Many of you may be familiar with popular IT website The Register, if so you may be familiar with a recent series of articles they’ve published with images of computer error screens in public.
As you might expect, a good chunk of it consists of the dreaded Windows blue screen of death – but as well as Windows and Unix/Linux error screens they’ve included two Acorn errors seen in some interesting public places – a French airport being one of them!
So the first one is a standard Acorn boot-screen located at a British train station. The machine is stuck on the boot sequence and displaying errors instead of the usual train times.
This next one is a bit more interesting, a RISC OS 3 desktop with an on-screen error being displayed in a bus terminal in a Paris airport.
These sightings of RISC OS errors in the wild has got me thinking. There are still RISC OS systems out there in production environments, and although it may sound crazy to some people, it completely makes sense.
Generally, live systems are only migrated to newer versions and/or alternatives when the system in question regularly throws up technical issues or if it is subject to security vulnerabilities.
In RISC OS’ case, the operating system will just chug along with it’s tasks without much complaining. Errors are rare, especially when no changes or anything are ever made to the system.
Security vulnerabilities on RISC OS are also not as great a concern when compared to more mainstream operating systems, especially if you’re running a display system or some kind of server that dishes out data to the public.
Vulnerabilities on RISC OS are undoubtedly out there, but due to the small userbase I’d say the likelihood of someone taking the time to research a vulnerability and then exploit it is far smaller than these risks on other platforms.
Thirdly, from experience with rolling out updates on Unix-based systems – regular OS updates are a pain. Most responsible system admins will test the updates on a test system before rolling out to production servers, this is time consuming in itself and even more so when you encounter issues.
Now there are operating systems out there that are designed to be stable and long-running, OpenBSD is a great example of this, but with RISC OS there is rarely an update that is classed as a mission critical requirement – meaning your RISC OS system can just run and run. With the above points in mind, I’ve been thinking that there’s probably a lot more RISC OS systems in the wild that we imagine.
There’s probably systems we interact with every day that have RISC OS running in the background for no other reason than it just works and it doesn’t require any maintenance in most cases. Apart from in the instances shown in the images above of course.