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Article archives

RISC OS interview with Tim H-Smith

Posted by Mark Stephens on 07:28, 16/3/2018 | ,
 
There was recently a very interesting discussion about writing a new RISC OS game on Stardot. Our intrepid reporters have tracked down the prospective author to find out more....

Would you like to introduce yourself?
Hi, Iím Square Mezzmer! Otherwise Iím Tim H-Smith - an Interactive Designer/Developer from near London. Pleased to be interviewed here.

How long have you been using RISC OS?
Since I was bought an A3010 on my 14th birthday! I began creating prototypes in BASIC and pixel-art with !Paint for game graphics.

What other systems do you use?
I absconded to Windows PC in 1999/2000. In some ways that was a shame. Also, I love Nintendo, even though Iím too old for it!

What is your current RISC OS setup?
RISC PC 600 with StrongARM. Currently a big desk helps me run the Windows 10 PC at the same time.

What do you think of the retro scene?
Wonderful. So much, Iím recoding a game - Hero: The Realm for Acorn 32-bit/Raspberry Pi.
Hero: The Realm is a hack n slash adventure game I developed for Windows in 2012. It features intriguing puzzles and many levels with original pixel art graphics and my own created sound FX & music. Sadly I had to halt development half-way due to financial/life issues. However this game will be available for all 32-bit Acorn machines. Now a software developer is "on board" (an incredible ARM graphics programmer) Hero: The Realm will be able to run far more "optimised".

Do you attend any of the shows and what do you think of them?
Attending a ROUGOL next week, where I am the main speaker. It will have a Games flavour.

What do you use RISC OS for in 2018 and what do you like most about it?
For the pure feel. I love having a ROM set as an RISC OS (3.70) and will not switch to RISC OS OPEN. Yet.

What are your interests beyond RISC OS?
Game Design Ė Defined as Design in Games, not just graphics or sound, a nice Design integration is what most games need presently. Itís a very interesting subject.

If someone hired you for a month to develop RISC OS software, what would you create?
Iím not hired, but there is a possible Kickstarter for Hero: The Realm where everyone can order a physical copy of Hero: The Realm. Itís all in the works.

What would you most like Father Christmas to bring you as a present?
I have a list somewhere, from 6 years old (1986). Oh wait, my father /did/ bring me an Electron! *poof*

Rougol website for games evening
 
1 comment in the forums

RISC OS interview with Richard Keefe

Posted by Mark Stephens on 07:22, 24/12/2017 |
 
As an early Christmas present, we bring you an interview with Richard Keefe who tests us all about his plans for Impression as well as how he got into RISC OS and his programming experiences.

Would you like to introduce yourself?
Born in 1972 the eldest of three Brothers [middle Philip died in car crash 2012], Mother Physics Teacher [died 2010], Father Electronic Engineer. Attended Presentation College Reading [same school as Michael Bond of Paddington fame], 15 GCSE/O-Levels, 4 A-levels. Graduated from Reading University with a degree in "Cybernetics & Control Engineering with Subsidiary Maths" in 1993. Joined Paknet [division of Vodafone] in May 1994 where I write embedded real-time software for ARM based processor of the Radio-Pad [currently version 15, version 1 [(embedded x86 based) was released February 1990] and Solaris & Linux based IN's (Intelligent Nodes) to provide control. [Details: http://paknet.vodafone.net the world's first Radio X25 network] Married my lovely wife in 2008, I am the father of two beautiful and mischievous daughters aged 3 & 7. At the age of 4 - I got lightbulbs, batteries, wires and switches for Christmas, at the age of 5 got a soldering Iron, and at the age of 6 got an 8085 kit of parts for my birthday like [http://www.glitchwrks.com/images/8085/sdk85/original.jpg] but mine was fuller and put it together - 8085 assembling was done by hand in a special book provided. First high level language was BASIC on a Tandy TRS80 MKI [still got], migrated to BBC B, then Archimedes.

How long have you been using RISC OS?
- I got my first ARM based machine in December 1987 - an Acorn A310M [with PC emulator] with Arthur 1.2 and upgraded to RISC OS 2 as soon as it became available. First came across Impression as Version 0.90 in 1990, and Artworks as 0.8x in 1991 - as my flatmate was an Artworks trialist.

