RISC World

RISC OS South East

Steve Potts presents a brief write up of the recent RISC OS show in Guildford.

Despite the recent news that Castle / Iyonix Ltd have left the market, the show was quite an upbeat affair and was similar to previous years, with only a couple of minor changes. Given the distance I travel to attend this show (I'm used to long drives with my job), I make a whole day of it and ended up doing several circuits of the main hall, trying to browse stalls and spending money that I've not had time to do at Wakefield. The show seemed reasonably busy, with queues at times for various stands. .

At first it seemed like Archive were a no show, but it turned out that Jim Nagel had been delayed and he arrived a little after midday. Jim's arrival meant that punters had a choice of new issues of Archive, Qercus and RISCOS Now magazines.

Around the hall, APDL were selling a wide range of hardware and software including Syquest drives, UniPods, PS/2 Mouse Minis and RiscWorld CD Magazine discs.

Always happy to see a customer... (photo copyright Peter Howkins)

R-Comp had released their new SafeStore backup and updated Netfetch software. Safestore is a comprehensive solution with backing up over network or on to pretty much any media you care to throw at it. The system integrates with a Configure Plugin and can be scheduled to backup at certain times or when your computer is idle.

CJE released new, improved LanMan98 version 2, with more support for newer network devices, along with support for encrypted passwords and Windows Vista. Another very welcome surprise at the CJE stand was an updated and improved PhotoDesk - version 3.09.

Hold on, I know I bought one with me... (photo copyright FRW)

RISCOS Ltd. were selling Window Manager PRMs and subscriptions for Select (currently RISC OS 6.10). It was also possible to get hands on experience with the latest released features of 6.10 and also some future features. Previewing on the stand were 3 short videos, similar to those released with 6.10. There was a new 64 thousand colour mode, that operates in the same amount of VRAM as 32 thousand. Improved Alpha support for Paint, and a new colour picker with CIELab colour model. Also on the RISCOS Ltd. stand was the Dual-Head video A9Wail computer showing the developments towards RISC OS 6 on the A9 platform.

The A9Wail (photo copyright Peter Howkins)

The A9Wail in vertical mode (photo copyright Peter Howkins)

ROOL were selling Batch 5 sources on CD. This code should by now be available on the website for download. Also on sale were their usual merchandise items, plus small desktop calendars for 2009. At the back of the stand was a big poster with an image of the RISC OS 5 ROM, labelled up with what the various parts were.

D-Rool (photo copyright FRW)

Martin Wuerthner was selling the latest versions of ArtWorks and Tech/EasiWriter. Other than purchasing an upgrade, I didn't get to spend very much time at the MW-Software stand but did have a brief chat.

Martin Wuerthner has a "Richard Claderman moment" (photo copyright Peter Howkins)

Steve Fryatt, a new exhibitor to the South East show, was busy most of the time demonstrating and selling his Cashbook and PrintPDF software. Steve was donating proceeds to charity.

The Netsurf team were at the show with the latest developments in the RISC OS web browser.

The ArmClub were selling their usual offerings as well as a few bits of hardware.

Paul Vigay had released a new application for web animations and was selling this along with a few other bits and pieces.

Graham Shaw was also at the show, talking to visitors about his developments on an independent Shared C Library amongst other things.

Show talks

During the show, I sat in a couple of the theatre presentations, but unfortunately couldn't attend them all due to other time constraints - there's never enough time to do everything and see everything because you can't always get to stands when they are quiet (which I suppose is a good thing).

RISC OS Open Ltd. (ROOL)

Steve Revil and Andrew Hodgkinson treated the audience to a double act and although there was a problem with Andrew's microphone, he soldiered on. .

Firstly we were given a tour of the newly updated website and some of the features of the site were explained at length, including forums, wishlists and RSS feeds.

Steve and Andrew explained that their work is not for profit and that they don't pay themselves but use the money earned to cover show expenses. The goal of ROOL was stated as wanting to publish as much of the source code to RISC OS 5 as possible and allow free of charge use of the code.

ROOL has now spent roughly 2 years working through the code trying to clean it up for release but are not further developing the code themselves. They hope at some point to publish a softloading tool for loading a ROM image of RISC OS 5. .

Steve Revil asked that the audience take part in the ROOL website and help with documentation of the components available.

The talk continued saying that ROOL were slowly moving towards the release of a whole Iyonix ROM but no promise was given about when this would be done. .

Two components for which source is not released were highlighted as ShareFSand LANManager it's not clear how many others are yet to be released. ROOL have now included the build environment within the version control system rather than just supply compressed files containing the build environment.

Steve Revil made it clear that they will not be releasing the code for the compiler suite and that in order to build the ROOL sources, people would need to purchase the C Compiler from either themselves or Castle at £50.

