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RPCEmu author mulls future features

By Nick Brown. Published: 27th Jul 2007, 01:09:43 | Permalink | Printable

Developer polls punters for ideas for emulator

Quake on RPCEmu"Where do I go from here?" That's what Tom Walker, the author of the RPCEmu emulator, effectively asked this week. After two years of hard work it seems Thomas is stuck, and with numerous features planned but limited spare time, he asked users on the RPCEmu list what they would most like to see in the next version of his popular program.

He said: "I'm trying to decide where to take RPCemu from here. I'd appreciate any comments or suggestions about things I haven't thought of."

The options suggested are improved video support, a better Linux version, a port for Mac OS X, IDE card emulation, direct floppy access, updates to the DOS port, better sound, improved mouse support and MIDI emulation. On the topic of supporting networking, arguably a critical feature, Tom admitted he is, "clueless about networking in general," although he will consider it if there is enough interest.

Tom also mentions supporting operating systems other than RISC OS, such as ARM Linux and NetBSD's Acorn ports. He said: "Debian nearly works. It starts up fine, but BusyBox crashes - I think it's trying to access a library that isn't there. NetBSD doesn't work at all. ARMedslack used to crash early in startup, but in recent builds of RPCemu I can't even get past the boot menu."

He is currently working on improving the dynamic recompiler, a feature of many commercial emulators although not until now ever included in a free to download RISC OS hardware emulator. By dynamically recompiling ARM code, the emulation speed is significantly brought up to that of a StrongARM RiscPC and allows games such Quake, pictured above, to more or less run as expected.

It is clear that there is plenty of work ahead, especially if RPCEmu will prove to be a real competitor to the likes of VirtualAcorn's products. However, unlike other maintained RISC OS-platform emulators, the open source RPCEmu is available for Unix powered computers - up till now a platform ignored by the rest of the serious competition.

Links

RPCEmu website

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Discussion

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I've used RPCEmu on Fedora Core 6 with Select but haven't really done much with it as it doesn't show any of the files I've placed in the Host filing system. It's just one of those 'must figure it out when I have the time' things.

 is a RISC OS Usergazza_fp on 27/7/07 6:19AM
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I successfully prototyped the networking support for VRPC, which Graeme went on to implement using the same technique, and I'd be happy help adapt the code for RPCemu. It's an IP stack to IP stack system, so pretty platform agnostic once all the hacks for the definitely not entirely BSD conformal Windows stack are conditionally compiled.

 is a RISC OS Userdruck on 27/7/07 9:17AM
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Networking in RPCemu is a critical feature for me (as the article says), and improving the Linux (specifically x86_64 and ARM) support would be great for both my desktop and Nokia N800.

Mostly the Linux version works, but it just needs some polish.

 is a RISC OS UserJaffa on 27/7/07 9:38AM
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I agree with Jaffa, networking would be the feature I would most like to see - I think if that was supported then the emulator would be very very useful

 is a RISC OS Userpolas on 27/7/07 11:54AM
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gazza_fp: This problem is resolved on Linux by renaming the 'hostfs' directory in uppercase as 'HOSTFS' - simply a trivial oversight on Tom's part, it seems.

My vote for future development would be improving the Linux version so that sound can work at the same time as the dynamic recompiler.

 is a RISC OS Usertamias on 27/7/07 12:59PM
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Thanks Tamias, I'll try that out.

 is a RISC OS Usergazza_fp on 27/7/07 2:01PM
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my vote is for networking too.

I notice extended video support was mentioned. Is the existing video support complete? The reason I ask is that I can't create a screenmode wider than 1024 pixels. Has anyone managed to get rpcemu working with a 1280 x 800 screen mode suitable for a laptop?

 is a RISC OS Usercoling on 27/7/07 4:53PM
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Hi all,

RPCemu is a great achievement by Tom. Support for networking would seriously enhance the usability of this nice emulator. Dynamic recompilation is also a good example that shows promise for having StrongARM speeds in an emulator.

