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The Icon Bar: News and features: RISC OS 2001 show

RISC OS 2001 show

Posted by Richard Goodwin on 01:00, 23/10/2001 | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
(Arcsite Artikel auf Deutsch)
I went to the show not really expecting to see anything new in the hardware and software stakes, and to be honest in this respect wasn't really disappointed.  But shows aren't always about seeing new stuff, it's about the atmosphere and the chance to meet people.  At least, that's what I told myself.  Anyway, this time it was Paul Vigay's turn to have to put up with giving me a lift, so thanks to him and his good lady Cathy who did all the driving (given Paul's navigating skills, probably a good thing ;)
The show was surprisingly busy for a Saturday morning, although being in a golf club's conference room might have meant that there was just less floor space than at previous shows.  There was a general good buzz though, not too many people to make it awkward to move but not so few to make it depressing.  The usual bottlenecks formed - RISCOS Ltd. stand, R-Comp, Castle and Cerilica being busy, and there was a pretty good showing from Surftec.
It was good to see the RISCOS Ltd. stand busy (and indeed, good to see them there at all).  From what Paul picked up it appears that, despite its detractors, the Select Scheme may already have been successful enough to hit the target required for further development.  He also told me that the Castle presentation in the theatre, despite being mostly advertising, hit an interesting spot towards the end - mini motherboards have been developed for embedding RISC OS computers into other devices, such as projecting whiteboards.  These should be capable of carrying all current processors up to a StrongARM, which leads to the obvious question - could a StrongARM portable be developed from one?  So obvious it seems that no-one asked it.  Going into the embedded market didn't hurt ARM - indeed, they're still increasing profits at a time when just about every other technology company is posting record losses - and as well as bringing more cash and awareness to the RISC OS marketplace it might even have the knock-on effect of developers needing more RISC OS desktop machines to develop on.  Unfortunately I was too busy buying breakfast to attend the presentation myself though, which just goes to show where my priorities lie. :)
Sadly I didn't see any Omegas on display, although as Microdigital weren't there I wasn't much surprised.  Riscstation wasn't there either mind you, and Castle were only really showing off the new version of Oregano and didn't have a huge hardware based presence, so it would be unfair to draw any conclusions from this.  Clock's still ticking though....  The Explan Solo was there again though, good to see at least someone flying the flag with innovative hardware.
A certain person who shall remain nameless (mostly because he said "you're not a journalist, are you?" while I was standing there with my camera ready to take photos, wearing my Icon Bar T-Shirt, which amused some people nearby) showed me a USB podule which would appear to be pretty much ready for release, software permitting.  It even came in both an anti-static and plastic packaging bags as if it had just been taken out of someone's stock room.  From talking to a couple of other companies it looks like the card will be available to the public in January, priced around £90.  A little more expensive than you would expect to pay in the PC world - so nothing new there then - but with almost all manufacturers switching away from serial and parallel port connections this podule could be the difference between being able to buy new peripherals or having none, full stop.
For those looking for peripherals and upgrades of an older vintage there was ITC-UK, which although sounding like some kind of television regulatory body have apparently taken on both the stock and the repair service recently left by Reflex's problems.  NC infrared keyboards (usable on RiscPCs, although you'll need a PS2 converter to use the built-in trackball as well) were selling for £25, about a third what they used to sell for; 1GB drives were around the same price (28 quid for a 1.2, less for 825MB drives); and 16MB SIMMs for a fiver.  Good to see that there's still somewhere supporting older machines while we're still waiting for something new.  I noticed other cheap memory deals around, such as 64MB for just under forty quid from APDL.  Until recently 72 pin SIMMs were too expensive to justify upgrading from my current 16+32MB, at a time when PC DIMMs are so cheap they're being given away at some websites, so thank goodness for that.
There was a real blast from the past at the show, and one of the reasons I decided to go at the last minute: as promised a working Phoebe prototype was in evidence near the theatre, and even though it was only really a prototype it was already running fast enough to display four or five Replay movies at the same time, and render an ArtWorks document as well, without appearing to slow down.  It's a couple of years old, it hasn't been optimised, and yet it still beats anything we have at the moment.  Sadly it'll never be anything more than a museum piece though, especially as there are no PCI drivers (the cards power up, but there's no software to run them) and as there was no CD ROM (lack of compatible drivers) or floppy drive (broken connector?) installed either it was pretty hard to get software on it! (putting the hard drive into another RiscPC was the eventual solution).  I won't wax lyrical about all the bits and pieces, but I took plenty of 'photos to add to my own website.  There was the pizza oven slice fitted to a regular RiscPC (although sadly no free samples of food in evidence!); a production model of a fax machine developed by Acorn for a client who then had to junk almost the entire run because of problems from a rival company; and a triple video output card as used in service stations to display info on multiple monitors from one RiscPC.
