Resisting change is short-sightedBy Chris Williams. Published: 2nd Jul 2006, 15:21:34 | Permalink | Printable
AIF checking work around and official tool releasedEditorial The opposition from some corners to the new standards checking in 32bit RISC OS 4 is, quite frankly, short-sighted. As reported last month, new versions of RISCOS Ltd.'s stream of the operating system are clamping down on dodgy software to stop applications from trashing the rest of desktop.
RISC OS needs more of this if it's ever to be taken seriously or progress from its 1980s MOS heritage. It's hard to demonstrate RISC OS to any newcomer when one faulty program decides to scribble over the rest, causing the desktop to disintegrate in seconds.
But the outlook is grim if some of the platform's programmers are unwilling to accept these necessary changes. If it's too much hassle to keep a package up to date, then the source code could be handed over to another developer - or better yet, open sourced.
The highest profile checking in RISC OS 4.42 is the so-called 'AIF header' detection, and the OS will refuse to run a program if this data is missing. Every application executable should have an AIF header - the equivalent of a signed declaration that the software is 32 bit compatible, how much memory it will need, and the sections of the program code that can be safely protected from being overwritten.
Acorn mandated this in 1996. Yet the excuse from one developer 10 years on was, "Acorn recommended a lot of things, and these days some people pick and choose which ones to pay attention to".
In that case, we'll just pick and choose to stick with our cooperatively multitasking operating system with limited memory protection, and not bother with features other platforms have enjoyed for over a decade. There's no hope in adding any of these to RISC OS if some of today's coders and users can't accept the upheaval these developments will introduce.
The ABC compiler itself does not have an AIF header, when it would be a simple job to add one. ABC developer Alan Glover said: "I don't put any store by the old Acorn advice argument. I believe that the insistence by the A9home's OS on AIF headers is a misguided move."
Discknight author David Ruck also panned the new checks, but he did echo other programmers' views by suggesting that if RISCOS Ltd had told everyone of the new checking, any ill feeling could have been averted.
He said: "I'd have been fine with it if they had given developers some warning, and not just snuck it out at the end of the A9home's beta programme.
"If you do things like that, developers' response will be 'screw you too'. We are just going to sit back now and wait until everyone has turned the AIF checking off. Then the problem goes away, and it's just another waste of time and effort by ROL."
Dave and Alan may just have chips on their shoulders with RISCOS Ltd. Dave is furious at the delays in the deadline sleep-walking Select 4, while Alan, who manages the official list of operating system allocations, is said to be fed up with dealing with the split between ROL and Castle.
It is possible to disable the checking by reading the instructions from
*Help AIF, or by using AdvantageSix's new compatibility tool. This is an official Configure plugin that can be downloaded from the A9home website.
Click on the thumbnails for the full screenshot
James Lampard has also created WrapAIF, which can add AIF headers to defective executable files so they can run on 32bit RISC OS 4. The tool has been described as "subversive" and "working directly against RISCOS Ltd" because it adds a 'dummy' header to work around the checking.
However James hopes people will use his software for fixing applications that have been long abandoned by their authors, such as Impression Junior and Lander. Disturbingly, ZapTaskwindow, Elite, Confix and ABC are examples of packages that also need an AIF header.
Agree, disagree? Tell us what's on your mind.
WrapAIF website - version 0.30 now available
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