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Article archives

Own a Unique Silver Deuce Case... for Charity

Posted by Steve Fryatt on 23:50, 1/9/2020 | , ,
 
A special announcement from WROCC:
Along with the more obvious problems associated with the cancellation of
this year's Wakefield Acorn & RISC OS Computer Show came two less expected
ones.

As befitted the 25th show organised by the Wakefield RISC OS Computer Club,
Andy Marks of RISCOSbits had produced us a very special silver edition Deuce
case for the first prize in the raffle that we had intended to hold. With no
show and no raffle, the Club is now in possession of a totally unique, and
very special item.

The case is silver coloured, with the Club's acorn logo on the lid, and the
Wakefield 2020 (25 years) show banner engraved on the side. It is designed
to take a Raspberry Pi 3+, and comes with an adaptor plate for a Pi 4.

Details and photos can be found at:

https://www.wrocc.org.uk/silver-deuce

The loss of the show also meant that we were unable to organise our regular
Charity Stall in support of Wakefield Hospice. Over the years the stall has
raised in excess of 20,000 to support their work, and at a time when
COVID-19 is having a great impact on charities, it was a shame not to be
able to add to that figure.

To this end, the Club will be listing the silver edition case for auction on
eBay on Thursday 3rd September, with the specific intention of raising money
for Wakefield Hospice. The retail price of the standard case is 30, but
given the unique nature of this particular one, we are very much hoping that
we can raise even more for the Hospice.

We would like to think that those who bid on the case and fail to win would
consider donating a similar amount in order to support the important work of
the Hospice in its 30th anniversary year at this difficult time. This can be
done via our JustGiving page, which passes the money direct to the Hospice:

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/wakefield-2020

In addition, donations from all members of the RISC OS community will be
gratefully received.

The Club would like to thank all of our exhibitors and visitors at past
Wakefield Shows, and hope that we will be able to see you all again in
person in April 2021.

 
1 comment in the forums

R-Comp releases new 17inch RISCBook laptop

Posted by Mark Stephens on 08:21, 5/11/2019 |
 
R-CompInfo had so many exciting developments at the recent London Show that you may have missed the other new laptop on their stand.
 
Continue reading "R-Comp releases new 17inch RISCBook laptop" | Comment in the forums

Elesar bring Wifi networking to your RISC OS Pi

Posted by Mark Stephens on 08:43, 23/10/2019 | ,
 
One of the great pleasures of writing for The Icon Bar (beyond the high salary, job security, long lunch breaks and editorial freedom) is when a package arrives in the post for review. While software can be sent via email, there is still a certain satisfying thud when an item of hardware arrives for review.

This time it the latest cool offering from Elesar, who have produced the WIFI HAT - a hardware plugin for a RaspberryPi running RISC OS which provides wifi support for RISC OS itself.
 
Continue reading "Elesar bring Wifi networking to your RISC OS Pi" | 10 comments in the forums

R-Comp releases 2 new machines at SW show

Posted by Mark Stephens on 08:12, 22/3/2019 | ,
 
One of the big draws at the South-West Show was the chance to actually try (and see and touch!) 2 new RISC OS machines on the R-CompInfo stand.
 
Continue reading "R-Comp releases 2 new machines at SW show" | 9 comments in the forums

A new monitor for my RISC OS and Mac systems

Posted by Mark Stephens on 08:53, 8/6/2018 |
 
Recently I decided to upgrade my monitors. I have a MacBook Pro laptop and I have 2 monitors - one at work which runs my laptop (replacing a 27 inch 10 year old Apple work monitor) and one for home also hosts my RaspberryPi and Titanium. I wanted a high resolution (3840 x 2160 for work) monitor which would also play nicely with my other machines.

The latest Macs use Apple's USB-C connections. You can buy adapters for connecting in other types of connector such as HDMI or you can now buy monitors which have a USB-C connector. Apple offers an LG monitor which provides 5K and can also power the computer and handle the display on a single cable. If money is no object, you want an uncluttered desk and a 'to die for' screen quality on the latest Macs, the LG UltraFine 5K Display is the current top option.

Not only is this monitor very expensive but it will not work on my RISC OS kit as it only has a USB-C input.... One monitor which has also had a lot of very favourable press coverage is another LG model (27UD88-W). This is much more affordable (under 500 pounds), has USB-C input (not powerful enough to act as a power supply as well but fine to drive a 4K display), and also allows for HDMI and DP-IN as well. There are even a couple of old style USB ports for good measure. So how well does this model work for all the machines?

Very well is the short answer. The screen quality is great and you can have all the machines power up and then switch between them. The 27UD88-W has a single joystick type control under the screen and (IMHO) this is one of the nicest switches I have used on monitors - 2 clicks and I am on a different screen. The screen is ultra-sharp on both the Mac and the lower resolution Titanium 1920 x 1200 display.

One word of caution on moving up to a higher resolution screen. My combined switch box (which allows me to share screen and keyboard/mouse through one switch box) does not work on the higher resolution screens. So if you are using a switch box, you may want to verify what it can support.

