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RISC OS in schools today

By Chris Williams. Published: 13th Feb 2005, 15:40:03 | Permalink | Printable

RISC OS powered special school recognised

RISC OS in educationThe UK education sector was once a great bastion of RISC OS, albeit a very long time ago. Times have changed radically, yet the question remains: where is RISC OS in education now? To set the record straight, we got in touch with various schools in the UK who are still employing RISC OS in their classrooms to find out how they're coping in the modern world of ICT.

Knightsfield School, in Hertfordshire, was recently awarded a Naacemark at the BETT 2005 show: Knightfield is the first school for deaf children in the country to be awarded the Naacemark, which recognises excellence in ICT teaching. Apart from a few Apple Mac computers (which are used for digital video processing and speech recognition), the school is completely RISC OS powered.

"The Naacemark provides a framework for using ICT to enhance teaching and learning and provides opportunities for the school community to develop ICT capability," Sharon Pointer, Knightsfield's deputy Head teacher told us.

"There are now 270 schools that have achieved the Naacemark, of these just over a quarter are secondary schools and about 5% are special schools. Knightsfield's assessment for the Naacemark took place in November, against the secondary school criteria, as these proved to be more appropriate than those for special schools. It was very exciting to be presented with the award at BETT, especially when Steve Bacon, general secretary of Naace, confirmed that this was the first award for a school for deaf children. We are also the first special school in Hertfordshire and as far as I know, the only RISC OS school to have achieved it. Richard Hall from Branston Junior School met me there and two of his staff are going to visit my school to see what we are doing."

The school employs a AUN level 4 file server to provide storage space for staff and student files and Access+ for application sharing. They also use a Navaho server for their Internet connection and email.

Sharon added: "My main reason for using RISC OS is that the system is more robust and user friendly than the alternative. I have deaf children gaining GCSE ICT with at least one grade higher in ICT than in their other subjects. Pupils can use the computers around the school pretty much independently and - as long as they don't use the Internet - unsupervised, which could not happen with non-RISC OS computers and special children. We have been doing things with RISC OS for 8 years that PC users could only have dreamed of until recently."

Her only bugbear is web browsing: With Oregano 1 and 2, WebsterXL and Fresco at the school's disposal, their main choice is Oregano 1. However, the lack of modern Flash support means websites, such as their LEA's online career assessment site, do not work. Knightsfield are currently considering using a Windows 2000 server, which pupils can use Internet Explorer on via RDesktop, although are reluctant over the price.

"I'm totally not happy about this, but I am going to need to solve the browser problem before too long, as online testing is also looming and you can guarantee that it is likely to need the Windows platform," commented Sharon.

West Midlands
At the end of last month, I visited Bablake Junior school in Coventry, where RISC OS is used exclusively. Every classroom has around six StrongARM RISC OS 3.7 RiscPCs in A7000 cases, totalling up to 50 computers or 4 children per computer. RiscPCs and Iyonixes are also used in the school's offices (the Datapower database that managed all the pupils' records was impressive) and every computer is connected to a flatscreen monitor. I found a lone Windows PC running the school's library system, which uses a fingerprint sensor and voice recognition to identify borrowers. Library cards are obsolete, you see. During my tour of the building, I passed a RiscPC in the reception area running !OHP to display information.

I was shown around by Bablake Junior's IT manager, Gary Locock, who offered me a cup of strong coffee after I spent the morning navigating the urban maze of Coventry city in the rain. "We really trust our children," explained Gary, after I noticed how the children were allowed to use the computers unsupervised. Bablake is a private independent school and this, according to Gary, gives it a little freedom in terms of the implementation of the National Curriculum. For example, in year six, the children learn how to write HTML with !Edit and Oregano before later moving onto !HTMLedit. "Some people use Logo, we use HTML," says Gary.

The school is ideally interested in students with potential and pupils must pass an entrance test to be accepted into year three.

"One of the first things I teach the children is that you cannot break our computers. They aren't like their Windows PCs at home, where their parents will be worried all the time that something might break," says Gary, who relies on the resilience of RISC OS. Children can bring in floppy discs, surf the web and check email with little fear of introducing a virus into the school, for instance. The Iyonix in the staff room had a sticker on it, pasted under the reset button, that read: "Press and hold if the computer goes wrong".

