RISC World


Insider on the RISC OS Select scheme...and more...

There was not going to be an Insider column this month, pressure of work and tight deadlines meant that I have little spare time. However the last couple of months have been interesting, for more than one reason.

The SELECT upgrade has now been available from the RISCOS Ltd website for a few weeks now, although it is only a beta some problems have emerged. The largest one as far as Insider is concerned is that Cerilica Vantage crashes on a machine with SELECT installed. Nick Van Der Walle and Paul Middleton are reported to have had a long winded discussion about this. The content and tone of the meeting have not be recored. I would suggest that users might want to make up their own minds after reading the following press release from Cerilica.

It has been brought to Cerilica's attention (through a posting on c.s.a.apps) that problems have arisen when running Cerilica Vantage on the Select scheme operating system upgrade. This has been in the form of an error message when attempting to type in text as well as, in one occasion, Vantage not operating at all.

Cerilica has contacted Paul Middleton, Managing Director of RISCOS Ltd about this issue and as a result the following statement has been produced with RISCOS Ltd's knowledge:
Cerilica is currently unable to support RISC OS Select. It is hoped that this situation will be reversed as and when a full and detailed update to the Acorn-published operating system Programmers Reference Manuals is produced by RISCOS Ltd. This release of information has been quoted as being "soon" by Paul Middleton. On the recommendation and previously declared statement from Paul Middleton, if users find problems in using the Select scheme on existing software, the option to revert the operating system back to 4.0X should be exercised (see Select scheme documentation for information).

Nicholas van der Walle, Marketing Director, Cerilica Limited.

So the SELECT scheme upgrade breaks one of the most important applications of the last few years. If RISCOS Ltd had bothered sending out Beta versions of SELECT to developers, before releasing it to customers this might have been avoided.

However, it is not just Cerilica who have had SELECT based problems, it seems that DrawWorks doesn't work either. (you know what he's right -ED) So the two most popular vector graphics packages won't work if you install the SELECT upgrade. Both Cerilica and APDL (who now distribute DrawWorks) seem to have the same problem. Without technical documentation from RISCOS Ltd getting software to work could well be a problem (not entirely true, I have an idea that may get DrawWorks running on SELECT, when I get time I will try it - ED).

Not only does the SELECT scheme break these two packages, but unless you have an older RISC PC or an A7000 derivative then the SELECT scheme won't even work! A number of customers who have Kinetic processors have ordered SELECT to run on their machines, making it crystal clear to RISCOS Ltd that they want SELECT to run on a Kinetic. The current download from the RISCOS Ltd website does not work on a Kinetic or a RISCStation, or indeed a Mico. Insider understands that RISCOS Ltd are working on this problem. An OS upgrade that only works on a computer over 18 months old, and that breaks two of the most used packages on RISC OS doesn't seem like much of a step forward in Insiders opinion. A quick news flash. Just as this article was going to press Insider had reports from users of Photodesk that suggest that SELECT makes some versions of Photodesk very unstable, at best, and at worse causes them to crash on loading.

Select isn't the only major operating system upgrade that was new for October. Windows XP was also let loose on un-suspecting customers, with some very similar problems. AOL, which is one of, if not the, most popular ISP for Windows machines, has its own bespoke software, and guess what, that doesn't work properly on Windows XP! (Another interruption from Aaron, AOL 6.0 does work as a stand alone package, but Windows doesn't "see" it as a valid Internet connection, hence downloads from the MicroSoft XP website are a right fiddle - ED).

Insider feels that although the SELECT scheme may well be a very good idea, it has been very poorly handled by RISCOS Ltd, and until problems such as these are sorted out users may well decide to vote with their wallets. Although it is worth noting that Microsoft with their massive budget haven't done much better. Perhaps RISCOS Ltd in fact did rather well, when you consider the relatively small sums they have to play with, then again perhaps not.

Castle Technology

After slumps in sales of new computers a hardware developer has to do something, in the case of Castle Technology it's to fire off a load of Nuerons. These new small motherboards, called Nueron, are based on the A7000+ chip set and are designed for embedded devices. However apart from the Castle/Cumana Slym all in one computer Insider hasn't found any evidence of their use anywhere else. A quick pop over to the Neuron website at may well reveal why, a hard drive transfer rate of 2MB a second, and up to 128MB of RAM doesn't set the world on fire, and hasn't done for a number of years now. Castle have also warned that supplies of the 300Mhz Kinetic card are running low, and users should upgrade as soon as possible. Perhaps Castle are running out of the Crystals needed to overclock the StrongARM processor, or perhaps having done so many their eyesite is failing.

