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Why so much infighting?

By Paul Stewart. Published: 1st Jul 2006, 22:00:20 | Permalink | Printable

Paul Stewart sounds off on the platform's electronic pollution

Byline: Paul Stewart

Opinion | A two-tier Europe often used to be talked about. A classless society, again talked about, was an ideal rather than a reality. Whilst a BMW or Mercedes used to indicate wealth or position in society, today they are a mere tool to drive from A to B and pollute the atmosphere with their exhaust fumes. It's not just cars that happen to pollute the atmosphere.

The most violent polluters are people. I do not mean in the sense of new inventions or industry that create pollution, I mean the written or spoken word. The written or spoken word can cause more long lasting damage than any lost limb or broken nose.

Some smog and pollutionPollution is rife everywhere. Even in the little world of RISC OS. I think the problem with pollution is the smaller the group the more intensifying, hurtful and problematic it can be. It's a well known strategy. Tried and tested. Used by many great commanders and warriors alike. Divide and Conquer. And in the RISC OS world, we are ripe for an invasion.

The split between the Iyonix and ROL users seems to be never ending. However it is not the users that are to blame, they follow by example. Whilst Castle and RISCOS Ltd have both done a lot for the platform, they have also caused a lot of damage due to their continuing inability work together. We see it time and time again in email discussion lists and on news websites such as drobe.co.uk. It starts off as an innocent article or discussion, and before you realise what is happening, you're getting dragged into a RISC S 5 versus RISC OS 4 Adjust argument, or a RISC OS 5 and RISC OS 4 bashing.

In an ideal world we would not have the OS split, but for the survival of RISC OS as a whole, we need to move on. Stop bashing one or the other current OS versions. Just admit they both exist, both have their own unique selling points, and let both Castle and RISCOS Ltd know that we need one desktop OS in development.

So before you comment on that article on the web or as part of the discussion lists, stop and ask yourself: "Am I polluting or positively contributing?"

Contributing is a hard job to do. However it need not be one that is not achievable. Helping with the availability of new software is as good a contribution as any. But programming is an ability not everyone possesses. Perhaps offering to write manuals or documentation for new software is something you can do.

Marketing: Do you have any skills that you could put to use in helping to market RISC OS? Perhaps you could design some eye catching posters for the next RISC OS show. Software and hardware reviews, write your own and submit it to your favourite publication. You see there are many ways you can contribute to RISC OS. It's all about finding the time an deciding how you can contribute.

Agree or disagree with Paul? Is there an issue you want to get off your chest? Email us your opinion article ideas, or any other information.

Some comments on this article were removed on July 8, 2006 due to legal reasons. See here for more information.

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Discussion

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In the Acorn market, the size of the cake is shrinking, so people row about who gets a bigger slice. Many of the people in the market have become emotionally attached to the market. Rows cease to be a temporary thing, something often used as a bargaining tool, and instead linger...

 is a RISC OS Useralexsingleton on 1/7/06 10:22PM
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To understand the rift between RISC OS Ltd and Castle you have to understand the motivations and personalities of the individuals involved.

In his book 'Accidental Empires: How the Boys of Silicon Valley Make Their Millions, Battle Foreign Competition and Still Can't Get a Date' [link] (well worth a read), Robert X Cringely writes about the how the pioneers of personal computing (Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Nolan Bushnell at Atari etc) were driven by a need to have absolute control of their respective platforms. In much the same way, there are people at ROL and Castle to whom it is very important to be at the centre of the RISC OS universe, regardless of how small that universe actually is. To them the RISC OS codebase is an immensely valuable asset and to share any part of it is unthinkable.

Considering ROL and Castle are businesses, it's suprising how unbusinesslike the behaviour of their managers sometimes is. One example would be Paul Middleton not bothering to hire a solicitor specialising in contract law when drawing up ROL's licensing agreement with Pace or later on when ROL were initially in dispute with Castle because he thought he was smart enough not to need one. Another would be Peter Wild's belief that no-one would notice if Castle violated the GPL.

