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Should the TCO of RISC OS be higher?

By Chris Williams. Published: 17th Feb 2005, 18:10:32 | Permalink | Printable

Show us the money

Editorial Now here's an opinion that's been brewing on my mind for a while now. The RISC OS platform has long prided itself on having, depending on who you listen to, a low total cost of operation (TCO). However, has this led to the cash flow crisis the market appears to be in?

TCO is a TLA that's often bandied about as a buzzword by IT consultants and specialists, who use it to prove that their solutions are best and that competing platforms are unecomonic in comparison. You probably know that there's a lot more money involved in owning a computer than just its price tag on the shop shelf: Once you've bought the hardware, you've got to think about software upgrades, OS upgrades, hardware upgrades, potential repair costs, telephone calls to support lines, running costs and time spent keeping the machine running and problem free - all of which cost money. The TCO argument is important to companies and institutions with IT departments and computer equipment, because they need to budget not only for the hardware purchase, but also usage and maintenance costs for future years against depreciation issues.

Money being invested into RISC OSAs a general rule of thumb, the lower TCO, the better. This means you can pick up a system and not be hit by hidden costs as the thing dies on you unexpectedly or you find yourself forking out for essential upgrades. For example, Microsoft advocates that organisations upgrade to the latest version of their OS software because maintaining older releases is a waste of money. Newer versions should, in theory, be more secure, so by keeping ahead of security vulnerabilities, you can reduce costs that way too. Linux and Windows are currently locked in a TCO battle, with either side claiming they have facts that prove they offer the cheapest route.

I don't want to get into an advocacy argument: my main point is that, and although I don't fully agree with the sentiment, it's been generally argued that RISC OS is cheap to run. This assertion has been weakened in recent years by the expensive price of first hand hardware, such as the Iyonix and the Omega. The price of a new machine competes against assertions that RISC OS is believed to be cheaper in the long run, that the machines last longer, that there are less security exploits to tackle, that you can spend less time fixing it, that it's more productive and so on. I say 'security exploits' because even though there are a number of vulnerabilities in RISC OS, very few (or arguably none) are ever exploited because, as a minority platform, we're not an attractive target for crackers.

However, second hand kit is cheap as chips at the moment, which offsets the cost of upgrades necessary to bring the hardware up to speed: ideally, RISC OS 4, a StrongARM processor, a fast IDE podule and a half decent network interface - throw in USB if you want to do anything with a modern printer and camera.

But users are happy with their RISC OS 3.7 and 4.02 RiscPCs and A7000s because they see no reason to fork out cash to upgrade: don't fix what isn't broken strikes again. A wiser, fellow RISC OS user once quipped, 'The reason why Acorn failed is because they made RISC OS perfect.' It's chilling to think that if Acorn hadn't made RISC OS so friendly and easy to use in the 1990s, we would have been forced to pay out for upgrades as features were gradually added.

The fact that users can cling onto older hardware, enjoy the lower TCO and get by on six and eight year old operating systems is, in my view, the reason why there's such little cash flying around our userbase. This in turn means less development time can be afforded by developers, which means less products to buy. In the 1990s, we sat and laughed at PC users buying new computers every nine months, perhaps with little idea of the financial time bomb we were setting ourselves up for. What's better: upgrading every nine to eighteen months but enjoying a healthy market, or getting full, economically efficient use out of your 5 year old RiscPC in a declining market? Perhaps if we copied our Apple Mac friends and willingly accepted the need to upgrade and inject cash into the market, RISC OS would be in a better state - albeit with a higher TCO.

I spoke to Matthew Edgar at STD, who manufacture upgrades for RISC OS hardware such as the Unipod, to hear his views.

"We don't actually need everyone upgrading," said Matt, "we just need the people who are behind to be buying new hardware. Once someone's recently paid for a StrongARM processor, RISC OS 4 and a fast IDE card, you can't ask them to upgrade again. But there are probably more people using RISC OS 3 than RISC OS 4, and these are the people we need buying upgrades, even though they're not the most active users."

He added: "RISC OS is in a vicious circle. As less money is spent, developers look to other platforms for income. There are now fewer people being forced to do more work for less money. Development costs need to be met, or there's little point in doing the work."

Although users already with fast IDE and network cards have complained to STD that the latest Unipod special offer rules out them, Matt argued that they want to target the majority who haven't upgraded yet, rather than 'early adopters': "The Unipod got people using their RiscPCs again, as did the ViewFinder."

Of course, there's no use in complaining about the past, other than to accept the lessons to be learnt. Perhaps it simply would have solved nothing in just throwing more money at the problems facing RISC OS in the later Acorn era. Perhaps with a higher TCO, the cost of upgrades will therefore be too much for users to consider. Is there a balance to be found? Flame on.


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"What's better: upgrading every nine to eighteen months but enjoying a healthy market, or getting full, economically efficient use out of your 5 year old RiscPC in a declining market?"

If everybody upgraded every nine to eighteen months, the upgrades would be substantially cheaper. If that included OS features to, then you wouldn't need to buy other products to fill the gaps left by the hardware and software. It may end up being approximately the same outlay, as well as having a heathier hardware and OS business. Although the other software writers would have to be more imaginative to compete, of course.

 is a RISC OS Usernunfetishist on 17/2/05 6:49PM
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Oh, on the other side, I've not spent a penny on my desktop machine in over 2 years. 1.7GHz and 512MB of RAM is more than enough for me at the moment. And the price would have only bought me a quarter of an Iyonix at most.

 is a RISC OS Usernunfetishist on 17/2/05 6:51PM
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RISC OS is cheap to run.

