PCI is go for RiscPCs, A7000sBy Chris Williams. Published: 15th Sep 2003, 15:53:09 | Permalink | Printable
Windfall stuffs even more into faithful old kitPCI is now possible on the RiscPC architecture, thanks to Windfall Engineering's latest product - PCIFace. Cramming an AGP interface onto the Acorn podule bus was clearly not enough, now RiscPC and A7000 users can fit a podule-bus-to-PCI bridge interface.
PCIFace appears to work in a similar way to the Viewfinder graphics card, namely by acting as a hardware layer in between an off the shelf, industry standard PCI card and the internal podule bus. Software developers can then write the driver software so that the fitted PCI card can be used from RISC OS. Each card is supplied with documentation and supporting code.
Windfall Engineer's John Kortink told us that the PCIFace card is suitable for individual users who want to produce a one off driver for a particular PCI card they might have their heart set on. The card is also just as suitable for 3rd party developers who can develop drivers for PCI cards and, for instance, resell PCIFace cards with the driver software to end users.
"PCIFace will be available in bulk (at bulk prices) for other developers to bundle with their particular PCI solutions, or they can simply refer end users to buy their PCIFace direct from Windfall and just ship their PCI card + driver", John explained to drobe.co.uk.
It's also worth noting that the programming API for PCIFace isn't compatible with the published Castle PCI API. This, of course, further widens the gap between the Iyonix and RiscPC architectures, unless someone develops a suitable software layer to convert one API into another.
"It's unlikely compatibility will be strived for now or in the future", John added when we asked about the possibility of PCI API compatibility.
"One reason is that PCIFace doesn't really need any OS support (memory allocation etc.) since every PCIFace will simply be (exclusively) allocated the 16 MB EASI space of the podule slot it's in (like any regular podule would)."
Two PCIFace cards are available, one with DMA capability and one without. The DMA enabled card can shift data at a top speed of about 8 MB/sec, according to Windfall.
The development of the PCIFace card buys the Acorn era kit some more time by enabling legacy RiscPCs and A7000s to embrace the PCI standard which only really recently arrived at the doorstep of RISC OS. We'd love to see something like Simon Wilson's gradually-getting-there Iyonix PCI TV card driver, but for the RiscPC, however there's the slight problem of there being no where to sensibly overlay the captured frames.
Even so, there's still a great many possibilities in terms of PCI cards that could be supported. A RiscPC with USB, AGP and PCI support? What more could possibly be crammed in? What PCI cards would you like to see supported on RISC OS?
PCI and RISC OS in detail
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