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RISC OS software to download from !PackMan

The Iconbar - Fri, 06/23/2017 - 06:00
In a previous article we looked at !PackMan and !Store. In this article we are going to highlight some of the software available in !PackMan and ask for your suggestions.

When you run !PackMan, it offers you a long list of files (with some nice category and filter options). You can see these in the screenshots below (click on the images for the full sized versions).

When you choose a program it brings up a window with lots of information, including more details, version numbers and dependencies (which it will generally handle for you automatically of tell you of any clashes. Here you can see I am installing the Povray ray tracing program which allows you to design and render 3D scenes.

!PackMan provides a home (and central repository) for many established RISC OS programs and, as a bonus, an easy way to update if new versions are released. !Nettle offers a terminal program for RISC OS, which is still (even in 2017) a very convenient way to access remote systems. You also have OpenSHH as an alternative option. You can also see a whole host of other applications available such as Rsync, FTPc and even other web browsers to try (I would recommend a really fast machine for those).

If you want to indulge in some nostalgia, there is a selection of emulators - upgrade your RISC OS machine to a Spectrum class machine today!

There are some good tools on other platforms which you may miss on RISC OS. My personal favourites of Bash and Grep are available as ports.

!PackMan is not just about software programs. You will find free fonts on to download including these excellent BitStream fonts.

That is a small selection of some of the gems you will find on !PackMan. In a future article, we will have a rummage around !Store. In the meantime, what are your favourite applications or recommendations on !PackMan?

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Categories: RISC OS

Elesar updates Font Directory Pro to 3.21

The Iconbar - Fri, 06/16/2017 - 06:44
Given the 12 years between the last 2 releases of Font Directory Pro, an update 6 months after the last release is really good news. Previously, this very slick Font Manager from LookSystems languished until adopted by Elesar.

This release moves the release from 3.20 to 3.21 so it is an incremental update. The only 'new feature' on the changelist is enhanced help text in Choices and there are 5 bug fixes.

The software comes with a slick installer application and was automatically mailed to all registered users. You will need your application key to update the software. It would have been nice to be able to just drag the software on have it updated (as we have got used to with packages like !Ovation).

Elesar are still asking for user ideas for future improvements and the appearance of an new version so soon should give us all encouragement for a bright future for this great piece of software.

Elesar website

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Categories: RISC OS

Disappearing websites

The Iconbar - Fri, 06/09/2017 - 06:38
In the last few weeks some websites of interested to RISCOS users have disappeared.

riscoscode.com used to be great list of interesting snippets from the RISCOS and software world in general selected by Martin Hansen. It now returns a domain expired blank page, although the twitter account is still online. It also looks like piLEARN and Mathmagical have also gone.

Another site which has dropped off the radar is the Pandaboard.org, which was the official home for the Panda. The Panda is still a great RISCOS machine, especially as a compact solution - I use mine at work as my secondary machine to my home Titanium.

Even if these sites are not being updated, this is a loss because they contain lots of useful content is lost and the search links all break.

There are still ways to see these sites (here is an old version of riscoscode). But these version are not always the latest and the links across the internet (and for search are broken).

It does not have to be this way. The old Computer Concepts page has been kept up on there internet by Xara, riscos.org and all its links are still online, APDL has a new home, and we host several sites on iconbar.

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Categories: RISC OS

What development tools do we need ported to RISC OS

The Iconbar - Sat, 05/27/2017 - 06:46
In a previous article, I talked about software updates we would like to see at the next show.

The critical ingredient for software development (whether you are writing something for your own use, developing free or commercial software for wider distribution, or trying to port something from another platform) is the toolset available.

In some ways, we have been lucky with RISC OS, which from the first release has included its own built-in development language (BBC BASIC). There is additional free software such as Dr Wimp or AppBasic to provide a really nice way to write desktop applications more easily.

For more advanced development have both the free C GCCSDK compiler and ROOL offers the commercial Desktop Development Environment.

But are there still some tools which would make RISC OS a better platform for development, make it easier to port software written using these tools across and possibly encourage developers who use these tools to try RISC OS? In an ideal world (with unlimited time and resources) we would obviously like Java, Mono, Ruby, etc along with Eclipse, Visual Studio and Maven,etc.... But that is not unfortunately where we live.

So here are 2 suggestions of tools I would like us to see on RISC OS which would be viable and make a positive impact.

