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Castle FAQ on RISC OS buy out

By Chris Williams. Published: 18th Jul 2003, 14:01:44 | Permalink | Printable

Mine, it's all mine!

When we last spoke to Castle Technology, they promised us an FAQ that will clear up any questions concerning the handing over of RISC OS from Pace to Castle. Today, that FAQ has been published.

Cutting to the chase, here's how the situation stands:
RISCOS Ltd will continue to produce versions (including Select) of RISC OS 4.
Castle also will encourage the production of a version of Select for RISC OS 5.
Pace continue to develop, produce and sell the DSL4000 IP gateway from their Cambridge based office.
Castle continues to ship its XScale Iyonix range, as well as granting new licenses (which don't overlap any existing exclusivity).
Tematic Ltd would be the first point of call for all new embedded versions of RISC OS.

The FAQ goes into detail in quite a few areas. Castle wish to maintain a single source code tree for RISC OS 5. This would allow RISC OS 5 to be deployed in desktop machines or mass-market consumer products with minimal modification. RISCOS Ltd. are therefore encouraged to continue working on desktop specific features and then migrate them across to RISC OS 5. In short, a complete merger of RISC OS 4 and RISC OS 5 isn't in the road map. There won't be a RISC OS 5 for RiscPCs and A7000s either.

Finally, Castle's FAQ pretty much hammers in the final nail in Browse's coffin. Astonishingly, Castle would prefer it if you all used Oregano 2 than Acorn's way out of date but very much loved web browser.

Although there's emphasis in the FAQ of Castle easing RISC OS into mass-market consumer products, the desktop market isn't being left out.


Castle and RISC OS FAQ Castle Technology

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First post!! Let's hope some news soon about the last point in the FAQ page!


 is a RISC OS UserPompone on 18/7/03 3:18PM
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Personally, I'd quite like to get RISC OS 5 running on my A7000+. I know there's not a great deal of benefit (as the CPU is capable of executing 26-bit code), but I'd rather upgrade to 5.x than 4.x (it currently runs 3.71). Though Castle don't seem to be ruling this out, it'd be nice to know one way or the other whether there are any plans for it.

 is a RISC OS Usermckinlay on 18/7/03 3:21PM
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The A4 RISC OS powered tablet or the ARM9 and ARM11 stuff? It's not often, if ever, that Castle tease..

Chris, drobe.co.uk

 is a RISC OS Userdiomus on 18/7/03 3:23PM
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Duh. Re-reading it, it looks like they're saying "it's possible, but we're not going to do it". Shame :(

 is a RISC OS Usermckinlay on 18/7/03 3:24PM
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The RISC OS portable answer does look particularly interesting. Perhaps they're just trying to stir up some extra interest given how recently the Alpha portable started hitting the streets...

 is a RISC OS Usermckinlay on 18/7/03 3:27PM
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RON :)

 is a RISC OS Usersmink on 18/7/03 4:18PM
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If !Browse development is over, how about releasing the source (No hope I know)

-- Tank

 is a RISC OS Usertank on 18/7/03 4:20PM
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!Browse would be a great browser if it was updated to HTML4/CSS standards

 is a RISC OS UserAndrewDuffell on 18/7/03 5:43PM
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The FAQ sounds quite positive, it also distinctly sounds that Castle want to see RISC OS succeed and they don't mind if that even means licensing to compeditors.

I think there's a pretty good case for "someone" developing a genuine RISC OS portable (it's implicit from the FAQ that Castle would favour any serious licensing deal). If anything the *one* good thing Alpha shows is that RISC OS users are despirate for a laptop computer (even if it means having to use Windows and an emulator to get at it). That having been said if the "real thing" appeared many would prefer it to going the Windows/Alpha/VARPC route

-- Annraoi McShane,

 is a RISC OS UserAMS on 18/7/03 7:01PM
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Indeed !Browse would.. anyone wish to cough up the readies?..


 is a RISC OS Userjb on 18/7/03 7:03PM
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Would it be more work to develop Browse up to standard as or making Oregano 2 more RISC OSy?

 is a RISC OS UserSnig on 18/7/03 7:29PM
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mckinlay: Why do you want to upgrade to RO 5 instead of 4?

