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Wakefield 2005 show report

By Chris Williams. Published: 23rd May 2005, 00:29:32 | Permalink | Printable

To sum up the weekend in one word: Excellent

Show newsThe weekend's Wakefield 2005 is over, but there's still a torrent of news emerging from the show that needs reporting.

Another big surprise for the show was the appearance of VirtualRiscPC for Apple's Mac OS X platform. It was pretty glamorous to see RISC OS 4 running in a Mac OS X window, giving good performance on a Mac Mini 1.2Ghz G4 system - we're told that it really flies on the Power Mac G5. VRPC author Graeme Barnes said that they considered the Apple platform to be another market, presumably to attract back ex-RISC OS users who wandered over to the not-so-dark-side of the iPod manufacturer, instead of Microsoft. We're told that it'll be ready soon, certainly before the fabled Linux version, and retail around the same price as the Windows version of VirtualRiscPC. Graeme also ruled out the possibility of a Linux version being released in the foreseeable future, due to the amount of support it'll require for all the various setups and configurations of the Linux operating system.

Castle decided to use the show to reveal details of their IPSign work, similar to their IPTV work for Pace. They've developed an ARM9 powered system that connects to the Internet or some other network, downloads a set of XHTML pages and then presents them in a resolution suitable for televisions and similar monitors. Castle say tens of thousands of these units have been built and used as information terminals and displays, although wouldn't say exactly where - apart from hints about a French airport. Oh la la. The low power and reliability of RISC OS are two selling points used by Castle to tout the architecture to outside clients. Castle also showed off work they had been doing on USB printers and cameras for the Iyonix. It was also shown that a DVD burnt with CDVDBurn can be read on RISC OS 5.09 - provided the disc is formatted to the ISO9660 standard.

On the subject of Castle, their pal Richard Brown was showing off Oregano 3. The software is now in the hands of their beta-testers and the software is roughly 3 months away, although we've been told not to necessarily hold our breath. One copy of Oregano 3 was running inside VirtualRiscPC on a PC laptop, on the Castle stand - using a GPRS PCMCIA card to provide a net connection to the emulator and the beta browser within.

Liquid Silicon had some interesting touchscreen drivers, running on a MicroDigital Omega connected to large a touchscreen LCD monitor. Liquid's Alan Gibson demonstrated the drivers using Artworks - the menu and adjust buttons coming into effect depending on how long you held down your finger on the screen. It was a bit tricky to use at first, although Alan used it pretty intuitively. The touchscreens are used for the 'point of sale' kit produced with Darren Windsor, for fancy cash registers: especially where a computer is needed to perform product look ups, booking and other database related operations as part of a sale. Alan remarked that the A9home is just the sort of computer that would do well in a POS application - it's small, uses little power and can run their POS software. The only problem now is that many POS peripherals, such as ticket and receipt printers, are serial port based. The A9home has one serial port, although a number of USB ports.

The RISC OS Firefox port drew a lot of interest, and its developer (and Drobe writer) Peter Naulls demonstrated the application at the show. The software has a few display glitches, such as menus appearing offset from the mouse pointer, which can be bug fixed later. The application was responsive to some elements of the user interface, such as mouse roll overs on links and the fast redraw of the page, while slow in other areas, notably page fetching. The browser took around 40 seconds to start up on a RiscPC and 30 seconds to open the Google homepage, running from a local web server. Peter said that he is aware of where the problems lied, and apart from the issue of speed, the browser looked particularly impressive.

Spellings Software had DVD player Cino on display, although not for sale. Developer Adrian Lees said that he was working on bringing the player up to a smooth 12.5 frames per second as well as developing the new ADFS, half the rate of a normal PAL display. Reminding us that the playback is done purely in software on the Iyonix's 600Mhz XScale, Adrian is hoping that the project will be technically feasible and that a smooth 12.5 fps will be better than a jerky 18.5 fps. Additionally, the Silicon Motion graphics processor in the A9home is believed to include motion compensation acceleration for DVD playback, which could prove interesting.

