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MicroDigital incommunicado

By Chris Williams. Published: 25th Jul 2005, 23:04:47 | Permalink | Printable

Please replace the handset and try again

A StrongARM OmegaMicroDigital customers struggling to contact the Omega manufacturing company have hit yet another brick wall this week: calls to the company's telephone line are met with an automatic message from BT explaining that the number is no longer recognised. The company's web and email hosting has also been suspended by provider Co-Comp, leaving emails sent to them languishing in digital limbo for the time being.

The company is currently sought by bailiffs, on behalf of an ex-Omega owner who took MicroDigital to court earlier this year to obtain a refund for £1500.


Punter took MicroDigital to court in 2004 and received money owed

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The company structure is slowly breaking down. What are current Omega owners thinking about all this? Is there any plan as to extract some information before the wind picks up their dust?

I just hope MD can let their customers know something, before they become unreachable.

 is a RISC OS UserhEgelia on 26/7/05 11:35AM
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hEgelia: It seems that MD already are unreachable. It's a sad state of affairs, but the best thing to do would probably be to forget about them, although Omega owners, or those trying to get their money back, will understandably feel differently.

 is a RISC OS UserSimonC on 26/7/05 11:59AM
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Not Supprising really.

the market was jsut too small for 3 hardware devolpers. :@(

Douglas Addams strikes again.....Nice use of the Babel Fish! :@D

 is a RISC OS Userem2ac on 26/7/05 12:25PM
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It might be time for someone to start collecting in one place what technical information there is on the Omega. I don' t know what if anything MD might have made available in the past.

 is a RISC OS Usermrchocky on 26/7/05 1:01PM
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Good thought . . . better to record what we can now, rather than lose everything. Although, it may be difficult for Omega owners to feel so dispassionately about the whole thing.

 is a RISC OS UserRickCB on 26/7/05 10:56PM
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The sad thing is, if MD hadn't a) behaved so ridiculously childishly, and b) actually *talked* to the press properly, all this might not have happened at all. I know a lot of people never went near them because of both those reasons.

I think even *I* could run a company more professionally. And that's saying something.

 is a RISC OS Usermoss on 26/7/05 11:33PM
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Yes, I think you are right. I must admit, as a recent returnee to the RISC scene after a while away, the reason I avoided them and went for a Iyonix from Castle and a RISC PC from APDL was a feeling of unease about their way of operating when I was doing my research over which route to take . . . still, it is such a pity though . . .

 is a RISC OS UserRickCB on 27/7/05 12:19AM
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I guess that working Omega's are going to be much sought after by collectors of RISC OS machines in years to come.

Those who have bought one may, just may, get the last financial laugh.

 is a RISC OS Usermartin on 27/7/05 12:50PM
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mrchocky:"It might be time for someone to start collecting in one place what technical information there is on the Omega."

I can see a kind of interest/nostalgia motive for this. Are there other, technical, reasons to do so?


 is a RISC OS Useradamr on 27/7/05 1:10PM
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someone will need to be able to repair any Omegas if they break.

Maybe Desk have the info & could provide the service?

After all the first pictures of *actual* Omegas came from them & it looked like they needed to do quite a lot of assembly...

 is a RISC OS UserROHC on 27/7/05 2:05PM
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Why wouldn't Omega owners want to take control of their own future support issues? And if there's to be any driver development, etc, such documents will be important.

martin: I don't think so. They are likely to depreciate markedly (and probably already have done so). Compare with a much more well-known machine that was produced in only small numbers - the BeBox. They are a little tricky to get hold of, and despite their enthusastic following, still don't sell for large amounts (a few hundred dollars).

Omega's (sic) selling for the 1500 UKP or so it took to purchase them in future as a collector's item seems exceedingly unlikely.

 is a RISC OS Usermrchocky on 27/7/05 2:34PM
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An Omega appeared on Marktplaats.nl (the Dutch Ebay) a few weeks back, and only attracted two bids the highest being Eur 200.

Seeing as it did not come with a hard drive I suppose Eur200 is actually quite a lot.

