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Alpha, Omega in the wild

By Chris Williams. Published: 13th Jul 2003, 16:00:08 | Permalink | Printable

Alpha benchmarked, Desk on the scene

There's good news emerging this weekend concerning MicroDigital Alpha and Omega computers, the same news that the usual MicroDigital apologists have been rallying behind.

Desk, MicroDigital's European partner, published a newletter earlier this month which covers a range of interesting points. The first is a brief bragging session about how late last year MicroDigital were in talks with then owners of RISC OS Pace. However, the discussion fell apart (let's blame Pace) so MicroDigital then turned to RISCOS Ltd. (who should have been their first port of call) for a license to use RISC OS. Could this have been the reason why there were licensing problems with the Omega at the start of the year?

Desk's newsletter also comments on Castle's acquisition of RISC OS from Pace by congratulating Castle on their move. According to Iconbar.com's poll, just under a quarter of voting RISC OS users have expressed concern over what the RISC OS buyout means for other companies like MicroDigital and RISCOS Ltd. RISCOS Ltd. recently told drobe.co.uk that the "desktop market is still very much ours" and that present licenses are preserved, this includes MicroDigital's sub-license with RISCOS Ltd. This should defuse any anxiety of Castle using their ownership of RISC OS to eliminate competitors. Of course, real competition starts when we can stand a completed Omega besides an Iyonix and watch the two machines duke it out.

Desk also refered to our story on Intel's final discontinuation of the StrongARM processor, playing down non-existent fears of supply problems in getting hold of StrongARM chips for the Omega. As it happens, we didn't conclude that the production of the Omega would be affected and the article was intended to be a farewell piece. Desk also reminds us that the Omega will, at some point in time preferably before the death of our Sun, feature an XScale processor. And we're looking forward to it.

There's news that at least one end user, John McCulloch, has finally received his Alpha portable, picking it up from his dealer just before the weekend; we'll assume the portables are now properly shipping to end users. Hooray. John's also run RISCOSMark over his shiny new Alpha laptop and openly presented the results. You may know that MicroDigital's mobile RISC OS computing solution is a 2GHz Celeron laptop running WindowsXP and a copy of VirtualRPC to emulate a RiscPC.

John's benchmark results show the emulated RiscPC running on the Alpha outperforms a normal StrongARM RiscPC in the memory access and harddisc access speed tests.

Also, it's not just Alphas being reportedly delivered. MicroDigital's Scottish dealer Liquid Silicon very recently informed their customers that "Omegas and Alphas are shipping" and, wait for this, the Omega floppy drive now works. Alan Gibson, of Liquid Silicon, confirmed to us that the machines were being delivered to the public, adding that the computers were "release machines going out without caveats".

So that's end users with machines heading their way at last. End users, not hand picked beta testers. It's been said that the RISC OS media ignored the fact that MicroDigital were "shipping" Alphas and Omegas at the Expo 2003 show. If handing out 4 beta test machines at a show means that the MicroDigital machines are shipping then, to apply the same analogy, the drobe.co.uk team have stopped the greenhouse effect by not driving anywhere today.

Do drop us an email if you get your hands on a MicroDigital machine.



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Any sign of networking? Frankly I'm not sure why anyone bothers putting in floppy drives these days. RISC OS software is so small that you can donwload it pretty easy even with a modem.

 is a RISC OS Userthegman on 13/7/03 7:24PM
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Because the vast majority of commercial software, in its non-pirated legal form (shocker!) is delivered on floppy.

 is a RISC OS Userimj on 13/7/03 8:30PM
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Yes, I just think that if it's causing MD hassle they should prioritise more important things. CD writers must be about 40 these days, anyone can afford to distribute on CD or over the internet. There are those without CD-ROMs or indeed internet access, but maybe we'd be better off encouraging these users to buy a modem or a CD-ROM rather than have software developers deliver on multiple floppies, which are a pain to make and pretty unreliable by comparison.

 is a RISC OS Userthegman on 13/7/03 8:36PM
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I see the Microdigital Newsdesk thing is back up, although all previous entries have been deleted. It now ends with their old tagline in a new distorted and awkward version - "26-bit, 32-bit operating systems together with ARMTwister multi-processor 26/32-bit 32/26-bit technology the way forward". Hmm! -- Gavin Smith

 is a RISC OS UserSparkY on 13/7/03 11:28PM
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I agree that floppy discs are on the way out, but its hardly worth burning a CD just to take a few files to work. Sure, there's Flash RAM, SD card etc. but floppies are much cheaper.

 is a RISC OS Usertimephoenix on 14/7/03 7:04AM
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Yes, I suppose if you don't have any kind of network, then you could use a floppy, but those flash keychain things are about 30 for a small one, and hold far more than a floppy disk.

 is a RISC OS Userthegman on 14/7/03 9:48AM
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"Desk also reminds us that the Omega will, at some point in time preferably before the death of our Sun, feature an XScale processor."

I am still confused.

According to the wayback machine records of newsdesk, MD actually demonstrated Omegas running XScale processors at a RISC OS show a couple of years ago.

What gives?

