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Article archives

What software updates would like to see at the next show?

Posted by Mark Stephens on 07:44, 19/5/2017 |
 
One of the most positive things for me about the last round of shows (London, South-West, Wakefield) was the number of new versions of RISC OS packages released which offered new features. This was not just to support new hardware but to add functionality.
 
With Wakefield now behind us and a long gap until the London Show in October, now might be a good time to ponder/suggest/dream about updates you would like to see in RISC OS software you use?
 
Most RISC OS software is still fairly well-featured and well-designed. But there are still gaps, especially as the way people use software has changed. Here are my two suggestions to get you thinking...
 
'Better' IMAP support in !Messenger
 
IMAP works very well in !Messenger but a lot of the functionality in the actual application is not available. IMAP has become increasingly common with people spreading their email across multiple devices. I can use filters for IMAP mail in the MacOS email clients but it is not an option in !Messenger. It would be really nice to see all the features in !Messenger work on IMAP.
 
'Improved' Notes in !Organizer
 
Recent releases of !Organizer have seen some really powerful enhancements to the Diary features in the software, but no change to the Notes features which are still quit limited and clunky. Tools like !Trello now allow you to easily create draggable lists and it would be really nice to see something like this added to !Organizer.
 
Are these features you would also like to see? What is on your wishlist?
 
4 comments in the forums

Archive 24.3 Review

Posted by Mark Stephens on 09:16, 12/5/2017 | ,
 
Just before Wakefield show, Archive 24.3 arrived on our doorsteps. If you are not currently a subscriber, here is what you are missing out on...
 
When the magazine arrives, there is often a survey so you enter when you received your copy. In return, you can view the map showing how quickly the magazine was delivered (and where in the world they are).
 
It has been a little while since the last issue of Archive, so there was lots of news including breaking news as Wakefield approached. As well as all the updates on events, hardware and software there are some nice updates on Community members (Chris Williams and Stephen Streater get a mention in this edition).
 
There have been 2 shows since the last issues, so there are 10 pages of show reviews and pictures covering London and South West Shows.
 
The bulk of Archive Magazine has always been written by its readership and consists generally of either practical tutorial-style material, hints and tips or updates on projects. In this edition:-
 
1. Chris Hall looks at BBC Basic on the Pico and builds a welcome screen.
2. David Snell explains the new features added to Procad+ for handling Open Street Map data.
3. Chris Hall continues with his series on using GPS from RISC OS.
4. Jim Lesurf tells us about his new hifi website (and how he used RISC OS to create it).
5. Richard Darby looks at Duplex printing to Postscript printers in RISC OS.
6. Mark Stephens looks at RISC OS news sites on the internet.
7. Paul Porcelijn offers some tips on creating XML data on RISC OS for uploading bank details.
8. Gavin Wraith experiments with StrongEd to see what it can do.
9. Gerald Fitton transitions from CRT to LCD monitors.
10. Mark Stephens looks at new Macs in the Mac Matters column.
11. Jim Nagel gets some LED lighting on his keyboard.
12. Bernard Boase has some suggestions and ideas on making sure you do safe data backups.
 
Finally, there is a useful selection of short hints and tips.
 
All in all, it is a great 48 page read (and if you ask Jim Nagel nicely, Archive may still offer sample copies to non-subscribers to try).
 
Archive magazine website
 
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RC15 bring RISC OS to any Raspberry Pi

Posted by Mark Stephens on 08:52, 6/5/2017 | , ,
 


 
As ROOL had hinted in the run-up to the show, Wakefield 2017 saw the long-awaited release of RC15.
 
RC15 (RC stands for release candidate) was the official release of RISC OS to run on the Raspberry Pi 3. All the issues found in RC14 have been fixed and this version is now considered stable and reliable to run. RC14 was actually fairly good but several 3rd party applications (which are shipped with RISC OS) did not. There are actually a lot of changes in RC15 (it is an ePic release) which you can read on the changelog.
 
It is still RISC OS 5.23 (so officially no new features) but it has needed a lot of changes to make it run on the latest version of the Raspberry Pi. The hardware used has changed significantly in this new model and this required some updates to the code to make it work correctly. In particular, it uses a different ARM chip (Cortex-A53) which no longer allows some 'old' ways of doing things. This does not effect BASIC code, and C code needs a recompile. ARM code is more messy as it needs to be updated if it still uses these old methods. Otherwise the software will crash. And much RISC OS software is still written in ARM assembly code. We have been playing this catch-up game for many years (remember moving to 32bit for the same reason).
 
The release is important because it once again means RISC OS can run on the whole range of Raspberry Pi machines.
 
Setting up RISC OS on the RaspberryPi 3 is a bit of an anti-climax... I plugged the SD card in, switched on and it all booted straight into the RISC OS desktop. It even autamatically setup my a network connection for me. A quick screen resolution change, and I was up and running....
 
