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CAMiLEON: Emulation and BBC Domesday
CAMiLEON: Emulation and BBC Domesday
The BBC Domesday project was created to celebrate the 900th anniversary of the 1086 Domesday book, but is now in danger of being lost through technological obsolescence.
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Running RISC OS under emulation with RPCEmu

Posted by Mark Stephens on 10:58, 24/1/2017 | , ,
In previous articles, I looked at VirtualRPC as a way to run RISC OS on my Mac. Another options is RPCEmu.
This offers 2 potential main advantages over Virtual Acorn - it is free and it runs RISC OS 5.
The software can be downloaded from http://www.marutan.net/rpcemu/ and you can also get a USB drive with the software on it from RISC OS Open.
RPCEmu is available for Mac, Linux and Windows. The Windows and Mac versions both come as ready to run applications while Linux needs you to build the source code (which is also supplied). This is because it needs the Allegro Game Library. This process is not as daunting as it sounds and the instructions are clear and cover each step. If you are already a Linux user, you may already be doing this,. If you are not it is a really good introduction to compiling software which will open lots of new software to you....
The Mac version of RPCEmu has some isses with Retina screens on the later Macs (it works fine if you move it onto an external monitor). You can get around running this by running the software in low resolution (Menu and Info options). This trick does not appear to work on the 2016 October MacBookPros :-(
RPCEmu allows you to configure the software and choose settings like mouse buttons, etc. A copy of RISC OS 5 is included and a Hard drive to setup a basic RISC OS 5 installation.
This gives you a fully-functional RISC OS 5 machine, which can access the local hard drive. I have a shared directory on my setup so I can have a single shared copy of my RISC OS applications between Virtual Acorn and RPCEm. (You cannot share everything because RISC OS 5 and 6 have different setups and !Boot drives but it it useful to be able to shared data and third party software.) In usage I find RPCEmu runs slightly slower than Virtual Acorn but the speed is perfectly acceptable on a high end machine.
So if you are looking for an easy way to run RISC OS on your non-RISC OS machine, or even something to improve your Linux skills, have a look at RPCEmu.
RPCEmu website
9 comments in the forums

Native versus emulation in 2016 (Part 3)

Posted by Mark Stephens on 11:39, 24/12/2016 | ,
In Part2 of our speed comparison, I wondered whether there would be a signficant change to the figures from Emulation if we tried a different processor or screen resolution. So in Part 3, let us see...
1680 x 1050 in 32M, 32K and 256 colours for test 4
Processor - Looped instructions (cache)
489562 275% 480160 269% 502375 282%
Memory - Multiple register transfer
8569 5289% 8349 5153% 8828 5449%
Rectangle Copy - Graphics acceleration test
2842 1174% 5033 2079% 8751 3616%
Icon Plotting - 16 colour sprite with mask
23098 1154% 19288 964% 23032 1151%
Draw Path - Stroke narrow line
4950 317% 5209 333% 5309 340%
Draw Fill - Plot filled shape
5533 379% 6111 418% 6814 467%
HD Read - Block load 8MB file
586290 19660% 616427 20671% 618415 20738%
HD Write - Block save 8MB file
554164 18223% 502875 16536% 535318 17603%
FS Read - Byte stream file in
2613 1262% 2678 1293% 2681 1295%
FS Write - Byte stream file out
1188 618% 1190 619% 1190 619%
It looks like Retangle Copy is significantly faster in 32K mode compared to 16M but otherwise we see little advantage on these tests (remember we get slightly different results every time we run the tests so we should not be concerned at small differences).
710 ARM versus StrongArm Processor emulation
Processor - Looped instructions (cache)
501300 281% 498030 279%
Memory - Multiple register transfer
8916 5503% 8723 5384%
Rectangle Copy - Graphics acceleration test
2776 1147% 2726 1126%
Icon Plotting - 16 colour sprite with mask
23293 1164% 24660 1233%
Draw Path - Stroke narrow line
5196 333% 4969 318%
Draw Fill - Plot filled shape
5633 386% 5684 389%
HD Read - Block load 8MB file
583984 19583% 583984 19583%
HD Write - Block save 8MB file
510986 16803% 546133 17958%
FS Read - Byte stream file in
2687 1298% 2643 1276%
FS Write - Byte stream file out
1165 606% 1187 618%
So it looks like if your usage is similar to that measured in these tests, there is not a significant difference running on MacPro. As we suggested last time, this is a valid test but it may not be a fair comparison for your usage. And it only looks at raw speed not other factors which may be important to you such as power usage (Titanium easily wins), portability (you will want a laptop and should be comparing PiTop versus Mac) or ability to run macOS, Linux, Windows (MacPro is only contender).
There are other settings in the VirtualAcorn configuration file (VA.cfg) which may also be worth experimenting with. So what is your personal experience? And what settings are you tweaking for maximum performance on your Mac or Windows box?
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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.
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