No idea if it actually was sold though.

IMHO a RiscPC with a StrongARM is certainly a better buy, simply because there is much more support for the RiscPCs (upgrades spares and repairs).

 is a RISC OS Userblahsnr on 27/7/05 7:28PM
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In reply to blashsnr:

The Omega you mentioned has been sold. (actually it has been sold to me :) )

 is a RISC OS UserEasyKees on 27/7/05 8:34PM
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In reply to blashsnr:

The Omega you mentioned has been sold. (actually it has been sold to me :) )

It was a few days before the hype started...

But I'm optimistic :) I would buy it again. The only thing I should have done never is :

Trying to flash te machine ... it went wrong so I have a dead motherboard. It needs reflashing and i hope it can be done some time... If not I can always try to buy a Iyonix motherboard and put it in the OMEGA case. ( so that will be a unique RISC OS monster......) It looks like MD UK is a dead end, but I don't think it is the end for support .

yes I know second time I'm alway optimistic :)

 is a RISC OS UserEasyKees on 27/7/05 8:45PM
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Presumably Dave Prosser would be the man for technical info, as and when the dust settles on MD, always assuming he was willing to provide it.

 is a RISC OS Userbucksboy on 28/7/05 7:57PM
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in reply to blahsnr: The Omega amount of Euro 200 is into GBP 138,17.

 is a RISC OS Userdatawave on 29/7/05 12:19AM
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If MD has gone "bust" the whole company will presumably be up for sale. Who will buy their technology...

 is a RISC OS UserDavidPilling on 29/7/05 8:20PM
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It clearly ought to be eBayed.

Although to be honest, I think their technology, if up grabs, would really only be of interest to existing owners. As solutions for other markets, it's just too expensive.

Unless of course they have other stuff up their sleeves we don't know about.

 is a RISC OS Usermrchocky on 29/7/05 8:35PM
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From a users point of view it would be great if a way could be found to Release the control modules under GPL so the last of the bugs could be ironed out. Also see if there is a way to get Stuart Tyrrell to finish off the USB. I also wonder how far along the Xscale development was, while ARMTwister is probably dead it may well be practical for someone to release the XScale option with RISC OS Adjust32 instead. While I would agree a market outside the platform is limited, the Omega project still could be a good base for prototype development and small runs of specialist computer control systems so someone might take up the project. On the other hand the project is likely to be going cheep so it may be possible for another RISC OS related company to take on the Omega and sell it at a substantially reduced cost and still make money.

 is a RISC OS UserIanK on 30/7/05 12:01AM
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I'm afraid your hope is a pipedream. Other RISC OS companies already have their own solutions; taking on something like that would prove to be very expensive, and of no practical purpose compared to what they already have. The bottom line is that a company would have to make a worthwhile profit - there's no obvious way to do this from what remains an expensive piece of hardware. Also, small production runs are notoriously expensive. The Iyonix has managed to come down in price so much in part because of volume.

 is a RISC OS Usermrchocky on 30/7/05 8:32AM
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Additionally I can't imagine Stuart Tyrell wanting to give Omega owners a reason *not* to buy the A9. As to XScale development the version they probably would have used (given when it was originally announced) would have been the 80200 which by this stage is *very old hat*. Also simply replacing the StrongARM with an XScale (of that vintage or a newer one) would require a substantial board re-design - and that would not benefit existing owners.

Besides the raison d'etre of ArmTwister no longer exists - you *can* run 32bit and 26bit code on the one machine (as in Iyonix) and RISC OS has been 32bitted also by ROL so again no need. Besides with ArmTwister was never fully explained *how* you'd have a StrongARM and xScale interact in a way that both code would run without horrendous performance hits (I certainly can't remember any *clear* explanation and that inspite of queries from David Ruck and others).