"I would not want their problems," commented Gary, when I asked how his colleagues in the Windows PC based IT department of Bablake Secondary school coped. "The priorities are also different for the senior school. They have career preparation to deal with as the real world is Windows based and the older children need experience and training for Windows. I don't think, though, it's doing our country any favours by concentrating on just one OS, especially from a company with dubious business principles. We're supposed to educate our children and in the case of Windows in schools, we're here to widen their horizons, not narrow and focus them. We're not here to provide training for employers."

Unlike others, the school doesn't have a dedicated computer room and instead keeps machines spread out across the building. Classroom windows have stickers on them that say the computers aren't Windows PCs to deter burglars. Although having a dedicated classroom would be convenient, argues Gary, from a security stand point, a single room would be a gold mine for intruders.

Interestingly, the school uses !Alarm to schedule the sharing of games on the network, so children can play and amuse themselves outside of school hours. An hour long computer club runs after school, where pupils can catch up on computer based homework and later treat themselves to software such as Zool, Heros of Might and Magic and Bunny Race - a game that a student wrote some years ago. During school time, I watched a class of children use !Paint and !Draw effortlessly to make cartoons using photos of themselves. One child was using Spex to design her ideal bedroom in 3D. The network also includes Artworks 2 and OvationPro, plus lots of freeware.

I saw more RISC OS computers that day than I normally see at an annual show, and the most uplifting part was seeing them actually being used and enjoyed. I commented to Gary that, due to the size of the platform, being a RISC OS user can sometimes leave you feeling quite isolated and alone in the modern world of IT. When I asked if RISC OS in education nowadays relies on priviledged and independent schools, he replied: "State schools would have other problems to worry about, and they would go with whatever their IT advisors tell them. As a private funded school, we have greater control."

On the subject of management, Gary has written a number of Obeyfile scripts that roll out software updates to machines across the network. Each machine stores the applications locally and quickly boot into the desktop will all the essential shortcuts on the pinboard and iconbar. Pupils can then access their files via Lanman98, using their username and password. Another Obeyscript on each machine uses the computer's IP address to decide on which classroom the computer is in and attaches the necessary files and applications to the pinboard. For example, say, to is for the machines in a year three classroom, the script will recognise this and pin up the software suitable for the year three pupils. Gary also uses a 40" plasma TV screen, connected to a RiscPC with a Castle USB card, to demonstrate software and teach IT to classes. The RiscPC is controlled by a remote control handset that interfaces with the USB card.

"Windows was never designed to be used by a seven year old, whereas RISC OS can be picked up quickly by anyone," says Gary, as we wander through classrooms during break time. However, he admits that he's tried disguising the RISC OS desktop as a sort of compromise between RISC OS and Windows. For example, the backdrop is coloured Windows 2000 blue and each machine has IClear installed to provide Windows style cut'n'paste'ing in icons. This is to keep the desktop familiar to staff and students who will be used to Windows from home.

Bablake use a Windows 2000 server to provide Internet Explorer via RDesktop, but otherwise use Oregano for web surfing. Gary argued that it's cheaper to buy one fast Windows 2000 server, rather than 24 new PCs, for example. Their gateway server has a white list of acceptable websites that the children are allowed to visit. "Obviously, you wouldn't let a seven year old wander around a shopping centre on their own, and so we don't allow them to go anywhere on the Internet," Gary told me. The Navaho server that acts as the Internet gateway is Linux powered and also provides email and other services. Printers located around the building are connected to the ethernet network and use the LPR protocol to receive documents.

Gary continued: "Without RDP and a decent RISC OS client, I doubt if we could have continued with only RISC OS for this long. RDP gives us the all important comprehensive web access. Frankly, existing RISC OS browsers are all hopeless for educational purposes these days. Only the Oreganos and WXL will even operate under our Navaho webmail and proxy system, and all three are two slow and buggy to be a professional solution.

"I might add that the Iyonix is also critical to hanging on to RISC OS. Without a realistic hardware upgrade path, I would have had to consider alternative machines simply to avoid becoming a technology museum. We have around 50 machines all told, none less than StrongArm power, nearly all based in normal classrooms and for this the 'bomb-proof' nature of RISC OS is a critical advantage. I doubt if we could operate in this free and easy way with Windows-based workstations."

