Oct 122014

If news were a hot dog, this would be the ketchup. (Ketchup? Catch-up? Geddit? No? Ho hum – where’s my coat?)

Here at the RISCOSitory/Soft Rock Software top secret underground bunker (whose entrance is cunningly disguised as a ramshackle shed) things have become somewhat busy positively hectic over the last couple of months, which has resulted in no news being posted to the site whatsoever for almost a month – not even in the ‘press release’ format whereby an announcement is simply quoted in full. So, in order to catch up – and possibly look back over other things that have been missed previously – it’s time for another dreaded ‘Snippets’ post! (Boo, hiss!)

Potted history book to go ahead

Back in June, David Bradforth started an Indiegogo campaign to raise £2,000 to publish a book, to be titled A Potted History of Acorn Computers, which does contains exactly what it says on the tin cover. The deadline for the campaign arrived on 15th August, by which time the campaign had only reached £915 of that goal.

When the campaign was launched, I noted that the funding model was ‘flexible funding’ – which meant David would receive the funds raised, even if the target wasn’t met – and queried it with David, who confirmed the book would go ahead even if that was the case. A few days after the deadline, an update was posted via Indiegogo to those who chose to contribute, in which David said just “Full steam ahead :)” indicating that, as promised, the book will indeed go ahead.

(Since then David has also requested advertising copy from those who had opted to take an advertisement in the book – with the original copy produced here at the bunker containing a mistake, quickly to be replaced with a corrected version. Oops!)

NetSurf 3.2 released

The start of September saw the release of NetSurf version 3.2, featuring a whole raft of changes to the core (used by all the platforms to which the browser has been ported) as well as some RISC OS-specific changes. The former are mainly improvements and fixes that may not be apparent to many end users, such as internal interfaces being tidied, or internal task scheduling being improved – but one that is of note to end users is that support was added for disc caching, with the list of RISC OS-specific changes therefore including that an option has been added to use a disc cache.

rRaw rReleased

Anton Reiser released what he describes as a ‘WYSIWYG’ RAW converter in mid-September.

RAW is the ‘native’ file format that digitial cameras use for images – and is generally the data captured by the camera’s image sensor itself, with little or no processing (hence the name). Even if they default to using JPEGs for photographs, most half-decent cameras will provide an option to use RAW format – which has been likened to the negatives produced by film-cameras, and which will provide more information from the captured image. Consequently, RAW format can be a preferable option over JPEGs for those who care about the quality of their work.

Anton’s software, rRAW, can open and convert RAW files created by Canon, Nikon and Sony cameras – and he describes it as “very beta”.

Sine Nomine Software updates

Sine Nomine Software announced new versions of their relational database, Impact, and their email-merge tool, ImpEmail at the start of September, and new map data for RiscOSM and an update to OSMConvert at the start of October.

The new version of Impact, version 3.48, fixed a couple of small bugs found in version 3.47, which was released at Wakefield. That version also provided greatly enhanced support for image and file fields, and the new version allows such fields to trigger an action script whenever a new file is dropped on such a field. A free upgrade is available for users of 3.47, and prices to upgrade from earlier versions can be found on the website.

Version 1.07 of ImpEmail, which was also released at Wakefield, added support for attachments – and version 1.08 improves on that, by allowing for spaces in attachment filenames, and better character set support (for both the attachment filenames, and also the email body and headers)

The map data Sine Nomine originally provided for RiscOSM – their new mapping software, released at Wakefield – was for the British Isles and the Netherlands. Map data is now available for Austria, Switzerland and Australasia/Oceania, all of which can be freely downloaded from the website, or can be supplied on CD (for £5 each). Italy and Spain are also available on CD (but aren’t available as a download due to web space limitations).

OSMConvert is the tool used to convert the OpenStreetMap data so that it is suitable for use with RiscOSM, and can be downloaded free of charge from Sine Nomine’s website. Version 1.01 includes better character set support, as well as other bug fixes and improvements.

New French website for RISC OS users

David Feugey has launched a new French-language RISC OS website – called RISC OS FR, with the slogan “Tout RISC OS, en Francais” or “All RISC OS, in French” –  and since the initial launch at the start of September, David has announced a few more sections to the site, and made a number of things available from it.

The site, which is hosted on a Raspberry Pi running RISC OS,  is divided into five main sections: One discusses both the history of RISC OS, and where it’s at today, including a long list of computers on which RISC OS 5 can be run. Another is a guide to getting started with the operating system. Another presents some software (such as RPCEmu) and resources (such as fonts) for download. The fourth presents an ongoing/twice yearly competition to win a Raspberry Pi model B+, with the first competition being for porting software to RISC OS. And the fifth section is a pointer to a French-language mailing list for RISC OS users.

