RISC World

Editor's Corner

Aaron Timbrell's own bit of the magazine.

Editors Rant of the month

I was saddened to see a recent announcement from Paul Beverley, editor of Archive magazine, saying that he was going to step down. As I'm sure you are aware Paul has edited Archive for the last 20 years. That's a long time for anyone to run a magazine. At the end of this volume of archive the reins will be handed over to Jim Nagel. For those are not familiar with Jim, he was responsible for the Acorn column in Computer Shopper magazine. This column ran for many years until it was removed in one of Computer Shopper's regular redesigns (to make the magazine smaller and less interesting).

I'm sure that I'm not alone wishing both Paul and Jim all the best for the future. However Paul's announcement got me thinking. I assume that Paul's tough decision was bought about by increasing demand for his services elsewhere. For those that don't know Paul also offers his services as a technical proof reader. It is possible that Archive magazine is taking up too much time, time that could be spent earning a living doing other activities. This made me wonder, who is actually earning a living from working in the RISC OS market full time?

Despite everyone's best efforts the RISC OS market is now very small and I started wondering if the RISC OS companies that you deal with a day-to-day basis supplement their income with activities outside RISC OS. From my personal perspective I can only say that while I don't earn a living from VirtualAcorn it certainly does help the finances, but other activities, including editing RISCWorld, actually pay the bills. From talking to others in the RISC OS market I am not alone in this respect. Plenty of other companies seem to do their RISC OS "stuff" as a sideline, whilst other "things" earn the real money. So, here's the thing, if the RISC OS activities don't earn the money why do people do them?

The answer is surprisingly simple, because people like using RISC OS and like operating in the RISC OS market. It's a choice that people, like myself, make. There is much more of a community spirit in the RISC OS world, indeed it's more like an extended club than a traditional high tech IT marketplace. You get to know your customers quite well and everyone (almost everyone - DH) co-operates for each others benefit, even if they might be perceived as business rivals in a conventional arena. So it's quite common to find companies helping each other out behind the scenes, even though they have theoretically competing products. This brings me back to Archive and Paul's announcement. It's a great shame that he's leaving RISC OS (and Archive magazine) but I can understand the decision he's made. For some of us the joy of working with RISC OS more than outweigh the limited financial rewards, regretfully just occasionally finances have to take precedent.

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

Last issue I told everyone that I had purchased another car but left everyone hanging on tenterhooks. What would it be? A huge new 4x4? A Luxury saloon with leather everything?, it's a Daewoo Matiz. For those that are not familiar with a Matiz simply imagine a normal MPV, such as a Citroen Picasso. Then put it on a 90 degree boil wash for a couple of months, the result would be a tiny MPV smaller than a Ford Ka, that's a Matiz. So why have I bought this?

There are a number of reasons. Firstly I made the decision that I wasn't going to repair the Talbot Samba. So that went up on eBay. In a desperate attempt to get some money for it I advertised it using one of it's few possible "merits", the number plate. This, rather embarrassingly contained the letters "BNP". The result, as anyone with the slightest common sense would quickly spot, was that I got several e-mails and phone calls from people who's views I do not exactly share. Indeed I had one especially unpleasant conversation with one chap from Sunderland who delighted in telling me about his local "group". Lovely. As one would also expect each of these people wanted to get the car, and hence the number plate, for the cost of a packet of cigarettes. In the end the auction was won by a really nice bloke who was a bit skint and wanted to get a cheap to insure car for his son. He arranged to pick the car up and turned up when he said he would with a trailer. Once the Samba had started (which it really didn't want to do) we drove it on to the trailer. The buyer then started to tie the car down and promptly slipped a disc. Having got him back upright and into the passenger seat of his (borrowed) 4x4 I went and got him some pain killers. These didn't really helped so he had to phone someone else to rescue him. His 4x4 was parked up the road so every half hour I popped up in case he had popped off. He ended up waiting four hours for his rescue party. So in the end he not only got a cheap rusty car that didn't want to start, he also got several weeks of work in traction.

