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A better desktop clock

By Martin Hansen. Published: 16th Aug 2004, 07:43:08 | Permalink | Printable

Tick, tock

Review Whilst there may be less sunshine this summer than many had hoped for, it has still been sufficiently hot to merit a large number of open windows here, at Hansen Towers, in Shrewsbury. This would not be noteworthy but for the fact that I have just come across a lovely piece of free software from Peter Everett, which I downloaded from the Internet a couple of days ago and which has transformed the ambiance of my life and, indeed, via the open windows, that of my neighbours.

Peter's better known claim to RISC OS fame arises from his recent work on KinoAMP, the MPEG1/2 movie player, and Shine, a fast MP3 encoder. However, it is the third offering that he has placed on his website, Tock, that has had me grinning from ear to ear for the last few days.

Screenshot of Tock in actionTock is a rework of that old classic, the computer clock, but this one is posh. There is no cheap sounding ring or buzzer with this offering but instead some rather refined, melodious chimes and on the hour strikes. If you can avoid thinking Austrian Cuck-coo shop and picture in its place a very expensive and refined jewellers you'll be catching my drift. In the interests of doing some thorough research for Drobe I had Tock running on a StrongARM 3.7 RiscPC and my Iyonix, in a bedroom upstairs, and on a Kinetic RiscPC and also another StrongARM RiscPC running Select 3i3, in the hall. It works great on them all and every fifteen minutes, the house reverberates to a medley of loud, but tuneful, chiming.

It can be a little tricky to get Tock running and it took me over an hour to figure out why the chimes would not, at first, work. So, let me just talk you through it. First, grab the download from Peter's website. I dumped it onto a floppy disc as not all of my test machines are networked. It's been zipped and so you'll need SparkPlug to unpack it onto your hard disc. Load Tock onto the iconbar. If you launch it, you'll get either a lovely Big Ben clock face or a less glamorous, but very clear, Office face.

You can hop from one to the other by clicking the menu mouse button over the face, and moving down and right to the first sub-menu. On the main menu, you will notice that two of the options, Chime and Strike, are greyed out. You need to click menu over Tock on the iconbar and select 'Make chimes'. Click on Start in the Chime Maker and then go and make a cup of tea. When you return, the WAV files needed will have been created. Close the Chime Maker window. Reboot your computer, and this time, when you click Menu over the clock face, all the options are available. The bit that foxed me was that when I moved right to the Chime and Strike sub-menus I could move what was ticked but the sound still did not happen; the hour came and went repeatedly as I used !Alarm to set the clock to just before an hour, but each time as the moment passed: silence.

What I eventually realised was that you have to move down the Tock menu to, say, Chime and then not rush right to the sub-menu, but click select on Chime itself. As soon as a tick appeared to the left of Chime in the Tock Menu, I knew I'd cracked it. Similarly, tick Strike. I've tried to show what you are aiming for clearly in the screenshot above. Basically, you need to tick, tock.

I wholeheartedly recommend you get this lovely piece of software for your machine. Having it running in a corner of your screen, and chiming gently as you work, attracts all who pass. It's a great little advert for RISC OS; tasteful, subtle and of good quality. If you are really keen you can take a photograph of any clock that takes your fancy and use it as a further face in Tock. You are even welcome to investigate how the chime WAV files are built and, perhaps, compose your own. This is a great piece of free, fun software. [Also, the C and assmebler source code is included, if you're interested to see how it works - Ed]


Peter's software - Read the Tock helpfile before you start, especially the part about needing PlayIt. Take part: Write about some cool software you've found, or suggest an application for us to look at.

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A seemingly strange article, but reveals some interesting information. It's just a clock; but it's fully multimedia! Now if only I still had stereo sound.

I don't suppose anyone would know why I've lost the right channel on my RPC?

 is a RISC OS UserSmiler on 16/8/04 9:21AM
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Damn, things must be EXTREMELY slow on the software front if you're starting to review a desktop clock - nice as it may look!

What next? Review of a desktop screen grabber? Or a window handle reader?

 is a RISC OS UserGulli on 16/8/04 9:38AM
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Gulli: "Damn, things must be EXTREMELY slow on the software front if you're starting to review a desktop clock..."