Surftec finally have SmartMedia card readers reading the cards, although not writing to the card or deleting files.  They did have a fine array of mice on display though.
In the software stakes, Cerilica were showing off the latest version of Vantage, which I think most people must be aware of by now.  Again there was a theatre presentation that impressed, showing how flexible the colour handling system was (including producing separations in CYMK plus silver foil, which PCs can't; swapping round colours so that if your son accidentally refills the colour printer cartridge with the inks in the wrong places the software can adjust; how to print bananas as accurately as possible without using yellow ink to save on printing costs; and how the software can simulate overprinting silver foil, where some of the ink won't stick so you'll get a less than solid colour).  All very good stuff, but so, like, last week; what caught my eye was the new toy they were showing off, Insignia.  It's mainly designed for allowing complete graphical duffers to generate cool looking logos and web site buttons, so you can create text, apply a bitmap texture with fading transparency (the origin of which can move, and the fade rotated), chop it into a halftone pattern (while still remaining editable), apply a softened shadow (which retains the halftoning etc.), drop it onto a similarly complex background, then whack a huge great lens flare effect over the top.  Hopefully when they get back from the show we'll get an example for you.  It saves in various formats, and if they get the Save options as text finished and add the ability for users to generate these scripts externally and just use the program as a rendering engine it'll be fantastic for automating JavaScript rollover buttons for web sites.  Insignia should be available in November for £39.
Warm Silence had a new addition to their range too - LoadMaster.  You give it a bunch of URLs and it downloads them, which might not sound too impressive but is bloody useful if the download fails part way through.  Having found a source of movies clips of one of my favourite TV shows recently I tried downloading them, only to have the connection break after a few megs, and this happened on all forty-odd files; I had to use the PC and download something called Go!Zilla to queue the downloads overnight, with automatic reconnection whenever their was an error in transport.  Just a few days later and now I find there's a RISC OS solution that does the same job.  It costs £20; Go!Zilla and Netscape's Smart Download can be had for free, but have annoying banner adverts unless you pay, and some privacy concerns, so a cheap RISC OS alternative is most welcome.  Also, seeing as there's been a lot of activity on the RISCOS Ltd. website for some reason, there's a freeware copy available that'll just download files from the Select website.
The other big software story was the first look at Oregano 2, which looked like, well, a web browser.  It worked and didn't crash while I was watching, so there's not really much else you can say about its workings.  However, on looks it might have some problems awaiting it - there are no scroll bars, because it no longer uses the RISC OS window manager for much at all (basically just the title bar).  You can use keyboard navigation and/or a mouse dragging approach, but I'm sure there are going to be complaints.  The drop-down menus in web sites was rendered using a PC-style menu as well, with non-standard window furniture; "we're not using the RISC OS window manager so we don't use the same graphics" was not an excuse that satisfied many, and certainly not a valid reason ("we can't afford to spend time on it" would have at least been more honest).  However, having got the negative out of the way, there is the positive - the non-standard HTML menus do allow you to type the first characters of the option and the menu will scroll down to that option in a PC-stylee; and by running things as closely as possible to the NC version you get access to updates as soon as the NC version is updated, instead of waiting for further (costly, time consuming) work to make it more desktop-ified.  Time will tell how it is received however; there were promises of a quick release (Monday to beta testers, the public a week later?) but I've long since learnt to take Oregano release dates with a pinch of salt :)
Again the R-Comp stand was so busy that I didn't have much chance for more than a quick joke with Andrew, but no doubt you've already noticed the many Usenet news postings on comp.sys.acorn.announce always sent out just before any show.  I did notice that HTMLEdit is now up to version 5, with changes to colour editing, JavaScript, CSS, and HTML4.01 support (nice to see their commercial product is catching up with my freeware offering! ;)  They also have a thumbnailing program bundled with their HTML editing suites for creating web pages from a bunch of photos quickly and easily called WebThumbsMessenger has also been beefed up in a new server version to become a mail server, so you can download your mail to a RISC OS machine and serve it to any other machine on your network.  Mentions also to space flight sim type game Descent 2, which gains network support and runs (slowly) on non-StrongARM machines; and there's some new sound sample editing software one the way.
