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Multimedia-friendly 1GHz XScale launched

Published: 22nd Apr 2007, 01:21:08 | Permalink | Printable

For the love of God, get this chip a RISC OS port

Intel, the corporation for all ages: From hip-hop to hip-opIntel unveiled a new 1GHz XScale processor designed for multimedia products at a swanky show in Beijing this week. The chip giant chose its spring Intel Developers Forum to launch the ARM-compatible processor, complete with hip-hop rap stars, pictured, to liven up the event.

The CE 2110 is a system-on-a-chip device that packs various audio, video and graphics processing electronics around the 1GHz XScale core. Specifically, it includes MPEG2 and H.264 hardware decoders, support for DDR2 memory, and 2D and 3D hardware-accelerated graphics.

Chunghwa Telecom are said to be ready to use the new chip in various video-based systems, from high definition on-demand telly and karaoke to online banking. A set top box manufacturer says it also has the processor lined up for its products, and Intel are understood to be touting the device to IPTV and VoIP vendors.

Unlike previously announced XScales, the CE 2110 appears to be more up the desktop RISC OS platform's street by being deliberately targeted at consumer products, rather than specialist applications, such as RAID cards. The bubble is burst, however, by Intel top brass indicating they are still keen to get their x86 architecture into the embedded market - which could see the CE 2110 replaced with an x86-based system-on-a-chip device by mid-2008. This relies on Intel getting its transistor sizes down to 45 nanometres, which is the aim for the upcoming Penryn family.


CE 2110 website

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Intel has wanted to get x86 into the CE space for quite some time. Manufacturing devices at 45nm is *not* going to be cheap (new fab plants never are). With less capital to recoup the XScale option may prove cheaper to them (and their customers). Additionally I can't imagine a set-top box manufacturer opting for a chip that will be gone in a year (the development time to market could be as long).

You'll probably see this XScale and Penryn (whenever it arrives) co-exist for quite sometime.

Could be a runner for RISC OS too - a nice bonus ;-)

 is a RISC OS UserAMS on 22/4/07 2:40AM
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Ooh, SATA interface, USB2 controller onboard, 2/6 channel audio with SPDif and HDMI transmitter.

Now all we need is ROOL or ROl to do some work on RISC OS and Iyonix Ltd to come out with a Iyonix 2 hardware!

 is a RISC OS Userbluenose on 22/4/07 9:32AM
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Looks very nice. I'd love it if an Iyonix II shipped with one of these chips in it. But, although I'd be delighted to be proved wrong, I don't see it happening - I think we've seen the last native ARM hardware designed to run RISC OS, and the future probably lies in porting an open-source RISC OS to ARM-based mass market products or emulation on PC/Mac hardware.

 is a RISC OS Userlym on 22/4/07 11:08AM
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I've just spent the last six months porting a Linux-based STB software stack onto this chip, and can confirm it's very nice indeed.


 is a RISC OS Userjbyrne on 22/4/07 11:13AM
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lym>"I think we've seen the last native ARM hardware designed to run RISC OS, and the future probably lies in porting an open-source RISC OS to ARM-based mass market products or emulation on PC/Mac hardware."

I hope that pessimistic view doesn't happen - otherwise RISC OS will die.

The Tematic guys (ROOL) have considerable experience (as do Castle with developing new hardware) that would be the most likely scenario. Given also that their flavour of RISC OS is open they can call on a wider developer base to help shoulder the work. For it to succeed though we'd need people to get behind it (that I am not too sure about given the "sniping" in the past - but one can always hope). Bear in mind though this is the sort of hardware Castle and (more importantly) their STB customers would probably go for - so development for STB use (and RISC OS desktop use as a side benefit) might occur.

 is a RISC OS UserAMS on 22/4/07 11:23AM
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I hope I'm wrong too. :)

 is a RISC OS Userlym on 22/4/07 11:31AM
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It does sound really exciting, especially if the hardware acceleration features could be leveraged. One of the disappointing the Iyonix-wise has been lack of OS-level APIs for the various acceleration features on that hardware. Hardware h.264 / MPEG acceleration would be a huge benefit for any multimedia software, especially given the ARM's limitations in terms of media decoding, but it needs to be accessible...

 is a RISC OS Userarawnsley on 22/4/07 1:40PM
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I've not looked at any detailed datasheets or anything, but the CE2110 doesn't look like a good candidate for an Iyonix II - I see no mention of expansion bus support, for example.