 is a RISC OS Usertakkaria on 18/7/03 7:31PM
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Upgrading to RO5 instead of RO4 is silly. You'd loose all the benefits of Select. Also ROLtds development would falter if people didn't use them as a stepping stone to RO5. Hmm, that sounds rather harsh. Ah well.

 is a RISC OS UserSnig on 18/7/03 7:38PM
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What possible benefit is RO5 on a RPC over RO4/Select? Just because they jumped version number, and added support for their new hardware, doesn't mean it's more suitable for a RPC, and you've lost YEARS of developments that are in Select.

 is a RISC OS Userimj on 18/7/03 10:30PM
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I guess if he has 3.7 he wouldn't miss select. And when select comes out for 5 he could get it. I think the advantage would be not being left behind (in the longer term) - after RO5 reaches parity with 4 select how long will they maintain two versions? If it's not viable to bring the developement HAL to release standard, will it still be viable to keep working on the RO4 kernel to keep parity?

-- Jess

 is a RISC OS Userjess on 18/7/03 11:47PM
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jess answered that rather eloquently... No, I wouldn't miss Select, as I've not had the pleasure of experiencing it - and even if I did, Castle are encouraging a version of Select for RO5. I can't honestly see that RO4 and RO5 are both going to be developed in tandem in the medium-to-long term - it just doesn't make sense. A version of RISC OS for older hardware can't just "go away" - as the majority of hardware out there is older, however much MD, Castle, et al, would like to encourage us otherwise.

Given the sheer resources that Castle have compared to RISCOS Ltd in terms of development (the point simply being that Castle have some, and RISCOS Ltd don't appear to really have any), I can't see RO4 going anywhere, while RO5 will continue to evolve. The effort required to continue backporting everything that isn't new-hardware-specific will surely be a lot more than stablising the HAL for existing platforms.

A question, though: What would I REALLY gain, besides some aesthetic niceties, by having RO4/Select instead of RO5, and would it justify the subscription? All Select seems to be is a few bug fixes, some prettying (if that's a real word, which I doubt), and a few things conveniently packaged up/now in ROM which are otherwise available (and perhaps the odd one or two which aren't). Apologies if that doesn't fill me with enthusiasm, but what happened to the world where bugfixes don't come with a hefty price tag?

 is a RISC OS Usermckinlay on 19/7/03 12:33AM
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If Select is just pretty stuff and bug fixes, then what are you really expecting? The hardware Select runs on hasn't fundamentally changed in years, so the primary focus of development is logically the desktop and enhancing the user environment and experience.

Chris, drobe.co.uk

 is a RISC OS Userdiomus on 19/7/03 12:58AM
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ROS 5 has basically the same features as ROS 4, right? But Select can be run from RISC OS 4 to give you all the supercool stuff like IFR, thumbnails, 407 more bug fixes, etc etc.

Plus when you buy Select you get the next year's new versions free, which is nice.

Not to mention the small fact that you'll never be able to get ROS 5 for a RiscPC/A7000.

 is a RISC OS Usermavhc on 19/7/03 1:11AM
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Mckinlay:Select is a very good package (from my perspective). Improved networking, (Omniclient, DHCP etc). Improved Paint and Draw (Dynamic areas and jpeg support improved interface) Internet suit. Improved filer (thumbnail option).

The problem from your perspective is that (for licensing reasons) your system cannot be used to load it without buying RO4 first. Castle are in the position to relax this restriction, if they and ROL so desired. (providing select will work on an old filesystem).

I wonder how many extra customers there would be for select if it worked on systems without RO 4? -- Jess

 is a RISC OS Userjess on 19/7/03 9:34AM
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PS. bugfixes without hefty price tag - a certain world dominating software corporation put paid to that quite a while ago. -- Jess

 is a RISC OS Userjess on 19/7/03 9:52AM
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I'd probably get Select if I didn't need ROS4 too, problem for ROL is the support problems of multiple partitions needed to boot with.

 is a RISC OS Usermavhc on 19/7/03 11:00AM
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There are several possibilities I can think of.

If it works with 77 file limits, then use the old filing system.

put the select !Boot on a different FS - (leaving the old one as is apart from an old / new system selection) eg a different partition on a drive on a suitable interface or a virtual fs.

