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Ex-Pace staff back RISC OS Open Ltd

Published: 9th Jul 2006, 11:48:21 | Permalink | Printable

Shareholders include former Pace director and engineers

Mysterious new company RISC OS Open Ltd is backed by the former director of Pace Micro's Cambridge engineering division. While the people behind RISC OS Open are keeping schtum, paperwork recently filed by the company and seen by drobe.co.uk reveals those involved.

The team have strong ties with the former Acorn and Pace engineering workforce, and links with the set top box and next generation digital TV industries.

NEWS of the DROBEAndrew Moyler, 45, of Bognor Regis, West Sussex, is a RISC OS Open director and also managing director of Endurance Technology, an electronic design and consultancy business in the digital TV industry. Andrew is also a director of Corton Digital, a management consultancy outfit. He now owns a 20% shareholding in RISC OS Open.

As a divisional director, Richard Nicoll, of Ely, Cambridgeshire, oversaw the 'information appliance division' in Cambridge at Pace - where a number of ex-Acorn engineers found new jobs following the break-up of Acorn. Richard, who is also a project director at Endurance Technology and managing director at Corton Digital alongside Andrew, also owns a 20% stake in RISC OS Open.

Both Richard and Andrew are senior consultants at Pattotek, Peter Wild's electronics company which owns a 30% voting stake in RISC OS 5 developer Castle - which took the OS IPR off Pace's hands in 2003. Corton Digital also lists Pattotek as a customer.

RISC OS Open director and company secretary Steve Revill owns a 20% stake in RISC OS Open, as do each of fellow ex-Pace and ex-Tematic engineers Ben Avison and Andrew Hodgkinson, both living in Cambridge.

And as a telling post to comp.sys.acorn.programmer shows, Steve still has access to the fiercely guarded RISC OS source code.

Steve, 30, of Ely, said of RISC OS Open Ltd: "I'm afraid there isn't any news at the moment. We're working very hard behind the scenes to get this company off the ground and to prepare for an official launch. Until that time, I won't be making any comments about what we're doing."

When asked if there was any connection between Pattotek selling off its Castle stake and the appearance of RISC OS Open, Steve added: "I don't know what the rumours are but I only learned about the proposed sale of shares by Pete Wild on Thursday July 6.

"I can't really think of any way that this will affect what RISC OS Open is planning."


RISC OS Open website

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Ok, from the people involved, can somebody guess whether this company will operate in the software or hardware sector?

 is a RISC OS Usermaikl on 9/7/06 12:28PM
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Incidentally, Richard Nicoll also served on the board of RISCOS Ltd for a while (with his Pace hat on).

Steve Revill is provisionally scheduled to give a talk at the RISC OS User Group of London (ROUGOL) on the evening of Monday 18th September. It's currently titled as being a talk about 7th Software and MoreDesk, but it's a long time off so things may or may not get added to the agenda.


 is a RISC OS Userdgs on 9/7/06 7:01PM
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If the company does go down the STB / Embedded route, let's hope there's still positive spin-offs for RO desktop users. They say that one of the most important things in business is hiring the best people, and ROOL have certainly made a good start.

 is a RISC OS Usertimephoenix on 10/7/06 1:23AM
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It all looks most interesting. None of this was in the script was it?

I've no doubt in my mind that all this movement behind the scenes is connected with how the platform as a whole has been going these last few years. Rather than get more fed up and moan and groan about it on the Internet, these guys are actually doing something about it?

I await further developments with interest...

 is a RISC OS Usersascott on 10/7/06 9:04AM
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I assume (without any knowledge whatsoever) that it's a similar move to the open-source Shared C Library but perhaps for the whole of RO - [link]

 is a RISC OS Userjms on 10/7/06 9:43AM
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jms: No, that is most certainly nonsense. Nobody will be able to write a RISC OS replacement, neither as open source nor as commercial software. It is simply far, far too big. It would take them 10 years and cost a fortune.

 is a RISC OS Userwuerthne on 10/7/06 9:56AM
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wuerthne: I reserve the right to be entirely wrong!

 is a RISC OS Userjms on 10/7/06 10:03AM
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Well, I'm horribly confused. I must have worked for Pace in an alternate universe where the IPTV division was run by Andrew Clifforth and the engineering manager was Steve Cormie.

 is a RISC OS Userheds on 10/7/06 10:45AM
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In reply to wuerthne: I'm not sure if it's fair to call that nonsense, much more technically accomplished Operating Systems than RISC OS have been written in less time by fewer people. Look at Haiku, SkyOS, and many others to see the fast progress than can be made with the right team of programmers. I have no idea of what RISC OS Open are up to, and I doubt it's an effort to re-write RISC OS, but the proposition is completely feasible, particularly with the wide range of open-source kernel projects available.

 is a RISC OS Userthegman on 10/7/06 2:10PM
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The /last/ thing we need IMO is yet another version of RISC OS, open or otherwise. What we do need is, amongst a long list of other things, is a fully-developed browser and up-to-date multimedia capability, and a general sense of direction and coherent planning instead of the various boats being paddled in different directions that we have at the moment.


 is a RISC OS Userbucksboy on 10/7/06 2:40PM
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In reply to bucksboy:


 is a RISC OS UserMikeCarter on 10/7/06 3:02PM
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In reply to bucksboy: "What we do need is, amongst a long list of other things, is a fully-developed browser and up-to-date multimedia capability" Totally agree, and this is becoming more and more important

 is a RISC OS UserPete on 10/7/06 3:45PM
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I too totally agree! So what's it all about then?

 is a RISC OS UserDaveW on 10/7/06 4:02PM
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Besides OS and application development we also desperately need hardware development. The IYONIX was great in 2002, but all we got up to 2006 is the A9home which is not really a step forward if we talk about horse power.

Maybe emulation is really the way to go in absence of any significant new (fast) ARM CPU. It has the potential to save significant development time because we don't have to fight the hardware (which consumes large amounts of development time - see USB, mass storage, graphics card, printers, scanners, CD/DVD drivers...).


 is a RISC OS Userhubersn on 10/7/06 5:40PM
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bucksboy> Indeed, but do you really need any more proof that it's not viable _commercially_?

 is a RISC OS Useradrianl on 10/7/06 6:19PM
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adrianl: RISC OS really need someone with a fat enough wallet who believes, as in "Field of Dreams", "If you build it, they will come!" I honestly beleive that if someone made a leap of faith with their investment, RISC OS has such a nice way of doing things that people will flock back to the system.

 is a RISC OS UserJWCR on 10/7/06 6:34PM
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"I only learned about the proposed sale of shares by Pete Wild on Thursday July 6." "I can't really think of any way that this will affect what RISC OS Open is planning."

Just trying to think up a scenario where this makes sense to me. Select on Advantage6 hardware?

 is a RISC OS Usersteelpillow on 10/7/06 7:30PM
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In reply to JWCR: I agree about someone taking a leap of faith in the RISC OS market. Look what happened to Apple in the late 90's when they launched their iMac G3. When they launched it sales of apple macs increased massively, and they soon became well recognised for their computer hardware design. What RISC OS needs is someonwe with alot of money and a good idea that will get RISC OS noticed.

 is a RISC OS UserOliverB on 10/7/06 9:50PM
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OliverB: I agree with your point about the iMac. If you have a good product, stick with it. Porsche nearly went bankrupt in the eighties, and there was no shortage of know-alls who said that rear-engined sports cars were a niche product that no-one wanted any more. They were wrong: the 911 is still the backbone of the range and selling better than ever. We have a good product, and the huge advantage, which didn't exist a few years ago, of being able to port opensource software to make good the shortcomings of native stuff. But there needs to be general agreement on the route forward, and an end to duplication of effort in some areas at the expense of no effort at all in other equally important ones.


 is a RISC OS Userbucksboy on 11/7/06 8:38AM
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Some people might be missing a point here. As it stands, RO and its current range of (native) machines could not really survive out there, because both RO's (internal) architecture and CPU power is lacking to compete with PC and Mac offerings. The fact RO machines are necessarily somewhat more expensive doesn't really help either. I use the term 'compete' because it's still a commercial market. So, frankly, as it stands the platform couldn't survive outside our own humble, thoughtful little market.