The best one can hope for is that *enough* information will become available to allow Omega users to have their machines maintained or (if as happens in the case of EasyKees) that a "reflash" option will be available to revive their machines. Currently Omega owners are in a state of limbo - which is not a good situation - and I hope MD can be prevailed upon to help in at least leaving some sort of structure in place such that existing Omega owners *can* be supported (and if that means making information open then so be it).

 is a RISC OS UserAMS on 30/7/05 1:12PM
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I suspect reflashing can be done with JTAG; that's not too hard to arrange with the right setup, although I imagine it could take a day of fiddling to get the right bits sorted. If I were to come across such an Omega, I'd certainly have a go, although there are probably other people in a better position to do so.

 is a RISC OS Usermrchocky on 30/7/05 3:07PM
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Stuart Tyrrell agreed to do the USB work some time ago. I'm not sure how far they have got and if it was paid for though. As for the XScale the motherboard has a socket for it already, it just needs a processor card to plug into it. The reflashing does use the JTAG system. I did try to get Microdigital to supply me with thedata so I could use JTAG to do mine but unfortunately they wouldn't.

 is a RISC OS UserIanK on 30/7/05 4:37PM
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I kind of figured that Omega could be programmed through a JTAG interface (in fact I vaguely recall some article that mentioned that early Omegas demoed needed a PC to "program" the FPGAs prior to startup which I presumed at the time was via JTAG).

My original concern about the "reflashing" was *not* about the practicalities (e.g., could you use JTAG) but rather the availability of the appropriate image data in order to do it and as Ian you've confirmed they [MD] have not supplied you with the required data. The other issue is some FPGA's have a "Security" feature that prevents them from being read - if that's the case for Omega then either (a). MD have to provide the data (b). Someone who already *has* the data is prepared to share it.

It should not fall to MD's own customers to fix the computer or require the public spirited efforts of Peter Naulls - it's *MD's* responsibility. They should, IMHO, put structures in place so that they're customers are adequately supported.

The most relevant reference to USB work being done (or not) for the Omega was one I found from drobe [link] were in April 2004 Simtec denied doing any work on Omega inspite of MD apparently suggesting that they were. I don't know if that changed later - or if Stuart Tyrell was "roped into it" as it were (the clear inference from the article was that Simtec thought MD were implementing their own USB stack). Unless Stuart has committed publically to do it for them then I'd be sceptical about the likelihood of it happening.

 is a RISC OS UserAMS on 30/7/05 5:16PM
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That's a rather strange viewpoint, given the precise nature of the above article. There are lots of things MD "should" have done, but clearly haven't. You can wish all you want about what MD, Acorn et al might have done, but the important point I'm making is that if Omega owners want support, then they'll have to do something about it themselves, as has been the case with so many other areas of RISC OS after Acorn vanished. Sitting around hoping MD will now do additional support is going to be fruitless. On the other hand, there's already a knowledge base about the Omega, and more could be added through perhaps reverse engineering, etc. RISC OS users have already proved themselves proficient at providing such support - it just needs someone motivated.

 is a RISC OS Usermrchocky on 31/7/05 10:45AM
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Peter> I know you're right, but I was kind of hoping that some sort of appeal might provoke MD into being at least forthcoming to the extent of at least making the relevant infortmation available (in effect making more feasible what you're suggesting). And yes it is probably highly unlikely to happen but I thought I give it a shot anyway (in the mode of nothing ventured nothing gained....)

 is a RISC OS UserAMS on 31/7/05 12:25PM
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Regarding, who can do what with Microdigital code and hardware designs.

I was under the impression that when a limited company becomes insolvent that the creditors are intitiled to the assets of that company. I would assume in this case, that this includes the IP of Microdigital; therefore, anyone taking this knowledge and releasing it without the permission of the fiscals is performing an illegal act.

 is a RISC OS Usernijinsky on 1/8/05 8:20AM
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No, of course not. But before engaging in any more speculation, how about someone assemble what information _is_ known, and what would like to be known. Once that's determined, then people can start worrying about the consequences and methods of obtaining what isn't known. Doing so beforehand just seems like getting all worked up over theoretical situations.

 is a RISC OS Usermrchocky on 1/8/05 10:55AM
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