New user guide for RISC OS 6 as release nearsPublished: 28th Mar 2007, 20:45:04 | Permalink | Printable
Killing bugs made a priorityRISCOS Ltd are preparing a new overhauled user manual as part of the long awaited full release of Select 4 RISC OS 6. The rewritten user guide will cover new features added since RISC OS 3 and 4, and the new version of the operating system is expected to be released once this manual is finished. The OS is also being tested and bug fixed, and it is understood the project was hit by delays caused by illness and family bereavements.
The news emerged as ROL faced criticism on the newsgroups as punters feared the project had stalled completely.
ROL's Select team are now said to be solely concentrating on crushing bugs at the moment ahead of a release, and are not spending time adding to the previously published feature list. The coders have also migrated from using CVS to SVN for storing the operating system's source code. It is understood two people are working full-time and eight part-time on the project.
Printing is understood to be working again, as is Viewfinder support - which now uses new drivers written from scratch that take advantage of the operating system's hardware abstraction and the ATI cards' hardware acceleration. The preview release of Select 4 RISC OS 6 was missing printing and VF support.
The abstraction in RISC OS 6 is said to be much improved over the interfaces in 32bit RISC OS 4, as seen on the A9home. This means a few A9home drivers may need to be re-worked in order to run on RISC OS 6, and it is expected RISC OS 6 will be released first for people with RiscPC-class machines with an A9home version to follow soon after. A formal release date has not been set, although users at the Midlands usergroup were told by ROL's Paul Middleton that a release could be seen within the coming month.
A source said: "It is a frustrating time, but because of these personal issues, things have been delayed. It should have been released two weeks ago, but bugs are still being fixed and builds tested. There's no one particular bug being tackled, but 32bitting the OS and adding hardware abstraction has revealed various issues.
"A huge amount of the OS has been rewritten or redesigned, and RISC OS 6 is much more powerful than previous releases. And future releases should happen more frequently too, certainly people won't be waiting more than six or 12 months in between again."
The team are also spending time on documentation, which is seen as one of RISC OS's weaker areas. ROL's Aaron Timbrell and Dave Holden are putting a new user guide together, with portions taken from Alligata's First steps with RISC OS and a separate series published by RiscWorld. The new manual is based upon the RISC OS 3 applications guide, and the RISC OS 4 manual, and includes documentation and guides on how to use the latest Select features.
A draft version of the user guide is being circulated among the ROL developers for them to proof-read and contribute to, with the final document edited by Aaron and Dave. It's understood the product will not be released until the documentation is complete. An early copy shown to drobe.co.uk came in HTML form, although ROL have a set of templates that can output documentation in various formats.
As it stands, the document features guides on standard applications including Alarm, Chars, CloseUp, Draw, Edit, Paint, SciCalc and Squash, with more to follow, such as ChangeFSI. The documentation does cover Select-only features, from Paint's new toolbox and alpha channel editing to Squash's gzip functionality - as well the usual features found in RISC OS 3 and 4. For new users, the manual explains basic RISC OS concepts, from switching the machine on to discovering how the desktop works.
A large portion is spent on explaining how to use the Filer, and how the user can manage their files. Space is also given to the pinboard, using a RAM disc, the display manager, shutting down the machine, and various other aspects of RISC OS. In the printing section, the current draft recommends: "Unless you really know what you are doing, you are strongly advised to seek expert advice from someone who understands printing with RISC OS before purchasing a printer."
Another large section deals with Configure, which has expanded considerably since the early RISC OS 4 days. The guide explains how users can control various aspects of the operating system, from boot up and networking to the desktop bin and system logging. The whole guide, currently all 3MB of it, is well illustrated with screen shots and diagrams.
Aaron confirmed: "I am working on the next†draft, with hundred of corrections and additions, but it's not complete yet and will need to go round the proof reading cycle."
He added earlier this evening: "The release is nearly complete. I apologise that it's late but would ask people to wait just a little longer."
User guide preview grabs
ROL also came under renewed pressure to produce weekly, fortnightly or monthly progress reports to keep subscribers and potential customers informed of on-going work. Some subscribers were upset at the lack of noise coming from ROL towers during the long periods of development.
Speaking earlier, Aaron said: "ROL has had a kicking in the past for making progress reports.
"Paul Middleton was showing a beta of what will be Select 4 at the South West show. Instead of announcing that 'feature XY and Z are progressing', he thought, quite rightly, that it was best to show where we are at, for example, with Viewfinder and printing support.
"So instead of talking about it, we show it."
RISCOS Ltd had hoped to launch Select 4 at the South West show in February, but instead previewed working printing and Viewfinder support after the product was hit by delays. The company also showed off its second Foundation DVD compilation.
• CJE Micros said it would be making an announcement soon regarding printing on the A9home. Owners have so far found difficulties with printing from the ARM9-powered AdvantageSix machine.
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