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Will Wakefield 2009 see a new graphics card for RISC OS?

Published: 4th Apr 2009, 17:44:45 | Permalink | Printable

Speculation is mounting that the Vpod, a mysterious new product pre-announced this week, could be a graphics card on a podule for RiscPC-class machines. Well-placed sources have said that the Vpod is not an April Fools joke despite it being hyped up on April 1st by Stuart Tyrrell Developments, which sells the Unipod upgrade and is linked with A9home manufacturer Advantage Six.

It is believed the Vpod could be a Unipod with on-board video RAM and graphics processor - presumably similar to the SM501 video chip used in the A9home, for which RISC OS drivers exist. It is hoped the chosen GPU will feature hardware accelerations that can be used by the OS to speed up drawing to the screen and also handle desktop resolutions much greater than those provided by the RiscPC's aging built-in graphics hardware. The Unipod went on sale in 2004 as an upgrade for RiscPCs that featured USB ports, a 100MBit ethernet network port and a fast IDE interface for hard discs and other devices.

According to STD's cryptic announcement, its new product will be unveiled at this year's Wakefield 2009 show, to be held later on April 25.

One trusted source told Drobe.co.uk: "No one is allowed to talk about it, it's hush-hush until the Wakefield launch. It is a podule and the clue is in the name. Unipod was so named because it features USB (u), networking (n) and an IDE interface (i), all in one, so where would that leave you with a Vpod?"

Another contact, close to AdvantageSix's partner RISCOS Ltd, added: "A combined video card and Unipod idea has been on the cards for a good few years, certainly since 2005. The software to drive such a device exists and using the podule bus won't result in as much of a performance hit as you'd expect. The biggest contention for direct access to the computer's memory from the device will be between the USB and the network interface as the graphics chip will have its own on-board memory."

Other rumours doing the rounds include speculation that the V in Vpod stands for voice, suggesting it will be an upgrade that possibly provides VoIP functionality.

However, the video card theory is somewhat confirmed in STD's pre-announcement of the Vpod, which includes the following passage: "We expect [the Vpods] to ripen by the 25th of April and to have a bountiful crop in time to produce stunning displays at the Wakefield RISC OS show. So come along and share our vivid Vpod vision."

Qercus editor John Cartmell said: "As far as I can recall STD's spoof announcements generally turn out to be real. Could this be new hardware? Wakefield could be most interesting."

A spokesman for STD was not available for comment.

Links

Stuart Tyrrell Developments website

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Discussion

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I'll certainly buy one, fills the gap in the market that Viewfinder left.

 is a RISC OS Userleeshep on 4/4/09 11:15PM
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Yes, I'd be very tempted by a card that combined Viewfinder with UNIpod functionality. I thought the V was Roman for "five" and was wondering if they'd got five Xscale chips working in unison in a throwback to the Hydra project. 5*800MHz = 4GHz.

 is a RISC OS Usermartin on 5/4/09 12:14AM
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Producing CPU upgrades for the RiscPC would be insane. Firstly, the non-CPU hardware is just too slow, and would rapidly become the bottleneck. (ie, a RiscPC couldn't keep one XScale stoked with data). Secondly, most people who keep RiscPCs do so to run ancient software that won't work on an A9 or an Iyonix; installing a bundle of XScales in it would be pointless.

 is a RISC OS Userrjek on 5/4/09 12:03PM
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I'm amazed there is a market for the RiscPC. STD seem all but finished and then suddenly a product for an old computer. This is bizarre - why wouldn't they support the A9 instead let alone the Iyonix.

 is a RISC OS UserAW on 5/4/09 12:19AM
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Given STD/Adv6 are a business, I suspect they've just seen a business opportunity given how much Viewfinders have gone for on eBay recently. What's odd is not that STD are going to be selling a RiscPC upgrade. What's odd is that there's people to buy it.

 is a RISC OS Userrjek on 5/4/09 12:04PM
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No, what's odd is that they could never make the sodding Unipod work properly. USB is a joke and Ethernet is still hyperflaky. IDE works a charm though. But STD's track record on drivers seems quite poor sadly. If this isn't a fool, it'll be interesting to see how flaky or not it is. (And let's not mention the A9...)

 is a RISC OS Userimj on 5/4/09 5:34PM
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Gigabytes and gigabytes over a Unipod's ethernet begs to differ... Although I don't own a single USB device that actually works properly with the stack in the A9 or the Unipod.

 is a RISC OS Userrjek on 5/4/09 8:11PM
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Maybe STD would like to know what you did to fix EtherX then Bob, because last I heard from them they'd "given up" trying to make it work for me.

 is a RISC OS Userimj on 5/4/09 9:52PM
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Perhaps it's something to do with your hardware, rather than the software, then.

 is a RISC OS Userrjek on 5/4/09 9:55PM
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Four RiscPCs tested. Various memory configurations and OS configurations. EtherX is unstable in all. Shame, really - could do with more than the 10baseT from EtherH, but it's completely solid at least.

 is a RISC OS Userimj on 5/4/09 9:59PM
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Well, it clearly works reliably elsewhere. So it's not just that the driver is completely funted; so there must be some other issue at hand. I wonder if it's worth trying a Net100, as the driver's essentially the same.

