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Article archives

GDPR and RISC OS

Posted by Mark Stephens on 08:53, 18/5/2018 |
 
You may have been receiving quite a few emails recently related to GDPR. This is a new set of rules which into effect across the whole EU and impacts anyone who holds individual data. Companies now need to be much more careful on what data they hold on you and have your permission to hold it. You also have a right to ask Companies to forget you and delete any emails which include you.
 
GDPR can result in very serious fines (and the body which enforces it is funded by fines so will be looking to impose some penalties so it can pay its bills). So most companies are being very cautious, especially until it is clear what the rules actually mean.
 
There are 2 aspects from a RISC OS aspect....
 
Firstly, if you are holding any personal data (ie mailing list, customer details, etc), you need to have ensured you comply with the new rules. This also includes keeping the data secure... So a major feature of the !Impact release at Wakefield was adding encryption so that data is not stored on disk in easily hackable/readable text files. If you have !Fireworkz documents, you should be securing them. Hopefully, the new Elesar update for !Prophet will include enhancements to make it easier to keep data secure.
 
Secondly, you may well be receive emails from ROOL and other RISC OS companies. You need to reply to these to confirm your permission to continue contacting you. The ROOL email arrived this week and if you do not reply, you will not receive any more emails from them. So make sure you reply!
 
GDPR comes into force on 25th May.
 
1 comment in the forums

Messenger Pro reaches release 8

Posted by Mark Stephens on 08:51, 11/5/2018 |
 
A surprise (but very welcome) release at Wakefield was a new release of the perennial RISC OS client, Messenger Pro. In his talk, Andrew Rawnsley said that R-CompInfo had brought forward the update as the code needed some reworking to ensure it worked with RISC OS 5.24 - we are not complaining.
 
The software comes with a nice installer which guides you through installation. If you ask it to install into a directory with the old version, it offers to make a backup copy as well. I run !Messenger on both my Titanium and on VirtualRPC on my Mac laptop. Being an eternal optimist, I installed the software on both machines and fired it up.
 
The key feature for this release has been to bring the same security updates which we saw in NetFetch5. So you can send from different email addresses, make sure your email is less likely to be mistaken for spam. The software also handles better large attachments and HTML emails (common on other platforms). R-CompInfo says it also includes the usual bug fixes and tweaks and it feels faster on my setup (which uses IMAP). I have had no issues with the software.
 
If you keep your email locally, the software now includes options to store backups outside !NewsDir and on an entirely different disk.
 
There is also a new edition of the manual which is provided free as an online version or can be purchased for an additional five pounds. It includes all the new features of releases 7 and 8.
 
The software can be purchased from R-Comp directly or via Plingstore with discounts for existing users. If you buy the CD version, it includes the Mac and Windows versions and a key for you to run it on these platforms.
 
All told, v8 is an incremental update which adds some nice tweaks and updates Messenger to remain current with changes going on so that it continues to offer a very viable solution for using RISC OS with email.
 
R-Comp website
 
Comment in the forums

RISC OS 5.24 arrives

Posted by Mark Stephens on 09:28, 4/5/2018 |
 
Wakefield saw the official release of RISC OS 5.24 - we saw 5.22 in 2015 so there have been just a few changes since then (total of 708 changes and 21 main ones). Several key bounties have delivered major new features.
 
The headline features see previously neglected areas of RISC OS dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st Century, with JPEG support, monitor EDID support, handling of larger hard drives, and the network stack being upgraded. The bounty system is delivering some really worthwhile enhancements into the software. USB and network stack improvements are a massive undertaking, and ROOL broke each into several stages to make them more manageable.
 
There are also some genuine improvements to user features such as clipboard improvements and new features in Paint. Lots of applications have received little tweaks such as unicode and fancy fonts in Chars, improved dialogs in Printers, tweaks to HForm, DosFS, Maestro, more secure LanmanFS which can connect to Windows 8 and 10, etc.
 
Users will no longer get the baffling Oflaoflaofla message which should be replaced with more clear messages.
 
Finally there is the return of several features which had previously gone AWOL (NFS client, Access+, Econet support on Omniclient, the Porterhouse font).
 