RISC OS is available for the Raspberry Pi in 3 ways:-
1. You can download the SD card image and copy it onto your own SSD card for free from ROOL.
2. You can buy an SD card already setup from the ROOL store.
3. You can buy an SD card containing both RISC OS and all the software on the Nut Pi together on an extra large, superfast SD card from the ROOL store.
 
RISC OS does not really make much use of the extra features so it is not worth upgrading to a Raspberry Pi 3 for a faster RISC OS experience. Where you will see a real benefit is in running other Operating Systems (which can make use of the 64bit chip and multi-threading). This is the first Raspberry Pi which I feel runs Raspbian (the office Linux release) well enough for my personal real, everyday usage. I actually have my Raspberry Pi 3 mostly setup as a Linux machine to use as a web browser (it now includes Chrome) and run Open Office (easily accessed from my RISC OS machines using VNC).
 
The Raspberry Pi is an amazing phenomenon and it is great to see our favourite OS available for all the versions and providing a really cheap entry point for RISC OS and a whole new generation with the chance to try RISC OS.
 
ROOL official announcement
 
Raspberry Pi website
 


 
3 comments in the forums

Acorn World Sat 13th - Sunday 14th May

Posted by Mark Stephens on 07:58, 29/4/2017 | , ,
 
This new event/exhibition is being organised in Cambridge at the Centre for Computing History by the Acorn and BBC User group.
 
It will include machines and software from the whole of Acorn's history and also beyond. And it will also include Acorn's 'children' - the Companies which Acorn helped to create and grow.
 
Event runs 10am-5pm and tickets will cost 8 pounds (which also gives you full access to the rest of the Museum which includes lots of other history, nostalgia and trivia.
 
Whether your interest is past, present or future, there will be lots of interest to see...
 
Museum website
 
1 comment in the forums

Wakefield 2017 Show Report

Posted by Mark Stephens on 21:46, 22/4/2017 |
 
The 22nd Wakefield Show took place at the Cedar Court Hotel. If you were not at the show, this is what you missed.
 
The Show takes place across 3 rooms. There is a retro room, with lots of 8 bit equipment, a RISC OS room and a third room for talks. It was a really busy show and there were lots of things I did not have time to see or missed.
 
I spent most of my time in the theatre and RISC OS stands so I will focus on that in my write-up.
 
You can also get a feel from all parts of the Show from our picture gallery.
 
RISC OS stands
There were lots of new features, ideas and updates from the stands. Here is what I picked up.
 
Ident have so far held the price on their Ident cases despite increasing costs of raw items. They are offering both RISC OS and Linux solutions. They operate in many markets outside the traditional RISC OS scene where their clients are asking for Linux.
 
North One Communications were showing off Organizer 2.26 (which is new to Wakefield) and still getting ideas for a hopeful new release for London Show.
 
RISCOSbits had their growing range of hardware solutions on show and some neat little covers for your PI case - I think I even spotted a bright yellow one.
 
Chris Hall had his GPS system updating a map in real time and had several interesting hardware setups using GPS and custom screens.
 
CJE MicrosInfo had their usual large range of hardware and software on offer.
 
Steve Fryatt was on hand to demonstrate his range of software, which can also be bought on CD and raises money for Charity.
 
ROOL had their ePic release and the usual selection of Books, USBs and some 10 year old badges for their anniversary.
 
Drag'N'Drop had the latest release of their magazine, their range of fonts and books/drawing tutorials.
 
Archive Magazine had both Paul Bevereley, Jim Nagel and the latest release of Archive (released last week).
 
SoftRock/Riscository had the full range of software and Pi cases on show.
 
R-CompInfo had lots of little software updates since last year's show and their full range of hardware and monitors.
 
Orpheus Internet had their big screen and were discussing both their traditional internet services and new plans with Riscos Developments.
 
Timothy Baldwin did not have a stand but attracted a lot of interest as he now has RISC OS running on Debian Linux and was able to demonstrate what is a reasonably stable (and quick) beta release.
 
The talks
 
Richard Brown had a special talk added to the start of the day. He began by updating us on OrpheusNet. They have been updating their servers which means they will be able to offer new services including better web hosting and VPS (they can offer you your own virtual box to use rather than having to install you box in their data centre). Richard has been involved in lots of other RISC OS projects including ArmMini, ARMX6 and gets lots of suggestions and requests. Sometimes people ask for things and his usual response, is along the lines of "If you are prepared to pay X, we can make it happen".
 
Richard explained that one specific request at SW South had led him to ask "How much is this worth to you?" An encouraging answer to this has led him to aks other people and in less that 2 months he has managed to put together the 30K he estimates he needs to make it happen. The hope is that this will be the first of several such ventures. The investors are not expecting to see a financial reward from this and the idea is that everyone in the RISC OS community will be able to benefit.
 
