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VirtualRiscPC freed from Alpha laptop?

By Chris Williams. Published: 3rd Jul 2003, 19:36:24 | Permalink | Printable

VirtualAcorn demos standalone version to users

VirtualAcorn last night treated the Wakefield usergroup to an exclusive peek at their VirtualRiscPC software running RISC OS 3.7 on a standalone PC packing WindowsXP and a 3Ghz P4 processor. VirtualAcorn's VirtualRiscPC software enables Windows based computers to emulate Acorn computer hardware so users can run RISC OS and their favourite software on their PCs.

"Well, we saw a development version of 'Virtual RiscPC'. It was running on a 3GHz(ish) desktop PC (with Windows XP). On top of this, RISC OS 3.7 ran substantially faster than one of the club's genuine StrongARM'd RiscPCs", WROCC committemember Ruth Gunstone told us earlier today, regarding the user group meeting last night.

"The desktop was very responsive, and the few Artworks files I tried rendered very quickly in AWViewer. Using HostFS, VirtualRiscPC allows long filenames and >77 files per directory."

Until now, VirtualRiscPC could only be found on Microdigital's WindowsXP Alpha notebook emulating an ARM710 RiscPC and running RISC OS 4. Around the launch of VirtualRiscPC, it was stated that the each copy of the software is 'locked down' to each Microdigital laptop, allowing the emulator to run only on the Microdigital hardware. This has disappointed a number of users who were eager to purchase and run VirtualRiscPC on their existing PC computers.

VirtualAcorn declined to take orders for VirtualRiscPC and also give any kind of availability details.

VirtualAcorn has been privately teasing drobe.co.uk recently with hints of a release of a version of VirtualRiscPC that will run on any Windows based computer - a move that will no doubt please the crowds of VirtualA5000 users who are looking forward to emulating RiscPC hardware and RISC OS 3.7 or 4 on their PCs. We await further news on this subject.

The availability of VirtualRiscPC is quite critical because it means PC users can embrace RiscPC architecture and therefore in theory run more modern RISC OSes like 4.36 on much faster PC based hardware. In the past, VirtualAcorn's emulation software was frowned upon by OS developer RISCOS Ltd. however the two companies appear to have kissed and made up with the advent of an officially recognised emulated RISC OS 4 in the MicroDigital Alpha.

WROCC chairman Steve Potts told us the VirtualRiscPC product was billed as something that "may or may not be released".

"Basically the potential of Virtual Risc PC is clear (both in performance and increasing the userbase for software vendors and RISC OS Ltd.)", Steve told us, "but at this point there are no guarantees that this will be available anytime soon (if at all) and if it were, it is likey to cost significantly more than VA5000 although not figures were given as these were not known."

"Things are possible, we'll have to see how it all goes."



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I'm of the opinion that emulators never do a platform any good. When a platform passes into the realm of having only a handful of real users (BBCs for example!) then of course emulation is great - but we certainly aren't there, and hopefully won't get there. This doesn't really help though, does it? -- Gavin Smith

 is a RISC OS UserSparkY on 3/7/03 8:49PM
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Anything that can stimulate more software development is good - this could do just that, if it ever gets released.

Besides, if it's a choice between this or an IYONIX, I know I'd choose the latter. It won't stop hardware sales from me - what about everyone else?

 is a RISC OS Usermoss on 3/7/03 9:10PM
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I'd almost certaily buy VirtualRiscPC - I've just ordered a nice new Centrino laptop (4.5 hours battery life) for work, and would love to run RISC OS on it :)

 is a RISC OS Userbarti on 3/7/03 9:27PM
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A laptop is fairly reasonable; it's a gap in the market that isn't plugged yet. But what about a desktop computer - would this stop sales of an IYONIX for any of you?

 is a RISC OS Usermoss on 3/7/03 9:49PM
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Now if I could access the laptop's NIC and run RO4 Select on it, then I'd buy a laptop just for it. One to my own spec though. That'd be amazing. No more lugging my RPC and using it like a laptop!

 is a RISC OS Userdansguardian on 3/7/03 9:50PM
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Software sales are vital if RISC OS is to survive. If this increases the RISC OS user base then it may also increase software sales. It also has benefits to other parts of the community e.g. magazine publishers might pick up new subscribers, people might turn up to shows and usergroups etc.