The Leys School in Cambridge is also an independent school, but here RISC OS is under threat.

"We are still, just about, using Acorns here, but only in the Science Faculty, and then only in Physics and Chemistry for datalogging and plotting of graphs using GraphDraw," Head of Physics Andrew Harmsworth told us. "However we are phasing them out, as most modern dataloggers require USB. I know you can upgrade to USB, but there's no USB support for dataloggers. Irrespective of that there has been no upgrade to the de facto datalogging standard (Insight) from version 2 - Logotron stopped supporting RISC OS years ago. This means it is woefully inadequate for complex analysis."

Andrew, who praised Chris Johnsons' !GraphDraw for being arguably better than Excel, continued: "We continue to use RISC OS via VA5000 on a PC - the software Orrery is excellent and quick to use for demonstrating solar system dynamics. The PC equivalent - RedShift 5 - is far more comprehensive, but also has a highly complex user interface so we've yet to use it instead of Orrery.

"The chances are, therefore, that by September we will no longer regularly use RISC OS hardware, and it will be left solely under emulation. And even then, only for demonstrations by teachers who know how to use it. Most don't and the kids have no experience of RISC OS any more."

Andrew also believes RISC OS will need more than just fresh hardware: "It's not the hardware that's the problem - it's proper support for Internet technologies and the publication of 'new' software that actually excites and stimulates the kids."

Tiverton High School confirmed that they are also still using RISC OS powered hardware. Peter Bennett told us: "For pupil use we have around 70 Riscstation Networx, 60 A7000+, 20 RiscPCs, 30 Acorn NCs and one Iyonix. We use thin client technology to deliver Windows to clients if needed. We have about 40 PCs also. I'm not sure how long this will last, mainly because of Internet browser limitations, but we have no immediate plans to change things: delivery of the curriculum is greatly simplified by using RISC OS and the kids can't usually wreck the systems."

Are you using RISC OS in education or business? Let us know

Update at 11:06 14/2/2005
Knightsfield is currently considering using a Windows 2000 server for RDP, rather than actually using one as the article originally stated. Also, Dave Wisnia of Fieldhead Carr Primary School in Leeds has told us that they are using 11 StrongARM RiscPCs with TextEase+, in a shared network.

Interestingly, Dave said his children have a problem saving their work: "Windows users have to negotiate threir way through a maze to get to their own folder; RISC OS users initially have some uncertainty about the first drag and drop save, though this can be resolved in Textease."

He adds: "RISC OS would be a viable alternative if there were up to date ports of Flash and Director. Without those, PC's will be rippling through the classrooms, and the last RPC will probably go by September 2007."


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What an informative and well writen article.

 is a RISC OS UserRevin Kevin on 13/2/05 4:02PM
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Lack of up to date internet s/ware means reliance on a PC for browsing. Once you've made the investment in PC hardware + OS, you may as well use the software, much of which is free (Flash, Acrobat, etc). As time goes on you use RISC OS less and less, and only for specific tasks. The time comes to upgrade the RO machine and the answer is clear: Virtual Acorn. So that's the end of RO hardware. To paraphrase Bill, "it's the browser, stupid".


 is a RISC OS Userbucksboy on 13/2/05 5:10PM
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Nice article, but nothing that we are not already aware of. We need at the very least Java and Flash, to be able to access most if not all the available websites under RISC OS. Only reason I generally turn to my pc is when Java is needed on a website. Would be nice also for the webrowsers to be quicker at rendering a page.

 is a RISC OS Usersa110 on 13/2/05 5:27PM
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Gary Locock expressed several pertinent points re: education for a range of challenges (emphasis on flexibility) and teaching children values (why pay to entrench the monopoly of a dishonest company that acts illegally) These are the two major reasons why schools should stick to an alternative.

