RISC OS

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Retrospective thoughts on 12 months of Titanium ownership

The Iconbar - Fri, 10/20/2017 - 06:48
Last year at the London Show, I upgraded my RISC OS system to a Titanium based system (in my case the TiMachine from R-Comp).

As the London Show is fast approaching, and other people may have similar thoughts, I felt some retrospective was in order...

I have found the machine to be a very stable and fast. I use it as my main RISC OS machine and experience a noticeable feeling of sluggishness if I go back to an older machine. All the software I use (especially !TechWriter and !MPro) work very well. It is a undoubtedly a pricey machine but I have made far more use of RISC OS in the last twelve months. It is a 'proper' machine in the sense you have DVD, SSD and lots of ports.

It is has been nice to see steady improvements to the system, especially the update to RISC OS 5.23, and releases to use Dual monitor support. It is also great to see Elesar updating their software and bringing some 'old' friends back to the platform such as Look Systems excellent font tools.

The big issue for me is the lack of a decent web browser as I spend a lot of time in web applications such as Jira, Trello and BaseCamp. I tried using my Pi3 with VNC for this, but have reverted to my Mac.

As I said, I have made much more use of RISC OS for the 'traditional' uses which it still excels at and very happy at my purchase. What are your thoughts/experiences?

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Categories: RISC OS

In praise of !ShareFS

The Iconbar - Fri, 10/13/2017 - 06:11
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?

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Categories: RISC OS

RISC OS London Show 2017

The Iconbar - Thu, 10/12/2017 - 22:30
This year's London Show is due to take place on Saturday the 28th of October, at the usual location of the St. Giles Hotel in Feltham. The show runs from 11 AM to 5 PM, with tickets being £5 at the door (and under-16's free). Exhibitors this year are set to include:The theatre schedule is yet to be finalised, and with the number of new and interesting exhibitors it's anyone's guess who's going to be filling the slots. What are your predictions?

For up-to-the-minute show news, remember to check out the show website.

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Categories: RISC OS

!DualHead second release reviewed

The Iconbar - Fri, 10/06/2017 - 06:11
In our previous review we looked at release 1 of !DualHead. R-Comp have already released an update so we will dive in and see what has changed...

There is more polish in this release with some clearer messages. The software is very smart in making sure that you do not end up with no display. There is no dedicated installer application but the software is extremely easy to update - you copy !Boot over your existing copy and copy the !DualHead software onto your disk, and reboot/run . There is also a !RevertMode application installed in !Boot which will restore sanity with a click of Alt and Home.

As you can see there are some higher resolution modes now available. 2048 x 1440 x 2 is an amazing screen, but I was unable to run this in 16 million colours without a lot of flickering (although for most tasks 32k/64K is indistinguishable). R-Comp acknowledges this in the documentation and is probably pushing the Titanium/RISC OS beyond its limits.

I do think that the documentation could be improved. There is a version 1 PDF document hidden away (which is confusing on a v2 release) and a proper rewrite and release history in the !ReadMe would be nice.

Some advice on how best to use and setup the 2 monitors for RISC OS would also be welcome - my biggest issue after testing the new release was neck ache from playing 'head ping-pong' by switching my view between the 2 monitors all the time due to the Icon Bar now being across both screens.

I am really pleased to see R-Comp produce a second release (I prefer to keep the version 2 tag for major feature updates). R-Comp is leading RISC OS into new territory with this software and I think it really benefits from small, regular incremental releases driven by user and developer feedback. I am really looking forward to talking to R-Comp at the London show about their plans for the software.

My killer feature for the version 2 release would be to fix the issue with the popups appearing in the middle of the screen. What is yours?

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Categories: RISC OS

September News round-up

The Iconbar - Sat, 09/30/2017 - 06:05
Some things we noticed in the RISC OS world - what did you see?

R-Comp release an update for their !DualHead software.

Elesar offered a free AMCOG Games bundle with the Titanium.

