Setting off from Portsmouth at 7.30pm I thought I'd allow plenty of time to reach the annual RISC OS Southwest Show in the picturesque setting of the Webbington Hotel, deep in the North Somerset countryside. Due to adverse weather being predicted I took the long route via the M4 and M5, arriving soon after 10.30am, after a minor detour due to my GPS getting a bit lost!! As it happened, there was virtually no snow anyway so I could have gone via the direct, scenic route, but I digress!
On arrival we paid our money and entered the bright and spacious hall. It's a nice venue, but the size did tend to reveal the lack of people in attendence, or at least at around mid-morning. Jack Lillingston was just about to start his talk in the theatre so we made our way into the little side room. Attendance was good and attended by perhaps upwards of 100 people, the smaller room giving a greater perception of visitors.
He had a good selection of goodies lined up on the demonstration table, including the new X100 'desktop' Iyonix which, in the Castle tradition of not talking about things before they're ready, had only been announced on the Thursday before the show. And a very nice machine it is too, being housed in a smart metal case occupying the same footprint as a single-slice Risc PC. It's slightly cut-down from an expansion point of view, having no legacy podule slots and only accepting up to two slimlime PCI cards. However, one addition was a combined floppy drive and multi-card reader fitted as standard to the machine, which I did like. Other than that, the general spec is the same as the existing Iyonix range. However, Jack did explain that it's slightly (although not much) noisier in operation than the standard Iyonix, due to the case style and the fact desktop cases are more difficult to cool. It does however, conform to all the relevant emission standards, so exporting to the US of A shouldn't pose a problem.
He started the demonstration by showing off the Iyonix's great speed, especially in the area of photo viewing and manipulation. JPEGs flew around the screen and enlarging portions of 1MB images were virtually instantaneous. Next he showed off the USB capabilities and a new Kodak dye-sublimation printer and Epson scanner, both controlled via USB and a new printer driver, initially written by John Ballance, Technical director of Castle and now tweaked and updated by Stuart Tyrell. Suffice to say, the new driver will work on both Castle and STD Risc PC USB cards. He printed a cityscape image on the printer and passed it around the audience. Excellent, photographic print quality in less than a couple of minutes. He then re-scanned the printed image and enlarged both the scan and the original JPEG on the screen. Although there was, understandibly, a slight difference in quality, zooming in still revealed details that we couldn't see via the naked eye! Impressive indeed, and for under 200 quid!
I came out feeling very positive about RISC OS - not specifically because of all the goodies Jack demonstated (being an Iyonix owner already, I know it's a fab machine!) but some of the diversions he mentioned such as the work they're doing outside the traditional RISC OS scene, with other, larger companies using RISC OS based computers. Hopefully this will all benefit Castle and the RISC OS scene in general.
Many familiar faces there and I had a good natter with people (always one of the best parts of RISC OS shows to me) and ended up spending far too much money, most of it on the RComp stand, who had a good selection of software goodies! Bought DataPower2 (will be nice to install on the Iyonix without worrying about dubious protection methods, ala the old one!!), upgraded MessengerPro to the 32-bit version and registered Paul Reuvers/XAT's new HID utility for Iyonix, which now gives me proper wheel mouse operation. Cool!
Next stop CJE (another regular at shows, and definitely not one to miss, if only to chat to THE Chris Evans and Andrew & John) and bought a USB wheely mouse (for !HID). Only disappointment here was that I couldn't think of anything they DIDN'T have in stock! :-)
Good to chat to John Cartmell (as always) and parted with yet more money as I decided to 'upgrade' my Acorn Publisher subscription to AP plus the newly acquired Acorn User. RISCOS Ltd had a largish stand next door, but unfortunately didn't actually have any of the newly announced Select ROM sets available to take away - so I managed to avoid parting with any more dosh!
Castle and Oregano UK had a nice prominent stand in the middle of the hall, showing off the new desktop X100 machine - very nice! And always a friendly and welcome stand! Had more natter etc.
APDL, another regular, were there with their extensive selection of goodies - but no Iyonix compatible version of DrawWorks yet :-( After chatting to Dave Holden, it looks like that will be on the shopping list for the Wakefield Show in May.
Lastly, ended up spending more money buying an Iyonix pre-installed Linux hard disc from the vastly over-worked (and under-paid) Peter Naulls who is another person whom you wonder how he gets so much fabby stuff for RISC OS done in so little time! Go and support his Linux porting project NOW!!!
Apologies for anyone I've missed out. That's a brief run down of my day.