Anyway let's get back to the Matiz. Hayley and I spent some time looking at various small cars to see which we preferred. If you ever need to decide what model of car to buy then may I suggest the following. Find a large car dealer, or better still a car supermarket, then take the afternoon off and go and visit. Now sit in every single car and see which you like, this can save you lots of pain later when you buy something and find that you don't like it. Anyway, having made a decision we set about looking for "our car".

The first Matiz I looked at was in Burton, it was nasty, very nasty. The body was covered in dents and scratches and the interior smelt like the inside of a mildewed linen basket. Opening the bonnet revealed huge rusty brown stains over everything. So, no problem with the cooling system then. "Yes, it overheated on the motorway, but it was alright afterwards", said the short haired, dungaree wearing female seller. Hmm, when was it last serviced? "Err, I've had it two years...". So that will be never then. On the plus side it was cheap, but it needed to be. "It does 95 down the motorway", she added. Since the top speed of a Matiz is 89 mph this didn't inspire any extra confidence. I decided to continue looking.

The next car looked quite nice, but had the same suspicious brown water stains under the bonnet, along with what appeared to be mud in the cooling system. I decided to do some research. It appears that the Matiz has a water soluble water pump. It's a known fault. When the cambelt is changed the water pump should also be changed for a new one that doesn't dissolve and fill the cooling system with rust. Of course as the pump rusts and dissolves eventually it can't pump the water and the vehicle boils over, usually out of the filler cap on the radiator reservoir. So, if the coolant is brown, the cambelt hasn't been changed and the car is likely to overheat......

Armed with this useful information we continued our search. Every single car we looked at had brown coolant. One especially fine example had the most amazing collection of stains over the entire engine. "Oh yeah, I've fitted a brand new radiator cap", said the beaming seller. "And I've cleaned up the alloys." Indeed, although perhaps "clean" isn't the word I would have used. Perhaps "spray painted the alloys whilst they were still fitted to the car getting paint all over the brakes in the process" would have been a better description. Still we had driven 20 miles to look at it so we should give it a test drive. It pulled very well, actually too well, yes the rev limiter wasn't working. Luckily I was easily able to confirm that both the engine warning light and the oil light were working fine as they came on within a minute. Then I had to make an emergency stop, certainly the use of the word emergency was accurate, although the use of the word stop wasn't. We declined his offer to "do a deal for cash" and went home.

By this stage I had almost given up. As a final attempt I went back to the Auto Trader website and found one more car we hadn't seen. It was silver, which we didn't like, which was why we had previously bypassed it. We arranged to go and have a look. At £1800 it was a bit over the budget, but what the hell. When we arrived the car was rather filthy, but the coolant wasn't! It had done nearly 80,000 miles, but the current owner had all the history including the bill for a new cambelt and, Lord be praised, a water pump. Better still the car was a special edition with electric windows, electric mirror (yes mirror - don't ask), sunroof, air conditioning, CD player etc. It drove well and had a long MOT, plus some Tax. However it had a blowing exhaust and noisy front brakes. Hayley and I discussed it and in the end got the price down to a more reasonable £1450. The seller even agreed to help us get it back home.

So there we go, we now own a Daewoo Matiz. I do, however, have a couple of final tips. Firstly if you are buying a car for cash make sure you don't take the cash out from Barclays in Swadlincote, why? Because one of the notes was counterfeit. The seller of the car found this out when he checked the money with a tester pen. This was most embarrassing. Luckily we had given him the money still sealed in the Barclays envelope. I won't go into details but I was very angry with the staff in Barclays who apparently "can't check every note". I now bank with Alliance and Leicester.

My final tip. When some idiot suggest trying out different cars in a car supermarket to decide which one you would like remind them that sitting in a car for 2 minutes isn't the same as 2 hours, as the lack of legroom in the Matiz has demonstrated.

Next time I shall explain how to replace the front brakes and fit a new exhaust, plus the Vauxhall Monterey has had some new tyres for the MOT. Now that's a saga and a half...

Printing RISC World

The new look of RISC World means that you will no longer get the yellow background when printing articles from RISCWorld. 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 RISCWorld 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