Understanding this, it is very unlikely that ROL and Castle will ever be able to co-operate, even if it is what their users want (which it is) and their survival depends on it (which it does).

 is a RISC OS UserWill! on 2/7/06 12:14AM
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Well, I am not a computer techie, but I have been using RISC OS at in my classroom at school since 1995 and thoroughly loved the years of reliability, user friendliness, simplicity and so on.

Recent years of developments have been quite slow but encouraging and great for any such future of what ever RISC OS name we bear. The platform split has been one reason for my personal delay in updating my RISC PC 600 4.02 OS machine. The split has unfortunately caused a split delay in decision making in my dull old mind. "Which machine is Acorn?", I keep asking myself. In recent years since the dusk of Acorn name, the newer RISC OSSY machines are not in stock or sight to view in New Zealand's corner of the world.

There are still so many great things that my aging RISC OS computer does that I still actually need it at school, although in the past 9 months I have been using a teacher issued XP Windows Professional laptop. If you consider the most ESSENTIAL things a computer needs to do, my 12 year old RISC OS 4.02 computer fares very well.

To me, my RISC OS computer is like a motorcycle (a simple and effective form of transport) and Windows computers are like cars (loaded with options, ongoing costs, maintenance, bells and whistles and so on). This is my non-techie way of explaining. So now the platform has split, (ha ha this is a laugh too) we now have three wheeler and four wheeler quad bikes! The two wheeled Acorns are gone! We are left to choose a 3 or 4 wheeler bike, but it is the next best thing to a car.

I knew next to nothing when I first bought my Acorn in early '95, I just wanted !Sibelius7 music software and when I got it, I very quickly realised what (computer) on earth I had bought. :-)

Without an emulator, !Sibelius7 won't ever make the 32 bit OS 4 or OS 5.

So Hmmm! The split for me is of no real help really? So I am still a keen RISC OS user and patiently waiting for a RO 4 & RO 5 merger or 32 bit !Sibelius or I wake up from my dream?

Cheers. Steve.

--

 is a RISC OS UserSawadee on 2/7/06 8:28AM
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I thought CJE would send out Iyonix's to NZ?

 is a RISC OS UserAW on 2/7/06 10:59AM
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There's nothing like RISCOS. Immensely productive and so reliable. But my school has just 1 year left now, as in April 2007 they (11) will all be replaced by PCs. Why? Flash, browser, Director. The last 5 years could have seen both major companies funding or part funding these to allow RISCOS to be compatible. Unfortunately, as everyone knows, focus has been on many other areas, thus shrinking the market still further. I will most certainly be using RISCOS for as long as I can (time is of the essence, and I don't like wastnig it).

 is a RISC OS UserDaveW on 2/7/06 11:24AM
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Hi Dave

Another problem developing in my school for RISC OS to 'keep a leg in the door', is the numerous PC compatible software used in Administrating, report writing, pupil files and so on.

Unfortunately, most school software are not web based and no good for RISC OS in PC only format. The choices are just PC Windows, Macs or sometimes Linux but that is it.

Although I do not prefer to use a PC with RISC OS (virtual RO), it is becoming a necessity where we need PC's and RO to work together if we want to use software for schools these days.

My school music department's budget is about equivalent to the cost of RO "Ovation Pro", so in other words almost non existence compared to the PC service, maintenance, replacement and every other cost factor imaginable.

Luckily, I do not have the PC replacement problem like you mentioned Dave, but then in time I may not be able to get parts for these aging machines?

Another PC cost factor that teachers at my school gripe about, we have a classroom ICT teacher who unfortunately spends more than half his teaching time out of class maintaining the equipment. (No disrespect to him, but the poor guy is run off his feet because of the PC's need him constantly).

We can get Iyonixs to New Zealand, but the dealerships and stocks of such machines ceased as about half a dozen Iyonixs sold (through dealers that is) in the past few years in not worthwhile keeping stocks? I am not sure if anyone in NZ is importing Iyonixs to show and sell? It would be nice to be able to see Iyonixs, Virtual RISC PC's, A9 Home.... in NZ?

Steve.

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 is a RISC OS UserSawadee on 2/7/06 1:07PM
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In reply: Sawadee There are Iyonixes in NZ - some bought locally and some assembled from imported kits. I'm sure someone would allow you to check them out 'in the flesh' The NZ RISC OS forum should be able to help.

 is a RISC OS Userrmac on 2/7/06 1:31PM
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Paul Stewart lets RO users off far too lightly, as Will!'s later comment shows.