R-Comp had their RSS reader on show, complete with a snapshot of the Drobe RSS feed showing how changes to watched RSS feeds are delivered as emails. R-Comp's UniPrint and Grapevine 2 software also enjoyed updates in time for Wakefield. JGH BBC Software also had a mild surprise for us: we're told Jon Harston has developed an IDE interface for the 8 bit BBC Microcomputer.

The show started off fairly strongly on Saturday, in terms of the number of people attending, and then ramped up towards lunchtime. During the big presentations, there was a noticible drop in the number of punters wandering around the event as everyone crammed into the show theatre to catch a glimpse at new RISC OS kit and software. When I turned up at 11am, someone outside remarked that the queue to get in had finally disappeared. Overall, the exhibitors seemed quite pleased at the turn out, with one developer saying he was particularly enthusiastic about the number of sales and the more-positive-than-usual atmosphere present at the Wakefield show.

Photos
A9home boot up screenA9home running some applications
The back of the A9home, showing its various IO portsAdvantageSix's Matt Edgar (center) looking particularly cheerful after his A9home presentation
Front panel of the A9home'Don't drop it! Oh actually, you can'
Lessons learnt from Acorn: Thy Reset switch shalt not be next to thine headphone socketDrobe's Ian Chamberlain and assistant bravely manning the drobe.co.uk and NetSurf stand
VirtualRiscPC running on a G4 powered Mac Mini with Mac OS X. Look at how much more pretty it is, compared to drab Microsoft Windows. That means it's cool.Drobe's Chris Williams (left) chats to Drobe's Martin Hansen (right) about stage two of Project World Domination
Martin Hansen's colourful stand. You can tell that he's a teacher by dayNot the charity stand: a recently developed IDE card for the Beeb. Show some respect
We don't know who this man is'To upgrade to Artworks 2.4, you need a wad of cash this thick'
Someone finds a use for the RISC OS (NC OS) powered Bush box'I don't care how you do it. Get me an A9home now. Stat.'
DeskDebug running on two monitors, thanks to Geminus. Sounds like a developer's dream set up, in other wordsWide boy, who do you think you are, you ain't big enough for this camera by far
You can stop chasing that rainbow with Artworks 2.4 transparency and fadesDistinct lack of a 'You touch it, you pay for it' sign - touchscreen drivers from Liquid Silicon
Ooh, Firefox. On RISC OS. And no hidden wires, mirrors or X11 ServersModest Castle stand for this year


Links


More show photos from Govind Kharbanda
Pre show-news - everything announced before the show
Wakefield live news page and more photos Thanks to photographers Ian Jeffray and Alex Macfarlane Smith. Thanks also to everyone who helped in getting the live updates set up and feeding us news through out the day

Previous: A9home beta will give Ad6 some breathing room
Next: CJE down to last stocks of CMOS memory batteries

Discussion

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Some of the staff at my school here in Auckland were quite amazed at the size of the A9home photos.

In a school environment, some of the staff suggested that the A9home could just simply plug into a monitor, keyboard and a mouse at various points around the school, instead of lugging a laptop about?

 is a RISC OS UserSawadee on 23/5/05 3:29AM
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wow. I wish I could have gone. Maybe next time..

 is a RISC OS Userhelf on 23/5/05 4:51AM
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New software, new hardware, new confidence.....

It was a great show!

 is a RISC OS Usermarkee174 on 23/5/05 8:49AM
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Currently writing a tutorial on the use of hyphens.

Shouldn't that read "ARM9-powered system", as otherwise it could be read as a "powered system" which is ahrdly surprising for a computer? ;-)

 is a RISC OS Userharmsy on 23/5/05 9:43AM
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This certainly felt like a more up-beat show than some in recent years. I turned up at 11 am, and at that time I was having trouble making my way through crowds in a couple of places, which never happened last year. The atmosphere felt much more optimistic. Well done to the organisers and exhibitors!

 is a RISC OS UserSimonC on 23/5/05 10:05AM
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Excellent quality photos, give a nice glimpse of those not able to attend. Well rounded article, thanks Chris.

