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RISC OS web developers' group opens

By Ian Chamberlain. Published: 8th May 2004, 15:00:37 | Permalink | Printable

Go forth, and discuss

html motifWhile RISC OS is used in some very specialised areas of computing, including sonar and radar equipment and television programme production, it also has applications in an area that's much closer to home: 2D graphics and desktop publishing. Just about every RISC OS user has a preferred graphics and DTP package, and even ex-RISC OS users fondly recall their ease of use. With web bloggers hailing the web as a new publishing frontier, does it therefore necessarily follow that RISC OS is a powerful tool for the production of websites?

To help answer this question, Drobe spoke to Mark Syder, a web developer, who was responsible for setting up the RISC OS Web Designers' Group earlier this week. Mark first explained what his group is about: "I know there are general web designers' groups, but I wanted to set one up just for RISC OS users so we could include topics such as using Artworks 2 and Photodesk in our graphics design."

"I generally prefer using RISC OS to Windows because it is more user friendly and faster," added Mark, justifying why he designs sites on RISC OS and not Windows. "Also, R-Comp produced HTMLEdit which meant I could learn while I designed. It is simple enough for the beginner.

"Another reason is that I want my sites to be accessible to as many people as possible. I'm usually confident that if a site works on RISC OS, it will work on other platforms."

However Mark, like many other users in the past, condemned the RISC OS browser situation. "It's awful. I know we're always going to be behind the PC market for browsers, but I sometimes feel this excuse is trotted out too readily." In the same tone, Mark seemed frustrated that there were no development tools for technologies like Flash from Macromedia.

Cynically, you could argue that Flash is a flimsy substitute for what a website needs more than anything: actual useful content. However, Flash and similar technologies have their uses and this is where one begins to question the validity, and indeed the practicality, of using RISC OS as a web development platform. Even RISC OS' latest, and supposedly up-to-date, browsers seem to lack compliance with some of the most widely spread standards.

Despite these set backs, there still seems to be an amazing enthusiasm for using our platform for web development; Mark tells us that his group has attracted a lot of interest, having already gained (at time of writing) 48 members. So just what is the elixir of RISC OS in this field?

The platform's lasting affair with graphics and desktop publishing software has proved useful, for much of this software is now used in the field of web development. Programs like ArtWorks 2, Composition and Photodesk are popular tools in the RISC OS web developer's armoury; and along with your favourite text editor, you've got most, if not all, of what you need to build an accessible website.

And perhaps our operating system's most powerful, yet most underrated, virtue is the community itself. RISC OS users create their own solutions to problems - problems they discuss, quite often, with other like-minded users - indeed, many freeware tools have been created out of this process.

However, the reasons behind Mark's protests will not disappear without strong action. We need to address the short-comings of our current catalogue of software if RISC OS is to remain a viable alternative in this fast moving field. And in the tradition of dialogue finding solutions, let's hope that Mark's new group will promote the wishes and needs of its users. Companies and developers need to know what we want, so let's be sure we tell them.

Updated at 03:24 9/5/2004
You can find some simple Flash making tools here, from Henrik Pedersen. With these, you can create Flash 3 files from scriptfiles and drawfiles.

Links


RISC OS Web Designers' Group - mailing list W3C's gentle guide to HTML

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Discussion

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Well said! RISC OS's intuitive interface and drag and drop approach really does speed up Web design. If only some advances were made with Web browsers and Photodesk, it would be even better...

 is a RISC OS Userarenaman on 8/5/04 7:53PM
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Yay we can all discuss how far behind the RISC OS browsers are and how pointless it is trying to make/use Flash files on RISC OS.

When is Apache being ported to RISC OS?

 is a RISC OS Usersimo on 9/5/04 9:57PM
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SVG is a good alternative to some applications of flash. We using SVG files generated on the fly using an XML data stream to publish realtime data. Works quite well.

 is a RISC OS Userknutson on 10/5/04 1:00AM
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Flash is very good when used "properly". When producing forms or shopping cart applications, "good" use of Flash has provided a very stable base with which to perform credit card transactions and form submissions. Improper use of Flash includes badly compressed (or not needed) music, using 24-bit graphics when optimised 8-bit versions do the trick, and the inability to break down a process into small steps (this includes loading of media) so that stuff appears more quickly.

One nice example is on Interflora's UK website - their ordering process is essentially one page, using Flash MX.

Anybody wanna pay Macromedia a few thousand dollars for a RISC OS license? :-(

 is a RISC OS Usersascott on 10/5/04 3:55AM
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You don't seriously think that a "one page" Flash animation is a good basis for a shopping cart do you?

 is a RISC OS Usersimo on 10/5/04 5:14AM
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What a great idea. On the Flash issue, there are some really good educational applications of Flash, and I'd really love to be able to use them via RISC OS.

 is a RISC OS Userharmsy on 10/5/04 10:10AM
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Apache is being ported to RISC OS precisely when someone decides to do it. But then, there are already far better choices for natively developed webservers on RISC OS, so I'm not entirely sure why you ask.

 is a RISC OS Usermrchocky on 10/5/04 10:25AM
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I seem to recall that the lack of a fork() that's not vfork() was a big showstopper for porting Apache when I last looked. Although that was some time ago, and UnixLib may have a real fork() now, or you might be able to use Apache 2 in threaded mode using the new pthreads stuff in UnixLib - I've not looked.

