Christmas roadshow reportBy David Llewellyn-Jones. Published: 17th Dec 2005, 06:30:43 | Permalink | Printable
8160x1024 virtual desktops for a9home, plus Iyonix Select for Q2 2006?Fresh from attending the Manchester leg of this year's Christmas RISC OS roadshow, David Llewellyn-Jones reports on the developments and products he saw on display yesterday evening.
It seemed like a good event with what could be described as a good atmosphere. The room was quite small - apparently smaller than the usual Birmingham venue - so that it was quite cramped with all of the exhibitors present. It was difficult to get a feel for the number of people attending, and I hesitate to speculate. You can get an idea of how busy it was from the photos below. There was a list for visitors to fill in and sign on arrival, so presumably RISCOS Ltd have a relatively accurate figure.
For most of the exhibitors, there weren't too many surprises; for instance, the new TechWriter, Artworks, R-Comp releases, Sudoku software and Archive books all looked great, and appeared as how they were previously reported. Richard Brown, who oversees the distribution of Oregano for RISC OS, wasn't at the event so I couldn't inquire about the status of the next awaited version of the web browser.
There seems to be a new release of EasiWriter and TechWriter at near enough every show, and as a TechWriter user, it is particularly encouraging to see the software family continuing to progress so consistently in terms of development, even though the package already does most of the stuff that I need. The big news for ArtWorks is the PDF export and again, it was good to see strong on-going development. For me, the really positive thing was the apparent strong on-going development of various RISC OS products.
Castle and ROL directions
I spoke to Castle regarding their future plans, whilst noticing that they were showing off some of the latest Iyonix cases. They suggested that current Iyonix work is directed at supporting newer graphics cards and using some of the more modern features that such cards possess. They gave the impression that this was a particular focus for them, and CTL's John Ballance hinted earlier that dual-head video card support is on its way for RISC OS 5. It did sound like there will be some interesting developments in this area in the future, although only time will tell.
Paul Middleton on the RISCOS Ltd stand made some interesting comments: he had an Iyonix running 'Select enhancements' which was obviously not yet fully stable, but which ran nonetheless with some of the obvious Select enhancements such as the new Paint, drawfile Pinboard image and Filer thumbnailing. The text on the screen said that the enhancements would be available during the second quarter of 2006.
During a discussion, Paul made it clear that Iyonix Select had always been something that RISCOS Ltd wanted to do, and that it was certainly something that they intended to produce, but that it was largely a question of priorities. Moreover, he was clear that Iyonix Select was only going to be a possibility if people remained subscribed to the Select scheme. His argument seemed to be that there were only so many people that could be coding for RISCOS Ltd at any particular time, presumably due to financial considerations given the company's tight resources, and so it was simply a case of getting all of the available work done in a viable order. He also stressed that the recent Iyonix Select campaign on pledgebank.com was independent of RISCOS Ltd.
More graphics enhancements for A9home
Advantage6 were proudly showing off lots of their A9home machines, all with the scary looking blue fans. The big news seemed to be the progress the Simon duo were making in the graphics department. On the Ad6 stand, they were advertising the pun-packed 'Head' trinity comprising of HeadTurner, HeadRoom and HeadRush.
They were also showing off HeadLight, the graphics acceleration that will be built into the A9, and which the other Head products are built on top of. From testing out two machines side by side, it was clear that HeadLight makes operations such as window drags far more fluid by using the hardware acceleration in the system's chipset. This is an area where the A9 has been compared against the Iyonix. By the looks of it, HeadLight brings the two much closer together in this respect.
HeadTurner is the screen rotation support that can twist a desktop in steps of 90 degrees. HeadRoom was the real eye opener from a user impact point of view. HeadRoom enables the desktop to have screen modes larger than the physical capability of the monitor being used, much like a 'virtual desktop' application. However, it actually works like multi-screen Geminus - but with a single screen. The whole screen is held in the A9's 8MB of video RAM, so they were showing off very wide 8160 by 1024 screens. Users can navigate the virtual desktop by moving the mouse to the edge of the screen, which in turn scrolls the display in the required direction. Since the display is all held in screen memory, scrolling is very smooth. You can also hold down the middle mouse button to display a smaller version of the entire desktop from which the portion of the screen to be displayed can be chosen by dragging around a 'marching-ant' selection area to mark the new visible area.
HeadRush is the 'enhanced' graphics acceleration that will be available as an extra on top of HeadLight. This will provide speed increases for things like line drawing, shapes and drawfile rendering, again using the facilities provided by the SM501 chipset. It was explained that all of the 'Head' products have been created in conjunction with RISCOS Ltd, so that they are built in to the OS from the ground up.
No information about availability or pricing yet, however I was given the impression that due to the coupling between the A9 work and its 32bit RISC OS 4.4, it wouldn't be possible to release the 'Head' components before Select 4 - although this is yet to be confirmed.
Images from the Manchester event
| ||RISC OS Select enhancements running on an Iyonix. The top line says, "This is an Iyonix running RISC OS 5.10 with Select enhancements" and the bottom line says, "Selected 'Select' features will be available for Iyonix Q2 2006."|
| ||Select 4 running on a RiscPC, which appears to be 26/32bit neutral. The text reads: "This machine is running RISC OS 4.41. This is the latest 26 bit/32 bit build of RISC OS 4."|
| ||General show view. The venue wasn't large, which made it seem quite busy.|
| ||Paul Beverley on the right selling the new Archive booklets.|
| ||Matt Edgar from Advantage6 shows off an A9home and the A9home brochure. Just above the brochure you can see he's wearing an 'exciting' blue LED scrolling name tag.|
| ||John Cartmell on the Qercus stand.|
| ||The Castle stand with photos downloaded to the Iyonix via USB2 direct from a mobile phone.|
| ||The RComp stand.|
| ||The STD/Advantage6 stand.|
| ||You can work this one out yourself.|
| ||Drobe man Martin Hansen showing off Sudoku and his Artgraph maths/graphing software.|
| ||An A9Home running HeadRoom with a 2x2 screen.|
| ||An A9Home with HeadRoom again, this time with 'wide', possibly 6x1 screen.|
Update at 14:04 18/12/2005
AdvantageSix have confirmed a few extra details about their HeadRoom and HeadLight software: It makes use of the hardware abstraction added to 32bit RISC OS 4, in particular the new video abstraction sub-system and has been in development for several months. Refresh rates are not affected by the size of the virtual desktop chosen by the user and the driver could in future borrow memory from the main system RAM. The software is still very much in development, so its outing to this roadshow appears to have been more of a sneak preview.
Did you hear anything interesting or take photos?
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