Wakefield show newsBy Chris Williams. Published: 10th May 2003, 06:26:43 | Permalink | Printable
[Updated 21:30 10/5/2003] Show report online
Quick show event log
- 6:30am - Select 3 and Virtual Acorn pact
- We've learnt early this morning that an agreement has been reached between Microdigital, Virtual Acorn and RISCOS Ltd. to steer RISC OS Select 3 onto PC based hardware via the Virtual Acorn emulator. The move sees RISC OS 4 officially emulated for the first time.
In addition to their Omega computers, Microdigital will be exhibiting an Intel Celeron powered laptop running Virtual Acorn's emulator software to run RISC OS Select 3. The laptop is said to emulate RISC OS 4.36 at the speed of a RiscPC.
- 3:00pm - Photos!
- Show photos by servermaster Ian are now online.
- 5:38pm - End of show news
- Right, fast and furious. Microdigital had no Omegas with them to ship, they're being sent out next week. The machines at the moment have no USB, no networking and the video is non-accelerated with some minor glitches although all these will be fixed "soon". Microdigital did have their Alpha machine with them, on their stand and dotted over the show on various developers' stands including RISCOS Ltd.'s. The Alpha machine is a 2GHz Celeron PC laptop and you can order one for a grand. They'll also be shipping next week too, according to Microdigital. The laptop is essentially a WinXP computer running Virtual RPC (written by the same guy who did Red Squirrel) and emulates an ARM 710 RPC system. The Alpha laptops across the show were running RISC OS 4.03 and 4.36. Microdigital also brought 3 racing bikes with them for their stand for some reason.
The busiest developer by far was MW Software, constantly having a long queue of people picking up copies of the new Artworks 2. We're told Tom Hughes of the ARM Club won the Omega prize draw - a great laugh broke out from the ARM Club crew when this was announced, now they can finally compare Microdigital's system with the Castle Iyonix.
The event was a positive affair and we were pleased to see many people turn out to the event and support the exhibiting developers and dealers. Punters filled the hall soon after the start of the show and concentrated mostly around the Castle, RISCOS Ltd., Microdigital and MW Software stands. Of course, RISC OS shows aren't just about picking up new kit and rifling through show offers - they're a great way to put faces to names and meet people. It was nice to bump into friends (pepperfish and irc crowds) and talk to developers who were taking a break from show visitors.
The show itself ran the course we'd all nearly predicted so forgive us if you've previously 'read all about it'. Where should we start? Here's the highlights.
Aemulor.com were located right next to Castle, how very fitting. Their Pro version of their 26 bit emulator isn't due to be released for a while as they hope to improve the emulation core further and add other features. Castle themselves had on show an Iyonix running Linux as well as various USB based goodies on other machines. They appeared to have no show surprises seeing as they'd already announced advances like UDMA100 and pop up printing beforehand. You can find the final part of our Iyonix review here, by the way. Castle's Jack Lillingston described Select 3 as "interesting" although technical director John Ballance was overheard telling punters that it's up to RISCOS Ltd. to make a 32 bit Select for the Iyonix.
Over on the other side of the show (in the blue corner), Microdigital were proudly showing off three racing bikes awkwardly placed in the way of their computers and no actual reason given as to why they were there but we were itching for a race between them and Ian's SmartCar - we know who'd win that, clearly. Behind the bikes were a collection of Omegas and an Alpha laptop out on demonstration. Omegas weren't available for people to take away from the show but Microdigital confidentally stated that they'll be posting the machines to deposit holding users next week. Naturally. Whether they'll fix the lack of USB drivers, lack of networking support and glitches in the video system in time for shipping is unknown, they hope to have these issues addressed "soon". However sound, PCI, UDMA133 and CD drive appear to be functional. The Omega Lightning video system is also non-accelerated for the moment. Microdigital appeared pretty casual in light of these problems, insisting it'll all get fixed at some point.
Microdigital's Dave Atkins told drobe.co.uk that, in his eyes, the Omega's sucess lies in its ability to be flexible and upgradable, suggesting that one particular rival's machine (you know who) isn't particularly upgradable and this is where Omega will make its move. Dave was also confidentally reliant on people sticking with their Omega orders despite other alternatives popping up.
