Southeast Show report
David Bradforth has managed to visit two shows this year. The first was the Wakefield show, the second the more recent Southeast Show. He shares his experience here.
I can remember the first time I visited an Acorn show. It was the BBC Acorn User show in 1992. It took place in Wembley Exhibition Centre and I was 14. It doesn't take much in the way of maths to work out from that I'm now 28, and have been a semi-occasional visitor to Acorn shows ever since. The scale of them has changed somewhat, but the community feel was present even in those early shows. It's something that I've missed with my day job of late and hence have tried to attend as many shows as I found myself able to.
This year my first show was The Wakefield Show. The second was the more recent Southeast Show organised by the Surrey and Sussex Acorn User Group and Fillin Limited. As I was attending in a variety of capacities, I needed to be there at the time the show opened, and having finished my day's at work at 2am. on the Friday night I saw little point in going to sleep.
At 5.30am, I walked out of the front door, off to the train station to make my journey down to Guildford. Now my sense of direction, even at a place I've been to before, is rather poor. On more than one occasion I've got lost in Wakefield, and this visit to Guildford was no different. Of course the second I started to try to find my way from the station to the show venue it began to rain. Ho hum.
When the show opened I found myself wandering between the floor and the theatre. The theatre talks are covered elsewhere so my focus is on the developments occuring around the show floor.
CJE Micro's / Advantage Six www.cjemicros.co.uk
As usual, CJE Micros had one of the biggest stands at the show. Offering a selection of software, some dating back to the early 1990s, plus various pieces of hardware (second hand RiscPCs, printers and such like). The highlight of the CJE Micro's stand was easily the A9home. Available for the first time in its public form the A9home boasts:
Essentially the a( is a tiny box that would serve very well as a media centre when loaded with the appropriate software. With a starting price of £499 + VAT it hits the magic price point for new technology and for those worried that their applications may not be compatible there is a version of Spellings' Aemulor to assist.
Stuart Tyrell becomes camera shy, while John from CJE Micro's pretends the camera isn't there...
Stuart and Matt from Advantage Six were on hand to answer questions, and Matt did an impromptu Q and A in the theatre towards the end of the day. The first knowledge he had of being in the theatre was when paying and walking in the front door. By all accounts, he provided an interesting talk despite this so is to be commended.
Publishers of RISC World, APDL were on hand with their usual selection of software covering everything from The Fourth Dimension games through to up to date spreadsheet packages for RISC OS users. Two of the most popular products on the day included the new Excel capable version of Schema and the Iyonix compatible version of WimpBasic 2.
Dave Holden publicises the latest games releases
Shortly after the show the former webmaster of the WimpBasic resources site posted a query as to whether anybody would be interested in seeing the resource site brought back up. It's worth supporting as an active forum would provide a means for users to support each other in their programming hobby where a magazine would delay things.
Paul Beverely, editor of Archive for the last twenty years, had the latest issues available at the show along with the usual selection of CD-ROMs and booklets. Over the last year, Paul has compiled a selection of booklets bringing together material from different issues of Archive and Living with Technology to cover a wide variety of topics. At £5 each, they represent superb value for money.
Paul Beverley assists a customer by renewing their subscription
While Living with Technology was sadly closed earlier this year. The back issues CD-ROM is still available through Paul and there's a chance that the Living with Technology magazine will be reborn through the website. Do support the moderator - the link is on the Living with Technology site at www.livtech.co.uk.
Fortran Friends www.orpheusweb.co.uk/fortran
Fortran Friends is essentially a user group for those who program in Fortran and whom share a common interest in campanology (bell ringing). Their releases for the show included:
They also announced a multimedia CD gazetteer, built using HTML and standard photographs of the churches around the Oxford diocese. It makes for a fascinating journey around Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire and will work on virtually any computer.
To the right of the image we have a full size bell. This took less time to assemble than you might believe...
