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South East 2005 show report

By Chris Williams. Published: 23rd Oct 2005, 21:20:34 | Permalink | Printable

Geminus, ArtWorks, A9home, Select, Castle, and loads more

This year's show, hosted by the friendly SASAUG, in Guildford was quieter and more laid back than the full house Wakefield 2005 event. More importantly, however, it proved to be an excellent opportunity for users to meet face to face with developers and dealers to discuss the events and issues that have arisen since May. On the surface, there were very little surprises at the show and unless you're an ArtWorks or RiscCAD fan, there was very little news. However, the event was teeming with little bits and pieces of information that should tie up some loose ends.

ArtWorks 2.5
There's not much to say about this other than the PDF export works and it works extremely well by all accounts. No more fiddling with printer drivers or wasting time tweaking settings and putting up with unacceptable output quality. The export supports all ArtWorks features, from the three transparency types to graduated transparency to high quality sprite export. It can do CMYK for professional printing, and any used fonts are embedded into the document for maximum portability. This feature is up there with Crystal - an ArtWorks feature a serious user cannot live without. Read all about it here.

Mark Stephens told us he knows PDF files inside out, having spent the past seven years studying the format for his company that develops a PDF renderer in Java. Approving of the quality of ArtWorks 2.5's PDF export, he added: "The ability to build complex art and then export it perfectly, and to a standard which can be used by professional printers, cannot be understated for the RISC OS platform."

Geminus logoGeminus graphics acceleration
The Geminus team have been working on graphics acceleration for the Iyonix using the machine's Nvidia PCI card. The biggest boost is cacheing redraw operations as bitmaps and then quickly plotting them in hardware when needed. When a window owned by a particular application is moved or has another window dragged across it, the operating system tells the software to 'redraw' the contents of the window. For applications such as ArtWorks and other programs that display complex images, it can be time consuming plotting these graphics all the time. Once a redraw operation completes, Geminus caches on the Nvidia card a copy of the image drawn and intercepts future redraw messages to applications so that it can plot the cached copy immediately. With this acceleration enabled, the ArtWorks Apple demonstration file renders instantaneously, once it's been cached. Drawfiles and sprite plotting are also enhanced by shifting the processing power required to display these on to the Nvidia graphics card: Horizontal and vertical line drawing, rectangle inversions (as seen when selecting areas in !Paint), window textures and other images are handled in hardware by the PCI card. This acceleration is unfinished and will cost 40 quid plus VAT when it's released, which is expected soon. Neil Spellings said it could be possible for the Iyonix to accelerate vector graphics based icons in Select for Iyonix, provided Select appears for the Castle machine and the drawfile icons feature is present.

Advantage Six confirmed that their own graphics driver programmers, the duo that make up the SIMON team, have been working on similar cacheing and acceleration techniques for the A9 range of computers. Although they said an overlap of effort is undesirable, this is a consequence of two teams working separately in private. It was noted that Adrian Lees has also been working on Aemulor for the A9, which includes graphics support for low colour modes and related features.

RISCOS Ltd. logoRISCOS Ltd. and Select
RISCOS Ltd. say they have 80 Iyonix users willing to subscribe to Select to pay for an Iyonix port, which includes those listed on the Iyonix Pledgebank entry. It's claimed a further 5 to 10 people have come forward to say they will buy an Iyonix if Select is made available for it. According to ROL MD Paul Middleton, this isn't enough and they're still waiting for 100 people to sign up before proceeding with the port. Paul added that this will generate around £8000 to pay for a programmer's time, and that 80% of the Iyonix port has been done thanks to work to 32bit the OS for the A9. He stressed during his company's theatre presentation that Advantage Six paid for their own A9 specific OS components, and that the past year has been spent on Select 4 and making RISC OS 4 a 32bit OS. To the Select subscribers who paid for a year's worth of updates and yet have received nothing since June 2004, Paul said they had funded the work to make the operating system compatible with modern 32bit only processors, and should resubscribe in order to receive Select 4.

On hearing this, Select subscriber Doug Webb said, "It was good that Paul cleared this up, but I still think that they should have made this statement before embarking on the 32bit stuff so we knew 12 months ago what was happening."

Subscriber Mark Stephens also added, "I had not planned to renew my subscription as I only use my Iyonix and have been very critical of ROL previously, but a cheque is now in the post. I don't expect to see anything for up to 12 months, but it seems worthwhile investment to encourage the future I would like to see."