Even though the Mac comparison is interesting, it isn't really fair. Whilst at a low point, Apple and its market still was considerably larger than ours + their hardware and software could still compete with PC's. Furthermore, although Apple managed to revive, they still couldn't get much further without radically overhauling their OS, which resulted in the creation of Mac OS X. Something similar would have to happen for us. Even if we were to be succesful at an initial marketing of RO machines, we would absolutely need to have an offering which could seriously compete - the Iyonix simply doesn't compete, certainly not at its price-point which could only change when Ix's are mass-produced.

bucksboy: "We have a good product, and the huge advantage, which didn't exist a few years ago, of being able to port opensource software to make good the shortcomings of native stuff."

We have an excellent GUI + a few sidebenefits, wrapped in a relatively poor product. That may sound cynical, but as a commercial product having to withstand a competitive market it's also realistic. We've always been able to port open source code, though nowadays the situation is distinctly better ofcourse. However, how encouraging that may be, an Iyonix or A9home still isn't capable of achieving the same (multimedia) feats as standard on contemporary Macs or PC's. That's the issue; technically our beloved computersystem is outdated. Sure, if you don't need Skype, DVD mastering, realtime audio or video manipulation, 3D graphics rendering, etc... then yes, a RO machine would fit in beautifully. If this market wants to revive, a very large amount of cash combined with a very well thought out strategy is required - a lot would have to change. With every year that passes, RO is getting more and more inferior as the likes of Apple, the Linux world or even Microsoft are duplicating the few key-benefits RO still has going for it. In other words, if we want to stand a chance, something needs to be done sooner rather than later. Let's hope ROOL can play a part in that.

 is a RISC OS UserhEgelia on 11/7/06 11:32AM
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"the huge advantage, which didn't exist a few years ago, of being able to port opensource software to make good the shortcomings of native stuff."

Sorry have to disagree with that point. Firefox was the nearest thing to an OpenSource application being ported and it stalled when the hard grind began with fixes. ( I am sure a FireFox 2 with javascript flash etc would make the A9's memory look very suspect. )

If opensource is so easy an option where is the Risc OS versions of OpenOffice, native GIMP, Inkscape, Paint.NET, Scribus, Ekiga, Xara XL

 is a RISC OS UserJwoody on 11/7/06 11:51AM
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To be honest, I think the technical hurdles for ports is only a small part of the problem. While the A9's and the Iyonix's very slow processors are a problem for ports such as OO, GIMP etc, a greater problem is their UIs, pretty much the only remaining reason to use RISC OS is it's UI, and ports such as FireFox do not really use a pure RISC OS UI. So the question is, why would I pay about £600 for an A9 (which I have) to run applications which run better, are better supported, look nicer, and are more likely to be kept up to date on a computer which costs me half as much?

Being frank, I don't see that much value in the port of FireFox, but the UPP's projects such as UnixLib are immeasurebly valuable as it allows back end code to be ported relatively easily. What RISC OS needs is modern capability, but keeping a RISC OS UI, without the UI, there is no reason to buy a RISC OS computer. I think UnixLib helps a great deal in this respect.

 is a RISC OS Userthegman on 11/7/06 12:18PM
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Jwoody: I only meant 'easy compared with writing the apps from scratch': I accept that porting a large app like Firefox requires both time and effort.; just less than a ground-up development like Netsurf.


 is a RISC OS Userbucksboy on 11/7/06 12:35PM
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"I accept that porting a large app like Firefox requires both time and effort"

Trouble is it is not a port. A port implies a recompile with a few changes. Peter Naulls choose to try and develop ChoX11 or what ever it was called. This would allow any X11 application to run and was very ambitious. Most opensource software uses a graphics library like Gtk or what ever and these have been developed for Windows and allowed OpenSource to move to Windows. An ambitious project like ChoX11 converting X11 calls to Risc OS GUI calls is a lot more difficult than developing an application from scratch especially to remove all the bugs. Perhaps if Peter had been less ambitious and written a RiscOS graphics library like Gtk then at least some of the Open Source applications would be available by now. Personally I would not hold my breath for Firefox or indeed any other serious Open Source application under Risc OS and as thegman says lots of users don't want them anyway as the GUI by necessity is different.

 is a RISC OS UserJwoody on 11/7/06 1:20PM
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Jwoody: thanks for the informative (to me at least) reply. It's a shame about Firefox; it could have been the solution to what I think is /the/ most crucial RO lack, an effective browser. I've tried Netsurf, but without Javascript it can't interact with a lot of the sites I use and I can't see the point of constantly swapping between two or more browsers, so FF remains my browser of choice despite its unfinished state. That's my point really: if there was some entity with an overall grasp of the issues affecting the platform, or even a genuine agreement, getting a browser done would surely be right at the top of the to-do list. But we drift on, with companies who can't agree and haven't got the cash to do it on their own ploughing their own furrows regardless. Or at least that's what it looks like from here. I'm off to the pub.


 is a RISC OS Userbucksboy on 11/7/06 1:53PM
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JWoody: "Trouble is it is not a port. A port implies a recompile with a few changes. Peter Naulls choose to try and develop ChoX11 or what ever it was called."

It most definitely is a port! The whole point of putting all that effort into ChoX11 was so that a port would simply be that, a recompile with a few (possibly none) changes. You have demonstrated that you don't understand the intention of ChoX11 or the porting process itself. ChoX11 can be used with any X11 based application, not just Firefox. The work is fundamentally important.

JWoody: "An ambitious project like ChoX11 converting X11 calls to RISC OS GUI calls is a lot more difficult than developing an application from scratch especially to remove all the bugs."

What information do you have to back that up? It sounds like mis-information to me.

JWoody: "Personally I would not hold my breath for Firefox or indeed any other serious Open Source application under RISC OS"

And yet you can download and use it [Firefox] today. You are being ridiculous. Yes, it's not perfect and it does need some work. I don't see anyone picking up the source and giving it a helping hand - perhaps this is the real problem? There is only so much that one person (who now has full time commitments) can do.

 is a RISC OS Userjonix on 11/7/06 2:14PM
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The iMac, to a degree, is one of the reasons why Phoebe didn't make it out of the door; or, at least, it's an excuse for the fact. I remember someone at Acorn (Stan Boland, I think) saying that the iMac was a real "conviction launch" and that Acorn couldn't hope to match it.

This was true in terms of marketing clout; Apple was able to afford the kind of huge-scale marketing campaign that Acorn could only ever have dreamed of staging, even at the height of its fortunes, let alone in the late 1990s. But the fact is that the original iMac was actually /not/ a particularly good or innovative machine. It still came with the stable-as-a-stack-of-jelly Mac OS 8, and there wasn't anything functionally spectacular about it. About the only genuinely innovative things about it were that it helped to kill off the floppy drive and that it marked the widespread introduction of USB.

