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South West 2006 round up

By Chris Williams. Published: 20th Feb 2006, 01:31:30 | Permalink | Printable

Observations, rumours and other news bites from the weekend's event

The South West show kicked off this weekend and you'll be forgiven if you missed it. The shy event played host to a good range of exhibitors, although there were no great surprises as most companies preferred to bring developments previously showcased during the December road show. The overall atmosphere was described as being quiet to begin with, but picking up later and being generally more upbeat than previous affairs in Somerset. The more older bearded punters also noticed a few new youngsters; warming the hearts of those terrified that their platform of choice will literally die out before it's London's turn to host the Olympics.

R-Comp brought with them CDs of Messenger Pro 4. This new version of the email and usenet client features a friendlier installation system and foreign language spellcheck facilities along with updated documentation and hints'n'tips on using the application. The publisher also had new versions of UniPrint and Hermes to show off. Archive continued to sell its compilation booklets. David Snell was seen flogging design application ProCAD+ and website creator WebWonder. Icon Technology were proudly selling copies of TechWriter and EasiWriter, the latest versions of which can export pages as drawfiles and have been built using StubsG.

Alongside Aemulor and Geminus, Spellings Software demonstrated a planned addition to Geminus which can accelerate the speed at which RISC OS handles JPEGs. Adrian Lees's code can plot JPEG images to the screen up to 300% faster than the operating system's built in SpriteExtend module, apparently.

Advantage Six spent the day pushing the line that their A9home is ideal for people who want to carry a computer to and from an office and home, or otherwise on the move between locations where there are monitors, keyboards, mice and network ports ready and waiting. Ad6's Matt Edgar explained to the crowds what works and what doesn't work, and that there's no formal release date set. The team wants to ship the device to end users once everything is known to be working in order to avoid costly product recalls or the issuing of patches as after-sales band aids. The machine is currently in the hands of paying beta testers.

Aside from the view that ROL and Castle just refuse to get along, RISCOS Ltd told users at the show that there are two issues holding back a Select for Iyonix port: money and information. The 100 Iyonix owners who pledged to subscribe to Select are not enough it's reported, and ROL are hoping that cash from the share investment scheme will raise the money to pay for programmer time to finish off the Select Iyonix project. The other point, we understand, is that ROL are not aware of how the underlying components in RISC OS 5 inter-communicate, which makes the job of re-using said components - mainly driver modules - in Select difficult because of the differences between the RISC OS 4 and 5 kernels. We gather that it's not quite as straight forward as simply loading the Castle modules over a 32bit RISC OS 4 kernel during boot up, for example, however ROL are now willing to release bits and pieces of Select for the Iyonix as an 'interim' package. It also appears that A9home users will have to subscribe to Select in order to get all the latest features in the OS when they buy the machine, and that Advantage Six worked on the drivers and low level code specific to the ARM9 powered computer, leaving the job of Select 4 and 32bit RISC OS to ROL. ROL apologised for being around 18 months late with Select 4 and meanwhile crossed their fingers so that their user base will resubscribe to the scheme.

Castle were back to offering DIY kits of their XScale Iyonix computers, dropping the price of an Iyonix further if one doesn't need the bundled software and can find hard discs, RAM and other hardware elsewhere cheaper and can build a computer singlehandedly. It's believed that the production of A7000s stopped recently too; the last of the ARM7500 powered computers have been shipped overseas. When asked if the two streams of RISC OS will ever come back together again, the answer from Jack boiled down to a 'no' according to the opinion of some show attendees. The Merlin project is on hold too, we understand. The Castle stand and presentation was said to be virtually the same as what was shown last year, although some people noticed that many other exhibitors now have Iyonixes on their tables. CTL boss Jack Lillingston, who was manning his company's stand, was spotted nipping into the ROL presentation to catch speaker Paul Middleton for what appears to have been a chat, it's been claimed.

R-Comp, APDL and CJE Micros all enjoyed crowds flocking to their displays, while MW Software made using ArtWorks 2 look easy, apparently.

A full report of the show theatre presentations to follow.


