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May news in brief

Published: 14th May 2007, 02:24:59 | Permalink | Printable

All the news fit for publication about a fortnight ago

Look, she's allowed to read the newspaper. See how our tolerant society has advanced.Drobe towers have been empty of late for all manner of reasons, from Ofsted to coding to earthquakes. Here's the news we may have almost missed.

A new version of APDL's DrawWorks XL software is on sale. The vector graphics package can now produce sprites in up to 16 million colours, works better with Select and RISC OS 6, and includes various other tweaks, according to its publishers. Talking of which, APDL have also 32bitted music notation software Rhapsody4, which is also available for a fee. And, continuing the musical theme, the Music Scribe software package is available for free download along with an accompanying article.

Bill Graham's previously commercial DrawAid, a BASIC library for creating drawfiles, is now available for free from Eddie Lord's website. Speaking of BASIC, Mike Williams's BASIC V: A Dabhand Guide is to be reprinted, again, and a Windows BBC Basic edition is on the cards too. R-Comp have also prepared printed manuals for their DataPower 2 and DataPower Home packages - call or email them to order.

SuperDoku (its purpose should be obvious) is up to version 1.11, serial port utility Serlist is now 32bit safe, CMOS configuration tool cmosd is up to version 0.02, a bug fixed SuperFPEm module is available (from some sexy drobe.co.uk webspace too), and Rebecca Shalfield is looking for people to beta-test Serviette, a RISC OS web server she has developed and hopes to later sell.

And penultimately, just so everyone knows: Watford Electronics, the company that over a decade ago produced Beeb and Acorn upgrades and was 'famous' for its wacky green and black striped Acorn User adverts, went into administration recently. Also, various parts of the Amiga scene now seem to be suing other parts - it all feels very, very familiar. Note to Amiga peeps from some niche platform in-fighting veterans: chin up. As a side note, AMD (who now own ATI) have pledged to open source the drivers to their graphics chips, which could make life easier for future RISC OS hardware projects.

And finally, as one reader put it: "In a shock move, Iconbar has decided to publish an article about the state of RISC OS which cautiously brings some non-depressing news to their readers' attention. A mystery writer called Chris was responsible for this surprising turnaround."

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The Music Scribe software is not Richard Hallas', it's the work of Philip Hazel...

And you have two 'Finally' paragraphs.

Geoff Potter

 is a RISC OS UserGeoffP on 14/5/07 8:30AM
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Watford Electronics stopped doing any RISCOS stuff some time ago so their collapse is more a sign of the cut-throat nature of the PC market rather than any general malaise in RISCOS land.

 is a RISC OS Usermarkee174 on 14/5/07 11:41AM
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GeoffP: AIUI Music Scribe was taken over by Richard Hallas from the original author a couple of years ago.

 is a RISC OS Userapdl on 14/5/07 1:00PM
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PMS really is a genereous offer. I've kept a demo program for years on my hard disk, but the price to upgrade to the real thing always discouraged me, in spite of its fantastic capabilities (until now, I did simple music editing with ABC, which seems to be a sort of derivate). This is really a very unexpected and very welcome present. Thank you very very much.

Paul Sprangers

 is a RISC OS Userdelink on 14/5/07 1:48PM
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The PMS software was written by Philip Hazel and brought up to date by Richard Hallas. Neither are maintaining the program and neither should be approached with enquiries regarding the program. I'm happy to field enquiries and, if the response is as enthusiastic as some I've received by post (and above), it might be a good idea to set up a discussion list. Help to improve the documentation would be appreciated and Qercus magazine is very interested in publishing tutorials by experienced users of the software.

 is a RISC OS Userjc on 14/5/07 4:28PM
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I would thank Dan Maloney for updating and bugfixing SuperFPEm. I found it a very valuable aid in maintaining my RPC 'in shape' i.e. helping the old machine's heart to sustain today's speed. Keep up the good work!!

 is a RISC OS Userbernie on 14/5/07 4:39PM
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Indeed - I've never attempted to claim ownership of PMS, so I don't know where the credit to me in the above article has come from.