The success of the iMac launch was thanks to (a) the radical styling of the machine (I always thought it looked like a half-deflated beach ball, and not very attractive at all, but most people seemed to like it and it was certainly eye-catching) and (b) the appeal of the marketing. "I think therefore iMac" was a brilliant slogan, and so was the "there's no step 3!" idea: plug it in, turn it on and you're ready to go.

The RISC OS platform would have to catch up with several years' progress, now, for it ever to be in a position to appeal to the mass market. And sadly, especially with Acorn gone, we can't depend on any kind of brand loyalty either. That was something that really worked to Apple's benefit: when the iMac was launched, everyone knew the Apple name, even if they'd never used an Apple computer.

RISC OS users seem to spend a lot of time these days bemoaning the lack of fast new hardware and an Iyonix successor, but I really don't see this as an issue; at least, not with the software catalogue we've got today. The Iyonix in particular is *very* comfortably fast, and runs all current RISC OS software extremely well. Now, if we had high-end applications for video editing, DVD playback and that sort of demanding task, it would struggle to cope, so in a Brave New World with a greatly expanded catalogue of high-end RISC OS software, I'd agree that new, faster hardware would be a big benefit. But there's no real prospect of any such new software appearing, and with the current range of RISC OS applications that we've got, there's really no pressing need for newer, faster hardware. I'm not saying it wouldn't be good to have it, but there are higher and more affordable priorities, and a good modern Web browser is only one of many important things that we need.

I reckon that there are two absolutely essential prerequisites, if the RISC OS platform is to have any long-term future at all, and they are:

1. New, modern software to fill holes and deliver the current-day standard functionality of other platforms; and

2. Cooperation and coordination between those responsible for the development of this software and the OS itself.

The second of those things is the more important, and is what we need *right* *now*. Absolutely the worst possible scenario that a platform that's fighting for its life could face is for all those involved with its future to spend their time fighting amongst themselves, pulling in lots of different directions, bad-mouthing each other, duplicating each others' efforts, wasting time on trivialities when there are important things to do, and generally disenchanting the few users they have left. Unfortunately... need I say more?

For there to be any kind of a future at all, we need an end to this exasperating, pointless, self-destructive political infighting. Not only that; we need the opposing parties to put their differences behind them and work together. The arguments are all long past their sell-by dates, and the only thing the politics can ever possibly achieve is the destruction of whatever slim hopes may exist for the future of the platform.

hEglia: I wrote the above before seeing your post, but the points you make seem absolutely right to me.

 is a RISC OS UserRichardHallas on 11/7/06 2:36PM
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"Jonix It most definitely is a port! The whole point of putting all that effort into ChoX11 was so that a port would simply be that, a recompile with a few (possibly none) changes."

I think you will find that ChoX11 was pretty basic before Firefox, so it had to be written it would only be a port when ChoX11 was 100% complete.

"ChoX11 can be used with any X11 based application, not just Firefox. The work is fundamentally important" I never said it was not. I just said that people in the windows world took the easier option of porting the graphics libraries for GIMP etc rather than an all singing solution for the whole of X11.

"I don't see anyone picking up the source and giving it a helping hand - perhaps this is the real problem?" Well I suspect that one of the problems at least is that you would have to fix bugs in ChoX11 and thats not any easy thing to do given the complex problem its trying to solve.

 is a RISC OS UserJwoody on 11/7/06 4:41PM
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RichardHallas: overall, I agree with most of what you said. But remember: the things that you described as "high end applications" are bog-standard stuff on other systems. So the "new, modern software" you demand needs either a lot more developers than RISC OS ever had in the past, or it needs at least the same hardware performance as the competition to be able to take advantage of ported software.

While ChoX11 is IMHO a brilliant idea and well-engineered, it can't be the sole solution for our problems, even if it would be "perfect" and accompanied by RISC OS layers of other graphics toolkits. Imagine a world where we would be able to port all open source software by just starting a compile, and the result would fit perfectly into the RISC OS application world. Would it help gaining new users? Very unlikely, because those apps would run a lot slower than on the competing machines, which are also less expensive.

Without significantly faster hardware, we have lost the battle for the new, modern software before we even start to write the first line of code. Sure, we could do a lot with the current hardware. But this is nowhere near enough to win new users.

Sorry to sound so pessimistic. I have just wasted more hours testing CDVDBurn just to find out that the IYONIX DVD writing speed is much too slow for current drives and media. And to solve this problem, it would only need a bit of software, not a completely new machine - but it hasn't happened in the last four years. This is part of the reason why I nowadays think that going down the "pure emulation route" would be very benefical - at least, we would automatically profit from much of the hard work and parts of the hardware progress done outside the RISC OS community. That's a lot more than the progress we got since the launch of the IYONIX. Both the hardware and the software gap are widening fast.


 is a RISC OS Userhubersn on 11/7/06 5:23PM
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The only long-term solution IMHO to the problems besetting the platform is one of:

1) A very rich sugar daddy with deep pockets and a whim for niche computers.

2) A new, almost from scratch, RISC OS targetting *commodity hardware*.

Let's face it, Syllable/SkyOS et al all probably have more buzz and more active programmers than RISC OS at the moment; and these have been written by small teams in the last few years.

Capitalise on what's good (the GUI and the overall simplicity of the system), then start from scratch (possibly using an existing kernel, e.g. Linux). Throw out what's not working: the hardware.

Of course, you'd have to be mad to try and do this as a commercial venture: there's almost certainly no money in it (at least to start with) so you'd have to do it open source[1].

I give you... RISC OS Open ;-)

Just some idle late afternoon day dreaming.



[1] Of course, you might still want the aforementioned sugar daddy - look at Mark Shuttleworth's investment in Ubuntu: in less than 2 years it's become the de facto easy-to-use Linux distribution. Deep pockets indeed; but a quality product too.

 is a RISC OS UserJaffa on 11/7/06 5:50PM
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Richard was actually head of Pace's Information Appliances (IA) Division, which was focused on RISC OS and products like the Bush Internet TV, and also oversaw much of the 32-bit and HAL development work. As I understood it, the IPTV division was an internal customer of the IA division until the latter was wound up, when the IPTV division inherited responsibility for RISC OS by default.

It's strange how we're remembered for having worked for Pace, the one RISC OS related company that we didn't actively choose to join!

 is a RISC OS Userbavison on 11/07/06 10:12PM
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JWoody: "I think you will find that ChoX11 was pretty basic before Firefox, so it had to be written it would only be a port when ChoX11 was 100% complete."

You are wrong.

Porting: the process of re-writing software so as to make it compatible with other operating system and/or hardware architectures

Firefox is a port. Whether or not it uses ChoX11 to do it is irrelevant.

 is a RISC OS Userpiemmm on 12/07/06 10:06AM
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"Without significantly faster hardware, we have lost the battle for the new, modern software before we even start to write the first line of code."

IMHO, software needs to be addressed first. If all our limited resources go into hardware development, we'll end up with a faster machine which still can't browse the web properly, has no memory protection, and can't do virtually any multimedia tasks. Although I can understand that functionality would eventually be increased, we need to first cover the basic expectations of people - A browser supporting modern standards (incl. Java and Flash) a media player which supports a reasonable amount of video & audio codecs, and support for the video/audio chat. It's a big task, yes, so why not consolidate to get it done?

"Throw out what's not working: the hardware."

You could say that the hardware is one of the few things which makes RISC OS unique. I still brag to people that my Iyonix has sub 5 second bootup, is completely silent and only has one fan. Castle actually uses the hardware as a Unique Selling Point in their advertising. Having said that, commodity hardware does make more sense if you're targeting the desktop market.

