RISC OS Awards 2014 – a reminder, and a memory jog

Remembering it for you, so you don’t have to.

With the form for the 2014 RISC OS Awards poll now having been online for more than half of the intended period – it was opened for votes at the start of December, and will be closed in just three weeks at the end of January – it’s disappointing to note that the number of votes is worryingly low, at just 50 so far. And glancing at those votes, quite a number of people have only cast votes in a small number of categories, either leaving others blank or inserting comments such as “I couldn’t remember anything”.

A significant part of the problem is the approach I took this year, which was to simply use a text entry for each category and allow members of the RISC OS community free rein to enter whatever they saw fit in each case, rather than – as last year – compile a small set of nominations for each category and give people the option of choosing one. The original plan was to offer a combination of both – a set of options and a text box, so that people could either vote for one of the nominated items or specify something else – but other commitments meant the time just wasn’t there to review the news of 2014 to decide on the initial options.

With all of that in mind, it’s probably a good time to post a reminder about the 2014 awards poll, and it’s also worth looking back over the last year or so and offering some suggestions for things you could consider voting for in each category – things that may well have ended up as nominations in the voting form if the time had been available when it was set up.

Best commercial product

The RISC OS community is, as we all know, a very small one – although figures revealed by RISC OS Open Ltd’s Steve Revill during his theatre talk at Wakefield 2014 suggest it’s a touch larger than last year’s survey turn out would suggest, not to mention this year’s number of entries so far. As such, the scope for commercial projects is small – it’s difficult to devote time (and money) to developing (or continuing to develop and support) something commercial if the proceeds aren’t expected to be terribly high.

Some, however, do – and the choices include old software still available and being updated, such as Organizer and EasiWriter/TechWriter, and new products such as RiscOSM (mapping software from Sine Nomine), DPGenealogy (a database for storing family tree information from R-Comp) and DeleGate (a recycle bin type product, also from R-Comp).

Hardware choices are also available, including computer systems introduced in previous years, such as ARMiniX from R-Comp and PandaRO from CJE Micro’s – as well as cases, such as Soft Rock Software‘s RiscPiC-mini cases (the standard case not yet being available), and components such as the replacement clock modules for old computers from CJE Micro’s.

Best non-commercial product

Non-commercial development is another matter. Here, the number of potential users matters a lot less – because financial reward is not the aim – and, instead, developers do what they do for the love of it, or to benefit in other ways (such as a learning exercise, or because they need a piece of software to do a particular task and decide afterwards that others might find it useful – or even so they have a significant item to add to their CV).

As such, there is a much wider selection of goodies to vote for – from team efforts to smaller items produced by individuals, here is a selection of non-commercial products that have seen releases or updates over the last year, any of which you might feel is useful to you and deserves a vote:  Tokenize, Transient, Director, AMCS, POP3S, RPCEmu, Pluto, Keystroke, Fireworkz, PipeDream – and much, much more besides.

You might even consider the RiscPC cake (which was brought along to the 2014 Wakefield Show, to celebrate the RiscPC’s 20th birthday) a non-commercial product. Slices were free of charge to visitors, after all!

Best game or diversion

Games and diversions is a harder category to consider – because while there was once a thriving games market for RISC OS, it sometimes feels that has shrunk much more quickly and disproportionately to everything else. That said, that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to consider.

Possibly the most notable piece of news relating to games was that Star Fighter 3000 became free to download. Anyone picking up a recent RISC OS distribution from RISC OS Open Ltd, either by download or buying it at a show, will find Meteors as part of the disc image, and there are games available to download, such as Soft Rock Software’s Quicksand (and, while it’s not available to download, Floopy has been proving a popular game to play at shows).

And diversions don’t just include games – so what about Nick Roberts’ KiSS Suite, for example, or Martin Bazley’s Spirograph program, Cogs?