After 34 months, ZPP is now 'live'. In their Wakefield talk, ROOL said that they were trying to be more proactive in steering RISC OS with an eye to the future (in contrast to Acorn who knew about the demise of 26bit and did very little to anticipate and ensure a smooth transition plan).
 
ROOL are hoping to see RISC OS back in the NOOBS software for the RaspberryPi. This makes it very easy for Pi users to install Operating Systems to try.
 
The RISC OS 5.24 release also sees ROOL improving the release process. There is now a more formal set of criteria to verify each platform supported and a traffic light system with statuses of red, amber and green.
 
Backwards compatibility is very good, so I am struggling to see reasons why you would not want to migrate onto RISC OS 5.24 if you are able.
 
You can download RISC OS 5.24 for free directly from ROOL website and for purchase it on their SD cards, which run on virtually all RaspberryPi models. The ePic card has also been updated with RISC OS 5.24 and latest versions of SparkFS, PhotoDesk, DDE and Impact. If you have a system from Elesar, CJEmicro's or R-CompInfo you may want to contact them directly for the customised version for your machine.
 
The official nightly build for the 'adventurous' is now 5.25 and there are plenty of bounties still looking for your cash to make sure RISC OS 5.26 is another significant step forward.
 
A big congratulations to ROOL on this significant release and thank-you for continuing to take forward our favourite OS.
 
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Power Switching a RaspberryPi

Posted by Mark Stephens on 10:27, 28/4/2018 | ,
 
Chris Hall has been trying to make the most of power for a RISC OS based RaspberryPi for his GPS system. In his guest post , he lifts the lid on how he does this...
 
A Raspberry Pi can be powered by a mains adapter or by a powerbank. I found myself often pulling out the power plug to power cycle the Pi and came up with a software power switching method that would allow power to be removed under software control.
 

 
A 'power booster' board allows an internal 3.7V Lithium-Polymer battery to produce a 5.2V output and any external 5V power source will take over this rule and charge the internal battery until fully charged. Switching on and off is controlled by an 'ENABLE' input, pulled high by default. A blue LED lights if power is being supplied to the computer. With the booster board output disabled, only a minimal current is drawn from the internal battery. A red LED lights if the internal battery becomes discharged below 3V (and if a diode is fitted to the 'LBO' pad this can disable the output automatically). Fully discharging the internal battery is likely to damage it.
 
While the internal battery is being charged a yellow LED lights, turning green when it is fully charged. A small current drain to light the green LED to show a full charge seems enough to keep some power banks happy even whilst the unit is otherwise powered down and the internal battery fully charged.
 
This means the external source can be connected and disconnected without affecting the operation of the device except to extend battery life.
 

 
Power control
With no power control hardware it is difficult to ensure that the computer is not, inadvertently,turned off during a write operation to the SD card, which can corrupt the file or the whole card. My power control circuit allows power to be applied at any time by pressing the 'on' button. The 'off' button simply signals that a power off has been requested, which can be detected in software. A shutdown/restart cycle will then remove power as soon as the system has been shut down and the CMOS updated.
 
If software detects a 'power off' request then all it has to do (once it has completed any essential tasks) is to issue the command:
 
SYS "TaskManager_Shutdown",162
 
which will do a shutdown/restart cycle.
 
Doing a manual shutdown (CTRL-SHIFT-f12) and then pressing 'Restart' will also remove power (if a 'power off' request has been issued).
 

 
How Does It Work?
 
Software can detect the 'on' button being pressed or held down by reading the GPIO 19 line and can use this information for any purpose. The fact that the 'off' button has been pressed (and the 'on' button remains open circuit) can be detected by reading GPIO 26, meaning that 'power off' has been requested.
 
A little piece of software in !Boot.Choices.Boot.PreDesk sets GPIO 4 to output high (which ensures power stays on even after a 'power off' request).
 
During a restart cycle, before any writes are made to the SD card, the ROM modules are reset which takes GPIO 4 to high impedance: with a 'power off' request pending this will remove power.
 
