Drobe :: The archives
About Drobe | Contact | RSS | Twitter | Tech docs | Downloads | BBC Micro

Castle, RISCOS Ltd., FinnyBank theatre report

By Martin Hansen. Published: 1st Mar 2004, 04:53:33 | Permalink | Printable

Martin Hansen reviews the South West show presentations and the future direction of the platform's major players

Show venueAttending a distant RISC OS show can be an effort but with the Sun shining in a blue sky, the CD player on loud and a large supply of snacks and drinks, early on Saturday morning I zipped south-bound on a traffic free M5 towards Somerset. This was going to be a good day out and I was looking forward to being immersed in all that is good about the world of computing. At last year's South West show I exhibited as The MathMagical Software Company, however this year I was going as a regular punter. Simply a normal user, particularly keen to attend the theatre presentations being given by three of the top RISC OS players; Castle Technology, Finnybank and RISCOS Ltd. All three contributed to the build up to the show by announcing new products in recent days; Castle with an Iyonix packaged in a new case, Finnybank with the launch issue of Qercus, and RISCOS Ltd with a ROM release of their latest version of RISC OS 4.

Castle theatre presentation
Jack LillingstonThe main man, Jack Lillingston (pictured), had clearly made an effort to prepare for this event. As we entered we were greeted by chairs on which were already placed an up to date Castle Technology price list and a colour A4 promotional leaflet offering up to 50 percent off the recommended retail price of various LCD monitors if purchased with an Iyonix. So, for example, an Iiyama 17" 1280 x 1024 which retails for 329ukp is now 164ukp. The offer officially runs from 1st March to 31st May but was clearly being made available early for those attending today's show. Having digested the offer, the front desk grabbed my attention: It was laden down with hardware. The first thing to catch the eye was the new X100 Iyonix, which looked very elegant. The case is metal, and it's a close size match with a single slice RiscPC. The floppy drive had two slots for memory cards as well as a floppy disc. A second, tower build, Iyonix was next to the X100, and to this, via a USB hub, was connected a scanner, a stand alone card reader, a zip drive with 256MB zip disc inserted, and a mysterious device that, as I was thirsty, looked to me to be the size of a box of 120 tea bags. The tower Iyonix was driving a large screen projector and also, so that Jack could see what was happening on the large screen behind him, a standard LCD monitor.

Jack Lillingston, managing director of Castle Technology Ltd, is impressive. He speaks clearly, succinctly, and without waffle. He began by showing us what the Iyonix is outstandingly good at. In a word, it is 'photography'. In 16 million colour mode at high resolution he double clicked a 1MB JPEG. Wham, it was in. He selected a small area of the on screen image. Wham, it was enlarged and filled the screen. Thump, the thumbnail photograph filer viewer, was summoned and its window filled instantly with the small but remarkably clear, images of around fifty photographs. The climax to this first part of the presentation, however, was the box of 120 tea bags. It was, in reality, a photographic quality printer that Jack set to print as he talked. As he continued his talk we watched it print, suck the image back in, print again, suck it back in again, print, suck, and finally print. Three colours had been applied and a gloss finish.

The 6" by 4" photographic print that had finally been dropped into the world was passed around. It was of a stunningly good quality. "Can you read the words on the top of the tower?" Jack asked, referring to scene depicted in the print. He knew full well that the answer was "No". He placed it in the scanner and called up David Pilling's Scanning Software. (Previously known as 'ImageMaster'). He scanned the printed photograph, and then enlarged the scan. There it was; the word advertising a well known company was clearly visible. I'll not reveal it, so as not to spoil the party piece. Placed side by side with the original JPEG the image had, of course, degraded a little. Remember, however, that the word could not be made out with naked eye on the print. Interestingly, Castle, having developed the drivers for this printer, handed it over to Stuart Tyrrell to develop further and market. It is likely to cost under two hundred pounds and the consumables work out to around 50p a print. I can't wait to have one. Perhaps, Jack should have at this point mentioned PhotoDesk. What we had just seen plus PhotoDesk, which is 32 bit compatible, must surely place the Iyonix at the forefront of easy to use photographic gathering, filing and manipulation. Several of the audience, including the charming elderly gentleman sitting next to me, had bought an Iyonix precisely for this reason. By way of rounding off this section of his talk, Jack demonstrated the ease and speed with which Iyonix can burning a CD-ROM's worth of photographic images.

Old Iyonix, new case
Re-housing the existing Iyonix in a new case may seem at first glance a trivial news item; but, like everything Castle do, they have sound business reasons for the move. Announced two days before the event, all three established Iyonix configurations were available to buy in the new format from stock at the show. Although the tower Iyonix has the necessary certification to be sold in Europe, this is not the "case" (sorry) in America. The new packaging of the Iyonix addresses the issues in the existing design that were causing problems and the paperwork to make it a legal product for the American market is now done and dusted. Furthermore, many of Castle's existing commercial customers required a similarly sized replacement for their RiscPCs.

There are some drawbacks to using a smaller box, of course. It is not as quiet as the tower machine, because setting up a natural convection cooling air current within the case could not be reliably designed in. In consequence, fan-noise is back at the RiscPC level. The ability to add legacy podule cards has gone, and PCI cards need to be in a mini low profile format. There is no facility to internally add a second floppy or CD-ROM drive. Jack pointed all of this out very clearly. He showed that the unit comes with a stand and so, like the RiscPC it can be used on its side, as a thin, sleek tower. I asked if the DVD drive still worked reliably in this configuration. Jack assured us that it does.

Iyonix networking, Artworks and PDFs
A couple of other highlights from the Castle Technology presentation stand out in my mind. Firstly, in regards to networking, Jack plugged an ethernet cable into the back of the tower Iyonix and the back of the X100. Apparently, the machines auto-detect whether a regular patch or crossover lead is present, and both work equally well. With no network hub or switch needed, the 1MB JPEG printed out earlier passed effortlessly from one Iyonix to the other.

