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Castle rattles licensing sabre at 32bit RISC OS 4

By Chris Williams. Published: 18th Jan 2006, 22:30:15 | Permalink | Printable

Ad6 say everything's under control

A Castle director alleged yesterday evening that "there is no machine other than the Iyonix running legitimately any 32 bit only form of RISC OS", adding that he believed such a computer would require licensing from the Iyonix manufacturer. Posting in a usenet thread in which the AdvantageSix A9home and the SharedCLibrary issue was being discussed, John Ballance claimed, "No product has yet been put forward for licensing."

Signing on the dotted lineHours later in a clarification, John alleged that "certain obligations have not been met, leading to the Castle position at the moment that as the A9 has not been formally released, it is not a formal product, thus the 32bit variant of the SharedCLibrary has not been made available."

He continued: "I have clearly stated to any who ask that when the A9 is a formal product Castle will be happy to release an appropriate SharedCLibrary."

In response, AdvantageSix's Matt Edgar said: "Advantage Six always exercises due diligence in all the contracts they negotiate, and the licensing of RISC OS is no exception.

"In addition to this, we have been through all of this before when similar spurious allegations were made in the past, and it's very disappointing that this sort of thing has come up yet again."

In a nutshell, third party applications built with the Castle branded C/C++ compiler tools require the Castle SharedCLibrary to be loaded; a 32bit version of which is included with RISC OS 5 on the Iyonix and a 26bit version is freely available for RiscPC-class computers. A9home users have found that the RISCOS Ltd 32bit SharedCLibrary is not fully compatible with the Castle SCL, which is available to end users who either buy an Iyonix or the C/C++ compiler tools. People beta testing Advantage Six's little blue machine discovered that they were unable to run several applications that appeared to rely on the extra C99 functions in the Castle SCL. John later added that he spoke out on the newsgroup when the online conversation turned towards the possible redistribution of the 32bit Castle SCL by third parties - which John considered to be the equivalent of advocating software piracy.

The Castle technical director said: "That there is an issue with regards to the 32bit Castle SharedCLibrary availability for the AdvantageSix offering is well understood by us. It is our intellectual property, clearly, and our right to release it or not in each market segment."

RISCOS Ltd and Advantage Six are said to be still working out how to best release a compatible SharedCLibrary for RISC OS 4 users.

According to well placed sources, the licensing requirement of machines is due to a clause in the 'head RISC OS licence' that dictates which specific product markets particular companies have exclusive rights to. For example, the original licence agreement between Pace and RISCOS Ltd is understood to have mandated that RISC OS powered set top box products must be to authorised by and licensed from Pace. Depending upon who you speak to, just traditional Acorn based computers can be authorised by and licensed from RISCOS Ltd, whereas others believe all RISC OS powered desktop computers can be authorised by and licensed from RISCOS Ltd. There are differing interpretations of the wording in the closely guarded legal agreements, both the original documents and the succeeding paperwork signed in 2004: Castle argue that all new RISC OS powered products must be signed off by them and be subject to the usual royalty fees. RISCOS Ltd, AdvantageSix, and other RISC OS 4 licencees believe otherwise. Despite companies splashing out on legal costs amounting to tens of thousands of pounds, it arguably seems impossible to know for sure who is completely right without seeing the crucial documentation firsthand.

During the 2004 fiasco between Castle and other companies, it was also revealed that hardware emulator VirtualRiscPC was an unauthorised RISC OS product in the RISC OS 5 publisher's opinion. The A9home, which is still available on limited release and runs ROL's 32bit RISC OS 4, was introduced in May last year as an entry level product with RISC OS Select features and priced cheaper than the Iyonix at 586 quid. Since its launch as a beta machine, Castle have slashed the retail cost of their XScale powered computer to a starting price of 799 quid.

Although he admitted he hadn't used an A9home nor seen the ARM9 based computer in action, John said: "I do welcome the A9. It's in the interests of the market and Castle to have some competition. Having some choice is good, provided underlying agreements are properly adhered to."

He also suggested that if the right deal were offered, Castle's investors would be willing to sell on the RISC OS IPR if a bidder were to present a realistic offer that had unanimous support. John said: "RISC OS could be up for sale if the price is right; nothing is impossible."


