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RISC OS Interviews - Vince Hudd

Posted by Mark Stephens on 08:05, 18/3/2017 | ,
 
This time round we interview Vince Price Hudd. He talks to us very candidly (maybe we might tell people in future that it is on the record and being recorded) about his experiences with running Soft Rock Software, relaunching the Bristol RISC OS User group with Trevor Johnson, and what it is like to run the second best RISC OS news site on the planet.
 
How long have you been using RISC OS?
 
A few hours.
 
Oh, you didn't just mean today? In that case, I've been using it 27 or so years - ever since I purchased an A3000. Acorn launched the A3000 in 1989, but I'm not sure if I bought mine later that year, or early the next.
 
I've probably still got the invoice somewhere - I'm sure I found it when I had a clear out of old paperwork a few years ago, and decided to keep it.
 
My first experience of an Acorn computer was being taught to program in BBC BASIC at school, from around 1982/3, but I didn't own one until I bought an Acorn Electron in December 1986 - and a BBC Model B+ a couple of years later.
 
What other systems do you use?
 
I have a PC running Linux Mint on my desk, and a laptop running Windows 7 which I use at clients, and sometimes at home when I need to and can find the space for it.
 
(I don't like laptop keyboards and touchpads, so I'd much rather set it up on a desk and use a proper monitor, keyboard and mouse. Alternatively, I should probably just get on and set up the Windows 7 PC that is still boxed from when I bought it!)
 
I suppose I should also mention the ancient XP laptop that accompanies me to shows - it runs VRPC, so is a handy second machine to go on my stand to run my old games. That's the *only* thing it gets used for.
 
I have a few other computers, mainly laptops, but they're just gathering dust.
 
What is your current RISC OS setup?
 
The two computers on my desk are an ARMX6 and a Raspberry Pi Model B (the original version).
 
The ARMX6 is my main RISC OS computer, and the Pi is for convenience. Its tiny size makes it easy to disconnect and move - handy for taking out and about, such as to shows.
 
Unsurprisingly, though, I do have "one or two" other RISC OS computers that I can set up (space permitting) if the need arises - and I *do* need to try and get the A3000 up and running at some point!
 
Do you attend any of the shows and what do you think of them?
 
Although I never used to, I attend all of the UK shows as an exhibitor. I enjoy them a lot, both from the point of view of getting feedback about what I'm doing (or what I've not yet done but should have!) and from the social aspect.
 
I think the shows are important, especially with the size of the RISC OS community these days, and they need to be supported - whether that's as an exhibitor or as a visitor. I really can't stress that enough.
 
One of the problems we have with the shows is a reflection of that; with the numbers we have attending, it limits what can be done in terms of how they are run and presented. More visitors would mean more entry fees for the organisers, and more turnover at the shows for exhibitors - which in turn means they could afford to pay more for their space to the organisers.
 
And if the organisers have a bigger pot to play with, they could improve the shows themselves.
 
What do you use RISC OS for in 2017 and what do you like most about it?
 
Answering the latter part of that question first - what I've always liked most about RISC OS is the clean, logical, consistent user interface. It's not without faults (try using a RISC OS computer without a mouse) but it's so much better than anything else I've used.
 
And going back to the first part, I use it for various things - but the two most obvious are programming and looking after my websites.
 
I'm not doing as much as I'd like, but I'm doing some!
 
My most recent bits of programming have been purely internal; I wrote some code to generate the RISC OS Awards voting form and back-end recently - something I'd intended to do since the start, but have only just done. Before that was a program to process data from a client's cloud-based accounts package and produce reports from it that the accounts package didn't.
 
My current work in progress is a rewrite of Escape from Exeria - a game I originally released back in 1990, and rewrote in 1994. Not much programming is being done on it at the moment because I'm concentrating on the screen designs and ideas - for which I'm using a slightly hacked copy of the 1994 version as a test bed.
 
Websites: I mostly look after my websites on RISC OS because there's a tool for the platform that I find invaluable: WebChange. I may, however, be a little biased. :)
 
Unfortunately, there are exceptions - the most notable of which is RISC OSitory. I use WordPress for that, and I can't do anything with it from RISC OS. In the long run, I'd like to migrate it into something else - I'm thinking something home brewed, and I have loose ideas about how to go about it, but it'll be quite a big job so it'll need time.
 