A really nice feature of the higher resolution screen is that you have your other machines accessible via VNC. This also gives you some idea of the extra 'real estate' the monitors can give you if you are working on a Mac.

If you are looking for a godo quality monitor to provide a high resolution display, which also plays well with your RISC OS kit, the LG 27UD88-W should be one of your shortlist.




 
1 comment in the forums

RC15 bring RISC OS to any Raspberry Pi

Posted by Mark Stephens on 08:52, 6/5/2017 | , ,
 



As ROOL had hinted in the run-up to the show, Wakefield 2017 saw the long-awaited release of RC15.

RC15 (RC stands for release candidate) was the official release of RISC OS to run on the Raspberry Pi 3. All the issues found in RC14 have been fixed and this version is now considered stable and reliable to run. RC14 was actually fairly good but several 3rd party applications (which are shipped with RISC OS) did not. There are actually a lot of changes in RC15 (it is an ePic release) which you can read on the changelog.

It is still RISC OS 5.23 (so officially no new features) but it has needed a lot of changes to make it run on the latest version of the Raspberry Pi. The hardware used has changed significantly in this new model and this required some updates to the code to make it work correctly. In particular, it uses a different ARM chip (Cortex-A53) which no longer allows some 'old' ways of doing things. This does not effect BASIC code, and C code needs a recompile. ARM code is more messy as it needs to be updated if it still uses these old methods. Otherwise the software will crash. And much RISC OS software is still written in ARM assembly code. We have been playing this catch-up game for many years (remember moving to 32bit for the same reason).

The release is important because it once again means RISC OS can run on the whole range of Raspberry Pi machines.

Setting up RISC OS on the RaspberryPi 3 is a bit of an anti-climax... I plugged the SD card in, switched on and it all booted straight into the RISC OS desktop. It even autamatically setup my a network connection for me. A quick screen resolution change, and I was up and running....

RISC OS is available for the Raspberry Pi in 3 ways:-
1. You can download the SD card image and copy it onto your own SSD card for free from ROOL.
2. You can buy an SD card already setup from the ROOL store.
3. You can buy an SD card containing both RISC OS and all the software on the Nut Pi together on an extra large, superfast SD card from the ROOL store.

RISC OS does not really make much use of the extra features so it is not worth upgrading to a Raspberry Pi 3 for a faster RISC OS experience. Where you will see a real benefit is in running other Operating Systems (which can make use of the 64bit chip and multi-threading). This is the first Raspberry Pi which I feel runs Raspbian (the office Linux release) well enough for my personal real, everyday usage. I actually have my Raspberry Pi 3 mostly setup as a Linux machine to use as a web browser (it now includes Chrome) and run Open Office (easily accessed from my RISC OS machines using VNC).

The Raspberry Pi is an amazing phenomenon and it is great to see our favourite OS available for all the versions and providing a really cheap entry point for RISC OS and a whole new generation with the chance to try RISC OS.

ROOL official announcement

Raspberry Pi website


 
4 comments in the forums

Native versus emulation in 2016 (Part 2)

Posted by Mark Stephens on 09:47, 16/12/2016 | , ,
 
In part 1 we outline our plans to pit a Titanium (running RISC OS 5) against VirtualRPC (running RISC OS 6) on the latest MacBookPro laptop. Here are the scores, Titanium first each time.

Titanium versus VirtualRPC

Processor - Looped instructions (cache)
3762909 2115%, 524989 295%
Memory - Multiple register transfer
27373 16896%, 9184 5669%
Rectangle Copy - Graphics acceleration test
3253 1344%, 3067 1267%
Icon Plotting - 16 colour sprite with mask
42279 2113%, 26035 1301%
Draw Path - Stroke narrow line
11622 745%, 5337 342%
Draw Fill - Plot filled shape
17204 1179%, 6021 412%
HD Read - Block load 8MB file
115924 3887%, 608316 20399%
HD Write - Block save 8MB file
84216 2769%, 530070 17430%
FS Read - Byte stream file in
2493 1204%, 2634 1272%
FS Write - Byte stream file out
2553 1329%, 1170 609%

The 2.9gig Intel processor is not quick enough as an emulator to outperform a 1.5gig ARM chip on the Titanium but they said the new Macs have very fast SSD drives and that gives the Emulator an edge on block filesystem operations. You can compare these figures with those on Chris Hall's website (and try the tests yourself).

Does RISC OS performance on the MacBookPro vary if you run fullscreen or from battery?

A second question I posed last time was whether there would be any changes. Let us run it 3 times (in a window, in fullscreen mode and in fullscreen mode unplugged to see)...