Provided that the unit has been operating for at least six seconds (enough time for the RISC OS desktop to start), the 'off' button will pull GPIO 26 low but do nothing else. Software can detect this, complete any essential tasks and then either explicitly set GPIO 4 low (if a Witty Pi is present, this will remove power immediately) or (if not) perform a complete system shutdown using the command SYS "TaskManager_Shutdown",162 which will shutdown all applications tidily and restart RISC OS. The effect of this is to update the CMOS êlast time onë setting and restart the ROM. As the ROM reinitialises, GPIO 4 becomes high impedance thus removing power.
 

 
The 'on' button has some additional functions: whilst pressed, components (R6, R7 and LED) may also be fitted to present an LED load to any external power source that will only light if the external source is healthy (this works by sensing whether Vs from the power boost board is 3.7V or 5.2V). If a voltmeter is fitted as shown, the voltage of the internal LiPo battery is displayed whilst the button is depressed. A power meter can also be connected between the power boost board and the Raspberry Pi giving a voltage, current and power consumption readout.
 

 
Battery Life
With an internal 4400mAh LiPo battery, a Raspberry Pi Zero with an OLED display and GPS module (but with no HDMI connection) uses about 170mA (at 5V) and the battery should therefore last for about (4400 x 3.7)/(170 x 5.2)h which is just over 18 hours. A 5000mAh 5V powerbank should extend this by about 28 hours.
 

 
Chris Hall's website
 
1 comment in the forums

April News Round-up

Posted by Mark Stephens on 07:58, 27/4/2018 |
 
Some things we noticed this month. What did you see?
 
Elesar now able to take orders for AMCOG Flash USB collection
 
SW Show videos of talks now available - see Vince's post on ROOL forums
 
Speculation in the press that Apple will use ARM chips in its Computers from 2020. Could ROOL port RISC OS please (please, please)?
 
Cloudflare also choosing ARM chips
 
MW-software releases free AWViewer 2.18 with support for the new LTRGB screen modes
 
A new edition of Archive magazine landed on my doorstep. Read our review
 
R-CompInfo has a new, enhanced version of Wolfenstein 3D available from them or via PlingStore.
 
There was a show and RISC OS 5.24 arrived.
 
1 comment in the forums

Wakefield 2018 Show Report

Posted by Mark Stephens on 21:03, 21/4/2018 |
 
It was a glorious sunny day in Wakefield and a very upbeat RISC OS show with lots of interesting hardware and software. You can see some show pictures, and here are my show notes if you were not able to attend. Any mistake/omissions are mine.
 
Exhibitors
Richard Brown was talking about his new cloud solutions and general internet packages. Lots happening behind the scenes with RISCOS developments and public announcements will happen when they are able to update everyone. South west show date and new venue was announced and is now on the SW Show website. Make a date in your diary for Saturday 16th February 2019.
 
CJEmicro's had its full range of computers, software and new hardware releases to demonstrate. Chris did a theatre talk. They were pushing the RaspberryPi 3 model and an excellent platform for R-Comp's new PiFi solution.
 
Wrocc had a club stand where they also ran a prize raffle. They did a great job of organising the show.
 
R-CompInfo has their range of hardware and software products including the new mini machine and the software updates. Andrew did a theatre talk.
 
Sine Nomine showed off the enhancements to RiscOSM with contour lines and updates to Impact database. They showed all of these in the theatre talk. The range range of data RiscOSM can use has really expanded, it has some neat integration with online resources and a nifty little style editor.
 
Organizer has been updated to 2.28a which is free to 2.28 users and available as a chargeable upgrade for other users. Nigel is still asking for your ideas on what you would like to see.
 
Jim Nagel had the latest edition of Archive magazine (fresh off the press with show previews), archive CD and back issues.
 
Chris Hall was demonstrating his new FamTree application and showing off his GPS systems on RISC OS.
 
RISCOSbits had its full range of hardware products with interesting names. Rumours that Andy has run out of risqué product names are without foundation.
 
Drag'n'Drop had the new edition out today and free draganddrop pencils for all visitors. They were also showing their range of books and software.
 
Amcog games were showing off their latest game, Island of the undead, RSDP, full range of games and compilations.
 
ROOL had RISC OS 5.24 to purchase or download and the new Users Guide available along with their full range of books, CDs, SD cards, etc. A Titanium was playing the latest Star Wars video and also shown !Prophet running on new hardware. Eleasar has been investigating adding the ability for !Prophet to write out the xml format needed to submit accounts to Companies House. Price of !Prophet TBA and software will be released once the manual has been updated.
 