Come to think of it, you're the only person I know of who has ever mentioned any issue with it. Perhaps there is an incompatibility with some piece of software you favour?

 is a RISC OS Userrjek on 6/4/09 12:12AM
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It doesn't work properly with just the plain OS and no "software I favour". I've also tried multiple unipods to rule out a duff board! I think you're lucky it works for you. Glad you believe STD produce perfect software anyway... maybe this Vpod will be perfect too, if it's not actually a fool after all. :-)

 is a RISC OS Userimj on 6/4/09 7:40AM
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I don't believe STD produce perfect software; see my comment about USB :) I don't think I'm lucky; I think you're unlucky. I know perhaps a dozen people who experience joy with the Unipod's ethernet... and one person who doesn't.

 is a RISC OS Userrjek on 6/4/09 9:21AM
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I notice that CJE sell a drivers for mass storage

[link]

Without really knowing anything about it, this would suggest you need to get these seperately for pen-drives to work. Soundly improbably bad business practice, but that could explain why you don't get any USB. As I said, just a largely uninformed guess.

 is a RISC OS UserMonty on 6/4/09 2:32PM
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Strange, USB works great for me, drives an Epson 1660 scanner. Ethernet works great - different machine. STD would like to know why you think the A9 shouldn't be mentioned.

 is a RISC OS Userjustice on 6/4/09 9:59PM
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This sounds very interesting ! There may be life in the old RPC yet. Looking forward to Wakefield then, especially as my RPC has neither Unipod nor Viewfinder.

 is a RISC OS Userbroon on 5/4/09 4:05PM
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Technically, This graphics card could also be used in an Iyonix, no?

 is a RISC OS Userhighlandcattle on 6/4/09 6:33AM
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Are any podules actually supported and known-working in the Iyonix?

 is a RISC OS Userrjek on 6/4/09 11:12AM
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I suppose anything that keeps people in the RISC OS fold is to be welcomed, even if that means brand new upgrades for a 15-year-old computer design. It's a bit like putting alloys on a Ford Popular...

 is a RISC OS Userbucksboy on 6/4/09 10:00AM
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I had various problems with the predecessors of the UniPod, namely Simtec IDE, Net100 and the USB podule.

The IDE podule gave various hard-to-trackdown, nearly random problems with CD writer ATAPI access, while it worked fine (albeit quite slow compared to a RapIDE or a Blitz) for harddiscs.

The Net100 was just generally (but seldomly) unstable - no such instabilities were encountered with either the Castle 100MBit products or the classic EtherH/EtherB/EtherM.

The USB podule was one of the early prototypes, so it is perhaps not really fair to mention the multiple problems I had - curiously, it worked much better (and faster!) with Thomas Milius' USB stack than with the later-developed Simtec USB stack.

 is a RISC OS Userhubersn on 6/4/09 10:53AM
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I beg to differe about the 100MBit Castle NIC :@(

I have one which has always failed to (at least declare that it is) switched to 100 MB, and if I warm reboot it always appears to fail :@( causing me to cold boot.

But when it's working....fantastic.

 is a RISC OS Userem2ac on 6/4/09 2:59PM
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Looks like an April's Fool to me... just look at the heading of the posting: "Embargoed until 00:00 April 1st 2009"

 is a RISC OS Userhzn on 6/4/09 11:30AM
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The UNIpod was announced on April 1st, too. And that exists.

 is a RISC OS Userrjek on 6/4/09 11:55AM
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So the April's fool is perhaps us thinking it's an April's fool ;-)

 is a RISC OS Userhzn on 6/4/09 4:48PM
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Amazingly enough there is still quite a bit of demand for the ViewFinder - I even managed to get Chris Evens to part with a chunk of cash to buy mine off me when I sold the RPC. I'm not sure if level of the demand is enough justify developing a new podule though.

What I'd do is bung a podule connector on the A9's mother board and just use the Risc PC to power it. Plug the IDE devices and monitor in to the podule and there's your processor, graphics, network, disc and USB upgrade in one hit.

Or actually why not just by the A9 and clear some clutter off the desk.

 is a RISC OS Userdruck on 7/4/09 9:13AM
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Because the A9 is unfinished crashy useless junk?

 is a RISC OS Userimj on 7/4/09 9:32AM
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"Unfinished crashy useless junk"

A number of A9home users would disagree with you on that.

 is a RISC OS Usersa110 on 7/4/09 5:22PM
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What did you do with all your emails/applications/data?

 is a RISC OS UserAW on 7/4/09 8:34PM
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One assumes he moved them to his Iyonix, or another machine.

 is a RISC OS Userrjek on 7/4/09 11:43PM
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Run the NewsDir from a shared folder on another (Windows) system.

 is a RISC OS Usersa110 on 8/4/09 7:55AM
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Advantage Six already have a lot of experience in developing GPU drivers for RISC OS; so I expect it will be easy for them to write another. And podules are easy to design these days; they're so simple by modern standards. Select a local bus -attached chip to do what you want, and plonk a 3 quid CPLD in front of it. Job done.

 is a RISC OS Userrjek on 7/4/09 11:42PM
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Of all Risc PC upgrades, I think the ViewFinder was (after the StrongARM) the upgrade which boosted my productivity most. And it is the upgrade that have me the least problems, which really is a miracle considering the way it needs to be connected to RISC OS. My thanks and respect to John Kortink who made it possible.

So if someone is going to release a new update for the Risc PC, a ViewFinder-like podule would be probably the best idea. If it is a good idea however, I don't know.

 is a RISC OS Userhubersn on 7/4/09 10:21AM
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