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South West Show Report

Posted by Mark Stephens on 22:11, 25/2/2017 | ,
 
The 2017 South-West Show took place at the Webbington Hotel, its regular home. It was a bright, sunny day (at least to start with) and attendance seemed good. The final count is still awaited, and there was also a questionnaire for visitors to get information and suggestions. If you were not one of those visitors, here is what you missed.
 
The very quick summary
No major new machines but lots of interesting new software and hardware releases and a good, upbeat atmosphere. It was a great day and R-Comp/Orpheus did a great job.
 
The Talks
There were 4 talks, this year in their own little corner. All talks were recorded so should hopefully appear soon. I have summarized them with the details of their stands below.
 
CJEInfo Micro's
CJE Micro's had their usual large range of hardware and software. They had their usual wide selection and had several ARM machines setup to demo for customers.
 
In their talk CJE MicrosInfo explained that their customers include both users of 'classic' items as well as more cutting edge users. They have now been able to source a new supply of serial mice, a previously elusive and expensive creature. They also mentioned the recent !PhotoDesk release from London and the new drawing tablet (which should work on almost anything).
 
They are always interested in second hand items and will be going on a trip to collect items from Oxford next month. They will probably take a route via any other locations which could be on the route (London, Southampton were mentioned) so let them know if you have any previously-cherished and now surplus items taking up space you wish to have them take away.
 
R-Comp
R-CompInfo had their usual range or Windows and ARM machines, including the new RiscBook Go (a nice compromise between size, batter life and cost). They released a new RAID solution to provide a non-technical and much cheaper solution for keeping your machine backed up. There are some new, MUCH faster drivers for the ARMX6 networking operations (which are free updates for existing customers) and a new solution to partition much larger hard drives for RISC OS.
 
In their talk R-Comp talked about the new software releases. Many of their new developments are the result of the requirements of commercial clients, who provide the funding. The partition software is a good example. They also did a demo on the new RiscBook Go, which has a removable screen if you want to use it as a Windows touch tablet. Andrew recommended a Blue tooth mouse if you want to use RISC OS in this mode.
 
Orpheus Internet
Orpheus Internet were there to talk about their internet and broadband packages (and give out free sweets. Richard was also moonlighting as announcer, technical show trouble-shooter and show organizer.
 
ROOL
ROOL had their range of software, hardware, books and badges. This included the last few fullsize SSD cards, and new releases of Pico.
 
ROOL's talk provided an update on recent events. ROOL is now 10 years old (which was as long as the time from the first RISC OS release by Acorn until their final 3.70 release). It was formed to save RISC OS from obscurity after development stopped in 2003-6. The highlights of the last year have been :- JPEG update bounty, new DDE with updates to the tools and includes BASIC Compiler (which you can get on its own free from www.riscos.fr), and new Pico release. Testing on another bounty finished late last night so watch their newspages in early March.
 
There is still lots to do and RISC OS relies on everyone's help. So they highlighted ways to get get involved - contribute to the forum, try the nightly build, donate money to help them cover the costs of being at Shows and hosting the software.
 
The last user guide was 21 years aga. So it is out of date and needs updates/reviewing as a few things have happened since then (like the Internet). There are now only 23 chapters left to go and it is not a technically challenging task.
 
There are 3 new bounties - extend clipboard, TCP/IP (improving ssl, security and adding ipv6 and wifi), and USB full sync with netbsd code tree.
 
Rob Sprowson was reasonably confident that FontPro Dir would be available next week. He is waiting for the manuals which he was notified shipped at 3am this morning.
 
The Pi3 RISC OS release is still waiting on some final items of software to be fixed before it can be released.
 
John Norris (Bell ringing) & Tasty Treats
John was talking very enthusiastically about all aspects of bell-ringing and offering both software and hardware solutions for bell-ringers to learn and practise. It is clearly a lot harder than it looks and he was explaining how they 'ring in the changes'. Tasty treats was offering lots of enticing jams and spreads.
 
Drag & Drop
The latest release of the magazine was available along with a new set of fonts for RISC OS (both will be reviewed by Iconbar in the next few weeks).
 
David Snell
David was demonstrating ProCad and WebWonder and John showing lots of clients how to get the most from this powerful tool.
 
Organizer
The dynamic duo were there to show off the 2.26 version released at London Show and to ask what users would like to see next in the software.
 
Archive
Jim Nagel had back copies of the magazine and details of the new DVD. The latest release was held back so that it could include all the SW Show news and updates.
 