Secondly, the famous Artworks "Beer Glasses" with the RISC OS cog logo on the sides by Henk Huinen were swiftly loaded. Moving the Artworks window around the screen was very smooth indeed. An enlargement of the artist's name "Henk" was instantly processed and filled the screen. Remember that this is at 16 million colours and a high resolution. I'm not yet an Artworks user, but those in the audience who were collectively gasped. Thirdly, a substantial PDF document of around 400 pages was loaded. Hoping around this large file to pages selected at random was easily down to around a second a page.

Although preaching to the converted, Jack's presentation went down exceedingly well. None of his demonstrations went awry, and an enthusiastic round of applause greeted the conclusion of his talk. With its lid removed, a curious crowd descended on the new X100. I took a couple of photographs and left for that long awaited cup of tea and a chat with my good friend Tom Broughton, a teacher from East Court School in Kent who, like me, still introduces his pupils to the joys of RISC OS computing on old machines.

Lillingston, I presume?
After a year and a half of dithering, I bought an Iyonix at the show. Although I like the look of the new case, and love the idea of having the latest version, I opted for the tower. The issue that tipped me was the Green one of less noise, and cooling by convection rather than a fan. I've also yet to own a RISC OS machine that I didn't end up stuffing full of hardware add ons and it's just so much tidier to have them inside the case rather than strewn around the desk. It was interesting to have a choice though, and the new machine is better looking. Photographs do not do it justice; you need to see it for real.

Having bought an Iyonix to soften Castle's Jack Lillingston up for an impending interview, I decided to risk taking the edge off his day and asked him, "Does RISC OS 5 aspire to have the features of RISC OS 4.39?"

I don't doubt that this touched a nerve but he fielded it very well. The gist of the situation, to me, is that Castle are successfully pursuing some options that will, as a company, make them extremely successful. They care about the RISC OS desktop market, and success elsewhere will, and is, feeding back into development of the Iyonix. Development of RISC OS 5 along 'Select', and now 'Adjust', lines is emotionally desirable, but realistic business objectives and priorities lessen what could otherwise be done in the short term. As ever, however, Castle are unwilling to talk about future products or enhancements before they are brought to market. Pushing a little more, Jack clearly feels regret that RISCOS Ltd are hanging onto their expertise beyond what Castle perceive to be sound business sense. However, in true sparring tradition I had noticed on RISCOS Ltd's show hand out the statement that, "RISCOS Ltd is committed to making the new features of Select available to all RISC OS users but it also requires the co-operation and support of the hardware manufacturers." I think there are a few awkward personality and emotional issues between Castle and RISCOS Ltd and both feel defensive about their position when challenged. I asked Jack if sensible and sound business issues were perhaps now also dragging the two companies in different directions. My impression was that he thought this was now the case, although changing fortunes and market circumstances could easily reverse the situation in the future.

I have to say that I like both Jack Lillingston and Paul Middleton, and enormously respect their achievements over the last couple of years. I asked my questions from the perspective of one who likes and supports both prongs of the RISC OS fork, and who is not ever going to take sides.

Moving on to a happier topic, Jack commented that before long, a billion ARM processors will be filling the world, all with what he termed an ARM core, and then with a variety of various other building blocks built into the actual processor chip, tailoring the various members of the ARM family to various applications. As a developmental tool, the Iyonix is therefore currently selling to interested parties as a "raft". The potential markets in the East are vast and wide open, and Castle needs to capture just a small percentage of these to experience massive growth.

I concluded my talk with Jack by remarking how sad it was that RISC OS was no longer mainstream in the country's schools. With a friendly wink he told me that when they had the right product, at the right price, they'd be back. I replied that I looked forward to that happy day.

Qercus theatre presentation
John CartmellOur next performer was John Cartmell, ex-teacher and purchaser and editor of RISC OS magazines, and a passionate believer in the RISC OS community and its ability to continue to survive and grow over the coming year. His manner of delivery was very different to Jack's efficient managerial style; much more slow, careful, and even a little pedantic. Teachers; they think we're all thick, don't they?

Qercus is behind schedule but is back from the printers in time for the show: our shiny new flagship RISC OS magazine. John held a copy up in front of him as he talked, which was too good a photographic opportunity to miss; the proud father with his newborn. It's quality he's after, with well written articles, colour, not too many adverts and none that are not RISC OS linked. John talked us through the first issue, and what was coming in the next. He explained, with good humour, the tortuous process that he'd had to go through to finally wrestle Acorn User from Steve Turnbull's grasp. He has had to cope with inheriting a lot of Tau Press' inefficiency, not least of which was a poorly maintained subscriber database. With a smile, he told us how one lucky subscriber in Holland had received four copies of the last issue of Acorn User. Others (including John himself) received none. Some returned the extra issues and, from their honesty, John has managed to get a copy off to those who had missed out.

John asked the rhetorical question, "Why had the 'u' been missed out of 'Qercus'?". A wag from the back quipped that he thought it was because it was 'you' (i.e. the readers and contributors) that were required to complete it. John countered that in English, a 'q' was always followed by a 'u', the 'u' was redundant and therefore you could miss it out because people knew is was always there. An original piece of logical thinking, that.

John, obviously, wants Qercus to be the medium that binds the RISC OS community together, and his talk was, in part, a chance to encourage current subscribers to draw others in. He announced an offer; any new subscription that is taken out that names an existing subscriber as the reason will cause the introducing subscriber to gain a credit of one free issue added to their subscription. The mathematically astute in the audience quickly worked out that by recruiting 13 new subscribers a year they would receive Qercus free indefinitely. Pyramid selling - nice one, John.

A subscriber asked on what machine Qercus was produced. Surprisingly, the answer was not an Iyonix. A RiscPC and an A6 was the combination John favoured, mainly because of the varied and often downright weird formats that contributors chose to send him material in. As an A6 owner myself, I wasn't surprised by his choice, but thought it brave of him to come clean to an audience of passionate RISC OS devotes who, inevitably, and rightly, see the Iyonix as the true enthusiasts' machine. Like me, another member of his family needs a WindowsXP machine, and it's a way an keeping them happy whilst still holding on to some credibility.

