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Tematic staff leave Castle

By Chris Williams. Published: 12th Oct 2005, 14:44:46 | Permalink | Printable

Business as usual though, says Castle

Castle logoThe developer of RISC OS 5, Castle, has trimmed its engineering workforce. We were first tipped off last week of the changes at Castle when it was reported that staff had left its embedded engineering arm, Tematic. Having visited the offices at Signet Court, Cambridge, on a weekday afternoon, one source claimed: "The blinds are all closed, the offices dark, no-one parked in their garage and the aircon is switched off. Peering through the door, the offices look empty although I could only see the ground floor rooms (there are three floors, all dark), but I couldn't see any post on the doormat."

Jack Lillingston, Castle MD, said today that Castle "had needed to reduce staffing levels due to longer than expected development timescales."

He added: "However, Castle assured all its customers (both for embedded products and the IYONIX pc products) that service levels remain unaffected and that business is very much as usual."

Castle absorbed Tematic in January last year, taking on engineers who previously worked at Acorn and Pace Micro. Just before Christmas, Tematic called for more programmers to join the team, and in April, they moved to new premises in Cambridge. Castle are currently working with Iyonix users to finalise the release of RISC OS 5.10.

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Discussion

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I don't understand how getting rid of staff is going to help with "longer than expected development timescales." If the development timescale is too long for the customer you need more staff, not none.

 is a RISC OS UserVirtualAcorn on 12/10/05 5:26PM
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Well, depends if the development timescales are due to you or others... If some input you need doesn't happen by and you just sit and wait more staff might not really help...

 is a RISC OS Userhzn on 12/10/05 5:40PM
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VA: I hope you are familiar with the phrase, "adding staff to a late project makes it later". Software Engineering is a complex thing to plan for, and there aren't always straightfoward solutions. And if that's a direct quote, it doesn't say whose timescales. It's a typical company quote which doesn't really give much information.

 is a RISC OS Usermrchocky on 12/10/05 7:15PM
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Virtual Acorn How about this scenario; Client A has a planned release of their new product B at Christmas of this year. You take on more staff to meet this urgent requirement. Client A then hears the the EU has decided to change the rules governing usage of such products requiring software and hardware changes. Shipping date is now Christmas of next year with first hardware changes followed 6 months later by software updates.

Result? Developers with nothing to do for 6 months.

In the part of the software industry where I work when similar scenarios appear your contract often gets ended at short notice. Especially if you are any sort of freelancer or agency staff. That's just the way it goes.

 is a RISC OS Userblahsnr on 12/10/05 7:57PM
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In reply to MrChocky:

OK, fair enough, I appreciate that "adding staff to a late project makes it later" or as we say in the UK, "Too many cooks spoil the broth". The problem is that getting rid of all the cooks means you might starve.

In reply to blahsnr:

Yes I agree that you can end up with engineers that are surplus to requirements, but surely Castle have other projects the engineers can be moved to, what about desktop RISC OS 5?

 is a RISC OS UserVirtualAcorn on 13/10/05 9:52AM
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VirtualAcorn: mrchocky was referring to "Brooks's law" (The exact quote is "Adding manpower to a late software project makes it later").

It is from a book writen in the mid '70s called The Mythical Man Month. It's still worth reading if you have any connection to software development.

 is a RISC OS UserStoppers on 13/10/05 10:52AM
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"but surely Castle have other projects the engineers can be moved to, what about desktop RISC OS 5?" Yes it would be lovely if Castle's RISC OS 5 operating system was updated with things like video playback, picture thumbnails in directorys and lots lots more, things that come as standard with other operating systems, they may even end up selling more computers.

 is a RISC OS UserPete on 13/10/05 10:57AM
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Pete: I'd prefer it if they concentrated more on what they are concentrating on, which is the underlying functionality of the OS, rather than trying to incorporate applications into it. There's no point in having fancy gimmicks (many of which should really be separate programs) if they've not got something solid to stand on.

 is a RISC OS UserSimonC on 13/10/05 11:23AM
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Pete:

That's an interesting example: You realise that Select has image thumbnailing in the Filer. ROL have said on the Select list that they don't want to touch video playback with a ten foot barge pole.

 is a RISC OS Userdiomus on 13/10/05 12:23PM
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SimonC

"I'd prefer it if they concentrated more on" ... "the underlying functionality of the OS" What's there to concentrate on? The underlying functionality of the OS is already there. Changing is not needed so if something is done it will be an expantion, new functionality, drivers or fancy gimmicks.

 is a RISC OS UserJaco on 13/10/05 1:56PM
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Jaco: Well, yes, the OS does *have* "underlying functionality". Unfortunately, some of it is rather old, and there are a number of things that could usefully be done to it that would make a serious difference (in the mid- to long-term) to RISC OS as a system. Things like support for multiple ARM cores, for example, and the use of non-blocking transfers in CDFS. Supporting multi-core processors (for example) would require some serious development effort, and most existing programs would be unlikely to show any immediate speed increase - but new software written to use the features could be made to run much faster for processor intensive tasks. Tasks like video editing, DVD playback, image manipulation, 3D games, speech recognition, audio compression....