Looking back at the long hours I have spent in trying to get a port for the Pocket PC at reasonable speeds I am triggered by the efforts of Tom to do Dynamic recompilation.. Apparently the memory model and internals of WinCE don't cater for a solution which I can use to implement the dynamic recompiling methods that Tom has developed. My best hope is to get linux to a proper level of usability on my Pocket PC and continue from there.

I decided not to further develop the WinCE port and to put my sources on my website. They will be available somewhere this evening at [link] These sources include a windows version that is a branch from the version of Tom and has some different approaches to various methods in the emulator. The main difference is that the mouse works as long as the mouse is over the window. As a side effect there are parts not working and games will become unplayable with the mouse..

These sources are just like the ones from Tom all GPL.

Jan Rinze.

 is a RISC OS UserJanRinze on 28/7/07 8:27AM
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It's a pity there isn't better instructions of how to set RPCemu on WinXP. I have tried several times but failed to get the emulator to run.

 is a RISC OS Userjlavallin on 30/7/07 3:00PM
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I've got the emulator to run, but can't fingure out how to get the hard disk files to work. :(

 is a RISC OS Userlym on 30/7/07 3:38PM
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for those who cannot get RPCemu to run, there are instructions on Tom's webpages and there is also a mailinglist.

If you mail the mailinglist and elaborate on what you have done and what doesn't work you have a fair chance of getting it to work.

Jan Rinze.

 is a RISC OS UserJanRinze on 30/7/07 3:58PM
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What we desperately need for the handful of schools that still use Acorn computers is a RiscPC RISC OS 3.6 emulator. As the StrongArm, then RISC OS 4, then the Iyo have been developed, less and less of the specialist educational software has been updated, and as schools have invested in the new hardware/OS es they been able to run less and less of their software. A 3.6 RiscPC emulator for SA/RISC OS 4would bring all of those old software titles back into use. I'm thinking particularly of the IMS readers that used to allow Dorling Kindersley's Ultimate Human Body and Microsoft's Dinosaurs and Ancient Lands CDs to be used with Acorns, plus the multimedia CDs from AVP. There are a couple of A310 emulators that work on StrongARM/Iyo but they are very slow and don't support CD drives. Are there any takers out there who would like to have a go at cross-compiling one of the existing RPC emulators for later RISC OS systems? Jon

 is a RISC OS UserJon on 30/7/07 6:24PM
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Hi Jon,

have you tried the !A310Emu by Jan de Boer? it is very fast and he is still improving it.. No idea about CD drives but you might be able to get in touch with him about that.. his homepage with the emulator: [link] Jan dropped by on sunday and he showed that on the A9home his emulator runs at about 1/16 the speed of the A9home. which roughly translates to a 25 Mhz ARM3 or so..

Jan Rinze.

 is a RISC OS UserJanRinze on 30/7/07 6:40PM
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Networking would be ace!

How about multi screen support?

I know the likes of this would need something like geminus...but would be nice :@) (could also be good for V-RPC) ...just a thought!

 is a RISC OS Userem2ac on 31/7/07 10:48AM
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Dear Jan

Thank you for replying to my posting to Drobe on the subject of emulators.

I do use Jan de Boer's A310 emulator (in fact I was able to play the games Populous and Zarch for the first time ever on my StrongARM RiscPC using it).

But there are two problems with Jan's emulator:

1) you have to manually drag a disc image called EmuTrsf to the floppy drive bay, then open the disc inside the emulator and load !EmuTrsf onto the iconbar. There doesn't seem to be anyway of getting it to do this automatically with an Obey file. Although it doesn't seem like a big issue, if they have to do it 30 times in a school where they haven't got a technician for every lesson that they use it, it's would waste an awful lot of the teacher's time.

2) As far as I know the RiscPC 710/ RISC OS 3.6 was the first Acorn machine to support a CD drive. So an A310 just isn't powerful enough. The 710 was actually the best Acorn machine EVER from a school's point of view because it offered the best combination of speed and usable software.

The problems started in 1997 when they introduced the StrongARM and a lot of the educational programs schools used didn't get updated to work with the new processor.

