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South East Show Report

By Chris Williams. Published: 2nd Nov 2002, 21:52:58 | Permalink | Printable

Dominated by Iyonix news

The event
We travelled a total of 300 miles in horrid wet weather, we battled our way through the streets of Guildford and we armed ourselves with little more than a fancy digital camera and our usual cutting wit. Today was the RISC OS South East show, held in Guildford in Surrey, and we knew all the pre-show hype was going to pay off for the stand holders present; it was a packed and buzzing show. We recommend next year's show is moved to a much bigger location. It felt like a gold rush with people itching to get their hands on preciously sought after information and the feeling of impending stampede to the first presentation theatre session looming. There was really only one thing on everyone's mind and we're surprised the whole event wasn't renamed to the We-Want-To-See-This-Iyonix show. Onwards and upwards.

The core Iyonix news revolves around the public presentation. The first presentation in the modest sized theatre today was held by Jack Lillingston of Castle Technologies, the developers of the new true 32bit XScale powered Iyonix computer, as first reported here. The stage was set with two projector screens and an Iyonix PC and a RiscPC sitting beside one another as the Castle Managing Director trickle fed the eager audience Iyonix details and specifications. Here's what was revealed.

Mother of all boards
According to Castle, the Iyonix motherboard is a totally new design with a Technical Reference Manual in the works. The 80321 ARM XScale CPU, clocked at 600MHz, is the driving force behind the machine but let's not forget the GeForce2 MX400 PCI video card, gigabit networking support and the fact that you can fit up to 1GB DDR RAM (rated at 200Mhz which beats the daylights out of the 16MHz RiscPC bus). There will be two 32bit PCI slots and two 64bit PCI slots as well as slots for two hi-speed podules and space for four UDMA 100 harddiscs.

Case dismissed
The Iyonix is housed in a small and neat MicroATX tower, something this editor was happy to see. It has two USB ports on the front of the case and two at the back. The front of the case boasts two 5.25" and three 3.5" drive bays and a recessed reset button. Also on the front is the 'soft' power button. The button can be used to power up the computer however the machine is capable of powering itself down, taking little under eight seconds from control-shift-F12 to power off apparently. The back of the case hosts the usual ports: mains power, two serial ports, networking and access to PCI and podule slots. Finally, Castle stressed that the 250 watt PSU powering the system is extremely quiet, featuring a two speed cooling fan which steps up from normal to high speed when the system temperature reaches a particular point (Jack suggested a figure in the 30-35oC range), although it's rare that the machine will ever have to engage high speed fan mode, at least according to Castle.

Riscing the effort
During the end of the presentation, the Iyonix was demonstrated using the projector screens. RISC OS 5, the 32bit and hardware abstracted operating system running on the Iyonix, looked very familiar with an iconbar, pinboard, filer, etc. The OS is supplied in FlashROM, which is copied during computer startup into main RAM similar to Castle's previous Kinetic hardware. Now to the burning question, where did RISC OS 5 come from? Castle state that it's Pace derived and copyrighted; remember that Pace own RISC OS after purchasing the IPR to it when Acorn Group broke up and RISC OS was at about version 3.8. RISC OS 5's features are, as stated by Castle, based upon RISC OS 4.02, you can expect long filenames for example. There are some features new to RISC OS 5 such as USB printing support, 48MB wimpslots for applications (ie: each application can ask for up to 48MB of memory, rather than being limited to the usual 28MB) and font manager with (16bit) unicode support. drobe.co.uk would very much like to see RISC OS Select (RISC OS 4.24+) features integrated into RISC OS 5, and we're not the only ones. In a question put to Jack regarding Select and RISC OS 5, the managing director explained that he wanted to develop a core system that his company had control over. Only once the core computer system had been developed, could other features be filtered in.

Supporting your own
As detailed here, 26bit software won't work on a 32bit machine, unless it's in BASIC or converted to be 26/32bit neutral, meaning it'll work on 26 and 32bit systems. However, Castle do list the following applications as 32bit ready: Techwriter (Easiwriter), Fireworkz, Ovation Pro, Vantage, OHP, Oregano 2 (oo err), Draw, Paint, Edit, PDF, InterGIF, Kino, SparkFS, Zool and more. Castle's C/C++ development suite is still available at a reduced price until 31st December. The suite contains an updated C/C++ 26/32bit compiler and associated tools, the ABC compiler, dissasemblers, the PRMs and other manuals, development environment for Zap and StrongED users and more (note: StrongED and Zap at this point in time are currently 26bit only). Castle stressed that if you were a developer, the development suite CD is an absolute must if you want your software to work on an Iyonix.