What is your favourite feature/killer program in RISC OS?
 
Some years ago, I'd have said Pluto - but Pluto doesn't talk IMAP, so I'm now using Messenger Pro and I'm not familiar enough with it to be able to call it a killer app.
 
I could, of course, fall back on a bit of bias and say WebChange - but I won't (not least because of the lack of a manual).
 
So instead I'm going to mention NetSurf and StrongED. I've yet to find a text editor on another platform as good as StrongED. There are some very good ones out there, but none are *that* good. And NetSurf should go without saying - it may not have complete implementations of various standards, but it's still an impressive piece of work.
 
What would you most like to see in RISC OS in the future?
 
What RISC OS really needs more than anything else is a stupendously rich benefactor, who could fund development of anything we need without batting an eyelid. But that's unlikely to happen, so I've had to think about this more seriously.
 
There are a few things I'd like to see - but whittling it down, I think the answer for me has to be wireless networking support built into the OS. I know there are external solutions we can use, but I really would like to see it built in.
 
It wouldn't be a selling point for the OS as such, because it would just be catching up with other platforms - but it removes it as something we *don't* have. When talking about RISC OS with people who aren't familiar, if the subject comes up and I have to say "No, it doesn't have it but you can do such and such as a work around" then that's a bad thing. They don't want to hear geek speak or mumbo jumbo - they just want to hear that wireless networking is there as standard, and setting it up is just a matter of clicking the relevant network and entering the passphrase.
 
What's the opposite of a selling point? That's what the lack of WiFi support is.
 
But then, if we had it the next question would be "Can I access Facebook/YouTube/Whatever?" - so meh!
 
Favourite (vaguely RISC OS-releated) moan?
 
Again, I have a few things I could choose from, but I've settled on user groups - both publicity and attendance.
 
Not enough people attend their local user groups. It's understandable for some, because their nearest group is a little too far - but that's in part caused by not enough people attending their local user groups when there were more of them, so there *was* a closer, more convenient group.
 
With a community as small as the RISC OS one, that makes attendance of these groups all the more important - just as attendance of shows is important. (And to some extent, users might find attending local groups could make attending shows a little easier, because in a social environment they might find it easier to discuss travel arrangements with others coming from the same area, and be able to arrange lifts and so on.)
 
Some of the user groups themselves are not helping with this. They all need to be announcing their meetings, by posting to their mailing lists or forums if they have them (and if they have neither, get one set up!), as well as to comp.sys.acorn.announce, and copying in
news@riscository.com - in particular, they should check
www.riscository.com/calendar/ and if there is incomplete or missing information there, let me know so I can fix it.
 
If a user group doesn't advertise its existence, people won't know it's there so won't attend. As a result, its membership will go down, and eventually it won't be there at all.
 
I have to put my hands up here and say guilty: I only ever once went along to the old Bristol user group - BARUG. They were quite sizeable once, but eventually diminishing numbers brought the group to a close.
 
Since then, a few of us have formed a new group, which meets in a pub every couple of months - and I've now started attending the Midlands User Group and (less often) the Wessex one; both a fair old drive for me, but that's how important I consider them to be.
 
Can you tell us about what you are working on in the RISC OS market at the moment?
 
I've mentioned above that I'm working on a rewrite of Escape from Exeria - that's just step one of a longer plan that's been on the back burner for some time. That plan is to do two things with each of the old budget games from Soft Rock Software.
 
Firstly, I want to make the old versions available again as a free download from my website, as well as from !Store. Where practical, I may do a little tidying of the code before uploading each one - and I also want to write a potted history of some of them, which will appear on the Soft Rock Software website.
 
Secondly, I'd like to rewrite them all - much as I'm doing now with Escape from Exeria - to give them much better graphics than before, as well as more levels and new challenges for the player.
 
And games aside, I have various things on my to-do list for WebChange (most notably including writing a manual!) and its younger sibling Seek'n'Link.
 
Any surprises you can't or dates to tease us with?
 
Some people might say it'd come as a surprise if I actually wrote that manual! :)
 
But no, I've no secret works in progress that I'm going to pull out of a hat in the near future - though with luck, as my use of RISC OS increases, maybe ideas will come to me, and I'll start working on things that I can't think of now.
 
Apart from iconbar (obviously) what are your favourite websites?
 