The reaction to Paul's presentation was mixed, with some users happily resubscribing and others voicing their concern, particularly that development continues to be propped up by the generosity of people. Paul later explained that this is to be expected in a market the size of RISC OS; whilst you have some people being very vocal about the state of Select, there will be others who will hand over up to 500 quid just to help push forward development. We were reminded that over the past 15 year history of RISC OS, which started with the launch of version 2 in 1989, RISCOS Ltd. have been looking after the operating system for seven years. While Acorn had the benefit of 30 to 40 internal developers during the height of the company's history, ROL have far fewer programmers, albeit ones that "know RISC OS inside out".

The company appears to have abandoned plans to maintain two versions of RISC OS 4, namely a 26bit version for RiscPC class machines and a 32bit version for future platforms, and instead focused on a 32bit only stream. A list of new features expected in Select can be found here, as transcribed from a ROL published pamphlet and given the technical nature of the document, it most likely came from the programmers' notes. The main highlights include a 'search as you type' feature in the Filer. This means, once a user alt-clicks in a filer window, she can begin typing the start of a filename. The file that matches the letters entered is then highlighted, enabling documents and other objects to be located quickly in a large filer window. The Filer also supports operations such as copy and delete using keyboard short cuts. A set of toolbars have been planned that attach themselves to filer windows and provide buttons to manage files, create directories and change the display mode, and show larger thumbnails of files. For the 'set type' menu in the Filer, users can also submit a list of regularly used file types that can be selected from a list attached to the sub-menu. Although Paul said RISC OS 4 doesn't have a HAL, the operating system does abstract video, sound and other hardware specific features using the modular nature of the OS. For example, eventually, the kernel will not be tied to any specific hardware platform and instead communicates with a couple of modules that provide platform specific drivers in order to perform graphics works. By default, ROL have developed VideoHWVIDC and VideoSW for driving the RiscPC class VIDC chipset and software implemented graphics respectively. On the A9home and Iyonix, these components will be replaced with the relevant driver modules.

Speaking of the Iyonix, Paul attempted to explain that a Select port to the XScale powered computer will use a small piece of software that boots into the Select ROM image and then pulls in Iyonix specific modules from the RISC OS 5 ROM, in order to provide features such as USB. Following a question from the floor, Paul also said that he hoped that software compatibility will be maintained with RISC OS 5 by ensuring that 32bit RISC OS 4 matches the Castle APIs. He also urged application developers to make their own third party software more robust, so that programs can cope and not crash if an API changes or is updated.

Paul said the company was unwilling to distribute an "interim" release to subscribers because the new version of the OS and the Select port to the Iyonix is unfinished and "can't be used on a day to day basis". Once they've completed their 32bit work for the A9 range and Select 4, they can work on a Select port to the Iyonix. Paul also commented that Advantage Six contributed financially to the project to produce a RISC OS version for the A9home, and suggested that Castle could do the same for a Select port to the Iyonix. For the company's AGM, which is to be held in a couple of month's time, RISCOS Ltd. are hoping to launch a share based fundraising campaign to invest into future development. It was interesting to hear Paul describe the future of RISC OS, saying it could play a part in the growth of pervaisve computing; where small footprint, low power electronics provide functions from bed side diaries to dashboard navigators, without obviously appearing to be a powerful computer underneath. Paul also hinted that another future goal would be using modern graphics cards to enhance the OS.

The ROL stand included an Iyonix running RISC OS 5.10 and a number of 32bit Select modules, including the filer and Image File Rendering system. These were individually loaded using RMLoad during boot up, and were cheekily stored in a directory path labeled NiceOS$dir. A file on the Iyonix also listed the priorities for Select, and these included increased support for networking and sharing files with other operating systems, and providing a desktop search system akin to Google's desktop search and Apple's Spotlight technology.

Incidentally, there was an Apple iMac on the RISCOS Ltd. stand, and it did have a couple of beta copies of VirtualRiscPC on it. However, the licence files for the private, super-secret internal version were preventing the software from starting up. There's no release date for the Mac version of VRPC, as sound support and a few other details aren't working. The configuration user interface is up to speed, and we were told it'll be ready when it's ready.

Castle and Tematic logoCastle and Tematic
Castle's show presentation by Jack Lillingston was eyebrow raising, in that it involved him unpacking several PC cases sold with Iyonix motherboards and then saying a brief piece about USB 2 support. Some of the audience sitting towards the back shared perplexed whispers as to the point of the presentation, as seen at user group meetings earlier in the year: A case is a case, after all. One member of the crowd was spotted thoughtfully leafing through an A9home brochure, pausing with a furrowed brow on the price of a standard ARM9 powered machine, just as Jack revealed the cost of an entry-level Iyonix, which is shipped sans bundled software. The Castle boss said that for the moment, his company prefers Maxtor branded hard discs although every manufacturer goes through periods of unreliability. Jack also refered to on going work to support modern, powerful Nvidia graphics cards in RISC OS 5.10, adding that they are continually working on the operating system.