Entrance to the event in North Somerset. Cream teas all round?
Those familiar R-Compsters in their red R-Compster tops and matching R-Compster chairs and table cloth
The Castle stand with Jack Lillingston (middle) admiring the sheer physical speed of one punter
Young woman (front right) double takes at prices on one dealer's stand
So peaceful, so quiet
Ah, that's more like it. Fight for those bargins
'Spot the ball' type competition: Where's the A9home in this pic?


Heard anything interesting? Taken photos? Special thanks go to Dave Symes for the news tips and photos, Richard from the Classic Acorn website and other scouts

Previous: News in brief
Next: RISC OS 5.11 released


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I think that "ROL are now willing to release bits and pieces of Select for the Iyonix as an 'interim' package" is a good idea and could do the trick for quite a few Select features for the IYONIX pc.

I hope that the A9home makes it soon, and thus that the current issue of the A9home being considered a legal product by CTL is resolved ASAP and that the statement "Aside from the view that ROL and Castle just refuse to get along" proves to be wrong soon. Otherwise I am afraid that we're facing the next round of RISC OS loosing.

 is a RISC OS Userhzn on 20/2/06 7:35AM
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As someone who uses jpegs a lot it is great news that Geminus will be able to plot jpegs 300% faster. It is slow and tedious when loading a 3mb jpeg at the moment. Once it is ready my cash will be on the table.

 is a RISC OS Userrmac on 20/2/06 9:23AM
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Sounds like more doom and gloom on the OS front. Well, not entirely all, if ROL are prepared to start releasing something, but Jack Lillington's "no" (or "something that boils down to a no", so perhaps it's not quite as bad as that) isn't very encouraging.

Did anyone ask ROL why the hundred pledges aren't enough, when they've stated in the past that that's how many they wanted?

 is a RISC OS UserSimonC on 20/2/06 10:04AM
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SimonC: According to Paul Middleton, the 100 pledges was more like the figure required to start thinking about considering an Iyonix version, not the number needed to actually fund the work. Besides, does anyone have a reference of the actual "we need 100 pledges" quote anywhere?

 is a RISC OS Userwuerthne on 20/2/06 10:31AM
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in reply to SimonC

Paul Middleton said that there was more than a years work to make a complete Iyonix Select. If all the pledges were honoured that would only raise enough to to pay for half a programmer - better than none perhaps - hence the selected bits of Select

He was asked if Iyonix users would lose anything by installing Select. He replied that the only area that he could forsee a problem was the Geminus exploitation of the nVidia graphics card. This may give me a problem as I bought the Geminus accelerator at the show:-(

 is a RISC OS UserJohnR on 20/2/06 10:32AM
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"ROL apologised for being around 18 months late with Select 4 and meanwhile crossed their fingers so that their user base will resubscribe to the scheme."

Crazy. Someone put them out of their misery...

 is a RISC OS Useradamr on 20/2/06 10:34AM
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Re. "A9home users will have to subscribe to Select in order to get all the latest features in the OS when they buy the machine", does anyone know what features will be missing from what's to be provided as standard?

 is a RISC OS Userben on 20/2/06 11:04AM
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wuerthne: Well, if Drobe is to be believed :-) (see [link] ) then Paul Middleton said that they needed a minimum of 100 before they made a commitment to it. I suppose it depends on what people believe that means they intend to do. It seems odd to me that there will be enough A9s to make it worth while, but not Iyonixes, but I then again I've no idea what the relationship between AD6 and ROL is, so it's probably not a very good comparison.

 is a RISC OS UserSimonC on 20/2/06 11:06AM
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In reply to SimonC

Well Paul Midleton did say when I asked the question that the main issue was the kernel work for the Iyonix so I guess if they have a working kernel for the A9 then the added Select features aren't that difficult.

He also said if my memory is correct that one of the options to get round the NVidia issue is to perhaps do a grahics module for another manufacturers card. What with the reply about doing another StubG to get round some of the SCL issues it seems to me that it is duplication of work for the sake of it instead of approaching Castle to use their NVidia/SCL and modifying them.

 is a RISC OS Userbluenose on 20/2/06 11:18AM
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If the pledges of 100 Iyonix owners is not enough how about ROL being straight with us. Be honest and tell us how many Iyonix owners would need to commit before Select is made available to us!!!

 is a RISC OS Userrmac on 20/2/06 11:19AM
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rmac: more than all of them.

