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Playtime's over for RISC OS bastion in education

By Martin Hansen. Published: 8th Jun 2004, 22:26:33 | Permalink | Printable


Stonar School, the small independent school in Wiltshire that is, perhaps, best known for its passion for RISC OS, has announced that it is moving over to a Microsoft Windows based system in time for the next academic year. Plans for the change are described as being 'firm' and 'well advanced' and the new machines are scheduled for installation over the coming seven week summer holiday. The boarding school, which is home for around 350 girls during term time, hopes to have its new ICT systems fully operational by September 2004.

RISC OS in education motifThe switch heralds a big change of heart by a school which has invested heavily, both financially and emotionally, in RISC OS since the start of the 1990s. Hardware has, as a matter of policy, been kept fully up to date and the soon to be abandoned set-up features over forty Kinetic and eighty StrongARM RiscPCs, all with RISC OS 4, all with 64M of RAM plus 2M of VRAM, and all networked via a system that has been fine-tuned to largely run itself under the guidance and watchful eye of a single 'consultant engineer', Martin Devon. For many independent schools, the Stonar system represented the set-up that they could never quite afford, and for many state schools, the system they were prevented from having. Curious at what had prompted such a momentous U-turn at the school, I decided, on behalf of Drobe, to track down Martin Devon.

He is a short, grey haired man, with a clear passion for all things RISC OS. One always likes to begin any interview by talking about the good times, and for Martin the pinnacle of his achievements at Stonar School are surprisingly recent: in April 2001, an impressive three page article in Acorn User magazine detailed the way in which RISC OS permeated the school. He was particularly proud of the fact that Stonar had been a beta tester for a Navaho internet proxy in 1996 and had been, in 1994, the first school in the south-west to install a permanent fibre-optic network. This has grown to some 4km of cabling reaching out from a central point into every academic building and boarding house on a large and sprawling site. Even as you read this, girls are using StrongARMs almost around the clock with many machines clocking up 22 hours of continual use, especially just before coursework deadlines. Typically around 100,000 A4 sheets of paper have been being printed each year by the students from packages as diverse as Ovation Pro, Fireworkz Pro, Datapower 2, Artworks, Sibelius and Easiwriter.

I explained to Martin Devon that at my own 700 pupil school school, in Shrewsbury, four full time staff are employed to keep a Microsoft focussed network operational. A further two teach ICT which, these days, in practice, largely focuses on using Word, Excel and Microsoft Internet Explorer. I was stunned to learn that Martin ran the alternative at Stonar School single-handed as a part-time job. He is particularly fond of a wonderful inspection report from 2002. This praised his achievements in teaching ICT as a core subject at GCSE with 35 percent A* grades at GCSE. At A level that year 100 percent of his students achieved A or B grades in their A level Computer Studies examinations.

My personal experiences of small independent schools trying to run a networked Windows system suggest that Stonar may be in for some difficult years ahead. One school in Shropshire last year had no email for six months and no working Internet for four. They could afford a couple of the hefty maintenance and consultancy bills a year to keep their expensive system functioning, but when a third rolled in they had to plug the financial haemorrhage by simply saying 'no more'. In a state school, the (taxpayers) money has to be found as it would be politically unacceptable for ICT to be seen to be in trouble. Eventually, as an act of charity, Shrewsbury's School's top IT guru, Mark Twells, stepped in to sort them out. Now they dare not adjust anything least the whole thing collapse once more.

Filling the void
There are many businesses and schools up and down the country whose computing expertise is largely held in the hands of one or two individuals either working in-house, or as outside consultants. When they move on, the systems they leave behind are often partially or wholly replaced soon afterwards. Sadly, this seems to be the case at Stonar School. Last year, Martin, who is a specialist in timber structures, was asked if he could develop further his software to drive computer controlled saws. With a difficult choice to make, he suddenly felt tired of fighting off the constant pressure from some staff at Stonar to opt for the Windows alternative, and he bowed out to focus his time and effort on his other area of expertise.