Outside of the presentation, Jack added that he felt the idea of two separate streams of the operating system, namely RISC OS 4 and RISC OS 5, is "ridiculous". In response to what Paul Middleton suggested in his presentation, regarding Castle funding Select for Iyonix development, Jack said the two companies had a legal agreement signed months ago that mandated the merging of the two operating systems: Each company would provide a developer, who would then collaborate with others to merge the source code together into one branch. He also denied rumours that efforts to combine the separate streams of RISC OS had collapsed and that both companies had torn up the paperwork, effectively walking away from the agreement. On the subject of the Tematic job cuts and restructuring of Castle, Jack admitted that the situation was "complex", adding that the engineers will be employed again once new project work begins. It's believed a product the company were working on for a client was cancelled, which led to the downsizing.

The Castle stand also included Richard Brown with a laptop running RISC OS in VirtualRiscPC and Oregano 3 to tease the crowds. Richard said he and developer Oregan had formed a good relationship by passing back lots of feedback and bug reports to the programmers. Richard also commented that he felt that the market won't be polarised by the emerging Firefox and NetSurf browsers, because in order to use as many websites as possible, users will likely have to rely on two browsers. Oregano 3 has no release date, and is likely to include Flash 6 support internally.

A9home presentation
Together with a more lively than usual Chris Evans of CJE, Advantage Six sought to impress the Guildford crowds with their tiny blue box. The presentation started off well, with Matt producing two small hand luggage style bags, each of which contained an A9home computer, a mouse, a rolled up rubber keyboard, a digital camera and USB accessories, and one bag also included a 7" LCD screen. Matt said people had complained that they hadn't designed a laptop or portable computer, but due to the machine's diminutive size, it could easily be carried from A to B - from home to an office, and then plugged into a keyboard, mouse and monitor at the final destination. A few laughs were drawn when Matt pulled a miniature mouse from a bag and one quick thinking punter shouted from the back, "That's not a mouse, that's a shrew." Chris Evans added that it was proving difficult sourcing suitable 14" and 15" LCD monitors, but the whole package could be powered from a car lighter jack or a small power adapter brick as the computer requires 5 volts and consumes 2 to 3 watts of power. He said that CJE Micros wanted to get the A9home into "unusual, weird and interesting markets", before stating that there is no release date for the machine. Although this may be due to the fact that the A9home is still unavailable for general sale, the team are still under-selling their product. The presentation ended after just 20 minutes, which included a question and answers session and a demonstration of taking a photo with a USB based digital camera and downloading the image to the machine. Hopefully the gang will be ready for the hard sell once the machine is finished.

Qercus logoQercus future
Editor John Cartmell gave a presentation on his magazine, and covered recent articles and topics, as well as handing out free copies of the latest issue to members of the audience. The design of the dead wood publication is improving, and a few colour page spreads worked well. Overall, the design is let down in places by a lack of a run-around for boxes and pictures - this is the gap between the text and objects on the page. A 10pt gap could probably do wonders for the magazine's layout, as opposed to the current 5pt run-around. John has also offered an opportunity to third party programmers to visit the Qercus office and try out their software on RiscPC, Iyonix and A9home computers. The magazine also wants to start a new page for small developers to advertise their software for free in a bid to tempt more people into producing applications for the platform. One punter at the event was overheard telling John he'd bought a 12 issue subscription and wanted to know over what time period he'd receive these, as despite the magazine being a monthly magazine, it's actually averaging one issue every 2 to 3 months. John said he couldn't say at the moment, although having moved into a new office, he hopes to get back to being a monthly publication.

In brief
Peter Naulls is said to be working on Firefox beta 6, which couldn't be released in time for the show. A new version of TechWriter and EasiWriter that is being overseen by Martin Wuerthner was unavailable at the show as it's still in development. It's believed that work on the new scripting language has stalled while Martin concentrates on other features, such as the new structure bars. Similarly, work on Cino is also on hold while programmer Adrian Lees works on other projects. It was hinted that the DVD player could be open sourced in order for other coders to delve into it.

