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Article archives

In praise of !ShareFS

Posted by Mark Stephens on 07:11, 13/10/2017 |
 
IMHO, this is one of the most powerful (and under-rated) features of RISC OS. !ShareFS allows a RISC OS machine to share the hard drive with another RISC OS machine. There are lots of ways to share filesystems across networks (such as Samba) and cloud solutions (like PCloud, google drive). Some of these are very fiddly or do not work on RISC OS.
 
!ShareFS lacks the sophistication of many of these and features you might want in a multi-user environment such as fine-grained access controls. But for simple file sharing between my various RISC OS machines, it is very simple, reliable and it just works....
 
If you share a file system, then it becomes visible under discs. So I can easily share all my Titanium drives my RaspberryPi. It also works on emulators such as VirtualRPC.
 


 
This opens up some very useful integration because I can use VirtualRPC to access the files on other systems. For example I run it on my Mac and can use it to see the files on the Mac hard drive, including the contents of the shared google drive. This can all be seen on my Titanium thanks for !ShareFS.
 
So as a simple sharing solution or a way to share files between any machines you can run a RISC OS virtual machine on, !ShareFS works really well.
 
What part of RISC OS do you think is under-valued?
 
7 comments in the forums

RISC OS on GitHub

Posted by Mark Stephens on 07:49, 15/9/2017 | , ,
 
In a previous article, we mentioned Git and GitHub.
 
Git is a version control system which software developers use. Once you have used version control is is very hard to go back. In particular it:-
1. Allows you to have a full, documented history of all changes you have made and roll back to any point.
2. Label your official release versions.
3. See what you have changed easily.
4. Work with other developers (even large groups) in an orderly manner, see who has edited which bit of code, merge code changes together and handle conflicts where several people are editing the same code.
5. Have the security of lots of backups.
6. Never lose anything! (if you use it properly)
 
Version control solves a lot of complex problems. When I hire new developers, I always ask them about their experiences with Version control systems....
 
RISC OS itself is available on version control (it uses CVS) and you can explore it online at the ROOL website.
 
Part of the attraction of Git is that it also gives easy access to GitHub (a huge online repository of software source code). And (in theory) it means the source code will never be lost. There are some interesting RISC OS related projects hosted on there. Here is a sample to start your exploration...
 
https://github.com/risc-os-open contains some Ruby and JavaScript projects written by ROOL for their website.
 
https://github.com/TimothyEBaldwin/RO_cvs2git converts RISC OS CVS to git.
 
https://github.com/elesar-uk/titanium-build is the source code for Elesar's Debian Linux build.
 
https://github.com/TimothyEBaldwin/RISC_OS_DevTimothy Baldwin's port of RISC OS to run on Linux.
 
https://github.com/dpt/PrivateEye The source code for Private Eye
 
https://github.com/alanbu/packman Source code for Package manager
 
https://github.com/martenjj/drawview A draw file viewer for Linux.
 
https://github.com/jaylett/zap Source code for !Zap
 
2 comments in the forums

!DualHead in use

Posted by Mark Stephens on 07:20, 8/9/2017 | ,
 
[Update] Please note that this review is based on version one of the software - an update was released this week which we will evaluate in a future article.
 
Now that we have !DualHead installed it is time to experiment with the world of dual head RISC OS desktops.
 


 
You now have one very large desktop and the ability to select screen modes to give you a very workable screen area. I have two 27inch monitors this gives me 3840 x 1200 resolution.
 
With 2 screens, you will have to experiment with how you want to position them. I find that my 27 inch monitors are too wide to put flat side by side without giving neck strain. Most people either tilt the 2 screens together in a V shape (as in the picture above) or have one screen at an angle to the main screen. On my Mac I generally prefer the second option with a 'main' screen directly infront of me and an angled second screen to the left, where I 'park' windows not currently in use.
 


 
R-CompInfo are very clear that dual head display is a work in progress. The !DualHead application is polished and runs well but does impose a number of restrictions on current use.
 
Firstly, I found I could not change the layout. My right hand monitor is always plugged into the second port (right port on the back of the machine looking at it from the back).
 
There are also different ways to handle multiscreens. On my Mac, the screens can also be separate displays (with a separate task bar on each) and you can arrange one screen under the other. On RISC OS, we have a single screen which is extended across multiple monitors. There are pros and cons to both.
 
!DualHead also requires the screens to run at the same resolution. You can run two different sized monitors. I tried replacing one of my 27inch monitors with an old 20inch monitor. This requires both monitors to run at the same resolution of 1600 x 1200. The results look stretched on one screen.
 


