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ROM release for your Titanium - What is new

Posted by Mark Stephens on 09:35, 28/7/2017 | , ,
 
In a previous article, we looked at installing the new ROM for your Titanium. This time we will look at what the new release offers.
 
This is actually quite a major update and there is a long list of changes. The offical full list of changes is on the ROOL website. Some of the changes are not really relevant to Titanium users (Pico build fix, introduce iMx6 to ROOL repository) but there are lots of interest.
 


 
From a user's point of view, there are 3 major new features
 
The first is the addition of 256 colour modes.


 
This makes it much easier to use old software which was written for these modes.
 
Another bounty enhancement is the new EDID support means that your machine can be much 'smarter' when you plug a monitor into it. It is not Titanium-specific (but very nice to have). This is the result of the EDID bounty from ROOL.
 
Improvements to ADFS now mean that you can have up to 8 terabytes of storage on RISC OS (and RISC OS uses large drives more efficiently).
 
A nice little enhancement for Paint is the addition of a timer control for the spray can (which was previously a little unwieldy on fast new modern machines). Paint is now version 2.21 (last updated May 2017).
 
BASIC and the Chars and Draw applications both get enhancements and bug fixes.
 
The whole package is free to download and brings the Titanium bang up to date with RISC OS developments. What are your impressions of the new update? Have you found any problems?
 
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Installing the new ROM release for your Titanium

Posted by Mark Stephens on 10:23, 22/7/2017 | , ,
 
Elesar emailed all its clients and announced on the newsgroups that there was a new software update for the Titanium. In this article we will download and install it with a sequel to look at the new features.
 
As well as the 'vanilla' Titanium, CJEmicro's and R-Comp have systems based on the board. As my machine is from R-CompInfo, I checked with Andrew Rawnsley about whether it was a good idea to install or wait for an official update from them. R-Comp are indeed planning to do a proper machine-specific update once they had done their own testing. You can wait for them or you can use the new update. If you have a machine from CJEmicro's I would confirm their advice first.
 
If your Titanium is your critical work machine, you might want to wait a little while to let others test the upgrade (which is equally valid advice on new MacOS, Linux or Windows updates).
 
The Elesar download link actually takes you to a download page on the ROOL website where you have a choice of downloads, depending on how 'cutting edge' you would like to be. The bottom item is the recommended stable release and it is twice as big because it includes a second version of the ROM.
 


 
The official download is the 5 meg download which contains everything you need to upgrade your Titanium and a clear and helpful readme.
 


 
There is a potential risk for things to go wrong, so you are advised to make sure you have backups of all your data before you start (always a good idea to keep regular backups in any case!). Murphy's law generally means the more prepared you are the less likely things will go wrong...
 
Two versions of the new OS release are supplied, with and without zpp included. Which one you choose will be down to your personal preferences and the software you are using.
 
The actual upgrade consists of 3 steps:-
1. Update the software on your disk (using Merge to update !Boot with any changes).
2. Sanity check by soft loading the ROM on your machine using the softload obey file, just to make sure. If there are any issues, you can then revert back to the original with a quick reboot.
3. Use the FlashSQPI application to burn a new copy of the ROM onto your system. This can be a little time-consuming and should not be interrupted. Once it is done, you can reboot the machine.
 
Before you do any of this, it is worth reading the readme fully TWICE.
 
It is very easy to see if the machine has been updated.
 


 


 
You have an updated machine running the latest version of RISC OS for your machine. Next time we will look at what is new...
 
2 comments in the forums

RISC OS software to download from !PackMan

Posted by Mark Stephens on 07:00, 23/6/2017 | ,
 
In a previous article we looked at !PackMan and !Store. In this article we are going to highlight some of the software available in !PackMan and ask for your suggestions.
 
When you run !PackMan, it offers you a long list of files (with some nice category and filter options). You can see these in the screenshots below (click on the images for the full sized versions).
 
When you choose a program it brings up a window with lots of information, including more details, version numbers and dependencies (which it will generally handle for you automatically of tell you of any clashes. Here you can see I am installing the Povray ray tracing program which allows you to design and render 3D scenes.
 


 
!PackMan provides a home (and central repository) for many established RISC OS programs and, as a bonus, an easy way to update if new versions are released. !Nettle offers a terminal program for RISC OS, which is still (even in 2017) a very convenient way to access remote systems. You also have OpenSHH as an alternative option. You can also see a whole host of other applications available such as Rsync, FTPc and even other web browsers to try (I would recommend a really fast machine for those).
 


 
If you want to indulge in some nostalgia, there is a selection of emulators - upgrade your RISC OS machine to a Spectrum class machine today!
 


 
There are some good tools on other platforms which you may miss on RISC OS. My personal favourites of Bash and Grep are available as ports.
 


 
!PackMan is not just about software programs. You will find free fonts on to download including these excellent BitStream fonts.
 


