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RISC OS going down, down under

By dgs . Published: 28th Apr 2004, 15:06:43 | Permalink | Printable

Users on the other side of the world

AAUG logoOne of the responsibilities of the Association of Acorn User Groups (AAUG) is to provide information about Acorn and RISC OS user groups to anyone interested. This is done via the AAUG website, with printed handouts or face to face discussions at shows, or more occasionally by direct email contact.

Along the way, someone needs to receive the many emails from club representatives (sometimes there is more than one representative claiming to be authoritative for the same club), and feed the relevant information into the AAUG printed and online directories. Eagle-eyed observers will have noticed that the AAUG hasn't been doing very well at all on this front, but please bear with us because we're about to make progress. Honestly.

Losing one user group is careless, but losing four is disastrous
After I took over from Neil Spellings as Chairman of the Association of Acorn User Groups, one of the most worrying times was when I started receiving responses to my emails to user groups in Australia and New Zealand. I'd asked user groups for whom we had contact details, to update me with their current information, for inclusion in the website and printed directory.

I appreciated that things might have changed since last the AAUG records were updated, but the response was far more negative than I had expected. Almost all RISC OS user groups in Australia and New Zealand were no longer running.

The most notable exception was Acorn Users Auckland, who had scaled down to abolish their annual subscription fee, but had swapped their previous venue for the generosity of their secretary hosting meetings at his house. Meetings are only scheduled when speakers and topics are available, but a membership of about forty are still receiving notifications by email, so this group sounds just as healthy as some UK groups - perhaps more so because of the lack of hefty room booking fees.

A number of the other groups said they were still happy to talk to potential new members (or returning old members) if anyone was interested. So if you fancy waking up a nearby RISC OS user group even temporarily for an informal discussion, check out the contact details at the end of this article. Sadly, most of the groups that had closed down didn't hold out much hope of a resurgence of interest, even with additional publicity. Prove them wrong!

If you have problems contacting any of the user groups listed, please let us know, and we will investigate further.

RISC OS in .auThe Antipodes really do exist
Several groups wrote back saying that the main reason for the demise of their group had been the absence of any RISC OS dealer in their country in recent times.

This came as a surprise to me, as I knew that both RiscStation and Castle had appointed dealers on that side of the world in relatively recent years. (Indeed, I was once party to a minor conspiracy planning to release entirely truthful headlines - with supporting photos - along the lines of "RISCSTATION AUSTRALIA BUY CASTLE" to selected news outlets).

A little further investigation revealed that actually the concerns of these user groups were misplaced. Although not located especially close to any centres of population, Robert Werry Computer Services became a reseller of both Castle and RiscStation products in 1999.

Robert describes himself as a "true believer", and told me: "I will sell, support and promote RISC OS machines while ever Castle are willing to supply me and while ever there is breath in my body." That's the spirit. As an Acorn qualified technician, he is happy to carry out all types of repair, maintenance and support for both hardware and software.

Robert Werry Computer Services itself uses RISC OS computers exclusively, and Robert says "my customers are well aware that these are the only machines and operating system I endorse or recommend". Maybe he tones that down a bit when talking to the local Windows and Mac press - he does sell lots of Windows computers too.

Robert might be able to make it to Brisbane, Sydney, or points in between (such as Newcastle or the Gold Coast) to talk to user groups and demonstrate RISC OS products. Even these locations involve up to an eight hour drive for him - rather different from the fairly closely spaced user groups in the UK and Europe.

Likewise in New Zealand, Educational Software Distributors, run by Sharon Hayes, is still selling the Iyonix. Unfortunately we haven't been able to get in touch with Sharon to establish her views on the current RISC OS situation in New Zealand.

Numbers game
It's easy for people in any part of the world to get the idea that there simply aren't any (or many) RISC OS users anywhere near them. After all, even the most enthusiastic RISC OS users don't tend to walk down their local high street wearing Clan Acorn T-shirts, so how would you know who they were?

