For your Christmas treat this year, we have an interview with Pablo Fuentes Saez who is going to tell us all about UCDebug and his RISC OS experiences.
Enjoy and a very Merry Christmas from Iconbar.
Would you like to introduce yourself?
My name is Pablo Fuentes, and I work as assistant lecturer and researcher in the Computer Architecture and Technology group (ATC) at the University of Cantabria. Among others, we give courses of Computer Organization and Structure in the degrees for Computer Science and Telecommunications Engineering, where we teach our students the fundamentals of the computer architecture and they learn to program at assembly level. That’s how we became acquainted with RISC OS.
I am the main supporter and part of the developing team of the UCDebug tool, a debugger for ARM assembly code in RISC OS over Raspberry Pi that we started as part of a teaching project and that we have released as Open Source Software. The other members of the team are Carmen Martínez, Fernando Vallejo and Cristóbal Camarero.
How long have you been using RISC OS?
Around two and a half years, since we chose it for the practical sessions in our courses at the University of Cantabria.
What other systems do you use?
Mainly Windows, Linux distros and iOS, although I have also toyed with macOS. For the development of UCDebug we started coding everything in RISC OS (using StrongEd) for the first versions, and later on we switched to a mix between RISC OS and Linux.
What is your current RISC OS setup?
We use RISC OS over Raspberry Pi, mainly model 1B+, but also with models 2B and 3.
Do you attend any of the shows and what do you think of them?
Overall, it is a great opportunity to meet with other users and programmers, and learn what others are doing with RISC OS. The last edition of the RISC OS London Show was the first anyone from our team attended, and it was fantastic. The people from the organization were extremely accommodating and went out of their way to help us, and we would like to thank them for giving us the chance of entering the RISC OS community. Visitors were very supportive and willing to have a look at the tool, even when it might be out of their regular use of RISC OS. We feel very lucky for the opportunity to attend it and are looking forward to the comments and opinions from other RISC OS users.
What do you use RISC OS for in 2019 and what do you like most about it?
We use it primarily for teaching purposes, and what we like from it is exactly what attracted us to it in the first place: the ability to use I/O with minimal overhead from the system, but at the same time have a GUI with a windows-based desktop. Another feature that makes it very enticing is the low resource usage: rebooting usually takes less than 15 seconds, a sharp contrast with other OSes.
What is your favourite feature/killer program in RISC OS?
The SWIs to claim and release a vector. Being able to place a handler for an interrupt on-the-go is very useful.
What would you most like to see in RISC OS in the future?
First, an option to switch the operations associated to the mouse wheel and right buttons; for hardcore users the current behavior has its benefits, but it would go a long way to prevent newcomers from frustrating and leaving the OS. In our particular case, students complain at the beginning of the courses about the learning curve, and a few options would go a long way to minimize it. Another welcome feature would be better support for interaction with other OS (e.g., updated Samba protocols). In the particular case of the Raspberry Pi, WiFi support would be great; the board developed by Elesar is a great first step, but it would be better to be able to use a regular USB dongle to free up the I/O pins, or better yet, use the in-built wireless chip in certain Raspberry Pi. More documentation about mounting multiple partitions would also be appreciated.
Favourite (vaguely RISC OS-related) moan?
Lack of a command history in the Task Window.
Can you tell us about what you are working on in the RISC OS market at the moment?
Currently we are working in offering UCDebug through the Package Manager, and a complete revamp of the tool website, including new documentation and (hopefully) a video tutorial.
Apart from iconbar (obviously) what are your favourite websites?
Our top RISC OS websites are the RISC OS Open page (for its documentation) and the ROUGOL forums. Undoubtedly a great deal of appeal for RISC OS comes from the community behind it, there’s always someone willing to help or clarify something.
What are your interests beyond RISC OS?
I love fiddling with technology, computers or not. I also enjoy learning new languages (both regular and programming).
If someone hired you for a month to develop RISC OS software, what would you create?
I’d daydream for a couple weeks about pie in the sky projects, then start coding frantically a new version of UCDebug to patch a couple bugs.
Many thanks to Pablo for taking there time to do an interview. UCDebug is an amazing free tool to investigate.
You can read lots of other interviews on Iconbar here