But what about this Alpha laptop and my, what a glamorous, glossy booklet Microdigital had gone to the trouble of producing for it. For a grand, you could pick up from Microdigital a 2GHz Celeron powered PC system with 256MB DDR RAM, 64MB shared video memory, 13.3" TFT screen (1024x768x16M max), 15GB harddisc, 24 speed CD drive, 2 USB ports, 1 PS/2 and 1 ethernet port. All weighing in at 3.5Kgs and running WindowsXP and Virtual RiscPC (from Graeme "Red Squirrel/Virtual Acorn" Barnes) emulating an ARM 710 RiscPC over the top. The emulated RiscPC runs RISC OS Select 3 and the system is pretty responsive considering the emulation is aiming at the StrongARM level of speed. When faster than StrongARM? This almost surprise product release from Microdigital means they can push into the empty portable RISC OS market with a laptop offering and RISCOS Ltd. get more hardware to run RISC OS Select on.
When Virtual Acorn produced VA5000, a Windows based A5000 emulator kitted out with RISC OS 3.1, RISCOS Ltd. weren't all that keen on an emulated RISC OS. However the bad feelings may now have been swept under the carpet because seeing RISCOS Ltd. demonstrating on their stand today an Alpha portable running their new Select 3 OS indicates a clear approval of the device. It's not like it had a "Wanted: Alpha laptop running Select - dead or alive" poster nailed above it. Will Virtual RiscPC be available for just the Alpha laptop? That's what we'd like to know too. Assumption cap on now, we believe that the RISC OS Select and Virtual RiscPC supplied with an Alpha laptop is "locked down" to that particular machine and isn't transferable. Microdigital stressed again to us that they don't talk to the press much anymore but will be publishing information on the Alpha on their website very soon now.
"Soon", gotta love that word, so easy to use and means so much and so little at the same time. Orders taken for the Alpha laptop will ship within the week, we were informed. Developers, including RISCOS Ltd. and APDL, all have Alpha laptops for their own use, Microdigital's Dave Atkins told us.
RiscPCs and A7000s won't be used forever as users pine for faster, meatier alternatives and RISCOS Ltd. as a result of perhaps appreciating this, are keen to thrust their OS onto newer hardware, like say, the Omega. And they were exhibiting an Omega running RISC OS 4.36 on their stand so it's interesting to note that they have one. RISCOS Ltd. also had out on display another two RiscPCs running Select 3 and their RISC OS powered jukebox. Lots of fun playing with thumbnailing and iconborders.
R-Comp's typical poster and flyer wallpapered stand was lively, demonstrating WebsterXL (rendering iconbar.com of all things) and their network based remote control and printing software. The Unix Porting Project and IC software (on behalf of Alpha Programming) were also shifting many copies of their respective software. MW Software were enjoying a roaring trade of top vector graphics app Artworks 2, the queue from their stand envloping nearby Explan's. According to the Artworks 2 site, development of Artworks 2 was completed on the 7th of this month, the software CDs going to press on the 8th. On the other side of the hall, Cerilica's Simon Birtwistle was looking mildly fed up, the fabled Vantage 1.10 is due for imminent release however.
Following their announcement overdose this week, Stuart Tyrrell Developments had new USB based goodies on offer as well as classic eseentials like their PS2minimouse converter. Developer Jason Perry of Photodesk was showing off their new CameraDesk app that enables Canon USB cameras to be connected to RISC OS computers. We noticed camera fan and Foundation editor Richard Hallas making a bee line for that stand. Magazines Acorn Publisher and Acorn User had plenty of back issues out on display. And finally, the NetBSD stand had a marvellous motorised RiscPC drive bay flap, that could be controlled over a network.
Was it worth the visit? After so many show predictions and news, you had to turn up to see what was true and what wasn't.
"[Wakefield] was busy, companies were working together (Castle and ROL over popup printers), Microdigital and RISCOS Ltd. on laptop, and there seemed to a good choice of new machines and new options", drobe.co.uk reader Mark Stephens told us after the show. "Obviously nobody had told Martin Wuthner [of MW Software] there was no money to be made in the RISC OS market as he seemed to spend the day taking cheques from a queue of eager customers".
Castle and ROL? Yes, RISCOS Ltd. will be selling the pop up printers for 26 bit OS users. We're looking to the next show already.
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