2006 predictionsBy Chris Williams. Published: 2nd Jan 2006, 17:22:44 | Permalink | Printable
Belated summary of news expected some time this yearLooking pretty much like a blank canvas, 2006 is barely out of its box and plastic wrapping. With a whole year ahead of us, anticipation is mounting on what will appear over next 12 months. Sadly, we didn't get a time machine nor a lottery win for Christmas, so rather than confidently predicting what will emerge, we'll settle for making educated guesses instead.
Patience is a virtue, as the saying goes, but for Oregano users, it's a necessity. Last year, Oregano overseer Richard Brown gave Oregano 3 a shy green light after a number of users expressed (again) an interest in seeing the next RISC OS incarnation of Oregan's web browser. With big customers like Sony, it ultimately rests on how much attention and time can be spared by Oregan as to whether or not O3 appears this year.
It was going well up until the pointless legal battle of 2004 drained everyone's resources. Now the project is understood to be on its feet again and RISCOS Ltd. are aiming for a second quarter release, which we think is a fair estimate given what's been shown in public so far. Predicted features include a mountain of bug fixes, increased stability, Filer keyboard shortcuts, Filer toolbar, enhanced 'Set type' sub-menu in the Filer, improved Toolbox modules, abstracted graphics support, improved image handler plugins, updates to meta-key handling to reflect Castle's changes, new networking modules to make network configuration even more painless, and so on.
After some gentle arm twisting, a port of Select for the Castle Iyonix is slowly coming together and it's predicted that this won't be out until after Select 4 is - the exact timescale hinging on how much more time must be spent on delivering promised work to Select subscribers and finishing off their 32bit work. How ROL will softload their RISC OS 4 kernel and keep the RISC OS 5 device drivers is still on the drawing board.
If this doesn't appear in 2006 then, dare us say it, this wee ARM9 computer may be too little too late. The system is mostly complete and stable, with work needed on some final sub-systems, such as the audio output and harnessing the DMA functionality in the chipset. We suspect AdvantageSix will also be keeping an eye on the eBay market of 2nd hand StrongARM RISC OS systems, crossing their fingers to make sure prices increase as fewer items are listed.
RISC OS 5.10
It's been a long time coming, especially after Castle updated their Nvidia driver module to make it more compatible with recent GeForce video cards, and a formal release via the Iyonix Update Watcher should arrive before long. Hopefully, they'll sequeeze in the time to fix all the long standing bugs that have been reported by users over the years, and possibly take a look at moving ShareFS over to using TCP instead of UDP to improve the reliability of the file sharing system.
VirtualRiscPC on Mac OS X
Will it appear this year? The Linux version has been relegated to the vaults after VirtualAcorn decided it wasn't worth the end user support hassle and dealers have been reluctant to add such a port to their line up of PCs 'running' RISC OS for pretty much the same reason. Predicting whether or not the hardware emulator will appear on Apple's platform is tricky because it depends on how large a market VA sees Mac OS X. Apple are expected to introduce the start of their Intel x86 based computers this year which could open up an increased market share for them.
The success of Adrian Lees' DVD player software now depends upon whether or not ADFS can be improved and enhanced to make it efficient enough to achieve the data transfer rates demanded by DVD playback without hogging the processor. Programmers who have casually looked into producing a RISC OS port of the open source Real player have said such a project is practicable provided there is someone available who can put in the time and patience to see it through. 2006 could well be the breakthrough year for multimedia, albeit only if a developer or three are not only willing to commit themselves but if the actual hardware and operating system are capable of supporting modern multimedia playback.
Adding multi-page handling to ArtWorks has been described as difficult by developer Martin Wuerthner, although there are other items potentially on the 2006 to do list: alpha channel image export and import and a panel to quickly apply styles to paths.
The previously reported macro programming language unveiled for the TechWriter family is on the back burner for now, but one feature that could be developed this year is so called 'pdfmark' support. This would allow EasiWriter and TechWriter to include the document structure view and any hyperlinks when a document is printed as a postscript file, which would then subsequently be included in a PDF file distilled from this postscript.
Open sourcing of projects
Or rather, the lack of. Castle aren't big fans of opening up parts of RISC OS, although they like using bits and pieces of NetBSD and FreeBSD. They were also against the open sourcing of the Printers+ user interface. RISCOS Ltd. similarly aren't keen to open source their core intellectual property, and neither is Viewfinder developer John Kortink. In such a tiny market, no one feels they can afford to publish the source code of commercially available assets, and as such it's presumed the OS will remain a closed and proprietary technology through 2006.
A9home users will be snookered if this issue isn't resolved by the time the AdvantageSix machine is ready to be launched. Due to version numbering and functionality inconsistencies in the two SharedCLibrary modules developed independently by old pals Castle and RISCOS Ltd., users of 32bit RISC OS 4 will be left out in the cold when they find that some 32bit applications refuse to run on their new machine. There are a number of solutions, for example, Castle offering a 32bit version of their SCL module from their website, or RISCOS Ltd. bringing their SCL in line with Castle's in terms of functionality. Until this is addressed, we can only predict outcry. If there was ever a prime reason why the OS should be merged, getting this fundamental component of the OS synchronised would be it.
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