Mw-software had the updated AWviewer (a free plugin to show artworks files) and demonstrating the recent releases of Artworks and TechWriter/EasiWriter. Martin was dapper as usual in his bow tie.
 
Steve Fryatt had cashbook 1.40 now available and his full range of software. He was selling a CD of all his software to raise money for charity.
 
Richard Keefe has fixed Impression colour issues and finalising the new release of Impression. Stay tuned over next few weeks.
 
In the 8 bit section, Rob Coleman had his BBC graphics card, and Spectrum emulation. He can also do ZX81 and Jupiter Ace for real purists. Flax cottage had a range or BBC’s running education software. There were several stands with BBCs running and a charity stand.
 
Theatre Talks
 
11.15 R-Comp
Arm still in sling, Andrew updated us on developments since last year. He talked at NetFetch5 (major security improvements) and Messenger pro 8 (new today and adds additional security features and a revised manual). Release brought forward as RISC OS 5.24 needed update anyway. It does not need 5.24 to run or for any features. Improved handling of html email. Easier configuration options. Includes key for Windows and Mac version on CD.
 
Demoed new ‘mini' ARMX6. All features in 2 inches except what would not fit in that tiny box. Half the price. Still does the 4K screen resolution. Can be powered from USB.
 
There is a new version of SafeStore. Early access version now with full release to follow.
 
PiFi version 3 almost out - turns pi into a WiFi server. Native RISC OS interface to setup. CJEmicro's has some cheap pi3s in stock.
 
Quake was updated at SW Show and uses hardware do to speed things up. 3 times performance.30-40 times faster than risc pc. Wolfenstein has also been updated now.
 
R-Comp will be rolling out RISC OS 5.24 upgrades for machines in the near future.
 
12.00 ROOL
Rob Sprowson updated us on changes in last year. Network stack 20 years old so time to update for making it easier to use RISC OS for network tasks (Rob cited his use of his non RISC OS machine for online banking, browsing, cat videos).
 
London show - new BBC BASIC manual (right up to vfp). Most popular ROOL book to date. Had to get permission to use BBC name in book. First ROOL book on Amazon and in top 15,000 briefly! DDE28 released (2 minor updates since).
Dec2017 - USB bounty completed, updates from netbsd parent code, rewrite of low level complexity. Now more reliable if keyboard on hub.
Jan 2018 - run up to 5.24 release begins. More formal release strategy for 5.24 with traffic lights scheme and detailed criteria for passing. Not passing just means not all criteria met.
March 2018 - TCP/IP bounty claimed - about fixing security holes. Parts already in 5.24. Replacing SSL with more secure TLS protocol.
April 2018 - 5.24 out. 5.22 was April 2015 so this release includes all the bounties since then - JPEG improvements, Edit enhancements, USB step 1, bits of Paint bounty (ctrl+ mouse wheel to zoom) and TCP/IP . Improvements to HForm, Maestro. Printers. Chars supports Unicode and fancy fonts, Dosfs. Filecore can handle up to 2tb. More secure !LanmanFS which can connect to windows 8 and 10
Kernel offers physical memory pools up to 512meg. Oflaoflaofla message should be replaced with more clear messages.
NFS client back. Econet on omni. Access+. Routed and uti modules. Trusted certificates datebase. Porterhouse font now included.
 
Total of 708 changes and 21 main ones.
 
Fix for zero page now in. 34 months of advanced warning. Part of ROOL strategy of trying to ensure RISC OS ready for ARM changes to chips (in contrast to previous changes under Acorn).
 
New ePic release with updates for software - SparkFS, PhotoDesk, Impact, DDE.
 
Aim to get RISC OS back into NOOBS for RaspberryPi (so easy for anyone to try it).
 
New copy of user guide. 62 chapters and includes new part from former Welcome guide. 924 illustrations and detailed draw and paint guides.
 
Updated us on bounties. Community driven. Open to ideas. 6 open bounties at present - Compiler improvements, Filing system , clipboard support, RISC OS general, TCP/IP step 2, USB stack step 2.
 
RISC OS 5.25 now nightly build. Future stable releases hopefully around every 2 years.
 