Very nice developments overall and very impressive that Adrian Lees got Aemulor running first time on ARM9/A9! With the A9home and, around the same time perhaps, Firefox coming I'd say we have a winning combination :) Eagerly awaiting the Dutch ROExpo show ...

 is a RISC OS UserhEgelia on 23/5/05 11:41AM
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Have you noticed the number of photographers who forgot to implement the macro option on their cameras when they tried to photograph the A9? To fill the viewfinder you have to get too close for ordinary shots. :-)

 is a RISC OS Userjc on 23/5/05 3:31PM
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Who's this John Marston bloke? ;-)

I'm just being pedantic as usual, but the clue *is* in the title: JGH (as in JGH BBC Software) stands for Jonathan Graham Harston. To get one name slightly wrong is excusable, but to get both wrong could offend the poor chap!

 is a RISC OS UserRichardHallas on 23/5/05 3:31PM
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I don't suppose anyone else would do this but just in case - I had just finished typing in a long comment when I thought I would check on a detail in one of the photos. I clicked on the photo - admired the enlarged version - then returned to find that the comments box had been cleared -duh. Sunday was very quiet but this mean it was possible to speak to MW without the usual Alton Towers like queue. It was also possible to get near the RComp stand where my brother was persuaded to buy a Centrino Cube. Highligh of the show for me was Castle fixing my Jessops 1G pen drive to work on the Iyonix. I had foolishly bought it without knowing if it was supported. It did not work - wanted a DISK2.0 inserted. Castle fixed this by popping it into an XP machine and renaming the drive as DISC20 - not the absence of the dot. It works a treat now.

 is a RISC OS UserJohnR on 23/5/05 4:15PM
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Found out that the free USB pen drive I've got works fine on the Iyonix, having just got one, but it's pretty annoying that it won't actually fit in the recessed slots on the front of the machine.

 is a RISC OS UserSimonC on 23/5/05 4:19PM
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The Cino DVD project is fascinating not least because of the control codes embeded within the format.

Apparently if you play the DVD and ignore the control codes some pretty weird things can happen.

For example, as it's topical, the famours Star Wars opening scolling text will play in English then jump back to play in Spanish, then French.... So the manufacturer just has one disc image for world wide distribution - but DVD players have to be capable of handling the codes without dropping frames.

I was a little disappointed to hear that it's by no means certain that it will be technically possible to play DVDs on Iyonix. The raw processing power needed may simply not be there.

However, if it can be done, Adrian Lees is the man who might just pull it off.

 is a RISC OS Usermartin on 23/5/05 10:46PM
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What could even be worst for RISC OS Cino DVD is that RISC OS has limited language capabilities if it tries to show text from non supported RO language countries?

Internationalised RO is needed soon, and hopefully the great recent developments and future growth may see RO in many other languages.

 is a RISC OS UserSawadee on 23/5/05 11:41PM
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Sawadee> the subtitles and menus etc displayed by the DVD player are all just bitmaps in the data stream; Cino and the OS do not require any special fonts or knowledge of multiple langugages.

This keeps the DVD player's code simple and means that the text is displayed in the same way by all players.

 is a RISC OS Useradrianl on 23/5/05 11:52PM
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Something makes me think i should have gone this year.....

 is a RISC OS Userbekka on 25/5/05 9:09PM
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Please watch what you say about RISC OS. Many people who visit drobe seem to get the idea, that RISC OS does not support internationalisation. This is simply not true, actually it supports it quite well. The problem is more to do with the third-party software.

 is a RISC OS UserJGZimmerle on 25/5/05 9:29PM
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And of course, that almost nobody uses the facilities provided by the OS.

 is a RISC OS UserJGZimmerle on 25/5/05 9:32PM
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JGZ: and those that do end up reinventing the wheel several times over just to get the same level of functionality as is available "for free" on other OSes.