Browser issues are a serious handicap though and need urgent attention if we are to hold the schools we still have.

 is a RISC OS Userrmac on 13/2/05 6:17PM
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Schools are just a microcosm of the wider world. My company has just rolled out a new MIS (OK, that's Management Information System in plain English): it's browser based - RISC OS browsers can't get near it. I used to be able to log onto my company's internal email server remotely using my Kinetic, but now I can't: the IE5.5 option has been disabled in favour of IE6. Internet banking site X used to work, now it doesn't. And so the world moves on, but Oregano2 sadly does not. If there is some insurmountable reason, like the cost of the relevant licenses, or development, why we cannot /ever/ expect Flash or up to date JS, or a modern browser on our platform, personally I would rather know sooner than later; at least I could then make rational decisions about how to shape my computing activities in future. George

 is a RISC OS Userbucksboy on 13/2/05 7:13PM
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The problem with Java and Flash, are most probably down to licensing cost, but then Sun have recently being mulling over the idea of making it open source. Now if only they did that, we might perhaps get an upto date version. As for the browsers in general, rekon both RComp (Webster XL) and Castle (Oregano) need to come out and say what is happening with them.

 is a RISC OS Usersa110 on 13/2/05 7:52PM
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If you want to give it away, Flash and Java don't require licence fees. A port of Firefox seems desperately needed, perhaps the schools should consider helping to fund this. Flash has been recently updated, but is still behind.

And these systems management scripts etc should be available somewhere for others to use.

Does teaching HTML really compare to Logo?

 is a RISC OS Usermavhc on 13/2/05 8:21PM
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"pupils must pass an entrance test to be accepted into year three" ... year THREE? For gods sake. Elitism and social selection is grim at the best of times, but I find it especially distasteful at this age. Next they'll be selecting by race or height or something equally ridiculous.

 is a RISC OS Userimj on 13/2/05 10:46PM
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Did monkeyson go to that Coventery School? IIRC, he wrote Bunny Race.

 is a RISC OS UserAndrewDuffell on 13/2/05 10:46PM
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sa100, making sun's JVM open source won't cause it to appear suddenly on RISC OS unfortunately. This, for much the same reasons we don't have firefox or whatever else... you can't just compile. I suppose finding the UPP would be the best thing to help make it possible.

 is a RISC OS Userjohn on 13/2/05 11:19PM
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In answer to mavhc: we /do/ support the UPP, and IMHO everyone should. The browser issue is overwhelmingly important. Does HTML compare to Logo? Does it matter? I would teach basic HTML regardless.

In reply to Andrew Duffell: indeed he didn't, AFAIK. There is an ambiguity in the text. The author /was/ a student at the time, but not here, I regret to say. Super little game though. I hope I thanked the author, if I didn't, I do so now.

 is a RISC OS UserGML on 13/2/05 11:31PM
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GML: fully agree with your comments about the UPP and browser. I support the UPP also. But Flash and JS support is part of the picture. ROL's main function is to support desktop development; Castle have often stated that they see desktop computers as central to their business plans. Well, without a viable browser the desktop market is moribund IMO (not dead, but dying). So if they really believe in the platform, this is /the/ issue.


 is a RISC OS Userbucksboy on 14/2/05 8:17AM
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Interesting to see that there are still some schools using RISC OS, although there are only 8 registered on Paul's "RISC OS Schools Web Ring" site. It's great to see that these schools have achieved great learning levels, awards and peace of mind with a sensible system.

It mind boggles me how still and for so long one browser issue for RISC OS has not been accomplished. I feel that the big picture of the browser issue to make it happen is the gaining of confidence of someone to do it and money to fund it?

However, I am more fortunate (in a small way) in my school with RISC OS. I use !Sibelius7 for basic level music processing, composing, printing for my own school teachings & use but I do not need or have to rely on a decent browser on my RISC OS machine except for my own person dissatisfaction and moans.

My RISC PC 600 with RO4 and 11 other A7000s 3.7 Acorns, and as the other schools said in the article, are amazingly robust, reliable, easier to use and don't have major problems like our XP Windows in my school encounter. I mean weekly major problems with sometimes a couple of machines, and other times too many machines.

I only really ever had to get technical assistance in a couple of times in the many many years of RISC OSing to help me when I have to add something or change something major to the computers or network system.

I do hope we get a browser and a few updates for RISC OS this year, so many are fed up with Windows here and something needs to happen for an alternative choice of platform for sure to change our way of thinking what computers are.