John concluded by placing three stacks of old Acorn Publisher magazines on the front desk and invited all present to take up to three, free. Again, the talk concluded with a round of applause and the atmosphere was definitely warm, supportive and positive.

RISCOS Ltd. theatre presentation
Paul MiddletonWith only a brief interlude to let the queue of people waiting outside to enter, the final talk of the day, from Paul Middleton (pictured) of RISCOS Ltd, got under way. Whereas Jack and John had been wearing Iyonix blue shirts, Paul was all in black. Again, this was a well prepared presentation, with a colour A4 handout on the new RISC OS 4.39 ROMs being circulated to a curious audience. These 'Adjust' ROMs, slightly to my disappointment, where not available to buy at the show but Paul began by explaining that the software development, although done, was being beta tested for a further two weeks, and the release would take place at the end of March. Obviously, with any ROM release, the code has got to be perfect, not least, Paul explained, because Acorn had not designed into the RiscPC motherboard any means of reprogramming a Flash ROM by the RiscPC itself.

As the talk got underway, it occurred to me that, once again, we had a speaker before us with a unique style and personality. Direct, outspoken, and with little thought of what is politically correct, Paul tells it like it is, from the RISCOS Ltd point of view. So, no 4.39 to see or buy but what he had brought along to show us was 4.38. This looked very cool, with a Macintosh Aqua style skin featuring prominently. Rounded buttons and radio icons featured the same look and although definitely RISC OS, it looked modern and tasteful. In some ways, a computers OS is a dull topic but Paul brought the subject alive and although he spoke quickly, he was clear and easy to follow. In Acorn's prime, 200 people worked on developing the OS, few of them having an overview of the whole system, most instead having only a detailed knowledge of the small piece in the jigsaw that they were working on. Although not modest, when Paul claimed that the few coders working on RISC OS now had a far better understanding of it than Acorn ever did, you believed him. RISCOS Ltd have done an extraordinary job of trawling through the RISC OS code, prizing apart the kernel into free standing modules and tracking down many of the more elusive bugs. An edited report of bug fixes was available to glance over; it ran to some sixteen A4 pages. The font size was small and there were no diagrams. It is only a bed time read for those of us in need of help to fall asleep.

The greatest number of problems had arisen from the toolbox module which had originally, allegedly, been thrown together by Acorn in a rush. In fact, sorting the mess out here was what had really put 4.39 behind schedule. It is a little creepy to know that so many bugs exist at the heart of RISC OS of old and on the code behind what I am currently typing this show report on. Paul admitted that a couple of known (to RISCOS Ltd) bugs still remained, that were rather to do with the original structuring of the OS kernel. Removing these would involve rewriting quite large chunks of the kernel which was not, realistically, a priority for the time being. Such honesty, knowing how writers of other OSes, most notoriously Microsoft, cover up their areas of weakness, strengthens one's belief in what is on offer. RISCOS Ltd, really come across as knowing what they are doing and 4.39 is a remarkable upgrade to a system, already noted for its stability and robustness. Apparently, the Flash ROMs used for RISC OS 4 originally caused some timing problems on some early RiscPCs, but 4.39 has eased off on the speeds it demands it be executed at and Paul seemed confident that the use of Flash ROM would not see these problems re-emerge.

New Features in the 4.39 OS
Although 4.39 deals with foundations, it also builds upon these, and there is a lot on offer in the 4MB 'Adjust' ROM to enhance the RISC OS computing experience. Quite aside from a modern look, the Paint application has been vastly improved and support for many foreign file types such as JPEGs and PNGs is now built in. Paul commented that when the GIF patents expire next year that format too will be added. This last comment made it rather clear that this ROM release is not the final version of Select. Indeed, Paul showed us how easy 4.39 had made it to softload future versions of Select from, for example, a CD or a network. With networking in mind, 4.39 includes AppleTalk, this enabling a networked computer to interrogate what is connected and available locally. No longer the painful process of manually telling your machine where to look for a server, printer, scanner, or zip drive. It asks around, receives replies and configures itself to present an expertly self set up machine to its operator.

When asked for a show of hands, around a third of the audience of about eighty subscribed to Select. So I was not surprised to hear that 78 of the first batch of 150 Flash ROMs were already spoken for by the time that Paul had left the RISCOS Ltd corner at the show to give his talk, with firm orders having been placed, and the money taken. Inevitably, but understandably, Paul's final message was that if you want an 'Adjust' ROM, it's in his interest and yours to place an order over the next couple of weeks.

Again, for the third time that day, a speaker was given a round of applause and a talk concluded with a real sense of big ambitions being realised, and the RISC OS market place being fuelled by yet another company that knows where they are going and how they are going to get there. I left the theatre with one hour left to whizz around the rest of the show.

Closing time
On the way out of the venue, I overheard someone talking about crop circles. It was, of course, Paul Vigay, who was buying an extra hard drive for his Iyonix with Linux pre-installed from fellow Drobe staffer, Peter Naulls. Paul informed me that his site on crop circles draws many visitors, who are subsequently introduced to RISC OS. He was consulted for the Hollywood film 'Signs', and had RiscStation had its portable available, he could have sold the producers five of them, such was the favourable impression they received when Paul talked them through RISC OS.

Paul then pointed out show organiser John Stonier to me so I wandered over to thank him for running the show. It was now 4.30pm and well past the published closing time. However, John was in a buoyant and positive mood. Another year, another successful show, and with numbers up a tiny fraction on the previous event. He commented that most stands had had a satisfactory take with more money being spent this year compared to last. He seemed remarkably relaxed for a chief organiser. He told me that the event ran like a well oiled machine. Even the charity stand, unpublicised and raising cash for Lukemia research, had just happened with folks bringing along stuff they no longer wanted and others pouncing on what they saw as absolute bargains. What I had exchanged my six gold coins for earlier would have cost a lot more even on ebay, plus there was no postage to pay.