Not talking about the issues can hardly be described as a satisfactory situation. Far better would be to have reasoned debate about the issues (which a number of articles on drobe have tried to provoke, with varying success)

 is a RISC OS Userjmb on 26/5/05 12:09AM
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jmb: That sounds like you're saying that no effort should be made to put in functionality that RISC OS is currently lacking, but instead it should be thrown away and we should all use something else. Presumably it also means that no other OS should ever be created that doesn't already exist.

 is a RISC OS UserSimonC on 26/5/05 1:22AM
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SimonC: That's the exact opposite of what I'm saying. I'm not entirely sure how you managed to infer what you did from what I said.

 is a RISC OS Userjmb on 26/5/05 9:52AM
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jmb: JGZ said that nobody uses the functions provided by the OS. You said those few that actually do are re-inventing the wheel, to get what you would get anyway from other OSes, implying (to me) that it's a waste of effort doing this with RISC OS when you could do the same on a different operating system for less.

 is a RISC OS UserSimonC on 26/5/05 10:03AM
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Shame about the lack of Linux VRPC :-( I was hoping I'd be able to upgrade my ageing RO3.5 RiscPC after this show.

 is a RISC OS Useradamr on 26/5/05 10:28AM
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Simonc:

I understood jmb to mean that (limited) Risc os development time gets wasted because two or three people will write applications to duplicate something like Windoze Alt-tab mechanism. Thus duplicating (or nearly) each other as well - his point being that it'd be better if everyone did different things. The problem being that you then need a definitive accurate list of what everyone coding for the platform is writing, to avoid duplication :)

 is a RISC OS Userchrisj on 26/5/05 10:48AM
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OK, I see the meaning now, and it makes sense. If we're talking about things at that level then it would be best if they could be fed back into the OS, but we're not using Linux here, so that won't be possible. Perhaps some sort of open source style OS extension project would work? The risk would be everyone putting in random little bits and the whole thing becoming bloated.

 is a RISC OS UserSimonC on 26/5/05 11:13AM
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I meant, that RISC OS does provide relatively good facilities for internationalisation, but almost nobody uses them, because there are next to no users outside the UK. IIRC there were only two completely non-UK versions of RISC OS made (French and German).

@jmb: Yes, I agree that there is (always) room for improvement, and I do want to see constructive discussions about this. But I think that at the start of every such article/comment/message should be something be written along the lines "RISC OS has full support for internationalisation, but I suggest the following improvements", because otherwise you get lots of comments all over the place from less informed people like the one above "Internationalised RO is needed soon..." We do have two internationalised ROs, but we need foreign native speakers who translate the user interfaces of RISC OS, its applications and third party software.

 is a RISC OS UserJGZimmerle on 26/5/05 11:20AM
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JGZ: > almost nobody uses them, because there are next to no users outside the UK.

15% to 20% are non UK based on Risc os 4 an Select sales in 2002.

And of the last 10 users of Drobe at this moment are 2 dutch, 1 german and 1 south-afrian

 is a RISC OS Useregel on 26/5/05 12:55PM
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and at least 1 Icelandic :)

I don't think everyone needs a fully translated/localised version of the OS but more and better support built into it. Such as keyboard mappings, localised alphabets, decimal sepertator handling (most non-English speaking languages use a , where English speakers use a . and vice versa).

I for one regularly switch between Icelandic, Swedish and Danish keyboard layouts on my Windows computer but doing so on RISC OS has been impossible for me - simply because current solutions are too difficult to optain and not feasible to use. I would like to see these localised settings built into the OS by default, not having to search the internet for possible solutions that some third party may or may not have written in the form of a module.

Support for different alphabets and correct decimal seperator in third party applications used to be appalling, pretty close to non-existant. Many software writers were quite willing to fix that once contacted but far too many simply were not interested, because they were not getting any sales outside UK/Australia/New Zealand, failing to realise that without correct handling of these issues the software was literally unusable in most countries. How things stand right now I don't know since my RiscPC is in a box over 2.000 Km away waiting to be used again (this summer it will be :-)).

