Snippets – 1st January, 2021

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A final round up of 2020 news that hasn’t found its way to RISCOSitory before

I was aiming to get this final round up of news posted on the last day of 2020, but as ever other things got in the way, so what was intended as the last post of 2020 has become the first post of 2021. Still, never mind, better late than never – which should probably be the official motto here in the RISCOSitory bunker!

As ever, where people have released anything (new or updated, hardware or software, publication or whatever else) and sent news of that directly to the bunker via the email address that exists for that purpose, it should have found its way onto the site already, either as a full post or a much shorter ‘news nybble’ – or as part of a show report when shows happened. Remember those? Hopefully, nothing sent that way has slipped through the net – but if it has, I can only apologise.

The round up that follows, therefore, is of things that haven’t been sent sent directly to RISCOSitory, and have been found by doing a long and tedious read of the forums, RSS feeds, mailing lists, and usenet groups I subscribe to but tend not to have time to read regularly. These are mainly releases by people who perhaps don’t realise that in order to publicise something, it helps if they don’t hide it away by displaying it (how does the quote go?) in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet, in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door that says ‘Beware of the Leopard’. Send your news further than your own secret little corner of the internet, people!

As well as those quietly whispered (shush) releases, some of this may include test releases and similar that may not warrant a full announcement, which is of course fair enough, along with other related items I’ve stumbled across that may be of general interest.

Please note that I’ve generally linked to the relevant website below – or to a direct download where that’s the only option – but some of these items will also be available from !Store or via your favourite package manager.

Anyway, here’s the round up – and here’s to a better coming year than the slightly iffy last one turned out to be!

RISC OS 5.28 officially released

There was steady progress towards a new ‘stable’ release of RISC OS – a version that is recognised as an official release that itself won’t change (hence stable), and that finally happened in October with the release of version 5.28.

Not all hardware platforms benefited from the official release – iMX6 (as used in ARMX6 from R-Comp) and OMAP5 (IGEPv5 – as used in RapidO Ig from CJE Micro’s) are unsupported by 5.28, but all the other main platforms right up to the Raspberry Pi 4 are. Full details of all the changes can be found on the RISC OS Open Ltd (ROOL) page linked above.

And very recently, a special edition of the Raspberry Pi build of RISC OS has been put together targeting the latest addition to the Pi family – the Raspberry Pi 400.

Desktop Development Environment 30

ROOL also released a new version of the Desktop Development Environment (DDE) – the set of tools used by many programmers to develop their own software, as well as those working on the operating system itself.

DDE30 features updates to the Norcroft C compiler to implement the latest C18 standard, an improved BASIC compiler, updated manuals, and more.

GCC 4.7.4 release 5

For those who prefer the Gnu Compiler Collection for development, a new version of GCC for RISC OS was released – although this was merely a maintenance release to correct a problem with release 4, which introduced an incompatibility with earlier versions of the shared libraries.

Pluto 3.18

Once sold commercially by its original developer, Jonathan Duddington, email and usenet client Pluto was made open source under the GPLv3 licence in 2013, with the sources now to be found on SourceForge, along with another of Jonathan’s programs, eSpeak.

An updated version of Pluto was released in October, and can be downloaded from Martin Avison’s Pluto site. Version 3.18 features improved character encoding in the Subject line, a means to change the encoding of usenet posts, better attachment display – and a record of deleted attachments – and many other features.

The Pluto mailing list, where users can discuss the software, has for some years been hosted on Yahoo Groups – but Yahoo are drawing down the shutters on that facility, so it has had to find a new home. That new home is here on RISCOSitory.

PlutoDat 1.10

Offering a storage facility for Pluto’s articles database – all the emails, usenet posts, etc., that are normally stored within the program – PlutoDat has been updated to take into account recent changes to Pluto itself. Version 1.10 can be downloaded from Richard Darby’s website.

Iron Dignity demo updated for Raspberry Pi

Although the game itself never saw the light of day on RISC OS, back in the 1990s Artex Software released a demo of Iron Dignity, which showed off the game’s 3d rendering. Running on a StrongARM RiscPC, it was pretty impressive at the time – and it has now been dusted off and the code updated (zip) to run at 1920×1080 on a Raspberry Pi 4 (or 1280 x 720 on a Pi 3), making it even more impressive – while also sadly reminding us that we never saw the final game released on our platform. (A PC version was published in 2001 through TopWare interactive, though a cursory search doesn’t find any mention of it on their website today).

If you want to see the demo running in its new improved form but don’t have a Raspberry Pi running RISC OS, you can do so on YouTube.

