Snippets – 24th March 2012

It’s been a busy month again here, which means there have been no posts to RISCOSitory for a while – so here’s a quick round-up of recent goings on in the world of RISC OS.

RISC OS 5.18

RISC OS 5 has seen its latest ‘stable’ release in the form of RISC OS 5.18, which features some 340 improvements since the last such release (version 5.16). The full list of improvements can be found on the RISC OS Open website, but this list isn’t written in ‘typical user-speak’. In response to requests for a more user friendly list, Rob Sprowson posted one to usenet, which Steve Revill has since posted on the RISC OS open forum.

Users of ARMini computers (and those Beagleboard users who subscribe to R-Comp’s ARMini software support scheme) should be able to download the new version of RISC OS (as OS Update 3) from the user page on the ARMini website (you should have a user name and password supplied by R-Comp), while IYONIX pc users, etc, can obtain it from the RISC OS Open ROM image releases page as either a version to flash into ROM, or a softload version for those not confident enough to do that.

CMOS Widgets for Beagleboard and ARMini

Those of you who made it to the South West Show in February will no doubt be aware that both R-Comp and RISC OS Open Ltd were selling ‘CMOS Widgets’ for the ARMini and BeagleBoard systems. The widget is actually an EEPROM carrier board that plugs in to the header pins on the board, and which version 5.18 or later of RISC OS will detect and use to save your RISC OS configuration across reboots.

RISC OS Open Ltd’s device, which is suitable for the BeagleBoard, BeagleBoard-xM and the PandaBoard, and can be purchased for just £5.00 plus £1.50 p&p – full details can be found on their website, from which you can purchase the device using Paypal.

R-Comp’s offering is the same device, but provided with suitable instructions and software to help migrate your existing settings onto it, and it comes with a lower price tag (£5 delivered if you’re in the UK) – though it doesn’t appear to be available from their website; instead they ask that you order by phone or post, with credit card or cash preferred to avoid excessive bank charges.

OpenVector, OpenGridPro and DrawPlus updates

Christopher Martin has now released version 3.38 of OpenVector, OpenGridPro and DrawPlus, a collection of open source enhancements to Draw. Changes in version 3.38 include:

  • Improved compatibility with Cortex-A8 hardware, such as the BeagleBoard – compressed drawfiles and libraries can now be loaded when alignment exceptions are enabled.
  • Improved consistency of layered merging – when pasting objects from a library, they are placed on the current layer, rather than undefined layers.
  • Library objects can be again sorted.
  • OpenGridPro and OpenVector now understand ‘osunit’ dimensions, which eases the creation of drawings intended to be used as fixed-size bitmaps.

PlayIt update

Another release from Christopher Martin is version 1.71 of PlayIt, a tool for playing sound samples which is used by a number of other RISC OS applications, including DigitalCD. Originally written by Rick Hudson, this new version from Chris doesn’t include any new functionality, but it does include a number of bugfixes, as well as increased 26/32bit neutrality. ARMv7 (and therefore BeagleBoard, etc) compatibility, though not yet known to be complete, explains Chris, has been substantially increased. Also included is a driver written by Jeffrey Lee that allows PlayIt to make use of the RISC OS SharedSound system.

Bristol RISC OS Users meeting dates

Bristol RISC OS Users, a small group of RISC OS users in and around the Bristol area, have been meeting on an informal basis, with each meeting having been held after discussing suitable dates and times (and venues) on the group’s mailing list. For 2012, however, a regular location and meeting frequency has been decided on.

The group has settled on the Hope and Anchor pub on Jacob’s Wells Road, which is a short route from some major bus routes, and with free parking on the local roads in the evening. The meeting schedule is the second Wednesday in odd months, aiming for a start time from between 19:15 and 19:30, and running on until closing time.

The dates for the rest of 2012, therefore, are: 9th May, 11th July, 12th September and 14th November.

MPlayer – new movie playback software

Chris Gransden has ported the Linux movie player MPlayer (RISC OS download), (software website) to RISC OS. He describes it as a direct build of the Linux sources using GCCSDK, and says that “there is not much RISC OS integration other than the fact it runs in a window on the desktop.”

The player apparently makes a good attempt at playing most MPEG, VOB, AVO and WMV formats, along with many others, with reasonable frame rates up to a 480p resolution possible on “recent” RISC OS hardware.

Also included in the package is MEncoder, MPlayer’s simple movie encoder, which is designed to encode MPlayer-playable movies.

If installing manually, rather than using package management, you may also need to install UnixHome, SharedUnixLibrary and DRenderer.

