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Adjust users get Select site access

Published: 19th Aug 2006, 20:47:38 | Permalink | Printable

Plus PRMs go online for free download

Adjust users can request access to resources and documentation on the password-protected RISC OS Select website, say RISCOS Ltd.

The subscribers-only Select website is normally open to people who have taken out subscriptions to Select, which includes technical notes on how to write software specifically for modern versions of RISC OS 4. RISC OS Adjust is essentially Select 3i4 in physical ROM form with a few extra tweaks, although owners of the ROMs haven't otherwise been able to get into the Select area.

Paul Middleton at a risc os showROL boss Paul Middleton, pictured, told drobe.co.uk: "Adjust purchasers are more than welcome to request access to the Select area on the RISCOS website, if they are not already Select subscribers."

PRMs online for free
The news comes after one or two eagle-eyed software developers uncovered developer.riscos.com, and in particular, an area that contains resources previously published for privileged paying registered developers. The historical collection mainly dates back to the early days of RISCOS Ltd and the final days of Acorn, but it includes details of how the insides of RISC OS 4 work with example source code. An archive of the PRMs - the hallowed volume of books that tell programmers how to write software for the OS - is surprisingly freely available on the site in web page format, but the zipfile is busted.

To access the zipfile, download it, then run it through zip -FF and then through unzip or SparkFS. The archive includes StrongHelp and plain text copies.

When RISCOS Ltd was formed, the company continued Acorn's registered developers scheme where paid up programmers got direct access to the RISC OS in-house developers, and had access to PRM information. This worked in the form of a yearly subcription. According to RISCOS Ltd, the Select scheme was later born in order to merge the registered developer scheme with a new scheme that would provide users with the latest developments, some of which would be in a beta quality state. All Select subscribers would therefore effectively become registered developers, and continue to access technical documentation.

Paul said: "We didn't think that the £99 cost of the Select scheme was beyond the reach of any developer.

"However, it is clear that some people feel that we should make PRM details freely available for anyone to download. The fact is however that producing documentation costs money, no matter how it is produced and distributed. You either pay for the printed copy or at the very least you pay your ISP if you access it via the Internet.

Select subscribers still wondering if they will ever see Select 4 were told ROL are still ironing out bugs in 32bit RISC OS 4, which is holding back Select 4 because both products are derived from the same source code tree.

Paul informed subscribers: "I appreciate that it may appear that absolutely no work seems to have been done on Select 4 in the past 2 years, but the fact is that we have done the conversion of RISC OS 4 to 32 bit with far fewer resources than Pace had when they did the work on their version of RISC OS.

"The bottom line is that we have very limited resources and consequently some apparently relatively trivial problems can take a lot of time to resolve. We rely on volunteers for the Beta Testing of Select 4 features and a number of those have had to reduce the time they have available this year for various reasons."

Ex-subscriber and Discknight author David Ruck said: "Paul promises they are still 'doing something', but you've got to keep paying in vain hope that in perhaps one year out of three, you will actually get some sort of release for your money."
"If developers want to take advantage of Select features then they need to subscribe to the Select scheme in order to be able to test their work. We do not agree with the sentiments of those who claim that they should be able to get the documentation for free in order to develop software that takes advantage of Select, without they themselves owning a copy of Select."

A number of third party developers have argued that this technical information, referred to as APIs, should be made available for free, much like Castle's approach, in order to encourage further development of software that uses new features of the operating system. However others believe that programmers need both the documentation and the operating system installed on their computers to make full use of the APIs.

OHP2 author Tony Still said: "Without availability of this programming information, it's just not practical to use these APIs. I would buy Adjust, probably, if it ran on my main machine, an Iyonix. I'm unlikely to buy it simply as a way of obtaining its API details."

VNC client Avalanche developer James Peacock said: "Even with the documentation, it's almost impossible to develop anything reliable without being able to test it. I write stuff for my own use, so putting what little time I devote to RISC OS development into utilising features I can't benefit from isn't going to happen."


RISCOS Ltd website

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Adjust users should get access to some of the information on the Select site, as its the only place where theres documentation describing what they've bought, over and above the baseline of RISC OS 4.

However, for Select subscribers still waiting for a release after 3 years, its bound to be seen as another kick in the teeth. Anyone who picks up Adjust for about 70 quid, gets everything the Select subribers have funded to the tune of £500 since the beginning of the scheme.

 is a RISC OS Userdruck on 19/8/06 11:41PM
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The argument that developers should have a copy of select, if they want to use its features would carry more weight if it were available for the Iyonix, which I'm sure a large proportion of developers (especially, I would think those whose do it for free) probably have as their only machine. (They would get others to test that the extra features work as intended).

 is a RISC OS Userjess on 20/8/06 2:39AM
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API information helps programmers appreciate *what* ROL is offering. Hide those API's and the programmers have less information to base a purchasing decission on. Think of the API documentation as a sort of clever "advertisement".

