RISC World

Wakefield 2008

The official RISCWorld show report...

Good heavens, was it time for Wakefield again already? This was my main thought about 2 weeks before the show. At this point we were still working on the full release of VirtualRPC for the Mac and also on RISC OS 6.1 (aka Select4i4). Although bringing the show forward by a month meant that there was no longer any danger of it clashing with the cup final it did mean that it crept up on me more quickly than I expected. There is an old adage that works expands to fill the time available, that might be true, but it's also true that the time available is never quite enough to fit in the expanded work.

So it was only a couple of days before the show before we were sure that everything that had been worked on would be ready. This meant that my usual pre-show smugness (yes I am all ready, you're not? Oh dear) didn't appear. Instead I had a mad panic to get everything together. Have you tried assembling 200 DVD cases at 2 in the morning? No, well I don't recommend it. Still it all came together and on the morning of the 26th of April I found myself toddling up the M1 towards Wakefield with the Matiz jammed solid with all the show paraphernalia....

Setting up...

This year the Wakefield show returned to its spiritual home, the Cedar Court Hotel, a snails fart from junction 39 of the M1. Despite leaving home at 7am (half an hour later than I had planned) I still arrived before half eight and was ready for the days adventures. The first bit of fun happened before I had even got out of the car. Jack Lillingston's (Castle Technology) car was in front of mine and he was about to reverse into the loading bay behind the hotel. I quickly nipped in behind him and parked up whilst pretending to look the other way. I had barely alighted when I was approached by one of the show helpers pushing along what looked suspiciously like a large cage from a Victorian freakshow. Was he going to throw me inside? "No, you can unload and we can get everything up to your stand." Ahh, right. I unloaded most of the boxes and stacked them in the cage. It was then pushed round the back of the hotel to the service lift. There was a small queue, despite the lift having doors at either end, so people can enter one side and leave the other confusion still reigned supreme. I asked what floor we needed to go to. "There's only one". Then why do we need a lift?.

Nevermind, here's some more entertainment. The lift doors only stay open for a few seconds so as the cage that's come down is being wheeled out one way and my cage is coming in through the other door the doors decide to close trapping both cages and both helpers. We manage to force the doors back open again and get into the lift. "It doesn't work unless you press the button" I am told by another helper as the doors try and close for the third time. What does he expect it to do? It's not voice activated. In the lift with me is Steve Potts from the Wakefield club. We arrive at 'the only floor'. As we try and drag the cage out of the lift the doors shut for the fourth time. Trapping Steve in the lift. I am mainly outside of the lift by this time apart from one leg, which is still inside the lift. Luckily we manage to prise the doors open before I get a free leg extension and groin strain.

I push the cage over to where my table is. I can tell which one is mine because the APDL International EEC Software Mountain is occupying several tables next to mine. I quickly unload, then remember I have a couple of boxes still in the car. I decide to use the stairs, not only are these safer than the lift but they are also quicker and I get to keep both legs where I like them, attached.

Having now got everything from the car I set up the table and then notice that the screens for behind the stand have yet to arrive. I was about to ask Chris Hughes (the show organiser) where they were but apparently the van delivering them is late. Since I have done what I can Dave Holden and I pop outside for a chat. As we arrive outside so does the van with the display screens. We wait a suitable period of time (20 seconds) and then dash back upstairs to make sure we get our screen first. This works. So I am able to make my choice of posters, from the broad range I have available, and it's job done. I now have nearly an hour to kill before the show opens.

I do my usual wondering around interrupting people who are feverishly trying to put their stands together. Meanwhile a queue of eager customers is starting to form outside.

By about five to ten I am outside chatting with Paul Beverley (the old editor of Archive) who is looking for Jim Nagel (the new editor of Archive). I notice Jim wandering around outside the hotel lobby and Paul goes over to direct him to the show. I make my way back upstairs and get ready behind my stand for the customers to enter the hall. There seems to be some sort of delay as it's several minutes past ten before Chris Hughes shouts that the show is open. The first round of customers come rushing in...

A tour of the stands...

Due to the power of creative (ahem) writing I will stay on my stand serving customers whilst the narrative will take you on a tour of the exhibitors...

The entrance hallway is rather dark, with little natural light, so having paid to get in (they will have to pay again later to get out later) customers walk through into the spacious well lit room containing the show. If we walk right we will first see the WROCC (Wakefield RISC OS Computer Club) stand with the show organisers ready to assist anyone that needs it. Next along is a rather interesting collection of BBC based machines. Firstly there is a complete Domesday machine, with the cover removed from the video disc player so you can see it working. It set up so you can see Maps and zoom them in, just like the website. Except this is 25 years old. It must have been amazing in its day. Also on display is a BBC with a second processor. But this isn't any second processor, it's an ARM chip connected to the good old 6502 via the Tube interface, wow.

Next door, and encroaching on these BBC machines, is the charity stall. There are mounds of software and some rather tempting hardware. We need to resists for now though as there is still a lot to see and we don't want to spend all our money on one stall. Moving along the next stand is the rather large RISCOS Ltd one.

There are a wide collection of machines all running RISC OS 6.1 with a collection of different sized monitors. One that catches our eye is the 24" iMac.

The stand ends up looking like a cross between PC World and Oxfam. Paul Middleton is on had to dish out RISC OS 6.1 CDs to Select subscribers and to take new subscriptions. He won't be around for that long though as he has to go and do a theatre talk shortly.

Meanwhile across the isle Advantage6 have a couple of dual head A9 computers. Dual head means that they are running two monitors with the desktop split across both of them. A close look reveals that both machines are running a prototype version of RISC OS 6, rather than the RISC OS 4.42 they currently ship with.