For those of us still keen to see RISC OS hold on to some aspect of educational computing, the years since Acorn effectively went bust have been tough. As a community we have failed to bring a native laptop to market, failed to carved out a RISC OS whiteboard market, failed to convert materials on CD-ROM, and failed to make the Internet and RISC OS really gel. New machines come with an up front price tag that attracts a critical financial controller's eye in a way that thirty consultancy fees of 300UKP spread over the year somehow do not.

The typical teacher in any school does not, actually, really care that an alternative system can be run by one part-time man on machines that just never break down. If an alternative is available that has the edge in the areas that I have mentioned, they'd rather have that. Personally, they don't pay for the background support costs and most teachers, like most computer users full stop, don't want to think too deeply when it comes to using a machine. Ultimately, if it isn't on a par, effort-wise, with writing on a board, it will end up not really being used much at all, the exceptions being the small handful of staff (to be fair, surely found in many similar schools) with a deeper interest.

To Martin's credit, Stonar School's RISC OS rendered website has functioned for a year since his departure as have the network, internet and email facilities. He is sad that the end of an era has come, and when I spoke with Martin Devon I felt strongly that he was putting a brave face on a situation that he cared deeply about. Times change. Many schools now routinely replace equipment after three years of heavy classroom use. Those 1996 StrongARM RiscPCs at Stonar have, in lasting eight years, provided an honourable and trouble free service that is well beyond what could reasonably have been expected from them when they where purchased.

It will be interesting to interview staff at Stonar in a couple of years' time to add a post script to the story of the brave little school that held out for RISC OS for so long against what the majority of schools did at the turn around the century. Will they remember their Acorn badged machine days with fondness or not? In two years' time, will any of the staff have decided, after all, to personally stick with the system that made their school quirky and different? Or will they just want to forget "the Acorn years"? Only time will tell.


Stonar school website ROS education resources vs. ICT these days

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Our school has 850 students, 30 ICT classroom computers, 9 staff workstation computers and a few office ones all with Windows XP professional (except for the 30 computer room ones with Windows '98). All the 30 classroom teachers take their own classes in the computer room and our ICT teacher is ONLY available to help the classes IF he is not "Servicing or Fixing" a PC machine - which takes up more than half his day every day mind you! Our ICT teacher is a great person and dedicated to Windows PCs, he is very busy at our school maintaining these so adored PCs. In fact, so busy at times he literally RUNS around our school between repair jobs. Our school intercom will call for him between 2 and 10 (or more) times per day, without fail. Not to forget the one or two part time computer techs. that regularly are on site when the jobs are too big for our taecher/ICT man. I have 12 RISC OS machines for !Sibelius music in my music department. The class teachers come with their class to music and assist me with the programme. Each class has two students in the Music Club who are trained to support and lead their class with their teacher. I start the classes and help supervise them in our RISC OS music lab while I also teach one of the 50 Woodwind / Brass instrumental music groups. This is possible with RISC OS to run a "One Man Band" music department, because RISC OS simplicity and reliability. As many of you may know, I do not much more to the RISC OS computers other than turn them off and back on again if the children freeze or crash them. I could not do what I do in music if I had Windows PC computers, like our school PC's most of them are only 3 years (at the most) old and every day one or more causes major problems. Our school ICT teacher tried my idea of having two children in each class (Music Club) to maintain the computer room in his high level of absence (too busy fixing PCs) Boy, "Nightmare on Elm Street" changing to all PC's only. "A catch 22 situation?" In the last few Drobe articles, much is said about what RISC OS has and doesn't have compared to PC's, which is why people are leaving RISC OS - and why few if none are coming to RISC OS!?!? Only yesterday, a New Zealand MSN news article was concerned to ALL computer users to protect themselve more against viruses and worms on the internet. Aren't we naturally immune to internet viruses, if this is true, why don't more PC users know or care about this point!?!? A sad article here, an end of an era for RISC OS at school. I do wonder if over these past years, if any of these children that were exposed to RISC OS ever bought a RISC OS machine? The best suggestion that comes to my mind, is maybe Castle ought to consider "stealing" the name "Windows 2005" for their next years release??? If it's not too late??? Anyway, your turn for comments.... Cheers, Steve. :grin:

 is a RISC OS UserSawadee on 9/6/04 4:03AM
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Ouch, you can tell that website was done on RISC OS - it's sooo basic, and the Javascript doesn't work!

