Net.News May 1998

This site supports Convergence


What's new?

Our mission

Who are Topix?

Acorn freeware

The beta area


  • May 1998




Last month's rumour has now been officially confirmed: there is a RISC OS portable under development and not by Acorn. It's still unclear however who is producing the new portable and although it will probably still be a while until it goes into production a prototype version will most likely be on display at the Wakefield show.

To quote from last month's Net.News "Rumours have reached Tower Electronics that a 3rd party Acorn developer (known for their storagemedia - even from the times of the BBC) together with a large company from the far East (a well known camera's and photocopier company) have financed the development of a new Acorn RISC OS laptop, based on an ARM7500 or comparable chipset." The company from the far East could well be Canon. But what if Tower Electronic's source misunderstood certain things and the company involved isn't Canon, but rather Cannon (with two N's) ? Why should this be? Well, Cannon is a large Acorn dealer from the London area which has Cumana as a trademark (and daughtercompany?). Cumana has been known since the early eighties as an Acorn hardware developer... We'll just have to wait for the Wakefield show, which now seems a lot more interesting than Acorn World, to find out who's really behind this new laptop. Until that time, if anybody has better theories as to who might be the mysterious two, please let us know!


Whilst Acorn is busy developing the RiscPC II, Chalice Technology which is a joint venture of Causaltiy Limited and Simtec Electronics Limited, has developed their own motherboard based upon the StrongARM processor. This board named "CATS" has two 66MHz SDRAM sockets, UltraDMA-33 IDE, 2 USB ports, 3 PCI and 4 ISA slots and some other interesting abbrevations which I am not going to all write down here ;-)

The system can be supplied as either a development board or as a complete desktop machine costing some 700 UKP. Both versions come supplied with a version of NetBSD. Some people might now think it might be nice to just add some RISC OS ROM chips to the "CATS" desktop machine and so build a very cheap RiscPC II. However nice the idea might be it's not that easy as it looks, if only due to the absence of dedicated Acorn hardware like VIDC, IOMD etc.

Causility Limited being the makers of RiscBSD it's no coincidence that NetBSD is supplied with the boards... All in all it's a very intereseting product.

ARM recently announced the ARM9 processor. However, this one might just get some competition, ... in the form of the Amulet3.

Amulet is an EU financed project of the University of Manchester where asynchronised versions of ARM processors are developed. An asynchronised processor is a chip without a clock whose speed is only limited by its slowest component, but more importantly, by the slowest component in use. That is, the speed of an instruction is limited by the slowest component of the chip needed for that instruction! Another advantage is the low power consumption of asynchronised processors as parts which aren't being used dissapate almost no energy at all.

The Amulet team is being led by professor Steve Furber, who also participated in the development of the original ARM processor. Amulet1 was an asynchronised ARM2, Aumlet2 was an asynchronised ARM6 and the Amulet3 now is an asynchronised version of the ARM7 Thumb core. The speed of the Amulet3 will be comparable with the ARM9 with both processors producing at least some 100MIPS. The Amulet3 is also suitable for mass production.


Frobnicate, which up till now was only spread as an Ovation file, will soon be available in PostScript format. Good news for people who do not own Ovation or Ovation reader.

IconizeBar is a program written by Kees Grinwis and is a replacement of the standard Pinboard iconize-function. Instead of the iconized windows being spread all over your backdrop IconizeBar collects them into one window for easier, faster access. IconizeBar is shareware and can be downloaded from the Tabsoft website.

Aleph one has released a 32bit CD-ROM driver for PC cards. The new driver solves the problems which people encountered using "Joliet" format CD-ROM's. This format was conjured up by Microsoft to support long filenames. The new driver also supports auto-insert and auto-run and can be freely downloaded from http://www.aleph1.co.uk/32bitCDROM.html. Note that this driver needs !PC v2.00 or newer (i.e. 'PCPro') and Windows 95.

If you have some questions regarding Acorn machines, but you also suspect that they have been asked and especially answered before then take a look at http://www.geocities.com/~banksp/Archives/FAQ/FaqHTML.html What you'll find there is the Comp.Sys.Acorn FAQ, which stands for Frequently Asked Questions. The Comp.Sys.Acorn FAQ contains a lot of valuable information for both people who only recently started using Acorns and for hardcore Acorn phreax, with answered questions ranging from "What is an Acorn machine" and "What are the main new features of RISC OS 3" to "How can I get unfiltered sound from an Acorn machine" and "Why does the serial port not work after using the PC card?". So, before bombarding the Comp.Sys.Acorn Usenet groups with 'standard' questions, please check out the FAQ.

!PDF, a program by Leo Smiers which lets you view Portable Document Files has now reached version 0.72a. It now supports URL's and public coded PDF files, i.e. files that don't need a password. The application is based on xpdf 0.71a, which on its own already introduces some improvements over earlier versions. You can also download Antiword, a program which converts MS Word files to plain text, from the same site.

All kinds of documentation on the BBC, including the complete User Guide, can now be found on "The BBC lives!" webpages.

In a few weeks time a couple of games currently available for Acorn machines will be released for the Netstation (Acorn NC). These games include amongst others Starfighter 3000, Elite, Cannon Fodder, Doom, Alone in the Dark and Sensible Soccer. In the early summer the Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator, better known as MAME will also be released for the Netstation, thereby adding some 300 classic video games to the Netstation's games-list.


R-Comp interactive who were responsible for the offical release of Doom for the Acorn platform have suggested that people do not buy the PC version of Quake but to rather hold on for just a little longer. People might find this curious as Martin Piper of TBA Software has announced the release of an Acorn version of Quake some time ago now, which should be bugfree and finished in time for the Wakefield show. However, rumours have it that R-Comp and TBA Software will release Acorn Quake in a joint-venture, with R-Comp taking care of the licensing and TBA providing the software. Doom clone Eternal Destiny should also finally see the day of light at Wakefield. Oh well, we'll just have to wait and see...

People already playing Quake over the Internet may possibly find the following programs of some use, QServer 1.12b and QTalk 1.01. QServer can be used to gather information from Quake servers and provides an easier configuration of Internet Quake. Its functionality resembles that of QSpy/GameSpy for the PC. QTalk integrates with QServer and allows you to chat on a quake server through a WIMP front-end. Both programs can be downloaded from http://wkweb5.cableinet.co.uk/a.j.eagle/soft.html.


R-Comp is also releasing a new version of WebsterXL. This Internet browser now has support for JavaScript. JavaScript is _not_ the same as Java, and apart from both lending their name from an island these two have very few in common. But, as more and more sites are using this Netscape invented scriptinglangue to enhance their pages WebsterXL finally allows Acorn users to enjoy these enhancements. WebsterXL works with all RISC OS Internet stacks.

Only a few more weeks to go till the Wakefield Acorn Spring Show, the show which was postponed especially for the RiscPC II. It will now take place on May 16th and 17th. A few weeks later, June 6th it's time for the Nieuwegein Acorn Spring Show, Acorn Expo organised by the Big Ben Club. More than enough to be looking forward to!

Original Dutch texts, Ferdinand. English translation with subtle rewrites (ha! :-) - FV), Eli-Jean.

Last update: 19 May 1998