But I'm afraid its only 99 pledges now, I've had enough of Paul Middleton peddeling out lame excuses. If ROL ever has a product for the Iyonix you can actually walk away with in your hand at a show (equivelent to the Adjust ROMs), I'll consider it. But of course I'll want £100 knocked of the price for a years Select subscription which wasn't delivered upon.

 is a RISC OS Userdruck on 20/2/06 1:34PM
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Problem is that at different times ROL seems to say different things at different times (hence rmac's comment I suspect). Losing nVidia/Geminous support while gaining "round" icons (or whatever) seems a bit over the top. If bluenose is correct and support for a different manufacturers video card is required this would entail an Iyonix user paying (a) for a limited subset of Select features (b). Taking out and replacing their nVidia card (c). Paying for a *new* Video card (d). losing Geminous support [and does anyone know if PCITv would still work?].

Frankly Iyonix Select doesn't sound like it's worth the effort ;(

 is a RISC OS UserAMS on 20/2/06 1:36PM
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ROL has, on several occasions, let us know that they wanted at least 100 pledges to start the actual work on it. It's just too bad they do not seem to have any official news of that on their site:


If that is not the case, can they be accused of misleading people? I've come to the point, I cannot trust their statements anymore, which is very, very sad. I am sorry if their company has become so unstable, their business so unpredictable, that they cannot commit firmly to certain words they've spoken in the past.

Besides that, it is also clear that ROL do not have all information they need to create a 100% compatible or 'official' version of Select for the Iyonix, since, contrary to the RiscPC, it seems they lack certain technical specs. Mr. Middleton has stated on several occasions that the intended work would be so much easier if Castle would give a hand. I find that strange, since Castle has stated they will assist ROL in this endeavor at last years' Expo show. I wonder - how can this truly work out in full, if both companies have not resolved their differences?

I already suspected the A9home will not ship with a full Select, which makes perfect sense. A9home users should, like everybody else, subscribe (or whatever) to take advantage of the Select developments.

 is a RISC OS UserhEgelia on 20/2/06 1:38PM
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In reply to AMS

Paul Middleton stated that another graphics card was one option they were looking at as they had done work with a Viewfinder. Perhaps this means they would may be looking to offer graphics acceleration in Select for a RISCPC, who knows. Only ROL can privide all the information and I'm not sure they know what they are going to release for certain.

Also if Castle were to be involved that implies that ROL and Castle need to talk and the state of their working relationship has been speculated on enough.

I'm hopeful; that things will sort themselves out soon but it could all go the other way and I know ROL state they need the pledges so they know people want to see RISCOS develop and go forward but it cuts both ways as people who pledge want to know they are going to see something for their money and the operating system move forward. Their has to be a halfway point that ROL are willing to commit to, so that us the users know that things are moving in the right direction. Selected bits of Select may be one such move but what happens after that is the key if RISCOS is to have a future in my opinion.

Also if Select has many bugs removed then surely it would be in the intrests of Castle to have that as a base operating system to ensure it shows itself off in the best light. If this is done right everyone wins , ROL, Castle, AD6, the other developers and us the users it just needs people to have the vision and the ability to put things behind them and co-operate to move forward. For all I/we know thats what may happen as a result of the ROL share issue. I see the next 6 months as key to RISCOS.

 is a RISC OS Userbluenose on 20/2/06 2:23PM
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bluenone: I'm sure JK will appreciate ROL taking credit for ViewFinder.

 is a RISC OS Userdruck on 20/2/06 3:23PM
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druck: re ViewFinder JK did a brilliant job with it:-) ROL are not taking credit, but with access to the OS sources it's not surprising that they can do a more efficient job is it?

 is a RISC OS Userchrisevans on 20/2/06 3:34PM
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In reply to Druck: re-Viewfinder

The wording could have been better. I was trying to say that ROL had done work with RISCOS inconjunction with a Viewfinder card not that they had done the actual Viewfinder bits. JK did a fantastic job with Viewfinder but if ROL can integrate it or something similar into RISCOS then it might just sqeeze a bit more life out of the RISCPC and whilst supporting things like A9 or alternative graphics cards for the Iyonix etc.

 is a RISC OS Userbluenose on 20/2/06 4:22PM
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PCITV should work on the Iyonix with any graphics card that has its display memory accessible via the PCI bus. At the moment it specifically searches for an NVidia card but it could easily be altered to search for an ATI card, for example.

