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Apple Mac VirtualRiscPC beta on sale

Published: 17th May 2007, 17:23:08 | Permalink | Printable

But only for a lucky PowerPC few

VirtualRiscPC running on an Apple MacA port of VirtualRiscPC to Apple Mac OS X computers will be released to a select number of beta testers, it was revealed this week. VirtualAcorn said it will sell the long awaited software to hand picked punters who are able test drive the RiscPC emulator. Only PowerPC G4 and G5 owners should apply, as the company want to focus on testing the PPC engine - Apple recently switched to using Intel processors for its glossy computers.

VA's Aaron Timbrell warned that the commercial program "may not perform as expected", users are expected to provide feedback but will be offered a free upgrade to a full release.

He said: "There are a number of machines we would like to test on - and once we have those ones on board we will wait for feedback before making any more copies available.

"At the moment we really need feedback on how the PowerPC JIT in VirtualAcorn performs 'in the wild'. The Intel JIT has been extensively tested and has been in use for five years in thousands of Windows machines. So we are happy with its performance.

"What we are releasing at this point is a build based on the components that we need more data on. The PowerPC code has gone through the normal testing phase but you know the sorts of things that can turn up once software is getting used in anger.

"I can't give a timescale for the 'Universal' binary that will support both PowerPC and Intel CPUs at this point as it will depend on the feedback we get."

The port was first demonstrated in public in 2005, and it's understood a Linux version will not be considered until the Mac conversion is complete.

VirtualRiscPC author Graeme Barnes, who develops the emulator in his spare time, said: "I do wish to apologise to those potential users for raising their hopes that there would be a Mac based VirtualRiscPC long ago.

"Luckily we are now just about in a position to release it as a product but for various reasons, including saving endless hours ours of difficult support calls for Aaron, we'd like to release it as a beta to a select few customers who know what they're getting into - ie. they know RISC OS and Mac OS X and are willing to help us turn it into a robust product which we are proud to sell.

"If everything goes to plan, the Intel version will hopefully be available for purchase very soon. Unfortunately the PPC version doesn't run properly under Rosetta, so we won't be able to distribute beta versions to non-PPC users."

• On the day the Mac VirtualRiscPC beta was announced, RPCEmu developer Tom Walker uploaded improved dynamic recompiler code for his open source RiscPC emulator. The project's logs claimed: "The x86-32 version now true dynamic recompiler - speed doubled over threaded interpreter, can outpeform VirtualRPC in some stuff, such as Dhrystone."

Links

VirtualAcorn website

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Discussion

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At last!!! In may 2005 I wrote them an e-mail to get this... Now I have sent them another one with the same request. Maybe I will now have a PowerBook RPC in a few days :P

 is a RISC OS Usernervus on 17/5/07 6:10PM
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Great News :-) but I wonder why VirtualAcorn chose to support the G4 and G5 platforms now that apple has switched to Intel processors. Does anyone know when a Universal Binary version will be available? Or if VirtualRiscPC will run on intel machines using rosetta?

 is a RISC OS Userleeshep on 17/5/07 6:31PM
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leeshep: Indeed, those are my main concerns as well and I suppose of a lot of other people too.

Nonetheless this is great news in itself and something people have been asking for ever since the initial proof-of-concept version was demoed a few years ago. I wonder how much has changed since then, since this still is a beta test version. However, I find it a bit odd that the emulator requires the (still) latest version of OS X, namely 10.4 'Tiger', but only runs on machines that have been phased out last year, ergo are no longer manufactured. I'd say this significantly narrows the audience. Ofcourse, if VirtualAcorn expects people to install Windows on their Intel-based Macs just to run the software, they should realise they're taking a risk. I, for one, will definitely not install Windows just to be able to run VRPC, since OS X meets practically all my other requirements.