The 2004 dispute Suddenly reminded of the November 2003 RONWUG meeting

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Except to a few afficionados or those with an historical dependence, what is RISCOS really worth, compared with other continuously updated OS such as Linux or BSD? Some while ago I bought an Iyonix. That's it. I will never need to buy another RISCOS system, because there will never be another one sufficiently better than the Iyonix. The OS will never progress to preemptive multitasking because that would kill most of the existing programs. The system is tied to slow processors which mostly lack floating point. They are outclassed by a factor of five to ten by processors that other OS designers consider obsolete. This is the reality. So what is my reaction to Castle and their IP lockin via the SharedCLibrary?

Ho Ho Ho, Har Har Har.

 is a RISC OS Useraquin43 on 18/1/06 11:41PM
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When are people going to realise that Castle now own RISC OS lock, stock and barrel. No matter how much RISC OS Limited dislike the fact, they have to work with the people who now own the Operating System, and sooner or later have to point all their sub-licencees in Castle's direction for final approval.

 is a RISC OS UserJWCR on 18/1/06 11:44PM
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I think the most interesting part of this article is John Ballance discussing the possible sale of RISC OS. Do comments like this suggest a company interested in serious development/modernization of our beloved operating system?

 is a RISC OS Userfylfot on 19/1/06 12:32AM
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In reply to JWCR:

Just to clarify a small misunderstanding. Castle Technology Ltd/Castle Technology Holdings Ltd/Tematic Ltd/Iyonix Ltd simply do not own RISC OS "lock stock and barrel".

This is simply because Pace themselves never owned RISC OS "lock stock and barrel" in the first place. You can only sell what you own. Most of the rights to RISC OS had already been exclusively licenced/sold to third parties before Pace became involved. Pace sold their interest in RISC OS, they did not sell on any third party rights in RISC OS because it was not theirs to sell.

Indeed I would be most shocked if any sale of RISC OS by Pace to any third party did not specify that it was sold "subject to and with with all the benefits of all existing licences of the Technology"

 is a RISC OS UserVirtualAcorn on 19/1/06 1:49AM
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"Here we go again" ist the first impression I had after reading this one.

What does surprise me a bit is that this license issue didn't pop up earlier since A9home is known since quite some time by now ... but perhaps the parties involved are looking into these issues since half a year already.

I dearly hope that this issue is solved quickly since I'm not sure that all the companies in the RISC OS market can or want to put up with another lenghty legal dispute of this kind. So please sort things out quickly.

 is a RISC OS Userhzn on 19/1/06 8:24AM
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Call me suspicious but just when it looks like the A9 may be 32-bit competition for Castle they start mumbling about licences...again (which if it became a legal battle would delay any release and hence possibly benefit Castle but definitely harm ROLtd and AD6). Why didn't Castle AND ROLtd come up with a clearly defined agreement after the last fiasco? They are both at fault for that.

This kind of carry on seriously hampers RISC OS development. If we had one OS fork we would have had fully compatible 32-bit machines years ago. Work could then have progressed with upgrading the OS to work with the latest ARM processors instead of designs several years old. We would also have much better applications.

We have a very small market that cannot afford to be fractured. It is insane and suicidal for all involved including Castle ....WAKE UP!

(P.S. We as "users" should not defend anybody in this and instead complain bitterly about the whole situation i.e. Castle and ROLtd are collectively at fault until we have one OS path and no more bitching about who's ball were playing with).

 is a RISC OS Usermripley on 19/1/06 8:31AM
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In reply to fylfot: it was Castle who kept the RISC PC going, first by the Kinetic improvevments and secondly by licensing their manufacture. I can't well understand their feeling to "get rid of the whole thing" with the amount of stick they seem to be attracting. It can hardly be said that they're making enough money to make it worthwhile. Other major players have left the RISC OS market, why not Castle?