1.30 Sine Nomine
After some technical issues, fixed by the usual expedient of switching the projector off and on again, we kicked off with a demonstration of recent changes to Impact. Last year, made much easier to import csv files. Import is now much more intelligent. In process of adding more support for security and encryption via password. Any beta testers welcome.
 
Demo of RiscOSM. Contours released at London show. UK data from Ordnance Survey. Since then added NASA data for much of Western Europe. Showed route tracing tool which now shows gradient profile. Routes can have arrows. Demoed ability of RiscOSM to access data on internet to add to maps (ie pubs in Galway).
 
Software can also find photos on internet from Geographic for any location. Flickr integration planned to make use of new features from ROOL bounties. Style editor makes it much easier to edit and create new styles. Accessible via features window.
 
In reply to question from audience, unlikely to add direct export to PDF but can be done indirectly via printing. The wishlist for future features is 10 screens long but please suggest new ideas.
 
2.15 CJEmicro's
Chris has had the distraction of project managing his new house. Andrew and Jordon have been busy keeping business going in his absence. Chris showed small mouse interface launched in August. RaspberryRo lite launched in July. Pi-topRO covered with customisations for RISC OS . Still waiting for developers to release tech details for v2 of hardware. Commissioned another batch of ide interfaces for A3000 machines (retro and legacy big markets).
 
Still hoping to get Tablemate to a 32bit release.
 
Chris talked about complete systems offered by CJEmicro's. He is interested to hear if anyone has found a use for 4gigs of ram on a RISC OS machine. Looking for donations of old Acorn kit. Will produce 5.24 updates for latest machines in due course.
 
3.00 Amcog games
Showed off both the games and his development kit.
 
RISC OS a very creative platform for writing games and agreat community.
 
Takes between 2 days and year to write the games.
 
Lots of sequencing music on games.
 
Demonstrated new Island of the Undead zombie game. Game has full soundtrack and lots of zombies to shoot.
 
Free updates to games and open to suggestions for feature updates.
 
Showed games kit for writing games.
 
4 comments in the forums

Wakefield 2018 show in pIctures

Posted by Mark Stephens on 20:05, 21/4/2018 |
 
Take a walk around the Wakefield 2018 with us....
 
(Click on the thumbnails for the bigger image)
 











 











 











 











 
1 comment in the forums

New edition of Archive lands on my doorstep...

Posted by Mark Stephens on 19:28, 17/4/2018 | ,
 

 
It has been a while, but the latest edition of Archive magazine (Vol 24 No4), is now available. It is 55 pages of news, reviews and articles. It was also nice to see some new and returning names amongst the contributors.
 
The 7 page news section is presumably still wet, with full preview details for the Wakefield Show. Jim Nagel has been clearly sleuthing for new stories and has updates from all the usual RISC OS companies and beyond. Great to hear Elesar are hoping to resurrect Prophet next.
 
There have been a couple of shows since the last edition of Archive, so you will also find Show reviews for London Show, Recursion Show, South-West Show, and a sneak preview for Wakefield. Now you know what you missed...
 
There is also a review of Chris Hall's !FamTree and and update on Aemulor, charting releases, development and history.
 
What really makes Archive is the user articles. Chris Hall continues in his quest for the ultimate GPS system using RISC OS, Gerald Fitton covering transferring emails between RISC OS and Windows. There is a Mac related column (which also covers VNC and Cloud software), a PC column (including updates on Windows 10) and Gavin Wraith experiments with StrongED modefiles. David Brown shows us how to use SchemeED (which can create schematic diagrams of electronic circuits on RISC OS) and Bimal Jangra shares what DARC Technology Club learned about Forensic science.
 
Lastly, you will find some hints and tips on RISC OS related apps - advice on Photodesk and DPScan in this edition.
 
It may no longer be a monthly event, but Archive remains an excellent read and Jim Nagel is an 'old school journalist' (do you remember Computer Shopper columns?) who always delivers the highest quality copy.
 
Archive website
 
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Wakefield 2018 Show Preview

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DDE tools update released

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March News Round-up

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Drag'n'drop winter 2018 edition reviewed

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RISC OS interview with Tim H-Smith

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55 BBC Micro Books on CD

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