While RISC OS may now be regarded as a small, niche operating system, with only a tiny fraction of the number of users that more mainstream platforms attract, it does still have a surprisingly vibrant community – so with that in mind, every once in a while I look through a selection of news groups, mailing lists, and forums, looking for announcements that haven’t found their way to me via the RISCOSitory news inbox, and from those compile a ‘snippets’ post.
Here, then, is the latest selection of news items found that way.
Get your own Archimedes T-shirt, mouse mat, etc printed up
Dave Thomas has taken the original Archimedes logo from Acorn’s first range of ARM-based computers and produced a vector graphic version of it. The result is available to download from his website in a number of formats for use in your own projects; the PDF and SVG versions get you a vector graphics file suitable for loading and editing with many vector graphics packages, and for those who lack suitable software Dave has also provided two very large bitmap (specifically PNG) versions.
The process for creating this graphic was to take a scan of the original, then trace that in software. The final step was to replace the traced text using a closely matching font. It’s not perfect – Dave notes that the original had marginally thicker letter-forms, but apart from that it’s a good match.
The Great Escape
Dave Thomas has also been spending some time over the last few years looking at a classic game for the Sinclair ZX Spectrum – The Great Escape, released in 1986; reverse engineering, disassembling, and documenting it, and rebuilding it in C to be as portable as possible – and if you want to play it on RISC OS, a beta version is available (currently at v0.92).
Originally released by Denton Designs, the game is an isometric arcade adventure (you view the play area from a 45 degree angle – sometimes specific rooms, sometimes a larger scrolling area) set in a prisoner of war camp in 1942 Germany. Playing the part of a prisoner, your goal is to escape.
The Great Escape and other talks
The Acorn and BBC User Group (ABUG) usually hold frequent meetings up and down the country where they get together to discuss their systems and projects but, since the UK went into lockdown, like other groups they’ve been doing this virtually, via Zoom. At one of these Zoom meet ups, Dave talked a little about converting the game to RISC OS – and a video of that talk is online.
Many of the other videos on the site concern projects (hardware and software) for 8-bit systems, but there are some that may be of interest to RISC OS users.
Five classic games reviewed
Moving from a classic game ported to RISC OS to old games that were available for the operating system when it was more widely used, a new video on the ‘ChinnyVision’ YouTube channel popped up on my RADAR yesterday. The channel reviews retro games, and yesterday they added one entitled Five Acorn Archimedes Games Reviewed – those games being Zarch, Lemmings, Cannon Fodder, Pacmania, and Starfighter 3000.
Video recording of ROUGOL’s June meeting…
The June RISC OS User Group of London (ROUGOL) meeting was held over Zoom, with Tony Cheal as the guest speaker, talking about the software he developed for Ace Computing – such as Euclid, Mogul, ArcLight, and a number of others. A recording of that talk is now available to be watched on YouTube.
…and slides from ROUGOL’s February meeting
Back in February, the ROUGOL’s guest speaker was Jason Nicholls, visiting the group in person to talk about how the BBC Micro lives on with an active user base, and both new software and hardware still developed for it. The slides from that meeting are on Google Docs.
Drag ‘n Drop publications now available as digital downloads
As well as Drag ‘n Drop magazine, Christopher Dewhurst also has a number of books available to buy from the Drag ‘n Drop website, such as the Book of Arcade Games, and the Book of Draw Stuff, as well as CDs such as a font collection (which also comes with a book) – and a USB flash drive containing all of the back issues of Drag ‘n Drop.
Due to the pandemic and consequent lockdown, Chris has decided to make all of these available as digital downloads – so when you place an order for any item from the site, whereas you would normally have to sit back and wait for the item to arrive in the post, you can now download the item in digital form as soon as your payment has been made.
Those digital downloads from Drag ‘n Drop (as well as the magazine itself) are in PDF format and, usefully, an updated alpha version of MuView has been released by Chris Gransden – one option for reading them on RISC OS.