Still seems a shame that a school with so much equipment is just going to ditch it all to replace it with PC's. I guess replacing the RPC's with 100+ Iyonixes is pushing the budget compared to PC systems (and I guess they could always fall back to VirtualRPCSE for specific software).

Should we be looking out for 120 SARPC/Kinetics going on eBay soon?

 is a RISC OS Usersimo on 9/6/04 7:01AM
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As a head of a British Forces primary school in Germany I have fought a losing battle on behalf of RISC OS. Of our 60 schools mine is the only one still using RISC OS. We have two Access networks opf 14 and 22 machines respectively plus 6 stand alones. All A7000+ and RISC PCs. Maintenence is virtually nil, I do what needs to be done myself, maybe 30 minutes a week on average. The networks were introduced when Access first appeared some 12 years ago.

We have recently been forced by the MOD to have a 15 suite network based on Windows XP plus laptops for every teacher along with interactive whiteboards. The XP network needs external support every week. We are not allowed to install new software on the server until it has been tested by external 'experts' and only they can then install such software if they approve of it

 is a RISC OS Userkenpage on 9/6/04 7:09AM
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Sorry, pressed the wrong button, I hadn't finished!

The positive about the XP network? Well when it is working printing is good, internet access is OK, teachers can use in the classrooms with their laptops and whiteboards.

My RISC OS networks lack internet access and printing to colour laser printers is a little slow compared to XP.

All the laptops have VRPC and many teachers use it quite a lot but without interactivity with the whiteboards the battle will be lost even more.

Is there a future for RISC OS in my school? Not after I leave next year I fear. My authority don't like what I am doing but cannot stop me but my successor will almost certainly give in to XP totally.

Strangely staff I have employed to maintain the XP network are increasingly questioning why the RISC OS network, something they knew nothing of before coming to my school, are increasingly saying why is RISC OS so much more reliable than Windows? Why is it easier to use and when can we use it with with things like Quicktime etc?

Although I shall continue to insist on the use of RISC OS in my school the lack of genuine development of the hard and software, and yes I know about the Iyonix, will ensure that RISC OS does indeed die in those schools that still use it.

I would dearly love someone to prove me wrong, make the right equipment, hard and soft, available at the right price and with the right publicity. Will it happen? I fear not.

Ken Page

 is a RISC OS Userkenpage on 9/6/04 7:23AM
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So what was the reason for the pressure from the staff at the school ? Was it incompatibility with word and/or excel and/or email and/or websites and/or multimedia capability etc. There are two areas which, in my opinion, RISCOS needs to address. The first is the internet with multimedia content, this is very poor on RISCOS and essential for research in education. The second is the look and feel which is simply an excercise in presentation. I can hear the RO advocates groaning at that suggestion but they forget they would have the choice to switch it off. I'd rather have thousands of people spending money on RISCOS than not even if it's only a fluffy screen that has persuaded them ! The internet and multimedia need handling asap and I don't know who is going to do this.

As far as email is concerned I would like to see the RISCOS email packages have some kind of auto warning banner on them and the ability to handle (receive, send and present) the HTML microsoft style emails. The auto banner is a warning sent to folks who break the internet standards to remind them of the problems they cause with microsoft (or other) constructed emails. It's not a battle we'll win due to the way email is used these days. However, it will make people think and question their choice of microsoft. Due to the way that top posing HTML is the "de-facto standard" these days what RISCOS should do is accommodate it better than microsoft (more bells and whistles) but within the internet rules e.g. you send bottom posted text and top posted microsoft readable HTML with warning banner in the same message !



 is a RISC OS Usermripley on 9/6/04 8:51AM
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Although this is a sad article meaning the end of an era, it is not really without our (the platform's developers) fault. If enough money had been pumped into RISC OS earlier on (1998 and on) then perhapps we would have the compatibility needed to ensure a secure future, as is, XP has won out.

So now its time to focus on the remaining areas availible to the platform, and to look for new ones. (I still believe that if RISC OS had a strong Video Editing Suit, and audio editing suite, it would sell to the likes of Pinnacle)

Lets look to the future! And keep up the main areas of development (Video Players, Business areas like e-mail ect)! :D

 is a RISC OS Userem2ac on 9/6/04 9:09AM
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> I'd rather have thousands of people spending money on RISC OS than not even if it's only a fluffy screen that has persuaded them

Ah, that's what Select's for.

