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ViewFinder firmware confusion settled

By Chris Williams. Published: 17th Dec 2003, 16:16:52 | Permalink | Printable

Clarification amidst the rants [Updated]

Generic graphics cardThe sabre rattling and heated in-fighting surrounding the issue of end user support for ViewFinder users has to be one of the more dramatic sides to the RISC OS platform. Perhaps it's merely a case of a personality and ego conflict between Windfall's John Kortink, outspoken advocate David Ruck and others, or maybe it's because the aforementioned care a little too much. Either way, just about every ViewFinder news release results in some kind of fierce explosion and this week's firmware release was no different.

Here's how it all started. Once upon a time, Windfall Engineering came up with a subscription scheme allowing ViewFinder end users to pay for firmware updates and support. Despite the firmware upgrades being published online for anyone to download, Windfall expected end users to pay up if they intended to use the upgrades. It was very much a trust based scheme. If you paid up, you got peace of mind to use features like bank switching and overlay support. If you didn't, you used what you paid for: bugfixes and little else.

As reported in our lastest software news round up, the online release of version 1.60 of the firmware for Windfall's ViewFinder graphics card sees the termination of the subscription scheme. Version 1.60 of the firmware is made available freely to end users and is a minor bugfix update. Non-Radeon powered VF users who subscribed to the pay-for-support scheme and upgrade to 1.60 will in fact lose bank switching and overlay features. Radeon VF users who upgrade to 1.60 will still get the bank switching and overlay features as well as the Radeon only features.

So, precisely, why should non-Radeon VF users upgrade? It's clearly a valid question and one that perplexed David Ruck and led him to make today his feelings loud and clear. You may recall that Dave, an ARMClub member and also the DiscKnight and ARMalyser developer, created the independent RISC OS graphics card mailing list some time ago, in response to Windfall attempting to suppress the critical views of its userbase.

"[John Kortink] has confirmed that [version 1.60] does not contain any of the enhancements that people paid 20 Euros for in versions 1.51 to 1.54. So I would recommend not installing 1.60 or later, as you will lose bank switching", Dave stressed in an email sent to drobe.co.uk and the independent mailing list.

"I am interested to know how many others paid for this upgrade, and will now be downgraded if they need to install any bug fixes in the future - unless of course they pay a 150 Euros to upgrade to a Radeon card."

Dave added: "From a previous message sent to the list it seems that just like Translator before it, JK has made chargeable upgrades available via unrestricted download for people to try out, and then complained that the number of payments [doesn't] match the number downloads. However this time he has chosen to punish those that have actually paid, by removing the features they have paid for."

We asked John Kortink, of Windfall, to clear up the matter. He told us that users "don't need to upgrade" and that the "three fixes in 1.60 deal with small inconsistencies, not actual bugs". So the 1.60 release appears to be a non-critical upgrade and users of 1.51 to 1.54 of the firmware should stay as they are. Of couse, if you didn't subscribe to the subscription scheme and didn't get the bank switching and overlay features, you might as well move up to 1.60, we reckon.

Glad we cleared that one up.

Update
Within hours of this article going live, Windfall's John Kortink announced the following, which also entertained us as much as we've apparently tickled John:
"Regarding ViewFinder Radeon upgrades, and inspired by a highly amusing article on a so called RISC OS portal, an all singing, all dancing Christmas/Newyear offer :

Those who have paid X for a 'pay' version of the ViewFinder software, can get a discount of X on the upgrade price (150 or 200 Euro inc. VAT for the 64 or 128 MB upgrade respectively), if ordered and paid for before 15th January 2004."


Aww, how this season of goodwill melts our cold, steely hearts.

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Discussion

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I suppose John doesn't want to maintain three separate branches of the software - one for Radeon users, one for paying non-Radeon users and one for non-paying non-Radeon users. However, doesn't this leave paying non-Radeon users in the lurch with future upgrades? I also don't see the benefit of effectively downgrading release 1.60 by omitting the bank switching missing - possibly an essential feature.

 is a RISC OS Userksattic on 17/12/03 4:23PM
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Personally if JK is effectively EOL'ing non-Radeon VF, then why doesn't he release 1.60 with the bank switching/overlay of 1.54 - this would then be similar to 1.60 Radeon.

The only reason I can see is to force people to upgrade to Radeon to get the extras and the bugfixes.

As for VF news causing grief every time, it's probably because of the nonsensical licensing and vagueness from JK.

 is a RISC OS Usersimo on 17/12/03 5:59PM
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To confirm my suspicions JK has just offered what you paid for 1.54 off of the price of the Radeon upgrade, so this is designed to make you upgrade.

 is a RISC OS Usersimo on 17/12/03 6:15PM
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Thats very generous of John to offer a discount, but I wont be upgrading to a Radeon yet. The only benefit for me would be 3Hz greater refresh at 2048x1536.

Maybe when I can upgrade both the Iyonix and Risc PC with cards capable of driving a 3800x2400 22.4" widescreen LCD.

 is a RISC OS Userdruck on 17/12/03 10:08PM
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At last, the price of 2MB VRAM has come down. Only Castle seem to still be selling it for 83 - a silly price - one may as well jump the rest of the way to a Viewfinder (32MB version is 175 from CJE). Liquid Silicon do 2MB VRAM for 49.95 and apdl for 47 if you send a 1MB card in part exchange. Certainly gave my daughter's RiscPC a lot more effective screen "area" at a reasonable price.

 is a RISC OS Usermartin on 19/12/03 7:43PM
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In reply to martin:

What do you mean by 'at last'. My price for VRAM upgrade has been the same for years :-)

 is a RISC OS Userapdl on 20/12/03 8:07AM
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In reply to apdl

High time for a further reduction then ? (Ha, ha - You fell into that one !)

... but seriously ... that is a very good price for something that never seems to come up on ebay, and especially now that new 19" CRT moniters are hovering around the 120 area. For anyone on a tight budget looking to keep their RiscPC going for another year or so while they save up for an Iyonix/Virtual Risc PC that's just the ticket. I'm starting to sound like an advert but the 128Mb RiscPC RAM at 45 is also a good price.

 is a RISC OS Usermartin on 20/12/03 3:25PM
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Why the assumption that someone with an RPC would be saving up for a VRPC system?

Iyonix is too pricey for me, and I would miss select. VF now offers something an Iyonix doesn't - digital output to the monitor. When I get a suitable panel, VF will be on the shopping list.

 is a RISC OS Userjess on 20/12/03 6:23PM
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simtec have 2MB VRAM for fifty quid too, from their list [link]

 is a RISC OS Userkyllikki on 21/12/03 10:18PM
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Regarding the update: Why exactly would someone who's paid 'X' for the paid software, who has a perfectly adequete graphics card already, want to buy a new graphics card just because it's the only graphics card Windfall want to support? Isn't this a huge leap in the oppostie directon to RiscOS freedom of choice? -- Smiler - :D elp_blackmoon@hotmail.com

 is a RISC OS UserSmiler on 22/12/03 8:23PM
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