What other systems do you use?
- In my work I use Windows 7, Solaris 9 & 10, and Linux (Various) laptops/desktops/servers
- In my embedded work I use LPC43S67 [M0 & M4], AT91SAM7S [ARM7], AT91SAM7XC512 [ARM7] & ATSAMS70 [M7] based systems running either "bare metal" or "Segger EmbOS" with IAR EWARM compiler
- At home I use Windows XP, 7, Solaris 10, and Ubuntu in addition to RISC OS
- Occasionally I use my BBC Master - With Z80/6502/32016/80186 co-processors - but I'm a bit short of space & time so it's very rare.
What is your current RISC OS setup?
- My main Machines are Iyonix no 2, Windows 7 VRPC, and iMX6
- Still in progress is my Titanium (To Replace the Iyonix sort of but no floppy) - It's in an Iyonix classic Case - but I will still need the Iyonix as its my only modern floppy machine
- As well as these here is my working RISCOS Machine History in order of Purchase, still got all of it in my study & loft:
Archimedes A310M
Archimedes A440/1 - 40Mb - then 21Mb Floptical, then 230Mb MO - Upgraded to ARM 3 25MHz from ARM 2 [1991]
Acorn A4 laptop [battery & disk failed - have replacements need more time]
Risc PC 600 -> UG 700 -> UG StrongARM 200 [failed HDD have replacement] - my brother Philip and I can be seen on one of the Acorn Replay CD's at the RISC PC launch Marble Arch London
Iyonix no1 [Failed motherboard] waited until Aemulor was released before buying
Iyonix no2 [partially failed so DMA disabled]
Panda Board [currently Backup machine for RISC OS Shows)
RiscPC no2 Kinetic [only single height one]
RiscPC no3 StrongARM 233 [Videodesk set-up]
RiscPC no4 700 Hydra [would love to get this working with StrongARMs] + Spare PCB [4x ARM 610s]
Raspberry Pi B - My eldest daughter (7) uses RISC OS on this
A9Home
Iyonix no3 & 4 [in case no2 fails completely]
iMX6 [ARMX6]
Pi Zeros
Titanium Board [have disks & board in Iyonix classic case - wiring incomplete needs about 4hrs to complete]
I also have a complete with EPROMS but without driver software an "Acorn PC ARM 1 Co-Processor"
I also have several of the boards for an A540 [inc CPU & RAM] - but machines even broken sell for too much on ebay for my budget.

What do you think of the retro scene?
I do find it interesting - I'd like to spend more time looking at the changes and reading info on it

Do you attend any of the shows and what do you think of them?
When Acorn world was in London my brother Philip and I attended every year - were seen on TV one year when Blue Peter covered it but no Blue-Peter badge(s) :-(
I attend the London & Wakefield Show as a Stall holder [but the distance of Wakefield makes the economics touch and go].
I attend the South-West Show as a punter - as I haven't usually had enough time after Christmas to make a new Release.

What do you use RISC OS for in 2017 and what do you like most about it?
Apart from developing Impression-X of course.
I use Impression to Produce Posters / Letters / Publicity Information for Me / Impression-X & Reading University SciFi Society [SWAGA]
I use Draw Plus & Artworks for various drawings / tables etc to go inside my Impression objects.

What is your favourite feature/killer program in RISC OS?
Impression with 2nd Artworks and 3rd Draw+

What would you most like to see in RISC OS in the future?
Multi-Processor Support & Floppy Disk Hardware for a modern platform

Favourite (vaguely RISC OS-related) moan?
- I'd love a definitive list of all the software / hardware / games etc ever produced with pictures
- with a backup of all the eproms / firmware / gals etc

Can you tell us about what you are working on in the RISC OS market at the moment?
Impression-X of course as well as more 32bit work & bug fixes:
- Complete Jpeg support (inc Draw Files)
- Ensure all Draw objects render correctly
- Fix colour issues in some Artworks colour types
- Enhance postscript printing (Duplex, Security, Sprite 24bpp rendering even in old PS2 drivers)
- Enhance printing generally to support full 24bit rendering
- Optionally modify rendering so that documentation renders correctly (contains unknown sprite modes)
- Produce pdf documentation for all parts
- Incorporate all 5.13 bug fixes ~300 more to do
- Fully support new (2.xx) artworks rendering interface [currently does not support all the enhancements]

Looking further out:
- PNG,TIFF,GIF, PhotoCD graphics formats support
- update/add/enhance MS Doc & docx load & save support
- Update the dictionary with up-to-date wordlist(s) as well as 32bit
- Produce printed documentation
- Titanium colour support
- Zero page protection check & fix

Apart from iconbar (obviously) what are your favourite websites?
www.google.co.uk, www.ebay.co.uk, chrisacorns.computinghistory.org.uk, https://www.riscosopen.org/, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page, www.stardot.org.uk, http://8bs.com/aumags.htm

