Oregano 3 survives user group meetingBy dgs . Published: 20th Jul 2005, 00:33:34 | Permalink | Printable
Revealed: To be released when ready, renders many tricky websites, discounts for existing Oregano users, uses around 20-30M of memoryArmed with Oregano 3, Richard Brown of Genesys Developments Ltd visited the RISC OS User Group of London on the evening of Monday June 18th. This meeting formed one third of ROUGOL's "summer of web browsers", with Peter Naulls having demonstrated Firefox at the group's June meeting, and a visit from James Bursa (one of the Netsurf developers) planned for August. This is also the second time Richard has entertained the London based user group.
Just in time for this series of demonstrations, ROUGOL's venue has been equipped with wireless internet access, together with an access point that can be used either with the club's own RiscPC, or with a computer brought by the guest speaker. In this case Richard brought his own Iyonix. The wireless access is also freely available for any visitors bringing along wireless enabled laptops, PDAs or other devices, so people can either follow along with what the speaker is doing, or distract them by doing something completely different.
ROUGOL sometimes avoids formal speaker meetings during the summer, because many potential visitors are away. But Richard's talk was very well attended, seeing only a few less visitors than had attended the Firefox talk the previous month. On both occasions a few Oregan employees came along to see the software in action. Richard talked briefly about how the RISC OS version of Oregano 3 is prepared for Genesys, based on the version of the browser that Oregan use for a variety of other projects including set top boxes and Sony games consoles. He then moved straight on to demonstrating Oregano 3 live against real Internet sites.
Richard started with Castle's Iyonix website to demonstrate how the current beta of Oregano 3 eliminates almost all of the flickering during display that Oregano 2 suffers from; there is still more fine tuning to do in this area before the release version. He also showed the main BBC website, and the internet provider Wanadoo, again indicating considerable improvements over the way Oregano 2 had handled these sites.
It was then open to the floor to suggest websites to visit, this being the main business of the evening and the sternest test of a RISC OS web browser under development. Richard demonstrated a massive selection of sites nominated by the audience, with some visitors not just wanting to see one site, but bringing lists of five or six sites of increasing complexity and browser unfriendliness. Particular successes for Oregano 3 included the Odeon cinema chain's website, the New Scientist website and the Channel 4 website.
Moving on to more interactive sites, Oregano 3 was able to track a visitor's parcel using the Royal Mail website, albeit after a couple of failed attempts. A visitor bravely shouted out all his registration details for the Asda online shopping site, and much hilarity ensued as the group went through the process of ordering large quantities of tuna, ultimately unsuccessfully. Richard said that key sites such as the Asda one would be a priority to get working. Richard mentioned that the browser works with Barclays Bank online banking website, but wisely decided not to enter his banking details on the big screen in front of everyone.
As with every browser demonstration, The Register was a required destination, and Oregano 3 managed this without difficulty. Several people's personal and club websites also presented no problems. The vast majority of sites chosen by the audience were targeted mainly because they didn't work correctly in Oregano 2, Netsurf or (more rarely) Firefox. The way that Oregano 3 handled these problem sites impressed the audience a great deal. The increased speed and reduction in 'flickery' redrawing, as compared with Oregano 2, also drew praise.
In response to questions, Richard also showed the choices and preferences panel of Oregano 3, giving a wider range of configurable functionality including the ability to have choices take effect immediately (such as turning off foreground and background images), something absent from Oregano 2. Also new was the ability to save out a web page as a text file, a great advantage in many circumstances. Richard re-iterated that the ability to export in DrawFile format, although desirable, was unlikely to be provided because of the amount of work involved and the fact that it would be of no benefit to the vast majority of Oregan's other customers.
Richard echoed the comments of Peter Naulls in emphasising the huge amount of extra parsing and rendering work that an "up to date" web browser must carry out. He suggested that Oregano 3 was doing perhaps five times more work than Oregano 2. A look at the Task Display indicated that Oregano 3 was using somewhere between twenty and thirty megabytes of memory.
Richard suggested that Oregano 3 was already more stable when running than Oregano 2, and said that a requirement for release would be that Oregano 3 should be capable of doing everything that Oregano 2 could, in addition to all the extra functionality. (This would be an improvement over the previous situation, with Oregano 2 unable to view some sites that had worked correctly on Oregano 1).
It was explained that Oregano 3 supports Flash 5, whereas Oregano 2 only supports Flash 4. Apparently Flash 6 is "in the pipeline".
Richard's hard disk contained, in addition to dozens of different experimental versions of Oregano 3, the latest version of the Firefox and Netsurf web browsers; he said that comparing the performance and functionality of these browsers was an integral part of deciding where to focus the development effort for Oregano at any particular moment. Richard praised both Firefox and Netsurf, and said that there would always be occasions where either of them might gain particular areas of functionality that Oregano 3 lacked. However, he said it was his aim that Oregano 3 should become the pre-eminent RISC OS web browser.
Richard said that he would hope Oregano 3 could be launched during 2005, but emphasised that it would not be released until it was fully ready. Pressed about the lack of updates that had blighted Oregano 1 and Oregano 2, he said that he would hope to avoid the same happening with Oregano 3, but he didn't have a crystal ball to foresee what commercial realities would dictate.
Richard wouldn't give any projected pricing for Oregano 3, but said that there would be discounts for existing owners of Oregano 1 and Oregano 2. When asked his views on the possibility of Oregano being bundled with RISC OS computers other than those from Castle, Richard said that he would be very happy to do this, but no discussions about it had taken place as yet. He said that Oregano 3 had not been tested on the A9home as far as he was aware, but he did have the opportunity to inspect a life-size cardboard mock-up of the A9home (and external CD drive) that a visitor had brought to the meeting. With ROUGOL's reputation as the UK user group with the largest number of Omega users, Richard was persuaded to provide his contact details to an Omega owner who would be able to try out Oregano 3 for compatibility.
Richard gave a little more detail on the beta testing process for Oregano. Whilst many RISC OS products have bands of dozens or hundreds of beta testers, the beta testing of the RISC OS version of Oregano 3 is confined to a select three or four people. The aim is to provide a consistent stream of high quality feedback to Oregan about what the most important issues are, without swamping the developers with large numbers of people reporting different aspects of the same problem or suggesting additional enhancements that may not be practical. Richard re-iterated that this type of high quality feedback was very valuable to Oregan for their own development, and thus made the RISC OS version itself more worthwhile.
With his Iyonix being key to the running of his business as well as containing the various secret beta versions of Oregano, Richard originally took the approach that any use of the keyboard and mouse would be by himself. However, as the evening wore on and it emerged that those eager to get at the keyboard were mainly interested in trying out their own websites, he wandered away from the keyboard and allowed others to experiment. Unsurprisingly, he returned from the other side of the room rather rapidly when a visitor plugged a USB device into the back of his Iyonix "just to see if it works".
Overall, Richard's demonstration was a great success, and Oregano 3 certainly got a warm welcome. Despite the lack of a price or release date, one visitor told Richard, "you've got my order, now get on with releasing it!"
RISC OS users seem to have just as great an appetite for new web browsers as ever, despite the profusion of different RISC OS browsers in different states of development or decline. User groups that aren't yet in a position to arrange Internet access should definitely investigate what can be done to achieve this, as it enables visitors to find out exactly how well a browser performs with the websites they want to use.
Genesys Developments Ltd
RISC OS User Group of London
RISC OS web browsers compared
Screenshots of Oregano 3 in development
Photos of the ROUGOL evening from Iconbar
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