 
Different size monitors are an issue with all dual display systems. On my Mac I always use 2 identical 27 inch monitors. Moving screens between different resolutions is not ideal as you have to keep resizing them.
 
Quibbles aside, !DualHead is a really nice release and brings RISC OS firmly into the world of dual screen output. It will also allow developers to start adapting their software to make use of it. I tried !Paint and as expected a screenshot of the whole screen creates a sprite containing both displays.
 
This is an excellent first release (following on the heels of 5.23 RISC OS release) and I look forward to seeing what R-Comp have for us at the London Show...
 
6 comments in the forums

Revisting the old Acorn magazines online

Posted by Mark Stephens on 07:58, 25/8/2017 | ,
 
Over the years, a lot of high quality magazines have been produced. Most of these are no longer actively published but their back catalogue still contains interesting and relevant material.
 
Some companies provide electronic copy. You can buy from R-Comp a CD with the complete Risc User collection and Archive has a compilation CD.
 
Many magazines are now available online if you do not happen to possess a large attic piled high with old editions.
 
There is a nice index of the Acorn User magazines on Acorn User website and a partial collection of PDF scanned copies (they say reproduced with permission) here. If you can add any of the missing editions, they would be very pleased to hear from you.
 
The biggest collection I have been able to find is The Computer Magazine Archives. The site also hosts the waybackwhen archive (which stores snapshots of what website used to look like) and it is not above controversy (it was blocked by the Indian government in 2017). The development of the Internet raises huge questions on what is acceptable use and how copyright should work (in practical and legal terms). So you may still want to stick to your pile in the attic.
 
It includes not just RISC OS machines but everything. So you can also relive your BBC days. I got a bit side-tracked in my researches revisiting Jim Butterfield explaining how the video works on a VIC-20 (my first ever computer). It is also searchable to you can also find items by topic.
 


 
Maybe not as fun as scrambling in the attic, but maybe more practical if you have a browser....
 
4 comments in the forums

RISC OS Interviews - Richard Brown (Orpheus Internet)

Posted by Mark Stephens on 07:21, 11/8/2017 |
 
How long have you been using RISC OS? 
Since the beginning.... I prefer not to talk years.
 
What other systems do you use? 
I currently use both MacOs and various flavours of Windows. Thankfully not XP personally (although we still support it) but Windows 7 and above. I have toyed with Linux but never used in my work. All our servers run CentOS Linux and I have a Linux guru who handles those for me.
 
What is your current RISC OS setup?
I have an ARMx6 with a huge 32 inch curved monitor. You may have seen it at the shows, carefully guarded by me. There are 3 RaspberryPis, and some RiscPCs around if I need another machine for testing and debugging or propping open a door.
 
Do you attend any of the shows and what do you think of them? 
Orpheus attends all the shows, and now co-organises the South-West Show (saturday 24th February 2018 in the usual venue as you asked). I really enjoy the shows as I get to put names to faces, meet lots of people and catch-up on developments. I try not to eat too many of the sweets on our stand. It is always a good place to make announcements to the RISC OS community and I did a small talk at this year's Wakefield.
 
I was really pleased with the car sharing we organised a bit last minute last year and we will be doing it for the 2018 show.
 
What do you use RISC OS for in 2017 and what do you like most about it?
What I like most about RISC OS is the ease of use. We currently run our accounts on RISC OS (!Prophet), prepare customer details invoices as PDFs (it produces much better PDF files than MacOs Preview), and I use it a lot more for email since moving to my ARMx6.
 
What is your favourite feature/killer program in RISC OS?
For me, the killer feature is the way the software plays well together. As a whole it is a really nice environment to work in.
 
!Zap or !StrongED?
!StrongED - Paul Vigay told me to use it for my needs and I have not had any reason to regret his advice. (Paul was also a !Zap fan). So probably says more about me than either text editor.
 
What would you most like to see in RISC OS in the future? 
Siri??? New logo? Seriously, no public comment yet - will keep you posted...
 
I am really excited about what we can do with things we have been exploring with RISC OS Developments which is taking a fair amount of my time at present. As we said at the show, we have a plan and will let people know as and when we can.
 
Favourite (vaguely RISC OS-related) moan?
People do not upgrade their hardware enough.
 
What keeps you using RISC OS?
It is a pleasant drive.
 
What are the challenges to running a business in the RISC OS market?
Unfortunately, the market is rather small.
 
Can you tell us about what you are working on in the RISC OS market at the moment?
Yes and No, Orpheus are in the process of upgrading our servers with new services like SSL and SPF. Our FTTP prices have dropped (last Nov) and we have a software project that we would like to start soon specifically based for our RISC OS customers, which is nothing to do with my involvement with RISC OS Dev.
 
