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Article archives

R-Comp support scheme

Posted by Mark Stephens on 13:01, 12/1/2017 | , ,
 
In 2017, Iconbar will be looking at a number of sites, schemes, packages available for RISC OS, reminding you what is on offer, seeing what is going on, etc. As always, if you have any suggestions (or articles!), please drop us a line. We start with the software support scheme from R-CompInfo.
 
R-Comp have offered an interesting scheme for users of BeagleBoard, Panda, ARMX6, and Titanium for a number of years now. This is available as part of any R-Comp purchase or as a one-off purchase for anyone else. So I purchased access to PandaLand and gained free access to the Titanium side when I bought my TimeMachine.
 
So what do you get as part of the scheme? Membership buys you access to the password protected areas of the R-Comp website where you can download a new stable version of RISC OS 5 for your specific machine, along with additional bundled software. R-Comp includes a slick upgrade program, which backups the previous installation, and performs the update. Ideally R-Comp will update for new stable releases of RISC OS 5.
 
All the installation happens inside RISC OS - you do not need to create a new SD card build. I have found this very slick and robust, without any issues. Most of the software is public domain but there are some nice little R-Comp tools for each platform (for example the PandaLand scheme includes a useful little CMOS widget).
 
The latest download for Titanium is from 2016 (and I am told it is suitable for all Titanium machines, not just the TiMachine). The Panda feels a little neglected with the lastest release being 2015 - I hope it is on the ToDo list for 2017.
 
You can manually upgrade these machines yourself with the latest build from RISC OS Open downloads page.
 
R-Comp has been involved in RISC OS development and making RISC OS run on their machines for many years now and what you are gaining from the scheme is a slick, tested and supported solution for your machine which will save you considerable time and should just work 'out of the box'. For me personally, that has been well-worth the investment.
 
R-Comp website
 
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Video conversion on RISC OS

Posted by Jeffrey Lee on 20:00, 20/12/2008 | , , , , ,
 
A while ago you may remember that I wrote an article about video conversion for RISC OS, and near the end raised the topic of video conversion on RISC OS using a port of ffmpeg. Although the version of ffmpeg I originally tried on RISC OS was old and broken, Christopher Martin obviously thinks there's some merit to this approach, as he has recently produced !FFmpeg, a working port of ffmpeg for RISC OS.
 
Once more in the interests of SCIENCE, I threw a few test videos at !FFmpeg and measured its performance against that of a similar version of ffmpeg running on my Windows PC.


 
Continue reading "Video conversion on RISC OS" | 1 comment in the forums

Video conversion for RISC OS

Posted by Jeffrey Lee on 20:50, 5/12/2006 | , , , , ,
 
If you've got a lot of TV programmes or other video clips on a PC, chances are you'll be wanting to be able to play them on RISC OS as well. This article will explain how to use free tools to convert them to a suitable format for playback on RISC OS. Furthermore the process can be fully automated, so is ideal for processing large collections.
 
 
Continue reading "Video conversion for RISC OS" | 8 comments in the forums

ART Factsheets

Posted by Peter Howkins on 01:00, 19/7/2003 | , , , , , , ,
 
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Clan Factsheets

Posted by Peter Howkins on 01:00, 19/7/2003 | , , , , , , ,
 
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Clan Newsletters

Posted by Peter Howkins on 01:00, 19/7/2003 | , , , , , , ,
 
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Games FAQ

Posted by Foggy on 01:00, 11/7/2001 | , ,
 

What are 3D games, and exactly how 3D are they?


 
3D seems to have been the buzz word for games this year. On all platforms, new 3D games are being released at a phenomenal rate, and old classics are being re-released with alleged 3D effects . Basically this all amounts to the same thing, depth of perception.


The first 3D games attempted to immerse you in a pseudo three dimensional environment. This was often employed by means of a maze type game, which has progressed over the years through to Doom and Quake style games. With the latest generation of these games, 3D objects are created as true models, so that you can move around an object and view it from all angles.


This is the main difference where original 2D games are concerned as they haven't really changed. They are still two dimensional and work along one plane of view, but objects on the screen are given a sense of depth.


 

How can 3D objects be viewed on a 2D screen?


 
It's all done with mirrors as far as I know.


