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Article archives

BBC BASIC Reference Manual updated

Posted by Mark Stephens on 07:04, 12/1/2018 | ,
 
ROOL continues on its mission to bring RISC OS and its documentation up to date with a thoroughly revised and updated version of the BBC BASIC Reference Manual. This available both as a PDF in the programming documentation and as a hard copy book.
 
Issue 1 was published in 1992 so quite a lot has changed for this 2017 release 2. It is a fairly substantial volume (510 pages including the index). It is bang up to date, mentioning RISC OS 5.24 and BASICVFP.
 
The manual is nicely structured so it can be read from cover to cover as a tutorial but is also clearly structured to provide a lookup for people wanting to find a specific item of information. The book identifies 3 target readership groups:-
1. Total beginners looking to learn BBC BASIC as an introduction to computing.
2. Experienced programmers looking to learn a new language.
3. A reference guide for experienced BBC BASIC programmers who want to look-up some details.
 
To this end, it is split into Overview, Programming Techniques, Reference and Appendices. There are lots of little programming examples to show how commands work. There are no screenshots.
 
If you are dipping your toe into the programming waters, there are some simple examples and some good explanations of the technical side of programming (integers and floating point, error handling, writing structured code, binary) while there is lots of detail for more advanced developers (?, !, |, $ indirect operators, VDU commands, using the assembler). You will need additional resources to learn to write Desktop WIMP programs but it will give you a full grasp of BBC BASIC.
 
The book now has pride of place on my technical bookshelf and the Appendix section is becoming increasing thumbed through. What are your thoughts?
 
Buy the book from ROOL
 
4 comments in the forums

ArtWorks 2.X3 released

Posted by Mark Stephens on 07:35, 5/1/2018 | ,
 
The London Show saw the welcome return of Martin and the latest update to Artworks. You could buy this as the show and from the website.
 
As with previous releases, the latest ArtWorks is a mixture of keeping the product current and running on the latest hardware, some tweaks and some new goodies.
 
If you are running Artworks on the latest RaspberryPi, IGEPv5 or Titanium machines, the colour modes all work correctly. With their extra speed, these should be your tool of preference now for most RISC OS activities.....
 
The Single pixel nudging option is a nice to have which makes it easier to move objects in single pixel increments with the ctrl key pressed. Apply ClipView now lets you wrap and object into a clip View where you can edit it with the new shape painter/eraser tool.
 
This is the big new feature which lets you paint and edit clip shapes. You can control the accuracy (how many control points you want) and effectively draw big irregular clips very easily which you can then tweak by editing the shape. At the London Show, Martin showed how easy this made it to cut images out of a background which can then be used as part of a drawing as if they were just an image with a transparent background. You can also use it to edit any Vector shape, taking a bite out of the iconic ArtWorks apple...
 
 


 
ArtWorks has always been a favourite tool of mine, both for work and fun. Now it runs really nicely on my Titanium and the new Shape tool is a really nice addition to its featureset. I look forward to 2.X4!
 
As with all previous releases, there are discounts to upgrade from a previous version.
 
New features summary
 
Ordering details
 
3 comments in the forums

Drag'N'Drop Autumn edition now available

Posted by Mark Stephens on 07:43, 11/12/2017 |
 

 
If you are looking for a last minute RISC OS gift, or something interesting to dip into over the festive period, the latest edition of the long-running Drag'N'Drop magazine is now available. You can also buy all the back issues on a USB stick. The magazine is supplied as a PDF which you can read on any device.
 
This edition is 30 pages of news, reviews and technical articles and always reminds me of the Acorn magazines of yesteryear. Here are some highlights...
 
Licht is an interesting program to type in which takes its inspiration from the work of Roy Lichtenstein, adding dotted fill patterns to draw shapes. It is written in BASIC and also a nice exploration of manipulating draw files directly.
 
if you need to copy files from your Android phone to RISC OS there is a nice tutorial using !FTPc and other free software.
 
A short machine code utility (VMG) will turn sound samples into voice modules for easy use in your own code.
 
The first part of a new series on Fonts delves into how RISC OS fonts work and how the file format is stored, complete with a BASIC utility to examine the font data.
 
We have also reached part 3 of the tutorial on RSDP, and we are now writing real programs to generate music using the free software.
 