Games news

Posted by Michael Drake on 20:25, 7/7/2015 | , , , , , ,

Time for a round-up of recent games news.

JASPP to release more classics

Jon Abbott of the JASPP software preservation project has recently announced that they have acquired the rights to distribute games previously developed/published by Artex Software, Eterna, Minerva and Visions of the Impossible.

These games include such classics as: Ballarena, Botkiller, Exodus, Poizone, Prime Solver & SunBurst. The games are being released through the JASPP forum, so keep an eye out for updates there.

No mention was made of Artex Software's later games Ankh and TEK, or the never released for RISC OS Iron Dignity, with its impressive 3D rendering engine.

The announcement does mention that JASPP are looking to update some of the titles by Artex Software and Visions of the Impossible to run natively on 32-bit systems. The first to get such treatment will be VOTI's SunBurst. Whether this news will lead to a 32-bit multitasking desktop WIMP conversion of Super Foul Egg, or Exodus running natively on the Panda Board is unknown at this time.

Star Fighter 3000 released for free

This happened a while back, but the full Star Fighter 3000 game has been released for free. This is the latest souped-up version, which features improved rendering distances, desktop play, and a host of other improvements. It runs on RISC OS machines from the latest dev-board hardware, right back to the old Archimedes systems it originally appeared on. To run it on an old Archimedes system at full frame rate, you'll need to make sure you have the nested WIMP installed, reduce the game's graphics settings and force it to run in fullscreen mode.

New game: Overlord

Anthony Vaughan Bartram of Ambiguous Contrasts Games has produced Overlord, a space shoot-em-up on available PlingStore. The latest version, 1.40, has just been released.

RailPro-like game progressing

In other news, James Shaw has been keeping us informed of his progress on the development of a RailPro-like game.

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VirtualRPC gets a Spring clean

Posted by Mark Stephens on 17:20, 14/10/2014 |
There is now an update to VirtualRPC for Mac and Windows (a commercial program which has been around for over a decade now). There is a selection of free and commercial emulators on offer for Windows and Mac to 'upgrade' your machine into a RISCOS machine. So what is on offer in the long-awaited update for this commercial package…
I already have a copy so sent off my 15 pounds to get the upgrade (you also need to send your old disk back). I received the new disk back and installed the Mac version. The old installer no longer worked on my Mac so it is very nice to have the ability to install the software. The disk also acts as a key on the product as you need the code from the disk to activate the software. The product version is now 1.7.5 (my old version was 1.6.6).
Installing the software is painless and gives you a new installation with a Mac application, some help files to remind you on the security settings on your Mac (which may cause some problems) and a HardDisc4 folder with a full RISCOS 4.39 installation. A selection of software comes with the installation although some of it is quite old (Netsurf 2.1 from 2009). There are also some additional zips containing additional public domain software.
If you have an existing installation you can copy across the HardDisc (or the new VirtualRPC binary) and the software works without issue. Nothing internally has changed so all the configuration is inside a file called va.cfg inside the VirtualPRC application. This includes the type of Arm processor emulated, whether the user sets this on startup, control on mouse emulation for 3 buttons and memory allocation.
The software runs smoothly on the latest Macs (including retina displays) but does not appear to offer any major new functionality.
If you are new emulation on Mac, VirtualRPC offers the most polished emulation (with a nice full-screen toggle between a Window and fullscreen).
I had upgraded my old installation to RISCOS Six, and this runs pretty much as before with the new version.
I was intrigued that there is no mention of upgrading to RISCOS Six, which is now owned by 3QD developments. It would be nice to see this as an official option as it has five more years development over 4.39
So overall, very nice to see the software being updated and working properly/installing on the latest Macs. Does very much what it says on the tin and turns your Mac into a Virtual RiscPC running RISCOS 4.39.
More details http://www.virtualacorn.co.uk/
12 comments in the forums

