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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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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

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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!Organizer reaches 2.26

Posted by Mark Stephens on 10:32, 30/11/2016 | , ,
 
One of the top items on my shopping list for the recent RISC OS London Show was the latest release of !Organizer. This is now at version 2.26 and maintained/developed for the last few years by Martin Avison.
 
!Organizer is one of my favourite RISC OS applications, and I love the flexible display modes. I have to use Google Calendar at work, and I find !Organizer much more flexible. A monthly view is fine until you get to the end of the month and suddenly find some surprises as the months roll on.
 
The 2 week rolling view in !Organizer makes it very easy to plan and organise my life and be ontop of my up-coming schedule. This has been enhanced in recent releases with the planner and 4/8 week rolling displays. ICal compatability also makes it very easy to import existing Calendars and lists of public holidays,etc available on the Internet.
 
Recent releases have seen small tweaks to !Organizer, which is no bad thing with a mature piece of software. It is already very configurable, and you can skin the softwarre to look exactly as you like. The guys at BaseCamp are rightly scathing on their blog about over-designing and cluttering up software with new features which make the product more cluttered and less usable.
 
So, what are the new features in 2.26? The headline feature is the ability to encrypt data with a password. Now that you can more easily share data and store the data on Cloud servers, it is good to see security options on what is critical and personal data. This feature is very flexible so you can encrypt some of the data (like your addresses) or everything. 2.26 also brings some tweaks to the Notes section and some bug fixes.
 
The upgrade is available from 2.24 for 20 pounds or from 2.23 (or the version on PiNut) for 30 pounds. If you have a version earlier than 2.24, this added some very interesting features to interact with Sine Nomine's OSM Mapping software to make it very easy to produce maps from your address book with a single click.
 
One of the great things about the shows is the chance to talk to the developers, who were very actively asking for idea and feedback. I suggested that there is still room for improvement in the Notes tools (which feels clunky compared to newer tools like Trello).
 
I would also like to see !Organizer able to send out emails to remind about events if a Mail client is available - this is one very good feature in Google Calendar.
 
It would also be useful to have more ability to create groups. At the moment I use Green for Personal and Blue for Work events and it would be nice to be able to define them better. If you have some ideas, the developers would love to hear from you....
 
If you are an existing user of !Orangaizer, you will be pleased to see the continued polish and maintenance of the software. If you are not a user, and looking for a small, polished and perfectly formed organizer, we recommend you take a look.
 
Organizer website
 
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!PhotoDesk adds support for latest hardware and software with version 3.14

Posted by Mark Stephens on 20:54, 23/11/2016 | ,
 
The long-awaited release 3.14 (nice pun for Pi users) of !PhotoDesk arrived at the RISC OS London show and is now available as an upgrade from CJEmicros.
 
In his show talk at London Show, Chris Evans talked about the new release. This version has actually been put together by a new maintainer (although my understanding is that the usual Swiss maintainer is still active). So what's in the new release?
 
The headline feature is improved support for latest software/hardware. !PhotoDesk has been upgraded to allow for Zero Pain Protection and to run properly on the new hardware (it flies on my new Titanium and also now works properly on Panda, latest RaspberryPi3, ARMX6 and IPEGv5). I have been running !PhotDesk for 2 weeks now and I have had no issues (just an old favourite running on much zippier hardware).
 
In terms of new features, the developers have also improved JPEG support. JPEG is more of a family of filetypes (with lots of different versions). JPEG support has been an area where RISC OS has fallen behind, and it is good to see the platform catching-up. It is also a really good reason to move to the latest version of RISC OS 5, with the improved OS support for JPEG from the bounty scheme. You can read-up on JPEG in detail here.
 
The upgrade CD includes an !Install application which will install the software onto your machine directly. If you try to copy this to another machine, it will detect this and not run. The upgrade CD itself could do with little spring clean. It includes a copy of !Webster and there is no zipped copy of the !Install. This is a pain if you only have access to a CD on a non-RISC OS machine and want to copy it across.
 
The copy of !PhotoDesk on the Nut Pi card from ROOL is not the latest. In his London Show talk, Chris Evans suggested users should contact CJEmicros if they have an issue with latest release.
 
The upgrade costs 12 pounds, and you will need your CD or to proof of an existing license. If you bought it directly from CJEmicros, they have a customer database they may be able to look you up on. The price seems reasonable to me - with new chips and new video hardware/modes, this is a lot of fiddly work under the bonnet.
 
For users of the latest hardware or looking to run on the latest RISC OS releases this is an essential purchase. If you have an older machine, the improved JPEG support is nice to have and it is good to see continued support and development of this critical and much-loved software.
 
CJEmicros
 
PhotoDesk resources on Iconbar
 
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Elesar's new Cloud Storage software

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Games news

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Aemulor/Spellings.net account details posted online

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Getting FAT32FS working on a RiscPC with a Castle USB Card

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Software preservation project bearing fruit

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Old games on new screens

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