What tools are there to centrally manage a RISC OS network?

 is a RISC OS Usermavhc on 9/6/04 9:36AM
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The problem is that there are so many s/ware and hardware areas requiring development it is unrealistic to expect a company with Castle's level of financial clout to develop all of them. Does Castle have a higher t/o than Acorn? I doubt it, yet the effort of maintaining RO as a fully up-to-date OS in all areas was beyond Acorn in 1998, and they abandoned it: needless to say, OS requirements have become an order of magnitude greater in the last 6 years.

The only solution is to determine which areas are key, and concentrate developmnet effort on those. Education may or may not be one of them: it's a truism of commerce that it's easier to keep existing business than to generate new business, but probably it's too late now. However, Jack Lillingston has not survived this long in a tough market by not being a clear-thinking and shrewd operator, so hopefully there is a plan. The main thing is not to spread limited resources too thinly.


 is a RISC OS Userbucksboy on 9/6/04 9:52AM
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What about small primary schools? At my Dad's school when it was RISC OS, ICT was used all the time. Since it's been Windows it's that when-it-goes-wrong-no-one-ever-gets-around-to-fixing-it situation. I don't think kids do as much IT in 2004 as in 1994! Complicated Windows PC just seem to conk out fast in chalk-dusty primary schools.

 is a RISC OS UserJessFranco on 9/6/04 10:11AM
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*mripley* in my views has some very strong points that are in the important areas to address as I have commented in recent articles. At school, in the public eyes and among friends who stop for a moment to hear and see what such awesome computer I have (RISC OS) are not amused by bells and whistles boasted about our machines, but instead have deaf ears and not really interested because of the lack of what I call the "Basics" enjoyed on Windows..... (DVD, Multimedia, full internet support, some common basic foreign language font -encoding I mean - ....etc. etc). Yes I understand that the bug fixes and many other features alike may be important to stabilize and fine tune our machines to a level even further beyond the PC capability, but the would be PC potential buyer don't really want these features first - otherwise they would have bought a RISC OS if they thought stability and fine tuning was more important than feature... But Yep! In a number of ways I am not totally correct, because I do every week hear the PC users at my school complain about those darn computers!! I correct their comments when I reply, "Computers, which computers? You mean those Microsoft ones!!! My computers are O.K. 'cause they're NOT one of them 'M es sy' (pronounced eM ess see) M.S. ones. I am quite sure if RISC OS computers (or who ever of us users) managed to develop and we had most of these feature, I think that a few of the teachers at my school would be willing to dump their PC to be rid of their frustration. What feedback do you get from school/work mate PC users who have seen RISC OS in action? Maybe we should be discussing and looking at PC User comments out of interest instead of all just our comments. Just a thought! Cheers, Steve.

 is a RISC OS UserSawadee on 9/6/04 10:17AM
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When I was the IT manager of a not so small (750-800 pupil) school in Hampshire, I had to manage two distinct networks: the old RISC OS on, which was mainly 710 RiscPCs with the odd StrongARM one, and the new Windows NT/RM Connect based one. I was part time. I have to say, that the Windows-based one was a lot easier to maintain and keep ticking over. This could easily be seen by the amount of time I spent on each of the networks: The Windows network consisted of two suites of 30 machines, plus another machine in each other classroom, so approx. another 50. I spent perhaps 2 hours a day on it. The RISC OS network consisted on one suite of 15, and about 10 others scattered around. I spent about 4 hours a day on it.

I'd certainly never want to maintain a large RISC OS network ever again, especially not one with a RISC OS box as its file and print server.

 is a RISC OS Usernunfetishist on 9/6/04 11:38AM
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RISC OS is not an ideal server operating system, Unix, Novell and even windows are better options.

I think the way forward for any schools with RISC OS systems remaining, is citrix or terminal services. Citrix works very well on a strong arm risc pc, but is unfortunately limited to 256 colours and full screen. The new RDP client does not have these limitations.