Agreed. On that front, does the old Alarm application still get shipped with the latest RISC OS releases and does it (or any competitor) support stuff like iCalendar?

 is a RISC OS Userguestx on 16/8/04 10:19AM
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No doubt someone will come along and allows us to 'skin' this program therefore allowing us to place any clock/watch face on it. ;-)

Give me a Caliber 89 Watch at a cool $11,000,000 [link]

P.S. If Drobe want some software to review, they could do worse than review !nOver It was announced/released a few weeks ago. [link]

 is a RISC OS Userquatermass on 16/8/04 11:55AM
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Cripes guys - It's the summer - Chill ! This was just ment to be a bit of fun.

Quatermass: I'm looking forward to your review on !nOver.

I didn't think things were slow on the software front: I've just ordered software from R-Comp, APDL look like they are pressing ahead at full speed to me and there's a ton of new stuff to grab from the Internet.

I've just downloaded Peter's "unofficial" port of !AMPlayer for Iyonix. It works great and I'm enjoying working to a few MP3s today. The chimes still ring out on the other three machines. You guys can complain all you like but tick tock ding dong bong bong.... I can't hear you !

 is a RISC OS Usermartin on 16/8/04 12:33PM
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This is a new program for me, so I'm glad drobe's brought it to my attention.

But I'm a bit confused: was it really written by Chris, or does Martin (of Hansen Towers) have more to do with it than the byline is letting on?

 is a RISC OS Userflypig on 16/8/04 2:15PM
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A well written article and a good piece of software.

And I think anaogue clocks look better than digital ones.

 is a RISC OS UserRevin Kevin on 16/8/04 2:34PM
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Hmm, there actually was supposed to be a big smiley after my comment above :S

So here it is :D

 is a RISC OS UserGulli on 16/8/04 4:45PM
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wrote a skin for it that has sheep frolicking in a field and the sun and the moon mark the time lovely no wwwserv at the moment, or i'd share it wid y'all

 is a RISC OS Userlgw21 on 16/8/04 5:27PM
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Igw21 there are plenty of free servers out there so we all can share it as it sounds interesting to me.

 is a RISC OS UserRevin Kevin on 16/8/04 5:47PM
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To me, roughtime is always the king of clocks for RISC OS!

 is a RISC OS Userfluff on 16/8/04 9:24PM
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fluff> should you declare your vested interests with that statement? :)

 is a RISC OS Userjonix on 16/8/04 11:15PM
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I have downloaded the programme "Tock" and set up the Make Chime etc. I hav also loaded PlayIt, but I cannot get the sound on my RO 4.02, I do not have a sound card but I do have a MIDI Card. I can hear the computer's sound output via my MIDI keyboard input. Do I need a soundcard for Tock? Or maybe I have not loaded PlayIt correctly or something? Regards, Steve.

 is a RISC OS UserSawadee on 17/8/04 1:02AM
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Got the sound going!! First I had to unlock my !Boot Choices <Access unprotected> , (I forgot!!) then click the load PlayIt, and I also found that Chime in the Tock menu was OK when ticked (as Martin said in the article) but it would not work when I had Chime and Strike in the Tock menu (both) ticked. Both these ticked actually disabled my PlayIt sound, so I had to reBoot the computer. In my music classroom I have the nice chiming sound coming through my MIDI keyboard which is outputted to my Aiwa 160 watt sound system. I wonder if this could be worked off the !Apps clock and alarm?? Version 2 idea?

Thanks Peter E.

Regards, Steve.

 is a RISC OS UserSawadee on 17/8/04 11:25AM
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To Martin.

I can hardly review my own product or can I? ;-)

 is a RISC OS Userquatermass on 17/8/04 11:54AM
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I can only get this to strike one. Ive checked the Wave files and run each in turn and they all produce just one strike, each file get progressively larger for the strikes of 1 to 12 but opening the file I find that most of the file is blank.

 is a RISC OS UserColin on 17/8/04 8:38PM
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Hi Colin.

