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The Icon Bar: News and features: What is the point of RISCOS Ltd?
 

What is the point of RISCOS Ltd?

Posted by Jeffrey Lee on 19:00, 7/11/2009 | , , , , , , , ,
 
What is the point of RISCOS Ltd?After hearing the news that videos from the recent RISC OS London Show are now available online, I decided to take a look at what RISCOS Ltd had to say in their presentation. The results I found to be quite shocking...
 
Disclaimer: Although I've obviously been doing a lot of work for RISC OS Open recently, I am not a member of ROOL, nor am I speaking on behalf of ROOL (or The Icon Bar). The opinions expressed below are mine and mine alone, and any likeness or resemblence to any other person's opinions is entirely coincidental.
 

 
Firstly, despite the concerns of a couple of the more "distant" members of the TIB staff, it looks like ROL are still alive and are still running the Select scheme. Rather unsurprisingly, they say (at 16:25) that their cashflow isn't stable enough for them to commit to any timetable/roadmap for what's going into future releases. They also cite (at around 23:40) commercial confidentiality reasons for not being able to announce the Vpod-related graphics improvements ahead of time. All fair enough so far.
 
But then, at 38:50, when he talks about the lack of RISC OS 6 on the A9home, ROL big-wig Paul Middleton gives a rather shocking answer:
"The A9home, one of the problems there is simply, it's hit the point where things have got to be done, we just don't have the people who have got the skills to actually solve the problem."
And at 40:10:
"All we can practically do is the areas that we've got people that have got interest in. And I think you can probably guess, the areas that people have got an interest in are [...] graphics"
I.e. even though subscribing to the RISC OS Select scheme means that you'll be funding the development of RISC OS, there's no system in place to ensure that the money is being spent on areas that actually need development. If they come across a problem that's too complex for their skill set, or involves working on an area that doesn't hold any interest to the programmer in question, they'll just ignore it. Basically ROL have no direction and no commitments. They say that in the past they've always been sub-contracted to work on things (Omega, A9home, Vpod), but without an external company to give them a goal and a source of funding they're content with just sitting there free-wheeling and soaking up the cash of the Select scheme subscribers.
 
At least Castle were smart enough to realise that they didn't have enough money left to fund the development of the OS, and as a result they open(ish)-sourced it to allow the remaining desktop users to look after it themselves.
 
In fact, what is the point of ROL if they don't have any developers who are working on the code full-time?
 
They can't claim that the money from the Select scheme is putting food on the table of any of their employees (43:25 - "We don't have any programmers whose full time job is doing RISC OS"). And they can't claim that they're using the money to fix any of the real issues with the OS. They can't even claim that they're using it to improve the desktop experience, because they don't produce any roadmaps detailing what they're working on for the next version. Even after a release has been made there's no guarantee that they'll disclose any useful information as to what's changed (see the Select 5i2 changelist, for example). They're just using their subscribers money to provide an extra bit of income to fund the whims of the developers.
 
One thing is now clear to me - with Castle effectively dead and ROL lacking direction, the long-term future of the OS has been left entirely in the hands of its users. We've therefore got to ask ourselves how we want to proceed:

Continue as things are now

The ROOL supporters will continue to support ROOL, and the ROL supporters will continue to support ROL, even though neither can presently guarantee the long-term future of the OS. In the end one side will come out on top, but there's no telling how long that will take or how much the market will shrink in the meantime.

Convince ROL to work on the ROOL codebase

This would be a hard sell for ROL, as it would effectively involve them abandoning the last 10 years of their work. Their pride may also be a problem - could they bring themselves to work on "the enemy"'s code?
 
And also, if the ROL developers were to suddenly start getting paid to work on the ROOL codebase, how would the people currently doing work for free react? Would ROOL possibly lose momentum rather than gain it?

Convince ROOL to work on the ROL codebase

Of course convincing ROOL themselves to work on the ROL code is probably impossible, but if all the ROOL supporters were to throw their time and money at ROL, what would happen? Would ROL gain the funding and skill they need to rescue the OS, or would they still lack the determination and direction that's preventing them from getting RISC OS 6 working on the A9home? Or is there simply not enough money left in the market to guarantee the success of a commercial branch of the OS? (The last time ROL tried asking for money, for the Select on Iyonix scheme, they fell far short of the target they believed they needed to reach for the venture to be commercially viable, and thus the project was scrapped).
 
