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Article archives

Getting started with Bash on RISC OS

Posted by Mark Stephens on 08:53, 15/6/2018 |
 
There are lots of hidden treasures to try for free in PackMan (see our review from 2017). In this article we are going to go into more depth with Bash. Bash is a freely available on many systems (I use it all the time at work on Macs and Linux systems). It also provides the basis for running many other tools and automating things by writing short Bash scripts.



Once installed, you can start writing Bash directly in a single-tasking window by running the Bash App. But the best way to run it is from a terminal window. Just type the command Bash and you will be using bash.

Type in exit to return to the standard RISC OS command line.

Type in help to give you a list of commands at any time.



If you want to learn more about Bash, we recommend you start with the Wikipedia entry.

What is your favourite tool on !PackMan?
 
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A new monitor for my RISC OS and Mac systems

Posted by Mark Stephens on 08:53, 8/6/2018 |
 
Recently I decided to upgrade my monitors. I have a MacBook Pro laptop and I have 2 monitors - one at work which runs my laptop (replacing a 27 inch 10 year old Apple work monitor) and one for home also hosts my RaspberryPi and Titanium. I wanted a high resolution (3840 x 2160 for work) monitor which would also play nicely with my other machines.

The latest Macs use Apple's USB-C connections. You can buy adapters for connecting in other types of connector such as HDMI or you can now buy monitors which have a USB-C connector. Apple offers an LG monitor which provides 5K and can also power the computer and handle the display on a single cable. If money is no object, you want an uncluttered desk and a 'to die for' screen quality on the latest Macs, the LG UltraFine 5K Display is the current top option.

Not only is this monitor very expensive but it will not work on my RISC OS kit as it only has a USB-C input.... One monitor which has also had a lot of very favourable press coverage is another LG model (27UD88-W). This is much more affordable (under 500 pounds), has USB-C input (not powerful enough to act as a power supply as well but fine to drive a 4K display), and also allows for HDMI and DP-IN as well. There are even a couple of old style USB ports for good measure. So how well does this model work for all the machines?

Very well is the short answer. The screen quality is great and you can have all the machines power up and then switch between them. The 27UD88-W has a single joystick type control under the screen and (IMHO) this is one of the nicest switches I have used on monitors - 2 clicks and I am on a different screen. The screen is ultra-sharp on both the Mac and the lower resolution Titanium 1920 x 1200 display.

One word of caution on moving up to a higher resolution screen. My combined switch box (which allows me to share screen and keyboard/mouse through one switch box) does not work on the higher resolution screens. So if you are using a switch box, you may want to verify what it can support.

A really nice feature of the higher resolution screen is that you have your other machines accessible via VNC. This also gives you some idea of the extra 'real estate' the monitors can give you if you are working on a Mac.

If you are looking for a godo quality monitor to provide a high resolution display, which also plays well with your RISC OS kit, the LG 27UD88-W should be one of your shortlist.




 
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May news round-up

Posted by Mark Stephens on 07:51, 31/5/2018 |
 
Some things we noticed this month. What did you see?

A new version of RPCEmu was released.

RISC OS Blog ran some interesting articles on running RISC OS on Wandboard and Aemulor.

Big Ben Club organised the RISC OS eXperience in Amsterdam.

Chris Hall released version 2.0 of SatNav

RISC OS Blog also reviewed RISC OS 5.24 release
 
Adrian Lees asked what users would like to see in future Geminus releases.

RISCOSitory closed the RISC OS Awards poll.

A lots of emails as GDPR came into force,
 
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Drag'n'Drop Spring 2018 edition released

Posted by Mark Stephens on 08:53, 25/5/2018 |
 


The latest edition of Drag'n'Drop was released at The Wakefield show and is now available directly or via the Plingstore.

Drag'n'Drop is the long running online magazine, released as a PDF document which you can read on your computer or printout. As a PDF, the magazine can contain clickable links, taking you straight to downloads and websites. The news section is right up to date with the Wakefield Show.

The cover includes a picture of the classic Missile Command game, and there is a BASIC listing for the game. You can purchase all the code listing with the magazine to save typing. There is a nice explanation of how the code works.

There is a new series starting in this edition on using Schema2, complete with links to download the free version. Drag'n'Drop does many multi-edition series and back issues are available if you find yourself joining one mid-series.

The series on how RISC OS fonts work moves to part 2. We dissect Outline files and peek inside with a small BASIC program.

Paul Stewart (original founder of the magazine), makes a welcome return with a review of RaspberryRo Lite 3 from Fourth Dimension. He also has a second hardware review on the Vonets VP11G Wifi router. Great to have you back, Paul.

This months little utility to make the RISC OS experience even better is a WindowCloser utility. With one single application on your task bar you can list and close all open windows. A simple Icon Clipboard utility also allows you to copy and paste text between writable icons.