As I left, my biggest regret was in not having found the time to carefully go around each of the show stalls. The double long car drive plus over three hours of lecture presentations was exhausting but it had been a most enlightening and informative day.

Links

Comments? News?

Previous: South West show aftermath
Next: South West show photos

Discussion

Viewing threaded comments | View comments unthreaded, listed by date | Skip to the end

I hope you will be putting a review of the new machine on drobe. A comparison with the A6 would be very interesting.

 is a RISC OS Usermarkee174 on 1/3/04 7:55AM
[ Reply | Permalink | Report ]

A very nice report on the show presentations thank you Martin.

It was particually interesting to hear the thoughts and reasoning that where behind the choice of alternative case for the Iyonix.

In particular it is reassuring that the case was selected for sound practical and business reasons rather than just selecting the one that looked "coolest" which seemed to have been what some commenters wished for ;-)

 is a RISC OS Uservshears on 1/3/04 9:04AM
[ Reply | Permalink | Report ]

What an excellent article! Very well done. (Not that the usual articles aren't great but maybe this one just has more good news in it :)

 is a RISC OS Userjohn on 1/3/04 11:33AM
[ Reply | Permalink | Report ]

John Cartmell asked me to post the following:

At the SW Show John commented that he was thinking of purchasing an A6 because his daughter may very well need to use a Windows machine as part of her employment. He said that with an A6 in the home network some of the magazine preparation may well be done with the A6 because of the speed increase over his current StrongARM RiscPC; this is what had been done as part of the review of the A6 and it proved particularly useful with certain graphics-intensive pages. He mentioned its use with the David Cowell article.

John also confirmed that, if he were to *upgrade* from his RiscPC it would be to an Iyonix and said that such an upgrade hadn't been possible until recently because of the wide variety of applications that need to be used to deal with files from contributors.

Since taking over Acorn Publisher every issue of that magazine has been produced by Finnybank on a StrongARM RiscPC. With the take over of Acorn User that magazine, and Qercus, will be prepared entirely on RISC OS computers and mostly, if not entirely, on RISC OS-on-ARM computers. In the case of Acorn User that is a radical step in the right direction.

Note: for some time Tau Press produced Acorn User on Macs. We don't think that's a good advert and Finnybank will be disappointed if they don't produce a better product using RISC OS.

 is a RISC OS UserCol1 on 1/3/04 12:15PM
[ Reply | Permalink | Report ]

John was grilled by the audience over this (I actually asked him the question directly) and he was quite open about it all. He has an A6 because he was given one for review (and joked he would only keep it if he got a good price on a now second-hand machine).

His reasons for having it were his daughter had to access certain Windows software. He personally found it faster for RISC OS image manipulation than his RISC PC.

He was very clear on his personal desire not to have to use Windows if possible. Indeed he explained his enthusiasm for supporting RISC OS arises partly from the selfish desire for a RISC OS market to continue so he can carry on using it.

I don't think there was any doubt in the audience about John's motives.

 is a RISC OS Usermarkee174 on 1/3/04 12:53PM
[ Reply | Permalink | Report ]

[link] : "The U.S. LZW patent expires June 20, 2003, the counterpart Canadian patent expires July 7, 2004, the counterpart patents in the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Italy expire June 18, 2004, and the Japanese counterpart patents expire June 20, 2004." It expires *this* year.

 is a RISC OS Usernunfetishist on 1/3/04 3:52PM
[ Reply | Permalink | Report ]

This is a well-written article which I enjoyed reading.

However, I do think we should ask ourselves just how remarkable some of these things really are. There is nothing particularly unusual about any of the feats described in the section on the Iyonix, for example. Compared to a SARPC or something I suppose these might seem amazing, but compared to an equal amount of money spent on a modern PC or Mac there's nothing special about them at all. Equally, automatically detecting MDI / MDIX and transferring a file from one computer to another is hardly a ground-breaking development.

I do feel sometimes that we delude ourselves that these tasks can only be done this well on an Iyonix / RPC / whatever, when the reality is that any modern computer can do them very well. Often, we pay a premium for a system that is in reality no more capable that many others that cost much less.

We don't buy RISC OS systems because they're better, we buy them because we like them better, and this a crucial point. I think sometimes we feel we have something to prove and have to justify our choice by saying that it's better, when actually the fact that we happen to like it is justification enough.

 is a RISC OS Usergw0udm on 1/3/04 4:15PM
[ Reply | Permalink | Report ]

In reply to gw0udm:

Personally I like RiscOS better because of the freedom it offers me to do particular tasks. A lot of mickeysoft products are fine *if* you like to do things the mickeysoft way. If you want more choice and more individuality, use RISC OS.

 is a RISC OS UserCol1 on 1/3/04 4:36PM
[ Reply | Permalink | Report ]

I find it's usually the case that if something can be done on RISC OS it's usually more pleasant to do so. I did, doubtless to the horror of some here, buy a Windows laptop and Virtual RPC, and very handy it has been too, but I'm certainly not finding myself moving over to using Windows in situations where I could use RISC OS. I don't think John can be criticised over what computers he uses. He always sounds as supportive of RISC OS as anyone I've met.

 is a RISC OS UserSimonC on 1/3/04 5:04PM
[ Reply | Permalink | Report ]

Col1:

I agree that Microsoft products can force you to do things in a particular way, but (for example) using a PC you don't have to use them if you don't want to. Numerous people are proud of having a 'Microsoft free' system. Purely numerically speaking in terms of available OS and software choices etc there is a great deal more choice on the x86 platform.