And there's also the question of how many ROOL supporters could be convinced to support ROL in the first place, considering ROL's current lack of direction, and the fact that ROOL are so close to having the full OS source released under the shared source license.
 
To mis-quote Paul Middleton (at 33:05, when he's talking about the open/shared source threat): "If you're doing a job, and you've got the skill to do it, you should get paid for it" - which is exactly why I'm not paying ROL, because they're not doing the job!

Links


 
  What is the point of RISCOS Ltd?
  This is a long thread. Click here to view the threaded list.
 
Peter Naulls Message #111824, posted by pnaulls at 19:49, 7/11/2009
Member
Posts: 317
I mentioned related sentiments, for entirely different reasons recently:

http://www.riscos.info/index.php/Special:AWCforum/?action=st%2Fid49%2FWhy_we_won%27t_see_RISC_OS_6_on_new_hardware

(I still haven't see the videos, and could only go on stuff I knew). ROL has lost their way. I would very much like to see them get back on track, but they have to do something drastic or radical, such as OSSing what they have, or something even more serious.

My feeling however is that ROL is too much conservatively committee driven, and doesn't know what to do. I certainly don't want to write ROL off completely, and they have done some fantastic stuff for RISC OS, but it's unclear how they can positively proceed from this point.

Castle at least (for all their own mistakes) has at least decoupled themselves from RO (via ROOL) in a manner that's at least somewhat effective to users.
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Ian Cook Message #111825, posted by ilcook at 20:01, 7/11/2009, in reply to message #111824
trainResident idiot
Posts: 1066
I couldn't agree more about about ROL, they need to look at their direction, with castle/ROOL at least Jack and co. had the sense to do something about it.

I mentioned related sentiments, for entirely different reasons recently:

http://www.riscos.info/index.php/Special:AWCforum/?action=st%2Fid49%2FWhy_we_won%27t_see_RISC_OS_6_on_new_hardware

(I still haven't see the videos, and could only go on stuff I knew). ROL has lost their way. I would very much like to see them get back on track, but they have to do something drastic or radical, such as OSSing what they have, or something even more serious.

My feeling however is that ROL is too much conservatively committee driven, and doesn't know what to do. I certainly don't want to write ROL off completely, and they have done some fantastic stuff for RISC OS, but it's unclear how they can positively proceed from this point.

Castle at least (for all their own mistakes) has at least decoupled themselves from RO (via ROOL) in a manner that's at least somewhat effective to users.
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Tony Lizard Message #111827, posted by Mr Lizard at 21:50, 7/11/2009, in reply to message #111824
Member
Posts: 24
I think people are much too polite about RISCOS Ltd! For years now they've abused RISC OS users' generosity and desire to see a future for their platform, and effectively used Select subscribers' subscriptions as if they were charitable donations 'for the good of the platform', providing precious little genuine innovation in return. It's disingenuous and unethical behaviour for an organisation that is supposed to be a for-profit company.

RISCOS Ltd have always had an impossible task ahead of them -- RISC OS is effectively a dead platform and has been for years -- but I think one of the most fundamental problems has been Paul Middleton himself. At best he's proven himself to not be a natural businessman; at worst, a bumbling incompetent. Why do people put up with it?
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Peter Naulls Message #111828, posted by pnaulls at 22:47, 7/11/2009, in reply to message #111827
Member
Posts: 317
for an organisation that is supposed to be a for-profit company.
I don't know if that was a typo or not, but ROL have always promoted themselves as a non-profit company, with RISC OS itself being the priority. Perhaps they should have been better off being a charity, but I think the laws on that in the UK have changed a bit over the last decade.

Anyway, my feeling is that this approach was always going to fail - at least if the aim is to make money, then there's going to be real products that customers want, and there should continue to be money to push in certain directions. The result may be a slightly narrow focus, but at least things don't drag on forever.

[Edited by pnaulls at 22:48, 7/11/2009]
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Alan Robertson Message #111829, posted by nytrex at 23:38, 7/11/2009, in reply to message #111828
Member
Posts: 24
I watched both the ROL and ROOL videos this afternoon and was amazed at the ROL 'presentation'. It simply turned into 'an informal chat' where Paul Middleton admitted the shortcomings of the RISC OS market, and how the companies finances and developer skill-sets are the limiting factors.

