Snippets – 6th August 2011

Dorian Computing have made available from their website one updated and one new piece of software. Originally written by Philip Macfarlane in 1991 and “released into the public domain,” DragCom is an application designed to provide a desktop front-end for star commands, making it easier to specify arguments (often files) by allowing them to be dragged onto the main window. This not only reduces the potential for errors when typing the path and filename, but it also removes the need to repeatedly type it if a series of commands needs to be applied to it – you drag the file in once, then type each command into the relevant icon in turn, executing them as you go. There are other ways of achieving the same goal, for example by setting the commands in an obey file, but the WIMP front-end presented by DragCom might seem a more user-friendly approach to some, although it could be greatly improved – particularly in terms of compliance with the RISC OS Style Guide.

The second application, CutF12, is a much simpler piece of software, written with a single purpose in mind. The user runs it, and from that point the F12 key is disabled, effectively locking the user out of the command line. The idea behind the software is that universities, schools, businesses, etc can run the software on their RISC OS computers and prevent users from ‘tampering’ with the machines from the command line. At the moment, running the software results in a message being “printed” to the screen, which means the user must press space or click the mouse to proceed, so running it at boot means the boot sequence is held up for that action to take place – although reading the list of planned improvements in the help file, this problem will inevitably be ironed out if and when some of that list is implemented.

Both of these applications can be downloaded from Dorian’s software page.

Also available from the Dorian Computing website, on the TipiSoft Games page, is SokoBas, a desktop puzzler in which the player must push yellow boxes onto blue crosses, but without finding themselves blocked and unable to complete the level. Version 1.6 of SokoBas is nearing release but before things are finalized, Dorian/TipiSoft would like to know how German and Dutch versions would be received – if your native language is Dutch or German, let them know what you think.

Fellow conspirator in the attempts to resurrect a Bristol based user group, Trevor Johnson has put forward the idea of a bounty being set up as part of the RISC OS Open Bounty Scheme in order to fund a developer conference, hopefully to take place some time in 2012. The bounty would primarily be to cover (or subsidise) venue hire, etc, with those in attendance covering their own travelling and overnight accommodation.

A RISC OS news aggregator website has now been launched in the form of The RISC OS News Network, which pulls together feeds from a number of different places (including RISCOSitory) and presents them in a compact form on its homepage. Visitors can then click on the relevant links to read the posts and articles in their original locations.

Having recently taken delivery of an ARMini, Nick Roberts has updated much of his software so that it is compatible with the newer hardware, including:

  • BDRand 3.31 – an automatic backdrop changer
  • Rename 3.23 – a smart multiple file renamer
  • MakeTable 0.34 – a CSV/TSV to HTML Table generator
  • SprUtils 1.12 – various sprite utilities
  • ASM 5.08 – an ARM macro assembler
  • lharc 0.36 – a port of the unix “lharc” archive/dearchive utility
  • DtLHARC 0.17 – a desktop front end for lharc
  • rex 0.36 – a recursive “*ex” (i.e. run *ex on a directory, and repeat for each sub-directory found)

All of the above are available from Nick’s website.

Also updated is, but available from different locations are:

  • BookMaker 2.14 – an address book/hotlist manager
  • KiSS suite – a collection of software for playing KiSS, a computerised paper doll game.

Aaron Timbrell of VirtualAcorn fame is in the process of changing ISPs and, as a result, the email address he has been using for the past 16 years will cease to function by the end of the 11th August 2011. All of the e-mail addresses will continue as usual, though it’s possible that there may be some disruption during the changeover period – the 11th and 12th August. If anyone sends an e-mail during this period and does not receive a reply then please re-send the message on the 13th of August.

Aaron also stresses that during the changeover it will not be possible to contact him by phone before 2:00pm (at the earliest) on the 12th of August, and apologises for any inconvenience whilst the line is upgraded and the new equipment is installed.

Christopher Martin has announced the availability of version 1.20 of FFmpeg and FFplay. FFmpeg is a versatile, open-source, multi-platform video and audio converter, and FFplay is a very simple media player built from FFmpeg and SDL, primarily used by the developers for testing purposes, and intended only as a stopgap for general use until somebody develops something better. In terms of the changes, Christopher explains that:

The underlying engine has not changed in this release. But the !FFmpeg application can now merge audio and video streams from two files. The !FFplay application has gained an option to start the player in full-screen mode. The player itself behaves quite differently in some respects and has gained some modest performance improvements, especially in full-screen mode.

While the hardware isn’t primarily designed with RISC OS in mind (though a port of our favourite operating system is a definite possibility), those with a talent for graphics might wish to take a look at the Raspberry Pi logo competition. Wouldn’t it be nice if the eventual winner turned out to have been designed on RISC OS or by a RISC OS user? Get your copies of ArtWorks up and running, folks!

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