I spent my time about 50% on RISC OS and 50% on Mac OS X. I'm sure a lot of (ex-)RO users have opted for the Mac, since, apart from a host of other reasons, OS X has so much in common with RISC OS. I understand the argument regarding market-share well, but even if the Mac has only 5% (or whatever) that does entail millions of computers. If one then realises a relatively small number has some affinity with RISC OS, or simply are ex-RO users, that should still prove a rather significant audience for VirtualAcorn. I know for a fact a lot of people in the Netherlands (and abroad) have switched to the Mac and would like to run RISC OS every now and then. I know most of these people do not use Windows privately, nor do they have any intention of running it for various reasons. What I'm saying is that VirtualAcorn might be losing dozens of sales should they choose to stick with just a PowerPC version.

 is a RISC OS UserhEgelia on 17/5/07 9:14PM
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I too emailed Aaron about this.

From his replies I gather that the version will NOT run on intel machines, but an Intel version will follow a few months later.

I'm very please to see it. The lack of this and Select for Iyonix has put me off buying new RISC OS software recently, now I shall be planning upgrades, even if I'm unlikely to ever have a Mac suitable for the current release, I intend to get one suitable for the proper Intel release.

 is a RISC OS Userjess on 17/5/07 9:46PM
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leeshep wrote>"I wonder why VirtualAcorn chose to support the G4 and G5 platforms now that apple has switched to Intel processors"

That's actually *not* their fault. Building an emulator can't be an easy task - and VA had done much work on getting their VRPC to work on the *then* extant PowerPC based Macs - Apple unfortunately switched processors to the x86 before VA for Mac was ready. What you're seeing is the fruit of their original PowerPC development.

Given that many RISC OS users are somewhat resistant to using Windows as the underlying OS to run RISC OS under emulation on - this development from VA's viewpoint probably makes plenty of sense - it may coax a few users over to VA for running RISC OS under what they would see as the less "objectionable" Apple MacOS platform.

 is a RISC OS UserAMS on 18/5/07 1:57AM
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In reply to everybody:

I think it's probably worth me clarifying a point. We are making the beta PowerPC only at this point because that's the CPU core that we need more feedback on. The Intel JIT core for VirtualAcorn has been extensively tested and has been used in commercial products for over 5 years. The PowerPC JIT Core has never been out "in the wild" before. It's passed all our tests but there could be something we have missed so that's why we are hoping to get more feedback.

Since the "shell" around the CORE is the same for PowerPC and Intel Macs we also get testing on the GUI etc.

Anyway must go I have a show to prepare for.

 is a RISC OS UserVirtualAcorn on 18/5/07 9:10AM
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Does this suggest that VRPC for Linux may be on its way, or is that still ruled out indefinitely? So far I still have not found a single half-decent RISC PC emulator for Linux, which is very frustrating.

 is a RISC OS Usertamias on 18/5/07 10:56AM
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AMS: "That's actually not their fault. Building an emulator can't be an easy task - and VA had done much work on getting their VRPC to work on the then extant PowerPC based Macs - Apple unfortunately switched processors to the x86 before VA for Mac was ready. What you're seeing is the fruit of their original PowerPC development."

I'm sure that it isn't an easy task, but as I recall VirtualAcorn first demoed their PowerPC version of VRPC at Wakefield 2005 and it seemed quite well underway. Later in the same year Apple announced their platform switch to Intel CPU's, including all relevant technical details for developers. It's been 2 years since that initial version, so I wonder what's been going on in the meantime? I just find a commercial PPC-only emulator being sold in beta test state after 2 years a bit lacking!

"Given that many RISC OS users are somewhat resistant to using Windows as the underlying OS to run RISC OS under emulation on - this development from VA's viewpoint probably makes plenty of sense - it may coax a few users over to VA for running RISC OS under what they would see as the less "objectionable" Apple MacOS platform."

I'm sure most RISC OS users also use Windows either professionally or privately which should be reason enough for VA. I just want to point out that there's a reasonable amount of users on Mac who'd like the opportunity to run VRPC and they've already been waiting for 2 years. You can imagine a lot of these people have in the meantime bought a new Mac, which are ofcourse of the Intel variety. Personally, I find the Mac hardly 'objectionable' - moreover, I simply won't buy something if it's in any way objectionable. I believe most Mac users find their platform pretty nice, so there's nothing 'second-rate' about opting for the 'less objectionable' Mac platform to run RISC OS on.

