A9home emerges in beta formBy Chris Williams. Published: 21st May 2005, 15:43:32 | Permalink | Printable
Specifications, analysis, photos [Updated]Housed in a tiny metallic blue box, the a9home was modestly presented to the crowds at Wakefield 2005. Its developers, AdvantageSix and Simtec, looked decidedly exhusted, having spent the week building a9home units by hand after a parts supplier let them down. Yet, as the machine was unveiled and powered up, the applause from the floor and rush of questions from users spurred the proceedings on.
On Saturday morning, CJE Micros confirmed that they were the Ad6's retail partner, the company that will deal with sales and end user support whilst Ad6 and their developers concentrate on the technical side of business. The machine is currently not for sale, unless you're a developer and want to help AdvantageSix in beta-testing the machine. Otherwise, the system is priced at 499UKP not including VAT or carriage, although no release date has been revealed. Those signing up to the developer scheme can claim back 50 quid from the retail price.
The system uses a Samsung 400MHz ARM9 processor, similar to the S3C2410 as apparently the chipset is aimed at touchscreen based mobile applications. The graphics processor is a Silicon Motion off-the-shelf chip for embedded applications. At the moment, it's being used merely as a framebuffer, although the chip can provide hardware acceleration which the Simon team are reportedly working on. In fact, we're told that a lot of the A9home's chipset has yet to be taken advantage of by RISC OS 4 - the machine will increase in speed once systems such as motherboard DMA are enabled and used.
From a few minutes of toying with it, the machine feels a lot faster and more responsive than a StrongARM RiscPC. Dragging windows around the screen is a lot slower than expected, although AdvantageSix said this would be addressed when the on-board hardware is fully utilised. Booting up into the desktop is smooth and certainly less than 30 seconds. The device is silent too and consumes just 20W of power from a 5V external supply. Also, we're told that sound output is non-functional, although networking, USB and other sub-systems are.
AdvantageSix are said to be discussing with Spellings Software, to arrange for a version of Aemulor for the A9home: because the A9home is running a 32bit only ARM9 processor, 26bit software will not run on it, as we saw around the launch ofthe Iyonix. Aemulor currently provides a 26bit environment and ARM610 emulation for the XScale powered Castle Iyonix, and at the show, am a9home compatible version of Aemulor was briefly trialed and run - long enough to deomstrate a 26bit copy of DTP package Impression running on 32bit RISC OS 4.
168x103x53mm in a blue metal box
400MHz Samsung ARM9 processor
Embedded graphics processor
2.5" laptop sized 40GB hard disc
4 x USB sockets
2 x PS/2
5V power supply, 20W power
32bit RISC OS Adjust
Simtec USB stack
|26bit Impression running on 32bit RISC OS 4|
|Adrian Lees, Aemulor author, stunned and shocked that his a9home build of Aemulor worked first time and so well|
|A9home boot up screen|
|Artworks Apple rendering in 3-4 seconds on the a9home at 1024x768 in 32bpp|
|The a9home computer, from behind|
|The AdvantageSix tent|
|Another photo of the a9home. On the front there are 2 USB sockets, a status LED and the reset switch. On the back there are another 2 USB sockets, video, serial and PS/2 outputs|
|Punters getting stuck in, using the a9home|
Thanks to Ian Jeffray and Alex Macfarlane Smith for the photos
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