Again, the point I'm making I suppose is that we shouldn't be afraid to say "we use it because we like it".

 is a RISC OS Usergw0udm on 1/3/04 6:07PM
[ Reply | Permalink | Report ]

a) Nice article. Thanks very much; I almost feel as if I was there. Getting there from Canada would have been quite expensive...

b) Please, somebody find a way to merge Castle & Select/Adjust/ROL/whatever soon. It really pains me to see this split.

c) Sometimes you have to use a non-RISC OS machine. I'm writing this on a new HP zt3000 laptop becasue I only have wireless net right now and I don't have wireless access on my Iyo. In the few days of becoming reacquainted with windoze (after nearly seven years without touching it) it has been amazing to find just how unpleasant it still is. Yes, this 1.7GHz machine is faster on Squeak benchmarks but it certainly couldn't be considered faster for email, web, blah blah. Nice screen & kbd though.... Then again, the frequent auto-reboots, intrusive install process for any new software, ugly UI etc really grate.

 is a RISC OS Userrowledge on 1/3/04 7:06PM
[ Reply | Permalink | Report ]

rowledge:

there are wireless access points that you can use with the iyonix

& I get the p*ss taken out of me at work all the time when I start on the "all I want to do is just *put* *this* *file* here..."!

crappy OS's :rolleyes:

 is a RISC OS Userepistaxsis@work on 1/3/04 8:44PM
[ Reply | Permalink | Report ]

>there are wireless access points that you can use with the iyonix Oh sure - but the price is unnacceptable right now. $60-80 plus shipping and tax plus translate to CDN$. Hopefully next week I get some wired access as well anyway...

 is a RISC OS Userrowledge on 1/3/04 10:23PM
[ Reply | Permalink | Report ]

For those of us who like QANTAS QERCUS is just fine!

 is a RISC OS Userpipalya on 1/3/04 11:32PM
[ Reply | Permalink | Report ]

Very impressive article. That's the quality we want to have with Quercus!

 is a RISC OS UserGollum on 2/3/04 12:32AM
[ Reply | Permalink | Report ]

In reply to Gollum:

I agree a good article, and yes you *can* expect such quality from Qercus, and better!!! :)

 is a RISC OS UserCol1 on 2/3/04 8:43AM
[ Reply | Permalink | Report ]

Taking the p*** out of M$ with OS's like 95,98,2000 etc is OK but I think we shoot ourselves in the foot big time if we try to do the same with XP. It has its faults but oh boy does it do the job for the those people who only want to <strong>use</strong> a computer to do tasks (i.e. my kids). Yes it holds your hand and "persuades" you to do things a certain way but that's exactly what a pure user needs ! You can always work around the persuasive techniques. What is a big shame is that RISC OS could very easily have both the nice simple front ends as well as the ability to open itself up for the enthusiasts. In most cases a graphic designer is all that is needed. I'm sure a ROS solution would be far far better and more intuative than the awful start menu on windows (NB I include the newer XP style in the criticism).

Anyone used Nero on an XP ? It's <strong>not</strong> Microsoft and it provides a very very neat interface to all those multimedia tasks some of which are possible but oh so awkward on RISC OS unless you know what you are doing. Again a nero style user interface is not difficult after all it's only an application launcher with slick graphics.

As well as the OS we have quite a few applications that do the job much better than PC's but are badly in need of a facelift. Again a lot of this is just an improved sprites file and templates file. Personally I think "skins" for everything is needed.

 is a RISC OS Usermripley on 2/3/04 9:05AM
[ Reply | Permalink | Report ]

Application development is far and away the most important for RISC OS. Java anyone?

 is a RISC OS Userblahsnr on 2/3/04 10:23AM
[ Reply | Permalink | Report ]

mripley: I can't see how XP is any different from any of the other versions of windows in usability (or stability for that matter). Any version of windows if set up properly is fine for basic tasks, it's just clumsy doing several at once.

Totally agree on the skins business - my systems are all skinned with the MacOSX style skin clear.

 is a RISC OS Userjess on 2/3/04 11:53AM
[ Reply | Permalink | Report ]

Whenever a programmer thinks, "Hey, skins, what a cool idea", their computer's speakers should create some sort of knife-shaped soundwave and plunge it repeatedly through their skulls (editted for taste)

Wizards: Do most people not want to bother learning how to do things and prefer to spend their life clicking "next"?

To start the car, click Next. To accellerate, click Next. Please choose your next option: Left, Right, Break.

/me shields eyes from burnage

The point is, do you learn to do something well, quickly, efficiently, powerfully, or do you just click Next a lot.

 is a RISC OS Usermavhc on 2/3/04 3:41PM
[ Reply | Permalink | Report ]

I think we should distinguish between skins and themes. "Skins" usually refers to individual apps changing how they look independent of anything else; this is usually a Bad Thing. "Themes" usually refers to system-wide changes in appearance (window furniture, scrollbars, buttons etc.) and can be a Very Good Thing. What RO needs is better themes; we've already got a good themes manager!

 is a RISC OS Userjohnpettigrew on 2/3/04 4:41PM
[ Reply | Permalink | Report ]

"In Acorn's prime, 200 people worked on developing the OS"

More likely 200 people worked at Acorn in its prime. RISC OS hasn't *really* changed since RISC OS 2, I mean it's still inherently a single tasking OS (you can't multitask outside the desktop - that's on par with DOS 6.2 / Win 3.1!).

 is a RISC OS UserSpick on 2/3/04 9:28PM
[ Reply | Permalink | Report ]

"RISC OS hasn't really changed since RISC OS 2"

Has Windows/Linux/Mac or anything really changed? Still built around essentially 1970s technology...

 is a RISC OS Usermarkee174 on 3/3/04 8:54AM
[ Reply | Permalink | Report ]

why are "skins" a bad thing ? If you don't like them don't use them, simple. But to deny it to others because of your own personal preferences is definitely a bad thing. If we want RISC OS to expand then we have to accommodate users choice in order to compete with the look and feel of XP. People spend 50 on a pair of jeans instead of 5 and the only difference is a label. Personally I think the likes of Castle would love to have people like that spending money on computers if all they need to do is add a "label/skin" to a few applications. It's money for nothing.