Next came the subject of why ROOL were releasing the code. ROOL believe that people might be interested but no longer have a machine or that some people like to play with older emulated systems. The hope is that a lot more eyes that have not seen RISC OS recently or ever will become interested in RISC OS.

ROOL want to build RISC OS 5 for a Risc PC and then let people use this with RiscPCEmu on other platforms instead of Virtual Risc PC. ROOL did acknowledge that VRPC is a superior product and has more polish than other emulators however. Steve Revil believes that over time, the ROOL releases in conjunction with RiscPCEmu will become a replacement RISC OS machine and that softloads would be possible on Iyonix, Risc PC and Emulated machines.

The point of running RISC OS 5 on other machines is something which escapes me, when 4.39 and 6.XX have much more functionality for a modest price of a Select subscription - which will also bring updates. RISC OS 5 has had little or no development since its release on the Iyonix and I don't see that changing.


Paul Middleton started his talk by reminding the audience that it was around 10 years ago when talks first started about rescuing RISC OS from the death of Acorn Computers Ltd. There was an early plan that involved Peter Bondar and a company called Tulip to try and rescue the Phoebe computer. It became apparent that there were more problems with the machine than had first been realised and in the end the key asset of interest was RISC OS itself rather than the incomplete Phoebe computer and so this is how RISCOS Ltd. was born.

Paul then moved on to explain that RISCOS Ltd were not ever intended to replace Acorn but were dedicated solely to developing RISC OS.

One of the questions Paul is often now asked is, "What is the current situation with regards to the A9Home?" Paul explained that he cannot really comment on this directly because RISCOS Ltd. are only involved in the core RISC OS product and 32-bitting. Advantage 6 have done all the hardware support for the A9.

People seem to underestimate what is involved in producing hardware, most manufacturers are in China and produce 50 - 60 thousand units and then quickly move on to the next product developments. As an example, RISCOS Ltd. were at one point considering porting RISC OS to the Psion Netbook, but it turned out that production was going to stop and move to new hardware and even Psion themselves couldn't field technical questions about the hardware because it was actually only badged by them.

RISCOS Ltd. are expecting the future of RISC OS to be in Virtual products using Windows, Mac OS or Linux to abstract the hardware. ARM chips are not now targeted at Desktop computer platforms. The difference with the A9 Home product is that Advantage 6 designed the hardware rather than trying to buy it in from someone else and so were able to have more control over the product (presumably there's nothing stopping someone else taking this same approach).

Paul noted that registrations from Virtual Risc PC copies of RISC OS reveal some interesting names from the past that people might think have disappeared.

The current version of RISC OS is 6.10 and this was available with Select subscriptions at the show. The time between version 4.39 and 6.02 being released was quite a long gap. It seems that some of this was in part due to the fact that people seemed to not want beta quality releases as was the original plan for the Select scheme; so RISC OS Ltd. began trying to put out larger, more stable releases and moved away from beta releases in more recent years. In the early days, Pace were interested in a test group so the RISC OS community was also helping Pace when code was fed back into the desktop source tree and released as part of Select. At some point though, the Pace share price fell and they decided to stop working on RISC OS stuff.

The RISC OS Select scheme continued on and carried out more 32-bitting work on the sources to the point which made the collaboration with Advantage6 on the A9 possible.

More recently RISCOS Ltd. have been looking at the idea of 2 versions of Select. One resembling an off the shelf, stable product release and another ongoing development release more similar to the early beta days. No details have been decided either way yet.

Towards the end of the presentation, Paul demonstrated the new features that have been in development but not yet released. .

Firstly there's the new 64 thousand colour mode running on a Risc PC in the same amount of VRAM as 32 thousand colours, some of the core applications, such as Paint, have been updated to support this new feature. A Draw file was put up on screen to demonstrate the feature, this showed three pictures as snapshots of a display in 32 thousand, 64 thousand and 16 million colours.

Next Paul demonstrated a new Colour picker with a new colour model (CIELab), that he had distributed a hand-out about before the start of the talk. Also of note was that each colour model now had a graphical colour square to choose from instead of the boring sliders for instance, with the old CMYK model.

The third new feature Paul demonstrated was improved Alpha support in Paint. Using the new colour picker, he showed that you could paint with a semi-transparent colour in one operation rather than have to paint with a colour and then apply the alpha mask later as was the previous way to do this.

Acknowledging that some visitors to the show wouldn't have been able to get to the Wakefield release of RISC OS 6.10, Paul also demonstrated a favourite feature from 6.10 - the SetType menu that lists all the available types for the user and means you no longer need to remember the type names or numbers. .

All of the features shown were available for people to see and play with on the RISCOS Ltd. stand.

Steve Potts