We can ask either Matt or Stuart when this will be released but neither of them will be drawn on a date. Still it's worth seeing that RISC OS 6 is being worked on for the A9Home and presumably other variants.

Talking of other variants of the A9 we poke our noses round the corner to look at the NetSurf stand. All the NetSurf guys are round the back trying to get a network connection. The hotel's wireless has packed up, later we learn that it's a fault with the phone lines. Demonstrating a web browser without a connection to the internet is a rather frustrating process, but just after lunch they manage to bodge something together using a 3G mobile phone connection and can then sit back.

We mentioned the A9, well on the stand is a prototype touchscreen handheld machine which has very similar hardware to the A9. It's not currently running RISC OS, but if enough people were to put their hands in their pockets, it might...

Across from the NetSurf stand is the APDL emporium. Dave Holden has his hands full with his huge range of software. He's also demonstrating the Sparq drives that are on offer to RISCWorld subscribers for under £20, complete with power supply, leads and two 1GB discs. They are very tempting, if only they worked on Windows XP as well. We are told that they do. Oh, well we haven't spent anything so far so we may well come back later. Dave is also taking RISCWorld subscriptions, selling some second hand Acorn machines and answering a myriad of questions about his wares.

Next to APDL is VirtualAcorn. In order to avoid a split in the space time continuum I'm just behind the display screens getting an upgrade for a customer, after all I can't be in two places at once. On the stand is a laptop running Windows Vista and iMac with Mac OS X. Both machines are merrily running RISC OS under VirtualAcorn. As we turn away Aaron comes out from behind the display panels with a Wendlesdale and ham sandwich, oh and an upgrade CD for the customer. Next to VirtualAcorn are Crawfords the printers who seem rather busy having a picnic on their stand, we won't disturb them, although we can't help wondering where Aaron had obtained the sandwich.

In the corner are R-Comp, who have nearly as many products as APDL. Andrew Rawnsley has been working late nights this week in order to try and finish some new products. On display are a new PDF Generator, Touch typing trainer and an updated version of Iota's Image Animator, which R-Comp have just taken over.

Theres also lots more to see, Andrew is writing a new backup package and although it's not ready yet we are welcome to a demo. However we have just spied an Asus EEE Pc, the miniature laptop, running a copy of RISC OS care of VirtualRPC. It's generating a lot of interest and it's not tied down. No, we musn't, so we don't.

Across the way is Orpheus Internet and RISCOS Now magazine. In fact this whole corner seems to de devoted to magazines as next door are Archive, with a dazed looking Jim Nagel and Qercus, with an exuberant John Cartmell. All three publishers have the latest editions of each magazine to hand. So we grab a copy of each, it'll give us something to read until the next issue of RISCWorld comes out. In the corner is Vince Hudd of Softrock software. He's been working on WebChange, but we'll forgive him. He even gets two sentences to himself as he's going to ring Dave Holden next week and renew his RISCWorld subscription.

Across from Vince is the CJE Micros stand. As usual they have high stock levels and prices to match. Still the stand is busy and it looks like there are several people buying various items so CJE should be pleased. However there isn't any sign of Chris Evans, CJE Supremo. We are informed that he's restocking on the charity stand and may be some time.

Next door as RISCOS Open who have just released a new batch of RISC OS 5 source code this very morning. We can take away a CD if you like, or a T-shirt or a mousemat, or something. The RISCOS Open stand seems to be a mirror of the NetSurf one. Two tables pushed together with a banner attached to the front and with three geeks sitting behind. As we turn away we notice that the RISCOS Open banner is falling off the front of the stand. We decide not to tell them, they will find out sooner or later.

On the next stand are Martin Wuerthner and Mike Glover of Artworks and Techwriter fame. Martin has a new version of ArtWorks with PDF handling. We have to stop for a demo, it's very impressive and certainly beats any other RISC OS methods of making or reading PDF files. Martin has also been busy updating both TechWriter and EasiWriter now that he has taken them over from Mike Glover. Talking of Mike Glover we ask what he's doing here, hasn't he retired. Apparently he can't just give up shows in one hit and has to do it gradually. Really? No, he's here to help as Martin is giving a theatre talk and there won't be anyone to mind the stand.

The next stand along appears to be unmanned, which is strange as it's the Arm Club. Looking more carefully we notice a strange green creature clutching a cup of black coffee. It's the same size as David Ruck, it is David Ruck. Apparently he and some other's were in the bar till after 4 in the morning. This doesn't strike either of us as a good idea, anyway wasn't it expensive getting drunk in a hotel? Apparently not, if the rumour about all the drinks were paid for out of the Arm Club subscriptions turns out to be true. Would we like to join? Whilst the idea of being able to contribute to David Rucks ill health is very tempting we decide that if anyone is going to get drunk on our money it will be us. David Ruck turns his back to us for a moment and we hide his coffee. As we walk away we can hear him asking where it's gone...

Next along we find Castle Technology and Jack Lillingston. His smile, like a medieval torture instrument, appears instantly and vanishes just as quickly as we say that we aren't buying another Iyonix, or a monitor, no we have a copy of really we would like to carry on looking we have a printer already...that's very we don't carry cash...can you let go our our leg now?

There is still more to see, there is Ray Favre with copies of Dr Wimp. The RISC OS Connect project have a small stand, there's the RISC OS packaging project, Steve Fryatt, he of PrintPDF fame is also around somewhere. We consult the handy show guide with a floorplan of the event. I have to return to my stand now, I can see a customer. No you carry on, I took some photo's this morning before the show opened. Don't forget to take home one of APDL's Sparq drives...