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How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Leave RISC OS: 10 Years On

Posted by John Hoare on 12:40, 4/12/2016 | ,
Ten years ago this week, I wrote How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Leave RISC OS for The Iconbar. To mark the occasion, I thought it might be worth revisiting it. After all, surely plenty has changed over the past ten years?
And it has. Luckily, the days of Castle versus RISCOS Ltd have long gone. These days, it's all about... erm, RISC OS Open versus 3QD Developments Ltd. And RISC OS is still - still - forked. Do you hear the sound coming out of my mouth? I am laughing at you, RISC OS. I am laughing at your utter, utter uselessness. 10 years, and you haven't sorted out the forked OS issue? There must be a word that isn't "pathetic" which I could use, but I just can't think of it at the moment.
Still, I am by my own admission entirely an outsider when it comes to the RISC OS scene these days. I've kept up with very few of the developments, and certainly not in-depth. But it's perhaps worth noting which outfit seems to be doing more. RISC OS Open has a news page which has updated seven times this year, and an active, publicly-viewable CVS repository. 3QD have updated just twice over the past year, and both updates were on backward-looking products: VirtualAcorn, and, erm, a load of old APDL hardware.
Or, if we're going to judge merely on websites: RISC OS Open's is clean and thoughtful. 3QD thinks that putting thick outlines all over your company address is a good idea... and what that large grey graphic is doing is anyone's guess. Fair? Yes, I do actually think judging an organisation on how they choose to present themselves to the world is fair - and very often gives you a good insight into how an organisation works.
Despite the above, I genuinely have no side in the forked OS debate. I'm merely talking about how each organisation presents itself to the outside observer. RISC OS Open looks pretty good; a few more news updates would be good, but it's fine. 3QD, to borrow an old Steve Jobs quote, has no taste.
Still, let's look beyond the forked OS issue. The second part of my original article lurches (rather inelegantly, it has to be said) into the real reason why I left RISC OS. I can put that reason rather more simply these days: I use my computer to do work, and RISC OS can't do the work I need to do any more. That isn't a judgement on people who still use the platform to get real work done: I'm delighted it works for you. But for me, that ship has long sailed. Nothing that's happened in the last 10 years has changed that.
So for me, RISC OS's only remaining interest would be as a hobbyist OS. In other circumstances, maybe I'd still be interested in that... but other parts of my life took over. I have no time for a hobbyist OS any more. It used to be that a great deal of my identity was tied up with the computer I used: that's no longer the case. That is nothing to do with RISC OS; it's merely a casualty of me spending too much time watching The Strange World of Gurney Slade, or finding ways to combine Who Framed Roger Rabbit and Monty Python. I used to find computers fun in themselves. These days, I use them to get to other stuff I find fun. And RISC OS is far from the ideal vehicle to do that kind of thing with.
To put it another way: next month, I'm about to bury myself in the arcane world of responsive CSS. If I was the kind of person I used to be, it would have been the responsive CSS which would have been the real joy. These days, it isn't. It's using the resulting site to publish a history of online Buffy fandom. Computing for the sake of computing doesn't really interest me in the same way it used to. And that's not RISC OS's fault. That's all me.
RISC OS. I remember you, and I loved you. I even sometimes still miss your right-click. But ten years on... no, I really don't need you any more. I'm sorry.
6 comments in the forums