We use citrix (no risc os though, apart from my own personal systems) and it has lots of benefits.

 is a RISC OS Userjess on 9/6/04 1:20PM
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Jess: Citrix has only benefits when you are willing to use *only* microsoft (approved) products, give up almost all kinds of animation, your organisation has too much money and/or is very large and wide spread and your IT department is not able to walk and has totalitarian tendencies.

My company uses Citrix. Iím happy that I'm allowed to use a standalone CAD-machine and I only have to use the Citrix-client to read my mail.

Can Drobe have a nice animated gif logo for the Citrix-users? :bowdown: please

 is a RISC OS Useregel on 9/6/04 2:27PM
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Any IT department supporting MS products needs to be totalitarian to some extent.

The issues are mainly with drivers, we are not seriously limited with software. CAD isn't suited to thin client technology, and we don't have problems with animation. The idea of citrix is to /save/ money.

Citrix works best either ias an extra program running on your desktop, or on a non-x86 windows based terminal.

 is a RISC OS Userjess on 9/6/04 2:43PM
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I love the dead "ICT THESE DAYS" link on the DFES website. Nice plug for ROSES. Unfortunately, when I became the only person submitting files to ROSES, I've largely given up updating it.

I still have RiscPCs and A7000+ machines in use, but fewer than before Easter due to most failing PAT tests! :-( Also, it's policy at my school to provide support only for PCs, so there's too much for me to look after on top of my 'normal' job.

It would be VERY interesting to see what happens at Stonar, given what they've been used to. I fear the change over will cost LOTS.

 is a RISC OS Userharmsy on 9/6/04 7:36PM
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Thank you, Martin Hansen, for a well written article. Juat to add a few comments:- We got 35% A* and 40% A on top of the 35% A*, with no-one below C at GCSE. I got simultaneously to retiring age and increasing demands of industry (of which more below), so I left Stonar, not without regret; it is a lovely working environment.

mripley: It was not so much specific objections from other staff, but the universal wall of ignorance, which was so difficult. Note that any common CSV file, loaded under Windows, is described as a 'Windows Excel Comma Separated Values file' so it's not surprising that although the examination boards are scrupulously non-partisan, people get the impression that all their stuff is Windows-based.

simo: Unless things have been changed (which they haven't) in the year since I left, I fear you have a problem. The website Javascript was written by AS students under my direction - it complies exactly with standards and has, as required for AS, been tested under a wide range of browsers.

The web site is certainly simply constructed, although there are over 100 files. Curiously, there were many comments such as 'it's the only school web site easy to navigate and tells me what I want to know straight away'. So much for flashy sites.

It's actually this set of machines I mentioned here a few days ago and in which a number of respondents have expressed interest.

School is proposing a much smaller number of fixed machines and encourging pupils to bring their own to and fro and connect up inside the firewall

harmsy: Yes, I know well, and school doesn't, what it's going to cost. BECTA guidelines suggest 2.5 teacher salaries for technical maintenance for a school of that size, ie 3 technicians, and at the moment they've only got one, who is aging daily.

nunfetishist: network maintenance was trivial. All machines had locked hard discs. A little utility in the boot sequence made them log into the server and obey any upgrade file I had placed there, after which they created an empty file named for the last group of the IP number to tell me the message had been obeyed. Easy and effective.

jess: RiscOS is useless as a server on any major scale. Stonar has a load-balanced pair of Linux servers. When I left there were 160,000 work files on the net. Girls can access their files at home through the Navaho system.

kenpage: So what killed it? Firstly, failure to produce CDROM in RIsc format. We got over that by bringing in the web very early. We got to about a million fetches a week. But the lack of a modern browser was the killer. If Mozilla Firefox had been ported RiscOS would still be in there.

Sawadee: About 10 had their own RiscPCs and there are (I think) 4 Alpha laptops.

Anyway, to the industrial side: The name of the game here is not, can we run this month's Flash 5 CD, but, how do be keep the enterprise running when the Windows network goes down? There is a distict trend away from Windows in favour of Linux.

The timber-frame housing software, PanelEditor, runs in 2 companies. One has 2 emulated machines and 2 native; the other has two emulated. The advantage of emulation here is that it can run alongside AutoCad. Between them these 6 machines produce output to the value of 9 million pounds a year and rising fast. PanelEditor is probably the most expensive RiscOS software - a company licence costs 15,000 a year for a 5-year contract. Puts teaching into perspective!