The Fortran Friends website has a link to Kate Crennell's website for The British Crystallographic Association, which in itself makes fascinating reading. Fortran Friends have been regulars on the user group and show circuit for as long as I can remember, as far back as Kate's articles in BEEBUG magazine many years ago. It was pleasing to see them at the show.
Icon Technology www.icontechnology.net
Mike Glover of Icon Technology was on hand, promoting the latest versions of EasiWriter and TechWriter. Originally conceived as a program to be released by Acorn Computers Ltd back in the 1990s, EasiWriter has benefited from being allowed to be developed independently over the last twenty years to such an extent that it's now one of the fullest featured word processors on any platform.
Now developed by Martin of MW Software, it's of little surprise that new features in both EasiWriter and TechWriter include a Save as PDF option, Bookmarks and native support for ArtWorks 2 images including transparency.
Another satisfied customer wanders away with their copy of EasiWriter.
For a program that has so much capability, it's now very cheap. Mike admitted on his way out of the door how surprised he was with the number of new copies being supplied. It's still a growing market for a quality word processor and perhaps the enthusiasm for the product is one of the reasons that EasiWriter and TechWriter keep gaining new practical features.
The Mathmagical Software Company www.mathmagical.co.uk/
Martin Hansen is one of those who just seems to ooze enthusiasm for the RISC OS platform. His stand, as you'll see from the photograph, was one of the most colourful at the show and attracted rather a lot of attention. I wandered past the stand on many occasions, and he was always talking and busy which is certainly a good sign for his own software developments.
The main product of Mathmagical is a program called ArtGraph that allows you to visualise mathematical equations as modern art. Some of the sample images are visually stunning and allow you to see very easily the impact changing one variable of an equation has on the resulting formulae. I'll admit there are times that I'm not sure I fully understand the maths, but it looks very nice - many of the images on his website would look very pleasing on the wall.
Another confused customer wonders which formulae they should enter into ArtGraph to create some of the works of art on Martin's wall...
We'll take a look at ArtGraph properly in the next issue of RISC World. In the meantime we'll have time to play with it and try to produce some interesting graphical results of our own.
MW Software www.mw-software.com/
Martin attends many RISC OS shows in the course of a year. Given that he's a native of Germany, and has a somewhat lengthy journey, it's pleasing to see somebody make so many visits to so many shows, especially when they're the programmer responsible for ensuring continued and regular development to the vector graphics package that always had a lot of potential from the moment of its launch.
Martin with the obligatory tie...
We are, of course, talking about ArtWorks. Vantage attempted to steal some of the limelight, but in the course of a year that very quickly disappeared into the dark to lick its wounds. The current version of ArtWorks, 2.6, includes instantly updated graduated files, internal arrowheads and a variety of new arrowhead designs as well as the standard transparent fills, vector and bitmap manipulation tools and much more besides.
One of ArtWorks' strengths lies in its capabilities as an export tool. You can use ArtWorks 2 to export images in a huge variety of vector and bitmap formats. To be able to take professional artwork directly from ArtWorks to your printer is a dream that many had for years and it's now possible, producing some very good results.
MW Software have plans for future versions of ArtWorks to include Multi-page handling, alpha channel support within spreads, a document cleaning option and more besides. It seems that every time Martin adds a new feature, more ideas appear - let's hope it continues for many years to come!
Orpheus Internet www.orpheusinternet.co.uk/
Five years ago there were a number of internet service providers in a position to offer support to RISC OS users. Now while many are compatible with RISC OS, few have staff on board with active knowledge of using RISC OS and are hence unable to support the service on our computers. Paul Vigay, MD of Orpheus, was the technical support side of ArgoNet for many years and has a knowledge of PC, Mac and RISC OS.
Paul Vigay offers practical internet advice to an interested third party
Publicising his Orpheus Internet service, Paul was very chatty throughout the show and provided some interesting anecdotes. In the run up to Christmas, Orpheus Internet have taken out advertising in a variety of RISC OS and mainstream publications, so hopefully as they grow they won't forget their roots.