RISC OS Interviews - Hilary and Matthew Philips

Posted by Mark Stephens on 13:31, 3/12/2016 | ,
We continue with our series of interviews with people in the RISC OS world. In this interview, we catch-up with the team behind Sine Nomine software (Matthew and Hillary Phillips).
If you have any other questions, feel free to join in the discussion.
If you would have any suggestions for people you would like us to interview, or would like to be interviewed, just let us know....
How long have you been using RISC OS?
Matthew: My sixth form college got a few Archimedes running Arthur, which were then upgraded to RISC OS 2 soon afterwards. I wrote a single-tasking application to plot magnetic fields, which was much faster than the BBC Masters being used in physics even though it was BASIC. I also had fun writing a chat program that worked across the college Econet with versions for Beeb and Archimedes. There was even a chatbot that took other people‘s sentences and remixed them. I didn‘t really get back into RISC OS until 1998.
Hilary: My father (a physics teacher) got a BBC B when I was about 10, and that was the computer I grew up with; my school also had Beebs. I didn‘t meet RISC OS until ten years later when I started going out with Matthew, whose parents had recently acquired a RiscPC. I remember designing a new logo for the Oxford University Gilbert and Sullivan Society (they don't still use it, sadly!) using Draw on their RiscPC. I got into programming using Matthew's old Amstrad CPC, which was the only computer we had when we got married. We got a RiscPC ourselves after Acorn pulled the plug on the Phoebe on my birthday - thanks for the present guys. I then started to learn Wimp programming in BASIC (first public software released in 2001) and moved on to C later in 2001.
What other systems do you use?
Matthew: Linux mainly, including various servers at work, Windows on my work desktop.
Hilary: Android phone; Linux on a laptop; occasionally Windows on a secondhand laptop.
What is your current RISC OS setup?
Iyonix (main computer), RiscPC (for Sibelius and so the kids can play our old games), ARMX6, Beagleboard, Pandaboard (chiefly for RiscOSM development and map data conversion).
Do you attend any of the shows and what do you think of them?
Matthew: I tend to get to Wakefield and London each year. It is very good meeting people who use our software. It‘s a shame we don‘t have time to implement all the good ideas people have, but it‘s great to know that it‘s appreciated.
Hilary: I usually get to go to Wakefield with Matthew; I went to the South West show once on my own with a heavy cold and it was hard work! As a stall-holder you don‘t get a lot of time to go round the other stands even when there are two of you. We‘ve always been pretty busy since we released RiscOSM.
What do you use RISC OS for in 2016 and what do you like most about it?
Hilary: RISC OS is our main system so we use it for everything we can. We fall back on Linux or Windows when necessary, e.g. using PayPal, or websites required by school which don‘t work on NetSurf. I like being able to drag and drop just about anything from one application to another.
Matthew: I like the three-button mouse, image filing systems, and applications being packaged in a disguised directory. Plus the way that windows don‘t take over the whole desktop. I know Microsoft called their operating system "Windows", but it does its best to let you only use one at a time!
What is your favourite feature/killer program in RISC OS?
Hilary: Sibelius 7. And Zap.
Matthew: RiscOSM — I‘m allowed to say that, because Hilary wrote it. And NetSurf, of course.
What would you most like to see in RISC OS in the future?
Hilary: Transparency in colours in Draw and the DrawFile_Render module: that would be very useful for RiscOSM.
Matthew: Open-sourced 32-bit Sibelius 7.
Favourite (vaguely RISC OS-releated) moan?
Matthew: Probably shouldn‘t bring it up, but it‘s just a shame all that work on RISC OS SelectInfo will probably never be seen on RISC OS 5.
Can you tell us about what you are working on in the RISC OS market at the moment?
Hilary: Some extra puzzle types for Wrangler, which I‘d like to have finished before I produce my annual Christmas puzzle booklet for distribution round the family. And of course further improvements to RiscOSM!
Matthew: Bits behind the scenes to help Hilary. I have several ideas for nice projects, but I‘d need to be made redundant to get any time to work on them!
Any surprises you can't or dates to tease us with?
Hilary: No...
Matthew: Or yes, but we can‘t tell you...
Apart from iconbar (obviously) what are your favourite websites?
Matthew: As Easy As Riding A Bike
Hilary: Talyllyn Railway
Santa Claus is a regular iconbar reader. Any not-so-subtle hints you would like to drop him for presents this year (assuming you have been very good)?
36-hour days?
Why "Sine Nomine" and how do you pronounce it?
Sine Nomine ("sinay nominay") is Latin for "without a name". When we were trying to think of a name for ourselves that was the best we could come up with.
Sine Nomine website
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!Organizer reaches 2.26