Australia and New Zealand suffer from this lack of communication just as much as any other country, but that doesn't mean there aren't still plenty of RISC OS computers in use. One user told me of a school in Australia that still had over three hundred RISC OS systems in regular use, albeit running Windows applications via Citrix for some of the time.

Very long lines of supply
Another issue that several groups said had contributed to their demise, was the cost of shipping RISC OS machines from the manufacturers in the UK, to the end users on the other side of the world.

We suspect that RiscStation still build some systems locally in Australia, but at present it's the Iyonix that most users are interested in. The combination of substantial shipping costs, the current exchange rate between the English pound and the Australian dollar, and local sales tax on top of it all, has put off many potential purchasers. Stuck with ageing Risc PC systems, users increasingly lost enthusiasm.

There is now a scheme to get round these problems in Australia, which is already very well advanced. (Watch this space). In New Zealand, ESD do already manufacture Iyonixes locally using parts shipped separately by Castle.

Links


Robert Werry Computer Services, or call +61 (0)2 664 643 77
Educational Software Distributors
Acorn Users Auckland
Acorn User Group Sydney
Canberra BBC User Group
Acorn Users Waikato
Victoria BBC Users' Group dgs is the chairman of the AAUG, as well as writing as a drobe.co.uk correspondent

Previous: Dude, where's my UniPod?
Next: 'Chuditch' Iyonix built in Australia

Discussion

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Well, what I can say, a lot that is true for Australia is also true for the situation in South Africa. All that is different is that our exchange rate with the pound is worse :(

 is a RISC OS Userskock on 28/4/04 3:36PM
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Yeah, same goes for many countries. Because of the exchange rate UK goods are hard to sell in the rest of Europe, too. And this is unlikely to change before they join the Euro currency.

 is a RISC OS UserJGZimmerle on 28/4/04 5:10PM
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Incidentally, there is also a yahoogroups mailing list for RISC OS users in New Zealand. This has been around since 2001 and currently has 53 members, but I don't know how much traffic it gets. It's called riscos-newzealand.

(Go to [link] and type that into the Search box in order to locate the group).

dgs

 is a RISC OS Userdgs on 28/4/04 5:17PM
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I get the impression that [link] uses RISC OS computers.

 is a RISC OS UserAndrewDuffell on 28/4/04 5:41PM
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Andrew Duffell: Where did you get that impresison from? Just from a quick look at the site there didn't seem to be any hints at RISC OS.

As for finding other RISC OS users, it's a small world; my music teacher (Martin Gostling) is an avid supporter of RISC OS, as is his friend Mike Smith (and his daughter Amy Smith is a fan of Impression I discovered a little while ago, who is also a teacher at my school). To make the world even smaller, Martin knows the head of IT from my primary school (Sherwood Park) Ann Nutburn, where they (used) to use RISC OS.

Perhaps one day, if they're still around, I'll join a user group - it's a little difficult at the moment when they're a little too far away and often meet in pubs! (I'm underage, which is where the problem lies) Oh well.

 is a RISC OS UserSmiler on 28/4/04 6:27PM
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Smiler: There are some photos of RISC OS machines in places, and other more subtle hints...

 is a RISC OS UserAndrewDuffell on 28/4/04 6:48PM
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Usually you know if a site's made on RISC OS when everything is centered, links are always underlined and blue, and there's a textured background from 1995.

 is a RISC OS UserJessFranco on 28/4/04 8:38PM
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I setup this Yahoo Group so RISC OS users in New Zealand can get in touch with each other [link]

Another supplier of RISC OS stuff is [link]

The odd bit of Acorn hardware pops up on [link] from time to time.

 is a RISC OS Userknutson on 28/4/04 9:03PM
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It's great to see some activity again in NZ and Australia. Acorn was once so popular over here, but over the past few years a lot of people migrated to other platforms.

Who would be interested in joining a South Island, N.Z. User Group?

