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Old 17 December 2004, 17:21   #1
blackcornflake
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Elbox 'Dragon' ColdFire A1200 Accelerator + PCI/AGP Busboard

"ELBOX COMPUTER is proud to announce its breath-taking new product for Amiga 1200 computers - DRAGON ColdFire. DRAGON is a ColdFire-based accelerator card combined with the PCI/AGP Expansion busboard.

With its DRAGON ColdFire development, Elbox brings to Amiga computers top performance of the latest Freescale's ColdFire V4e core based-processor, the successor of the 68k dynasty. DRAGON-equipped Amiga computers are ready to run most of the 68k Amiga programs/applications several times faster when compared against Amiga 1200 with the fastest 68060 accelerators.

'By combining many attractive features like the high-performance ColdFire processor, fast DDR memory, AGP graphics, powerful PCI 66MHz technology and comprehensive software support, DRAGON-equipped Amiga computers turn into modern, fast and extremely functional power machines,' said Maciek Binek, president and CEO of Elbox.

The DRAGON's mainboard and the DRAGON's ColdFire CPU card are designed on two separate circuit boards. With modular design, the DRAGON can be easily upgraded and configured to meet the needs of the most demanding Amiga users."

Source: Elbox

Interesting.
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Old 17 December 2004, 18:36   #2
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Smile New Life through ColdFire for A1200!

New life to the classic 1200 ? ..yes

Got this mail from elbox today:

ELBOX COMPUTER
http://www.elbox.com
Krakow, 17 December 2004
http version http://www.elbox.com/news_04_12_17.html

Enter the DRAGON

ELBOX COMPUTER is proud to announce its breath-taking
new product for Amiga 1200 computers - DRAGON ColdFire.
DRAGON is a ColdFire-based accelerator card combined
with the PCI/AGP Expansion busboard.

With its DRAGON ColdFire development, Elbox brings to
Amiga computers top performance of the latest Freescale's
ColdFire V4e core based-processor, the successor of
the 68k dynasty. DRAGON-equipped Amiga computers are
ready to run most of the 68k Amiga programs/applications
several times faster when compared against Amiga 1200
with the fastest 68060 accelerators.

'By combining many attractive features like the
high-performance ColdFire processor, fast DDR memory,
AGP graphics, powerful PCI 66MHz technology and
comprehensive software support, DRAGON-equipped Amiga
computers turn into modern, fast and extremely
functional power machines,' said Maciek Binek,
president and CEO of Elbox.

The DRAGON's mainboard and the DRAGON's ColdFire CPU
card are designed on two separate circuit boards. With
modular design, the DRAGON can be easily upgraded and
configured to meet the needs of the most demanding
Amiga users.


DRAGON Technical Specification:

* ColdFire MCF5475 processor (410MIPS) running
at 266MHz
* Two sockets for DDR-266 SDRAM modules, support up
to 1GByte of memory (1GB/s peak)
* One AGP slot (264MB/s peak access from the main
processor)
* Five 66/33MHz, 32-bit PCI slots, PCI 2.2 compliant
(264MB/s peak)
* 2MBytes of 32-bit Flash memory (containing
upgradeable DRAGON firmware)
* Asynchronous design with fast access to Amiga 1200
motherboard hardware
* Multi-channels DMA support (PCI <-> PCI, PCI <-> DDR,
PCI <-> AGP, PCI <-> A1200)
* Auto-Recharge Battery-backed Real Time Clock
* Four high-speed programmable serial
(UART/USART/IRDA/modem) controllers (optional)
* One Hi-Speed USB 2.0 and two FastEthernet 100Mbps
controllers (optional)

ColdFire processor:
The DRAGON ColdFire will initially be available with
the fastest ColdFire MCF5475 processor in clock speed
of 266MHz. MCF5475 features the V4e ColdFire core with
MMU, dual precision FPU and EMAC. The 266MHz version
of the ColdFire MCF5475 processor provides raw
performance of 410MIPS.