That statement is so true. I am experiencing in schools that while RISC OS may have been a bit more expensive as opposed to Windows when I purchased our school's last set of RISC OS machine, the savings on maintenance, servicing, AND my time up keeeping the system working has been minimal to none.

That in itself far outweighs justifying the cost of buying a cheaper PC system.

 is a RISC OS UserSawadee on 17/2/05 7:12PM
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I wonder if the market even in its heyday from 1989-94 was big enough to generate the sort of development momentum described. In any case, isn't Castle's (and other hardware developers) business plan to rely on the non-desktop market for the bulk of sales and development revenue?

 is a RISC OS Userbucksboy on 17/2/05 8:00PM
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bucksboy: I've seen good evidence that the market's heydey, at least in terms of RISC OS hardware sales, certainly didn't end in 1994. For many suppliers, it *started* in 1994.


 is a RISC OS Userdgs on 17/2/05 8:45PM
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I honestly do not believe that the TCO argument works for RISC OS any more.

A Mac mini with DVD burner and software to drive it (at Eur600) is a quarter of the price that our 512MB Iyonix cost over two years ago. Plus the Mac comes with bundled apps that no RISC OS machine can compete with.

You are going to have to have had a lot of very bad luck to make up the difference between the initial cost in maintenance even in a five year usage pattern.

I suspect that the same goes for cheap PC's running Linux.

 is a RISC OS Userblahsnr on 17/2/05 9:32PM
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I agree with blahsnr. The Macmini looks a good deal. A much better use of my keyboard/mouse/monitor than spending more money trying to drag my RiscOS machine into the 21st century.

I always thought the MacOS was a more natural home for ex-RiscOS users than windows and now its affordable too.

All we need is a Mac version of Virtual Acorn:-)

 is a RISC OS UserEddie on 17/2/05 9:51PM
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I can only speak from my own experience. I have a Risc PC 7 years old, my daughters have a Microsoft XP laptop and computer both 3 years old. I reckon that I have spent about 60 GBP per year on my Risc PC on average through out its life - software and hardware. Compare that with the Win PCs I haven't had to buy any additional software/upgrades (they came with Office) and the only hardware was a new mouse for the PC and a USB hub for the Laptop. Ok I suspect neither the PC or the Laptop will still be in use in 4 years time, but at the moment the lower TCO is with the Windows kit.

 is a RISC OS UserMart on 17/2/05 10:04PM
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yes RISC OS kit costs

but what do you expect for a minority platform?

& please do not forget that when you do have an issue you can generally email the developer direct...

TCO? bollox! we (mostly - there are some here who don't....) use RISC OS as a matter of choice.

& we know what the benefits are

 is a RISC OS UserROHC on 17/2/05 10:21PM
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blahsnr: On the negative side of the Mac mini is the following: Default amount of RAM (256MB) simply isn't enough for doing anything on OS X. 512MB is a bare minimum. There's no sound-in. It uses a 2.5" hard drive, which is quite slow. It has a slot-loading optical drive. Oh, and it's easy to nick one. :) But otherwise, it's an impressive price for a Mac.

 is a RISC OS Usernunfetishist on 17/2/05 10:53PM
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But even with upgraded RAM (to 1GB) and a fast HDD attached via firewire it would still cost less than 1000,- EUR.

 is a RISC OS UserJGZimmerle on 17/2/05 11:27PM
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Our platform does not deliver a similar (fully featured) package as competitors.

What concerns me, is the years of development "catchup" we missed and lack of features that's growing beyond RISC OS's ability to resolve due to money and market?

But one could now say with RISC OS if we had this year the DVD, Browser, Media Player and a few up to date features, then we would "slot in" to the up to date standard? Yes/No?

 is a RISC OS UserSawadee on 18/2/05 1:16AM
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Yes, at least for normal consuler type stuff. As far as content production for these media is concerned there would still be quite a way to go. Especially as we would need much faster hardware.

 is a RISC OS UserJGZimmerle on 18/2/05 2:12AM
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good article. i liked this. one small observation. i spend a fair amount of time in my day removing viruses and add/spyware from clients computers - windows is not easy for beginners, and obtaining, using and keeping third party software up to date to deal with the malicious attacks windows suffers under, is not something a new user thinks about. i'd be out of a job if people in the pc world regularly updated as you indicate they do. well, they don't. a lot of computer users buy a computer that will do everything they need NOW, and live with it until it fails. businesses are the ones that have to factor in software updates - essentially to keep their licences up to date for the commerical support current version software has. also so nice of microsoft to make service packs and other patches available for free... shame it takes half a day for the home phone line user to download sp2 - so they don't, and the system updater has <what word can i squeak in here that will slip past the content scanner> off a number of users so it get's disabled.

