No, not that Fast Show. You’ll not find Rowley Birkin QC here!
The RISC OS Southwest Show is so incredibly close now that the exhibitors are in the hall, teeth chattering and knees knocking at the prospect of the huge throngs of people that will be coming through the door in about half an hour’s time. They’re already lining up outside, and I gather the numbers are so high the queue is visible from the International Space Station.
Or at least from a sparrow if one flew overhead.
Over the last week or so, Andy Marks of RISCOSbits has been tweeting teases to something he has cooking for the show. These have taken the form of cliches and similar, all playing on the word fast – or more correctly, FAST, either in the sense of shouting the word, or indicating that it’s an acronym.
And an acronym is exactly what it is, standing for ‘Fast Access to Storage Technology’1, and it is being launched at the Southwest Show today.
So what exactly is it? RISC OS FAST is apparently a custom RISC OS ROM that is used in conjunction with specific hardware, and together they use the PCIe port on the Raspberry Pi Compute Module IO board to provide four full-speed SATA ports.
Using the speed of compiling the RISC OS ROM image as an example of the speed gains this brings, Andy says that combining the speed of the Compute Module 4’s processor with access to storage provided this way, the compilation time is faster than any other RISC OS system currently available.
To keep the FAST ROM image in line with wider RISC OS developments, Andy has promised a regular update cycle, with four updates per year, all available to RISC OS FAST customers by logging in to a special download site. There is also the prospect of more disc-based developments taking RISC OS FAST beyond just the SATA driver.
These include support for much larger drives, with a 1TB drive already up and running in the RISCOSbits secret laboratory; 4Kn/512e disc support, to make it possible to use many of the less expensive, larger drives currently available; multi-format drives, so that systems that can be booted into RISC OS and Linux have storage used and shared by both; NVMe support; CDFS on SATA. Some of these are already in progress, and in the case of the last one, almost complete.
Importantly, Andy also says that many of the developments should be fed back to the main RISC OS source tree, so hopefully they will eventually end up in future versions of RISC OS that everyone can benefit.
The first new system that uses FAST is available – in limited numbers – from RISCOSbits at the show today, at a special introductory price. The specifications for the machine include 2GB of user-upgradable RAM, a 2GHz CPU, four USB ports (two front, two rear), a 4K-capable HDMI, Gigabit ethernet, and so on – but related to FAST, it also includes a 250GB SATA III SSD, and has three spare SATA III ports.
There are further developments planned for use on future systems, including support for full ATX power supplies and an integrated real-time clock, and over-the-air ROM updates – all of which will be available to early adopters.
Already have a Compute Module 4? RISCOSbits have you covered, by offering a kit to allow you to make use of RISC OS FAST, which is made up of a 32GB micro-SD card containing the necessary firmware, and the FAST ROM, plus the SATA adaptor you’ll need to use with it.
- I said acronym, but let’s be honest – that looks suspiciously more like a backronym. A backronym is when you have a word you want to use for something, and come up with a phrase to make it look like an acronym.