Mark Rowan with our Iyonix column.
Aemulor Pro released
Within the last couple of weeks the Aemulor team proudly announced the initial release of Aemulor Pro. I think I can forgive them the slight delay now that I've seen the magic Adrian and Neil have worked on this important piece of software.
Aemulor for Omega?
Mind you, the delay is hardly a drop in the ocean compared to the ever-on-the-horizon MicroDigital Omega (which has been shipping for 12 months now - ED), which is still to receive its touted XScale and networking components (networking is shipping now - ED). One of the reasons cited for the Omega's delay (again I point out that it has been shipping for 12 months - ED) is the ARMTwister technology which allows 26-bit code to run natively on the Omega's 32-bit-only XScale processor (similar to that used in the IYONIX).
Seeing the success Aemulor has enjoyed in getting incompatible software running on the IYONIX, and the impressive speed with which it converts 26-bit code to its 32-bit equivalent, I wonder if MicroDigital would consider it wise to commission the Aemulor team to produce a version for the Omega and simply do the code conversion in software rather than spending more time developing the ARMTwister.
Right On, Commander
Aemulor Pro now allows the IYONIX to do run some software which even StrongARM RiscPCs are unable to run. Using Aemulor Pro it's now possible to transparently emulate an ARM3 A5000-class machine, including the old video and sound support chips, meaning that your Aemulor-equipped IYONIX can play games such as the unpatched Chocks Away or Stunt Racer 2000, and a good number of other non-StrongARM games. Where included in the games, sound is played back under emulation at a quality imperceptible from that obtained via the RiscPC the last time I heard them.
I've had great fun playing some old favourites (in fact this review was badly delayed due to such 'research') such as Spheres Of Chaos complete with psychedelic sound effects, Super Foul Egg ('Oh Yeah!'), TEK, Syndicate and Heroes of Might and Magic II. Exodus and MarsQuake have been dusted off and work well, although I started off having some trouble with Elite (data aborts and other errors). I suspect it may have something to do with the fact that I was using an oddly patched copy so I got a fresh copy from AcornArcade which works well - smooth, fluid motion and possibly slightly quicker than on my StrongARM RiscPC which adds to the action and excitement. It's weird how you can pick up flying a Cobra Mk III again after so long away from the colourful seat. I suppose it's like riding a bike; you never forget!
Low-colour screen modes
Aemulor Pro also provides the long-awaited low colour depth screen modes which allows older games and important applications such as Sibelius to run once again - the IYONIX's graphics card doesn't natively support any fewer than 256 colours, which is where Aemulor Pro steps in.
16-colour low-res games seemed to run quite happily on my IYONIX, and at a good speed. If you look at the display manager you will notice that when Aemulor Pro is running there are a few more colour modes to choose from. Yes, the desktop can be run in 2, 4, or 16 colour modes too (quite why you'd want to is beyond me, but if you have your reasons I'd love to hear them!) although it's noticeably slower than running in a natively-supported (256 colours or more) screen mode. Adrian Lees has said that there are plans to increase the speed of the low- colour modes.
A cool new feature of Aemulor Pro is its ability to open a 26-bit TaskWindow from which all code executed will be done under Aemulor. This means you can enter a 26-bit-ok incarnation of BASIC for example, in order to run some programs containing 26-bit-only assembler. It would be nice if the TaskWindow could be opened on a keypress though, as at the moment it's an option available only from the iconbar icon - and if you've told Aemulor to hide its icon then that means running the frontend from the Apps directory beforehand which is a bit of a hassle.
Aemulor Pro also contains a helpful task display similar to RISC OS' own
One of the most major new features of Aemulor Pro is the support for 26-bit filing systems, for example CDROMFS and Win95FS. In the absence of any updates from Warm Silence Software Aemulor may turn out to be the only way to keep these important applications working.
CDROMFS 1.50 seemed to work well on my Iyonix but the supplied 1.75 version didn't seem quite so happy. It's probably best to try both out; if 1.75 works then you may as well stick with it, but if you have to fall back to 1.50 then Warm Silence agree that it's probably not too great a loss (their helpfile suggests exactly the same advice, just not in the context of Aemulor).
Owners of Psion handhelds such as the Revo and Series 5 may be pleased to know that PsiFS appears to initialise successfully and attempt to connect. Unfortunately this is far as I can report at the moment as I helpfully left my Revo's docking station almost 100 miles away, but I'm keen to try it out before the next issue of RISCWorld.
The Aemulor team is keen to hear from anyone who's successfully run TopModel2 under Aemulor Pro.
Now that lucky Aemulor Pro-wielding IYONIX users can play all their favourite games again, the issue of joysticks has arisen. After a brief discussion on the support SmartGroup Paul Reuvers, man of all things USB, announced that he is developing USB joystick support for his HID application.
No release timescale has been given but if Paul's previous performance is anything to go by, it won't be too long and it will certainly be worth the wait.
Users of RISC OS 4 will probably notice some apparent omissions in the configuration panels of RISC OS 5. One of the things I noticed when I first started using my IYONIX was that the desktop looked a bit rougher than the RISC OS 4 RiscPC's desktop did. Items on the pinboard had horrible boxes behind them; the pop-up menus were plain white instead of textured, etc.
All of these were things that could be changed on RISC OS 4 to improve the appearance of the desktop, but which didn't seem possible on RISC OS 5. But by using a command *WimpVisualFlags all the wonderful eye-candy of pre-Select RISC OS 4 can be switched on or off to your heart's content.
Castle say that the configuration options most likely will make their way back into the OS at some point, but until then there is a page of information on how to use the WimpVisualFlags command.
Part of the ethos of RISC OS is the close relationship between the command line and the desktop. True to form, there is an application available (courtesy of Bruno D'Arcangeli) which allows each of these visual niceties to be switched on or off from a convenient desktop-based control panel. Get WimpVF here.
WimpVF allows you to choose which pieces of eye-candy to switch on
What's in a name?
I've had an email from a Mrs Trellis of North Wales, who asks
Why do you keep on spelling the word IYONIX wrongly?
Please sort this out. Yours sincerely,
Why do you keep on spelling the word IYONIX wrongly?
Please sort this out.
And she does have a point. RISCOS Ltd are keen to point out that the product they sell is called RISC OS and it runs on a Risc PC. Clearly spelling is important in the case of RISC OS as I understand there is another totally separate Unix-based system named RiscOS.
Well far be it from me to cause offence to Mrs Trellis and whoever at Castle thought up the name in the first place, but in my introductory article I did state that it's going to include opinions. And my opinion on the IYONIX-Iyonix issue is that I prefer Iyonix. When someone tells me they have a RISC OS IYONIX it looks like they may be hard of hearing and have to shout or something.
But in the interest of correctness I shall try to stick to IYONIX in future.