VirtualAcorn: "I think it's probably worth me clarifying a point. We are making the beta PowerPC only at this point because that's the CPU core that we need more feedback on. The Intel JIT core for VirtualAcorn has been extensively tested and has been used in commercial products for over 5 years. The PowerPC JIT Core has never been out "in the wild" before. It's passed all our tests but there could be something we have missed so that's why we are hoping to get more feedback."

If the PowerPC version needs (more) proper testing, that's fine, but why release it for sale to the Mac public? And if the Intel JIT core is so well tested, why not release that version instead? I guess it could even be a non-beta test version, seeing the extensive period of testing. In the meantime you could let a selection of PowerPC Mac users test the PowerPC version and when it's done you could release a Universal Binary version or just sell each version separately. It seems to me you're using this as an excuse to try to make an extra buck! Well, you can imagine not many Mac users are eager to buy a beta product and simply will not buy a product if it can't run on their machines.

"Since the "shell" around the CORE is the same for PowerPC and Intel Macs we also get testing on the GUI etc."

That's nice, but secondary. A disappointing, but not unusual, attitude in the RO market seems to be that a company gets to explain their point of view and what's in it for them, but what about the end-users who'd be buying the products? Why no answer if the emulator at least works in Rosetta? You have to realise you're not simply dealing with RISC OS users here, who incidentally are quite a patient and understanding bunch, but additionally with Mac users, who typically have different standards.

 is a RISC OS UserhEgelia on 18/5/07 11:57AM
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The probelm with VA IMHO is the requirement for a copy for each machine.

I haev a Linux/win dualboot desktop PC, similar Laptop and a Mac G4 quicksilver

That is £300 approx. I know it is not VA's problem but........

boabie

 is a RISC OS Usernijinsky on 18/5/07 2:03PM
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I don't normally comment on news sites but I would like to add a little bit of reality to this thread.

Like most if not all RISC OS related companies, Virtual Acorn is small. Aaron deals with the customer facing side of things - distribution, licensing, support, shows and so on; and I write the applications. That's it. Even with such a small number of staff, the income from something like VRPC after licensing, taxes, p and p, marketing, running costs etc., is nowhere near enough to support either of us. I have a full time job and VRPC is written and maintained in my rapidly dwindling spare time - evenings, weekends and holidays.

VRPC is not a particularly complex piece of software, but it does touch on a lot of different areas, in multiple versions of multiple operating systems, and tries to make them do many things they don't really want to do. Getting it all developed, tested and working seamlessly is not easy.

I do wish to apologise to those potential users for raising their hopes that there would be a Mac based VPRC long ago. Against Aaron's better judgement, I thought it would be good to demonstrate an early development version of a product I really believed would be completed within months. Unfortunately it wasn't stable enough, and other commitments came first, and getting from there to here has been hard work.

Luckily we are now just about in a position to release it as a product but for various reasons, including saving endless hours ours of difficult support calls for Aaron, we'd like to release it as a beta to a select few customers who know what they're getting into, i.e. they know RISC OS and MAC OS X and are willing to help us turn it into a robust product which we are proud to sell.

If everything goes to plan, the Intel version will hopefully available for purchase very soon. Unfortunately the PPC version doesn't run properly under Rosetta, so we won't be able to distribute beta versions to non-PPC users.

 is a RISC OS Usergraeme on 18/5/07 2:24PM
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In reply to hEgelia: I updated the website this morning to say that the curent beta VRPC for the mac does not run under Rosetta.

 is a RISC OS UserVirtualAcorn on 18/5/07 2:57PM
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Graeme:

Thanks for this - I can appreciate, and sympathise, with the points you raise. I suspect every remaining commercial software outfit catering for RISC OS users (R-Comp and MW Software are the only other ones I can think of right now) have the same wafer-thin margins and difficult operating conditions.