More than enough from me.

 is a RISC OS UserMartinD on 9/6/04 8:56PM
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What many ppl tend to forget that one of the reasons of PC's popularity (not necesarily with Windows) is the fact that the schools-IT manager usually earns some extra pocketmoney (not necesarily cash) with it. For example anybody can go to a wholesale/PC-parts distributor and order 30 or 40 PC's and re-sell them to the school. Sometimes the IT-manager has strong ties with the company that delivers those school-PC's or provides the IT-service. It's clear that in these situations RISC OS devotees are just devotees, they can't grab some penies out of it unlike in the "peeceemarket". That this situation doesn't benefit the "commununity" is usually seen when it's too late.

I predict that that Stonar will have a struggle ahead and some ppl WILL look back and start believing that they've made the wrong decision. But by then the yearly renewable Microsoft licenses, numerous pc-upgrades and suppiortfees have become such a large sum that they simply cannot go back. Not to mention that by then there's no RISC OS platform anymore.

I once had a discusion with a the new chairman of a wellknown Belgium computer club. The man hosted also the Acorn users group. He was always very impressed with the RISC OS machines and some day he decided to start a computer shop. We had spoken (because I was at that time oficial Acorn dealer) to retail Acorn systems in his shop as well. And at some point he told me: No Not now. Let me first sell some peecees then I have enough money to buy some Acorn kit (demonstration equiment etc...). I replied to him that by the time he had enough money to actually start selling Acorn kit there would be no Acorn anymore. And guess what happened... literally!!!

 is a RISC OS Userepdm3be on 9/6/04 9:41PM
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mripley: Just one further note: using Oregano and fonts borrowed from Linux, , oriental students at Stonar can read native-language web sites and webmail in Mandarin, Cantonese, Japanese and Bengali.


 is a RISC OS UserMartinD on 9/6/04 9:43PM
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'MartinD' I want some native-language fonts (mainly just Thai I would lke) for my recent Oregano2 I bought (RISC OS 4.02). I took some True Type1 Thai fonts off the Net and dropped them into Oregano2 as the instructions say, but it didn't work. Any suggestions? My user name has email if you care to dop me a hint what to do thanks. Cheers, Steve.

 is a RISC OS UserSawadee on 9/6/04 11:40PM
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A lot of the comments here underline the importance of Peter Naulls chox11 library. Just think of all those X11 open source applications available on RISC OS. An example of the progress made so far, can be seen in Peter's port of TGIF - a !Draw like program.



 is a RISC OS Usergazza_fp on 10/6/04 2:09AM
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cor, a really fun subject, and so much intelligent conversation instead of the usual windows bashing. great to see it guys, my faith in the risc os community has been restored.

gotta take a look at schools today and ask what they are trying to achieve when they use computers in classrooms. we can't fault their chioce of wintel boxes for many reasons, as mentioned in articles above and i'll have a go below too.

we know that the clone boxes are a nightmare to keep running, close to a third are going to need replacement hardware due to parts faliure in their useful lifetimes - not including upgrades to keep them running new software. the software is absolutely diabolic to use, and that really is being nice to windows. it has just about reached a point where it is neceassary to retrain people how to use each newer windows version - 3d desktop in longhorn - how's that going to be different to xp that you've all learned to use this year ? the cost of support for each box is far above the initial purchase price of any computer on a desk, so buying cheap rubbish makes sense, even a genuine ibm is going to cost hugely to support if you clog it with windows. and then there are companies like apple, who are big enough to offer schools deals where it works out that every fifth computer is essentially free with the education discount they offer. unless we find about 100k users out there to buy a new $3000 (sorry, couldn't find the quid key on my pc keyboard to make that 1250 pounds) iyonix + risc os, castle isn't going to be able to offer schools competitively priced iyonixs ?

today, you also have to consider that when you leave school, are you more likely to get a job sitting behind the keyboard of a computer using risc os, os x, or windows ? the computers used in schools manage to fill two roles. the software used for education purposes is readily available now for windows - despite some clearly american leanings, and at the same time, little johnny learns how to use a computer/os that he is most likely to run into in the real world. he's just got trained up for his new boss for free.