However, it would make a killer successor to the A9 Home: a gigahertz-class machine with 3D acceleration, DVD and video-telephony support. (As I recall, MPEG2 is the compression standard used in DVDs and H.264 is the one used in videoconferencing, such as Apple's iChat).

This is a SOC: it's not much use for an expandable, modular desktop system such as an Iyonix, but it would be ideal for a closed-box, non-expandable all-in-one system like the A9.

So what we need, really, is for Simtec to produce a new version of their Eurocard developer board, the BBD20EUROA ([link]). That's what's inside the A9. As the CE2210 includes video, it wouldn't work with the existing board, which has the CPU and RAM on a DIMM and the video controller on the main board. It seems to me that the simplest route would be to put the SoC CPU on the main board and relegate the SODIMM slot to just being RAM, as per usual.

Once Simtec did the hardware, all that would be needed would be a port of Risc OS Select to it.

That shouldn't take more than, oh, four or five years...

 is a RISC OS Userlproven on 22/4/07 3:29PM
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lproven: Having had a quick browse through the PDF spec at [link] - it states that it has "33MHz 32-bit PCI 2.2 host with support for 4 external masters". Now I'm the first to admit that my hardware knowledge is flaky, but that certainly sounds like support for a PCI bus of some description. Apparently there's no IDE support, only SATA (2 on the 'development platform' and only 1 on the 'reference platform'.

 is a RISC OS Userbarti on 22/4/07 3:58PM
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This would rock as the driving force behind a new RO desktop machine. IMO, the hardware acceleration of multimedia decoding would be, if supported in the OS, more useful than the extra Mhz. If you've got a snappy OS that can handle multimedia playback, what do you need a faster processor for (and don't say "ray tracing")?

"I've not looked at any detailed datasheets or anything, but the CE2110 doesn't look like a good candidate for an Iyonix II - I see no mention of expansion bus support, for example. "

I wonder what the value of the PCI slots on the Iyonix has actually been, in the long run? Bare in mind that USB 2.0 has enough bandwidth to support even a TV card or high quality audio interface. Don't get me started on the R&D work poured into the podule support.

 is a RISC OS Userkillermike on 22/4/07 4:48PM
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In Reply to killermike

Well in my iyonix I have the USB, Graphics and a TV card and that it. Now the CE2210 has USB 2 onboard so as long as we get isynchronous USB then perhaps PCI is not needed. The Sata stuff would also be useful. Now either Castle or Simtec could do something at pitching a CS2210 development board and we could get the results with a Iyonix2, A+ machine if either ROL or ROOL developed RISC OS to take advantage of the new hardware. then all that is required is us end users to put our hands in our pockets and that probably where this will all fall down as we will get the usual calls of "well if it was cheaper or had more MHz or was more expandable" then I'd up grade from my A310 and RISCOS2 comments.

Still hopefully someone is working on the next one as I've got a milestone birthday coming up next year and I'm looking round for something to drop hints about as a suitable present.

 is a RISC OS Userbluenose on 22/4/07 5:22PM
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I did say I hadn't looked at any extra info! :-)

You are indeed right; that does suggest PCI slots, but the oldest, most basic 32-bit parallel 33MHz PCI slots. Most modern PCs and Macs come with the physically completely different PCI-Express slots now, and if I remember correctly, some or all of the Iyonix's slots are 64-bit PCI-X, maybe even 66MHz ones.

So yes, true, it's not as limited as I thought. However, it's still pretty limited by modern standards: only 512MB RAM, no PCIe and so on.

PCI slots would be useful still, though: the SoC has no Ethernet interface, for instance, and while SATA is almost universal for hard drives today, most optical drives - DVD-burners and so on - are EIDE (A.K.A. PATA). Wouldn't matter too much in an A9 style ultra-small-form-factor machine, but it's rather more significant in a bigger, open design.

