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Microdigital lets WROCC in on secret

By Chris Williams. Published: 6th Mar 2003, 18:31:24 | Permalink | Printable

And why they won't speak to the press

If you were around Wakefield, North UK, last night you could have attended a Wakefield RISC OS Computer Club meeting which featured a few production 306MHz StrongARM Microdigital Omegas flanked by Microdigital's managing director Dave Atkins. We sadly were no where near the event but iconbar.com regular Phil Mellor was and he reluctantly, partially spilled the beans on what happened here (look for posts by monkeyson2). Despite admitting that some parts of the meeting were private and secret (oh the horror!), essential points Phil picked up and reported back include very fast disc access speeds, FQuake running in 640x480 at an averaged 23fps plus, fast boot up into RISC OS 4.03 and also USB isn't quite ready yet. As many people discerned at the recent South West show, Microdigital apparently have all the hardware done and are ready to ship Omega units - there's just the matter a mysterious NDAed contractual reason that needs resolving before the Yorkshire based hardware company can deliver and customers can get their mits on an Omega. And no Microdigital won't publically say what the exact problem is - that's just the way it is it seems and while that wonderfully appropiate phrase 'so close yet so far' springs to our mind, no doubt the more cynical of you might well have assumed that this is just another excuse Microdigital have had saved for last. There's one thing they'll need us to have a lot of and that's trust; we're sitting tight on this one.

A phonecall
As second hand knowledge is cheap, we decided to get wise and give Microdigital a call to get further information out of them and so we got talking to Dave Atkins about the Omega, Microdigital and the flow of information between his company and the press. We tried explaining to Dave that sites like drobe.co.uk attract thousands of readers every month, so why not tap that readerbase and let us know what's going on and what Microdigital are up to? Dave politely replied that Microdigital don't talk to the press and they don't do press statements, prefering the user group circuit and keeping away from shows (including Wakefield 2003). We're baffled too, it's an interesting way to sell a product, we'll have to admit however Dave explained that the more information that gets released, the more it'll get discussed and widly speculated about in various online forums with people claiming they know how stuff like the ARMTwister works, or rather in many cases, won't work. In essence, Microdigital want people to wait until the machine is finally out before passing judgement.

Speaking of ARMTwister, Dave stood firm by the company's decision to not reveal any real information on how it works purely because they wish to protect their IPR and design they've invested cash in. Business is business but of course, if you don't release details then people will be left to guess. David was also pleased when we told him that RISC OS Select was able to boot and run on an Omega, (as reported by the German Arche group), because it shows that they've been seemingly able to provide completely adequate compatibility with previous 26 bit computers. There's lots more to the Omega and eventually we'll get to see and comment on every facet when the machine actually gets into the public's hands. Until then, there's always other machines to tempt you, of course.

Despite the fact that we can't remember the last time Microdigital replied to an email, they do get out to user groups and they do answer the phone (after a few tries) and we recommend you give them a call if you want more info. It's a real eye opener, especially if you ask Dave to recall the adventure he had one time in Holland. Oh yes.



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FQuake performance sounds pretty impressive. How does that compare to Iyonix and RISC PC's? -- Steve Knutson

 is a RISC OS Userknutson on 6/3/03 7:19PM
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I think Microdigital are rather silly not to talk to Drobe/TIB. There's *always* going to be dodgy speculation about things from various people - not talking to the news portals won't stop this. It would benefit Microdigital to get their version of events out there.

 is a RISC OS Usermoss on 6/3/03 7:34PM
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The average is around 20fps on a Kinetic after running it for a few minutes. The frame rate is quite low in the complex rooms. -- Simon Wilson, Boulder, Colorado

 is a RISC OS Userksattic on 6/3/03 7:39PM
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I get about 17.5 frames/sec on my 233 Kinetic. That would make the Omega's alleged framerate exactly proportional to its increased clock speed.

 is a RISC OS Userbucksboy on 6/3/03 9:01PM
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Which is pretty much what has been implied from comments about benchmarks, or even guessed way back when the Omega's clock speed was first known. You can expect the same clock-proportional increase on Iyonix for heavily CPU bound tasks such as this. For other things, of course, the speed ups may be much more.