 is a RISC OS Usercharles on 19/1/06 8:48AM
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Castle leaving the market would be disastrous unless somebody else was prepared to take on the Iyonix as well as RISC OS. Iyonix is still streets ahead of any other RISC OS machine, and even the A9 when it appears is not intended as a top of the range machine like Iyonix. I think (hope) this dispute has been blown up. AAUI all that was said was that it is illegal for individuals to distribute Castles SCL, since it is commercial software. This is no different to any other commercial software. Castle have expressed a willingness to co-operate with A6 and ROL to bring it to the A9. Why is that a problem? Why is it any different to any other commercial software developer offering to develop an A9 version of their products?

 is a RISC OS Usermrtd on 19/1/06 9:53AM
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I wonder if MS Windows is a split platform biz like this with so many undeveloped options?

 is a RISC OS UserSawadee on 19/1/06 10:01AM
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Whilst Castle may be within their rights to complain about distribution of the SCL, it sounds like childish ranting that benefits no-one, unless they seriously believe that trying to keep software incompatible between different versions of the OS will actually benefit them. It won't, of course, because it would be bad for all of RISC OS in the long run.

 is a RISC OS UserSimonC on 19/1/06 10:11AM
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Is that it? This whole licensing issue has never really helped any one. Protecting things to much will leave you allone soon or later, because everybody will loos interrest after a while. Look what happen to MS, did it spread because of it's quallity? It's smart marketing, charge those who make a profit out of it and keep an eye shut on those who just play with it.

 is a RISC OS User1234 on 19/1/06 10:11AM
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In reply to VirtualAcorn:

This really isn't an argument I want to get involved in, since it is a fantastic waste of everyone's time, but I have to take issue with Aaron Timbrell's comment that "Most of the rights to RISC OS had already been exclusively licenced/sold to third parties before Pace became involved".

I worked with Acorn on deals involving technology licensing for a number of years, and one thing they were always very careful about was protecting their IPR. They never exclusively licensed anything to anyone. While I can't claim to know the details of any particular deals, I think that the idea that any of the rights to RISC OS had been exclusively sold to any third party is unlikely in the extreme, and hence Pace would have acquired the all the fundamental IPR - subsequently sold to Castle.

Anyway, the people involved are all perfectly capable of coming to an agreement if they want to. To mix a metaphor, they can either bury the hatchet, or use it to cut their noses off to spite their faces.

 is a RISC OS Userjbyrne on 19/1/06 10:36AM
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Whether Castle or Pace before them owned everything is irrelevant. What's relevant is that Riscos Ltd has a sub-licence from Pace and now Castle, which means they should abide by Castles rules. One could claim that it's actually Risc OS Ltd who are responisble for the demise of the riscos. Remember that they were reluctant to 32bit the OS a couple of years ago. That made Artex leave the market

 is a RISC OS Userhighlandcattle on 19/1/06 12:55PM
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highlandcattle: I don't think it's quite that simple. Whether or not RISC OS Ltd have to acknowledge CTL as the owners of Acorn's IPR, Castle themselves have to abide by the terms of any previous licence granted to ROL.

It seems perfectly reasonable that ROL would have to get in touch to distribute for a new piece of hardware, but this doesn't mean they have to jump every time CTL shouts.

Also, as regards holding on to your own software that you've developed with your own money, I can completely see where they're coming from. It might not be seen as very gracious, but CTL can hardly be expected release compatible software for unreleased hardware as soon as someone demands it.

I have confidence that this will be resolved without any major shouting matches.

 is a RISC OS Userjymbob on 19/1/06 1:17PM
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I find the notion of Castle selling on the IPR (if the price was right) somewhat alarming [if that's an exact quote]. Big outfits (like MS) could easily buy the IPR with some "small change" and then "park it" - or for that matter increase license fees to such an extent that no-one in the current market could possibly afford it (e.g., 500K+ per year). And (unlike Castle) such a company *doesn't need* the good will of existing customers so could quite happily *sue* RISC OS Ltd., Ad6, Virtual Acorn or *anyone else* out of existance once the IPR was sold on.

As to the notion of the A9 being "competition" for the Iyonix, get real. It's almost completely non-expandable, slower and less capable. Also it is not that much cheaper than a base Iyonix Aria Cube. Castle may well be just exercizing their rights wrt that which they *do* own undesputedly (the 32bit SCL) - I also point out that at no point did John Ballance say they would *not* license it (sure if their prepared to sell the whole shebang if the price were right - licensing the 32bit SCL would not be such a problem (given the right price of course)).