How does Will! know that Peter Wild thought no one would notice if the GPL was violated? Surely a tiny company trying to do the impossible and produce a new computer and operating system (how many people and squillions of cash does that take at Microsoft/Intel?) deserves the benefit of the doubt. And for the sake of the platform, wouldn't it have been better for whoever discovered it to have contacted Castle privately and asked them to remedy it, instead of creating a raft of bad publicity? Is it any coincidence that there has been no high-profile marketing of the Iyonix since?

Ditto the person(s) who created such a fuss over "spamming" when Castle tried email marketing, one of the only means left for marketing the platform. Now I get regular email newsletters etc from PC companies, which I either delete immediately or quickly scan if there's anything I need, while I get a marketing email from a RO company once in a blue moon.

On the other side, how does the constant bad-mouthing of RODL and Paul Middleton about delivery dates - even threats to sue - help them garner the resources to update the operating system (how many people does that take at Microsoft?).

It seems that a number of users want to extol the virtues of the RO community, while expecting what beleaguered companies are left to provide the kind of service we expect of a huge multinational.

As to the substance of Paul Stewart's piece, the divide goes much deeper. What about that between native RO and emulation (often very bitter); between the native hardware suppliers; and between four (or is it five or six) competing browsers? All these divide the market and make it impossible to for any of the competitors to win enough reseources to keep development going.

We are accustomed to thinking of competition as A Good Thing - it offers choice and keeps down prices. That may be true in a growing or mature market. In a declining one it can be fatal. And in the case of RO looks increasingly like being so. The Bristol user group was recently wound up because people "just drifted away". It seems to be so generally. Contributions to the news groups are at an all-time low.

If the platform is to survive - and it frankly looks already too late - what resources are left desperately need to be consolidated and for there to be one clear strategy for the platform. It's either hang together or hang separately. Maybe the Netsurf team has provided a model for developers working together with a clear aim - such "co-ops" need not be non-commercial. However, while Netsurf is great, without Javascript it doesn't solve the RO browser problem (the single biggest barrier to gaining new users - and retaining some existing ones). Maybe the way forward now would be for all those involved in development on other browsers to get together and provide the JS for Netsurf?

Pie in the sky maybe, but Paul Stewart is right that the divisions in the platform are currently killing it. However, users are as much to blame as the two main companies.

 is a RISC OS Usernw on 2/7/06 2:19PM
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In reply to Will! Just to correct one of the mistakes in your posting. RISCOS Ltd's head licence was negotiated with Acorn/E14, before Pace acquired their rights to RISC OS. Pace inherited ROLs head licence, they had no part in negotiating it.

 is a RISC OS UserVirtualAcorn on 2/7/06 3:21PM
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Will:

Hindsight is always a wonderful thing....

We need positive ideas to go forward, not endless bickering on who is to blaim for where we are.

Given that ROL, Castle (and indeed Qercus and lots of others) depend on the RISCOS market for their livelihood at least in part, they all have a vested in terest in its survival are presumably trying to ensure that in their own way.

 is a RISC OS Usermarkee174 on 2/7/06 4:11PM
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In reply to VirutalAcorn:

During the legal tussle between CTL and ROL, was the contract not renogtiated? Or does their original contract with Acorn/E14 still stand?

 is a RISC OS Usersa110 on 3/7/06 8:08AM
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nw:

"How does Will! know that Peter Wild thought no one would notice if the GPL was violated?"

A little penguin told me.

In reply to VirtualAcorn:

"RISCOS Ltd's head licence was negotiated with Acorn/E14, before Pace acquired their rights to RISC OS."

My mistake, it momentarily slipped my mind.

 is a RISC OS UserWill! on 3/7/06 10:45AM
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markee174:

"Hindsight is always a wonderful thing...."

And you can't make progress if you don't understand what's gone before.

"We need positive ideas to go forward, not endless bickering on who is to blaim for where we are."

Many have previously been offered, I've explained why they won't be accepted.

"Given that ROL, Castle (and indeed Qercus and lots of others) depend on the RISCOS market for their livelihood at least in part, they all have a vested in terest in its survival are presumably trying to ensure that in their own way."