as indicated about the ram in the mac mini, once a user starts to be more fluent with their computer and it gets used to a point where the available resources in an 'as shipped' box show their short-commings, ram is immediately increased, or the graphics card is replaced. but a new user may not see the same 'problem' with his new system one of the more educated power-users out there would be complaining about 10 minutes after it is first booted up, but there is ample expandability in cheap systems to cope with this, it's no biggie, even a RiscPC might need more than 16MB of ram, heaven forbid. when the processor speed starts to be a problem it is generally time to replace the whole computer as the manufacture life-span for cpu technology seems extremely short and updated technologies seldom have the same sockets/slots/plugs that the older motherboard had, so cheapest/easiest solution is replace the lot. there are of course some ego-maniacs who need dual cpu, dual core, hyper-threaded cpu systems with dual sli 6800GT video cards to replace the dual athlon xp and geforce 4100ti system they bought 8 months ago... we don't have people like that in the acorn market do we? well they should stop complaining about the cost of an iyonix then. you have to pay to have the biggest new toy on the block.

i'd also have say that with usb and other hot plugable options available these days the core computing device is in need of more software support than hardware updating. adding USB to the RiscPC has essentially helped it become future-proof for another 5 years if you are happy with it now. it is easy to update a device at the end of a cable, and is not part of the TCO of the computer, particularly if to fit your requirements it plugs into an apple, a pc and your RiscPC ?

a large number of bigger companies now lease their equipment so that they don't have to pay for repairs - if a box fails, contact the leasing company and they replace it. same loading software on board, they want something company-wide it's up to the hardware supplier to see that is loaded and ready to go. then help desks only have to support software and organise box shipping in extreeme cases. pcs have gotten a whole lot cheaper to administer this way.

i have just recently bought a 2.5GHz box. i assure you it was simply for the ego boost owning so much power gives, as this old celeron 1.2Ghz system still has more grunt than i have ever managed to exhaust in my trivial daily tasks. this is why i have stuck with my RiscPC. at 200MHz, and the selection of software i have, it still seems as fast as the day i got it (30MHz :o) perhaps if the software available for RiscOS was written/developed as badly as the windows stuff, i'd be needing a 600MHz processor just to shuffle the libraries and manage my virtual ram. hmm, RiscOS's real problem then is the software developers, they're doing far too good a job.

my biggest problem is i can't be bothered watching movies on a 17" monitor, and the speakers i use with my computer are rubbish. i use a dvd/vcr for this and it goes to a 29" tv, and when i want surround sound then i turn on my stereo which processes that. i just didn't buy any of my computers with the intention that one of them would be my home entertainment system, so i have not been forced to keep updating my system to keep abreast of media developments in this area. sigh, i know of only one person locally who has regularly updated his pc to be able to do this, and he's regarded as a bit of a nut anyway.

damnit, i have other comments but i have waffled enough for today. drobe, stop writting thought provoking atricles. oh, don't reply to me either- i don't fit the profile above as i don't have a fast ide interface. i went scsi.

 is a RISC OS Userlostamarble on 18/2/05 2:34AM
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nutfetishist Even with your mac mini running 'slowly' with 256MB ram (and laptop drive) you are still going to be able to do a whole load of things that no RISC OS machine can do.

'Slow' something vs 'faster' nothing.......................your point was?

 is a RISC OS Userblahsnr on 18/2/05 6:19AM
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nutfetishist Even with your mac mini running 'slowly' with 256MB ram (and laptop drive) you are still going to be able to do a whole load of things that no RISC OS machine can do.

'Slow' something vs 'faster' nothing.......................your point was?

 is a RISC OS Userblahsnr on 18/2/05 6:20AM
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Lostamarble: 'lease .. so they don't have to pay ..' The cost of leasing is around 25% higher than buying eqipment outright. Where they come off a bit better (businesses) is they can use the lease costs as a business expense. They also don't have to put the whole amount on the counter up front. They do however "pay" for the privilege. I've seen schools buy $75,000 worth of gear, pay $25,000 a year lease and at the end of the 4 year lease don't own anything and then have to pay for another lease. Truly on the "never, never"

 is a RISC OS Userrmac on 18/2/05 6:34AM
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Doh MSIE double posting again.....

What about the Select scheme raising TCO? Do other OS users routinely spend +-ukp100 per year on OS upgrades?

Eddie Will let you know how we go on when our Mac mini arrives.

 is a RISC OS Userblahsnr on 18/2/05 6:35AM
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rmac. quite, you always pay a price for convenience. usefully under nz tax law, the depreciation for leased equipment can be claimed by the lessee, and if it is for a three year lease, the total depreciation value can be claimed in the first year of the lease, so you get a bit of a tax break leasing your computer gear.

large company x that i worked for switched to lease for it's computers, sacked 7 IT support people saving $45k+ each/year and now route helpdesk calls to i believe singapore. the savings on wages will be used for the 25% premium and there should be a sizeable remainder to give the boss his christmas bonus for saving a few dollars last year too.

i do not get to hold the purse strings or have any input into budget for computer hardware where i work, nor have i ever in any other jobs (various sighs of relief in the pc world), so i can't say one way or the other that ownership+support is better than lease+support. i have always been on the support side, and it is steadily slipping to a software only role.

in general business would not keep computer hardware for more than three years, so at the end of three years they have to dispose of it somehow. in a lot of situations that cost is going to be equal to your never never situation, as not every nerd out there is going to stump up even the pittance some businesses ask for their cast of gear - especially if he's saving up for a new geforce that has 10 times the computing power of your old word processor.