Git is the leading Version Control system. It has replaced older systems such as CVS (which is all we have on RISC OS natively) for many uses. It also makes it easier to access GitHub, a huge central repository of free software or other systems such as Bitbucket. Some RISC OS code is uploaded to GitHub but it would be much easier to have Git on RISC OS.

Python 3 Python is a highly popular language for starting program development and heavily pushed by the RaspberryPi foundation and others. We have Python on RISC OS but it is only the much older Python 2 release. Python 3 is a significant improvement on the previous version and the one most new programmmers would want to use.

What do you think we need to see on RISC OS?

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Categories: RISC OS

Latest Drag'n'Drop magazine reviewed

The Iconbar - Fri, 05/26/2017 - 07:03
If you miss the Acorn magazines from yesterday, then Drag'n'Drop is definitely the magazine for you with its mix of news, reviews and lots of hands on technical items. The magazine is published 4 times as year as a PDF (which you can read on any machine).

The latest quarterly release was released at Wakefield Show, and given the updates to date news section, looks like it was being updated until the very last minute. The News and editorial section looks at Wakefield and also includes details on upcoming events and both free and commercial software and hardware releases. One of the great advantages of providing the magazine as a PDF is that it can include clickable links for you to follow.

The rest of the magazine consists of a wide range of well-written technical articles. Don't worry that the author might lose you - a lot of thought has been given to making sure the reader can follow along easily, and there is even a reminder on how to get into BASIC via the F12 key.

The new sound module developed by Amcog Games and freely available gets a detailed write-up with a five page tutorial explaining the new features and showing how to use them. If you have been a little 'nervous' of modules, it also serves as a really clear explanation of how to install and use them.

The Iconbar animation article will appeal to an anyone wishing to make their applications look more slick. There is a detailed and annotated BASIC program to give you a slick, animated icon for your program on the iconbar.

The Python Primary School is an ongoing series on writing Python programs which can use the RISC OS wimp. This time we have reached high level functions such as creating a window. There is also a nice comparison of Python code with BASIC for all these functions. If you have missed the rest of the series, you can get all the back issues on a USB stick.

For general RISC OS programming, there is also a tutorial on creating Windows options in !WinEd and then accessing from a BASIC application. This instalment includes using the toggle icon and how drop-down menus work.

This is definitely an edition for anyone wanting to develop their own desktop RISC OS applications. There is also a complete BASIC listing for a multi-tasking Desktop Noughts and Crosses application.

Finally, there is a nice little module called SWILister which allows you to list all the SWI calls which any module provides and can also be accessed from BASIC via an Sys call. The listing is on a yellow page (which may give you some additional feelings of nostalgia for the old yellow page listings).

The magazine is available to buy from The Drag'n'Drop website where you can also download a free preview of the magazine. You can also get a USB stick with every edition of the magazine ever published and also see their range of fonts and programming books.

I really enjoyed this edition, and can highly recommend it to anyone looking to keep up with developments and wanting to improve their programming knowledge.

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Categories: RISC OS

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

The Iconbar - Fri, 05/19/2017 - 06:44
One of the most positive things for me about the last round of shows (London, South-West, Wakefield) was the number of new versions of RISC OS packages released which offered new features. This was not just to support new hardware but to add functionality.

With Wakefield now behind us and a long gap until the London Show in October, now might be a good time to ponder/suggest/dream about updates you would like to see in RISC OS software you use?

Most RISC OS software is still fairly well-featured and well-designed. But there are still gaps, especially as the way people use software has changed. Here are my two suggestions to get you thinking...

'Better' IMAP support in !Messenger

IMAP works very well in !Messenger but a lot of the functionality in the actual application is not available. IMAP has become increasingly common with people spreading their email across multiple devices. I can use filters for IMAP mail in the MacOS email clients but it is not an option in !Messenger. It would be really nice to see all the features in !Messenger work on IMAP.

'Improved' Notes in !Organizer

Recent releases of !Organizer have seen some really powerful enhancements to the Diary features in the software, but no change to the Notes features which are still quit limited and clunky. Tools like !Trello now allow you to easily create draggable lists and it would be really nice to see something like this added to !Organizer.

Are these features you would also like to see? What is on your wishlist?

6 comments in forum

Categories: RISC OS

Archive 24.3 Review

The Iconbar - Fri, 05/12/2017 - 08:16
Just before Wakefield show, Archive 24.3 arrived on our doorsteps. If you are not currently a subscriber, here is what you are missing out on...