It is clear that the ROL strategy as a closed-source OS business has failed. Anyone who watched the video, or was there in person would I am sure agree 100% with this.

ROL do have some good stuff in their branch of code, but I personally think its best if its just forgotten.

The shared-source approach by Castle is slowly winning support of users and developers, and I'm very happy about that. With real development of the OS happening in different areas such as the Filer, Window Manager, HAL and Kernel and with future ports to *much* faster hardware there is a real future for users.

The sooner developers and users get 100% behind ROOL the quicker all this can happen.
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Tony Lizard Message #111830, posted by Mr Lizard at 03:02, 8/11/2009, in reply to message #111828
Member
Posts: 24
for an organisation that is supposed to be a for-profit company.
I don't know if that was a typo or not, but ROL have always promoted themselves as a non-profit company, with RISC OS itself being the priority.
No, it wasn't a typo, and I must admit that I've never seen them promote themselves as a non-profit company. A company that in recent years has failed to make a profit, perhaps..! grin

Seriously, though, if you could point me to somewhere they've described themselves as being non-profit, I'd genuinely be interested in seeing it.

I've just dug up RISCOS Ltd's original Articles of Association, and I can't see any reference to it. I haven't found anything on the Internet implying that it's non-profit other than a couple of (admittedly ancient) references to PM talking manipulative drivel about how RISCOS Ltd needs to be supported or RISC OS won't be developed. And then presumably the world will stop turning or something.

The only thing I've come across that might, in a fit of generosity, be construed as RISCOS Ltd being non-profit is "The price of RISC OS 4 upgrades has been set to allow for the future development of RISC OS not to make a fat profit for RISCOS Ltd." at http://www.riscos.com/faqs/ro4_qanda.htm.

There's nothing wrong with being a for-profit company, of course - good luck to them! My problem is with the attitude of a company that manipulates its customers with a 'support us, support your platform' message on one hand, while nominally being run for profit on the other.
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Peter Naulls Message #111831, posted by pnaulls at 04:33, 8/11/2009, in reply to message #111830
Member
Posts: 317
Seriously, though, if you could point me to somewhere they've described themselves as being non-profit, I'd genuinely be interested in seeing it.
I don't seem to be able to find a suitable quote. This is however something I've been told first hand on several occasions by several ROL shareholders. Again, this is some time ago, and I can't immediately provide good evidence apart from my word and the circumstantial evidence of how they've done their business.

All I could find is some references to how projects in general are funded - each on its own basis, which is perhaps slightly relevant to this.

If anyone can back up this claim, it would be Chris Evans, and perhaps also druck.
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Eric Rucker Message #111832, posted by bhtooefr at 04:38, 8/11/2009, in reply to message #111830
Member
Posts: 336
There's nothing wrong with being a for-profit company, of course - good luck to them! My problem is with the attitude of a company that manipulates its customers with a 'support us, support your platform' message on one hand, while nominally being run for profit on the other.
I wouldn't even say there's a problem with that - as long as, while they're making that profit, they actually support the platform.
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Simon Willcocks Message #111833, posted by Stoppers at 09:56, 8/11/2009, in reply to message #111831
Member
Posts: 272
Seriously, though, if you could point me to somewhere they've described themselves as being non-profit, I'd genuinely be interested in seeing it.
I don't seem to be able to find a suitable quote. This is however something I've been told first hand on several occasions by several ROL shareholders.
Certainly, it´s never produced a return on investment for shareholders.

IMO, they lost their way very early on, when they decided not to do hardware independence off their own bat and insisted on doing all the work for any port themselves (paid for by the customer) rather than using the customer´s expertise. Who they thought was going to act against their own interests and blindly backroll development for their competitors, I don´t know.
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Herbert zur Nedden Message #111836, posted by hzn at 11:11, 8/11/2009, in reply to message #111824
Member
Posts: 9
I dare to have a bit different view... "ROL has lost their way" is not what I'd say.

Initially ROL hat good missions and plans and offereings.

But then they started to simply drop mission goals, reduced what offered and finally even didn't even mange to tell their customers what they got and what they will get next...

but at the same time they never reduced the select fee desipte drastic reduction of what you got for your money (yes, I wrote "fee" on purpose). It always amazed me how many subscribers they had...