there are many discussions on the TCO for pc/mac computer hardware, gartner group is often cited. the TCO to large companies are huge, and if you can unload much of that cost onto a lessor you stand to make big savings - always good for shareholders. these are of course large company models, and we are probably only talking about little schools that comparisons with the RiscOS market can be made in. so i'll stop before you make me look any more foolish.

i do not look forward to the time when our os must be loaded off the hard disc and we have to check some website for weekly bug fixes, nor to yearly 100 pound (~$250) version updates. the extra cost may come if we need to get money flowing through the veins of RiscOS soft/hardware development houses, but the current RiscOS market is surely 95% home enthusiasts? it's not a big cost, but we also need to be buying newer computers to run this software - and what do they cost in the RiscOS market ? some people don't have that sort of money to cough up on a regular basis - though i've said it before, "if i hadn't spent all my money keeping this steam powerd hulk of a windows box going, i'd have one killer RiscPC by now".

 is a RISC OS Userlostamarble on 18/2/05 8:01AM
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I am a bit surprised by all the pro-macmini talk here. This is a machine which doesn't run RISC OS, still lags behind MS systems in terms of browser compatibility, and basically exists to encourage you to upgrade to a bigger mac (if we're honest). At the risk of sounding like a MS fanboy, using older/slower PC components (like Mac Mini) will deliver you low cost machine too, and allow you to run RISC OS on your system right now at good speeds. I appreciate that most people hate windows here. But is your hatred of Microsoft really greater than your appreciation/love of RISC OS? (Hate is the path of the dark side, young padawan). I know I have bias on this, but all I can say is combined Windows/RISC OS has let me do all that blahsnr mentions for long time now, on a machine which runs RISC OS 10hours a day!

 is a RISC OS Userarawnsley on 18/2/05 10:22AM
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arawnsley: the macmini runs firefox - that is browser compatability we only dream about. It also isn't microsoft and it looks cool. I don't have one but I can see why people lust after one.

tco issue: Yes it should be higher. I have no desire to invest in my aging RiscPC when I have a perfectly good Iyonix. To state the obvious - aim products at the people who spend - not at those who are still using ten year old equipment - do that and the cash flow from this user will improve!

 is a RISC OS Userbenc on 18/2/05 11:28AM
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arawnsley Yes I do not like Microsoft. I also use Windows every day for work. Part of the reason why there are so few viable computing platforms for domestic users is due to the unfair practices of M$ in the marketplace.

So yes I am more than prepared to reject VA because it runs on Windows. Also because emulation is such a waste of CPU power. Much better run something natively at 1.25GHz than emulated at 600GHz. Peanuts sledgehammers and all that.

The mac mini has appeal because the bundled applications will allow me to do things that RISC OS does not allow me to do. Sure it doesn't run RISC OS but then again I can't even view videos (let alone edit them) from my digital camera under RISC OS so I am going to have to buy and use another OS for that anyway.

You understand youself fully that RISC OS cannot supply all of your computing needs. So why the surprise that people mention the Mac mini? You get a good bundle of apps, good support (and independent websites for information) for an acceptable price comparable to a cheapie PC + Windows + VA. Small form factor and will sit happily on a desk, together with an Iyonix to run RISC OS. Horses for courses.

No profit in a mac mini for sellers of VA based solutions though is there.

 is a RISC OS Userblahsnr on 18/2/05 11:31AM
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I know from our conversations in Holland that you won't accept VA as a valid option because of the MS-bit (despite our products being faster and quieter than the Iyonix). A RISCube or similar product *would* do everything you mention, and run RISC OS. That's what appeals to me. I can still run RISC OS on all my machines (including stuff that wouldn't run on the Iyonix example). However I do acknowledge that your dislike of MS precludes you from owning such a machine - that saddens me, but it is life. In your case, I guess the mac is the only other option... but save yourself money down the line - buy a full mac not a mini, because when you're video-editing on a laptop hard drive/low CPU/RAM, you're going to wish you had!

 is a RISC OS Userarawnsley on 18/2/05 12:38PM
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PS, I know I'm being argumentative - I'm doing so because there may be people reading thinking "I want to browse/do video editting". It is important that they know that they *can* buy single machines that run RISC OS *and* do this. Even if they don't buy from me. The purchase of a machine which doesn't run RISC OS at all, is the beginning of the end.

 is a RISC OS Userarawnsley on 18/2/05 12:40PM
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arawnsley I don't NEED to run RISC OS especially if it precludes me from doing things I want to as it does at the moment.

No need to feel sad for me, I don't feel sad for you. I just don't need the sales pitch thanks.

The things I miss are a better web browser for RISC OS, or video viewing/editing or being able to access websites that require JAVA or listen to Real Audio streams. Just how many of those things have become available under RISC OS since the introduction of VA?

