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Programming tools set for price slash

Published: 23rd Jan 2007, 21:25:02 | Permalink | Printable

RISC OS Open woos coders [Updated]

C/C++ motifThe price of the Norcroft software development tools is set to tumble in a bid to encourage take up of the RISC OS Open source code, it was revealed this week. The shared source release of RISC OS 5 is expected to require the Norcroft C/C++ compiler package to build, and a price tag slash is hoped to draw developers into contributing to the operating system.

The ARM-specific Norcroft suite was rebadged as the Castle C/C++ toolkit, and later updated by the company. The suite costs 199 quid including VAT at the moment, and competes with the freely available GCCSDK.

RISC OS Open's Steve Revill said: "Very soon now, we intend to start selling the Castle C/C++ package at considerably less than you would have been able to buy it in the past.

"That should be a real boost to all the people who don't have the tools and want to build the shared sources - because most of the sources need that toolset. Sadly, we can't give them away for free, but I don't remember anyone saying we can't have any commercial software on RISC OS."

Steve also pointed in his forum post that a team of volunteer code moderators will audit source code submissions from third party developers. The best code will be merged with the RISC OS Open source code, and subsequently compiled into future ROM releases.

He also called for anyone who wants to moderate their favourite RISC OS component, or a set of them, to come forward.

Steve said of the moderating process: "Having done this job at Acorn and Pace, I can tell you it's amazing how many people give you their work, and you find it doesn't even build correctly."

In 2004, Castle launched a subscription scheme for updates to the C/C++ toolkit. On Monday this week, Castle, which sells ARM-compatible Iyonix motherboards through Iyonix Ltd, revealed details of its shared source licence, which will initially include a ban on non-ARM ports of RISC OS 5.

Update at 22:16 29/01/2007
ROOL have confirmed that they've taken over the compiler suite, and reduced its price by 70 percent to 50 quid, not including tax. The software will be available from the ROOL website, or iyonix.com in the meantime. Coders who bought The Castle-badged C/C++ collection after January 1, last year, should contact Castle before the end of March for a free upgrade.


RISC OS Open website

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I am anxious to find out how much the price will be slashed to because the current exchange rate of two dollars to the pound makes the Norcroft suite prohibitively expensive for me. I am hoping the "considerably less" price will be more than a 50% discount. I am hoping for a 75% discount.

 is a RISC OS Userksattic on 23/1/07 11:29PM
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This is good news as the Nocroft compiler is still worth having, its much faster than GCC running natively as not all of us have a fast x86 box to cross compile on. It has good XScale optimisations, and produces very clean understandable code, if thats important to you. Without wanting to provoke an entirely pointless benchmark war, there isn't much performance differential between Norcroft and GCC, they both have strengths and weeknesses.

 is a RISC OS Userdruck on 23/1/07 11:37PM
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Excellent news. I've been putting off purchasing the Castle C/C++ tools due to the current high price.

 is a RISC OS Userspanners on 23/1/07 11:49PM
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The current high price is more than the cost of a fast x86 box to run GCCSDK on. :) Nice to see, although I'll wait for actual pricing information before I commit to purchase.

 is a RISC OS Userrjek on 23/1/07 11:54PM
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I applaud Castle/ROOL! To offer the Compiler to go with the RISC OS Open Source at a much more interesting price is a very good idea, indeed. In addition to helping developers and programmers it probably makes life for ROOL a lot easier since then the risk of getting GCC only input is probably reduced.

 is a RISC OS Userhzn on 24/1/07 7:20AM
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hzn: Well, we don't yet know just how reduced it's going to be, but it certainly sounds like the type of positive move designed to encourage development that RISC OS hasn't always had too much of.

 is a RISC OS UserSimonC on 24/1/07 10:32AM
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I agree with ksattic, we need to price this with a view on the exchange rate at the moment, sterling is so strong at present, compared to euros, dollars, and some Far East currencies...

 is a RISC OS Usersascott on 24/1/07 11:19AM
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In reply to sascott: True, UK should adopt the Euro - would make quite a few things easier and perhaps less expensive...

 is a RISC OS Userhzn on 24/1/07 12:50PM
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Nice move Castle/ROOL and a throughly positive gesture.

