Snippets (mixed news)

Snippets – 31st December, 2019

With 2019 drawing to a close at the end of today, to be immediately followed by a year with the official designation of 2020, it’s time to round up a selection of news that hasn’t been covered on RISCOSitory over the course of the year.

In many cases, this is due to the ongoing problem of people releasing software or having something to announce, but not making full use of the avenues available to them for publicising things – one of which is this website; it may have been mentioned in one forum or another, which means I might eventually see it, but not sent to the RISCOSitory news address where I definitely will.

In other cases, the subject matter might be test releases, so while they’ve been made public to allow people to try them out, they haven’t been formally announced – but while scanning through a backlog of forum posts etc looking for things that haven’t been sent my way, I’ve found a few examples of that, and included them here. Because why not?

This will be the final post of 2019 to RISCOSitory – I’ll shut up now until next year. So until then, here are the snippets of news I’ve found.

DOSBox 0.74

Chris Gransden has updated his port of PC emulator DOSBox. The new version has been built with the latest SDL 1.2 libraries, and support for VFP (vector floating point) where available on the host machine. Full-screen mode now also works in this version on Titanium and IGEPv5 systems.

Sargasso 2.04

Another update from Chris is to the Sargasso RSS feed reader, originally developed by James Bursa. The updated version makes use of the RISC OS certificate list (found in !Internet, itself squirrelled away in !Boot).

MuVu 0.02 alpha

Chris has also released version 0.02 – an alpha/test release – of MuVu, which is a simple front-end application for the MuPDF libraries, and can be used to read PDF, XPS and E-book (EPUB) files.

StrongMen 1.28a2

Version 1.28a2 of StrongMen has been made available by Fred Graute. Originally developed by Guttorm Vik, the program can display a menu tree (laid out in a text file) to provide shortcuts for launching applications, opening files, and so on. The ‘a2’ in the version number refers to this being the second alpha (early test) release – but Fred considers the code to be stable, though the feature set may still change before an official release.

The main change in this version is that the source file for the menu can now include a directive that can be used to trigger an external program to build a sub-menu – thus allowing the menu structure partially generated on the fly, and therefore subject to external conditions in effect at the time the menu is built.

Transient 2.10b

Sticking with tests, but moving from an alpha version of one thing to a beta version of something else, Fred has also made available a new test version of Transient, an application that provides a daily changing directory for storage of temporary files.

Version 2.10b supports a cunning new feature called SaveToPin (provided by a module of the same name) which catches files dragged and dropped onto the Pinboard backdrop and saves them into the Transient directory. Transient now also allows filtering for individual users, so that their (temporary) files are stored separately, and supports configurable clicks so that users can quickly access their specific files.

FTPc 1.55

A new version of file transfer application FTPc has been made available by Colin Granville. Version 1.55 can use AcornSSL to use the extended version of the file transfer protocol called FTPS, which allows the use of TLS (Transport Layer Security) and Secure Sockets Layer (SSL). Note that this is not the same as SFTP, which uses a different protocol based on secure shell (SSH).

RiscPCB 1.04

Terry Swanborough released a new version of RiscPCB. The software is used to design and lay out printed circuit boards, and version 1.04 allows ground planes to be created within the program and adds a new IC creation tool.

PI_I2S 0.10

At the same time as the updated RiscPCB, Terry also released version 0.10 of PI_I2S, a module that allows the Raspberry Pi to use I2S output to drive DAC or DIGI boards for audio output. The module includes a number of driver programs for use with HiFiBerry cards, and any other cards based on the same chips would probably also be usable.

StopClose0 0.03

Martin Avison released a module called StopClose0 that catches any attempts to issue a close command with a file handle of zero (as well as the *CLOSE command which does exactly that), and issue a prompt asking the user if they are okay with that happening.

