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Software news in brief

Published: 10th Dec 2006, 14:04:13 | Permalink | Printable

RSS, NetSurf, desktop utilities, games, and more

News in briefAnd now a round up of news you may have missed.

A9home alone
In the past fortnight, reports of bugs and other faults on the official A9home mailing list have became intertwined with users pondering out loud when the next RISC OS Flash ROM update would come. A9home reseller CJE Micros was quick to put down fears, adding that development is continuing albeit slowly.

One A9home punter said: "I'm just wondering if there is any news on an OS update for the A9 - I'm getting more than a little concerned that nothing seems to be happening, and I have £650.00 sitting under the counter doing nothing."

Chris Evans of CJE Micros said: "Work on the next Flash ROM update is progressing steadily, but slower than we would all have liked. Whilst the end is in sight, no date is yet available, I am sorry to say.

"I do realise that users have been being very patient and that is appreciated, I am assured the developers are getting there."

Look left
Dutch programmer Dick Tanis has created four interesting desktop utilities and published them on his website. Smartmenu makes sub-menus open to the left of a menu if there's no space for them, such as if you open the sub-menu close to the right-hand edge of the desktop. DismountFix addresses the "Too many discs" error seen when DOS-formatted floppy discs are dismounted. HostFSPatch allows applications such as Computer Concept's Portfolio to work with HostFS. Dick's also made a tool that resets the shutdown status of a computer, and produced a patch for the Impression Hyphenator module.

Feed me
RSS client Sargasso has been bug fixed since its substantial rewrite earlier this year. Version 2.01 includes support for automatically updating news feeds, and Sargasso fans have been quick to point out that the software is "much faster" since it was converted from python to C.

Gone netsurfing
Open source RISC OS native web browser NetSurf has officially moved to a new online home - netsurf-browser.org. Also, a number of enhancements have been worked into the software since last month, including better image memory handling, a new UTF-8 friendly status bar, and various bug fixes to the URL database, and menu and window handling.

SDL game blasts off
Alan Buckley has ported Unix game thrust to RISC OS with the help of SDL, and uploaded it here. The idea is to fly a spaceship out of a tricky underground terrain without damaging the heavy ball attached to your ship. It's based on the early Superior Software classic game of the same name. A new map pack for the RISC OS port of Heroes of Might and Magic 2 is now available for a tenner.

Pieces of eight, pieces of eight, sqwark
Intelligent Interfaces has published its BBC Micro IEEE488 interface user manual online for people to download as a PDF. The move came after retro-geeks lobbied the company to unearth the documentation for the cira-1983 hardware, which was otherwise known as the Acorn IEEE interface. Continuing with the Beeb theme, a new mailing list for people who use their 8bit Acorn kit for robotics and other control projects has opened.

Software updates
MoreDesk is up to version 1.14; labelling utility LaBella can deal with custom numbering systems, such as theatre seat numbers, and label background colours can be picked by the user; CSVamp and meDDLe have been bug fixed and updated; Jan De Boer has made a sudoku solver; Regex library module RegEx is up to version 1.06; Paul Vigay has created a new web gallery app; and ARMalayser has been bug fixed to version 0.56.


News, views, and writs to the usual addresses

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I'm distressed to see Superior Software's Thrust described as a "C64 Classic", given that it was first released for the beeb.

 is a RISC OS Userchrisj on 10/12/06 4:59PM
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Messenger Pro 4.23 also shipped out on friday, and registered users should have received it via email. If you are a registered v4 owner and haven't received it, please contact us at the usual R-Comp address. v4.23 includes a number of enhancements including overhauled handling of foreign character sets, UTF-8/unicode support etc. It also includes a simple HTML decoder so that HTML-only emails can be viewed and (arguably more importantly) replied to, without leaving Messenger.

 is a RISC OS Userarawnsley on 10/12/06 5:41PM
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In replay to Andrew Yes, MessengerPro just keeps getting better. 4.23 is a welcome "Free" upgrade to Pro4 range.

One suggestion would be to explain how the HTML decoder works as it took me a while to realise that on emails with both HTML and text you need to use the "Parts" arrows to move between the simple HTML view and text.

Keep up the good work and I look forward to the Netfetch and Dialup updates.

 is a RISC OS Userbluenose on 10/12/06 6:18PM
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In reply to bluenose:

As for the HTML decoder I might be able to shed some light having probably triggered the UTF-8 support and beta tested the HTML part and having had the odd email chat about this feature with the programmer. Basically there's three kinds of email around: text only, html only and those containing both. The first and third are not problem since the text part will show and usually is no hassle to read well. The drag (or even pain in the a...) is that more and more email is in HTML partially since most Windows apps default to HTML, newsletters prefer that format for enhanced options and SPAM & virusses etc. need the HTML format for automatic action.

The problem with HTML mails is that it is full of HTML tags enclosed in "<" and ">" which make reading hard if you're not using a browser. On the other hand I'm not into using a browser for email reading since it is slow and the risk that the mail contains some image which is loaded from the server and thus confirms my reading the mail validating my address for the sender. Now the new MPro addresses just this issue mainly by removing nearly all HTML tags from HTML only mails (URL references are handled a bit differently) so that the mail is suddenly legible. In addition to displaying the cleased HTML as text the full HTML is presented as attachment.

Overall I must say that this MPro upgrade is one of the best since it really increases usability due to UTF-8 support and HTML stripping. Very good - *thanks* Colin and Andrew.

 is a RISC OS Userhzn on 10/12/06 6:59PM
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The HTML decoder actually goes a little further than hzn describes, as it tries to handle a number of things (eg. alt text for imges images, lists, entities) intelligently so that what is displayed is as close an approximation as possible, but in textual form. The important thing is that it is text, which can then be replied to properly.

 is a RISC OS Userarawnsley on 10/12/06 10:11PM
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I also slipped out a new version of ARMalyser on Saturday between Christmas parties.

After realising that of the close to 4 hours it took my Iyonix to generate around 700MB of output from the 20MB Firefox 2 binary, just 10 minutes was for the disassembly, but over 3.5 hours was for the assembly. After running it through a profiler, I found a block of code which did a linear search for a valid preceding assembler label to use for each line, (not significant for small binaries, but horrendous with 5 million lines of code/data), and low and behold right above it was a comment /* #### inefficient, use a binary chop */ So thats what I did, and now assembly takes 3.5 hours less, slightly quicker than the larger disassembly output.

BTW GCC SDK users with fast Linux boxes can get the output in around 70s blushing

 is a RISC OS Userdruck on 11/12/06 10:15AM
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