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Omega USB project contemplated

By Chris Williams. Published: 27th Feb 2006, 19:24:30 | Permalink | Printable

Drop project team an email if you're interested

Graphic of an ALi chipset (from ali.com.tw)Plans are afoot to produce a working USB system for the MicroDigital Omega. Although the StrongARM powered desktop computer features an ALi based USB chipset, no software exists at present to make any use of it. By producing a driver for the on-board electronics, Omega user Ian Karley hopes his project will enable fellow MicroDigital customers to use the Simtec stack and the various device drivers available for it.

"I have been looking into ways to improve the situation for Omega users. Unfortunately as technical documentation for the Omega is very patchy, this is looking difficult to achieve. Fortunately there is fair bit of information available about the USB interface," said Ian.

"I have found a developer willing to write a USB driver for the Omega, unfortunately this is likely to be quite expensive. The exact cost, when ready, will depend on how many people take this up and the eventual development cost."

Ian admitted that he is not expecting a large number of active Omega users to step forward and invest in the project, and this is likely to affect his ability to cover costs. There will be no timetable for a release until Ian is sure he can make ends meet on the project and that enough people are interested in it to make the endeavour practical.

He added: "My goal isn't to make any money out of this: just to get USB support enabled at a reasonable price to the end user.

"The exact specifications won't be known until development has advanced further, but it will likely be using the Simtec stack. This project is still in its very early stages and may not come to fruition; I will try to keep anyone who has shown an interest up to date on its progress."

The Castle Iyonix also employs an ALi south bridge chip to provide PCI and other interfaces. The Simtec stack provides a foundation for the Unipod and A9home. A software programming library that communicates with the ALi chipset on the Omega motherboard is in the hands of developers believed to be close to MicroDigital. The code can be used to program the USB controller, which is connected to the Omega's PCI bus.

Ian's development partner in the Omega USB support project is understood to be AdvantageSix. To register an interest in the project, users should email usb [at] iank [dot] org [dot] uk.

Links


Ian Karley's Omega resources website - PCITV port, PCI documentation, and more
Omega motherboard in production MicroDigital disappear

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Discussion

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An ambitious project to which I wish all the best of success.

I suppose this project effectively signifies the end of any hope for further significant development on the Omega from MicroDigital. Hasn't USB support been paid for already by MD's customers? I'd be a bit miffed to have to pay all over again to bring my computer up to the specifications it was sold as having...

 is a RISC OS Usertamias on 27/2/06 8:53PM
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Is the chip set in priciple capable of USB 2? I know that MD planed to offer USB 2 for the Omega. Would it be more work to implement USB 2? Does the stack to be changed for USB 2? Why did AdvantageSix only use USB 1 in the A9?

Oh, that's a lot of questions...

 is a RISC OS Usermaikl on 27/2/06 9:37PM
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The graphics chip in the A9home has built in support for USB 1.1. that's why 2.0 isn't used

 is a RISC OS Userhighlandcattle on 27/2/06 10:26PM
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Wow, I had no idea someone ported PCITV! I have a couple of suggestions as to why it is freezing, but I can't find his email address anywhere. Ian, you can contact me through the address at [link]

 is a RISC OS Userksattic on 27/2/06 11:54PM
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The Omega's onboard is USB 1 but USB 2 could in therory at least be supported with a PCI card. I will be looking into this if and when development gets under way.

 is a RISC OS UserIanK on 28/2/06 1:15AM
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Hats off to Ian, we're really lucky that when a company lets their customers down, our community will at least support them. You really have to wonder whether MD were dreaming when they promised expansions for FireWire, RAID, 5.1 Surround etc etc.

What is the current situation with Microdigital? Are they still trading from Titus Street, or have they completely ceased to exist as a company? I'm not sure whether any future presence in the market would be positive, but at least they could provide some kind of user support and even assistance in projects like this.

 is a RISC OS Usertimephoenix on 28/2/06 1:57AM
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They're still semi-alive according to companies house, although they've not returned their accounts:

Accounting Reference Date: 30/11 Last Accounts Made Up To: 30/11/2002 (TOTAL EXEMPTION SMALL) Next Accounts Due: 30/11/2004 OVERDUE Last Return Made Up To: 23/09/2005 Next Return Due: 21/10/2006

Though I don't know what that actually means :)

 is a RISC OS Useraardvark on 28/2/06 9:06AM
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This sounds pretty cool and I wish Ian luck, but there can't be that many Omega users out there surely?

Aren't people starting to get a little itchy to leave a platform where every new piece of software (inlcuding the OS!) has to have a promise-to-pay attached to it? This is getting beyond being a niche market to being a dead market.

 is a RISC OS Usersimo on 28/2/06 12:03PM
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Every OS/system has a promise-to-pay system, but it is usually referred to as "buying the supplier's other products to keep them in business". The difference here is that there are rather more one-man-band projects, and with no other products to buy, the developer has to fund everything from their savings, in the hope that they may get a return. It is obviously slightly different when the work doesn't cost money in the first place (just dedication from the author) but it isn't unreasonable for someone to want to get some idea of whether they can fund one-month, three-months or six-months of work, before commiting!

 is a RISC OS Userarawnsley on 28/2/06 12:33PM
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To simo:

I think there is nothing wrong with the promise-to-pay since it does help to figure out how much copies of the product have a good chance to be sold - assuming that the offering made does state what will be delivered and when. I rather have it this way and then the supplier knowing what income there is to have when they deliver so that they know it is a good idea to start out.

