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VirtualAcorn expand emulator range

By Chris Williams. Published: 10th May 2006, 18:52:35 | Permalink | Printable

With StrongARM support and better HostFS [Updated]

VirtualRiscPC StrongARMVirtualAcorn have added StrongARM processor support to the core of their emulator products. A new addition to the VA range, VirtualRPC-SA, includes RISC OS 4.02 with StrongARM and ARM7500 support; an Adjust version is also now available with RISC OS 4.39. Applications that require these particular processor cores to work should be able to run with VRPC-SA.

The software also features a new version of HostFS, which allows RISC OS running on the RiscPC emulator to access files on the Microsoft Windows host - it can now create and remove points of access, known as 'mount points', on the fly. It's easier to use USB-based storage devices with HostFS, such as digital cameras and pen drives. The graphics emulation is faster, there's support for non-standard display sizes, the ability to launch files on Windows from within RISC OS, plus various other updates and applications bundled with it.

Existing users can upgrade for a tidy sum; new copies of the older VirtualRiscPC-Adjust and VirtualRiscPC-SE have also come down in price by 20 quid.

• An update for VRPC users is available online from VA's website to address issues with GhostScript and Techwriter. New copies of the VA product will be shipped with the fix included.

VA's Aaron Timbrell said: "This problem has been tracked down to a patch in the RISC OS Boot sequence that is designed to allow older versions of iSV products software to run on RISC OS 4 and above.

"APDL, who now own iSV products, have supplied us with a new patch that has been tested and resolves the problem."

Update at 14:37 11/5/2006
VA's Aaron Timbrell has said there is no significant speed boost from the added StrongARM support, although the display is reportedly more nippy on his 1.8GHz P4 PC in a 1600x1200 screen mode.

He said: "The purpose of the StrongARM core is to allow programs that use the StrongARM-only instructions to function. We have had a number of requests in the last few months for SA versions from both users and developers. The processor cores all run at roughly the same speed, the difference is in the instruction set they have available.

"Having said that on my laptop screen redraws seem to be coming in around 10% quicker, using a timed drawfile rendering test. Of course performance gains will vary by machine and will also depend on the resolution that has been selected."


VirtualAcorn website

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I would like to buy a copy of VirtualRPC-AdjustSA but I won't until the copy protection is removed or changed to a more acceptable method.

 is a RISC OS UserVisitorQ on 10/5/06 7:32PM
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in reply to VisitorQ; Well that's very easy then, don't buy.

General notes; I'm getting a bit fed up with all people moaning about this copy protection while running VRPC on an OS with the same type of protection. Maybe because the all run hacked versions anyway ( but hey it's Bill so it's ok). I'm used to copy protection whatever form it may be, most protections I've seen sofar can be broken and normally have been broken. But stop this moaning if you don't like it don't buy.

VRPC notes; Looking forward to this, hopefully we can now have a Select version which leaves the high res screen intact.

 is a RISC OS Usernico on 10/5/06 9:53PM
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in reply to nico:

The point is if it becomes apparent to VirtualAcorn that enough people won't buy the product due to the copy protection maybe they will tone it down a bit.

When activating my legal copy of Windows XP I've never had to phone Microsoft even when I've changed hardware around a lot. Also it is unlikely that Microsoft will disappear overnight leaving me with no way to activate the software. There is also the point I can defer activation to a time that suits me.

I don't think the same can be said of VirtualAcorn's products.

 is a RISC OS UserVisitorQ on 10/5/06 10:11PM
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This is SUCH good news. Faster and nice new features is excellent. A very reasonable upgrade cost too (I'm going from VRPC-Adjust to the new StrongARM version).

In reply to VisitorQ:

I wouldn't want to be without RISC OS on a laptop. Aaron's support has been exemplary and this new release is evidence of VirtualAcorn's commitment to their products. Ultimately, though I sort of understand your reluctance, there's no doubt in my mind that you are missing out.

NB: In a recent thread on Drobe, David Holden noted "Arrangements have already been made to ensure that there would be no problems if VA ceased trading."

 is a RISC OS UserStewy on 10/5/06 11:02PM
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To VirtualAcorn: Hey, good news indeed!

In reply to VisitorQ: I agree - same here, that is I don't mind the copy protection but I do mind the way registration is done.

In reply to nico: You write "I'm getting a bit fed up with all people moaning about this copy protection while running VRPC on an OS with the *same* type of protection." First of all the moaning was not mainly about the copy protection but the registration procedure which I don't put up with either (thus following your suggestion to not buy it). And there is a very *major* *difference* as for registering! For Windows XP the registration can be postponed for some time, can be done at any time of the day via Internet, can be done during office hours by phone. With VirtualRPC I start the setup, see the key, then have to interrupt to get the key before I can continue. And in case of upgrade/refresh/crash I have to wait for UK office hours to be able to reinstall it - you got to be kidding. Since I use RISC OS for day-by-day things like email etc. I am not into running it in a way that to be able to then read my email so that I use native hardware.

 is a RISC OS Userhzn on 11/5/06 6:45AM
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I really hope that those "arrangements" are not the same than the ones Cerilica made for Vantage.

