable than other OSes, have been taking too much crack. And with your point with Linux, you're completely wrong. You're quite welcome to pay for support, and many companies provide such services (like Red Hat, Canonical, SuSE, etc). Also, it being open means that you can either confirm yourself that it's safe, or get somebody else to. Most security flaws in Linux, and other open source software, are found by "white hats" either by accident, or when they audit it. With closed-source software, you don't get that option.

Flypig: Alas, RISC OS just isn't scalable. And I'm not sure either ROL or CTL would be willing to pay you vast sums of money should it break in form of insurance.

 is a RISC OS Usernunfetishist on 16/05/05 9:19PM
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nunfetishist:

Sorry, I'm not sure I follow entirely what you mean. Are you saying that because RISC OS isn't scalable it's therefore not stable? (This isn't intended as an attack, I'm just not sure I understand).

Equally with your second point. Are you saying that MS or Red Hat will indemnify against loss caused by their OSes? I think this is unlikely, but maybe I'm misunderstanding?

 is a RISC OS Userflypig on 16/05/05 9:32PM
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Being able to provide support, is different from being held accountable. One of the main reasons why the adoption of Linux within industry is still not widescale is due to the lack of accountability for when things go wrong. Who would a company executive prefer to trust more - an OS developed by a gigantic international company, or an OS that isn't really owned by anyone. Yes a company may be able to examine the source themselves, but often they have no desire to do this (possibly due to lack of resources) and prefer to pass the buck on to someone else.

 is a RISC OS UserWalks on 16/05/05 9:35PM
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flypig: No, simply that it's not suitable for doing anything remotely complicated. And with the second point, I think you'll notice that pretty much all software has a "No Warranty" message written all over the licence agreement. The best you can get from anybody, either open-source or closed, is a promise to try to fix things.

Walks: Again, Microsoft doesn't actually offer accountability for any of its products in the way that you describe. And frankly, any software company that did would be mad.

 is a RISC OS Usernunfetishist on 16/05/05 10:06PM
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A good article that highlights what I am trying to say can be found here [link]

Unfortunately it comes from a Microsoft guy, but his points are valid

 is a RISC OS UserWalks on 16/05/05 10:37PM
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I've skimmed the article, and it seems to be fairly standard M$ FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt). Apart, possibly from the comment about parts being missing, ie that it may not have certain tools or apps. (Which is of course even more true of RISC OS.)

But saying that because it is open source noone can be held responsible is wrong for several reasons. It isn't actually true. The concepts are actually orthagonal. Proprietary software makers often disclaim responsibility - in particular Microsoft. (Although I wouldn't go as far as Rob - I don't see why a software company wouldn't give guarantees, for the right price. But probably not with windows)

 is a RISC OS UserLoris on 17/05/05 10:45AM
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You need to rememeber that the bulk of critical systems are bespoke systems rather than packages bought off the shelf. Normally one of the first requirements for the software will be the client specifying what it should not do during its operation - if due to a bug these do then occur, the software development organisation will be held accountable.

If Microsoft develop a Windows based system for the NHS for controlling a radiotherapy machine and due to a bug it starts giving radiation overdoses to patients, then they will be held accountable. Likewise if they developed a system for airplanes that contains a bug causing the plane to crash - they will again be held accountable.

This sort of thing happens all the time in industry, as no company is going to pay for critical software in which the developer shys away from taking responsibility. Even in something simple like web services you have services that state what QoS they can guarantee and this is underlined by a binding SLA.

 is a RISC OS UserWalks on 17/05/05 11:33AM
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So what is your point? If someone other than microsoft develop a radiotherapy machine controller using windows, they can't possibly guarantee it; microsoft don't exactly make interoparability easy. I certainly wouldn't fancy being irradiated by a windows-controlled device. It might well bugger off and start thrashing around inside its box at the crucial exposure time.

On the other hand, if they use linux they could rip out everything they don't need and audit the lot. And then give a guarantee, presumably taking out insurance themselves. To get back somewhere towards topic, presumably that sort of thing is what embedded RISC OS is for, although possibly not life-threatening areas.

 is a RISC OS UserLoris on 17/05/05 12:00AM
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Walks: "If Microsoft develop a Windows based system for the NHS for controlling a radiotherapy machine and due to a bug it starts giving radiation overdoses to patients, then they will be held accountable."

