RISC World

Letters Page

Every issue, it's all the rage, for readers write it, the letters column...

You can be sure of one thing, there is nothing like a good old fashioned cock up to get our readers writing in. You may recall that when the last issue went out "something" happened in the duplication process. This meant that some people ended up with a CD that contained a copy of Volume 7 number 5, rather than Volume 8 number 5. This was quickly spotted, we put out an announcement and sent replacement CDs out to those who had received the defective ones. However a couple of readers spotted it before we did...

Hi Aaron, I received my copy of the above this morning, but it seems to be a re-run of last years. All the articles refer to 2007, being the first issue of etc. Has this been an oversight?
Peter Dalziel.

I replied to Peter and said that something weird was going on, and that my editorial started with the words "Welcome to the first RISCWorld of 2008...". I asked him to send me a copy of the article so I could see what had happened...

Hi Aaron,
I have included a screenshot of the Editors corner for your information. As you can see from the address bar, it is from volume 8 issue 5.
Peter Dalziel.


Now this was a real mystery (at this point). The article was definitly last years one. So something had gone wrong. I decided to ring Dave Holden and see if he had any ideas. However before I could do so I got some more readers who had spotted that something was wrong...

Just received RiscWorld CD Feb2008 8_5 edition and the contents are actually those of Feb2007 7_5. The actual CD shows up in the file path as 8_5 and so is the label but all the contents are the same as 7_5 as I checked it.
Any ideas?
Doug Webb

Hmmm. So it's at least two readers who have the problem. As I said to Doug...

"Some of the CDs went out with last years data on (we call it recycling). Only one batch was affected and so we know who has the faulty CDs. A correct replacement will be in the post shortly. In the meantime it's a perfect opportunity to catch up on some of the articles you might have missed the first time you saw this issue."

By thus time the problem had been tracked down and it was obvious that one batch of discs was faulty. Due to the wonders of record keeping we even knew who had the faulty discs. We quickly put out an announcement...

Hi Aaron,
Reference your message on the comp.sys.acorn.misc group. I seem to be one of those who has a Jan 2007 disc. Your message came as something of a relief, as I was wondering what it was that I had missed.
I enjoy the magazine, including your ramblings.
Rod Furr

Ramblings? Splutter...I decided that, on balance, this was a compliment and said thanks. I also said to Rod that he would automatically receive a new CD in a few days. Not all the mail box was about our inability to copy a batch of CDs correctly...

Dear Editor,
I have been spurred into action by the last 'Editors Rant of the month' (Vol.8 Issue 4) where you claimed you 'almost wrote about those polarised articles that keep appearing in RISC OS newsgroups'. The conflicts don't bother me as I can easily 'switch off' and at least it shows someone is still alive and kicking. But what really annoys me is that nobody seems to be sticking up for RISC OS in the wider world.
For example, in Which? the Daily Telegraph and other journals they regularly tell their readers (or imply it) that there are only two computer systems worth considering- Microsoft and Apple. Sometimes Linux may get a mention, but that's about the end of it. When I think of the times I used to go to BETT shows and saw triple-format software on offer it makes me angry that the 'ex-Acorns' now never get a look-in!
Why don't our protagonists assemble a formidable case to put to those publications and point out that RISC OS is still well and truly alive? It has Users Groups, magazines and regularly holds trade shows with new products available. Our flagbearers might get rebuffed by the 'Establishment' but at least they can then go on and tell the rest of us how we can do our bit by backing them up.
Also, while I am writing about opportunities, can I ask if there is any chance for RISC OS to get involved in the OLPC project? I am not well-versed in the details but I assume it must be based on a RISC-type processor (for low power) and if Intel has pulled out what is likely to happen now? If the case has all been tooled up and ready to go, can it not be sold to OEMs to provide alternatives, for example?
John Carpenter.

Thanks for the letter, John. You have raised some interesting points. Let me first say that I am firm believer in RISC OS. I use it daily, my business relies on it. RISCWorld is written entirely on RISC OS, all my accounts, both personal and for 3QD Developments Ltd. are produced on Prophet. My correspondance is written in Impression. Even the company databases run on RISC OS. Given all the above I could not recommend RISC OS to a new computer user.