I'm happy to pay for good software but the price has to be right - my guess is that that is what is the main problem of ROL.
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Andrew Duffell Message #111837, posted by ad at 11:44, 8/11/2009, in reply to message #111836

Posts: 3215
It always amazed me how many subscribers [to Select] they had...
Are there any figures floating around for the number of subscribers?
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Martin Bazley Message #111838, posted by swirlythingy at 11:53, 8/11/2009, in reply to message #111824

Posts: 460
ROL has lost their way. I would very much like to see them get back on track, but they have to do something drastic or radical, such as OSSing what they have, or something even more serious.
Agreed. The three options in the article are, IMO, equally unthinkable - RISC OS is obviously unsustainable as a commercial closed-source venture, but it would be a real shame to lose all the improvements RO6 has over RO5.

Of course, there are three more options:

(1) RISC OS Ltd open-sources their branch of the OS and hands development over to ROOL to attempt to merge the two branches. Indubitably the best option, and the least likely to happen.

(2) ROL finally goes into administration, taking users' cash with it. The commercial source is lost, or forever locked away over endless arguments over copyright. Probably the eventual outcome, certainly while the two camps lock horns and refuse to budge.

(3) As above, but the developers (all, what, three of them?) take matters into their own hands and merge the principal changes into the ROOL branch. This may be unnecessarily hopeful.
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Garry Message #111845, posted by thegman at 13:47, 8/11/2009, in reply to message #111838
Member
Posts: 62
I've stopped using RISC OS now, but I keep myself informed about what's happening on the platform. How it seems to me is this:

ROOL, Jeffrey Lee and others are doing their best to make RISC OS relevant, if we end up with RISC OS on ARM netbooks then I'd consider getting one, it could never replace a Mac or PC but would be a lovely little machine to have around the house, kitchen etc. for a little email, web, recipes etc. I honestly think that what Jeffrey and others are doing is the most important thing for the platform since the demise of Acorn, maybe even including the Iyonix.

ROL are working on either compatibility with machines which will never be completed (A9Home) or desktop improvements for machines such as the RiscPC/A7000, machines which are pretty much antiques. When I say "desktop improvements" I don't really mean that, I mean "changes which are a bit grubby and unnecessary". The desktop improvements we actually need like web and email are ignored by them and left in the hands of Peter Naulls and Netsurf team for Firefox and Netsurf respectively. We all know that the biggest desktop problem on RISC OS is the internet, and we don't really hear a peep out of ROL about that.

As has been posted above, we are indeed too polite about ROL, they need to go away and the money they get from subscribers needs to be directed at Firefox, Netsurf and ROOL, I'd also say we need a good email solution, but that's another topic.

I personally am doing FA about that, so I should probably shut-up, but I am willing to buy Jeffrey or someone else an ARM netbook to have on loan to help the porting effect. So that's something at least.
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Eric Rucker Message #111849, posted by bhtooefr at 15:02, 8/11/2009, in reply to message #111838
Member
Posts: 336
(3) As above, but the developers (all, what, three of them?) take matters into their own hands and merge the principal changes into the ROOL branch. This may be unnecessarily hopeful.
You don't want that, because the code rights would belong to ROL, not the developers, and it would get very, very ugly if ROOL got that code without ROL's permission.

The only exception is if, for some inexplicable reason, the developers kept rights to the code that they made (I would assume that any code written in the course of their work for ROL would be ROL's property, though) and then dual-license just their code to BSD.

Even then, a source code audit is not something you'd want to have to go through. ReactOS went through one after a former developer claimed that code from Windows was put into ReactOS.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ReactOS#Internal_audit
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Martin Bazley Message #111857, posted by swirlythingy at 17:49, 8/11/2009, in reply to message #111849

Posts: 460
(3) As above, but the developers (all, what, three of them?) take matters into their own hands and merge the principal changes into the ROOL branch. This may be unnecessarily hopeful.
You don't want that, because the code rights would belong to ROL, not the developers, and it would get very, very ugly if ROOL got that code without ROL's permission.
Hence why it would never happen while the company still existed. I doubt very much whether anybody with any business sense would want to buy them from the administrators, so the question is, what would happen to the intellectual property after ROL was wound up?

