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RISC OS Select 3 unveiled

By Chris Williams. Published: 4th Mar 2003, 04:10:41 | Permalink | Printable

Provisional feature list eye openers

RISCOS Ltd., developers of the desktop version of RISC OS, have this week issued to Select users a "provisional highlights" list of Select 3, the next release of the OS under the Select subscription system. They stress the word provisional here because features may be added to the final release and some features may be pulled for various reasons. RISCOS Ltd. are also tentively aiming for an online release in about two weeks time with a finalised release penned in for the end of April, as is usual practice with Select releases. Wise move aiming for the end of April as the first of April is always consumed with insensate news, if you know what we mean.

As always, new versions of RISC OS Select endeavour to bring as many updates and enhancements to users of 26 bit systems; an operating system provides standard routines and an environment for software that a user can use and Select does boast quite a few new APIs for third party developers to use to get the OS to do the hard work for them - one key example is the ImageFileRender subsystem and the colour map module. Below is a run down of the provisional feature list, the original announcement can be read here.

Provisional highlight list for RISC OS Select 3 [Select features in italics, our wafflings in normal]

'IconBorder' plugin system allows the default slabbed borders to be rendered in a customisable manner. FilterManager has been updated to support multiple icon border filter clients. Example bordering source code will be supplied.
The new icon borders apply to all normal desktop icons and buttons and are highly configurable in terms of appearance, roundness, egde thickness, blending and colour; they can also be switched off if you prefer. Third party developers can write their own icon border clients to provide alternative icon styles. Here's a screeen shot to give you an idea:

We're already quite fans of these new rounded icons as they do inject a lot of colour into the desktop and help make action buttons more obvious. It probably won't be for everyone but we suspect you'll quickly warm to it if you like customising your desktop.

OS_CLI is handled by an external module, CLIV. Some calls have been moved from the kernel to a new module called LegacyBBC.
The RISC OS Select developers have been moving elements out of the kernel in order to streamline it.

Internet, ShareFS and Freeway have had issues relating to large file transfers addressed. InetConfigure can now configure static IP addresses properly. Previous versions would retain the addresses stored in CMOS rather than using the new addresses supplied by the user. Internet module has had a fix for interfaces with no addresses never issuing service calls. DHCP client now supports address changed due to its deletion of the interface address. Previously this was not an issue, because Internet never issued service for address deletion, but now that this has been done it is now aware of this case. LanManFS has been improved, resulting in faster resolution of names on local networks.
We recall that the first Select release featured a lot of networking updates and it appears the aftershocks from this are still coming through with various updates and fixes to the networking side of RISC OS. A number of Select users on the user mailing list became unstuck with ShareFS problems, hopefully this can be cleared up in time for the final April release. Also, LanManFS's Transact SWI has been extended to include more communication types, such as WinPopup messaging. Finally, a new tool for configuring internet proxies has been added and changes to the interfaces can take immediate effect, if desired.

DragASprite no longer uses a 'drop' shadow when translucency is active. SpriteExtend would fail to generate code when translucent sprites were rendered in paletted screen modes where the eigen factor was EX0 or EY0. This allows sprites to be visibly dragged in such modes.
The translucency of DragASprite is a nice touch and the drop shadow was getting in the way.

Attempting to delete !Boot will now raise a warning from Filer_Action. Attempting to copy a directory called !Boot over your !Boot directory will now invoke the boot merge tool.
Remember, the !Boot now stores the softloaded ROM images of Select, (as well as all the user choices and shared resources, as usual), hence the stepped up confirmation system. Similarly, the system now automatically installs new components into the !Boot when their dropped over !Boot from the Filer.

When in EY0 modes, Pinboard now correctly sizes its background window on a mode change. The Pinboard configuration application can now be accessed from its main menu on the pinboard.

In Filer, the Help option is now greyed if a directory and application combination are selected. Filer windows have been updated to be more style-guide compliant and to address issues raised by the use of icon bordering.

The Sprite Pool has been updated with a number of slight modifications:
  • RAMFS icon now fits in with the new style of icons
  • JPEG icon now follows the bitmap style
  • Shared CD discs now look more like the CDROM icon
  • Addition of GIF, PNM, XBM, Sun raster, and BMP sprite icons.
  • LanManFS icon updated to fit better with currect style.

Various tweaks to the appearance and consistancy of the desktop.