But we are still talking non-upgradable graphics and more restricted expansion than an Iyonix, so I still reckon it's more suitable for an A10 (or whatever) than an Iyonix 2.

Personally, if I were designing a next-gen A9 around one of these, I'd drop the serial and PS/2 interfaces - they're legacy tech now - and add in onboard Ethernet instead. A legacy-free A9 with USB2 and Ethernet and 512MB of RAM would be a lot more appealing to me than the current one. And while I am indulging in pipe dreams, I'd like to bung in a pair of Cardbus slots, too, so I could add Firewire or SCSI - or Bluetooth or a wireless LAN or infra-red or similar I/O without tying up the USB bus.

The snag is that to be /remotely/ competitive against cheap low-end PCs, it would have to cost about £100-150 or so. If it gets to £200 or more /including/ VAT, I couldn't in conscience recommend one to anybody - they'd be better off with a cheap PC and Linux. That way, they get thousands of free apps and support for Flash and Java and RealPlayer and Quicktime and all that sort of thing that a modern computer really needs.

... But which one might forgive in a £100 box for light use.

 is a RISC OS Userlproven on 22/4/07 9:36PM
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Lots of CPU power is necessary in modern computers, I'm afraid. You need it for things like rapid rendering of webpages, for decoding high-bandwidth media such as HD-DVD or BluRay disks (look at how the Iyonix isn't fast enough to play DVD movies at full speed) and so on.

Users expect it. I'm a collector and connoisseur of old computers but a sub-gigahertz machine is barely usable for general-purpose computing today. I speak from experience: I'm typing on a 900MHz G3 PowerMac and it's only just tolerable - it's sluggish and can't handle much more than thumbnail videos in some modern formats. That's not really the fault of OS X, which while bigger and slower than RISC OS is actually a pretty sleek, high-performance OS by modern standards.

PCI slots: well, if we were talking about a larger desktop machine, then so long as it had the interfaces people actually need - USB2, Ethernet, EIDE for optical drives perhaps - then yes, you could do without them. I say this reluctantly, inasmuch as personally I like some expandability, but the thing is that on a RISC OS machine there's less benefit from being able to fit any one of thousands of PCI cards when there are only drivers for a handful - a dozen or so.

That being so, no, I guess they could go.

BTW: it's "bear in mind", meaning "hold this thought"; "bare" means naked, unclothed. :-)

 is a RISC OS Userlproven on 22/4/07 9:51PM
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In reply to lproven

"To be competative it would have to be £200..which one might forgive in a £100 box"

I rest my case as it didn't take long for the negatives to come out.

Why not ask some one to pay you to take one of suppiler and whilst your at it ask them for another £100 for the trouble.

Fine if your talking about millions of sales not so fine on a few thousand if that.

RISC OS is niche product so has a premium and thats the model it has to use now or do you not understand the commercial or business models here.

 is a RISC OS Userbluenose on 22/4/07 11:25PM
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I'm sorry you didn't like the rider. I like the A9 as a concept - I wrote a very favourable piece on it for The Inquirer ([link]) a few months back that got quite a bit of coverage. I wouldn't really want one myself, not with only USB1 & a rather limited spec - but a faster one with a more serious amount of memory and hard disk would be a lot more appealing.

But a computer is a computer. It's just a tool. Personally, I use them for work, which mainly means web access and a good MS-Office-compatible word processor, and I use them for leisure, which means wide-ranging media support and every Internet comms protocol under the sun, including Skype and a good flexible email client with spam filtering and easy rules. Sometimes I use Windows, but mostly, on my own machines, I use Mac OS X and Linux and occasionally classic MacOS.

I actively *enjoy* using alternative OSs, but if I'm going to use it on a daily basis, I'm not prepared to sacrifice much. I want a good modern multi-tab browser with CSS2, I want Flash and Shockwave and Java and I want to be able to open any and every video clip I come across without needing to know or care what format it's in. I want to be able to sign in to every instant messaging system there is, because I'm on about all of them. I want a wide range of productivity apps - office suite, image editing, email, contacts & diary management, a few games, stuff like that. All this I expect for free or to be included with the OS. I expect to be able to plug in any random memory card or USB disk or camera or what have you and see it mount on the desktop without further intervention.

