MicroDigital's Omega prioritiesBy Chris Williams. Published: 8th Apr 2004, 04:54:45 | Permalink | Printable
Faster and better, sounds like a planMicroDigital stated on their website yesterday their six priorities for the Omega: in order, ethernet networking, XScale second processor support, USB, the user manual, graphics acceleration and finally SCSI. It's interesting to note that MicroDigital have placed XScale support above USB, although the company points out that some of these developments "are being progressed in parallel".
The writer behind MicroDigital's latest news update concludes, "My feeling is that in the real world, the 600MHz Iyonix is still overall a little faster than the 300MHz Omega. Hopefully our next upgrade will overtake them and we still have the XScale to look forward to."
Bandwidth, bandwidth, bandwidth
The news release mainly attempts to argue MicroDigital's claim that the Omega's design will afford sufficient bandwidth to both the StrongARM processor and their custom video chipset, allowing the processor to run at full capacity whilst the video system provides a suitably high resolution. Also, MicroDigital are waiting to release version 15 of their FPGA based chipset's configuration to end users, which will (according to MicroDigital) increase the efficiency of the Omega's memory system.
"What has also become apparent is that there is a performance drop when using high resolution modes with true colour," MicroDigital concedes. "Our critics have said that there is not enough bandwidth available to support both video and the CPU. In practice, they vastly over-estimate the amount of bandwidth the StrongARM is capable of using, so in fact there should be some spare."
MicroDigital seem remarkably upbeat regarding RISC OS Adjust, the forthcoming ROM release from RISCOS Ltd. Having confirmed that the Omega is compatible with the 26-bit operating system, MicroDigital commented: "This new RISC OS really looks a winner. Once you have used it, you won't go back to RISC OS 4.0."
As for USB, it's still not quite there although they have reportedly finished the low level software that sits between the actual Simtec USB stack and the USB controller electronics. MicroDigital have, oddly enough, left the ball in Simtec's court by saying the release of Omega USB support is down to "how busy [Simtec] are with other work". We have to wonder why Simtec should be expected to govern MicroDigital's software release policy, but it probably makes sense to someone, somewhere, hopefully. MicroDigital have also sent the finished Omega user guide to the printers, which will be distributed to existing users.
The more vocal users of the RISC OS world are divided into two camps: those who oppose MicroDigital and those who apologise for them. Depending on where you stand, yesterday's progress update will either be a new act of gospel or another round of FUD. Heaven forbid that you might have a reasonable opinion of it all that lies somewhere in between.
The comments on the Omega memory system seem rational enough, but when you consider that with the StrongARM and video system competing there "should be some spare" bandwidth, how will the Omega design cope with that plus an XScale fitted? We also spotted the low blow regarding "earlier integrated [XScale] designs", as it seems MicroDigital can't quite let go of the fact that the Iyonix uses an integrated XScale processor. Yes, the early PXA XScales were allegedly a little dubious, however the Iyonix uses the IOP XScale range. Perhaps MicroDigital were referring to the fact that mass produced chips have bugs (shock!) and that the Yorkshire based hardware developer can afford the luxury of re-programming the Omega's FPGA chipset if a fault or bug slips into their designs.
One other thing is the mentioning of benchmarks, especially Steffen Huber's famous Iyonix vs. Omega comparison. While MicroDigital claim "the Omega out performed the competition", Steffen's own statistics reveal that the 600MHz XScale powered Iyonix slam dunked the 300Mhz StrongARM equipped Omega on every test. The RISC OS Mark results more or less echo Steffen's findings, apart from particular memory and filesystem accesses.
The important thing to remember though is that MicroDigital is communicating again, whichever way you look at it, and with a moderately realistic progress report that tells us what's done. It tries its best not to speculate too much on the future, as predicting the future isn't something MicroDigital are renowned for. If you ignore the odd typo and grammar error (becoz nobodies' perfekt), yesterday's news release is a far cry from previous announcements and self destructive Usenet posts to escape from MicroDigital and on to the 'net.
"Omega developments" - new tagline, hitting the nail on the head, Omega the expandable computer
Previous Omega progress report and Omegas being assembled
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