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Article archives

RISC OS software to download from !PackMan

Posted by Mark Stephens on 07:00, 23/6/2017 | ,
 
In a previous article we looked at !PackMan and !Store. In this article we are going to highlight some of the software available in !PackMan and ask for your suggestions.
 
When you run !PackMan, it offers you a long list of files (with some nice category and filter options). You can see these in the screenshots below (click on the images for the full sized versions).
 
When you choose a program it brings up a window with lots of information, including more details, version numbers and dependencies (which it will generally handle for you automatically of tell you of any clashes. Here you can see I am installing the Povray ray tracing program which allows you to design and render 3D scenes.
 


 
!PackMan provides a home (and central repository) for many established RISC OS programs and, as a bonus, an easy way to update if new versions are released. !Nettle offers a terminal program for RISC OS, which is still (even in 2017) a very convenient way to access remote systems. You also have OpenSHH as an alternative option. You can also see a whole host of other applications available such as Rsync, FTPc and even other web browsers to try (I would recommend a really fast machine for those).
 


 
If you want to indulge in some nostalgia, there is a selection of emulators - upgrade your RISC OS machine to a Spectrum class machine today!
 


 
There are some good tools on other platforms which you may miss on RISC OS. My personal favourites of Bash and Grep are available as ports.
 


 
!PackMan is not just about software programs. You will find free fonts on to download including these excellent BitStream fonts.
 


 
That is a small selection of some of the gems you will find on !PackMan. In a future article, we will have a rummage around !Store. In the meantime, what are your favourite applications or recommendations on !PackMan?
 
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Elesar updates Font Directory Pro to 3.21

Posted by Mark Stephens on 07:44, 16/6/2017 | ,
 
Given the 12 years between the last 2 releases of Font Directory Pro, an update 6 months after the last release is really good news. Previously, this very slick Font Manager from LookSystems languished until adopted by Elesar.
 
This release moves the release from 3.20 to 3.21 so it is an incremental update. The only 'new feature' on the changelist is enhanced help text in Choices and there are 5 bug fixes.
 
The software comes with a slick installer application and was automatically mailed to all registered users. You will need your application key to update the software. It would have been nice to be able to just drag the software on have it updated (as we have got used to with packages like !Ovation).
 
Elesar are still asking for user ideas for future improvements and the appearance of an new version so soon should give us all encouragement for a bright future for this great piece of software.
 
Elesar website
 
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Disappearing websites

Posted by Mark Stephens on 07:38, 9/6/2017 | ,
 
In the last few weeks some websites of interested to RISC OS users have disappeared.
 
riscoscode.com used to be great list of interesting snippets from the RISC OS and software world in general selected by Martin Hansen. It now returns a domain expired blank page, although the twitter account is still online. It also looks like piLEARN and Mathmagical have also gone.
 
Another site which has dropped off the radar is the Pandaboard.org, which was the official home for the Panda. The Panda is still a great RISC OS machine, especially as a compact solution - I use mine at work as my secondary machine to my home Titanium.
 
Even if these sites are not being updated, this is a loss because they contain lots of useful content is lost and the search links all break.
 
There are still ways to see these sites (here is an old version of riscoscode). But these version are not always the latest and the links across the internet (and for search are broken).
 
It does not have to be this way. The old Computer Concepts page has been kept up on there internet by Xara, riscos.org and all its links are still online, APDL has a new home, and we host several sites on iconbar.
 
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What development tools do we need ported to RISC OS

Posted by Mark Stephens on 07:46, 2/6/2017 |
 
In a previous article, I talked about software updates we would like to see at the next show.
 
The critical ingredient for software development (whether you are writing something for your own use, developing free or commercial software for wider distribution, or trying to port something from another platform) is the toolset available.
 
In some ways, we have been lucky with RISC OS, which from the first release has included its own built-in development language (BBC BASIC). There is additional free software such as Dr Wimp or AppBasic to provide a really nice way to write desktop applications more easily.
 
For more advanced development have both the free C GCCSDK compiler and ROOL offers the commercial Desktop Development Environment.
 