As I said, you have to understand the motivations of ROL and Castle.

 is a RISC OS UserWill! on 3/7/06 11:00AM
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To me it seems there are a few, just a few, very vocal RO4 vs 5 bashers. In my opinion by far most RO users left wish both streams to re-unite, either literally or functionally. Though I must admit, I'm not exactly following all comments everywhere on this.

"Just admit they both exist, both have their own unique selling points, and let both Castle and RISCOS Ltd know that we need one desktop OS in development."

Isn't it very obvious that they realize what we want and why we want it? The problem is that there are two people either finding no common ground to start building this on or see no commercial advantage from their particular viewpoint. Frankly, I believe the time of consolidation has come and gone.

However, stop and think why that should really be necessary now. Wasn't the main reason before to combine the fruits of the Select scheme with the hardware abstraction + the other main benefits of RO5? In some ways, RO4.4x is getting closer and closer to that reality. Not quite there yet ofcourse - particularly RO5's hardware drivers would be essential in a future RO4.4x release for the Iyonix. Anyway, instead of urging RO4 & 5 to unite, which might just be too idealistic by now, is it perhaps not more realistic to urge Castle and ROL in bringing RO4.5 to the Iyonix, complete with support for all hardware, ie. UDMA, USB2, nVIDIA video, etc.? On the other hand, perhaps my thinking here is too idealistic...

"Contributing is a hard job to do. However it need not be one that is not achievable. Helping with the availability of new software is as good a contribution as any. But programming is an ability not everyone possesses. Perhaps offering to write manuals or documentation for new software is something you can do."

Paul's idea of contributing is a very good one, though often mentioned before. Writing comprehensive manuals, designing iconsprites or front end templates can be tedious for a developer rather improving the essentials of his or her app. Personally, I like designing iconsprites, just send an e-mail if anyone's interested. Unfortunately I'm not sure, but does there exist a site where designers and developers can meet to facilitate this?

"Marketing: Do you have any skills that you could put to use in helping to market RISC OS? Perhaps you could design some eye catching posters for the next RISC OS show. Software and hardware reviews, write your own and submit it to your favourite publication. You see there are many ways you can contribute to RISC OS. It's all about finding the time an deciding how you can contribute."

Indeed. Although Paul's suggestions are very nice especially for within the market, I must say, personally I cannot promote RO solely on the few real advantages to anyone outside the market anymore, apart from a hardware / OS collector geek. Although RO's GUI is outstanding, anyone in the market for a new computer will need an extremely strong dose of persuasion before they commit to a platform lacking all the essentials like RO machines do. I know this sounds very harsh, especially coming from an enthusiastic RO user for more than 15 years, but there aren't many people left who will look at the capabilities and included / available software of a PC or Mac, then look at a RO machine and choose the latter. Please, if anyone replies to this, please do not force me to cite the many examples again of what's missing, dated or simply impossible with current RO machines. Obviously I can't speak for everyone, but in my surroundings even the non-computer literate quickly recognize several shortcomings, however nice the RO GUI may be.

On a positive note, I very much like the upbeat character of Paul's article and I like to agree with most that he wrote. However, we need to be realistic. ROL is, although a commercial company, more a labour of love for the OS. So are most of those left developing for the platform. I believe even the likes of Castle and Advantage Six couldn't live and prosper on the desktop RO market alone - that's why I think they are investing and working in several industrial / embedded type fields. Although the RO market is commercial in nature, it is driven by enthusiasts and volunteers. To return to topic, infighting in this market is pointless, futile and only serves to, like Paul said, divide. Those left and willing to contribute should try and compliment eachother, rather than pollute the enthusiasm of others. ...phew, what a long post again ;)

 is a RISC OS UserhEgelia on 3/7/06 11:11AM
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Will:

"Many have previously been offered, I've explained why they won't be accepted."

You have suggested a theory. If it is indeed true we may as well move over to other platforms....

"As I said, you have to understand the motivations of ROL and Castle. "

If their primary motivation is not to survive, then we don't need to worry about them in the long-term. Its perfectly possible for them to have different views of their markets and act accordingly.

 is a RISC OS Usermarkee174 on 3/7/06 1:13PM
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hEgelia>"In my opinion by far most RO users left wish both streams to re-unite, either literally or functionally."