Windows, OS X and Linux deliver all this. Classic MacOS just about does, with some help and with some restrictions. The BSDs do if you're prepared to put in some additional effort.

Not much else does that I know of. QNX, AmigaOS 4, MorphOS, AROS, BeOS Max, Haiku, Zeta, Syllable, SkyOS... All of these get some of the way, but not all the way. The even more way-out options like ReactOS, Minix 3, Menuet, Plan9, Croquet, get past the starting line but not by far. You can do email and the Web, a bit, maybe plan an MP3 and chat on IRC if you're lucky, but that's about it.

But you can't buy a new Amiga or Mac that runs anything but OS X. Everything else I mention, pretty much, runs on x86 PCs.

If a RISC OS machine is going to sell, it must be competitive. That means competing with Linux, Windows and OS X. That means all the stuff I describe in my 2nd and 3rd paragraphs. It has to do all that *and* it has to offer some advantage.

OS X and Linux are free of malware - that won't do. OS X is dramatically simpler to use than Windows or, in my opinion, RISC OS 4/5/6. That won't do either.

Being small and silent and power-frugal is good, but it's not enough alone.

So what's left? Well, originally, the Archie sold because it was faster than any available PC for less money. The ARM platform can't offer that any more - today, it's *substantially* slower. So, instead, it has to be cheaper. A well-specced RISC OS machine can run great with less RAM, less disk and a smaller, cooler, less-power-hungry and *cheaper* processor than a PC.

So that's the niche to go for: small, light, silent, power-thrifty workstations. But given the fact that RISC OS cannot, in fact, equal a Mac or a Linux box in functionality, let alone a Windows PC, then it has to not only be cheaper to run, it has to be cheaper to buy.

RISC OS does not offer any advantages in use over Windows or its rivals. I'm sorry, but it doesn't. For about £800 you can build a 4-core circa 3GHz PC with a few gig of RAM. It will outperform any RISC OS machine in responsiveness and speed, by a long chalk, and it will do vastly more to boot, using a free OS and free software.

RISC OS *cannot* compete on functionality or performance. The only place left is on resources: by being a lighter option. And there's no point whatsoever in being a lighter-weight, lighter-draw computer that costs more than rivals which outperform it!

 is a RISC OS Userlproven on 23/4/07 1:05AM
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In Reply to lproven

Not a case that I don't like the rider but everytime some possible new machine could be done we get the chorus of "it's got to be cheaper and faster or it's lacks this or that". In a mass market world you do need to have a USP if your a small player and it can't be cheaper in the "real" RISC OS world given the numbers sold so it has to be something else. Now functionality is something that may be possible but we do have gaps there so again it needs to be something else and that means it has to be somthing like it's UI or it's more efficient so doesn't need the usual MHz comparison.

People all over the world buy dearer and less well spec'd products because they have some sort of USP or reputation and that how they survive.

Now if RISC OS had a sugar daddy or someone in China decided to pump money in and make it mass market then that may change but until then RISC OS has to sell on other USP's than been cheap.

 is a RISC OS Userbluenose on 23/4/07 7:31AM
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Any computer to be taken seriously must be able to do the basics. I've said it before : as much functionality as a phone (excluding the actual voice to voice bit!). The thing is the newest phones have even more functionality now and are starting to become fully functional multimedia/PDA devices.

Would I spend more on a RiscOS machine than an Apple...yes. Would I spend more on a RiscOS machine that is less capable than my girlfriends phone....not a hope in hell. At the moment the applications are way way behind.

