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More Vpod rumours surface

Published: 11th Apr 2009, 14:33:54 | Permalink | Printable

Following on from our earlier exclusive on the cryptically pre-announced Vpod from Stuart Tyrrell Developments, a few more titbits are doing the rounds.

Earlier today, chinese whispers reaching the ears of the Drobe newsdesk suggested that the Vpod, which is believed to be a RiscPC-compatible podule with an embedded video processor and networking, USB and IDE hard disc interfaces, will feature 8MB of on-board video RAM and Simtec's IDEFS on a Flash ROM. The Vpod is believed to be the successor to STD's Unipod, which brought ethernet networking, USB and faster IDE to RiscPC-class machines all on one card.

However, a more authoritative source has since told us the Vpod will have 8MB of Flash ROM, rather than 8MB of VRAM, which will include an IDE filing system that may or may not be Simtec's IDEFS, as well as any other support software and drivers for the podule's hardware. The insider added that the Vpod is likely to also use a couple of CPLDs - which are chips that can be reprogrammed and updated as required - to achieve its on-board functionality. Drobe is also reminded of an engineer involved in the development of the Unipod who was able to recreate the RiscPC's VIDC20 chipset on a programmable logic chip.

It is hoped the Vpod will supersede or enhance the creaking 1990s-era VIDC20 chipset in RiscPCs or possibly provide a second video output so that two monitors can be used side-by-side. There was previous speculation that the V in Vpod stood for voice, suggesting a VoIP or sound-related product - although we'd have preferred the name Spod if that was the case.

It is also believed STD engineers were still deliberating on various details of the Vpod's design at the time the original pre-announcement was made.

No one from STD nor its partner Advantage Six responded to requests for comment. In fact, it's said the printed circuit board for the Vpod has Advantage Six stamped all over it, confusingly. The Vpod is expected to be showcased at the Wakefield 2009 show on Saturday, April 25 - just a fortnight away at time of publication.


The original Vpod announcement from STD

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Fantasic news the Risc PC owners. One also assumes such a podule would also work in an A7000.

 is a RISC OS Usersa110 on 11/4/09 5:12PM
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Would the original Unipod be upgradeable to this Vpod?

 is a RISC OS Userjlavallin on 11/4/09 8:21PM
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If it's rumoured to be an UNIpod with video, I doubt you could "upgrade", only part exchange, due to the extra hardware required to implement the new features.

 is a RISC OS Userrjek on 11/4/09 8:32PM
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I would be surprised if this were possible.

 is a RISC OS Userdiomus on 11/4/09 8:45PM
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CPLDs are nothing new and you can't read much into them; The UNIpod also has two CPLDs, almost all IDE cards made for RiscPCs in recent years are based on CPLDs, and even the ViewFinder was basically a CPLD on a podule with an AGP socket attached.

 is a RISC OS Userrjek on 11/4/09 9:49PM
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Yes, but those are using the CPDL in a PAL-like way simply to replicate a large amount of combinational logic. The implication here is that the CPDL is used in a FPGA-like way, ie to be reprogrammable for different decodings.

 is a RISC OS UserAnon on 14/4/09 11:58AM
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Different decodings? I suspect very strongly that they're at least partly used simply as an interface to the podule bus, like almost all other CPLDs on podules are used for. Also, CPLDs tend to only be programmable via JTAG, unlike FPGAs, which tend to have an external EEPROM that could be reprogrammed easily from the computer it's plugged into. Unless Advantage Six also plan on selling JTAG dongles with RISC OS software, though!

 is a RISC OS Userrjek on 14/4/09 12:17PM
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Here's some more material for your rumour mill: 'V' is the letter after 'U', so it may be nothing to do with video afterall. Unipod had USB1.1, so maybe Vpod has USB2.0 and/or firewire. Maybe the video works in reverse, as a video input.

 is a RISC OS UserAnon on 17/4/09 11:57AM
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Surely that'd make it the VniPod? :) Video input would be of limited use...

 is a RISC OS Userrjek on 17/4/09 1:36PM
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Or maybe V is the Roman Numeral for 5, so that the Vpod has 5 features rather than the three in the UNIpod ?

 is a RISC OS Userbroon on 17/4/09 6:52PM
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So the Unipod should have called the tripod? Except it wasn't three -- there's a parallel port too that nobody uses... probably because STD would never send out info about HOW to use it!

 is a RISC OS Userimj on 17/4/09 6:58PM
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Don't forget the 8 bit expansion socket with econet compatibility!

 is a RISC OS Userrjek on 17/4/09 7:06PM
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Yeah, I understood that to be one and the same with the parallel port. I asked for info several times, but nada. Kind of too late to care now. Waste.

 is a RISC OS Userimj on 17/4/09 11:30PM
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I've used a UNI-Pod and still do. As long as the latest software was installed, it fixed all the filer issues the early stuff had and it's still going strong. It was a few years ago but I did some experimenting and did get the internal 8 bit expansion working with an Econet module, sound sampler and SCSI interface. It was a hack to get the software working but all it took was to change the address offset from the default Econet address to point to the card and a patch to the drivers to fiddle with the IRQ mapping. The podule seems to have multiple IRQ sources and there were registers to enable the expansion FIQ/IRQ to the podule bus. Although it had an FIQ pin, it appeared as just another IRQ. I chose the podule base offset address according to slot number and the podule access cycle needed for the devices on the "econet" modules. For the sampler and econet, I worked out which pins were connected from the module to the the 15 way back panel connector and wired up a plug to suit. Worked quite nicely. I assume that this is the "parallel port" mentioned in previous comments?

I found my old notes the other day - original hard drive long gone - and the more technically inspired users might find this of interest:

Expansion socket base offset &3A00 A0 of the slot was connected to LA2 of the bus and so on. IRQstatus &3C00 IRQraw &3C80 IRQmask &3D00

status was the masked IRQ = raw AND mask

I worked out that the expansion "FIQ" mask bit was bit 7 and the IRQ mask bit was on bit 1. Bit 0 appeared to be the global podule IRQ. Whenever I played with bit 0 of the IRQmask, bad things happened ;-) The other bits appeared to be for the IDE, network and USB. It goes without saying that a read/modify/write was needed with IRQs off to change any of the mask bits.

Back on topic, I for one am looking forward to seeing exactly what's on the new V-POD. If naming is anything like the UNI-Pod (usb, network, ide) then I vote that V is for Video ;-)

 is a RISC OS Userlittlebird on 18/4/09 1:43PM
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