This should provide encouragement to developers both expert and novice alike - and may well help people get "stuck in" to RISC OS operating system development. Methinks interesting times lie ahead !

 is a RISC OS UserAMS on 24/1/07 1:34PM
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hzn: this is no place for such nonsense.

The cost in the Far East isn't a factor in this, anyone developing for embedded systems is used to paying at least 10x for a development environment. This is aimed purely at the predominately UK and European enthusiast developers to allow them build with a compatible compiler and contribute back in to to the ROOL project.

 is a RISC OS Userdruck on 24/1/07 1:37PM
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I agree, I didn't say that to start a currency debate. I just felt that from an enthusiast's point of view, the current pricing is way too high for some late evening dabbling.

It's Castle/ROOL's decision, but from a business perspective, pricing it to be attractive to as wide an audience as possible would be a good thing. As take up improves, the price could drop even further.

It's sad that most of the market is currently centered around UK and Europe, there are some enthusiasts beyond these shores who I'm certain would gladly make contributions, once the price is made more reasonable.

 is a RISC OS Usersascott on 24/1/07 4:40PM
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Not quite 75% but how does 65% OFF sound?

We did have Castle's C/C++ at 50% OFF but I've just upped that to 65% so you don't need to wait! 70 GBP inc UK Postage

It gets even better as we can supply printed copies of the manuals, all 1388 pages! Though we do have very limited copies of the printed manual! Price with printed manuals 105 GBP inc UK (10 GBP of that is the courier delivery as 1388 pages doesn't come light!)

 is a RISC OS Userchrisevans on 24/1/07 5:02PM
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chrisevans: If it turns out that CTL is going to start selling their toolchain for a tenner, will you follow suit? :)

 is a RISC OS Userrjek on 24/1/07 5:21PM
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rjek: That which costs us little we do not esteem!

 is a RISC OS UserCJE on 25/1/07 11:40AM
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CJE: I couldn't disagree more. Well, certainly I hold plenty of free software in enourmously high esteem. And that which costs us a lot might well just be ripping us off. :)

 is a RISC OS Userrjek on 25/1/07 2:21PM
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rjek: I agree that should be true but unfortunatly most of the time isn't. I know that many charities now will not give things away for nothing to needy recipients, they either have to work for it or pay something. Their sense of ownership and value that put on the item goes up considerably if they do. I have seen expensive 'gifts' trashed within months.

If anyone can't even afford the 65% OFF Price I've realised we can do the last version of Norcroft C/C++ that Acorn did for a mere 25 GBP (You don't get the printed manuals though) Pricing updates will appear at www.cjemicros.co.uk shortly:-)

 is a RISC OS UserCJE on 25/1/07 4:14PM
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CJE: personally I'd wait an see what the new price of the tools are. You might find that you need later versions than the ones currently available. I would expect a 10+ year old copy of Acorn's Norcroft isn't going to be entirely suitable to building ROOL sources, even if it works I doubt they'd be much effort made to support tools that old in future.

Of course feel free to keep spamming the comments to try and clear your old stock, I'm sure no one minds really.

 is a RISC OS Userflibble on 25/1/07 5:33PM
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Take a look at www.riscosopen.org for the latest news. Note: the site is undergoing some work so may be a bit sluggish at the moment.

 is a RISC OS Userriscosopen on 25/1/07 10:48PM
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So, CJE's discounted price is £15 more than ROOL's new price, but does include printed manuals, which ROOL doesn't.

 is a RISC OS Userjohnpettigrew on 26/1/07 2:14PM
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Bother - make that £20 more! That'll teach me to read more carefully :-)

 is a RISC OS Userjohnpettigrew on 26/1/07 2:15PM
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I think thats excellent, £50 for the suite is good value and a massive reduction. Out of interest (and sorry if this has been answered elsewhere) is the suite still being actively developed and maintained?

 is a RISC OS Userpolas on 26/1/07 2:46PM
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johnpettigrew: I read CJE's spam as it costing 105 quid with the manuals.

 is a RISC OS Userrjek on 26/1/07 3:12PM
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The version of Norcroft C compiler released by Acorn is not suitable for generating code for the XScale core (undefined behaviour of LDR Rd,[Rd],#0 which is its default compilation of LDR Rd,[Rd]). There may be similar issues with other tools in that version of the suite. Of course they also cannot be used on an XScale (at least not without the help of Aemulor).

