Wakefield 2005 show reportBy Chris Williams. Published: 23rd May 2005, 00:29:32 | Permalink | Printable
To sum up the weekend in one word: ExcellentThe 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.
|A9home boot up screen||A9home running some applications|
|The back of the A9home, showing its various IO ports||AdvantageSix'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 socket||Drobe'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 day||Not 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 words||Wide 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 fades||Distinct 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 Servers||Modest Castle stand for this year|
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
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Chris Why's Acorn/RISC OS collection •
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