RISC OS SouthWest 2004
Aaron's cheap and cheerful show report
Yes, its show time again. Every February the RISC OS world treks down to the Webbington Hotel in Somerset, just a few miles from Western Super Mare. As usual I travelled down to the hotel the day before, however this year I had a vehicular choice to make before I even left the house. Do I take the huge 7 seater 4 wheel drive Shogun (see my editorial), or do I take the electrically challenged Rover 820 with its new "super-crumble" pre leaking radiator? Well the weather report says it will be snow, so I decide to take the Rover, brilliant.
Getting down to the Webbington is quite easy, down the M4, then down the M5 then off at Junction 22 and back up on the A38. This is a route I know quite well now although I always carry a little map just in case. As a quick aside I have read a couple of other show reports where people have been "guided" by their expensive in car SatNav (Satellite Navigation) systems and as a result arrived half an hour later then they meant to, I would just like to point out that by using almost 5p worth of paper I was able at arrive exactly on time (and the money I saved on the SatNav more than paid for the radweld I poured into the Rover half way down the M4).
I was also one of the first ones there. I did spy Dave Holden's van in the car park, but of him there was no sign. I quickly checked in and dumped my clothes in my room, I then drove round to the back of the hotel to unload, just as RComp turned up. Getting into the exhibition area revealed that the only other exhibitors present were Castle Technology. I dumped my stuff on my stand and then went round to put my car back in the carpark (actually in the car park under the fire escape next to the exhibition room for a quick getaway the next afternoon). As I was moving my car a cloud of gas appeared, yes its Dave Holden's van being moved round the back, "Has it passed its mustard gas emissions this year Dave?". He doesn't look impressed.
Somehow, and I don't know how he does it, I end up once again unloading Dave's van. I think he works it like this, he does a couple of trips with some smaller boxes and then pretends to work out how to organise his stand, meanwhile muggins carries on emptying the van, by the time I have noticed that he hasn't actually carried anything for 10 minutes it's too late and there's just a couple of second hand RiscPCs left to move. I don't know how I keep falling for this but I am determined not to fall for it again at Wakefield.
So having set up it's time for the bar, then dinner, then a pint or five. Of course this is a hotel, the bar doesn't shut at 11:00, so there we are sitting there at 11:35 thinking "Oh the bar should shut soon...", luckily Dave checks his watch (I don't wear one, for basically the same reasons as I don't have SatNav). So I trundle off to my room and hit the pillow. Nothing much happens for about half an hour then I am woken up by the Arm Club, who seem to be in an advanced state of refreshment, and are "walking" back to their rooms by the cunning process of bouncing from wall to wall while gradually falling forwards. Funnily enough I am sure the same thing happened last year.
Deep and crisp and even
Arghhh, its 7:30 in the morning and my alarm is going off, I stumble into the shower and wake up, actually I wake up rather more quickly than I had intended as I forget which way to turn the shower control for hot. Anyway what's the weather like? Actually from my hotel room I can't tell, the view from my window is a panoramic vista encompassing north Somerset, well the part of north Somerset that consists of the weed strewn bank 3 feet outside my window. This blocks almost all natural light, and probably 99% of known snow. Once I finally get outside I find that it has snowed overnight, will this effect visitor numbers? Will the show still be a success. Where's breakfast? I decide that of the three questions only one requires my immediate intention. I bump into Dave Holden who is also dealing with the big question of the day and seems to have decided that the answer to it is fried bread.
I dump my laptop on my stand and check out of my room, oh, look they haven't charged me for dinner...no...it's no good I will have to tell them. What, my dinner was booked onto Dave Holden's room, and he has already paid and checked out. Oh dear. Heading back to the show I bump into lots of other exhibitors who have turned up and are frantically wandering around instead of setting up properly. Come 10' o'clock the show opens and the first customers start coming in. There is a steady stream all day, although you can certainly tell when someone is giving a talk as the hall empties into the lecture theatre. The three talks given during the day were by Jack Lillingston, Paul Middleton and John Cartmell. Of course I don't get to see any of them as I am stuck on my stand. However I am told that Jack showed the new slimline desktop Iyonix with a new photo printer developed in conjunction with Stuart Tyrell, Paul Middleton explained the myriad benefits of RISC OS 4.39 (coming soon to a ROM near you) and John Cartmell explained the ethos behind Qercus (a fusion of Acorn User and Acorn Publisher).
During one of the talks I did get time to have a quick wander around the show. Starting by the door we have RComp, showing the new MusicMan software, plus all their other titles, and a RISCCube and RISCBook. Next to RComp are CJE who seem to have everything, I ask if they have any sinks in stock and get a funny look.
CJE Micros hunt for a sink to sell me
Moving along I discover the AAUG (Association of Acorn User Groups) who, according to their sign are running a "real" copy of RISC OS. As opposed to what exactly? A clone called LISC OS? Who knows, and I can't quite be bothered to ask. I then have a quick chat with John Cartmell on the Finnybak/Qercus stand and manage to blag a free copy, oh look it's got an A6 review in, I will read it later. I then move on past an empty table which was supposed to be EFF's stand. Castle Technology and OreganoUK Ltd have a nice big stand in the middle of the room with plenty of Iyonix's to play with. I can't see the new desktop case, but am told that this is because it is currently being used in the theatre.
I then stop for a quick chat with Paul Beverley of Archive and Living with Technology fame. He seems very happy and I notice a large pile of subscription renewals, which is good. I take a quick note of a WebWonder demo on David Snell's stand and I then move round to the Arm Club, no not a hangover in site. They seem to be doing a brisk trade in PD CDs and subscriptions.
A WebWonder demo in progress
I then move past the VirtualAcorn stand, look no one's manning it, typical. Next stop is Dave Holden who doesn't want to be interviewed, why? Well he says something about "...being accused of bias." and then starts laughing, what can he mean? I then swoop past Peter Naulls who seems to be busy with a customer, no doubt putting some money into the Unix Porting Project. Next door is Neil Spellings who is showing Aemulor Pro on his transparent Iyonix. Final stop is ITC who are selling just about any spare part you could ever need for a RISC OS computer.
The Unix Porting Project
I then notice an eager punter on the VirtualAcorn stand and have to leg it back and I don't really get another chance to go round the show again for the rest of the day, so I must apologise to anyone I missed out, which is actually quite a few, so sorry.
The show is supposed to finish around 4:30, but it gets very quiet after about quarter past four, so I decide to pack up. Parking the car by the fire escape the day before has paid dividends and I have packed up by half four, however remembering the APDL unloading experience I call Hayley for 15 minutes whilst lurking near Dave's van, hold on, look he's conned some other poor buggers into loading it, how does he do it? Dave and I then adjourn to the bar for a diet coke and a quick post show chat and then we head home. On the way home I get a bit bored and decide to reproduce the full SatNav experience and take the map for the webbington, screw it into a ball and jam in into one of the dash board air vents. It's no good though, I still arrive home on time without having taken any wrong turnings.
I have put together a little video from some of the footage I took at the show and have put a copy of this in the software directory in this issue, so even if you weren't there you can see how busy it got, and also see what some of the exhibitors thought of the show. I apologise for the low quality of some of the clips but the show venue wasn't very well lit and my poor little digital video camera needs a reasonable amount of light to work properly.