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Article archives

RISC OS Interviews - Richard Brown (Orpheus Internet)

Posted by Mark Stephens on 07:21, 11/8/2017 |
 
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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Are the RISC OS show dates on your calendar?

Posted by Mark Stephens on 07:49, 21/7/2017 | ,
 
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.
 
5 comments in the forums

How popular are RISC OS sites online?

Posted by Mark Stephens on 07:07, 30/6/2017 | ,
 
Just as in life, there are lots of different ways of measuring and estimating popularity. Online one of the ways you can do this is to use a tool called Alexa. This gives sites a ranking based on how popular Alexa thinks the site is (so number 1 is google.com).

It is not an exact science (and it can be misrepresentative on some sites where Alexa has less data), but it is a useful 'guess'. So I typed in some RISC OS sites (and non-RISC OS sites which you may have heard of as a comparison) to get some numbers. Here is what Alexa reported for global rankings.....

apple.com 65
bbcbasic.co.uk 2,564,449
cjemicros.co.uk 3,463,770
drobe.co.uk 19,898,135
iconbar.com 3,913,170
linuxmint.com 4,450
netsurf-browser.org 1,165,775
osnews.com 114,759
orpheusinternet.co.uk 17,233,044
raspberrypi.org 3,186
riscos.com 2,866,998
riscos.org 9,126,309
riscository.com 11,268,284
riscosopen.org 366,518
stardot.org.uk 827,545 (41,450 in just uK)
ubuntu.com 1,493
xara.com 88,840

It is not a total surprise that ROOL is easily the top RISC OS site I could find. We have some work to do with Iconbar (as do the RISC OS vendors if they want to grow their sales online).

What do you make of the numbers?

Weblink to lookup a website on Alexa.
 
12 comments in the forums

Disappearing websites

Posted by Mark Stephens on 07:38, 9/6/2017 | ,
 
In the last few weeks some websites of interested to RISC OS users have disappeared.

riscoscode.com used to be great list of interesting snippets from the RISC OS 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 RISC OS 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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What development tools do we need ported to RISC OS

Posted by Mark Stephens on 07:46, 2/6/2017 |
 
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?
 
7 comments in the forums

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

Posted by Mark Stephens on 07:44, 19/5/2017 |
 
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 the forums

A tale of 2 package managers

Posted by Mark Stephens on 09:39, 8/4/2017 | , ,
 
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-CompInfo, 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!

!PackMan
PlingStore
 
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RISC OS Interviews - Anthony Vaughan Bartram

Posted by Mark Stephens on 14:24, 31/3/2017 | , ,
 
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-CompInfo 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?
Iíve 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, Iím 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 AMCOGís 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 Iíve either written or co-written.

AmCoG games website.
 
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RISC OS Interviews - Vince Hudd

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RISC OS Interviews - Andy Marks (RiscOSBits)

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