Soft Rock Software
Vince had the full selection of software and his very cute RiscPC shaped case for a Pi. He was also promoting Riscository where he tracks all the news fit (and unfit to print) in the RISC OS world (always my first port of call when I log onto the Internet). He was also promoting the Bristol user group.
 
Steve Fryatt
Steve had new releases of his software (including Cash Book) and was showing users all the little tweaks in the software.
 
Chris Hall
Chris had a transparent RISC OS box which was receiving GPS data and displaying this on a little OLED screen. He was also showing how you could use this data for alsorts of other applications.
 
ROUGOL
Brian was talking about the groups meeting and up-coming events. If you are in the South-East, their London venue is very easy to reach (and serves excellent curry).
 
AmCog Games
AmCog games have a growing range of games, including Mop Tops (a Lemmings style game with lots of humour), Xeroid (a flying game), Overlord (a shoot-em up), Legends of Magic (a 3D Isomorphic adventure which also has a game editor and 70,000 novel to accompany the game).
 
Several of the games are also available in French and German. They are written in BASIC and run at 800x600 resolution. Users are encouraged to dissect and reuse the code. AmCog may well have the makings of a very good Games library....
 
All their games include extensive original music tracs and AmCog have also been working on a new sound system for RISC OS, which borrows ideas from many places including BBC and C64 sound chips. The theatre talk focussed on how easy it was to use all these features.
 
Ident Computer
Tom had his range of Ident Computers for RaspberryPi. He has put a lot of work into improving the configuration software and making it easier to setup and use. He has lots of developments in the pipeline which will be revealed in due course. Stay tuned...
 
RiscOSBits
RiscOSBits have a growing range of devices to plug into RISC OS machines or provide extra features to RISC OS which were being demonstrated. There was also a prototype card to give the Titanium wireless internet.
 
Show website
 
I took pictures all day and you can see these on Flickr
 
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SouthWest show reminder

Posted by Jeffrey Lee on 00:30, 23/2/2017 | ,
 
This Saturday, the 25th, is the date of this year's RISC OS SouthWest show. Organised by R-Comp and Orpheus Internet, the show will take place at the Webbington Hotel, south of Bristol.
 
Exhibitors for this year are set to include:The show is planned to run from 10:30am to 4pm.
 
For more information, check out the show website.
 
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Exploring Mathematical shapes in RISC OS

Posted by Mark Stephens on 09:28, 15/2/2017 | ,
 
One of my long-time favourite programs for RISC OS is !PolyDraw from Fortran friends. If it is not already installed on your RISC OS machine, it deserves to be (shame on you). It is fast, fun, educational (and since 2016 it has also been free). It also has that wonderful property of a great game - you can use it pretty much instantly without the manual but it has loads of depths to explore.
 
!PolyDraw and its linked programs (!PolyNet, !Stellate and !PolySymm) lets you view, create and explore complex mathematical shapes. It also lets you print out the flat design for any shape which you can then cut out and stick together to make a physical shape.
 
The software gives you a huge range of three dimension shapes, which you can inspect in a 3D viewer. The viewer lets you choose how to rotate the shape in any directions, what color/shading you use (or you can stick to wire frame) and shows the flat outline net of the shape. When you print them out, the software adds tabs to the surfaces so you can cut out and glue the shape together. If the 141 initial shapes are not enough, there are additional data sets to load and use can create your own.
 
At RISC OS shows the Fortran Stand is usually full of Cubes, Dodecahedron and other icosahedra and the experts show you how to use features in the software. It's like being back in your coolest ever Maths class! As they say it is ideal for children of all ages (especially those over 18).
 
They are regular exhibitors at the South West Shows. So hopefully you will be able to see them in a few weeks.
 
All details and their downloads are on the Fortran Friends website.
 
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What are you hoping to see at South-West Show

Posted by Mark Stephens on 08:57, 6/2/2017 | ,
 
The South-West Show is now less than three weeks away. Given that Companies often gear their updates around the major shows, we generally see a spike in activity around each event.
 
So this is my top 6 items I am hoping to see at South-West Show....
 
