RISC World

Wakefield 2007

The show report...

To be perfectly honest I really wasn't looking forward to this year's Wakefield show. It isn't because I don't enjoy the show, because I do, but because I really didn't have enough time to prepare as well as I would have liked. Normally I have everything ready by the Wednesday before the show so that I can take a couple of days to relax before the manic process of packaging everything up, loading up the car, driving to Wakefield, setting up the stand and then spending the day meeting customers.

This year I wasn't just taking the VirtualAcorn stuff to the show but also all the RISCOS Ltd stuff. For family reasons Paul Middleton was unable to attend the show this year and so we had arranged for all the RISCOS Ltd stock, computers etc to be delivered to my house for me to bring up to the show. Because both Dave Holden and myself were manning our own stands Steve Potts had gallantly agreed to help out on the RISCOS Ltd stand provided we let him out of the half Nelson.

The work we had been doing on RISC OS 6, coupled with me being unwell, meant that we hadn't had as much time as we had hoped to get the Macintosh version of VirtualRiscPC ready for release. In fact Graeme and I were still working on the Macintosh VirtualRiscPC right up to the deadline. I sorted out all the stock, posters, cash till and other paraphernalia on the Thursday night so I could load up the car on Friday morning. Having loaded the car with all bits we then went back to finalising the VirtualRiscPC for the Mac disk build. In the end, because he wanted to get as much done as possible, I didn't end up duplicating the discs until late on Friday. The result was that by Saturday morning I was a bit knackered. However I made sure that I got up early, walked the dogs, grabbed a bite to eat and then jumped in the car ready to head off. It's a very easy drive to Wakefield from where we are in South Derbyshire, certainly much easier and quicker than driving up from Bracknell where we used to live. Having attended the Wakefield show for so many years I can drive to the normal venue, Thornes Park, by autopilot. However this year the show had moved to a new venue. The show organisers had helpfully provided a map. Since I'm fervently anti SatNav systems I took a quick gander at the map before setting off. I've driven around Wakefield many times and was happy enough that I would be able to find the venue with no problems. Years of experience of map reading couple with an innate sense of direction meant that I went in when the town centre and promptly got lost. Eventually I arrived at the venue twenty minutes later than I wanted to.

As in previous years the show organisers and helpers assisted in unloading the car and carrying the stuff to the various stands, which was greatly appreciated. Normally the Wakefield show opens at 10:00 in the morning, however, this year, because it was a one-day show the organiser decided to show would open at 10:30. This meant that by the time I'd set up the VirtualAcorn and RISCOS limited stands I had a spare hour to kill. I took the opportunity for a wander round the show and a chat to the exhibitors. This proved to be a wise move, as from the moment the show opened until half past three in the afternoon I had a constant stream of customers on the stand. Indeed I am happy to say that this was the busiest Wakefield show for several years and had an exceptionally upbeat feeling about it.

So what new treats would RISC OS users have discovered had they come to the show?

The first stand inside the door was that of Advantage6. As you would expect they had various models of the A9 computer on show. In addition to the well-known little blue box they also had a new variant on display, the A9wai1 (A9 Widescreen All In 1). This, as you would expect from the name, is in all in one computer running RISC OS. The A9 innards were built into the back of the TFT monitors, much in the style of an iMac. Various different models were on display with monitors up to 15 inch in size. The computer's tiny footprint, coupled with the small keyboard and mouse, would make them an ideal machine for those with a lack of space. Advantage6's Matt Edgar wouldn't be drawn into committing on a production run of these machines, as they were apparently prototypes, although I was told that CJE Micros were interested in comissioning a production run. As an amusing aside they also had on display a new machine called the A9 mini. This was a tiny box with just a monitor socket. It also proved to be a wind up, in reality it was a small component box with a lump of blue tack in it. However it did fool several people.

The all in one A9

Moving along, the next stand was manned by the NetSurf developers. For those not familiar with it NetSurf is an open source Web browser for RISC OS. It's been in development now for a number of years but this Wakefield saw the first release of a non beta version 1.0. The NetSurf developers had CDs available, for the bargain price of only five pounds, which contained a complete copy of NetSurf. Such was the interest that they had run out of CDs by early afternoon. Since NetSurf is freely available, and open source, we have included a copy in the software directory of this issue of RISCWorld. I am a big fan of NetSurf as RISC OS really does need a competent, freely available, Web browser. The developers have funded the work themselves so far but donations are always welcome, so if you do find NetSurf useful then it would be really nice if you made a small donation.