There are a number of reasons for this but firstly I should address your point about RISC OS being "well and truly alive", it's not, it's just not dead yet. RISC OS itself has an excellent GUI (Graphical User Interface), it's reasonably intuitive and it does have a few great applications. The problem is that it is just a few. If you want to browse the web with RISC OS you need several different browsers. For heaven's sake that's ridiculous. Whilst a number of "classic" RISC OS applications continue to be worked on and improved, ArtWorks and TechWriter being perhaps the two most important, there are really very few "new" applications being developed. Given the number of actual RISC OS users this isn't surprising. You have mentioned the trade shows, the number of customers attending the biggest RISC OS show of the year (Wakefield) is sub 500.

Of course in order to use RISC OS you have to have something to run it on. The native RISC OS hardware hardly looks attractive. The flagship machine, the Iyonix, is nearly 6 years old, has a 600Mhz processor and still costs almost £800. That's absurd. I can go and buy a new, PC with Windows and a 3Ghz+ processor for well under half that amount. You can even buy an iMac for less. Then what about a printer? Don't get me started on that topic. There are hardly any new printers that work with RISC OS. As for other hardware, you can pretty much forget it.

Then we run into the problem that RISC OS simply can't do the tasks users expect a modern OS to be able to perform. Play back a DVD? View websites such as FaceBook? Record digital TV? Play back modern encoded media files such as DivX? The list of tasks that RISC OS can't do is getting longer every day. The problem is that RISC OS simply doesn't cut the mustard in the 21st century. Pretending that it does will just make things worse. Before trying to promote RISC OS to the wiser world the deficiencies need to be resolved and here's the clincher - there simply isn't the money available to do the work.

I am not suggesting that people give up on RISC OS, quite the reverse. I am suggesting that we recognise its deficiencies and simply use another tool to do the jobs RISC OS can't. We then use RISC OS for the things it is good at, and another OS to do all the things RISC OS can't. Trying to promoted RISC OS as a real alternative to the other mainstream Operating Systems is madness.

You have, though, touched upon one subject where RISC OS could score big time - the OLPC scheme (One Laptop Per Child). On a budget device designed to perform a set of pre-defined activities RISC OS could compete. Mind you someone with a lot of money would need to be involved in order for the work to be done (someone needs to write/adapt the word processor, database, browser etc).

You may not be familiar with the Explan Solo machine. This is a low cost machine designed for the third world, and it was originally intended to run RISC OS. It has some similarities to the OLPC scheme. It's low power, with no moving parts but, last time I checked (2006), the project had dumped RISC OS and moved over to Linux, the same OS as used by it's competitors.

I suggest that you carry on using an enjoying RISC OS, but that you will have a better experience without the rose tinted glasses. Oh, and if you can get the RISC OS community to unite I will eat my hat.

Finally let's hear from Michael Poole...

Dear Aaron,
Now that's a good one! The Phoenix browser, that is. I noticed it claims JavaScript, so I tried it on the Jajah cheap phone calls site that flummoxes Fresco, and it works. So now I don't have to rely on slow, unstable Oregano2 that only marginally supports that site anyway. (No real complaints about O2, though, as it has saved its purchase price umpteen times over.)
Of all the RISC OS related subscriptions I've had over the years, RISCWorld is definitely one of the more useful ones, thank you. Entertaining, too, on the vehicular and Hugeampton (where on earth is that?) fronts.
Incidentally, I can't tell if my February CD is one of the ones with last year's issue on it, because my CD drive declares the disc to be faulty. The December disc is fine, though (else I wouldn't have been able to grab Phoenix).
Keep up the good work!
Michael Poole

I am glad you are pleased with RISCWorld. We do our best (he says smugly). Pheonix is a development of Browse, which strangely is still my preferred RISC OS browser and is the one I use for the first pass testing of RISCWorld pages. I must take another look at Pheonix when I have the time as it would probably make a good replacement for my Browse 2.01 (which celebrated its 10th Birthday last month). You might also be interested to see that there is also a new version of FireFox available for RISC OS and, of course, a copy is included with this issue in the Software directory.

If you are still having problems with last issues CD then you need to contact APDL and ask for a replacement.

That's it for this issue. To contact the RISCWorld letters page please e-mail us using the following e-mail address. The deadline for letters being published in the next issue is 14th of May.

Aaron Timbrell