RISC OS South West Show 2006

Supporting users in SW England and S Wales

Saturday 18th February 2006
The Webbington Hotel
Loxton, nr Axbridge
North Somerset

A cold and damp morning, with thick fog for most of the journey to the show.

I left home at 8am and with a steady drive, had to really with the lack of visibility, I arrived at the Hotel at approximately 9.40am. Sat around in the car for 20 minutes until the scheduled opening time for the show at 10am.

On entering the show I was somewhat surprised by the lack of visitors. The room looked pretty full of exhibitors, a few more than last year but I could actually see from one end to the other.

After about 20mins or so the room was bustling with activity and a good attendence indicated all was going well.

A major addition to the regular exhibitors this year was Advantage 6 and Orpheus. More of these later.

The full list included;

3QD Developments, APDL, Advantage 6, Archive, CJE Micro's, Castle Technology Ltd, David Snell, Fortran Friends, GeneSys, Icon Technology, John Norris, MW Software, Mathemagical Software, Orpheus, Quersus, R-Comp, RiscOS packaging Project, RISCOS Ltd, Serious Statistical Software, Spellings Services, StrongArm Systems and The ARM Club.

Brief comments on some of the Exhibitors I visited.

Castle Technology Ltd - I was somewhat concerned when I arrived at the Castle stand. This being due to its size, products on view and usual staff.

I think the actual table area was the same but I could only see 2 machines on show. An x100 and a Aria. The Aria had its case opened up displaying the internal layout. Next the only person manning the stand was Mr jack Lillingston ( Castle MD. ). Also notably, there was not the bustle or throng of people around this stand as was the case last year. In my opinion, a very worrying sign.

Advantage 6 - When I found out that Advantage 6 were to make an appearance at the show, well I had to get here. They had not exhibited at the last two SW Shows that I have attended so I had a sneaky feeling that "something" was going to be announced or on display.

Unfortunately this all came to nothing, but none the less, a very good spread of hardware on display.

This was my first "real" glimpse of the A9 Home prototype, or as It should be called a pre-release evaluation machine. Its small, about the size of a couple of VHS tapes stuck together. Its a real neat shade of blue that makes it stand out like for example an SGI Indigo.

There were three A9's up and running, one appeared to be showing a rolling demo of !Lander in about eight windows. Also there was a small Tablet size display. I did not actually see this working.

Other Items included Unipods, Mouse mini's, USB Fan Lights (Hmmm.) and of course Stuart Tyrell and Matt Edgar with their flashing/scrolling lapel badges.

APDL - As usual a full spread from APDL. Everything from PD Software, to the newly compiled game compilation discs, Unipods, Software, Second hand RiscPC's etc.

CJE Micro's/4th Dimension - As usual for CJE's most things appeared to be "in stock". I was most impressed with a 20 inch LCD monitor they had for sale, ok it was 500gbp but I could just see that on my desk at home driven by my ViewFinder. Unfortunately it appears to only be available in black, ok this is the "in colour" at the moment, but wouldnt match my RiscPC. Still you never know. What about two of them in a VF Duel Head configuration Hmmmmmm.

Qercus - As last year, I had to purchase the latest edition. Ok I was told that this latest edition was printed "last year" due to more problems with the printers for the "new" edition. Quercus is still in my opinion a good read. At 4.20gbp it is a tad pricey in terms of thickness, but it is a grand effort to keep a magazine going on such a budget and all credit where it is due.

R-Comp Interactive - My first target in fact when I arrived at the show. I am very impressed with R-Comp in the quality of their software products and the regular development and updates that they produce. I also find them extremely helpful whenever you discuss a product you are thinking about purchasing or asking regards a particular problem you are having.

On this visit I upgraded my Messenger Pro email/news software from v3.29 to the latest and first CD release of v4.06

I have also been toying the idea of moving into the 21st Century with my internet connection and after discussing the whats, where's, and when's I walked away with a 4 Port ADSL Router and the latest version of NetFetch. Needless to say, I have now signed up for Broadband with my current ISP, FreeUK, and am now waiting for activation. I will be connecting to the router through my UniPod, which should make the RiscPC think its just been connected to the matrix!