Actually, I have some experience in this. They don't. That's what the hospital's insurance is for. After all, if a Doctor makes a mistake, it's not him who pays when you sue him.

 is a RISC OS Usernunfetishist on 17/05/05 2:19PM
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I'm afraid your doctor example is not the same as the software example.

If the hospital is mis-using the software then it would be their fault. This is what the hospital insurance covers. This is equivalent to the doctor making the mistake (as he is employed by the hospital) If the hospital is using the software correctly but an error in the code is causing the fault, then the software organisation is accountable. From the hospitals perspective they have purchased software that is supposed to do X in a safe manner.

This is why software organisations that develop critical systems possess indemnity insurance. Even regular software consultants must be covered by indemnity insurance in order to cover their own backs.

 is a RISC OS UserWalks on 17/05/05 3:57PM
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Walks: OK, how about if a doctor makes a mistake, sueing the medical school that trained him? It still boils down to the fact that almost all software comes with no warrenty. While you might be able to buy one, it'd be cheaper to insure it yourself, as that's all the software maker's going to do. Every single license agreement I've seen for medical equipment (at least half a dozen) has a no warrenty clause, so *THEY ARE NOT ACCOUNTABLE*

Indemnity insurance is quite a different matter. If your licence agreement says that there's no warrenty, and you agree to it, tough if it breaks. Consultants often have that type of insurance for precisely the same reasons Doctors are insured by the GMC, and for that reason, completely not relevent to the discussion for precisely the reasons you raised.

 is a RISC OS Usernunfetishist on 17/05/05 5:02PM
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Again you are still talking in terms of off the shelf products.

The vast bulk of safety-critical software is bespoke, custom made for the client Ė for the simple fact that it is too critical to rely on a general product that has not been specifically built for the client. In such situations accountability of the developer is very important, and if you look at any (half-decent) companies that develop critical systems one of the key things they will try to get across is that they will be accountable. For example here is a brochure for a company that develops critical systems for planes ([link]). One of the things they point out is that they will be held accountable for their work (pg 2). If a client has any sense and if the software developing organisation is at all ethical, this will be included within the contract.

Iím not saying that proving accountability is going to be easy (as discussed here [link]), but for the majority of bespoke critical systems some form of accountability is included within the contract.

Saying that even for off the shelf products, like web services, accountability can still exist. If a web service provider guarantees to a client that a service is available 24 hours a day (via a SLA, etc), and it then turns out not to be the case then the service provider is accountable and can be sued etc. Essentially if you are saying that your product will guarantee to do X, and it then doesnít then you can be held accountable. So if it has been guaranteed that a medical system will not provide overdoses and then due to a bug it does, then the developers can be held accountable. In fact, a company was sued for this very thing a few years ago.

Indemnity insurance is actually very relevant as it provides cover for an individual/company should they be sued. If the NHS employs a consultant to advise on the development of one of their critical systems, and this advice turns out to be flawed (leading to a death), then that consultant can be sued. In the same way that an architect maintains indemnity insurance in case he badly designs a building. Or a software development organisation delivers a system that turns out to be fatally flawed. If they couldn't be held to account then such insurance would be less important (if needed at all).

To be honest accountability within critical systems is well documented, and there are certainly many documents about it on the web. If you do a search you will find that all that I have said has been discussed.

That aside, this conversation seems to have gone way off topic from the original 'RISC OS is stable' comment.

 is a RISC OS UserWalks on 18/05/05 10:34AM
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OK, going back on topic, RISC OS does seem pretty stable these days. It's weakness is that it can be brought down by unstable applications running on it fairly easily. The end result is the same.

 is a RISC OS UserSimonC on 18/05/05 11:43AM
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"Again you are still talking in terms of off the shelf products." Alas not. You also seem to be mighty confused between software vendors, sole-trading consultants, and service companies.

 is a RISC OS Usernunfetishist on 18/05/05 12:10AM
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