IMHO people will continue to purchase hardware as long as it offers a significant advantage over emulators.

By running 3.7 on VirtualRiscPC RISC OS Ltd are not making any money. The Alpha version includes RISC OS 4, helping keep RISC OS Ltd afloat...

-- Steve Knutson

 is a RISC OS Userknutson on 3/7/03 10:35PM
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ROL could make money if they decided to get in to bed with VirtualRPC folks and sell VARPC+Select3 as a bundle. I'd buy a copy!

 is a RISC OS Userimj on 3/7/03 11:07PM
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I'm very keen on the emulation idea. There is no way under the sun that even the most RISC OS savvy of my school customers will be able to resist the push to Windows forever. There is equally no way they'll be able to buy a suite of Iyonix machines. If we can keep RISC OS running on nice shiny new boxes, rather than having it consigned to aging RiscPC or whatever systems, then it's a win, really.

On the other hand, the idea that it is in any way sensible to sell a shrinkwrapped over-the-counter product for anyone to install on any s***inabox PeeCee is a bit scary. I don't think that's the gameplan.

 is a RISC OS Usermikeg on 3/7/03 11:29PM
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I've just upgraded to a five-user copy of VA5000, from 2, for my department. It does the job, and that's all anyone wants. Plus the "underlying" PC has its strengths that even a shiny new Iyonix cannot (sadly) match. -- Andrew Harmsworth, Cambridge. www.gcse.com owner and author

 is a RISC OS Userharmsy on 4/7/03 12:51AM
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Sounds like short term gains for the loss of a platform. Thats the British for you ; brilliant inovators that regulary shoot themselves in the foot.

 is a RISC OS Userjlavallin on 4/7/03 2:18AM
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IMHO there seems to be two big problems when attracting new users to the platform: 1) A relatively small amount of (currently developed) software and 2) expensive and unimpressive-looking hardware. I know 'unimpressive' is very harsh. However, to the Wintel eye, a 600MHz computer with GeForce 2 MX for 1399 pounds is outdated and a total ripoff pricewise.

Emulation might only bring short-term gains, but it's one way to advertise the platform. From what I've seen, people tend to be very skeptical about RISC OS until they try it.

 is a RISC OS Usertimephoenix on 4/7/03 6:46AM
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Anything that sells a version of RISC OS has to be good for ROL.

 is a RISC OS Userpiemmm on 4/7/03 8:04AM
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Did my CSA posting get this into swing??

Well I could rant on and on but let me assure those detractors that I would NOT be using RISC OS if it was not emmulated. Also it is a forum so I respect their genuine intentions. This is just my opinion. J

So to Virtual RiscPC.

I needed a laptop and run VA5000 on it, however, not having RO4 is a pain. I could not afford to spend money on an Iyonix since there is no SW I use seriously at work on the platform. ImageJ, metamorph, neurolucida, amira, KS400. BUT having the files on my PC and being able to integrate RISC OS into the working day at a flick of a switch is great. I left the platform a while ago and only returned because I dug out Virtual acorn for my laptop.

As for the negative comments here:-

Sparky: If someone wants to try RISCOS then they have a couple of options 1) buy an Iyonix (at that price it is unlikely to be bought to try the OS) 2) Buy VA5000 (30ukp) --probable, and then when they like it they might think it is worth while to use daily, and upgrade to RO4 on Virtual RiscPC. I will. 3) Buy a SH RiscPC and be totally unimpressed by the speed compared to the PC they had been using and leave immediately 4) You also said the platform is not yet dead, however, if we donít get new blood it will be. As I said I would not be writing software for RISC OS (started this week on the PDA stuff) except that I had VA5000

Dansguardian: You could always access network drives on VA5000 by using host FS. If your network drive is drive K then type K:. (note the dot at the end)

Jlavallin: Short tem gains donít always end in decline. Long term gradual decline does. In my previous 3 companies (now in science, although new ventures are being developed) I always made short term gains. The last company I took over I maid a 250% short term gain in 6 months and kept it. I think a short term gain should be seen as a foundation (no pun intended) to build upon.

 is a RISC OS Usernijinsky on 4/7/03 9:34AM
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SparkY - I don't know what planet you've been living on for the past ten years but I'm afraid to say that Acorn/RISC OS only has a handful of users compared to most OSes. In fact, quite a few retro-developer groups show more activity than RISC OS.