"I have just wasted more hours testing CDVDBurn just to find out that the IYONIX DVD writing speed is much too slow for current drives and media."

Oh no! I have placed an order for a Sony CRX320 Combo Drive and LiteOn SHW-165P6S DVDRW thinking that Burnproof would be enough. Should I cancel the order, or is compatibility OK?

 is a RISC OS Usertimephoenix on 12/07/06 11:20AM
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hubersn: "overall, I agree with most of what you said. But remember: the things that you described as 'high end applications' are bog-standard stuff on other systems. So the 'new, modern software' you demand needs either a lot more developers than RISC OS ever had in the past, or it needs at least the same hardware performance as the competition to be able to take advantage of ported software."

Oh, yes; I agree entirely. My point was just that it's rather futile to keep going on about the need for much faster new hardware when there's currently no software that would really take advantage of it.

Of course, it's a bit of a chicken-and-egg situation: if you don't have the newer, faster hardware, there's no incentive for the more demanding software to be written for RISC OS either. Nevertheless, I think that, given the RISC OS market's unique situation, the primary concern is lack of software and lack of active developers. We need more of both before the need for new hardware becomes remotely pressing.

"Without significantly faster hardware, we have lost the battle for the new, modern software before we even start to write the first line of code."

That's absolutely true, but my other point about hardware is that there simply aren't any ARM-based processors that would deliver a massive performance leap in a new machine based around them. One hopes that some such multi-GHz ARM may come along eventually, but the chances are that it won't because that kind of performance level isn't needed for the ARM's target markets. The ARM may have started life as a processor for desktop computers, but it certainly isn't aimed at them now. All that can happen for now is for new machines to be based on the latest ARM cores that are available. And, as we've seen with the A9home, which is the only new native-hardware computer to appear since the Iyonix, it's actually considerably slower than its four-year-old predecessor.

As time has gone on, the performance gap between ARMs and Intel processors has widened hugely. I think it's true that the rate of speed increases on the PC side has been slowing a great deal in recent years, but they're now going routinely dual-core, and will be multi-core in a couple of years, probably. (Some Macs are already quad-core, and perhaps PCs as well.) RISC OS isn't designed to be able to take advantage of multiple processors, notwithstanding the Hyrda card we had a decade or so ago.

"Both the hardware and the software gap are widening fast."

Absolutely right. My point is just that the only thing that could theoretically be addressed right now is the software gap. We can't conjure up fantastic new native hardware when there's no suitable processor to bring it up to Intel-level performance. But we can continue to work on new software and better features until some such mythical new ARM arrives.

The alternatives would be either to use some form of emulation or virtualisation (if there were a suitable processor to support the latter), or to rewrite RISC OS from scratch for a new processor family, which is what some people have been saying above.

The first alternative is the only viable one, and plenty of people are already using it today in the form of Virtual Risc PC. But it's very much a solution for existing users; it's hardly likely to draw in the crowds from the mainstream computer market. Even if a few current PC users buy into VRPC in order to run some specific RISC OS software (what?), they're only ever likely to use it as a sidekick to their Windows installation. Besides, emulation has significant overheads.

As for rewriting RISC OS, yes, it could be done... but why bother? The whole point of using RISC OS is having access to some of the excellent software from the past, which works within its superb GUI. You could recreate that GUI in a new OS, but the old software would never run on it. At least, not unless you write another ARM-based RISC OS emulator for the new OS, and then you're back into emulation again. Besides, if we can't even support relatively simple new applications these days, where will all the money and programmers come from to write the new RISC OS-like OS and all the new applications to run on it? And once it's all finished, in five years' time or more, how will it compare with PCs and Macs in that point in the future? And will we still want to run (under emulation) all those old RISC OS applications that have been stagnating in the meantime?

No, a new OS isn't worth considering unless you're willing to throw away the entire history of RISC OS software and start with an entirely new system, tabula rasa, for a new market. Sure, it may look superficially like RISC OS and behave in a similar way (hopefully with many important enhancements), but it won't actually /be/ RISC OS and it won't run any RISC OS software.

Besides, in a sense, this has already been done in the form of ROX-Filer. I haven't used ROX-Filer myself, but I'm led to believe that it has a lot to commend it. Whilst it has its advocates, with many RISC OS (and ex-RISC OS) users among them, I don't see the RISC OS market migrating en masse to use it instead of RISC OS. Why should the situation be any different with some theoretical new RISC OS-like OS?

I'm sorry, but I don't see a sensible solution to our situation. The best that we can hope for, really, is that developers continue plugging away to keep the platform and its software up to date. It still has unique advantages over Macs and PCs that make it well worth using. RISC OS remains my primary OS and my favourite OS, and I'd hate to be without it. But sadly, I can't see any realistic situation in which it can really compete against Macs and PCs and draw in the numbers of new users that it needs. The gap has just widened too much. If, when Acorn collapsed, everyone had worked together really hard and had a serious development plan in mind, there would still have been a chance for the platform to have widespread appeal. But sadly, the political infighting of recent years has squandered that opportunity, wasted vast amounts of time, and driven away most of the userbase that remained back then.

I suppose that it's actually quite amazing that the situation isn't much worse, when you consider the age of the OS that we're all still using. Despite continuing progress and relatively small-scale rewrites, RISC OS is still basically the same OS that Acorn first released in 1988, and which maintained a few roots in the BBC Micro (BBC Basic, for example). Over a similar period, Windows has changed beyond all recognition and Apple has thrown away Mac OS (after many major rewrites) and produced a brand-new Unix-based OS. The fact that RISC OS can still compete at all, and consider itself superior to Windows XP and Mac OS X in various ways, is actually quite incredible.

 is a RISC OS UserRichardHallas on 12/07/06 11:20AM
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Josh: don't worry too much. The tested drives work just fine with the recommended media (DVD+R and DVD+RW). I am trying to add sensible DVD-R support and trying to improve compatibility with DVD-RW. And I am constantly failing.

But even with the working media types +R and +RW, it is still highly frustrating having to wait for 80 minutes for one DVD.

 is a RISC OS Userhubersn on 12/07/06 11:31AM
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Ben - I too would have liked at least a nod to my time at Acorn, equal in duration to that at Pace and much more public facing (Browse etc.). Curious that the latter is remembered more, perhaps because of the manner of its demise.

Interesting to note the corrections from Hedley and yourself receiving little or no attention when they're from the horse's mouth while the rumour mill forges ahead at full speed, largely tangential to reality! The more things change...

 is a RISC OS Useradh1003 on 12/07/06 12:20AM
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I think what RISC OS needs in the first place is new users. And I don't see this happening for desktop computers. But I can imagine that some percentage of Pocket PC users would like to use a quick and stable OS. On the desktop one has to say that Windows is not much better than it used to be. At least on my computer it is perfectly stable so it is hard to convince people to mirgrate to another plattform. As a mobile OS RISC OS has a chance because Windows CE is slow and unstable and also limited in its capabilities. And for RISC OS we have some impressive software. For a mobile solution only things like a good PIM software are missing but that shouln't be a big problem. I think if you get RISC OS running at 20 MIPS on a PDA and go to the CeBIT, showing the OS and Software like ArtWorks, Techwriter and especially Pluto/Messenger Pro (which are very good even when compared to the PC alternatives) and also games like Starfighter, E-Type, Lemmings maybe :-) people would be impressed.