 
That is a small selection of some of the gems you will find on !PackMan. In a future article, we will have a rummage around !Store. In the meantime, what are your favourite applications or recommendations on !PackMan?
 
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Elesar updates Font Directory Pro to 3.21

Posted by Mark Stephens on 07:44, 16/6/2017 | ,
 
Given the 12 years between the last 2 releases of Font Directory Pro, an update 6 months after the last release is really good news. Previously, this very slick Font Manager from LookSystems languished until adopted by Elesar.
 
This release moves the release from 3.20 to 3.21 so it is an incremental update. The only 'new feature' on the changelist is enhanced help text in Choices and there are 5 bug fixes.
 
The software comes with a slick installer application and was automatically mailed to all registered users. You will need your application key to update the software. It would have been nice to be able to just drag the software on have it updated (as we have got used to with packages like !Ovation).
 
Elesar are still asking for user ideas for future improvements and the appearance of an new version so soon should give us all encouragement for a bright future for this great piece of software.
 
Elesar website
 
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RC15 bring RISC OS to any Raspberry Pi

Posted by Mark Stephens on 08:52, 6/5/2017 | , ,
 


 
As ROOL had hinted in the run-up to the show, Wakefield 2017 saw the long-awaited release of RC15.
 
RC15 (RC stands for release candidate) was the official release of RISC OS to run on the Raspberry Pi 3. All the issues found in RC14 have been fixed and this version is now considered stable and reliable to run. RC14 was actually fairly good but several 3rd party applications (which are shipped with RISC OS) did not. There are actually a lot of changes in RC15 (it is an ePic release) which you can read on the changelog.
 
It is still RISC OS 5.23 (so officially no new features) but it has needed a lot of changes to make it run on the latest version of the Raspberry Pi. The hardware used has changed significantly in this new model and this required some updates to the code to make it work correctly. In particular, it uses a different ARM chip (Cortex-A53) which no longer allows some 'old' ways of doing things. This does not effect BASIC code, and C code needs a recompile. ARM code is more messy as it needs to be updated if it still uses these old methods. Otherwise the software will crash. And much RISC OS software is still written in ARM assembly code. We have been playing this catch-up game for many years (remember moving to 32bit for the same reason).
 
The release is important because it once again means RISC OS can run on the whole range of Raspberry Pi machines.
 
Setting up RISC OS on the RaspberryPi 3 is a bit of an anti-climax... I plugged the SD card in, switched on and it all booted straight into the RISC OS desktop. It even autamatically setup my a network connection for me. A quick screen resolution change, and I was up and running....
 
RISC OS is available for the Raspberry Pi in 3 ways:-
1. You can download the SD card image and copy it onto your own SSD card for free from ROOL.
2. You can buy an SD card already setup from the ROOL store.
3. You can buy an SD card containing both RISC OS and all the software on the Nut Pi together on an extra large, superfast SD card from the ROOL store.
 
RISC OS does not really make much use of the extra features so it is not worth upgrading to a Raspberry Pi 3 for a faster RISC OS experience. Where you will see a real benefit is in running other Operating Systems (which can make use of the 64bit chip and multi-threading). This is the first Raspberry Pi which I feel runs Raspbian (the office Linux release) well enough for my personal real, everyday usage. I actually have my Raspberry Pi 3 mostly setup as a Linux machine to use as a web browser (it now includes Chrome) and run Open Office (easily accessed from my RISC OS machines using VNC).
 
The Raspberry Pi is an amazing phenomenon and it is great to see our favourite OS available for all the versions and providing a really cheap entry point for RISC OS and a whole new generation with the chance to try RISC OS.
 
ROOL official announcement
 
Raspberry Pi website
 


 
4 comments in the forums

Chris Gransdon tells ROUGOL about Otter browser and other ports

Posted by Mark Stephens on 22:22, 17/4/2017 | , ,
 
A good crowd braved the Bank Holiday public transport to attend the April ROUGOL meeting with Chris Gransden talking about porting !Otter and other software to RISC OS.
 
Before the main event, there were brief 'teasers' for 2 other events.
 
The ROUGOL organizer (Bryan Hogan), is also helping to organise the Acorn User Show in Cambridge and more details will be appearing in the next few weeks.
 
Richard Brown (Orpheus) was also there to announce his new venture RISC OS Developments. This has raised significant funds to do some development and he will be announcing more details at Wakefield on saturday...
 
Chris Gransden started investigating porting !Otter and other browsers onto RISC OS when he spotted that the QT5 library (which !Otter needs) had been been ported onto RISC OS by another developer. Rather than trying to develop a new browser from scratch, Chris is getting an existing Open Source browser written for the Linux platform to run on RISC OS. The attraction of !Otter is that it uses a version of the Webkit browser engine, which has been JavaScript support than any native RISC OS browser. Chris logged into GMail on !Otter which is impossible in any other RISC OS browser. It also includes https and ssl support in the browser.
 
