RISC World

Editor's Corner

Aaron Timbrell's own bit of the magazine.

There has been an interesting debate rumbling away for the last few months, simply put the question was "How many Iyonixs have been sold?". Have a guess, a thousand, two thousand, more? Some people have guessed as high as four thousand, some as low as a thousand. The Iyonix has now been available for three years so you would certainly expect a number in the thousands, wouldn't you? Castle Technology Ltd (CTL) have been quite understandably shy of releasing any sales figures, but then why should they, it isn't really anyone's business. However one well known RISC OS developer has spilled the beans on The Iconbar. Are you ready, the actual figure according to Andrew Rawnsley of R-Comp is 600.

That's right, 600 machines, over a three year period. That's 200 machines a year on average. So how do R-Comp know the sales figures? Well some of their software is bundled with the Iyonix, so they must logically get a royalty payment for each machine sold. I do know that some of the new Iyonixs are sold without a software bundle so these presumably aren't included, but how many? Based on the previous sales it isn't going to be many. So the top spec machine that runs RISC OS hasn't exactly been a runaway success. I remember a comment made by CTL around the time of the launch of the Iyonix that they were hoping to sell 500 machines, by Christmas, it's a good job they didn't specify which Christmas.

This low number of machines helps explain a number of things. Firstly it explains why RISCOS Ltd want a firm commitment from 100 (16%) of Iyonix owners before continuing with Select32 for the Iyonix. Would you as a business, commit to writing an OS for 600 people without some guaranteed revenue? The low number of Iyonix sales may also help explain CTLs current situation.

As announced on Drobe a few weeks ago the engineers working in the Tematic division of Castle Technology Ltd have left the company. Some of them have gone to other companies, with at least one of them joining Ant Ltd. The rumour mill also suggests that some of the others have decided to form their own consultancy company. Coupled with this CTL also seem to have lost their staff from the Framlingham premises. Nothing has been seen or heard of Will Long for some time, and Stacey was absent from the recent Guildford show. I have heard two different explanations for this, firstly that she was ill and secondly that she was pregnant.

So a couple of months ago CTL has a team of programmers working in Cambridge and a unit in Framlingham with support staff handling the Iyonix. Now the company seems to have shrunk to the three directors, Jack Lillingston, John Ballance and Peter Wild. Only Jack and John came along to the South East show with no sign of Peter Wild anywhere.

I'm concerned for CTL, the situation doesn't look good from where I sit. It also seems that CTL themselves have acknowledged that there is some kind of problem. On the 24th of September a new company, Iyonix Ltd was set up, with Jack Lillingston and John Ballance as directors. There is no sign on the report I have from companies house of Peter Wild in this new company. My assumption is that this new company has been wisely set up to ring fence the Iyonix against any unfortunate events.

Lets hope that CTL are able to weather the storm. History indicates that they will as the company has an excellent track record of surviving periods of instability. I just wonder what impact all of the changes might have on any planned future projects, such as an Iyonix II?

Editors Rant of the month

The following is about the vehicular faith, not specifically about computing.

So here we are once again after another two months motoring mayhem. What's gone wrong this time? Actually, for once, not too much, well not too much by my standards anyway.

The Citroen

Last issue I was waiting to fit two new hydraulic pipes to the front suspension. This job had the potential to be very nasty. The two pipes concerned are attached round the suspension struts with two modern style (i.e. unreusable) jubilee type clips. These had to be cut away to remove the pipes. One I had done this I discovered that the big end of the rubber pipes clamped over a small hole in the suspension strut. Hydraulic fluid is recovered from the hole up the pipes and returned to the reservoir. So far so good you might be thinking, except the holes on the struts are facing inwards so you can't see them, only feel them with your finger. I then had a brain wave and definitely didn't borrow the bathroom mirror, crack one side of the glass or get it covered in oil/mud etc. "Have you seen the bathroom mirror?" Hayley asked, with my best lying voice I said that I hadn't.

So I was now able to position the pipes in place and taking a couple of old jubilee clips from my pile of spares thread them round the suspension struts and tighten them up enough to hold the pipes but not enough to damage them. For those that ever need to do this job I find that the jubilee clips designed to hold a Rover 100 radiator hose are the ideal size, so even though the Rover concerned was scrapped 10 years ago bits of it live on. In the end the entire job took under an hour and a quick check showed the system was fluid tight. A quick drive revealed that the car worked but there was a banging from the front suspension for the first few miles. Sod it I don't care.

I then quickly cleaned the bathroom mirror and put it back with the magnifying glass side facing outwards. I got away with this for about an hour.

Stunned by having completed the job for well under 20 quid I then decided to deal with some of the rust spots. Citroens from this period are fully galvanised so as you can imagine the car had rust patches on the lips both rear wheel arches. I cleaned the rust up, which showed that it was on the surface only and easy to deal with. I carefully mixed up an inexact shade of dark green (two blobs of green Hammerite to one of black) and painted over the rust patches.

So that was that for a month or so, but the imminent MOT was looming. I did my usual pre MOT inspection, lights, tyres, exhaust etc and fearing the worst booked it in at our local garage. It failed. Was it the brakes? The suspension? The smokey engine? Nope. it was too things. Firstly a worn antiroll bar link and secondly the indicators were faulty. How could they be when I checked them an hour before? I walked back up to the garage and the indicator fault was revealed. Xantia's have an alarm system that flashes the indicators when the alarm is set with the remote button on the key fob. After a lot of use, or ten minutes after driving out of the showroom, depending on who you believe, the system goes wrong and leaves the indicators on one side of the car on all the time. This isn't much of a problem as you simply disarm and rearm the car a couple of times and it will eventually get it right. With that solved that just left the suspension. The new part was £26 and fitting would be £30. I asked the garage to just get on with it. So in the end I have a car with a full twelve months MOT with a bill of a shade over £100 including the cost of the MOT.

So far nothing else has gone wrong on the Citroen since, lets hope it stays that way for a while. (A quick just before press update, the lights for the instruments have now packed up - damn).

The "Roller"

The little Talbot Samba Roller was treated to a full service and a quick clutch adjustment and then started work. A couple of weeks later we were on a day trip and a banging noise started coming up from the front passenger footwell. My "what's wrong with this cheap crap car" mental alarm came up with the CV joints failing, especially as the noise was worse turning one way than the other. We parked up and had a look. Grabbing the front wheel showed it had a lot of play, however it quickly became apparent that the play wasn't in the hub, but in the wheel itself. Yes you've guessed it the wheel nuts were lose. I tightened them up and checked all the others which were all slightly lose. So far that seems to have cured the problem.

One morning we came to start the Roller and it wouldn't. Oh no, not another Shogun saga. I left the car on the drive for a few days and then came back to it. It still wouldn't start, hardly surprising as it had no spark. I cleaned off the top of the coil but that didn't help. I then had a look at the distributor. The rotor arm contact on the top was filthy and corroded. I cleaned this and applied large amounts of WD40 inside the distributor cap. The little beauty then started first time and touch wood has been faultless.

And the rest

So what off the rest of the "fleet"? Well the Shogun has finally gone to the breakers in the sky, I got bugger all for it, but at least it's out of the way. The Camper is still rusty and the Beetle, yes the Beetle, actually when I said not much had gone wrong at the start of this I might have been stretching the truth slightly. Come back next time and I'll tell you why.

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Aaron Timbrell