RISC World


Aaron Timbrell went along (as a shareholder)

Well its time for the RISCOS Ltd AGM (Annual General meeting) yet again. This year the event was held at the Quy Mill Hotel in Cambridge, so since that isn't too far I decided to pop along to see what was going to happen.

The trip to Cambridge takes about an hour and half, a bit more if you include all the roadworks on both the M25 and the M11. I picked up Graeme Barnes (the author of VirtualAcorn and Red Squirrel) on the way through Cambridge and we arrived in plenty of time for the meeting proper. A number of shareholders were unable to attend on the day for various reasons, so we had no representatives from Pace, Castle Technology or RiscStation. The only hardware manufacturer who showed up was MicroDigital, and they aren't even a RISCOS Ltd shareholder. Still there were quite a few famous faces from the RISC OS community in evidence including Paul Richardson from ExpLAN, Paul Beverley from Archive and of course myself and Dave Holden.

The meeting was opened by Paul Middleton who is the RISCOS Ltd managing director. He introduced the annual report and explained some of the more important points to shareholders. These included sales figures for the Select scheme, which currently has 846 subscribers and details on the numbers of RISC OS Foundation members. We were also given some sales figures for the last 8 months as these fall outside the time period covered by the annual report. These showed a steady stream of sales for RISC OS 4 upgrades. Paul Middleton did say that he felt the number of users left using earlier versions of RISC OS who might upgrade to RISC OS 4 was now relatively low. It was also explained that sales of new machines from the hardware manufacturers was much lower than expected. In my view the Omega will soon change that.

At this point some issues were raised from the floor by Paul Richardson and it was agreed by all present that it wasn't possible for the company to respond at the AGM, so it was decided to set up a suitable process that could be used to deal with those issues at a later date.

We then broke for tea, or coffee if you were quick enough. This gave shareholders a chance to have a play with the two working Omega prototypes that were on display.

After this short break Paul Middleton continued the AGM by showing some of his plans for the future. Firstly he covered the new version of Select that is due in the next couple of months. This includes a number of upgrades including:

  • Handling of CMYK sprites in !Paint
  • Local transparency and a proper crop tool for !Paint
  • A PNG developer kit
  • Pinboard support for drawfiles
  • Proper transparency for bitmap images
  • A new version of Replay

Obviously this isn't a complete list and Paul did make it clear that he had other things up his sleeve which he couldn't talk about. He also explained that a large number of commercial developers had still not signed up for Select and that RISCOS Ltd couldn't afford so simply give them copies of Select to experiment with. I think this is a little short sighted, if you want people to support your OS then give them a copy, and how much does a CD actually cost?

On a happy note it was announced that the sources to the front end of !Printers+ are to be made available to anyone who wants to write further printer drivers for RISC OS.

Paul then went on to cover other developments. The RON (RISC OS On Netbook) project has been put on hold due to a lack of resources. Psion have offered to help RISC OS Limited with this if RISCOS Ltd takes the current stocks of around 1000 units of the Netbook. However there is simply not the money available to purchase these machines.

Next Paul spoke about the 32 bit issue. He explained that although a 32 bit RISC OS will be necessary at some future point it isn't necessary at present. It seems that RISCOS Ltd approached Pace at the start of the year to see how much it would cost to licence the Pace 32 bit RISC OS, the figure required was well beyond that available to RISCOS Ltd. The hardware manufacturers declined to get involved with a proposed project to produce a 32 bit RISC OS by RISCOS Ltd. This would have cost around 90,000.

A 32 bit RISC OS comes with a number of problems attached. Firstly a lot of current software will not run on a 32 bit RISC OS. Software written in C would need to be re-compiled and finding the sources for some older products could be impossible. A lot of assembler code would have to be re-written, and that needs programmers. Of course the Omega addresses these problems using the ArmTwister technology.

The meeting then covered some other points, Paul Middleton stressed that RISCOS Ltd is independent of all the hardware manufacturers and for some reason popped up a slide saying that RISCOS Ltd isn't controlled by Castle Technology, rather odd since Castle were not even present, still its nice to know that the company is independent. Paul then went on to cover investment in RISCOS Ltd and said that one of the reasons that he had not been able to find further investors was that they were put off by "troublemaking" from the current investors. How the people who actually own the company could be "troublesome" wasn't explained.

The AGM soon turned to the subject of VirtualAcorn. This started to get a little heated and Paul Beverley decided that it was time to leave and to be honest both Dave Holden and I had to agree. Before we left we handed out copies of a discussion document about VirtualAcorn and left everyone else to get on with it.

Dave and I popped along to the bar for a swift shandy and then set up camp outside the meeting with a couple of laptops running VirtualAcorn. The discussion inside continued for 45 minutes or so and sounded as though it did get exceptionally heated at one point. However in the end it was decided that RISCOS Ltd would examine the possibility of licensing RISC OS for use with VirtualAcorn.

Well that just about sums up the AGM, however there were a few odd points that are worth noting. Firstly shareholders were not asked to vote on anything, not even a vote to accept the annual report itself, this seems a little odd. Secondly the meeting was kept open to the public all the way through, even while some quite detailed financial information was being discussed. Still that's the Chairmans prerogative. So there we have it, another AGM over with, lets see what the next RISCOS Ltd annual report holds in store.

Aaron Timbrell