I must say, when the ROOL project was originally launched (seems like years ago now) I did wonder whether using an open-source OS rather than paying ROL a licence fee was a good strategy for you guys. It may be that the open source project will never come off, and political factors probably complicate matters. But, in theory, it seemed to make sense.

 is a RISC OS Userlym on 18/5/07 3:08PM
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graeme: "Like most if not all RISC OS related companies, Virtual Acorn is small. Aaron deals with the customer facing side of things - distribution, licensing, support, shows and so on; and I write the applications. That's it. Even with such a small number of staff, the income from something like VRPC after licensing, taxes, p and p, marketing, running costs etc., is nowhere near enough to support either of us. I have a full time job and VRPC is written and maintained in my rapidly dwindling spare time - evenings, weekends and holidays."

I've been using RISC OS practically since the beginning, I really know how the market has shrunk and how most RO companies are managed nowadays. I do respect that choice, but you have to realise that you're still part of a commercial business which has to have a certain standard. People involved in such companies cannot hide behind the state and psychology of the market they're representing, certainly not in your case when dealing with the much larger and professional PC and Mac markets. Still, I'm familiar with what's involved, since two friends actually do the same and work their ars*s off. It's tough, but it really doesn't help when a potential customer visits a website and notices a poorly presented software company with a decidedly dated web-design, which releases paid-for beta's. I'm sorry, but in this day and age that's just a sign something's not right. Even many websites representing FOSS projects have a more professional image, which is what commercial developments are more and more up against. When I look at MW Software's website I see an interesting business with a very appealing product, which is thoroughly documented. If I'm not mistaken, it's run by one man, who also does other work. I have a friend who solely runs a record label, produces and releases music and is one of the head programmers at a large cultural centre/club. He does occasionally have a hard time with it, but he manages and in the end it was a conscious choice.

"VRPC is not a particularly complex piece of software, but it does touch on a lot of different areas, in multiple versions of multiple operating systems, and tries to make them do many things they don't really want to do. Getting it all developed, tested and working seamlessly is not easy."

I understand that, but I can only assume others have been there and others will in the future. It's part of the choice you made when starting out the project.

"I do wish to apologise to those potential users for raising their hopes that there would be a Mac based VPRC long ago. Against Aaron's better judgement, I thought it would be good to demonstrate an early development version of a product I really believed would be completed within months. Unfortunately it wasn't stable enough, and other commitments came first, and getting from there to here has been hard work."

Thanks, I do appreciate your candour.

"Luckily we are now just about in a position to release it as a product but for various reasons, including saving endless hours ours of difficult support calls for Aaron, we'd like to release it as a beta to a select few customers who know what they're getting into, i.e. they know RISC OS and MAC OS X and are willing to help us turn it into a robust product which we are proud to sell."

With 'release it' you actually mean 'sell it', which I find rather inappropriate considering the product is simply not yet ready and cannot be properly supported. However, if people are willing to help you guys out and pay for being a beta tester, that's just wonderful. I'm sure we've all seen that before with a certain other RISC OS company. Trust me, ultimately this road is a dead-end.

"If everything goes to plan, the Intel version will hopefully available for purchase very soon. Unfortunately the PPC version doesn't run properly under Rosetta, so we won't be able to distribute beta versions to non-PPC users."

That's good news. Typically, here you name it 'distribute' beta versions, while they're simply sold to users, whereas you refer to the Intel version as becoming available for purchase. Anyway, my question remains - why, when the x86 JIT code has been extensively tested by many Windows users over the years, has the PowerPC beta version been released for sale? I think it could have been a better move to first release a dependable Intel Mac version, while the PPC version is tested in the meantime and released later. It could even be sold separately, i.e. no Universal Binary, and priced according to the amount of time and effort that went into it.

VirtualAcorn: That's nice, thank you. A small tip; I think you've copied and pasted the PC story, since underneath the screenshot it reads "VirtualRPC-Adjust turns your PC into ...". Strictly speaking a Mac is a PC, but a PC is commonly recognised as something that runs Windows as standard. It's rather trivial, I know, but I figure every little polish helps. Perhaps you can update the intro / front-page of the site later, to reflect the emulator will now also run on a Mac, not just a Windows PC anymore? Frankly, the site also looks kind of cheesy (especially with the initial RISC OS 3-like Boot-up screen), but I figure that's something for later.

 is a RISC OS UserhEgelia on 18/5/07 5:38PM
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In reply to hEgelia: Thanks for spotting the "PC" that should have been a "Mac". I've just fixed it. The front page with the RISC OS 3 style banner is deliberate as it's the design that most ex Acorn users remember. With regard to some of your other comments, we aren't forcing anyone to but the beta. A full version will be along when it's ready, but people keep asking to buy a version, even if it is beta, so as we are now in a position to do so, that's what we are doing.