Stargate – a new game

In a year in which the world was plunged into a pandemic, just be thankful that it didn’t end with four wormholes appearing in our skies and alien invaders coming through them – except on your RISC OS computer screens. That’s what happens in Stargate, a new game released by Terry Swanborough.

A simple to understand concept, the game puts you in a craft at the bottom of the screen with three basic controls – left, right, and fire – with those four wormholes at the top bringing increasing numbers of alien ships through. Don’t let that simplicity put you off, though, because the game becomes quite manic after a few levels.

Gorillas – a new old game

People who are old enough to remember the PCs from almost thirty years ago will have probably encountered a fun little game from that era called Gorillas – my own first experience of it was on an DOS-based IBM compatible PC that included QBASIC, and a version of the game. The game pits you as one of two giant gorillas standing atop a building in a cityscape, and you take it in turns to throw explosive bananas at one another.

Some time ago, David Williams created a version using BBC BASIC for Windows, and has now ported a version of that to RISC OS (zip) – with one or two enhancements.

BeebIt 0.70

If you want to play even older games and other programs – specifically ones written for the BBC Micro – you either need some nice retro hardware, or a suitable emulator. One such emulator is BeebIt, and Michael Foot has released an update to the program, bringing it up to version 0.70.

The new version introduces fixes aimed at certain titles – for example a fix to shadow memory access so that By Fair Means or Foul 128K can run, and another aimed at the music for Prince of Persia.

Drag ‘N Drop volume 10 issue 3

A new issue of on-off-on-off-under-new-management PDF magazine Drag ‘n Drop was published in November – and probably other issues at roughly three monthly intervals since the last time it was mentioned on here on RISCOSitory – and probably therefore since I last purchased a copy myself!

Volume 10 issue 3 includes articles covering various subjects from getting started with email, to programming in PostScript, as well as a review of ScubaHunter from AMCOG Games, and a type-in listing for a generic application for performing arbitrary operations on a dragged file.

MyShares 0.06

If you have a share portfolio, a program that is of no use to you whatsoever is MyShares, from Bernard Veasey. That’s because it’s a program for dealing with shared directories on your computer – those directories you want to be able to access, via ShareFS, from other computers on your network.

ASM80 and ASM85 cross assembler

Mentioned in a snippets post earlier this year, Willard Goosey had released an assembler for Intel 8080/8085 CPUs – which means you could use RISC OS to turn 8080/8085 assembly language programs into executable code for those CPUs – as well the Zilog Z80 (as used in the Sinclair Spectrum), which was designed to be software-compatible with the 8080.

Since then, Willard has released an update (zip) that includes two binaries – asm80 assembles ‘pure’ 8080 with the RIM and SIM interrupt mask instructions for the 8085, and asm85 which targets the 8085 specifically, supporting its full ‘undocumented’ instruction set.

Cawf – a text formatter

Also from Willard is a program called Cawf (zip), which is a RISC OS port of a C version of a program called Awf, a ‘text formatter’ written in awk, which is itself a ‘clone’ of program called nroff. Got that? Good.

The purpose of the program is to take a ‘source’ file for a manual, containing not just the text but also directives to help define its final layout, and output a manual page, suitably formatted for the target format – be that a fixed width printer, or a terminal window.

Epson2PS

Not entirely unrelated to that, Willard also made available a program called Epson2PS (zip) – which takes Epson x80 printer-ready text, and performs a single-pass conversion of it to simple PostScript.

MoonTool

And entirely unrelated, Willard has also updated MoonTool (zip) to work on modern computers. This old application looks at your current time and time zone settings, and from these works out the current phase of the moon, and displays it in a window on your desktop, in case you can’t actually see it through a window in your wall.

Basilisk 0.11

Steve Drain has released a tool called Basilisk, which he says can “assemble modules containing utilities written in BASIC as *commands.” These are then held in ResourceFS, and called directly.

Digging down into it, because that explanation is probably not very meaningful to most readers, when Basilisk is run, it needs a directory passed to it that contains utilities written in BASIC. It then processes those BASIC utilities in such a way that they become available as *commands, which are held in ResourceFS. When the relevant *command is issued, they are then able to be run in situ. The programs themselves do need to conform to certain requirements – such as the first line being a REM statement that contains information used to form its module.

AppUtils 0.23

To illustrate the purpose of Basilisk, Steve has also updated AppUtils (Zip) to version 0.23. This version, he says, is functionally identical to version 0.22 (which is available from the same downloads page as Basilisk), but includes the utilities in a module as star commands.