There are several other webservers that are good for most people that'd be much simplier to port: thttpd and Cherokee spring to mind. (They're both much quicker than Apache too, so they might just be usable on RISC OS)

 is a RISC OS Usernunfetishist on 10/5/04 1:44PM
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The issue of (v)fork or otherwise is certain to be a lesser one when porting such a big program as Apache - lack of shared libraries is likely to be a much bigger deal, but speculating on these issues without actually trying isn't really helpful.

As I say, there are much better choices for web servers on RISC OS, and I can easily think of 50 things people would rather see effort spent on porting than Apache.

 is a RISC OS Usermrchocky on 10/5/04 2:15PM
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On the subject of Flash... does anyone remember the RISC OS program 'Noot'. It allowed you to generate interactive animations, with sound and music from Draw files.

 is a RISC OS Userrob on 10/5/04 2:26PM
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Lack of shared libraries is not ideal, but it doesn't prevent Apache from running. Lack of fork() does. I tried compiling Apache2 with a threaded mpm a while ago, just out of curiosity. It compiled without any major issues, but wouldn't serve requests because IIRC of the fork issue. I didn't bother spending any more time on it.

 is a RISC OS UserAJW on 10/5/04 4:34PM
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Did you try the non-forking Apache?

 is a RISC OS Userimj on 10/5/04 4:58PM
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I see none of you have mentioned WebJames. Is it generally not considered to be an 'adequate' web server if people are asking for other ones to be ported? I haven't had any trouble with it on the occasions I've used it, and Paul Vigay's site at [link] seems to use it without trouble.

 is a RISC OS Usertamias on 10/5/04 5:51PM
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imj: AFAICT the only MPM that doesn't involve some forking is the netware one. Unless you're talking about some other option I haven't noticed. tamias: WebJames is probably more than adequate for the majority of uses on RISC OS. But then I'm biased.

 is a RISC OS UserAJW on 10/5/04 8:43PM
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tamias: it was precisely WJ and friends I was thinking of. It didn't seem neccessary to name it.

 is a RISC OS Usermrchocky on 10/5/04 8:54PM
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Web site production and management is the main reason why I use RISCOS. I have used PCs but come back to my RiscPC every time. As for the flashy bits they are not necessary but one thing I have found very useful is PHP.

 is a RISC OS Userpipalya on 10/5/04 11:21PM
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In reply to simo:

Yes, a one-page shopping cart is a good thing.

It saves on data transactions, and is faster, because the customer doesn't have to go through several pages, entering information, a process which can fail at any point, especially if you're on dialup.

My connection is very slow at work, so Interflora's solution meant only having to wait twice (once to load the Flash, then again to submit the transaction) for the order to be completed. That's why it's a good thing :-)

 is a RISC OS Usersascott on 11/5/04 2:27AM
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I'd say that the once place Flash shouldn't be used is where shopping carts or transactions are involved. Why does the customer have to go through several pages with the traditional method? All the information required can be entered on one page.

 is a RISC OS Userjonix on 11/5/04 10:40AM
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I noticed that the interflora site fell back to a perfectly usable form-based system on O2, which I thought was good. At least they're not shutting out any potential customers that don't have/want to use Flash.

I wasn't personally impressed by the flash version, but now I have the choice.

 is a RISC OS Userflypig on 11/5/04 11:40AM
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sascott: "My connection is very slow at work, so Interflora's solution meant only having to wait twice (once to load the Flash, then again to submit the transaction) for the order to be completed."

If that's all it took, they could have done a single page Web form. The result: no need to have the correct plug-in (if you can get one, of course), no need to download the Flash content (cue spinning logos unless the "designer" had been restrained and medicated), site usability and accessibility increased by an order of magnitude.

Are you going to advocate ActiveX for an encore?

 is a RISC OS Userguestx on 11/5/04 1:06PM
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A friend of mine is blind, and the thing he curses most about when using the Web are flash animations. Open web standards like HTML, CSS and XHTML are designed with disabled people in mind, while most proprietary "standards" are not, simply because from a commercial POV they are too small a group to justify the additional development efforts.

 is a RISC OS UserJGZimmerle on 11/5/04 5:04PM
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An interesting approach to web serving is provided by Seaside - see [link] It's not for everyone but for those interested in thinkingof websites as object systems it's very effective. It runs on platforms likely to be of interest (RISC OS, Macs, PCs, *nix even OS/2) and it's free with an active developer community. You can develop on your trusty RISC OS machine and deploy on a *nix server by copying two files. (well, plus any pictures etc)

 is a RISC OS Userrowledge on 11/5/04 5:20PM
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