Best hardware

As noted above (since hardware projects tend to be commercial in nature) examples of hardware you could vote for include the ARMiniX, the PandaRO, the RiscPiC-mini case (and there’s also the PiCano case) for the Raspberry Pi – and amongst the votes so far are a couple for the Raspberry Pi itself – and the replacement clock modules for older computers.

Best new development

For most of the categories, the main qualifying condition for any given nomination isn’t that it was newsworthy during 2014, or that it saw updates – only that it continued to be available; so it’s perfectly acceptable to vote for something that was released many years ago, provided it is still available.

The best new development category, however, by its very nature requires that what you vote for has to be something new, or a significant or important change – something exciting that has hit the news between November, 2013 and December, 2014, even if it isn’t something that is (or will be) available in its own right as a product (though that doesn’t mean new products can’t be voted for).

Star Fighter 3000 – a popular game over the years – being made available for free would be a good example of this, or PipeDream being made available as part of RISC OS Open’s distributions. The development of new products, such as RiscOSM, would be a good contender – as would PipeDream becoming open source, or Drag ‘n Drop, which was previously only available on a per-issue basis, now being something you can subscribe to. Finally, Richard Keefe has made beta versions of ImpressionX available – that’s a development worth considering, surely?

Best show of initiative

Like the best new development category, this is one where the qualifying requirement is that someone (or an organisation) has shown some initiative in the period – or they may have done that prior to the period, but news of it (or the result or outcome) has emerged in the last fourteen months (the period covered by the poll).

Sometimes that initiative takes the form of new software, such as Sine Nomine developing RiscOSM, or updates to software, such as Organizer gaining the facility to throw locations at RiscOSM so that addresses can be shown on the map. Sometimes, it takes the form of making a commercial decision that can be beneficial to both customers and themselves – such as R-Comp giving users who had previously bought software by other means the opportunity to bulk-register that software in PlingStore, or Christopher Dewhurst now offering subscriptions to Drag ‘n Drop.

Another example of initiative would be taking the plunge and working on a new computer system for RISC OS – which applies to R-Comp’s work on the ARMini.MX and CJE Micro’s, who are working towards producing a laptop for RISC OS. And then there’s the Wakefield RISC OS Computer Club, who recently decided to record meetings and make the videos available for more distant members unable to attend.

Best website or online resource

Despite the small size of the RISC OS community, it is very well represented online with both commercial and non-commercial websites, forums and mailing lists serving the users – so there is plenty to choose from for your vote for the best website or online resource.

You could opt for a specific company website that provides a useful service, such as the RISC OS Open Ltd site, which features a popular forum for developers and users to discuss the operating system and developments, or your vote could go to a third party resource website, such as the WimpBasic website.

Other possibilities include the RISC OS-specific efforts on Wikipedia (WikiProject: RISC OS), the new APDL website, the RISC OS Search Engine, or the Archimedes Software Preservation Project – and you could even vote for resources such as videos of the show theatre talks, which have been recorded and uploaded by me (for the 2014 Wakefield and Midlands shows) and Leo White (for the London Shows).

Best publication or offline resource

Publications and offline resources include books, magazines and other documents that you can either purchase as physical products, or purchase or download online for later reading offline – and while there is nowhere near as much to choose from as an offline resource as there is for online, there does remain a selection.

Drag ‘n Drop has been mentioned a few times above, and while it’s published and delivered online, it takes the form of a PDF file which can be downloaded and saved for later. Another magazine is Archive, which is delivered as a physical product in dead tree format, and the Wakefield RISC OS Computer Club sells a back catalogue CD, containing all of their previous newsletters (and a few other items) – also a worthy contender.

As well as these, what about Raspberry Pi Assembly Language RISC OS Beginners (Hands on Guide) (printed, Kindle edition) and Raspberry Pi RISC OS System Programming Revealed (printed, Kindle edition part 1, part 2)- two RISC OS programming books that are available to buy.