But are there still some tools which would make RISC OS a better platform for development, make it easier to port software written using these tools across and possibly encourage developers who use these tools to try RISC OS? In an ideal world (with unlimited time and resources) we would obviously like Java, Mono, Ruby, etc along with Eclipse, Visual Studio and Maven,etc.... But that is not unfortunately where we live.
 
So here are 2 suggestions of tools I would like us to see on RISC OS which would be viable and make a positive impact.
 
Git is the leading Version Control system. It has replaced older systems such as CVS (which is all we have on RISC OS natively) for many uses. It also makes it easier to access GitHub, a huge central repository of free software or other systems such as Bitbucket. Some RISC OS code is uploaded to GitHub but it would be much easier to have Git on RISC OS.
 
Python 3 Python is a highly popular language for starting program development and heavily pushed by the RaspberryPi foundation and others. We have Python on RISC OS but it is only the much older Python 2 release. Python 3 is a significant improvement on the previous version and the one most new programmmers would want to use.
 
What do you think we need to see on RISC OS?
 
6 comments in the forums

Latest Drag'n'Drop magazine reviewed

Posted by Mark Stephens on 08:03, 26/5/2017 | ,
 
If you miss the Acorn magazines from yesterday, then Drag'n'Drop is definitely the magazine for you with its mix of news, reviews and lots of hands on technical items. The magazine is published 4 times as year as a PDF (which you can read on any machine).
 
The latest quarterly release was released at Wakefield Show, and given the updates to date news section, looks like it was being updated until the very last minute. The News and editorial section looks at Wakefield and also includes details on upcoming events and both free and commercial software and hardware releases. One of the great advantages of providing the magazine as a PDF is that it can include clickable links for you to follow.
 
The rest of the magazine consists of a wide range of well-written technical articles. Don't worry that the author might lose you - a lot of thought has been given to making sure the reader can follow along easily, and there is even a reminder on how to get into BASIC via the F12 key.
 
The new sound module developed by Amcog Games and freely available gets a detailed write-up with a five page tutorial explaining the new features and showing how to use them. If you have been a little 'nervous' of modules, it also serves as a really clear explanation of how to install and use them.
 
The Iconbar animation article will appeal to an anyone wishing to make their applications look more slick. There is a detailed and annotated BASIC program to give you a slick, animated icon for your program on the iconbar.
 
The Python Primary School is an ongoing series on writing Python programs which can use the RISC OS wimp. This time we have reached high level functions such as creating a window. There is also a nice comparison of Python code with BASIC for all these functions. If you have missed the rest of the series, you can get all the back issues on a USB stick.
 
For general RISC OS programming, there is also a tutorial on creating Windows options in !WinEd and then accessing from a BASIC application. This instalment includes using the toggle icon and how drop-down menus work.
 
This is definitely an edition for anyone wanting to develop their own desktop RISC OS applications. There is also a complete BASIC listing for a multi-tasking Desktop Noughts and Crosses application.
 
Finally, there is a nice little module called SWILister which allows you to list all the SWI calls which any module provides and can also be accessed from BASIC via an Sys call. The listing is on a yellow page (which may give you some additional feelings of nostalgia for the old yellow page listings).
 
The magazine is available to buy from The Drag'n'Drop website where you can also download a free preview of the magazine. You can also get a USB stick with every edition of the magazine ever published and also see their range of fonts and programming books.
 
I really enjoyed this edition, and can highly recommend it to anyone looking to keep up with developments and wanting to improve their programming knowledge.
 
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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?
 
6 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
 


 
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Acorn World Sat 13th - Sunday 14th May

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Wakefield 2017 Show Report

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Wakefield 2017 show in pIctures

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Chris Gransdon tells ROUGOL about Otter browser and other ports

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Drag'N'Drop brings you a new selection of fonts

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Wakefield Acorn & RISC OS Show, 22nd April 2017

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Recent discussions
- Elesar brings back Font Directory Pro for modern machines (News:9)
- AMCS free versions are live! (Gen:9)
- Elesar updates Font Directory Pro to 3.21 (News:)
- Disappearing websites (News:)
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