Make the required modules to support the new drive format available to put on a flash ROM such as in the Simtec USB card. -- Jess

 is a RISC OS Userjess on 19/7/03 11:26AM
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I've had ROS4 for my SA Risc PC since it came out. I got it primarily for the new filesystem which supported long filenames & large discs, and because I could reduce my boot sequence as a lot of the updated modules where now in ROM. In short its been great.

I've wanted Select since it was first advertised, great new desktop features that should have always been there. But I've been one of those people that is put off by the fact that the ROM image is soft loaded from disk. If ROL where to sell a version of ROS say sommat like ROS4.5 on ROM for a RPC which included the many select features i'd bite. Even if that meant the cost was twice the price of the current ROS4.02 ROMS.

I could potentially sell my old ROS4.02 ROMS to my Uncle or maybe ROL would be willing to accept some sort of trade in as proof that I'd already paid for the ROS4 licence.

Call me old school, but I still don't like the idea of my normal boot ROS machine loading the whole OS of disc, with the ROS4 ROM being relegated to nothing more than a PC BIOS with a nice setup tool (e.g. ROS4 without select or a disk). I know I'm already loading various ROM patches and extra modules, and that can take ages but that was one of the things that made ROS different from Windows. Now I know that the ROMS are slower, and that I would benefit from soft loading into RAM but... If the soft loading into RAM occured from the ROMS rather than the HD I'd be happy. Maybe I'd even be able to run ROS4.5 without a hard disk?

(Tusk... I'm typing this on my ADSL enabled XP machine which is on 24/7, looking over at my Risc PC as it gathers dust. Its not turned on nearly enough these days, except to collect mail from my old dialup account. What I need is an excuse to start playing with my RISC OS Box again. I really should configure my ADSL router so my RPC can use it...)

Last thing Does select include the ANT Internet Suite now. I have the orginal one, and use PLUTO for mail over dialup, but I know it uses its own IP stack or sommat. I have the 10M LAN card and am able to talk to the PC Network (SAMBA etc) but I'm not sure how I could convice the Fresco to use the LAN rather than the modem, and still be able to switch back to the modem when required.

 is a RISC OS Userchas on 19/7/03 11:48AM
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I think the obvious thing is to merge the advances of RO5 --and there are a few, such as the Unicode font manager which I'm sure those interested in internationalization (ref recent Drobe article) would want-- with the (admittedly greater) features of Select in a new 32-bit RO (call it what you want) which can run on both 'legacy' (RiscPC/A7000/RS etc) machines and new ones with necessary HAL?... Of course, that's merely an /ideal/. ;) (Oh yeah, and am I right in saying RPC,A7k can do 32-bit?)... -- le.poisson

 is a RISC OS Userlepoisson on 19/7/03 11:51AM
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chas: I have never had ant internet suite before select, (I had dial-up - then I moved to smoothwall and netfetch, now adsl router and netfetch) Fresco works fine (I only installed it and had to manually createplace a file or two somewhere). I'm curious as to why you need to use the modem.

The ROM issue troubled me at first, but in practice is fine. (Since select is being continiually developed regular new real ROMs wouldn't be very cheap).

lepoisson: Agree totally

-- Jess

 is a RISC OS Userjess on 19/7/03 12:09PM
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When/If the Select scheme ends and they create ROMs with the final select on them I will buy them :)

 is a RISC OS UserAndrewDuffell on 19/7/03 2:40PM
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To be honest, I don't have a big problem with RO4, except that it looks suspiciously like it's dying out - ROL have practically zero resources, and Castle are pushing RO5 - where does that leave RO4?

Select, on the other hand, doesn't exactly seem to scream value for money. Even for Windows, bugfixes are free downloads now.

diomus: RISC OS running on old hardware doesn't prevent the addition of major new features. Yes, there's stuff older machines aren't capable of doing, but there's plenty they can. You can't seriously be telling me that the only thing that RISC OS needs are a few minor utilities and a bit of beautification?

 is a RISC OS Usermckinlay on 19/7/03 4:28PM
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mckinlay> I think you're probably being a tad unfair to RISC OS Ltd, Select is *not* simply a set of "bugfixes".

