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A punter's view of the South East show

By John-Mark Bell. Published: 18th Oct 2003, 22:24:16 | Permalink | Printable

John Bell recounts his day in Guildford

The big news for this year's South East RISC OS show was the appearance of DVD player Cino and the revealing of network aware VirtualRPC-SE. John Bell writes in his own words what today's show in Guildford did for him...

The show was noticeably quieter than last year, though the extra space available may have added to the effect. There didn't seem to be all that much new (excepting Cino of course, see later). What was noticeable was the number of Iyonixen on the stands - most had one, if not more. I only attended the RISC OS Limited theatre presentation so that is all I've covered.

It appears Cino has only had 5 weeks of development and it has to be said that it's fairly impressive given that. There's no denying that it seems slow at the moment but there's lots of room for improvement. The video can be played at close to real-time (assuming B-type frames are dropped) but the audio will skip. The converse is also true (i.e. audio playing fine but video skips). I was shown some onscreen profiling output which showed that up to 40% of CPU cycles were being wasted due to waiting for data.

It uses the DMA features of the XScale to put frame data into the screen memory but the PCI bus is a bit of a bottleneck.

RISCOS Ltd Theatre Presentation
Paul Middleton gave a similar presentation to the one he gave at the AGM (even using the same slides). Pretty much of what he said has already been reported so I won't repeat it here. Essentially, he gave an overview of ROL's development plan for RISC OS - Select in ROM, rewritten filing system (with the possibility of moving to unix-style filenaming) etc.

The issue of Select on RISC OS 5 was raised by a number of people during the question and answer session. ROL was accused of lacking interest in the issue by one questioner due to the fact that no survey of Select subscribers had been taken on the issue of Select for RISC OS 5. Another issue raised was the alledged "mixed messages" coming from ROL. Some members of the audience admitted that they were holding back from buying an Iyonix because of the lack of Select on it.

Paul Middleton explained that Select on RISC OS 5 was not as simple as rebuilding the Select components to be 32bit neutral. There are marked differences in the kernels of the two OS variants which would need to be rationalised before Select was fully available on OS 5. The major sticking point seems to be who should do the work (ROL or CTL). The CTL/Tematic engineers are reportedly focussing on embedded systems so a kernel rewrite would be low on their priority list. It seems, however, that there is some determination to produce Select features on OS 5 although no timescale has been given. ROL may even produce their own 32bit RISC OS in order to circumvent these issues.

Overall, it seems ROL are intending to try and provide some of the things users want, though Select on RISC OS 5 certainly doesn't appear imminent from here.

Overall Impression
The show was much more down beat than last year. The Iyonix no longer seems to be pulling in the crowds, though this is to be expected. The prospect of Cino makes the software market look rosier than I feel it really is. Excepting MW-Software's valient efforts, new products don't seem to be anywhere near the horizon.

The divergence of the CTL and ROL OS variants seems to be preventing real impetus as many are holding out for Select on RISC OS 5. The situation with Omega isn't helping either. It was claimed by Paul Middleton in his presentation that the Omega is faster than the Iyonix for certain tasks, although I'm skeptical about that.

Overall, I was quite disappointed with the lack of interesting new things on display as I'd hoped that the software market would have picked up by now, given the new hardware available. 32bitting old applications is all well and good but the market really needs new products and there are too few of those at present.

The show was well organised and I'd like to thank the organisers for all their hard efforts in ensuring everything ran smoothly.


South East show website

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OK fact from the show - Castle came with 20 iyonixes and left with 5 (OK 7 but perhaps 2 were to be delivered?) in one bloody day!!!

I have no idea how VA5000/V-RPC went (or RIsc OS ltd.) unless you were dying for a RISC OS laptop.

 is a RISC OS Userepistaxsis@work on 18/10/03 10:43PM
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Myself, I think that is a rather downbeat view of the day. I wasn't expecting the same level of attendance as last year as there was no big announcement of a new machine a week before the show like last year. Add to that the fact that there was more room this year, I was expecting the show to be very sparse with people.