As !Otter and !QupZilla use QT5, this enabled him to get these browsers to run on RISC OS - he has not had to extensively rewrite and hack the code as the QT5 and UnixLib libraries allow them to run on RISC OS. This also means it is really easy to update as these applications are altered by their developers.
 
Chris had his overclocked Pi running the software and was able to explain how the !Otter/!QupZilla browsers work on RISC OS. The software is effectively providing a sprite display inside a RISC OS window. RISC OS does not have compositing support (redrawing just the bits it needs) which would speed things up. This is also using shared memory, and memory is high.
 
Because the software was written for another OS, it is designed to make use of fatures like threads which are not available on RISC OS. This is why performance can be sluggish as RISC OS does not have the capability to offload work onto multiple threads - it is all done by the single, main RISC OS task. RISC OS is also not able to make use of additional hardware acceleration which also speeds things up considerably on Linux.
 
Switching off JavaScript at the start and putting the fonts into memory can speed up the browser. Chris has turned off by default file caching (which is actually slower in RISC OS) and customisations to Otter which can slow the software still further. Still, you really need a fast, modern machine to run Otter on).
 
One of Chris's future hopes it to make use of something like Kronsos on the Pi and have a much faster cusotmised versions for machines which can support it.
 
The !Otter browser itself is still being debugged and once 1.0 becomes available, Chris will make available a proper RISC OS release. At the moment, it can be a bit complex to setup.
 
Asked the difference between !QupZilla and !Otter, Chris explained that !QupZilla was currently more stable (less bugs and shared libraries) but Otter would be a better long-term bet.
 
The !Otter port has come a long way since Chris first started it 2 years ago. It is much faster and more stable although still crashes. It probably is not yet an alternative to browsers on Windows/Linux/Mac but there is not lots of scope to improve further and it opens up a lot of sites to access from RISC OS. We look forward to seeing how it develops, especially once Otter 1.0 officially comes out. Chris has done an amazing job so far!
 
Otter browser main page and builds for non-RISC OS platforms.
 
ROUGOL website
 
 
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A tale of 2 package managers

Posted by Mark Stephens on 09:39, 8/4/2017 | , ,
 
In the 'early days' most software had to be 'sourced' from different locations. The only big source of software in one place was Hensa on the University systems if you were lucky enough to have access. You could also connect to Bulletin boards (Arcade BBS) or get floppy disks through the post from Skyfall or APDL).
 
You can still hunt around (and there are lots of sites with gems we will be looking at in 2017 on IconBar), but in 2017 you have really easy access to huge sources of software straight from your RISC OS desktop. All you need is TWO programs.
 
PlingStore ( ie !Store) gives you access to a range or both free and commercial software (which you can buy with a credit card via the software). All software includes details of the software, website links, screenshots and you can search and explore the software on offer. You will find lots of favourites from David Pilling, R-CompInfo, Steve Fryatt, Chris Johnson, Sine Nomine and many others.
 
PlingStore tracks which versions of the software you have downloaded so it can also offer you the option to get free updates or buy commercial ones. If you are using R-Comp software, they provide a service to update the store with your current purchases to you can use it for updates when they release new versions.
 
When PlingStore runs, it checks on the Internet to update its information, so it can tell you about new software, updates or special offers.
 
!PackMan has developed out of RiscPkg. This brought dependency manangement based on Linux solutions to RISC OS (software can now describe what other software it works with and what it needs).
 
Dependency management is a big problem on many platforms (and trying to fix it on the Java platform has been the big issue for the last 2 releases of Java). Simply, the problem is that you download a new piece of software which needs version 4 of another library. So you install that on your machines. You then find that all your other software stops working as it only runs on version 3.... RedHat came up with a good solution to this problem which RiscPkg uses.
 
!PackMan builds ontop of this with a slick front end. It also includes a list of software and it knows what other software (dependencies) this software has. So it can ensure you have the software or download it for you as well. As with PlingStore it gives you a wide range of software and it can update its details with new releases when you run it. There is no payment options in !PackMan so all the software is free. !PackMan has some nice features to not only install the software, but add to Apps, run on startup, etc.
 
Both applications need some discipline to get the most from them. They do not look at your system and spot existing software, and PackMan has a standard location for all software. So you may be better off deleting existing software, and downloading a new copy in the new location through the package manager.
 
I am also pleased to say that there is little overlap and duplication between the software both offer. In general (apologies for slight over-simplification) PlingStore offers both 'original' commercial and free software from well-known RISC OS companies and developers while PackMan gives you access to the conversions to RISC OS platform from riscos.info and other sites (fonts, !Otter, games, tools, etc) which has grown from Peter Naulls' original Unix Porting Project.
 
Both applications are free and should be on your machine!
 
!PackMan
PlingStore
 
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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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