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Latest Drag'n'Drop magazine reviewed

Posted by Mark Stephens on 08:03, 26/5/2017 | ,
If you miss the Acorn magazines from yesterday, then Drag'n'Drop is definitely the magazine for you with its mix of news, reviews and lots of hands on technical items. The magazine is published 4 times as year as a PDF (which you can read on any machine).
The latest quarterly release was released at Wakefield Show, and given the updates to date news section, looks like it was being updated until the very last minute. The News and editorial section looks at Wakefield and also includes details on upcoming events and both free and commercial software and hardware releases. One of the great advantages of providing the magazine as a PDF is that it can include clickable links for you to follow.
The rest of the magazine consists of a wide range of well-written technical articles. Don't worry that the author might lose you - a lot of thought has been given to making sure the reader can follow along easily, and there is even a reminder on how to get into BASIC via the F12 key.
The new sound module developed by Amcog Games and freely available gets a detailed write-up with a five page tutorial explaining the new features and showing how to use them. If you have been a little 'nervous' of modules, it also serves as a really clear explanation of how to install and use them.
The Iconbar animation article will appeal to an anyone wishing to make their applications look more slick. There is a detailed and annotated BASIC program to give you a slick, animated icon for your program on the iconbar.
The Python Primary School is an ongoing series on writing Python programs which can use the RISC OS wimp. This time we have reached high level functions such as creating a window. There is also a nice comparison of Python code with BASIC for all these functions. If you have missed the rest of the series, you can get all the back issues on a USB stick.
For general RISC OS programming, there is also a tutorial on creating Windows options in !WinEd and then accessing from a BASIC application. This instalment includes using the toggle icon and how drop-down menus work.
This is definitely an edition for anyone wanting to develop their own desktop RISC OS applications. There is also a complete BASIC listing for a multi-tasking Desktop Noughts and Crosses application.
Finally, there is a nice little module called SWILister which allows you to list all the SWI calls which any module provides and can also be accessed from BASIC via an Sys call. The listing is on a yellow page (which may give you some additional feelings of nostalgia for the old yellow page listings).
The magazine is available to buy from The Drag'n'Drop website where you can also download a free preview of the magazine. You can also get a USB stick with every edition of the magazine ever published and also see their range of fonts and programming books.
I really enjoyed this edition, and can highly recommend it to anyone looking to keep up with developments and wanting to improve their programming knowledge.
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Archive 24.3 Review

Posted by Mark Stephens on 09:16, 12/5/2017 | ,
Just before Wakefield show, Archive 24.3 arrived on our doorsteps. If you are not currently a subscriber, here is what you are missing out on...
When the magazine arrives, there is often a survey so you enter when you received your copy. In return, you can view the map showing how quickly the magazine was delivered (and where in the world they are).
It has been a little while since the last issue of Archive, so there was lots of news including breaking news as Wakefield approached. As well as all the updates on events, hardware and software there are some nice updates on Community members (Chris Williams and Stephen Streater get a mention in this edition).
There have been 2 shows since the last issues, so there are 10 pages of show reviews and pictures covering London and South West Shows.
The bulk of Archive Magazine has always been written by its readership and consists generally of either practical tutorial-style material, hints and tips or updates on projects. In this edition:-
1. Chris Hall looks at BBC Basic on the Pico and builds a welcome screen.
2. David Snell explains the new features added to Procad+ for handling Open Street Map data.
3. Chris Hall continues with his series on using GPS from RISC OS.
4. Jim Lesurf tells us about his new hifi website (and how he used RISC OS to create it).
5. Richard Darby looks at Duplex printing to Postscript printers in RISC OS.
6. Mark Stephens looks at RISC OS news sites on the internet.
7. Paul Porcelijn offers some tips on creating XML data on RISC OS for uploading bank details.
8. Gavin Wraith experiments with StrongEd to see what it can do.
9. Gerald Fitton transitions from CRT to LCD monitors.
10. Mark Stephens looks at new Macs in the Mac Matters column.
11. Jim Nagel gets some LED lighting on his keyboard.
12. Bernard Boase has some suggestions and ideas on making sure you do safe data backups.
Finally, there is a useful selection of short hints and tips.
All in all, it is a great 48 page read (and if you ask Jim Nagel nicely, Archive may still offer sample copies to non-subscribers to try).
Archive magazine website
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Drag'N'Drop brings you a new selection of fonts