Iconbar? Is that still around? :p
 
But seriously: If I'm allowed to be biased, then RISC OSitory.
 
If not, I should think the RISC OS site I look at most is probably ROOL's - though refer to what I said above about keeping up with forums and such like.
 
The site I read most that's not RISC OS related is The Register.
 
What made you set up the RISC OS Awards website?
 
At the time I started, no site had run an awards poll for a couple of years, and I felt a poll was necessary because it's another way for users to offer feedback to developers, and show support for their products. So I decided I'd pick up the baton.
 
When I sat down organise it, I started thinking about how different people (sites, and before that magazines) had carried out the polls over the years - and here I was, the latest in a long line, so I decided to give it its own home.
 
At some point I'd like to go back over the polls that have been done previously by the likes of Icon Bar and Drobe - and even further back, to the magazines - and archive the results on the RISC OS Awards site.
 
Any questions we forgot to ask you?
 
You've sort of asked one with "What would you most like to see in RISC OS in the future?" - which I answered on the basis that you meant in the OS itself.
 
I considered answering it along the lines of what I'd like to see written *for* RISC OS.
 
The answer to that would be a decent accounts package, because that's the field in which I work - so it's arguably something I should think about writing myself, since I know exactly what features I'd need. However, getting something up to the level I'd want would take a great deal of time - much more than I can spare unless I could give up my day job and concentrate just on that, full time, for I should think at least a year.
 
But, of course, if I could do that, I wouldn't need the package in the first place.
 
Comment in the forums

RISC OS Interviews - Andy Marks (RiscOSBits)

Posted by Mark Stephens on 08:17, 11/3/2017 | ,
 
The recent South-West Show gave the IconBar team a chance to 'persuade' some more faces in the RISC OS world to tell us about themselves and their plans. (We will return your wives, kittens, computers, and families safe and unharmed when we receive the finished interviews). So we will be running several interviews in the next few weeks for you to enjoy and catch-up with some of the faces in the RISC OS scene.
 
This time round we introduce you to Andy Marks (the man behind the stream of innovative new products from RiscOSBits). Thanks to Andy for being such a great sport and enthusiastic participant. Over to you...
 
How long have you been using RISC OS?
 
I started using BBC/Acorn computers during my O Levels where I attended the local college for a computer science course, successfully failing to grasp BBC Basic and coming out with a brilliant U grade. I didn't quite understand how useful computers would become and wasn't as, er, focused as I could have been. I've remained rubbish at programming ever since!
 
I followed this up by working at the same college some years later, as a lab technician, again failing to fully utilise the department's A3000 and A420/1 and the 50 or so sensors that were available, except for dabbling with Lemmings, TwinWorld and E-Type. I remember actively not reading the manual and being shocked by what happened when I accidentally held down shift when double-clicking! We had an active lunchtime computer group whose main purpose was to collaboratively complete Lemmings and TwinWorld. We did it, and were very disappointed at the results. Of the group's mock A Level in Physics!
 
After a brief period with an already outdated Amstrad PPC512 (I used this exclusively at Uni - I was the only one in my group not to handwrite assignments!) and an Amiga (as it was all I could afford, and came with some games!) I returned to the Acorn fold with an A3010 with 20MB hard drive, before progressing to a RiscPC with StrongARM voucher in 1996, and then adding the subsequent CPU upgrade. I discovered the benefits of having proper wages, and by 2004 had progressed to having about three RiscPCs and an Iyonix, plus a Microdigital Alpha laptop, having converted my Omega deposit as I feared it would never see the light of day.
 
A purchasing hiatus followed, as no new hardware was available, but since the Beagleboard, Panda and Raspberry Pi, I have returned to my previous "splurge" mentality, and since then have been unable to count the number of RISC OS running machines I actually own!
 
I do think I'm a bit of a kiss of death for some things - I buy into them and then they die on their a**e! Acorn, Psion, Nokia and cassettes spring to mind! Although Count Arthur Strong is still going (look him up - you won't regret it!).
 
What other systems do you use?
 
My "day job" requires me to use Windows and Microsoft Office extensively, but I have managed to rig up a remote connection to my home equipment (shhh, don't tell the IT department), so I can access RISC OS and "unapproved" Windows software, like Xara, for better productivity. WindowsRDP is a real boon in this area, and then I connect out of Windows into my ARMX6 via VNC. All quite smooth, really!
 