Although you are viewing the game on a two dimensional screen, by using perspective, games such as Quake can purvey the illusion that you are actually looking at a three dimensional environment. This effect works in the same way as looking at a painting of a building. If drawn correctly you can visualise the true dimensions of the object, even though it's on a canvas.


Very basic 3D games will make distant objects larger as they get closer to the player. These could be walls, monsters, or space craft for example.


 

Are Polygons better than sprites?


 
Are Mars bars better than Curly Wurlys?


This usually comes down to the type of game that is being played. Games such as Lemmings and TechnoDream, use sprites as they do not need to convey a true 3D image. Using sprites, often means that the computer has less processing to do. This can mean that the game can work on older machines with very little problem, as fast CPU's are not needed.


Games in the Doom and Quake genre, tend to be Polygon based. This means that as objects get closer or further away, they can be scaled in size and look much more realistic. There are several drawbacks with both polygons and sprites. Polygons tend to offer a much more realistic gaming environment, but are very processor intensive (drawing the screen,
fps etc) and can look blurred close up. Sprites on the other hand, tend to be less processor intensive, but look very jagged and blocky close up. This problem can be seen when you get close to a monster in Doom.


As a compromise many new games now employ a mixture of both polygons and sprites. As sprites can look very convincing at a distance, they are often used as backgrounds, where as polygons are used for objects that appear closer to the player. Texture mapping is a method used in games such as Descent where objects are constructed from polygons, but have tiled sprites over layed on top of them to create a more convincing image, both close up and at a distance.


 

What is a graphics engine?


 
As with a car, the engine is the part that does all the hard work behind the scenes. The graphic engine's job, is to work out where everything is on screen, what relationship each object has to you and then to render it at as high a
frame rate as possible.


There are many types of graphics engine, most of which have specific names, such as the TAG Engine and the Quake Engine.


Graphics engines are constantly being improved to include new features to make gaming more realistic. Features now seen in new games can include real time lighting effects (for flames and torches) and transparency (water, mirrors). A great deal of time is put in to designing a graphics engine as it is often the pivotal part of a game. Owing to this, controversy can occur over which graphics engine is considered to be superior.


 

What is this fps business?



FPS (Frames Per Second). Commonly used in Vision Express stores as a means of measuring commission to sales assistants.


It actually refers to the amount of times the screen is updated. To help immerse the player in to a true gaming environment, a high frame rate can make all the difference.


You may have seen basic cartoons made out of a small notebook. Each page has the same picture on it, but with slight variations. When the pages are flicked through in front of you, they create the illusion of movement. This is basically how computer monitors and televisions work. They update the whole screen (often referred to as a frame) many times each second.


Once the frame rate reaches around 25 fps, the human eye can no longer see individual images, and is tricked in to thinking it is actually seeing a moving image. European and Australian television (PAL TV standard) is broadcast at 25 fps, where as American television (NTSC TV standard) runs at 30 fps. The new DVD films run at 30fps.


Frame rates seem to reach their best at 25 to 30 fps, but many games try to achieve higher rates than this, sometimes around the 100 fps mark. This is because the computer has to do a lot of work to figure out what is displayed on the screen for each frame. This is useful in games such as Quake where a lot of monsters can be on screen at once. Because the computer now needs to work out where all the extra characters are on screen, it takes longer to draw each frame, and the result is that you'll find the screen jumps, and doesn't look as smooth as it did during "quieter" parts of the game. Thus the actual frame rate may drop to an unacceptable figure, such as 10fps and the eye is no longer tricked in to thinking it is looking at smooth movement. Because the
graphics engine may be able to calculate 100 fps it has enough power to cope with demanding situations like this, even though the human eye does not really register a higher frame rate.


 

What is a good screenmode for games?


 
This all comes down to which monitor you are using and which computer you have got. Generally, the bigger the
screen mode the more realistic the game appears. However, there can be drawbacks with this. Because the screen resolution is larger, the computer needs more time to draw each frame, and you could find that the frame rate is unacceptably low.


Most games have information on which screenmode best suits your monitor and computer. I'll compile a list here when I actually find any Acorn games that work on my machines. Doh!


 

What is Game On/StrongCache and how do I use it/Why do I need it?