If a zero handle is used when closing a file, it’s more often than not a programming error and would have the effect of closing all files on the current filing system. This is a problem because a program that has a file open won’t be aware it has been closed by something else, and will believe the file handle it has remains valid. Another program could open a file and be given that same file handle, and the other program could innocently write data to it, thus effectively corrupting the file.

CloseHook 1.01

Answering the same problem of preventing all files from being closed, Simon Birtwistle (aka Nemo) released CloseHook. This performs a very similar function, both in the desktop and at the command line – and also covers the even more dangerous *SHUT command, which does the same as *CLOSE, but across all active filing systems, rather than just the current one.

Aemulor 2.52

Some older software can be run on newer machines by way of Aemulor. The software was originally developed for the IyonixPC to allow applications that relied on the 26-bit addressing mode of older ARM CPUs to run on those that lacked that mode, and it has more recently been developed to solve other differences introduced in even newer processors.

Developer Adrian ‘Mr Freeze’ Lees released version 2.52 in September, which brings support for R-Comp’s ARMbook build of the OS, better support for Impression (which itself is still mostly 26-bit) when it is using certain 32-bit modules, and an improved application wimpslot for 32-bit applications, amongst other things.

BeebIt 0.66

Reducing the bit-width further, BeebIt can emulate Acorn BBC Model B/B+ and Master computers, and should run on anything since the RiscPC. Michael Foot’s update to version 0.66 adds support for 1280×1024 screen modes, and is predominately aimed at the Raspberry Pi to allow full-screen display.

Fireworkz and Fireworkz Pro updates

Colton Software’s Fireworkz, which is maintained by ex-Colton developer Stuart Swales, saw a couple of updates near the start of the year, with version 2.21.04 released in January, and 2.22 in February. Both releases addressed a number of small issues, with the latter one being more obvious to the user with the changes being related to the application’s appearance in particular circumstances.

The ‘Pro’ version is sold by R-Comp through !Store, and that was updated to version 2.22 shortly after the free non-Pro version.

PipeDream 4.57

Stuart also brought Colton Software’s spreadsheet/word processor hybrid PipeDream up to version 4.57. The new version fixes a few bugs, but also gains some new features – such as new mathematical spreadsheet functions BASE() and DECIMAL(), which have been back-ported from development work on Fireworkz.

Impact 3.58

A new version of database Impact was released by Sine Nomine in June. Version 3.58 features an improved import tool, allows a blank record to be displayed by default when opening a database and for the displayed record to be blanked after a period of inactivity (both useful when being used somewhere public), along with various other changes and bug fixes.

Users of version 3.52 and later can updated to 3.58 free of charge.

MultiTask 7.54

Chris Hall has released a new version of MultiTask. The application was originally intended to handle the currently selected directory in useful ways for BASIC programmers, but has since gained a number of features, such as analysing files, changing type via drag and drop, setting date stamps, and so on. Version 7.54 now recognises GPX (or GPS eXchange format) files and converts them to AEF. It can be downloaded from !Store.

MakeDraw 2.60

Chris also updated the MakeDraw BBC BASIC library a few times throughout the year, with the latest version now being 2.60. Updates along the way include the ability to draw quarter circles (useful for rounded corners on rectangles), the ability to extend existing Drawfiles, including existing draw files in the one being created, and many other features. The library can be downloaded from !Store.

DrawGen 3.01SD

A competing solution for producing Drawfiles programmatically is DrawGen, and that has also been updated. The software is ‘language agnostic’ in that it takes the form of a module that interprets instructions in a text file to produce the Drawfile – and that text file can obviously be produced from whatever programming language you choose. Jim Lesurf announced version 3.01SD in November, which brought with it the ability to use rotated text, as well as having been recompiled so that it can be used on current hardware.

LP_WowAndFlutter 1.00

Jim also announced a new release of LP_WowAndFlutter, an application that analyses audio sources for ‘wow and flutter’, types of distortion that can occur in sound at the recording and playback stage as a result of fluctuations in mechanical motion. The latest version is able to feed output through DrawGen, and can therefore produce a Drawfile of the resulting analysis.