Some theoretical speed comparasions, provided by Castle.
SA Risc PCIyonixBetter by
Hard Drive2MB/s32MB/s16.0x
Expansion bus6MB/s264MB/s44.0x
Podule bus1.5MHz4MHz2.7x
Resolution (16M)800x6001920x14405.8x
Screen draw4.32 sec0.99 sec4.3x

Castle refused to give out a launch date, refused to name a price and refused to accept orders. What they did give out, apart from free t-shirts with purchases and free window stickers for all (woot), was a good deal of hope and confirmation that Iyonix will be sitting on a computer desk near you. Soon. Also, amusingly, at the start of the Castle presentation, a short snippet from "Castles in the sky" by Ian Van Dahl was played by the Iyonix. Finally would it be cruel of us to mention that the Iyonix on display during the end of the presentation crashed and froze when Icon Technology's Mike Glover attempt to push the Iyonix hardware by making his Easiwriter software resize all the text in a 24MB document? Despite the full reboot required, Jack and Mike kept their cool.

Aemulor.com was showing off its 26bit emulator on an Iyonix oddly hidden under the stand table; we've never heard of shyness in computers. The Aemulor was demonstrating Artworks (a 26 bit graphics package) running on the 32bit system and running at about the speed of an ARM610 RiscPC. We were told that software that relies on the OS a lot will not be as slow as software that tries to do everything itself. Apparently, Aemulor uses both an interpreter and a JIT (Just In Time) to achieve emulation of 26 bit on a 32bit system. Of course, we'll comment technically when we have proper details when the software is released. Neil of Aemulor.com has by the way posted some interesting comments here on drobe.co.uk.

This editor tried taking some photos of the show with a spiffy digital camera. To make up for the lack in photographic skill, we've added some humorous captions. Enjoy.

Further general RISC OS news resulting from the show will be written up and published as soon as we get time; if we've missed out an announcement from you, just get in touch. Thanks to SASAUG for managing the show, to all the stand holders and visitors who made the event worthwhile and also to everyone who said "Hi".

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One thing to add, respect the chocky's tie.

 is a RISC OS Userflibble on 3/11/02 12:07AM
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Yeh, poor chap's only got the one, it seems. ;-)

 is a RISC OS Userian on 3/11/02 12:10AM
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So cheeky!

Chris, drobe.co.uk

 is a RISC OS Userdiomus on 3/11/02 12:30AM
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One thing I notice:

Didn't anyone think of asking Castle if RISC OS 5 will be available as an upgrade to current computers (RiscPCs, Micos and RiscStations)? As a follow up to that, will Castle's RISC OS be available to other computer manufacturers like Microdigital and RiscStation? If so - haven't we just found out why the Omega and the portable are not yet available? Just a thought :)

-- Gunnlaugur Jonsson, Iceland

 is a RISC OS UserGulli on 3/11/02 2:55AM
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I asked Castle about O2 and Jack responded, "do you really think I'd release a new computer without a browser?!" Like an honest school boy I responded, "er, I suppose not."

It was really a wonderful show and everyone was very friendly. I even learnt something about bell-ringing!

I did, however, feel very sorry for two companies. Riscstation and AU. I won't say why, perhaps you can guess.



 is a RISC OS Userfylfot on 3/11/02 10:30AM
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Other one doesn't match the suit :-p

 is a RISC OS Usermrchocky on 3/11/02 10:33AM
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Castle said RISC OS 5 was dedicated to Iyonix hardware, if that's of any help Gulli.

Chris, drobe.co.uk

 is a RISC OS Userdiomus on 3/11/02 11:42AM
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No release date No Price No Look inside the case what have they got to hide?? a guess at the performance uses a cpu out of a PDA/Network box to few applications is it to late.

 is a RISC OS Userrobroy on 3/11/02 11:59AM
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robroy got out the wrong side of the bed it seems. Dear me.

 is a RISC OS Userian on 3/11/02 12:08PM
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Re no price release date etc. What have they got to hide? Presumably they are trying to get people considering buying the Omega to put purchase of that on hold and wait for the Iyonix. This not helped by no recent news from Microdigital. Although good news about new machines there is surely a danger that Microdigital may be severely damaged and that the Iyonix may not come to fruition. Maybe I am being naive but having had this gambling on Acorn and Risc based machines since the days of the Electron. I want reassurance.

 is a RISC OS UserRia on 3/11/02 12:25PM
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Ria> There's nowt to "gamble" on. Just save your cash and wait. When it arrives, it'll arrive. Everyone's creaming themselves up in to such a frenzy pointlessly early. When a machine's available, buy one. 'til then, who cares? What's very clear, though, is that there are certain other companies who may be interested on taking your money months/years before they have anything at all. Sit. Wait. Chill.

 is a RISC OS Userian on 3/11/02 12:31PM
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Anyway it's clear why MD weren't at the show. Shows need time and money (read:preparation), all they need themselves now to get their machine on the market before Castle.