I did say I thought the second option was far more likely. It's a shame, but that's what happens in a world with copyright lawyers and associated scum. (Who can forget the ROL v. Castle wars?)
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VinceH Message #111861, posted by VincceH at 19:06, 8/11/2009, in reply to message #111857
VincceH
Lowering the tone since the dawn of time

Posts: 1556
I doubt very much whether anybody with any business sense would want to buy them from the administrators, so the question is, what would happen to the intellectual property after ROL was wound up?
Simplified massively - it's a very complicated area - but...

The IP is an asset like any other asset. The liquidators will usually attempt to turn any remaining assets into cash in order to deal with any liabilities - which basically means selling them. With physical assets, this will often be through an auction. I have no idea with IP, though - but one thing is certain; it won't just cease to have any ownership. Someone will acquire that IP in some way. The end of RISCOS Ltd will not somehow free up their branch of RISC OS, unless whoever takes that IP wishes to free it up in some way.
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Jason Togneri Message #111862, posted by filecore at 20:52, 8/11/2009, in reply to message #111861

Posts: 3864
I suppose it depends on the balance of assets and liabilities. In an alternate universe, they could just decide to give it to the public domain in an act of charitable altruism. You never know smile
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John Hoare Message #111863, posted by moss at 21:08, 8/11/2009, in reply to message #111862

Posts: 9344
It amuses me that in all the comments so far, there is NOBODY sticking up for ROL...
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Robin Barnard Message #111864, posted by BernardRobin at 21:30, 8/11/2009, in reply to message #111824
Member
Posts: 3
Hi Everybody

Although I am new around here - I thought i should say a few things here

I should put in a disclaimer to start with that possibly more than somewhat ironically I am a select scheme subscriber and i am happy to put an investment into there being future development in the os

Firstly a confession - although you may not see it in the video ( I have not watched it all the way through as i type this ) its is me who asks most of the questions that prompts Paul's replies

I honestly think that I probably deserve to be flamed (at the very least) for having such audacity

If absolutely nothing else i owe a rather large apology to anyone at the presentation all of who was probably looking forward to Paul demonstrating some of the latest features rather than listen to me banter unnecessarily with poor Paul

Indeed, in the very words of someone else who obviously has far more common sense and of course good manners than me observed it was beyond time for my questioning to stop as the presentation had been "hijacked"

So a very big apology to anyone who was there

So what on earth possessed me?

I honestly do not know, but yes things did get rather out of hand

I suppose i should say here that i have never been to a presentation by RISCOS ltd before so had no idea of how these sorts of things work

And i had never really met Paul Middleton much before this, to Paul i owe a humble apology as well for giving him such a hard time (sorry Paul)

And no i did not have anything in mind or prepared when i went into the presentation

What happened as far as i can remember is this

I hope you all saw that the presentation starts with Paul showing a new price strategy, which in my mind looked like it was being done to try and reduce the number of select scheme subscribers who was not renewing their subscription, in fact from what i can remember Paul himself does more or less say this in a round about way

So in mind my mind the thing was , that i actually wanted to hear something that would give everyone a good reason to be a subscriber, maybe asking for a idea of where RISCOS was going was not the best way to do this, in fact looking at the forum, probably not!

But my simple and possibly wrong thought was, well if Paul can say yes we have this planned maybe in the next few years you know nothing specifically concrete as such as I understand how these things pan out in the RISCOS world, but some kind of indication, then maybe the problem with vanishing subscribers would not be such a problem.

I pointed to what i thought as being an obvious example, that if people knew that there was going to be significant work done on RISCOS to support higher and more color screen modes beforehand then there would be a definite thing for people to be putting their money down for - as that may help with the vanishing subscriber problem at least that was the intention

Or possibly failing that my other idea was that maybe RISCOS Ltd could commit to a fixed number of updates (i honestly was not thinking more than one Gold or master build a year with maybe a couple of betas to get to the master and i was thinking from the point of view than in my first year of a subscriber i have had 3 updates so i did not see this as being a particular problem, maybe i should have said that!)

The problem was that i was unfamiliar with the way that Paul answered questions and to my very limited and uninformed opinion and my more than distorted perception it seemed to be that it was like listening to a politician

Even more unfortunately i did not react well to this and ended up asking more questions and interrupting poor Paul mid flow

I doubt Paul knew what to make of it all and as probably annoyed and frustrated and rightly so i must add

the main thing that was driving me along apart from being more than bit irrational and rude as well - was the beagle board

My own personal opinion is this Jeffery Lee and all at ROL deserve an award and a incredible thank you for bringing a glimmer of hope and a possible future for the RISCOS platform

I can honestly say I think the possibilities of the beagle board are exciting and what's more everyone is doing the work here for no money, gratis etc

So the other thing I saw was - what future does RISC OS Ltd have if it can not do something similar, especially as they actually have a cash flow or sorts

Most of the issues i see with developing RISC OS do centre around the fact that it has to be able to run on what is now very old machines, sure no problem with that - but for a future - for being able to play a dvd or something like that be able to get new people into the community and actually buying a computer?