Mavhc, most people haven't a ......... clue about computers nor where jeans are made ! but collectively they spend far more money than a handful of enthusiasts or people who learn about their computers. There are also a number of people who have the ability to learn but choose not to and wish to use their computer as a tool. Microsoft understand this and they get away with bug ridden code and awkward ways of working because they pamper to the feel good factor. The RISC OS market can do both, pamper and do it right. In doing so we all benefit.

 is a RISC OS Usermripley on 3/3/04 9:06AM
[ Reply | Permalink | Report ]

markee174 Yup WindowsXP is based on NT which came from the work MS did for IBM on OS2 (late 80's IIRC).

MacOSX is basically a flavour of UNIX with a 'Mac GUI' over the top. The last of the 'Mac based' MacOS was MacOS9.x. If you want to be pedantic UNIX has its roots in the late 1960's.

The age of an operating system does not necessarily define how well structured it is or what features it provides. Don't forget that the Sinclair QL had a multitasking OS in the mid 80's.

Perhaps useful to remember that the OS and the GUI are separate things (on a functional level although sometimes difficult to seperate on a technical one) and should not be confused, particularly in such discussions as here.

 is a RISC OS Userblahsnr on 3/3/04 9:15AM
[ Reply | Permalink | Report ]

Mac OS X is based on BSD and goes back to NextStep. I was essentially querying the word "really" and "change". Adding new features does not necessarily produce a better product and new versions can introduce some new features. I have just spent 2 weeks changing some Java code because Sun have broken the way Java handles TrueType fonts in Java 1.4.2

 is a RISC OS Usermarkee174 on 3/3/04 9:39AM
[ Reply | Permalink | Report ]

This is the most interesting drobe article I've read for a long time :)

 is a RISC OS UserHertzsprung on 3/3/04 11:47AM
[ Reply | Permalink | Report ]

> There are also a number of people who have the ability to learn but choose not to and wish to use their computer as a tool And that's my point, you can't use a tool properly without learning how to use it.

With an effictive UI and a short amount of training this is simple, obvious and much better.

 is a RISC OS Usermavhc on 3/3/04 12:55PM
[ Reply | Permalink | Report ]

markee174: "Has Windows/Linux/Mac or anything really changed? Still built around essentially 1970s technology..."

Actually, Windows has changed quite a bit over the past decade. Windows XP, 2000, NT all have technological heritage from grown-up operating systems, whereas Windows 98, 95 and earlier were based on DOS. Mac OS X is based on a microkernel and BSD UNIX, whereas Mac OS 9 and earlier were microcomputer operating systems dating back to the early 1980s. Linux has been a proper multitasking kernel from the start, but observe the increasing attention and capabilities of GNU/Linux from its conception up to the present day.

Sure, recent versions of all the mentioned operating systems reuse a lot of work from the 1970s and earlier, but just because we're living in the 21st century doesn't mean that it isn't relevant work. What happened in the 1980s is that microcomputer designers had to make some major compromises and this affected the capabilities of operating systems available for them. For a good ten years, we've seen computers that have outgrown such restrictions, and the compromises aren't as relevant today.

Windows and Mac OS have changed to adapt; RISC OS never did. This lack of adaptation is a crucial reason why RISC OS isn't regarded as a primary platform for most users and developers these days.

 is a RISC OS Userguestx on 3/3/04 1:47PM
[ Reply | Permalink | Report ]

guestx: "This lack of adaptation is a crucial reason why RISC OS isn't regarded as a primary platform for most users and developers these days."

Sorry to question accepted wisdom, but actually it's a reason that was of little or no relevance to most of the users concerned.

The majority of NeXTstep users (with certain important exceptions...) moved onto Windows 95, 98 or even 3.11 platforms, and the fact that they were moving from a microkernel to a DOS-based operating system probably wasn't the uppermost thing in their minds at the time. Equally, desktop Acorn users who left the platform after the demise of Acorn, were probably not moving to NT 4 as their desktop OS.

In both cases, the users concerned were moving for reasons of features, support and supportability, not underlying technical aspects of the operating system concerned.

dgs

 is a RISC OS Userdgs on 3/3/04 2:23PM
[ Reply | Permalink | Report ]

In reply to guestx:

Apple had to abandon its update to Mac OS 9 (Rhapsody) and effectively put the MAC OS on top of NextSteps Darwin core. NT and XP were rewrites of Windows but were arguably based on VMS (and indeed Microsoft used lots of VMS specialists to do it). Nothing has really changed. The 2 really interesting OS projects in the 1990s (Acorn's Gallileo and BEOS) never fully made it.

 is a RISC OS Usermarkee174 on 03/03/04 5:22PM
[ Reply | Permalink | Report ]

dgs: "In both cases, the users concerned were moving for reasons of features, support and supportability, not underlying technical aspects of the operating system concerned."

I did say "a crucial reason" rather than "the crucial reason", but agreed: if you have an operating system based on DOS which then has a ton of support libraries for doing GUIs, threading and the like, then the availability of such stuff, no matter how nastily it's done, overcomes the limitations of the underlying platform; this makes the platform easier for people to develop for and delivers a potentially better user experience as more and nicer stuff is made for the platform. I bet Netscape 1.x and successors could have run on RISC OS, too, had there been library support to make the porting bearable.

Another factor is price, availability and hardware support - moving off NeXT or RISC OS hardware onto something moderately inexpensive almost always involved generic Intel-based PC kit, and until Microsoft made the big push into the "consumer market" with their NT-based operating systems, there wasn't that much available kit for that market running NT. That said, NT4 and successors have been available on laptops for years, but I suppose the "consumer market" demanded pretty icons rather than the improved stability that those operating systems offered.

markee174: "Apple had to abandon its update to Mac OS 9 (Rhapsody) and effectively put the MAC OS on top of NextSteps Darwin core."