The other possibility is to sell to the embedded world like Advantage 6 do. This is positive because it pushes hardware sales a lot and brings some money in but it will not bring many new users to the platform.

 is a RISC OS Usermaikl on 12/07/06 1:36PM
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Richard: since the "speed gap" has widened ever since the days of the ARM3, I have very little hope for a true ARM-based high power solution. We had two phases of "catch up", namely the StrongARM and the XScale, but overall we have been losing ground all the way since 1992. And you don't even have to talk about floating point performance. And it's not only CPU power, but also I/O power.

Emulation is our only way out of this misery. Current VirtualRPC versions on available, cheap PC hardware already outperform the IYONIX in nearly all areas, and judging by past performance, it is very unlikely that we will ever see a new ARM CPU that could even start to close this gap.

Emulation has also the advantage of relieving us from fighting the hardware. The underlying OS does all the hard stuff already, so we can dedicate our sparse resources to OS and application development. How long have RISC OS users dreamt of being able to use any old printer or scanner or USB device with their machine? With emulation, this scenario is possible with a minimal amount of work. Think about all the developer hours spent to get the IYONIX working with the USB card and the graphics card. The time spent to get many of the printers, scanners and USB sticks to work. This is time that would have been better spent in OS and app development.

To me, emulation could do for RISC OS what the PC card did for the Risc PC - you choose to use RISC OS for what it's best at, and have a fallback available for the things that RISC OS has no software. For many non-interactive processes (think e.g. MPEG2 encoding), RISC OS could be used to control the underlying PC to do the number crunching. We would end up with a kind of hybrid computing solution that would keep the good things and throw out the expensive, unreliable and slow things.

Note: this is the analysis for the classic "desktop market" only. It is vastly different for the PDA and embedded market, which I could envision as niche markets where RISC OS and ARM solutions could still be successful in its current state.

 is a RISC OS Userhubersn on 12/07/06 2:08PM
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maikl: "As a mobile OS RISC OS has a chance because Windows CE is slow and unstable and also limited in its capabilities"

I'm not so sure, unfortunately. Psion used to have a nice OS which was, I think, the de facto standard for PDAs. Now, thanks to the might of MS, I don't think there's a PDA left that runs it. It's on Nokia mobile phones, yes, but its core market on PDAs (you were talking about Pocket PCs) is no longer existant. I'm not sure why it would be any better for RO which isn't, unlike Symbian, an OS designed specifically for mobile devices. And, let's not forget, you could run Opera on a 5mx and there was a Java implementation too - many things that RO doesn't have.

I don't see mobile OS as the future, honestly. Embedded, yes, where users don't care what the OS is as long as it works, perhaps.

 is a RISC OS Userjms on 12/07/06 2:11PM
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In reply to James Sargent:

Ok, but Psion had PDAs with keyboard and not with toughscreen IIRC so the question is what failed: the OS or the Hardware. Take Palm as another example, I think it is not the OS which leads to decreasing sales. Two year ago I thought about buying a PDA but I didn't want to go the Windows CE route. The problem with Palm was that they did not offer a toughscreen only devive with Bluetooth and WLAN. Even SDIO cards did not work in the PDAs. Now they have some but now they don't have a single PDA with VGA resolution.

 is a RISC OS Usermaikl on 12/07/06 3:33PM
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ZX Spectrums, C64s, Amstrads etc, which don't even have native hardware now, have a real developer community - churning out compter demos showing the strength of each of the OS.

However, one thing I have noticed with the Acorn Emulation market is the lack of developers. No one outside our little harccore userbase seems to give two hoots about Acorn / Risc OS which is a real shame.

I think we need developers even if it is just to put together some technically impressive demos for the masses.

Small steps in the right direction...


 is a RISC OS Usernx on 12/07/06 3:47PM
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IN reply to Michael.

Psion did have touchscreens. AND Palm did have wifi TungstenC and bluetooth T2.

Regarding RiscOS as a PDA. Unless you have sync to outlook (I know it is crap) you wont sell any PDA's with RiscOS.

I use Gemini on windows and linux myself.

Regards Bob; Palm, PocketPC, win/linux/mac database developer (still loves RiscOS GUI)

 is a RISC OS Usernijinsky on 12/07/06 3:54PM
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In reply to Bob:

No, what I was looking for was a Palm *without* keyboard but with WLAN *and* Bluetooth in one device. And this was simply not available from Palm but available as PocketPC with WinCE. So I decided that I don't need either and buy something else :-)

 is a RISC OS Usermaikl on 12/07/06 4:12PM
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maikl: "the question is what failed: the OS or the hardware"

Psion is a frustrating example; another Acorn in a way. They created/defined a new market, ruled it for a while, and then collapsed in the face of a wide range of much inferior products. In the mid-90s, the Psion Series 3 and Series 5 machines were absolutely fantastic. I loved them, with their neat little keyboards and handy size.

I reckon that Psion's big mistake was to refuse to adopt colour screens. All the customers wanted them, but Psion claimed that they'd shorten battery life too much. Unfortunately, they shortened the company's life even more... If Psion had made some Series 5s with nice colour screens, people would have bought them, and probably wouldn't have cared much about the reduction in battery life compared with mono versions. Instead, Palm OS and Pocket PC devices came along with nice colour screens and killed off Psion's otherwise superior products.

The Psion Series 7 and NetBook showed that Psion could put colour screens in its computers if it really wanted to. Unfortunately, the Series 7 didn't fit too easily in the average jacket pocket. There was nothing wrong with either the OS or the hardware; it was a question of marketing strategy and a failure to give customers a whizzy feature that they repeatedly said that they very much wanted. I dare say there's more to it than that, but the screen must have been a big factor.

 is a RISC OS UserRichardHallas on 12/07/06 5:37PM
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It's quite amusing to see that people still think that PDAs are what can save RISC OS, especially when there is no (known) version of RISC OS that actually runs on a PDA and PDA sales have been dropping for the past two years ([link]). A 22.3% drop in a year points to a market not entirely healthy. Even though sales each year are probably several times the total sales of RISC OS computers from RO's introduction there are still giants like Palm, HP, Dell, and Acer to compete with and Microsoft and PalmOS on the OS front. Sure RO probably could have advantages but somebody has to first develop it and then market it.

I think it's quite clear - unless someone comes up with a giant stack of cash and a modernised version of the OS that runs on modern day hardware very soon, RISC OS is dead. There will probably be a few hundred people that will not believe it and keep their heads in the sand for a few more years but this is the reality. Anyone who truly believes that today's RISC OS and RO compatible hardware is up to scratch should go to a friend that has a less than 3 year old computer and try it out while leaving the Windows prejudice behind for a while. Today there's NOTHING that can be done on RISC OS that can't be done on Windows/MacOS but there are quite a few things that both Windows and MacOS users can do that RISC OS users can only dream of.

 is a RISC OS UserGulli on 12/07/06 10:50PM
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" Today there's NOTHING that can be done on RISC OS that can't be done on Windows/MacOS"

True, but some things are still quicker or more pleasurable to do under RISC OS. Time and pleasure are under-rated qualities...

 is a RISC OS Usermarkee174 on 12/07/06 10:54PM
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The main reason I use RO is because it is, in general, low hassle and applications interact with each other so well. I use Linux and Windows at work, and while there are pleanty of good (GUI) applications, it is often annoying to move data between them.

On RISC OS you just drag from one to the other, the applications only need to support the data transfer protocol and you can do this. It is incredibly tedious to keep having to open save and load dialogue boxes, and often copy and paste isn't available where you want it.