The show was enjoyable, if low key; going anywhere with Paul Vigay is a bit of a mistake as he tends to get stopped every few paces for a chat, and his navigation skills leave a lot to be desired (tell us which way to go on a five-exit roundabout, not which way not to go!) but in general a fun day out.
056: October 2001
056 Full 1600x1200, 384KB Medium 800x600, 61KB Small 400x300, 21KB Production USB podule?
004: October 2001
004 Full 1200x1600, 217KB Medium 600x800, 61KB Small 300x400, 19KB A Solo with on-screen keyboard.
027: October 2001
027 Full 1200x1600, 210KB Medium 600x800, 52KB Small 300x400, 17KB One of the main reasons I went, the working Phoebe as promised; note the number of movies playing at the same time.
030: October 2001
030 Full 1200x1600, 249KB Medium 600x800, 67KB Small 300x400, 21KB
041: October 2001
041 Full 1600x1200, 386KB Medium 800x600, 98KB Small 400x300, 30KB
032: October 2001
032 Full 1200x1600, 244KB Medium 600x800, 55KB Small 300x400, 16KB Prototype blue case design rendered in foam.  A number of colours were tried, and yellow was the most popular.
038: October 2001
038 Full 1600x1200, 348KB Medium 800x600, 66KB Small 400x300, 22KB Prototype board knocked together to test the IOMD2 (see white area).
040: October 2001
040 Full 1200x1600, 371KB Medium 600x800, 112KB Small 300x400, 31KB Above the first prototype is a second board ready to take the finished article.
052: October 2001
052 Full 1600x1200, 405KB Medium 800x600, 104KB Small 400x300, 26KB Early IOMD2 prototype.
033: October 2001
033 Full 1600x1200, 345KB Medium 800x600, 61KB Small 400x300, 19KB Several interesting bits of kit, read on...
035: October 2001
035 Full 1600x1200, 348KB Medium 800x600, 58KB Small 400x300, 18KB The pizza over slice.  Those are PC second processor cards at the bottom.
037: October 2001
037 Full 1600x1200, 329KB Medium 800x600, 45KB Small 400x300, 15KB
034: October 2001
034 Full 1600x1200, 367KB Medium 800x600, 58KB Small 400x300, 19KB The fax machine at the bottom was built by Acorn for a client company, and then the lot were junked as they infringed some patent/copyright/agreement/thing.
053: October 2001
053 Full 1200x1600, 233KB Medium 600x800, 63KB Small 300x400, 20KB A triple video output card, as used in Granada services stations today to display info on multiple monitors.
054: October 2001
054 Full 1600x1200, 343KB Medium 800x600, 65KB Small 400x300, 22KB
018: October 2001
018 Full 1600x1200, 345KB Medium 800x600, 54KB Small 400x300, 19KB The RISC OS stand was busy, which is good.
019: October 2001
019 Full 1600x1200, 353KB Medium 800x600, 60KB Small 400x300, 21KB
026: October 2001
026 Full 1600x1200, 339KB Medium 800x600, 48KB Small 400x300, 16KB Look! A queue at the RISC OS stand!
021: October 2001
021 Full 1600x1200, 384KB Medium 800x600, 54KB Small 400x300, 18KB Pretty machine at the RISC OS stand.
022: October 2001
022 Full 1200x1600, 215KB Medium 600x800, 57KB Small 300x400, 19KB
025: October 2001
025 Full 1600x1200, 382KB Medium 800x600, 71KB Small 400x300, 24KB
050: October 2001
050 Full 1600x1200, 325KB Medium 800x600, 60KB Small 400x300, 21KB Oregano 2 (beta) being shown off on the Castle stand.
006: October 2001
006 Full 1600x1200, 381KB Medium 800x600, 61KB Small 400x300, 21KB The R-Comp stand, busy as ever...
024: October 2001
024 Full 1200x1600, 253KB Medium 600x800, 66KB Small 300x400, 21KB ...showing their usual good taste (maybe they just know that I'll eventually be round to take a photo and switch to another site after they see me take the pictures? :)...
