"Selling RISC OS to the general public is always going to be difficult; despite some software developements in the last few years, it still lacks features which have long since been ubiquitous on other platforms - especially what might be termed the big three - Windows (more relevantly, WinXP), Mac OS X and Linux. clearly has many problems to overcome before it can really gain any wider appeal. But instead of mentioning those in further detail once again, I'd like to cover a topic I hinted at in a earlier article - a ready to go RISC OS demo."
RISC OS Archive
"Of all the various Acorn hardware emulators out there, two in particular are supplied with source code: ArcEm and Arculator, plus its new cousin RPCemu. Being a RiscPC emulator with source code gives an interesting insight into the task of reverse engineering the legacy Acorn computer, which Tom had to go through and without access to the various relevant datasheets. Although VirtualRiscPC successfully emulates a RiscPC environment on PCs, its internals are rightfully protected as being commercially sensitive."
"Imagine the following situation: a collection of computer users draw up a wishlist of software they'd really like to see developed. These end users then begin to donate money to projects that they'd individually like to see appear. A programmer then goes about creating an item from the list that has donations attached to it. Once the project is complete and enough money has been raised, the author can collect the cash and release the software. Finished code is withheld until enough money has been donated. It's worked for other operating systems, but can it work for RISC OS?"
"Over the years, RISC OS 4 and 5 have continued to move forward, however separate their paths. Despite reams of column inches covering on-going developments, it would appear that there is no up to date list of all the RISC OS features for either stream; instead details of new releases are strewn across various months old web pages and articles, some of which written in fairly technical and programmer oriented language. Here, we present our best attempt at summing up all the main features for both RISC OS 4.39 and RISC OS 5.09 under one friendly roof, so to speak, for both current users, those new to the platform and those curiously peeking in."
Together with sharing files over a network, being able to control another computer remotely is particularly appealing to users with their own networks - especially when printers, scanners and other gadgets are connected to the alien machine. RISC OS has a number of applications to achieve this and while each are very similar, they have their own individual features that make them stand out in different ways.
"Looking pretty much like a blank canvas, 2006 is barely out of its box and plastic wrapping. With a whole year ahead of us, anticipation is mounting on what will appear over next 12 months. Sadly, we didn't get a time machine nor a lottery win for Christmas, so rather than confidently predicting what will emerge, we'll settle for making educated guesses instead."
Peter Naulls, the RISC OS developer behind, among other things, the Firefox port for RISC OS, has published a list of things that are likely, or less-likely, to happen in the world of RISC OS in 2006. "I'll suggest some projects that are both plausible and possible in a relatively short space of time. Whether they will be carried out is another matter entirely, and nothing should be read into these that I or anyone else intends to carry them out. One prediction I will make right now is that I expect developer support to continue to wane in 2006, with an increasingly frustrating general RISC OS situation, which for the first time in a long time, has only a little to do with technical restrictions."
The Icon Bar has an interview with RISCOS Ltd's managing directory, Paul Middleton. In the podcast (no, that's not a direct link), Paul discusses the future of RISC OS Select, the issues surrounding an Iyonix version, and merging the RISC OS 4 and 5 version forks.
Fresh from attending the Manchester leg of this year's Christmas RISC OS roadshow, David Llewellyn-Jones reports on the developments and products he saw on display yesterday evening. "It seemed like a good event with what could be described as a good atmosphere. The room was quite small - apparently smaller than the usual Birmingham venue - so that it was quite cramped with all of the exhibitors present. It was difficult to get a feel for the number of people attending, and I hesitate to speculate. You can get an idea of how busy it was from the photos below. There was a list for visitors to fill in and sign on arrival, so presumably RISCOS Ltd have a relatively accurate figure."
The Iyonix desktop graphics acceleration package Geminus has been officially launched after last month's initial beta release. ArtWorks, Oregano 2, MessengerPro, PDF and similar applications will benefit from Geminus's ability to speed up graphics that are repeatedly drawn on the screen. It is understood there are early plans to make the acceleration available for the RiscPC and A9home platforms. Blueprints also include future support for digital DVI output and alleviating the need for physical modifications to be made to Iyonix video cards for them to work on RISC OS.
The next version of RISC OS Select will not be ready until after the new year, RISCOS Ltd.'s Paul Middleton has said. Speaking to the Bristol usergroup last night, the ROL boss handed out copies of a leaflet distributed at the Guildford show which includes a list of features for Select 4. It is understood that development is on-going, and developers who have previously contributed components to the RISC OS 4 subscription scheme have been contacted to work again on the project.
The Inq pays attention to Advantage Six' upcoming A9 Home machine. "AdvantageSix's new machine is a tiny blue fanless aluminium box about the size of a couple of floppy drives - 168x103x53mm. The A9 Home is a sealed unit - it comes with 128MB RAM and a notebook-size 40GB hard disk - which you can't upgrade, not that you'd want to; this is masses for RISC OS. There is a small external power supply brick which puts out a stonking 20W. It has to be that much to power a few USB peripherals - the machine itself draws about 3W under load. "That's actually quite a lot. We haven't enabled most of the power management yet."
As highlighted by a recent usenet post, specific formatters are needed for each hardware interface (of which there are many for RiscPCs, and several for Iyonixes), despite the fact that the specific Filecore format (the native RISC OS filesystem) is essentially laid out exactly the same on each. This article examines the problems with this approach and a possible solution.
The source to the PC card software developed by Aleph1 to control second processors on Acorn machines is now available under the GPL. This software is responsible for providing a BIOS, drivers and interfacing with the RISC OS desktop when using x86 second processor cards in Acorn RiscPC machines or the slower x86 expansion cards which fit into Acorn podule slots.
"Comparing AmigaOS and RISC OS is an interesting exercise, especially when it provides inspiration for things like scripting languages, friendly internationalisation configuration, and transparent file format handling. However it also shows areas where RISC OS is grossly under-selling features we take for granted every day, but are seen as almost revolutionary elsewhere: For instance, being efficient on a sub-1GHz RISC CPU, anti-aliased fonts, supporting virtual disc labels, using a RAM-based temporary disc, and providing an iconbar."
The debate over whether or not RISC OS should be open sourced took another turn this week when Peter Naulls argued that "certain parts" of the OS could be released under an open source licence. The State-side coder behind various ports including Firefox said this would ideally include "crucial parts that affect all users, even if they don't realise it, parts that can be created from scratch and made much better than the Acorn original, and parts which can managed by specific developers who already understand them well."
Peter Naulls has released the fifth Firefox beta for RISC OS. The new version feels more like a conventional RISC OS application thanks to the icon bar icon and pop up menus. The browser also responds to URI requests from other applications.
Castle have issued a new RISC OS 5 ROM for brave Iyonix users to beta test. Version 5.10 is mainly a bug fixing exercise, and coincides with a USB mass storage update that also corrects a few glitches. "It is intended that these updates will go in general circulation in a few days time, unless anything hugely untoward crops up. We have been running these for a while now," said Castle's John Ballance. This update also includes the updated GeForce 2 driver, bringing 3D acceleration to RISC OS.
AdvantageSix are expanding their A9home user base by inviting "experienced" users to apply for a development machine. Previously, only RISC OS software programmers could sign up and pay for the ARM9 powered computer, which is still in a beta stage of development. The machine runs RISC OS Adjust 4.40, a strand of RISC OS developed especially for the new machine.
RISC OS has recently benefitted from a number of projects to improve its graphics capabilities including, most recently, 3D acceleration. And as more development occurs for multi-display support, Drobe asks the question whether this is the widest RISC OS desktop yet. But more interesting is the insight into the RISC OS world that this view of the desktop provides.