Other new and updated software at the show included RiscCAD 10 by David Buck and UniPrint 2 from R-Comp. RiscCAD was described by punters as been pretty quick at plotting drawings and responding to user interactions. UniPrint continues to appeal to users who have bought a Windows PC to complement their RISC OS machines. Drobe writer Martin Hansen, aka MathMagical Software, has also developed a new Sudoku game. This includes 150 levels of gameplay, an on-screen timer for against-the-clock-pressure, five levels of difficulty, a 'time to beat' competition, penalties for errors and on-screen 'pencil marks' to help solve the numerical riddles. Martin was selling his Sudoku game as part of a 30 quid bundle with ArtGraph and TurtleChalk.

Finally, according to a number of exhibitors, there won't be a Midlands show this year. The next major RISC OS event in the UK is the South West show in February.

Links

Went to the show? Give us your comments or photos

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Discussion

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Nice to see the above article and even my name mentioned!

To clear up a point I would like to say that after Paul's presentation I was much happier with ROL's position and I'd like to thank Paul Middleton for the time and effort he put in to answer all the questions bombared at him.

Having had the facts presented I can homestly say that I support the move to 32bit and I'm hoping that a Select for Iyonix will be forthcoming.

Thanks for the mention and another great article.

 is a RISC OS Userbluenose on 23/10/05 9:40PM
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Sounds like a good show - shame I wasn't able to go.

I'm pleased by the comments about Easiwriter (& Techwriter): I use Easiwriter and like it a lot. However, I see little demand for a scripting language for these products. O-Pro has such a facility and it seems to me that Easiwriter and friends fit in to a bracket of producing less complex, more linear documents (if that makes sense) whose authors are less likely to need scripting and more likely to welcome ease of use or use-acceleration features (like structure bars and format colouring).

Just my three pennyworth, of course, but I'm more likely to offer money quickly for the described features.

 is a RISC OS UserTonyStill on 23/10/05 9:52PM
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Having just had my 6th Maxtor drive die on me in 4 years, the Castle statement is a little disturbing.

I won't buy anything but Seagate these days - there is a reason they have 5 year warranties and Maxtor have 1 (they might have raised it to 3 again actually).

Shame there were no demos of MacOSX VirtualRiscPC, I wonder how that will deal with MacOS X86....

 is a RISC OS Usersimo on 23/10/05 10:08PM
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New version of Techwriter was stable enough to be demoed on the Icon stand. There is an up feature so control + U moves a structure up (makes swapping paragraphs of even chapters very easy). The ability to sort structures alphabetically (whether its a listed item, section, or chapters) was very cool and would allow TechWriter to be used as an ideas outliner.

 is a RISC OS Usermarkee174 on 24/10/05 1:05AM
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Thanks for the great article. Being in New Zealand it isn't possible to get to these shows, but it is always interesting to hear how they went. What were the crowd numbers like?

Some very encouraging news and photos. Sounds like ROL haved clarified the situation with Select on Iyonix too. I like the sound of Artworks PDF export making publishing far easier and with much better results.

Nice to hear that a few smaller developers were able to show off new software. I hope they sold plenty of copies!

Simo: MacOS X86 will shouldn't make any difference if VirtualRiscPC is compiled with that as the target X86 as the target processor. Apple are talking about universal binaries so that code for both PPC and X86 CPU's are included in a single executable file.

 is a RISC OS Userknutson on 24/10/05 4:05AM
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What - no Midlands show!!! If I'd known that I'd have gone to his one.

 is a RISC OS Usersa110 on 24/10/05 8:08AM
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IIRC it was announced some months ago that there would be no Midlands Show this year. A pity, as it is the only one I can usually get to.

 is a RISC OS Usermrtd on 24/10/05 9:45AM
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So it seems that some people are satisfied with what PM had to say about Select and it's appearence on the Iyonix. But I wonder if we'll actually see any progress on this in the next 6 months. The next 12...? -- Spriteman

 is a RISC OS UserSpriteman on 24/10/05 12:50PM
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In reply to Spriteman:

I would like Select on my machine now. PM showed that something had been done by running a very beta copy on the Iyonix and put a convincing case that ROL had a plan to try and bring out Select, but was almost paranoid about not wanting to promise anything so people could not complain. If nobody supports ROL it will definitely not happen and your prophesy will definitely become self-fullfilling....

 is a RISC OS Usermarkee174 on 24/10/05 1:16PM
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ROL have abused the loyalty and dedication of its subscribers by using their money to further another goal, which only became apparent recently. Now, these same subscribers may pay another year's worth to get what they actually paid for in the beginning.

The subscribers have paid for a 32 bit OS they may not use, until they pay for it again.

