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Christmas roadshow report

By 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.


Christmas roadshow Did you hear anything interesting or take photos?

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Thanks for this review. Pity the road show doesn't come closer to my place (that is near Hamburg in Germany...)

 is a RISC OS Userhzn on 17/12/05 7:09AM
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Manchester venue:- what a pain finding it- when I finally got there there was just enough time to get the latest Techwriter.

 is a RISC OS Userjlavallin on 17/12/05 11:34AM
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Apparently the A9home's HeadRoom works up to a theoretical 8160x8160, limited only by video RAM (8MB). jlavallin: Well, I walked from the train station, having never been to Stockport in my life, and found it with ease, so it can't have been that difficult!

 is a RISC OS Userjymbob on 17/12/05 1:39PM
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In reply to jymbob I went m56-m60- followed route to a6 via a626 then asked locals most of whom had no idea where that hotel was. In all it took 1hour and 50 mins to do about 25 miles. Route was AA recommended. Next year I'll have to have sat/nav.

 is a RISC OS Userjlavallin on 17/12/05 5:00PM
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Just a small tip: When I first went to RISC OS Expo in the Netherlands coming from Germany I had to cope with a) traffic sings which were unusual for me b) a language I don't understand or read c) not knowing my way around there d) getting there not being easy on the last part of the trip with all those highways near Uetrecht

My trick was to go to map24.com and have a route plan computed. With that the only problems I had were a) when crossing the border map24 told me to leave the German highway at a specific exit to then go to the Netherlands one - well I just remained on the highway since it goes right through b) near the end I took one wrong turn but that was luck since that way I found a petrol station I needed urgently (after driving for some 500km)

Apart from that with map24.com it was pretty easy to get there.

 is a RISC OS Userhzn on 17/12/05 6:43PM
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hzn: I've never heard singing traffic. Is this common in the Netherlands and does it happen in other parts of Europe? :)

 is a RISC OS Userapdl on 18/12/05 8:33AM
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in reply to apdl;

Guess he was mistaken by the laughing policemen behind the speedcamera placed at the exit to the Expo-venue on that highway. :-)

 is a RISC OS Usernico on 18/12/05 3:54PM
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It appears from this report that both Castle and STD are working on graphics card software enhancements - to RO 5 and 4/Select respectively. Is there an insider line on whether this is collaborative, usefully complementary, or just duplicated effort?

 is a RISC OS Usersteelpillow on 18/12/05 4:46PM
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It's essentially a separated effort, although it would be inaccurate to say 'duplicate'. Castle are targetting the Nvidia cards and Ad6 are targetting the Silicon Motion chipset, and the drivers for either will be different. The way in which RISC OS 4 and 5 abstract hardware is different, though.

 is a RISC OS Userdiomus on 18/12/05 5:43PM
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Did anyone do a *Help Modules on the Iyonix running Select to see what the last build date was? This would indicate if there is on going development or this is what was demonstrated at previous shows.

 is a RISC OS Userdruck on 19/12/05 9:09AM
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In reply to druck:

Someone must have done a *help mod. as the results were on screen for most of the Harrow show. The significance of this was lost on me until now!

 is a RISC OS Userpw on 19/12/05 8:51PM
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As it's Christmas and time to be frivolous:

How come the A9home machines all need big external fans? Do they overheat or did someone just forget to allow room inside the box for the fan? What else did they forget, perhaps the CD drive? I hope they're not more noisy than an Iyonix <fx: Continue to fade>


 is a RISC OS UserTonyStill on 19/12/05 10:17PM
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How do they get mob phone pics onto the Iyonix?

 is a RISC OS UserXinoyi on 20/12/05 9:55AM
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The latest USB drivers for the Iyonix support the sony ericsson K750i & (by the looks of the picture) W800 - they report themselves as USB mass storage devices

Piccys are fine but some of us are having nightmares with big MP3s :-(

 is a RISC OS UserROHC on 20/12/05 10:01AM
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It might have been me that did the *help modules. However I didn't think to check the dates on them, I was mainly loking at how many of the ROM modules were replaced by softloaded ones. The answer was most of them. All the other machines (RPC, A9, VRPC) were running the exact same build dated 11th December 2005. That was one of the things RO Ltd were trying to highlight - that they are now using the same source to build all versions.

 is a RISC OS Userhelpful on 20/12/05 10:05AM
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Tony Still:

Silly Boy! The fans are so that you can find the A9 on your desk. ;-)

 is a RISC OS Userjc on 20/12/05 10:05AM
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helpful: ...which is really excellent news! It's a rather large step to a unified OS. ROL can now (or very soon) supply a version of RISC OS 4 to every hardware manufacturer, whilst remaining backwards compatible to the older machines.

It would be great if future builds of RO4, like RISC OS 4.5 for example, run natively on Iyonix hardware with perhaps some driver support from Castle. I suspect this will be the case :)

 is a RISC OS UserhEgelia on 20/12/05 10:57AM
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In replay to hEgelia:

I think the next step after the OS reunification, is to sort out the USB into one standard that works with the CTL hardward and the AD6/Simtec hardware.

 is a RISC OS Usersa110 on 20/12/05 11:18AM
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I wonder if the K750i/W800 would work or could be made to work with the Simtec USB stack.

 is a RISC OS Usermfraser on 20/12/05 4:38PM
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I'm afraid I so disliked my SE mobile phone I destroyed it ... quite therapeutic, really.

 is a RISC OS Userjms on 20/12/05 8:53PM
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No reason why not although they're not quite straight USB mass storage devices...

Someone would have to do a specific driver for them I think

 is a RISC OS UserROHC on 21/12/05 1:16AM
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I can share the frustrations of my K750i phone as ROHC knows !!! Has any one else got this phone and have tried to send jpg's and mp3's to it ? Sometimes they stay and sometimes they disappear into thin air .....

 is a RISC OS UserHairy on 21/12/05 10:39PM
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