perhaps if the initial push by acorn had included getting bbc/archimedes boxes into industry as well as the education market i'd not have said the last bit there :o)

again the market for risc os is recognised as being too small for speedy development of software/drivers/os/hardware for the diverse range of add ons out there. i thought whichever company it was that started to develop an isa interface for the risc pc had lost the plot. isa was already old hat and pci was starting to look pretty sad for a pc too (132MB/sec was pretty bland a couple of years back :o) i remember speccing a machine for video edititng, the bus couldn't manage firewire to disc in that bandwidth, so it was finally sold without ide raid, just some very fast av drives to drop the transfer rates). well, we have pci now, finally, as pci and agp are about to be replaced with pci-express - it will take a while, i appreciate, and after it does there are going to be some great deals on cheap secondhand pci cards for risc os users. but how are you going to recommend a new system to somebody when you tell them their upgrade options are yesterdays technology ? risc os systems seem to have a lifespan of 10 years at each generation. a cpu in the wintel world has been introduced, revised, upgraded, and phased out twice in this timeframe, and the support hardware with it seems to take even less agp 1x anybody ? nah, 8x mate. probably becuase there are so many companies trying to get ahead of the others in the pc world this rate of advance is acceptable, but no small market can keep up.

we also have a problem, as identified, that microsoft put their name on everything in their operating system, (like csv), so the school children grow up not knowing any better that microsoft did NOT invent the wheel or fire. (some quite, i forget who to blame it on - "he who controls the past, controls the future")

if anybody is going to save risc os and iyonix, it's the userbase. we have to put our old machines in the closets and back castle and friends with the purchase of new hardware and software. until we are using them out here, schools will not go back to using risc os. it would be great to have a risc os laptop (without windows beneath it) that i could e_mail, spreadsheet and otherwise wave under the noses of my co-workers each time their boxes freeze up on another virus or bug, but we all know what happens to companies that try to make risc os laptops.

still, i'm old fashioned enough to say - take computers out of schools and tach children how to read, write and flamin well add/subtract - which seems sadly lacking in the service industry today - another gripe ;op

boy, did that feel good to get off my chest.

 is a RISC OS Userlostamarble on 10/6/04 4:39AM
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Oh, look Mum, the "RISC OS needs no maintenance and Windows is crap" debate again.

The reason, in my experience, that schools migrating to Windows systems from RISC OS experience a massive increase in support costs is because they buy the lie that all PCs are equal. Cheap computers installed by muppets will cause problems, shock horror.

Buying decent kit, having it properly installed and not listening too closely to the LEA are generally good rules of thumb.

If you want a bastion of RISC OS, I can offer you Tiverton High School in Devon. State sector, 120+ RISC OS machines.

For a PC installation with longevity, have a gander at [link] where a suite of 32 PCs we installed 7 years ago has only just been replaced.

As a supplier, we operate on the principle of not stitching up customers. Which might be why we're still doing the business after a decade, unlike so many in the sector. So the schools with whom we deal tend to not need loads of support time, or full time technicians.

Basically, "PCs need more support" is a lie.

 is a RISC OS Usermikeg on 10/6/04 7:17AM
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Is there a consensus as to what should be done with the RiscPCs? A few people have expressed an interest in a small number. The rest would flood the 2nd hand market and might well damage the market for new machines.

 is a RISC OS UserMartinD on 10/6/04 8:22AM
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eBay them all, and let market forces decide their price. Or donate them to somewhere.... Or sell them for charity.

 is a RISC OS UserAndrewDuffell on 10/6/04 9:27AM
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People who want new machines will still buy them, they probably already have RPCs anyway.

Our Fujitsu machines all had harddrives that died recently, known fault with that batch, will they replace them? Hah.

If using Windows trains you better for the outside world how come everyone I know who uses RISC OS is better at using Windows than 90% of Windows users?

PCs need more knowledge to support, but finding a RISC OS technician could be tricky. Acorn/Castle have the same advantage as Apple, they make the hardware and the software so it tends to work better. Of course that's why they're more expensive.