Other subscribers have paid an extra fee, or only subscribed, for Select to appear on the Iyonix. They too, have received nothing but the possibility to pay again. Mind you, PM stated "80% of the Iyonix port has been done thanks to work to 32 bit the OS for the A9". In the mean time, A9home users are benefitting from the developments made by these funds, even though PM may insist A9home specific parts were funded by Ad6.

On the bright side, now all RO4 users may have the same fully 32 bit OS.

 is a RISC OS UserhEgelia on 24/10/05 1:21PM
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In reply to hEgelia:

ROL have abused the loyalty and dedication of its subscribers by using their money to further another goal, which only became apparent recently. Now, these same subscribers may pay another year's worth to get what they actually paid for in the beginning.

What goal? ROL have to have a 32 bit code base before they can integrate it with the iyonix. They are using the A9 project to help fund this and pay for the debugging. So we should get lots of angry A9 users complaining that they are subsiding Select on the Iyonix.

RISC PC users will never have a 32 bit OS because it offers no advantages and breaks lots of things for applications. So they will always get the code compiled in 26 bit mode.

 is a RISC OS Usermarkee174 on 24/10/05 1:37PM
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I fimly believe the move the OS to 32-bit is something that had to be done sooner rather than later. You have got to remember, that ROL have developed lots of great new features of RO via Select and realise that they have a dimishing userbase on old hardware. They need the likes of newer machines extend the potential market for them. But this can't be done in one big step. Hence the staggered approach. Step 1) move OS to 32 bit. Step 2) ensure OS is robust. Step 3) ensure 3rd party clients (existing and new) are notified of any significant changes that may need changes to software/hardware. Step 4) agree on launch date with 3rd parties. Step 5) make their end product sellable to the complete market.

I would not be surprised that given Castle's lack of core OS development that RO4(32) will replace the core OS in the Iyonix eventually.

However, I do agree that Select subscriber should have been made aware what their annual subscription was being used for. It is a small market, and we do need more openness - even if it is just to keep users interested in Risc OS

nx

 is a RISC OS Usernx on 24/10/05 2:36PM
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The move to 32bit has been going on quite some time, the Select on the Iyonix being demonstrated was dated Aug 2004.

 is a RISC OS Userflibble on 24/10/05 2:46PM
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But that was utilising the new 32-bit Slect code only - not the core OS of RO4.

 is a RISC OS Usernx on 24/10/05 3:30PM
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Surely if ROL have bits that already work on the Iyonix, should they not be made available to exisiting Select subscribers as a beta product. After all wasn't that the whole idea of the select scheme. Subscribers get beta quality products first before everyone else.

 is a RISC OS Usersa110 on 24/10/05 3:37PM
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sa100: Re the bits on the Iyonix, although working up to a point, Paul Middleton didn't consider them to a standard that could be released even as a Beta test. He demostrated, even seemed proud, that Select !Paint crashed on the Iyonix. Also I got the impression in the talk that softloading a whole Select Iyonix romimage (as Select on the RPC works) was his prefered way to go, as oposed to the current softloading of individual modules.

 is a RISC OS Userflibble on 24/10/05 3:43PM
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Seems a pity to slow down the boot time of an Iyonix in this way. Ah, that's progress for you.

Previous to what I said before: I don't think people should stop funding ROL. I do think that they should know what they should reasonably expect for their contribution. ROL would be the people to clarify this. They didn't in the past but perhaps they are starting to realise they are losing support by taking this course of action and are now being a little more informative. -- Sprite

 is a RISC OS UserSpriteman on 24/10/05 5:25PM
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Spriteman:

ROL were (IMHO) fairly criticised for their lack of information and have now responded (which should equally be acknowledged).

If they replaced the boot ROM, there would then be postings from users worried about warranties and support issues.

 is a RISC OS Usermarkee174 on 24/10/05 6:20PM
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I must say I am looking forward to Select 4 if the features listed in PM's handout does come to fruitiion. However one of the things that concerns me is the implementation of add-ons to Risc OS. Risc OS's GUI by it's very nature is very basic and simplistic - any additions to the GUI such as toolbars in filer windows need to be implemented in a very professional manner. I hope several people are involved in the look and feel of the development of the GUI development. Both from a functional and aestetics point of view.

nx

 is a RISC OS Usernx on 24/10/05 7:59PM
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Outside of the hardware abstraction work that RO Ltd are doing, Im a little concerned that the work on Select is still very "bells and whistles" - toolbars, key shortcuts, highlighting icons etc, whereas some of the main shortcomings of the platform remain unaddressed (e.g. a modern secure filing system). I've never seen any solicitation from RO Ltd about what they should be working on - maybe this takes place on the closed Select list, but their prioritisation does seem strange given their limited resources.

