The RISC OS Wakefield Show 2012


One of the major RISC OS events of the year took place near Leeds last weekend. The annual computing show in Wakefield is the moment when all sorts of developers reveal what they have been working on for the last few months. The run in this year was particularly hectic, with several press releases arriving each day at the RISCOScode office, excitedly announcing all manner of computing treats. Both RISCOSitory  and the RISC OS Blog  did a splendid job of passing these on to the target audience. It was clear before the show that the really big news, that the Raspberry Pi could now run RISC OS, was not on offer. However, R-Comp had several big projects ready for release. Jon Robinson sat in on their theatre presentation at the show, and has kindly sent in a few notes on the event. As editor, I've expanded on these a little to provide some background detail and flesh the piece out into a full length article. Many thanks for the notes, Jon.

Andrew Hodgkinson and Ben Avison of RISC OS Open Ltd took the ROOL Raspberry Pi to the RISC OS Wakefield Show, near Leeds, last weekend. With the first batches of the Raspberry Pi going out to customers this month the pressure is on to get RISC OS up and running of the device. Adrian Lees is rumoured to have taken some time off his day job at Broadcom to work on the main item preventing an official, stable release; the USB drivers that handle mouse and keyboard input/output. Other than that, RISC OS is reported to run well on the Pi.
John Ballance, chief engineer for the Iyonix PC was also at the show.

I went to R-Comp’s presentation at the Wakefield Show. Inspired by the talk, I went into journalist mode, and thought RISCOScode readers would welcome some notes on the talk. The big news for RISC OS fans was R-Comp boss, Andrew Rawnsley, announcing that a team of software engineers† had successfully managed to coax the ARMini (with a BeagleBoard inside) to run RISC OS at 1 GHz. This is a good step up from the 800 MHz that the ARMini previously zipped along at. What is neat is that the 25% speed boost comes from a software upgrade, rather than any new hardware being needed. So all existing ARMini users can easily say yes to the "go faster" option by simply purchasing "Software Update Number 4". In fact, anyone with a BeagleBoard, even if not bought through R-Comp, is welcome to buy the turbo charging software. For RISC OS, which is of necessity efficient and streamline, 1 GHz is a pleasingly pushy pace. There are reports of PandaBoard ES users running RISC OS at 1.5 GHz but this is still at the experimental stage. The Wakefield news from R-Comp confirms that the ARMini is now the machine for the serious RISC OS user. With many newcomers likely to be trying out RISC OS on the Raspberry Pi, once it is available, the ARMini could come to be seen as a worthwhile upgrade for those who like what they find.
Andrew revealed that parts of RISC OS are being rewritten in Neon. "We've always had a soft spot for RISC OS Audio and the Neon code has resulted in a speeded up audio system". This comment lead into a demonstration of their new and much enhanced MusicMan II software. A particularly nice feature of the new MusicMan is that it allows a user to shrink an audio CD down to about a third of its size, using a lossless compression system called FLAC. The boffins at R-Comp are working on some hardware acceleration on the ARMini, to get FLAC conversion working faster. So, exciting Audio developments available to buy now, with more in the pipeline. Andrew also mentioned that a New Zealand audio company had adopted RISC OS and MusicMan as their preferred way of ripping CDs, for use with their high-end hi-fi systems.
Andrew then demonstrated the new R-Comp Android tablet. When it was announced a couple of weeks ago, it surprised many because it's not a device on which RISC OS can be run. For many years R-Comp have sold Microsoft windows based machines, but always with the suggestion that it was because they came with RISC OS running under emulation. To some, this is a bigger move away from RISC OS but, if you can live with that, Andrew thought users woud appreciate that the R-Comp tablet had a good browser and flash player built in. Andrew emphasised that you can connect it to an existing RISC OS machine, such as an Iyonix or ARMini, and then, through the USB port, get into all the tablet's directories through RISC OS.  The tablet also had a built-in Kindle reader. Anticipating RISC OS enthusiasts puzzlement over why R-Comp are pushing a device that's not RISC OS, Andrew pointed out that R Comp made a loss on developing all their software programs and need the revenue from hardware sales to make their business a viable one. If you are thinking of buying an Android tablet anyway, then this RISC OS friendy one may be worth looking at. Andrew finished by saying that RISC OS currently has a buzz and fizz about it, that it hasn’t had for years.
Given that the Raspberry Pi running RISC OS is still some way off, it was pleasing to note that attendance at the show was up on last year, which had been up on the year before. There is no doubt about it; these are exciting times for RISC OS. The next show this year is near Birmingham on 7th July, with several user group meetings before then to also look forward to. And, of course, all RISC OS users are eagerly awaiting the really big news...

Martin Wurthner was one of the featured exhibitors at last weekend's show. He continues to write and develop top end high quality software for RISC OS. His TechWriter program is used by The Mathematical Association to typeset their popular Mathematical Gazzette. His ArtWorks software is used by RISCOScode to produce many of this website's graphics.

† Jeffrey Lee (who recieved an award for his Outstanding Contribution to the RISC OS Community in 2011) is the principal coder responsible for getting the BeagleBoard up to 1 GHz. Modern enhancements to RISC OS flow from the open source community team that have gathered around RISC OS Open Ltd. If you'd like to try out RISC OS, start with the RISCOScode two minute briefing page before heading over to the ROOL website to introduce yourself and buy RISC OS on a USB Stick.
Many thanks to Sprow and Trevor Johnson for pointing out a couple of errors (mine, not Jon Robinson's) in the article which have been corrected.


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