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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
 
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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.
 
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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

Posted by Jeffrey Lee on 20:00, 8/4/2017 | ,
 
It's now just under two weeks until this year's Wakefield show. On 22nd April the Cedar Court Hotel near Wakefield will be filled to the brim with all manner of Acorn and RISC OS related people and paraphernalia, including but not limited to:In addition to the usual number of new and updated products that will be on display around the show, ROOL are promising an "announcement of epic proportions", suggesting that this show isn't one to miss.

The show will be open from 10:30 am to 4:30 pm, with tickets charged at £5 on the door, although children under 13 can get in free if they're accompanied by an adult.

For further information and all the latest news and updates, don't forget to check the show's website.
 
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A tale of 2 package managers

Posted by Mark Stephens on 09:39, 8/4/2017 | , ,
 
In the 'early days' most software had to be 'sourced' from different locations. The only big source of software in one place was Hensa on the University systems if you were lucky enough to have access. You could also connect to Bulletin boards (Arcade BBS) or get floppy disks through the post from Skyfall or APDL).

You can still hunt around (and there are lots of sites with gems we will be looking at in 2017 on IconBar), but in 2017 you have really easy access to huge sources of software straight from your RISC OS desktop. All you need is TWO programs.

PlingStore ( ie !Store) gives you access to a range or both free and commercial software (which you can buy with a credit card via the software). All software includes details of the software, website links, screenshots and you can search and explore the software on offer. You will find lots of favourites from David Pilling, R-CompInfo, Steve Fryatt, Chris Johnson, Sine Nomine and many others.

PlingStore tracks which versions of the software you have downloaded so it can also offer you the option to get free updates or buy commercial ones. If you are using R-Comp software, they provide a service to update the store with your current purchases to you can use it for updates when they release new versions.

When PlingStore runs, it checks on the Internet to update its information, so it can tell you about new software, updates or special offers.

!PackMan has developed out of RiscPkg. This brought dependency manangement based on Linux solutions to RISC OS (software can now describe what other software it works with and what it needs).

Dependency management is a big problem on many platforms (and trying to fix it on the Java platform has been the big issue for the last 2 releases of Java). Simply, the problem is that you download a new piece of software which needs version 4 of another library. So you install that on your machines. You then find that all your other software stops working as it only runs on version 3.... RedHat came up with a good solution to this problem which RiscPkg uses.

!PackMan builds ontop of this with a slick front end. It also includes a list of software and it knows what other software (dependencies) this software has. So it can ensure you have the software or download it for you as well. As with PlingStore it gives you a wide range of software and it can update its details with new releases when you run it. There is no payment options in !PackMan so all the software is free. !PackMan has some nice features to not only install the software, but add to Apps, run on startup, etc.

Both applications need some discipline to get the most from them. They do not look at your system and spot existing software, and PackMan has a standard location for all software. So you may be better off deleting existing software, and downloading a new copy in the new location through the package manager.

I am also pleased to say that there is little overlap and duplication between the software both offer. In general (apologies for slight over-simplification) PlingStore offers both 'original' commercial and free software from well-known RISC OS companies and developers while PackMan gives you access to the conversions to RISC OS platform from riscos.info and other sites (fonts, !Otter, games, tools, etc) which has grown from Peter Naulls' original Unix Porting Project.

Both applications are free and should be on your machine!

!PackMan
PlingStore
 
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RISC OS Interviews - Anthony Vaughan Bartram

Posted by Mark Stephens on 14:24, 31/3/2017 | , ,
 
This time round we introduce you to the talented musician, programmer and games maestro Anthony Vaughan Bartram, the person behind AmCoG games.

How long have you been using RISC OS?
Nearly 3 years now. I first booted up RISC OS on my Raspberry Pi in June 2014.

What other systems do you use?
Windows PCs/laptops with various OS versions & occasionally Linux.
I also have my original BBC Micro from 1983 which my 10 year old daughter likes playing on too.

What is your current RISC OS setup?
My main dev. system is an R-CompInfo ARMX6 with Elesar keyboard, plus a plethora of Raspberry Pis (including an Ident Micro one). I've also got various RISC OS systems to test my games on including a borrowed Iyonix, RPCEmu and Virtual Acorn.

Do you attend any of the shows and what do you think of them?
I've been exhibiting at Wakefield, MUG, London and the South West show since 2015.
I really enjoy the social and idea sharing at these shows. For example, at London 2016, someone was running a YouTube video as a teletext stream on a BBC Micro. There was a custom DJ system being shown too. On returning home after catching up with everyone, I always have a list of new ideas to work or collaborate on.

What do you use RISC OS for in 2017 and what do you like most about it?
I use it for being creative as RISC OS is not very distracting when compared to, for example, Windows. There are no pop-ups, forced updates or social media notifications. RISC OS is something that I can take control of (rather than the other way around) and this is what I like most. As a result, I use it for developing original computer games, original synthesiser technology amongst other things.

Whilst I might port some titles from RISC OS to Windows or Android, RISC OS is my main creative platform.

What is your favourite feature/killer program in RISC OS?
The GUI itself, StrongEd, BBC BASIC and possibly RDSP.

What would you most like to see in RISC OS in the future?
Multi-core thread support and some use of native GPU acceleration.

Favourite (vaguely RISC OS-releated) moan?
I'm afraid I suffer from chronic optimism - so don't like to moan much at all. Apparently sometimes this can be quite annoying :-)
I accept RISC OS for what it is including any rough edges. I hope to try and help fix/smooth out those edges going forward.

Can you tell us about what you are working on in the RISC OS market at the moment?
Iíve released 4 games in a little under 2 years and am working on more titles as well as updates to existing games at the moment. Further, Iím going to release a development kit geared towards, but not exclusively for, games. This kit will contain the library which I use for my own titles, together with AMCOGís new RDSP virtual sound chip which I recently previewed (n.b. The RDSP sound module will remain free).

Any surprises you can't or dates to tease us with?
Keep coming to the RISC OS shows to find out any surprises. I align release dates with shows. Whatever I have finished gets released then.

Apart from iconbar (obviously) what are your favourite websites?
Riscository, riscosblog and ROOL.

Any questions we forgot to ask you?
I also write songs, prose and have an interest in graphic design. I find that computer games let me combine all of these hobbies with programming.

I also sell music CDs at shows that comprise original songs that Iíve either written or co-written.

AmCoG games website.
 
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Elesar brings back Font Directory Pro for modern machines

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RISC OS Interviews - Vince Hudd

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RISC OS Interviews - Andy Marks (RiscOSBits)

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Spring Issue of Drag'n'Drop Magazine hits the shelves

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South West Show in Pictures

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South West Show Report

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