When the magazine arrives, there is often a survey so you enter when you received your copy. In return, you can view the map showing how quickly the magazine was delivered (and where in the world they are).

It has been a little while since the last issue of Archive, so there was lots of news including breaking news as Wakefield approached. As well as all the updates on events, hardware and software there are some nice updates on Community members (Chris Williams and Stephen Streater get a mention in this edition).

There have been 2 shows since the last issues, so there are 10 pages of show reviews and pictures covering London and South West Shows.

The bulk of Archive Magazine has always been written by its readership and consists generally of either practical tutorial-style material, hints and tips or updates on projects. In this edition:-

1. Chris Hall looks at BBC Basic on the Pico and builds a welcome screen.
2. David Snell explains the new features added to Procad+ for handling Open Street Map data.
3. Chris Hall continues with his series on using GPS from RISC OS.
4. Jim Lesurf tells us about his new hifi website (and how he used RISC OS to create it).
5. Richard Darby looks at Duplex printing to Postscript printers in RISC OS.
6. Mark Stephens looks at RISC OS news sites on the internet.
7. Paul Porcelijn offers some tips on creating XML data on RISC OS for uploading bank details.
8. Gavin Wraith experiments with StrongEd to see what it can do.
9. Gerald Fitton transitions from CRT to LCD monitors.
10. Mark Stephens looks at new Macs in the Mac Matters column.
11. Jim Nagel gets some LED lighting on his keyboard.
12. Bernard Boase has some suggestions and ideas on making sure you do safe data backups.

Finally, there is a useful selection of short hints and tips.

All in all, it is a great 48 page read (and if you ask Jim Nagel nicely, Archive may still offer sample copies to non-subscribers to try).

Archive magazine website

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Categories: RISC OS

RC15 bring RISC OS to any Raspberry Pi

The Iconbar - Sat, 05/06/2017 - 07:52

As ROOL had hinted in the run-up to the show, Wakefield 2017 saw the long-awaited release of RC15.

RC15 (RC stands for release candidate) was the official release of RISC OS to run on the Raspberry Pi 3. All the issues found in RC14 have been fixed and this version is now considered stable and reliable to run. RC14 was actually fairly good but several 3rd party applications (which are shipped with RISC OS) did not. There are actually a lot of changes in RC15 (it is an ePic release) which you can read on the changelog.

It is still RISC OS 5.23 (so officially no new features) but it has needed a lot of changes to make it run on the latest version of the Raspberry Pi. The hardware used has changed significantly in this new model and this required some updates to the code to make it work correctly. In particular, it uses a different ARM chip (Cortex-A53) which no longer allows some 'old' ways of doing things. This does not effect BASIC code, and C code needs a recompile. ARM code is more messy as it needs to be updated if it still uses these old methods. Otherwise the software will crash. And much RISC OS software is still written in ARM assembly code. We have been playing this catch-up game for many years (remember moving to 32bit for the same reason).

The release is important because it once again means RISC OS can run on the whole range of Raspberry Pi machines.

Setting up RISC OS on the RaspberryPi 3 is a bit of an anti-climax... I plugged the SD card in, switched on and it all booted straight into the RISC OS desktop. It even autamatically setup my a network connection for me. A quick screen resolution change, and I was up and running....

RISC OS is available for the Raspberry Pi in 3 ways:-
1. You can download the SD card image and copy it onto your own SSD card for free from ROOL.
2. You can buy an SD card already setup from the ROOL store.
3. You can buy an SD card containing both RISC OS and all the software on the Nut Pi together on an extra large, superfast SD card from the ROOL store.

RISC OS does not really make much use of the extra features so it is not worth upgrading to a Raspberry Pi 3 for a faster RISC OS experience. Where you will see a real benefit is in running other Operating Systems (which can make use of the 64bit chip and multi-threading). This is the first Raspberry Pi which I feel runs Raspbian (the office Linux release) well enough for my personal real, everyday usage. I actually have my Raspberry Pi 3 mostly setup as a Linux machine to use as a web browser (it now includes Chrome) and run Open Office (easily accessed from my RISC OS machines using VNC).

The Raspberry Pi is an amazing phenomenon and it is great to see our favourite OS available for all the versions and providing a really cheap entry point for RISC OS and a whole new generation with the chance to try RISC OS.

