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Article archives

South-West Show Q and A

Posted by Mark Stephens on 08:04, 11/1/2019 |
 
With the South-West Show a month away, we hunted down the organisers for some more details....
 
We noticed the venue has changed this year. What was the reasoning behind that?
Various exhibitors and some customers have said that as the old venue could only be reached by car that it was not suitable. One exhibitor last year backed out at the last moment citing this as the reason.
 
Is it still easy to reach via public transport and car?
It is now more easily reached. Bristol Meads mainline station is only 20 minutes walk away there are believe something like 11 bus routes that go past the hotel and it has a large car park off of a main route from the M4 motorway. There is a map on the website http://www.riscos-swshow.co.uk
 
Bristol is quite a trek for some. Is it possible to stay the night at the hotel? Is anything planned for the night before the show?
 
Yes it is. Nothing official is planned but usually a few early birds and exhibitors might gather in the bar for a chat.
 
Any other changes you can tell us about?
 
The format for the show will be similar to previous years
 
Who is exhibiting this year?
 
All the usual suspects. we will have an updated list on the website within the next week or so. But most exhibitors from previous years a few new ones should be coming.
 
Are you anticipating any interesting announcements this year at the South-West Show?
 
We always hope that there will be special announcements from the exhibitors.
 
Anything else you can tell us about?
 
RISC OS Developments Ltd will be giving a talk at the BCS on the 17th January in London to their Open Source Groups. Details will be on their website shortly.
 
South-West Show website
 
4 comments in the forums

3 key dates for your diary in 2019

Posted by Mark Stephens on 07:39, 4/1/2019 | ,
 
While you are still in New Year's resolution mode, there are 3 key dates which should be in your diary for 2019. We are very lucky in the RISC OS World to have 3 Shows spread across the country and they diary. They are where all the big announcements are made, and the chance to meet developers and other RISC OS users. It is worth attending at least one (if not all 3).
 
So get these dates in your dairy now....
 
The South-West show takes place on Saturday 16th February, 2019 takes place at a brand new location in Bristol. The show have been moved to make it much easier to reach by public transport.
 
The Wakefield show is on Saturday, 27th April 2019 at it s regular home at Cedar Court Hotel. This is very easy accessible.
 
The London Show has not published an official date yet, but always happens at the end of October. We will report on any details as soon as we receive them.
 
All the shows happen at Hotels, so you can always arrive the night before and meet up with other RISC OS users around the hotel.
 
Are there any other critical dates for you in the RISC OS Calendar?
 
2 comments in the forums

December news

Posted by Mark Stephens on 10:24, 28/12/2018 |
 
Some things we noticed this month. What did you see?
 
RISC OS Blog has a review of Island of the Undead
 
Pipedream 4.56 released.
 
The long-awaited Riscository Wakefield show report is now online
 
Some interesting things are happening on riscos.fr
 
Comment in the forums

RISC OS interview with Chris Williams

Posted by Mark Stephens on 09:20, 24/12/2018 | ,
 
For your Christmas treat this year, we have an interview with Chris Williams, of Drobe and The Register fame. Enjoy and a very Merry Christmas from Iconbar.
 
Would you like to introduce yourself?
 
I'm Chris Williams, former editor of RISC OS news and trouble-making website drobe.co.uk. The site's frozen online right now as an archive because while I used to have a lot of free time to work on it, I graduated university in the mid-2000s, got a real job, and sadly ran out of spare time to maintain it, and so put it in stasis to preserve it. Today, I live and work in San Francisco, editing and writing articles for theregister.co.uk, mostly covering software and chips. I also once upon a time wrote some RISC OS applications, such as EasyGCC to help people build C/C++ projects, and a virtual memory manager that extended the machine's RAM using swap space on disk. If you're using RISC OS SelectInfo or 6, there's some of my code in there, too, during boot up.
 
How long have you been using RISC OS?
 
Since 1992 when my parents bought an Acorn A5000. So I guess that's about 26 years ago. We upgraded to a RiscPC as soon as we could. I took a StrongARM RPC crammed with add-ons, like an x86 card, IDE accelerator, Viewfinder graphics card, and Ethernet NIC, to uni, and got to know the OS really well. No other operating system I've used since has come close to the simplicity and ease-of-use of the RISC OS GUI, in my opinion. Apple's macOS came really very close, and then the iGiant lost the plot on code quality.
 