In fact I was fairly surprised to see the number of people I did. I thought attendance was quite reasonable, all facts considered.

I /did/ think the show was a tad light on actual exhibitors. More needed next year I hope.

On the whole, I thought the show was a success, but I guess only the exhibitors can really confirm or deny that though.


 is a RISC OS UserThe Doctor on 19/10/03 9:27AM
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Speaking from an R-Comp/RCI perspective, we were very pleased with the show, and it was excellently organised, run and catered for by the SASAUG crew. Obviously we don't see the show from the "customer" perspective in quite the same way (although we do go around buying RISC OS products etc!) but like The Doctor, I felt the report was rather downbeat. There were a number of stands showing new things (off the top of my head - ourselves, Aemulor-guys, MW, IC software, Acorn Publisher, ROL, Virtual Acorn, APDL, and CJE etc - all had new/enhanced software/hardware on display). That's actually more new stuff than many other shows I think!

So, overall result was a good day, and I hope the SASAUG guys will be able to continue to do such an excellent job next year. Well done guys!

 is a RISC OS Userarawnsley on 19/10/03 9:56AM
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All the exhibitors I talked to thought the show went extremely well, and were happy with their sales. There were around 300 visitors versus 500 last year (but 40% more floorspace), and it was only around lunchtime that it was _really_ busy.

There were even people at the show who hand't seen an Iyonix until then, so certainly it was "new" for them.

-- Peter, drobe.co.uk

 is a RISC OS Usermrchocky on 19/10/03 10:04AM
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New filing system? With proper links and security? -- Jess

 is a RISC OS Userjess on 19/10/03 10:10AM
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The last Acorn show I attended was one of the South West events. I forget the year, but I remember that Oregano 1 was near release. The numbers were very small - it had the feel of a little fete - and there was a feeling that everyone was underwhelmed by the complete lack of new things to see. At the time the only Phoebe-beater on the horizon was the Imago. I noticed at the time that the only company able to pull off any kind of professionalism - a la Computer Concepts in the old days - was Castle.

At this time, I'd already bought a second-hand Mac - not because I'd given up on RISC OS, but because I needed to work on Quark documents, and I still used Photodesk and Artworks as my 'Photoshop and Illustrator'. In fact, although my Mac was 'more powerful' than the RiscPC, it felt slower, Quark had all the pro-features but still seemed pretty stone-age in many areas (it still does), and the Mac's GUI was nothing next to RISC OS's.

I stayed with RISC OS 3.7, as I didn't see the need for RISC OS 4. The long filenames would have been nice, but then there were freeware solutions to suit my basic need of giving long filenames to HTML pages created in !Zap. After all, why would I splash out on RISC OS 4 when I'd previously been considering splashing out on a Phoebe? Like many, my goal was to replace the StrongARM RiscPC with something better.

So I moved to the Mac and eventually amassed the works - Mac OS X, Illustrator, Photoshop, Acrobat, software postscript interpreters, etc. I probably would have done this anyway, as my publishing and design jobs had me working with this software daily.

Mac OS X Jaguar on an 800mhz 'velocity engined' G4 is less reponsive than a 200mhz RiscPC in the GUI department, by the way.

I kept running back to RiscOS and finding so much to love - maybe it was just nostalgia. Artworks remains the most intuitive vector graphic package around, even if its feature-set is dwarfed by Illustrator 10. I'd sometimes make illustrations in Artworks, port them over, and then add a few Illustrator bells and whistles before adding it to Quark and sending it off for print. I found myself thinking daft thoughts like, 'Next time I do a freelance project, I'll try and do it 100% on RISC OS from concept to print' - just for the sheer heck of it, just because I can.