Best foreign language resource

While RISCOSitory is a UK-based and therefore UK-focused website, that RISC OS has a notable presence beyond the shores of this country is something that can’t be ignored – and certainly isn’t ignored by anyone who provides any resources at all for the platform in a foreign language.

Examples here include a German RISC OS mailing list, launched in April by Alexander Ausserstorfer, and September saw the launch of a French website by David Feugey, and a blog for German RISC OS users by Steffen Huber. Older resources that continue to be available include German magazine GAG News and the ArcSite website.

Best show or event

There were plenty of shows and user group meetings throughout 2014, giving most users plenty of opportunity to attend one event or another and, therefore, something to consider for this category. As well as the four UK shows, ROUGOL and WROCC, for example, have regular guest speakers at their meetings – and the RISC OS eXperience continues to take place in The Netherlands.

If, however, you have been unable to attend any of the shows and meetings, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t vote! Consider reading the reports of the UK shows on this site – South West, Wakefield, Midlands, London – and decide which one you would most like to have attended if possible, or which one you felt saw the most interesting or important news; with no other option, that is the event you should vote for.

Most innovative or interesting project

This category doesn’t necessarily require a product to be available – or even coming soon; it’s more about giving due recognition to someone (or a group or company) who is doing something innovative or interesting with RISC OS. It may very well be that work on the project will lead to one or more products in future, but it’s fine if that isn’t (or is unlikely to be) the case.

Examples of this might be Steve Drain’s neat Raspberry Pip projects, Rebecca Shalfield’s RISC OS Search Engine, Jon Abbott’s Archimedes Software Preservation Project, R-Comp’s i.MX-based computer, or CJE’s fascinating ideas for a possible DIY laptop solution – and there are probably plenty more that I’ve missed.

Best overall contribution

There are people out there who put a lot of effort into their RISC OS work – whether that’s work on the operating system itself, developing something (hardware or software) that could benefit the platform in future, providing significant or important resources to the community, and so on, and with this category you can identify the person, group, or company, you think most deserves recognition.

Obvious candidates include Jeffrey Lee for the work he has done on the OS, or the team at RISC OS Open Ltd (which would include people like Jeffrey), and you might alternatively consider the likes of Andrew Rawnsley (and/or R-Comp) for bravely working towards bringing out a new hardware platform for RISC OS. Reflecting some sad news this year, another worthy contender would be posthumously voting for David Holden, without whose efforts around the time Acorn closed its doors, it’s entirely possible we wouldn’t be where we are today.

Broken cog of the year

The final category is really intended to be taken with a pinch of salt, but there can be a serious element to it as well – the broken cog of the year, through which you can nominate someone or something that has proven a disappointment, or let RISC OS down in some way.

One example – lifted straight from the votes so far (after a brief discussion on the Stairway to Hell forum – is “this site, for hosting this award”). And you consider a vote for RISCOSitory as a vote for me then, with my Soft Rock Software hat on, other reasons for doing so include still not finishing the WebChange manual, the desktop version of Quicksand, or not getting the design of the standard RiscPiC case correct as yet – and probably a few other things besides – and putting the RISCOSitory hat back on, what about not talking to Richard Brown of Orpheus about the possible cloud solutions for RISC OS users that he was at one point talking about; I’d forgotten about that until today, having seen my comment in the Wakefield report that I’d press him about it at a future show!

You might also consider the organisers of the Midlands Show for their stealthy announcement of the 2014 show date, or Chris Evans for his style and approach to presentations at RISC OS shows, Jim Nagel for the infrequent publishing schedule of Archive magazine, or David Bradforth for raising some money from RISC OS users via Indiegogo for a book and not (yet) delivering the goods. And since it affects the way RISC OS software is sold, why not consider a vote for the EU and the new place of supply rules for digital goods?

So there you go – not being able to remember anything is no longer a good excuse. There are plenty of examples above of things you can vote for – so get those votes in pronto!

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