As well as those five sections, there is also an ‘English Corner’ – a single page containing a condensed, English translation of the other sections.

Something for German speakers, too

German-speaking users have also been catered for with a new resource – this time a RISC OS-centric blog from Steffen Huber, the man behind hubersn Software and CDVDBurn. In the first post, dated 7th, September, Steffen explains that there are only a few sources of information published in the German language, even though there is a thriving and committed community of German RISC OS users – mentioning GAG-News and ArcSite – and expresses his belief that there is still some space to fill.

Steffen aim is to try to fill that space, and try to publish something that German readers will find of interest on a weekly basis at the very least.

BDRand version 3.32 released

Nick Roberts released version 3.32 of BDRand at the end of September. The program, which randomly changes the image displayed on the desktop backdrop, now allows the delay time between changing the backdrop to be set from anything from one second to ten hours. It can also now be configured to display the backdrops sequentially, rather than randomly.

MPDataAU released, FOI updated

Kevin Wells released a new application last month, as a spin off to one of his more established applications. The older application is MPData+, which allows the (UK) user to retrieve information about MPs – names, constituencies, and so on – and the new application is MPDataAU.

The AU indicates that this version is for our cousins from Danundaland (which readers might be more familiar with as Australia), and the software allows Australian users to keep tabs on their member of the Australian House of Representatives in the Australian Parliament – displaying the name of the representative, when they entered Parliament, the party and division they represent, as well as whether they hold an office, its name, and when they took it on. It also displays the last four debates they took part in, with links to more information about them.

Later in the month, Kevin also updated FOI – his application for handling Freedom of Information requests – to version 1.01, adding the ability to make requests to Right to Know, the Danundaland equivalent to the UK’s WhatDoTheyKnow website, with which the software was originally designed to work.

Both FOI and MPDataAU (and, indeed, MPData+) can be downloaded from Kevin’s website.

Southampton User Group meeting

The next meeting of the Southampton User Group takes place on Tuesday, October 14th. The venue is the usual Itchen College Sports Centre – the College Centre, an open area with tables and chairs, adjacent to the Sports Centre Reception desk – Deacon Road, Southampton, and the meeting will run from 7:00pm until 9:00pm. Dave Higton will be bringing along a selection of RISC OS computers, and encourages other attendees to bring theirs.

Countdown reaches version 0.10, SignalBox version 42.92

Chris Hall has released new versions of Countdown and SignalBox via R-Comp’s PlingStore.

Countdown is an application to solve the numbers round in Channel 4’s Countdown, which presents the players with a pseudo-random selection of numbers, and a generated ‘target’ number; the players must use any or all of the six numbers (once only), along with the four basic mathematical operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication and division) to get as close as possible to the target.

SignalBox is a simulation of the inside of a signal box – a building found alongside railways, from which signals, points, and other aspects of the railway are controlled – and displays a track diagram (the area controlled by the signal box), along with the points and signals, numbered to correspond with the levers that operate them. The new version corrects a number of bugs – both in the software (the menu item height has been corrected, and the icon bar icon now sports a transparent background) and in the data (the length of the track circuit AC at Exeter West was incorrect inside the stop board) – and it also brings with it a new demonstration mode: A click on the icon bar icon now starts a full five hour (!) demonstration of a 1982 Friday timetable at Exeter West.

PipeDream updated, made open source and available from PlingStore and as a package

PipeDream has seen a number of updates since its last mention on RISCOSitory, and is now at version 4.52/05, released in July. There are too many changes to mention in a simple Snippets post, but include the software checking for the existence of its choices in <Choices$Write> and copying the default there if necessary, error messages being logged to Reporter (if present), the user name and organisation removed from the Info dialogue (since the software is now free and no registration is required), some menu changes, and a plethora of bug fixes and general, under the hood improvements.

A PipeDream mailing list has also been set up via Google Groups, and the software has been made open source – released under the Mozilla Public Licence (MPL) 2.0, with the sources being hosted on riscos.info – and the software itself can now be downloaded PlingStore, or your preferred RISC OS package manager.

Fireworkz updated, available via PlingStore

Fireworkz has also been updated since its last mention on RISCOSitory – but only a couple of times! The latest version is 1.35/03, and the changes are mainly bug fixes, such as TSV files with fields containing commas now being loaded “more predictably”, and a a bug being squashed that saw certain dialogue boxes causing a crash on RISC OS 4.39.