1. More visitors. There has been a general increase in RISC OS activity over the last 12 months and it would be nice to see that feedback into Show attendance. The event is held at a hotel and there is a special rate for bed and breakfast. If you are going to be there the previous night, why not post a comment and see else might be around?
2. New editions of Archive and DragNDrop. My regular fix of news, reviews, gossip, tutorials and new ideas.
3. Font Dir Pro update from Elesar As Rob Sprowson revealed at the recent Rougol meeting, the updated software is ready and the manual is almost done. I would really like to have this wonderful piece of software installed on my Titanium.
4. New Releases from mw-software !Artworks and !TechWriter have not been updated for some years now. It would be really good to see new releases.
5. Dual Screen software It has been demonstrated so it would be nice to see it completed and released.
6. Some new R-CompInfo releases Several items 'missed' the London Show. It would be nice to see them at the South-West Show.
 
What would you like to see?
 
Book a night at the Webbington Hotel
Show Website
 
7 comments in the forums

A fresh look at the Desktop Development Environment Manuals

Posted by Mark Stephens on 10:28, 1/2/2017 | , , ,
 
TheDesktop Development Environment manual is the essential documentation to make the most of the Desktop Development Environment. Both have been adopted and are now updated by RISC OS Open. The manuals come free with the DDE and are also available to buy in printed manual form.
 
The first edition of the manuals was produced in 1994 and it has been revised several times. As you would expect from professional developers, RISC OS Open includes a changelog so you can see what exact changes have been made. Last major update was in 2015. The manuals have also been rebranded with the RISC OS Open cog logo and company name.
 
There are 3 manuals in the set.
 
The Desktop Tools manual (329 pages) covers all the tools in the DDE (Make, Squeeze, SrcEdit, ABC, etc). There is a nice introductory section at the start telling you how to setup and start using the tools.
 
There are lots of screenshots to show the features in action. It should not be regarded as a tutorial but there is lots of material on using them. The Desktop Debugging tool includes 60 pages explaining how to use it.
 
The last 100 pages are Appendices which cover a summary of changes added over the years and information which you would need to use the tools (Library file formats, alignment details, file syntax,etc).
 
The Acorn Assembler manual (159 pages) shows you how to use ObjAsm. It includes some details on ARM Assembler instructions but it is not a tutorial (it does include some good further reading suggestions for you to learn ARM code). The focus is on using the tool and its features (ie labels, macros compilation). There are also some short chapters on writing RISC OS modules and interacting with C.
 
The Acorn C/C++ manual (438 pages) provides provides detailed coverage of the C and C++ language features supported by the Compiler (as well as the libraries) and some useful details and tips on writing RISC OS applications from C or C++. The languages are cleanly separated out so you only want to write C, it is easy to skip the non-relevent items. Again it is not a tutorial on coding, but a detailed summary of all the details you need to develop code.
 
All three manuals include an index at the back to help you to navigate as well as very detailed section descriptions at the start and a clear structure.
 
All three books are part of the DDE or available in a printed version (discounts for registered developers). The printed package makes a fairly bulky doorstop (and a great table stand for my MacBookPro!). I also find that it is the sort of programming content which I like to read and reread offscreen.
 
Further details on the DeskTop Tools Manual can be purchased from RISC OS Open website or they usually have some copies as Show events. Maybe something to check out at the South West Show later this month.
 
If you are looking to write software, you should also consider the Style Guide which tells you how the software should look and act to fit into RISC OS nicely.
 
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Running RISC OS under emulation with RPCEmu

Posted by Mark Stephens on 10:58, 24/1/2017 | , ,
 
In previous articles, I looked at VirtualRPC as a way to run RISC OS on my Mac. Another options is RPCEmu.
 
This offers 2 potential main advantages over Virtual Acorn - it is free and it runs RISC OS 5.
 
The software can be downloaded from http://www.marutan.net/rpcemu/ and you can also get a USB drive with the software on it from RISC OS Open.
 
RPCEmu is available for Mac, Linux and Windows. The Windows and Mac versions both come as ready to run applications while Linux needs you to build the source code (which is also supplied). This is because it needs the Allegro Game Library. This process is not as daunting as it sounds and the instructions are clear and cover each step. If you are already a Linux user, you may already be doing this,. If you are not it is a really good introduction to compiling software which will open lots of new software to you....
 
The Mac version of RPCEmu has some isses with Retina screens on the later Macs (it works fine if you move it onto an external monitor). You can get around running this by running the software in low resolution (Menu and Info options). This trick does not appear to work on the 2016 October MacBookPros :-(
 
RPCEmu allows you to configure the software and choose settings like mouse buttons, etc. A copy of RISC OS 5 is included and a Hard drive to setup a basic RISC OS 5 installation.
 