Adrian Lees announced on Iconbar that Aemulor would no longer be sold as a commercial product but would continue in development.

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Categories: RISC OS

RISC OS software to download from !Store

The Iconbar - Fri, 09/22/2017 - 06:47
In previous articles, we looked at package managers and some of the software available on !PackMan. In this article we are going to highlight some of the software available in !Store and ask for your suggestions.

When you run !Store, it offers you a long list of files and includes both free and commercial software (which you can buy via !Store). As with !Packman it gives you a front end to make it easy to search, provide more details and you can select categories.

If you are looking to run old software on a new machine, our old friend Aemulor is available as free download. There is also in interesting Atari ST emulator called Hatari if you want a real ‘GEM’ environment on your machine.

!Store is also the home for the latest version of !Impression. (although I would criticise the broken link which goes nowhere and looks bad. The pages like PMS Music scribe also include broken links).

Some very high quality software originally written by David Pilling is now freely available and you can find this on !Store.

!Store offers more than software, and you will also find fonts and copies of DraG’N’Drop (which we reviewed here).

What are you downloading from !Store?

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Categories: RISC OS

RISC OS on GitHub

The Iconbar - Fri, 09/15/2017 - 06:49
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

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Categories: RISC OS

!DualHead in use

The Iconbar - Fri, 09/08/2017 - 06:20
[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-Comp 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...

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Categories: RISC OS

August news round-up

The Iconbar - Thu, 08/31/2017 - 06:16
A quick round-up of news we noticed in the RISC OS world (please feel free to post in comments anything missed).

A new edition of Drag'n'Drop was published with a timely tutorial on upgrading your Pi to 5.23.

Some interesting developments in multi-core support for RISC OS.

The 5.23 release for the Titanium is now on ROOL site. R-Comp released their official version of it for their TiMachine.

Elesar also provided a new sales home for ">CloneDisc and SystemDisc.

Some new hardware with the RaspberryRo Lite (from 4D) and and a new mouse solution for older machines. RISC OS bits brought us the ROKit and PiSSDup.

RISC OS blog reviewed RISC OS on the Pi3 and Cyborg (a new game from AMCOG).

On The Icon Bar, we grilled Richard Brown about the SW show, Orpheus, RISC OS Developments (and which really is better -!Zap or !StrongED). And Jason Tribbeck announced he was back...

Discknight 1.53 is a major update making use of the new features in RISC OS 5.23

R-Comp released its !DualHead software to allow its TiMachine to make use of that second video port on the back.

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Categories: RISC OS

R-Comp release !DualHead

The Iconbar - Sat, 08/26/2017 - 10:14
If you own a Titanium based machine you may have noticed that it has 2 video output ports. If you plug a monitor into the right port (as you look at the machine from the back), you will get the chemical details of the element Titanium on your second screen. Interesting but not very practical....

Now R-Comp have released !DualHead which allows their Titanium based TiMachine to display RISC OS across two screens (heads). In this article, we will get it up and running with a later look at how well it works. Let us see if two Heads are better than one...

The application is a free download from the R-Comp website (you will need your username and password to access it). It consists of some updates for !Boot, a very helpful !ReadMe, and the actual !DualHead application.

I read the !ReadMe, updated !Boot and rebooted my machine. Nothing changes until you run the !DualBoot software and press space. If anything goes wrong the software is well-designed to revert back to the default single display.

You now have one RISC OS display spilt across 2 screens (with a really long iconbar across the bottom). Windows can also be split across screen as you can see from the alert message. This can take used to along with alerts and dialog boxes popping up on the screen you were not expecting.

As you can see the software is very easy to setup. Next time we will delve into how well it works....

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Categories: RISC OS

Revisting the old Acorn magazines online

The Iconbar - Fri, 08/25/2017 - 06:58
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....

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Categories: RISC OS

RISC OS Developments

The Iconbar - Fri, 08/18/2017 - 06:19
Richard Brown also agreed to recap on RISC OS developments as part of our interview.