For the adventurous, there is also an article on writing your own filings system.
 
Finally Draw Stroke shows how to draw sophisticated lines with complex styles easily in your BASIC code.
 
The Magazine is available from the website and you can also buy a version with the listing.
 
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!DualHead puts 2 screens in one

Posted by Mark Stephens on 07:11, 8/12/2017 |
 
R-CompInfo have been very busy in developing !DualHead and release 3 is now available. This includes more polish and one really cool new feature....
 

 
Some monitors allow multiple inputs and have a special mode which allows them to display both outputs together, side by side. !DualHead now makes use of this to give you a higher resolution screen than should be possible with the Titianium.
 
You will need the right sort of monitor (R-Comp will be happy to sell you one if needed), and you then plug in both monitor outputs from your Titanium. You are still limited to 2048x2048 output on a single screen but using this trick you can get around this issue. The configuration software gives you easy access to these 'new' modes in the bottom half of the drop down list. So you can now have 2560x1440 or higher resolution modes from the Titanium.
 
I look forward to seeing what R-Comp have planned for release 4.
 
R-Comp website
 
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!Organizer 2.28 reviewed

Posted by Mark Stephens on 07:48, 24/11/2017 |
 
!Organizer 2.28 was released at the London Show.
 
The software comes as a single zip file and there are instructions on how to install or upgrade. When you first run the software, you will be asked about how you would like to update. The default is Y for each. I found I had to save the default choices back at the end.
 

 
The headline feature in this release is the rewrite on the planner mode. This is really slick and will display as many weeks forward as it can comfortably display. So on my 1920x1200 screen, I can see the next 14 weeks in a very readable vertical format. If you have a higher resolution you will get less weeks - the software adjusts to fit what makes sense for your display size. I have always been a 'two weeks display mode' user up until now but I am now experimenting with this display.
 

 
There are also some nice-to-have features in the software including a better print dialog box and the !Organizer window can be moved or resized by dragging any corner.
 
The release note says that there have been under the hood changes to improve the software and speed it up. It certainly feels very smooth in operation on my Titantium. Tab and backtab (tab with shift key pressed) allow you to cycle onto the next or last week. If you are in mutli-week modes it moves forward/backward just one week - it does not jump 14 weeks forward in my full display!
 
The website itself could do with a little TLC. The !Organizer Version History is very out of date and could probably just go.
 
!Organizer are also still asking for more suggestions on features for the next release.
 
Overall I am really pleased with the new features in 2.28 and I recommend it as an upgrade to all existing users (and well worth a look if are not using it).
 
!Organizer can be purchased from the website with the usual discounts for existing customers.
 
2 comments in the forums

!DualHead second release reviewed

Posted by Mark Stephens on 06:11, 6/10/2017 | ,
 
In our previous review we looked at release 1 of !DualHead. R-CompInfo have already released an update so we will dive in and see what has changed...
 
There is more polish in this release with some clearer messages. The software is very smart in making sure that you do not end up with no display. There is no dedicated installer application but the software is extremely easy to update - you copy !Boot over your existing copy and copy the !DualHead software onto your disk, and reboot/run . There is also a !RevertMode application installed in !Boot which will restore sanity with a click of Alt and Home.
 


 
As you can see there are some higher resolution modes now available. 2048 x 1440 x 2 is an amazing screen, but I was unable to run this in 16 million colours without a lot of flickering (although for most tasks 32k/64K is indistinguishable). R-Comp acknowledges this in the documentation and is probably pushing the Titanium/RISC OS beyond its limits.
 
I do think that the documentation could be improved. There is a version 1 PDF document hidden away (which is confusing on a v2 release) and a proper rewrite and release history in the !ReadMe would be nice.
 
Some advice on how best to use and setup the 2 monitors for RISC OS would also be welcome - my biggest issue after testing the new release was neck ache from playing 'head ping-pong' by switching my view between the 2 monitors all the time due to the Icon Bar now being across both screens.
 
I am really pleased to see R-Comp produce a second release (I prefer to keep the version 2 tag for major feature updates). R-Comp is leading RISC OS into new territory with this software and I think it really benefits from small, regular incremental releases driven by user and developer feedback. I am really looking forward to talking to R-Comp at the London show about their plans for the software.
 
My killer feature for the version 2 release would be to fix the issue with the popups appearing in the middle of the screen. What is yours?
 
