RISC World

Editor's Corner

Aaron Timbrell's own bit of the magazine.

It's the start of yet another new RISC OS year. Since its now over 5 years since Acorn got asset stripped by accountants I find it rather surprising that we are still here. Well regretfully the number of us still here is falling, but maybe this year we will see things turn round somewhat (Doesn't everyone say this every year? - HJ). At the end of this month RISCOS Ltd will finish its financial year, and all the indications so far are that it will return a profit. Of course small computer companies aren't supposed to return a profit but ROL may well be able to buck the trend. Insider has some exciting potential news for us this issue, along with some comments on subliminal advertising, maybe this year will see the launch Of Impression X, well I certainly hope so. With the merger of Castle and Tematic perhaps RISC OS will finally get its foot in the embedded systems door permanently. It looks like being a very exciting year all round.

There is one big piece of news as far as RISC World is concerned, and that is the machine it's now produced on. Up until this issue RISC World has been edited On the same StrongARM RiscPC that I have used for a number of years. I have had a long soul search and decided that the machines increasing unreliability, it's age and the fact that it simply wasn't fast enough any more meant that I had to change. So from this issue onwards RISC World will be edited using VirtualRPC-SE running on an Athlon 2600 desktop PC. No doubt I will get accused of "bias" from some quarters, but for me VRPC-SE is the best tool for the job.

Editors Rant of the month

I have one rant this month and it's about a company called Status Group PLC. Late in November I decided to replace one of the ancient LaserJet printers with a new laser. A quick scan down the price guides showed that colour lasers have now dropped to silly money, indeed some are now sub 500, which means a colour laser can cost less than the mono one it was going to replace. Having colour is handy, especially when printing manuals, so I decided that a colour printer was what I wanted.

At the budget end of the market there are two main choices, a QMS Magicolor 2600, or an Epson Aculaser C900. Both are based on the same print engine, but having consulted a number of people the consensus was that the Epson printed better, because it had better drivers. Having got a print sample from both machines I had to agree. The Espon did print better and seemed to re-produce more detail. However the QMS machine came with 32Mb of memory, and the Epson only had 16Mb. I figured that memory was important and plumped for the QMS. It wasn't in stock at PC World, OK then I will have the Epson. Sorry that's not in stock either. So I went back home, at this point I had another think, was memory, or print quality more important? Finally the discovery that the Epson could be upgrade to 144Mb, but that the QMS has no memory expansion, clinched it. Decision made.

But who to get it from? A quick surf revealed a wide price differential, with the cheapest being nearly £200 less that the most expensive. So I called a few companies, could I have an Epson C900 and a memory upgrade. I got the same answer from all "No problem with the printer, they are shipped directly from Epson, but the memory is out of stock and I don't have a delivery date." As an aside since all the printers are shipped direct £200 seems like a high price premium for taking an order and faxing it to Epson, but I digress. Anyway one company, Status Group PLC, claimed to have no problem getting both items and I would have them on Monday (it was last Thursday afternoon). That seemed fine to me. As an added incentive Status were also offering a free CX5400 inkjet/scanner/copier/fax machine/teasmade with each Epson C900 purchased. I didn't want a CX5400, but I could always knock it out on eBay.

FRESCO An Epson C900 (it's a lot bigger than it looks)

Anyway Monday came, but the printer didn't. Late Monday I rung to check delivery, it hadn't been sent but I can have it tomorrow, OK. So Tuesday afternoon came, but still the printer hadn't shown up. I rung to find out what was going on and was told that my order didn't exist on the system, someone promised to call me back, but didn't. In the meantime the printer turned up, but no inkjet freebie, and no memory card. I was then told that to get the inkjet I had to return the card inside the printer packaging. What card? "Oh is it missing? The stock department sometimes don't put them in." Really, so they aren't taking the cards and getting the free inkjets for themselves then? "Oh, I don't know", well I do. Anyway after getting passed from pillar to post I got a bit annoyed and told them to post me a card. They didn't.

I finally run Epson themselves who were a model of helpfulness, took down he serial number of my C900, and then sent me my free Inkjet printer. However have you noticed that the memory card hasn't turned up yet? I asked Epson about this and was told that they were out of stock. I rung Status who were "expecting them tomorrow", I pointed out that I was expecting the Pope to absail past my window tomorrow, but I could be wrong. Finally Status admitted they had no idea when the memory upgrades should be in, and in fact had never had any when I placed my order. So I told them that I would keep the printers, but they could credit my card back for the amount of the memory upgrade.

Come the start of January I got my credit card bill, and would you believe it, the card had not been refunded! Now that is like a read rag to a bull. I rung the card company and told them I was not paying any of the bill until the matter was settled. I then rung Status who "had no idea how this could have happened", so it doesnt happen often then? "Well not that shouldn't have said that." No you shouldn't. In the end I got a refund for the memory upgrade and for the interest on my credit card. So to go back to my earlier point, how can some companies justify £200 more for the same item, I don't know perhaps they offer excellent service and support. Some box shifters get the price as low as possible by offering little support and simply taking a small cut for processing the orders. Status Group PLC, however, has found another way, simply charge customers for things you don't have and aren't going to ship. When you get caught out offer a refund but don't do it, then hope the customer never notices and you can keep their money.

In short I can recommend an Epson C900 (with a copy of UniPrint), but I can't recommend Status Group PLC, not unless you like getting ripped off.

Printing RISC World

The new look of RISC World means that you will no longer get the yellow background when printing articles from RISC World. However you will still get the blue border on the left unless you turn off the printing of background images. 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 and don't want to waste ink on a blue border then make sure you have clicked a similar option in your browser.

Aaron Timbrell