RISC OS News Portals
Dave Bradforth offers a detailed roundup of the current web scene
When I first became interested in Acorn computers, as they were at the time, there were three magazines available on the shelves of WH Smiths with which I could gaze in amazement at the latest developments. The three magazines were, of course, Acorn User, Acorn Computing/The Micro User and Archimedes World.
As time moved on, sadly so did some of the magazines; but with the rapid introduction and growth of the internet the concept of the online magazine was born. Then rapidly developed into interactive magazines providing for feedback in ways it had never before been thought possible. With news developments taking place at a rapid pace, suddenly the buying public had the opportunity to feedback their opinions straight to developers.
It's provided for an interesting time over the last few years, for both developers within the RISC OS market and users alike. As such, we've brought together over the course of this article a detailed analysis of a number of current online magazines for RISC OS users. We're using this as a single classification; although it's probably not doing many of them justice. For this we hope you'll forgive us.
This article has been structured into a number of mini reviews, at the end of which I have provided an opinion on our own personal favourite. We recommend that all RISCWorld readers take the time to look at each and make their own decisions; anybody taking the time out to run one of these sites deserves your support particularly in a market as small as ours.
For those of you who are more than a little familiar with the Internet, and are still avid users of RISC OS, Drobe is most likely on your list of favourites. Launched by Peter Price in 1998, and taken over by the ever enthusiastic Chris Williams, Drobe aims to be at the hub of every RISC OS Internet users' online experience.
At the heart of the site is its news section; featuring easily the most regularly updated source of news and opinions on current news and events. The news items, often sources from comp.sys.acorn.announce, when not fed directly to the editorial team, cover everything from new software to reviews of current hardware. At the time of writing, the A6 from STD has been reviewed. The reviews on offer are written from the point of view of a user, with a keen enthusiasm for the product being reviewed - I thoroughly enjoyed the writing style of Martin Hansen, and his keenness to pass on experiences was only to be commended.
Features have a similar enthusiasm behind them; ranging from light-hearted April fools to detailed technical features taking apart the most confusing aspects of a programming language.
Towards the left hand side of the opening window, we have the hub of drobe.co.uk. A group of perhaps twenty links, each giving access to a specific feature of the site or a customised link into another site. Highlights include a link to eBay Auctions, specifically searching for RISC OS related items and/or memorabilia and another link through which you can download JPEGS of twenty year old Acorn User magazines.
The style of drobe is minimalist; with graphics used only where necessary but this does make loading somewhat faster than a more graphic-rich site; and if the truth be told drobe is very attractive in its presentation. There are features of the site which will not work in all browsers, such as the java chat provided through the site, but regardless of this there is definitely something here for everybody.
The Iconbar was developed as a sister site to Acorn ArcadeA, developing on the original style to offer more general news in a less hard on the eye format. With a simplistic design, and an initial presentation much as you'd expect of a forum, The Iconbar again offers a healthy mix of news, reviews and features.
The original aim of having regular columns or resources devoted to a number of different subjects (as indicated through the links at the top of the page) seems to have suffered due to a lack of contributions, but I don't doubt that with suitable contributions being offered the team at Iconbar would certainly put the effort in.
As far as news goes, the most prolific contributor to this site is Phil Mellor. With a chatty, yet informative, writing style his contributions are straight to the point and prove to often be an interesting read in the process. Articles often include small graphics, with links to larger graphics were required and the loading speed for the site as a whole is generally very good.
Two of the strongest assets of The Iconbar rest in its links at the top of the page. Free Ads and Forum.
The Free Ads feature allows RISC OS users to offer for sale, or want ads, for any RISC OS products; with a particular emphasis that commercial bodies are not to use the free ads to sell directly to Iconbar readers. The presentation and method of entering adverts may feel familiar to long-term Acorn User readers; mainly because the same feature used to be available through the Acorn User website when Richard Goodwin was the site editor.
So far as Forums go, The Iconbars is the best for RISC OS. Once you've registered, and logged in, to create a new topic it's as easy as clicking a button; to reply it's as easy as clicking a button and so on. Everything appears in a logical layout on the page, and if you wish to jump to opinions from a particular contributor all you need do is click on their name.
As a whole, The Iconbar does suffer from occasional long periods without updates; but when it is updated the news is spot on and a helpful compliment to the Forums. If you're looking to chat to like-minded RISC OS users, it's worth visiting the forum of this site just to do so.
Announced at the start of this year Acorn Evolution has opted for a more register-inspired form of layout. With a strict focus on news and views, Acorn Evolution aims to give Drobe and Iconbar a run for its money thanks to its recent kick up the ass in terms of updates.
The front page of Acorn Evolution features no graphics beyond the logo for the site itself; something which may prove to be something of a mistake in terms of its ability to catch the casual browser intrigued with RISC OS. In terms of content, however, each link offered on the site continues to a piece which enthuses about RISC OS and passes on the relevant information about a news release for instance.
A forum is on offer, much the same as Virtual Acorn's forum, through which readers can chat and share news but again the style can leave a little to be desired.
When all's said and done, it's a new site, with regular updates written by an author who enthuses about RISC OS at every opportunity. With help from other contributors, Acorn Evolution should evolve into a must-see site. For the moment, keep an eye on it!
Out of Drobe, Iconbar and Acorn Evolution, there is a clear winner. While the style of Drobe may not appeal to all, few can deny that the presentation and regularity of update make it a must-visit location for all users of RISC OS computers. Items do have a habit of appearing here before comp.sys.acorn.announce, and they usually have a healthy dose of comment added along the way too.