All these "little utilities" for managing RISC OS networks need collating into a free system.

 is a RISC OS Usermavhc on 10/6/04 9:47AM
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Most people using RISC OS computers appear to be quite well versed with their computers, while most PC users at home and in the schools that I see every day to day are really very low skilled at computers and at just using basic day to day software compared to what I assume should be an average level of competency for an average computer user. The 90% figure quoted by "mavhc" would be very close to most teachers (and my friends) who own and regularly use a PC. I am no software or computer technical person, and I am sure that I rank in the bottom 10% of skill level for RISC OS computer owners. The question I ask here on Drobe should indicate that if you have not already noticed. So please be patient if I ask such simple questions at times, I appreciate the help and reading these comments by RISC OS users even if I don't 100% understand some of the jargon. Sometimes I show the PC user teachers at my school some of the average and not too difficult to understand topics on Drobe, but 90% of it dumbfounds them. Many teachers at my school think that I'm very clever at computers, but the full credit goes to RISC OS and it's users who do really help. But a few PC users who have seen me using my RISC OS are staggered at how simple nearly all the tasks done on a RISC OS is so simple and very quick to "manoeuvre" (using my Impression Dictionary here!) files and with so many on screen... A couple of people before me mentioned PC's are the way if you want to learn computers for the "real world". The "real world" is not PC's according to a couple of my friends who specialize in technical and software programming with "Simms" and "Mass" that they use in their security company. They tell me that these types of software are or were common in many countries Govt., Security, telecommunication or maybe big companies. The point my friends have said to me is that some ICT training institutions in Auckland have approached the in recent years, to teach what they said was an "Industrial" level software instead of shoving Windows down their throats. I asked them what was their problem with Windows, my friends said that some of these ICT computer training Institutions are recognising that in companies like Telecom, some Govt sectors etc., Windows training and certification has not got them the training for the "real world" computer systems. The point was here, it's a bit like putting a Windows PC trainee on to an Apple Mac or a RIS OS - and they are just as lost or much worst off as they are/were on their PC's. The PC training ill prepared them. My friend showed me his 20 year old version Simms Software/Operating System ($11,000 worth - new version is over $50,000 he said) and like Virtual RiscPC, he was running Windows '98 with it. Anyway, what my friend showed me and explained, Windows PC isn't really preparing "everyone" for the real world. Does anybody else know about these sort of systems? Cheers, Steve. :acorn: ;-)

 is a RISC OS UserSawadee on 10/6/04 11:40AM
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As regards maintenance, consider it in 3 areas: infrastructure, workstation hardware and software.

Stonar network is fibre-optic and switched right to the desktop with 100/10 switches, mostly Intel, of which more below. Inclusing the Linux servers the whole infrastructure is effectively Maintenance free.

Workstation hardware: The RiscPCs have stood a year in the clasroom since I left and are still running. The desktop PCs of which there are about 20 are hardware-reliable. Laptops are largely pupil-owned and hardware maintenance is an ongoing problem, mostly hard discs and broken screens. All these repairs are subcontracted for liability reasons.

Software: the RiscPCs are locked up solid and are still running as I left them. PC software is a maintenance nightmare with a couple of machines going corrupt every week. When you are trying to deal with Windows in Chinese, it makes an interesting diversion.

As to the switches: the father of one of my A-level ICT students is a director of Intel Europe. I got to know him quite well. The switches were a gift from Intel. Father is totally unfazed by his daughter doing A level under RiscOS. She prefers it by a long way. He actually offered me a set of 'Intel Inside' stickers for the StrongArms. He utters dark warnings about the total collapse of usability of Windows networks as the malware threat grows.

 is a RISC OS UserMartinD on 10/6/04 12:51PM
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Has Stonar evaluated citrix or even terminal server?

 is a RISC OS Userjess on 10/6/04 1:56PM
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In short, no. Believe it or not, some of the so-called education CDROMs they want will only work on a local machine, and with administrator privilege.

 is a RISC OS UserMartinD on 10/6/04 2:40PM
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If the kids are anything like ours, they are going to have some "fun".

If they want to run stuff like that they should stick to windows 95, I think.

 is a RISC OS Userjess on 10/6/04 3:08PM
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