What are your interests beyond RISC OS?
I'm the Publicity Officer for Reading University Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Society, a position I have held for almost 25 years.
Photography & Photoshop ... I've always got a camera or two about my person and take ~10000 20+ megapixel photo's per year
Postcards ... I collect photographic postcards of Newbury, Thatcham and Reading University & surrounding roads mostly pre 1950's, but some are as new as the 80's, 80% pre 20's
Also I collect Acorn/riscos/BBC software and hardware from a few sections: : (I could produce a list if it's of interest)
I've got all the BBC Wedges apart from a 286, an A500 & an ARM1 and none of the 68000 based ones
Anything ARM Related - I've got most machines I want except an A540, a RISC PC 600 (not 610) cpu, Duo cpu, a RISC PC 800 cpu, Omega and a Phoebe of course
My STB's are missing some of the boards
Anything CC related:
I've got most of their BBC ROMS (don't have any of the Archimedes version) and none of their games
I've got most of their RISC OS Software
CC or WildVision podules - I'm Missing the FaxPack, ColourCard [1&G], Full width V9, V10, V12 & the scanner HCCS micro podule [but don't have a full list]
Archimedian Magazine (I have all but issue 1 - have a scan)
All SCSI, Audio & Video Podules - I've about 30 different ones I think [it might be 50 if add them up]
I'm also always on the lookout for the Noah Satellite podule and software
I also collect all RISC OS fonts I can find - one thing I am after is an EFF CD2 - if anyone has a spare one
All DTP software and documentation (mainly to see if there are any features I should add)
The other thing I'm always on the lookout for is there was an A6 flatbed scanner and podule I think made by sharp, that you placed on the object, don't know what it was called or who made it.

As an early Christmas present for you, we have a real treat as Richard Keefe tells us about his progamming adventures and his plans for Impression.

If someone hired you for a month to develop RISC OS software, what would you create?
If it was HW too - I'd produce a USB to [Floppy / Podule connector] not sure month is enough though / otherwise I'd 32bit one of the other CC apps [probably compression] / I'd make big strides in one of big Impression-X enhancements

Any future plans or ideas you can share with us?
As far as future plans go Impression is not the only CC product I have the sources for so I would love to fix some of the others (once Impression is complete ...)

What would you most like Father Christmas to bring you as a present?
The missing Impression-X Source-code
eg Hyperview, Tablemate, Equazor

Any questions we forgot to ask you?
I'm sure there are!

I'd like to ask - what features (apart from 32bit) would users most like adding to Impression-X.
 
3 comments in the forums

RISC OS interview with Rob Coleman

Posted by Mark Stephens on 07:44, 21/12/2017 |
 
This year we have a double treat for you, with 2 Christmas interviews. We will kick off with Rob Coleman who was doing some very cool hardware at the London Show.

Would you like to introduce yourself?

I'm Rob Coleman, developer of VideoNuLA, an enhanced graphics card for the BBC Micro.

How long have you been using RISC OS?

Pretty much from the beginning. My first Acorn was a BBC B which I got for Christmas in 1983. At some point, I moved on to a BBC Master 128 and then started using RISC OS with an A3000 in 1990. I used a RiscPC for many years and more recently have been using a Pandaboard.

What other systems do you use?

A Windows laptop for work and a Linux box for the odd bit of development. I'm heavily into retro-computing so have a collection of obscure and not so obscure machines from the 80s.

What is your current RISC OS setup?

My main RISC OS machine is the Pandaboard but my original RiscPC is still going strong. Of the various other Acorn machines I've collected over the years, I have an A540 and A4 which get used fairly often.

What do you think of the retro scene?

As I said, I'm very much into retrocomputing, particularly 8-bit Acorns. The StarDot forums (www.stardot.org.uk/forums) were largely responsible for getting me back into using my Acorns. There's a wealth of knowledge on there and the amount of interesting new developments for these old machines is fantastic.

Do you attend any of the shows and what do you think of them?

I try to attend as many as I can. I've been going to the South West show for years as it's the nearest to me. I've made it to London and Wakefield for the last few years and shared a stand for the first time this year. The shows are really well organised and attendance seems to be rising but it would always be good to see more people come along.

What do you use RISC OS for in 2017 and what do you like most about it?

Mostly development in BASIC and C. The main attraction for me is that it's still possible to understand how a RISC OS machine works and interact with it at a low level. I guess part of that is familiarity but it's also down to the original ethos of teaching people how computers work.

What is your favourite feature/killer program in RISC OS?

I'm not much of an artist but I like using !Artworks and !Draw for illustrations. I'm also a fan of !Zap for coding.

Can you tell us about what you are working on at the moment?

Apart from VideoNuLA, most recently I've been playing with the Pi co-processor for the Beeb and porting some emulators (PDP-11, ZX81 and Jupiter Ace) to it. It's fun to see Unix running on a BBC Micro even if it is under emulation!

