Southwest Show – final round up of pre-show news

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As the countdown until this year’s Southwest Show ticks over into the final twenty four hours – the show takes place tomorrow, Saturday, 22nd February at the Arnos Manor Hotel in Bristol – a few press releases and announcements have found their way to me. I can’t spend any real time crafting individual articles this time around, so instead here’s a round-up of show-related news that has come my way since I posted a show preview.

North One Communications / Organizer

A new version of the – no THE – personal information manager for RISC OS will be launched at the show. Version 2.29 features a major rewrite of the Address Book element, upgrading the vCard format used from 2.1 to 3.0. This, apparently, is the most extensive development work of the program that has been undertaken since it was taken over by North One over a decade ago – and is a step forward in preparing the software for secure synchronisation across platforms.

Other areas have also seen improvements – such as new iCal export scripts, and a 32-column, 364-day window in the Diary, new To-Do List menus, and much more on the surface. Meanwhile, there have been under-the-hood changes as well, which improve performance, efficiency, and stability, and make the software correspondingly more maintainable.

To purchase Organizer 2.29, the normal price is £35 for new users – but at the show tomorrow (and for a limited time via organizerpim.co.uk (which is currently offline for updates as I type this – but will hopefully be live again very soon) the prices are £20 for users of version 2.28x (normally £25), £25 to upgrade from 2.26 (normally £30), and £30 for new users, or those upgrading from earlier versions.

Soft Rock Software

The remaining stock of RiscPiC cases for the Raspberry Pi, which are designed as a tribute to Acorn’s iconic RiscPC, will be available at the show (and at future shows until all are sold) at reduced prices, putting them below cost price.

The smaller RiscPiC-mini case, which is designed as a snug fit for the Pi (and which is suitable for all model B and B+ versions except the Pi 4) will be available for £20 including VAT. The wider RiscPiC-standard version, which provides extra width so that the connectors on one side can be fed out to the rear with suitable adapters, has a new reduced price of £30 including VAT.

RISCOSbits

Andy Marks will be bringing a range of items to the show, some old and some new – but here are a few examples of new (or updated) goodies from the RISCOSbits range:

Amongst the new items will be protective vinyl skins for R-Comp’s ARMbook laptop. There is a standard clear version, and a white carbon-effect version if you want it to look a little snazzier – and in both cases, recognising that the ARMbook is simply a Pinebook with RISC OS installed, and ordinarily still bears the Pinebook branding, both versions of the skin are supplied with an ARMbook sticker, so now the ARMbook can look like an ARMbook!

The si.zeRO range will see a new addition at the show, called the si.zeRO MAX. Like the older members of the range, this compact system is based around a Raspberry Pi Zero, but this version features a 32GB hard drive.

The PiPOD range allows a Raspberry Pi to be mounted in a podule slot on RiscPC and A7000 computers to offer users of old hardware a neat way to have a foot in both the 26-bit and 32-bit worlds – and it has gained a new feature, which Andy will be able to demonstrate on Saturday. The updated software component allows the USB ports on the Raspberry Pi to be accessible from the host machine – and as well as being standard on all new PiPODs the software component, ShareUSB, will be available as a free download to existing users.

R-Comp

Unsurprisingly, the ARMbook features heavily in R-Comp‘s line up for the show. The first true ARM-based laptop that runs RISC OS since the Acorn A4, the company very recently released updates for the version of the OS, as well as the software provided with it – and R-Comp’s Andrew Rawnsley says there will be two new software projects on display around the hall (i.e. not necessarily on the R-Comp stand) relating to it.

The ARMbook isn’t the company’s only computer, of course – and not even their only laptop – so you’ll also be able to take a closer look at the other machine’s available, such as the RISCbook, a laptop that runs RISC OS on top of Windows via an emulator, the RISCube, a desktop machine that works on the same basis, along with other ARM-based systems that run RISC OS natively, such as the ARMSX ARMX6, mini.m, and the Titan.

There is also a wide range of software available from R-Comp, and one of the latest of these is LockScreen, which provides a much better level of protection from prying eyes for RISC OS computers than normal, with options to require a password at boot, after the machine is left unattended, etc. – and there will apparently be a special show discount.

RISC OS Developments

A natural progression from R-Comp is to RISC OS Developments – of which Andrew Rawnsley is one of the directors.

I mentioned in the show preview that you could expect at least a preview of the RISC OS Direct build (and disc image) of RISC OS if not a launch – and the company has now confirmed that it will be the latter: the Southwest Show will see a ‘live launch’ of RISC OS Direct.

If you haven’t been keeping up at the back, RISC OS Direct is the name given by the company to a project that includes video content and software – with the software being primarily targeted at the Raspberry Pi, since that is a widely used platform that extends far beyond the RISC OS user-base. The software is therefore a RISC OS disc image, but a much bigger and fuller one than is currently available to download from RISC OS Open, with many current RISC OS applications, and an emphasis on programming. Future plans include expanding the range to include a games pack, and more – the goal being to provide users outside of the existing community not only with an easy way to try RISC OS, but also to give them a positive experience of doing so right from the outset.

To that end, the disc image will be available as a free download for people to write to suitable SD cards – but the company also plans to have prepared SD cards ready to give away at relevant events (though Andrew Rawnsley stresses that the aim of this is to give them to people who aren’t already RISC OS users, or perhaps who have been in the past but could become a returning user – so if an existing user wants a prepared card, they’ll be asked to make a small donation; after all, giving the cards away free to someone already using RISC OS is defeating the object somewhat, and diminishes the overall resources to engage in such an initiative.

Wi-Fi Sheep

The other side of the RISC OS Direct coin is the video content, which is being produced in partnership with Wi-Fi Sheep.

Intended to be a series of instructional videos, with a focus on showing new users how to get started with RISC OS, the early videos in the series will probably cover the many things we all take for granted, but which can confound people not familiar with the platform. Later videos should therefore progress to other, and possibly more advanced areas.

The plan is for the first of the RISC OS Direct videos to be made available on the day, as part of another initiative from Wi-Fi Sheep – to stream live coverage of the show throughout the day on YouTube. Wi-Fi Sheep’s Tom Williamson has published a planned schedule of how that streaming can be expected to play out, as follows:

  • 10:30 – Live feed from the main hall
  • 11:00 – Introduction and welcome
  • 11:30 – First showing of episode one of RISC OS Direct
  • 11:45 – Interview with Anthony Bartram of AMCOG Games
  • 12:45 – Live demonstration of gaming and emulation
  • 13:30 – Live feed from the main show, including interviews and showcases from various exhibitors
  • 14:00 – Interview with Rob Coleman about his 8-bit projects and VideoNuLA
  • 15:00 – Second showing of episode one of RISC OS Direct
  • 15:20 – Live demonstration of programming on RISC OS in BASIC and Python
  • 16:10 – Interview with Bryan Hogan of the RISC OS User Group of London
  • 16:30 – Close-down and end

So if you can’t make it to the show, you’ll be able to watch it live via this page, and when the first episode of RISC OS Direct goes live, it will be available here. If live streaming doesn’t work – for example, if there are signal or bandwidth problems – the event will be recorded ‘as live’ and upload an edited highlights programme (and all content will be available after the show anyway) so check out the Wi-Fi Sheep YouTube channel.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a show to get ready for. See you there!