My way of thinking amongst the staff at my school is this, sometimes complimentary but mostly dissatisfaction when a problem (as often) occurs with the computers. My response to negativeness from staff with the computers is that the computer at fault is not "the computer", but it is "the Microsoft"! A computer to me means ALL computers, but my RISC OS is not at fault in the school system. So weekly and often daily when the "Microsoft" is playing up, my computer specific terms keeeps the blame from RISC OS and creates an awareness that mine is never at fault! ;-)

Remember to use the word "the Microsoft" and not "the computer" to refer to common faults and failures of a computer being blamed. :smile:

 is a RISC OS UserSawadee on 14/2/05 9:59AM
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I was very heartened to hear Gary Locock's views about broadening horizons. There is an awful lot of IT teaching that is a rip-off in the sense that it does not teach fundamentals but only how to use this or that package. This lumbers the student with a belief that it is all magic and with skills that are at best ephemeral.

 is a RISC OS UserGavinWraith on 14/2/05 10:46AM
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It was mainly the browser and plugins issue that killed RiscOS at Stonar. However, since changing to Windows I hear that the IT experience has deteriorated markedly. Instead of open access at any time it is now controlled with locked rooms, supervised internet and other hindrances. No floppies, so the children have to email their work between home and school. Result, a lot of boarders are avoiding restrictions with their own laptops (all VIth form boarders' rooms are networked). And as GavinWraith remarks, a knowledge of fundamentals can be seen to be degenerating into how-to-press-buttons-in-Word, More seriously, I've heard it from a number of clever, thinking people in the higher reaches of education that we are in real danger of entering a new 'dark age' where the majority know little other than what the computer tells them to do and are thus controlled by an oligarchy of those who actually know what they are doing.

 is a RISC OS UserMartinD on 14/2/05 11:15AM
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sawadee:"My response to negativeness from staff with the computers is that the computer at fault is not 'the computer', but it is 'the Microsoft'!" I suspect there is some more deep-rooted psychology at work in this situation. In my experience, people use such phrases as an excuse: "oh, the computer deleted my work"; "stupid computer won't display my picture"; "the computer's lost my spreadsheet". Because such excuses have become so accepted, no-one even trys to find a solution to the problem as it would rob them of their favourite moan! Of course, teach those people to use RISC OS and they won't like it - because they can't blame an inanimate object for their mistakes any more :-( Adam

 is a RISC OS Useradamr on 14/2/05 11:51AM
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I see that Oregano UK will be present at the South West Show: let's hope there'll be some concrete news about Oregano development then. Maybe Peter Naulls could say whether UPP support contributions are at a satisfactory level: if not, I for one would prepared to put more money where my mouth is.


 is a RISC OS Userbucksboy on 14/2/05 12:26PM
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Why not put your money where your mouth is anyway? If you use (or will use) the products of this project then sign up. I'm sure that the more money the project gets the more time Peter and the others involved will spend on it. -- Spriteman

 is a RISC OS UserSpriteman on 14/2/05 1:08PM
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Spriteman: He did say more money, suggesting that he already is signed up. The people who need to put some in at all are people like me, so please feel free to hassle me until I do.

 is a RISC OS UserSimonC on 14/2/05 1:16PM
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SimonC: consider yourself duly hassled!

Spriteman: I am signed up, to the 'including browser support' option. Having now re-read the order form, I see it includes an 'other greater amount' option which I had not noticed before. So a 'greater amount' will be on its way shortly :-)


 is a RISC OS Userbucksboy on 14/2/05 1:25PM
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It seems to me that the browser issue is one of the key problems facing our platform at the moment. A highly capable web browser is an essential piece of software for the vast majority of users these days. Such a browser on RISC OS would certainly encourage me to drag more of my computing back onto my preferred OS.

I don't know what might be going on behind the scenes, but IMHO, Castle, ROD et al should see money spent on bringing an excellent browser to RISC OS as an investment. Something like Firefox running on RISC OS would be a huge asset to the platform, and I applaud the efforts of Peter and the porting crew to make things like that happen.