As well as PDF files, the software is able to display XPS and E-Book files, and version 0.03 has been built with version 1.17.0 of the MuPDF library. The update adds the option to jump straight to a particular page in the file being viewed.
A related set of command line tools, MuTools, is also available from the same page. Using these, you can do things like convert documents to other formats, extract images, and so on. Chris has recently released an update, bringing it up to version 0.17.
Chris has also ported rsvg-convert to RISC OS (again, found on the same page). This is a command line utility for converting SVG (scalable vector graphics) files to other formats, including PNG and PDF files.
Note that in some cases – SVG images that include text – both ImageView and rsvg-convert will need Fontconfig installed. This must be downloaded separately (zip), and both items within must be seen by the filer before either of the above programs are run.
An updated version of ImageView is also available from that page. A simple front-end onto the ImageMagick libraries, the program can be used to display a number of different types of images, including some that other RISC OS programs may have trouble with. Version 0.02 alpha is built using a more recent version of ImageMagick than the previous release, and makes use of VFP (vector floating point).
A port of version 1.8.1 of RetroArch is also available from the same location, which acts as a front-end for a number of emulators, game engines, and media players, all developed as (or converted to) ‘libretro cores’ – libretro being the API the front-end uses. A number of cores are included, such as the Game Boy Advance, Nintendo DS, the Wii, and even some home computers such as Sinclair ZX Spectrum and the Amstrad CPC 464.
And one more item from Chris in this round up is an updated port of MPlayer – to be found yet again on that same page. Version 1.02 includes DVD navigation support, though Chris reports that when playing a DVD folder there is increased input/output, which affects sound synchronisation.
André Timmermans has released a couple of updates to MPEG1/2 movie player KinoAMP, which now stands at version 0.52. Amongst other things, DVD subtitles can be read (although colour information isn’t handled), a DVD’s ‘VIDEO_TS’ folder can now be dragged and dropped onto the application to read the main DVD VOB (Video OBject files) as a single one, and VOBs with interleaved angles are now handled.
DigitalCD 3.13 and updated plug-ins
André has also released a new version of desktop music player DigitalCD. As well as some bug fixes, version 3.13 benefits from a change to the handling of Fast Fourier Transforms in the DCDUtils module, for better display in the Sonogram plug-in module.
Sonogram itself has also been updated, and is now at version 1.09. It is a ‘visualisation’ plug-in – which means it presents a graphical display based on the sounds currently playing. Another visualisation plug-in, TimVis, has also been updated and now stands at version 1.15.
ClassicRip becomes a WIMP application
Jim Lesurf’s ClassicRip allows audio tracks to be ripped from a CD and saved as a set of Wave file – and has some features that make it particularly useful for ripping classical music CDs, hence the name. However, it was not a WIMP application – until now.
The software came with full sources, and Terry Kelly has created a desktop application that incorporates Jim’s program – which is now available to download from Jim’s Audio Misc Software page.
Mac binary download for RPCEmu
If you’re an Apple Mac user and you want to run RISC OS on your hardware there is a version of RPCEmu you can download from its website, but it’s only version 0.8.14, rather than the latest build. Timothy Coltman has come to the rescue if you’d like to try version 0.9.3, and produced a binary that has been tested on OS X 10.13 and later. For most people, the file to download is the one ending ‘Release.zip’.
The download lacks any ROM or disc images, which – I assume (not being a Mac user, I can’t try this) – can just be pulled from the zip of the Windows binary download.
Aemulor 2.53 released
The end of February saw an updated release of Aemulor, featuring a few minor tweaks to the user interface. Oh, and a build for the Raspberry Pi 4!
Raspberry Pi 4 benchmarks
Speaking of the latest Pi, Chris Hall was running RISC OS on his at the Southwest Show in February – and he has since added some figures for it to his benchmarks page.
Chris also had some Impression material on his table at the show, such as a self-printed copy of the updated manual, and printed copies of the newsletter – which he started after the software was brought into the RISC OS Developments growing list of acquisitions. Chris put the second issue (PDF) of the newsletter online in February, just after the show.