Who came up with the original idea?
I came up with it over a conversation at a RISC OS show and it took off from there.

What was the reaction to your announcement at Wakefield?
It created a surprise and we received a good response from the Community.

How did you measure the response?
Of the people who we signed up to our NDA, and we spoke to candidly, 90% went on to make an investment in the Company. We were able to revise upwards the scope of the project as a result.

Can you remind us about the financial proposal you made?
Anyone who wanted to make a ‘reasonable' investment could put money into RISC OS developments. This will help to finance our work. The deliverables will be of benefit to the RISC OS community. We have achieved our initial target, but any additional finance we can raise would be put to very good use. People need to talk to talk to us confidentially if they would like to know more.

Progress?
On going and taking up significant time. Like Castle, we will make announcements when apppropriate.

Stay tuned.

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Categories: RISC OS

RISC OS Interviews - Richard Brown (Orpheus Internet)

The Iconbar - Fri, 08/11/2017 - 06:21
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

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Categories: RISC OS

Summer edition of Drag'N'Drop hits the shelves

The Iconbar - Fri, 08/04/2017 - 07:14

If you are finding the gap between the Spring and Autumn RISC OS shows too large, or the summer holidays are starting to drag, the Summer edition of Drag'N'Drop will provide you with the perfect remedy.

This quarterly magazine is available as a PDF (idea for reading on any Computer) and you can buy a copy for 3.50 pounds (an extra pound gets you the listings as well).

If you miss the Acorn magazines of yesteryear, you will feel very much at home with this months edition with its mix of news (which can be live links in a PDF), reviews, hardware and software projects including reasonably short (and well-documented) listings to type in. One thing I really appreciate in the magazine is that it tries to target all levels so there are lots of things for everyone from beginners (including helpful tips and reminders like how to get into BASIC) to hardcore coders (programming the sound system with RDSP and WIMP programming).

Budding games programmers can read about Amcog's Games development kit, play with their RDSP sound system and experiment with a short type-in game (Attack of the Raspberry Macaroons).

If you have an old Electron into your attic you learn how to 'upgrade' it to a RISC OS machine with a RaspberryPi.

There are some great little utility programs to type in (and nicely documented so you can tweak and extend) for generating musical staves and accessing Function keys from the desktop.

There is also an index of volumes 1-8. If you missed an article (or want to go back in the WIMP programming), you can buy a USB from the website with all the previous issues.

My personal favourite item in the magazine was the detailed description on how to upgrade the SD card in your RaspberryPi to RISC OS 5.23 the intelligent way without just rewriting the whole card. Worth the money on its own....

What was your favourite article?

Drag'N'Drop website

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Categories: RISC OS

ROM release for your Titanium - What is new

The Iconbar - Fri, 07/28/2017 - 08:35
In a previous article, we looked at installing the new ROM for your Titanium. This time we will look at what the new release offers.

This is actually quite a major update and there is a long list of changes. The offical full list of changes is on the ROOL website. Some of the changes are not really relevent to Titanium users (Pico build fix, introduce iMx6 to ROOL repository) but there are lots of interest.

From a users point of view, there are 3 major new features

The first is the addition of 256 color modes.

This makes it much easier to use old software which was written for these modes.

Another bounty enhancement is the new EDID support means that your machine can be much 'smarter' when you plug a monitor into it. It is not Titanium-specifc (but very nice to have). This is the result of the EDID bounty from ROOL.

Improvements to ADFS now mean that you can have up to 8 terabytes of storage on RISC OS (and RISC OS uses large drives more efficiently).

A nice little enhancement for Paint is the addition of a timer control for the spray can (which was previously a little unwieldy on fast new modern machines). Paint is now version 2.21 (last updated May 2017).

BASIC and the Char and Draw applications both get enhancements and bug fixes.

The whole package is free to download and brings the Titanium bang up to date with RISC OS developments. What are your impressions of the new update? Have you found any problems?

