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Oregano, Kinetics and Neurons

Published: 22nd Oct 2001, 02:47:34 | Permalink | Printable

RISC OS 2001 proved to be quite an eye opener as drobe.co.uk learns of Castle Technologies's plans

Castle Technologies, developers of the Kinetic RPC range, usually erect great walls of secrecy around their commercial products, announcing press releases only after a product actually appears on the street.

So this weekend, drobe.co.uk was quite shocked to learn of the following goodies to emerge from Castle's managing director during his presentation on Saturday afternoon at the RISC OS 2001 show.

Oregano users get Organo 2 beta
This week, existing Oregano users are to be emailed about the availablity of a beta version of Oregano 2 for them to try out. Castle will in due course be handing out version 2 of the popular RISC OS browser to existing users for free. Oregano 2 boasts built-in Flash support amongst other features.

Kinetic 300Mhz supplies warning
Earlier this year, Castle were the first to break the 300Mhz barrier for RISC OS by producing special Kinetic cards featuring 300Mhz StrongARM processors. These enhanced processors are from a special Intel production line and can withstand the higher clock rate. However, this production line is expected to end soon and therefore supplies of these 300Mhz SA processors will run out completely. Castle therefore urge customers to upgrade sooner rather than later.

Will RISC OS be behind the brains of Castle's Neurons?
Castle need to sell products to make enough money to develop more products. It's basic R&D. Recently, drobe.co.uk has learnt that Castle has reached out into the embedded market and developed a product called the Neuron. This is a small board containing the essentials of a computer: a processor, memory and a generic input/output interface. At the moment, Neurons are fitted with ARM7500 processors and will later use StrongARM processors.
The plan is this: Castle produce a large run of Neuron boards. On their own, Neurons can do very little, they need devices connected to them to do things and are very flexible in what can be connected to them. Next clients approach Castle, asking them to design various different embedded products such as electronic blackboards etc. For each product model, Castle can then pick and choose the required devices and hook them up to the standard Neuron boards. This saves on development time and production costs as most of the hard has been done beforehand.

What has this to do with RISC OS? Well firstly Castle believe RISC OS has a future in the embedded market and wishes to employ it with the Neuron boards. Secondly, any money and technologies acquired from the Neuron project can be used to develop further RISC OS specific products. Drobe expects that some time next year, if you buy a RISC OS machine from Castle, it will probably have a Neuron board in it.

(By the way, appologies for the lack of news updates during the week. There is news and lots of things happening in the RISC OS world, unfortunately there just aren't enough hours in the day for us to cover all of it. Hopefully this week, we can surprise you.)

Chris, coffee reviewer

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Hmm. I didn't know RISC OS was flexible enough to allow such exotic devices to connect to it. And how's the SA version going to work? It'll cost a bomb with a VIDC/IOMD...

I'd love to be proved wrong though!

 is a RISC OS User on 22/10/01 12:35PM
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SA1100, if RISCOS Ltd. get their arse in gear. A SA1100 based embedded board would be great - you could do so much more on it, as most OSes (including RISC OS) are quite painful on a 7500, and you have to pay for stability and features with speed.

 is a RISC OS User on 22/10/01 3:40PM
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Never underestimate Castle. They've got the know-how and they always deliver. Next year should prove to be *very* interesting. As with Pace, Castle require RISC OS computers to be available so developers can develop software/drivers for any new hardware. Great :)

 is a RISC OS User on 23/10/01 12:32AM
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Castle always deliver? What about Oregano 2? What about DMA being broken with Kinetic?

As for Pace and Castle *requiring* desktop RISC OS computers to be available for development... that's rubbish. Acorn demonstrated that it's not at all important.

Granted, Castle's desktop business would die of the RISC OS desktop market died (even more!) but their embedded business could still work.

 is a RISC OS User on 23/10/01 8:27AM
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I can't recall them promising Oregano at any specific date. Are you saying Acorn developed RISC OS stuff on non-RISC OS machines? How would you know?

 is a RISC OS User on 23/10/01 10:51AM
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Oregano 2, you can't really blame castle since they only make the RO port of the browser, and to get DMA working with the kinitic would probably be more expensive than just produceing a dedicated board.

 is a RISC OS User on 23/10/01 11:28AM
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Oregano 2? You *can* blame Castle. They've been promising it for about a year!!!

As for Kinetic and DMA... they *really* should get it patched. How hard can it be?

I'm sure Acorn have developed stuff on RISC OS and non RISC OS machines. Why not? But what does that have to do with the desktop market? Acorn demonstrated that you can axe the desktop market and still do STB work, and Pace are doing the same.

 is a RISC OS User on 23/10/01 11:40AM
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Castle have promised many dates for Oregano 2, both in the press and at shows. The fact that it's not their fault doesn't matter. If they just told people the truth and said "Look guys, it's going to be a while", they wouldn't get so much stick. Now apparently at the show they said it's coming out "next week". Why do they keep doing this to themselves?!

