RISC World

Editor's Corner

Aaron Timbrell's own bit of the magazine.

Editors Rant of the month

Do you know that come this September it's the 10th anniversary of the great Acorn fire sale. As you no doubt recall Acorn was artificially collapsed by a well known firm of bankers (that's not rhyming slang, although it could be) to get hold of the ARM shares it held. These ARM shares were worth more than Acorn itself. So, in the great spirit of capitalism, someone decided to make a fast buck by buying up enough Acorn shares to control the company. Having got control of Acorn it was deliberately scuttled so that the ARM shares could be grabbed and sold. Netting a nice fat profit for some faceless bankers and putting the Acorn market into turmoil.

Well, although it's hard to believe, come nearly 10 years on and we are still here. In the post Acorn chaos things really didn't look promising. I remember attending a developer conference at a venue in Cambridge where rescue plans were discussed. My impression was that there was too much panic and not enough clear thought. I pretty soon reached the conclusion that with the number of people involved (nearly a hundred) plus the different plans put forward that nothing would be achieved and it would soon be game over. I was wrong. RISCOS Ltd was formed out of the ashes of this meeting and within a few months had negotiated the rights to RISC OS and amazingly come up with the £100,000 from the RISC OS community that was needed. This was much to the annoyance of one recently formed RISC OS company, Castle Technology Ltd, who had been quietly going around behind the scenes trying to sabotage the efforts to set up RISCOS Ltd, or Pheonix, as the idea was known in the early days.

This behind the scenes activity set the seed for the future of RISC OS and ever since there have been factions inside RISC OS hell bent on smashing everyone else. Things reached a head in 2004 when Castle decided to launch their solicitors at myself, RISCOS Ltd, R-Comp, CJE, Advantage6 and others. It seems that the original plan had been to serve notice on all these companies just before the Wakefield 2004 show opened. This would have prevented a number of the big players from exhibiting and would have effectively killed the show. It seems as though it was only the fear of the backlash from the user base that prevented Castle following this through. What followed was long and complicated. It involved lots of meetings and a great deal of time and money. The end result was that a new agreement was drafted between RISCOS Ltd and Castle Technology Ltd. RISCOS Ltd was prepared to give up some of it's rights in order to stop the damaging "war" that was going on. This agreement was thrashed through in one mammoth 13 hour meeting at Castle's Solicitors in Cambridge.

Part of this agreement was for the porting of the RISCOS Ltd versions of RISC OS to the Iyonix. Impressively, despite having pretty much everything they had wanted Castle Technology Ltd broke the agreement before the ink was dry. I won't go into details but despite the best efforts of RISCOS Ltd to patch it back together the new agreement was declared null and void and everything reverted back to how it had been before. With one important change. Castle Technology Ltd were a spent force. Had they used the money on developing new products, rather than an ill advised and ultimately doomed legal action, then maybe we would have an Iyonix II and heaven knows what else.

So why am I recapping all this. Well it's following a recent thread on the newsgroups started by one of several Castle Technology Ltd "fan boys". Put simply the thread was about Select for the Iyonix and was another attempt to blame RISCOS Ltd for not producing it. Some of these who knew the facts, including myself and Dave Holden tried to correct the misinformation, but to little avail. As of today the thread has died out. Why? Because our claims that Castle had blocked Select for the Iyonix was accidentally backed up by another Castle Technology Ltd fan, David Ruck. He later tried to back track and claim he hadn't said it, but it was too late. The whole "it's all RISCOS Ltd's fault" argument collapsed on its back side. So if you have an Iyonix and would like to get RISC OS 6 running on it then you need to kick Castle Technology Ltd. They know the information that RISCOS Ltd doesn't have. With that information RISC OS 6 on Iyonix hardware is possible, without it then it's very unlikely.

So what's my point? Well near the start I said it was heard to believe that we are still here. Now you know one of the reasons why. RISC OS hasn't survived because of the different factions, it's survived despite them. I am please that it has, but I am also very surprised.

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

For the last few issues I haven't had a great deal to write about. Well for this issue things certainly improved, but not for the better. Lets us start this saga of woe and bruised knuckles, and ego, with the little Daewoo Matiz...

About three weeks before the Wakefield show the Matiz needed to come off the road as the MOT was about to expire. I wasn't sure what would be required for an MOT as we bought the car with a "fresh ticket" last year. Anyway I was a little short of time with preparing for Wakefield. The transport situation wasn't a problem as I just out the Matiz on the drive and put the 4x4 (the "Truck") on the road. I decided that I would sort the Matiz out after the show, when I hoped to have some spare time. So I started driving the 4x4 around. The cost of putting fuel in it was rather eye watering, but never mind it would only be for 3 weeks or so. Anyway let us fast forward to 8 days before the show, a Friday....