I would guess none of them because if there is something you can't do under RISC OS you drop back into Windows. So no need nor market for RISC OS applications to do those things.

 is a RISC OS Userblahsnr on 18/2/05 1:00PM
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arawnsley ................plus IF I were to spend money on a Windows box then I can't see the point of spending money on VA when there is a usable GUI thrown in free with every copy of XP. Not my favourite but much better than the command line. Much more cost effective than a VA machine of similar specs.

 is a RISC OS Userblahsnr on 18/2/05 1:10PM
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In reply to blashnr:

I agree, with the missing software. For me, the only time i use my pc these days is in the chat rooms that require the latest version of java. The browser issue, whilst is an annoyance, never stops me from looking at the sites are use. Biggest problem for me is lack of Java.

As for VRP. Yes I have a copy of that, and for a few months, i put my RPC away and just ran on my PC. Using RISC OS for most things, but then flipping back to Windows when needed, but VRPC just didn't do it for me. I think for anyone who wants to use RISC OS for most of there their computing needs, really requires a RISC OS hardware. If you are only going to use RISC OS occasionaly, then VRP is fine.

 is a RISC OS Usersa110 on 18/2/05 1:25PM
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blashnr: Well, VA will give you a much nicer GUI to use. Surely you can't deny that when you can do something on RISC OS it's nearly always a lot more pleasant to do so? As someone with VA (because I wanted a laptop), I find I'm hardly ever using the Windows GUI, and am usually getting annoyed with it when I am. Some things I do drop into it for, but I'd be a lot happier if I didn't. So if the relevent application came along for RISC OS I'd still use it, even though I can do it on Windows.

For the record, most of what I do on the laptop not using VRPC is playing the odd game (so Windows GUI not visible), watch DVDs (so Windows GUI not visible), and connect it to a CCD on a telescope (unfortunately Windows GUI visible and being used). Most of the time I can do my best to forget what's really running the machine.

 is a RISC OS UserSimonC on 18/2/05 1:25PM
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blahsnr: My point is that a Mac OS X box with only 256MB of RAM is a doorstop. It really is too slow to consider using for anything. With 512MB, it breezes along.

 is a RISC OS Usernunfetishist on 18/2/05 1:52PM
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I think blahsnr is making a good point here. I think sometimes the love for RISC OS forces people to justify draconian measures to sustain their beloved platform. Indeed, VA would hardly stimulate any developers into making movie players, decent webbrowsers or the like, when the user can always fall back to the underlying base OS which provides all that by default nowadays. Any VA user still (mainly) browsing on Netsurf?

On the other (darker) side, VA (either for windoze or linux) does provide an ongoing route for RO to live on in a manner similar to somebody in hospital plugged into livesupport.

 is a RISC OS UserhEgelia on 18/2/05 1:54PM
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On the VA front, I'm wondering if anybody'll be producing Linux boxes running VA when it becomes available for that. I know that there's an issue with technical support, but all you need to do is make it boot straight into VA - no Linux CLI or GUI, and just look like a RISC OS box. It wouldn't be difficult in the slightest (I've done similar things before.) It'd be cheaper than an Iyonix, as well as even faster (although only slightly) than the Windows-based ones, and even cheaper than the Windows-based ones (because of the Windows licence fee, and the extra RAM to keep Windows's GUI in, and such.)

If VA want to punt a beta copy of the Linux version my way, I'm quite happy to build a custom Linux distribution for them to do it :)

 is a RISC OS Usernunfetishist on 18/2/05 1:57PM
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In Reply hEgelia:

Lifesupport..... The only two RO players who really benefit directly out of it is Virutal Acorn and ROL. Not really lifesupport to the rest of the developers. But yes, I don't think VA does inspire developers to produce the much needed internet applications, but then, things like Java, will take consideral time and money to produce for RISC OS, and payment to Sun of course for a commerical license. All money, that the RISC OS platform does not have.

 is a RISC OS Usersa110 on 18/02/05 2:01PM
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sa110: why do you keep repeating this nonsense about Java? I corrected this just the other day. (And others note, it's not "JAVA" - it's not an acronym). I refer you again to what I said about Kaffe.

 is a RISC OS Usermrchocky on 18/02/05 2:05PM
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In reply to mrchocky:

Yes, you did refer to Kaffe the other day, but as you also stated, it is not finshed, and as somebody else stated, it cannot yet be used as a plugin for the available RO web browsers to use. So, status of a current Java plug in for RISC OS - we do not have one.

 is a RISC OS Usersa110 on 18/02/05 2:36PM
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I'd have to say that lifesupport-wise, our RISCubes have kept us in business the last few years such that we can afford to have full-time(ish) coders, and possibly not been worthwile to stay in business. Hard to say really, but certainly VRPC has kept the wolf from our door. If you look at our releases over the last 2 years, then at least in part, those are thanks to VRPC. I may be over-blowing it, but there we go. Internet-wise, Hermes (in particular) and Mpro3 have happened on the back of VRPC-derived funds.

 is a RISC OS Userarawnsley on 18/02/05 2:42PM
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It's Total Cost of Ownership, not "Operation".

But no, it's not too low. It's WAY too high.

The Archimedes achieved its success because, in its price bracket, it was far and away the most powerful and least compromised PC money could buy.

Now, it's underspecified, vastly overpriced, and extremely weak on hardware features, OS functionality and software selection.

It needs a good modern solid browser & an MS Office-compatible office suite bundled for free, the OS needs to be feature-comparable to Linux, OS X & Windows XP, and by modern PC pricing, a complete system needs to be about 150-200, given that ARMs cannot compete in performance with modern x86 processors even remotely.