AppUtils itself is a set of utilities that can be used to manipulate the contents of the Resources.$.Apps folder – which appears as Apps on the RISC OS icon bar, such as move applications into a subdirectory, or remove applications that were added via the AddApp command provided as standard in RISC OS.

Ovation Pro updates

While it doesn’t see updates as often – or as big – as other packages these days, desktop publishing application Ovation Pro does still receive occasional updates from developer David Pilling, and recent updates have brought it up to version 2.78e.

The very latest update improves compatibility between the RISC OS and Windows versions, with spaces in font names now being matched with periods (full stops/dots) – so a font on Windows called (for example) Homerton Medium would be matched with Homerton.Medium on RISC OS. The opposite match is already present in the Windows version.

SparkFS 1.46

Another update from David was to SparkFS, to fix an issue whereby opening more than 32 archives could cause a crash.

Hearsay and ArcFax source pages updated

David also noted that the Hearsay sources were missing a couple of files, which he has now uploaded, along with the program’s disc contents. Similarly, he has added copies of the ArcFax discs and manual to its sources page.

DPlngScan 1.32

David Pilling himself isn’t the only person updating his software – Chris Johnson has been looking after some of it for a while, and he has released updates to DPlngScan.

Version 1.32 mainly brings some user interface improvements/features, such as pop up menus for certain settings, auto-scaling images when dragging them to an already open window, and so on.

SyncDiscs 1.29

Chris also pushed out a new version of SyncDiscs – another of David’s old applications, the purpose of which is to synchronise the contents of two discs or directories.

Changes in the new version include various UI changes, as well as a number of fixes and changes that should make the program more robust.

ConvImgs 1.12

One of Chris’ own programs is ConvImgs, and that, too, has seen some work, with the latest version being 1.12.

An application to perform batch conversion of graphic files from one format to another, the new version allows multi-image sprites (i.e sprite files that contain multiple sprites) to be processed, along with a couple of fixes.

Tidy HTML exported from LibreOffice

If you use LibreOffice on another platform and export any documents as HTML, you’ll find that what it saves may contain a lot more than you expected, and probably need. Clive Semmens has written a simple program to deal with it – XP1LO2web (which started out as XP1LOHTML).

Amongst the superfluous data removed from the files are a header that deals more with format than content, formatting information included in <p> and <hn> tags, orphaned tag pairs that don’t enclose any content, and so on.

And ‘debloat’ an export of Firefox bookmarks

In response to a suggestion that the program might be useful for tidying HTML from other sources, and a specific example of a Firefox bookmarks export – which didn’t work in XP1LO2web as released – Clive also pushed out a modified version called XP1deBloat (self extracting archive – set its filetype as FFC).

As released, it’s specifically for those Firefox bookmarks, but Clive has also explained how to alter it if you need to use it for another similar purpose in this post and the next one on the RISC OS Open Ltd forums.

XP1Dr2SVG 1.14

Clive also released an updated version of his program to convert Draw files to SVG format, which is more widely recognised on other platforms, and can even be rendered in some web browsers.

The new version of XP1Dr2SVG produces more efficient SVG files by limiting co-ordinates in them to one decimal place.

SiteMatch 2.47

Richard Porter released version 2.47 of SiteMatch, an application that aims to synchronise your website on a remote server with a version stored locally on a drive of some form connected to your computer.

The new version adds support for secure mode in FTPc (which itself needs to be installed in order for SiteMatch to work), so you can now connect to FTP servers using ftps:// as the prefix.

RiscOSM 1.82 – and the latest map data for the British Isles

Sine Nomine have been busy with their application that uses OpenStreetMap sourced (and converted) data, bringing RiscOSM up to version 1.82. Improvements include spreading of multiple pins at the same point, so they are more obvious, refinements to the drawing tools to follow map features, speed improvements, and much more.

The latest map data for the British Isles has also now been converted for use with the software and can be downloaded from the website.

Make RISC OS yet another source of notifications on your mobile phone

If you feel that your mobile phone just doesn’t bleep at you enough, Dave Higton has released an application that allows RISC OS wimp applications to send secure notifications to that bleeping thing via a system called Pushover (for which there is a small charge).

Dave’s application, PushSend, acts upon messages received from other RISC OS applications, and he has provided a simple BASIC library called NotifyLib to make it easy to add the necessary ability to BASIC applications.

JDServer 0.10

Dave has also updated JDServer, a print server that allows any device that understands the JedDirect/Raw protocol to make use of a suitable computer on the same network that’s connected to a RISC OS computer. The change is only a small one – an update to the address of Dave’s website; the old address still works, but the new one accesses it using https.