ParallelDeviceDriver is now capable of reading Device IDs.
This allows the autodetection of the make and model of a printer connected to the computer.

Filer now offers to share directories as read only by default, rather than read-write. It makes sense not to share folders as public read/write by default. RAMFSFiler will share the disc as read only by default.

FileSwitch is now able to reference path variables (pseudo filesystems) through $, eg Music:$ for <Music$Path>. Writing to a path variable with multiple entries where a <path>$Write variable exists will now use the <path>$Write directory for the operation.
This is a logical change, seeing as files on your harddiscs are of the form ADFS::MyBigDisc.$.MyStuff.Moose. You can now use for example Photos:$.Jan2003 to refer to a directory that could be deep inside your harddisc, like ADFS::MyBigDisc.$.MyStuff.2003.Pictures.Newer.DigitalCamera1.Jan2003.

TextGadget Scrolling list boxes now display associated sprites more sensibly when selected; previously these would be displayed lighter than the rest of the line. The text is now positioned a little further across the window, away from the sprite in order to reduce the tight look that had been created. Toolbox slider gadgets would respond to clicks and scrolls over the wells, of the gadget even when the slider was set to be display only. They no longer react to such events.
And other toolbox updates.

ImageFileRender now provides *ImageFileRenderers command for listing the supported renderers. This is mirrored in a new SWI to enumerate the renderers.
ImageFileRender is the very useful module that uses plugins to render graphics files via a straightforward SWI interface for third party programmers. This reduces the need for each application to carry a separate JPEG, PNG etc. decoder as the OS can do this now for you. An image viewing application is also now supplied which can render any graphics files IFR is aware of.

New ImageFileConvert module is used with the Convert* modules to provide a generic conversion method, allowing conversion between different file formats through a number of SWI calls.
This means any graphic format IFR can handle (JPEG, Draw, PNG, PNM, BMP, Sun Raster, Artworks etc etc) can be converted in to a RISC OS sprite and then if desired, back into another suitable format. This opens up, for example, an OS provided Sprite-to-PNG and PNG-to-Sprite conversion. Incidentally, a ConvertGIF module is present which plots a dummy image instead of performing any decoding and conversion due to the otherwise requirement of a Unisys patent for the use of the LZW algorithm.
Our advice anyway is: Don't use GIFs. GIFs suck. Use PNGs.

New ColourMap module allows generation of colourmapping descriptors without recourse to assembler. Currently supported mappings are : Blend, Brighten, Contrast, Gamma, Identity, Invert, Monochrome, Monochrome and scale and User. Colour map descriptors can be chained together to create more complex effects.
Colour map descriptors can be used when plotting graphics and allow developers to in their software get the OS to malnipulate the appearance of the image without having to fall back onto complex assembler language to do the adjustments.

PCI memory reservation has been removed from the kernel, freeing 256MB of logical address space for use by dynamic area.
Never needed it, never will do either and we'll have you note that this a complete mirror image of Castle's campaign to significantly minimise the role of dynamic areas in RISC OS 5. 1GB of application space, whatever next.

The sprite file DesktopBanner$File is now loaded by the Desktop module, if it is present, and used as the welcome banner on entry to the desktop.
This means it's even easier to set up a desktop banner now simply by setting the DesktopBanner$File system variable before the RISC OS GUI kicks in after boot up - we particularly like our own custom banner (scaled):

Wimp now supports a 'priority' sprite pool which is able to forcibly override anything in the other sprite pools.
As it says on the tin, the desktop sprite pool is split into two halves - a normal pool and a priority pool. Icons and images in the priority pool take precedence over sprites in the normal pool. When a user adds sprites into the sprite pool (via *iconsprites), they can specify whether they want to add to the priority pool or the normal pool; this enables the user to force RISC OS to use sets of icons that may otherwise be replaced by applications loading in new sprites.

ScreenBlanker now supports a second-level blanking using DPMS. ScreenBlanker no longer uses CMOS to get its initial settings and defaults to 'off'.
This means the screensaver can kick in after say, 5 minutes of inactivity and then DPMS can kick in after, say 10 minutes of inactivity.

TaskWindow now includes a fix for 'The MessageTrans Bug'.
That old chestnut. Is now gone. Three cheers.