 is a RISC OS Useradrianl on 26/1/07 11:20PM
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Adrian: I think you mean Aasm/Objasm, which did as you describe. ;-) It's possible that the C compiler did produce the same undefined opcodes for pointer dereferences, I can't remember now. But it definitely did cause trouble converting assembler parts of the OS to 32-bit because the sources to Aasm have been lost, so any Aasm source files had to be manually changed to be Objasm-compatible to get round the bug. I see that RISCOS Ltd came to the same conclusion during their 32-bitting too.

 is a RISC OS Userbavison on 27/1/07 1:56AM
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Adrian: Are you sure LDR Rd,[Rd],#0 is undefined? I'd have thought that that was identical to LDR R4,[Rd], is that really illegal now?

I remember you once said LDR Ra,[Rb],-Rb or something like that was now unusable now due to undefined behaviour, which indeed seemed a shame, but this doesn't seem quite so critical an instruction!

 is a RISC OS UserLoris on 27/1/07 11:28AM
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Aasm's source has been lost? Good riddence. :)

Loris: I'm sure Adrian knows what he's talking about ;)

 is a RISC OS Userrjek on 27/1/07 12:50PM
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Loris: LDR Rd,[Rd],#0 is not undefined, but it is unpredictable. The post index implies base register write back, and so you are trying to do base register writeback to the same register as the load destination. Which of the two takes precedence will depend on the implementation. LDR Rd,[Rd] is implicitly preindexed, and so won't write back the base register, therefore there is no ambiguity as to which value should end up in the destination register.

 is a RISC OS UserAJW on 27/1/07 1:09PM
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Whilst I'm sure this is a good thing & I laud Castle for the move, I can't help but think that perhaps one of the most positive things that could come out of the ROOL effort is a shift to either (less desirably) producing a GCC-compatible version of RISC OS, or (preferably) making the RO sources compiler-neutral.

Personally, from my perspective as a Mac & Linux user, I find the notion of *paying* for development tools to be almost laughably quaint. I mean, *really*, that went out in the 1980s, didn't it?

(Mind you, saying that, I still have some difficulty with the notion of wanting to /pay/ for software. I generally don't pay for anything I can't kick, as it were. My OSs, my apps and 90% of all my other tools come for free, even if that just means bundled with the hardware.)

 is a RISC OS Userlproven on 29/1/07 3:52PM
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lproven: It's true that for the most part OS vendors have given away basic development chains, as it makes more software available for their OS, and only charge for "enterprise" development features. You're right that it's laughable that Norcroft still costs money, but I don't believe it's ROOL or CTL's choice to make.

 is a RISC OS Userrjek on 29/1/07 4:15PM
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In embedded software development, charging for tool chains is the norm, and at a considerably higher cost than we are talking here. So with RISC OS being aimed at this area (as well as the small enthusiasts market), its not unreasonable to see this as a revenue stream.

 is a RISC OS Userdruck on 29/1/07 4:55PM
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Risc OS & Revenue stream - Now that's a combination of words you don't often see together in the same sentence.

 is a RISC OS Usernx on 29/01/07 5:05PM
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Don't see why it's laughable to charge for these things. It's fair enough to charge for anything that's taken considerable time and effort (and money) to create, whether it's physical or not IMO. The question of whether it's sensible to charge is a different one; there's a good argument, presumably the one that Apple use if their tools are free, that it'll more than pay off in the long run with more developers.

 is a RISC OS UserSimonC on 29/01/07 6:16PM
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 is a RISC OS Userrjek on 29/01/07 6:26PM
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I can't be faffed to type all that again.

 is a RISC OS Userrjek on 29/01/07 6:50PM
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druck: To my knowledge the last 10 or so STB reference designs to float through the office were provided with tools chains for free, normally a cross compiling GCC, they are provided by the designers of the STB design in an attempt to promote uptake of the board and thus generate them royalties. It probably depends which embedded market you're referring too, of course, but in the land of IP capable video boxes paying for the the toolchain isn't the norm.