A new version of Chris’ Countdown application is also now available to download via !Store. Version 0.24 brings it to almost a quarter of the lowest valid number used in the TV show.
In this version, as soon as the sixth tile is selected a report on how easy or difficult each of the 900 possible targets is – or indeed whether the target is impossible – using the chosen tiles. As well as the buttons to select an easy or difficult target to solve, it’s also now possible to choose from a spectrum display indicating just how easy or difficult.
Chris has also updated his ScreenHelp application, which collects together some useful information about the host system and presents it in a nice graphical form. The software – which was originally aimed at the Raspberry Pi – now reports on a Titanium, and adds information from a system call it wasn’t previously using. It can also be downloaded via !Store.
Dave Ruck’s system monitoring application updates
New versions of Dave Ruck’s various system monitoring applications are available from the ARM Club website – programs such as APPstat, which monitors events and messages delivered to running applications, SWIstat, which monitors SWI calls either on the whole machine or selected tasks, and so on.
The main change made to the software is in presentation, to make use of the speed of modern hardware; where previously a system font was used to minimise the performance overhead, the desktop font is now used. In addition, the module used by a couple of the applications has had a workaround incorporated so that sub-centi-second timing works correctly on ARMX6 machines.
Another of Dave’s pieces of software has also seen an update, but this time by Dave Thomas: TimerMod, a module that provides star commands and SWI calls for timing things to microsecond resolution using the IOC/IOMD timer on older computers, and new HAL features on RISC OS 5 systems.
The new version, hosted on the ARM Club’s free software page linked above, benefits from fixes to *TimedOS to prevent a crash if called within itself, *Quite (etc) working as *Quit within *TimedOS, and the presence of a copyright message in the module’s help string.
When choosing a font for use in a document – or even before installing one – sometimes it would be handy to look at what that font offers in more detail – such as an overview of all the glyphs offered by the font. Anton Reiser has now made that possible via an application called FontInfo, which is currently at version 0.02.
As well as providing that overview of all the glyphs, the application also allows you to examine an individual glyph, both filled in and as an outline. The font to be examined can be chosen from a menu of installed fonts in the normal way, or by dragging its directory or outline file onto the application on the icon bar.
ViewXLS 0.23 (development version) available
Anton has also released a development version of ViewXLS, which people may like to try out. The application provides a means to open Excel files in a limited way on RISC OS, and then to save them as either tab or comma separated files (TSV/CSV) or as Draw files.
The software now provides a multi-document view, a split view, and unicode support amongst other things – and Anton says it may now load XLSX files (a newer file format for Excel files than XLS).
Convert between HTML entities and UTF-8
A pair of applications have been released by Clive Semmens to convert between HTML entities and their UTF-8 equivalents. His reasoning behind these applications is that while the HTML 5 standard is happy with both, it’s easier to read HTML entities in RISC OS text editors, but easier to read UTF-8 in text editors on other platforms.
The snappily named XP1EntFix performs the conversion from HTML entities to UTF-8, while XP1DeUTF8 does the reverse.
ClearView hypertext reader resurrected
Phil Pemberton has released a 32-bit version of ClearView, an application for displaying hypertext documents that was originally developed by Merlyn Kline. Full instructions are included for producing documents in the format used by ClearView – which allows user-selectable fonts, and can display Sprites and Draw files, and even ‘Ace films’, which could be produced using applications such as Tween and Mogul, both from Ace Computing.
This 32-bit release (which has been seen updates and is now at v1.09c) isn’t based on the last version of the original software, which was apparently 2.01, but according to Phil it forms a solid base to work on.
ClearView mode for StrongED
If you want to edit ClearView files, it’s possible to do so in a text editor – but if you want to add a small amount of syntax colouring, then Willard Goosey has made available a simple StrongED ClearView modefile.
ASM80 cross assembler
If you fancy trying your hand at writing assembly language programs targeting the Intel 8080-8085 CPU (and, Willard Goosey has you covered – he’s ported a command line-driven assembler, ASM80 (Zip), that will allow you to do just that.