So anyway, now living in the South East, I took a trip to the South East show - just for the sheer heck of it, just because I could. Sure the show was small, but it was a darned sight better than the last one I'd attended. I got to play with an Iyonix for the first time, saw it throwing the Artworks MG around like a breeze, kinda wanted one there and then. Why did I warm to it more than the Apple hypemeisters' tank-like G5? Surely that's daft? It's a shame that Iyonix hasn't produced more in a year in terms of new software, and it's a shame that more drivers for cheap PCI cards from the darkside haven't appeared. I suspect the tough asking price has kept it out of too many one-man/woman developers' hands.

The rest of the show was good, but the stands were too small, and you had to ferret around to ask any questions you had rather than just grab a machine and have a look yourself. The numbers weren't too bad. Certainly better than the last South West show I attended a few years back. Cino was good. Martin Wuetherer's mutation of ArtWorks is amazing. Even that VirtualRPC thing would have been interesting if it had been available for the Mac. Photodesk 3 looked good, and it's great to know that RISC OS isn't excluded from the digital camera boom.

I attended three presentations - ROL, Castle and Acorn Publisher. It's clear that there's no love lost between Castle and ROL. The way I call it is that Castle took the bull by the horns and tried to pull something out of the whole 'no new machine' quagmire, while ROL shrugged their shoulders and killed the idea of 32bit RISC OS. With ROL now turning 180 degrees, suggesting they too could make a 32bit RISC OS, well it smacks a bit of FUD, as in 'Hey, don't buy that Iyonix - it's full of bugs we fixed years ago - run Select on 10 year-old hardware'. Select is now a compelling product - especially for someone still loving the RiscPC and stuck on 3.7 - but at the end of the day Castle did more in months than ROL managed in several years.

Anyway, it was an interesting day out and I thank all the exhibitors and the show organisers for their hard work, and I hope there's one to visit next year.

 is a RISC OS UserJessFranco on 19/10/03 10:19AM
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Still nobody talking about Macromedia Director or upgrades to Flash? They are THE most important needs for RISCOS above anything else.

 is a RISC OS UserDaveW on 19/10/03 11:24AM
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's funny, I've had new versions of Oregano 2, C tools and Webster this week. Don't know why no-one else is seeing new software :-)

Well done Castle and R-Comp.

 is a RISC OS UserTonyStill on 19/10/03 12:17PM
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I'd agree with the flash and director, but also we the software that will kill and NEW Mac / PC in its tracks.

And i still think that the idea of getting a native PC prog like Word to work within the RISC OS environment WITHOUT modification or windows.

This I feel would bring RISC OS immediatly in line, as it would be able to run a PC program as if it was another RISC OS app? now wouldn't that be a superb idea for a new project?

 is a RISC OS Userem2ac on 19/10/03 12:24PM
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@em2ac: Yes , it would be a great idea. But starting such a project means that the people involved are embarking on a time and manpower consuming project that will at least take a couple of years to finish. Under Os/2 and linux there are simular projects ( Odin and wine). They are making good progress but it isnt complete now, after years of development.



 is a RISC OS Userrick11 on 19/10/03 1:31PM
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Or not. Wine et al rely on the machine having a x86 processor (and windows installation) emulation is likely to be very slow. If you want to run Windows programs (and many RISC OS users don't, for the most part), get a PC, or PC + Acorn emulator.

Ports of unix programs running in RISC OS (which is a much more sensible technical suggestion) will not only run at full speed, but they're also free, and there's a huge choice.

See [link]

-- Peter, drobe.co.uk

 is a RISC OS Usermrchocky on 19/10/03 1:46PM
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Running Windows apps on RISC OS is probably the most challenging programming task one could think of. Unless you are talking about ARM WinCE you would require an ix86 emulator in software for starters. What kind of ARM processor do you think you'd need to emulate a 1GHz Pentium? What about a 2GHz one? And then you'd have to reverse engineer the Windows APIs. Fun. And write suitable drivers to allow the Windows emulation to access the RISC OS machine's hardware.