Finally, you can read reviews on the latest release of ArtWorks (is it worth the money for the new tool) and Philips Music Scribe (now available as a free download to Plingstore).

Something for everyone in this edition and an enjoyable and entertaining read with lots of practical projects.

The Magazine is available from the website and you can also buy a version with the code listings.
 
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GDPR and RISC OS

Posted by Mark Stephens on 08:53, 18/5/2018 |
 
You may have been receiving quite a few emails recently related to GDPR. This is a new set of rules which into effect across the whole EU and impacts anyone who holds individual data. Companies now need to be much more careful on what data they hold on you and have your permission to hold it. You also have a right to ask Companies to forget you and delete any emails which include you.

GDPR can result in very serious fines (and the body which enforces it is funded by fines so will be looking to impose some penalties so it can pay its bills). So most companies are being very cautious, especially until it is clear what the rules actually mean.

There are 2 aspects from a RISC OS aspect....

Firstly, if you are holding any personal data (ie mailing list, customer details, etc), you need to have ensured you comply with the new rules. This also includes keeping the data secure... So a major feature of the !Impact release at Wakefield was adding encryption so that data is not stored on disk in easily hackable/readable text files. If you have !Fireworkz documents, you should be securing them. Hopefully, the new Elesar update for !Prophet will include enhancements to make it easier to keep data secure.

Secondly, you may well be receive emails from ROOL and other RISC OS companies. You need to reply to these to confirm your permission to continue contacting you. The ROOL email arrived this week and if you do not reply, you will not receive any more emails from them. So make sure you reply!

GDPR comes into force on 25th May.
 
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Messenger Pro reaches release 8

Posted by Mark Stephens on 08:51, 11/5/2018 |
 
A surprise (but very welcome) release at Wakefield was a new release of the perennial RISC OS client, Messenger Pro. In his talk, Andrew Rawnsley said that R-CompInfo had brought forward the update as the code needed some reworking to ensure it worked with RISC OS 5.24 - we are not complaining.

The software comes with a nice installer which guides you through installation. If you ask it to install into a directory with the old version, it offers to make a backup copy as well. I run !Messenger on both my Titanium and on VirtualRPC on my Mac laptop. Being an eternal optimist, I installed the software on both machines and fired it up.

The key feature for this release has been to bring the same security updates which we saw in NetFetch5. So you can send from different email addresses, make sure your email is less likely to be mistaken for spam. The software also handles better large attachments and HTML emails (common on other platforms). R-CompInfo says it also includes the usual bug fixes and tweaks and it feels faster on my setup (which uses IMAP). I have had no issues with the software.

If you keep your email locally, the software now includes options to store backups outside !NewsDir and on an entirely different disk.

There is also a new edition of the manual which is provided free as an online version or can be purchased for an additional five pounds. It includes all the new features of releases 7 and 8.

The software can be purchased from R-Comp directly or via Plingstore with discounts for existing users. If you buy the CD version, it includes the Mac and Windows versions and a key for you to run it on these platforms.

All told, v8 is an incremental update which adds some nice tweaks and updates Messenger to remain current with changes going on so that it continues to offer a very viable solution for using RISC OS with email.

R-Comp website
 
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RISC OS 5.24 arrives

Posted by Mark Stephens on 09:28, 4/5/2018 |
 
Wakefield saw the official release of RISC OS 5.24 - we saw 5.22 in 2015 so there have been just a few changes since then (total of 708 changes and 21 main ones). Several key bounties have delivered major new features.

The headline features see previously neglected areas of RISC OS dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st Century, with JPEG support, monitor EDID support, handling of larger hard drives, and the network stack being upgraded. The bounty system is delivering some really worthwhile enhancements into the software. USB and network stack improvements are a massive undertaking, and ROOL broke each into several stages to make them more manageable.

There are also some genuine improvements to user features such as clipboard improvements and new features in Paint. Lots of applications have received little tweaks such as unicode and fancy fonts in Chars, improved dialogs in Printers, tweaks to HForm, DosFS, Maestro, more secure LanmanFS which can connect to Windows 8 and 10, etc.

Users will no longer get the baffling Oflaoflaofla message which should be replaced with more clear messages.

Finally there is the return of several features which had previously gone AWOL (NFS client, Access+, Econet support on Omniclient, the Porterhouse font).

After 34 months, ZPP is now 'live'. In their Wakefield talk, ROOL said that they were trying to be more proactive in steering RISC OS with an eye to the future (in contrast to Acorn who knew about the demise of 26bit and did very little to anticipate and ensure a smooth transition plan).

ROOL are hoping to see RISC OS back in the NOOBS software for the RaspberryPi. This makes it very easy for Pi users to install Operating Systems to try.

The RISC OS 5.24 release also sees ROOL improving the release process. There is now a more formal set of criteria to verify each platform supported and a traffic light system with statuses of red, amber and green.

