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The Icon Bar: News and features: RISC OS Direct RISC OS release - first impressions

RISC OS Direct RISC OS release - first impressions

Posted by Mark Stephens on 18:00, 26/2/2020 |
One of the really exciting features of the recent South-West Show was the launch of the RISC OS Direct version on RISC OS. Let us dive in and see what it offers.
First impressions
The software is supplied on a 8 Gig SanDisk Edge drive in a nice branded little bag. It would be nice to see the RISC OS coloured cog on the SD card in later production runs.

Popping it into your Pi (not 4) and it boots into RISC OS 5 .

The RISC OS Direct Direct version is a standard version of RISC OS with some additional software included. It has been setup to make RISC OS as easy as possible to try and more attractive for new users.
You can immediately see this emphasis on the desktop. The screen reminds users about the function keys and the 'quirky' 3 button mouse used by RISC OS. There is a selection of software ready to run on the screen. Networking is all setup and just works - you can see I have Shared my SSD drive from my Titanium at the bottom left corner.
Included software

Opening up the folders shows that the extra SD has been put to good use. There is a particular emphasis on programming, but there is a nice general selection of software on the drive, including Impression. Not bad for a free give away! This is the first release and the range of software included will increase in future updates.
Getting hold of the software
At the South-West Show Richard was saying that they would be giving away free copies at Pi Jams and other events. The target market is not really the existing RISC OS user base so he was asking for a cash donation if you wanted a copy of the SD. You can download the image for free and copy onto your own SD card at the RISC OS Developments website.
And the video
As this is aimed at new or lapsed users, there is also a free video guide to help you get started on youtube.
Overall impressions
We are really excited with this initiative from RISC OS Developments! It is all about attracting new or former users back to the platform and we look forward to it becoming even more polished and friendly on future releases. A big feature we would like to see as soon as possible is the inclusion of the Iris web browser to give better support for the web.
What do you think?
  RISC OS Direct RISC OS release - first impressions
  BernardUK (11:51 27/2/2020)
  arawnsley (12:40 27/2/2020)
    BernardUK (17:14 27/2/2020)
    markee174 (08:28 28/2/2020)
      arawnsley (10:27 28/2/2020)
        Gavin (18:02 28/2/2020)
          arawnsley (10:48 1/3/2020)
            Gavin (16:10 1/3/2020)
              mac9 (13:48 7/3/2020)
                arawnsley (18:13 7/3/2020)
                  helpful (18:17 11/3/2020)
  adrianl (03:44 28/2/2020)
Bernard Boase Message #124739, posted by BernardUK at 11:51, 27/2/2020
Posts: 6
Thanks for this summary. I know that Tom Williamson will be receptive to constructive comments about the video, and no doubt the whole team will be interested in hearing ideas from users of this new distro.
It would be nice to see the RISC OS coloured cog on the SD card in later production runs.
I quite agree. The different brandings (logos, colours, backdrops) of ROOL, RODev and now RODirect risk sending a muddled message. It's so important that no one gets the impression that the OS itself is being forked. Assuming ROOL are okay with it, everyone should proudly use the rainbow cog.
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Andrew Rawnsley Message #124740, posted by arawnsley at 12:40, 27/2/2020, in reply to message #124739
R-Comp chap
Posts: 536
I think you should be a bit careful in your thoughts there, Bernard. The multi-colour-cog is ROOL's company logo. Even if they're happy with others using it, most companies are very careful about using another company's logo in materials.

The cog itself has become the RISC OS "logo", and can be found in some shape or form in every version post RO4, as designed by RISC OS Graphics Maestro Richard Hallas (same person who did the graphics for RISC OS 5 etc). He's actually not a fan of the rainbow cog "as is" because it lost some of the perfect geometry of the original cog - I think he even made a replacement with that corrected!

From there, there are different looks to the cog. ROOL use a rainbow look, RISC OS Ltd used green, Castle (I think) used blue, and we've tended to use a blue cog on our machines, because it fits with the blue directories (RISC OS 4.x had green directories and green cog).

