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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.
Comment in the forums

RISC OS Interviews - Andy Marks (RiscOSBits)

Posted by Mark Stephens on 08:17, 11/3/2017 | ,
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 RISC OS?

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 RISC OS 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 RISC OS 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 RISC OS?

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 RISC OS 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 RISC OS-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 RISC OS 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!

RiscOSBits website
1 comment in the forums

RISC OS Interview - Rob Sprowson

Posted by Mark Stephens on 09:15, 10/12/2016 | ,
We continue with our series of interviews with people in the RISC OS world. In this interview, we catch-up with Elesar's Rob Sprowson.

If you have any other questions, feel free to join in the discussion.

If you would have any suggestions for people you would like us to interview, or would like to be interviewed, just let us know....

Would you like to introduce yourself?
Could-have-been basketball player, still not tall enough.

How long have you been using RISC OS?
That's patchy: starting with an Acorn Electron which my sister and I eventually broke through overuse, then a big gap until picking up a 2nd hand BBC Micro from the local newspaper in the mid 1990's, then in parallel RISC OS from 1997ish would make either 33 or 19 years depending on which you count.
Oh dear, now I can't claim I'm 21 any more either.

What other systems do you use?
Mostly Windows because of the specialist CAD software and other electronics design tools I need to use daily. I have some VMs saved with Linux and FreeBSD but they're mostly for testing things or recompiling NetSurf, I don't really know what I'm doing but as they're VMs it doesn't matter too much if I destroy something through careless typing.

What is your current RISC OS setup?
Singular? Nothing's that simple. For email I use a Risc PC (well, more specifically my monitors are stacked vertically and I'm too lazy to remove the Risc PC holding the whole pile up - those cases are built like brick bunkers).
For development, a Titanium of course, it's nice to do an experimental OS rebuild in 1 minute or less as I don't like tea and have trouble finding other things to do that take the 'time it takes to boil a kettle'.
Then there are piles and cupboards and boxes of other things of other vintages which get dragged out for compatibility testing, erm, more than 15 if you include Raspberry Pi's though some of them are on loan rather than machines I myself own.

Do you attend any of the shows and what do you think of them?
This year I got wheeled out on behalf of ROOL for Wakefield and the South West show. Shows are great to hear what normal users think and what they can't do but would like to, being too deeply buried in the inner workings of something makes it very difficult to see that.
Some of the shows could be freshened up a bit rather than repeating the 'tables & chairs' format every year, to attract a larger audience - the show organisers should visit similar trade shows or enthusiast conventions to steal ideas to improve the presentation of RISC OS ones.

What do you use RISC OS for in 2016 and what do you like most about it?
I like that the OS doesn't get in my way. If I want to save something in the root directory of my harddisc there's no patronising error box popping up asking me to confirm that. I used to work with someone who had a book on usability called "Don't make me think", and that seems a good mantra to work by.

What is your favourite feature/killer program in RISC OS?
Obligatory plug for Pluto here: Pluto Pluto Pluto. Oh, did I mention Pluto?

What would you most like to see in RISC OS in the future?
The bounty scheme that ROOL runs seems to have a good selection of sensible "big ticket" items in, so I'd go with that since Ben/Steve/Andrew know their onions.
Reasonably frequently someone will ask on their forum "is feature X available" when there's a bounty for X already open, but you never see the total going up so I guess they're a source of hot air rather than stumping up just a tenner to help make something happen. The world runs on these shiny money tokens in our pockets, so people shouldn't get too upset if you ask someone to do something for nothing and nothing happens.

Can you tell us about what you are working on in the RISC OS market at the moment?
There are a couple of CloudFS enhancements in the immediate pipeline, but it
tends to get busy at Elesar which is distracting, because some of the
protocols to talk to the servers are eye wateringly complicated and you
really need to be 'in the zone' to work on them.