We went shopping in Swadlincote and Hayley noticed a little patch of oil under the truck. I wasn't overly worried as it's often done this for reasons that I have never discovered. Anyway later that day when we were parked somewhere else there was a small puddle. Oh well. That evening I had to go out and when I returned to the truck there was no puddle in evidence, instead there was a small lake. Bugger. I started it up and decided to try and drive it home, it was only a couple of miles. I rapidly discovered that it wouldn't shift out of first gear, so it was a reasonable conclusion that the oil was from the automatic gearbox. I drove home slowly and noisily. Having got home I dumped the truck outside and decided to leave it till the morning.

Next morning I stuck my head underneath. I then unstuck my head. Yes, the whole underside was covered in oil. What to do? Well we now had no usable vehicles, but which to fix? I had a think and decided that as the Matiz was already on the drive I should fix that first. Or, at least, take a look and see what needed doing for the Mot. I went round and checked everything. It needed a new wiper blade on the rear and a new front sidelight bulb on the passenger side. it also needed me to "fix" the exhaust to stop it banging on the bodywork. So, the first job, I decided, was the exhaust. It was the work of a moment to jack it up and put axle stands under the back. I could then examine the problem. The exhaust was actually banging on a heat shield. I dug out my tyre levers and banged and prodded for a few minutes. I then noticed something obvious. I could shift the exhaust over on it's rubber hanging mounts. Ah. I moved it over to one side and checked. Yes it didn't hit the heat shield anymore. As long as it didn't move itself back before or during the MOT I would get away with it.

Whilst having the Matiz jacked up I quickly checked the handbrake, well as I might as well whilst I am there. It wasn't working on the drivers side and was binding a little on the passenger side. Well that's easy enough, now where are the adjusters. Yes, where are they? Half an hour later I decided that although I was still under the car the adjusters weren't. Were they under the handbrake? Would this mean removing an entire landfill of interior trim? Luckily no. In the rear footwell I had noticed a small plastic plate. I loosed the single screw and levered the plate of. Underneath were the handbrake adjusters. Success. Now where had that screw gone? I found it down the back of the seat. The adjusters were of the normal double lock nut variety. This should be easy. It wasn't. In the end it took me an hour and a half to get the handbrake balanced correctly. The process works like this....

Climb into rear footwell
Loosen nuts
Adjust nuts
Tighten nuts
Climb out of rear footwell
Check wheels
Until completely mad = true

Having sorted this I had to take a rest and gave up for day. I would start again on Sunday....

Sunday dawned clear and bright, unlike me. Still it was ideal car swearing weather. Now the sidelight bulb, how difficult can that be? Well I won't go into the full details of the ordeal, but for future reference to get at the bulb all one has to do is:

Disconnect battery
Remove battery
Remove two bolts holding top of lamp assembly
Disconnect indicators
Remove four bolts holding on panel between headlights and bumper
Lever off panel between headlights and bumper
Touch in damaged paint, between headlights and bumper
Remove bottom bolt holding headlight
Loosen headlight
Remove electrical connector from headlight
Remove rubber seal from back of headlight
Lever out sidelight bulb holder
Remove bulb

At this point I discovered that it was a type of bulb I didn't have in my box of spares. Never mind, the local autofactors is only 10 minutes walk away. It was closed. Of course it's a Sunday, why would you need an autofactors on a Sunday? I now spent 45 minutes walking to Halfords.

Having finally got to Halfords, 20 minutes before they shut I couldn't find the right bulb. I still couldn't find the right bulb 5 minutes before they shut. Luckily I found one in an emergency bulb pack. It was nearly £10 for the pack, but sod it. It was nearly 5 o'clock by the time I got home. Luckily the bulb fitted and worked and putting things back together was much easier than taking them apart. So that should be it, I went to have a bath and some dinner.

At exactly 8:30 the next morning I rung our local MOT centre. Could they do an MOT today? No. Tomorrow? No. Wednesday? No. Please? In the end I was given the option of dumping the Matiz with them at 8am on Tuesday and they would do their best. That was good enough for me. So Tuesday morning dawned and I took the dogs out extra early. I the took one final walk round the Matiz. Swore loudly and disappeared into the roof to find my parts boxes. Why? Well do you remember the knackered wiper blade? I hadn't.

I got the car to the Mot centre just after 8:30. I explained my plight and they kindly tested it over lunch, instead of taking lunch I suspect. I sat in the office at home like an expectant father, would it pass? Every phone call made me jump. Phone calls lasting more than 2 minutes made me desperate. I am sorry I need to go now I said to one customer who, after 3 minutes, still hadn't got to the point. I still hadn't heard by 2 in the afternoon. So I rung...

It passed! Wayyyy, there weren't even any advisory notes. Excellent. I went to pay and pick it up. Having come back home I went to file the MOT in the Matiz paperwork file. Out fell the insurance certificate. It ran out the day before Wakefield....argghhhhh!

Printing Foundation RISCWorld

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