A pragmatic business decision and, for once, a sensible one from Steve Jobs (disregarding the confusion around Rhapsody, which was derived from NeXTStep as well - you're thinking of Copland which probably deserves a vapourware status comparable to Galileo). I still don't get the claim that "nothing has really changed", though, when all evidence suggests that everything apart from RISC OS has.

 is a RISC OS Userguestx on 04/03/04 11:50AM
[ Reply | Permalink | Report ]

I actually agree with dgs - most users are not bothered about the underlying features of the operating system. After all, many people stuck with MSDOS and crude versions of Windows for years when much more advanced options were available.

I venture to suggest that the things that matter are

1. Will it do what I want? 2. Can I afford it? 3. Will I be able to use it? 4. Can I get support when things get sticky? 5. Is it compatible with my work computer/friends etc. computers

Oh, and possibly "Is it easy to find and available to buy locally"?

"Does it look pretty?", and "How easy is software development?" are a lot further down the list for most users. I suggest that things like "what sort of multitasking does it have", and "does it have proper drag and drop" are even lower down the list.

The problems we have to address to attract more people to RISC OS are I believe primarily the five I list above. I think Windows has an advantage over RISC OS for most people in all except Item 3, and even with that one we have the problem that people will prefer something familiar, that maybe they have used at work, to something they know little about, even though it is claimed to be easier to use.

Item 1 is indirectly related to ease of software development of course, since a good development environment encourages the writing od new software for the platform. That is one that Microsoft got right!

Item 2, cost, appears to be another Windows win (whether it really is is another matter, but that's how it is perceived). And with the advantage that the size of the market gives them, Windows systems jolly well ought to be cheaper and better value for money.

And no matter how good the support is from suppliers in the RISC OS market, and in my experience it is usually very good, and from other users via the internet, if I have a problem with Windows I can ask any number of friends and colleagues, and there are any number of local computer shops, all of which may be able to help me. Most of these people will have never heard of RISC OS, so for that kind of support a RISC OS user is on his own.

I suggest that we will therefore not attract mass market users whilst this situation is as it is. RISC OS needs to attack these issues first, IMO, if we are to gain more market penetration.

Now, time for a bit of self-examination. Why do some of us prefer RISC OS despite these disadvantages? It must be that we have a different set of priorities. Anybody care to try to list them? I think for me it comes down to things like (in no particular order)

1. A love of innovation and elegant technology 2. Dislike of Microsoft/big business/monoplies 3. Grew up with Acorn, like RISC OS, (possibly tried Windows and didn't like it). 4. A desire to be different.

Not things that will concern most people who just want a computer to use I think!

 is a RISC OS Usermrtd on 04/03/04 1:29PM
[ Reply | Permalink | Report ]

mrtd: ""Does it look pretty?", and "How easy is software development?" are a lot further down the list for most users. I suggest that things like "what sort of multitasking does it have", and "does it have proper drag and drop" are even lower down the list."

As you admit later on, those factors have an indirect effect on the decision-making process. Moreover, as developers, these are factors that Acorn's successors have exclusive control over - they can't as easily influence the market at large or which friends you choose to keep. ;-)

mrtd: "1. A love of innovation and elegant technology 2. Dislike of Microsoft/big business/monoplies 3. Grew up with Acorn, like RISC OS, (possibly tried Windows and didn't like it). 4. A desire to be different."

(1) Whilst some new developments are making RISC OS machines more attractive, I'd hardly consider the RISC OS scene a hotbed of innovation. (2) I dislike Microsoft, too, but somewhere along the line you'll have to buy something produced by some big company. (3) RISC OS was nice in its time, but it's good to see what else is out there. (4) Computing platform is one of many lifestyle choices available to the modern individual. ;-)

 is a RISC OS Userguestx on 04/03/04 5:53PM
[ Reply | Permalink | Report ]

To MRTD: I'd agree with your four 'pro' points, though not necessarily in that order. I'd add 'ease of use' as well, although this ties into point 3 also. I thought as I became more familiar with NT and various Mac OS versions over the years that I would use RO less, but I find the reverse to be the case. That said, I'm in a minority of one here: my wife and eldest son both prefer Windows - it does what they /expect/ a computer to do, never mind that that might not be the most intuitive/elegant behaviour. Younger son is studying graphic design and moved from Artworks on the RPC to Mac OSX on an iMac. The thing that worries me is not RO so much as the pace and direction of ARM chip development. We are already at a point where, if the various nudges and winks are to be believed, the higher spec Win-RO hybrids are giving the Iyonix a run for its money for speed in real-world tasks; no doubt further tweaking of VRPC and speed increases on the PC side will tip the balance further away from the Iyonix. Hardly surprising when you're comparing a superscalar 3Ghz chip with a 0.6Ghz single-instruction per cycle one (don't know the technical term). It will become increasingly difficult to persuade people like me to spend twice as much money on an ARM based RO machine if it is actually less capable than equivalent hybrids. I know we shouldn't play these clock-speed games, but getting above the 1Ghz level with native machinery before mid-year is important for a number of reasons IMHO: or radically reducing the price level of the Iyonix...

George

 is a RISC OS Userbucksboy on 04/03/04 6:10PM
[ Reply | Permalink | Report ]

Having never used a VRPC machine I am probably talking rubbish, but I suspect that even on a 3GHz PC, VRPC will feel slower than an Iyonix. My 2GHz PC running Win 2K at work certainly is less snappy in response to the user than the Iyonix and RO5. So assuming that Windows needs a factor of 10 advantage in processor speed to achieve the same responsiveness as RO, one would expect RO running under Windows to be even less responsive than the native Windows on the same hardware. Obviously benchmarks will run faster on the more powerful processor, but the subjective "feel" of the user interface is another matter. And of course the advantage I didn't mention above, RO's relative freedom from viruses, is lost when running VRPC (although you will not be vulnerable to PC email viruses if you use a RO rather than a Windows email client).

