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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

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
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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)
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.
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.
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.
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?
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?
5 comments in the forums

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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Native versus emulation in 2016 (Part 2)

Posted by Mark Stephens on 09:47, 16/12/2016 | , ,
In part 1 we outline our plans to pit a Titanium (running RISC OS 5) against VirtualRPC (running RISC OS 6) on the latest MacBookPro laptop. Here are the scores, Titanium first each time.
Titanium versus VirtualRPC
Processor - Looped instructions (cache)
3762909 2115%, 524989 295%
Memory - Multiple register transfer
27373 16896%, 9184 5669%
Rectangle Copy - Graphics acceleration test
3253 1344%, 3067 1267%
Icon Plotting - 16 colour sprite with mask
42279 2113%, 26035 1301%
Draw Path - Stroke narrow line
11622 745%, 5337 342%
Draw Fill - Plot filled shape
17204 1179%, 6021 412%
HD Read - Block load 8MB file
115924 3887%, 608316 20399%
HD Write - Block save 8MB file
84216 2769%, 530070 17430%
FS Read - Byte stream file in
2493 1204%, 2634 1272%
FS Write - Byte stream file out
2553 1329%, 1170 609%
The 2.9gig Intel processor is not quick enough as an emulator to outperform a 1.5gig ARM chip on the Titanium but they said the new Macs have very fast SSD drives and that gives the Emulator an edge on block filesystem operations. You can compare these figures with those on Chris Hall's website (and try the tests yourself).
Does RISC OS performance on the MacBookPro vary if you run fullscreen or from battery?
A second question I posed last time was whether there would be any changes. Let us run it 3 times (in a window, in fullscreen mode and in fullscreen mode unplugged to see)...
Processor - Looped instructions (cache)
525238 295%, 522668 293%, 522822 293%
Memory - Multiple register transfer
9090 5611%, 9370 5783%, 9160 5654%
Rectangle Copy - Graphics acceleration test
2947 1217%, 2913 1203%, 2899 1197%
Icon Plotting - 16 colour sprite with mask
20316 1015%, 20308 1015%, 24903 1245%
Draw Path - Stroke narrow line
5396 345%, 5531 354%, 5457 349%
Draw Fill - Plot filled shape
5994 410%, 6098 417%, 6045 414%
HD Read - Block load 8MB file
592095 19855%, 559651 18767%, 567762 19039%
HD Write - Block save 8MB file
481882 15846%, 527207 17336%, 522039 17166%
FS Read - Byte stream file in
2593 1252%, 2657 1283%, 2653 1281%
FS Write - Byte stream file out
1141 594%, 1168 608%, 1192 620%
So no notable differences between modes.
This article was partly intended as a bit of Christmas entertainment and the advantages will vary with your exact usage or requirements (the Mac laptop does use a lot more power for example, whereas the VirtualRPC solutions does provide a 'free' Apple Mac as part of the package). And you could always run Jeffrey Lee's excellent VNC server with the free VNC viewer built into the Mac as another combination.
Is this a fair test? Mazzeo's Law says that the answer to any big question is 'It all depends'. It will not give a true answer for every single use case but I would argue that it is a 'valid' test in that it makes a reasonable and repeatable comparison. The Acorn Emulator offers several different chip emulations (700,7500, StrongArm) and may well be better suited to colour modes with less than 16M colours. Stay tuned for Part 3 which will see if these result in a faster Acorn experience (or feel free to test yourself)...
My main conclusion is that both my systems offer a very viable RISC OS solution which allows me to use my favourite operating system at home (my Titanium) or on the move (my laptop).
And in the future...
I generally replace my work Mac every 2-3 years and the rumour mills like to speculate that Apple may move to ARM chips in the future. At the moment, Apple uses Intel chips, and you can currently use a program called BootCamp to intall Windows directly onto Apple Laptops. Commerial software from VMware, and Parallels, and the free VirtualBox allow you to create virtual machines using the Intel hardware. This is much faster as it does not have to emulate another chip. Running RISC OS on a high end ARM laptop with a solution like this would be very appealing....
3 comments in the forums