In Reply to Knutson Do you know where Webmonster's Christchurch office is?

 is a RISC OS Usertimephoenix on 28/4/04 10:41PM
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In reply to Timephoenix

I believe Robert Greenfield lives in New Plymouth these days. However I've heard he does get down to Christchurch from time to time. I'm sure there are a few other users there. Try emailing the service email address on the webmonster website.

I purchased a RISC PC of Robert about 4 years ago and he was brilliant to deal with. The price was good too!

 is a RISC OS Userknutson on 29/4/04 12:41AM
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In reply to Andrew Duffell: In respect to [link] you are correct. There are no Acorns in the school, but I set the site up for them using my RiscPC from home, hand coding and using HTML Studio. This was then managed using my computer through 2002-03. Last look it seems much the same, though no one seems to own it anymore! I have moved on. How did you pick it?

 is a RISC OS Userpipalya on 29/4/04 1:53AM
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Time to post a comment methinks...

RiscStation most certainly -do not- build RISC OS systems in Australia at the present time. Construction of ARM7500 based R7500 and POSsum machines was concluded late 2002 when RiscStation (Australasia) Pty Ltd surrendered their C-Tick certification license as a result of changes to the EMI/EMC regulations. As there was no testing to the revised EMI/EMC standard in place for the RiscStation board, it would have been illegal for them to sell them, either as components or as complete machines.

Sales of the machines to that time did not indicate that the costs of testing could be readily amortised.

DGS has in fact implied that the directors of RiscStation (Australasia) have acted illegally in manufacturing and selling non-certificated machines.

C-Tick certification is a serious business down here, the penalties for non-compliance are severe. This is what caused the final death of the RISC OS market.

 is a RISC OS UserMal on 29/4/04 1:56AM
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I am now living in Adelaide, South Australia, so my RiscPC has travelled from the outback of SA to the red heart near Alice Springs, then Port Augusta and now I am retired in Adelaide. It is leaving a trail of websites behind it, a number continue to be managed on said machine by yours truly. See [link] (old site but still interesting, though seemingly untouched since I left in 2001, I know they are still actively using about 3 RiscPCs and 1 A7000 in classrooms. <p>[link] (see comments above) <p>[link] (personal site) <p>[link] (managed) <p>[link] (currently under re-development for RAR - draft site) <p>It keeps my RiscPC busy - also thanks to those who ported PHP to RiscOS. It's great. <p>There is no dealer currently active in Adelaide and Beebnet is defunct. I am not aware of any schools in Adelaide still using Acorns. Some years ago our grain terminals across the state used Acorn machines networked to control the conveyor belt systems. This was an extensive operation in about 4 major ports. I don't know if they still do?

 is a RISC OS Userpipalya on 29/4/04 2:11AM
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Mal: Thank you for your very interesting comments. Actually I didn't comment on what certification any companies had, so any conclusions you may draw about the legality of any RiscStation related operation are entirely your own.

I'm still fascinated to know, what is a Quokka? I guess we'll have to wait for the next issue of Qercus to find out.

pipalya: I've had enquiries from the southern hemisphere about sourcing 65C02 processors to run safety systems related to various sorts of railways, so the idea of RISC OS computers still controlling conveyor belts in major ports is far from surprising. (Many ports in the UK have far more critical systems controlled by RISC OS, and work is underway to move these systems to the Iyonix). David Ruck has experience of RISC OS computers surviving "difficult" conditions in the auto manufacturing industry, I believe.

Four major ports would cover most or all of Australia's major ports, right?

dgs

 is a RISC OS Userdgs on 29/4/04 3:01AM
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In reply to dgs:

No, only in South Australia the biggest grain exporting state in Australia. The porta are Thevanard and Port Lincoln on Eyre Peninsula and Port Pirie, Wallaroo, Ardrossan and Port Adelaide the main ones. So more than 4! The chat was that only SA had a really reliable operation when first computerised as the networked Acorns would pick each other up if any one went down, so the grain loading would continue un-interupted so I was told. In the eastern states if the computer went down it all came to a shuddering halt!