By the apps suite, I mean something like Firefox with Flash & Quicktime & Java support, plus Thunderbird and GAIM and SunBird and Nvu, plus OpenOffice. All free. Theoretically possible but a VAST porting effort.

The Mac Mini is ten times the computer the Iyonix is, and it's 340.

That is not going to happen. So, it's doomed to a shrinking minority.

 is a RISC OS Userlproven on 18/02/05 3:02PM
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In reply to lproven: Due to the current size of the platform, 150--200 pounds is in my opinion, sheer fantasy. I'd like to see a RISC OS computer lower in price, yes, nearer the 500(is that still dream land?) pound mark would certainly be in my budget.

Efforts are being made by the remaining programmers to give is more new software, but it takes time. I think probably the best effort at the moment is the Unix Porting Project, I don't know how many programmers out there are working on it, but the more there are, the quicker you mayt some of those apps ported, that you' mentioned.

 is a RISC OS Usersa110 on 18/02/05 4:26PM
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The only proper TCO comparisons that I know of have been done for schools where Windows machines have sometimes cost hundreds of times more than RISC OS machines - arguably for much less value. Whilst the Windows costs have been far too hight the RISC OS costs have been too low; the money hasn't gone back to the RISC OS developers to produce the next generation machines at the right (upfront) price and specification. Whilst there is no reason RISC OS machines cannot be developed further and better we do need to be prepared to pay for that development - and that means all those running RO3.? or earlier getting their hands in their wallets.

 is a RISC OS Useranon/ on 18/02/05 5:20PM
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sa110: but yet, it could be made to work - and as a plugin as I mentioned with magnitudes less effort, time and money than Sun licensing, so it's very strange than you mentioned it at all.

lproven: I really think you've missed the point that Chris has made in his article. You're only stating purchase prices. Chris mentioned something rather different to that. His point was that if the TCO was higher in the past, we would have all the things you lust after.

 is a RISC OS Usermrchocky on 18/02/05 5:23PM
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SimonC I realised recently that I can get on with almost any GUI better than the command line (have used mainframe and UNIX server command line interfaces at work for compiling building, tracing programs etc).

If you let Windows do things 'its' way and go with the flow it works fine. Same for a Mac or KDE.

RISC OS does have a lovely GUI (a work of genius,) but what is the point if you have to buy a second computer to provide you with the apps that simply are not available for RISC OS.

That (mainly) is what is stopping me buy any new RISC OS computer. It simply won't let me do anything more than the one I already have so why get another?

 is a RISC OS Userblahsnr on 18/02/05 6:39PM
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In reply to mrchocky:

Well, I've gone and done it. Tried the kaffe and Dillo ports on the UPP website, and have subsequently signed up. Quite liked Dillo, but not nearly as advanced as the RISC OS browsers. Kaffe, tried running a few jars from the command line, but non of them worked. Although to be fair, Kaffe did try to run them and generated errors.

 is a RISC OS Usersa110 on 18/02/05 6:52PM
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Over the last three weeks I have been pushed into using a Mac (OS10) a PC (WindowsXP and Office) and a RiscPC (RO4.2) to do three simple tasks in parallel:- download from the web, alter, check through and print a series of complicated documents; write and print a series of letters and minutes to several people; and draw up a series of plans to BS1192. The windows box did superbly with the first task, screwed up on the scond and collapsed altogether at the third. The Mac just about coped with the first task, (even better, it was able to read out the whole of these documents to one of the people who was blind) produced and printed the letters but was hopeless at doing the plan, even with Apple (formerly Claris) Wors claiming to be a great graphics package. Along came the RiscPC - Ovation Pro managed the letters and tidied up the documents very nicely. By using both !Vector and !Artworks2 I was able to produce the plans, with hatchings, tinitings varies forms of broken line etc. reasonably easily. The problem is to find a printer good enough to reproduce the plans! Having said that, the recipients are sufficiently impressed that they are looking into acquiring some RiscPCs just for doing these plans!! It seems Martin's software along with Vector is far stronger than anything put into a PC box. Paul

 is a RISC OS UserPaulofAshby on 18/02/05 9:11PM
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Are you seriously comparing safari/firefox and appleworks to a risc os web browser !Artworks2 AND Ovation Pro? Comparing hundreds of pounds worth of software with a free web browser and a piece of software that was either included free (on some consumer macs) or will set you back 65 is hardly fair. If you want a graphics package to rival the 169 you'll pay for Artworks then you need to at least buy something like EazyDraw ($95). Also how does a PC screw up printing letters when you've got a copy of Office?

In your examples RISC OS wins because you stacked a 300 or so advantage it's way by buying lots of specialist software. With the PC you could have used openoffice or just purchased Word or even Works and spent the 250+ saved on office on some other software that could meet your needs.

For the record I use RISC OS, OS X and XP. My RiscPC only gets used for fun these days, I do most of my word processing and web browsing on my 387mb 700mhz G3 ibook rather then my 2ghz 1gb Dual monitor PC. It wins out for graphics and games only because of it's extra mhz, RAM, GF4 graphics card and monitors. My next computer will be a mac because they hardly every crash, can do almost everything I need and almost always work (my ibook only ever reboots for OS updates), unlike windows which seems to know when you have a deadline and chooses that exact moment to refuse to boot properly.

