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Article archives

Rob Sprowson talk at January Rougol meet-up

Posted by Mark Stephens on 22:01, 16/1/2017 | ,
 
Rob Sprowson returned to Rougol (he was here almost exactly a year ago) to give an update on his exciting hardware and software projects. Running a presentation on a Titanium (one he knocked together over breakfast to give him an easier carrying case on the tube), he started by talking about Cloud storage.
 
CloudFS is not the first cloud storage solution for RISC OS (there is a Python based client for DropBox), but it does offer a totally integrated solution. Rob ran through the pros (offsite backups, access from multiple locations) and cons (potential loss of data, security) before uploading a picture from his camera to his PC and then into CloudFS where he loaded it into ChangeFSI. He also explained how the software could be run from the command line and was decoupled into 2 parts - the pCloud is implemented separately so it would be possible to add other Cloud providers if you can get the specifications.
 
Asked about security, Rob said he was very happy to be using the Swiss as they are known for their discretion (he stashes all his fortune in Swiss banks).
 
After CloudFS, Rob recapped on the Titanium board - still the fastest RISC OS machine and still waiting for the OS to catch-up. There are 9 cores sitting inside, waiting to be tapped for video or audio editing or any other processor intensive activity. Rob also reminded us that it has a huge number of ports - one customer is actually using the parallel ports to drive a fax machine. And Rob is always on the look out for interesting new PCI cards to plug into the machine.
 
Rob takes a keen interest in the economics of the IT industry and had some nice graphics on logarithmic axis to show how costs and projects work. Given the limited size of the RISC OS market his focus is lower cost or simpler projects. He also pointed out that the Titanium was cheaper than the Iyonix when it was released (even before adding inflation). Such is the rate of change in the industry.
 
Rob's current project is the update of Look Systems Font Manager. It had actually taken two years to hunt down Adrian Look to get permission to update the software. The current release uses some source code from the last release (way back in 2003), Adrian's original partial copy and some deft reverse engineering (the audience suggested it looked like a good reason to have cloud backups.
 
The new release brings this excellent software onto the latest hardware (where it runs very quickly). Software development was completed on 22nd December and the manual is now being finished off prior to release. Rob showed it dynamically updating fonts in a !Draw document and it was very solid in use. There are no new features but Rob had been thinking about possible future updates. At present there is no unicode support.
 
Rob said there may well be upgrades for existing users - details and final prices being finalised. The software will be available through Elesar website
 
Finally, Rob plugged the other port of his Titanium into the overhead projector to give himself an extra large desktop with OSM generating a map of the Borough street area.
 
Rougol meets every month in the Blue Eyed Maid Public House near London Bridge. The meetings start at 7.45pm and there is usually a collection of people arriving before that to chat and enjoy the pub's Indian curry (which I confirmed is very good in the interests of doing thorough investigative reporting). It is free to attend, and the next meeting is 20th February.
 
Rougol Website
Rob Sprowson interview
 
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ROOL updates RISC OS development toolset to release 27

Posted by Mark Stephens on 10:07, 15/1/2017 | ,
 
DDE (the Collection of tools for developing software in Basic, C and Assembly) has been updated to release 27. If you have a DDE26, you should receive an email telling you that you are eligible for a free update. Developers with older releases can upgrade for 25 pounds.
 
The update includes changes to multiple tools, so ROOL provides a complete new release to replace your existing DDE26 release (simply deleted and use the new version).
 
The headline of the update is to bring the tools in line with Zero Page relocation. The software will now run correctly on a ZPP enabled RISC OS system and all the tools and libraries have been updated to work with ZPP.
 
As an additional bonus, the Basic Compiler (!ABC compiler) has seen some upgrades with fixes, long lost examples now back again and a new manual.
 
In the email, ROOL also draw developers attention to their technical development notes for builds and reminds us that !Make is now really a legacy option.
 
The full announcement is here
 
If you are not currently a registered developer and interested in writing software for RISC OS, it is also well worth signing up for the discounts and announcements.
 
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R-Comp support scheme

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

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

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

Will you still be using a RISC PC in 2017?

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

Native versus emulation in 2016 (Part 3)

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

Posted by Jeffrey Lee on 15:45, 18/12/2016 | , ,
 
For the past few years Vince Hudd of RISCOSitory has been organising the community-led RISC OS Awards, and he's just announced that the voting form for the 2016 awards is now available. And unlike some other votes that have happened this year, the RISC OS Awards can only lead to good things, so please head on over and take a look.
 
The voting form will be up until late February, which means the results are to be expected sometime in March.
 
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Native versus emulation in 2016 (Part 2)

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RISC OS Interview - Rob Sprowson

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Native versus emulation for running RISC OS in 2017 (Part 1)

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How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Leave RISC OS: 10 Years On

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RISC OS Interviews - Hilary and Matthew Philips

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!Organizer reaches 2.26

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Recent discussions
- Get back to BASIC at no cost, by RISC OS FR (News:1)
- Rob Sprowson talk at January Rougol meet-up (News:)
- ROOL updates RISC OS development toolset to release 27 (News:)
- R-Comp support scheme (News:)
- RISC OS Laptops (Gen:5)
- Most recent first? (Site:1)
- What would you like/hope to see in 2017 (News:3)
- Keeping up with RISC OS in 2017 (News:)
- Will you still be using a RISC PC in 2017? (News:5)
- Native versus emulation in 2016 (Part 3) (News:)
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