--------- Wasssssssssuuuuuuupppppppp?

 is a RISC OS Userrusstarbox on 14/7/03 10:56AM
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I think 'what gives?' describes in two words what everyone thinks about the Omega situation! The very odd thing now is that we have had word from reputable sources that the Omega is in fact shipping, but there is no concrete info about what the machine is like, what's included, what the features are etc. I can understand MD developing an aversion to the press when they could not deliver their product, but when they *can* you'd think they would be telling anyone who would listen how wonderful it is. Do we even have a final price on how much it is? On Liquid Silicon it's 1355 for the bottom end one (help ma boab!), but they surely have to work on this when the established player is 100 cheaper!

 is a RISC OS Userthegman on 14/7/03 11:05AM
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Russ: Unless this was some secret show nobody knows about, this is simply wrong. To my best of my knowledge, MD have never demonstrated an Omega with an XScale running software. "A couple of years ago" would be even more amazing. So, there is no reason to be confused. Nobody outside MD has ever seen an Omega running software on anything else but a StrongARM.

 is a RISC OS Userwuerthne on 15/7/03 10:16PM
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Chris : What a unique case of poor journalism this is. I do not know were you get your translations but its o so poor......

 is a RISC OS Userrdenk1 on 16/7/03 9:02PM
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The suggestion that both Castle and MD went to Pace first is worrying

 is a RISC OS Usermavhc on 16/7/03 9:15PM
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Rick: Thanks for the comments, I'm glad you liked the article. We use Google and Systrans for language translations; they're not brilliant but good enough to understand what's being said.

If a better translation of Desk's newsletter is offered and it shows we're wrong, we'll post a correction.

Chris, drobe.co.uk

 is a RISC OS Userdiomus on 16/7/03 10:46PM
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chris : Show me in the original dutch text the following which you wrote: - A "brief bragging session " - Were did MD Europe blame Pace ?

About the Xscale Processor part: Do you have new inside information about the very shortened life of our sun? From what i have read/know it should last for a couple of billion years.... and not a few months. But if you do have that information , please share.....

Futhermore you dont have any proof what so ever that the four omega's handed out are beta test machines. The people who got the omega are normal dutch customers.

If you trust on a computer programme on doing the translations for you, you will have huge problems. A computer programme cannot translate certain culture-language related words (eg translate "he, eikel" and you will get something like " yo, nut" instead of "idiot") . And it can most certainly not read a cultural-bound context. Thatswhy you should base your translations on work done by (or allmost) native-speakers.

Chris: gawarjiesj Pravda!

Regards, Rick


 is a RISC OS Userrdenk1 on 17/7/03 9:36AM
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rdenk: I think you're confusing the editorial summarising with direct quoting of the article. The direct quoting is enclosed in quotation marks - the "brief bragging session" is a summary of how that part of the article came across and "(let's blame Pace)" is presumably a humourous reference to MD's unwillingness to accept responsibility for any problems they face in developing the Omega.

The "XScale processor part" doesn't say that an XScale for the Omega will only be available *just* before the death of our sun, but rather that the Omega will, hopefully, get an XScale some time in the next "couple of billion years". That could be next week, time will tell.

So perhaps the problem is that you have misunderstood this article rather than Chris having misunderstood the other. -- Antony Sidwell

 is a RISC OS Userajps on 17/7/03 12:55PM
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All said and done it is pretty clear that drobe.co.uk are no fans of MD and their articles relect this. It could also be said that TIB are a little too optimistic and forgiving with regards to MD. I'd say to readers to just read the facts and make up your own minds however telling fact from fiction is a pretty tricky task when it comes to the Omega. -- Spriteman.

 is a RISC OS UserSpriteman on 17/7/03 1:53PM
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Antony : If he summerise a piece he should give a summerise rather than his own opinion. By using the negative term "bragging" he tries deliberately to put MD Europe in a bad daylight. Hiding behind the fact that this is an "editorial " piece is not going to take away the fact he is not giving a correct summerising of the content of the Newsdesk.

To use Freud's words : Its a window to a man's mind.

Spriteman : You are absolutely right that drobe are no fans of MD. And that is what is colouring their stories. And thus we , as readers, should realise that "facts" given by Drobe sometimes arent facts but opinions.Coloured opinions.



 is a RISC OS Userrdenk1 on 17/7/03 2:09PM
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Thanks for your comments, we do value them a lot because we do like to keep up with what people are feeling and interested in.

The use of "bragging" was not a put down or in any way an insult to Desk and in fact, we're glad at least one dealer is keeping their customers briefed on the world of MicroDigital. However, I understand why you're reading it as negitive and taking the defensive. If you want to provide a translation of the newsletter, Rick, I'll read it through and write out a line by line commentary.

Articles aren't written on the spare of a moment, every word is weighed up so the article is a fair and balance account.

Fwiw, "bragging" summarised Desk mentioning the MD talks with Pace. If they were so dark, secret and so last year, why mention them? Was it to say that Castle may have bought ROS from Pace, but MD were in there last August, so nerr? The Desk newsletter says Pace let the discussions lapse. Therefore Desk say it was Pace's fault, otherwise known as "blame".