These features don't make up for the lack of power for certain applications, but they make life less stressful.

 is a RISC OS Userjamesp on 12/07/06 11:25PM
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Top 10 things that can be done on RISC OS that can't be done on Windows/MacOS

1) Run Edit

2) Abort on Data Transfer &EIEIO


4) Use the very wonderful SwiftJPEG (to bring this back on topic)

5) Pay for Select for Iyonix

6) Save Page as Draw from a fully-structured EasiWriter document

7) Summon a menu with middle mouse button

8) Vow never to use Windows/MacOS

9) Design natty new buttons for WIBLI

10) Or, in my case, use a combination of EasiWriter, ArtWorks, StrongED, and Citation (amongst others) to turn around tasks quickly and efficiently and (as Mark Stephens rightly says) with a degree of pleasure that I never get when using Windows/MacOS. Of course, this is partly due to my familiarity with, and bias for, my favourite apps. It is also a lot down to the design of the GUI (e.g. font manager, drag'n'drop) and some very, very good software. (But yes, we could do with all the things mentioned by others.)

Put simply, I can choose to use any OS. Because I can, I choose to use RISC OS.

 is a RISC OS UserStewy on 12/07/06 11:53PM
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In reply to Gulli:

I think your assessment is too pessimistic. Using RISC OS as ones primary (or only) operating system is a much more realistic prospect now than it was five, or even two years ago. I would also venture that RISC OS has quite a healthy number of developers in relation to the size of its userbase.

Now it is true that RISC OS also faces some serious challenges and it is important to be realistic about them, but there is a difference between being realistic and fatalistic. If we simply accept that RISC OS will die then it probably will, but then that is a self-fulfilling prophesy. Wouldn't it be better to try to take control of events rather than be controlled by them?

 is a RISC OS Usergdshaw on 13/07/06 00:06AM
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adh1003: "I too would have liked at least a nod to my time at Acorn"

Perhaps this is just a reflection that the Acorn era was nearly a decade ago now. Whilst the Acorn brand is doubtless still better known than the "RISC OS" one outside the RISC OS market, amongst those still actually using RISC OS, it's much less relevant. Just think of all those RISC OS 4 machines that have a large Pace logo when they boot up, but no Acorn logo, and only mention RISCOS Ltd but not Acorn in Task->Info. And that's from seven years ago! I think that Castle probably ditched the Acorn logo slightly earlier than they should have done, but it had to happen eventually.

Certainly most regular Drobe readers would be well aware of Pace's previous involvement in the RISC OS market, as well as any role they currently have. But when does history stop being "recent" and just become "relevant"? I know plenty of people who only bought their first RISC OS computer *after* the Acorn era.

Deciding how much detail to put into something like this is not easy. For Steve's planned visit to ROUGOL, I wrote in May this year (for RISC OS magazines) that he "worked at Acorn, Element 14 and Pace from 1997 to 2002, and has also worked for Pace and Castle/Tematic since then". This was perhaps condensed more than it should have been, but also maybe longer than its direct relevance to the subject of the talk merited! Of course, most of the announcement was about the main subjects of the talk - 7th Software and MoreDesk - and RISC OS Open Ltd wasn't mentioned.

If one starts going into even that limited amount of extra detail, with the sort of Drobe article we're talking about, it then becomes necessary to check which people actually did work for which companies between which dates. Explaining all this would then tend to make an unreadable mess of the article, as they say.

"corrections... receiving little or no attention"

As far as I can see, Ben's post merely confirms what the Pace website and the Drobe article both say, namely that Richard was director of the Information Appliance(s) Division.

Making lists of which employees were working for which companies by active choice of their own, was probably left to the comments system quite rightly!


 is a RISC OS Userdgs on 13/07/06 00:36AM
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The problem with most discussions on the future is that they go round in circles and the positive suggestions get lost. Two points seem worth reiterating: 1 there are still people who like using a Risc Os machine as their machine of choice 2 there is little point in putting what few resources the platform has into hardware at the moment (unless it is for the embedded market), because we currently have no software advanced enough to make use of it.

So is there a desk-top market left to work on, that can be consolidated and expanded, even in terms of hundreds or thousands - given the size of the market just imagine the difference 1,500 new users would make? One problem with having a hard core user base of developers is that they tend to be power users and want exactly the things RO can't do. But millions of users out there are not power users - they word process, do basic spreadsheets, play mp3s or CDs, listen to podcasts maybe, occasionally burn data, look at digital pictures, keep an address book and diary, browse the web.

The Iyonix/A9 can do all these, albeit not always elegantly. So make it it more elegant. Integrate Music Man, !stream, Shoutcast; update Organiser and link it to Messenger; make the CD-burn interface a bit more user friendly, etc ... but most of all provide one browser which works for most of the basic tasks our ordinary users want to do (FF5 actually has most of the functionality, but too many glitches). Surely all that is within the capability and resources the platform has collectively now. Then it could pitch at a niche sector of these users.

What would be the selling points if we had this full basic functionality? How about a machine which is (in no particular order): not your bog-standard PC; not American; not Microsoft; not from a big faceless corporation; very quiet; fast and easy to reboot; low-power (one for the Cameroons); has a transparent and friendly GUI (when you get to know it); you don't have to upgrade every 18 months; or worry about viruses; or masses of spam etc; and perhaps, most of all, has a small, helpful, accessible (and mostly friendly) community of users and developers to support you. Is it impossible to conceive of say 10-20,000 individualist, anti-corporate, ecologically conscious "entry-level" computer users out there?

How to get there? Instead of just suggesting what others might do, how about users themselves taking the lead? How about a "national user conference", ie a room somewhere, a number of committed developers and users willing to support them, a handful of people to kick off four or five sessions (eg browser, (basic) multimedia, peripheral drivers etc) ... See if agreement can be reached to consolidate development on one browser (or whatever), whether Netsurf-like teams can be set up to fill the key gaps, work out how non-programming users can help fund these things.

Must be better than returning to the same old arguments on Drobe and in the newsgroups in two month's time.

 is a RISC OS Usernw on 13/07/06 01:14AM
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Nigel: You've hit the nail right on the head there. I'm glad that some people are still optimistic about the situation.

"How about a 'national user conference'....?" With some co-operation between User Groups, media such as Drobe and major RO developers and dealers, there is no reason why that could not happen. If organized properly, such an event would provide very valuable market data to RO companies at relatively little cost.

I guess the question I have is, for any developers reading this, what things make you want to leave and what will entice you to stay?

 is a RISC OS Usertimephoenix on 13/07/06 08:16AM
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Graham: "Using RISC OS as ones primary (or only) operating system is a much more realistic prospect now than it was five, or even two years ago."

Well, that entirely depends on what you intend to use it for. I've been using RO as my primary OS for well over a decade and the reverse is true - the decline has been steady ever since. However, that is purely from a comparitive viewpoint, ie. compared to other OS's. I believe Gulli isn't too pessimistic, although it may sound that way to your ears. This market is bleeding and will die soon if change is not made. Perhaps you are one of those rather sticking his head in the sand, than face that commercial reality. That's fine, by the way, but believe me, we are definitely in the red as it is.

"I would also venture that RISC OS has quite a healthy number of developers in relation to the size of its userbase."

Perhaps, I'm not too sure of that. There is precious little development, hardly enough to sustain a commercial OS platform.

We shouldn't be staring at the likes of Tech- and EasiWriter, ArtWorks as proof for the vitality of this platform - remember, this is one guy (!) behind these apps. Whilst he does a terrific job, if he chooses to spend his time differently these programs will likely end. There are a few programmers left of MW's caliber, left to make real changes in the application space. A large amount of RO use, is for its legacy apps I believe. Every RO company has covered itself in case the market ends suddenly - most depend on incomes outside of this market for their livelihood. These are all clear signals, I would say.