Posted by Mark Stephens on 15:35, 15/4/2017 | ,
One of the great things at the recent South-West Show was the number of new software releases for RISC OS. There were new upgrades, new games, and even new fonts....
Drag'n'Drop have been busy scouring the Internet and assembled a collection of high quality Public Domain fonts for their 20th Century Fonts collection for 13 pounds.
The collection comes on a CD, with a detailed manual, showing what all the 700 fonts look like. The fonts themselves are supplied in both RISC OS and Type1 (PostScript) font format, so you can use them on other platforms.
The RISC OS versions are in a !fonts application which includes a set of sub-directories (all fonts starting with A in !A and so on). Each has a script to make the switch of the fonts (so you can enable all the A fonts). You can also drag them into your own !fonts folder or store them in the newly updated Font Directory Pro
Some of the fonts will look familiar (with slightly different names), and you may well have some of these fonts. You might also find that the EFF and Monotype versions will be slightly higher quality. But they are all really good sets with a full range of characters, and will vastly expand your collection of fonts. There is a wide range of Serif, Sans Serif (Better for headlines), cursive and fancy fonts (I especially liked Sailing and Sampford).
I especially liked the fact that several fonts are supplied with multiple weights. Chilton font for example is available is Bold, Heavy, Light Italic, Medium, Medium Italic and Inline Italic Shadow. There are some nice fancy fonts in there as well.
If you are looking to extend your font collection with some well-chosen fonts, 20th Century Fonts is definitely worth investigating. Hopefully, we will see some more themed packs...
DragNDrop website
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Elesar brings back Font Directory Pro for modern machines

Posted by Mark Stephens on 09:53, 25/3/2017 | ,
Acorn brought us the exciting world of fonts
One of the things which first excited me about the Acorn Archimedes was the excellent font support (which in some respects is still unique). Once you had tired of Homerton and the other built-in fonts, there is a whole world of fonts out there including high quality conversions of professional libraries like Monotype and URW, the huge EFF font collection and lots of fun fonts included with !Artworks.
The problem that then strikes you is that you have a huge collection of fonts. If you put them all in !Fonts, you get a huge list to scroll down and the whole process slows down. You also find that you spend hours trying to select a font (because you do not get a WYSIWYG view). So you end up sticking with Homerton and a few other fonts.... These are the problems which Font Directory Pro solves very elegantly.
LOOKsystems gave us a way to make it workable
Font Directory Pro was one of two software products which allowed you to easily manage your growing font collection. It provided you with the following functionality:-
1. A font filing system where you could store all your fonts and arrange in whatever way you wanted.
2. A WYSIWYG font viewer which allowed you to see what all your fonts look like and dynamically switch them on (so the appear in !Fonts only when you want them).
3. A document scanning capability where you could ask the software to scan a file and it would automatically switch on any fonts which were needed in the document.
4. The ability to define collections of fonts so you could easily have different sets of fonts which you could switch on (for example a myDTP fonts collection).
The way I used to use it was to have a small core collection of fonts permanently in !Fonts (I am a big fan of EFF's London font and their fancy Malinka cat font) and some collections for different uses (like Artworks header fonts for posters). It is very flexible so you can take control of your fonts and get the best of both worlds with both a small workable setup and the easy choice of a huge font collection.
and Elesar has brought it back for Modern machines in 2017
The software was originally written by LOOKsystems and the last release was a patch to make the software work on the new Iyonix. Now Elesar's Rob Sprowson has tracked down the original author for permission to use the software, updated the source code (which consisted of patching together multiple versions/sources), made it work on all the latest hardware and rewritten/updated the manual.
The software is now available from the Elesar and there is even an upgrade price for existing users. You can buy the software directly from Elesar through their shop for 22.50 pounds as an upgrade ot 45 pounds new.
The software upgrade will update your existing setup (so you can keep your existing setup) and it just works perfectly (I love those types of installers).
There are no new features in this release but Elesar are asking for your ideas on features you would like to see in future versions.
Since I stopped using Font Directory Pro I had forgotten just how pleasant it made using RISC OS as a publishing platform and I think it is another step in again making RISC OS a really exciting platform for getting my work done....
But are there still any fonts for RISC OS
If you are looking for fonts, there are lots available on RISC OS still. You can find them on the Internet, several free ones are available in the RISC OS package manager and !PlingStore, CJEmicros still appear to have lots of fonts in stock, the charities stands at RISC OS shows sometimes have some gems, and we will be reviewing the new font collection from DRAG'nDROP in a future review. Looks like you may need a tool to help you handle all those fonts....
Elesar website