I love RISC OS and OS X and windows isn't the best OS ever but you have got to compare Apples to Apples or in this case Apples to Acorns (with similar software).

 is a RISC OS UserFonz on 18/02/05 10:51PM
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PaulofAshby: I think your comparison is unfair. You're both an experienced user of the RISC OS packages, and you paid quite a bit extra for the software itself. Compare Xara X, Corel Draw, or Adobe Illustrator to Vector or ArtWorks someday. I imagine Claris Works' graphics package is for more artist stuff than technical stuff.

 is a RISC OS Usernunfetishist on 18/02/05 11:00PM
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I'm not denying there may be flaws in Paul's comparison, but it shouldn't be forgotten that new RISC OS machines come with quite respectable collections of software. The Iyonix for example comes with Oregano2 and Writer+ (a capable but cut down version of EasiWriter), plus others included in the price, and these could have been used for the tasks described.

Like I say, the comparison still may not be fair, but the default software supplied "free" with new machines has certainly come on a long way since the days of Acorn.

 is a RISC OS Userflypig on 18/02/05 11:46PM
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I somewhat see where you are coming from, but the difference in GUIs is, to me, a lot of what changes computing from a chore to a pasttime, and since I'm still in the position of being able to do most things I want from RISC OS then I see no reason to drop it. Certainly no reason to use Windows when I don't have to. That isn't quite the same as spending money for, say, an Iyonix (although the January offer did tempt me, it wasn't the best time for having any cash to spend). There is too much for me to lose my completely dropping RISC OS, even though to be 100% honest I don't actually need it for anything I do.

 is a RISC OS Useranon/ on 19/02/05 01:12AM
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Yeah the Iyonix does include a whole bunch of software that'll cope with most simple things like web browsing, writing letters, spreadsheets and networking. If you took virgin OS X, RISC OS and XP boxes from Apple, Castle and Dell then did a comparison it would be fine to decide that RISC OS was the best. The comparison would be fair if you were to look at 3 equally priced systems, say a 1.8ghz G5 powermac, a top spec Iyonix and a 3.4ghz P4 XPS all with 240gb, 1gb, CDRW and no monitor. Then you can start to compare which can do what out of the box and then compare software to match. This still isn't totally fair since the G5 comes with a trial of Office but not Appleworks, you can also specify what software you get with the Dell, the best comparison would be to set requirements and a budget for hardware and software and see which does best.

As for the cost of RISC OS debate... The current cost of new RISC OS machines that are a genuine upgrade from my StrongARM RiscPC makes me adding much money into the RISC OS economy a very slim prospect, I can't afford the investment in a new machine or yearly OS upgrades, my RiscPC does everything I need as a hobby machine. PCs and Macs offer more for less, should the market try to reduce prices so more people like me will spend money on new hardware/software or should they increase it since only the hardcore users are upgrading and they love the OS so much they'll pay an extra 20-30%? Maybe they've got the ballance right as it is, if you realy want to use RISC OS and are on a power user budget then the TCO is similar to entry level powermacs.

 is a RISC OS UserFonz on 19/02/05 02:35AM
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As some one whos job is to manage and run a real work environment where there are 6000 odd PCs (including notebooks) the cost of the box is the least of the issues. If the cost of the box equals 1, then the TCO costs that we face over a 3 year replacement cycle equal 6.6 times the purchase cost of the machine (this is conservative).

The includes : 3 years operating system upgrade 3 yearly office application upgrade time lost to viruses etc. boot time inefficiency filer system inefficiency - in lost productivity support costs for 3 years. desktop/laptop rebuilding time - in lost productivity.

These are the issues that we make business cases around for uprading hardware and software. if we can reduce our boot times, rebuild machines less - all of these are real savings to the business. Linux is often talked about as a possible desktop replacement as it's free, but the training, support and deployment costs will far exceed any licence costs so the real discussion is far more complex and wide. If you are going to replace MS in and environment why replace it with something that looks and works similarly but not the enough the same that you don't have to train, and an environment with all the inefficiencies that the MS environment has - thats the problem. if you are going to change then the arguement needs to be more compelling then just up front costs of licencing. On another front, my mother and dad have just moved from a BBC master to a mc, and they have real problems as MAC OS X is very complex for some who has never use a GUI before. It has surprised me, but one further reflection that the who filer is a mess and makes it very easy to lose your documents (as they have done), the same is so for my aunty and here Win 2K pc. Its amazing having shortcuts pointing to the current directory foring a nice loop. Again the TCO for both of these people is their time, and frustration, and that does not go into the need to upgrade, clean the system, virus, security updates - both issues for Mac OS X and Win 2K and XP for non techy users. If RISC OS wants to make progress obviously it needs more software and probably to make waves in the office space of SME environment and then progress from their. In NZ this would represent a market of over 200,000 businesses. Peter

 is a RISC OS Userpmnoble on 19/02/05 08:17AM
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Peter: Most people I see are still running Office 2000, and most training companies still base their curriculum on it. Any sensable person runs a self-updating AV on their machine anyway. People turn their computers off? RISC OS's filing system is hopelessly inefficent and unreliable. Unless you're taking about the GUI built on top of it to help people organise files, when I think it's a much of a muchness these days to Windows's and OS X's, they're just different. What is "desktop/laptop rebuilding time" anyway?

