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Acorn Arcade forums: News and features: Comment: Marco Frissen, part 2

Comment: Marco Frissen, part 2

Posted by Marco Frissen on 01:00, 1/8/2000 | , , ,
Ever had the feeling that everything seems to slow to a creeching halt? Of course, people with an internet connection have that feeling at least once a day. People running windows maybe twice, people running RiscOS maybe never... In this column, I try to explain the feeling that certain platforms give, be it RiscOS, Windows or any other OS.
I am quite impatient when it comes to computers. I hate to watch an hourglass for more than a couple of seconds, especially when the hourglass itself is not doing anything. I'm convinced that CPU MHz-es is not crucial for the 'speed feeling' that you get. No, it is the efficiency of the OS and/or hardware platform that counts.

Internet browsing

RISC OS is a bit behind on the tech front, regarding the internet. The network interface is not all that good, and the available browsers leave much to be desired. But we're talking speed here, not features. I own Fresco (probably the most used among RISC OS users) and Oregano (a relative newcomer, which promises a lot). Startup takes a couple of seconds for Oregano, while Fresco is a bit faster. I find page rendering faster in Fresco, Oregano still has problems rendering tables, but the difference between the two is not very noticeable.
Now, I start up IE on my PC... and have to wait.. and wait some more. For some reason, waiting is normal on the PC platform.. Page rendering is faster than on RISC OS, probably due to the 'informal' HTML implementation (IE is not very strict regarding HTML rules). Starting NS takes even longer, and rendering pages is also a bit slower .. compared to the RISC OS platform I'd say the score is about even. Boot into BeOS, start up NetPositive (the default browser on BeOS).. it starts immediately, and the page rendering is also quite fast.. Ah, a small plus on the BeOS side. conclusion: even though my PC has a dual 366 MHz setup, RISC OS keeps up the pace, and is not noticably slower.. with its 200MHz SA..

Shutting down

Shutting down the system takes only a fraction of a second (okay, sometimes a bit more than this) on RiscOS, and no other OS is comparable to this, I hate waiting for a computer for its 'now saving data to your harddisk, please wait', I want to shutdown and switch off my computer. Windows takes more than a minute before I can safely shutdown my PC, while RISC OS presents the 'your system is now ready to be turned OFF' window almost immediately after CTRL-SHIFT-F12. BeOS is a good second, but still takes a couple of seconds to shutdown. Long live OSes in ROM.

General desktop use

Just dragging around opened windows shows how neat the RISC OS implementation is, and with the fairly aged VIDC videoprocessor, it keeps up quite well with the rest. I tried dragging windows with 'show window content while dragging' ON and OFF. With ON, delay was noticable, and the screenrefresh could not keep up with fast window movement, resulting in window fragments still being shown after the window was dragged to a different spot (resulting in a trail of window residues..). Without the window content visible, the move was almost immediate, without any fragments. In Windows, dragging with contents was also resulting in some lag, but not as much as in RISC OS. Without contents, window replacement was immediate, no residues at all. The same for BeOS, where the dragging with window content was the quickest, but just with a small margin. I used the same resolution in every platform, 1024x768x70Hz. It shows that the VIDC is not quite up-to-date, but still working quite good, probably due to its hardcoded support in RiscOS (3.7). I didn't try 4.0x, which will probably improve the 'feel' by some percent (or more?).

Large files

Manipulating large files with many I/O operation shows the bottleneck of the RISC OS platform. It is very slow compared to windows and BeOS, mainly due to the slow hardware bus of the RiscPC. The difference is very noticable, and it makes you wonder if you're running an XT compared to a Pentium III. I have to admit, until now I only have 8MB of RAM (not including VRAM) on my RPC, and 128MB on my PC. Once I have 64MB (or more), I guess performance will improve, but will still be lagging behind the PC. Maybe the Kinetic upgrade will improve performance because of the faster DIMM memory. But I doubt the difference will be very noticable (for SA users).


So, why is it that RISC OS is still keeping up with the PC on some levels? Well, I guess because the old saying 'big fast computers breed lazy fat programmers' is still true. Because of the limitations of the RPC platform, software developers try to squeeze out every bit, whereas windows developers have the mindset that users will buy new hardware anyway.. I haven't used exact numbers above, I just believe what I see/feel, and that is that RISC OS is still satisfying a lot of my demands, I do not need to wait indefinately before an application starts (yeah, that's why the startup windows have been invented!), and compared to my PC it is still for 85% sufficient. Okay, I have to admit that for videos and large files, I still use my PC, but the main tasks (browsing, email, text editing) are not noticable slower on my RPC, add to that the more user-friendly OS and work efficiency is raised by some percent. Would I use my RPC at work? Yes, if my boss allowed me to do so, and if I could read/write MS office documents in RiscOS. Does the Risc platform need an upgrade? Definately, because it is all multimedia these times, and RISC OS - and the RPC platform - is not up to that in the current form. The Imago motherboard will not change that, since that is targetted toward the pro-market (I doubt if it will become a success).. The Risc platform needs a new CPU, and a new architecture, which allows fast throughput.. Why not invent a new platform, instead of building from an old one? That needs RISC OS independency (hardware wise). I guess they're working on it as I write. But of course, great machines cannot succeed by technique alone, you need marketing!
So, people, start advocating the RISC OS platform to your friends and colleagues! Show them the ease with which you work on DTP documents, show them how it 'feels'.. numbers do not say anything, let them play with it, fiddle around with applications, drag windows, browse the net, etc.. just make'em feel the difference. Dare to be different, choose RISC OS.

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Acorn Arcade forums: News and features: Comment: Marco Frissen, part 2