ROOL official announcement

Raspberry Pi website

3 comments in forum

Categories: RISC OS

Acorn World Sat 13th - Sunday 14th May

The Iconbar - Sat, 04/29/2017 - 06:58
This new event/exhibition is being organised in Cambridge at the Centre for Computing History by the Acorn and BBC User group.

It will include machines and software from the whole of Acorn's history and also beyond. And it will also include Acorn's 'children' - the Companies which Acorn helped to create and grow.

Event runs 10am-5pm and tickets will cost 8 pounds (which also gives you full access to the rest of the Museum which includes lots of other history, nostalgia and trivia.

Whether your interest is past, present or future, there will be lots of interest to see...

Museum website

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Categories: RISC OS

Wakefield 2017 Show Report

The Iconbar - Sat, 04/22/2017 - 20:46
The 22nd Wakefield Show took place at the Cedar Court Hotel. If you were not at the show, this is what you missed.

The Show takes place across 3 rooms. There is a retro room, with lots of 8 bit equipment, a RISC OS room and a third room for talks. It was a really busy show and there were lots of things I did not have time to see or missed.

I spent most of my time in the theatre and RISC OS stands so I will focus on that in my write-up.

You can also get a feel from all parts of the Show from our picture gallery.

RISC OS stands
There were lots of new features, ideas and updates from the stands. Here is what I picked up.

Ident have so far held the price on their Ident cases despite increasing costs of raw items. They are offering both RISC OS and Linux solutions. They operate in many markets outside the traditional RISC OS scene where their clients are asking for Linux.

North One Communications were showing off Organizer 2.26 (which is new to Wakefield) and still getting ideas for a hopeful new release for London Show.

RISCOSbits had their growing range of hardware solutions on show and some neat little covers for your PI case - I think I even spotted a bright yellow one.

Chris Hall had his GPS system updating a map in real time and had several interesting hardware setups using GPS and custom screens.

CJE Micros had their usual large range of hardware and software on offer.

Steve Fryatt was on hand to demonstrate his range of software, which can also be bought on CD and raises money for Charity.

ROOL had their ePic release and the usual selection of Books, USBs and some 10 year old badges for their anniversary.

Drag'N'Drop had the latest release of their magazine, their range of fonts and books/drawing tutorials.

Archive Magazine had both Paul Bevereley, Jim Nagel and the latest release of Archive (released last week).

SoftRock/Riscository had the full range of software and Pi cases on show.

R-Comp had lots of little software updates since last year's show and their full range of hardware and monitors.

Orpheus Internet had their big screen and were discussing both their traditional internet services and new plans with Riscos Developments.

Timothy Baldwin did not have a stand but attracted a lot of interest as he now has RISC OS running on Debian Linux and was able to demonstrate what is a reasonably stable (and quick) beta release.

The talks

Richard Brown had a special talk added to the start of the day. He began by updating us on OrpheusNet. They have been updating their servers which means they will be able to offer new services including better web hosting and VPS (they can offer you your own virtual box to use rather than having to install you box in their data centre). Richard has been involved in lots of other RISC OS projects including ArmMini, ARMX6 and gets lots of suggestions and requests. Sometimes people ask for things and his usual response, is along the lines of "If you are prepared to pay X, we can make it happen".

Richard explained that one specific request at SW South had led him to ask "How much is this worth to you?" An encouraging answer to this has led him to aks other people and in less that 2 months he has managed to put together the 30K he estimates he needs to make it happen. The hope is that this will be the first of several such ventures. The investors are not expecting to see a financial reward from this and the idea is that everyone in the RISC OS community will be able to benefit.

Mindful of previous events not having ended entirely happily, and having secured the funding for the first project, Richard is being cautious on initial announcements. Once a clear timeline can be provided, there will be more details. In the meantime, there is lots of speculation.

In order to provide a legal structure for this, a new Company has been created. Andrew Rawnsley is the second director, as Richard has worked with him before, but the idea is to benefit everyone and anyone is invited to be involved.

At the moment, Richard has most of the funds for his initial project but if you are looking at donating a significant figure (ie over 1,000 pounds), he is happy to tell you more if you would like to sign an NDA.

If you are looking to donate smaller sums, there are plenty of worthy ROOL bounties which you could top up..... Both these efforts are complementing each other to improve RISC OS.

