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October news in brief

By Chris Williams. Published: 30th Oct 2004, 12:30:16 | Permalink | Printable

NetBSD, software, Vigay and more

Round up motifNow that everyone's recovered from the South East show, and hopefully thinking about what to surprise us with at the December Midlands show, here's a round up of recent RISC OS news.

If you hadn't noticed, the NetBSD port for the Iyonix is now available, and received a fair amount of coverage from the open source leaning online press. Gavan Fantom, maintainer for the work-in-progress project, told us today that VGA graphics, USB and the on-board ethernet aren't complete, although support for PCI, audio and a Realtek PCI network card are in.

Screenshot of a debuggerWeiss Niklaus has contacted us to warn us that he's ready to unleash a new debugging tool on the RISC OS public, once he's worked out who's going to distribute it. The software, which consists of nearly 12 thousand lines of ARM assembler and took five years to write, will hopefully allow developers to track down bugs in their software, while continuing to work in a multi-tasking desktop. Weiss told us that he's in negotiations with a potential distributor and is currently bug fixing the software. Proving that subtlety at drobe.co.uk isn't dead, when we pushed him for a release date, Weiss replied: "Could you have a little bit of patience?"

Andy Jackson has produced a new version of his Nutshells site, a website that links to RISC OS resources and can be maintained by anyone. Describing the new site, Andy told us: "This should reproduce all the functionality of the old site, but also be fully integrated with a Wiki, have various RSS feeds for different parts of the site, and generally be a bit more flexible and maintainable."

The longest running RISC OS user group to date, the BAUG, has moved from Bottisham to Cambridge. Discussions have also taken place within the group to consider a possible name change from BAUG and whether or not the group should open up to users of all computing systems in order to boost membership numbers. In an email to the group, BAUG chairman David McDowell wrote, "Speaking personally I'm all in favour of promoting increased membership but not at the cost of totally diluting and spoiling the Acorn/RISCOS basis of the club. On the other hand I don't want to be a 'RISCOS fundamentalist' and see the club sink slowly under, while bravely waving the Acorn/RISCOS flag." David is not the only user group chairman this year to acknowledge the consequences of the current size of the RISC OS market and the fate of its user groups.

Screenshot of TEK1608Deck13 (aka Artexsoft), developers of real time war game TEK1608, have stated that there will be no Iyonix version of their software. Jan Klose, Deck13's creative director, said, "I'm afraid TEK will not be released for the Iyonix PC. We have had a look at this possibility, but firstly the Iyonix people were not really cooperative (at all), and what is more important, it'd involve quite some work including a 32bit C compiler and of course an Iyonix. These are some costs that will, according to our calculations, not be covered by potential sales."

He added: "This sounds sad and quite economic, but it is a fact that we have to earn some money (or at least not lose much of it and thus a pure fan project is not an option anymore. TEK itself was more of a tribute to the RISC OS platform than a profitable product."

We best point out that there is a 32bit GCC available for free, although it can't build modules, which Artexsoft perhaps would need.

Also, Dan Ellis has uploaded a copy of EtherH 4.52 (featuring working multicast support) and related modules to his website. This version was provided by Owen Smith, the previous maintainer of the ethernet card driver, and more details and history can be found here.

Software in brief
Stefan Bellon has ported GnuPG 1.3.92 to RISC OS, for people to try out. GnuPG is a free software replacement for PGP, the privacy and encryption system. Stefan has also released JetDirectFS, a module that allows users to print over a network to a Jet Direct printer. JetDirectFS was originally developed in 1998 by Elliot Hughes, and Stefan has since updated it 32bitted it. It's now available under the GPL.

Version 1.01 of SpamStamp is out, and features French resources and installation instructions for AntiSpam, Pluto and R-Comp's new email engine, Hermes. The USB HID driver software from Xample, has been updated with better control over its 'Compose' mode and now includes support for entering Russian characters, thanks to Richard Spencer's 'DesktopKeyMap' module. Thumbcat is up to version 4.1. RAM disc replacement Memphis 3, 'current working directory' utility Direction 2 and web download tool WebGet 0.19 have been released by Richard Spencer.

And finally, this is the sort of tabloid media intrusion that we'd like to see more of in the RISC OS market: despite the fact that Paul Vigay once requested that photographs of him are not published (so that he isn't recognised when he turns up to crop circle related incidents), our pals at Iconbar and Qercus are playing the public interest card and running a ridicule-Vigay-competition this month.


News? Comments?

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This debugger looks really good, but does it support 32bit machines (i.e. iyonix) and also does it work with GCC or just with Norcroft?

 is a RISC OS Userjohn on 30/10/04 1:55PM
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TEK was a nice game. If it's mostly written in C, perhaps Artex would be willing to release the source to allow others to recompile it (leaving the data files as something that people have to buy; like Doom)?

This way, they may make some more money out of it, without any further investment.

 is a RISC OS Userflypig on 30/10/04 6:31PM
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It's great to see so many a variety of things coming through our platform, 2005 looks to be an interesting year for RISC OS! With all this wonderful development and our platform now working together so well, I wonder at times if it would be useful (or possible, or necessary) if more PC programme files could be converted from and to RISC OS. Some Word files and parts of XL spreadsheet stuff works, but could PowerPoint to OHP and other PC programmes be done? What are the key problems that stop these features (apart from MS legal software protection)??

 is a RISC OS UserSawadee on 30/10/04 8:02PM
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Time. And. Money.

 is a RISC OS Usermoss on 30/10/04 8:30PM
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To john:

AFAIK it does support 32 bit. I know that Niklaus Weiss 32bittet all his other software (quite a bit freeware stuff) pretty quickly to 32 bit. But you just have to ask him... just visit [link]

 is a RISC OS Userhzn on 31/10/04 7:42AM
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To hzn (that is to me):

I just went to his software page and at the top you can read "System-Anforderungen: wenigstens RISC OS 3.1x; alle Anwendungen sind 32-bit-tauglich und wurden auch auf dem «Iyonix» getestet. Alle Anwendungen sind auch mit englischen Resourcen verfügbar." And if you switch to the English side it says "System requirements: at least RISC OS 3.1x; all applications are 32-bit compatible and tested on the «Iyonix». All applications are available with German resources too!"