What does RISC OS look like from the USA viewpoint?
 
It's kinda like BeOS, in that operating system aficionados will know of it and appreciate it for what it is: an early operating system that had an intuitive user interface but was pushed under the wheels of Intel and Microsoft. Folks who experiment with RaspberryPis may also come across it, as it is one of the operating systems listed on raspberrypi.org. In conversation with Americans, or in writing articles, I normally introduce RISC OS as the OS Acorn made for its Arm desktop computers - y'know, Acorn. Acorn Computers. Britain's Apple. The English Amiga. The ones who formed Arm, the people who make all your smartphone processor cores. And then the light bulb turns on.
 
What's really interesting is what's going on with Arm, and I think that will help, to some extent, RISC OS appear a little on more people's radars. Anyone who's been using RISC OS since the 1990s knows the pain of seeing their friends and colleagues having fun with their Windows PC games and applications, and their Intel and AMD processors, and graphics cards, and so on. Even though RISC OS had a fine user interface, and a decent enough set of software, and fun games, it just was for the most part, incompatible with the rest of the world and couldn't quite keep up with the pace of competitors. It was hard seeing everything coalesce around the x86-Windows alliance, while Acorn lost its way, and Arm was pushing into embedded engineering markets.
 
Now, Arm is in every corner of our daily lives. It's in phones, tablets, routers, smartcards, hard drives, Internet of Things, gadgets, servers, and even desktops. Microsoft is pushing hard on Windows 10 Arm-based laptops with multi-day battery life, at a time when Intel has got itself stuck in a quagmire of sorts. It blows my mind to go visit US giants like Qualcomm, and Arm's offices in Texas, and see them focusing on Arm-based desktop CPUs, a technology initiative the Acorn era could really have done with. It's just a little mindboggling, to me me anyway, to see Microsoft, so bent on dominating the desktop world with Windows on x86, to the detriment of RISC OS on Arm, now embracing Windows on Arm. I probably sound bitter, though I'm really not - I'm just astonished. That's how life goes around, I guess.
 
Anyway, it's perhaps something RISC OS can work with, beyond its ports to various interesting systems, if not targeting new hardware then catching attention as an alternative Arm OS. One sticking point is that Arm is gradually embracing 64-bit more and more. It'll support 32-bit for a long while yet, but its latest high-end cores are 64-bit-only at the kernel level.
 
What other systems do you use?
 
I use Debian Linux on the desktop, and on the various servers I look after. I was an Apple macOS user as well for a while, though I recently ditched it. The software experience was getting weird, and the terrible quality of the latest MacBook Pro hardware was the final straw. Over the years, I've used FreeBSD and Debian Linux on various Arm chipsets, AMD and Intel x86 processors, and PowerPC CPUs, and even a MIPS32 system. I just got a quad-core 64-bit RISC-V system. I like checking out all sorts of architectures.
 
What is your current RISC OS setup?
 
I have a RaspberryPi 2 for booting RISC OS whenever I need it, though my primary environment is Linux. It's what I use during work.
 
What is your favourite feature/killer program in RISC OS?
 
Back in the day, I couldn't work without OvationPro, Photodesk, the terminal app Putty, StrongEd, BASIC for prototyping, GCC for software development, Director for organizing my desktop, Netsurf and Oregano, Grapevine... the list goes on.
 
What would you most like to see in RISC OS in the future?
 
Many, many more users. People able to access RISC OS more easily, perhaps using a JavaScript-based Arm emulator in a web browser to introduce them to the desktop.
 
What are your interests beyond RISC OS?
 
Pretty much making the most of living in California while I'm here, and traveling around the United States to visit tech companies and see what America has to offer. From Hawaii to Utah and Nevada to Texas, Florida and New York, and everything in between. I cycle a lot at the weekends, going over the Golden Gate Bridge and into normal Cali away from the big city, or exploring the East Bay ridge, returning via Berkeley. My apartment is a 15-minute walk from the office, so I tend to cycle a lot to get some exercise. When I was living in the UK, I ran about 48 miles a week, before and after work, which was doable in Essex and London where the streets and paths are flat. That's kinda impossible in San Francisco, where the hills are legendarily steep. I'm happy if I can make it four or five miles.
 