I think the problem with this kind of approach is that in the more or less recent past users were left with less money (this did pay) and in return had semi finished stuff, much delayed products, or even less (that is nothing or the like). In those cases you then might have to think about reqesting a refund (due to no or unsufficient deliver), considering the loss to be a lesson for life, or even pay more on top to geht the product at all. But there are p-t-p or like offerings on the market which are a fair deal!

 is a RISC OS Userhzn on 28/2/06 2:22PM
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I cannot agree with Andrew Rawnsley. How many RISC OS developers (himself included) ask for up-front payment for vague promises of upgrades on software or hardware. The failure of Microdigital to deliver on its promises and the same thing happening with RISC OS Ltd. undermines the RISC OS market. I would never subscribe to Select because the past record is so poor, and as an Iyonix user, I trust Castle far more than RISC OS Ltd.

 is a RISC OS UserAFT on 28/2/06 2:24PM
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AFT - be very careful with your wording please. We do our level best not to make promises we cannot keep. If we offer an upgrade scheme, we always state what you will get RIGHT NOW and *not* what you'll get later. In that sense it is really no different to offering a traditional upgrade, except that we are making a commitment to the user that we will try and add more functionality at no additional cost, at least for the foreseeable future. For example, with MPro 4 (aka 2006) we offered a set of features "right now", and have delivered on that. We promise no more charagable upgrades for the rest of 2006, but have already released more free ones! This is similar to the Mpro updates that happened in 2004/2005 which saw major new features such as the email message editor, heirarchical folders (and more) sent out to people for no fee above what they had already paid.

Obviously as a customer, you have to weigh up what the supplier is offering, and whether you trust the supplier going forwards. I would hope our track record in terms of free and rolling upgrades has been fair.

One final note - there is a big difference between "rolling upgrades" and trying to get people to pay before a project starts. The idea behind rolling upgrades is to give people new functionality right now, rather than making them wait 12 months for a larger "roll-up" of features. This is actually pretty important to RISC OS survival, because these days people assume that if development is quiet, it isn't happening. The only solution to this is the rolling-upgrade scheme, whereby people can get their hands on new features "as and when", without suppliers worring about getting paid.

 is a RISC OS Userarawnsley on 28/2/06 4:01PM
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AFT: It works, if there's a track record of the promises being met, and is highly damaging if they are not. Hence the reluctance with people giving money to ROL any more, yet quite a few people stumped up cash in advance for Firefox.

simo: Sadly that looks all too true (about niche to dead). If there's a way out of it I can't see it - too much money would be needed to stop the rot than could conceivably be made, unless someone big takes a positive interest in RISC OS (which I think would be very unlikely).

 is a RISC OS UserSimonC on 28/2/06 4:10PM
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I have to leap to RComp's defence here! These are the people that have given years of free support on their products.

The new Messenger subscription scheme (that I happily signed up to in an attempt to give something back for this support) promptly delivered an upgrade; followed by a bug-fix/support build about a month later; followed by the CD that dropped through the letterbox today (don't know what's on that - haven't had time to look yet).

And I agree with SimonC about Firefox. Peter had credibility, made a promise, delivered on it and then asked for the money. He's among the good guys too.

Sadly, MicroDigital never really looked likely to do the same. It all looked too much like a reiterated RO wish-list. In fact, when I first saw the Iyonix spec, I thought the same. Only when I saw one actually working did I really believe it. Perhaps there's a lesson there after all.

 is a RISC OS UserTonyStill on 28/2/06 10:36PM
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The other point about Firefox GimpPrint etc is that the developers asked for pledges, but not for money up front. A pledge costs nothing until the product is available. So you cold not lose with Firefox/GimpPrint. Also, we had a good idea what we were going to get beforehand. The same is true of Messenger (I must get round to signing up for that, but I still haven't found time to install the latest Messenger Pro 3 upgrade). Money up front though is a different matter. I won't pay for Iyonix Select until a) I see it working and b) I see something in it I consider to be worth the money.

 is a RISC OS Usermrtd on 1/3/06 12:40PM
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I would like to apologise to Andrew Rawnsley if the text of my message implied any criticism of him. I omitted to place a question mark following the text, <How many RISC OS developers (himself included) ask for up-front payment for vague promises of upgrades on software or hardware?> I was not implying any criticism of Andrew who has many satisfied customers. The area of disagreement is that I would not send any advance payments to Select who have continually failed to deliver. This and the Omega project, with its advance payments and failure to deliver, has greatly damaged the RISC OS market, undermining confidence.

Developers who have a proven record of reliability should have little trouble in raising support and there are those with whom I have had dealings to whom I would gladly and confidently send an advance payment if requested.

I hope that this clears up any misunderstanding.

 is a RISC OS UserAFT on 4/3/06 8:48PM
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Thanks for the update AFT - much appreciated, and don't worry, that's what I thought you meant :) At the end of the day, we developers/publishers have to be on our toes, and make sure we deliver on promises etc, otherwise its own own necks on the chopping board. Fingers crossed we can keep coming up with new and interesting ideas!

 is a RISC OS Userarawnsley on 4/3/06 9:34PM
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