Whither Millipede

Last issue Insider commented on the lack of progres from Millipede on the Imago board. Insider has now been told by a reliable source that the Imago project is now dead. Although the hardware seems to be fully completed and working, the software is not. The changes to RISC OS need to be written by RISCOS Ltd, this now seems as though it will not be happening. Another own goal for RISCOS Ltd? A quick check of the Millipede web site revealed, nothing, the site seems to have gone to be replaced by a holding page for some else, so that leaves the Omega as the only next generation computer.

MicroDigital Omega

Despite what was written in Acorn Publisher the Bracknell show came, and went, without any evidence of a MicroDigital Omega. However MicroDigital have been busy, re-designing their web site, though on a couple of occasions when Insider went for a quick look it seemed to be broken. Once the site was restored Insider could see that the Omega is now listed as a current product. On Wednesday the 7th of November the Omega was due to be unveiled to the Wakefield Acorn User Group. However at the last minute a personal crisis of some sort prevented MicroDigital attending......however.....we have it on very good authority that there is a very good chance that there will be an Omega on display at the Arm Club Midlands show in early December. After previous promises Insider is more than a little sceptical (Here is a quick way to check if there will be an Omega at Birmingham, see if I am there! - No Omega no me - oh look, I seem to be going - ED).

The Pace corner

Pace have been as busy as ever over the last couple of months, with the launch of the DTR500. This is one of the latest set top box designs, although for some reason Pace prefer it to be known as a "low-cost gateway unit", which sounds suspiciously like a mobile supermarket. Along with this new box came a WiFI, a wireless home networking system, that can link all sorts of devices using the DTR500 set top box, sorry "low-cost gateway unit", as a gateway.

The Sky+ set top box, sorry "Integrated Personal Televsion Recorder", has also been finally seen in the flesh, with a 40Gb hard drive, which equates to roughly 20 hours of recording time. Also included are two tuner modules, so a user can watch one program whilst recording another. However the OS for the machine isn't RISC OS, instead the machine has an NEC processor, running the OpenTV OS. Will we ever see another RISC OS device from Pace?

Acorn User

After my comments in the previous issue of RISC World it seems that more things are happening at TAU Press, the publisher of Acorn User. As you may recall TAU Press was started up by Steve Turnbull, who became the Managing Director. Later someone else came in as MD, and Steve seemed to be demoted to became editor of Acorn User. Now he has lost even that title and is now just an "consultant editor", the new man for the job is John Cartmell.

Insider wishes John Cartmell good fortune in his new role, Acorn User could do with new blood. Let us just hope that what appears to have happened to Steve Turnbull doesn't happen to John.

Acorn User Newsflash

Well on the very morning this issue of RISCWorld was going off to be duplicated a posting from John Cartmell has appeared on the newsgroups....

It is with regret that I have to announce that I will not, after all, be editing Acorn User magazine.
When it was announced that I would edit the magazine a group of us were at an advanced stage of negotiations with a director of Tau Press to purchase Acorn User magazine. We understood that it had been agreed that two of our group would work on the magazine for a limited time prior to purchase. Soon after the announcement was made it became clear that Tau Press no longer had any interest in such an agreement.They were no longer willing to sell the magazine.
In our opinion Acorn User has a future if substantial changes are made in addition to changes to its editorial content. We were prepared to make those changes but could do so only if we owned the magazine.
I have to apologise to a number of people: those who may have made a decision based on our changing Acorn User; those who may now feel they wasted their time in preparing ideas for me; those who spent time providing us with copy for our intended January issue of the magazine.
If anyone has provided ideas or copy to me at my demon address they should note that this may not have been received by the current Acorn User editor. I will forward such items if so instructed or they may choose to send them direct to I have supplied the Graphics and News columns for Acorn User (without payment) throughout the last year; in the present circumstances I am no longer willing to continue with that task.
We have put a great deal of thought and work into preparation of a rejuvenated Acorn User magazine and we are disappointed that we will be unable to put our ideas into practice. Thank you - all of you - who were supporting us in our venture.
John Cartmell

So the new blood at Acorn User is all over the carpet. TAU Press seem to have been losing friends at quite a rate recently, now Acorn User has few advertisers, falling sales and no editor. How long can the magazine last? Insider feels that by the time you read the next column an answer may well be available.