 
When the StrongARM was released, the internal architecture of the processor had changed slightly. Because of this change, some games failed to work properly, especially those with software protection employing self modifying code.
Martin Friar's Web site is a good place to look for information and compatability lists. Many games can however be made to run, if a little slower than normal, by altering the state of the StrongARM's cache.


These instructions can be issued by normal star commands at the Command Line or in a Task Window.


 

*cache on   Turns the cache on.

*cache off   Turns all of the cache off.

*cache iw   Turns off the data cache. Many games respond well to this.

*cache idw   Turns all the caches on.

*cache w   Turns off the instruction and data cache.

 


The problem with altering the state of your cache is that your machine will run extremely slowly until it is turned back on. Various programs have been written to organise the state of the cache for you (and also include other features) so that games will run on StrongARM machines. These are listed below, but I recommend you look at each programs website to see if it works with your software first.


 
Game On! (Commercial)
This program allows a large amount of games and other programs to work on StrongARM machines. A database of software titles that currently work in Game On! can be downloaded from the Game On! website.


Strong Cache (Public Domain)
This is a module that allows the cache to be turned on or off from the keyboard and can fix a number of games.


Strong Cache 2 (Commercial)
This program works in a similar way to the above, but has been given more features. E.g. the cache can now be turned off with a timer. Because of the extra functionality of Strong Cache 2, it fixes more programs.


Strong Guard (Commercial)
Again, this program allows more games to work correctly with StrongARM machines.


 

How can I play games on the Internet?


 
Firstly, you'll need shares in your phone company, or have Internet access at work. Playing games over the Internet is fun, but can be extremely expensive, so is usually best left until the Weekend. Currently, the only game I can think of with "working" Internet functions is Peter Teichmann's !ArcQuake. On a StrongARM RiscPC, you should be able to get 10fps at 320 X 256 resolution on a decent server. There are instructions for setting up !ArcQuake for Internet gaming on my
ArgoNet Acorn FAQ Website. You should be able to alter the instructions to work with your ISP. This page also contains links to lists of servers. If possible, try to use a server that is geographically close to you to avoid bad lag times.


 


What is lag?


 
Lag is the curse of the Internet, and even more so for Internet gaming. As you may have seen on the news, when the presenter is talking to a correspondent on the other side of the world, there is a pause between the question being asked and the correspondent replying. This is because there is a time delay (lag) as the signal is transmitted.


The same sort of thing also happens on the Internet, but for a variety of different reasons. The main problem when playing games is that even if you're reactions are fast enough, the computer you're connected to, may not be told what you did until a few seconds after you did it.


Playing Quake for example, if you saw another player about to fire on you with a rocket launcher, you would normally side step out of the way and congratulate yourself on being clever. If you have a high lag time however, the server running the game, may not receive the instruction that you side stepped, until too late, resulting in your untimely demise.


There is always going to be an element of lag over the internet, but it is essential for games that the lag time whilst playing is in milliseconds rather than seconds. If you are getting a lag time in seconds, it's time to look for a new server, or play at less busy times.


 

What mode definitions do I need for , and where can I get them?


 
The best places to look for Monitor Definition Files (MDF's) for use with RiscPC's are currently the
Acorn Cybervillage, and Foggy's MDF page. Both sites have MDF files for use with a variety of monitors. My site also contains a "Pick 'N' Mix" section where I've put an MDF file that should be suitable for most monitors. If you can't find a mode you need, it may well be listed there.
 
 
 


 

Comments and questions should be sent to foggy@acornarcade.com, whilst death threats should be sent to dave@acornarcade.com.

 
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SunBurst hints, tips and walkthrough

Posted by Jeffrey Lee on 00:00, 25/11/2000 | , ,
 

Below is a selection of hints and a walkthrough for VOTI's 2d space game Sunburst. These were written by
Jeffrey Lee, with contributions from the game's author, Owain Cole.