Actually I am in the *not particularly bothered* camp. It either happens or it doesn't. RO5 does what I need - so having or not having Select is really *not* an issue for me. And that (I hasten to add) is not to denegrate or minimalise ROL's work - its just a personal view with which others can/may disagree.

I'd be mightly upset if in getting "Select features" I lost RO5 functionality - if offered that choice I'd opt for RO5 even if the UI is a little less polished.

Hegelia wrote >"To return to topic, infighting in this market is pointless"

Indeed - but here's the point it isn't actually a matter of "live and let live" but rather RO 5 must die. There is an agenda for some who see RO 5 (and even its users) as a "problem" and that it needs to be killed off. And that unification means (basically) Select is the remaining OS. For me live and let live means *precisely* the opposite - that there *are* two strands of RISC OS - that they address different needs - and that *both* have their own validity.

If Paul's article means that - then I am all for it.

Additionally although there are *two* strands - guess what - given the common heritage there is enough useful work that can be done that *benefits both*. If ROL could see their way to making the Select API documentation freely available that might help keep it such that those common developments can continue.

 is a RISC OS UserAMS on 3/7/06 7:55PM
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In reply to AMS: The appropriate section in my article states "they both have their own unqiue selling point" They address different needs and are therefore both valid in my view.

 is a RISC OS Usersa110 on 3/7/06 10:38PM
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In reply to hEgelia:

"Personally, I like designing iconsprites, just send an e-mail if anyone's interested. Unfortunately I'm not sure, but does there exist a site where designers and developers can meet to facilitate this?"

riscos.info

 is a RISC OS Userscl4c0rn on 4/7/06 12:36AM
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nw: "How does Will! know that Peter Wild thought no one would notice if the GPL was violated? Surely a tiny company trying to do the impossible and produce a new computer and operating system (how many people and squillions of cash does that take at Microsoft/Intel?) deserves the benefit of the doubt. And for the sake of the platform, wouldn't it have been better for whoever discovered it to have contacted Castle privately and asked them to remedy it, instead of creating a raft of bad publicity?"

They did. Castle didn't do anything, so it went public through a 3rd party.

 is a RISC OS Userphilipnet on 4/7/06 8:21AM
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"Considering ROL and Castle are businesses, it's suprising how unbusinesslike the behaviour of their managers sometimes is. One example would be Paul Middleton not bothering to hire a solicitor specialising in contract law when drawing up ROL's licensing agreement with Pace or later on when ROL were initially in dispute with Castle because he thought he was smart enough not to need one."

Paul Middleton has requested that I apologise for this and I am happy to do so.

 is a RISC OS UserWill! on 5/7/06 2:05PM
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In reply to Will:

Why ? Is it because one (which one) or both items about Paul Middleton were untrue ?

 is a RISC OS Userjustice on 6/7/06 1:21PM
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It's been pointed out to me that of course at the time of the incident with Castle and the GPL Peter Wild was not involved in the management of Castle/Tematic. Apologies to Peter Wild.

 is a RISC OS UserWill! on 6/7/06 8:54PM
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In reply to Justice: I am afriad to say that almost everything Will! said was substantially incorrect in one way or another. In particular both comments about Paul Middleton were wrong, as were comments about ROL's licence and, as we have seen, the comments about Pete Wild.

 is a RISC OS UserVirtualAcorn on 7/7/06 1:03PM
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"Contributing is a hard job to do. However it need not be one that is not achievable."

A good, interesting, and in my opinion balanced article. I'd just like to add, regarding the quote above, that my personal experience is that RISC OS users invariably are willing and able to help. Indeed, Paul himself is an example of someone who has contributed in a real way to software for the platform (and who, like many others, probably deserves more credit then he gets).

Drobe and the other news sites are also examples of non-programming efforts that promote the platform and benefit users.

Although there is infighting and bickering at times, I do think that RISC OS users also deserve credit for being willing to contribute. Both the positive and negative surely derive from the same source: a passion for the platform.

 is a RISC OS Userflypig on 7/7/06 7:36PM
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