One of the surprise announcements at the show was that the first of the RISC OS 5 sources would be available from RISC OS Open Limited. This is a very postive move on Castle's part. Jack Lillingston seemed pleased with the development and was sure that commercial licences for use of RISC OS 5 would still be only "pennies" per copy. I feel, though, that a note of caution is necessary. Firstly only a small subset of the entire RISC OS sources are available, !Draw, !Paint, BASIC and some others. I don't think that this is enough to attract much commercial interest. Secondly the licence that has apparently spent several months with the "lawyers" is, I am afriad to report, rather offputting. Firstly it has a number of holes, secondly there are no guarantees in place and thirdly it actually has spelling mistakes. Since I studied contract and IPR law as part of my degree I feel able to comment with a degree of knowledge and as far as I can see this licence, coupled with the limited amount of sources available, is not going to encourage commercial use of RISC OS. If Castle and RISCOS Open Ltd really want to get the customers flocking in they need to revisit the licence, get a guaranteed commercial rate set for exploitation of RISC OS and, of course, get the entire source code available.

Anyway let's continue our trip around the show. Showing a complete contempt for the capitalist system Vince Hudd had paid for a stand so that he could give things away. Available free of charge to cutomers were 26bit copies of WebChange, complete with retail packaging, plus a new adventure game called Quicksand. This uses photographs to depict locations in the game and although not a long game looks very interesting. We hope to be able to bring you a copy on RISCWorld shortly.

Along from Vince was the VirtualAcorn stand where I was demonstrating different versions of VirtualRPC. One version was running on a Vista laptop, the other on a G5 iMac. There have been many request over the last couple of years for the Macintosh version of VirtualAcorn and it will be interesting to see the take up now a product is available.

Macintosh vesion of VirtualRPC

Next door to me was the RISCOS Ltd stand, manned this year by Steve Potts. Select subscriptions were available for £99 with customers able to walk away with a 10 machine RISC OS 6 CD. Also available was a single user RISC OS 6 CD, without a Select subscription, for £49. Ayone buying the cheaper CD could upgrade to a full 10 machine Select subscription for the difference, which seemed quite reasonable to me. Rather than the usual plethora of machines the RISCOS Ltd stand had just one machine on demo, a RiscPC with a ViewFinder.

RiscPC with ViewFinder running RISC OS 6

Next door was Dave Holden of APDL. As usual he had a full collection of software titles on sale, a well as updates to a number of applications including DrawWorks and Ancestor. Like a number of exhibitors Dave was complaining that he had sold out of some items and was wishing he had been able to bring more. Across from APDL was the Qercus stand. On display were the full set of back issues of Qercus and Acorn Publisher. Anyone wondering when the nest issue would arrive didn't have long to wait as the printers delivered them to the show mid morning. I walked away with a copy of Qercus 282, and very good it is too.

Continuing our walk around the show Paul Beverley of Archive publiations was busy taking subscriptions for Archive magazine. He also had available all the Archive special booklets that cover particular topics and include entire series of articcles from the magazine. Next along was a stall selling mainly 8 bit hardware and software. This was interesting and both Dave Holden and I went diving throught the untested motherboard pile on offer.

8-bit heaven

Martin Wuerthner was demonstrating the latest vesion of ArtWorks 2, with multiple page support and a host of other goodies. This seemed very popular with customers and quite rightly too. Alongside was Mike Glover from Icon Technology who, for once, didn't have a new version of EasiWriter available. However this didn't prevent him from being very busy and converting a number of RISC OS users to the obvious benefits of EasiWriter. R-Comp had their usual large stand with a wide range of computers availbale for demonstration. They had updates to a number of their products, including Messenger and Uniprint, available for customers and were doing a roaring trade all day long.

Just along from R-Comp was Orpheus Internet and RISC OS Now magazine. Issue 2 of RISC OS Now was available for subscribers to take away. Editor Louie Smith was very interested in a VirtualRPC for her Mac, but as her machine has an Intel processor (and we only support PowerPC based machines at the moment) she will have to wait a little.

RISC OS Now issues 1 and 2

Finally we come along to the charity stand. This was once again collecting for the Wakefield Hospice. Recent recycling legislation has dramastically reduced the amount of hardware that the club can afford to sell on the chariyt stall. This is a shame as I used to regularly pick up interesting items at Wakefiels shows in years gone by. Although there wasn't much hardware available there was a lot of software, books and magazines available at very keen prices.

That concludes our walk round Wakefield. There were a number of additional stands and I apologise for missing these out, but there was just too much to look at in the time I had available.

So what did I think of the show? Well it was the most upbeat one for several years. There were lots of interesting new releases from all sorts of companies and the venue was spot on. It even had a bar, which is where you could have found a group of exhibitors post the show breakdown. Their conclusion? It was excellent, something I heartily agree with.