Simtec have announced that they have released re-programmable extension ROMs for the RiscStation R7500. What this means is that for just 20 of your earth pounds (inc. VAT and postage) RiscStation owners get something to slot into their third ROM socket that provides a 2MB non-volatile storage device for, um, storing useful stuff in it. CTA Direct and Stuart Tyrrell Developments will have them for sale at the show (that's tomorrow folks!)
Snafu in action
The main purpose will probably be for storing cut down Boot sequences for discless network machines, or for storing modules. You can install your own modules easily with the amusingly-monikered application Snafu (Simtec Non-specific Advanced Flash Utility).
I came up against a similar thing when playing around with 100bT network cards on a RiscPC 600 - they wouldn't boot without the MBufManager module loaded, but because it can't be killed once up and running ArgoNet's Voyager had unplugged it to softload a newer version - okay for desktop usage, but not in a pre-bootup sequence. The most elegant answer? Store a copy of the new MBufManager in the network cards own sideways ROM. It does mean some of your most precious resources are always available, even without a hard drive.
Snafu was the program to use in this case also. Which means that, although this announcement says RiscStation, the Simtec Net100 card gives 512KB of storage for RiscPC users, making it an even better buy than I first thought; but there's more. The press release also has an interesting tidbit about another product - Snafu also works with the "Forthcoming USB podule", implying that USB upgrade is apparently closer than some people think. For those of you still in doubt... a very naff picture.
New Simtec toy - sideways ROMs for RiscStations (and others?
Message #91037, posted at 13:15, 17/5/2002, in reply to message #91036
Surely these 'extension ROMs' are not 'sideways ROMs'?! Doesn't the term 'sideways' come from the BBC micro and refer to the 16k banks that were switched (because, in the memory map, they would be placed 'on the side', as addresses were shared).
Message #91048, posted at 14:58, 19/5/2002, in reply to message #91047
Some of the system modules could go in the flash/sideways ROM/whatever. Either enough to get simple stuff running, or just a few of the most commonly used ones.
One thing worth noting: I've since been emailed by someone involved in the project and the RiscStation version runs modules in place - meaning that they don't eat up RAM when they're loaded/used. So it's even more worthwhile putting the latest versions of the most commonly used modules in there.