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By Chris Williams. Published: 2nd Apr 2004, 22:01:50 | Permalink | Printable

Moonquake revisited, Netsurf, hotel admin and more

round up motifIt's Friday and therefore time again to take a peek at the past week's software releases and updates.

Firstly, a preview of a new piece of freeware, developed by Chris Wragg: Bookings was developed following a rather specific request on the newsgroups for some software to manage site and room bookings. With a refreshing "can-do" attitude, Chris took up the challenge and plans to release his software within the next few weeks, once it's had enough testing.
screenshot of !Bookings
Preview of room booking software

"Bookings is a program for those who run 'Bed and Breakfasts', small hotels, or let out rooms or other holiday accommodation," explains Chris in the application documentation. "It has been written for a specific application in Australia for a RISC OS user who has four holiday units that are let throughout the year, but it is expected to be equally suitable for any small business."

Not strictly 100 percent RISC OS, but still fun nevertheless: Dave Sharp has ported the classic Moonquake to the Gameboy Advanced handheld console - full details, downloads and source code are available from here. The GBA is powered by an ARM7 processor core and Moonquake was originally written by Paul Taylor in 1992.
screenshot of Moonquake-GBA
Moonquake on a GBA

"No other conversions lined up at the moment I'm afraid, might consider adding the 2 player mode at a later stage if I get any time," Dave added to drobe.co.uk. As for porting games in the opposite direction, from the GBA to RISC OS, Dave also commented: "My days developing for RISC OS are over now I'm afraid so little to no chance of writing any games for it."

In brief
APDL/ProAction have re-released Topologika Software's educational titles, Alphapics and Numberpics software. It's hard to track changes made to the open source native RISC OS browser NetSurf, because the developers are all over it like kittens faced with a mouse coated in catnip: it's best to check the changelogs and sign up to the mailing list to see what's been added to the latest daily builds, but do remember that the app's undergoing heavy and rapid development as we speak so don't be too shocked if things go a little wibbly-wobbly from time to time, though end user response has been mainly positive. Recent additions include new PNG and animated GIF image support, imagemap support, decent page saving, CSS borders and more - Oregano 2 and WebsterXL beware, for soon at this rate only your Javascript capabilities will be left to justify your existence.

Few tweaks to ARMalayser, bringing it to version 0.47, and couple of fixes to DrW2HTML and one minor update to Rik Griffin's TreeView toolbox module - plus the release of Rik's HALTimer support module. Finder, (it finds files, duh), is now 32bit compatible. Debugging aid Reporter version 2.56 is now available with added time analysis - trace those BASIC bugs to microsecond precision. Also, issue 6 of volume 4 of CD magazine RiscWorld will be in the hands of its subscribers by now. The latest edition features a review of the Iyonix Welcome Guide (conclusion: it's a welcoming guide) and a video of leading players in the RISC OS market chatting about their future plans from the recent South West show.

And finally, it's no secret that TheRegister are big fans of Picsel - the company founded by the same guy who founded Alternative Publishing, who are better known for their ImageFS2 software. Quoting from a recent article, as spotted by reader Dave Higton: "The Picsel developer team is derived from a group of old Archimedes developers who worked closely with (or for) Acorn in the early days of the Acorn Risc Machine, which gave rise to the ubiquitous ARM processor. The result is that they are all fluent users of the machine code of the ARM, and seem able to do things on PDAs and phones in tiny amounts of memory, which other platform specialists simply can't conceive."

So, RISC OS, doing more with less although Picsel obviously have nothing to do with our platform before any of you dare get excited. At least spending all those long, dark hours learning ARM assembler will be (surprisingly) worth it.


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I think it is great how much the Netsurf team is working on this fine open source browser project! :-)

 is a RISC OS UserJGZimmerle on 3/4/04 7:13AM
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Agreed, Netsurf is comming on leaps and bounds. All the developers deserve our thanks and support.

 is a RISC OS Uservshears on 3/4/04 9:42AM
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totally agree

 is a RISC OS Userepistaxsis@work on 3/4/04 11:53AM
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Not to sound too much like a parrott...

but agreed also, top respect to the developers! At this rate they'll have a browser that I'd be happy to pay for, let alone use for free :-)

Now if they could just add Javascript, full CSS2 support, W3C dom compliance and say a few pluging, flash, Java - sweet!! Only joking folks, it is looking very good though :-)

 is a RISC OS Userdrjones69 on 3/4/04 2:03PM
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It certainly is looking good and I must say performing better and better.

 is a RISC OS UserAW on 3/4/04 2:14PM
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"me too."

 is a RISC OS UserPhlip on 4/4/04 3:21PM
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The rate at which features are being added to NetSurf is, indeed, admirable. The 'Full Save' option is useful, as it saves the HTML source plus associated graphics (which can then be dropped into EasiWriter for editing purposes, before printing). And I'm delighted to see 'Save as Draw' which I much miss when using Oregano 1 (currently, my main browser).