I always manage to sneak a RISC OS machine into work somehow - it feels less like a betrayal that way! I just have to hide stuff when IT come around.
 
What is your current RISC OS setup?
 
I have an ARMX6, a Titanium and lately, a PiSSD! that I use regularly. The one I use most is the ARMX6, as I use it to drive a 3440x1440 monitor. I would say that my PiSSD! has become a regular feature of my RISC OS use, as it is capable of 2560x1440, the same resolution as my monitor at work, so I tend to VNC into that one.
 
I also have a few plaything machines, too, like a RiscPC with an ARMX6 built in to a second slice, and a RiscPC with a PiPOD inside. I bought a Pi-Top from the crowd funding campaign in subtle grey, but managed to pick up a really cheap green one recently, which I took to the South West Show. Unfortunately, it is getting through batteries like there's no tomorrow - or I'm just unlucky enough to keep getting the faulty ones.
 
I have a really small MicroATX case with a Pi, Beagleboard and Panda all crammed inside, along with a de-cased network switch. It all runs very nicely headless. I make a lot of use of Jeffrey Lee's VNC Server module, Steve Potts' VNCSvrFE and James Peacock's Avalanche.
 
I also have a few projects in the pipeline to play with, including an A3000 case and keyboard and two A3010 cases with keyboards which I hope to mount a Pi and a Wispy inside.
 
I told you I couldn't count them all!
 
Do you attend any of the shows and what do you think of them?
 
I've only recently progressed from attending shows to exhibiting. I always used to go to the Wakefield show, as it's the most local to me and just used to amble around for an hour or two. Having had a stand at London last year, at South West this year and I'm booked in for Wakefield, I'm enjoying that side of things, but miss having a rumble through the charity stand and I seem to miss the "new stuff" that people have on show on the day.
 
What do you use RISC OS for in 2017 and what do you like most about it?
 
Email. I use Pluto extensively for archiving and searching emails. It's just so simple and flexible. I do some "teaching" work showing older people how to use computers and technology for everyday tasks and the one thing that frustrates me most is everyone's reliance on webmail. They then complain when their provider changes the page layout and ask me to put it back to how it was before, and I have to explain that they'll just have to get used to it or use something else. The beauty of Pluto is its simplicity and flexibility. I'd tried Messenger Pro and the earlier ANT stuff, but I just prefer Pluto. I was really pleased when Jonathan Duddington open sourced it and Martin Avison et al picked up development.
 
I also use Ovation Pro a lot - I never got to grips with Impression.
 
What is your favourite feature/killer program in RISC OS?
 
Pluto, as I've just mentioned, in conjunction with Hermes. Ovation Pro, too. Even though I can use it on Windows, I much prefer the RISC OS version. I always struggled with ArtWorks though, and used to use Draw a lot, but in the past few years, I've spent time getting to grips with ArtWorks' younger sibling, Xara, and most of my "graphics" stuff seems to have gone over to Windows as a result. I do like the fact that occasionally features appear first in ArtWorks and then appear a little later in Xara!
 
I would have said WebChange, but the lack of a proper manual is a bit of an issue!
 
What would you most like to see in RISC OS in the future?
 
Obviously, RC15 for the Pi.
 
And a nicer laptop - the Pi-Top is good, but looks really out of place in Costa. Especially the toxic green one. I liked what people were doing with the LapDock, especially Steve Drain and Raik Fischer (I have one of his little add-on cases that sits neatly on the docking ports). I also liked Raik's PiTab and was surprised more people didn't pick up on that as a homebrew option, especially with the GPS module from Chris Hall and integration with RiscOSM.
 
I also spotted the Gemini PDA on Indiegogo the other day, reminding me of my love of the Psion 5mx. Given that they're proposing that will dual boot Android and Linux, I'd love to see RISC OS on that, in some sort of resurrection of the RON thing. We can but dream...
 
And, not strictly RISC OS, I'd love for the Raspberry Pi lot to build in SATA support, as opposed to SATA over USB. The PiSSD! does a reasonable job using mSATA SSDs, but I'd prefer something more like ARMX6 speeds.
 
Bizarrely, apart from that, things we once had but lost...
 