I've been sporadically working on a network podule for the Archimedes/Risc PC for a while now. It's all part of a mad idea to have Ethernet on my A4. And I keep meaning to look at USB for my Omega!

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

StarDot as mentioned above and I spend too much time reading the Guardian online.

What would you most like Father Christmas to bring you as a present?

Firetrack was probably my favourite game on the BBC so a copy of White Light from Retrosoftware!
 
1 comment in the forums

RISC OS Developments

Posted by Mark Stephens on 07:19, 18/8/2017 |
 
Richard Brown also agreed to recap on RISC OS developments as part of our interview.

Who came up with the original idea?
I came up with it over a conversation at a RISC OS show and it took off from there.

What was the reaction to your announcement at Wakefield?
It created a surprise and we received a good response from the Community.

How did you measure the response?
Of the people who we signed up to our NDA, and we spoke to candidly, 90% went on to make an investment in the Company. We were able to revise upwards the scope of the project as a result.

Can you remind us about the financial proposal you made?
Anyone who wanted to make a Ďreasonable' investment could put money into RISC OS developments. This will help to finance our work. The deliverables will be of benefit to the RISC OS community. We have achieved our initial target, but any additional finance we can raise would be put to very good use. People need to talk to talk to us confidentially if they would like to know more.

Progress?
On going and taking up significant time. Like CastleInfo, we will make announcements when apppropriate.

Stay tuned.
 
Comment in the forums

RISC OS Interviews - Anthony Vaughan Bartram

Posted by Mark Stephens on 14:24, 31/3/2017 | , ,
 
This time round we introduce you to the talented musician, programmer and games maestro Anthony Vaughan Bartram, the person behind AmCoG games.

How long have you been using RISC OS?
Nearly 3 years now. I first booted up RISC OS on my Raspberry Pi in June 2014.

What other systems do you use?
Windows PCs/laptops with various OS versions & occasionally Linux.
I also have my original BBC Micro from 1983 which my 10 year old daughter likes playing on too.

What is your current RISC OS setup?
My main dev. system is an R-CompInfo ARMX6 with Elesar keyboard, plus a plethora of Raspberry Pis (including an Ident Micro one). I've also got various RISC OS systems to test my games on including a borrowed Iyonix, RPCEmu and Virtual Acorn.

Do you attend any of the shows and what do you think of them?
I've been exhibiting at Wakefield, MUG, London and the South West show since 2015.
I really enjoy the social and idea sharing at these shows. For example, at London 2016, someone was running a YouTube video as a teletext stream on a BBC Micro. There was a custom DJ system being shown too. On returning home after catching up with everyone, I always have a list of new ideas to work or collaborate on.

What do you use RISC OS for in 2017 and what do you like most about it?
I use it for being creative as RISC OS is not very distracting when compared to, for example, Windows. There are no pop-ups, forced updates or social media notifications. RISC OS is something that I can take control of (rather than the other way around) and this is what I like most. As a result, I use it for developing original computer games, original synthesiser technology amongst other things.

Whilst I might port some titles from RISC OS to Windows or Android, RISC OS is my main creative platform.

What is your favourite feature/killer program in RISC OS?
The GUI itself, StrongEd, BBC BASIC and possibly RDSP.

What would you most like to see in RISC OS in the future?
Multi-core thread support and some use of native GPU acceleration.

Favourite (vaguely RISC OS-releated) moan?
I'm afraid I suffer from chronic optimism - so don't like to moan much at all. Apparently sometimes this can be quite annoying :-)
I accept RISC OS for what it is including any rough edges. I hope to try and help fix/smooth out those edges going forward.

Can you tell us about what you are working on in the RISC OS market at the moment?
Iíve released 4 games in a little under 2 years and am working on more titles as well as updates to existing games at the moment. Further, Iím going to release a development kit geared towards, but not exclusively for, games. This kit will contain the library which I use for my own titles, together with AMCOGís new RDSP virtual sound chip which I recently previewed (n.b. The RDSP sound module will remain free).

Any surprises you can't or dates to tease us with?
Keep coming to the RISC OS shows to find out any surprises. I align release dates with shows. Whatever I have finished gets released then.

Apart from iconbar (obviously) what are your favourite websites?
Riscository, riscosblog and ROOL.

Any questions we forgot to ask you?
I also write songs, prose and have an interest in graphic design. I find that computer games let me combine all of these hobbies with programming.

I also sell music CDs at shows that comprise original songs that Iíve either written or co-written.

AmCoG games website.
 
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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.
 
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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
 
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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
 
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