As for people not knowing how to use Linux, I tend to find that the majority of Windows users havn't a clue where to start with RISC OS, and just give up, and therefore require training. Possibly just as much as they'd require to get to grips with one of the modern desktop environments on Linux.

 is a RISC OS Usernunfetishist on 19/02/05 1:47PM
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Blahsnr: "although the January offer did tempt me, it wasn't the best time for having any cash to spend"

If you do have the cash now, you might want to check with Castle - they have been known not to be too rigorous about sticking to the exact end dates for promotions.


 is a RISC OS Userdgs on 19/02/05 4:57PM
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Dgs The registered blahsnr didn't write that post.......:o) I think it was in reply to one of mine. As you might know I have had an Iyonix since dec 2003 it is far and away the best RISC OS machine I have owned.

However I can't see us buying another RISC OS machine in the near future because it won't help us do any *more* things than the Iyonix. A mac mini has been ordered instead......

 is a RISC OS Userblahsnr on 19/02/05 5:13PM
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In reply to Rob,

Corporate organisations run an imaged environment. IE we have a 600MB of the operating system and office utils plus an update from the local server - the locked down environment. If a machine has problems we just clean the hard disk and then drop down a new image, machine back to normal - obviously this takes time. This is all desgined to allow remote management of all PCs,

The MS gui - one project worked out that staff could save 30 minutes per day through more effective interface / document mangement. The incosistencies with the file manager GUI cause signficaint issues on a daily basis, just the fact that moving and coping work differently between and in disks. You just have to have some move a 200MB directory on a remote drive over 2Mb frame relay and sorting that out can take hours.

In terms of AV, different brands for both server and desktop, but if it takes 3 days for a new signature to some out that 3 days of virus exposure, thats normal for the larger strains of virus outbreaks.

Agree that both Linux, Mac OS, Xp and RISC OS would also require training, just wanted to point out that when doing the cost benefit analysis not to forget this stuff as part of the TCO, it is so much more than the upfront costs of a computer. My view would be that for a corporate the unit cost of an iyonix would probably end up costing about $800 / 300 pounds more tx vathen a PC - due to the high corporate discounts on both options.

BTW I would not expect RISC OS in its current form to be viable in a large organisation, but in a SME that is quite possible - it would be intertesting to know what software / hardware we would need to make it a really viable option - and then how much $$$ to get there.

and yes we turn them off, or at least log out. The turning off came due to a power problem in NZ a few years back were the government set targets for savings to get through the winter.


 is a RISC OS Userpmnoble on 19/02/05 8:21PM
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Peter: If it takes three days to get updated AV definitions, you need to change vendor. If you can't turn off, but them to sleep, or hibernate.

 is a RISC OS Usernunfetishist on 19/02/05 10:39PM
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energy saving?!!!

x86 based machines consume 80W of electricity at least when in *standby*

& that was in 2002 - god knows what they are consuming now...

 is a RISC OS UserROHC on 19/02/05 11:25PM
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I wrote that post that seems to have come up as Blahsnr (I may have been replying to Blahsnr, I forget). I don't quite know what happened.

 is a RISC OS Useranon/ on 20/02/05 01:16AM
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I should have said sometimes it can take 3 days. But only one of those a year can cause significant issues to businesses. In the case inpoint, the virus was release on a sunday US time, in NZ it was monday, they released the signature update Tuesday US tme, about 1 working day for them, and 2 working days for us. As I said we run 2 stand corp different brands of virus protection and sometimes it just takes time for a signature update to come. That virus did lots of damage world wide so we weren't the only ones affected.

The options around suspend have other issues around profile management and network connection, that more technical people than I worry about.


 is a RISC OS Userpmnoble on 20/02/05 01:33AM
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Keith Dunlop: Don't talk such utter, utter, balls. I'd be surprised if they consumed 2W when in standby. My PC doesn't even consume 80W when going full-pelt!

Peter: Hmm. We use multiple AV vendors to minimize the window, but it's rarely more than 3 hours for serious outbreaks of viruses for us in the UK (and we don't use a UK-based AV vendor.) Perhaps time to set up the heuristics a little? Just plain forbid executables, or password protected zips, etc?

 is a RISC OS Usernunfetishist on 20/02/05 11:19AM
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Reply to Rob,

We do already ban those type of files. we haven't yet got to jpegs and others which can now contain virus type code.


 is a RISC OS Userpmnoble on 20/02/05 6:22PM
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If JPEGs are being a problem for you, then you're simply not keeping your Windows boxes up to date *IN THE SLIGHTEST* with security updates.

 is a RISC OS Usernunfetishist on 20/02/05 10:42PM
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Seems I was wrong, from talking to our techies , jpegs aren't an issue for us.


 is a RISC OS Userpmnoble on 21/02/05 07:28AM
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In reply to blahsnr: Mac Mini....brrrrrrrrr - You better buy the A9-Home computer, much more better than that other computer !!! It is by far better, that we throw those MS computers into the deep sea or demolish them forever, RISC OS rulez, just like Peter Bondar said and has done that on the Acorn Shows in the UK, like on the show at Wembley years ago.

 is a RISC OS Userdatawave on 16/06/05 5:07PM
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