Any surprises you can't or dates to tease us with?
There are 3 hardware projects and 3 software projects on RISC OS side of the Elesar hob. I tend to come up with ideas faster than they can be implemented, so sometimes things get culled because they're superceded or because during the derisking stage it becomes apparent that by the time they're finished they'd no longer be commercially viable.

Apart from iconbar (obviously) what are your favourite websites?
Iconbar who?

Santa Claus is a regular iconbar reader. Any not-so-subtle hints you would like to drop him for presents this year (assuming you have been very good)?
A time machine, and a whole cod, to go back in time and slap some people with. You know who you are...I'm coming for you.

Do you have any New Year's Resolutions for 2017?
No, I don't believe in that mumbo jumbo. Only humans attach significance to January 1st; we're just orbiting the sun same as the previous day.

Any questions we forgot to ask you?
How many mouse buttons I've worn out? 2 I think, but fortunately the micro switches are easy to replace and good for another 1 million clicks!

Elesar website
2 comments in the forums

RISC OS Interviews - Hilary and Matthew Philips

Posted by Mark Stephens on 13:31, 3/12/2016 | ,
We continue with our series of interviews with people in the RISC OS world. In this interview, we catch-up with the team behind Sine Nomine software (Matthew and Hillary Phillips).

If you have any other questions, feel free to join in the discussion.

If you would have any suggestions for people you would like us to interview, or would like to be interviewed, just let us know....

How long have you been using RISC OS?
Matthew: My sixth form college got a few Archimedes running Arthur, which were then upgraded to RISC OS 2 soon afterwards. I wrote a single-tasking application to plot magnetic fields, which was much faster than the BBC Masters being used in physics even though it was BASIC. I also had fun writing a chat program that worked across the college Econet with versions for Beeb and Archimedes. There was even a chatbot that took other peoples sentences and remixed them. I didnt really get back into RISC OS until 1998.
Hilary: My father (a physics teacher) got a BBC B when I was about 10, and that was the computer I grew up with; my school also had Beebs. I didnt meet RISC OS until ten years later when I started going out with Matthew, whose parents had recently acquired a RiscPC. I remember designing a new logo for the Oxford University Gilbert and Sullivan Society (they don't still use it, sadly!) using Draw on their RiscPC. I got into programming using Matthew's old Amstrad CPC, which was the only computer we had when we got married. We got a RiscPC ourselves after Acorn pulled the plug on the Phoebe on my birthday - thanks for the present guys. I then started to learn Wimp programming in BASIC (first public software released in 2001) and moved on to C later in 2001.

What other systems do you use?
Matthew: Linux mainly, including various servers at work, Windows on my work desktop.
Hilary: Android phone; Linux on a laptop; occasionally Windows on a secondhand laptop.

What is your current RISC OS setup?
Iyonix (main computer), RiscPC (for Sibelius and so the kids can play our old games), ARMX6, Beagleboard, Pandaboard (chiefly for RiscOSM development and map data conversion).

Do you attend any of the shows and what do you think of them?
Matthew: I tend to get to Wakefield and London each year. It is very good meeting people who use our software. Its a shame we dont have time to implement all the good ideas people have, but its great to know that its appreciated.
Hilary: I usually get to go to Wakefield with Matthew; I went to the South West show once on my own with a heavy cold and it was hard work! As a stall-holder you dont get a lot of time to go round the other stands even when there are two of you. Weve always been pretty busy since we released RiscOSM.

What do you use RISC OS for in 2016 and what do you like most about it?
Hilary: RISC OS is our main system so we use it for everything we can. We fall back on Linux or Windows when necessary, e.g. using PayPal, or websites required by school which dont work on NetSurf. I like being able to drag and drop just about anything from one application to another.
Matthew: I like the three-button mouse, image filing systems, and applications being packaged in a disguised directory. Plus the way that windows dont take over the whole desktop. I know Microsoft called their operating system "Windows", but it does its best to let you only use one at a time!