Posted by Mark Stephens on 10:32, 30/11/2016 | , ,
One of the top items on my shopping list for the recent RISC OS London Show was the latest release of !Organizer. This is now at version 2.26 and maintained/developed for the last few years by Martin Avison.
!Organizer is one of my favourite RISC OS applications, and I love the flexible display modes. I have to use Google Calendar at work, and I find !Organizer much more flexible. A monthly view is fine until you get to the end of the month and suddenly find some surprises as the months roll on.
The 2 week rolling view in !Organizer makes it very easy to plan and organise my life and be ontop of my up-coming schedule. This has been enhanced in recent releases with the planner and 4/8 week rolling displays. ICal compatability also makes it very easy to import existing Calendars and lists of public holidays,etc available on the Internet.
Recent releases have seen small tweaks to !Organizer, which is no bad thing with a mature piece of software. It is already very configurable, and you can skin the softwarre to look exactly as you like. The guys at BaseCamp are rightly scathing on their blog about over-designing and cluttering up software with new features which make the product more cluttered and less usable.
So, what are the new features in 2.26? The headline feature is the ability to encrypt data with a password. Now that you can more easily share data and store the data on Cloud servers, it is good to see security options on what is critical and personal data. This feature is very flexible so you can encrypt some of the data (like your addresses) or everything. 2.26 also brings some tweaks to the Notes section and some bug fixes.
The upgrade is available from 2.24 for 20 pounds or from 2.23 (or the version on PiNut) for 30 pounds. If you have a version earlier than 2.24, this added some very interesting features to interact with Sine Nomine's OSM Mapping software to make it very easy to produce maps from your address book with a single click.
One of the great things about the shows is the chance to talk to the developers, who were very actively asking for idea and feedback. I suggested that there is still room for improvement in the Notes tools (which feels clunky compared to newer tools like Trello).
I would also like to see !Organizer able to send out emails to remind about events if a Mail client is available - this is one very good feature in Google Calendar.
It would also be useful to have more ability to create groups. At the moment I use Green for Personal and Blue for Work events and it would be nice to be able to define them better. If you have some ideas, the developers would love to hear from you....
If you are an existing user of !Orangaizer, you will be pleased to see the continued polish and maintenance of the software. If you are not a user, and looking for a small, polished and perfectly formed organizer, we recommend you take a look.
Organizer website
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RISC OS Interviews - Tom Williamson

Posted by Mark Stephens on 10:32, 26/11/2016 | ,
For this interview, we introduce you to Ident Computers very own Tom Williamson, who was a first-time exhibitor and speaker at the London Show
How long have you been using RISC OS?
In real terms not that long! (bearing in mind I'm not 30 years old yet!) I've only sat down and used RISC OS properly since about early 2013 with the Raspberry Pi port of RISC OS 5 running on a original model b board! And have since patched together my missing Acorn back history from where I left off using original BBC B and Master computers, still in service at my school into the early 2000's!
What other systems do you use?
Primarily Apple Mac since the early 1990's and Windows PCs mostly running XP or 7
What is your current RISC OS setup?
Well it's an Ident Micro One powered by a Raspberry Pi 2 board. I designed the Micro One as a computer that I wanted for myself and hence use as my main RISC OS system!
Do you attend any of the shows and what do you think of them?
RISC OS shows is a new thing for us. We did the Recursion Computer Science Fair in the Midlands in 2015 and again in 2016 and from that made links with the RISC OS community hence appearing at RISC OS London in 2016 which was our first real stand alone RISC OS show.
What do you use RISC OS for in 2016 and what do you like most about it?
RISC OS is for me, and the many I showcase it to a 'play thing' So its mainly about writing code in BASIC or C, or running these BBC Micro or Archimedes classic and retro games!
Which for a new audience is not necessarily a bad thing!
What is your favourite feature/killer program in RISC OS?
For me RISC OS has two very valuable assets, First its incorporated BBC BASIC which is just so different from other OS's in use today. And second the !Pling application model, which I think is just amazing and I wish other systems would or could implement it. These 2 features is why nearly all my hobbyist Pi boards now run RISC OS instead of a Linux build.
What would you most like to see in RISC OS in the future?
A fast HTML 5 web browser... Please! Also better video and monitor implantation, Quad-core running would be nice to!
Favourite (vaguely RISC OS-releated) moan?
Well.... Proper colour implementation for 'Modes' in the Raspberry Pi version of 5, because at present all modes are fixed to use the 256 colour palette which is a pain for some cross-platform software development.
Can you tell us about what you are working on in the RISC OS market at the moment?
Currently all efforts are with supporting the Ident Micro One kit product, and we're looking forward to 2017 and building on the system in the future.
Any surprises you can't or dates to tease us with?
Now that would be telling!... I am hoping to do a Shareware game release in 2017 with a free to play version for a number of Acorn based/clone platforms.
Apart from iconbar (obviously) what are your favourite websites?
Am I allowed to say ident-online.co.uk/computer ?[iconbar: of course - great site!] Probably not! In all seriousness, I really like reading the forums of StarDot and ROOL's own site.
Santa Claus is a regular iconbar reader. Any not-so-subtle hints you would like to drop him for presents this year (assuming you have been very good)?
Ok this might sound a bit odd but... BBC Micro hardware! You can never have enough! I really would like a good condition Microvitec CUB metal case monitor, as its one of the last bits I'm missing, but don't want to pay Ebay prices!
Any questions we forgot to ask you?
Who Am I? ...., I think maybe about our work in the education sector and Raspberry Pi Jam events, were I show RISC OS to a new generation, mostly school age children but also there parents, taking the system along with BBC Micro hardware into schools etc. For many this is the first time of seeing a computer not running Windows, Android or maybe in the case of the Raspberry Pi, Linux, hence showcasing the real opportunities RISC OS presents. Also for parents or older peoples, allowing them to reconnect with the Acorn they remember from their own school days, most are still amazed any of this is still around let alone being actively updated and supported!
Tom's website
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!PhotoDesk adds support for latest hardware and software with version 3.14

