RISC OS Gone in 60 SecondsBy Chris Williams. Published: 31st July 14:25:54 | Permalink | Printable
OK, maybe a little more than 60 seconds, so sue us. Despite the fact that drobe.co.uk has been rushed off its feet redeveloping the site, we've still been keeping a trained eye on RISC OS news and events.In true Icon Bar style (thanks for the mention Rich), we've tried to squeeze as much as possible into this quick run down - if you'd like more information on a particular software or hardware release please get in touch and we'll be happy to expand on it. Right, towards the end of May, Jason "longfiles" Tribbeck released version 0.8 of his excellent speech recognition software VoiceCon, which started out as a "to see if it could be done" project. Written in a combination of C and assembler and with a pile of coding tricks to ensure it runs efficiently, you can use a microphone or microphone headset and a RISC OS sound sampler podule to enter text and even URLs. Various sampler podules are supported, including the Riscstation 7500's builtin sampler. Having written Sonar, the sound sampling software for the VTi and Argo sampler podules, Jason set his sights on voice recognition. For the Riscstation support, Jason was kindly handed a RS 7500 machine to toy with and add to the list of supported hardware.
"I would really like to get natural language parsing, so you won't need to train it much, and it should have a very good stab at recognising any word", commented Jason to drobe.co.uk.
"When the basic algorithm was working, I was surprised at how small it was - 9K of code does the main job of phrase recognition, with each word being 516 bytes (in 0.08 it is now 644 bytes), so I saw potential in the embedded market, such as light switches that are voice activated." If anyone would like to donate a sampler to this editor, please get in touch.
Ok, so 'gone in 60 seconds' was a little underestimated. Maybe we should have used a rough-time clock to write the headline, how about 'Gone in more or less 60 seconds'? Rough-time isn't, by the way, what you get if you wander around a RISC OS show wearing a Microsoft baseball cap.
"A 'rough-time' clock [is] one that tells the time in words to the nearest five minutes, in the manner that humans do, e.g. "It's five to seven" rather than '6:55pm'", explains NewAlarm author Harriet Bazley.
Initially armed with Andrew Ayres' extensive and indispensible DrWimp library and Steve Haslam's memory managing, ideally titled for a possible disaster movie, SlidingHeap module, Harriet went to work on her RISC OS 3.1 A5000 to craft NewAlarm. Even though the application was working well by allowing you to set alarms in rough-time form as well as telling the time in rough-time format, new versions of NewAlarm weren't released as the program was dogged by a seriously bewildering bug that caused a system crash when the user shutdown the computer. After getting a net connection, our intrepid programmer approached the well of knowledge that is the comp.sys.acorn.programmer newsgroup for help and learnt from Justin 'I've written one or two programs' Fletcher that NewAlarm's problem was due to a well known fault present only in RISC OS 3.1, known as the 3D icons bug. Having negoiated this bug for RISC OS 3.1 users, NewAlarm development continued until the present and recently released version of 1.32.
While writing this article, this editor is also browsing through drobe.co.uk's favourite website, theregister.co.uk, and has just happened upon an article about a new search engine to rival everybody's favourite engine google.com. What with all these search engines available, it was only a matter of time before someone wrote an application that autmoated queries to multiple search engines. Riscsearch by Patrick Mortara will contact 9 different search engines and submit your query to it. As the search engines reply to the query, Riscsearch decodes and processes the results, filters out duplicate entries and neatly displays it in your web broswer. A pretty nifty piece of kit we thought so drobe.co.uk contacted Patrick regarding his net utility.
"At the moment there's not really much to say, except that I have very little time to work at !RiscSearch but have a lot of ideas for it", replied Patrick. "Maybe you could ask your visitors if someone wants to help me with developing new decoders and keeping the already existing up-to-date". No we won't Patrick, is there anything else? "I nearly forget to say that I'm really pleased about the feedback I've been given", enthused Patrick, "it really encouraged me to work on !RiscSearch. Feedback is something I could never get enough." 'nuff said we think.
Moving on, if you have a modern printer then it probably features lots of built-in maintance and control functions. We're talking print head cleaning and realignment functions here, useful stuff that can be done using the PC software that came with your printer or maybe a complicated set of button pushing on your printer. Either way, RISC OS users lose out and this editor has to admit to using his PC Card just to check his Epsom photo printer. However, much like a programmer releasing a much needed program, Jochen Lueg has released desktop printing companion NoButton.
NoButton currently supports the Canon 4650, Canon 7100 and Epsom 750 Photo printers although more printers can easily be added on request. Depending on your printer, you can test nozzles, turn the printer off, change the print head or launch a test print. A very neat application and no confusing setup - just make sure you've got the right printer plugged in before using any of the features or your printer will probably tie dye your desktop.
"Why is this announcement so interesting?" remarked Jochen to drobe.co.uk, obviously unaware of his application's usefulness. "I simply allow owners of various printers to do with their Acorns what they can already do with the [PC] software that came with their printer." You don't say? According to Jochen, you can find out how the PC software talks to the printer by selecting 'Print to file' (in the Windows printer control panel or whatever it's called), then select a control function and finally examine dhe output file to see what command codes are rushed down the printer cable telling the printer what to do. NoButton has a little database of these command code sequences and also sends them out when required. NoButton is shareware.
More desktop software and we're into June now: Chris Nelson's Finder is a feature packed file search utility which can be given a file name, a file type, file creation dates/times and file sizes in order to search your harddisc for any matching files. All matching files are listed in a results window for you to browse, it looks like I'll never lose another file again. Damn, there goes that excuse, cheers Chris ;) Finder started out back in 1994 as Chris' first C++ program with the purpose of adding Windows style file searching to RISC OS and despite being announced on usenet, Finder didn't receive a lot of feedback. In 1999 though, a Finder user going by name of Richard Cassidy drew up a Finder feature wish list for Chris, who quickly updated his file searcher with the new features as well as including RISC OS 4 support.
RISC OS 4, as you should know, allows more than 77 files per directory and upto 256 character filenames (unlike RISC OS 2 and 3) so Finder needed updating to work on RISC OS 4. Like all good programmers, when Chris returned to the Finder source code, he was hit by the usual "How on earth does this work again?" headache. Going by what Chris explained to me, don't expect Finder to be open source any time soon.
"I put in the improvements discussed back in 1999", Chris explained when drobe.co.uk got in touch with him, "then thought of loads of new ones: multiple file type searches, auto scrolling of the file search window, ctrl-select to select groups of files similar to in Windows etc etc. In fact, I kept thinking of new ideas to improve the useability of the application... Anyway, I finally ran out of ideas, so I guess !Finder is now finished". Lovely piece of software, keep it up.
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