I would be happy to take a look at your proposed redesign for the website, but as Graeme has pointed out we won't be able to pay you for it.

 is a RISC OS UserVirtualAcorn on 18/5/07 7:47PM
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Argh, just as I'd decided not to buy a PowerBook as they don't dual boot Linux very well, along comes a Mac VARPC! Back to the decision-making process for me.....

I wonder if it will work on my regular PC that runs MacOSX under VMWare, or hopefully a Linux version will come along soon (hehe, maybe even for the PPC-based PS3 that runs Linux).

I can't believe VA even wasted their time working on a PPC version. Pretty much all Mac users I know have already ditched their G4's (dunno anyone with a G5, they're all laptop people). I'd have thought the MacIntel version would be an easy enough rebuild, but porting to PPC, wow!

 is a RISC OS Usersimo on 19/5/07 1:45PM
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VirtualAcorn: Thanks again. I can understand why you've chosen the RO3 banner when entering the site, but wouldn't most ex-Acorn users simply know what they're dealing with when seeing the 'VirtualAcorn' name and logo? This start-up banner is making an amateurish impression, in my humble opinion; It's quite cheesy and besides it's RO Adjust or RO SIX nowadays. But, it's your choice ofcourse! I guess many elderly gentlemen could find it amusing.

I certainly understand you wouldn't be forcing anyone to buy the beta, moreover you make a proper disclaimer, so that's all fine. I guess yesterday I was uncomfortably reminded of how certain things get done more and more in this little market. In the end, finally making clear to the public that there really is a Mac version and it's getting developed is a Good Thing, just please be aware that you're targeting a different kind of audience now with many ex-Acorn (or other interested) users who have not kept up-to-date on RO affairs in many years and are used to different standards. I do hope the Intel version won't take too long, because that's where the focus is at in the Mac market - it's pretty amazing how swift the PPC to Intel transition has gone, both from Apple and from their customers.

I'm sorry if I gave the impression that I was personally willing to redesign your site; that was not my intention, only to suggest it could really help the company's image. There are many excellent site designers around, so perhaps you could make a deal where the designer gets a free copy of the software you're selling? Anyway, have a nice day at Wakefield!

 is a RISC OS UserhEgelia on 19/5/07 2:50PM
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It would be really handy to know what current Mac machines the Virtual Acorn release will cater for (the Intel rather than G4)?

It gives people a chance to shop for a better deal before the release and pick up a bargain should one be on offer.

With my wife retired and now competing for machine time we need another. I'n reluctant to buy a second Iyonix at this late stage (hoping that an Iyonix 2 may eventually appear) but the portability of a laptop based version of RO (even through emulation) would suit us. (not if it is connected to 'Windoze' however)

 is a RISC OS Userrmac on 19/5/07 4:11PM
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My G5 iMac is less than two years old and I really couldn't afford to replace it when the intel Macs were announced only three months or so after I bought it!

I've installed VirtualRPC (I got copy number 3 - can't believe two people beat me!) and will be phoning tomorrow for an unlock code. Thoroughly looking to being able to run all my favourite software on one computer rather than leaning across from the Iyonix to the iMac.

 is a RISC OS Usercables on 20/5/07 4:07PM
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In reply to Simo,

I think you will find a lot of Mac users holding back on upgrading to the Intel machines until Adobe come up with a native version of Photoshop etc. I know we are waiting for that as well as the next version of the OS.

 is a RISC OS UserEddie on 26/5/07 7:32PM
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In reply to Eddie

PhotoShop CS3 for the Mac is out.

 is a RISC OS UserEasyKees on 26/5/07 10:06PM
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