Yes there *is* logic to the proposition that without Select a programmer would have no way to *test* the software - but Castle provide their API information to all (including *non-Iyonix* owners). In that way programmers are aware of and can allow for differences between OS versions. Yes before release they'd need to either test code themselves (on an Iyo) or pass it to someone who has one - and guess what this method does seem to work. So why can't it be made work for Select?

 is a RISC OS UserAMS on 20/8/06 5:31PM
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The argument about needing the OS in order to use the features anyway is a red herring, for reasons other than the points raised above. Simply put, what reason is there not to make it available? No-one is suggesting that ROL should hand out free printed PRMs, but the "it costs money" argument is stupid. They are going to have to produce the documentation anyway, after all.

No, it just seems like PM being awkward for the sake of it.

 is a RISC OS UserSimonC on 21/8/06 10:08AM
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So, why did ROL spend 2 years doing something that had been done before? Makes you want to hold your head in your hands and weep, doesn't it? -- Sprite

 is a RISC OS UserSpriteman on 21/8/06 1:38PM
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This is ofcourse all very good news for Adjust ROM owners. I just hope that, when Select 4 is finally beyond beta stage and ready for a first release, there will still be people ready to buy it / subscribe. I'm sorry, but I can't justify it to myself to pay this company seeing their trackrecord and disregard for their customers. Sad, since the Select 4 details so far seem pretty good...

I'm sure it's a question of priorities, but as long as ROL is still working on A9home Select32 (or whatever it's called) they should not take on anymore subscriptions. To me it seems they do not have the resources to have people working on both simultaneously, eventhough both versions share sourcecode.

I feel they've essentially cheated on the Select subscribers. It's all nice and well that PM says that in the last 2 years they were really doing something, but that seems quite irrelevant when subscribers have still received completely nothing for their money.

"I appreciate that it may appear that absolutely no work seems to have been done on Select 4 in the past 2 years, but the fact is that we have done the conversion of RISC OS 4 to 32 bit with far fewer resources than Pace had when they did the work on their version of RISC OS."

To me this sounds completely ridiculous. My version; I appreciate that it may appear that absolutely no work seems to have been done on spraypainting your car in the past 2 years, but the fact is that we have replaced the tires with far fewer resources than the local garage had when they did the work on their car.

Not only is this a bogus answer, it also seems PM is boasting a bit about how they reinvented the wheel with less effort or something...

 is a RISC OS UserhEgelia on 21/8/06 3:00PM
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In reply to hEgelia and thus to PM@ROL: "I appreciate that it may appear that absolutely no work seems to have been done on Select 4 ..." AND "The bottom line is that we have very limited resources and ..." Both statements are fine but would I be a paying subscriber I couldn't care less since I was given an offer which I accepted only to find out that all I got is to have to pay more... and wait longer. What is missing is a third statement from ROL which states that due to less expenses (due to less programmer's time spend on Select) and/or less output (massive delay in delivering) the price for the Select subscription has been reduced accordingly (that is one year's subscription entitels for the next release e.g.).

In reply to Spriteman: "So, why did ROL spend 2 years doing something that had been done before?" This is a hard one since when asking PM about e.g. DOSFS and the odd other issue the reply is that they rather not re-invent the wheel and don't want to spoil other companies business, which I consider a good approach, but with CDFS enhancements (despite CDROMFS) and 32 bit ROL seems to think different.

 is a RISC OS Userhzn on 21/8/06 4:51PM
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PM just doesn't get it.

 is a RISC OS Usernx on 21/8/06 4:51PM
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in reply to nx:

I think you're right.

 is a RISC OS UserIke on 21/8/06 11:42PM
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My subscription ended in June 2004, just after the last release of Select 3i4 at the end of May 2005. At that point the Select scheme had an excellent track record of releases, having been 4 in that year and similar numbers in previous years. So I gladly signed back up for another year.

However during that following year there was not one release or any announcement from ROL. It was only when the A9 was shown at Wakefield 2005 did we find out that they had been working on the 32bit version of Adjust for it. It was months later ROL offically admitted to this and said that this was taking all their resources, but were still asking for subscription renewals. Another year past and despite claims of an imminent Select release before/during/after Wakefield 2006 when the A9 Home was officially released, no release has occurred and ROL are still asking for subscription renewals. Who in their right mind is going to fall for that for the 3rd year in a row?