Up to 1GB of DDR SDRAM:
The DRAGON comes with two DIMM slots for ultrafast
DDR-266 SDRAM memory. This high-speed memory rushes
data at up to 1GB/s throughput. It is over 25 times
faster compared against the fastest A1200 accelerators
available so far. As memory is scalable up to 1GB, you
can add RAM to meet increasing demands of your
applications and workflow.

AGP Graphic Slot:
The DRAGON comes with the 3.3V 66MHz AGP slot which
supports up to 264MB/s data throughput. The following
AGP graphics cards will be supported: Radeon 9700,
Radeon 9500, Radeon 9200, Radeon 9000, Radeon 7500,
Radeon 7000, Voodoo 5, Voodoo 4, Voodoo 3.

PCI Expansion Slots:
The DRAGON comes with five 66/33MHz, 32-bit PCI slots
compliant with the PCI 2.2 specification. The DRAGON
system can be configured with PCI 66MHz or PCI 33MHz
expansion technology. All PCI slots provide DMA capability.
The DRAGON's ColdFire processor has linear access to
the 4GB PCI space.

Multi-channel DMA support:
DRAGON hardware provides Multi-channel DMA support.
PCI bus master cards can provide DMA accesses to all
DRAGON resources: the AGP card, DDR memory, other PCI
cards and the Amiga 1200 motherboard space.
DRAGON' PCI-to-DDR Direct Memory Access can reach up
to 264MB/s throughput. This feature allows even the
fastest mass storage PCI controllers to run at their
top performance.

2MB of 32-bit Flash memory:
DRAGON includes 2 MBytes of the 32-bit extremely fast
Flash memory. It includes factory-programmed DRAGON's
boot firmware and diagnostic software. Flash ROM allows
remapping of the Amiga Kickstart, as well.

FastEthernet 100Mbps and Hi-Speed USB 2.0 (optional):
The DRAGON's MCF5475 processor has one built-in Hi-Speed
USB 2.0 controller and two FastEthernet 100Mbps controllers.
External ports for these controllers will be available on
an optional module. Hardware-acceleration encryption (DES,
3DES, RC4, AES, MD5, SHA-1, RNG) is built into the processor.
Dual-channel architecture permits single pass encryption
and authentication.

High-Speed serial controllers (optional):
Up to four programmable serial controllers (PSCs), each
with separate 512-byte receive and transmit FIFOs for UART,
USART, modem, codec, and IrDA 1.1 interface, are built in
the DRAGON's MCF5475 processor. External ports for these
controllers will be available on an optional module.

Compatible Tower systems:
The DRAGON ColdFire busboard is designed to be used in
the following tower systems: Mirage 1200, E/BOX 1200, Power
Tower, Winner Tower and Infinitiv Tower. Besides, an Elbox
custom-designed case for the DRAGON ColdFire system will
be announced soon.

Supported AGP and PCI cards:
* Graphic cards (Radeon 9700, Radeon 9500, Radeon 9200,
Radeon 9000, Radeon 7500, Radeon 7000, Voodoo 5, Voodoo 4,
Voodoo 3)
* Sound cards (Sound Blaster 4.1 Digital, Sound Blaster 128
and cards based on the ForteMedia FM801 chipset--e.g.
Terratec 512i Digital)
* Serial ATA controllers (SiI 3114 support in development)
* Spider Hi-Speed USB 2.0 controllers
* TV tuner cards (based on Bt848/849/878 and FUSION 878/879)
* Fast Ethernet 100Mbps cards (based on RTL8139 chipset)
* Ethernet 10Mbps cards (based on RTL8029 chipset)

Pricing and availability:
The DRAGON ColdFire is planned to be available by the end
of January 2005 for a very attractive price, offering
superior price/performance ratio. The suggested retail
price is 349 EUR. (VAT excl.)

Registered owners of Elbox Mediator 1200 PCI busboards will
receive a special incentive upgrade offer in January 2005.

If you have any questions related to the DRAGON ColdFire
busboard, email them at mailo:dragon@elbox.com. Answers
to most frequent inquiries will be published in FAQ section
of the Elbox website.