Windows and Linux have an excellent, built in system for localisation that most software houses have realised exists and use quite well. If RISC OS is to stand a chance outside English speaking countries something similar must become available for the OS and software writers must use that support. Even only using whatever is already available would be an excellent start.

 is a RISC OS UserGulli on 26/5/05 1:57PM
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Yes, excellent quality photos. What on earth do you use to generate such good quality thumbnails? Mine always come out chunky (contrast with mdfs.net/temp/80x100_jgh1.jpg and mdfs.net/temp/80x100_jgh2.jpg).

PS: It's Jonathan, not Jon. ;)

 is a RISC OS Userjgharston on 26/5/05 5:57PM
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What Gulli is more or less saying is the support I mean for RO languages other than the few obvious language RO is closer to.

I tried unsuccessfully a few months ago to get Thai Fonts for my font manager. I tried converting some, tried getting the support of RO dealer in the RO font market.

Unfortunately, one major barrier for me was that I have not yet found anyone who is able to help because of the difficulty and lack of Thai language characters etc.

While fonts for the font manager is difficult enough, the whole RO computer to become "Internationalised" I see appears to be a bigger and possibly more difficult job?

 is a RISC OS UserSawadee on 26/5/05 10:03PM
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So you three may have localisation/internationalisation problems with RISC OS, I never disputed that. But this does not mean that RISC OS lacks the facilities to solve them. It just means, that no-one may have used the present facilities for that purpose. However discussions like this one drive new users away.

@Gulli: You are just describing the consequences of people not using the localisation/internationalisation facilities offered by RISC OS.

@Sawadee: Well, so you see that your problem has nothing to do with the technical capabilities of RISC OS, but with your lack of knowledge about the font system. Have you contacted EFF about this? They should have the knowledge you need. However they probably can not solve the problem themselves, because for that they would have to know something about the Thai language. And you may have to supply them with a Thai TrueType or Postscript font.

@egel: Yes, but how many of them speak English well enough not to need (or pay for the extra cost of) localised software?

 is a RISC OS UserJGZimmerle on 27/5/05 1:13AM
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JGZimmerle: Part of what I said is a consequence of software writers not using the localisation/internationalisation offered by RISC OS, that's true and I clearly stated that in my previous post.

But the most annoying part (for me at least) has nothing to do with that and more to do with poor support by RISC OS itself.

Has anyone managed to operate RISC OS with more than one keyboard layout installed and quickly switch between them? Nobody that I have heard of! Does RISC OS include any other keyboard layout, alphabet sorting and decimal seperator handling for non-English languages? Unless you buy the French or German version the answer is no. AFAIK, no other language is directly supported by RISC OS itself but must rely on third party modules that may or may not exist.

If discussions like this will drive new users away it can actually be a good thing. The new user that really needs the above would only be hopelessly disappointed with RISC OS and its facilities and a disappointed buyer will never recommend a product, on the contrary he/she will warn other potential buyers against it thus having more damaging effect than if he had been given the correct information from the start. Sticking your head in the sand will not make the problem go away. The fact that you can't see the problem doesn't mean it doesn't exists.

But I guess round buttons are more useful for the average computer user.

 is a RISC OS UserGulli on 27/5/05 10:08AM
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@gulli: Wich version of RISC OS do you use? On RISC OS Select and Adjust (and probably ROS4 and ROS5, but I haven't checked that) you can easily switch keybaord layouts from within the system configuration (Input -> Keyboard). If you often need to switch the layout I suggest you get WimpBar2 or a similar application/file launcher, create an obey file for each language containing the command *country followed by one of the supported *countries (currently 37 on ROS 4.39).