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Spring Issue of Drag'n'Drop Magazine hits the shelves

Posted by Mark Stephens on 09:45, 4/3/2017 | ,
The Spring 2017 issue of Drag'n'Drop magazine was released at the South-West Show and is now available from their website (where you can also see some sample pages from the actual edition). It is the 30th issue, and the team really have pulled out all the stops to make it that little bit extra special.
If you are new to the magazine, it reminds me of the best of the Acorn press - enthusiastic style, news, variety, type-ins, reviews, programming,something for everyone. The 42 pages are packed with really good contents. The magazine is a PDF file so that you can print it out or read it on any machine. So let's dive in see some of the things on offer...
The editorial by Chris Dewhurst gives us the scoop on some new producsts by Drag'n'Drop - I saw their font collection at the South-West Show so I am really looking forward to seeing what else they have in the pipeline.
There is a always a "How do I..?" page with useful snippets, especially for new users. F12 is not intuitive as the way to get a BASIC prompt if you are new to the scene.
The News section is right upto date and features clickable links to take you to the sites mentioned.
There is a meaty article on the RISC OS sound system complete with a 3000 line BASIC program. This gives you the background on how it works and a clear starting point on getting to use it.
There is another article on ConvText, a set of simple utilities to perform tasks such as clearing-up text from other platforms and removing ctrl characters, etc. Again there is a well-documented BBC Basic listing with notes. So it also doubles as a programming tutorial.
Another article offers a !Auto32 application to help with making old 26 bit modules into 32 bit modules by updating know code patterns.
There is also a series on ARM code for people familiar with 6502, showing how you might rewrite your old code and explaining how you might use the ARM architecture.
Finally for coders there is a little Module Saver utility to add this missing feature.
Games fans will find both a detailed review of the new Mop Tops game and a type-in 'Repton-style' maze game called Sid Slug.
For anyone looking to tweak their RISC OS screen display, an article (and listing) shows how to change the mouse pointer to one of your own design.
There is also an article on Tracing Outlines which includes links to several free tools and tips on how to get the best from the process.
Python Primary School is the next instalment of a substantial project for learning Python and has reached accessing the WIMP via Python. You can get all the articles if you buy the USB release which contains every past edition of the magazine.
I really enjoyed this month's edition and already waiting impatiently for the summer release...
You can buy a copy of the latest edition (or a USB with all the editions) from their website and see a free preview of some sample pages.
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South West Show Report