In general, also, I feel that the ease of porting software is going to get increasingly important to RISC OS's survival in the future, and it would be great to see the main commercial players in the market investing in that. The investment might not see direct returns, but I think that it would more than pay for itself in terms of stimulating the market and encouraging users to spend on other things. Unfortunately, hardware + operating system does not alone a viable platform make.

 is a RISC OS Userape on 14/2/05 2:56PM
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Kind of related (i.e. RiscOS in a non RiscOS Aware world): In this weeks New Scientist there are two small articles. One is describing a project to get computers into Africa. They have to be cheap (sub 100$) stripped back of all the excessive software and very low power. Apparently AMD have been approached to provide a low power processor ! Then there was a second very short paragraph highlighting how mobile phones will be able to use additional hardware. The problem of drivers etc will be solved by having the extra software in the hardware which will then extend the OS in the phone......sound familiar? Apparently there is a patent in the US for this filed in 2004.

Maybe the likes of Castle et al should follow these up.

 is a RISC OS Usermripley on 14/2/05 4:27PM
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(ill today)

Thanks for your comments. I have been planning to say something on this topic, but I am not quite ready, so please don't enquire further at this time. And whilst I certainly appreciate extra contributions, It would be nice if more people contributed rather than existing people contributing more. IYSWIM.

 is a RISC OS Usermrchocky on 14/2/05 6:47PM
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Meanwhile, the trolls are out in force on OSNews regarding this article if someone felt like tackling some of the comments they've made.

 is a RISC OS Usermrchocky on 14/2/05 6:50PM
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Adamr Just a recent teasing with my peer staff at school, you're right there is no immediate solution of course.

Peter Hope you're feeling better soon, when you are could you give us some indications of progress with the Firefox project? Thanks.

 is a RISC OS UserSawadee on 14/2/05 7:48PM
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Hope you get well soon Peter (also thanks for the headsup on the OSNews article !!!!)

Chris, that's a nice comprehensive article. Its nice to know that RISC OS still has some sort of presence in schools, sadly it's a shadow of its former self though.

 is a RISC OS UserAMS on 14/2/05 8:02PM
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Great article. Yet again we all agree that the one big issue we have as an OS is the lack of an up to date decent browser. Can we not pool some of our megre resources? We have 4 teams (used in the losest possible way) working on Oregano, Netsurf, WXL and UPP. Ok some are a labour of love and others are commercial. The chances of any of these getting to the latest standards and more importantly then maintaining that development with the best will in the world is zero! As a user I would willingly pay for a "decent" browser. At the moment depending on which site I am attempting to view I have to hack about with at least 3 and then there is no guarentees that it will be fully functional. I am not coughing up more dosh for yet another half functioning attempt. (dons flameproof rig and stands back) :-( PS the one I use most is the one that I haven't mentioned and I have had since the year dot - !Fresco.

 is a RISC OS UserMart on 14/2/05 8:31PM
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Pooling resources and a team if possible, sounds an excellent idea and seem a logical solution to our stagnant progress. In RISC OS, some wonderful individuals have helped an aweful lot towards the platform. However, this article is indicating a stagnanting problem we have not overcome.

But the question may be more, can RISC OS users come to terms with working together to achieve one common goal? Just my views what I see, but what do you all suggest, realistically?

 is a RISC OS UserSawadee on 14/2/05 9:41PM
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Thank's for the tip off about OS news - they are a fiesty lot arn't they: I've waded in with my 2p's worth.

 is a RISC OS Usermartin on 15/2/05 12:03AM
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Sawadee: sadly, once again, I find your comments both misleading and it really seems you've not made an effort to read what's been said.

I said I would not comment further on the issue right now, and what's the first thing you ask me?

As for the browser situation being "boggling", it shouldn't be - since the situation has been extensively documented - in the "RISC OS Browser Issue" and many other places. Unfortunate? Yes. Boggling? No.

"Pooling resources". What resources, precisely? I've already pointed out in the past that for example the NetSurf team make their own contribution to GCCSDK/Unixlib which is a crucial part of any port. And vice-versa, Netsurf probably would not have been possible (or at least very difficult) without my work.

Java. Why do people go on about Sun's JVM and licensing every time this is mentioned. Kaffe is a comprehensive version, and is free. More importantly, there's been a command line version on my website for around 2 years. The work now to complete it is relatively small.