The difference is (arguably) more akin to the difference between Windows 2000 and XP - yes they're based on common technology (to a very large degree) but with some improvements made and an extensive change to the GUI.

MS may make bugfixes available for free (but remember you *paid* for a working OS to start with so let's not get too enthused at MS's generosity), they *do* however charge when you upgrade from 2000 to XP - Just as RISC OS ltd charge when you opt for Select.

-- Annraoi McShane,

 is a RISC OS UserAMS on 19/7/03 4:42PM
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ams: Okay, I'll accept that Select is not just a set of bugfixes (though nobody's answered my earlier question -- what does Select get me?).

Your 2000/XP comparison is slightly flawed (there were a huge number of under-the-hood changes between the two, for example), though I get what you mean.

As far as paying for Windows is concerned -- I didn't pay for Windows any more than I paid for RISC OS -- both ship with the machines. In the case of Windows, I get free updates (and an -easy- way to install a different OS on there too, but that's a whole other issue). In the case of RISC OS, I have to pay for all but the very minor of updates, and I have to pay for applications which on every other platform ship as part of the OS or are available freely. Sorry, still doesn't sound like a great deal to me.

Am I missing something major here? -- if I am, please tell me :)

 is a RISC OS Usermckinlay on 19/7/03 5:10PM
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mckinlay: IIRC Select has a lot of under-the-hood changes too - improved stability and much tidier code are two examples. Trouble is the end user doesn't really get to see them in normal use.

Whatever ROL's current position, consider that we would probably still be using 3.7 on ageing RPCs or dog-slow 7500FEs if it wasn't for ROL stepping in, acquiring the rights to RO4, and maintaining development after Acorn died. :-)

 is a RISC OS Usertamias on 19/7/03 5:50PM
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Let's face it - RISC OS *isn't* a great deal, financially, compared to other operating systems. Both on the OS, hardware, and software.

But we use it because we gain so much more productivity wise...

 is a RISC OS Usermoss on 19/07/03 5:52PM
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Too right. The new hardware is overpriced, but sadly that's unavoidable. For me to upgrade from RO3.71 to RO4 with Select would cost me 299. Even the Windows XP upgrade price is less than that! Plus, if I want any bugfixes after the first year, I need to pay around 150. Windows is considered expensive, I'm rapidly discovering that RISC OS is extortinate in comparison - no amount of wooing tatics and Alpha portables are going to change that.

 is a RISC OS Usermckinlay on 19/07/03 8:27PM
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 is a RISC OS Userdiomus on 19/07/03 9:09PM
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You seem to have missed what I'm saying - given the recent discussions about people switching from Windows to RISC OS, why is anybody *really* going to switch when it costs several times more than Windows to keep up to date? Idealism is all very nice, and a larger RISC OS user base would be great, but realistically, it's not going to happen unless a lot of rather financially-advantaged people suddenly take an interest.

 is a RISC OS Usermckinlay on 19/07/03 9:14PM
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No, I missed nothing.

All I read was "Whaa whaa whaa whaa. I'm too lazy to read the n+1 Select articles on Drobe and other portals to find out what it really provides... whaa whaa whaa.. RISC OS is too expensive... whaa whaa whaaa."

Sorry pal, no one cares about what you think. Whinging comments like yours is a waste of my time and the server harddisc space storing them. What will whinging solve? Will the companies involved see your personal comments on this forum and think, "Well, actually, he's got a point". Do you think ROL and CTL charge extra because they can get away with it?

There's what 3, no, 4 thousand users left? Is bitching that the OS is more expensive than an OS used by 300, no 400 million people? We're all very acutely aware of the limitations and restrictions placed on ROS but we get on with using the damn OS and enjoying it.

You're still on 3.7? Did you get 3.7 with your SA RPC? So what you're telling me is, tou've not upgraded since you bought your SA RPC in 1997? That's almost 7 years ago. You've not invested in ROS since then? And now you've got the sudden right to start complaining about the woes of upgrading?

What have I done today? I've been coding ROS software. It's getting there but at the moment, it's exploding because it's accidentally fiddling with some OS workspace memory - but I'll iron that bug out tonight. Do you see me whinging about lack of full memory protection? Do you see me stop and wonder about the costs and how Windows is apparently oh so much better?