I also do some programming for fun, mainly using Rust - which is like C/C++ though with a heavy focus on security, speed and multithreading. We really shouldn't be writing application and operating system code in C/C++ any more; Rust, Go, and other languages are far more advanced and secure. C is, after all, assembly with some syntactic sugar. I've also been experimenting with RISC-V, an open-source CPU instruction set architecture that is similar to 64-bit Arm in that they have common roots - the original RISC efforts in the SF Bay Area in the early 1980s. The idea is: the instruction set and associated architecture is available for all to freely use to implement RISC-V-compatible CPU cores in custom chips and processors. Some of these cores are also open-source, meaning engineers can take them and plug them into their own custom chips, and run Linux and other software on them.
 
Western Digital, Nvidia, and other big names are using or exploring RISC-V as an alternative to Arm, which charges money to license its CPU blueprints and/or architecture. Bringing it all together, I've started writing a small open-source operating system, in my spare time, in Rust for RISC-V called Diosix 2.0 (www.diosix.org). Version 1.0 was a microkernel that ran on x86. The goal is to make a secure Rust-RISC-V hypervisor that can run multiple environments at the same time, each environment or virtual machine in its own hardware-enforced sandbox. That means you can do things like internet banking in one VM sandbox, and emails and Twitter browsing in another, preventing any malicious code or naughty stuff in one VM from affecting whatever's running in another VM.
 
You can do all this on x86, Arm, and MIPS, of course. But given RISC-V was not bitten by the data-leaking speculative-execution design flaws (aka Meltdown and Spectre) that made life difficult for Intel, AMD, Arm, et al this year, and Rust is a lot safer than C/C++ that today's hypervisors and operating systems are written in, I felt it was worth exploring. Pretty much every Adobe Flash, Windows, iOS, Android, macOS, Chrome, Safari, Internet Explorer, etc security update these days is due to some poor programmer accidentally blundering with their C/C++ code, and allowing memory to be corrupted and exploited to execute malicious code. Google made the language of Go, and Mozilla made the language of No: Rust refuses to build software that potentially suffers from buffer overflows, data races, and so on.
 
It also all helps me in my day job of editing and writing a lot - keeping up to date with chip design, software, security, and so on.
 
If someone hired you for a month to develop RISC OS software, what would you create?
 
To be honest, I'd try to find a way to transplant the RISC OS GUI onto other environments, so I can use the window furniture, contextual menus, filer, pinboard, iconbar, etc, on top of a base that runs on modern hardware. I think that would take longer than a month.
 
What would you most like Father Christmas to bring you as a present?
 
A larger apartment: rent is bonkers in San Francisco, so I could do with some extra space.
 
Any questions we forgot to ask you?
 
Why do vodka martinis always seem like a good idea 90 minutes before it's too late to realize they were a bad idea?
 
PS: if anyone wants to get in touch, all my contact details are on diodesign.co.uk
 
You can read lots of other interviews on Iconbar here
 
2 comments in the forums

The Book of Arcade Games reviews

Posted by Mark Stephens on 08:36, 14/12/2018 |
 

 
The Book of Arcade Games was launched at the recent RISC OS London Show.
 
The 130 page book contains updated and and enhanced listings for 10 of the best Arcade games from the Drag'n'Drop magazine. There is also a introductory guide on how to type in (and Chris was offering the already typed in code to download at the Show).
 
The Games are all written in BBC BASIC and there is a nice screenshot and description of each before the listing. The type is clear and readable, and the book is spiral bound, so sits flat on your desk. All this makes it very easy to follow the code.
 
If you are interested in programming RISC OS of just looking for a bit fo fun and nostalgia, I can recommend this book.
 
You can preview the book online for free and it costs 15 pounds (including postage) from Drag'n'Drop website.
 
3 comments in the forums

What is apache?

Posted by Mark Stephens on 07:35, 7/12/2018 | ,
 
With RISC OS switching to the Apache licence, here is your brief intro to the world of Apache....
 
Apache the software program
Apache is a key building block of the Internet. It runs on many of the servers which make up the Internet and allows them to provide the websites you use every day. Its many features include the ability to host multiple websites on a sever, control access and provide security, execute scripts and commands when you access pages, log website activity, and a whole host of other features. You use Apache every day without realising it.
 