One can only fill the desktop with so many extra widgets and toolbars afterall, but if the underlying filing system cant cope with modern large discs, removeable USB storage etc then all these GUI tweaks will just be wasted.

Castle also dont seem to have made the progress I'd hoped on supporting things like large USB mass storage, or updating DOSFS, but if RO Ltd isnt doing that work either, that means noone is and we just stagnate.

Just my 2p's worth

Cheers,

Neil.

 is a RISC OS Userspellinn on 24/10/05 8:28PM
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In reply to nx and spellinn: I entirely agree. The GUI and overall operation of RO is my major reason for using it and it's OK. I would rather see some new capability added to the OS.

Neil's suggestion of the filing system is a good one. If that's too "under the bonnet" then something from the Merlin list perhaps? I would like to be able to connect a webcam and video-conference for example - or just VoIP. Or some Replay improvements, or PTP natively to digital cameras perhaps. Something that would fill gaps in the basic OS functionality.

Though some of these things may sound too ambitious, a lot of the stacks are out there in the freeware world (and look what one guy has achieved with a little thing called Firefox!).

 is a RISC OS UserTonyStill on 24/10/05 10:05PM
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In reply to Tony Still

I think a lot of the under the hood stuff on Select has been to make sure the OS is more robust and bug free as Paul stated during his talk. I think he mentioned 4000 bugs at some point when the source code was handed over. I do like what has been achieved with Select like the easier network setup , 1 to 10 correct filer display etc but I do agree that it would be nice to have say a codec to do a webcam or Voip but I'm not sure that should be part of the operating system.

I think you have hit the nail on the head so to speak by using Firefox as your example and I do think it would be good to get a webcam addon for say Grapevine or a Voip plug in. I did ask Castle about the prospect of a codec for the BBC content player and they stated that they had lots of codecs developed but that releasing them had to be a commercial decision. So given this perhaps something like the Firefox/GimpPrint pledge may get us a Webcam addon though I still favour some one like RComp relwasing something as an addon.

 is a RISC OS Userbluenose on 24/10/05 11:05PM
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In reply to nx; 'I firmly believe the move the OS to 32-bit is something that had to be done sooner rather than later.'

Right. But there was already a 32 bit version of RISC OS (RO5). IMHO it is a pity there hasn't been more cooperation (as announced last year). I am aware that merging RO4 and RO5 is probably quite some task, but I wish they had at least started with it instead of continuing working on their own. I guess it has something to do with NIH (i.e. they both think they can do it better).

BTW: I wonder when they will reach an agreement over the UCS (Universal Character Set) font manager. I don't see any (technical) reason why it couldn't be made available to e.g. Select subscribers and/or A9 users (perhaps even Omega users).

 is a RISC OS Userscl4c0rn on 25/10/05 12:11AM
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Whilst I welcome any sort of announcement from ROL as to their future intentions, I now expect them to write (letter, not email) to each Select subscriber in turn, to provide the full information given out at the show, and clarification of the future release schedule.

I was only able to attend the show for a short time, so have only heard about the proposed plans second hand. If it is true that ROL are breaking the terms of the current Select subscription and intend to provide no releases unless further money is paid, I want a full explanation of why this is necessary, and a legally binding contract governing what will be delivered during the next subscription, regardless of how long it may last.

For two years in a row now after extended periods of no releases and no communication ROL have announced plans at the South East show, in order to secure re-subscriptions. Last year the tens of thousands of pounds invested in the scheme by subscribers came to absolutely nothing, what guarantees do we have that this year will be any different?

 is a RISC OS Userdruck on 25/10/05 10:58AM
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nx said>"I would not be surprised that given Castle's lack of core OS development that RO4(32) will replace the core OS in the Iyonix eventually. "

Depends on what you mean by "lack of OS development". I'd argue that RO5 *has* added support for new hardware features that are *not* available to ROL's flavour of RISC OS (and that's even taking the A9 into account). ROL tend *not* to develope software themselves that is "hardware" oriented I'd be very surprised if their 32bit RO would surplant the RO5 in the Iyonix as that machine is *very different* from the RISC PC.