As for the Iyonix PC. No price, no availability (except: soon), no orders. In fact this machine is the same as the Omega. Seen on shows but NOT (yet) for sale. And then ROS 5. Been quietly developed for Castle (must have something to do with their previous position with Acorn incrowd). Hopefully it will not lead to incompatible OS's and troublesome harware issues. Again I wonder couldn't these 3 hardware developpers sticked together and bring out one super machine FAST (Surely feasible with their combined talents, right).

But as I stated before at least this competition will hasten MD a bit to finaly hurry things up a bit. only time will tell if there's room for competiting RISC OS machines in this already tiny market.

Unless these systems DO catch on by the general public (we can dream, can't we?)

In any case I understand Robroy hestitation by al this.


Manu T

 is a RISC OS UserEPDM on 3/11/02 2:24PM
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Manu, I think the situation of CTL vs MD is very very different. It's widely known that Castle have provided many developers with Iyonix machines already - MD won't even let anyone near theirs, let alone supply to developers. Says a lot. A heck of a lot.

 is a RISC OS Userian on 3/11/02 3:31PM
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Remember that Castle sell RiscPC products and the Kinetic, announcing the Iyonix would dent their RPC sales as everyone considers an Iyonix. Of course, the hype is nearly suffocating and we urge everyone to be patient and wait for an official release, just stay tuned. There is more to RISC OS than Castle even if they have been dominating the headlines recently.

Chris, drobe.co.uk

 is a RISC OS Userdiomus on 3/11/02 4:38PM
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Castle have to provide developers with machines in order to make sure that there is 32 bit safe software available at launch. Otherwise you'd have a nice shiney new machine and bugger all to run on it. The're no different in that they have pre-announced a machine that we the end users currently can't have. Hopefully the timescales will be a bit shorter than omega :-}

 is a RISC OS UserSpike on 3/11/02 10:47PM
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Great show, massive crowds, and far too much to see....

CTL have done a very good job with the Iyonix. Especially when you remember this is a 32bit only processor running an Alpha version OS on virtually a completely new architecture - and IT WORKS !

Nice one guys.


Annraoi McShane

 is a RISC OS UserAMS on 3/11/02 11:10PM
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It should be noted that the closest anyone got to seeing the RiscStation Laptop was the windows version running Virtual Acorn. It wasn't even a prototype RISC OS version (unless the VA is now part of the spec).

Forgive me if I think this was a *little* cheeky.

 is a RISC OS Usergeoff_youngs on 3/11/02 11:20PM
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Yes, they brought that laptop to the Wakefield show earlier this year. We found out it was a Win98 machine when we hit alt+enter on it.

Chris, drobe.co.uk

 is a RISC OS Userdiomus on 4/11/02 1:00AM
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Any decent pictures of the Iyonix PC case yet??

 is a RISC OS Userquatermass on 4/11/02 3:24PM
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What the Iyonix case looks like is hardly important. THe ones I've seen pictures of look unimpressive.

What's INSIDE is far FAR more important. How the machine handles is FAR more important.

Perhaps people could buy a Phoebe case and convert one for use in that? :) -- Andrew Harmsworth, Cambridge. www.gcse.com owner and author

 is a RISC OS Userharmsy on 4/11/02 5:55PM
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Fortunately for those people who do care what the thing looks like, the motherboard is a standard PC size, so it should be fairly easy to pop it all in a nice aluminium case.

So what if it's not as important to you? It might be to others, myself included.

 is a RISC OS UserVincentVega on 4/11/02 9:02PM
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If you expect to use podules in anything other than the standard Iyonix case, you may have some metalwork to hack!

 is a RISC OS Userian on 4/11/02 11:46PM
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A bit of metal work is part of the fun :-)

However, there is nothing stopping people from giving it a go with a spray can if they know what they are doing. Metalic green perhaps? :-)

Or how about a new facia for the modified case?

Or the easiest option; stick the box under the desk and don't look at it. -- Spriteman.

 is a RISC OS UserSpriteman on 6/11/02 9:07AM
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I will definately be modding mine. Prolly spray the whole thing black, cut open the side and put in some glass or perspex and nice neon lighting inside.

We should have a competition for the best modded Iyonix case!

 is a RISC OS Userdanielbarron on 6/11/02 12:47PM
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Wozers, looks like the Iyonix is racing ahead of the Omega, this doesn't look good for Microdigitals baby.

 is a RISC OS UserNoMercy on 10/11/02 2:47AM
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FYI, see the 'South East Show aftermath' on drobe for the link to official Iyonix specs released by Castle, or read it here if your browser does cut'n'paste:


Chris, drobe.co.uk

 is a RISC OS Userdiomus on 10/11/02 3:03AM
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