DRAGON - The Dawn of the New Era

Best regards,

Elbox Computer Team

Elbox ML <http://www.elbox.com/mailing_list.html>
If you do not want to receive occasional email offers and
special information from us, write to: newsletter@elbox.com
with the subject line: unsubscribe Elbox ML

----------------

I want this, bad!!!!
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Old 17 December 2004, 23:55   #3
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whow...i think this one should be mine....
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Old 18 December 2004, 01:44   #4
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"DRAGON-equipped Amiga computers are ready to run most of the 68k Amiga programs/applications several times faster "

"ready to run..." - by which they mean they can't run Amiga programs right now. *cough* let me know when the OS and custom chip emulation is done?
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Old 18 December 2004, 04:46   #5
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Quote:
*cough* let me know when the OS and custom chip emulation is done?
Erm... it connects to an A1200 so there is no custom chip emulation... and it runs 68k code so it runs Amiga OS 3.9.

What it doesn't do is be 100% compatible with 680x0 cycle accurate ASM, but I am sure that 68EC020 fall back is available. And of course it doesnt run PPC code so OS4+ or Morphos is not compatible

What bothers me most is the price.... way too much for a non PPC accelerator, even with PCI etc.

What the Amiga industry needed IMHO was a sub 200 Euro design
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Old 18 December 2004, 14:14   #6
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Oh! The embarassment.

Then of course it's excellent! But we really need a faster blitter too. Maybe noone has made a faster blitter because Commodore won't release the specs? It's really a letdown having to do graphics with the CPU simply because noone made a blitter chip that could run at the faster MHz.

But it's very cool by FreeScale to keep developing the 68xxx series, it's not a RISC and not a power horse but it's so nice to program!
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Old 18 December 2004, 14:19   #7
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Quote:
But we really need a faster blitter too. Maybe noone has made a faster blitter because Commodore won't release the specs?
Maybe noone has made a faster blitter cos it's got PCI and AGP... so you're gonna have an RTG blitter in the graphics card you buy. Supported cards are 3 generations old (and about 30 UKP) but still MUCH faster than AGA.
Quote:
It's really a letdown having to do graphics with the CPU simply because noone made a blitter chip that could run at the faster MHz
See above. It's really let down cos it's too expensive to not be PPC. I would have prefered to see an ultra low cost replacement for blizzard 060 turbo cards which are now becoming way too expensive.
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Old 18 December 2004, 14:38   #8
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Why do you need PPC anyway? At least this will support most of the software that runs on an 060 already.
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Old 18 December 2004, 19:55   #9
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Quote:
Why do you need a PPC anyway?
Most of todays development is being done on PPC based Amigas, Blizzard PPC, Cyberstorm PPC, A1. If you cannot use this software you cannot take advantage of the hardwork of all the other active Amiga users.

With OS4 and Morphos being PowerPC only I can see Dragon owners being left behind a little.

There is no way Elbox will sell as many Dragons as there are current Amiga PPC cards. Developers wont switch to Dragons. Software will be limited to older 680x0 stuff, a few back ports and whatever Elbox gives you in the way of drivers (i.e. not much)

Like I said in my post if this was a direct replacment for the Blizzard 060, if it were cheap, compatible with 680x0 software, a classic A1200 turbo card in all senses, it would sell loads and be a great product, but it's not

It's a whole new computer with an A1200 interface

Last edited by alexh; 18 December 2004 at 20:00.
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Old 18 December 2004, 20:07   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by alexh
Most of todays development is being done on PPC based Amigas, Blizzard PPC, Cyberstorm PPC, A1. If you cannot use this software you cannot take advantage of the hardwork of all the other active Amiga users.

With OS4 and Morphos being PowerPC only I can see Dragon owners being left behind a little.