For just over a year all had been quiet on the Qercus front. Shortly before the Southeast Show, however, the quiet was lifted and issue 277 of Qercus was released. With the usual mixture of practical, programming, design and entertainment articles it suffered from a number of mistakes due to the speed at which it was ultimately produced.
John Cartmell discusses the mechanics of publishing with a Qercus subscriber. Inset - the cover of the next issue of Qercus.
I have to admit to having had a hand in the physical production side of Qercus, looking after the printer and producing the PDFs for printing. The simplicity with the process now offered to Qercus is allowing John to ensure that the magazine gets back to a regular frequency. As I write, the next issue (278) has just gone to print (the PDFs have been uploaded to the printer's server) and the following issue is in the planning stages.
John has an enthusiasm for the platform. We're optimistic that future issues of Qercus will continue to reflect that.
About a week before the Southeast Show Allan Rawnsley of R-Comp had a heart attack and was taken to hospital. This resulted in a question as to whether R-Comp would be able to attend the show at all. Allan normally drives and Diana would obviously now be staying with Allan in Warrington. It was great to see Andrew at the show, and to pass on our good wishes to Allan.
Notable for the absence of Allan, we're convinced that he was drinking Tea and enjoying the day off.
The major release from R-Comp was UniScan, allowing you to use a PC scanner from within RISC OS in much the same manner as UniPrint offers the chance to use a PC printer. A number of new computer specifications were available from R-Comp Interactive illustrating further the passion many have for driving the RISC OS market forward.
RISCOS Limited www.riscos.com
One of the bigger announcements at the event was the launch of RISC OS Six. Forming the next development of the RISC OS Select scheme this will be made available in its preview form to all who have had a RISC OS Select subscription over the last few years. To continue to receive updates, a current subscription to the select scheme will be required.
Paul Middleton illustrates RISC OS SIX to Drobe's Chris Williams.
RISC OS Six is now developed from a 26/32 bit code base, essentially allowing the company to develop for the A9 home series as well as the RiscPC/A7000 at the same time. The problem with developing for the Iyonix PC lies in the simple fact that no details have yet been passed to RISCOS Limited as to how the Iyonix PC initialises. As an essential part of the operating system, an input from Castle Technology would be necessary to ensure that this could happen.
Paul had the usual array of machines on show, including a Mac running Virtual Acorn, an A9 home and a large display showing off RISC OS to the whole room. The music from a variety of musicals illustrated the audio capabilities of RISC OS very well during the setup period and it has to be said that the RISCOS Limited stand was one of those where users could play with the new developments in person.
RISC OS Now www.riscosnow.com
We've covered the magazines in detail elsewhere, but one of the busiest stands for the duration of the show was that of RISC OS Now. As a new RISC OS publication, this generated much interest and despite a few errors in the production it's a nice looking magazine showing a lot of promise for the future.
Louie Smith, editor of RISC OS Now, takes a subscription. Inset we show the cover of issue one, as it should have appeared...
Louie Smith, the editor, has only been involved with the market for a short period of time. To see a new take on the RISC OS scene from somebody in that situation is certainly welcome. Since the show, the RISC OS Now website has launched with a forum for subscribers and contributors. We'd suggest making the forum open to the general public as this may generate interest in future issues of the magazine.
Virtual Acorn www.virtualacorn.com
Aaron Timbrell was on hand with the current versions of Virtual Acorn. Available with RISC OS 4 or RISC OS Adjust, in standard and StrongARM forms, the Virtual Acorn products need no introduction. The option has been made available for the company to launch a RISC OS Six version of Virtual Acorn at some point. Aaron will, of course, pass on details as and when he's ready.
Aaron Timbrell spies a customer on the horizon.
So there we have it - a whistle-stop tour of the Southeast Show. I clearly missed a few stands along the way (Castle Technology and The Electronic Font Foundry being two examples) but hopefully you can see the show in the same way as I. It showed promise, with new hardware developments, a new operating system and renewed development in some of the most capable applications on any platform the future for RISC OS is anything but quiet.