Rename 3.25

If you need to change the names of multiple files in one go, look no further than Rename from Nick Roberts, which saw an update to version 3.25. The new version allows the user to select saved rename patterns.

David Snell’s software finds its way onto !Store

ProCAD Plus and other software from David Snell has now found its way onto !Store, providing a convenient way to purchase the software directly from the RISC OS desktop.

TreeCheck 0.04

Richard Porter has released a diagnostic tool to help find and correct errors in ‘Tree files’ produced by R-Comp’s backup software SafeStore. These files record the tree structure and other meta data of files it has backed up, and in some circumstances indentation errors can creep in – and TreeCheck will look for these.

PlutoDat 1.00

Like many older applications, the Pluto email client stores all of its data in a subdirectory of its own application directory – which can be problematic. For this reason, Richard Darby came up with PlutoDat, which allowed Pluto’s data to be stored separately from the main application – making it more practical to store in a location routinely backed up, for example, or allowing more than one copy of the main application to access the same data – which could include copies on different machines accessing the same data across a network.

The latest version address an issue with how Pluto stores the hard-coded paths to the transport applications (used to send and receive email and usenet posts) in Choices – and this solution allows the same Choices to be used in the master and slave installations.

Ultimate Nightmare adventure game

In the 1990s, Tony Kingsmill wrote a small text adventure game for the Acorn Electron called Ultimate Nightmare, and earlier this year ported it to run on RISC OS. Set in 2092, you have been sent to prison island X20, which is considered to be escape proof – however, you are innocent of your crime, and with no way to prove it, your only chance is to do exactly that.

The game is pure BBC BASIC, and is not zipped, so when downloaded from Tony’s Loftcat Software site you need to simply change the file type to BASIC in order to run it.

ScummVM 2.1.0 pre-release

Cameron Cawley has made available a new build of ScummVM (zip), in advance of a full release of version 2.1.0. The application provides a means to play a number of semi-animated point and click interactive fiction (adventure) games. Note that this is considered a test built, and may be potentially unstable. The new version supports an additional sixteen games, and gains the ability to load them via drag and drop, amongst other things.

Koi-Koi 0.04

Rick Murray updated his implementation of Japanese two-player card game Koi-Koi in August. The new version, which can be downloaded via !Store updates and improves (i.e. corrects) some aspects of the game-play.

Frotz recompiled for new machines

Rick Murray managed to obtain the source code for the RISC OS port of Frotz from Musus Umbra (aka Andy Holdsworth) and has recompiled it so that it works on newer kit than it would have run on when Andy first ported it in the late 1990s.

Frotz is an interpreter which allows text adventures written in Infocom’s Z-Machine format to be played, and the new build can be downloaded (zip) from Rick’s home server (when it’s running). A wealth of games can be found on the Interactive Fiction Archive website.

Doom Trilogy gains Sigil support

R-Comp released an update to the 2017/18 version of the Doom Trilogy in June. As well as bug fixes and so on, the update adds support for a new 5th episode called Sigil. The new episode was released by Romero Games Ltd, a company formed by John Romero, one of the original co-founders of ID Software and original Doom level designers.

With the same support added to allow the game to be played with a high quality soundtrack, RISC OS players can now also benefit from an alternative ‘Buckethead’ soundtrack, available to buy from Romero Games.

The update is available from !Store

ADFFS 2.72

Back in March, Jon Abbott released version 2.72 of ADFFS, benefiting from a large number of changes that result in better stability, and also allowing a few more old games to be supported on RISC OS 5.

For anyone in the dark about ADFFS, it’s a key component of the Archimedes Software Preservation Project, and allows disc images in a number of formats to be read and their contents – mainly games – run on modern hardware, which may not otherwise be suitable.

DigitalCD 3.12

A new version of desktop music player DigitalCD has been released by André Timmermans. The software handles CDs inserted in a connected drive, and will also play internet radio, and music files based on play lists. The new version fixes a number of bugs, and restores the old behaviour of playing the next track when the current one is ‘deleted’.