Theatre Presentations

There were 4 presentation during the day;
Castle technology - Jack Lillingstone "Castle Matters"
MW Software - Martin Wuerthner "Graphics Design With Artworks 2"
Advantage 6 - Matt Edgar "A9 Home"
RISCOS Ltd - Paul Middleton "RISCOS 4 - The Next Steps"

So into the theatre I went at 11am for the Castle Presentation.

Again, I was somewhat disapointed. I had expected to hear about enhancements made to RISCOS 5 over the last year, or even current or future developments planned or in production for the Iyonix, but none were forthcoming.

The whole presentation to me was very low key. It consisted of a full description of the current Iyonix range of machines, describing the hardware features ie RAM, Drive Capacity, Ports, bundled software and pricing. A discription of a Photo Quality printer that apparently is in short supply and was on offer. Another offer on the Iyonix DIY kit that was available at the show.

This was followed by a description of updates made to C TOOLS, not something that I am familiar with. and Finally a Q&A sesion. This proved to be somewhat flat and questions were few and far between as I think the audience, myself included, were not really whipped up into a frenzy by the presentation. I felt that Castle were holding something back, what I cannot be sure but i would guess that they do not have the drive to compete in the desktop market anymore. I may be wrong, I hope I am wrong, but for a company that designs and builds a decent RISCOS machine, there was no hard sell or confidence to make me think of buying a new machine.

Questions from the audience regards the possible merger of the two RISCOS forks, was met with a negative/not in the foreseable future reply.

Another question regards Project Merlin revealed that the project is also stalled / on hold.

No applause at the end, I the audience I believe left the room quietly and feeling a little empty.

At this point I went for lunch which resulted in me having to miss MW Software's Presentation on Artworks 2. I hear that it was very good.
At 1pm I was back in the theatre for Advantage 6. I had hoped for a big news story or release details of the A9 Home but none were forthcoming. I had hoped this presentation would really lift everyone with such news but as it was Matt Edgar done a really good job of describing in detail the A9 Home, its features, what actually worked, bearing in mind that this is still a prototype / development machine and not all features are fully functional.
He started of by stressing that their was "no" firm release date for the A9 in a retail version. Advantage 6 were not willing to release a machine until they were 100% certain that all of the bugs had been worked out and it was fully functional. This meaning that a release could be weeks or months away depending on the amount of time to correct or re-work any problems. He was also open to people discussing with him(after the presentation) what features ie case designs or others they would think useful. This being a good marketing strategy as you can guide your product towards a near perfect match as to peoples requirements.
An A9 was being demonstrated on a large projection screen by an audience volunteer, tho Matt did state that anything could happen and not all of the software on the Hard Drive might work 100% . The machine was however running a true 32bit Select.
A good and honest presentation, with nothing held back. All questions were given good answeres and the audience concluded with a round of applause and left in good spirits.

Final Thoughts of the Day.

All in all a good day out. Its the highlight of my RISCOS/ACORN year to visit the South West Show. An hour and a half up he road, and a very good group of folk to meet and do business with.
Even tho' I only had one main objective which was to get my Messenger Pro upgrade from R-comp, the rest of the Exhibitors had some good displays. Spellings was, as last year demonstration Geminus on an Iyonix with dual screens. Dragging large windows from one screen to another was very smooth. Time constraints on my part prevented me from staying for the RISCOS Ltd presentation, I'm sure it was very interesting. I will have to catch that one next year. My disapointment with CTL was wiped out with the AD6 presentation. I think there will be a lot more to hear from AD6 this year. Its looking brighter.

Rich - Classic Acorn

Below are images of the event and items I picked up on the day.

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The A9 Home on the STD Stand. Yes, it's that little blue box.
Sorry about picture quality, the photo came out real dark.

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Who drives a car like this? David, it's over to you!

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Not real bells, but it still looked very physical.

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Castle technology Ltd. Just after the show opened its doors.

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The ever colourfull Mathemagical Software.

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R-Comp, friendly, efficient and great software.

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RISC OS Ltd. Yes that is an Apple.
And the latest 26/32bit build of RISC OS 4 ,Which is version 4.41

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My main purchase at the show, An ADSL Router, Netfetch 2 Software.
I also upgraded to the latest CD release of MessengerPro ver 4.06

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