Mart: precisely why wouldn't a firefox port have the "latest standards" and be continued to maintained? I really think you haven't read "The RISC OS browser issue" or you'd be saying something a bit different.

 is a RISC OS Usermrchocky on 15/2/05 10:01AM
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Chocky, I have read your "Browser Issue page" and I stand by my comment. To be honest I am confused, you are trying to port Firefox to Risc OS and the NetSurf programers are developing NetSurf. Ok so you are helping each other with various Unix tools etc. But there must be considerable effort being wasted here as NetSurf is not Firefox and vice versa. I do hope I am missing something here but all I see is 2 different browsers being worked on by 2 different teams. Why?

 is a RISC OS UserMart on 15/02/05 2:43PM
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Two different approaches mean twice the chance of success, especially if some of the work is useful for both?

 is a RISC OS UserSimonC on 15/02/05 3:01PM
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Mart: I'm afraid you didn't answer my question. Again, exactly why wouldn't a Firefox port be able to keep up with the "latest standards"?

As for NetSurf, it's a very fast and designed for RISC OS, but it'll never been as comprehensive in features, because of the correct response to your above claim. I'm afraid also your claim about NetSurf is not Firefox (which is certainly true in pretty much every respect in regards to code specific to it) belies an understandable ignorance of the development process of porting, and the various libraries involved.

 is a RISC OS Usermrchocky on 15/02/05 3:30PM
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Chocky, 1) We don't have a port of Firefox yet, how long has this project of yours been running? 2) If our 'commercial' browsers are unable to keep pace with the "latest standards" by what wonderful method are you able keep up the pace? Yes I know that the development work will be done on the Unix/Linux/whatever system, but someone will have to constantly be willing and able to update and support the Risc OS version.

Netsurf may not have the features of Firefox but NetSurf is on my screen now. Unlike the UPP/Firefox! I for one would much rather support what I have and see it improved than throw money at vapourware.

 is a RISC OS UserMart on 15/02/05 4:45PM
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(time to get flamed I think, but I feel this is a necessary question) Chocky - you mention Kaffe. I haven't used this, but I'll take your word for it that its good and free. If it is easy to turn into a plugin, why haven't you done it in 2 years? RISC OS needs a JVM that works as a plugin and runs standalone. Acorn struggled to get the wimp interface (AWT, Swing demo etc) up and running, but nearly got there before Sun hit them for more money. UPP is doing lots of good work, but please (I speak on behalf of RISC OS users here) could you *finish* some of these ports to the point where they are usable by the general public. As a command line thing, Kaffe is maybe useful to 25 RISC OS users. As a finished product, it is useful to 1000+ RISC OS users, and suddenly the UPP becomes essential to end users.

I guess part of the answer is that user interface stuff tends to be regarded by programmers as dull, time consuming stuff. Unfortunately, for end users, a program is only as good/useful as its user-interface.

 is a RISC OS Userarawnsley on 15/02/05 4:49PM
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At the risk of wading back in when I'm not the one involved in doing the work, I would've thought that the initial port is the hard part. Once that's done then it's (relatively) easy to port newer versions as they appear, provided they don't involve large changes to the original code. As a simple example from someone with very little experience in doing this, I tried porting the Elite: TNK code (before David Braben went on the warpath against it). That used libraries not available on RISC OS for graphics, keyboard etc., so I replaced them with rather crude things I'd put together using the same API. Hey presto, the whole thing then compiled and ran (after a fashion!). Any newer version would've also compiled and ran. Of course, Firefox is a much more complicated beast, but I would imagine that the principles are the same, so when it does appear I wouldn't worry too much about it falling behind.

 is a RISC OS UserSimonC on 15/02/05 4:54PM
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Mart: I still don't think you've fully understood my article or the way the UPP works, or you still wouldn't be asking these questions.

The number of people on the Mozilla project is far far larger than has ever been on any commerical RISC OS browser project, which is precisley how it'll keep up with standards. Simon's comment is close - but the truth is perhaps even better than he suspected. Many of the programs in the UPP are automatically built. Many don't even need changes to work on RISC OS - the initial porting work is in fact improvements in Unixlib/CX11/Porting tools. I would expect that new versions would be very little effort to build.

Andrew: Please go (re-)read my ChoX11 article. Apart from that, your comment too belies a misunderstanding of the porting process. A kaffe port builds upon a great deal of existing work, and the approach is very different to building an AWT from scratch.

Please also do not presume to speak on behalf of RISC OS users, because I am certain you do not.