No. Now, I don't want to rant again. I'm going to watch Hackers on Ch4 with a beer and calm down.

Good night.


 is a RISC OS Userdiomus on 19/07/03 9:26PM
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Not at all.

I've read the articles, and I've not seen what's worth the hefty price tag.

Nobody cares what I think? Oddly enough, I couldn't give a monkeys, though I DO think that perhaps by some strange fluke of quantum mechanics I might have point, and that other people happened to agree, then ROL and CTL *would* listen.

Given the fact that plenty of people have been waxing lyrical about drawing users from other platforms, I raised the not unreasonable point that realistically, that's not going to happen while the prices are where they are.

So tell me, why *aren't* you complaining about the fact that the OS -still- doesn't have any memory protection? Or pre-emptive multitasking? These sorts of fundamental features obviously affect you, and you'd benefit from them, so why not be vocal about them? Given that Drobe is one of the more well-known RISC OS-related news and discussion sites in existence, the chances are that ROL and CTL *would* take notice of a reasonable proportion of people asking for what these days are considered to be basic features.

You might've only read whinging from my comments, but from yours I got "yeah, there's only a few thousand RISC OS users out there, and there's a whole bunch of reasons why, but being vocal about it is just a waste of time because neither ROL, CTL, or Drobe for that matter, care if users have fairly legitimate criticism."

 is a RISC OS Usermckinlay on 19/07/03 10:11PM
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Oh, and for the record, I didn't buy my A7k+ in 1997. It was relatively recently purchased. Oddly enough, I bought it because I'm a developer, an enthusiast, and have an interest in RISC OS, the platform, and its future development. I first saw the Archimedes several (well, quite a few now) years ago, but haven't been in a position to buy a machine of my own until recently - though I've been following developments for a while now.

I'm not going to claim I've "switched" to RISC OS, though there's a lot I like about it and an awful lot I can, and have been using it for. I am, however, someone who's recently bought into the platform to find it has a community that doesn't respond at all well to criticism of the OS, justified or otherwise.

 is a RISC OS Usermckinlay on 19/07/03 10:28PM
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I'm not surprised at the contents of the FAQ (getting back on topic). Once again it shows that Castle have their heads screwed on commercially. The FAQ is exactly what I expected.But it wouldn't surprise me if an Iyonix portable were to appear at some point. With the HAL, the Iyonix technology must be by far the easiest way to design such a beast. But Castle being Castle, they won't announce it until it is ready. Castle don't deal in vapourware! BTW I don't have any inside information, I am just speculating. Developing software is expensive, and Oregano2 is much more competent than Browse. So it is clearly the way forward and it would be silly for Castle to duplicate their effort. There are too many other things that have to be addressed if our platform is to hold its head up in serious company. Castle have come a long way with the Iyonix, and as one of the first Iyonix owners I am very impressed with the progress that has been made. For example, back in November, it seemed to crash ever few minutes, and many essential features were missing I haven't had a crash for over a month now, and I haven't switched on my old Archimedes for at least two months. I do everything on the Iyonix. I have never used Select, but I like the sound of some of its features. If it becomes available for the Iyonix I will almost certainly subscribe. I long to be able to add to my email.news sig, which sayd "produced on the Iyonic, the new RISC OS computer" , the words "why are you still using Windows".

 is a RISC OS Usermrtd on 19/07/03 10:30PM
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Incidentally, it's just not true that people aren't going to switch from Windows to RISC OS. My girlfriend is a case in point; she's extremely interested, and she knows the price tag.

 is a RISC OS Usermoss on 19/07/03 10:35PM
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(And no, it's not just because she's my girlfriend; quite a lot of people are extremely interested in RISC OS when you *show* them it...)

 is a RISC OS Usermoss on 19/07/03 11:21PM
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ok, 'Hackers' was.. um.. interesting.. ok, I admit it, I quite enjoyed it.

Anyway, back to the point about why Drobe isn't harrasing the OS developers for the lack of things like PMT and full memory protection.