We need something new is my thought and the beagle board is possibly it

So my mind it was kind of annoying to me that RISC OS Ltd was not standing there announcing their own intentions for the future - especially in light of diminishing subscribers so this pushed me much future than i should have

Because ironically enough i want there to be a future for RISC OS LTD and RISC OS SIX, i like using this and i want it to carry on for the good of everyone - honestly

So it all got out of hand honestly and i am glad that someone stepped in and reminded me what we was supposed to be there for

this is probably going to make little difference but i did apologise to Paul in person afterwards and re subscribed for another year of select i do not see neither as even approaching anything like an adequate apology

I was foolish inconsiderate and plain rude

so again apologies to everyone

Thanks
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Alan Robertson Message #111866, posted by nytrex at 22:13, 8/11/2009, in reply to message #111864
Member
Posts: 24
@Robin
I think you're being rather harsh on yourself there. Yes, the presentation turned into a chit-chat of sorts, but a lot of solid, reliable information came out of it.

The point of Jeffrey's article was in direct response to your discussions with Paul. The information that Paul shared with everyone highlighted the lack of future of ROL's strategy and business.

1) Admitting to all that the future select advancement are down to the whims of their developers.

2) The lack of progress of porting ROL's code to other hardware is lack of knowledge by their developers (I'm not criticising - just acknowledging the fact).

3) ROL cannot compete with advancements coming out of ROOL shared-source venture.

4) The output of ROL is now on the path of diminshing returns. Continued reducing number of subscribers = less development.

For me, the video was the final nail in ROL's coffin. But I am very optimistic about the future of RISC OS Open. There are plenty of things that users of RISC OS can do to help out too. Documenting, Coding, Testing, Bug Tracking. I thoroughly recommend getting involved if anyone has some free time. www.riscosopen.org

By the way, I's just like to thank Bryan Hogan for uploading the videos. Thank you.

[Edited by nytrex at 22:45, 8/11/2009]
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Eric Rucker Message #111867, posted by bhtooefr at 22:37, 8/11/2009, in reply to message #111864
Member
Posts: 336
Don't be so hard on yourself.

In the US, there's a name for people who dig up the dirt on situations, and bring the truth to light, rather than letting lies persist. They've historically been called muckrakers. I've heard the word has negative connotations in British English, but here, it's almost always considered positive. By asking the questions you asked, you brought to light the real state of ROL's development, and made it clear where RISC OS's future (if it has one) truly lies.

Sure, the truth is sometimes uncomfortable. But, now, more focus can be put on ROOL's efforts to improve the OS out in the open, and bring it to modern hardware. This is what will help the platform - not paying for someone to release some graphical bits for a 15 year old computer (that is how old the RiscPC architecture is, after all) every few months, when they feel like it.

[Edited by bhtooefr at 22:38, 8/11/2009]
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Robert Hampton Message #111868, posted by Hampo at 23:05, 8/11/2009, in reply to message #111866
Member
Posts: 9
The upbeat ROOL presentation is in marked contrast to Paul Middleton's comments.

I'm a new poster here, but have been reading TIB for years and have used RISC OS machines since getting my first A3010 in 1993. Over the last few years I've gradually drifted to Windows to do most day-to-day work. Final straw was when my Iyonix's PSU died a few months back; I didn't bother replacing it and the machine has been gathering dust since.

I'm still interested in RISC OS at all today mainly thanks to the work of ROOL. Their effort to port to new hardware has made me think that maybe the platform hasn't reached a dead end after all. I'm now optimistic enough to get my Iyonix fixed up and maybe get actively involved again, somehow.

Meanwhile, ROL are stuck with an OS which, although it has some nice features, can only be run on ancient hardware (unless the A9home OS ever gets finished) or via emulation. I don't think that's a viable strategy for the long term. I'm not even sure it's viable in the short term.
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Daniel Nesbitt Message #111869, posted by solsburian at 23:25, 8/11/2009, in reply to message #111867
Member
Posts: 23
I'd agree, as someone who has paid them you have a right to know what they are doing with your money.