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Categories: RISC OS

Installing the new ROM release for your Titanium

The Iconbar - Sat, 07/22/2017 - 09:23
Elesar emailed all its clients and announced on the newsgroups that there was a new software update for the Titanium. In this article we will download and install it with a sequel to look at the new features.

As well as the 'vanilla' Titanium, CJEmicro's and R-Comp have systems based on the board. As my machine is from R-Comp, I checked with Andrew Rawnsley about whether it was a good idea to install or wait for an official update from them. R-Comp are indeed planning to do a proper machine-specific update once they had done their own testing. You can wait for them or you can use the new update. If you have a machine from CJEmicro's I would confirm their advice first.

If your Titanium is your critical work machine, you might want to wait a little while to let others test the upgrade (which is equally valid advice on new MacOS, Linux or Windows updates).

The Elesar download link actually takes you to a download page on the ROOL website where you have a choice of downloads, depending on how 'cutting edge' you would like to be. The bottom item is the recommended stable release and it is twice as big because it includes a second version of the ROM.

The official download is the 5 meg download which contains everything you need to upgrade your Titanium and a clear and helpful readme.

There is a potential risk for things to go wrong, so you are advised to make sure you have backups of all your data before you start (always a good idea to keep regular backups in any case!). Murphy's law generally means the more prepared you are the less likely things will go wrong...

Two versions of the new OS release are supplied, with and without zpp included. Which one you choose will be down to your personal preferences and the software you are using.

The actual upgrade consists of 3 steps:-
1. Update the software on your disk (using Merge to update !Boot with any changes).
2. Sanity check by soft loading the ROM on your machine using the softload obey file, just to make sure. If there are any issues, you can then revert back to the original with a quick reboot.
3. Use the FlashSQPI application to burn a new copy of the ROM onto your system. This can be a little time-consuming and should not be interrupted. Once it is done, you can reboot the machine.

Before you do any of this, it is worth reading the readme fully TWICE.

It is very easy to see if the machine has been updated.

You have an updated machine running the latest version of RISC OS for your machine. Next time we will look at what is new...

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Categories: RISC OS

Are the RISC OS show dates on your calendar?

The Iconbar - Fri, 07/21/2017 - 06:49
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.

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Categories: RISC OS

Treasure trove of RISC OS games at JASPP site

The Iconbar - Fri, 07/14/2017 - 06:49
We try to flag up interesting sites you might have missed or are worth revisiting (let us know if you have any suggestions). In our previous item we reminded you about Exploring Mathematical shapes in RISC OS. This time it is all about games....

A wealth of games have been released for RISC OS machines over the year. Many of these games no longer run on modern hardware or have been in danger of being lost as the Companies who produced them have changed direction or disappeared.

The Archimedes Software Preservation Project has aimed to tackle both these issues. It has just announced the latest release of ADFFS (version 2.61). If you have been itching to run Zalaga or Moondash on your Pi, this is the release for you.

The software is free to download and use, and 65 of the support games can also be downloaded from links on the website.

Many of these games could have been lost and it is really great to see John Abbot bringing them back to life for the next generation.

Download ADFFS and games website

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Categories: RISC OS

New release of Cyborg from AMCOG games

The Iconbar - Fri, 07/07/2017 - 08:41
When we interviewed Tony from AMCOG games, he told us about his exciting plans for developing and enhancing new games.

So it is no surprise to see the release of Cyborg Second Edition. If you are looking for an Arcade action style game (think Cyberton), Cyborg has it all in 16 million colours on all RISC OS 4/5 machines including emulation. The game costs 9.99 pounds.

AMCOG has also done a lot of work on its free RDSP sound solution for RISC OS and Tony talks about this at recent shows. The game makes extensive use of this.

There is a youtube video showcasing the game on youtube

Game details are on the AMCOG website

If you already have the game, you can enjoy the new levels and Audio Visual enhancements with a free download from !Store

It is really great to see AMCOG providing quality new games for the RISC OS market.

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