Hints & Tips

  • If you come across a mine field and believe some mines may be cloaked, do not despair - any cloaked vehicle can be detected by pressing R,T or Y. Just
    keep pressing T to find where the nearest mine is. Probably a bug. Also, mines only damage your shields - if you have no shield charge left, you will
    not be destroyed.
  • If you come across some rockbouys, be warned - attacking them will usually produce 2 "guard ships". Also, you may encounter four ships which appear to be flying so the converge at one point in the rockbouy fleet. One or more of these may attack you, but you can hide in between the rockbouys. This way, when they attack, they will hit the rockbouys and the guard ships will rescue you. There is usually enough space for you to do a subspace jump in between the rockbouys and the fleet of ships.
  • All cargo can be scooped up, regardless of your ship.
  • Watch out for "snake" or "alligator" fleets of ships - these will follow you round, and when you get close enough, they will attack. You can usually outrun them and jump away though.
  • To speed things up, increase engine power to maximum where possible. But
    don't forget to recharge your shields and lasers!
  • Go into "battle mode" when attacked by a large fleet - increase shield and laser power to almost maximum. Speed is not usually needed in such a situation. If you are going under, run away and increase shield power to maximum. If its already at maximum, panic.
  • If you find an Ancient, do not be afraid to destroy them - they are quite useful. For every shot they take, a cargo pod is ejected out its back. Handy if you have weak lasers, like on a shuttle, as you can get a good 30 pods. But, because you're in a shuttle, you can only hold 12.
  • SAVE almost every time you dock - a large fleet or impossible mission might just be round the corner. But, if you are not quite sure what youre doing, save each under a different name.
  • If you are having a battle outside a station, make sure you have docking permission - if you shoot the station by accident, you will still be allowed in if you had permission to dock first. If you do get locked out, just jump away and return to the station. They will have forgotten.
  • Do not be afraid of traders - either Sirius and Kosmos fleets, or asteroid miners. They will only attack if attacked. Remember, not everyone is out to kill you.
  • Destroying mines (not by running into them!) will give you a 25 credit bonus. This can be very handy if you are desperate for cash.
  • In the alien system, if you jump into a sector with a clump of free-floating cargo, be warned! These are most probably mines!
  • Although they may not look it, auto-pilots are very useful... for instance, you can dock at a station, enter a jump gate, follow someone you're attacking (& completely blow them to itty bitty pieces), scoop cargo, and destroy asteroids. I press either T or Y after something gets destroyed/scooped. This way you can easily wipe a sector clean. Try it.
  • I don't really know why you would want to know this, but... Stations can be destroyed by mines, and I think anything can go through a hyperspace jump (I tried an asteroid once). Also, if you press J and then spin round in circles, you can stay in that sector for ever... You can even head towards one edge of the screen, turn round just before you reach it, and then turn round again. Using this method you can edge through the sector, and if you get in trouble just stop turning. You only leave the current sector when you go off the edge of the screen.

Walkthrough

How to complete Sunburst in 45 easy steps...