My feeling from watching the video and from what I have seen over the past few years is that the future of the platform is with RISC OS Open.

While I'm not the biggest fan of ROL it was still quite sad to see Paul admit that they did not have the funds and people to get things done. It felt as though he was more or less hammering the nails into the coffin without admitting it, after watching that video, I'm sure any potential subscriber would question weather they would see any return for their money.

So what should ROL do now? Their choices are limited. If they have a lack of manpower to fully develop their branch of the OS, then perhaps the best approach would be to abandon it and work on bolting the Select features on top of RO 5 (and perhaps finish off the IOMD port). That way they would be able to target a broad range of the market plus any new emerging hardware.

[Edited by solsburian at 23:27, 8/11/2009]
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Trevor Johnson Message #111871, posted by trevj at 03:14, 9/11/2009, in reply to message #111824
Member
Posts: 659
[snipped]

Of course, there are three more options:

[snipped]
Or how about ROL subscribers submit a petition to ROL explaining their feelings and justifications for requesting a (partial) refund (less reasonable admin fees), which could then be donated to ROOL to support further development... on the condition that all ROL intellectual property/code/etc. (or the entire company, whichever is simplest and most appropriate) then be sold to ROOL for the refund price (less reasonable admin fees)?

- Such a refund could be on paper only, with no physical reimbursements necessary.
- ROOL could then choose to wind up ROL if in their complete ownership... or retain ROL as their commercial arm for promotions, CD-ROMs, etc. while reclassifying ROOL as a charity, cooperative or other business model if that suits their aims.

Disbenefits:
- Danger of alienating A9home users, unless their platform can be better accommodated under the proposed arrangement
- Current Select subscribers fearing another period of sparse updates
- Emotional for ROL
- Financial for ROL (although this could be seen as metaphorical euthanasia rather than death through natural causes)
- Administrative delays leading to diversion from intended focus (which could be mitigated by communicating to existing and potential subscribers the proposed transfer and by handing over the code without further delay - final admin etc. could follow within, say, a month or 3)
- Migration to new hardware by emulation users (this intentionally duplicated from below to reflect differing points of view)

Benefits:
- ROL effectively retains current subscriber cash while gracefuly and wisely admitting that the current arrangement is unsustainable
- ROL code can be developed by ROOL
- ROL developers can continue to work for ROOL, albeit voluntarily
- Theoretical possibility to provide CD-ROMs of RISC OS (with any merged code) to any Select subscriber within the remaining life of their subscription (a corresponding portion of the subscriber refunds could be retained to pay for this)
- Migration to new hardware by emulation users

Unknowns:
- ROL finances (but it's clearly stated that ROL is a private company limited by shares, which "from time to time make[s] new issues of shares available")
- ROL shareholder opinions
- ROL subscriber numbers
- Third party and emulation opinions
- Code relationships between ROL, Uniqueway and other third parties (considering ARMovie and player, etc.)

Further suggestion (please read, ROL):
- If ROL are unconvinced then perhaps a pledgebank system could be of some assistance, whereby users volunteer to pledge a certain amount of money each if a pre-determined total is reached... the money raised could then be shared in agreed proportions between ROOL and ROL. However, I think this should be reserved as a last resort due to the lack of cash sloshing around in the RISC OS scene.
Edit: Sorry, I can't recall my logic here!

[Edited by trevj at 15:35, 25/2/2010]
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Tony Lizard Message #111873, posted by Mr Lizard at 05:51, 9/11/2009, in reply to message #111871
Member
Posts: 24
If I were the boss of RISCOS Ltd, this is what my strategy would be to put the world to rights: (NB: I'm only describing what my first instinct to look into would be, as a starting point.)

Even though it'd probably stick in my craw, I'd let bygones be bygones and approach ROOL / Castle offering them a deal whereby they get full ownership of the source of RISCOS Ltd's branch of RISC OS (portions of code having third party licensing problems notwithstanding) in exchange for an exclusive ten year royalty-free licence to market, manufacture and sell RISC OS for the desktop computer market (including Iyonix and emulators) as an 'off the shelf' product.