Posted by Mark Stephens on 20:54, 23/11/2016 | ,
The long-awaited release 3.14 (nice pun for Pi users) of !PhotoDesk arrived at the RISC OS London show and is now available as an upgrade from CJEmicros.
In his show talk at London Show, Chris Evans talked about the new release. This version has actually been put together by a new maintainer (although my understanding is that the usual Swiss maintainer is still active). So what's in the new release?
The headline feature is improved support for latest software/hardware. !PhotoDesk has been upgraded to allow for Zero Pain Protection and to run properly on the new hardware (it flies on my new Titanium and also now works properly on Panda, latest RaspberryPi3, ARMX6 and IPEGv5). I have been running !PhotDesk for 2 weeks now and I have had no issues (just an old favourite running on much zippier hardware).
In terms of new features, the developers have also improved JPEG support. JPEG is more of a family of filetypes (with lots of different versions). JPEG support has been an area where RISC OS has fallen behind, and it is good to see the platform catching-up. It is also a really good reason to move to the latest version of RISC OS 5, with the improved OS support for JPEG from the bounty scheme. You can read-up on JPEG in detail here.
The upgrade CD includes an !Install application which will install the software onto your machine directly. If you try to copy this to another machine, it will detect this and not run. The upgrade CD itself could do with little spring clean. It includes a copy of !Webster and there is no zipped copy of the !Install. This is a pain if you only have access to a CD on a non-RISC OS machine and want to copy it across.
The copy of !PhotoDesk on the Nut Pi card from ROOL is not the latest. In his London Show talk, Chris Evans suggested users should contact CJEmicros if they have an issue with latest release.
The upgrade costs 12 pounds, and you will need your CD or to proof of an existing license. If you bought it directly from CJEmicros, they have a customer database they may be able to look you up on. The price seems reasonable to me - with new chips and new video hardware/modes, this is a lot of fiddly work under the bonnet.
For users of the latest hardware or looking to run on the latest RISC OS releases this is an essential purchase. If you have an older machine, the improved JPEG support is nice to have and it is good to see continued support and development of this critical and much-loved software.
PhotoDesk resources on Iconbar
1 comment in the forums