In the interest of full disclosure, Iconbar has signed the NDA and the planned first project is VERY,VERY EXCITING. The people who have put the money in are all fairly shrewd people who are not expecting to see a financial return on their investment but are expecting to see the money used very wisely as specified and expecting to hold Richard and Andrew to account and to deliver.

This is probably the biggest investment in RISC OS since the sale to PACE.

Andrew Rawnsley gave an update on what R-Comp have been up to. There are lots of minor software updates but the recent focus has been on hardware updates and the new laptop. He recapped on recent releaseswith the ARMX6 speed improvements on accessing networks, the RAID solution, new Linux release for TiMachine and new RISC OS builds for all machines as well.

The second half of his talk was devoted to Riscos Developments, with the desire to ensure that RISC OS will still be around in another 20 years and to fix some of the big issues and missing gaps.

Steve Revill from ROOL did not have advanced notice of Riscos Developments, but welcomed the new initiative and looked forward to learning more and working together. ROOL have their ePic release forthe show which was r15 for the PI. It has been an epic release due to the sheer amount of changes and work needed to make it work. As well as the standard RISC OS build (which you can buy from them or download for free), ROOL are now offering a large, fast, SD card combining RISC OS and all the NutPi software for 50 pounds.

ROOL also ran through recently completed and still open bounties.

The EDID bounty is now complete (it autodetect monitors making RISC OS simply and easier to use). Potential other future changes may include hot support and multiple monitors. A second completed bounty now offers support for larger drives up to 2 TIB. A critical part of the RISC OS filing system has been rewritten in C (making it much easier to maintain and enhance). Step 2 will be partition support (still raising funds on bounty and at 2,700)

Open bounties include-

1. USB support bounty to update and sync with net BSD stack
2. Networking and stack overhaul (IPv6,etc)
3. Better clipboard support
4. Compiler support

ROOL's New Zealand division (Andrew Hodgkinson) is doing updates to the ROOL website and hope to add some new features such as targets for bounties.

Jeffrey Lee and others have started looking at multicore

Sine nomine demonstrated a new version of !Impact which added much better import features. This has come out of improvements originally added to OSM. !Impact no longer needs fields in same order. The software shows potential import preview of issues before import and allows you to fix them. Import allows for Merging, update and selection values. There was a quick demo of exporting location to OSM to add as pins (which led nicely into the second part).

OSM has lots of polish and nice to have features added. There is a new resizing tool to choose output size, route tracing, lock button, tracks can be edited, compass and ability to turn map. You can also load photos from web in OSM (once RISC OS has https this will also be able to use Flickr). Future updates will Look at better GPS support and adding contour lines.

CJE Micro's are also excited by RISC OS developments. Chris had his preparations for the show interrupted by a overly complex house move so it was more 'spontaneous' than usual. Chris has 2 different markets with retro/legacy customers as well as customers wanting the latest. So he has secured a support of legacy mice for RISC OS machine and also a supply for older Pi2s (not the new versions which are essentially Pi3s with some bits missing). He also has some nice compact speakers and some KVM switch boxes which will work on both DVI and VGA so you can mix new and old machine. Finally, he gave a recap on changes since last Wakefield with the new !Photodesk release, USB drawing tablet, PiTop laptop

Amcog games have been busy on their sound system and their games and gave us an update on both areas, again with the nice sign summarising the changes and ideas for the new RISC OS sound improvements.

4 comments in forum

Categories: RISC OS

Wakefield 2017 show in pIctures

The Iconbar - Sat, 04/22/2017 - 19:26
Take a stroll around Wakefield 2017 with us....

(Click on the thumbnails for the bigger image)

Show report

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Categories: RISC OS

Chris Gransdon tells ROUGOL about Otter browser and other ports

The Iconbar - Mon, 04/17/2017 - 21:22
A good crowd braved the Bank Holiday public transport to attend the April ROUGOL meeting with Chris Gransden talking about porting !Otter and other software to RISC OS.

Before the main event, there were brief 'teasers' for 2 other events.

The ROUGOL organizer (Bryan Hogan), is also helping to organise the Acorn User Show in Cambridge and more details will be appearing in the next few weeks.

Richard Brown (Orpheus) was also there to announce his new venture RISC OS Developments. This has raised significant funds to do some development and he will be announcing more details at Wakefield on saturday...