Mindful of previous events not having ended entirely happily, and having secured the funding for the first project, Richard is being cautious on initial announcements. Once a clear timeline can be provided, there will be more details. In the meantime, there is lots of speculation.
 
In order to provide a legal structure for this, a new Company has been created. Andrew Rawnsley is the second director, as Richard has worked with him before, but the idea is to benefit everyone and anyone is invited to be involved.
 
At the moment, Richard has most of the funds for his initial project but if you are looking at donating a significant figure (ie over 1,000 pounds), he is happy to tell you more if you would like to sign an NDA.
 
If you are looking to donate smaller sums, there are plenty of worthy ROOL bounties which you could top up..... Both these efforts are complementing each other to improve RISC OS.
 
In the interest of full disclosure, Iconbar has signed the NDA and the planned first project is VERY,VERY EXCITING. The people who have put the money in are all fairly shrewd people who are not expecting to see a financial return on their investment but are expecting to see the money used very wisely as specified and expecting to hold Richard and Andrew to account and to deliver.
 
This is probably the biggest investment in RISC OS since the sale to PACE.
 
Andrew Rawnsley gave an update on what R-Comp have been up to. There are lots of minor software updates but the recent focus has been on hardware updates and the new laptop. He recapped on recent releaseswith the ARMX6 speed improvements on accessing networks, the RAID solution, new Linux release for TiMachine and new RISC OS builds for all machines as well.
 
The second half of his talk was devoted to Riscos Developments, with the desire to ensure that RISC OS will still be around in another 20 years and to fix some of the big issues and missing gaps.
 
Steve Revill from ROOL did not have advanced notice of Riscos Developments, but welcomed the new initiative and looked forward to learning more and working together. ROOL have their ePic release forthe show which was r15 for the PI. It has been an epic release due to the sheer amount of changes and work needed to make it work. As well as the standard RISC OS build (which you can buy from them or download for free), ROOL are now offering a large, fast, SD card combining RISC OS and all the NutPi software for 50 pounds.
 
ROOL also ran through recently completed and still open bounties.
 
The EDID bounty is now complete (it autodetect monitors making RISC OS simply and easier to use). Potential other future changes may include hot support and multiple monitors. A second completed bounty now offers support for larger drives up to 2 TIB. A critical part of the RISC OS filing system has been rewritten in C (making it much easier to maintain and enhance). Step 2 will be partition support (still raising funds on bounty and at 2,700)
 
Open bounties include-
 
1. USB support bounty to update and sync with net BSD stack
2. Networking and stack overhaul (IPv6,etc)
3. Better clipboard support
4. Compiler support
 
ROOL's New Zealand division (Andrew Hodgkinson) is doing updates to the ROOL website and hope to add some new features such as targets for bounties.
 
Jeffrey Lee and others have started looking at multicore
 
Sine nomine demonstrated a new version of !Impact which added much better import features. This has come out of improvements originally added to OSM. !Impact no longer needs fields in same order. The software shows potential import preview of issues before import and allows you to fix them. Import allows for Merging, update and selection values. There was a quick demo of exporting location to OSM to add as pins (which led nicely into the second part).
 
OSM has lots of polish and nice to have features added. There is a new resizing tool to choose output size, route tracing, lock button, tracks can be edited, compass and ability to turn map. You can also load photos from web in OSM (once RISC OS has https this will also be able to use Flickr). Future updates will Look at better GPS support and adding contour lines.
 
CJEInfo Micro's are also excited by RISC OS developments. Chris had his preparations for the show interrupted by a overly complex house move so it was more 'spontaneous' than usual. Chris has 2 different markets with retro/legacy customers as well as customers wanting the latest. So he has secured a support of legacy mice for RISC OS machine and also a supply for older Pi2s (not the new versions which are essentially Pi3s with some bits missing). He also has some nice compact speakers and some KVM switch boxes which will work on both DVI and VGA so you can mix new and old machine. Finally, he gave a recap on changes since last Wakefield with the new !Photodesk release, USB drawing tablet, PiTop laptop
 
Amcog games have been busy on their sound system and their games and gave us an update on both areas, again with the nice sign summarising the changes and ideas for the new RISC OS sound improvements.
 
4 comments in the forums

Wakefield 2017 show in pIctures

Posted by Mark Stephens on 20:26, 22/4/2017 |
 
Take a stroll around Wakefield 2017 with us....
 
(Click on the thumbnails for the bigger image)
 











 











 











 











 







 
Show report
 
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Chris Gransdon tells ROUGOL about Otter browser and other ports

Posted by Mark Stephens on 22:22, 17/4/2017 | , ,
 
A good crowd braved the Bank Holiday public transport to attend the April ROUGOL meeting with Chris Gransden talking about porting !Otter and other software to RISC OS.
 