If (and it's a big *if*) ROL do produce Select for Iyonix it'll probably be a softload and use the underlying RO5 modules for accessing the hardware (which is probably the most sensible way of doing it given the current constraints).

 is a RISC OS UserAMS on 25/10/05 7:09PM
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ams - There's no 'probably' about it. ROL quite explicitly stated at the show that select for Iyonix would use modules from the RO5 rom. I take that to mean that it would have to be softloaded on to of the existing RO5.

 is a RISC OS UserDS1 on 27/10/05 9:18AM
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Any combined source tree for RO4 and RO5 has to utilise the RO5 HAL model, its the way forward and the only sensible way to deal with PCI and graphics cards etc. Castle will undoubtedly require it t be done this way, but it would also have huge advantages for ROL and their AMSs, as it allows the development of low level device drivers to be further uncoupled from the operating system. A new HAL can be produced and slotted in to a ROM image without having to rebuild any OS code.

However, this is well ahead of the current situation, and any version of Select will have to utilise the exiting RISC OS 5 HAL, Kernel and driver modules in order to function on the Iyonix. This can be achieved simply by softloading the Select modules, or as ROL are suggesting extracting code from the RO5 ROM and incorporating it in to a softloaded ROM image. This seems overly complicated to me, but it is probably to maintain the illusion of ROL providing a complete OS rather than just extentions, for reasons of pride.

 is a RISC OS Userdruck on 28/10/05 11:08AM
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The impression I got was that RISCOS would probably like to work on Iyonix Select, if they could afford it, but how to balance the conflicting requirements of the subscribers and hardware developers (only some of each cough up dough for the work). If they announce they're going to work on 32bit for Iyonix, perhaps the 26bit subscribers will cancel or refuse to renew their subscriptions? 100 Iyonix pledges will not go far enough to keep RO afloat, but how to attract more Iyonix subscribers without promising to produce product they may not be able to deliver?

Clearly it is in the platforms overall interest if development of the various strands of the OS were brought together, but this will require quite a bit of money (as well as co-operation that isn't in evidence), some of this money being supplied by people who are unlikely to see much future benefit after the next 26bit Select release.

Perhaps that pledge should have read: 'Ipromise to renew/take out a subscription to Select for at least a year in order that RISCOS Ltd can produce a version of Select running on all 32bit RO platforms, at which point I might buy one if I don't already own one'...

 is a RISC OS UserCyclinGuy2 on 28/10/05 6:48PM
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"The company [ROL] appears to have abandoned plans to maintain two versions of RISC OS 4, namely a 26bit version for RiscPC class machines and a 32bit version for future platforms, and instead focused on a 32bit only stream."

This is pretty significant and I believe the right step forward, as I have expressed a couple of times before. It also puts more pressure on (active) users of legacy (Acorn, etc.) hardware to upgrade to modern 32 bit machines. Neil Spellings has also stated a few times that a version of Aemulor can (or will) be developed for users needing 26 bit compatibility.

 is a RISC OS UserhEgelia on 28/10/05 6:51PM
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In reply tp CylinGuy2: The impression I get is that ROL have satisified nobodies requirements in the past year, and have yet to explain what they have done with a years worth of subscriptions and the money from ongoing Adjust sales and VRPC royalties. Unless they actually deliver something to both 26bit and 32bit subscribers, instead of yet more pronises each time renewals come up, they are going to find themselves in serious trouble.

 is a RISC OS Userdruck on 28/10/05 7:07PM
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In reply to hEgelia "The company [ROL] appears to have abandoned plans to maintain two versions of RISC OS 4, namely a 26bit version for RiscPC class machines and a 32bit version for future platforms, and instead focused on a 32bit only stream."

Where does this come from.

ROL have stated that they are moving to a common source tree from which versions for 26bit capable machines RISCPC can be compiled and 32bit bit versions for A9,Iyonix etc can. This clearly does not mean a 32bit only stream as it would be silly to produce a 32bit only version for the RISCPC.

There is no doubt that at some stage they will cease development for the "26bit" machines and Paul Middleton did state at one stage they saw just about 2 years maximum for this.

I really wish people would stop posting incorrect information.

 is a RISC OS Userbluenose on 28/10/05 7:08PM
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bluenose: "Where does this come from."

This article (South East 2005 show report).

"ROL have stated that they are moving to a common source tree from which versions for 26bit capable machines RISCPC can be compiled and 32bit bit versions for A9,Iyonix etc can. This clearly does not mean a 32bit only stream as it would be silly to produce a 32bit only version for the RISCPC."

Previously ROL did state this, but please explain why it is silly to produce a 32 bit version of RO4 for the Risc PC, essentially producing a universal 32 bit version of RISC OS 4 for all machines?

"There is no doubt that at some stage they will cease development for the "26bit" machines and Paul Middleton did state at one stage they saw just about 2 years maximum for this."