You'll note that in RISC OS Direct, we use the blue cog, combined with the Direct logo for the "Switcher" icon on the iconbar. In the Info box, where the RISC OS logo is shown, a full cog is displayed.

Even from ROOL, RISC OS Pi had a Raspberry switcher icon, so this is all entirely common, and *absolutely not* forking the OS (why do you keep bringing this up?).

That's not to say that we shouldn't use the rainbow cog, but more to say "don't get hung up on minutiae!". If you like the rainbow cog go for it. If you like other styles, go for that! RISC OS 5 supports Themes for a reason - you can even make it look like RISC SO 3.7 if you wish - all the icons are defined via the theme.

Side note - the RISC OS Developments logo also takes many elements of this. There's a shield component to the logo, which represents the Castle heritage, there's a cog element on the shield, to represent RISC OS, and three "open" cog elements in red, green and blue, to represent the "opening" of RISC OS and being inclusive of different flavours, mirroring ROOL's rainbow cog. Everyone is welcome here. Needless to say, Richard Hallas designed the RISC OS Developments logo too smile

[Edited by arawnsley at 14:01, 27/2/2020]
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Bernard Boase Message #124741, posted by BernardUK at 17:14, 27/2/2020, in reply to message #124740
Posts: 6
Thanks, Andrew.
The multi-colour-cog is ROOL's company logo. Even if they're happy with others using it, most companies are very careful about using another company's logo in materials.
Of course, but we're dealing here as much with an open source product as with separate companies. So it's my view, indeed 'careful thought', that too many very different brandings will confuse the new customer. I know most of the history you relate, but think the history is less relevant than promoting unity in the future.
In the Info box, where the RISC OS logo is shown, a full cog is displayed.
Ah yes, good. I'd be happy to compromise and see the same cog wheel used everywhere with only its colours changed!
*absolutely not* forking the OS (why do you keep bringing this up?)
Only because radically different brandings may give newcomers that impression. There's a genuine tension between marketing something unique and retaining the core commonality, that can (I assume) be resolved by careful branding.

Okay, I'm not a marketing expert and don't actually know who the companies are really targeting. Targets seem to include at least general desktop data and image handling, makers using GPIO, retro gamers plus developers for all three. RISC OS Direct is clearly aiming to cover the field, and that is a very pleasing development. Bravo!
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Adrian Lees Message #124742, posted by adrianl at 03:44, 28/2/2020, in reply to message #124739
Posts: 1629
Popping it into your Pi (not 4) and it boots into RISC OS 5.
FWIW, needing a current disk image to get my Pi 4 doing something more useful, I downloaded the RISC OS Direct image and - having of course replaced the ROM image and configuration with that from the Pi 4 development - it starts up happily enough. I've had to disable networking for now because I have only a UART connection to my Pi 4, but it's allowed me to test and release the first Pi 4 build of Aemulor.
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Mark Stephens Message #124743, posted by markee174 at 08:28, 28/2/2020, in reply to message #124740
Posts: 75
Any cog would look good on the SD card.
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Andrew Rawnsley Message #124744, posted by arawnsley at 10:27, 28/2/2020, in reply to message #124743
R-Comp chap
Posts: 536
Cog on the SD isn't likely any time soon, short of stickers which could peel off, I'm afraid, even though I agree it'd look nice.

The reason for this is that we were able to get low cost, commercial-grade (ie. good quality) cards from a supplier at a fair price. However, this was still more than we'd like to pay, given that the majority will be given free of charge to encourage new users.

Getting printed cards would mean purchasing from China or something, which might be similar-ish cost wise, but no guarantee on quality/performance/capacity of card.

I agree it would look nice, and once we've distributed the first few-hundred it is something to consider again, but for now, it isn't really possible to do much more as a free product, without over-running budgets.

As you guys may know, we run a fairly tight ship at ROD, as the funding has to last as long as possible!

[Edited by arawnsley at 10:28, 28/2/2020]
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Gavin Wraith Message #124745, posted by Gavin at 18:02, 28/2/2020, in reply to message #124744
Posts: 27
May I add my tuppenceworth on the new RODirect 5.26 desktop?
Anyway, here it is.