According to the manual, it can also be used for the Zilog Z80, which was designed to be software-compatible with the 8080 and went on to be used in home computers such as the Sinclair Spectrum – and of course there was a Z80 second processor for the BBC Micro.
GCC 4.7.4 release 4
A new version of the GNU Compiler Collection (GCC) is now available from the GCCSDK (GCC Software Development Kit) developers.
GCC can compile C and C++ sources, and assemble ARM code, and as well as quite a number of changes and fixes (not all of which relate directly to RISC OS), the main feature of version 4.7.4 release 4 for RISC OS is support for the ARM EABI (embedded application binary interface) executable format.
TBX C++ library 0.7.5 alpha
Alan Buckley has updated his TBX C++ library to version 0.7.5 (alpha). Released under the permissive X11 licence, so that there are no issues for developing either commercial or non-commercial applications, the library comes with a user guide and reference documentation, and additional downloads on its page provide examples.
The update adds a new URI class for launching URIs via the AcornURI module.
Alan also maintains PackMan, a RISC OS Packaging Project client. If you use it for installing and keeping other software up to date, you will have undoubtedly seen it update itself (or perhaps it’s done it without you even noticing). If you don’t, however, it’s worth knowing that the software has seen a few updates and is now at version 0.9.5-1. To install the software for the first time, if you want to start trying it, follow the instructions on Alan’s website.
Changes include support for an ‘Environment’ field, which allows software developers to specify features that a target machine must support for any given piece of software distributed via the packaging project.
For developers (or package maintainers), Alan has also updated a number of related items such as his package creator PackIt (to 0.6.3), and the packaging back-end library LibPkg (0.8.3). These should be available (or downloaded automatically) via the package manager itself.
Git client (alpha test version) released
A git client allows developers and contributors to readily access and update those components they are working on without resorting to other platforms and workarounds – and Kevin’s release is labelled as 0.5.0-alpha1 because, he says, it has about half the functionality it should, and this is an early test version.
Python 3.8 alpha release
A number of alpha releases of Chris John’s Python 3.8 port have been made available for people to try out, with the latest being the sixth. There is still work to be done, but some things previously reported as not working now are.
Python discussion list
For people using the RISC OS port of the language, Chris has set up a discussion list at Freelists. To join it, send an email with ‘subscribe’ in the subject line.
Python toolbox library
And as if that wasn’t enough, Chris has also managed to get some recognition for RISC OS in the world of Python, or at least on the Python Packages Index (PyPI) website, with it now added to the PyPI classifier list as an operating system.
The site is now the home for an early version of his Python toolbox library, which provides useful APIs for RISC OS toolbox for people using Python on the OS – although it only covers a few toolbox facilities at the moment (and that’s the only item found listed for the RISC OS classifier!
Based on Lua 5.4.0, RiscLua 83 is an updated build of the Lua programming computers released by Gavin Wraith for RISC OS machines. With ‘lpeg’ and ‘riscos’ libraries built in, it uses 64-bit integers and 64-bit VFP floats, so is only suitable for systems running on an ARM processor with VFP (vector floating point). For machines without, there is the functionally identical RiscLua 802 found on the same page.
Add comma filetypes to filenames
When using HostFS-based filing systems (as used in emulators), if you look at your files under the host system, you’ll often see filenames with an ‘extra’ extension – a comma followed by three hexadecimal digits. What has happened is that for filetypes not matched to standard file extensions on the host system (which doesn’t support RISC OS filetypes), the hex version of the filetype has been appended after a comma. HostFS recognises these, and in the emulated RISC OS system, you just see the file as having its expected type.
If the files are copied from the host system itself and find themselves on a real RISC OS computer, those files will no longer have filetypes, but will have those comma extensions – a problem, but an easily fixed one; WebChange, from Soft Rock Software, has a function to correct this, for example, and Gavin Wraith has a Nocomma (zip) RiscLua Script for the purpose. In response to a request, he has now produced a Comma (zip) script to do the opposite; add comma extensions based on the RISC OS filetype.