Backwards compatibility is very good, so I am struggling to see reasons why you would not want to migrate onto RISC OS 5.24 if you are able.

You can download RISC OS 5.24 for free directly from ROOL website and for purchase it on their SD cards, which run on virtually all RaspberryPi models. The ePic card has also been updated with RISC OS 5.24 and latest versions of SparkFS, PhotoDesk, DDE and Impact. If you have a system from Elesar, CJEmicro's or R-CompInfo you may want to contact them directly for the customised version for your machine.

The official nightly build for the 'adventurous' is now 5.25 and there are plenty of bounties still looking for your cash to make sure RISC OS 5.26 is another significant step forward.

A big congratulations to ROOL on this significant release and thank-you for continuing to take forward our favourite OS.
 
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Power Switching a RaspberryPi

Posted by Mark Stephens on 10:27, 28/4/2018 | ,
 
Chris Hall has been trying to make the most of power for a RISC OS based RaspberryPi for his GPS system. In his guest post , he lifts the lid on how he does this...

A Raspberry Pi can be powered by a mains adapter or by a powerbank. I found myself often pulling out the power plug to power cycle the Pi and came up with a software power switching method that would allow power to be removed under software control.



A 'power booster' board allows an internal 3.7V Lithium-Polymer battery to produce a 5.2V output and any external 5V power source will take over this rule and charge the internal battery until fully charged. Switching on and off is controlled by an 'ENABLE' input, pulled high by default. A blue LED lights if power is being supplied to the computer. With the booster board output disabled, only a minimal current is drawn from the internal battery. A red LED lights if the internal battery becomes discharged below 3V (and if a diode is fitted to the 'LBO' pad this can disable the output automatically). Fully discharging the internal battery is likely to damage it.

While the internal battery is being charged a yellow LED lights, turning green when it is fully charged. A small current drain to light the green LED to show a full charge seems enough to keep some power banks happy even whilst the unit is otherwise powered down and the internal battery fully charged.

This means the external source can be connected and disconnected without affecting the operation of the device except to extend battery life.



Power control
With no power control hardware it is difficult to ensure that the computer is not, inadvertently,turned off during a write operation to the SD card, which can corrupt the file or the whole card. My power control circuit allows power to be applied at any time by pressing the 'on' button. The 'off' button simply signals that a power off has been requested, which can be detected in software. A shutdown/restart cycle will then remove power as soon as the system has been shut down and the CMOS updated.

If software detects a 'power off' request then all it has to do (once it has completed any essential tasks) is to issue the command:

SYS "TaskManager_Shutdown",162

which will do a shutdown/restart cycle.

Doing a manual shutdown (CTRL-SHIFT-f12) and then pressing 'Restart' will also remove power (if a 'power off' request has been issued).



How Does It Work?

Software can detect the 'on' button being pressed or held down by reading the GPIO 19 line and can use this information for any purpose. The fact that the 'off' button has been pressed (and the 'on' button remains open circuit) can be detected by reading GPIO 26, meaning that 'power off' has been requested.

A little piece of software in !Boot.Choices.Boot.PreDesk sets GPIO 4 to output high (which ensures power stays on even after a 'power off' request).

During a restart cycle, before any writes are made to the SD card, the ROM modules are reset which takes GPIO 4 to high impedance: with a 'power off' request pending this will remove power.

Provided that the unit has been operating for at least six seconds (enough time for the RISC OS desktop to start), the 'off' button will pull GPIO 26 low but do nothing else. Software can detect this, complete any essential tasks and then either explicitly set GPIO 4 low (if a Witty Pi is present, this will remove power immediately) or (if not) perform a complete system shutdown using the command SYS "TaskManager_Shutdown",162 which will shutdown all applications tidily and restart RISC OS. The effect of this is to update the CMOS Ílast time onŽ setting and restart the ROM. As the ROM reinitialises, GPIO 4 becomes high impedance thus removing power.



The 'on' button has some additional functions: whilst pressed, components (R6, R7 and LED) may also be fitted to present an LED load to any external power source that will only light if the external source is healthy (this works by sensing whether Vs from the power boost board is 3.7V or 5.2V). If a voltmeter is fitted as shown, the voltage of the internal LiPo battery is displayed whilst the button is depressed. A power meter can also be connected between the power boost board and the Raspberry Pi giving a voltage, current and power consumption readout.



Battery Life
With an internal 4400mAh LiPo battery, a Raspberry Pi Zero with an OLED display and GPS module (but with no HDMI connection) uses about 170mA (at 5V) and the battery should therefore last for about (4400 x 3.7)/(170 x 5.2)h which is just over 18 hours. A 5000mAh 5V powerbank should extend this by about 28 hours.



Chris Hall's website
 
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April News Round-up

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Wakefield 2018 Show Report

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Wakefield 2018 show in pIctures

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New edition of Archive lands on my doorstep...

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Wakefield 2018 Show Preview

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DDE tools update released

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