If Ad6/ROL don't have the savvy to license that which they must in order to release their product then they really can't blame anyone else can they?

 is a RISC OS UserAMS on 19/1/06 2:02PM
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Why isn't Castle rattling their share in ROL? They own at least 25% (19.9% ex PACE, 5% always been Castle and 0.12 % JL/JB) of the votes. That must be usable as some kind of crowbar.

 is a RISC OS Useregel on 19/1/06 4:25PM
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AMS: I doubt that "big outfits" such as Microsoft would be the least interested in RISC OS, much less so to simply kill it off. It's not as if RO poses even a minimal threat to any of Microsoft's markets and the market share doesn't even show up on measurements in the UK, let alone the world. The only thing I see that MS and others might be interested in would be the font rendering technology and even that may not be worth much anymore.

There's hardly anything "groundbreaking" in RISC OS anymore, most operating systems have cought up and moved way beyond what RISC OS has to offer. Even SkyOS seems to have outpaced RISC OS feature wise and that has been a hobby project up until now. So if the IPR is for sale those most likely to want to buy it would be some company already with its business tied to the OS.

 is a RISC OS UserGulli on 19/1/06 5:21PM
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What's with the down-moderation of various comments here? Yes, there's a Mexican stand-off between the players in the RISC OS scene, with all that bitterness below the surface. Perhaps if RISC OS users stopped behaving like mere consumers and started demanding some responsibility from their corporate overlords, there wouldn't be the permanent uncertainty and stagnation in the scene.

 is a RISC OS Userguestx on 19/1/06 5:22PM
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It seems sad that this whole episode has been raked up from 2004 again.

I think JB was trying to clarify things with respect to who can distribute the existing 32bit SCL and now everyone seems to be going over old disputes again and from it seems a position of little knowledge of all the facts.

Perhaps people could calm down before they finally destroy whats left of the market.

Anyway how about this for a constructive suggestion.

Castle state they maybe willing to sale RISCOS IPR if the price is right

RISCOS Ltd have already stated they have been looking at how to fund RISCOS Development with a possible share sale in Jan2006.

RISCOS Ltd actually approach Castle after securing funds and purchase RISCOS IPR and give Castle rights to use it.

RISCOS is under one roof once more and unified and everyone is happy.

Just then the mutterings start about ...

Dream finishes and I back in the real world listening to people bickering instead of offering constructive ways forward.

 is a RISC OS Userbluenose on 19/1/06 6:20PM
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IN reply to Gulli.

You wrote "I doubt that "big outfits" such as Microsoft would be the least interested in RISC OS, much less so to simply kill it off. It's not as if RO poses even a minimal threat to any of Microsoft's markets and the market share doesn't even show up on measurements in the UK, let alone the world. The only thing I see that MS and others might be interested in would be the font rendering technology and even that may not be worth much anymore."

Well this is exactly what happened to BeOS for $11M. Palm bought the OS for a few things but not for keeping it going. Yellowtab now have it but IMHO it is too late. Lets hopew the same does not apply to RiscOS.


 is a RISC OS Usernijinsky on 19/1/06 7:09PM
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bluenose>"Castle state they maybe willing to sale RISCOS IPR if the price is right "

Read carefully what nijinsky wrote above. If Castle did sell the IPR it could do so to *any* organisation (they *don't* have to sell to ROL, and perhaps the next owner will require more onerous terms from ROL). Personally I hope they *don't* sell it off - they've updated RO5 several times - and have been very open with their documentation (have a look at ROL Select for a contrast to that).

Let's suppose Castle simply did stop making machines and sold the IPR to ROL (and it took say the next 2 years worth of Select subscriptions to pay for it). What then? You'd have the A9Home as your top end machine (not a particularly appealing prospect eh?). Development would grind to a halt (2 years worth of Select subscriptions remember spent *only* on a license- so ROL in that case won't be employing anyone to do development for quite a while).

The more appealing alternative is that Ad6 license whatever they need to license off Castle... ROL's Select still trundles on picking up a subscription here or there (with the money raised going on development rather than buying out the head license)... and Castle have a little more money that may induce them to improve on the Iyonix or even (gasp) develope a new machine.