PDFTools – command line PDF tools

Chris has also made available PDFTools (confusingly referred to as PDFUtils on the package download page), a set of command line utilities for manipulating PDF documents – converting them to different formats, extracting information from them, etc. These tools, based on the Poppler PDF rendering library, include:

  • pdfdetach — embedded file extractor
  • pdffonts — font analyzer
  • pdfimages — image extractor
  • pdfinfo — document information
  • pdfseparate — PDF page extractor
  • pdftohtml — PDF to HTML converter
  • pdftoppm — PDF to PPM/PNG/JPEG image converter
  • pdftops — PDF to PostScript (PS) converter
  • pdftotext — text extraction
  • pdfunite — PDF file merger

PipeDream now 32bit compatible. Ish.

During 2011, an old RISC OS favourite, PipeDream, became a free download – but, unfortunately, it remained a 26bit version, which meant it could only be used by those people with RiscPC (and earlier) class machines, or under emulation (including via Aemulor on the IYONIX).

However, it seems that a not inconsiderable amount of effort has since been put it, with the result being a 32bit version of PipeDream. As with the previous 26bit version, the 32bit version can be downloaded from Gerald Fitton’s Abacus Training website, along with the similarly free Fireworkz.

There do appear to still be some issues with the update to 32bit compatibility, as evidenced by some discussions on the Archive Online mailing list and comp.sys.acorn newsgroups, with at least one bug being first ‘worked around’ and then subsequently fixed.

The best way to report bugs, as well as make suggestions, etc, advises Gerald, is to join the Fireworkz ‘Google Group’, and post any such things there (for both PipeDream and Fireworkz). Stuart Swales, the lead programmer, is the owner of the group, so posts there are more likely to get his attention, and sooner, than anywhere else.

RISC OS Open: Request for commercial developers

RISC OS Open recently put out an announcement asking for those who sell software for RISC OS get in touch so that they can “speak with you about an idea that we feel could bring you more customers and bring more users and developers into the RISC OS scene.” The nature of the idea has yet to be revealed, and Steve Revill said in response to an enquiry on the comp.sys.acorn newsgroups that “Everyone who has responded now knows what the proposal is.”

If you do sell software for RISC OS, but have yet to make contact, you can do so by sending an email to with the subject line ‘ENQUIRY’ and, in the body of the message, the name of your business, your website URL and a list of your commercial RISC OS software, with a brief description of what it is.

RISC OS Open are also planning on speaking to active developers who give their software for free, as well, over the coming weeks.

WebChange v2.95.25

While it doesn’t happen very often, when I update my own applications I seem to forget to include any mention of those updates here – something I should make an effort to rectify, starting with the most recent update to WebChange, the website manipulation and maintenance tool which has been described as an application that “does a lot more than it says on the tin”.

Version 2.95.25 has recently been made available, and can be downloaded from the main site for those users who have never purchased the software, and from the users site for those who have (and who should have a user name and password).

The main changes in this latest release are:

  • Non-sexed quotation marks can now be used within strings in the script language, by preceding them with a vertical bar.
  • When the file updates/sizes/includes processes are used, if a file specified in the relevant tags can’t be found, WebChange previously inserted “Bad file specifier” between the tags as an error message. That error message now contains the RISC OS path, translated from that in the tags, that should point to the file – which should aid establishing why the file can’t be found by the software.

Other relatively recent updates, announced on the mailing list at the time, but nowhere else, include the addition of a new process, Content.EnhancedFileReplace, which performs an ‘alternating’ file-sourced find and replace, using find and replace strings found in files, rather than using the contents of a string in the script language, and the front-end ‘Choices’ menu now has a ‘Reload’ entry, allowing the main choices to be reloaded after changing them for any reason, provided they haven’t since been saved.

BBC Microcomputer 30th anniversary birthday party

Tomorrow sees the anniversary bash that has been on the cards for some time to mark the fact that it’s now some 30 years since the launch of the BBC Micro. The bash is being held at ARM HQ in Cambridge – the home town of our favourite 8bit computer.

Guests due to appear at the bash include Sophie Wilson, Steve Furber, Chris Curry, Hermann Hauser and others from the original Acorn team, Chris Serle, presenter of the BBC’s The Computer Programme, several people from the BBC/Domesday Project, including Richard Russell, who has gone on to develop and maintain BBC Basic for Windows, Eben Upton from The Raspberry Pi Foundation, Richard Gellman from the Retro Computer Museum, and Alan O’Donohoe from Hack to the Future.

Hermann Hauser, Eben Upton, Richard Gellman and Alan O’Donohoe are scheduled to give talks at the event, and it’s expected that there will be a number of displays, featuring home and educational software, and much more.

Martin Hansen of RISCOScode will be in attendance, offering a live Twitter feed from the event, with a full report to appear on the RISCOScode website afterwards.

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One Thought to “Snippets – 24th March 2012”

  1. […] are today’s item about Chris Gransden’s port of the emulator Mednafed, and the 24th March Snippets post, in which Christopher Martin’s own ports of FFmpeg and FFplay are mentioned. The FFmpeg page […]

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