Indeed and it seems this stage will come sooner than expected. ROL must move on and with one 32 bit only machine (the Iyonix) already here for almost 3 years, another rapidly approaching a public release, plus the fact no 26 bit compatible machines are still in production (apart from the CTL A7000+ perhaps) this seems to me a logical step. The market must move on or it will eventually stagnate. For those still needing 26 bit compatibility for some legacy apps, Neil Spellings and Adrian Lees can provide a version of Aemulor.

Let me get something straight - I, for one, need 26 bit compatibility due to a lot of 26 bit (music) software I need to use, but that doesn't stop me to recognize what eventually needs to happen for the good of our market.

"I really wish people would stop posting incorrect information."

Well, I'm not sure if it really is incorrect - as said, I just quoted it from the above article, so I presume there must be some verfiable content to it.

 is a RISC OS UserhEgelia on 28/10/05 8:50PM
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In Reply to hEgelia

The article is clearly wrong then as Paul stated that they would have a common source tree to be able to compile 32 and 26bit versions of RISCOS4 Select.

Also why have a 32bit version of Select for your RISCPC which would mean you have to spend 100+ for Aemulor to run all your existing programmes unless you upgrade them and also take a performance hit as well , when the 26bit Select will be from the same source and have none of these issues. In essence a 32 and 26 bit version compiled from the same sources is a universal version.

If you want 32bit then buy a new machine and get all the performance advantages as well. My RISCPC has been upgraded to Kinetic but I hardly use it now I have an Iyonix and great as it was to last this long everything has it's day.

What we must have is a universal 32bit version that runs on the new systems like Iyonix, A9 or any other new machine not legacy kit. RISCOS4 32bit for A9 is the first step and then Select32 is the next with RISCOS6 being the end game perhaps combining Select32 with RISCOS5.

 is a RISC OS Userbluenose on 28/10/05 10:09PM
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bluenose: you've misunderstood what is meant by a 32bit version of Select. The StrongARM is capable of executing both 26bit and 32bit code. Aemulor allows *hardware* that won't run 26bit code (eg: ARM9, XScale in Iyonix) to emulate this code.

A 32bit version of Select would not change what code a machine could execute: A RISC PC would still run 26bit code, an Iyonix still wouldn't.

Software that works on newer, 32bit processors is often referred to as "32bit clean", meaning it has no code that won't run on a 32bit processor, therefore the software can be said to be 32bit, yet will still run on any RISC OS computer made after 1994!

 is a RISC OS Userjymbob on 29/10/05 00:07AM
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James: Bluenose is right here. ROL could offer a 32bit code OS for RiscPCs but that would stop 26-bit applications from running. Wisely they won't do that - but instead produce two versions of the OS compiled from the same source tree. That will ensure that old apps will continue to run on RiscPCs without Aemulor. Your reasoning works perfectly well for applications though not for the OS itself.

 is a RISC OS Userjc on 29/10/05 00:27AM
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Thanks JC for your update backing up my comments.

Clearly this issue is confusing people and that why I say keep RISCOS Select for RISCPC/Legacy kit 26bit and then there won't be any confusion.

 is a RISC OS Userbluenose on 29/10/05 08:54AM
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Thanks JC for your update backing up my comments.

Clearly this issue is confusing people and that why I say keep RISCOS Select for RISCPC/Legacy kit 26bit and then there won't be any confusion.

 is a RISC OS Userbluenose on 29/10/05 08:56AM
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In reply to Jymbob: Whilst a StrongARM is capable of running both 32bit and 26bit code, it has always been stated that by ROL that RISC OS will run in one mode or another, and not support running some applications in one mode, and some in another. This is so the OS can be compiled entirely for 26bit or 32bit operation, and does not require a large amount of additional code to fix up differing behaviours between an OS and applications running in different modes.

Therefor if Select on the Iyonix is running in 32bit mode, all of the applications and modules will also be entered in 32bit mode. Attempting to run 26bit code in 32bit mode will not work, as just as on the 32bit only X-Scale, instructions have different meanings in this mode, and code expecting or attempting flag preservation will not work correctly or crash.

There is scope for a version of Aemulor that instead of running in a 32bit mode and emulating the behaviour of 26bit instructions, could switch to 26bit code and run them natively without such a server performance penalty. There would still be an additional overhead for providing flag preserving wrappers around OS calls to give the legacy code the behviour it expects, which is already present in Aemulor.

 is a RISC OS Userdruck on 31/10/05 12:06AM
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