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Archive booklets review part three

By Chris Williams. Published: 6th Feb 2006, 02:28:23 | Permalink | Printable

Ovation Pro, VirtualRiscPC and hardware tips

In this third part of our book review series, we take a look at three more recently published booklets compiled from Archive magazine articles. Each printed collection is A5 in size, stapled and run to about 48 pages in black and white. The writing style invariably matches the more personal, open collar approach that Archive magazine prides itself in having. The paper used for these dead tree works also feels more smoother and heavier than the material used for the previous booklets.

VirtualRiscPC in use, Volume 2
Following on from its previous volume, this next edition continues to explore and detail the finer points of VirtualAcorn's emulation software for Microsoft Windows computers. The guide is presented from the viewpoint of a group of users who write up how they tackled problems and solved readers' dilemmas. It's a cooking pot of screenshots, 'how to' guides and hints'n'tips, brewing a broth of valuable information. Topics include accessing DVDs, using ShareFS, grabbing stills from a TV receiver card, protecting Windows from spyware and adware, dealing with viruses, and so on. There are also useful bits of advice to help users avoid common pitfalls, such as renaming the hard disc label, writing to CDs from RISC OS and using David Pilling's Windows ports of his software.
On the touchy subject of emulation and using Windows, the guide's writers take a straight forward pragmatic approach. One anonymous contributer commented in the booklet: "Although we do inherently prefer to do our jobs using RISC OS, nevertheless it gives us a very valuable set of alternative options to choose from and, as with VirtualRiscPC itself, undoubtedly gives us 'the best of both worlds'."

Whether you're a casual user or a regular VirtualRiscPCer, if you want to get the most out of your software then you'll probably enjoy exploring this booklet and mining it for tips. You'll also be relieved to hear that the booklet includes a proper index that covers both volumes to help pinpoint particular subjects.

The Engineer Recapitulates
Ray Maidstone is an Archive contributor and repairer of Acorn kit that many will remember either for his advice on case cooling and audio upgrade products, or for famously advocating that users should move their !Boot applications every so often to avoid wear and tear on the hard disc from repetitive accesses. Despite talking sense on most other topics, it would appear someone forgot to tell electrical engineer Ray that hard discs don't work like gramophones. To say any mechanical wear and tear caused by the disc platter heads flying over the surface of the same areas is negligible is a vast overstatement. Having said that, Ray offers a good amount of advice in other areas, such as cleaning out dust from RiscPCs and older hardware, slowing down case fans to improve air flow and reduce noise, looking after printers and handling A4 batteries. The articles span the golden era of 1995 to 1998, with additional material from 1999 to 2003. The early work is lodged deep within the years surrounding the launch of the RiscPC, bringing back many sigh inducing memories: back when many still had their souped up Archimedes and A5000s, when Acorn User was something to be proud of and Mark Moxon was completing his respected tenure as its editor, when you'd get worn out wandering through the Acorn World shows because they were rammed with exhibitors, and when in the absence of Internet access the regular magazine cover mounted CDs of software, sillies and documents were something to be cherished. If you want to be reminded of these rose tint stained times or simply want to keep your old RiscPC and A5000 ticking over, Ray's articles and suggestions, along with various diagrams and illustrations, will probably go down a treat. It also includes a few opinion pieces on the state of Acorn and its market at the time - the sort of thing you hear around a table at a user group meeting after everyone's enjoyed a few swift pints of London Pride.

"I am very frustrated with Acorn's inability to interface with reality", Ray wrote in 1998 - the year the company of the green nut imploded to release its shares in wealthy spin-off ARM. "When they brought out the A310, the media acclaimed it as an amazingly fast machine and, at the time, way ahead of anything else. So what happened since then?"

In summary, a fun table side companion for any aging Acorn equipment that's yearning for a well earned retirement.

Ovation Pro
Finally, we come to a compilation of articles penned by Chris Johnson, Dave Floyd, Bernard Veasey and other contributors, spanning the topic of Ovation Pro from 1997 to 2005. Like the VirtualRiscPC booklet, this guide is a collection of recipes and tips for using the DTP package by David Pilling. It lacks an index so you'll need to skim through it a few times to get an idea where everything is. Buried within the covers are useful whisperings on how to create semi-transparent frames, where to find recommended applets, importing text from other applications such as Microsoft Word, customising the toolbars, producing serial numbered tickets, getting Ovation Pro to automatically bash text into a publication's house style, and generating postscript output. There are larger articles covering subjects such as creating formal letters and allowing the software to magically write out index lists for you using the headings in a document - a tip I wish I knew about before. In all, an informative and easy going guide to getting more out of Ovation Pro for those who aren't beginners but not quite expert users, yet.

Links

Archive magazine website - each book costs a fiver

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