Harinezumi 0.09 (alpha)

Rick Murray’s hedgehog simulator boot script processor Harinezumi can be used to diagnose problems with the boot sequence on RISC OS. If you have a problem at boot, you can tell Harinezumi to process your BootRun (found in !Boot.Utils) and it will work its way through it logging what it does, and what works and what doesn’t – producing a diagnostic of your boot sequence, so you can find and deal with your problem.

Rick updated the software to version in May, with version 0.08 safer on ARMv8 machines, and 0.09 to be dependant on a recent shared C library.

Reporter 2.72

Another program to aid with troubleshooting is Reporter from Martin Avison, which can run in the background and monitor your system for commands, error reports, and so on – and for more advanced users and developers, provides commands and a SWI interface for use when debugging their software.

Version 2.72 includes an improved search facility, a means to investigate error blocks, and more, along with miscellaneous fixes and changes.

SatNav 2.21

Chris Hall has updated SatNav, the software used on his home-made Raspberry Pi-based satellite navigation hardware. A few minor bugs that appeared when downloading a log file to a USB flash drive have been corrected, and the software now supports the following hardware modules: Adafruit Ultimate GPS, PaPIRus Zero liquid ink display (200×96 pixel version 1.2 with pins 8 and 10 substituted), Witty Pi v2, Adafruit ADS 1015 ADC board, PowerBoost 1000c float charging board, and an OLED 128×64 display.

The program can be downloaded from !Store.

MuView 0.04 alpha

Chris Gransden has compiled a new version of MuView, an application for viewing PDF, XPS, and E-Book files. Version 0.04 (alpha) has been built with version 1.18.0 of the MuPDF library, and now features the option to save a page as text, SVG, and PDF.

Searching PDF files

Chris has also released an application called PDFGrep, which is a port of a command line tool – with a simple front-end so that it can be more easily used from the RISC OS desktop – for searching through one or more PDF files for any given piece of text or a text pattern.

Sargasso updates

RSS feeds are used on many websites to provide links to updated and new pages; RISCOSitory’s feed, for example, can be found here. Previously developed by James Bursa, Sargasso allows RISC OS users to subscribe to RSS feeds, and therefore to keep up to date with the latest news and information from sites that carry them.

Chris has been developing the program further, and the latest version is 2.07. Changes bringing it up to that version (from 2.04 – the last mentioned on RISCOSitory) include an increase in the number of items that it can cope with per feed, and an increase in the window width, support for TLS 1.2, the ability to subscribe to ‘Atom’ as well as RSS feeds, an understanding of HTTP 3xx redirects, amongst other things.

Version 2.08 will include additional features, and Chris has provided builds ahead of that version:

It’s long been possible to subscribe to YouTube ‘channels’ via RSS feeds, so that clicking on the link in your RSS reader will take you to the relevant video – and the latest version of Sargasso now makes it possible to achieve similar on a RISC OS computer that’s suitably set up. A later build (version 2.08pre2 (zip), not linked on the above page) even includes a ‘Quality’ setting in Choices to help select the best quality for your specific machine.

And on some RSS readers (for example, QuiteRSS, which I use on Linux and Windows), it’s possible to use filters on RSS feeds – to eliminate topics that don’t interest you, for example, or specific posters who might pollute an otherwise interesting topic with irrelevant or incorrect nonsense – and Sargasso 2.08pre3 (zip) provides similar abilities.

YTPlay 3.01

On the subject of YouTube, Raik Fischer has made a new version of YTplay available – a program acts as a front-end for watching videos from the site on RISC OS. The changes for version 3.01 are internal – I presume a matter of keeping up with the Jones YouTube changes.

KinoAMP 0.54

André Timmermans has released version 0.54 of KinoAMP. Capable of playing MPEG 1/2 movies, changes in the latest version include a number of fixes, but also a particularly nice new feature – the ability to navigate DVD menus.

PhotoFiler 2.10

A new version of PhotoFiler was released by Dave Thomas. Once installed, PhotoFiler presents thumbnail previews of images in filer windows, and the update to version 2.10 is the first update since 2.08 in February 2008.

The new version addresses a bug that caused aborts on machines with protection on page zero of memory, and has support for ArtWorks files off by default. It has also been re-licensed under a BSD 2-clause simplified licence.

Toolbar 1.22

Toolbar is another program from Dave, and it presents a pull-down bar that sits at the top of your desktop, which can be used to launch applications, run files, and open directories.