With all the focus these days on energy efficiency and a growing awareness even amongst the computer illiterate public that microsoft has "issues", RiscOS could be solution. It has the potential but it need a multimedia ugrade.

 is a RISC OS Usermripley on 23/4/07 8:34AM
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"Lots of CPU power is necessary in modern computers, I'm afraid. You need it for things like rapid rendering of webpages, for decoding high-bandwidth media such as HD-DVD or BluRay disks (look at how the Iyonix isn't fast enough to play DVD movies at full speed) and so on"

I think that multimedia playback is better served with dedicated hardware. A PII can manage DVD playback with an appropriate accelerator card.

"I'm a collector and connoisseur of old computers but a sub-gigahertz machine is barely usable for general-purpose computing today."

I can't agree with your point about a sub 1gig PC being 'barely usable'. Up until a few weeks ago, my main PC was a PIII@800Mhz with 384megs of RAM. On this machine I ran Kubuntu Linux and Windows 2000 in dual boot configuration. I suppose everyone has different standards of what they consider acceptable in terms of UI latency and speed but I never found the machine to be unusably slow in that configuration.

For example, I never found a multi media file that wouldn't play with CPU speed to spare on that configuration. Games wise, I was able to play things like Operation Flashpoint and Deus Ex without too many problems.

In short, if I were running a ARM based workstation as my main machine, I would rather have a 400Mhz chip with fully enabled 3d, 2d and multimedia acceleration than a 1gig chip with only basic graphics support. Particularly if I were running RO on it.

 is a RISC OS Userkillermike on 23/4/07 8:53AM
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killermike: a PII can manage DVD playback with dedicated hardware. But it can also do it in software at full speed. You have to go back to Pentium 1 (97-99 ?) before you've not got enough CPU power and need a hardware solution.

 is a RISC OS Userflibble on 23/4/07 10:53AM
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In reply to lym:

I too hope you're wrong about there being no more "RISC OS in hardware" computers. True, it's over four years since the Iyonix, still the flagship RISC OS computer, was launched; but don't forget that since then the A9 Home has been released. The priority on the A9 home was portability, but if it is a success I would like to see a faster desktop version released. The Iyonix was a fast computer when I bought it, but it now seems very sluggish compared with my two-year-old iMac, and even with my new laptop which runs RO 4.39 in emulation!

Because the Iyonix now seems so slow I am trying to put money aside for a replacement. My first choice would be for a faster RO computer (A10?) but if no such computer is available, I'll go for emulation instead. I don't think that means the end of the RISC OS market: I will always want to use RISC OS because Techwriter is by far my favourite word processor and Artworks 2 is a joy to use.

 is a RISC OS Usercables on 23/4/07 12:26PM
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In many ways lproven is correct. I was solely using RISC OS until about 6 months ago, when I added a Mac, because of dire need for better Internet support. I was stunned at how powerful it was, how swift and organic the whole OS X experience was and mostly how much it resembled RISC OS.

Whilst Windows Vista is finally out, there have been 5 years of XP. An ideal time of playing catch-up for all the others. I think the various developments around RISC OS could reasonably stand-up to XP, but obviously the other 'alternatives' have developed as well. Particularly Linux and Mac OS X have made tremendous evolvement in recent years. I believe that's what RISC OS is facing now - the other 'alternative' OS's. Like mripley hints at, people seem to have warmed or opened up to alternative platforms. It also means RO will be evenly compared to the others. I guess that is what lproven had in mind when talking about the 'basics' ; full web capability, modern video support, full IM support, complete Office suite, etc. There's still a lot to mention, but as far as I can see, most people require this of a new computer and the main 'alternatives' offer this. In fact, I believe our main 'rival' in this regard is the Mac; it also runs on proprietary hardware, but far more advanced, it has very good peripheral support, both open source (Firefox / OpenOffice.org) and commercial development (Photoshop / MS Office) and near RO-like functionality... but it can also natively run Windows now.