Now what should have happened is that in May 2005 after breaking the Select contractual terms of up to 3 releases a year (which does not include zero, getting nothing ceases to be a subscription), ROL should have announced that all their reasources were being dedicated to a commercial venture and the scheme was suspended at such time as release was available, and then would continue for a fresh year after that date.

Select subscriptions should not have been used to subsidise the Adjust32 conversion which should have been funded by STD, particular when ROL are enjoying income from 3000 VRPC royalties, and claims of record sales of Adjust ROMs (which Select development has subsidised). ROL have acted abysmally towards Select subscribers, keeping them in the dark and fraudlently taking their money year after year. Whilst this is the business they are running they will continue to receive my venom.

 is a RISC OS Userdruck on 22/8/06 9:44AM
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in reply to Druck:

Makes me want to buy an Iyonix.

 is a RISC OS UserMikeCarter on 22/8/06 10:47AM
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"If developers want to take advantage of Select features then they need to subscribe to the Select scheme in order to be able to test their work. We do not agree with the sentiments of those who claim that they should be able to get the documentation for free in order to develop software that takes advantage of Select, without they themselves owning a copy of Select."

That's all very nice, but PM's logic falls over when it comes to (part time) developers like myself who use an Iyonix. I may not want to make use of the new features of Select and Adjust (though if it were available for my machine, I would be a subscriber and probably would use them), but I need to know what changes have been made. Some of the changes in Select and Adjust, particularly the peripheral ones, have affected all third-party software -- whether or not it makes use of the new features.

Denying non-Select subscribers access to the documentation is only going to reduce the software available to RISC OS 4 users. In my current position, it's far easier to say "Sorry, I don't support Select, Adjust or the A9home" than it is to try and make my software run on these machines. Can somebody explain how this helps anyone?

 is a RISC OS Userstevef on 22/8/06 11:36AM
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In reply to Druck: if only it was as simple as that, I think you will find that the work for Adjust32 has subsidised Select4 not the other way round! Also what makes you think Select users have subsidised Adjust ROMS? They I'm sure are being sold at a gross profit. Early adopters always pay more! Few if any posters here (inc. myself) know more than about 50% of the full picture, with hindsight some things could have been done/presented differently but things change unpredictably. It is a pity that a positive announcement only generates negative comment, it could make some people wonder why they bother!

 is a RISC OS Userchrisevans on 22/8/06 11:50AM
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Isn't it as simple as 'ROL delivered nothing to Select subscribers'? They paid their money and got nothing back. So now they (the subscribers) are annoyed.

It could make some people wonder why they bother! -- Sprite

 is a RISC OS UserSpriteman on 22/8/06 12:03PM
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The Adjust ROMs are the result of the first 3 years of the Select scheme development. Select subscribers paid 3 subscriptions totalling £300 for that work, Adjust ROM purchasers get it for around £70. Therefore Select subscribers are subsidising Adjust, but I don't have any problem with that, it was made clear at the start of the Select scheme, this would happen.

In the 3 subscription periods between the last Select 3i4 release and now, has provided nothing for Select subscribers, but has instead worked Adjust32 for the A9Home which is essentially just the 32bit version of 3i4 (with a few tweaks). What is being called "Select 4" is work beyond this point to give features over and above those in Select 3i4.

Therefor it is entirely disingenuous to suggest that the Adjust32 work is in anyway beneficial to current 26bit Select scheme subscribers, and has not in effect been subsidised by their fees. 26bit Select subscribers should only be contributing to features of Select 4 beyond those of Select 3, and not the 32bit work. If there is ever a 32bit Select for the Iyonix, then an inital fee reflecting a proportion of the 32bit work could be fairly levied.

 is a RISC OS Userdruck on 22/8/06 12:55PM
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Druck: "Who in their right mind is going to fall for that for the 3rd year in a row?"

People who want to support ROL as essentially a charity venture, to donate funds for the good of the platform as a whole.

However, if this is the state in which the platform is in, how much longer can it continue, I wonder?

 is a RISC OS Usertamias on 22/8/06 2:55PM
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What is very frustrating is the duplication of effort. Somebody developed 32-bit for Castle and somebody else developed 32-bit for ROLtd. Utter madness for a small platform such as ours.

I blame both Castle and ROL for this mess since they are headed by two people who just can't sit down together for the good of platform, pathetic really.

 is a RISC OS Usermripley on 22/8/06 3:42PM
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tamias wrote>"People who want to support ROL as essentially a charity venture, to donate funds for the good of the platform as a whole."

That may be the laudible intention but the trouble is it *fails* surely? Something that can seriously p***es off subscribers who pay and get nothing within the period of a subscription is *bad* for the platform.