Before the main event, there were brief 'teasers' for 2 other events.
 
The ROUGOL organizer (Bryan Hogan), is also helping to organise the Acorn User Show in Cambridge and more details will be appearing in the next few weeks.
 
Richard Brown (Orpheus) was also there to announce his new venture RISC OS Developments. This has raised significant funds to do some development and he will be announcing more details at Wakefield on saturday...
 
Chris Gransden started investigating porting !Otter and other browsers onto RISC OS when he spotted that the QT5 library (which !Otter needs) had been been ported onto RISC OS by another developer. Rather than trying to develop a new browser from scratch, Chris is getting an existing Open Source browser written for the Linux platform to run on RISC OS. The attraction of !Otter is that it uses a version of the Webkit browser engine, which has been JavaScript support than any native RISC OS browser. Chris logged into GMail on !Otter which is impossible in any other RISC OS browser. It also includes https and ssl support in the browser.
 
As !Otter and !QupZilla use QT5, this enabled him to get these browsers to run on RISC OS - he has not had to extensively rewrite and hack the code as the QT5 and UnixLib libraries allow them to run on RISC OS. This also means it is really easy to update as these applications are altered by their developers.
 
Chris had his overclocked Pi running the software and was able to explain how the !Otter/!QupZilla browsers work on RISC OS. The software is effectively providing a sprite display inside a RISC OS window. RISC OS does not have compositing support (redrawing just the bits it needs) which would speed things up. This is also using shared memory, and memory is high.
 
Because the software was written for another OS, it is designed to make use of fatures like threads which are not available on RISC OS. This is why performance can be sluggish as RISC OS does not have the capability to offload work onto multiple threads - it is all done by the single, main RISC OS task. RISC OS is also not able to make use of additional hardware acceleration which also speeds things up considerably on Linux.
 
Switching off JavaScript at the start and putting the fonts into memory can speed up the browser. Chris has turned off by default file caching (which is actually slower in RISC OS) and customisations to Otter which can slow the software still further. Still, you really need a fast, modern machine to run Otter on).
 
One of Chris's future hopes it to make use of something like Kronsos on the Pi and have a much faster cusotmised versions for machines which can support it.
 
The !Otter browser itself is still being debugged and once 1.0 becomes available, Chris will make available a proper RISC OS release. At the moment, it can be a bit complex to setup.
 
Asked the difference between !QupZilla and !Otter, Chris explained that !QupZilla was currently more stable (less bugs and shared libraries) but Otter would be a better long-term bet.
 
The !Otter port has come a long way since Chris first started it 2 years ago. It is much faster and more stable although still crashes. It probably is not yet an alternative to browsers on Windows/Linux/Mac but there is not lots of scope to improve further and it opens up a lot of sites to access from RISC OS. We look forward to seeing how it develops, especially once Otter 1.0 officially comes out. Chris has done an amazing job so far!
 
Otter browser main page and builds for non-RISC OS platforms.
 
ROUGOL website
 
 
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Drag'N'Drop brings you a new selection of fonts

Posted by Mark Stephens on 15:35, 15/4/2017 | ,
 
One of the great things at the recent South-West Show was the number of new software releases for RISC OS. There were new upgrades, new games, and even new fonts....
 
Drag'n'Drop have been busy scouring the Internet and assembled a collection of high quality Public Domain fonts for their 20th Century Fonts collection for 13 pounds.
 
The collection comes on a CD, with a detailed manual, showing what all the 700 fonts look like. The fonts themselves are supplied in both RISC OS and Type1 (PostScript) font format, so you can use them on other platforms.
 
The RISC OS versions are in a !fonts application which includes a set of sub-directories (all fonts starting with A in !A and so on). Each has a script to make the switch of the fonts (so you can enable all the A fonts). You can also drag them into your own !fonts folder or store them in the newly updated Font Directory Pro
 
Some of the fonts will look familiar (with slightly different names), and you may well have some of these fonts. You might also find that the EFF and Monotype versions will be slightly higher quality. But they are all really good sets with a full range of characters, and will vastly expand your collection of fonts. There is a wide range of Serif, Sans Serif (Better for headlines), cursive and fancy fonts (I especially liked Sailing and Sampford).
 
I especially liked the fact that several fonts are supplied with multiple weights. Chilton font for example is available is Bold, Heavy, Light Italic, Medium, Medium Italic and Inline Italic Shadow. There are some nice fancy fonts in there as well.
 
If you are looking to extend your font collection with some well-chosen fonts, 20th Century Fonts is definitely worth investigating. Hopefully, we will see some more themed packs...
 
DragNDrop website
 
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Wakefield Acorn & RISC OS Show, 22nd April 2017

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A tale of 2 package managers

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Recent discussions
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