The XScale news is really great. I sincerely hope it will be utilised in a future RO machine. Whoever is going to build it has to know where the strengths of an ARM based RO machine lie, they have to know how to make it extremely desirable, not just a sign of hope for RO enthusiasts. Remember, this thing just can't be cheap, unless mass-produced. I believe RISC OS will remain very attractive for reasons every actual, daily user knows intimately well, but it has catching up to do and things are moving into position to allow it to happen. There's a lot of opportunity coming from the OSS world, which can fill some gaps. NetSurf is a prime example. RISC OS Six is almost upon us, as well as a new and very dedicated company to encourage and aid development. Perhaps it has been said too often, but the coming years could prove critical for RISC OS. The companies involved must realise that this time is one of greater opportunity, since the public mind seems to be opening up to alternative platforms and exciting technical prospects are appearing, but the same goes for everyone else. Still, I'll be holding a positive attitude, as long as RO is making headway.

 is a RISC OS UserhEgelia on 23/4/07 3:16PM
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I wonder what the "HD" media capability of that processor represent? The windows notebook I use for work can handle most of the HD divx available on the net but it is not powerful enough to handle a full HD stream (at least in resolution 1920x1080 but at DVD rate, not HD-DVD nor BR) and not even the maybe 3 years old 2.4GHz PC of my firend could handle it.

Since most of the usage I make from a PC (off work) is browsing, torrent download and divx viewing, and the notbook is from my company my intention is to buy this year a compact PC, as silent and low power as possible, using USB2/e-Sata connection for mass storage and DVD-writer, if possible offering HDMI/DVI with HDCP and optical stereo jack for future compatibility and combined with a RISC OS emulation so that I can still develop for RISC OS.

Now if a RISC OS solution can offer the same functionality I am in perfectly willing to buy it. For that we could always port and optimize a linux multimedia player for that CE2110 processor even without a multimedia API in RISC OS, but I would certainly appreciate RISC OS supporting non-blocking IO (the time spend waiting idly for a block of data to be read from the harddisc could be used by the main processor) and support of USB PC drives larger than 2 GB which I use every week to exchange data with friends (and for which I currently have to slowly transfer data with Samba over my old 10Mb Ethernet connection between my notebook and my RPC).

 is a RISC OS Userandretim on 23/4/07 3:41PM
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Would it be of any use to use the processor in unison with an embedded processor more suitable for desktop use, like Microdigital's plans to use four embedded PPC processors with an ARM? (Please excuse my rubbish hardware knowledge)

 is a RISC OS Usertimephoenix on 24/4/07 5:02AM
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No. And that's the first I've heard of that, but then MD did come out with some absolute guff.

 is a RISC OS Userdruck on 24/4/07 9:04AM
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As a guess, this device is intented to be a direct competitor to the MIPS-based Broadcom BCM7038 ([link]) which is used in many set top boxes and DVRs.

 is a RISC OS Userdms on 24/4/07 12:18PM
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At the moment i am very happy with my RiscPC with Kinetic, viewFinder and Powertec SCSI (DVD SCSI and HD SCSI). It is enought fast to run Risc OS 4 and compilers like GCC and Castle C/C++ that i use. I can use very high screen resolutions and load tons of applications with just 128 Mb of RAM.

I wish to remember to anybody that a RISC OS computer after 10 years still run fine with no reformattig or REGISTRY TUNEUP UTILITIES and with tons of applications installed on, and a windows computer, also a modern AMD64 x2, get drammatically slow down after you installed more then 20 applications... I have Mac OS X and it isn't more intuitive then RISC OS, as Windows isn't so intuitive too... an example? well try to save a file inside a windows application and he force you to browse the system resources also if you have a explorer window opened in the right path just next your word window.

This not mean that i am anti-microsoft or anti-mac OS... but just try to be objective.

For example, one thing that i hate of RISC OS, is that anytime we open an application it just install its icon on the icon bar and then, on the 80% of times, we need to click again on the icon in the icon bar to open the main app windows... why??????? does somebody have a rational explanation of this app-design choice???? If i clicked on StrongED it is because i want to edit a file so why it doesn't open the main window automatically??? :)

I think that RISC OS just need to be improved about its multitask and on the way it manages the event-driven applications.

About this new processor, it would be amazing to have it inside a new RISC OS computer, but there is still a lot of work to do arround the ROS before to make it capable of to use such kind of processors, remember the Hydra experience....

 is a RISC OS UserPhantomz on 7/5/07 10:49PM
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