It could be argued that the delays have damaged ROL's credibility and may have moved people *off* the platform, it will have prompted others to not resubscribe (I refer you to David Ruck above) and then (to cap it all) ROL have provided an OS to emulator products that have lured (I would argue) a fair proportion of RO users away to Windows.

Sensible things like opening providing documentation freely (online) or for a nominal charge (on CD) would engender some good will at relatively little development cost or financial expense - and even this ROL have not seen the wisdom of doing.

Again I ask if *Castle* can do this - why can't ROL ?

 is a RISC OS UserAMS on 22/8/06 5:34PM
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ROL have a very different business model from Castle so a comparison is not always fair.

In this case though, the negligible income they would draw from such sales versus the perceived added value it would add to Select would surely make it worth giving away as Castle does.

 is a RISC OS Usermarkee174 on 22/8/06 6:09PM
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markee174>Well yes both companies *do* have a different business model.

But here's the thing, to develop an OS you *must* document it (otherwise your own developers' don't have anything to work off). Therefore documentation *always* costs. ROL *used* to sell the PRMs for around 30 Quid (if I remember correctly), surely they could do so again and simply "tag on" the Select documentation and make some of the money back.

As I argued before documentation on the net acts as an "advertisement" showing off what you've done and what extra functionality your OS provides. Otherwise who knows really what Select does (I've never used it - how difficult *would it* be to program). I don't know and can't find out - other than by buying it. In the case of Iyonix I can read in gory details all about the extensions to FileCore, changes to Unicode support and so on - at least I have some notion before I buy. You get the feeling off the Castle site that they *want* you to know how it works and what it does, while the ROL site gives you some bullet point features but no detail on the API which from a programmers perspective would be interesting and more likely to encourage interest and (even) a sale.

ROL need *positive* publicity and some good will - surely making their documentation available either freely (on the net) or for a nominal charge (like they did with the PRM CD) would be a realitively low cost way of getting such positive publicity?

 is a RISC OS UserAMS on 22/8/06 6:31PM
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@AMS: All former RISC OS users I know have used RISC OS as long they possibly could. But for many, there came a time when they had to do more and more of their work on other platforms, because RISC OS could simply not keep up with the changing requirements. If VirtualRPC lured users away from RISC OS, then surely that must have been because Windows was better suited to meet their requirements. So it would not be VirtualRPC's fault if users switched platforms, but RISC OS' fault for not meeting the requirements.

 is a RISC OS UserJGZimmerle on 23/8/06 12:12AM
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JGZiimmerle: I agree, VRPC probably maintained users rather than lost them.

If you actually need to run windows (glad I don't on my own kit) then (apart from stupid security systems) it is a good alternative to keeping an old RPC running.

For me, a stand alone RISC OS system is not enough. I have a mac as a second machine.

If my circumstances were such that I could only have a single machine, then I would probably have to ditch RISC OS, unless a Mac VRPC were released. Fortunately, that is presently not the case, and hopefully VA mac will appear at some point before it becomes the case.

I don't think virtual machines are anything to be frightened of, they are becoming mainstream to run windows anyway.

 is a RISC OS Userjess on 23/8/06 9:51AM
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It is unacceptable that some folks who have paid a subscription and recieved nothing in return. The charity argument does not wash either because people did not subscribe in the knowledge that they were making a donation to a charity. For my part, I paid for a set of Adjust ROMs and recieved them by return of post which, to me, is the right way to do business. However, I do not believe that the intention at ROL was to deceive. I am sure if they could afford to do so, they would refund money or give a longer subscription for the monies paid. (More than the three months already given). I suspect that they can not, at the moment, afford to do so. However, this state of affairs, if it remains unresolved, must surely be killing any future for the ROL subcription scheme.

 is a RISC OS Usermartin on 23/8/06 9:00PM
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JGZimmerle>Microsoft are worth better than 46Billion USD they can throw money at projects, they have 1,000s of programmers, they have a (almost) a monopoly of the OS, document formats and certain applications. And you want RISC OS Ltd and Castle to compete while one of those (ROL) are giving RO customers the oppertunity to freely try out Windows.... have I missed something here ?

When's the last time MS allowed people to try out Mac OS X? Would they do that do you think? Would it be a clever thing for them to do?

They're worth 46 Billion because they don't do stupid things like that. Getting your OS emulated on another platform puts it at risk. There is *always* the lure of the new.