What is your favourite feature/killer program in RISC OS?
Hilary: Sibelius 7. And Zap.
Matthew: RiscOSM Im allowed to say that, because Hilary wrote it. And NetSurf, of course.

What would you most like to see in RISC OS in the future?
Hilary: Transparency in colours in Draw and the DrawFile_Render module: that would be very useful for RiscOSM.
Matthew: Open-sourced 32-bit Sibelius 7.

Favourite (vaguely RISC OS-releated) moan?
Matthew: Probably shouldnt bring it up, but its just a shame all that work on RISC OS SelectInfo will probably never be seen on RISC OS 5.

Can you tell us about what you are working on in the RISC OS market at the moment?
Hilary: Some extra puzzle types for Wrangler, which Id like to have finished before I produce my annual Christmas puzzle booklet for distribution round the family. And of course further improvements to RiscOSM!
Matthew: Bits behind the scenes to help Hilary. I have several ideas for nice projects, but Id need to be made redundant to get any time to work on them!

Any surprises you can't or dates to tease us with?
Hilary: No...
Matthew: Or yes, but we cant tell you...

Apart from iconbar (obviously) what are your favourite websites?
Matthew: As Easy As Riding A Bike
Hilary: Talyllyn Railway

Santa Claus is a regular iconbar reader. Any not-so-subtle hints you would like to drop him for presents this year (assuming you have been very good)?
36-hour days?
Why "Sine Nomine" and how do you pronounce it?
Sine Nomine ("sinay nominay") is Latin for "without a name". When we were trying to think of a name for ourselves that was the best we could come up with.

Sine Nomine website
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RISC OS Interviews - Tom Williamson

Posted by Mark Stephens on 10:32, 26/11/2016 | ,
For this interview, we introduce you to Ident Computers very own Tom Williamson, who was a first-time exhibitor and speaker at the London Show

How long have you been using RISC OS?
In real terms not that long! (bearing in mind I'm not 30 years old yet!) I've only sat down and used RISC OS properly since about early 2013 with the Raspberry Pi port of RISC OS 5 running on a original model b board! And have since patched together my missing Acorn back history from where I left off using original BBC B and Master computers, still in service at my school into the early 2000's!

What other systems do you use?
Primarily Apple Mac since the early 1990's and Windows PCs mostly running XP or 7

What is your current RISC OS setup?
Well it's an Ident Micro One powered by a Raspberry Pi 2 board. I designed the Micro One as a computer that I wanted for myself and hence use as my main RISC OS system!

Do you attend any of the shows and what do you think of them?
RISC OS shows is a new thing for us. We did the Recursion Computer Science Fair in the Midlands in 2015 and again in 2016 and from that made links with the RISC OS community hence appearing at RISC OS London in 2016 which was our first real stand alone RISC OS show.

What do you use RISC OS for in 2016 and what do you like most about it?
RISC OS is for me, and the many I showcase it to a 'play thing' So its mainly about writing code in BASIC or C, or running these BBC Micro or Archimedes classic and retro games!
Which for a new audience is not necessarily a bad thing!

What is your favourite feature/killer program in RISC OS?
For me RISC OS has two very valuable assets, First its incorporated BBC BASIC which is just so different from other OS's in use today. And second the !Pling application model, which I think is just amazing and I wish other systems would or could implement it. These 2 features is why nearly all my hobbyist Pi boards now run RISC OS instead of a Linux build.

What would you most like to see in RISC OS in the future?
A fast HTML 5 web browser... Please! Also better video and monitor implantation, Quad-core running would be nice to!

Favourite (vaguely RISC OS-releated) moan?
Well.... Proper colour implementation for 'Modes' in the Raspberry Pi version of 5, because at present all modes are fixed to use the 256 colour palette which is a pain for some cross-platform software development.

Can you tell us about what you are working on in the RISC OS market at the moment?
Currently all efforts are with supporting the Ident Micro One kit product, and we're looking forward to 2017 and building on the system in the future.