My congratulations to RODirect, first for taking into consideration that first impressions of newcomers to RISC OS are important, second for the smart new logo and backdrop and the relatively uncluttered iconbar. It all looks much more professional.

I must declare that I prefer simple minimalism to jumbo-jet-cockpit complexity. Although I have no evidence to back it up, I believe that complexity intimidates newcomers. Panels or backdrops full of icons are not a good idea. They may be useful in so far as they can provide a familiar context, but the newcomer's heart will sink at the sight of them. Let the newcomer discover things in her own time. Ideally only a handful of new features should strike her in the face. The advantage of RISC OS is that the organization of the filing system is in the user's hands, so it is easier to make the right
compromise between avoiding huge directories and avoiding deep submenus.

The traditional RISC OS theme is unspeakably clunky and cheesy; it looks like a Flintstones themepark in Disneyland. Window furniture
should be unobtrusive, ceding attention elegantly to the contents of the window, like a well-trained servant. It should not be oafishly grabbing the user's attention. I use a slender modification of the Infinity theme with light-blue graduated scrollbars, and I prefer the close-icon to be a contrasting red, to make it easier to aim at. Its window furniture-widths are about half those of the Flintstone themes (sorry to go on like this, but that is how I cannot help thinking of them).

Another preference is that the Filer's submenu for a filer-object should display the Delete option in red. It is ridiculous that one
has to hack the Filer module to do this.

I have a quarrel with directory icons that try to be in 3D perspective. They mess with my eyes, as does vertical text. Either everything
should be in 3D or nothing. Consistency is more important than any particular gimmick. I am sure Richard Hallas would agree with me on this.
Drop-shadows are a fine first approximation to three dimensionality, so long as a consistent direction of illumination is maintained.
These considerations are not mere whims. Dislocation of graphical metaphor is usually sensed subconsciously, but it can lead to
inefficiency, and even migraine. Yes, I know that the user can choose, or even create her own theme, but it is first impressions that we are
talking about, and so what is provided as a default.

Of course, everybody has their own preferences. Many an idle moment may be pleasurably filled by personalizing the desktop or the configuration
preferences of software. There are far more pressing matters when it comes to modernizing RISC OS, so take my opinions cum grano salis.
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Andrew Rawnsley Message #124748, posted by arawnsley at 10:48, 1/3/2020, in reply to message #124745
R-Comp chap
Posts: 536
Gavin - there's nothing stopping you submitting an alternative theme. RISC OS Direct is a collaborative effort.

Icons on the pinboard may be more of a problem, though, as they're a fairly fundamental point of instance with our partners at WiFi Sheep who are producing the videos. The intention is that the videos will introduce the programs.

Also, I suggest you put the red "delete" option on the ROOL wishlist forum. It's not a bad thought, although it'd be good to see it debated properly.

"Coloured menu entries aren't really RISC OS" would probably be the complaint, but equally Acorn designed the OS to allow for that, so it may be worthwhile. Certainly Acorn's 90s style guide was that the colour red should be reserved for "danger". Without a wastebasket, that'd certainly apply to Delete!

[Edited by arawnsley at 10:49, 1/3/2020]
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Gavin Wraith Message #124749, posted by Gavin at 16:10, 1/3/2020, in reply to message #124748
Posts: 27
OK, I have put the Sprites22 and Tools22 theme-files that I use in the zip file
The Sprites22 file still needs some editing for a consistent appearance, and, of course, it reflects the filetypes that I use, not those that others may use. For example the filetypes &ABA, &ABF, &FB4, &FC8 are still wonky because I never got round to improving them. Also, bear in mind that I use both my monitors in 1920x1080 mode almost all the time, so I do not waste time on other mode variants.

I quite like austere monotone menus. But I do think red for danger is actually helpful, as it acts subliminally to help avoid mistakes.
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Andrew McCarthy Message #124750, posted by mac9 at 13:48, 7/3/2020, in reply to message #124749
Posts: 14
My first impression of RISC OS direct was good. I liked the presentations and the associated animated graphics.