Nigel: "The problem with most discussions on the future is that they go round in circles and the positive suggestions get lost."

Agreed. The two points you make seem particularly relevant. Although I commend your constructive comments, you do have some excellent ideas, I believe we need to look at the irresponsible conduct of the OS developers. What you say makes excellent sense if this market was completely open, if we could actively decide its direction, but sadly it's not. As long as RO is a commercial and proprietary OS, the developers must participate actively in the market's community - not just want to make money from it and steer it to their private, narcissistic aims. To me, Castle now only seems interested to sell machines at shows and telling the same old story, while ROL makes barely an effort, with its roadshow the only active pursuit of this. In reality, they both hardly promote their OS. In saying all this, I do not mean to discourage users' involvement - to the contrary, I welcome such behaviour. However, my point is - constructive ideas of users and plans of platform consolidation seem to be neglected by said companies, where they could actively be welcomed and channeled, or at least acknowledged. In my view, this does not happen. User involvement is only welcomed to the level of users coughing up money. This puts me off in a big way. If these companies choose to actively promote the OS, which need not necessarily cost a lot, things could look a lot brighter. Many enthusiastic RO users would love to help the OS developers do this, I'm sure. For starters, their websites should show many examples of RISC OS use, including screenshots, it should provide meeting places for related purposes, uses of the platform. Developers should be rallied, ideas communicated, etc. Instead, their websites are dated, look boring, while providing the means to buy (or subscribe to) their product and find some support / software. There's really nothing there which cries out the few brilliant reasons which set RISC OS apart. A smiling face of Paul M. or Jack L. giving a presentation, audio downloads, tutorials, whatever.

It seems the user community is left on its own, throwing around good ideas to no avail or response by those deciding direction of the OS. Only when 'bad publicity' could potentially hurt one of them, do they respond. I'm sorry if this turned out a rant, but for me this is a major critisism.

 is a RISC OS UserhEgelia on 13/07/06 09:53AM
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nx wrote>"one thing I have noticed with the Acorn Emulation market is the lack of developers. No one outside our little harccore userbase seems to give two hoots about Acorn / RISC OS which is a real shame."

It lacks developers because RISC OS lacks developers - and whether it's emulated or not that makes little difference. Additionally emulation is somewhat the "mark of death" for a platform - and who would seriously want to write for a dead platform?

Gulli wrote>"It's quite amusing to see that people still think that PDAs are what can save RISC OS"

I agree, I don't think now is the time (3 or 4 years back *maybe*). Additionally the various PDA's have different hardware capabilities and this means they may not fit well with the "structure" of RISC OS (a la ROL) - RO5 might fair better - but still there's the question of *who* would do the coding and how long would it take and could the cost be justified.

RISC OS needs new hardware - trouble is some people seem set on *never* taking hardware from one source (presumably for religious reasons ;) ) and the other hardware vendor seems intent on producing slightly enhanced embedded controllers that can be made "sort of" work like a desktop machine but are somewhat limited.

If that situation were to persist then there'd be no new RISC OS hardware - which would be rather a pity as ARM finally seem to be getting their act together and designing significantly faster chips (e.g., CORTEX) that do a limited form of superscalar, larger caches, have FPU and on int measures are about x10 times faster than StrongARM.

Without *new hardware* then many people will simply *not* persist with the platform - why should they if emulation is the only alternative. If faced with that many would opt for cutting out the middleman (VARPC) and just use Windows *directly*.

As to whether new hardware will happen - who knows - thing is if people don't buy off the existing vendors why *would those* vendors put money up to do it ?

Gulli>Yes there are some things Windows can do that RISC OS can't - but you'll find that some of that is because of Licensing and/or proprietary technology issues (this will increasingly effect Linux in future so a short hop skip and jump to Linux is *not* a solution). MS have cleverly tied up the market and (largely) locked in their users with closed proprietary formats - follow that to its logical conclusion and there is only *one* choice (Windows).

If people want independance from Windows then they *have to accept* that there will *always* be somethings their platform can't do (hardware/OS deficiencies *not* withstanding) and that applies to RISC OS and Linux (though in the case of the latter to a lesser extent). Is that fair or right - no - but who said the world was fair ?

 is a RISC OS UserAMS on 13/07/06 1:28PM
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Despite the pessimism, RISC OS still has some strengths. If it didn't, then no-one would use it, other than a few with limited requirements that haven't changed in years. Any time you still have a superiority in any area over others you still have a chance of life, however slim. I won't call it dead until it's surpassed in every single area.

 is a RISC OS UserSimonC on 13/07/06 2:02PM
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Andrew: I certainly remember you at Acorn - and the support you gave me at that time. Even if it's not always mentioned, it's certainly not forgotton.

 is a RISC OS Userjc on 13/07/06 10:45PM
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In reply to John Cartmell Acorn? Never heard of 'em. ;-)

 is a RISC OS Usernx on 14/07/06 08:27AM
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Is it wrong to say that you use risc os simply because I like using it? I love the GUI that's enough for me. I try to do as many thing as possible with risc os + for the rest a macos x beast is used. I also collect risc os games because many of them are made by small groups in an envirement that is not very commercially which makes them interesting like (death dawn for example). Why do we need to take our head out of the sand. Why ca't we simply say it's not perfect but someday ,hopefully, it will be?

 is a RISC OS Userhighlandcattle on 14/07/06 1:52PM
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> Why do we need to take our head out of the sand. Why ca't we simply say it's not perfect but someday ,hopefully, it will be?

Because if you do that, RISC OS *will* die.

 is a RISC OS Usermoss on 14/07/06 2:36PM
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RISC OS will die if the following ever louder shouting falls on the same deaf ears :

1. OS Fork is an issue. rejoin it. 2. All the basic tasks you can do with ANY PC and ANY Apple, no point repeating them!

I find it increasingly embarrasing and annoying that PDA's, Phones (for gods sake), games consoles etc can perform the tasks that people expect of all computers and yet RISC OS can't. Not at all, zippo, zilch and no realistic prospect of ever doing so. If we advertise RISC OS in its current application weak state we risk being looked upon as joke.

As time goes by features that were once luxury become standard. Look at cars : airbags, ABS brakes, power steering, CD player etc etc 10 years ago these were in BMW's and Mercs now they are in almost all new cars. Computers are the same and RISC OS does not cater for the basics.

You move with flow now, not later, or die.

 is a RISC OS Usermripley on 14/07/06 3:13PM
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I guess if you use the kind of OS that crashes a lot, then airbags are important ;-)

Seriously, though, the point you make is valid. For me, as most I'd judge, the most pressing need is for a fully-featured browser (e.g. JavaScript, Flash, etc. and possibly JAVA). RealAudio is important too. With that, then it would be quite possible, I think, to promote the A9home (for instance) as a cute, reliable machine for internet, email, viewing digital images, and word processing (EasiWriter). The strengths of RISC OS make it ideal for the large number of users who want nothing more than that.