TimPlayer 12.7

André also released a new version of the TimPlayer module (found on the link above) which is used by the music player. As well as a few bug fixes, this version includes a change in how it calculates the AGC (automatic gain control) when multiple tracks or sound effects are playing.

TimVis 1.14

Another release at the same time from André was a new version of TimVis (zip), a program that produces a graphical display when music is playing. Amongst other things, changes in version 1.14 include wave sizes being adapted to the screen’s vertical resolution, and allowing shift+F2 to loop through available display modes (rather than all modes).

KinoAmp 0.50

Switching from audio to video, André also released version 0.50 of KinoAmp, an application that can play MPEG1/2 movies. Amongst other things, this version sees optimised de-interlacing, improved handling of corrupted streams, as well as a number of other fixes and optimisations.

Streamer and YouTube players

Raik Fischer released a couple of useful tools to allow RISC OS users to access streamed audio/video services. The first, Streamer (zip), allows such services to be played on the RISC OS desktop, and even allows them to be ‘recorded’.

The second is YTPlay (zip), which Raik described as a small or ‘reduced’ player, specifically to watch videos on YouTube. Using this, you simply find the video you want to watch on YouTube using a browser such as NetSurf, and drag the URL bar to the YTPlayer icon – and if you want to be a bit meta, you could use it to watch this video demonstrating YTPlayer in use!

Python 3.8 – alpha release

Chris Johns provided programmers with a nice Christmas present by making available an alpha release of a Python 3.8 port. The language is generally considered to be easy to learn, yet very powerful – and the current stable release outside of the RISC OS world is version 3.8.1 – so this port is very up to date.

Crunchie 0.85

Steve Drain’s Crunchie has seen a number of updates over the course of the year, from version 0.72 released in January and, several updates later, version 0.85 in November.

The software’s purpose is to ‘crunch’ BASIC programs by removing comments and blank lines, shortening the names of variables, procedures, and functions – with the end result being a smaller program that still performs its original function.

HTTPlib 0.07

For C programmers who would like to be able to handle HTTP(S) requests in their software, Chris Mahoney released a library in September 2018 to make things a little easier. A number of minor updates were subsequently released before the year was out – and two more in early 2019, bringing it up to version 0.07.

RiscLua 8

June saw Gavin Wraith release RiscLua 8. By default it makes use of Vector Floating Point, available on modern ARM processors, but Gavin has suggested a way to disable it for use on an IyonixPC.

Lua is a programming language, and RiscLua 8 is based on version 5.4.0, an alpha release, which features new experimental features, such as variables with the attributes ‘const’ and ‘toclose’. The first of these means that once set the variable’s contents can only be read, never changed, while the second causes a close event when the variable goes out of scope, of which the obvious example is an associated file (where the variable contains its handle) being closed.

Acorn World talks online

For those unable to attend the Acorn World, held at the Centre for Computing History in Cambridge in September, two of the talks from the event were put online in October.

First up, Jonathan Griffiths, who worked at Acornsoft, where he wrote a number of games and contributed to the BBC Domesday Project.

The second talk is from Alex van Someren, who began working at Acorn while still at school, and later went on to form ANT Ltd with his brother.

RISC OS Cloverleaf

Although it is clearly incomplete (look out for ‘Lorem Ipsum’ text), a website in the name RISC OS Cloverleaf appeared fairly recently. The project itself is yet to officially launch, but the home page reveals that the aim is to crowd-fund development of a number of hardware platforms under the name.

They seem to have some nice ideas, but with the small size of the RISC OS market and the funding they are therefore likely to be able to raise unless they’re looking further afield, it’ll be interesting to see what actually comes out of it.

ChatCube 0.6

The first piece of software to come from the Cloverleaf project, though, is ChatCube, a network chat system allowing both one-to-one and group discussions online, with the ability to send images and files to other users.