As is, perhaps appreciated, download speed was quite slow. I liked the inclusion of Impression, Fireworks and the Diary, including the utility that enables revert of screen mode changes. That said the highest resolution of my monitor wasn't supported.

An observation is that a stylised set of window icons is included by default. Yet it's aimed at new and returning users. Although I don't dislike the new logo I immediatly changed to the standard RISC OS Pi theme for its RISC OS window furniture.

It would have been useful to have included a user guide, either in html (preferred) or pdf form.

A small gotcha I feel is the lack of a Recycle Bin which might put off new and returning ROLtd users, especially when they delete something and want it back!

A small and strange suprise was the Castle Logo on boot up.

Overall I liked the first release. Well done to all who made it possible!
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Andrew Rawnsley Message #124751, posted by arawnsley at 18:13, 7/3/2020, in reply to message #124750
R-Comp chap
Posts: 536
Hi Andrew, thanks for the feedback. Glad you like it. Hopefully it'll be even better with the expanded software packs.

I'm a bit puzzled by your comment about non-standard window theme. I wasn't responsible for the final disc image, but did make specific fixes for this in the "RODirect" theme. It *should* be the same tools as "Sovereign" (the classic RISC OS theme).

AFAIK the only one to have non-standard tool-icons is the "Raspberry" theme supplied by ROOL, which chucked out Acorn/Castle toolsprites for some, erm, "interesting" alternatives. No idea who created them, but they're not from the usual RISC OS graphics designer.

Could you check/confirm which Theme is in use please? Double click !Boot and then Theme.

Obviously if we need to fix that, we will do so ASAP.

Just re-read. Yikes! - you're thinking the Pi theme is "correct"? The graphics designer will most put out! The Pi theme is the imposter here, not the RISC OS Direct one - I suggest comparing to all the other themes. Anyway, if that's what you prefer, that's cool (it is included to offer choice), but no, that's not the "proper" toolsprites.

Also surprised by castle logo appearing - I think it should have the ROD logo now - a shield with a cog design?

It is possible the Pi theme you mention has the castle logo - I haven't checked. More info would definitely be helpful please.

If you're able to email me some screenshots, that would be really helpful.

Supported resolutions should be up to 2560x1440 and that seems to work on most test monitors, although my own one seems less than happy.

A monitor definition file for high resolutions is included, but you'd need to mod the config file in !Boot.Loader to enable that, I think, so probably not worth doing unless you're feeling "expert". The supplied stuff is designed to play best with old software that changes screen mode into numbered modes. The MDF approach is better if you don't need that.

The user guide is in "Documents" (or perhaps "Media" as things seemed to get moved around near the end), although it isn't the updated one as that hadn't been released at time of publication. That's on the to-do list for v2.

[Edited by arawnsley at 18:43, 7/3/2020]
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Bryan Hogan Message #124753, posted by helpful at 18:17, 11/3/2020, in reply to message #124751
Posts: 205
At this month’s ROUGOL meeting, on Monday 16th March 2020 at 7.45pm, Bernard Boase will be leading us on a tour of the new distribution to see what is included, particularly for new users, and how this differs from the standard RISC OS Open image. As this is the first release there will no doubt be things that could be changed/improved, so be sure to join in the discussion with your own thoughts and ideas. If time allows we will also watch some/all of the first tutorial video.

As an added bonus Bernard will have his Pi connected to the pub wifi using PiFi v3, and will use that to demonstrate the latest beta release of the Iris web browser, which was also released to RISC OS Developments subscribers at the SW Show.

Full info here – http://www.rougol.jellybaby.net/meetings/index.html

ROUGOL’s venue is easy to reach by public transport from in and around London and the south east, being only a couple of minutes walk from Waterloo train and tube station. Parking is available outside the pub, on Coral St, from 6.30pm.

The Duke of Sussex (upstairs in the Chichester Room)
23 Baylis Road, London, SE1 7AY

ROUGOL meetings are free to attend, and food & drink is plentiful (but not free!).
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The Icon Bar: News and features: RISC OS Direct RISC OS release - first impressions