I keep my software up-to-date. I'm about to buy new hardware. I try and support the RISC OS market in other ways too. But I'm not a programmer. I love RISC OS. My head isn't in the sand. What should I do?

 is a RISC OS UserStewy on 14/07/06 3:51PM
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OSes never die though. With the possible exception of very old ones such as GEM or Atari TOS, what other desktop operating systems can you think of that have died? RISC OS will continue in one form or another, I'm convinced of that. There are always more suprises beyond the horizon.

 is a RISC OS UserCogs on 14/07/06 4:08PM
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Just a crazy thought. A slightly different approach. If we would present our beloved system to the wide world with a emotional touch, as Disney did with an ageing Volkswagen named Herbi. Imagin a Teenager or a group of yougsters hacking away the net with an archi and show them what can be done. I'm sure many of us will have a good insight on what to suggest. We are in the stage where OS's have become a religion but not harware to be a person. We could be first to do so and stire up many nostalgies. Insted of try to keep up with software developments the money might be better spent. If we can prove an archi is a must have. Just think of it.

 is a RISC OS User1234 on 14/07/06 4:21PM
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In reply to Naf:

What are you talking about? Archi?, Its 2006 not 1992

 is a RISC OS UserMikeCarter on 14/07/06 5:29PM
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In reply to Stewy:

You asked what non-programmers can do. Here's a suggestion. We have a limited number of programmers, but there is much more to software development than just writing code: there is testing, documentation, graphic design, website design, first-line support, publicity and so on. Most of our non-commercial projects are run by a single individual, and time spent doing these things is time not spent programming.

(It is also the case that programmers are often not very good at the other things that go into software.)

What if there were some sort of clearing house dedicated to identifying the key problems we face, and those willing to help, and bringing the two together?

I don't imagine for a moment that we can solve all of our problems overnight this way, but it might help to deploy the resources we have more effectively. Perhaps more importantly it would help give a sense of progress, and an assurance that problems (even if not immediately solvable) had not simply been forgotten.

 is a RISC OS Usergdshaw on 14/07/06 7:30PM
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In reply to gdshaw:

I think this is a good idea. It can also be the case that a programmer may know how to program, but does not know how to get relevant items such as file format info etc. I think help like this would be very much appreciated.

 is a RISC OS Userdemondb on 15/07/06 07:40AM
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In reply to David Buck:

One more thing such an organisation could do: raise money and use it to fund prizes for some of the more difficult (or easy but long-standing) problems.

(I'm willing and able to give my time for free, and I can't see that changing, but others may be in less fortunate circumstances. I could see this making a big difference (a) in encouraging those who have written for RISC OS in the past, but are now starting to drift away, and (b) concentrating effort on the problems that need fixing. Deciding what needs fixing most is likely to be contentious, so any venture along these lines would need to be both inclusive and democratic or it would merely become another forum for infighting.)

 is a RISC OS Usergdshaw on 15/07/06 08:09AM
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The main problem with RISC OS today is that the time needed to adapt it to 'modern' platforms and standards is getting exponentially large.. If RISCOS was to be opensource many people could contribute to it and also many opensource software (like Linux) could be used as a base for borrowing code. This would result in faster development of drivers and scheduler improvements. The current method of memorymanagement is still pretty clever to todays standards, the SWI interface to the kernel and modules is perfect for decoupling software and kernel/hardware.. There have been a couple of initiatives to do an opensource RISC OS but this has failed because too few people worked on it. riscose is one of these lingering failed projects.. It did have many good solutions but probably was too complicated for most programmers..

The simplest solution for ARM platforms would be to create a VMWARE like shell which can run code in an simulated environment. With 32 bit software this could be possible. Another method could be to run the ROM in an emulator and subsequently applications in a native environment.

The best start would still be to have access to the sourcecode. The success of Linux is paramount of the possibilities and supported platforms. There are many programmers out there but they all have their particular 'niche' expertise. The can only contribute their effort if there is a framework and base that compensates for their missing knowledge or expertise.. We could look at ReactOS which has done something similair for Windows. Unfortunately these people started about 10 years ago and still are struggling to get it right.. Maybe RISC OS is better suited for such an endeavor?

Netsurf , Firefox and more are a tribute to opensource policy and show that success is not money related. In this RISC OS world money is not a mayor driver anymore, users are bound with the platform on a different level. Cult? maybe, but after having used many different operatingsystems in many different environments I can say that I still like the way RISC OS presents me with an interface to functionality and documents.

If RISC OS would get an opensource counterpart I would certainly put effort in that initiative.

Jan Rinze.

 is a RISC OS UserJanRinze on 15/07/06 12:42AM
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I think the best way for general users to contribute to the platform is to contribute articles to Archive, Foundation, Riscworld, Qercus or one of the websites (cybervillage, drobe, iconbar, riscos.org, myriscos,etc).

Put expertise into the public domain. Show people that there are still good programs in live use and share your knowledge and interest. Make drobe a site full of "I didn't know how useful..." rather than endless speculation.

 is a RISC OS Usermarkee174 on 15/07/06 1:48PM
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Linux, Open Office and Firefof are so successful, because some very big companies are pouring enormous amounts of money into their development and marketing. Other open-source projects are much less successful. But we could still make use of a lot of OSS-code in RISC OS, if ROS itself was also open-sourced.

 is a RISC OS UserJGZimmerle on 17/07/06 01:46AM
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That would depend on the OS license it was released under. There are lots of OS licenses and they are not necessarily compatible. The items you mention are all applications and that is what we need. This does not need an OS OS.

 is a RISC OS Usermarkee174 on 17/07/06 08:24AM
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Apart from the fact it will never happen for contractual reasons, open sourcing RISC OS wouldn't work (and arguing about the type of licence is p1ssing in the wind if I ever saw it). Even assuming you can find enough developers to work on it, and not just tinker and swan off when they get bored, but see through major architectual changes, what you are going to get is a an OS which becomes increasingly incompatible with its applications. Now you could say they will all have to be open sourced too, but if they are or aren't its the same pool of developers now having to fix them too. And say at the end of it you end up with the oft touted "crucial" features of pre-emptive multi-tasking and full memory protection - are normal users going to care when they find they can't do one thing extra they couldn't before all this effort? They'll probably care far more about all the unsupported applications which no longer work at all, or trudge along in some compatibility enviroment no better than before.

The OS itself is a red herring, its not perfect but its what we've got and trying to make it something substantially different is never going to be worth the effort, the only development really needed in this area is to exploit new hardware. Where the rest of the community should be focusing, as mentioned time and time again above, is on application software. Applications are what people use to do the things they need to, and if the applications aren't there, no matter how good the OS is, people will be forced to go elsewhere.

 is a RISC OS Userdruck on 17/07/06 09:19AM
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"We have a limited number of programmers, but there is much more to software development than just writing code: there is testing, documentation, graphic design, website design, first-line support, publicity and so on. [...] What if there were some sort of clearing house dedicated to identifying the key problems we face, and those willing to help, and bringing the two together?"

Thanks for some very helpful and positive suggestions. I'm up for beta-testing and documentation for a start. I've seen others mention on Drobe that they'd be willing to do icon design, etc. A clearing house in which programmers could enlist assistance sounds like an excellent idea. Let's make it happen.

As a related aside, when users are involved in beta-testing, etc. it often creates a sense of investment in the software, especially if their suggestions for new features are implemented. That keeps them loyal to the platform as well as helping the programmer.

 is a RISC OS UserStewy on 17/07/06 10:28AM
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In reply to Stewart Brookes:

"Let's make it happen."

Agreed. Anyone who is willing to help organise this, or who has ideas about exactly how it should work, contact me and I will set up a mailing list. (My e-mail address can be found at [link])

The first stage will presumably be to set up a web-based directory of some description. It would be really useful to have someone who is good at web page design for this. I can do the back end database without diverting too much time from other projects. Once that is up and running we can start looking at other ways to direct effort towards the main problems we face.

 is a RISC OS Usergdshaw on 17/07/06 5:49PM
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