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December news in brief

Published: 21st Dec 2007, 17:14:24 | Permalink | Printable

Games, file sharing and more

Here's a round-up of RISC OS news from this month to fill you with some Christmas cheer.

Built to last: Alan Buckley has unveiled a new website that automatically produces the latest versions of several RISC OS ports of programs and games. The Autobuilder takes the source code from open source packages originally written for Unix-like platforms, and compiles them into RISC OS applications, ready for download by punters.

Alan says the Autobuilder has freshly baked a new release of TuxMath, a maths game for youngsters, DosBox, an Iyonix-only MS-DOS emulator, and Wesnorth, a turn-based fantasy combat game. The Autobuilder can also churn out libraries including a new version of the libSDL package.

Peer-to-pear shaped: Rebecca Shalfield has unleashed upon us all a web-based service that allows punters to share their RISC OS programs with each other. Using a peer-to-peer networking model, users running her new RiscOsNet software can search their own hard discs and others' computers for applications. Programs that are being shared can then be downloaded, either from another punter or direct from an official website, and run.

The idea is novel: users will have a greater chance of finding an obscure utility, for example. However it will rely on a lot of people using it to be successful. RiscOsNet was written in Python and appears to require RISC OS 6 and 4.39 to zip up files for sharing, although the author says the software was tested on RISC OS 5. You'll also need a JavaScript-happy web browser. There's also the issues of security and possible copyright infringement to consider too.

Rebecca told us: "RiscOsNet comes into its own when you don't know the vendor's website or even if such software exists for the task you are trying to achieve. RiscOsNet will inform you when a piece of software you have installed is older than one available on your Intranet or the Internet."

You can take a look at the program here or read its manual here. Incidentally, Rebecca is selling a web server for RISC OS written in Python.

In brief: Paul Vigay has updated his data encryption tool FakeFiles that tries to befuddle the world's top spooks, the RISC OS allocations service will be closed until the new year, Ray Favre has updated his calender app Calibre and programming library DrWimp, and ID3TagEd, a utility that allows users to store track titles and other information in MP3 files, is up to version 0.24.

And finally, Simon Wilson says he has managed to almost double the speed of his OpenGL-based 3D graphics engine. IyonixMesa built using the recent GCCSDK 4.1.1 pre-release runs "much quicker", according to Simon.

Also, we're throwing together this year's Best of 2008 Drobe awards. If you want to nominate your favourite commercial product, freeware/shareware/open source program, RISC OS person of the year and best project of the year, drop us an email. Voting on the shortlist will open over the weekend.

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1st post!

Rebecca's RiscOsNet sounds like a novel idea. I feel it will be very limited by the OS spec required to run it. I was thinking of running my Risc PC so share the software I have but RISC OS 4.02 doesn't cut it. -- Sprite

 is a RISC OS UserSpriteman on 22/12/07 4:10PM
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"RiscOsNet was written in Python and appears to require RISC OS 6 and 4.39".

What about RISC OS 5? Well the help file states "It has been developed and tested on a Castle Iyonix running RISC OS 5.0x" - amazing that drobe missed that one and only listed them ROL RISC OS flavours :-)

Help further mentiones "It is reliant on the MiniZip library file in RISC OS Select to zip up shared downloads; MiniZip is currently not available for RISC OS 5 and appears not to work on the A9." Strange, indeed to use that since there are Zip apps around for all RISC OS variants - be it SparkFS or InfoZip.

 is a RISC OS Userhzn on 22/12/07 4:38PM
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Using MiniZip was the obvious choice for ROL versions of RISC OS as it made zipping up an application directory extremely easy. I tried using the MiniZip file from my A9 on my Iyonix (both 32-bit computers) but the MiniZip file on my A9 appears not to work anyway.

I then looked at other compression programs. SparkFS is commercial so I can't be certain that end-users have such software. From the command line, InfoZip (v2.21beta) appears not to be able to compress an application directory. ZipEE (v1.48) does not work on the Iyonix as not 32-bit. If anyone knows of any 32-bit compression software that can compress an application directory and be controlled from the command line, please do let me know.

 is a RISC OS UserRebecca on 23/12/07 1:01PM
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Rebecca: Perhaps a RISC OS BitTorrent client is a better idea?

I've seriously looked for a general 32-bit compatible (command line controllable) application compressor utility, but unfortunately with no success. That really did surprise me a bit, since indeed not everyone has SparkFS and the ability to create and extract archives is pretty essential. The freeware PackDir seemed like a good candidate, it always worked very well for me, but curiously it's still only 26-bit compatible while the latest version was released in June 2006.

"RiscOsNet comes into its own when you don't know the vendor's website or even if such software exists for the task you are trying to achieve. RiscOsNet will inform you when a piece of software you have installed is older than one available on your Intranet or the Internet."

Please don't take this the wrong way, but... isn't that why we use Google and software databases like the ANS RISC OS Filebase, for example? Now, I know there are obscure little utilities and apps that have seemingly disappeared from the Net, but assuming for the moment such software is 32-bit compatible, isn't a forum or Usenet a better place to ask? Like the article mentions, your system would require quite a lot of people hooking up for it to be successful. I can imagine an instance where someone would occasionally read forum and usenet posts, but on another computer, and his or her old Acorn machine containing the desired software isn't connected. However, the ability of RON to inform a user of outdated software is extremely useful, as I've experienced with many apps on OS X.

So, while I applaud your idea and efforts in realising it, perhaps porting an open source BitTorrent client could be a better fit for such a task? In addition, it provides the benefit of being able to access a far greater amount of software. Also worth a mention is the fact that there really aren't that many applications being actively developed these days. At least, not so many that it would clutter up a bookmarks directory in NetSurf, in my opinion. Furthermore, there's Drobe's 'in brief' round up of new and updated software once in a while. I really don't like to be sceptical of new software developments in the RISC OS community, but perhaps the current model of this promising idea is a bit impractical?

 is a RISC OS UserhEgelia on 23/12/07 3:49PM
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Rebecca: Infozip is more than able to compress application directories. How on earth were you calling it? Also look at UPP's tar and gzip tools, as they'll get you a better compression ratio than using the Zip format.

 is a RISC OS Userrjek on 23/12/07 4:10PM
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I have now located a 32-bit version of zip (part of InfoZip) that works on RISC OS 5. In order for RiscOsNet to work on RISC OS 5, users will need to place this absolute file in their Library directory.

InfoZip is indeed able to compress an application directory. However, I am programmatically generating a command line and then executing it. In this command line, I am including full path information to the source and the destination. For some reason, additional directories then get generated in the zip file itself.

 is a RISC OS UserRebecca on 23/12/07 8:58PM
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If you give the full path it will indeed include all the directories, you can however instead make it relative to the CSD

So if you wanted to zip up ADFS::HardDisc4.$.Utilities.!Mousky into ADFS::HardDisc4.$.MOU/ZIP

You would just do: *Dir ADFS::HardDisc4.$.Utilities.!Mousky.^ *Zip -rq -I ADFS::HardDisc4.$.MOU/ZIP !Mousky

 is a RISC OS UserIvanDobski on 28/12/07 12:45PM
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