The 'Scale View' option is very useful too: when I first saw Opera (on Windows) that was *the* option that I really wanted...

NetSurf is pretty nippy too. Oh, I'd best back up that speed claim with some benchmarks, doncha think, in the light of previous threads? ;-)

Loading www.tesco.com (RISC OS 3.7, StrongARM 233)

NetSurf (4 Apr): 40 secs Oregano 1 (1.10): 50 secs Oregano 2 (2.2.18 rev 3: demo): 52 secs WebsterXL (1.99u7): 1 minute 55 secs Fresco (2.13): couldn't access full site

Of course, speed isn't everything, and the test build of NetSurf that I tried wasn't able to purchase anything (!), but I expect later versions (there are seemingly new versions every day) will fix that.

 is a RISC OS UserStewy on 4/4/04 5:39PM
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Stewy - was that over a dialup or broadband connection?

 is a RISC OS Userrab on 4/4/04 6:32PM
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In reply to Rab: Dialup... NetSurf seems quicker loading direct from the hard disc too.

Oh, just watched the above-mentioned video clip on the RISCWorld CD: good for a laugh, though I'm not sure it's a "video of leading players in the RISC OS market chatting about their future plans". Questioning was more or less limited to 'did you have a good show?' 'Yes'. Anyway, the video is a nice idea, and the knockabout sequence with David Holden is priceless...

One of the new machines might be needed to watch the clip smoothly though. The video was a bit juddery on the RiscPC (better with KinoAmp's multi-tasking off), but played flawlessly on my Omega. Guess that's what an up-to-date RISC OS computer is for ;-)

 is a RISC OS UserStewy on 4/4/04 8:23PM
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Is WebsterXL still only useful as a source of amusement? I assume so, given the above benchmark.

 is a RISC OS Usernunfetishist on 4/4/04 10:40PM
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The Netsurf team appear to be achieving what Peter Naulls said was impossible :-) All respect to them, they're doing a cracking job.

 is a RISC OS Userdavehigton on 5/4/04 7:44AM
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I said no such thing, and I'll thank you for not making any such claim.

If you read the "The RISC OS Browser" issue, the points it makes are still very much valid.

 is a RISC OS Usermrchocky on 5/4/04 8:13AM
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davehigton: oh come on, let's be nice, chocky's doing a great job himself with his ports. He discussed the difficulty and expense of a browser port, which is probably true; Netsurf have constructed one from scratch, which took a long time at first (started in 2002 IIRC) but is now paying dividends. They are two rather different kettles of fish, and the poke was rather unnecessary.

 is a RISC OS Userhutchies on 5/4/04 8:54AM
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In reply to Stewy:

www.tesco.com with Opera 7 - <3 seconds.

Still a long way to go, unfortunately :-(

 is a RISC OS Userapdl on 5/4/04 8:54AM
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apdl> Ah, so is that Opera on RISC OS then?

 is a RISC OS Userpiemmm on 5/4/04 9:42AM
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Nice to see Picsel getting the attention they deserve.

I worked briefly for AP as it was then known for its ImageFS2 product. Dr. Majid Anwar and Graham Borland were doing things with graphics on a SA RiscPC that was amazing to see. Realtime moving, rotation, clipping and transparency control of two overlayed hi-res bitmap graphics in realtime.

I remember them asking Computer Concepts if they'd like to license it for putting it into Impression, no vision CC. AP even came to a Acorn show or two to display it. But I suspect few people saw their software in action.

Just goes to show you that hand made assembler code is still King. :-)

 is a RISC OS Userquatermass on 5/4/04 9:58AM
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In reply to apdl:

That's impressive! How long does 'Save as Draw' take in Opera 7? :rolleyes:

The RiscPC I used for the above timings is about six years old, and I'd guess that your Windows machine is not quite as venerable. A faster RISC OS machine would, I presume, have rendered the page rather quicker (though I doubt that it would rival the figure you quoted). I was merely trying to show that for users of RISC OS, and particularly those using older machines, NetSurf performs well.