  1. Set course to Research 1
  2. To speed things up, jump to the right, not to the left - remember, the map "wraps round". Avoid contact with other ships (i.e. do not attack any)
  3. Dock at the Imperial Jump Station, and play 'Please Dont Shoot' to get the hyperspace upgrade. Reaching level 6 will give you 1000 credits, level 7 will give you 2000, and level 8 or above will give you the upgrade. It can be done, even on a 17 inch monitor! Make sure you save the game before you play, as you will probably have to reload after losing...
  4. Leave the station, and hyperspace to the void. Fly over (go down the map) and dock at Research 1.
  5. With your cash, buy some missiles. I recommended at least 2 'butchers', maybe more if you have some spare money.
  6. Save the game! do it often! This is your last warning!
  7. Leave the station, and go and kill Pestilence. He should show up on your system targets list, along with the others. Save the butchers!
  8. Kill Death and Famine.
  9. Destroy Logic Bomb using the butchers you bought, and anything else you need to use.
  10. Destroy War.
  11. Return to the Imperial HQ, and buy some more missiles, and again, at least 2 butchers.
  12. Destroy the Rainship, using the butchers.
  13. Dock at Poliniss Home Station.
  14. Fly over and meet the Tristar. Dont bother trying to kill it; it is invulnerable.
  15. Go to Oasis, but make sure that you have low cash and missiles, otherwise a little feature of the game will kick in. If you are doing too well, the game gets harder. I think that if you have lots of cash when you go to Oasis (I tried this - try lower than 1000. Should be easy.), a large fleet of Imperial ships catches you and blows you up. Do not but missiles though, as they seem to catch me when I stock up. I suggest filling your cargo hold up with expensive cargo. Then, when you reach Oasis, you can trade it in, at a relatively low loss.
  16. Kill about 100 more people to reach level 9 (in the status window from the iconbar menu), so you can get a good job at Fortress. You need about 137 kills in total.
  17. Fly over to Fortress, and you will be given the task of catching the
    Hyang.
  18. Catch up with the Hyang (this is easy with the Hyperspace upgrade).
  19. Head to the Virain Hyperjump and save the game. Play Snake Eyes, until you have about 65,000 credits. I suggest you only play when there is a 500 credit stake, and save the game every time you go up 5,000 credits.
  20. Upgrade! buy everything! (except a cloak - you cannot). Win2000 is even for Windoze haters, and some could say it is an accurate representation.
  21. Wipe out all the ships on the shipping list you were given when you got
    the Hyang.
  22. Wipe out the ships that come near the jump station.
  23. Head back to Oasis.
  24. Visit Jak at Poliniss Home Station.
  25. Go the the Hyperspace jump, stupid!
  26. Fly to the void (Explanation - the void is desolate, ridden with radiation. Anyone staying there would need radiation shields. It is also a good place for underground operations, such that a ship-stealer might carry out.).
  27. Catch the Hyang again.
  28. Get to the nearest station, and quick! Avoid contact with all other
    ships!
  29. Sell something to get cash to repair the ships systems.
  30. If youre not already there, head to Oasis.
  31. Head to Nimbus.
  32. Gamble the extra 35,000 needed to upgrade your ship again.
  33. Upgrade!
  34. Rendezvous with the Leviathan, and enter the jump gate.
  35. Once in the alien system, enter the alien jump gate.
  36. Destroy the 4 'spikes'.
  37. Head to the alien research station.
  38. Destroy the station. It is advised that you pick off the guarding ships one by one - If you attack one, only that one retaliates. Attack the station, and they all will.
  39. Subspace jump away from the station site.
  40. Head to Nimbus, gamble up to 65,000 again, and upgrade.
  41. Head to Research 2, and dock to pickup SunBurst.
  42. Head to the launch site.
  43. Dont bother about Research 1 - it is impossible! If you go there, they want you to destroy about 20 ships so the shield-less transporters can make it.
  44. Head to the jump station, and enter the gate!
  45. Boo hoo. You single handedly destroyed the alien attack force, 7/8s of the Poliniss, Imperial and Virain life, and probably almost everyone on Earth. Unless their attacks fail, of course.

Cheat codes


CHEATProduces a little message from the bartender.
VOTIA nice new Kosmos, but no cloak. This can let you safely get to Oasis, I think.
CASH5000 extra credits.
JUMPI think this is the hyperspace upgrade. Anyway, it can let you safely get to Oasis if you keep getting caught by the Imperials.

 

All codes are entered in one of the bars - just buy the relevant drinks, so the code is spelt out at the bottom of the screen. The first letter of the drinks name is added to the code. To activate, leave the bar.
 

I have also 'found out' some undocumented keys; to activate, hold down '-' on the keypad, and the corresponding key:
 


PSave player. It will be as 'player' in the SunBurst directory. Set it's file type to &7DB, and you can load it as a normal save file. This allows you to save when not docked (although a new sector 'scenario' will be created when reloaded).
OSave ship. I'm not sure what to do with this yet. Saved as 'Ship' in the
SunBurst directory.
SPACESave screen shot. It is saved as a random number from 1 to 1000, in the SunBurst directory.
KKill everything in the current sector. Don't worry if you destroy a station - just jump away and return.
DEnters debug mode (Sends *debug to the CLI). I don't think there's a way
out without quitting SunBurst.

 

The above codes should work, although changing the keys may stop them. Also, I know how to get the hidden ship for free... But that involves some changes to the program. It's bad enough me telling you these hacked cheat codes.
 

At the moment I know something about the secret mission; it starts with you docking (presumably at Research 1), and getting caught by Shotgun and Dribble, because you owe them money. But I have not been able to trigger this off, hacking or not.
 

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Angband support - Introduction

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