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!DualHead in use

Posted by Mark Stephens on 06:20, 8/9/2017 | ,
 
[Update] Please note that this review is based on version one of the software - an update was released this week which we will evaluate in a future article.
 
Now that we have !DualHead installed it is time to experiment with the world of dual head RISC OS desktops.
 


 
You now have one very large desktop and the ability to select screen modes to give you a very workable screen area. I have two 27inch monitors this gives me 3840 x 1200 resolution.
 
With 2 screens, you will have to experiment with how you want to position them. I find that my 27 inch monitors are too wide to put flat side by side without giving neck strain. Most people either tilt the 2 screens together in a V shape (as in the picture above) or have one screen at an angle to the main screen. On my Mac I generally prefer the second option with a 'main' screen directly infront of me and an angled second screen to the left, where I 'park' windows not currently in use.
 


 
R-CompInfo are very clear that dual head display is a work in progress. The !DualHead application is polished and runs well but does impose a number of restrictions on current use.
 
Firstly, I found I could not change the layout. My right hand monitor is always plugged into the second port (right port on the back of the machine looking at it from the back).
 
There are also different ways to handle multiscreens. On my Mac, the screens can also be separate displays (with a separate task bar on each) and you can arrange one screen under the other. On RISC OS, we have a single screen which is extended across multiple monitors. There are pros and cons to both.
 
!DualHead also requires the screens to run at the same resolution. You can run two different sized monitors. I tried replacing one of my 27inch monitors with an old 20inch monitor. This requires both monitors to run at the same resolution of 1600 x 1200. The results look stretched on one screen.
 


 
Different size monitors are an issue with all dual display systems. On my Mac I always use 2 identical 27 inch monitors. Moving screens between different resolutions is not ideal as you have to keep resizing them.
 
Quibbles aside, !DualHead is a really nice release and brings RISC OS firmly into the world of dual screen output. It will also allow developers to start adapting their software to make use of it. I tried !Paint and as expected a screenshot of the whole screen creates a sprite containing both displays.
 
This is an excellent first release (following on the heels of 5.23 RISC OS release) and I look forward to seeing what R-Comp have for us at the London Show...
 
6 comments in the forums

R-Comp release !DualHead

Posted by Mark Stephens on 10:14, 26/8/2017 | ,
 
If you own a Titanium based machine you may have noticed that it has 2 video output ports. If you plug a monitor into the right port (as you look at the machine from the back), you will get the chemical details of the element Titanium on your second screen. Interesting but not very practical....
 


 
Now R-CompInfo have released !DualHead which allows their Titanium based TiMachine to display RISC OS across two screens (heads). In this article, we will get it up and running with a later look at how well it works. Let us see if two Heads are better than one...
 
The application is a free download from the R-Comp website (you will need your username and password to access it). It consists of some updates for !Boot, a very helpful !ReadMe, and the actual !DualHead application. There is also SingleHead to revert back to one display
 
I read the !ReadMe, updated !Boot and rebooted my machine. Nothing changes until you run the !DualBoot software and press space. If anything goes wrong the software is well-designed to revert back to the default single display.
 


 
You now have one RISC OS display spilt across 2 screens (with a really long iconbar across the bottom). Windows can also be split across screen as you can see from the alert message. This can take used to along with alerts and dialog boxes popping up on the screen you were not expecting.
 


 
As you can see the software is very easy to setup. Next time we will delve into how well it works....
 
1 comment in the forums

Summer edition of Drag'N'Drop hits the shelves

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ROM release for your Titanium - What is new

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Elesar updates Font Directory Pro to 3.21

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Latest Drag'n'Drop magazine reviewed

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Archive 24.3 Review

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Drag'N'Drop brings you a new selection of fonts

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Recent discussions
- RISC OS interview with Richard Keefe (News:1)
- BBC BASIC Reference Manual updated (News:4)
- ArtWorks 2.X3 released (News:3)
- December News round-up (News:)
- RISC OS interview with Rob Coleman (News:1)
- 10 RISC OS gift ideas for Christmas (News:)
- Drag'N'Drop Autumn edition now available (News:)
- !DualHead puts 2 screens in one (News:)
- RISC OS London Show 2017 - Notes from the talks (News:6)
- November News (News:)
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