RISC OS Interview - Rob Sprowson

Posted by Mark Stephens on 09:15, 10/12/2016 | ,
We continue with our series of interviews with people in the RISC OS world. In this interview, we catch-up with Elesar's Rob Sprowson.
If you have any other questions, feel free to join in the discussion.
If you would have any suggestions for people you would like us to interview, or would like to be interviewed, just let us know....
Would you like to introduce yourself?
Could-have-been basketball player, still not tall enough.
How long have you been using RISC OS?
That's patchy: starting with an Acorn Electron which my sister and I eventually broke through overuse, then a big gap until picking up a 2nd hand BBC Micro from the local newspaper in the mid 1990's, then in parallel RISC OS from 1997ish would make either 33 or 19 years depending on which you count.
Oh dear, now I can't claim I'm 21 any more either.
What other systems do you use?
Mostly Windows because of the specialist CAD software and other electronics design tools I need to use daily. I have some VMs saved with Linux and FreeBSD but they're mostly for testing things or recompiling NetSurf, I don't really know what I'm doing but as they're VMs it doesn't matter too much if I destroy something through careless typing.
What is your current RISC OS setup?
Singular? Nothing's that simple. For email I use a Risc PC (well, more specifically my monitors are stacked vertically and I'm too lazy to remove the Risc PC holding the whole pile up - those cases are built like brick bunkers).
For development, a Titanium of course, it's nice to do an experimental OS rebuild in 1 minute or less as I don't like tea and have trouble finding other things to do that take the 'time it takes to boil a kettle'.
Then there are piles and cupboards and boxes of other things of other vintages which get dragged out for compatibility testing, erm, more than 15 if you include Raspberry Pi's though some of them are on loan rather than machines I myself own.
Do you attend any of the shows and what do you think of them?
This year I got wheeled out on behalf of ROOL for Wakefield and the South West show. Shows are great to hear what normal users think and what they can't do but would like to, being too deeply buried in the inner workings of something makes it very difficult to see that.
Some of the shows could be freshened up a bit rather than repeating the 'tables & chairs' format every year, to attract a larger audience - the show organisers should visit similar trade shows or enthusiast conventions to steal ideas to improve the presentation of RISC OS ones.
What do you use RISC OS for in 2016 and what do you like most about it?
I like that the OS doesn't get in my way. If I want to save something in the root directory of my harddisc there's no patronising error box popping up asking me to confirm that. I used to work with someone who had a book on usability called "Don't make me think", and that seems a good mantra to work by.
What is your favourite feature/killer program in RISC OS?
Obligatory plug for Pluto here: Pluto Pluto Pluto. Oh, did I mention Pluto?
What would you most like to see in RISC OS in the future?
The bounty scheme that ROOL runs seems to have a good selection of sensible "big ticket" items in, so I'd go with that since Ben/Steve/Andrew know their onions.
Reasonably frequently someone will ask on their forum "is feature X available" when there's a bounty for X already open, but you never see the total going up so I guess they're a source of hot air rather than stumping up just a tenner to help make something happen. The world runs on these shiny money tokens in our pockets, so people shouldn't get too upset if you ask someone to do something for nothing and nothing happens.
Can you tell us about what you are working on in the RISC OS market at the moment?
There are a couple of CloudFS enhancements in the immediate pipeline, but it
tends to get busy at Elesar which is distracting, because some of the
protocols to talk to the servers are eye wateringly complicated and you
really need to be 'in the zone' to work on them.
Any surprises you can't or dates to tease us with?
There are 3 hardware projects and 3 software projects on RISC OS side of the Elesar hob. I tend to come up with ideas faster than they can be implemented, so sometimes things get culled because they're superceded or because during the derisking stage it becomes apparent that by the time they're finished they'd no longer be commercially viable.
Apart from iconbar (obviously) what are your favourite websites?
Iconbar who?
Santa Claus is a regular iconbar reader. Any not-so-subtle hints you would like to drop him for presents this year (assuming you have been very good)?
A time machine, and a whole cod, to go back in time and slap some people with. You know who you are...I'm coming for you.
Do you have any New Year's Resolutions for 2017?
No, I don't believe in that mumbo jumbo. Only humans attach significance to January 1st; we're just orbiting the sun same as the previous day.
Any questions we forgot to ask you?
How many mouse buttons I've worn out? 2 I think, but fortunately the micro switches are easy to replace and good for another 1 million clicks!
Elesar website
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Native versus emulation for running RISC OS in 2017 (Part 1)

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RISC OS Interviews - Hilary and Matthew Philips

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!Organizer reaches 2.26

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RISC OS Interviews - Tom Williamson

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RISC OS Interviews - Jeffrey Lee

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First Impressions of RComp's TiMachine

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