Any surprises you can't or dates to tease us with?
Now that would be telling!... I am hoping to do a Shareware game release in 2017 with a free to play version for a number of Acorn based/clone platforms.

Apart from iconbar (obviously) what are your favourite websites?
Am I allowed to say ident-online.co.uk/computer ?[iconbar: of course - great site!] Probably not! In all seriousness, I really like reading the forums of StarDot and ROOL's own site.

Santa Claus is a regular iconbar reader. Any not-so-subtle hints you would like to drop him for presents this year (assuming you have been very good)?
Ok this might sound a bit odd but... BBC Micro hardware! You can never have enough! I really would like a good condition Microvitec CUB metal case monitor, as its one of the last bits I'm missing, but don't want to pay Ebay prices!

Any questions we forgot to ask you?
Who Am I? ...., I think maybe about our work in the education sector and Raspberry Pi Jam events, were I show RISC OS to a new generation, mostly school age children but also there parents, taking the system along with BBC Micro hardware into schools etc. For many this is the first time of seeing a computer not running Windows, Android or maybe in the case of the Raspberry Pi, Linux, hence showcasing the real opportunities RISC OS presents. Also for parents or older peoples, allowing them to reconnect with the Acorn they remember from their own school days, most are still amazed any of this is still around let alone being actively updated and supported!

Tom's website
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RISC OS Interviews - Jeffrey Lee

Posted by Mark Stephens on 08:59, 19/11/2016 | ,
At the London Show, we sent our team around to park them themselves on several stands and refuse to leave until the poor stand-holders agreed to do an interview for us.... The results will be appearing over the next few weeks.

If you have any suggestions for people to interview (we want people doing interesting things with RISC OS or in the RISC OS world in 2016) or would like to be interviewed, just drop us a line and we will send the boys round...

If you have any additional questions or comments, please feel free to continue the discussion in the comments.

We kick off the series with our very own Jeffrey Lee....

Q. How long have you been using RISC OS?
A. About 23 years. At that time Acorn computers were still the king of the classroom; I believe it was the head of the IT department of the local high school who recommended that my parents should get an Acorn for home use (an A3010, to replace our previous home computer, a TI-99/4A that was unfortunately purchased mere months before TI pulled out of the home computer business)

Q. What other systems do you use?
A. At home I've got a Windows PC (gaming, media playback, web browsing) and a Linux PC (headless, used as a NAS and for any Unixy-type tasks)

Q. What is your current RISC OS setup?
A. Despite owning many newer systems, my main RISC OS computer is still my Iyonix (Lazyness, potential software compatibility issues, and the constant in-development nature of the OS are my excuses for not switching over to something newer, despite the fact that the newer machines should be much faster when it comes to building code). Then depending on what tasks I'm working on I'll have any number of development machines piled up on the desk next to me (BeagleBoard, BeagleBoard-xM, PandaBoard, Raspberry Pi 1/2/3, IGEPv5, Wandboard, TouchBook, Pandora). I've also still got the RiscPC that was my main machine before the Iyonix. Nowdays it's mostly used for testing RISC OS 5 changes.

Q. Do you attend any of the shows and what do you think of them?
A. I attended one of the Wakefield shows once when I was a kid, but haven't attended any since then. I'm not a very social person so I'm usually happy to just wait for the show reports to come out - although most of the time I already know what any of the big reveals are going to be. I think the shows do still serve a purpose, but as someone who mainly uses RISC OS for the purpose of developing RISC OS I don't think there's much useful I'd be able to take away from them.