Since the debugger is on that page too, it's 32bit, I'd say.

 is a RISC OS Userhzn on 31/10/04 7:44AM
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That's great to hear. I'd probably assume it doesn't support GCC, but I don't use it anyway. If I bought an iyonix I'd buy the official C compiler anyway (what with me having to be rich to do it) :)

 is a RISC OS Userjohn on 31/10/04 11:11AM
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john: Yes, DeskDebug runs fine on the Iyonix. And there is no problem using it for programs written using GCC - just without source level debug info because GCC is not able to produce RISC OS-style debugging information.

 is a RISC OS Userwuerthne on 31/10/04 2:23PM
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Apart from embedding function names, yes. Possibly, it never will, because we're planning to move to an ELF toolchain, and use its debugging features. That might enable use of gdb/ddd.

 is a RISC OS Usermrchocky on 31/10/04 3:22PM
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But that doesn't mean that Niklaus can adapt his debugger accordingly, does it?

 is a RISC OS Userhzn on 31/10/04 5:02PM
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hzn: Sure there is no reason why it wouldn't be technically possible to support the ELF debugging format too. But I think Peter is saying that other debugging solutions for ELF format exist and viable to port.

Slightly related to this : personally I'm no longer convinced that developing larger projects in ARM assembler only is always a smart choice these days. Ok, it is fun, challenging, resulting binaries are usually pleasing small, etc but in the long term the developing and maintenance price can be high; especially when you need to do some serious changes to the architecture. Also it has implications when passing on ownership (I'm wondering what Martin has to say on this with ArtWorks). Not only we need new software (development), but the support for existing software is as much as important. We don't want to reinvent the same thing because the existing program is not sensibly maintainable anymore, do we ?

Anyway, I'm looking forward to tryout DeskDebug one day.

 is a RISC OS Userjoty on 31/10/04 9:56PM
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About time people start thinking like that - assembler hasn't been the smartest choice for quite a few years now considering large projects and maintainance. Maybe for limited parts of large projects that require optimisation and speed but not for whole projects.

Computer Concepts and Sibelius saw this a long time ago, they wanted serious C++ libraries for further development, they weren't delivered and seriously large players left the market. I think most of us missed the significance of those companies leaving RISC OS but that point in time really looks more and more to be the beginning of bleak future to come. Hopefully it can be turned around but currently things aren't looking that great despite a few software and hardware releases.

 is a RISC OS UserGulli on 31/10/04 11:42PM
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I didn't have much success trying to drum up support for a better C++ compiler under Norcroft during the Merlin discussions. I suspect few RISC OS programmers use C++, and those who do use GCC.

 is a RISC OS Usermrtd on 1/11/04 9:18AM
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mrtd: I think you'll find the reason for that is that it's unlikely to be economically viable to develop a C++ compiler from scratch (or even licence an existing one and produce a suitable backend). Additionally, GCC works _now_, so why wait for a new compiler?

 is a RISC OS Userjmb on 1/11/04 9:51AM
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Re Dan Ellis's EtherH driver His site is at: [link]

 is a RISC OS UserCJE on 1/11/04 11:01AM
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Gulli: this myth continues to circulate, but it can't possibly be entirely true, because GCC/G++ for RISC OS has existed and worked for many years.

mrtd: I can't see any advantages in having Norcroft's C++ updated. Unless, for some bizarre reason, you think that writing modules in C++ is appropriate.

 is a RISC OS Usermrchocky on 1/11/04 12:34PM
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"In reply to jmb:" What we don't have is a C++ compiler with a nice graphical front end. I doubt we would ever compete with the likes of Visual C++, but at least Norcroft goes part of the way. Providing a good user friendly development environment could do a lot to encourage programmers to develop for our platform - that is one thing that Microsoft got right IMO. But yes, you are probably right about the economics of it. Sigh!

 is a RISC OS Usermrtd on 1/11/04 12:40PM
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But compilers don't provide graphical front ends, that's the job of IDEs - quite a good one was recently released for RISC OS (and I've been very critical of several in the past for doing naughty thing).

 is a RISC OS Usermrchocky on 1/11/04 12:56PM
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Quite a good one being which? :) I would like to know, I'm not just asking for the sake of it.

 is a RISC OS Userjohn on 1/11/04 2:19PM
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I think you may have missed one word in my post:

wanted serious C++ *libraries*

GCC/G++ existed at the time but GCC didn't and still doesn't contain a RISC OS WIMP library, nor did it (and still doesn't) come with an IDE. I agree that neither is the purpose of the compiler but both are there for increased productivity. From what I read at the time - this was what Sibelius and CC were looking for and felt that available solutions didn't have. Of course there have probably been other issues as well but these were named in interviews and articles in (if I remember correctly) The Micro User.

Now there at least is the RISC OS Toolkit but wether or not that is usable I don't know but it looks promising.

Oh, and what IDE is it that you're referring to? I'm curious :-o

 is a RISC OS UserGulli on 1/11/04 2:46PM
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