Emulation roundup

Posted by Michael Drake on 10:05, 19/4/2013 | , , ,
The popular open-source RiscPC emulator RPCEmu has had an update. Version 0.8.10 is available now. The changes since the last release include various bug fixes and extensive under-the-bonnet refactoring in preparation for future improvements.
More work has been done on RISC OS Open Limited's IOMD RISC OS ROM for RiscPC class hardware and emulators such as RPCEmu. The IOMD ROM is now mostly complete. In related news, benchmarking has shown that RISC OS 5 runs faster under emulation than 26-bit versions of the OS.
As for Archimedes emulation, the open-source Archimedes emulator ArcEm was updated to version 1.50 at the end of last year. (Yes, we're a bit late with that.) An extensive change log details what's changed since the previous release. The main improvement between this release and the earlier ArcEm 1.50-alpha was to fix operation on the Raspberry Pi.
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Posted by Jeffrey Lee on 17:30, 20/10/2012 | , , , , , , , ,
Here's a quick round up of some of the recent activities in the RISC OS world.

London Show reminder

Next weekend, Saturday the 27th of October, is the date for this years London show. The show is to be held at the usual location of the St Giles Hotel in Feltham, London, and will be open from 11AM to 5PM. Tickets cost £5 on the door.
Although the theatre presentation schedule isn't yet available, the exhibitor's list is. Apart from all the usual subjects you should also keep an eye out for ROOL's first official, stable release of RISC OS for the Raspberry Pi.

ROOL updates

As mentioned above, the first stable release of RISC OS for the Raspberry Pi is expected to be unveiled at this years London show. The port has come on a long way since it was first shown at last years show, and is now pretty much on par with the other platforms with regards to features and usability. The distribution is to be available in the form of an SD card complete with ROM image, !Boot sequence, and a selection of pre-installed software, based around the work Chris Hall and others have placed into the Pi alpha distro.
Other news from ROOL in recent months includes:

  • The release of SDFS, an SD card filing system for all the modern machines (BeagleBoard/ARMini, PandaBoard, Raspberry Pi)
  • The release of several 32bit compatible NIC drivers for the RiscPC/A7000 (previously the IOMD port of RISC OS 5 had no drivers available, except under emulation)
  • Work on step one of the multi-stage filing system improvements bounty has begun
  • There have also been several performance improvements over the past few months - faster remapping of memory and shorter drive mount times, resulting in significantly shorter boot times for modern machines, faster font plotting, and last but not least a SmartReflex driver to allow the BeagleBoard-xM/ARMini to run at its full speed of 1GHz instead of 800MHz.

GCC 4.1.2 release 2 released

Hot on the heels of release 1 of GCC 4.1.2, the RISC OS GCCSDK team have released release 2, with a focus on fixing the bugs that were found in the initial release.

Emulation news

  • Aemulor Pro now freely available for ARMv7 machines
    A new version of Aemulor Pro, compatible with all the modern ARMv7 machines (BeagleBoard, ARMini, PandaBoard, etc.) is now available to download free of charge from the Spellings website at http://buyit.spellings.net/. A Raspberry Pi compatible version is expected to appear in due course.
  • ArcEm 1.50 alpha available
    The ArcEm team are back with a new website and a new alpha release. Compared to the previous 1.00 release there have been many significant improvements. In particular the RISC OS version is now ARMv6/ARMv7 compatible, and fast enough to play most Arc games at full speed on an Iyonix. Members of R-Comp's ARMini/BeagleBoard/PandaLand support schemes also have access to a more polished version of the emulator, and several games to play on it, under the moniker !AcornMode.
  • Atari emulator Hatari ported to RISC OS
    In recent weeks Franck Martinaux has released a RISC OS port of version 1.6.2 of the Atari ST emulator Hatari. The emulator is reported to run at full speed on BB-xM, and is available from Franck's website at http://www.norisc-nofun.co.uk/software.html.

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Bob and Trev: Resurrection: Just in time

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Monster AI

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Visibility and pathfinding

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The level generator

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Static game data

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