RISC OS Interviews - Jeffrey Lee

Posted by Mark Stephens on 08:59, 19/11/2016 | ,
At the London Show, we sent our team around to park them themselves on several stands and refuse to leave until the poor stand-holders agreed to do an interview for us.... The results will be appearing over the next few weeks.
If you have any suggestions for people to interview (we want people doing interesting things with RISC OS or in the RISC OS world in 2016) or would like to be interviewed, just drop us a line and we will send the boys round...
If you have any additional questions or comments, please feel free to continue the discussion in the comments.
We kick off the series with our very own Jeffrey Lee....
Q. How long have you been using RISC OS?
A. About 23 years. At that time Acorn computers were still the king of the classroom; I believe it was the head of the IT department of the local high school who recommended that my parents should get an Acorn for home use (an A3010, to replace our previous home computer, a TI-99/4A that was unfortunately purchased mere months before TI pulled out of the home computer business)
Q. What other systems do you use?
A. At home I've got a Windows PC (gaming, media playback, web browsing) and a Linux PC (headless, used as a NAS and for any Unixy-type tasks)
Q. What is your current RISC OS setup?
A. Despite owning many newer systems, my main RISC OS computer is still my Iyonix (Lazyness, potential software compatibility issues, and the constant in-development nature of the OS are my excuses for not switching over to something newer, despite the fact that the newer machines should be much faster when it comes to building code). Then depending on what tasks I'm working on I'll have any number of development machines piled up on the desk next to me (BeagleBoard, BeagleBoard-xM, PandaBoard, Raspberry Pi 1/2/3, IGEPv5, Wandboard, TouchBook, Pandora). I've also still got the RiscPC that was my main machine before the Iyonix. Nowdays it's mostly used for testing RISC OS 5 changes.
Q. Do you attend any of the shows and what do you think of them?
A. I attended one of the Wakefield shows once when I was a kid, but haven't attended any since then. I'm not a very social person so I'm usually happy to just wait for the show reports to come out - although most of the time I already know what any of the big reveals are going to be. I think the shows do still serve a purpose, but as someone who mainly uses RISC OS for the purpose of developing RISC OS I don't think there's much useful I'd be able to take away from them.
Q. What do you use RISC OS for in 2016 and what do you like most about it?
A. My main use of RISC OS is developing RISC OS! My Windows PC took over most of my other tasks a long time ago (most web browsing, email, gaming, etc.), but RISC OS remained my favourite for recreational programming. However once I started work on developing the OS itself the recreational programming essentially crawled to a halt - I find it hard to spend the time writing random games and utilities when there's so much that could/should be done to improve the OS itself. I think the main thing I like about RISC OS is the Wimp - there are some basic things which the RISC OS desktop still does much better than the main alternatives (interacting with windows without bringing them to the front of the stack, file save dialogs, consistent drag-and-drop behaviour, etc).
Q. What is your favourite feature/killer program in RISC OS?
A. I think StrongED has to be my favourite killer app. Before discovering it I was writing all my code in Edit. StrongHelp would also have to be a close second, due to the many hours saved looking up definitions for SWIs and things. And of course NetSurf, although that is a relative newcomer compared to the other two!
Q. What would you most like to see in RISCOS in the future?
A. Threading support in the OS. Lack of threading support makes it very hard to update any of the OS components which are derived from third-party sources (e.g. the network & USB stacks), and of course it also places some limitations on the design and implementation of home-grown code.
Q. Favourite (vaguely RISC OS-related) moan?
A. I often try and shift-drag a file/folder from the "Copy" dialog box in an effort to move+rename it in one go. Maybe one day I'll implement support for that...
Q. Can you tell us about what you are working on in the RISC OS market at the moment?
A. Currently I'm working on a couple of Raspberry Pi related things (e.g. implementing support for GPU mode changes), in an effort to get it ready for a proper "stable" release. I've also been working on some changes to the low-level memory management within the OS, with the aim of fixing a few bugs/inefficiencies with how memory is handled on modern CPUs, and with the eventual goal of getting things to the point where we can start experimenting with multi-core code without having to worry about any memory coherency issues. But that's on hold for now while I focus on the Raspberry Pi tasks.
Q. Any surprises you can't or dates to tease us with?
A. No surprises that I'm aware of at the moment, I'm afraid :-(
Q. Apart from iconbar (obviously) what are your favourite websites?
A. The ROOL website, obviously! www.pagetable.com and www.bigmessowires.com are a couple of sites which update infrequently but are always worth the wait when they do. And I find that the Bay 12 Games "Other Games" forum at http://www.bay12forums.com/smf/index.php?board=4.0 is a good way of discovering interesting or obscure games which the mainstream gaming websites might miss.
Q. Santa Claus is a regular iconbar reader. Any not-so-subtle hints you would like to drop him for presents this year (assuming you have been very good)?
A. That's a tough one! A bigger desk? A way of getting more spare time in the day? A couple more OS developers? Confirmation of a sequel to The Witcher 3? The possibilities are endless!
Q. Any questions we forgot to ask you?
A. Nothing I can think of at the moment.
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Latest batch of RISC OS magazines published at London Show