Martin

 is a RISC OS Usermrtd on 05/03/04 08:55AM
[ Reply | Permalink | Report ]

mrtd: "Having never used a VRPC machine I am probably talking rubbish, but I suspect that even on a 3GHz PC, VRPC will feel slower than an Iyonix. My 2GHz PC running Win 2K at work certainly is less snappy in response to the user than the Iyonix and RO5. So assuming that Windows needs a factor of 10 advantage in processor speed to achieve the same responsiveness as RO..."

I'm not sure whether you're hinting that having Windows underneath VRPC will significantly slow VRPC down, but one thing that I'm surprised the "hybrid" vendors haven't investigated (in conjunction with VirtualAcorn, obviously) is the porting of the application to OpenDOS or something like that. It sounds ridiculous, but I'd imagine that most PC vendors still support DOS variants in various ways, if only for diagnostic purposes. However, I can imagine that driver availability for DOS variants could be a problem.

The usage of a GNU/Linux distribution with direct framebuffer access is certainly another way to cut out any such overhead and avoid Windows licensing, and some of the Shuttle boxes that seem to be in use as "hybrids" do have fairly decent Linux support. But then VRPC's dependence on Microsoft APIs would need to be cut.

 is a RISC OS Userguestx on 05/03/04 12:00AM
[ Reply | Permalink | Report ]

In reply to Guest X:

Of course running under Windows RISC OS is significantly slowed down. That is why it can only claim the performance of a RPC despite a factor of 10 advantage in processor speed. But how much of this is due to the emulator, and how much do to the overhead of runnin under Windows is not clear. What I am really saying is that with VRPC running under Windows, it cannot be expected to perform any better than any other Windows app (although it is possible that some Windows apps are less efficiently coded than VRPC, and this will obviously affect the perceived performance). So the response of RISC OS under VRPC is limited by the performance of Windows as well as by that of the emulator. Since the response of native RISC OS on an Iyonix appears better than that of native Windows, once suspects that it would take about a 6GHz processor before the responsiveness of VRPC will match that of the Iyonix. Clearly the choice of the Windows platform for the emulator will suit those who also want to run Windows, as they can easily switch between RO and Windows without having to reboot the machine. Many might argue that the convenience of this outweights the (unquantified) gain in performace that would be achived by running a RO emulator under some other base operating system. In fact I doubt that there would be any advantage is that OS was Linux, but something more lightweight might make a difference. And as you say, porting VRPC to another OS would not be a trivial task.

 is a RISC OS Usermrtd on 05/03/04 1:15PM
[ Reply | Permalink | Report ]

In reply to Guest X:

Of course running under Windows RISC OS is significantly slowed down. That is why it can only claim the performance of a RPC despite a factor of 10 advantage in processor speed. But how much of this is due to the emulator, and how much do to the overhead of runnin under Windows is not clear. What I am really saying is that with VRPC running under Windows, it cannot be expected to perform any better than any other Windows app (although it is possible that some Windows apps are less efficiently coded than VRPC, and this will obviously affect the perceived performance). So the response of RISC OS under VRPC is limited by the performance of Windows as well as by that of the emulator. Since the response of native RISC OS on an Iyonix appears better than that of native Windows, once suspects that it would take about a 6GHz processor before the responsiveness of VRPC will match that of the Iyonix. Clearly the choice of the Windows platform for the emulator will suit those who also want to run Windows, as they can easily switch between RO and Windows without having to reboot the machine. Many might argue that the convenience of this outweights the (unquantified) gain in performace that would be achived by running a RO emulator under some other base operating system. In fact I doubt that there would be any advantage is that OS was Linux, but something more lightweight might make a difference. And as you say, porting VRPC to another OS would not be a trivial task.

 is a RISC OS Usermrtd on 05/03/04 1:15PM
[ Reply | Permalink | Report ]

In reply to Martin: I take your point about Windows (and by extension VRPC's) lack of responsiveness, but none of the evaluations of the hybrids I've read mention this as being a problem. The impression I certainly got was of general speed well in excess of a well-specced RPC.

 is a RISC OS Userbucksboy on 05/03/04 6:24PM
[ Reply | Permalink | Report ]

In Reply to George:

Yes, that is what I expected. There is a factor of 10 difference in processor speed between the SARPC and a modern PC to achive the same responsiveness. I don't beleive this is a problem, perfectly usable AFAIK. But it has a way to go to catch up with the Iyonix.

 is a RISC OS Usermrtd on 05/03/04 8:59PM
[ Reply | Permalink | Report ]

Please login before posting a comment. Use the form on the right to do so or create a free account.

Search the archives

Today's featured article

  • CDs Available
    Drobe Special Projects
     2 comments, latest by piemmm on 21/10/03 12:23PM. Published: 23 Jul 2003

  • Random article

  • Software news
    Softease, Artworks, Lua and others
     30 comments, latest by jonix on 29/6/03 1:36PM. Published: 26 Jun 2003

  • Useful links

    News and media:
    IconbarMyRISCOSArcSiteRISCOScodeANSC.S.A.AnnounceArchiveQercusRiscWorldDrag'n'DropGAG-News

    Top developers:
    RISCOS LtdRISC OS OpenMW SoftwareR-CompAdvantage SixVirtualAcorn

    Dealers:
    CJE MicrosAPDLCastlea4X-AmpleLiquid SiliconWebmonster

    Usergroups:
    WROCCRONENKACCIRUGSASAUGROUGOLRONWUGMUGWAUGGAGRISCOS.be

    Useful:
    RISCOS.org.ukRISCOS.orgRISCOS.infoFilebaseChris Why's Acorn/RISC OS collectionNetSurf

    Non-RISC OS:
    The RegisterThe InquirerApple InsiderBBC NewsSky NewsGoogle Newsxkcddiodesign


    © 1999-2009 The Drobe Team. Some rights reserved, click here for more information
    Powered by MiniDrobeCMS, based on J4U | Statistics
    "RISC OS needs a frequently updated news site that has all the news, not just a carefully selected sample. Currently this simply isn't Drobe"
    Page generated in 0.449 seconds.