Wireless connectivity. Even though I'm developing something now that will allow that, I'd really like it to be redundant, because someone has developed a proper wireless stack.
 
Some of the better features of Select would be nice, but not those daft sliding menu things. Who thought they were a good idea?!
 
Favourite (vaguely RISC OS-releated) moan?
 
I think I'm increasingly becoming jaded with people "demanding" backward compatibility with, or just focusing on, RISC OS 3/4/6. Not because I don't think it's important, but I don't think it should be a driver. We are never going to see the forks converge and only one fork is being developed, so let's focus on what that can do. And I say this as an initially very reluctant convert from Select to RISC OS 5 and when I do use a RiscPC, I remember all the bits that were good. I had an Iyonix for about three years before I could abandon my RiscPC. But that fork is DEAD, folks, it's not coming back, let's get over it and move on! My concession to that is, I guess, the PiPOD. Just stick one of those in a podule slot and use VNC to connect them up for interoperability.
 
All that said, I really like the resurgence of people using BBCs and even asked Tom from Ident if I could distribute his !Basic app for use with the Absolute Zero, PiPOD and PiSSD! So simple, and so effective! Reminds me of that O Level failure though...
 
Can you tell us about what you are working on in the RISC OS market at the moment?
 
I'm working in collaboration with a couple of people on Wispy, which is intended to be an interim option for "wireless" connectivity. It's a bit like one of those branded little ethernet-wireless boxes but with a few added bonuses for RISC OS users that fill some of the internetty gaps that we still have. And more, but you'll just have to wait and see! There were a couple running all day at the South West show and they were incredibly stable. We're hoping for a proper release at Wakefield. As I said earlier, though, I'd much rather it was redundant.
 
I keep working on GeminX, which is kind of similar to the old PC Card in RiscPCs, but I need someone to do a bit of front-end programming for that. Like I said, my programming skills aren't up to such a thing! Any offers?! Payment in peanuts and buttons...
 
Do you think of the product first, or the name? (Yeah, okay, that was my question!)
 
Definitely the name! Sometimes it's really hard to make a product fit in with a slightly rude name that I've come up with! If I could code, I'd definitely be developing something incorporating SSH and TTY just for the pun of it! Geddit?
 
Any surprises you can't tell us about or dates to tease us with?
 
There's a few more things in the offing, but they're largely in my head or the heads of my collaborators at the moment - unfortunately, we're geographically distant and not telepathic! All of them are hardware-based, because I can't code! I have lots of pipedream ideas, spend a bit of time researching them and then realise that, with RISC OS volumes, they become unaffordable to end users. RISC OS and its ease of use could be SO much more useful in the real world.
 
Apart from iconbar (obviously) what are your favourite websites?
 
IconBar? What's that?
 
I like Riscository. I look to that as my main news source these days, along with Twitter snippets. I guess, with the odd exception, websites aren't really the thing in RISC OS - the forums (fora?) are better places. I'm an avid reader of, and less avid contibutor to, the ROOL forums. And I've recently discovered StarDot as a wealth of information - people on there have forgotten more stuff than I will ever know! I do subscribe to RSS feeds for all of the RISC OS News type websites but a lot of them are dormant. I'm really glad to see IconBar resurrected these days - along with Drobe, it used to be my staple RISC OS diet. I also remember the early days of using newsgroups to find out stuff, and whilst they're still alive, they're not as well propagated as they used to be. I remember trying to read ALL of the messages on comp.sys.acorn.* and just not being able to keep up! Alas, no longer so.
 
I look at eBay quite a bit, too, and laugh at some of the prices people want for things! And then laugh a little bit less when they occasionally get them, whereas I sold one of those for half that price! It's a good job I'm not involved with RISC OS to make my fortune! Or even pocket money!
 
Any questions we forgot to ask you?
 
You didn't ask me about any capital cities - I was expecting some general knowledge questions!
 
RiscOSBits website
 
1 comment in the forums

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

R-Comp support scheme

Posted by Mark Stephens on 13:01, 12/1/2017 | , ,
 
In 2017, Iconbar will be looking at a number of sites, schemes, packages available for RISC OS, reminding you what is on offer, seeing what is going on, etc. As always, if you have any suggestions (or articles!), please drop us a line. We start with the software support scheme from R-CompInfo.
 