I think that in a couple of years time, if RISC OS Ltd lasts that long, emulation will be the only way RISC OS will be going. Sure there'll be the few of us out there with our RISC OS hardware chugging away (I usually end up dragging my old Acorn stuff out for a bit of nostagia every couple of years), but I really can't see a future for RISC OS desktops (or laptops for that matter) - even with MrChocky's excellent ports. RISC OS hardware is just too expensive for what you get at the end of the day.

I used to run RedSquirrel (or Road Squirrel as my dad calls it) on my laptop (PIII-750) which still offered a 2x speed increase over the real thing. If VirtualAcorn do get the code out, I'll seriously consider purchasing VirtualRiscPC rather than an Iyonix now I've got my new PC. It might run a bit slower - but for purely enthusiatic purposes I think it'll do the job and save me a load of cash in the process.

Not being up-to-date with current RIC OS affairs, maybe RISC OS Ltd should make a licensing arrangement to push Select with VRPC? I think they'd make more money doing it that way than just trying to sell outdated boxes - I'd guess that there are a fair few people out there who have access to powerful PCs that still have fond memories of RISC OS but don't want to fork out a fortune for something that they're barely going to use.

 is a RISC OS Useriamnotamused on 4/7/03 11:13AM
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In the light of a recent new posting on the Iconbar I wonder if ROLs only hope is some sort of merger with Castle (that may be a crap idea but my minds whirling a bit) Cheers!

 is a RISC OS Userfwibbler on 4/7/03 11:38AM
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Hmm ROL and castle???? Maybe not.

<roumour mill> VirtualRiscPC and Castle?? Well they did the demo with RISC OS 3.7 and not with RISC OS4? I wonder why??? </roumour mill>

cheers bob

 is a RISC OS Usernijinsky on 4/7/03 11:49AM
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Emulation is, IMO, the only way to attract and keep large numbers of users. There are various apps that I like and want to keep using (e.g. Vantage, Photodesk, OvationPro, Prophet) but I cannot justify buying an Iyonix. I am gradually moving to linux as my main OS, but I have to keep my RiscPC for these apps and a few others - and for no other reason! If I could use VirtualRiscPC on my PC (under Windows if I have to - but *please* can we have a linux version?) then I would be overjoyed. I could retire my RiscPC and have only one computer on my desk, and gain (a) increased speed (by the sound of it) and (b) a secure future using RISC OS. If I cannot use VRPC, I'll eventually have to leave RISC OS behind when my RiscPC dies because I cannot justify spending lots of money on a new computer. -- John Pettigrew, Cambridge

 is a RISC OS Userjohnpettigrew on 4/7/03 11:59AM
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RO 5 would be good for an emulated environment - the Hardware abstraction layer could be used to access native x86 drivers. I would also like to see a version that doesn't rely on windows, (mini linux install) -- Jess

 is a RISC OS Userjess on 4/7/03 4:39PM
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once you start down the emulation path on disgusting hardware - your OS is dead!!!!

 is a RISC OS Userepistaxsis_RISC OS on 4/7/03 7:57PM
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Jess: Yet more fanciful hand waving and glossing over from you. RISC OS is strictly an ARM OS, and the HAL does little to change that. Any move away from ARM would leave RISC OS unrecognisable. Perhaps you (and others) should bother to actually investigate the HAL and OS design before commenting further.

epi: you're confusing cause and effect. Emulating of x86 hardware and OSes isn't uncommon. Similar comments apply to other OSes and hardware.