Now, I'm sure you weren't serious about that suggestions. However, what has always been a more important goal is file compatibility. If we had 100% file compatibility with Word, Excel and Powerpoint then that'd be a good start. The RISC OS apps that loaded/saved these files would have to offer something unique over the Windows equivalents. The RISC OS GUI would be the first feature.

However, there is not the money put in to projects to make large apps anymore. I doubt there is a lot of money to be made from selling them on RISC OS anymore. Hopefully someone will prove me wrong by creating an Excel rival for RISC OS. :-)

-- Spriteman.

 is a RISC OS UserSpriteman on 19/10/03 1:52PM
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ARM WinCE Dave. Do you mean a winCE emmulator for RISC OS???


And I am being sincere here.

cheers bob

 is a RISC OS Usernijinsky on 19/10/03 1:58PM
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In my humble opinion, RISC OS does /not/ need killer apps. It simply needs software that can compete with that available for Windows so that people really do have a genuine alternative to Windows. Linux is ok for some people but if RISC OS had the software that Linux has then it would become a viable alternative for a lot more people.

I don't think there is a program on the planet that has 100% compatability with Excel for any platform. Nor is there likelty to be one anytime soon. True, a port of OpenOffice would be nice (for some people who need it) but there's no money to be made from it so you're relying on someone to do the job of porting it (probably not easy) out of the goodness of their hearts.

I do wonder how fast a PC an Iyonix could emulate in software although having said that, it might be easier to simply write drivers for one of the many PC upgrade PCI cards available.

Having said /that/, the more and better software we get for RISC OS, the less need we will have for PC emulation.

Oh well. Cheers!

 is a RISC OS UserThe Doctor on 19/10/03 3:51PM
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>The Doctor

RISC OS *had* killer apps (like Sibellius and Artworks) but for a variety of reasons - in part perhaps peoples laziness with respect to trying out some unknown OS like RISC OS it failed. Acorns failure to port C++ also probably played a part.

I'd agree some Linux apps would be nice to have, that having been said it would be unfortunate (and undesireable) if the *only* new software seen on RISC OS were simply "reheated" Linux ones. We do need a dynamic software development scene of our own.

As to Excel and Word data file access this is a *major* problem for all non-MS platforms and it's a problem MS benefits from and is hardly likely to try solve. They *won't* document their datafile formats because they specifically *don't* want competition.

-- Annraoi McShane,

 is a RISC OS UserAMS on 19/10/03 4:21PM
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AMS: and just what are you proposing to do about your perception of the situation? As usual, we have too many people talking about what should be done, and too few doing anything.

The Sibelius/C++ thing is unconvincing - G++ was a capable C++ compiler on RISC OS even back then.

-- Peter, drobe.co.uk

 is a RISC OS Usermrchocky on 19/10/03 5:07PM
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That is what was toted at the time as the reason for their not continuing to develop Siberlius on the RiscPC. Now if it is known for a fact that the reason Sibelius was not developed further on the RISC PC was for reasons *other* than the lack of a proper C++ fine I'll accept that.

As to the current situation I am open to suggestions as to how I might help. By the way I was not criticising the porting of Linux software to RISC OS - just commenting on the relative lack of new RISC OS developments (and yes I probably should do something to help remedy this).

Please believe me I was not taking a swipe at you for porting Linux stuff or enabling such porting (in fact rather please accept my thanks for your efforts).

-- Annraoi

 is a RISC OS UserAMS on 19/10/03 5:30PM
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I have to agree with Andrew Rawnsley, it was a very good show and we enjoyed it greatly. There was plenty of new things to see, it was well organised and well attended.

 is a RISC OS UserVirtualAcorn on 19/10/03 5:41PM
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AMS: my comments don't have much to do with my own stuff regarding porting, and I haven't suggested yours are either.