Essentially, RISCOS Ltd would take the RISC OS source at a suitable point of development, and create a tested, marketed, supported, saleable product from it; similar to Linux vendors releasing distributions, but within a framework tailored to the particular realities of the RISC OS market.

RISCOS Ltd would benefit:
1) They get to move away from the expensive, risky and stressful ball-ache of low-level OS development.
2) The balance sheet would look healthier because they'd be able to sell new versions of an actual product to a more confident and happier customer base, and at greatly reduced cost to bring to market.
3) There's nothing to stop them bundling their own value added closed-source apps and utilities with their releases of RISC OS to make it an even more attractive prospect for end users.

Castle / ROOL would benefit:
1) ROOL receive the enhancements RISCOS Ltd have made over the years.
2) Third parties would still be able to licence RISC OS from Castle / ROOL for embedded systems, etc.
3) The RISC OS source would still be available for viewing and modification by all.

Users would benefit:
1) Users receive new versions of an OS that is actually having ongoing development effort put into it.
2) Over time, the two branches of RISC OS could be functionally reunified through community effort.
3) Technically-minded users who insist on being at the bleeding edge would still have access to and be able to build RISC OS from source.
4) Regular users would be able to purchase new versions of RISC OS from a familiar name in a widely accepted and understood ROM or soft-loaded disc form.
5) Developers would be able to target particular versions of RISC OS knowing what the base level of specified functionality is.
6) Users have the peace of mind of knowing that when they purchase a new version of RISC OS it has undergone testing, has a decent manual (even if it's just in electronic form) and that quality end user support is available -- although this would be up to RISCOS Ltd.

Any thoughts, anyone?

[Edited by Mr Lizard at 05:57, 9/11/2009]

[Edited by Mr Lizard at 06:00, 9/11/2009]
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Alan Robertson Message #111876, posted by nytrex at 10:02, 9/11/2009, in reply to message #111873
Member
Posts: 24
@Tony
I'm not really sure we need any commercial arm for RISC OS anymore. And even if users wanted one, wouldn't Castle be the company to offer it?
They own the IP after all - why would they outsource it to another company and miss out on any potential profit.

Personally, I don't see ROL lasting much longer. They have three directors, all probably taking a nice annual salary from the company, and any money left over is spent on the few (very poorly paid) developers. Doesn't sound like something I want to support. Donating time/money/skills to RISC OS Open ROOL makes much more sense.

The RISC OS Open initiative has introduced quite a few new faces (and a few from the past) to RISC OS, and that is something that the ROL strategy was not able to do. It's another indicator that we're on the right track.
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Daniel Nesbitt Message #111877, posted by solsburian at 10:52, 9/11/2009, in reply to message #111876
Member
Posts: 23
Who is left at RISCOS Ltd? We know for sure that Dave Holden and Aaron Timbrell have left, but were their positions filled again?

@Tony, I'm not sure that would be the best way to go, given past experiences it would probably result in an another IP and licensing dispute. It would also be a lot like the original situation back in 1998/99 when E14 gave ROL a licence.
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Alan Robertson Message #111878, posted by nytrex at 13:26, 9/11/2009, in reply to message #111877
Member
Posts: 24
I wasn't aware that Aaron had left? I thought the list was Paul, Aaron and Matt Edgar.
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Andrew Banks Message #111882, posted by ajb at 15:48, 9/11/2009, in reply to message #111878
Member
Posts: 2
I have just checked out RISCOS Ltd and found the following info:-

Current Directors
-----------------
Paul Irvin Middleton

Current Company Secretary
-------------------------
Laurence Oliver Van Someren


Previous Directors/Company Secretaries
--------------------------------------
Nicholas Colin Way
Laurence Oliver Van Someren
Bernard Bollons
Justin Richard Fletcher
Christopher Evans
Gareth Dykes
Andrew Rawnsley
Matthew Bullock
Anil Chhabra
Richard John Nicoll
Aaron Charles Timbell
David John Holden
CFL DIRECTORS LIMITED
CFL SECRETARIES LIMITED

So there is just one director currently.
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Blind Moose Message #111885, posted by Acornut at 19:23, 9/11/2009, in reply to message #111882
Acornut No-eye-deer (No Idea)

Posts: 485
So there is just one director currently.
Err! I Believe a 'Limited' company is required to post accounts with 'Companies House' every year.
So anybody, for a nominal fee, can find out what their turnover was for the year.
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