There is no way Elbox will sell as many Dragons as there are current Amiga PPC cards. Developers wont switch to Dragons. Software will be limited to older 680x0 stuff, a few back ports and whatever Elbox gives you in the way of drivers (i.e. not much)

Like I said in my post if this was a direct replacment for the Blizzard 060, if it were cheap, compatible with 680x0 software, a classic A1200 turbo card in all senses, it would sell loads and be a great product, but it's not

It's a whole new computer with an A1200 interface
Yes, lots of development

I could see people wanting to spead up their 68K Amiga software with a super accelerator, but anything PPC is a waste of cash for a dead architecture.
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Old 18 December 2004, 20:17   #11
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This is excellent news. I don't know why you guys are insisting on ppc. There already are pc solutions while this is the best thing to happen for 68k for years! Not the best thing that can happen of course. I used a ppc but I never needed or wanted it in fact.
 
Old 19 December 2004, 03:22   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Unknown_K
Yes, lots of development
I'd say the only development, except for the odd bit of home-made software.
Quote:
I could see people wanting to spead up their 68K Amiga software with a super accelerator
I can see people wanting to run the most amount of Amiga software they can including OS4.
Quote:
but anything PPC is a waste of cash for a dead architecture.
Dead architecture? Look at what uses PPC today and in the not so distant future... Gamecube, MAC, Playstation 3, X-box2, half of all set-top-boxes.

It aint dead.

Quote:
This is excellent news. I don't know why you guys are insisting on ppc
Because I feel there are PPC developers out there... both in Amiga land and other platforms, developing the tools and the OS and the apps.
Quote:
I used a ppc but I never needed or wanted it in fact.
You have too much money if you can afford a PPC accellerator and then not use any PPC native stuff, even for curiosity

I wish Elbox all the best with their sales and hope they do a low cost alternative.
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Old 19 December 2004, 03:27   #13
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I meant Amiga PPC architecture is dead except for vaporware, the chip itself is alive and well on the platforms mentioned above.

The Amiga does have quite a bit of 68K apps, probably not much for PPC
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Old 19 December 2004, 05:44   #14
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Quote:
Because I feel there are PPC developers out there... both in Amiga land and other platforms, developing the tools and the OS and the apps.
Likewise there are ppc hardware solutions out there. Not all new amiga hardware has to be that way.

Quote:
Originally Posted by alexh
You have too much money if you can afford a PPC accellerator and then not use any PPC native stuff, even for curiosity
I had purchased one used and cheap out of curiosity but there weren't any ppc applications that did worth bothering with. bvision was nice though. Unknown summarized my point.
 
Old 19 December 2004, 13:09   #15
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Seems like quite a cool piece of hardware

How much stuff is there available that would take proper advantage of it? I'm kind of interested in buying, but only if the extra speed is actually going to be useful...
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Old 19 December 2004, 13:35   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by alexh
Maybe noone has made a faster blitter cos it's got PCI and AGP... so you're gonna have an RTG blitter in the graphics card you buy. Supported cards are 3 generations old (and about 30 UKP) but still MUCH faster than AGA.

See above. It's really let down cos it's too expensive to not be PPC. I would have prefered to see an ultra low cost replacement for blizzard 060 turbo cards which are now becoming way too expensive.
I meant that a lot of effort is going into speeding up the CPU, while the blitter slogs along at its too low MHz and 4-cycle steps. If the blitter was sped up, Amiga programs would be faster. It would be so great if someone could speed up the whole architecture that we love, and not just the CPU. Seems a little overdimensioned right now.

I agree that it's a bit expensive, but I can see why. The market is not as big as the PC market so they have to set the price higher to make their money back for the development. (Unless the higher price prohibits _any_ sales, in which case they won't make a penny back... well that's the Market for ya! )

I also contend that a PPC computer is not an Amiga, since it's a different architecture and doesn't run Amiga software natively. That isn't to say that I think badly of it, any platform that competes with the PC monopoly is worth supporting, and I envy the effort of the guys that developed it!
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Old 19 December 2004, 15:41   #17
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I am interested in it

I will waiting for first test and prehaps buy it



Quote:
Originally Posted by Photon
I meant that a lot of effort is going into speeding up the CPU, while the blitter slogs along at its too low MHz and 4-cycle steps. If the blitter was sped up, Amiga programs would be faster. It would be so great if someone could speed up the whole architecture that we love, and not just the CPU. Seems a little overdimensioned right now.

