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Acorn Arcade forums: News and features: RISC OS Interviews - Vince Hudd

RISC OS Interviews - Vince Hudd

Posted by Mark Stephens on 08:05, 18/3/2017 | ,
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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Acorn Arcade forums: News and features: RISC OS Interviews - Vince Hudd