 is a RISC OS Userflibble on 29/01/07 7:10PM
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druck: "In embedded software development, charging for tool chains is the norm" As flibble says, err, no. The vast majority of independant ARM dev is done with GCC, MIPS's offical compiler is free (and also GCC-based), as are the official compilers for PPC and even SPARC are also freely available. Sure, you can go and give Greenhills or ARM an enourmous sum of money, but why bother? I've only heard bad things about them :)

 is a RISC OS Userrjek on 29/01/07 7:15PM
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Speaking for myself - what's to stop people building the RISC OS sources with GCC? Yeah, the license isn't out yet. Yeah, it might say you can't. But on the other hand, it might not. So why assume the outcome either way?

The message is that RISC OS sources rely on a proprietary toolchain. We can safely assume that RISC OS sources are Big. Therefore, the effort to change to GCCSDK for all components is likely to be substantial. I imagine that ROOL wouldn't see a penny for that work and it would presumably take a huge amount of time if the ROOL developers alone were to undertake it in their spare time. That would delay the source release further. So, I don't see how it's anything other than eminently sensible to release source as-is and let the community decide if it wants to spend time modifying the build environment.

The contentious toolchain is being offered at a huge price drop compared to previous releases. Some people think it's still expensive. That's not a surprise, is it? If ROOL were giving it away on gold etched hand-signed CDs with bundled fifty pound notes, you'd still have people complain because it's not an open source compiler. At the risk of being lost in a maze of twisty clichés, all alike - you can't please all of the people all of the time because some people want the moon on a stick. Sadly, I fear that a reality check is required.

 is a RISC OS Useradh1003 on 29/01/07 10:09PM
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adh: One assumes that the source makes use of Norcroft-specific features. Didn't Steve say that it made use of the Tematic inline-assembler features? It'd be tricky to adapt these to work with GCC, and get accepted back into ROOL's repository.

Also, the toolchain is still massively overpriced, even if it is a lot cheaper than it used to be.

 is a RISC OS Userrjek on 29/01/07 10:19PM
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Agree with Andrew wholeheartedly, basically what it comes down to is that if you want to make a meaningful contribution to developing RISC OS, you're going need to part with £50. If it's more the 'free as in speech' that people want than 'free as in beer' then I guess they would have stopped using RISC OS anyway. However, people can still make very valuable contributions to RISC OS without meddling with RISC OS itself, and do it in an open source way, look at Peter Naulls, for example.

 is a RISC OS Userthegman on 29/01/07 10:23PM
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I guess that most developers will only be interested in updating small portions of the sources. If they really want to do that with GCC, then it would probably not be too much effort to make these few source files compiler-neutral.

Also some users have already offered sponsoring ROOL's compiler collection (lets call it RCC, shall we?) for developers wich they think coul make a useful contribution.

 is a RISC OS UserJGZimmerle on 30/01/07 08:15AM
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Julian: The problem with making it compiler-neutral is it'll involve a lot of duplicated code, which isn't good. I'm not sure if the CTL inline-assembler syntax is mechanically convertible to the GCC one, but that might be one solution (preprocess source as part of the build system.)

 is a RISC OS Userrjek on 30/01/07 2:23PM
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Don't get carried-away with my "inline assembler" comment; some code does indeed use the unique inline assembler features in our cc but I'm not sure any of those modules are particularly significant to a RISC OS 5 ROM build. Other code uses other unique features or contains work-arounds for known compiler bugs, etc.

The bottom line is this: once you've built a ROM with a given toolset and put it into SQA (software quality assurance) and enter a bug-fixing cycle, you then end up with a known entity. To swap the toolset will invalidate all that testing because you're going to have no idea what new bugs that might introduce (it's unlikely to fix existing bugs because if they mattered, they would have already been fixed or worked-around in the bug-fixing cycle).

 is a RISC OS Userriscosopen on 30/01/07 2:58PM
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Steve: Perhaps, but there are dozens of other common non-standard features that Norcroft and GCC implement differently that may be littered across the source tree. One other example is pure/const functions, so the fundlemental problem still exists. (That patches to make RISC OS buildable with either GCC or Norcroft may well end up with an ugly nasty sticky mess of a source tree.)

 is a RISC OS Userrjek on 30/01/07 8:12PM
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