RISC World

Editor's Corner

Aaron Timbrells own bit of the magazine.

Well it's a slightly different editors bit this month, mainly because I haven't written a lot of it. In the last issue there was a comment in the Hugh Jampton column that was supposed to be about RISC OS Ltd, however due to laxity on my part it could have been interpreted as a comment about David Ruck. I am more than happy to apologise for this, we did not intend to cause any offence to David. Having printed the comment last time, (and it's been removed from this compilation CD), it's only fair for David to be allowed to reply.

I have recently been accused on having a blinkered "they can do no wrong attitude towards RISCOS Ltd" (although it was put a good deal less pleasantly than that, involving some impossible physical contortions). I'd like to put matters straight: My official relationship with the company is of a Select subscriber who has been offered the opportunity to alpha test some of the Select components, on the basis of my long history as an Acorn then ROL registered developer, and ARM Club technical support coordinator.. I have no other links either financially or contractually.

Unlike some on the newsgroups that see ROL as an easy target to criticise, "why haven't they done this?", "why don't they do that?", "are they trying to screw things up?", I don't find this useful, and have tried to put across some of the facts to answer these questions, such as pointing out the financial, contractual and human resource limitations they are under. These limitations mean it is not possible to do everything people want instantly - business doesn't work by pulling magic rabbits out of hats or having geese lay golden eggs, no matter how much people on newsgroup insist they should.

This does not mean that I always in agreement with RISCOS Ltd, far from it. I find the apparent clash of personalities between ROL and the Hardware makers unfathomable in the current market conditions, and I also consider some of the statements that the company has issued to be highly questionable. However I voice opinions on these matters in private, in a more constructive manner than newsgroup diatribes.

My main interest in ROL is not the management issues, but the continued software development of the operating system. Like it or not RISCOS Ltd is the only game in town for development of the OS that will be released to desktop users, there is no prospect of anyone else doing it. So although 32bit and HAL aren't the current priority, the OS is still alive, being developed and producing very useful enhancements as part of the Select scheme. If it weren't for this, and ROL were waiting for that magic rabbit or the golden goose, the OS sources would be stagnating on a hard disc, dying as it fades in the memory of those that once developed it.

While I would not seek to suppress debate on RISCOS Ltd, there should always be questions asked if they or any other company in the market are doing the right thing for the future success/survival of the platform, its about time people started listening the answers. However some seem to want to keep trotting out the same criticism, foundless allegations and hair brained schemes, regardless of the responses by people with a much better understanding of the situation such as Chris Evans, and to some extent myself. It's annoying and depressing, so few can generate so much bad feeling.

Now I want to get back testing Select, supporting DiscKnight use and ARM members, organising shows, and maybe even develop some new RISC OS software. I don't think I'll get time to perform contortions on behalf of ROL, for Hugh's space filler.

David Ruck

Well for my part I can only say this about RISC OS Ltd, in my opinion the company's problems stem from the management. Any company's managing director should take responsibility for his actions and the actions of the company.

Editors Rant of the month

A very short and simple rant this month, and it concerns the fount of all things Windows, Microsoft. As you may know I run VirtualAcorn, the Acorn emulator for PCs (yes we all know that by now, after all you keep going on about it - DB). Well this requires Microsofts DirectX graphics libraries, preferably the latest versions. These can be freely downloaded from Microsofts website. However it would be nice to have them on the CD with the product we are selling.

So I decided to brave the Microsoft assault course and try and get a licence to include them with a commercial product. The first hurdle is that Microsoft's site doesn't actually tell you how you can do this. It looks like it might, but then cunningly sidetracks you into a nice list of all the things you can get a licence for ensuring that the thing you want is excluded from the list.

The next track was to try ringing Microsoft directly, they are only 15 minutes down the road, but that would be a wasted journey without a contact name. After getting passed from pillar to post, and then back again I finally get given a "special" phone number to ring. This results in a very helpful person saying that they will e-mail me some details, which they promptly do 5 days later. Opening the e-mail attachment, strangely called "Generic Downgrade", reveals a form in MS Word format. All you have to do is fill in the meaningless questions with answers, oh and then attach a copy of the licence conditions for the product you are interested in. Do Microsoft not know their own licences?

Now comes the clincher, my machines run Windows XP, and the DirectX upgrade does not work on XP as it isn't needed. Interestingly if you try and run the DirectX program it tells you it doesn't work on Windows NT! So I can't read the licence as the program doesn't get that far, now will Microsoft send me a copy of the licence. Thats what I call customer service from the worlds "leading" software developer.

Still on a slightly different note we wanted a front end for the VirtualAcorn CDs. I found a very nice freeware program that fitted the bill perfectly, but I needed to contact the author to confirm that it would be OK. I got a very nice e-mail back from him within 2 hours saying he would be delighted to let us use his program. So if you need a nice front end to a Windows installer I cannot recommend Richard Lows CDStarter high enough. You can have a look at Richards website at, it's nice to see a Windows developer being as helpful as a RISC OS one.

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