Firstly, let's be blunt. PMT would be tremendous - I could use my desktop more fluidly whilst Filer Action or Oregano were busy processing stuff or FTPc was uploading stuff. Memory protection would mean the end of apps scribbling over the RMA and DAs and locking up the machine.

But, to implement these would require fundamental changes to the OS and result in many, many applications breaking and not working. The Aemulor team know exactly what kinds of tricks even high profile software pulls. I suppose, you'd have to implement a system that encapsulates old style apps to run them over this new style OS.

Can the present user market support the development costs to pay for such an undertaking; is it unreasonable for us to slap the OS developers about and tell them to do what we say? Would end users prefer it if CTL and ROL focus on stuff that immediately benefits us like USB/PCI drivers and networking and graphics facilities?

I'll leave it to you to discuss.


 is a RISC OS Userdiomus on 19/07/03 11:56PM
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Could the work done in Aemulor be used to allow current CMT apps to run in a new PMT RISC OS?

 is a RISC OS Usermavhc on 20/07/03 00:08AM
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Personally I'd love to see RO5 'ported' back to the RiscPC/A7K, if only for environmental reasons - I don't like the idea of old machines being thrown out if they are fast enough to perform the desired task - sadly most machines are thrown out because software has become less efficient.

But I think our chances of seeing an OS that can run 26-bit only, 26-/32-bit neutral AND 32-bit only code are virtually nil. RO5 only runs apps that fall into the latter two categories.

Which means that if you upgraded your RiscPC to this theoretical RO5 you would lose the ability to use those apps which are still 26-bit, eg. Impression, Sibelius, Eureka, PipeDream plus (from our feedback @ Aemulor) many lesser-known but still frequently-used apps.

You would need something akin to Aemulor that would switch the StrongARM back into 26-bit mode in order to run the 26-bit-only module/app code and then wrap SWI calls etc so that they provide the old behaviour as per RO4, eg. flag preservation and undoing the API changes that have been made in RO5...plus, callbacks from the OS to the 26-bit code would need wrapping so that the SA is switched back to 26-bit mode...

From experience I can tell you that this is no small amount of work.

For those of you who are wondering "why can't we just run RO5 + Aemulor" on our RiscPCs, Aemulor relies upon hardware features that're unique to the XScale processors...ie. not present on the StrongARM; it wouldn't be possible to emulate 26-bit code at the same speed in the StrongARM's 32-bit mode (at least, not without a radically better approach that I haven't yet thought of! ;-)

> Could the work done in Aemulor be used to allow current MT apps to run in a new PMT RISC OS?

Yes it could.... or, at least, it would help if your apps are 26-bit RO ARM code & your OS isn't ARM-based, in the sense that Aemulor provides a fair wodge of RO functionality but in portable code (C)...but, to be fair, even the latest x86 hardware can't run ARM code at speeds comparable with native hardware, with the current emulators anyway.

More directly, the problem with making a new PMT RISC OS has less to do with the apps, and more to do with the WindowManager, FileSwitch & other filing system modules plus, of course, the RISc OS kernel..... and then, after you've got that lot working, you run into 'trivial' stuff like system variables which, traditionally, have global scope and yet Obey$Dir - for example - will almost certainly cause things to break.

Adrian www.aemulor.com

PS. If ever you run out of hope, remember some folks are idiots and do things for free! ;-)

 is a RISC OS Useradrianl on 20/07/03 03:36AM
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You would only loose the ability to run 26 bit apps if RO5 were supplied on ROM, an arrangement like select could allow booting up with the system's current OS for 26 bit apps.

 is a RISC OS Userjess on 21/07/03 07:15AM
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Nobody seems to have asked about !Java ... and there's nothing in the FAQ. Anyone?

 is a RISC OS Userharmsy on 21/07/03 4:24PM
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It's most probably in the same situation as Browse - way out of date and not enough time/demand to update it.


 is a RISC OS Userdiomus on 21/07/03 4:45PM
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Has anyone heard whats happening to the legacy Acorn code that Pace had? I'm refering to such things as the BBC OS, ROMs, early RISC OS applications and the like. Does Castle have these now? Would they be willing to allow distribution of the BBC ROMs?

 is a RISC OS Useranon/ via on 22/07/03 00:22AM
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