This gives you a fully-functional RISC OS 5 machine, which can access the local hard drive. I have a shared directory on my setup so I can have a single shared copy of my RISC OS applications between Virtual Acorn and RPCEm. (You cannot share everything because RISC OS 5 and 6 have different setups and !Boot drives but it it useful to be able to shared data and third party software.) In usage I find RPCEmu runs slightly slower than Virtual Acorn but the speed is perfectly acceptable on a high end machine.
 
So if you are looking for an easy way to run RISC OS on your non-RISC OS machine, or even something to improve your Linux skills, have a look at RPCEmu.
 
RPCEmu website
 
9 comments in the forums

Rob Sprowson talk at January Rougol meet-up

Posted by Mark Stephens on 22:01, 16/1/2017 | ,
 
Rob Sprowson returned to Rougol (he was here almost exactly a year ago) to give an update on his exciting hardware and software projects. Running a presentation on a Titanium (one he knocked together over breakfast to give him an easier carrying case on the tube), he started by talking about Cloud storage.
 
CloudFS is not the first cloud storage solution for RISC OS (there is a Python based client for DropBox), but it does offer a totally integrated solution. Rob ran through the pros (offsite backups, access from multiple locations) and cons (potential loss of data, security) before uploading a picture from his camera to his PC and then into CloudFS where he loaded it into ChangeFSI. He also explained how the software could be run from the command line and was decoupled into 2 parts - the pCloud is implemented separately so it would be possible to add other Cloud providers if you can get the specifications.
 
Asked about security, Rob said he was very happy to be using the Swiss as they are known for their discretion (he stashes all his fortune in Swiss banks).
 
After CloudFS, Rob recapped on the Titanium board - still the fastest RISC OS machine and still waiting for the OS to catch-up. There are 9 cores sitting inside, waiting to be tapped for video or audio editing or any other processor intensive activity. Rob also reminded us that it has a huge number of ports - one customer is actually using the parallel ports to drive a fax machine. And Rob is always on the look out for interesting new PCI cards to plug into the machine.
 
Rob takes a keen interest in the economics of the IT industry and had some nice graphics on logarithmic axis to show how costs and projects work. Given the limited size of the RISC OS market his focus is lower cost or simpler projects. He also pointed out that the Titanium was cheaper than the Iyonix when it was released (even before adding inflation). Such is the rate of change in the industry.
 
Rob's current project is the update of Look Systems Font Manager. It had actually taken two years to hunt down Adrian Look to get permission to update the software. The current release uses some source code from the last release (way back in 2003), Adrian's original partial copy and some deft reverse engineering (the audience suggested it looked like a good reason to have cloud backups.
 
The new release brings this excellent software onto the latest hardware (where it runs very quickly). Software development was completed on 22nd December and the manual is now being finished off prior to release. Rob showed it dynamically updating fonts in a !Draw document and it was very solid in use. There are no new features but Rob had been thinking about possible future updates. At present there is no unicode support.
 
Rob said there may well be upgrades for existing users - details and final prices being finalised. The software will be available through Elesar website
 
Finally, Rob plugged the other port of his Titanium into the overhead projector to give himself an extra large desktop with OSM generating a map of the Borough street area.
 
Rougol meets every month in the Blue Eyed Maid Public House near London Bridge. The meetings start at 7.45pm and there is usually a collection of people arriving before that to chat and enjoy the pub's Indian curry (which I confirmed is very good in the interests of doing thorough investigative reporting). It is free to attend, and the next meeting is 20th February.
 
Rougol Website
Rob Sprowson interview
 
2 comments in the forums

ROOL updates RISC OS development toolset to release 27

Posted by Mark Stephens on 10:07, 15/1/2017 | ,
 
DDE (the Collection of tools for developing software in Basic, C and Assembly) has been updated to release 27. If you have a DDE26, you should receive an email telling you that you are eligible for a free update. Developers with older releases can upgrade for 25 pounds.
 
The update includes changes to multiple tools, so ROOL provides a complete new release to replace your existing DDE26 release (simply deleted and use the new version).
 
The headline of the update is to bring the tools in line with Zero Page relocation. The software will now run correctly on a ZPP enabled RISC OS system and all the tools and libraries have been updated to work with ZPP.
 
As an additional bonus, the Basic Compiler (!ABC compiler) has seen some upgrades with fixes, long lost examples now back again and a new manual.
 
In the email, ROOL also draw developers attention to their technical development notes for builds and reminds us that !Make is now really a legacy option.
 
The full announcement is here
 
If you are not currently a registered developer and interested in writing software for RISC OS, it is also well worth signing up for the discounts and announcements.
 
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R-Comp support scheme

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