Posted by Mark Stephens on 07:54, 15/11/2016 | ,
Archive Magazine has been going since 1987 and is currently edited by Jim Nagel (you may remember his Computer Shopper Magazine Acorn columns). It is a printed A5 magazine (back and white with some colour). The style is very much traditional magazine and it has not changed over the years. As far as I can tell, its publication date is based on a complex and archaic forumla known only to Jim involving the dates of RISC OS shows, the position of the moon and lots of other secret variables. But it is generally worth the wait.
Drag'N'Drop is currently edited by Christopher Dewhurst with contributions from others. It appears regularly every quarter as a PDF which you can download and read on RISC OS or any other platform. It includes news articles (with links which you can just click on), features and tutorials (with the code also attached). The look and feel very much reminds me of the best of the traditional BBC/Acorn User style magazines.
Both magazines rely heavily on voluntary contributions which influences their content. If you have something to share, they both welcome your contribution.
Both magazines had their latest releases at the London Show, so lets dive in and see what they have to offer.
If you always judge a book by its cover, Archive has been putting considerable effort to impress with a colour cover. This month's edition features a very dramatic picture of Pebble Beach (from Jim Nagel's recent trip to Canada) accompanying the contents.
In his editoral, Jim talks about how much faster it is these days for a publisher and 6 pages of News are bang upto date for the London Show, where you could get your printed copy. The Magazine itself is a mixture of Reviews, tutorials, regular colums and little snippets of advice. So you can read about CloudFS, Findout about GPS on The Pi, learn about using HDMI, follow a guide on creating a program in !Appbasic, use TopModel for 3D printing, and annotating maps in RisosOSM. There is also a nice hint on connecting an Android tablet to Risc OS.
I have been a long time reader (and occasional contributor) to Archive and am always impressed by the high standard and knowledge of the content which is well-researched and written and carefully proof-read (Jim often adds little notes into articles to clarify).
If you are interested in trying Archive, I would recommend contacting the editor, as Archive has often offered sample copies if you want to try the magazine. Please do not judge Archive by its website (which is very old and does not do the magazine justice).
Drag'N'Drop has a much more garrish cover (it does have an article on 256 colour palette). It starts with an editorial on the show and new machines. The next section is a 'How do I..' with some tips on things we sometimes take for granted but may not be familiar to new users (get a basic prompt, open a task bar, etc). This is followed by 3 pages of news (with links to sites). The rest of the magazine consists of tutorials and coding activities.
The listings are explained and included and there is a really nice range of material here. In this edition, we have an introduction to MIDI sound format, an introduction to Forth, some machine code demos to do scrolling stars, an explanation of MemAlloc module, and a basic program to create Fibonacci Wallpaper. Lastly there is a neat little listin in Basic and Assembly to give you auto-focus. You can read some sample pages of the latest edition on the website to get a feel for the magazine.
If you are new to Drag'N'Drop, I recommend buying the USB stick which includes all the previous issues. This also works really nicey for following the tutorials which span several editions. At the London Show the USB key was available in a really beautiful little box with the RISC OS logo and some sweets. If you ask really nicely they may still have some in stock....
So how would I compare them? They are both well-written and presented to a very high standard. One is printed, one is online and there is a difference of emphasis between them, and I am pleased to say that the news sections contained lots of different items. Archive is much shorter in pages than Drag'N'Drop but does not have pages of listings.
I personally enjoyed both of them and will continue to be a regular subscriber to both as I feel they compement each other and fill slightly different niches. I read both cover to cover.
Archive Magazine
Drag'n Drop Magazine
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First Impressions of RComp's TiMachine