R-Comp have offered an interesting scheme for users of BeagleBoard, Panda, ARMX6, and Titanium for a number of years now. This is available as part of any R-Comp purchase or as a one-off purchase for anyone else. So I purchased access to PandaLand and gained free access to the Titanium side when I bought my TimeMachine.
 
So what do you get as part of the scheme? Membership buys you access to the password protected areas of the R-Comp website where you can download a new stable version of RISC OS 5 for your specific machine, along with additional bundled software. R-Comp includes a slick upgrade program, which backups the previous installation, and performs the update. Ideally R-Comp will update for new stable releases of RISC OS 5.
 
All the installation happens inside RISC OS - you do not need to create a new SD card build. I have found this very slick and robust, without any issues. Most of the software is public domain but there are some nice little R-Comp tools for each platform (for example the PandaLand scheme includes a useful little CMOS widget).
 
The latest download for Titanium is from 2016 (and I am told it is suitable for all Titanium machines, not just the TiMachine). The Panda feels a little neglected with the lastest release being 2015 - I hope it is on the ToDo list for 2017.
 
You can manually upgrade these machines yourself with the latest build from RISC OS Open downloads page.
 
R-Comp has been involved in RISC OS development and making RISC OS run on their machines for many years now and what you are gaining from the scheme is a slick, tested and supported solution for your machine which will save you considerable time and should just work 'out of the box'. For me personally, that has been well-worth the investment.
 
R-Comp website
 
Comment in the forums

Keeping up with RISC OS in 2017

Posted by Mark Stephens on 12:50, 5/1/2017 |
 
As a minority platform, you can sometimes feel a little isolated. So here are some suggestions of how updated with developments and meet with the Community.
 
This is just a selection, so please feel to add your own suggestions in the comments section.
 
The Shows
There are 3 dedicated shows (and also RISC OS appearances at retro events, Pi jams and other events). This is your chance to meet other users, talk to developers and actually see and touch new software and hardware. 3 dates for your diary are
Saturday 25th February (South-West Show)
Saturday 22nd April (Wakefield Show)
Saturday 28th October (London Show)
 
Magazines
Drag'N'Drop is published every quarter as an online magazine.
Archive magazine is published on dates calculated using a secret forumla known only to Jim Nagel. It also runs an offline discussion group.
 
Google Newsgroups
comp.sys.acorn.* groups are still active and see regular postings. comp.sys.acorn.announce is still the place for announcements for new releases. I also recommend comp.sys.acorn.misc
 
Some RISC OS websites
RISC OS Open includes all the latest developments for RISC OS 5 and a set of busy discussion forums (including one called Aldershot for all things non-RISC OS).
Stardot is a very active forum with lots of discussion forums for both 32bit and 8bit topics.
Riscository is an active news site.
RISC OS Blog is another news site. It also runs some good comparison and summary articles.
riscos.fr has been running some great competitions in 2016. Lots of french resources and also caters for English readers. It has a great list of resources and books you can read/buy online.
Riscoscode has been quiet in 2016 but still has some really good links and has posted some really interesting articles.
 
User groups
There are still some very active RISC OS user groups out there. 2 to get you started are
Rougol who organises a regular monthly London meeting with external speakers.
Wakefield RISC OS Users group which organises monthly meetings, an online discussion group and the Wakefield show.
 
Youtube
Many talks from previous RISC OS shows and events are posted on youtube.
If you are looking to buy a new machines, here is Chris Hall to give some some ideas and options.
Or maybe James Hodson's getting started on C might appeal.
 
So what are your favourite events/resources/links/websites?
 
Comment in the forums

What would you like/hope to see in 2017

Posted by Mark Stephens on 10:24, 31/12/2016 |
 
The last day of 2016 is a time to look forward to 2017. So what would you like to see in 2017? Here is my wishlist to get you thinking....
 
1. Full release of twin monitor support for my Titanium.
2. New versions of !EasiWriter and !Artworks (which have not see new releases since 2012/2013).
3. A new RISC OS 5 stable release.
4. Continued improvements to !Otter (90% of my time is spent in JavaScript heavy applications like BaseCamp, Trello and Fogbugz which do not currently work). I would love to be able to access these on RISC OS.
5. A new version of !Zap with all the versions merged together. It is still my favourite tool for editing and examining alsorts of files (I use it for dissecting the guts of PDF files at work).
 