Apache the licence
All software has a licence which defines what rights you have and what use you can make of a piece of software. For example, most commercial software bans you from trying to dissect it and give it away to your friends.
 
The Apache licence is one of several Open Source licences. These generally come with free software (as in you do not have to pay for it) which includes the source code. The big difference in Open Source licences is that some are viral (with the GPL you have to release any software which uses it under the same licence so it 'infects' the software) and non-viral (you can use it with other software including commercial software so long as you respect the rules on the original software).
 
It is possible to release software under more than one licence. A nice example is the PDF library Itext, which you can use for free under the AGPL licence (requiring you to release your code for free as well with the source code), or buy a commercial version (identical except it comes with a commercial licence removing this requirement so you can use in commercial software).
 
If your aim is to encourage maximum update and usage, you would choose a non-viral licence such as the Apache licence which is what RISC OS now uses.
 
If you own the software, you can choose to change the licence (as RISC OS Developments has done having acquired RISC OS), but you cannot modify the licence on software belonging to someone else).
 
Apache the foundation
 
There is also an organisation called the Apache Software foundation which provides a home for a large number of software programs developed under the Apache licence. Most of these are technical and you might have heard of them if you are a software developer (ie Ant, Groovy, Hadoop, Maven, Perl) or runs on servers providing Internet services (ie SpamAssassin, Tomcat).
 
Apache is an organisation of individuals (no Company/Corporate membership option) and anyone can join. It also organises conferences and promotes software development.
 
Anyone can use the Apache licence in the software. This is perfectly acceptable and many other software projects have been doing the same for many years.
 
If you want your software to be an 'official' Apache project, you also need to follow the apache rules on how software is developed. This lays down a clear methodology and governance.
 
Many of the software projects which are Apache projects started life outside Apache and have joined by adopting the Apache rules. For the last 2 years, the Java IDE NetBeans has been transitioning to an Apache project (I have had a minor involvement in that giving me a very interesting viewpoint of the Apache foundation).
 
More details on Open Source licences at GNU website
Apache website
 
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November news

Posted by Mark Stephens on 07:07, 30/11/2018 |
 
Some things we noticed this month. What did you see?
 
Elesar finds a way to improve performance on your Titanium machines with free software update.
 
New stunt drivers game from AmCoG games.
 
Updated free guide to VirtualRPC in Use available to download.
 
Review of the new RaspberryPi3 A+ on RISC OS blog.
 
Elesar update !Prophet to 3.95
 
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Drag'n'Drop Summer 2018 edition reviewed

Posted by Mark Stephens on 08:01, 23/11/2018 |
 

 
If you want some RISC OS related news, reviews and projects (or still missing the summer days), Then the Summer edition of Drag'n'Drop Magazine is for you.
 
The magazine is published as a PDF file (so you can read it on any Computer or print it out) and always reminds me of the 1990s era Acorn magazines at their best. The magazine does not assume you have been using RISC OS since the 1990s though, and there is always a beginners page to get you started.
 
The news section includes information on new hardware, and new commercial and free software. Because can be read online, there are lots of useful website links to follow. There is a games review of Island of the Undead from Amcog Games and an ongoing series on using Schema2.
 
The bulk of the magazine features code - apps, games, hints and tricks to suit all levels of ability. You can learn about Upscaling and interpolation, type in an play a platform game called Boing, an updated Space Invaders Game, build some more serious applications for desktop and printing. My personal favourite in this edition is the guide to making a glass button.
 
This month also includes an index at the end for Volume 1-9 of the magazine (which can all be bought in a big back issue edition).
 
There is a free preview of the magazine to read, and you can buy the magazine directly from the website.
 
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PackMan in practice, part 2

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GPS becomes Data Logger

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October News Headlines

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RISC OS London Show Report 2018

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RISC OS London Show 2018 - Notes from the talks

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RISC OS London Show 2018 - pictures

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Recent discussions
- South-West Show Q and A (News:4)
- 3 key dates for your diary in 2019 (News:2)
- Wimpslot/RAMdisc (Prog:8)
- Armx6 Not booting (Gen:6)
- RISC OS FR : The Raspberry Pie contest (News:25)
- December news (News:)
- RISC OS interview with Chris Williams (News:2)
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- The Book of Arcade Games reviews (News:3)
- Iron Lord Soundtrack (Games:9)
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