Posted by Mark Stephens on 22:11, 25/2/2017 | ,
The 2017 South-West Show took place at the Webbington Hotel, its regular home. It was a bright, sunny day (at least to start with) and attendance seemed good. The final count is still awaited, and there was also a questionnaire for visitors to get information and suggestions. If you were not one of those visitors, here is what you missed.
The very quick summary
No major new machines but lots of interesting new software and hardware releases and a good, upbeat atmosphere. It was a great day and R-Comp/Orpheus did a great job.
The Talks
There were 4 talks, this year in their own little corner. All talks were recorded so should hopefully appear soon. I have summarized them with the details of their stands below.
CJEInfo Micro's
CJE Micro's had their usual large range of hardware and software. They had their usual wide selection and had several ARM machines setup to demo for customers.
In their talk CJE MicrosInfo explained that their customers include both users of 'classic' items as well as more cutting edge users. They have now been able to source a new supply of serial mice, a previously elusive and expensive creature. They also mentioned the recent !PhotoDesk release from London and the new drawing tablet (which should work on almost anything).
They are always interested in second hand items and will be going on a trip to collect items from Oxford next month. They will probably take a route via any other locations which could be on the route (London, Southampton were mentioned) so let them know if you have any previously-cherished and now surplus items taking up space you wish to have them take away.
R-CompInfo had their usual range or Windows and ARM machines, including the new RiscBook Go (a nice compromise between size, batter life and cost). They released a new RAID solution to provide a non-technical and much cheaper solution for keeping your machine backed up. There are some new, MUCH faster drivers for the ARMX6 networking operations (which are free updates for existing customers) and a new solution to partition much larger hard drives for RISC OS.
In their talk R-Comp talked about the new software releases. Many of their new developments are the result of the requirements of commercial clients, who provide the funding. The partition software is a good example. They also did a demo on the new RiscBook Go, which has a removable screen if you want to use it as a Windows touch tablet. Andrew recommended a Blue tooth mouse if you want to use RISC OS in this mode.
Orpheus Internet
Orpheus Internet were there to talk about their internet and broadband packages (and give out free sweets. Richard was also moonlighting as announcer, technical show trouble-shooter and show organizer.
ROOL had their range of software, hardware, books and badges. This included the last few fullsize SSD cards, and new releases of Pico.
ROOL's talk provided an update on recent events. ROOL is now 10 years old (which was as long as the time from the first RISC OS release by Acorn until their final 3.70 release). It was formed to save RISC OS from obscurity after development stopped in 2003-6. The highlights of the last year have been :- JPEG update bounty, new DDE with updates to the tools and includes BASIC Compiler (which you can get on its own free from www.riscos.fr), and new Pico release. Testing on another bounty finished late last night so watch their newspages in early March.
There is still lots to do and RISC OS relies on everyone's help. So they highlighted ways to get get involved - contribute to the forum, try the nightly build, donate money to help them cover the costs of being at Shows and hosting the software.
The last user guide was 21 years aga. So it is out of date and needs updates/reviewing as a few things have happened since then (like the Internet). There are now only 23 chapters left to go and it is not a technically challenging task.
There are 3 new bounties - extend clipboard, TCP/IP (improving ssl, security and adding ipv6 and wifi), and USB full sync with netbsd code tree.
Rob Sprowson was reasonably confident that FontPro Dir would be available next week. He is waiting for the manuals which he was notified shipped at 3am this morning.
The Pi3 RISC OS release is still waiting on some final items of software to be fixed before it can be released.
John Norris (Bell ringing) & Tasty Treats
John was talking very enthusiastically about all aspects of bell-ringing and offering both software and hardware solutions for bell-ringers to learn and practise. It is clearly a lot harder than it looks and he was explaining how they 'ring in the changes'. Tasty treats was offering lots of enticing jams and spreads.
Drag & Drop
The latest release of the magazine was available along with a new set of fonts for RISC OS (both will be reviewed by Iconbar in the next few weeks).
David Snell
David was demonstrating ProCad and WebWonder and John showing lots of clients how to get the most from this powerful tool.
The dynamic duo were there to show off the 2.26 version released at London Show and to ask what users would like to see next in the software.
Jim Nagel had back copies of the magazine and details of the new DVD. The latest release was held back so that it could include all the SW Show news and updates.
Soft Rock Software
Vince had the full selection of software and his very cute RiscPC shaped case for a Pi. He was also promoting Riscository where he tracks all the news fit (and unfit to print) in the RISC OS world (always my first port of call when I log onto the Internet). He was also promoting the Bristol user group.
Steve Fryatt
Steve had new releases of his software (including Cash Book) and was showing users all the little tweaks in the software.
Chris Hall
Chris had a transparent RISC OS box which was receiving GPS data and displaying this on a little OLED screen. He was also showing how you could use this data for alsorts of other applications.
Brian was talking about the groups meeting and up-coming events. If you are in the South-East, their London venue is very easy to reach (and serves excellent curry).
AmCog Games
AmCog games have a growing range of games, including Mop Tops (a Lemmings style game with lots of humour), Xeroid (a flying game), Overlord (a shoot-em up), Legends of Magic (a 3D Isomorphic adventure which also has a game editor and 70,000 novel to accompany the game).
Several of the games are also available in French and German. They are written in BASIC and run at 800x600 resolution. Users are encouraged to dissect and reuse the code. AmCog may well have the makings of a very good Games library....
All their games include extensive original music tracs and AmCog have also been working on a new sound system for RISC OS, which borrows ideas from many places including BBC and C64 sound chips. The theatre talk focussed on how easy it was to use all these features.
Ident Computer
Tom had his range of Ident Computers for RaspberryPi. He has put a lot of work into improving the configuration software and making it easier to setup and use. He has lots of developments in the pipeline which will be revealed in due course. Stay tuned...
RiscOSBits have a growing range of devices to plug into RISC OS machines or provide extra features to RISC OS which were being demonstrated. There was also a prototype card to give the Titanium wireless internet.
Show website
The show in pictures
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Exploring Mathematical shapes in RISC OS