I am only getting the hang of this messaging on drobe. My apologies as the urls in my message above were dead. I repeat them here in the hope thay will come alive! (Is there anywhere on Drobe where this is explicitly explained?

See [link] (old site but still interesting) though seemingly untouched since I left in 2001, I know they are still actively using about 3 RiscPCs and 1 A7000 in classrooms.

[link] (see comments above)

[link] (personal site)

[link] (managed)

[link] (currently under re-development for RAR - draft site)

Peter Russell

 is a RISC OS Userpipalya on 29/4/04 3:19AM
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DGS.

RiscStations made in Australia prior to 2003 comply with the EMI/EMC regs which were in place at the time. None have been made post 1/1/2003, in accordance with the EMI/EMC regs.

Sorry if I bit where it was unwarranted. I have been defending RISC OS for a long time, and occasionally get told the RiscStation Oz "abandoned" the local market. That simply isn't true.

 is a RISC OS UserMal on 29/4/04 4:00AM
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I know how Australia feels, here in Scotland we feel a little cut off with one dealer and no User group meetings.

Or do ZFC meetings from time to time count? ;-)

 is a RISC OS Userquatermass on 29/4/04 9:33AM
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In reply to knutson and TimePhoenix:

I am indeed in New Plymouth and I do get to Christchurch several times a year. However, if you need software or hardware support in Christchurch then my colleague down there, Steven Sykes, can help you.

In reply to knutson:

Gosh! Is it really 4 years since I sold you that RiscPC, Steve? I trust that it's running well. Thanks for setting up the nz-riscos group on yahoo too :-)

More generally:

There is still a RISC OS user group in Christchurch which meets at Ron May's place on a Friday. I'm not aware of any user groups up Taranaki/Manawatu way, unfortunately.

 is a RISC OS Userwebmonster on 29/4/04 9:37AM
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In reply to DGS:

I could tell you what a quokka is.

But its far more fun to leave you guessing. ;o)

 is a RISC OS UserCol1 on 29/4/04 11:49AM
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Of couse my previous comment should have gone in the other thread.

Damn, post in haste, repent at leisure

 is a RISC OS UserCol1 on 29/4/04 12:05PM
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Webmonster

The RISC PC is still running very well thanks! I hope business is going well for you.

Cheers Steve

 is a RISC OS Userknutson on 29/4/04 9:26PM
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Does anyone know if Microdigital Australia is still going? They were supposed to be locally assembling Micos wern't they?

 is a RISC OS Usertimephoenix on 30/4/04 3:48AM
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timephoenix

Unfortunately the small firm who were to be Microdigital Australia went down waiting! Another loss to the RISC OS scene. This was coupled with the politics at a local level. The Govt paid over AU$10million to Microsoft and levied schools whether they had any use for the licences or not. Educational arguments were brushed aside and schools pressured into accepting a S.O.E. Hardly educational! Like every child having to learn to read the same book.

 is a RISC OS Userrmacf on 30/4/04 7:13AM
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timephoenix: Apparently the Iyonix Down Under project team were originally interested in producing Omegas instead. Then they saw the way the Omega was going, and apparently MicroDigital ignored all enquiries from them. So that collapsed pretty quickly.

dgs

 is a RISC OS Userdgs on 30/4/04 1:25PM
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Interesting, what kind of information is spread here, some people must have really close contacts with insiders in certain companies. ;-(

 is a RISC OS UserJGZimmerle on 30/4/04 11:43PM
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JGZimmerle: I don't see what is wrong with people talking to RISC OS companies or organisations to find out what is going on.

dgs

 is a RISC OS Userdgs on 1/5/04 5:00PM
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I have just installed Oregano2 to my RiscOs 4 at my school's Sibelius RiscOs music lab in Auckland, New Zealand. Now after 9 years of using RiscOs and finally getting my RiscOs on the net (better now than never!) I'm interested in contacting local Kiwi users.

 is a RISC OS UserSawadee on 12/5/04 8:52AM
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