As with PhotoFiler, the latest version is the first update in over a decade, and it now passes -Shift to Filer_Run on version 2.40 or later of the filer, which ensures shift-clicking works. From this version, the program can now also be installed via a package manager if you prefer that method.

Launcher test build

Although not an official release version as yet – I’ve included this because it’s another method of launching applications – Steve Fryatt has released a test build of an updated Launcher, his application that provides an easy access launching system for applications.

The features in this build that make it worth a plug include the ability to change the thickness of the side bar that Launcher puts on the side of your screen – a thinner bar being less obtrusive on your normal day to day use of RISC OS.

PipeDream 4.58.02

The hybrid word processing and spreadsheet application from Colton Software, PipeDream, has seen a few updates during 2020 bringing it up to the latest version, 4.58.02, thanks to Stuart Swales.

The main update, to 4.58, saw a raft of improvements, such as functions now being able to accept and create longer text strings than the previous 200 character limit, extensions and improvement to some functions, as well as the addition of a new C_ROUND complex number function. There were also a number of improvements and changes to the user interface, and much more. The subsequent updates, earning it that .02 on the end, were fixes of a more minor kind.

Fireworkz (standard and Pro) 2.30

Stuart has also spent some time on PipeDream’s younger sibling, Fireworkz, which is now at version 2.30. Like PipeDream, Fireworkz is an integrated word processor and spreadsheet application, but with more distinction between the two main modes of operation, even though the underlying structure of both types of file is the same. The ‘Pro’ version – a commercial product available from R-Comp – also includes database functionality.

Some of the long list of changes affect both the Pro and non-Pro versions – while some apply to one version only – and some are for the Windows version.

RiscLua 84

The Lua programming language has had a new official release, bringing it up to version 5.4.2. A RISC OS port – with some differences to the standard implementation to make it more suited to RISC OS – is maintained by Gavin Wraith, and he has released a corresponding update as RiscLua 84.

Diderot – Desktop Integrated Development Environment RISC OS Tool

As well as being the name of an 18th century French philosopher, Diderot is also an application from Jean-Michel Bruck aimed at developers, based on the acronym above (although I suspect that’s actually a backronym). The tool presents a tree view of the directory containing all of the resources used to build an application using the desktop development environment (DDE) from ROOL.

Clicking a file will either open or run a file immediately, depending on its type and associated run action, and it’s possible to force-load a file into your text editor, open a directory in a regular file window, and so on, making it a neat and compact way of accessing the files associated with the project.

Syntax colouring for RISC OS files on other platforms

Gerph has provided a useful resource for anyone using RISC OS and other platforms, and who might want to edit certain RISC OS files on those other platforms – a number of syntax colouring solutions for different editors. For example, one provides this for RISC OS commands – suitable for Obey, Command, TaskObey, and TaskExec files – using a superb editor called Sublime Text, which is available for OX X, Windows, and various Linux distributions.

Gerph posted the list and where each can be found on the RISC OS Open Ltd forums, and Alan Robertson subsequently documented it on a Wiki page on the ROOL site, with a placeholder for a Visual Studio Code syntax colouring option for BBC BASIC that Steve Fryatt has been putting together, but not yet released.

HTTPTest application

Michael Gerbracht has released a beta version of HTTPTest (Zip), a simple application that can retrieve a file from a server using a HTTP or HTTPS request. The resulting file is then displayed in the raw form in which it is received in the application’s window.

While that might not seem much use for most people, it could perform a useful function for anyone who needs to test a device or service that has a suitable API; instead of sending requests via the usual method, which would involve the receiving program attempting to act on those requests, using Michael’s program, the actual data returned can be viewed, with nothing else done with it.

HTTP(S) C Library – version 0.11

Michael’s HTTPTest application makes use of HTTPLib, a C library developed by Chris Mahoney for programmers wishing to build fetching facilities in their own programs. In developing HTTPTest, Michael encountered a problem that turned out to be in the library, and Chris has therefore investigated the problem and released a couple of updates bringing it up to version 0.11.

Acorn – A World in Pixels

And finally, although it’s not specifically a RISC OS product, it is one about Acorn’s 8-bit platforms, so it’s worth mentioning the fabulous book Acorn – A World in Pixels from Idesine.

Priced at £29.99 the book has a gorgeous cover, and comes in a matching slipcase. It features over 450 glossy pages covering the BBC Micro and Acorn Electron, with a particular focus on the world of gaming. It can be ordered from Idesine’s site, or from Waterstones, Foyles, or Amazon.