Posted by Mark Stephens on 09:28, 15/2/2017 | ,
One of my long-time favourite programs for RISC OS is !PolyDraw from Fortran friends. If it is not already installed on your RISC OS machine, it deserves to be (shame on you). It is fast, fun, educational (and since 2016 it has also been free). It also has that wonderful property of a great game - you can use it pretty much instantly without the manual but it has loads of depths to explore.
!PolyDraw and its linked programs (!PolyNet, !Stellate and !PolySymm) lets you view, create and explore complex mathematical shapes. It also lets you print out the flat design for any shape which you can then cut out and stick together to make a physical shape.
The software gives you a huge range of three dimension shapes, which you can inspect in a 3D viewer. The viewer lets you choose how to rotate the shape in any directions, what color/shading you use (or you can stick to wire frame) and shows the flat outline net of the shape. When you print them out, the software adds tabs to the surfaces so you can cut out and glue the shape together. If the 141 initial shapes are not enough, there are additional data sets to load and use can create your own.
At RISC OS shows the Fortran Stand is usually full of Cubes, Dodecahedron and other icosahedra and the experts show you how to use features in the software. It's like being back in your coolest ever Maths class! As they say it is ideal for children of all ages (especially those over 18).
They are regular exhibitors at the South West Shows. So hopefully you will be able to see them in a few weeks.
All details and their downloads are on the Fortran Friends website.
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A fresh look at the Desktop Development Environment Manuals

Posted by Mark Stephens on 10:28, 1/2/2017 | , , ,
TheDesktop Development Environment manual is the essential documentation to make the most of the Desktop Development Environment. Both have been adopted and are now updated by RISC OS Open. The manuals come free with the DDE and are also available to buy in printed manual form.
The first edition of the manuals was produced in 1994 and it has been revised several times. As you would expect from professional developers, RISC OS Open includes a changelog so you can see what exact changes have been made. Last major update was in 2015. The manuals have also been rebranded with the RISC OS Open cog logo and company name.
There are 3 manuals in the set.
The Desktop Tools manual (329 pages) covers all the tools in the DDE (Make, Squeeze, SrcEdit, ABC, etc). There is a nice introductory section at the start telling you how to setup and start using the tools.
There are lots of screenshots to show the features in action. It should not be regarded as a tutorial but there is lots of material on using them. The Desktop Debugging tool includes 60 pages explaining how to use it.
The last 100 pages are Appendices which cover a summary of changes added over the years and information which you would need to use the tools (Library file formats, alignment details, file syntax,etc).
The Acorn Assembler manual (159 pages) shows you how to use ObjAsm. It includes some details on ARM Assembler instructions but it is not a tutorial (it does include some good further reading suggestions for you to learn ARM code). The focus is on using the tool and its features (ie labels, macros compilation). There are also some short chapters on writing RISC OS modules and interacting with C.
The Acorn C/C++ manual (438 pages) provides provides detailed coverage of the C and C++ language features supported by the Compiler (as well as the libraries) and some useful details and tips on writing RISC OS applications from C or C++. The languages are cleanly separated out so you only want to write C, it is easy to skip the non-relevent items. Again it is not a tutorial on coding, but a detailed summary of all the details you need to develop code.
All three manuals include an index at the back to help you to navigate as well as very detailed section descriptions at the start and a clear structure.
All three books are part of the DDE or available in a printed version (discounts for registered developers). The printed package makes a fairly bulky doorstop (and a great table stand for my MacBookPro!). I also find that it is the sort of programming content which I like to read and reread offscreen.
Further details on the DeskTop Tools Manual can be purchased from RISC OS Open website or they usually have some copies as Show events. Maybe something to check out at the South West Show later this month.
If you are looking to write software, you should also consider the Style Guide which tells you how the software should look and act to fit into RISC OS nicely.
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!Organizer reaches 2.26

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!PhotoDesk adds support for latest hardware and software with version 3.14

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Latest batch of RISC OS magazines published at London Show

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First Impressions of RComp's TiMachine

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RComp releases update of !FireWorkzPro 2.20

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Elesar's new Cloud Storage software

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