3 comments in the forums

Will you still be using a RISC PC in 2017?

Posted by Mark Stephens on 10:30, 27/12/2016 |
 
The RISC PC was released in the mid 1990s while the Iyonix came out in the early 2000s and was available until the end of that decade. So if you are using a RISC PC, it could well be 20 years old and even your Iyonix is likely to be at least 8 years old.
 
This equipment is now obsolete in computer terms if it works at all, (you have changed the batteries before they leaked...)
 
There are FOUR reasons why you might be using a RISC PC (Or Iyonix) in 2017.
 
Retro
This is (IMHO) a really good reason for using a RISC PC in 2017. There is nothing like the original kit to get the true feel for days gone by. And there is a lively discussion on the Stardot forums on keeping vintage computers like BBC and RISC PCs going. But this is not the same as having a modern, general system.
 
Nostalgia/Attachment
Many people get very attached to items. In this case the question is whether your real attachment is to the RISC PC (which has not developed) or running RISC OS on a powerful machine (which has).
 
Backwards support
It may be that you cannot live without a specific piece of software hardware which only runs on these old machines. In which case, we would love to hear what it is. Maybe there are alternatives or interest in providing a more modern alternative?
 
Inertia
It has always worked and so no need to change.This is true, but computing moves on and you can now get faster machines with more modern versions of RISC OS and get more done on your favourite platform. Ironically, most modern televisions have HDMI inputs, so we can now go back to the 80s with our new Raspberry Pi plugged into the TV!
 
So what computer will you be using in 2017?
 
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Native versus emulation in 2016 (Part 3)

Posted by Mark Stephens on 11:39, 24/12/2016 | ,
 
In Part2 of our speed comparison, I wondered whether there would be a signficant change to the figures from Emulation if we tried a different processor or screen resolution. So in Part 3, let us see...
 
1680 x 1050 in 32M, 32K and 256 colours for test 4
Processor - Looped instructions (cache)
489562 275% 480160 269% 502375 282%
Memory - Multiple register transfer
8569 5289% 8349 5153% 8828 5449%
Rectangle Copy - Graphics acceleration test
2842 1174% 5033 2079% 8751 3616%
Icon Plotting - 16 colour sprite with mask
23098 1154% 19288 964% 23032 1151%
Draw Path - Stroke narrow line
4950 317% 5209 333% 5309 340%
Draw Fill - Plot filled shape
5533 379% 6111 418% 6814 467%
HD Read - Block load 8MB file
586290 19660% 616427 20671% 618415 20738%
HD Write - Block save 8MB file
554164 18223% 502875 16536% 535318 17603%
FS Read - Byte stream file in
2613 1262% 2678 1293% 2681 1295%
FS Write - Byte stream file out
1188 618% 1190 619% 1190 619%
 
It looks like Retangle Copy is significantly faster in 32K mode compared to 16M but otherwise we see little advantage on these tests (remember we get slightly different results every time we run the tests so we should not be concerned at small differences).
 
710 ARM versus StrongArm Processor emulation
Processor - Looped instructions (cache)
501300 281% 498030 279%
Memory - Multiple register transfer
8916 5503% 8723 5384%
Rectangle Copy - Graphics acceleration test
2776 1147% 2726 1126%
Icon Plotting - 16 colour sprite with mask
23293 1164% 24660 1233%
Draw Path - Stroke narrow line
5196 333% 4969 318%
Draw Fill - Plot filled shape
5633 386% 5684 389%
HD Read - Block load 8MB file
583984 19583% 583984 19583%
HD Write - Block save 8MB file
510986 16803% 546133 17958%
FS Read - Byte stream file in
2687 1298% 2643 1276%
FS Write - Byte stream file out
1165 606% 1187 618%
 
So it looks like if your usage is similar to that measured in these tests, there is not a significant difference running on MacPro. As we suggested last time, this is a valid test but it may not be a fair comparison for your usage. And it only looks at raw speed not other factors which may be important to you such as power usage (Titanium easily wins), portability (you will want a laptop and should be comparing PiTop versus Mac) or ability to run macOS, Linux, Windows (MacPro is only contender).
 
There are other settings in the VirtualAcorn configuration file (VA.cfg) which may also be worth experimenting with. So what is your personal experience? And what settings are you tweaking for maximum performance on your Mac or Windows box?
 
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