Posted by Mark Stephens on 14:52, 11/11/2016 | , , ,
The RISC OS shows are a great opportunity to actually see kit in action and talk to vendors. In 2016, we are really fortunate to have the widest range of hardware options ever available, ranging from fast and compact and super cheap Raspberry Pis, through ARMX6 (with their ability to support really large screens) and PiTop laptop, to high end desktop X15 machines. All were on display at the recent London show. I wanted to upgrade my main RISC OS machine (currently a 2012 PandaBoard) with a Titanium, and walked away with a shiny new TiMachine from RComp. Here are some first impressions for you….
Both RComp and CJEmicros offer finished machines based around the Titanium motherboard. You can also get the motherboard directly from Elesar and build your own system, and both RComp and CJEmicros have DIY options.
RComp’s offering is called the TiMachine and comes in either a standard black case or what they describe as a spangly box. The idea here is actually quite neat - your Titanium inside a ‘Titanium’ box. The box itself is fairly compact (I would describe it as large shoe box), with a nice blue power light and runs really quietly. There is an occasional hum from the DVD drive or the hard drive but otherwise this machine is pretty silent (I believe the cheaper box may be slightly noisier). My 2013 MAcBookPro laptop is definitely more noisy in my office.
When Apple ships their machines, they include some stickers and labels so you can personalise the machine. It would be nice to have something with the TiMachine, which can otherwise look a little ‘generic’ from the outside. My 2016 Apple laptop is on order, so I will be able to compare and contrast in few weeks….
I was upgrading from a Panda, and the first thing I noticed was ‘I am on a real machine again’. The TiMachine has a DVD drive and loads of ports at the back. The only other machine in my office with 2 ethernet ports is the high end MacPro server I have for continuous software testing.
There are also 2 DVI monitor slots (one with a cover on). I tried plugging my monitor into it and get a screen displaying a big Ti symbol.
It is also very nice to have a DVD again (especially as much RISC OS software or updates still comes on DVD or CD). There are lots of USB slots and audio input/output and lots of ports at the back. As Elesar says in their marketing, there is generally at least 2 of everything.
The Titanium motherboard includes an SD card for adding in Linux which is quite fiddly to access once you put the system inside a case. If you want this I would recommend you order it at the time of purchase and get the vendor to fit it when they build the system. I would recommend Linux for ‘light’ use or curiosity. I stick to my Pi3 and Mac for running Linux.
Switch on the machine, and the machine rapidly boots into a desktop screen (I generally stick to 1920x1200 pixels at 16 million colours). Coupled with a big screen, Titanium is currently the state of the art in terms of running RISC OS, with a very fast processor and board, SSD drive and high resolution. It runs all the standard applications extremely quickly and will handle any RISC OS task in its stride. Go back to an older RISC OS machine once you have used this machine, and you will notice the sluggishness. Chris Hall has posted some excellent statistics on speed of various machines and also has a really good discussion of the different machine options available. Things that used to bug me on the Panda (such as when doing Filer big copy operations are much smoother on this machine).
The only thing I would have liked faster is the Otter browser which still personally feels sluggish to me and does not run the sites I currently need to use (Trello, BaseCamp and Fogbugz). But Otter is definitely heading in the right direction and opens up a lot of sites to RISC OS.
On the IconBar the RISC OS icon in now the Ti symbol from the periodic table and I am running a June release of RISC OS 5.23 - if you buy a machine from RComp, they include you in their update scheme where they offer for RISC OS. RComp package up RISC OS for you and add in lots of additional applications. You can also buy in as a non-RComp customer. If you are upgrading from an older machine, you will find that this now includes lots of useful third-party software as standard (including image editors, development tools, other languages, etc). Some of it is probably more of interest from a historical perspective (old browsers) but there is lots of genuinely useful stuff in there. There is also a copy of PlingStore and PackMan opening up a wealth of free and commercial stuff. So there is no shortage of things to run on the machine. I bought the machine at a show so also got the RComp BundleCD included (also worth considering as an additional purchase).
There were some initial concerns about software compatibility and support (especially with the handling of colour). But CJEmicros also had their update for !PhotoDesk at the show and the other issues seem mostly sorted. It should only be a concern if you are running specific old/unmaintained software. I have not had any issues in my daily usage.
The TiMachine has a nice 'Getting Started' Manual with the machine and RComp asked me how I wanted the machine set-up so that the machine could come ready to run out of the box. They also sell a nice range of monitors (I have a new 27 inch BenQ) monitor, and they will setup both for you when they send it out. A 27 inch monitor with a 2048x1152 pixel 16million colour display is a really nice working environment (but it does spoil you when you then have to switch back to a laptop screen). If you have any problems after purchase, I have found RComp very helpful and supportive.
In conclusion… I really like my TiMachine and I have been switching tasks back from my Mac onto RISC OS. Writing and answering emails in !Messenger on this machine is a real pleasure. It is clearly a premium desktop machine at a significant cost. So, if you just want to dabble with RISC OS occasionally and want a very compact solution at a silly price, it is hard to argue against the RaspberryPi. If you want a proper desktop machine, and you can justify a premium machine which makes RISC OS really shine, RComp’s TiMachine is a very polished and attractive proposition.
If you have a new machine (Pi, ARMX6, PiTop, Titanium, RapidO), what are your thoughts?
Some photos of the TiMachine on Flickr
Chris Hall’s excellent benchmarks and discussion on different machines
RComp’s website
CJEmicros’ website
Elesar’s website
4 comments in the forums

RComp releases update of !FireWorkzPro 2.20

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Elesar's new Cloud Storage software

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2016 London Show report

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RISC OS London Show 2016

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Wakefield Acorn & RISC OS Show, 16th April 2016

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RISC OS SouthWest Show 2016

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