Spring user group newsBy dgs . Published: 11th Apr 2005, 19:29:14 | Permalink | Printable
The highs and lows of running a user groupThere are always plenty of little details for RISC OS user groups to worry about. Insurance is one topic that features on some groups' agendas almost constantly. Most groups rely on both members and speakers occasionally bringing their own personal electronic equipment to meetings, so insurance for this is sometimes raised as an issue.
In practice a RiscPC can be replaced second hand for only a few dozen pounds even with the highest specification - such is the value of a computer over ten years old. But data projectors, LCD monitors and more recent RISC OS computers naturally raise concerns about what might happen to the hardware if dropped, especially down a flight of stairs.
Most users will carry their own equipment, and many venues don't involve the use of stairs. If a computer is dropped, hard disks are the most likely point of failure, and these can be replaced cheaply. Maybe the people who are happy to bring their computers to meetings are those who have a tried and tested backup regime?
Data projectors and larger LCD screens should be moved around in their carry cases or original packaging where possible; smaller LCD screens are normally light enough that no-one struggles to carry them. But there is always a risk, and anyone bringing valuable items to a user group needs to accept that risk.
It is possible to persuade your household insurance company to cover equipment taken out of the house (including to a user group). Some people report that their policies cover this for no extra cost. For those who are cautious about what might happen to their equipment if taken to a user group, this is well worth checking out, even if not all providers will cover it for free.
More difficult to manage, but in some cases more important, is liability insurance for group meetings themselves. The most common issue is when a venue requires the user group to have public liability insurance. This ignores legal opinion that public liability insurance does not actually cover members of the user group attending the meeting. Most others present would be covered by the venue's own liability insurance, with the potential exception being user group "visitors" if they are not charged admittance.
Despite the doubtful value of public liability insurance in these circumstances, if the venue requires it then the club must have it - or seek another venue. Historically, dozens of user groups have met for decades without resorting to insurance of any sort, and most still do so.
Portable Appliance Testing
The Essex Acorn User Group (EAUG) have recently had yet another, similar, spanner thrown into the works. Portable Appliance Testing (PAT) is not new, and has seen a great many RISC OS computers thrown away in schools without recourse to assessing their practical viability. EAUG must now comply with PAT regulations if they are to continue meeting in Great Baddow Village Hall.
This sets the scene for EAUG's next meeting, starting at 7:45pm on the evening of Tuesday 12th April. PAT testing will be covered in detail, and one can imagine that the question of how the club should deal with the issue will be discussed too.
My favourite text editor is better than yours
EAUG hold their AGM at the same venue on the evening of Tuesday 10th May. This will be followed by a "Text Editors Contest", which we understand will pitch several text editor experts against each other, in real time, on a variety of common tasks. This is a first for a user group meeting, and sounds quite exciting - indeed controversial. Sadly, Zap will not be represented, as EAUG were unable to find anyone prepared to demonstrate it in this manner.
If anyone really does believe that Zap is the best RISC OS text editor, and isn't too shy to demonstrate why in front of an audience, please contact your nearest user group and tell them to schedule a meeting. Zap seems to have a strong following out somewhat shadowy adherents - popular RISC OS magazines also fail to find anyone prepared to write about Zap - so this is your chance to have your say.
The RISC OS User Group of London (ROUGOL) is one group that has been seeking articulate Zap enthusiasts without any success. Instead, ROUGOL's meeting on Monday 18th April sees a demonstration of Cineroma by its author, David McEwen.
Cineroma reportedly plays a huge variety of video and audio formats and a small part of its functionality was previously handled by the MovieFS product from Warm Silence Software, which is no longer available. Cineroma is significant because it is one of a relatively small number of applications designed to make use of the technology provided in the Iyonix. It's understood that Cineroma uses XScale specific instructions to speed up movie rendering, and the Iyonix's graphics card to provide hardware scaling, allowing movies to run in the desktop.
If this is not required, Cineroma will also run on a StrongARM Risc PC, however David describes such machines as "underpowered for high quality movies". This should be a chance to see the cutting edge of RISC OS video technology, as David's development version of Cineroma is normally considerably advanced over the beta versions that have been made available.
Ovation Pro praise
On Monday 16th May ROUGOL hosts a talk and demonstration of how Ovation Pro was used to prepare a detailed technical manual of several hundred A4 pages, including illustrations. Bernard Boase will talk about why he prefers Ovation Pro to the alternatives, and how a manual entitled "Opthalmic Operating Theatre Practice" came into being using RISC OS.
All ROUGOL speaker meetings take place upstairs at the Blue-Eyed Maid public house, 173 Borough High Street, London SE1 1HR.
ROUGOL's meeting on Monday 20th June is provisionally scheduled as a visit from Peter Naulls demonstrating his RISC OS port of the Firefox web browser. As already reported on Drobe, the first public presentation of Firefox on RISC OS will take place at the newly named Cambridge RISC User Group (CAMRUG) on Tuesday 12th April.
RISC OS DJing and more
CAMRUG also has a busy programme of other events coming up. Tuesday 10th May sees a visit from James Bursa to demonstrate NetSurf, the popular free native RISC OS web browser. James is one of the NetSurf developers, and also hopes to present a demonstration at ROUGOL during the summer. At CAMRUG on Tuesday 14th June will be Jon Wright, demonstrating his RISC OS powered DJ setup previously covered on Drobe. A rather unique and innovative use of RISC OS, this should be well worth seeing. On 28th June CAMRUG sees an already well known speaker, with Neil Spellings visiting to demonstrate Aemulor and CinoDVD on the Iyonix.
Another regular at most user groups is Castle's Jack Lillingston. Jack will be visiting the ICENI Computer Club in Ipswich on the evening of Wednesday 4th May 2005. As usual, the topic will be "The IYONIX pc and RISC OS". ICENI meetings take place on the first Wednesday evening of every month.
A group with relatively rare speaker visits is the Liverpool Acorn User Group. The group continues to meet on the second Tuesday of each month. Also continuing to meet monthly is the RISC OS North West User Group (RONWUG). RONWUG have various events lined up, but none currently confirmed. They meet on the third Wednesday evening of each month at the Trafford Metrovick Rugby & Cricket Club, Finnybank Road, Sale, Cheshire M33 6LR.
Dgs is the AAUG chairman
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