RISC OS 4 vs 5 FAQBy Chris Williams. Published: 5th Mar 2003, 06:45:27 | Permalink | Printable
Who's doing what with what [Updated 5/3/2003 10:18AM]Ever since the breakup of Acorn, RISC OS as an operating system that historically "does more with less", has shown that it can still continue to exist and progress in terms of continued development, third party involvement and finding newer architectures to reside on. Even though RISC OS is evolving and gradually shifting away from the golden oldie RISC OS 3 days and the dutiful-but-its-really-had-its-day Acorn chipset, a shadow of mild confusion appears to have been cast by recent(ish) events and several questions have been raised by users relating to where RISC OS is going and who's at the helm.
Or to the point, what's the deal with RISC OS 5 and RISC OS 4, especially now with RISCOS Ltd.'s managing director's revelation last month about RISC OS 5? So we've pooled our information together and made an FAQ which will answer any queries. If you think we've left out something, let us know.
RISC OS 4 vs. RISC OS 5 FAQ
- Who owns RISC OS?
- This is a complex issue, so forgive the slight simplification applied here. After Acorn was broken up in 1998, the big UK set top box company Pace eventually accquired the rights to RISC OS; they effectively own it and licence it out to other people as well as in the past embedding it in their own products albeit for a short while.
- So where does RISC OS 4 come from?
- RISCOS Ltd. was formed soon after Acorn's departure to continue development of RISC OS for desktop computers and as such, develop and distribute their version of RISC OS under an exclusive licence with Pace. The RISCOS Ltd. version of RISC OS is RISC OS 4, licenced exclusively for desktop machines with the latest version being 4.33, available from the Select scheme.
- What does RISC OS 4 run on?
- RISC OS 4 runs only on 26 bit Acorn chipset based computers, ie: RiscPCs, A7000s, RiscStations, Microdigital Micos and reportedly yet unofficially at the moment, the Microdigital Omega (still awaiting public release). Newer ARM and ARM compatible processors no longer support the 26 bit address mode and instead use a 32 bit addressing mode. As explained here, RISC OS must become 32 bit compatible to run on newer processors.
- So where does RISC OS 5 come from?
- RISC OS 5 is developed and distributed by Castle Technologies for their range of Iyonix computers. From its official launch, Castle stated that RISC OS 5 is derived from Pace 32 bit work and also copyright of Pace, that is, it didn't come from RISCOS Ltd. Castle's managing director Jack Lillingston also stated during the Iyonix launch that Castle has the source code to RISC OS 5 and is actively developing it. The current version of RISC OS 5 is 5.02.
- What does RISC OS 5 run on?
- RISC OS 5 runs purposefully only on the Iyonix range of computers. The Iyonix is a purely 32 bit machine as it uses the 600MHz Intel XScale processor, it therefore requires a purely 32 bit OS, namely RISC OS 5. Incidentally, the Iyonix processing core was benchmarked this week by drobe.co.uk.
- Who's developing RISC OS for us users then?
- In summary, Castle and RISCOS Ltd. Castle work on RISC OS 5 for their Iyonix computers. RISCOS Ltd. work on RISC OS 4 for 26 bit machines like this editor's RiscPC.
- Uh, what's the point in developing OS 4 if it runs on old systems? Surely development should be in OS 5?
- Firstly, people still use their RiscPCs and other 26 bit computers and as long as they do, RISCOS Ltd. have said they'll continue developing RISC OS for 26 bit computer users. Secondly, despite RISC OS 5 being 32 bit (a major break through and something Acorn didn't attempt to our knowledge) and possessing the ability to use newer architectures such as PCI and USB, it is not as feature laiden as the latest versions of RISC OS 4. Therefore, it's hoped that in the near future a 32 bit version of RISC OS Select will be produced for RISC OS 5, bringing both version streams in line.
Understand that we're not playing down RISC OS 5 here (we're assured by many users that it's all fine and dandy), we're just underlining the immediate concern that there's now two streams of RISC OS being actively developed by two different companies.
- I'm an Iyonix user and I miss features from Select on my RiscPC. When will there be a 32 bit version of Select for RISC OS 5 users?
- Castle implied during the Iyonix launch that they wish to stabilise RISC OS 5 and make it rock solid before enhancing their version of the OS with RISC OS Select goodies. This may still well be the case.
- What's stopping RISCOS Ltd. from doing what Castle did and get a 32 bit RISC OS and make a kick arse 32 bit version of RISC OS Select?
- Now here's the biggie, and we cautiously suggest, almost controversial bit. Remember that RISCOS Ltd. have stressed that only they possess the exclusive right to distribute desktop incarnations of RISC OS, as per their licencing agreement with Pace. Taking that into account, one instantly wonders how Castle can distribute RISC OS 5 in their Iyonix desktop computers. That's easy. Castle obviously have an arrangement with Pace, right?
It's emerged this week that Paul Middleton of RISCOS Ltd. told the Archive magazine mailing list last month that they have written confirmation from Pace that there has not been a 32 bit RISC OS licenced to anyone, throwing into doubt the origins of RISC OS 5. If that's not a bombshell then we certainly don't know what is and we stress that we're not siding either way. It answers the above question though, according of course to RISCOS Ltd.'s explaination.
Update [5th Mar 2003, 10:18AM]
After the above FAQ was published, Castle replied to our email emphasising that "Castle have all the necessary licences to produce and sell the RISC OS desktop computers: the RISC PC, the A7000+ and the IYONIX pc", adding that they felt Paul Middleton's statements were "misleading".
We'll leave you to call this one.
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