 is a RISC OS Userchrisj on 13/10/05 2:18PM
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myself: Of course, some of those require a lot of memory bandwidth, too:) But increased processor power will help a lot with most of them, and plenty of other things besides.

 is a RISC OS Userchrisj on 13/10/05 2:24PM
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"You realise that Select has image thumbnailing in the Filer." Yes have it on my Risc PC and would like it in my IYONIX.

 is a RISC OS UserPete on 13/10/05 3:03PM
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Image Thumbnailing on the Iyonix? I have it courtesy of WSS's PhotoFiler. Why do Catle have to "re-invent the wheel"?

 is a RISC OS Usercharles on 13/10/05 3:43PM
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"Image Thumbnailing on the Iyonix? I have it courtesy of WSS's PhotoFiler. Why do Catle have to "re-invent the wheel"?" Ok will probly buy it, 12 from CJE, luckly I can intall it as my IYONIX has a 3.5" floppy drive. But I think there is still plenty more to work on instead.

 is a RISC OS UserPete on 13/10/05 4:26PM
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Fine, then why not use Thump?

 is a RISC OS UserSimonC on 13/10/05 4:50PM
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VirtualAcorn Indeed there is always something that could be done with every OS.

However if there are no customers prepared to pay say for rounded buttons to be implemented then there is no way to remain profitable employing engineers to do that work......

Pete Photofiler works fine on my Iyonix. The biggest limitation is that the maximum size of the thumbnails is the same as a large folder icon (you can make them wider but I didin't like it).

It works fine for me on a resolution of 1600x1200 although other people might not find it so useful.

I liked that you could use bigger thumbnails on Select but didn't like the way it did it in terms of appearance. Plus all filer windows looked the same took up too much desktop real estate.

PhotoFiler is less intrusive in that respect (and has a cool icon).

There was little to choose from in performance when I tried both on an SARPC, you do notice the substantial speed increase comparing PhotoFiler on the Iyonix vs RiscPC.

Also very pleased with CDROMFS on the Iyonix (IIRC better CDFS is another Select feature).

 is a RISC OS Userblahsnr on 13/10/05 5:59PM
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As someone who helped turn off the lights, I'm not entirely sure what project is being mentioned, though I have my suspicions and if correct it's a reference to a piece of hardware, not software. I'm unsure of the confidentialities by which I'm bound as an ex-employee, so I'll err on the side of caution. Suffice to say that this was certainly not the only problem or the whole reason the Tematic employees had to leave - not that this should be of much surprise to anyone here.

As I understand it Castle continue to manufacture, develop and support the Iyonix, though they do so with substantially fewer technical staff. Desktop RISC OS development will inevitably be slowed considerably in my opinion. Further, again in my opinion as, now, an outsider of the company, it is going to be extremely hard for Castle and RISC OS Ltd. to proceed in a profitable fashion without putting aside their substantial historical differences on both sides and both making compromises in order to attempt to produce a unified source tree - assuming either company has the engineering resources to do so.

The core of RISC OS 5 is well engineered within the traditional wider architectural constraints of the system. The implementation of the HAL is solid and has proven itself on several occasions in rapid ports to relatively alien ARM-based platforms. IPTV STBs based on the technology continue to be market leaders for performance, features and stability. It would be a crying shame for all the work, debugging, and carefully thought out APIs for 32-bit support dating back to some of the die-hard Acorn engineers working under Pace, to be thrown away in favour of an OS based upon the at the time work in progress pre-HAL RISC OS 3.8. Taking the RISC OS 5 base and adding in many of the good new features RISC OS 4 brings, such as any fixed bugs still present in RISC OS 5, Filer enhancements and the modular image rendering system, would be a sensible way forward.

Frankly, I think this is the only way forward. The current development of 32-bit capability in RISC OS 4 using APIs that differ from or even clash with RISC OS 5 equivalents is extraordinarily destructive in such a small market. Whilst RISC OS Ltd. even having to do this 32-bit work at all seems daft, they in turn must surely recognise that such technology cannot be handed over for free, because it cost a great deal of money to develop. The situtation is complicated further; RISC OS 4 on a RISC OS 5 foundation could even potentially help to produce 32-bit RISC OS platforms that would be in direct competition with Castle's offerings.

For my own part I really hope to work on RISC OS again in future. We were doing some great stuff with next generation audio/video architectures that were intended to work on Desktop machines as well as set-top boxes. It would be very rewarding to see all the effort and time put into such work evolve into something releasable. There are already components that I personally believe would be very valuable for people working on multimedia projects for RISC OS, and I hope that Castle recognise the value in their source tree and find a way to release some of these as upgrades in due course.

In the mean time I wish both companies good fortune with their respective businesses. I can only hope that they see a way to work together constructively in order to grow the market.

Right. That's the speech over with. Anyone want a RISC OS engineer? 10 years experience on web browsers, IPTV end-to-end and A/V architectures? Preferably based in Wellington, New Zealand? :-)

 is a RISC OS Useradh1003 on 21/10/05 10:52PM
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