Apart from the usage protection employed by VRPC, I am very happy with the product, and it is certainly nice to see it progressing.

 is a RISC OS Userhubersn on 11/5/06 8:41AM
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Could someone clarify something for me: what is the great advantage to emulating a StrongARM processor over emulating a 700 (which is what I believe VRPC has emulated up until now)? After all, the major advantage when I upgraded my 'proper' RiscPC from a 600 to a StrongARM was the speed increase - and obviously, a modern PC running VRPC is rather nippy anyway! So what does emulating a StrongARM get for me?

(This isn't intended as a fight-picking question - I honestly want to know!)

 is a RISC OS Userkrisa on 11/5/06 8:41AM
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Still no Linux or Mac versions :(

 is a RISC OS Userdruck on 11/5/06 9:11AM
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Advantage of SA core is that certain additional instructions become available, benefiting optimised code. For example, several of our games, and also AMplayer and the like, have SA optimisations. They work on 710 systems of course, but operations that could be done in one instruction, then take many times more, reducing performance. There are also programs that only work on strongarm (eg. a few of our RO4/SA updates for the old Krisalis titles). I should stress I haven't checked the above, but these are the benefits I would expect to see.

Also, if you have software optimised for hardware FP, the 7500FE core will probably help, as I'd imagine it offers a near-enough 1:1 mapping of FP operations to x86FP.

 is a RISC OS Userarawnsley on 11/5/06 9:34AM
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@krisa: There is some software, that checks if a StrongARM CPU is present and will refuse to run if this is not the case.

 is a RISC OS UserJGZimmerle on 11/5/06 9:35AM
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Of course, I suspect there's more software that doesn't work on the SA due to the split data and instructon caches than software that was written for SA only. Though I doubt they're emulating the split cache (or any cache at all), so this is probably the best of both worlds.

 is a RISC OS Userflibble on 11/5/06 10:50AM
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Hoorah for StrongARM emulation! Now I don't have any need to be reminded that there's Windows sitting there when I want to listen to an Ogg file, or an MP3 stream (due to DigitalCD's discsample using StrongARM instructions, which wasn't an unreasonable thing to do when nothing slower in terms of the real hardware was fast enough to do the job anyway).

 is a RISC OS UserSimonC on 11/5/06 10:54AM
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redsquirrel has had SA support for years, the arm7500 emulation always used to run faster and supported the fpa2 module (and allow you to use 4mb vram) of course if you need sa instructions....

i remember there was some reason vrpc-se used arm700 emulation instead, just can't think what it was, something to do with the mouse i think.

shame there's no linux version and we still have the copy-protection! how long for the torrent i wonder....

hehe, i wonder if vrpc-sa will have select4 support before the iyonix ;)

 is a RISC OS Usersimo on 11/5/06 11:08AM
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simo: I expect Select 4 will initially run on everything except the Iyonix when it finally comes out.

To VirtualAcorn: Very nice progress, also better integration with Windows it seems. Still, could you elaborate on the Linux / Mac OS X situation, please? In the past you've shown us both a Linux and Mac OS X version of VRPC, so it really tickles me; when can we hope to see these (or one out of two) released?

 is a RISC OS UserhEgelia on 11/5/06 12:28PM
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The large disparity between the amount of work needed to run Select 4 on VRPC vs the Iyonix means it's clear the emulator will have this latest version running first.

Hopefully there will be some indication from RISC OS Ltd this saturday as to how they are progressing with their plans for some kind of Select release on the Iyonix.

 is a RISC OS UserJohnB on 11/5/06 1:26PM
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Paul Middleton is also going to be at ROUGOL on Monday 15th May 2006, talking about "significant new developments for RISCOS Ltd, including RISC OS Select 4. Paul will be demonstrating RISC OS on an A9home computer, and on a demo version of Virtual Risc PC for Apple Mac OS X."

Sounds excellent, and the fresh-from-Wakefield timing is perfect:


Presumably, given the large number of Iyonix owners at ROUGOL, someone will raise the issue of Select for Iyonix ;-)

 is a RISC OS UserStewy on 11/5/06 8:29PM
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Stewy: And at RONWUG on Wednesday 17th May. Paul shouldn't be misled by the number of A9s that are visible at every meeting - we too have a good number of Iyonix owners, and more than one or two likely to ask about Select 4 on RiscPCs.

 is a RISC OS Userjc on 12/5/06 12:03AM
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