What is FTTP?
Fibre To The Premises. Finally, after years of waiting for BT to make it available for wholesale release. For most people this this could give you a faster fibre service. Email me if you want to know more.
 
Apart from iconbar (obviously) what are your favourite websites?
Amazon (Prime is great isn't it).
 
What do you think Paul Vigay would have made of the Computer/RISC OS scene in 2017?
He would be pleased that RISC OS is still here and would be telling us what RISC OS still does better than any other machine.
 
Any questions we forgot to ask you?
When the Orpheus Internet website will be updated. Answer is shortly....
 
At the end of the Orpheus Internet interview, Richard kindly agreed to switch hats and answer some RISC OS Developments questions which will appear in another article.
 
Orpheus Internet website
 
Comment in the forums

Are the RISC OS show dates on your calendar?

Posted by Mark Stephens on 07:49, 21/7/2017 | ,
 
It may seem a long way off with the long summer holidays stretching out to there distant horizon, but September and October will come round all too quickly.
 
So here is a quick reminder to make sure you have notes the date for your diary...
 
London RISC OS Show will be on Saturday 28th October 2017 at its usual venue of St Giles Hotel - Feltham, London
 
It is easily accessible by both car and public transport.
 
All the major (and many minor players) in the RISC OS world attend (and generally run special offers and have new releases). So it is great place to see them, sample their wares and catch-up with other enthusiasts.
 
In recent years, we have seen some innovations at the RISC OS show with organisers setting up taxi shares, meet ups or lifts via the RISC OS newsgroups, websites or at the show. The Internet make finding other attending much easier, so don't leave it until the last minute this year. The summer will fly by...
 
There is a useful RISC OS Calendar page over at RISCOSitory which covers shows and also includes user group meetings if you are looking for (or organising) an event.
 
5 comments in the forums

How popular are RISC OS sites online?

Posted by Mark Stephens on 07:07, 30/6/2017 | ,
 
Just as in life, there are lots of different ways of measuring and estimating popularity. Online one of the ways you can do this is to use a tool called Alexa. This gives sites a ranking based on how popular Alexa thinks the site is (so number 1 is google.com).
 
It is not an exact science (and it can be misrepresentative on some sites where Alexa has less data), but it is a useful 'guess'. So I typed in some RISC OS sites (and non-RISC OS sites which you may have heard of as a comparison) to get some numbers. Here is what Alexa reported for global rankings.....
 
apple.com 65
bbcbasic.co.uk 2,564,449
cjemicros.co.uk 3,463,770
drobe.co.uk 19,898,135
iconbar.com 3,913,170
linuxmint.com 4,450
netsurf-browser.org 1,165,775
osnews.com 114,759
orpheusinternet.co.uk 17,233,044
raspberrypi.org 3,186
riscos.com 2,866,998
riscos.org 9,126,309
riscository.com 11,268,284
riscosopen.org 366,518
stardot.org.uk 827,545 (41,450 in just uK)
ubuntu.com 1,493
xara.com 88,840
 
It is not a total surprise that ROOL is easily the top RISC OS site I could find. We have some work to do with Iconbar (as do the RISC OS vendors if they want to grow their sales online).
 
What do you make of the numbers?
 
Weblink to lookup a website on Alexa.
 
12 comments in the forums

Disappearing websites

Posted by Mark Stephens on 07:38, 9/6/2017 | ,
 
In the last few weeks some websites of interested to RISC OS users have disappeared.
 
riscoscode.com used to be great list of interesting snippets from the RISC OS and software world in general selected by Martin Hansen. It now returns a domain expired blank page, although the twitter account is still online. It also looks like piLEARN and Mathmagical have also gone.
 
Another site which has dropped off the radar is the Pandaboard.org, which was the official home for the Panda. The Panda is still a great RISC OS machine, especially as a compact solution - I use mine at work as my secondary machine to my home Titanium.
 
Even if these sites are not being updated, this is a loss because they contain lots of useful content is lost and the search links all break.
 
There are still ways to see these sites (here is an old version of riscoscode). But these version are not always the latest and the links across the internet (and for search are broken).
 
It does not have to be this way. The old Computer Concepts page has been kept up on there internet by Xara, riscos.org and all its links are still online, APDL has a new home, and we host several sites on iconbar.
 
Comment in the forums

What development tools do we need ported to RISC OS

Read article... | 7 comments in the forums

What software updates would like to see at the next show?

Read article... | 6 comments in the forums

A tale of 2 package managers

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RISC OS Interviews - Anthony Vaughan Bartram

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RISC OS Interviews - Vince Hudd

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RISC OS Interviews - Andy Marks (RiscOSBits)

Read article... | 1 comment in the forums
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