For the record, I did design the PMS music fonts (the RISC OS outline ones, that is; the PostScript fonts were done by Philip Hazel). I also produced a few of the support files and ran the source through Castle's C compiler to produce a 32-bit version of the final 26-bit release. But that's the extent of my contribution.

A few points of interest to prospective PMS users:

1. Rhapsody 4 can actually output files in PMS format. Although the results need a fair amount of work afterwards, it may be a preferable shortcut to the text-based input of music, especially if you want to play in via MIDI.

2. SharpEye (RISC OS version 1, rather than Windows version 2) - which is still available from me as a commercial product - also outputs in PMS format, so you can OCR music and then process the results with PMS. Again, as with Rhapsody, the results require work but may save time compared with manual input.

3. Unix users may like to know that a Unix version of PMS, now called PMW, is available from [link] - it's syntax-compatible (in the main) with PMS, though it lacks certain features (such as the nice, integrated front-end: PMW is just a command-line tool).

4. The KeyNote music fonts that were at one time supplied with Sibelius 7 are actually visually compatible versions of my PMS music fonts. I created them to be able to produce similar-looking output from Sibelius on the occasions when I needed to use it instead of my usual choice of PMS. (I don't know if Sibelius 7 still includes these fonts, but I still have them myself.)

5. The PostScript-capable version of PMS, which is the 32-bit version supplied, used to cost 500 quid. (The non-PostScript outline-fonts-only version was 150.) So the fact that it's now free represents a very good deal. :-) (PMW is also free.)

I've made a great deal of use of PMS in the past (and still use it occasionally), often for professional work. Whilst attention needs to be paid to its output, and it's a good idea to know what you're doing musically (it doesn't try to get all the layout right for you like Sibelius does), once you've mastered it it's exceptionally flexible, and capable of extremely impressive results. It's not really directly comparable with Sibelius because it's a very different kind of tool, and aimed at a different class of user, but actually it can achieve things with relative ease that are all but impossible with Sibelius. PMS is my favourite music typesetting tool.

As for future updates... as far as I'm concerned, the program is finished. Frankly, there's not a lot that it won't do, notationally speaking, and for the things that it can't cope with, a great deal of effort would be required to implement them. For 'standard' notation it's exceedingly capable. I'm personally not really of the opinion that it should be developed away from the capabilities of the newer PMW; at present, they're essentially the same thing for two different platforms, which is helpful.

As for the documentation, let's just be clear that the existing docs just fall a bit short in terms of the PDF quality; and the PDFs *do* display correctly on other platforms (such as on my Mac). The graphical shortcomings seem to be related to the RISC OS software, sadly (I've tried both !PDF and RiScript 5, and neither renders them correctly). There's nothing wrong with the way the documentation is actually written; indeed, Philip's PMS manual is one of the clearest and most well-written guides I've seen. It's just bbbiiiggg.

I agree that the documentation is lacking in terms of tutorials, though, and given my long-term use of the software (I first started using it seriously in about 1990) I could probably produce something useful on the subject myself, given the time and inclination. However, are there really enough people in the RISC OS market these days with an interest in typesetting music to make any such tutorial articles worthwhile? I personally rather doubt it (though anyone who disagrees is more than welcome to say so here). The thing about PMS is that, wonderful though it is in many ways, it's an engraving tool, and not something that encourages 'lightweight' use. People who just want to do quick musical arrangements or layouts without too much effort are probably better off using Sibelius.

 is a RISC OS UserRichardHallas on 14/5/07 5:21PM
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Cor, I didn't know Philip Hazel wrote stuff for RISC OS. He's also the author of the excellent Exim MTA/SMTP server, and libpcre, a library for providing Perl-compatible regular expressions. You learn something every day.

 is a RISC OS Userrjek on 14/5/07 5:29PM
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rjek: That's right. I wondered whether to mention Exim in my post above, but decided I'd written enough already! Exim came long after PMS, of course.

Philip also, I believe, wrote the guts of Acorn's MakeModes monitor definition utility.

 is a RISC OS UserRichardHallas on 14/5/07 5:42PM
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Richard: It may be that the author of the drobe article read the announcement extract "neither the author, nor Richard Hallas..." and missed out the 'nor'.

Thanks for adding the information above.

 is a RISC OS Userjc on 14/5/07 6:54PM
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