Processor - Looped instructions (cache)
525238 295%, 522668 293%, 522822 293%
Memory - Multiple register transfer
9090 5611%, 9370 5783%, 9160 5654%
Rectangle Copy - Graphics acceleration test
2947 1217%, 2913 1203%, 2899 1197%
Icon Plotting - 16 colour sprite with mask
20316 1015%, 20308 1015%, 24903 1245%
Draw Path - Stroke narrow line
5396 345%, 5531 354%, 5457 349%
Draw Fill - Plot filled shape
5994 410%, 6098 417%, 6045 414%
HD Read - Block load 8MB file
592095 19855%, 559651 18767%, 567762 19039%
HD Write - Block save 8MB file
481882 15846%, 527207 17336%, 522039 17166%
FS Read - Byte stream file in
2593 1252%, 2657 1283%, 2653 1281%
FS Write - Byte stream file out
1141 594%, 1168 608%, 1192 620%

So no notable differences between modes.

Conclusions
This article was partly intended as a bit of Christmas entertainment and the advantages will vary with your exact usage or requirements (the Mac laptop does use a lot more power for example, whereas the VirtualRPC solutions does provide a 'free' Apple Mac as part of the package). And you could always run Jeffrey Lee's excellent VNC server with the free VNC viewer built into the Mac as another combination.

Is this a fair test? Mazzeo's Law says that the answer to any big question is 'It all depends'. It will not give a true answer for every single use case but I would argue that it is a 'valid' test in that it makes a reasonable and repeatable comparison. The Acorn Emulator offers several different chip emulations (700,7500, StrongArm) and may well be better suited to colour modes with less than 16M colours. Stay tuned for Part 3 which will see if these result in a faster Acorn experience (or feel free to test yourself)...

My main conclusion is that both my systems offer a very viable RISC OS solution which allows me to use my favourite operating system at home (my Titanium) or on the move (my laptop).

And in the future...
I generally replace my work Mac every 2-3 years and the rumour mills like to speculate that Apple may move to ARM chips in the future. At the moment, Apple uses Intel chips, and you can currently use a program called BootCamp to intall Windows directly onto Apple Laptops. Commerial software from VMware, and Parallels, and the free VirtualBox allow you to create virtual machines using the Intel hardware. This is much faster as it does not have to emulate another chip. Running RISC OS on a high end ARM laptop with a solution like this would be very appealing....
 
3 comments in the forums

Native versus emulation for running RISC OS in 2017 (Part 1)

Posted by Mark Stephens on 10:49, 7/12/2016 | , ,
 
This old chestnut has been around for many years now, and I think it always will be. But Christmas is a time for chestnuts, so let us see if we can put a new Iconbar spin on it by comparing the latest Apple and Elesar hardware for a 2016/7 take on the question....

I have both a shiny new TiMachine (using the Titanium motherboard) and a snazzy new MacBookPro on my desk which I am going to pit against each other. This article is split into 2 parts. In part 1, I am going to explain all the details and part 2 will give you the actual results.

RISC OS on native ARM hardware
ARM options have exploded in the last few years and you now have a wide range of machines on which RISC OS can be run directly (RapberryPi, Pandaboard, ARMX6, IPEGv5, Titanium). Exact performance will vary between machines and also depend on the type of disk you have (SD card, Zip drive, SSD drive).

If you are upgrading from a RISC PC or Iyonix, all of them will give you a welcome speed boost. I have several RaspberryPis, a Panda and a TiMachine and they all provide solid platforms for running RISC OS.

RISC OS on a MacBookPro
The latest version of the high end Apple laptop was released in October 2016. They added some additional features to excite/annoy you (touch sensitive screen to replace function keys, only USB-C sockets). The current machines use Intel processors (Skylake release) with fast RAM and SSD drives. So RISC OS is run using an emulator program (running on macOS) which converts ARM code into Intel code. There are ways to speed this up, but it is slower than it would be if running on ARM directly. The critical question is whether the faster speed of the Intel processor can compensate for the extra work involved.

If you want to run RISC OS on Mac you have a choice of the commercial VirtualRPC (which runs RISC OS 4/6) and the free RPCEmu (runs RISC OS 5). Both programs emulate a complete RISC OS machine (either running full-screen or in a Window) which can also access the macOS filing system. I find VirtualRPC to be faster in my tasks so I will be using that for this comparison.

How to compare?
We are going you use the benchmark program ROMark which you can find on Chris Hall's excellent website, where he has lots of data on performance for different machine running RISC OS. Any benchmark is going to be a proxy because everyone will use their machines in different ways and it does not include details which may be important (such as power usage, budget, need for speed, personal sentiment, etc). VirtualRPC cannot do 1920x1200pixels in 16 million colours, so we will use 1680x1050pixels in all tests to provide a common reference. The tests give very slightly different results on each run but are reasonably close each time.

It does give us a fairly good proxy for comparing different machines in a reasonably consistent way. It will also allow us to look at several options, particularly on the MacBookPro. Is RISC OS faster in full-screen or window mode? What happens if we are on batter power? We will be finding out...

See you in Part 2 for some numbers. Anyone prepared to make any bets?
 
9 comments in the forums

First Impressions of RComp's TiMachine

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