I agree that it's a bit expensive, but I can see why. The market is not as big as the PC market so they have to set the price higher to make their money back for the development. (Unless the higher price prohibits _any_ sales, in which case they won't make a penny back... well that's the Market for ya! )

I also contend that a PPC computer is not an Amiga, since it's a different architecture and doesn't run Amiga software natively. That isn't to say that I think badly of it, any platform that competes with the PC monopoly is worth supporting, and I envy the effort of the guys that developed it!
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Old 20 December 2004, 01:09   #18
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Didn't Mick Tinker re-implelent the AA chipset in a single ASIC that ran at 20x the original speed for his BoXeR motherboard project? Whatever happened to that anyway?

@CFou: Coldfire chips don't have a MMU so WHDLoad development on them will be limited I'm sticking with the 060 for now.
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Old 20 December 2004, 11:59   #19
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This sounds like it COULD be great news. But will all 680X0 run? Will there be a patcher that catches ALL unsupported opcodes? If so then it will be great... if not and it only speeds OS friendly stuff then not so great.

The AGP/PCI support is also very useful but perhaps the comments on cost ARE valid. Take 349, add on VAT and delivery and convert to Pounds and it is over 300. That is significant dough!!!
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Old 20 December 2004, 12:11   #20
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FYI, from: http://www.go-ecs.com/cold/coldtek1.htm

Some differences between 68k and ColdFire

The ColdFire family has a 68k heritage, but the processors are not drop in replacements for 68k processors. Some of the differences are explained below.

Register Model

ColdFire retains the 68k's set of sixteen 32-bit registers (8 data registers, named D0-D7, and 8 address registers, named A0-A7). There are a couple of small differences, however.

Stack Pointer
Most 68k processors switch from a user stack pointer (A7, aka USP) to a supervisor stack pointer (A7', aka SSP) when the processor transitions into supervisor mode. Some 68k processors support a third stack pointer register for interrupts, named the Interrupt Stack Pointer (ISP). In contrast, the ColdFire family supports a single stack pointer (A7) across its operating modes. Vector Base Register
Most 68k processors allow the user to locate the vector table practically anywhere in memory via the Vector Base Register (VBR) . With ColdFire, the VBR still exists, but only the upper 12 bits are meaningful (which implies the vector table is always on a 1 Mbyte boundary, since the lower 20 bits are treated as zero.)


Instruction Set and Addressing Modes
ColdFire and 68k use 16-bit words (32-bit values are referred to as longwords.)

68k instructions can be as many as eleven words (a 16-bit opcode, and up to 10 extension words specifying operands). On the other hand, ColdFire instructions are either 1, 2 or 3 words long. Not all 68k instructions are supported under ColdFire; some of the more complicated and less-used 68k instructions have been eliminated.

One of the implications of a smaller instruction size is reduced addressing mode capabilities. 68k instructions offer some very elaborate addressing modes which result in dense code. For example, a single 68k instruction can move an 8, 16 or 32-bit value between any two 32-bit memory addresses without any intermediate transfers to registers. Of course, the instruction requires 1 word for the opcode and 4 additional words for the two 32-bit addresses.

Consult Motorola's documentation for complete information on instructions and addressing modes offered by ColdFire. Most 68k code can be ported to ColdFire with minimum effortl. The more intricate areas (MMU and cache manipulation, special processor-specific registers, etc...) still require human intervention, especially when there is no equivalent register or operation on ColdFire.

Exception Processing

The 68k's exception processing microcode builds an exception stack frame for each exception taken; the size and contents of the stack frame depends on the exception. With ColdFire, all exceptions build the same size stack frame. Also, the ColdFire will force the stack to 4-byte alignment (if it isn't already) prior to building the stack frame; information within the stack frame indicates how much padding (if any) was introduced to force the alignment. Upon return from exception, the ColdFire microcode restores the stack pointer to its previous value, accounting for padding as well.

Also, the ColdFire exception types are a subset of the exception types defined for the 68k family. 68k exceptions that are no longer supported are marked as "reserved" in the ColdFire exception table.
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