RISC World

Editor's Corner

Aaron Timbrell's own bit of the magazine.

One word, Omega. This is the most important development in years. Not just because it gives customers hope for the future but because it gives everyone a good kick in the backside. A newer, faster, better computer is now just around the corner. This is great news for customers and great news for dealers and developers.

A new machine being delivered to a customer has a major knock on effect down the market. The customer gets a new machine, and to go with it they buy some goodies (software, hardware etc.). Often they then sell their old machine. The person who buys the older machine then goes out and spends some money on goodies as well. Suppose the owner of an Omega sells their Kinetic RISC PC to someone who has an older RISC PC with an ARM 710 processor. The person who had the 710 machine then sells that on to someone who had an A5000 or similar. You can see that one new machine results in three customers who have an improved computer and want new stuff to go with it.

So it's great for dealers and developers, but what about other computer manufacturers? We have four companies developing machines for the market, Castle, Microdigital, Millipede and RISCStation. Millipede's Imago board has been exciting the market for ages, but you still cannot buy one. Now the Omega is coming you may well make the same decision I have. I was going to place an order with Millipede as soon as the board was available, now I will just go and buy an Omega. The specifications seem to indicate that the Omega will be superior as well as cheaper. Would you buy on Imago board now the Omega has been announced?

The current top of the range computer is the Kinetic RISC PC. The Omega costs the same amount (£999.00 + VAT) but is much much faster and with far superior graphics. If Castle want to continue selling the RISC PC they will have to cut it's price quite drastically. Will Castle be able to do this? If they don't then they are going to need a new machine either as good as or better than the Omega and they are going to need it quickly.

RISCStation have sewn up the bottom end of the market with the R7500 and we know they are working on a new machine, the RISCStation Evolution. The up and coming portable will prove very very popular, and the new Osaris handheld is selling in large numbers.

Things are about to change dramatically. I wouldn't be at all surprised if the Omega forces the pace of development from all the manufacturers, and that can only be good for everyone. With the onset of the Omega the other manufacturers have a stark choice, either develop a newer faster machine themselves, or sell copies of the Big Issue.

Traditional Editors bit

Since we have a rather packed DiscWorld this month I suppose I ought to do a traditional editors type column. So it goes something like this.....biggest issue ever.......exclusive fully working TextEase Studio........exclusive fully working DrawWorks New Millennium.......Fonts......Clipart.......even more new computers........barometer of the market. Will that do?

Editors Rant of the month

This months rant is CDFS and the type of support problems it can attract. Yes that's right CDFS, the wonderful filing system that allows you to read CD-ROMs. However it isn't just any CDFS that is the object of my loathing, but CDFS supplied as part of RISC OS 4. Now I have to confess I do like RO4 a great deal, it is faster and superior to any previous version of RISC OS, apart from CDFS.

So why on earth single out CDFS for a bashing? Simple it causes us a lot of support headaches. To put it bluntly it's broken. Ah, but I hear you say "Well I've never had any trouble with it, everything works.....etc", well it may have worked on the CDs you have tried so far but sooner or later (and probably sooner) it will go wrong and give you some of its favourite error messages such as "Cannot read Audio discs" or the every popular "CD-ROM drive is empty" or indeed one of several others. At this point most people would ring the publisher of the software, or send them an e-mail. The publisher should then be able to point them towards the RISCOS Ltd website and the softoaded version of CDFS that can be used to fix the problem So far so good and for 99% of the support calls we get that would be the end of it. However just occasionally the customer doesn't seem to listen and I end up tearing my hair out.

Having got a problem the first thing the customer does is to return the CD without ringing (or e-mailing) first to see what the problem is. Ideally before returning to CD they use it test various types of sandpaper to ensure they are of the correct grade. Now they parcel up the CD (without the original jewel case as they can keep that) and then send it back with a snotty letter demanding a replacement.

We will of course test the CD (on a machine that works) and then find that even though it has been scratched almost beyond redemption it does still in fact work. We then return it, at our expense, with a new jewel case to prevent it getting damaged. Inside the case will be a letter highlighting the problem and suggesting a visit to RISCOS Ltds website.

Now the next bit is very important. The customer now ignores the letter and rings at 5.29 and 55 seconds just as we are about to close. Then they have a damn good complain whilst the chap on the other end of the phone (usually me) tries to explain that "yes I am sure the machine has worked up to now" but it won't work with this CD until they follow the instructions for dealing with the CDFS problems on the RISCOS Ltd website.

Having blatantly told the software developer that they think they are lying the customer then goes to the RISCOS Ltd website. The instructions they were given then somehow get lost between brain and mouse hand. So instead of downloading the CDFS driver, they install another copy of RISC OS 4 Patch 5. This of course does nothing to help the problem, so they complain again. Having been told what to do for a 2nd time the customer soft loads another copy of CDFS then checks the CD that was causing the fault. They then discover it works fine. Under no circumstances do they phone the software developer and apologise, or even say "thank you, I have followed your advice and it all works fine now".

This months rant is sponsored by Mr F from London.

Printing RISC World

The new look of RISC World means that when you want to print an article on your printer it will have the light yellow background. However most web browsers allow you to turn off the background images when printing. The example below shows the print dialogue box from Fresco.


As you can see the option "No Background" is ticked. If you want to print out any of the RISC World pages then make sure you have clicked a similar option in your browser.

Aaron Timbrell