If we're not fans of MicroDigital, as people are quick to point out, then why are we giving so much front page space to MD? Why are we giving away videos of DaveA's presentation? Why did we look for positive, real end user responses on the Omega at Wakefield and the shipping of the Alpha?

We appreciate a lot how much time and effort it takes to design, test and push out a new computer and we're looking forward to running the headline, "Omega ships!" However, I'm sorry, it would be irresponsible for us to put on the rose tinted glasses and overlook the fact that the machine is late and not *as far as we're aware* matching the advertised specification.

So yes, looking forward to the Omega. I hope these comments answer your questions. And I hope this wasn't too much of a rant.

Chris, drobe.co.uk

 is a RISC OS Userdiomus on 17/7/03 2:48PM
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> The use of "bragging" was not a put down

Harrap's dictionairy tells me the following: Brag [braeg] v. (he bragged) to boast; he is always bragging about his success with women. Bragging, n boasting.

Since you stated that its not intended to put Desk down i will keep it with different word choice.

> glad at least one dealer is keeping their customers briefed on the world of MicroDigital.

Well we share that thought. Thats one of the many reasons why i do business with him.

> However, I understand why....

I speak and understand six different languages. In not one of them "bragging " can be explained as positive. However with the explanation given above, i will give you the benifit of doubt.

I will give you the translation since i hate tv watching and thus having a lot of spare time in the evening :)

>Fwiw, "bragging" summarised Desk ....

No. It is simply telling that they have failed and Castle suceeded. And if you read between the lines you will find some kind of admiration for that success.In the Netherlands people appreciate that kind of honest openhearted way of telling things .If you loose, do it with style and honour the winner. Thats a Dutch mentality.

> If we're not fans of MicroDigital, as people are quick to point out....

Ask yourself the question :" Why do people think that way ?" Maybe because of the vast amount of critical articles ? And why are you giving MD so much front page ? Its every marketeers dream. Even negative publicity is free publicity Besides that i do think that you realise that drobe is *the* website in Risc os country. And you do understand the basic rules about journalism (no offence meant). So not talking about MD will raise a lot more eye-brows then talking does.

>We appreciate a lot how much time and effort it takes to design, test and push out a new computer and we're looking forward to running the headline, "Omega ships!"

I know quite a few people who will be happy to read this.

>However, I'm sorry, it would be irresponsible for us to put on the rose tinted glasses and overlook the fact that the machine is late

I am aware of that fact. But it doesnt take me away of looking to that greater goal . To say it with confucius : Man doesnt stumble over mountains, only over mole-hills. And as a relative new-comer to the risc os scene and former wintel user: M$ is promising for 15 years a good OS........

>So yes, looking forward to the Omega. I do too. I ordered it :)

I hope these comments answer your questions. It does.



 is a RISC OS Userrdenk1 on 17/7/03 9:24PM
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Since the Omega systems given out didn't have working floppy drives, and didn't have working ethernet, and didn't have working USB (source: MicroDigital), and the people receiving them were hand-picked and encouraged not to recount their experiences publicly (source: MicroDigital's public presentation), I think "beta test" is a pretty reasonable way to describe them.


 is a RISC OS Userdgs on 18/7/03 1:04PM
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wuerthne: the claim of XScale being demonstrated in an Omega was put forward by MD themselves on their 'newsdesk' page - see the wayback machine at www.archive.org for more...

--------- Wasssssssssuuuuuuupppppppp?

 is a RISC OS Userrusstarbox on 18/7/03 1:21PM
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Hi there, thanks for the quote; I have now been using my Alpha for about 3 weeks or so. I can reiterate my initial observations, it really is a nice well thought out piece of kit. Point 1] Networking, don't know much about this, don't run a network, although the Virtual RiscPC manual suggests that one can set up a share with the Windows networking system, so I guess one networks in PC mode, then shares with RiscPC. Point 2] Internet access, I have not found anyway as yet to use VRPC to access the onboard Internal Modem from the PC Hardware. However as internet access is natively possible in Windows why bother? I have enough uses for VRPC to ignore this fact. Point 3] I have enabled a number of shortcuts to specific parts of the VRPC HardDrive, so that I can share access between RISC OS and Windows, thus one can move photographs downloaded via USB to Windows XP Pro, to RISC OS for processing using all the normal RISC OS manipulation applications. Then view them in Windows Viewer applications, which display your images full screen for display purposes. I can now import RISC OS files into Windows and vice versa. Point 4] I have been able to demonstrate to a number of persons the versatility of the RISC OS way, and I feel there is the possibility of converts. I have shown this machine to a local RISC OS user, he is saving for a laptop and was very very impressed, I would suggest that as a result of his comments, another sale is imminent. Note 1] If anyone in the West of Scotland, wants to see this machine in operation I would be willing to demonstrate it, eMail as per signature. 73 de john -- Mail :john@jcmcc1srp.freeserve.co.uk Call :GM1SRP Comp :MicroDigital Alpha 2.0Ghz Laptop OS's :Windows XP Pro/RISC OS Select 3i1

 is a RISC OS Userjcmcculloch on 29/7/03 1:37PM
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