The problem has got even worse with RISC OS 4 and the Iyo. Those schools that have upgraded have found themselves with less and less usable software.

I am doing some work at the moment for a Special Needs school, and the main problem I'm having is just trying to find enough good software for them to use.

There is no new educational software being developed for Acorns (except web-based stuff that requires a flash player !!!!) and when they upgraded to RISC OS 4.39 even more of the old stuff stopped working.

I have managed to get a few small programs that were written in BASIC going for them, but a lot of the RunImages have been compiled so I've got no chance. I'd particularly like to get the CD titles Ultimate Human Body/ Dinosaurs/Ancient Lands working as there was a lot to explore on them and they did work on a 710. It would be even better if I could get them working without the CD as 30 CD drives all working at the same time make a lot of noise.

Regards

Jon

 is a RISC OS UserJon on 1/8/07 4:51PM
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Hi Jon,

Have you mailed Jan de Boer about these isues? He might be able to write a small update for the harddisks.

For the conversion to StrongARM Jan and I have deviced a utility called !PCR13 which fixes some of the problems related to software that does dynamic generation of code. It works for some programs.. just copy the program to a different forlder and try the !PCR13 on its RunImage. It might just work :-)

for more info just mail me at janrinze at gmail dotcom.

Jan Rinze.

 is a RISC OS UserJanRinze on 2/8/07 11:05AM
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About the Pocket-PC version:

My website apparently does not handle certain file-extensions so I am changing to a zip file.. will be available this evening..

So people who tried to download it, it does not work yet.. Sorry.

Jan Rinze.

 is a RISC OS UserJanRinze on 2/8/07 11:35AM
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Jon: "As far as I know the RiscPC 710/RISC OS 3.6 was the first Acorn machine to support a CD drive."

No, the first CD-ROM drive was introduced around the time of the A3000, I think. There was some kind of pack you could get, and if I thought hard enough about it, I could probably name the company selling it in association with Acorn, but it's a long time ago now, of course. Perhaps you mean that the RiscPC 710 was the first to ship with a CD-ROM drive by default.

 is a RISC OS Userguestx on 2/8/07 12:03PM
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In my opinion, the various A-series emulators just need to be more usable, more stable and to be written with more than win32 in mind. Thankfully, Mr Naulls has seemingly put in the work to port RPCEmu to Linux, thus saving me the bother of having to tear out the win32 code that's spread around in the sources, but it'd be good if the code could be compiled to produce a minimal program that could just be run from the command line or extended with the appropriate graphical user interface toolkit, or even wrapped for a high-level language like Python. Fancy (or non-fancy) file selection dialogues are easy to add to extensible software, but awkward to remove if the code relies on them in different places, for example.

 is a RISC OS Userguestx on 2/8/07 12:11PM
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I have been in touch with Tom and expressed my interest in porting RPCemu to the Mac. He has given his approval and so I have made a start in getting both RPCemu and Arculator running under OS X. Initial findings are good and both programs are now booting to the desktop and running software. There are still things which need tidying up so the software isn't ready for general release yet. For anyone interested, you can see screen shots of the software running on my web site ([link]). If you are interested in receiving a copy of the software when it is finished, please send me an e-mail and let me know.

 is a RISC OS Userg7jjf on 5/8/07 6:37PM
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For anyone interested in running Arculator or RPCEmu under OS X, I have now made test versions of both programs available from my web site at [link]

 is a RISC OS Userg7jjf on 12/8/07 6:17PM
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g7jjf: That's absolutely great news, thanks for your efforts!

Now I can finally start using RISC OS on my Mac, since the (beta) version sold by VirtualAcorn is only for the old PowerPC based Macs. Thanks!

 is a RISC OS UserhEgelia on 12/8/07 6:29PM
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Sorry folks but it looks like I was a bit too premature with the RPC release and got my libraries mixed up. Hopefully, I have sorted it now and a corrected version has been put on the web site. If anyone does download it, can they please confirm it works on their setup. Thanks.

 is a RISC OS Userg7jjf on 13/8/07 7:24PM
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