Chris Gransden started investigating porting !Otter and other browsers onto RISC OS when he spotted that the QT5 library (which !Otter needs) had been been ported onto RISC OS by another developer. Rather than trying to develop a new browser from scratch, Chris is getting an existing Open Source browser written for the Linux platform to run on RISC OS. The attraction of !Otter is that it uses a version of the Webkit browser engine, which has been JavaScript support than any native RISC OS browser. Chris logged into GMail on !Otter which is impossible in any other RISC OS browser. It also includes https and ssl support in the browser.

As !Otter and !QupZilla use QT5, this enabled him to get these browsers to run on RISC OS - he has not had to extensively rewrite and hack the code as the QT5 and UnixLib libraries allow them to run on RISC OS. This also means it is really easy to update as these applications are altered by their developers.

Chris had his overclocked Pi running the software and was able to explain how the !Otter/!QupZilla browsers work on RISC OS. The software is effectively providing a sprite display inside a RISC OS window. RISC OS does not have compositing support (redrawing just the bits it needs) which would speed things up. This is also using shared memory, and memory is high.

Because the software was written for another OS, it is designed to make use of fatures like threads which are not available on RISC OS. This is why performance can be sluggish as RISC OS does not have the capability to offload work onto multiple threads - it is all done by the single, main RISC OS task. RISC OS is also not able to make use of additional hardware acceleration which also speeds things up considerably on Linux.

Switching off JavaScript at the start and putting the fonts into memory can speed up the browser. Chris has turned off by default file caching (which is actually slower in RISC OS) and customisations to Otter which can slow the software still further. Still, you really need a fast, modern machine to run Otter on).

One of Chris's future hopes it to make use of something like Kronsos on the Pi and have a much faster cusotmised versions for machines which can support it.

The !Otter browser itself is still being debugged and once 1.0 becomes available, Chris will make available a proper RISC OS release. At the moment, it can be a bit complex to setup.

Asked the difference between !QupZilla and !Otter, Chris explained that !QupZilla was currently more stable (less bugs and shared libraries) but Otter would be a better long-term bet.

The !Otter port has come a long way since Chris first started it 2 years ago. It is much faster and more stable although still crashes. It probably is not yet an alternative to browsers on Windows/Linux/Mac but there is not lots of scope to improve further and it opens up a lot of sites to access from RISC OS. We look forward to seeing how it develops, especially once Otter 1.0 officially comes out. Chris has done an amazing job so far!

Otter browser main page and builds for non-RISC OS platforms.

ROUGOL website

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Categories: RISC OS

Drag'N'Drop brings you a new selection of fonts

The Iconbar - Sat, 04/15/2017 - 14:35
One of the great things at the recent South-West Show was the number of new software releases for RISC OS. There were new upgrades, new games, and even new fonts....

Drag'n'Drop have been busy scouring the Internet and assembled a collection of high quality Public Domain fonts for their 20th Century Fonts collection for 13 pounds.

The collection comes on a CD, with a detailed manual, showing what all the 700 fonts look like. The fonts themselves are supplied in both RISC OS and Type1 (PostScript) font format, so you can use them on other platforms.

The RISC OS versions are in a !fonts application which includes a set of sub-directories (all fonts starting with A in !A and so on). Each has a script to make the switch of the fonts (so you can enable all the A fonts). You can also drag them into your own !fonts folder or store them in the newly updated Font Directory Pro

Some of the fonts will look familiar (with slightly different names), and you may well have some of these fonts. You might also find that the EFF and Monotype versions will be slightly higher quality. But they are all really good sets with a full range of characters, and will vastly expand your collection of fonts. There is a wide range of Serif, Sans Serif (Better for headlines), cursive and fancy fonts (I especially liked Sailing and Sampford).

I especially liked the fact that several fonts are supplied with multiple weights. Chilton font for example is available is Bold, Heavy, Light Italic, Medium, Medium Italic and Inline Italic Shadow. There are some nice fancy fonts in there as well.

If you are looking to extend your font collection with some well-chosen fonts, 20th Century Fonts is definitely worth investigating. Hopefully, we will see some more themed packs...

DragNDrop website

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Categories: RISC OS

A tale of 2 package managers

The Iconbar - Sat, 04/08/2017 - 08:39
In the 'early days' most software had to be 'sourced' from different locations. The only big source of software in one place was Hensa on the University systems if you were lucky enough to have access. You could also connect to Bulletin boards (Arcade BBS) or get floppy disks through the post from Skyfall or APDL).