Deep learning library
One for developers, Paolo Fabio Zaino has ported Gennan to RISC OS. A simple but fully functional deep learning/artificial neural network library, Gennan is written in C, and Paolo’s port compiles with both the desktop development environment supplied by RISC OS Open Ltd, and with GCC.
The library could be used for face recognition in graphics applications, for example – and Paolo says that this is the first of a set of such libraries he intends to port.
Jeffrey Lee has released PerfCount, a module to access the performance counters present on most (possibly all) version 5 (or later) architecture ARM processors – useful for programmers who need to fine tune and optimise their code.
VNC Server 0.21
Also from Jeffrey is an update to VNC server, a module that allows the RISC OS computer on which it is running to be controlled from another computer running a VNC client, with the two communicating over the network.
The new version has better scroll wheel handling and now supports horizontal scrolling, amongst various other improvements.
A new version of FTPc has been put online by Colin Granville. Version 1.56 of the file transfer application now copes with servers that require reuse of the authentication already established on another connection. Note that it needs AcornSSL 1.06 or above, which can be found in the Nightly Beta HardDisc4 disc image from RISC OS Open Ltd.
Colin has also released version 0.11 of SerialUSB, a module that provides DeviceFS serial device drivers for a number of USB serial devices and adapters. This version closes any open SerialUSB files before de-registering devices, and fixes undeleteable file handles when they are disconnected or the module is killed.
Backup and restore couplet updated
Dave Higton has updated a pair of applications for performing backup and restore operations on your files – DBack and DRest. In both cases, the new versions – both now 1.00 – benefit from the use of encryption.
DBack is able to back-up whole drives or directory trees (so the contents of a specified directory, and of any subdirectories below that), and those backups can be encrypted so that they are safe from anyone unauthorised from accessing them. DRest is the companion application, and that is used for reversing backups made with DBack.
Fast file comparison
A new release by Dave is FileComp (available from the same location linked above), which performs a very fast comparison of two files to see if they are identical. The program – now at version 0.05 – doesn’t make any attempt at analysing the differences, if there are any. It merely confirms whether or not the files are different.
Better organised Apps directories with AppUtils
Steve Drain has uploaded a set of utilities (and has since released a number of updates), grouped under the name AppUtils (zip), that allow you to perform certain operations on the applications supplied in the Resources:$.Apps directory. CopyApp, for example, can be used to make the application appear in a subdirectory, while RemoveApp removes an application that was added using the AddApp command provided in RISC OS itself.
Launcher reaches version 1.00
A new version of Launcher is now available from Steve Fryatt. The program provides a means to access and launch applications without needing to locate them in the RISC OS filing system – be they in Apps, or elsewhere.
The major feature-gain in v1.00 is that while it originally provided one panel of these shortcuts on one side of the desktop, it now provides multiple panels – so you could have, for example, a different panel for different types of application, or different modes of computer use.
Steve has also updated Clipper, a clipboard-related utility that provides a simple way to save the contents of the global clipboard to disc – and to put the contents of files onto the clipboard by dragging them from disc.
Version 0.20 includes support for the Interactive Help system that comes with RISC OS, more adherence to the Style Guide, improvements to the way the Data Transfer Protocol is implemented, and to how the clipboard content is tracked. There is also a ‘protocol’ panel for the benefit of developers, which has been updated in this release. Normally hidden from view, this can show the sequence of messages sent back and forth as data is moved around.
AppLink – application shortcut creator
John Williams has released a new tool for generating ‘link applications’ – which he describes as being similar to the mini-apps the operating provides in Resources: for the supplied applications stored in the Apps directory. That is to say, if you open one of those application directory, you’ll see they are simple shells, designed to launch the real application from where it happens to be stored.
By creating these link applications with John’s program, AppLink, you can have multiple links to a single version of any given application, useful if you want it easily reached from several different place but only want to have a single real copy installed (and needing to be updated).