In data.strikes.default the WAV file for "3" is 192 044 bytes long. The last 21 946 bytes of this are blanks.

When I click on this file, three chimes sound, slowly one after the other, with a slight pause inbetween.

Perhaps try "Make Chimes..." again, and don't forget to reboot (Even better, switch off and on) the machine after making them.

It is a little tricky to get this installed. Good luck.

 is a RISC OS Usermartin on 17/8/04 9:54PM
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Please don't tell me you have to reboot after using an application? That's quite ridiculous!

 is a RISC OS Userjonix on 17/8/04 11:50PM
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Before my last coments, I got Tock to chime OK a few times... on the hour, quarter past and a half past chime worked, but after a few times it appeared to have disable the PlayIt sound. Not even the Acorn Wav file samples would work when I tested them to hear if this has disabled PlayIt. I also noticed that PlayIt has 2 zip files on it's download site... playit158_drv/zip playit168/zip I have loaded up the first zip file of PlayIt, but the second one appears to be an important part of the second? Not sure what to do or where to put them (in !Boot?). Inside !PlayIt (168/zip) there is a large Help file, there's a fair bit of reading info but some useful hints may resolve PlayIt. I will try what Martin suggests loading "Make Chimes" again and reBooting. With me, Tock just seems to disable the PlayIt sound after one or two quarter hourly chimes. Regards. Steve

 is a RISC OS UserSawadee on 18/8/04 12:44AM
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Hi Jonix, No - Just after installing it, first time.

"Make Chimes..." is a one-off generation of the WAV files. The one to strike "3" above is almost 200KB. All the chimes plus strikes acount for 20 MB of data. (I just did a "count" action on the files) That's why they sound so good.

Peter Everett rather sensibly decided not to expect folks to download such a large amount of data (some through dial-up connection) and used some neat maths to generate the WAV data, when requested to do so by the user via "Make Chimes..."

It's a very clever program, as are all of Peter's efforts for RISC OS.

 is a RISC OS Usermartin on 18/8/04 12:49AM
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Do you really have to reboot? If so, why?

 is a RISC OS Usermavhc on 18/8/04 12:59AM
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Hi Stephen (Sawadee) Yes, keeping all of one's modules up to date is a big task. Use the link at the end of the article to go to the PlayIt webpage. Download PlayIt version 1.68. (Which is 26/32 bit neutral) Ignore 1.58 which is for programmers doing geek. Unzip and put PlayIt 1.68 in !Boot.Resources.

Place a copy of !PlaySound in the directory beside !Tock. (The filer needs to see !PlaySound by the time you get to !Tock) !Playsound 1.74 is the latest version and is at:


This is the set up on both by Kinetic and my Iyonix. Good Luck.

 is a RISC OS Usermartin on 18/8/04 1:36AM
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If anybody's getting put off by all this configuration talk, I tried it on my Iyonix and it worked first time, without rebooting :)


 is a RISC OS Usermonkeyson on 18/8/04 9:16AM
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someones been w3athcing J and silent bob

 is a RISC OS Userem2ac on 18/8/04 11:51AM
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I've got both Playit 1.68 and PlaySound 1.75 installed. I've ran Make Chimes several times and have rebooted or switched of my Iyonix a dis

 is a RISC OS Userdelink on 18/8/04 2:10PM
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I've got both Playit 1.68 and PlaySound 1.75 installed. I've ran Make Chimes several times and have rebooted or switched of my Iyonix a disapointing number of times, but Tock never chimed or stroke more than once.

 is a RISC OS Userdelink on 18/8/04 2:21PM
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I've got both Playit 1.68 and PlaySound 1.75 installed. I've ran Make Chimes several times and have rebooted or switched of my Iyonix a disapointing number of times, but Tock never chimed or stroke more than once.

 is a RISC OS Userdelink on 18/8/04 2:22PM
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did you write the above at 3 o'clock ;-)



 is a RISC OS Usermripley on 18/8/04 4:14PM
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"Peter Everett rather sensibly decided not to expect folks to download such a large amount of data (some through dial-up connection) and used some neat maths to generate the WAV data, when requested to do so by the user via "Make Chimes...""