My comment is mainly your apparent insistence on commenting on everything and saying what should be done rather than doing anything yourself. Allow me to repeat a quote from David Holden - "You are not volunteering yourself, but rather everyone else". Don't assume I'm talking about programming either, because I haven't mentioned that.

Hardly a new observation by any means, but one of the reasons so many developers have left RISC OS is that so many non-developers insisted on being experts on topics the developers knew much better.

Not a rant.

-- Peter, drobe.co.uk

 is a RISC OS Usermrchocky on 19/10/03 6:15PM
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Well, I'm happy -- I've got Flashback and Alone in the Dark for a fiver :)

 is a RISC OS UserHertzsprung on 19/10/03 6:28PM
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For the average joe, RISC OS has some seriously killer apps, even now. I wrote my dissertation on EasiWriter. Back then it opened MS Word files no problem at all. It was a tiny, slim fuss-free program that was/is FAR nicer to use than the bloated MS Word.

!Zap is a killer app. BBEdit on the Mac is a nice app, but you are constantly thinking, 'Zap is better, Zap is better'. ArtWorks remains massively intuitive, as I've said. I wish I could get Xara on my Mac. Martin Wuerther seems to be getting faster and faster at cramming in new functionality.

Vantage was a killer apps and still is, kind of. It was the to-die-for app made for the next generation machine that never came. Photodesk is no Photoshop 7, but is has a unique way of working that's all its own. It's a really nice app. Ditto Ovation Pro. Ditto all those little free or inexpensive utils you kind of forget you're using.

The RISC OS GUI is still a killer app. It still hasn't been bettered. It could do with a few more in-built keyboard shortcuts, but surely that's trivial to put right. 99% of computer users are mouse-addicted anyway.

A browser is still needed that will keep up. Oregano 2 is ok, but dependent on a third-party, non RISC OS company. WebsterXL is a brave effort. As chocky's UNIX page says, the 'holy grail' is a port of one of the more complete UNIX browsers. I'd like Konqeror/KHTML as it's a little more elegant than Mozilla and has Apple as one of its contributors, via Safari.

Flash/Director are lower on the list of priorities. Director would once have been good a few years to keep School CD makers on RISC OS, but CD ROM is such a dead format for information now. Flash is necessary for many websites, but I still HATE the technology, whereas CSS is a beautiful technology (www.csszengarden.com) so I'd rather see proper support for that first.

As I see it, the RISC OS scene sunk to it's lowest point a little while ago. At least now it's hit bedrock the 'we're shedding users' paranoia can stop and those who like RISC OS can get back to using and enjoying it. After all, enjoyment is why we don't all use Windows full time.

 is a RISC OS UserJessFranco on 19/10/03 7:13PM
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Chocky: >Wine et al rely on the machine having a x86 processor (and windows installation) emulation is likely to be very slow.


 is a RISC OS Userdavidb on 19/10/03 7:37PM
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My statement has nothing to do with that. RISC OS machines do not have x86 processors, therefore there must be emulation. Unless of course you're referring to a section other than 1, but you've not made that clear.

-- Peter, drobe.co.uk

 is a RISC OS Usermrchocky on 19/10/03 7:51PM
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Well my first bad moderated post earlier for wanting a RISC OS emulator for a different platform.

Who the heck moderates people. It seems that my opinion does not count.

How can you read all the posts without clicking on the "belo;w threshold link"

I just read spritemans post wrong. OR do you really NOT want to see an emulator of the second most popular PDA on the planet. What About the RISC OS PALM emmulator. Is that off topic here.

Cheers Bob

 is a RISC OS Usernijinsky on 19/10/03 8:44PM
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Bob: anyone moderates anyone. If you go to your Profile link you can set it to display "all comments" automatically rather than just those which are moderated neutral or above

 is a RISC OS Usertamias on 19/10/03 9:02PM
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I just want to add my thanks to the SASUG members for their time and effort organising the show and to say I thoroughly enjoyed it. I hope there will be a show next year (may be I had better join and help organise it!). I was at the 2002 show and it was chaotic this year the population density was about right.