Windows has access to some technologies that are inherently closed and unavailable on RISC OS, some of this technology (e.g., Windows Media) would require a very costly license from MS (which MS may not even give) or other 3rd party vendors (e.g., CSS licenses for DVD replay, various streaming technologies etc.,) who charge equally large license fees). It follows that RO could not ever compete, because the "playing field" is not a fair one.

The pertinent question to ask is how many of the 3,000 VARPC licensees *still* purchase and use RISC OS hardware and software. I'd wager very few (given the relative lack of VARPC users who responded in the drobe poll of RISC OS users some ways back). It's not whether this is necessarily an indicator that Windows is better - but rather that once people are convinced that a VARPC machine is a RISC OS machine the battle is lost - then after a while why bother firing up VARPC to start TechWriter to write a letter when I can just fire up MS Word and do it that way ....

In either event ROL's initial instincts to *not* support emulation (when VA5000 first appeared) was the *right one* IMHO, the subsequent change of heart (when MD's Alpha PC portable with VARPC was released) was IMHO the wrong one.

If people want to leave RO fine let them, I don't see why we should encourage them or make it any easier - I can't see MS or Apple encouraging their users to do likewise - nor would they - because to do so is monumentally *STUPID*.

 is a RISC OS UserAMS on 25/8/06 7:32PM
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AMS: "If people want to leave RO fine let them, I don't see why we should encourage them or make it any easier"

Rewind to the late 1980s and recall Acorn's insistence that people would want to emulate PC software. Fast-forward to the early 1990s when Acorn wasted a huge amount of effort on co-processor boards. People will always turn to the Dark Side, but the best approach for RISC OS Ltd and friends is to encourage software development and to have people make nice things for the platform which might tempt people back, not to lock them into aging/discontinued hardware and to pretend that nothing else exists.

 is a RISC OS Userguestx on 25/8/06 9:09PM
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AMS: "I can't see MS or Apple encouraging their users to do likewise [emulating platforms]"

You are aware, of course, of the *massive* take up of virtualisation technologies on other platforms at the moment?

Microsoft releasing "Virtual PC for Windows" for free - previously having sold "Virtual PC for Mac"; the growing use of Xen and VMware on servers and desktops; the massive take up of Parallels on new Intel Macs (and Apple's own advocation of both Parallels and their own Boot Camp dual boot solution) and the entry of VMware into the Mac market?

Virtualisation is now big business. Everyone is doing it.

The only reason the RISC OS market *should* be afraid of it[1] is that it shows up the massive deficiencies of RISC OS as an operating system; the lack of software under development and the limitations of native hardware.

[1] Apologies for the anthropomorphism of which I was moaning in another thread, but you get the gist.

 is a RISC OS UserJaffa on 25/8/06 11:11PM
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Not everyone is doing it the same. Virtual PC for Mac only allows you to use Windows, Virtual PC for Windows only allows you to use other versions of Windows (officially), and only very recently thawrt the increasingly powerful VMWare has Microft stopped refusing to support Windows when run on Xen Virtualisation. Can you see a pattern there? If you pay for Windows you can run Windows on various hardware, but running anything on top of or instead of Windows is a no no.

Apple on the other hand have acknowledged that people might still need Windows for certain applications, and have used the advantage of running natively on x86 to offer the ability to switch to Windows when needed. They rely on their superior user experiance to ensure Mac OS is used as main OS, and people don't just stick in Windows mode, or buy a much cheaper Windows only computer.

We would like the situation to be the same for RISC OS, having the ability to both run on cheap powerful hardware and switch to Windows for things that only Windows can currently do. But is the RISC OS user experiance good enough to keep peope using it as their main OS, given the lack of application developement? As this would kill off native hardware, is their any commercial viability for a software only ecosystem without the revenue from hardware sales driving new developement? If commercial viability is replaced by open source, is there any hope for enough traction to achive anything significant? Will anyone ever focus on application developent, which is the one thing that everyone agrees is needed, regardless of hardware platform or OS licence?

 is a RISC OS Userdruck on 29/8/06 1:09PM
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Virtual PC for Mac doesn't "allow" only Windows, that might be the only supported OS (I can't be bothered to check TBH), but it quite happily runs Ubuntu and even my own nebulous WIMP OS.

However I agree with you on the rest of your points, however you say "is their[sic] any commercial viability for a software only ecosystem without the revenue from hardware sales driving new developement[sic]?" - the counterpoint to that is how much longer is revenue from hardware sales likely to be received? Is there really a viable business *there*, for an ever diminshing desktop market?

 is a RISC OS UserJaffa on 29/8/06 1:27PM
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how does a said Adjust User get access to the site :@P

as I have a copy and wanna see what its all about.

 is a RISC OS Userem2ac on 29/8/06 8:48PM
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