I agree with the sentiment though, and there *is* a long way to go... Nonetheless, the efforts of the NetSurf team are to be applauded.

 is a RISC OS UserStewy on 5/4/04 10:15AM
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apdl: And I also assume that's using 56kbps dialup, with no cache? Not really a fair comparison. If Mozilla every actually happened on RISC OS, I think the only browser it's likely to beat on speed terms is WebsterXL.

 is a RISC OS Usernunfetishist on 5/4/04 10:48AM
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Some Iyonix benchmarks, using 256Kbs broadband connection:

Netsurf - 8 secs Oregano2 - 14 secs Fresco under Aemulor - 14 secs WebsterXL under Aemulor - hung machine completely after about 20 secs :-(

and for completeness, on an AMD XP2200+ latop running WinXP (same broadband link):

Internet Exploder 6 - 6.5 secs

I think Netsurf is performing very favourably :-)

 is a RISC OS Usertamias on 5/4/04 12:09PM
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Let us get back reality here. Opera for RISC OS is not going to happen (unless the people behind it havea major change of hart) and Mozilla for RISC OS is highly unlikely to happen and would IMHO be a highly pointless excercise for the resons nunfetishist is alluding to.

Netsurf is happening, is prgressing and is staring to do the sort things that people have been requesting of commercial browsers ie save as a draw file and saving HTML source plus associated graphics. So please support this project and if you have the relivant coding skills and a bit of spare time offer your assistance to the NetSurf team.


 is a RISC OS Uservshears on 5/4/04 12:15PM
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Just downloaded Netsurf for the first time the other day. On a SA 200 I was very surprised at how good it was. Although not fast compared to Mozilla on fast hardware, way faster than I had a right to expect. It's not really a question of whether this is the best RISC OS browser or not - if it isn't, it will be until a port of some full-featured UNIX browser appears. Even then NetSurf might have a place as something more RISCOSSY.

 is a RISC OS UserJessFranco on 5/4/04 12:23PM
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vshears: please explain why Mozilla (or variant) is unlikely to happen for RISC OS. In technical details, please. I won't spoil your fun by giving contrary reasons.

Should people contribute to NetSurf - perhaps, perhaps not. And before anyone jumps in, I'll point out I talk to the NS people nearly every day, and I'm pretty sure they will broadly agree with me, at least in principle, if not in details.

_But_, NS has a long long way to go before it is a comprehensive replacement for Oregano1/2, because of the Javascript issue - which alone is at least as much work (and probably a lot more, no matter the few people wh jump up and claim "they don't need it") as has already been put into the project. I once again point to what I highlighted in the "RISC OS Browser issue", and also to the littered trail of RISC OS browser development.

I would still strongly argue for people to contribute to ChoX11 - the number of programs which will literally "just work" once it is more complete is very large indeed, and includes a number of browsers. Certainly, none will ever be as fast as Netsurf (which is now exceedingly quick), but there's more at stake here than just that.

 is a RISC OS Usermrchocky on 5/4/04 12:31PM
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Picsel is news to the drobe editors? I can't help thinking at least one of them *must* have heard of them :)

 is a RISC OS UserChimpy on 5/4/04 12:44PM
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They aren't news to us, not much is.

Chris. Just me.

 is a RISC OS Userdiomus on 5/4/04 1:09PM
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[In reply to diomus]

Unless later questioned by newspaper/lawyer, in which case you knew nothing about it ;-)

 is a RISC OS Usermarkee174 on 5/4/04 1:30PM
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Never tell a journalist "no comment" or similar, you'll only be making life harder on yourself.

Chris. Just me and doh, off topic.

 is a RISC OS Userdiomus on 5/4/04 1:36PM
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The only way to go is to port Mozilla Firebird or a simular popular open software project to Risc-OS. That way you always will have updates.

Get Opera to launch a Risc-OS version would be great but it's very unlikely they would do that even though they have ARM versions. Another low chance posibility is to get an embedded version of Risc-OS so that the scale of operation (mobiles) gets large enough for Risc-OS browsers to get more development.

 is a RISC OS UserJaco on 5/4/04 2:12PM
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In reply to Jaco

"The only way to go is" seems a bit of a sweeping statement.



 is a RISC OS Usermarkee174 on 5/4/04 4:16PM
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Firebird has been renamed to Firefox.

 is a RISC OS UserJGZimmerle on 5/4/04 4:46PM
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Just for interest...

Apple Safari renders www.tesco.com in about 3 seconds on an 800MHz single-processor G4 Mac. (Be interesting to see how fast it could go on a dual-2GHz G5.) Safari is reckoned to be one of the fastest browsers available, but it's Mac-only.

 is a RISC OS UserRichardHallas on 5/4/04 5:33PM
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Netsurf took 6.6 seconds here, Oregano 1 took about 5. That's on an SA 200 RPC and broadband. What's more, I could see most of the page in oregano after a couple of seconds.

 is a RISC OS Userjohn on 5/4/04 5:38PM
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