Q. What do you use RISC OS for in 2016 and what do you like most about it?
A. My main use of RISC OS is developing RISC OS! My Windows PC took over most of my other tasks a long time ago (most web browsing, email, gaming, etc.), but RISC OS remained my favourite for recreational programming. However once I started work on developing the OS itself the recreational programming essentially crawled to a halt - I find it hard to spend the time writing random games and utilities when there's so much that could/should be done to improve the OS itself. I think the main thing I like about RISC OS is the Wimp - there are some basic things which the RISC OS desktop still does much better than the main alternatives (interacting with windows without bringing them to the front of the stack, file save dialogs, consistent drag-and-drop behaviour, etc).

Q. What is your favourite feature/killer program in RISC OS?
A. I think StrongED has to be my favourite killer app. Before discovering it I was writing all my code in Edit. StrongHelp would also have to be a close second, due to the many hours saved looking up definitions for SWIs and things. And of course NetSurf, although that is a relative newcomer compared to the other two!

Q. What would you most like to see in RISCOS in the future?
A. Threading support in the OS. Lack of threading support makes it very hard to update any of the OS components which are derived from third-party sources (e.g. the network & USB stacks), and of course it also places some limitations on the design and implementation of home-grown code.

Q. Favourite (vaguely RISC OS-related) moan?
A. I often try and shift-drag a file/folder from the "Copy" dialog box in an effort to move+rename it in one go. Maybe one day I'll implement support for that...

Q. Can you tell us about what you are working on in the RISC OS market at the moment?
A. Currently I'm working on a couple of Raspberry Pi related things (e.g. implementing support for GPU mode changes), in an effort to get it ready for a proper "stable" release. I've also been working on some changes to the low-level memory management within the OS, with the aim of fixing a few bugs/inefficiencies with how memory is handled on modern CPUs, and with the eventual goal of getting things to the point where we can start experimenting with multi-core code without having to worry about any memory coherency issues. But that's on hold for now while I focus on the Raspberry Pi tasks.

Q. Any surprises you can't or dates to tease us with?
A. No surprises that I'm aware of at the moment, I'm afraid :-(

Q. Apart from iconbar (obviously) what are your favourite websites?
A. The ROOL website, obviously! www.pagetable.com and www.bigmessowires.com are a couple of sites which update infrequently but are always worth the wait when they do. And I find that the Bay 12 Games "Other Games" forum at http://www.bay12forums.com/smf/index.php?board=4.0 is a good way of discovering interesting or obscure games which the mainstream gaming websites might miss.

Q. Santa Claus is a regular iconbar reader. Any not-so-subtle hints you would like to drop him for presents this year (assuming you have been very good)?
A. That's a tough one! A bigger desk? A way of getting more spare time in the day? A couple more OS developers? Confirmation of a sequel to The Witcher 3? The possibilities are endless!

Q. Any questions we forgot to ask you?
A. Nothing I can think of at the moment.
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Furber talks ARMs

Posted by Chris on 12:06, 26/2/2010 | , , ,
There's an interesting article up here with Steve Furber, one of the designers of the BBC Micro and ARM processor. It's been linked to from Slashdot, which is where we came across it.

There's some background in there on the development of the original ARM designs, as well as the StrongARM and the current SpiNNaker project, an attempt to come up with a more biologically based style of computation.

All fascinating stuff, and especially so at the moment with the explosion of ARM-based computers out there.
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Micro Men: Clive Sinclair vs Acorn Computers

Posted by Andrew Duffell on 20:00, 18/10/2009 | , , ,
There has been much discussion in the forum about Micro Men, a short film written by Tony Saint that was shown on BBC4 last week. The film is based on real events, and tells of the rivalry between Sir Clive Sinclair and Acorn Computers in the 1980s.

Chris Williams of drobe.co.uk has written an excellent a review of the film, and interviewed the film's producer, Andrea Cornwell, to find out more about the show.

Link: Micro Men (on iPlayer, available until 21st October 2009)
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Orpheus to save Argonauts?

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Interviews: Andrew Docking

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Interviews: Chris Stapleton

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Interviews: Eddie Edwards

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Interviews: Jan Klose

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Interviews: Jason Tribbeck

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