As for the other issues, RISC OS Ltd. has put up information where to obtain territory modules containing settings for non-UK locations on their select website. And thanks to a4com, these are even free. With most commercial OSs, you have to pay a hefty extra for localised versions. And with Windows, you don't even get the choice wich language you want the OS in, you are stuck with the one you purchased. With RISC OS and all applications wich support its territory system, it is simply a matter of setting a different territory in the system configuration and doing a quick reboot, and everything that has a localised messages- and resource- or template-file will appear in the local language. And because there are free editors for these files, everyone can simply do their own translation.

 is a RISC OS UserJGZimmerle on 27/05/05 12:11AM
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Gulli & Julian: For switching keyboard layout I'm pretty sure there's a very quick way holding down a key combination (can't remember which) and typing the international dialing code of the country you want into the numerical keypad. I remember this from RISC OS 2 days but I'd be surprised if it's been removed.

 is a RISC OS Userdanielhanlon on 27/05/05 3:46PM
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Oh yes, I had forgotten this possibility. I found this in the RISC OS manual in the section about character sets:

1. hold Alt and Ctrl keys 2. press and release F12 key 3. release Ctrl key 4. while still holding down the Alt key, type the international dialling prefix (phone number) of the country (44 for UK, 49 for Germany, 33 for France) 5. release Alt key

 is a RISC OS UserJGZimmerle on 27/05/05 4:02PM
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Oh yeah I almost forgot: RTFM, it is one of the best I have ever come across. :-)

 is a RISC OS UserJGZimmerle on 27/05/05 4:15PM
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Julian:

Is that for real?! Do you have to stand on one leg and place your right index finger into your left ear as well? ;)

Seriously, it is good that the functionality is there, but that's a pretty impressive sequence of keypresses that you have to follow.

 is a RISC OS Userflypig on 27/05/05 6:06PM
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a) yes, that's for real (PRM4-568 or so) b) ctrl-alt-f1 will return you to the UK keyboard c) ctrl-alt-f2 will set the keyboard to whatever is appropriate for the configured country d) none of the above work with the Russian keyboard driver on RO5.

 is a RISC OS Userjmb on 27/05/05 6:18PM
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JGZimmerle: Hmm, good to see that this is possible but I wouldn't exactly call that a "quick way". Compare it to Windows' Alt+Shift to shuffle through keyboard layouts and the RISC OS way becomes awful and the *country method is a horrible hack to say the least. But still, this is something I had missed and you two are the first I've "met" that seem to have known about it. I did in fact RTFM many years ago but didn't come across this.

It's good that ROL have put the link to a4com to their site but that doesn't change the fact that we're still relying on a third party module that may or may not be available. Why not add the support to the OS itself?

As for "most commercial OSs", with Windows you usually don't have to pay anything extra to get the localised version, it costs the same and even the English version includes support for all the internationalisation issues that I have mentioned. MacOS is a different story in that (at least in Iceland) you get the Icelandic translation/localisation but if you buy your Mac outside Iceland you have to pay somewhere in the region of 100 to get the Icelandic keyboard and even that doesn't seem to work well. At least RISC OS scores better than MacOS in that area but still lags way behind Windows and Linux.

RISC OSs method of offering translations is an excellent way for the most part (editing Template files isn't a smart thing to do in my opinion). I took part in translating RISC OS 3.1 and 3.5 to Icelandic a while back so I truly appreciate the way it works. Now only if RISC OS where to use layout managers to create its windows this could truly work well, some of the translations had to be less than good just to fit the text into the available space.

 is a RISC OS UserGulli on 27/05/05 7:09PM
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Actually the sequence of keypresses sounds more complicated than it is. Just try it out.

BTW, I forgot to mention, that the country code has be typed on the numeric keypad.

 is a RISC OS UserJGZimmerle on 27/05/05 8:05PM
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Actually the original territory modules all came from Acorn. They all used the same source. I don't know how much this holds true for the latest versions from a4com, because AFAIK they have modified them quite a bit for the international territory package and 32bit-compatability.

They were supplied to end-users by third parties, because they were part of complete localisation packages, wich also included all the localised template-, resource- and messages-files.

 is a RISC OS UserJGZimmerle on 27/05/05 8:11PM
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Makes it even more stupid that these modules were never included in RISC OS itself :S

 is a RISC OS UserGulli on 27/05/05 11:44PM
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