The RISC OS Roadshow 2005
Aaron attended two of the three events...
I'm sure everyone reading RISCWorld knows that just before Christmas RISCOS Ltd organised three one day events around the country. On Thursday the 15th of December the roadshow was at the West Bromich Albion Football Club, on Friday at the Brittania Hotel in Stockpot and on Saturday at the Best Western Cumberland Hotel in Harrow.
Due to a previous commitment I wasn't able to attend the event on the Saturday, but I did make it to both the Thursday and Friday events.
This was the most well attended event with 12 companies making an appearance. The venue was quite easy to find and having navigated round the Birmingham motorway system I found myself arriving only 40 minutes after having left home. Unfortunately I arrived at the wrong part of the Football Club. I wandered into the show shop and asked where the "Bassett Suite" was. I wasn't too far wrong, but had come in through the wrong entrance. I drove back out to the main road an went in the correct way. The Bassett Suite is at the top of a clean modern building, but at least it had lifts.
Since I always travel fairly light it only took a couple of trips for Matt from Advantage Six to unload my car (cheers mate!). Each exhibitor was given a table and a couple of chairs. By 3pm almost everyone was set up and Advantage Six, Myself and Chris from CJE decamped over the road to McDonalds in order to have a chat about the A9 and to grab a bite to eat. I was pleased to see Chris as he had damaged his knee the night before when loading the van and it had looked like he might not have been able to attend.
Anyway we returned to the show with a few minutes to go before it opened. This gave me an opportunity to have a wander around and see what new goodies were on offer.
The first port of call had to be Advantage Six. A number of A9 machines were being demonstrated, many of them had small USB powered fans attached. A merry game was to join to fans together and cross the blades to see if they still rotated, amazingly they did! Anyway, the more important developments on show elated to the A9 graphics. You could compare a current developer release A9 with one running the "HeadLight" hardware graphics acceleration. The difference was quite noticeable with window drags being much smoother and slicker. Also on display was the "HeadTurner" software that allowed the use of rotatable landscape/portrait displays. If the monitor was turned from landscape to portrait the RISC OS desktop was correctly resized. I've seen this feature on Geminus for the Iyonix, but it was nice to see it working on an A9 "out of the box".
The most interesting new display feature on show was the "HeadRoom" desktop, running a massive 8160 by 1024 display. As the mouse was moved to the edge of the screen the entire display scrolled in hardware to reveal more of the desktop. It was also possibly to move to a particular part of the desktop simply by holding down MENU over the pinboard. After a couple of seconds a mini preview of the entire screen was shown and you could simply click on the section you wanted and the machine would instantly scroll to it. All in all very nice.
Advantage Six were also talking about further graphics acceleration using the SM501 chipset in the A9 to accelerate the drawing of lines and drawfiles. It's interesting that even with it's 400Mhz processor and incomplete acceleration the diminutive A9 seemed to perform to a similar level as the Iyonix.
Talking of the Iyonix Castle Technology were demonstrating a couple of Iyonix machines in some of the new cases, which looked very attractive. They were also showing off more USB devices, including downloading photos directly from a mobile phone.
RISCOS Ltd had a large stand with a RiscPC, PC, A9, Iyonix and an iMac, all running the same 26/32bit version of RISC OS. It looks like the goal of having one unified OS for all machines is starting to become a reality. A number of customers seemed to be genuinely surprised to see Select features running on the Iyonix, perhaps they had believed some of the daft things said on the newsgroups? There was a lot of interest in the Mac version of VirtualRPC, but at present there is still no confirmed release date. On the subject of Select for the Iyonix though a possible date as early as the second quarter of 2006 was mentioned by Paul Middleton.
Meanwhile elsewhere in the room Icon Technology were showing off the latest versions of TechWriter and EasiWriter, both now being developed by Martin Wuerthner. The new versions include a very useful structure bar feature as well as lots of other new features. A special version for the A9home was also available for eager customers to try on their developer machines. Martin was also on hand to answer questions abut the new version of ArtWorks with PDF export, which really is a very tasty bit of software. He was also demonstrating GimpPrint.
CJE Micros had one again managed to bring everything except the kitchen sink. The other large stand was R-Comp, who were demonstrating their collection PCs running VirtualAcorn. They also had upgrades to UniPrint 2 available for customers.
There were of course lots of other exhibitors but I was kept quite busy and didn't have time to talk to everyone. When the show finished I had to pack up quickly and leg it home for dinner! Although I did stay long enough to get my ugly mug in the group photo!
Stockport should be a bit over an hour and a half drive from home. Indeed it probably is, if you aren't following a cement mixer up and down the Peak District. In the end I arrived at the hotel with only 20 or so minutes to spare. Luckily I was able to park right outside as Alan Rawnsley had saved me a space. The exhibitor list was much the same as for Birmingham, expect that RONWUG (RISCOS North West User Group) had a stand and the ARM Club (who had been at Birmingham) didn't. I found the Stockpot event to be much quieter than the Birmingham one. One exhibitor wondered if it was anything to do with being near Lancashire, I said I couldn't possibly comment, although I did wonder if the fact that since "Lancashire" already contains "cash" meant that the inhabitants were determined to keep it there.
What was most interesting was that a couple of odd bugs had turned up on the A9 machines the day before. These related to the HeadRoom scrolling desktop. Despite having to break down the stand at Birmingham and set up again at Stockport, Advantage Six had managed to find the problems and fix them overnight! It's that sort of dedication that the RISC OS market needs.
Anyway, I had a disappointing day at Stockport. To be honest, given the time it took to get there, I could have just as easily have gone to the Harrow event. It's just that now we live in Derbyshire London sounds a long way off and Manchester doesn't, still you live and learn.
After the show had finished I packed up and headed home, which took over an hour less than the trip earlier in the day.
I didn't get to the London event, which was a shame as according to a couple of the companies that attended it was the busiest one of the three. Most likely this was due to the event being held at the Weekend, rather than on a weekday.
All I can say is roll on the Roadshow for 2006, and next time I will go down to London!