New German website
When compiling and discussing the options for the 2019 RISC OS Awards poll, I had automatically included Arcsite.de in the Best foreign language resource category, until it was pointed out to me that the site was no more.
Network connection checker
Available from that very website, Raik Fischer has released an application called NetCheck (zip). The program attempts to check your current connection, and offer a warning if it doesn’t appear to be working, before sitting quietly on the left hand side of the icon bar.
Clicking on its icon, NetCheck will display a status window, offering information about the network connection – and if there is a problem, an adjust click on the icon will cause it to ‘kick’ the network in an attempt to bring it up.
The software is now at version 0.47, and the updates along the way include changes to the type of connection to pull the manga from the server, rewritten handling of UTF-8 and entity decoding, improved scaling, and the addition of a ‘surprise me’ option to see a randomly selected Manga comic.
ScummVM 2.1.1 – More Sheep
A bugfix release for ScummVM 2.1 was released at the end of January. Code-named ‘More Sheep’, the new release includes a number of fixes and enhancements, including batter multi-language support in the GUI, audio improvements, optimisations, and more.
And thanks to the efforts of Cameron Cawley, the downloads page includes an up-to-date version of the RISC OS port.
Cameron has also been working on a port of ResidualVM for RISC OS, and has made available a beta version (zip). Like ScummVM, ResidualVM provides a way to play games written with a particular engine – in this case titles from LucasArts Lua-based 3D adventures, such as Escape from Monkey Island, and Myst III: Exile. There is a bug tracker for reporting any problems.
A new version of David Pilling’s Scanning Software, DPlngScan, has been made available by Chris Johnson. Originally a commercial package, as well as offering scanning facilities, the software also includes facilities for image manipulation.
Changes in version 1.30 include memory management improvements so that it works better on machines with 4GB available to RISC OS, the ability to analyse Exif metadata in JPEG images, and options to add file extensions to Sprite and Draw files when saving.
Thump 1.56 alpha 15
Originally developed by Rick Hudson, dynamic image viewer Thump has been receiving some attention from Christopher Martin, and the version now available is 1.56 alpha 15 (meaning it’s a test version).
There have been quite a few changes since version 1.53 – the last one to be mentioned on RISCOSitory – including complete recompilation to be compatible with ARMv7, efforts to address zero page accesses, corrections and improvements to PNG and JPEG format handlers, numerous bug-fixes and improvements to reliability and stability, and much more.
RiscOSM 1.81 and Recce 1.03
Sine Nomine’s application for viewing maps derived from OpenStreetMap source data, RiscOSM, has been updated to version 1.81. The new version benefits from better and more efficient memory handling, enhancements to its CSV import and export, the ability to interact with Thump for descriptions of images with locations, and more.
Recce is an add-on to RiscOSM that allows users to fetch and view photographs from various internet sources that relate to locations on the map. The update adds three additional sources for those images: CycleStreets Photomap, STATS19 road traffic collision data, and planning applications.
Both updates are available to download for existing customers with suitable earlier versions.
Retro keyboard and mouse crowdfunding campaign
If you fancy a USB keyboard for your modern system that has a retro look to it, Yorkshire company Simulant has set up a Kickstarter campaign to secure enough orders (and therefore funds) to produce a run of keyboards and mouse combinations inspired by various retro computer systems from the likes of Amstrad, Commodore, and – of course – Acorn. The campaign is an ‘all or nothing’ one – which means that unless the total goal is reached, no money will be taken from punters and handed to those behind it.
In terms of the hardware, all of the different designs are identical – the differences being the colour schemes and logos used, according to the retro system in question. The Acorn one appears to be an interesting mix of an Acorn Electron-style logo, with the colour scheme of the BBC-branded RISC OS systems.
Finally, some RISC OS source code for your browsing pleasure
What’s that you say? The RISC OS sources are already online for you to look at – and even contribute to? Well, okay, that’s true for RISC OS 5, but I’m talking about something with more historical interest – the RISC OS 2 Kernel source code!