You can still hunt around (and there are lots of sites with gems we will be looking at in 2017 on IconBar), but in 2017 you have really easy access to huge sources of software straight from your RISC OS desktop. All you need is TWO programs.

PlingStore ( ie !Store) gives you access to a range or both free and commercial software (which you can buy with a credit card via the software). All software includes details of the software, website links, screenshots and you can search and explore the software on offer. You will find lots of favourites from David Pilling, R-Comp, Steve Fryatt, Chris Johnson, Sine Nomine and many others.

PlingStore tracks which versions of the software you have downloaded so it can also offer you the option to get free updates or buy commercial ones. If you are using R-Comp software, they provide a service to update the store with your current purchases to you can use it for updates when they release new versions.

When PlingStore runs, it checks on the Internet to update its information, so it can tell you about new software, updates or special offers.

!PackMan has developed out of RiscPkg. This brought dependency manangement based on Linux solutions to RISC OS (software can now describe what other software it works with and what it needs).

Dependency management is a big problem on many platforms (and trying to fix it on the Java platform has been the big issue for the last 2 releases of Java). Simply, the problem is that you download a new piece of software which needs version 4 of another library. So you install that on your machines. You then find that all your other software stops working as it only runs on version 3.... RedHat came up with a good solution to this problem which RiscPkg uses.

!PackMan builds ontop of this with a slick front end. It also includes a list of software and it knows what other software (dependencies) this software has. So it can ensure you have the software or download it for you as well. As with PlingStore it gives you a wide range of software and it can update its details with new releases when you run it. There is no payment options in !PackMan so all the software is free. !PackMan has some nice features to not only install the software, but add to Apps, run on startup, etc.

Both applications need some discipline to get the most from them. They do not look at your system and spot existing software, and PackMan has a standard location for all software. So you may be better off deleting existing software, and downloading a new copy in the new location through the package manager.

I am also pleased to say that there is little overlap and duplication between the software both offer. In general (apologies for slight over-simplification) PlingStore offers both 'original' commercial and free software from well-known RISC OS companies and developers while PackMan gives you access to the conversions to RISC OS platform from riscos.info and other sites (fonts, !Otter, games, tools, etc) which has grown from Peter Naulls' original Unix Porting Project.

Both applications are free and should be on your machine!


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Categories: RISC OS

RISC OS Interviews - Anthony Vaughan Bartram

The Iconbar - Fri, 03/31/2017 - 13:24
This time round we introduce you to the talented musician, programmer and games maestro Anthony Vaughan Bartram, the person behind AmCoG games.

How long have you been using RISC OS?
Nearly 3 years now. I first booted up RISC OS on my Raspberry Pi in June 2014.

What other systems do you use?
Windows PCs/laptops with various OS versions & occasionally Linux.
I also have my original BBC Micro from 1983 which my 10 year old daughter likes playing on too.

What is your current RISC OS setup?
My main dev. system is an R-Comp ARMX6 with Elesar keyboard, plus a plethora of Raspberry Pis (including an Ident Micro one). I've also got various RISC OS systems to test my games on including a borrowed Iyonix, RPCEmu and Virtual Acorn.

Do you attend any of the shows and what do you think of them?
I've been exhibiting at Wakefield, MUG, London and the South West show since 2015.
I really enjoy the social and idea sharing at these shows. For example, at London 2016, someone was running a YouTube video as a teletext stream on a BBC Micro. There was a custom DJ system being shown too. On returning home after catching up with everyone, I always have a list of new ideas to work or collaborate on.

What do you use RISC OS for in 2017 and what do you like most about it?
I use it for being creative as RISC OS is not very distracting when compared to, for example, Windows. There are no pop-ups, forced updates or social media notifications. RISC OS is something that I can take control of (rather than the other way around) and this is what I like most. As a result, I use it for developing original computer games, original synthesiser technology amongst other things.

Whilst I might port some titles from RISC OS to Windows or Android, RISC OS is my main creative platform.

What is your favourite feature/killer program in RISC OS?
The GUI itself, StrongEd, BBC BASIC and possibly RDSP.

What would you most like to see in RISC OS in the future?
Multi-core thread support and some use of native GPU acceleration.

Favourite (vaguely RISC OS-releated) moan?
I'm afraid I suffer from chronic optimism - so don't like to moan much at all. Apparently sometimes this can be quite annoying :-)
I accept RISC OS for what it is including any rough edges. I hope to try and help fix/smooth out those edges going forward.