And, like PipeDream, Fireworkz is also now available via R-Comp’s PlingStore.

Speaking of PlingStore…

For the next week or two, R-Comp are celebrating October – which is apparently a month of birthdays and anniversaries for them – with a PlingStore ‘anniversary’ sale. There will be daily and weekly deals on many products that can be found in the PlingStore catalogue, so it’s worth running the software regularly to see what’s available.

The items discounted in the sale will be highlighted in red when the catalogue is displayed, and R-Comp says that in some cases the discounts may be over 50%.

And speaking of R-Comp, for that matter…

Back in September, R-Comp announced the release of ‘Super Pack 7’ for users of the ARMini and ARMiniX computers, as well as members of the Beagle, PandaLand and PiPlus support schemes.

As well as RISC OS itself, and the basic disc-based components that support the operating system and enable it to fully function, RISC OS computer systems have typically been supplied with additional software that enables the user to do something productive with it, even if they haven’t (yet) bought any additional software. R-Comp’s ‘Super Packs’ – which is usually abbreviated to SP – are software updates that bring the disc-based contents of R-Comp’s computers (and support packages) up to date, containing the latest versions of any such software, and sometimes add new components along the way, bringing the systems of existing customers into line with the latest shipping product.

As an ARMini or ARMiniX user, or a member of one of the support schemes, you can log-in to the appropriate download site for your system and download the Super Pack from there.

News so old, Time Team considered reporting on it

Most of the above is fairly recent – although some of the PipeDream and Fireworkz updates go back a while – but there are also newsworthy items which have been sitting in my queue for even longer. I originally wanted to spend a little time writing about them in more detail, but soon discovered that I didn’t have the time (or became busier) so put them off a little longer, then a little longer still… until now: I’ve decided to bite the bullet, and squeeze them into a Snippets post (thus not giving them the space they really deserve) rather than keep putting them off until later.

A RISC OS-centric search engine

Rebecca Shalfield started this year off with an announcement on the RISC OS Open forums about her RISC OS Search Engine.

Rebecca explained that, in the past, there have been a number of attempts at publishing online databases of RISC OS software, which have all either disappeared or, if they are still online, are largely out of date – not having been updated either by the original maintainers, or the developers of software included in the database.

The search engine, which is running as a prototype on her home PC, first appeared during 2013, and has been “steadily gathering information” since then, ‘spidering’ its way around the internet, looking zip files on RISC OS-related websites, and analysing the contents of those files, trying to build up a useful database of RISC OS software – which, in theory, means it doesn’t need to be manually kept up to date, since it is constantly working to update itself.

Archimedes Software Preservation Project

Jon Abbott started the Archimedes Software Preservation Project, in association with the Centre for Computing History, over two years ago (yes, I’ve been intending to write something detailed about this for over two years, and still haven’t managed it!). The goal of the project is to preserve original copies of Archimedes software in both physical and digital form.

Over the last two years, Jon has been busying himself with getting hold of copies of old games in their original packaging, and seeking permission from those who own the relevant rights, to make that software available online, along with scans of the packaging, so that those who download the software get to see and play it just as it appeared originally – as well as developing ADFFS, a piece of software for mounting images of the original floppy discs, without actually writing those images themselves to disc, and patching the games to make them run – as authentically as possible – on modern hardware. To date, a quite significant number of old games have become available through the project, and permissions granted for a great many more.

Sadly, however, a recent RAID failure has resulted in the website and forum being down, possibly lost in their old form, and because Jon is away for a few months and is therefore unable to do anything about it, he predicts that, without help, it’s likely to be some time next year before he can look at getting any of it back online – though I’ve included the links for future reference.

And finally, a couple of Raspberry Pi-based RISC OS programming books

Back when RISC OS had a more widespread presence than now, when there were more users, more developers and more software and hardware companies, there was also more from those who specialised in dead tree material: magazines and books. One such writer – Bruce Smith (who originally co-founded Dabs Press, which became dabs.com,  with his friend Dave Atherton – the company name comes from the two friends’ initials) – has recently returned to the fray with four titles available.

The four are aimed at the Raspberry Pi, with two of them being aimed specifically at RISC OS when run on the Pi: Raspberry Pi Assembly Language RISC OS Beginners (Hands on Guide) (printed, Kindle edition) and Raspberry Pi RISC OS System Programming Revealed (printed, Kindle edition part 1, part 2).


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