-- Peter, drobe.co.uk

 is a RISC OS Usermrchocky on 4/7/03 8:05PM
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So you are saying that the HAL would not allow a layer of emulation to be bypassed then?

Why should drivers not be implemented in native code and talk to the HAL?

-- Jess

 is a RISC OS Userjess on 4/7/03 8:17PM
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As I said, you don't seem to know much about the HAL or OS design. Any further effort on my part seems a bit futile.

-- Peter, drobe.co.uk

 is a RISC OS Usermrchocky on 4/7/03 8:25PM
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Attitudes like that make anything seem futile.

And where did I say that a HAL would stop RISC OS being ARM based?

I am merely pointing out that the presence of HAL should allow drivers to run in native code rather than having to emulate the RPC hardware.

-- Jess

 is a RISC OS Userjess on 4/7/03 8:43PM
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You mean attitudes where people insist on talking on subjects about which they don't actually know anything about? Thereby confusing those who geuinely don't know, and causing further problems for those of us who have to sort the mess?

I'm merely pointing out that you should be asking questions, not starting from a point of presumption and making further conjecture from there.

-- Peter, drobe.co.uk

 is a RISC OS Usermrchocky on 4/7/03 9:00PM
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RISC OS is not strictly ARM. It runs on my PC via virtualacorn. So go easy on Jess, s/he is enthusiastic and all for the platform. PS when is the next unix poort sub due?

PPS; Does michael still have the A5K i gave him. If you could undelete some apps from there there is a unique motion analysis programme on there. one of the Doc's at the hospital deleted it.:-) cheers bob

 is a RISC OS Usernijinsky on 4/7/03 9:40PM
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nijinsky: RISC OS _is_ ARM. The emulation in VA is of the hardware, not the OS, allowing an ARM OS - e.g., RISC OS to run. But this is quite a different matter to the behaviour of the HAL or any other abstraction layer.

As to the rest of your questions - they perhaps aren't relevant to this forum or interesting to anyone else., but I'd be happy to reply to you via email.

-- Peter, drobe.co.uk

 is a RISC OS Usermrchocky on 4/7/03 9:43PM
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Mr Chocky No, you are making condescending assumptions about people.

Rather than saying "HAL would not allow drivers to run in native code on an emulated system because..." You are basically calling me a halfwit who is talking drivel.

nijinsky - he (it is actually me in the picture) -- Jess

 is a RISC OS Userjess on 4/7/03 10:58PM
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Peter has a lot of growing up to do. All the more since he seems to think he doesn't.

 is a RISC OS Userjerryf on 4/7/03 11:02PM
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Jess: You have a long history of technical hand waving, so no, I am not making any assumptions.

Why would I waste my energy explaining how the HAL works when it is already well documented? You could have at least bothered to read the introduction. Without you having done that, anything further I can say on the matter will just be confusing.

jerry: pot, kettle. If you believe that pointing out when technical assumptions are confusing is childish, then I don't really think you had anything to add to the conversation.

On the contrary, making unfounded claims is much closer to being "childish".

-- Peter, drobe.co.uk

 is a RISC OS Usermrchocky on 4/7/03 11:16PM
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Seems to me you didn't bother to read what I suggested and rather than admit that, you prefer to be condescending with out actually saying anything.

I suggested that the HAL would make it possibleeasier for drivers on an emulated system to run native code.

You replied that RO is strictly an ARM OS. Where is the relevance of that answer?

The fact that WSS use the PCCard as a numeric co-processor belies that statement, anyway. -- Jess

 is a RISC OS Userjess on 5/7/03 1:37AM
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Lovely. So we are in a position where you apparently continue to not even bother to read about the HAL, yet you tell others how you think it should work. That looks awfully "condescending" to me.