I'm a bit surprised all these questions have come up now - they're ones I've answered several times before in various forms and in various forums.

Mart: As for the time frame - please either convince more developers to help with CX11/Unixlib improvements or persuade more people to subscribe to the project so I can spend more than the rather minimal time I do now on it.

 is a RISC OS Usermrchocky on 15/02/05 6:15PM
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Re Kaffe:

Just because the amount of work to complete it is _now_ relatively small doesn't mean that this has always been the case. The command line version may well have been available for some length of time but this is no indication that a full GUI version (with an appropriate plugin interface) was in any way possible two years ago (in fact, I can pretty much guarantee that it wasn't). The work done over the last two years has done a number of things:

a) Improved UnixLib a very great deal - just look at the changelog to see what's been changed. b) Improved the porting tools which facilitates future ports. c) Increased the number of libraries available for such ports to link against. d) Improved the X compatibility library (ChoX11) to enable ports to run natively under RISC OS without requiring an X server.

Note that points a and c directly benefit native applications, too.

Obviously, most of this has no impact upon the end user so it is very easy to say that no progress has been made. However, without such developments, you can pretty well forget any possibility of improved (or new) ports appearing. Note that each and every new port undertaken uncovers issues with various supporting libraries and parts of the toolchain, thus diverting effort into fixing these issues first. Is this a waste of time? No, as it reduces the effort required to make the next port. However, this all takes time which, with a small number of developers, is an extremely limited resource.

 is a RISC OS Userjmb on 15/02/05 6:33PM
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Thankyou for the clarification. I suspect the most laudable thing in chocky's post is the comment "Many don't even need changes to work on RISC OS" which is a great testament to the work that he (and others) have done, and really does hold much promise for the future. Alongside this, and perhaps I will not express this in the most eloquent way, I firmly believe that programmers of Peter's talents can go beyond the "pure port" to build interfaces to programs which are RISC OS-"enhanced" (for want of a better term). Of course, in a cross-platform world, such talk may well be worthy of scorn, but the idea of going an extra mile (or ten) is "another way" of looking at porting etc. As one example, look at the super stuff Justin did with Doom+, beyond a straight code port. The problem, as John touches upon, is the huge amount of extra time taken, and the fact that time is such a limited resource, and what is the best use of such time? I guess that is something that is up to each and every coder/company. Diversity - the spce of life!

 is a RISC OS Userarawnsley on 15/02/05 8:16PM
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Arawnsley: With due respect, I think you miss the point, which is contained in Peter's last sentence: "Please either convince more developers to help with CX11/Unixlib improvements or persuade more people to subscribe to the project.." Quite honestly, if we let this opportunity go by default for lack of people willing to spend the annual equivalent of a good restuarant meal for two, we deserve everything that befalls us. Get those chequebooks out!


 is a RISC OS Userbucksboy on 16/02/05 09:01AM
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Chox: "please either convince more developers to help with CX11/Unixlib" ... yet you come along with your attitude and delete their work and eschew their input, so they go away again. Myself and others have been there and been bitten, so don't be suprised there aren't people around to help. Great shame. :(

 is a RISC OS Userimj on 17/02/05 2:29PM
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Ian: I've deleted no one's work. I no idea what you're on about. The few contributions I've had to CX11 have been extremely valuable, and it couldn't be anywhere near as complete as it is without those.

Perhaps you'd like to revise your comment, or refer to some actual examples before making allegations?

 is a RISC OS Usermrchocky on 17/02/05 3:32PM
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I would further add that CX11 even includes code from Ian; although extensively modified to fit into its framework, still clearly his.

 is a RISC OS Usermrchocky on 17/02/05 3:41PM
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If anybody is interested, here's a clarification on Bunny Race. Yes, I wrote it, and no, I didn't go to Bablake Junior. I wrote Bunny Race for my GCSE IT project at Horsforth School in Leeds.

Horsforth has long since lost its Acorn computers - I rescued two of their A5000s - infact they are in the local paper this week because they have opened a new 150-computer IT department. They look like Dells... :(

 is a RISC OS Usermonkeyson on 17/02/05 10:31PM
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Looks like this article generated much debate - thanks for putting it together guys.

 is a RISC OS Userharmsy on 21/02/05 4:58PM
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