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Acorn Arcade forums: News and features: Chris Grandson tells ROUGOL about Otter browser and other ports
 

Chris Gransdon tells ROUGOL about Otter browser and other ports

Posted by Mark Stephens on 21:22, 17/4/2017 | , ,
 
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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Acorn Arcade forums: News and features: Chris Grandson tells ROUGOL about Otter browser and other ports