Or people could just be silly - hound Castle out of the market, have ROL use up all its money "buying a license" and have Ad6 selling a very limited machine to a declining market in which that machine is the last RISC OS one there'll ever be.....

I can't believe people would be that stupid!

 is a RISC OS UserAMS on 19/1/06 8:27PM
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In reply to AMS

Totally agree with you on the Castle front and I'm speaking as a proud owner of an Iyonix. I don't want to see Castle leave or be hounded out the market and that is not what I was trying to to suggest as in my opinion they have brought new life into the market with RISCOS 5 and the Iyonix. Equally ROL have done some good work with Select/Adjust and the other players as well like AD6 but I do wish they all would just sort this issue out once and for all and that some of those making comments would just stop doing it as it does nothing to support their case or the market.

I want RISCOS to carry on and my "dream" was more wishful thinking and your point about the commercial bit is valid. Ideally if money wasn't an issue in the market it would be the sensible thing to do but as you point out unless ROL have someone with deep pockets to fund them then it may not make sense.

Anyone got this weeks Euro Lottery winning numbers??

 is a RISC OS Userbluenose on 19/1/06 8:56PM
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Well, I for one am a bit miffed that this hasn't been sorted out. I understand both camps problems but as a developer am a bit annoyed that, having forked out for, and developed software for the C/C++ toolkit from Castle they are now making it difficult to redistribute programs written using it, never mind the fact that I've been penalised for being an early adopter with the subscription scheme! I shall now ponder the situation while I decide whether to, a) re-code to use GCC, b) not bother with it at all and do something more profitable.

Licencing can be a real pain in the backside but this kind of protectionism profits nobody in the end. BOTH parties need to sort this out properly, or more sensibly merge. This kind of "competition" in a small market is nothing short of suicidal.

 is a RISC OS Userdisccache on 20/1/06 11:58AM
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With similar sentiments to disccache: I've been saving up my pocketmoney for an A9. The idea of being able to take my projects with me to work for during quiet periods is quite a tempting one. But there's no way I can spend money on another machine if I'm not even sure my projects are going to cleanly compile and run! Guess I'll be sticking with the Iyonix, and wondering whether I should be jumping ship to the MacOS or Linux camps. Bah.

 is a RISC OS Userkrisa on 20/1/06 12:16PM
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As a side comment, if you're a long time user and want to compile with Norcroft, you can do so with old Acorn C suite 5.06 on RPC/VRPC and link against stubsg to get RPC/Iyonix/A9 compliant software. These days, if you aren't using GCC, or assembler, you probably shouldn't be going any other way (Using Castle C with StubsG also works, if you are already on a 32bit machine). I know a few people have divergent views on StubsG, but it has worked incredibly easily for lots of major apps (all of our stuff, including huge projects like DataPower). The only loss is the C99 extensions, but GCC is there for projects for which such things are "must have".

 is a RISC OS Userarawnsley on 20/1/06 12:33PM
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I think I don't understand everything:

On the back of my Castle C/C++ cd I can read: License to use and distribute 32 bit !System updates.

Can someone please explain me (in simple English ) why it is now forbidden to distribute the !System ?

On the dutch website: [link] I can read the same Very confusing but as far as I can see there is not much Castle can do if I put for example the !System zipped on my website.

 is a RISC OS UserEasyKees on 20/1/06 12:56PM
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In reply to EasyKees:

I suppose you can always upload it onto your website, along with a program that requires it, and see if CTL set their legel representatives on you.

 is a RISC OS Usersa110 on 20/1/06 5:27PM
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I think it was the RISCOS Expo 2003 when I spoke to Paul Middleton about their RISC OS licencing, because I was very surprised when the MicroDigital Alpha was launched - after all, it was only an "emulated system", and RO Ltd. always refused to licence RISC OS for emulators.

He explained very precisely the restrictions of RISCOS Ltd.'s RISC OS licence. One of those restrictions was that it was only allowed to licence RISC OS for a complete hardware package - like the RiscStation, the Mico and the A7000(+)/RiscPC machines before. There was no restriction concerning the hardware itself. So licencing RISC OS for the Alpha laptops was within the rights granted by their RISC OS licence, but there could never be a general "software only" licence for use with emulators.