The WSS solution proves nothing except the flexibility of the RiscPC. It sits on undefined instructions (i.e. FP instructions), and instead of giving them to the FPEmulator, they are given to the PC card. This has nothing to with the HAL, or interfacing with any drivers at all.

 is a RISC OS Usermrchocky on 05/07/03 08:15AM
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But it shows the RISC OS is not stictly arm in the context of access hardware. If it can be done in that situation it can be done in an emulated environment. A HAL will make that easier and more efficient.

 is a RISC OS Userjess on 05/07/03 8:01PM
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RISC OS is accessing ARM on the emulator, it's not a RISC OS emulator, it's a 32bit Acorn computer emulator with RISC OS running on it (or ARM Linux). Dunno about stuff like HostFS though.

Also: Not all HALs are created equal.

 is a RISC OS Usermavhc on 06/07/03 09:58AM
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Jess: It shows nothing of the sort. You can interface anything to just about anything given enough effort. With that disingenious line of reasoning, I could argue I could access the hardware in a PC by virtue of having a RISC OS machine networked to it.

The worst part of this is you actually believe you're qualified to talk on these subjects, and people who don't know better than to ignore it quickly become misled about what RISC OS can and can't do.

 is a RISC OS Usermrchocky on 06/07/03 12:49AM
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Hostfs, as far as I can tell, runs natively. Graeme Barnes has made a posting on c.s.a.misc explaining how VA could benefit from RO5.

 is a RISC OS Userjess on 06/07/03 1:03PM
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Mr Chocky: No. You used the comment that RISC OS is strictly an ARM only system as a rebuttal to my suggestion that RO5's Hardware Abstraction would allow improvements to VA, by allowing more drivers to run in native mode.

In _that_ context, it would mean that using anything running other than ARM code would be strictly not possible, which is patently not true.

 is a RISC OS Userjess on 06/07/03 1:19PM
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Hostfs is a _RISC OS_ module. It interfaces to Windows via mechanisms typical of emulators, which I won't go into here.

Graeme has descried mechanisms whereby RISC OS could benefit from RISC OS help. Overlap with the HAL in these descriptions is largely incidental.

"No"? Well, that's a completely pointless rebuttal. I've said very clearly that your claims about RISC OS "running" x86 code show nothing in particular. But you seem to prefer analogy to actual reasoned argument.

Why you persist with this dicussion when you have no background in OS design or implemntation is a complete mystery. A little knowledge is very dangerous.

 is a RISC OS Usermrchocky on 06/07/03 8:14PM
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HOSTFS - rephrased what I mean - As far as I can tell the HOSTFS and associated windows systems between them do the bulk of operation in native x86 mode. (ie RISC OS "stub" passing data to windows system) whether correct or not (why I put "as far as I can tell") this is what I meant. I meant the entire HOSTFS system not just the RISC OS module.

And you prefer put downs to reasoned argument. I never said anything about RO itself running x86 code. Parts of the entire system yes. You used the strictly arm argument to counter this, which is not relevant anyway, the example I gave showed it was irrelevant. Analogy is a reasoned argument.

Haven't I? And I'm not going to accept being put down in a pompous manner by someone who obviously hasn't bothered to read what I said properly.

Read the original again and tell me how it's wrong. Or is it just I'm not "qualified" to be right?

(read Hardware abstraction layer in the architectural sense as opposed to the specific RO5 "entity")

 is a RISC OS Userjess on 06/07/03 9:53PM
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HOSTFS is pretty much like any other module/device combination under RISC OS. The module translates the FileSwitch calls into something more generic and exchanges commands/data with the 'device' via memory mapped registers. The device happens to use Win32 calls to access files on the host filing system, it could do just about anything. As Peter says, a HAL wouldn't make this any easier.

What a HAL _might_ do in the future is avoid me having to write emulation of specific chips that RISC OS expects to see and are needed for RISC OS to boot, load modules from podules etc. I.e. VA would become a platform in its own right rather than pretending to be an A5000/RiscPC to please RISC OS.

Even so, it is probable that the RISC OS 5 rom is custom compiled for each platform so VA would still need to emulate a particular platform unless it got its own custom build.

 is a RISC OS Usergraeme on 07/07/03 08:52AM
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Flash Flash I love you, but we only have 14 hours to save the earth

 is a RISC OS Usermavhc on 10/10/03 8:43PM
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