047: October 2001
047 Full 1600x1200, 356KB Medium 800x600, 51KB Small 400x300, 18KB ...although not too sure of the spelling.
007: October 2001
007 Medium 600x800, 54KB Small 300x400, 19KB The games arcade, a chance for the public to play some R-Comp games.  Why no other company's games there?  Well, first find another company releasing games... :(
008: October 2001
008 Medium 600x800, 58KB Small 300x400, 19KB <scooby>I would have got a decent shot of the games arcade if it wasn't for those fast-moving kids.</scooby>
048: October 2001
048 Full 1600x1200, 335KB Medium 800x600, 51KB Small 400x300, 18KB
049: October 2001
049 Full 1600x1200, 275KB Medium 800x600, 41KB Small 400x300, 15KB Rich finds that speed control on his camera.
015: October 2001
015 Full 1200x1600, 231KB Medium 600x800, 58KB Small 300x400, 19KB Cerilica were busy, showing off not only Vantage but also new bitmap logo generator Insignia.
020: October 2001
020 Full 1200x1600, 276KB Medium 600x800, 77KB Small 300x400, 25KB Reflex (as was) were in attendance...
023: October 2001
023 Full 1200x1600, 283KB Medium 600x800, 78KB Small 300x400, 24KB ...with some bargain hardware.
010: October 2001
010 Full 1200x1600, 257KB Medium 600x800, 63KB Small 300x400, 20KB Interesting hardware for sale on the APDL stand.
012: October 2001
012 Full 1600x1200, 370KB Medium 800x600, 59KB Small 400x300, 21KB
009: October 2001
009 Full 1200x1600, 203KB Medium 600x800, 53KB Small 300x400, 18KB An old Beeb classic gets the desktop treatment.
013: October 2001
013 Full 1200x1600, 273KB Medium 600x800, 76KB Small 300x400, 25KB Red Squirrel, the RISC OS emulator for Windows.
016: October 2001
016 Full 1600x1200, 365KB Medium 800x600, 64KB Small 400x300, 22KB The Surftec stand, quite well presented (although that doesn't come out well in these photos).
014: October 2001
014 Full 1600x1200, 380KB Medium 800x600, 73KB Small 400x300, 25KB
005: October 2001
005 Full 1200x1600, 246KB Medium 600x800, 63KB Small 300x400, 20KB Martin Würthner, ArtWorks hacker supreme, looking very dapper.
017: October 2001
017 Full 1600x1200, 371KB Medium 800x600, 72KB Small 400x300, 25KB I'm sure CJE has that in stock...
001: October 2001
001 Full 1600x1200, 371KB Medium 800x600, 62KB Small 400x300, 21KB A meeting of minds: Paul Vigay and Steve Turnbull chatting at the Acorn User stand.  Apparently they'd already sold out of the latest versions of the magazine Saturday morning...
002: October 2001
002 Full 1600x1200, 387KB Medium 800x600, 66KB Small 400x300, 23KB ..not sure everyone was impressed though.
003: October 2001
003 Full 1200x1600, 188KB Medium 600x800, 53KB Small 300x400, 18KB The Internet Cafe.
046: October 2001
046 Full 1600x1200, 359KB Medium 800x600, 67KB Small 400x300, 21KB General atmosphere
011: October 2001
011 Full 1600x1200, 383KB Medium 800x600, 54KB Small 400x300, 18KB
051: October 2001
051 Full 1600x1200, 361KB Medium 800x600, 52KB Small 400x300, 18KB The bar in the main hall.  There was a rather nice bar serving up food and classic blues music nearby too.
064: October 2001
064 Full 1600x1200, 382KB Medium 800x600, 82KB Small 400x300, 25KB A rather nice coaching inn we found (eventually).
059: October 2001
059 Full 1600x1200, 379KB Medium 800x600, 80KB Small 400x300, 26KB Paul taking a photo of me taking a photo of him.  Peter Naulls looks on in disbelief.
057: October 2001
057 Full 1200x1600, 284KB Medium 600x800, 80KB Small 300x400, 25KB Andrew and John from the CJE stand can't keep away from the camera that easily, even if I did kick it across the floor at one point.
062: October 2001
062 Full 1600x1200, 373KB Medium 800x600, 75KB Small 400x300, 22KB
058: October 2001
058 Full 1600x1200, 371KB Medium 800x600, 67KB Small 400x300, 21KB And in the next shot, Cathy swallows...

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