Another important restriction PM told me about was that every hardware manufacturer wanting a RISC OS licence needed an official approval for their hardware. PM said that it was necessary that Pace authorised every piece of hardware before it could be sold with a RISC OS licence. This was independantly verified when talking to David Atkins (for the Mico) and Roy Heslop (for the RiscStation).

If RISCOS Ltd.'s licence hasn't changed since then (and I haven't heard any rumour (yet) that it has), it looks like Paul Middleton himself confirmed that John Ballance was 100% correct in his Usenet posting. In 2003.

 is a RISC OS Userhubersn on 20/1/06 6:18PM
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I have contacted AD6 about this matter. As far as they are concerned, everything is in order.

I think everthing probably just got blown out of proportion, as frequently seems to happen on the RISC OS scene as soon as some mentions licensing.

Personaly I wouldn't worry about it.

 is a RISC OS Usersa110 on 20/1/06 6:53PM
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If hubersn is right ,It does seem to mean that Castle would need to approve of the A9home. And what about VirtualRPC selling copies of 4.39adjust??

 is a RISC OS Userhighlandcattle on 20/1/06 9:31PM
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arawnsley> Whilst APCS-32 code generated by Norcroft 5.06 may appear 32-bit safe, and sometimes work, it can fail unpredictably because the compiler will generate the instruction LDR Rd,[Rd],#0 which is UNDEFINED in the ARM architecture and can crash on the XScale (I believe its action depends upon whether the memory for that address has been cached and will thus sometimes work as intended, sometimes not.)

 is a RISC OS Useradrianl on 20/01/06 10:28PM
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From what I can gather, it's understood that during the time since the Alpha notebook launch ROL were able to get their range of markets extended to include more products than just the traditional Acorn range that Steffen refered to. Castle's view at the moment is what Steffen outlined (that ROL presides only over traiditonal Acorn hardware), hence the current dispute over who licenses what. No one can be sure until all the involved legal documentation is down on the table for all to see, and I certainly am not going to claim to be authoritive on this matter; I merely wish to keep an open mind.

 is a RISC OS Userdiomus on 20/01/06 11:33PM
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Chris, I don't think it is very likely that RO Ltd. got their market range extended between June 2003 (when I talked to PM) and July 2003 (when Castle bought RISC OS from Pace).

 is a RISC OS Userhubersn on 21/01/06 7:06PM
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In reply to hubersn:

On the other hand it is 100% likely that you don't know what's in RISCOS Ltd's licence and are simply speculating based on the limited information available to you. Chris is right, it's best to keep an open mind.

 is a RISC OS UserVirtualAcorn on 21/01/06 7:17PM
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Aaron> Perhaps you'd care to enlighten us as to how you got RISC OS 3.1 licensed for the VA-5000 product, I remember RISC OS Ltd quite loudly complaining about this at the time. Would that suggest some sort of limitation on ROL's ability to license products to a specific version? And if not then surely you'd agree they had valid reason for complaint when you acquired RO3.1 for use in VA5000?

 is a RISC OS UserAMS on 28/01/06 3:13PM
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AMS: Are you implying that RISCOS Ltd was complaining about Virtual Acorn on the grounds that Pace had no right to licence RO 3.1 to Aaron because RISCOS Ltd had exclusive rights to RISC OS on desktop computers?

If not, what exactly do you mean because I don't see what that question has to do with this subject.

 is a RISC OS Userapdl on 28/01/06 5:59PM
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I am implying nothing I was just asking a question. It's a means of trying to find out what no-one seems to explain explicitly. There are lots of contradictions in the current situation and I was trying to get some sense of what are the bounds to RISC OS licensing.

 is a RISC OS UserAMS on 28/01/06 8:17PM
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If everyone is so worried about it....

couldn't all the risc OS users get together (£10,000 was raised for a web browser) and buy risc os from castle.

I also seem to think a lot of possative comments about open sourcing Risc OS.... Well then that could be done....

Next thing you know it could pop up on a number of diffrent devices (linux started small and is now huge).

Anyway just my 2p worth....


 is a RISC OS Usermrmac on 24/04/06 6:20PM
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