Cute. I wonder therefore if it's possible to generate the samples on the fly by creating a native voice module - working in exactly the same way as wavesynth_beep, but with distinctly more fancy maths.

 is a RISC OS Userninja on 18/8/04 6:05PM
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Hi Martin

Started again from scratch, downloaded the Zip, copied !Tock to my Apps Directory, Run !Tock and Run 'Make Chime' from the Icon bar menu. In data.strikes.default the WAV file for "3" is 192044 byte long. 117946 bytes are blank [00]. When I click on the file, it strickes once. Iyonix 5.06.

 is a RISC OS UserColin on 18/8/04 6:59PM
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Hi Colin, How very odd. I'm at a loss to explain it. My Iyonix is still OS 5.05, so it'd be interesting if anyone else with 5.06 has the same problem. It's long shot but as it's C code so it might be worth checking that you've got the latest Clib installed. (I have) It's is version 5.47 (06 Jan 2004) and it's in !Boot.Resources.!System.310.Modules Maybe someone with a more technical mind can suggest what the problem might be ?

 is a RISC OS Usermartin on 18/08/04 8:26PM
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I think I was lying when I said it was working - I'd not listened to the sounds properly!

I too only get a single bong and lots of blank space per file.

This is on RISC OS 5.06 - but I had installed it before when I was running RISC OS 5.05 with the same result.

 is a RISC OS Usermonkeyson on 18/08/04 9:29PM
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Hmmm. Interesting. The samples generate properly (but slowly) if I run Tock using A310Em. So it looks like a 32bit or a Clib incompatibility.

 is a RISC OS Usermonkeyson on 18/08/04 10:33PM
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Hi Phil, There is another module that's a library used by C code. Could you look up the version of the ABClibrary on your Iyonix.

It'll be in !Boot.Resources.!System.310.Modules. Shift+Click on the module to look at the code which will be gook but a version number will be amounst the meaningless stuff near the start. (Put that in so others can follow what's going on)

Mine is 4.14 (29 Nov 2002) and I wonder if yours is earlier than this. There must be a reason why my Iyonix created the files correctly and now we have two cases where not.

 is a RISC OS Usermartin on 18/08/04 11:56PM
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I have ABClib 4.14 too, but I'm not convinced it uses it.

I've just tried recompiling Tock using the Castle C tools and libraries (instead of ROL's stubsg which the default distribution uses) - same problem.

However if I compile it with gcc and unixlib and it works fine!

Definitely looks like a problem with the C compiler or SharedCLib.

 is a RISC OS Usermonkeyson on 19/08/04 02:12AM
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Well done, on finding, not one, but two solutions to the problem. It remains odd that it just did it on my Iyonix... Where should I look on my Iyonix to see what's likely to be diffeent to yours, or is it not that simple ? It would be nice if we could find a simple fix for non-technical minded folks who've run into this problem. Is "compile it with gcc and unixlib" easy to describe - I certainly wouldn't know how to do that, but then, looking at the C code in !Tock is my first mess around with C - I was trying to spot what Modules it was calling but failed. I may try using the A310Em solution too, just out of curiousity. I presume it's on the web if I do a search....

 is a RISC OS Usermartin on 19/08/04 08:20AM
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Hi Martin,

I,ve solved the problem of only one strike. Shift booted and run 'Make Chimes', all chimes and strikes were created properly. Then remove some apps from until the chimes were created properly with a normal boot and found that I needed to remove !Spell and !DialUp. Had the same problem when run on my RiscPC.

Anyway Bing Bang Bong!

 is a RISC OS UserColin on 19/08/04 11:39AM
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Just had a look at my Iyonix and the chimes are also truncated. In 310.modules I have ABCLib v4.15 (6 Jun 04) and in 500.modules I have CLib v5.46 (15 Apr 03).

Very nice App by the way.

 is a RISC OS UserEddie on 19/08/04 5:40PM
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Oh pooh sticks, just checked with !Verma and SharedCLibrary is 5.49 (23 Jan 04).

 is a RISC OS UserEddie on 19/08/04 5:47PM
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