-- Peter, drobe.co.uk

 is a RISC OS Usermrchocky on 6/3/03 9:06PM
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How fast does FQuake run on a Kinetic 300? Anyone? I think those machines are quite rare. -- Simon Wilson, Boulder, Colorado

 is a RISC OS Userksattic on 6/3/03 10:35PM
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I don't understand why MD are silly not to talk to the press. If they have a licensing problem / agreement then spilling the beans could jeopardise any contract. As for ARMTwister, my attitude is let people speculate. It represents IPR. If it really works it potentially gives MD a unique selling point over the competition. They're hardly going to tell the world how it works, at least not until they've patented it and thus protected themselves from someone nicking their ideas.

It seems to me that MD have perhaps come up with a way to at least demonstrate the machines to people without jeopardising any agreements they might have. If this is the case they should be applauded for making the effort, most companies wouldn't bother.

 is a RISC OS Userjohnstlr on 7/3/03 1:43PM
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I'm not particuarly saying that MD should give up commercial secrets to Drobe/TIB - just that having no contact at all with them seems counter-productive. Remember, a lot of potential customers don't go to user groups, but do read the RISC OS news portals.

They wouldn't even have to say anything that interesting - just reassure people that progress is continuing.

 is a RISC OS Usermoss on 7/3/03 6:32PM
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commercial secrets??? Come on. We're talking about home computers that 99% of the world is NOT interested in.

What is so special about a machine which uses overclocked cpu's which soon won't be manufactored anymore. It's obvious that sooner or later Intel will stop SA-110 production and concentrate on Xscale (yep that one with "more MHz for less performance").

Besides that it's clear that the brits still haven't figured out how to sell something. I mean what's the use of building stuff for a market when you don't want that market to know what the hell you're doing? Do they really expect us to BUY this stuff?

Its a miracle that this goddamn platform isn't dead yet?

 is a RISC OS UserEPDM on 9/3/03 10:19PM
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*sigh* Just because 99% of the world isn't interested in RISC OS as a desktop platform doesn't mean that you don't protect any IPR you own which you feel may be valuable. When Acorn designed the ARM processor, 99% of the world wasn't interested in it either. Imagine if they hadn't patented elements such as the instruction set. I doubt there would be an ARM Ltd today if they hadn't - certainly they wouldn't be the success story they have been.

I reckon 99% of the world wasn't interested in the MP3 format when that was patented. Now look what's happening. Talk of licensing abounds and the people who designed it could make a tidy sum from it.

Finally, when BT patented the concept of the hyperlink the web hadn't been invented and yet there was uproar when BT suddenly realised they held the patent and wanted to do something about it. However, they were quite within their rights to do so if they wished.

moss - should MD really make reassuring sounds? I suspect most of the people who read Drobe/TIB would simply not believe them so what's the point? I'm sure some would contest my feelings on this but I suspect a trawl back through Drobe postings would show I'm right. Besides, maybe it's just me, but there seems to be a feeling that the desktop market is where it's at for MD. I'd be rather surprised if it was and it shows that people have certain expectations of what is good for MD which could be just plain wrong.

 is a RISC OS Userjohnstlr on 10/3/03 9:41AM
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The problem is, some people *are* very unfair to MD, Castle, Riscstation, etc - so when genuine complaints occur, they can look like pathetic griping, when they aren't.

In the end it's down to personal opinion. I'd have far greater respect for Microdigital if they talked to the portals. Some people will love them whatever, and some people will hate them whatever. I suppose it comes down to whether they produce a decent machine or not, so perhaps PR is slightly less relevant to the desktop market than I thought. I just hope they take a different tack with the people they *are* hoping to make their money from.

 is a RISC OS Usermoss on 10/3/03 6:09PM
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