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!DualHead second release reviewed

Posted by Mark Stephens on 07:11, 6/10/2017 | ,
 
In our previous review we looked at release 1 of !DualHead. R-CompInfo have already released an update so we will dive in and see what has changed...
 
There is more polish in this release with some clearer messages. The software is very smart in making sure that you do not end up with no display. There is no dedicated installer application but the software is extremely easy to update - you copy !Boot over your existing copy and copy the !DualHead software onto your disk, and reboot/run . There is also a !RevertMode application installed in !Boot which will restore sanity with a click of Alt and Home.
 


 
As you can see there are some higher resolution modes now available. 2048 x 1440 x 2 is an amazing screen, but I was unable to run this in 16 million colours without a lot of flickering (although for most tasks 32k/64K is indistinguishable). R-Comp acknowledges this in the documentation and is probably pushing the Titanium/RISC OS beyond its limits.
 
I do think that the documentation could be improved. There is a version 1 PDF document hidden away (which is confusing on a v2 release) and a proper rewrite and release history in the !ReadMe would be nice.
 
Some advice on how best to use and setup the 2 monitors for RISC OS would also be welcome - my biggest issue after testing the new release was neck ache from playing 'head ping-pong' by switching my view between the 2 monitors all the time due to the Icon Bar now being across both screens.
 
I am really pleased to see R-Comp produce a second release (I prefer to keep the version 2 tag for major feature updates). R-Comp is leading RISC OS into new territory with this software and I think it really benefits from small, regular incremental releases driven by user and developer feedback. I am really looking forward to talking to R-Comp at the London show about their plans for the software.
 
My killer feature for the version 2 release would be to fix the issue with the popups appearing in the middle of the screen. What is yours?
 
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RISC OS software to download from !Store

Posted by Mark Stephens on 07:47, 22/9/2017 | ,
 
In previous articles, we looked at package managers and some of the software available on !PackMan. In this article we are going to highlight some of the software available in !Store and ask for your suggestions.
 
When you run !Store, it offers you a long list of files and includes both free and commercial software (which you can buy via !Store). As with !Packman it gives you a front end to make it easy to search, provide more details and you can select categories.
 


 
If you are looking to run old software on a new machine, our old friend Aemulor is available as free download. There is also in interesting Atari ST emulator called Hatari if you want a real ‘GEM’ environment on your machine.
 


 
!Store is also the home for the latest version of !Impression. (although I would criticise the broken link which goes nowhere and looks bad. The pages like PMS Music scribe also include broken links).
 


 
Some very high quality software originally written by David Pilling is now freely available and you can find this on !Store.
 


 
!Store offers more than software, and you will also find fonts and copies of DraG’N’Drop (which we reviewed here).
 


 
What are you downloading from !Store?
 
2 comments in the forums

RISC OS on GitHub

Posted by Mark Stephens on 07:49, 15/9/2017 | , ,
 
In a previous article, we mentioned Git and GitHub.
 
Git is a version control system which software developers use. Once you have used version control is is very hard to go back. In particular it:-
1. Allows you to have a full, documented history of all changes you have made and roll back to any point.
2. Label your official release versions.
3. See what you have changed easily.
4. Work with other developers (even large groups) in an orderly manner, see who has edited which bit of code, merge code changes together and handle conflicts where several people are editing the same code.
5. Have the security of lots of backups.
6. Never lose anything! (if you use it properly)
 
Version control solves a lot of complex problems. When I hire new developers, I always ask them about their experiences with Version control systems....
 
RISC OS itself is available on version control (it uses CVS) and you can explore it online at the ROOL website.
 
Part of the attraction of Git is that it also gives easy access to GitHub (a huge online repository of software source code). And (in theory) it means the source code will never be lost. There are some interesting RISC OS related projects hosted on there. Here is a sample to start your exploration...
 
https://github.com/risc-os-open contains some Ruby and JavaScript projects written by ROOL for their website.
 
https://github.com/TimothyEBaldwin/RO_cvs2git converts RISC OS CVS to git.
 
https://github.com/elesar-uk/titanium-build is the source code for Elesar's Debian Linux build.
 
https://github.com/TimothyEBaldwin/RISC_OS_DevTimothy Baldwin's port of RISC OS to run on Linux.
 
https://github.com/dpt/PrivateEye The source code for Private Eye
 
https://github.com/alanbu/packman Source code for Package manager
 
https://github.com/martenjj/drawview A draw file viewer for Linux.
 
https://github.com/jaylett/zap Source code for !Zap
 
2 comments in the forums

R-Comp release !DualHead

Posted by Mark Stephens on 11:14, 26/8/2017 | ,
 
If you own a Titanium based machine you may have noticed that it has 2 video output ports. If you plug a monitor into the right port (as you look at the machine from the back), you will get the chemical details of the element Titanium on your second screen. Interesting but not very practical....
 


 
Now R-CompInfo have released !DualHead which allows their Titanium based TiMachine to display RISC OS across two screens (heads). In this article, we will get it up and running with a later look at how well it works. Let us see if two Heads are better than one...
 
The application is a free download from the R-Comp website (you will need your username and password to access it). It consists of some updates for !Boot, a very helpful !ReadMe, and the actual !DualHead application. There is also SingleHead to revert back to one display
 
I read the !ReadMe, updated !Boot and rebooted my machine. Nothing changes until you run the !DualBoot software and press space. If anything goes wrong the software is well-designed to revert back to the default single display.
 


 
You now have one RISC OS display spilt across 2 screens (with a really long iconbar across the bottom). Windows can also be split across screen as you can see from the alert message. This can take used to along with alerts and dialog boxes popping up on the screen you were not expecting.
 


 
As you can see the software is very easy to setup. Next time we will delve into how well it works....
 
1 comment in the forums

ROM release for your Titanium - What is new

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


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


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

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


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


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


 


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

RISC OS software to download from !PackMan

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


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


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


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


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


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

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

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