Castle reckon DMA does work with Kinetic, but that all the podule cards so far don't implement it properly. Which made me laugh, as that includes their own SCSI cards...

 is a RISC OS User on 23/10/01 11:43AM
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Looks like Castle could be seeing limited life in desktop market and moving on. Dont think ROL will benifit as OS not for desktop. More income missed :(

 is a RISC OS User on 23/10/01 8:59PM
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Urm, how can you say it's not too hard to patch dma, when it's impossible... it'd need to be dma'd onto the kinetic memory, which isn't controlled by iomd, so how can it be dmaed there? The "patch" is to revert to pIO transfers. I can't comment on oregano 2 but I expect it'll look less RISC OSy that the first one :/

 is a RISC OS User on 25/10/01 12:14PM
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Well, it's just another example of Castle's bodgy designs - and *why* do they use SODIMMs rather than normal ones? Complete madness. I wouldn't trust the person who used to throw the odd SCSI card together to do computers of this nature...

 is a RISC OS User on 25/10/01 1:05PM
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Because DIMMs wouldn't fit on the CPU card. I wish Castle would add fast IDE to their RPC motherboard, seems quite a simple move to improve performance. Maybe it would mean having to get the MB retested though, which would be expensive.

 is a RISC OS Usermavhc on 25/10/01 2:46PM
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No, it wouldn't be hard to get the MB retested. The RPC can't have a faster bus because it would fail modern emission standards. Castle can't actually supply anything other than a single slice RPC now because anything with more slices fails emission tests.

And Castle say they want to keep that silly case design for future machines. Hmmm.

Personally, I regard the whole Kinetic thing as a bodge to squeeze a little performance out of an MB that should have been completely redesigned.

 is a RISC OS User on 25/10/01 3:18PM
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Have you seen a Kinetic card? It only needs to be a little wider, or slightly more sanely laid out - and a DIMM would fit.

I still find it amusing that RISCOS Ltd. say the reason the Phoebe isn't available is that the design is so old that you can't get the parts anymore - despite the fact that the RiscPC (a much older design) is still manufactured.

Also, the RiscPC case is very nice on the outside - the inside wasn't designed at all - it never crossed the designer's mind as required, as you can tell as it's a completely nasty design in every way.

 is a RISC OS User on 25/10/01 3:46PM
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What difference would A DIMM make over an SODIMM apart from price?

 is a RISC OS User on 25/10/01 8:28PM
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I suspect the reason why they haven't changed the MB and case is...wait for it...they have a pile of stock not sold by Acorn and are simply emptying the warehouse.

 is a RISC OS User on 26/10/01 3:44AM
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But of course. You have unsold stock. You sell it. What's so unreasonable about that?

 is a RISC OS User on 26/10/01 10:36AM
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SODIMMs aren't that expensive (19 for 128mb) and they fit on the card much better. The card can't be any wider at all or it won't fit into a RPC case.

People harping on about Phoebe should stop. It isn't that good. In many cases it is hardly any faster than a Kinetic. It does have a better Video controller which helps in graphical cases, but even so, it's rather obsolete by todays standards.

 is a RISC OS User on 26/10/01 4:55PM
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Erm - it's a lot quicker than a Kinetic - it's not just the video controller that's quicker - the IOMD doesn't just provide ~64MHz memory.

 is a RISC OS User on 26/10/01 8:38PM
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Isnt't everyone forgetting, that if it wasn't for Castle stepping in and ensuring continuous supplies of Acorn computers, that the market would probably have died very soon after Acorn pulled the plug

 is a RISC OS User on 27/10/01 4:24PM
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I don't see how the improved video controller in Phoebe makes it faster than a Kinetic. The StrongARM is still doing all the graphics rendering. The improvements to the VIDC in Phoebe would allow it to display larger screen modes but, as far as I'm aware, it still doesn't offer graphics acceleration.

The point about Phoebe is that it IS faster than kinetic and it IS obsolete. This just shows that RISC OS hardware hasn't moved forward for far too long.

Whether Castle stepping in saved the market is open to debate. Stories I've heard suggest they underminded the attempt to save Phoebe. I can't verify any of this and speculation is pointless but, given what little I've seen of the politics in the market in the last three years, I guarantee that no one is a complete "white knight".


 is a RISC OS User on 27/10/01 5:15PM
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Yeah, the SA is still doing the work in Pheobe, but remember in the RPC it can only access the RAM at 16MHz.

 is a RISC OS User on 27/10/01 5:37PM
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The video memory of a Phoebe is quicker than in a Kinetic Risc PC so it doens't take as long to update (either for displaying on the screen, or writing to it in the first place)

 is a RISC OS User on 28/10/01 10:44AM
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You all really should get out more. What is is you are trying to achieve that a PC wouldn't do faster and better? Is a computer a means to an end or an end in itself? Maybe you need to think about that. You can run useful apps at modern speeds and still beat Microsoft - LINUX, MAC OS, OS/2..

 is a RISC OS User on 31/10/01 4:16PM
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Sometimes I really wish that people who submit comments as Guest would sign their name...


 is a RISC OS User on 1/11/01 9:29AM
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Regarding the post 31/10/01

What usefull apps are you talking about? Draw and paint?


 is a RISC OS User on 1/11/01 5:37PM
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Guest has a valid point - I don't think may people would dispute Mac's dominance in the graphics market. I'm also sure a Pentium 4 PC running OS/2 CP with Netscape Navigator for OS/2 and a 56K modem would provide better web performance than we can get from RISC PCs. StarOffice for Linux is compatable with MS Office and can be run at much faster speeds than anything an Acorn can do. The point is, any of these operating systems can use PC architecture, which is obviously faster and better in every respect than old Acorns with outdated operating systems and little meaningful support. It's an anorak thing..


 is a RISC OS User on 6/11/01 11:17AM
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Yeah, you're right - RISC OS is crap and so are Acorn. What are you people on??


 is a RISC OS User on 6/11/01 11:30AM
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