As for new items, i think the problem is that i read the acorn newsgroups (and Drobe) so that only something previously un announced is "new". As it was i came away with a heavy bag of 32bit upgrades, some new products (Grapevine), and some old ones from the charity stand.

What do we need for the platform? I think most of the basics are there, but I am hoping that the move to 32bits will encourage developers to dig out their "functionally stablised" applications, update them and look at what is being done on other platforms and start adding new functionality as well as the look and feel.


 is a RISC OS Userchriswhy on 19/10/03 9:51PM
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mrchocky: I wish to been able to come to see the show... :(

I work as a developer (i don't know if i am a developer or a non-developer as wrote on your comment :) ) and if i work as freelance i need to have system *features* that lets me develop software fast, correctly and not working too much on details usually because of the long customer-problem-analisys time; if i work for a software house i must use the OS and the tools they want me to use, so i can't choice (and honestly i never saw RISC OS in italian software houses and in american software houses and wherever i worked), *that's why many programmers left RISC OS scene*. I still remember, many years ago, at university when I have made a demonstration among the famous DERIVE for DOS and my MathGLab made under RISC OS (it was plotting 3D graphics mathematical functions in 256 colors). I still can see my teachers sayng they never saw a so powerfull software for mathematical 3D graphics plotting on a "PC"... well they just didn't know nothing about my archimedes 305. It was not me the genius but was Acorn makeing Archimedes, MathGLab was made in BBC BASIC and was working in mode 15, DERIVE was working in text mode and for M.S. DOS; at this time my A305 gave me all the features i needed for develop MathGLab better on RISC OS. I really don't like Windoze interface at its structure-incoherences but it is the commercial standard and that is what companies already have. A lot of my customers are *opened* to work with different *OS* than windows if this new OS can assure them the same support as windows have, the same features, the same relative low hardware/software investments (and you know very well this also because many linux distribuition are intel based for not impose a new hardware investments to customers). About developers and *non-developers* i just want to say that after 13 years of computer programming (made on big and little development projects) i never saw developers change their opinion because a non-developer spoke about a technical problem, but i saw developers run away from software houses because they received better contracts or more money or a more secure future from new software houses. I agree with you about emulators of windows; it was a nice thing on RiscPCs (and i loved WinRisc very much) but absolutely not a good thing on a YIONIX or a full RISC OS computer. I still think that RISC OS, specially with a new good hardware as YIONIX is, have a big future and i hope to be able to see it and give my little help to make it come true. :)

 is a RISC OS UserZFP on 20/10/03 12:45AM
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An interesting idea for a software port would be OpenOffice (open source version of Sun's StarOffice) which is being ported to many other platforms from the original Windows version. It would solve the worries over loading files of MS Powerpoint, Word, etc.

 is a RISC OS Usertimephoenix on 20/10/03 5:04AM
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Never mind OpenOffice, a decent spreadsheet would be nice. Eureka was good, but creaks, Schema has always been horrible, I couldnever get my head round PipeDream and its descendants, and the Textease thing is a joke (sorry Geoff).

PowerPoint is a horrible excuse for people who can't do presentations or design to attempt to gloss over their failings... (:-)

 is a RISC OS Usermikeg on 20/10/03 7:59AM
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In reply to mikeg - Fireworkz is a good spreadsheet.

From my point of view the show went very well. I was on the Acorn Publisher stand all day so I can't comment on how the rest of the show went but we had a good day. I think the increased size of the venue gave the impression that the show was less busy than last year. In fact I reckon it was as busy if not more so judging by the amount of custom we had.

 is a RISC OS UserCol1 on 20/10/03 9:32AM
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FireWorkz Pro always seemed the best spreadsheet to be, Excel is a UI joke

 is a RISC OS Usermavhc on 20/10/03 10:42AM
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