Can you tell us about what you are working on in the RISC OS market at the moment?
I’ve released 4 games in a little under 2 years and am working on more titles as well as updates to existing games at the moment. Further, I’m going to release a development kit geared towards, but not exclusively for, games. This kit will contain the library which I use for my own titles, together with AMCOG’s new RDSP virtual sound chip which I recently previewed (n.b. The RDSP sound module will remain free).

Any surprises you can't or dates to tease us with?
Keep coming to the RISC OS shows to find out any surprises. I align release dates with shows. Whatever I have finished gets released then.

Apart from iconbar (obviously) what are your favourite websites?
Riscository, riscosblog and ROOL.

Any questions we forgot to ask you?
I also write songs, prose and have an interest in graphic design. I find that computer games let me combine all of these hobbies with programming.

I also sell music CDs at shows that comprise original songs that I’ve either written or co-written.

AmCoG games website.

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Categories: RISC OS

Elesar brings back Font Directory Pro for modern machines

The Iconbar - Sat, 03/25/2017 - 09:53
Acorn brought us the exciting world of fonts
One of the things which first excited me about the Acorn Archimedes was the excellent font support (which in some respects is still unique). Once you had tired of Homerton and the other built-in fonts, there is a whole world of fonts out there including high quality conversions of professional libraries like Monotype and URW, the huge EFF font collection and lots of fun fonts included with !Artworks.

The problem that then strikes you is that you have a huge collection of fonts. If you put them all in !Fonts, you get a huge list to scroll down and the whole process slows down. You also find that you spend hours trying to select a font (because you do not get a WYSIWSYG view). So you end up sticking with Homerton and a few other fonts.... These are the problems with Font Directory Pro solves very elegantly.

Look systems gave us a way to make it workable

Font Directory Pro was one of two software products which allowed you to easily manage your growing font collection. It provided you with the following functionality:-
1. A font filing system where you could store all your fonts and arrange in whatever way you wanted.
2. A WYSIWYG font viewer which allowed you to see what all your fonts look like and dynamically switch them on (so the appear in !Fonts only when you want them).
3. A document scanning capability where you could ask the software to scan a file and it would automatically switch on any fonts which were needed in the document.
4. The ability to define collections of fonts so you could easily have different sets of fonts which you could switch on (for example a myDTP fonts collection).

The way I used to use it was to have a small core collection of fonts permanently in !Fonts (I am a big fan of EFF's London font and their fancy Malinka cat font) and some collections for different uses (like Artworks header fonts for posters). It is very flexible so you can take control of your fonts and get the best of both worlds with both a small workable setup and the easy choice of a huge font collection.

and Elesar has brought it back for Modern machines in 2017

The software was originally written by Look Systems and the last release was a patch to make the software work on the new Iyonix. Now Elesar's Rob Sprowson has tracked down the original author for permission to use the software, updated the source code (which consisted of patching together multiple versions/sources), made it work on all the latest hardware and rewritten/updated the manual.

The software is now available from the Elesar and there is even an upgrade price for existing users. You can buy the software directly from Elesar through their shop for 22.50 pounds as an upgrade ot 45 pounds new.

The software upgrade will update your existing setup (so you can keep your existing setup) and it just works perfectly (I love those types of installers).

There are no new features in this release but Elesar are asking for your ideas on features you would like to see in future versions.

Since I stopped using Font Directory Pro I had forgotten just how pleasant it made using RISC OS as a publishing platform and I think it is another step in again making RISC OS a really exciting platform for getting my work done....

But are there still any fonts for RISC OS
If you are looking for fonts, there are lots avaaible on RISC OS still. You can find them on the Internet, several free ones are available in the RISC OS package manager and !PlingStore, CJEmicros still appear to have lots of fonts in stock, the charities stands at RISC OS shows sometimes have some gems, and we will be reviewing the new font collection from DRAG'nDROP in a future reviews. Looks like you may need a tool to help you handle all those fonts....

Elesar website

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Categories: RISC OS

RISC OS Interviews - Vince Hudd

The Iconbar - Sat, 03/18/2017 - 08:05
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.

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Categories: RISC OS

RISC OS Interviews - Andy Marks (RiscOSBits)

The Iconbar - Sat, 03/11/2017 - 08:17
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 RISCOS?

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 RISCOS 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 RISCOS 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 RISCOS?

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 RISCOS 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 RISCOS-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 RISCOS 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!

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