Did RISCOS Ltd give any details on the NVidia issue that was mentioned? Source code to set up mostly any NVidia card is fairly abundant on the web. I don't see why they should have a problem. Perhaps this is another excuse. ;)

 is a RISC OS Userksattic on 20/2/06 7:00PM
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Bluenose: 'it might just squeeze a bit more life out of the RISCPC': God forbid! The /last/ thing the platform needs IMHO is further attempts to breath life into 10-year old technology. The users need every possible encouragement to trade up to new native hardware, whether A9 or Iyonix. If this platform dies it will be because too many people said 'my RiscPC does everything I need from a RO machine' (the corollary frequently being 'and this shiny new PC does the rest ...')


 is a RISC OS Userbucksboy on 20/2/06 7:08PM
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If you want something to worry about wrt Geminus on Iyonix Select, make it the latter rather than the former. Geminus could as surely be made to work on Select as on RISC OS 5, it's just software.

 is a RISC OS Useradrianl on 20/2/06 7:45PM
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I Reply to ksattic:

Well at the show when talking about Select on Iyonix they did state that some card manufactures were better at giving information than others whilst stating that the NVidia module is one area they need to address. Then Paul went on to say that they were considering other cards so by impication it points to the GForce card in the Iyonix. If you say that the information is readily available then it does not seem to square up with the show talk.

In Reply to Bucksboy

Entirely agree and thats why I got my Iyonix nearly 3 years ago and I'm a Select Subscriber too. However not everyone can afford to upgrade or will upgrade even given new hardware so anything that may encourage them to spend on RISCOS and applications/hardware and to stay with RISCOS has to be good to some degree however small. If we did not offer anything to those who still have RISCPC's then they might just leave the market and once gone it is harder to get them back. As I see it ROL and the other developers need to cover as many market segments as they can i.e

Old machines , encourage them if possible to upgrade to new hardware be it Iyonix/A9 or to a secondhand RISCPC.

Offer them something to stay with RISCOS, like Graphics acceleration on A9,Iyonix or even the RISCPC

If they do go to the dark side offer them VirtualRISCPC again some money comes back to the market.

 is a RISC OS Userbluenose on 20/2/06 10:23PM
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Bluenose: I agree that upgrading from say, an A7000 to a s/h RPC is a positive step and in the interests of the platform, but sales of new hardware are nonetheless crucial in maintaining the market: just consider where we'd be now if the Iyonix had been a flop and Castle had withdrawn from RO development.

 is a RISC OS Userbucksboy on 21/2/06 8:38AM
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@bucksboy: Haven't they (withdrawn) mostly? IIRC they sacked most of their developers and are trying to sell the OS.

 is a RISC OS UserJGZimmerle on 21/2/06 11:59AM
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Like rmac I would like to express my delight at the prospect of Geminus giving a 300% increase in the speed of loading jpegs. I'm a little frustrated that there are pieces of software (e.g. USB2 drivers for Iyonix) that I haven't managed to buy because they haven't yet reached the top of my priority list, but at the same time I'm glad there's so much good stuff coming out. The market's not dead yet, and jpeg acceleration on Geminus will go straight to the top of my priority list!

 is a RISC OS Usercables on 21/2/06 12:33PM
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JGZimmerle: that must be why I just got the download of RO 5.11 then :-) But seriously, Castle's level of support and upgrades during the 9 months I've been an Iyonix owner puts ROL to shame. As to the future, who knows what will happen, but if I had to bet on which of them will still be around in 12 months' time I know who my money would be on.

 is a RISC OS Userbucksboy on 21/2/06 1:43PM
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JGZimmerle: Castle are trying to sell RISC OS? That would be crazy. It's the core of their business, desktop and otherwise, unless they've changed radically. From where did you get your information?

 is a RISC OS Userarenaman on 1/3/06 9:58PM
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