Plus more additions we've left out in our list to save space, the full list can be again found from the link at the end of the article. Also, we're told that the system configuration components of !Configure have been updated to indicate changes to the configuration of the computer by, as usual, noting a * in the title bar. RISC OS Select also now includes Darkhorse and Hangfire sets of screensavers, all configurable as expected.

Phew. My RiscPC will be pleased, see you late April, fingers crossed.


Select 3 provisional highlights
RISC OS Select

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Very, very nice. Enough said.

 is a RISC OS Userjonix on 4/3/03 7:57AM
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All very nice but hardly anything here to make RISC OS users want to go out and buy SELECT.

I'd stil like to see the ability to have plugins for the Filer Menu. That way I'd just Menu click on a file, select the Extra option listed and the action is performed on the file without me having to load the program first. Very handy I think.

With a suitable range of Filer Plugins supplied as standard, it would offer a very easy way for users who are not technical to do complex operations very fast.

I'm sure this would get a few people buying SELECT!

 is a RISC OS Userquatermass on 4/3/03 10:00AM
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That's the thing about Select. There are few individual features that would make people instantly want to upgrade from RISC OS 4. However, there is a huge list of improvements (some minor, some not so minor) throughout the whole system. Things that just make the OS nicer to use and make it impossible to go back to RISC OS 4. -- Spriteman.

 is a RISC OS UserSpriteman on 4/3/03 10:30AM
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Those screenshots look fantastic! I love the coloured buttons snd rounded borders. :)

The custom desktop banner thing is nice too. :D -- Michael Drake (tlsa) www.smoothartist.com

 is a RISC OS Usertlsa on 4/3/03 10:41AM
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quartermass> I certainly agree with your point about the Filer being able to have plugins. Such a feature would enable certain software to integrate with RISC OS much better (CVS is an example of this). Perhaps you could give me an example from your thinking?

Overall, I feel that Select is well worth the extra money.

 is a RISC OS Userjonix on 4/3/03 11:10AM
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And it works on the Omega too. :)

 is a RISC OS Usermonkeyson on 4/3/03 11:15AM
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An extendable filer that would allow other programs to send it "file"name would be great, could use it for ftp, mp3s, cd images, scp, samba, thumbnails, collation of all the dirs in a stuff$path, extra info for images/videos (size, res, colour depth). Add you own display types, menus, columns for full info. Then release it as open source so other people can do the same.

You could call it FakeFiler, or something good, whatever.

Select3: Two level dpms is useful, lots more bug fixes, more pointless pretty bits for people whose content inside the windows is too boring they have to play with the stuff around it, and a load of stuff that was available before but is now done in a nice consistant way for programmers. How many Select only programs have been released btw?

 is a RISC OS Usermavhc on 4/3/03 11:18AM
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The new Icon Border Plugin looks interesting although I personally think the alternative icons shown in the screenshot look awful.

However, I wondered if anyone could comment on whether or not it is now possible to do icons like the Mac OS X, XP or other systems?


-- Spriteman.

 is a RISC OS UserSpriteman on 4/3/03 11:25AM
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Commenting on what mav said about Select only apps;

I think that additions such as the ImageFileRender system will tempt programmers to use Select rather than spending the extra time to write their own code to do this. However, this can also raise problems in relation to apps not being RISC OS 5 compatible either.

Bummer, huh? -- Spriteman.

 is a RISC OS UserSpriteman on 4/3/03 11:31AM
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These are the kinds of improvements to Select I've been expecting - the list of bug fixes alone is huge - and many of the visual additions keep pushing RISC OS in the right direction to increase its appear and ease of use to new users.

The feature additions are never going to be what everyone wants (certainly I have my own list which I think unlikely), but I'll certainly be subscribing for a 3rd time when that rolls around at the end of the year.

-- Peter (Select Subscriber #1), drobe.co.uk

 is a RISC OS Usermrchocky on 4/3/03 12:25PM
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(Purely out of curiosity) Will features Select make it back into the Roms next time ROL have a batch made? Not really relevant for me, but surely this would encourage people to upgrade to RISC OS 4 (which I imagine is ROL's principle income) and the more people buying RISC OS 4, the more potential Select subscribers.

-- Ryan Hitch, Cottingham

 is a RISC OS Userdrjones69 on 4/3/03 12:31PM
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DrJones, I agree, but itsn't is more sense for them to get people to buy RO4 first then select, that equals more money and will enable them to shift however many rom-sets they have left. Although would be nice for them to drop the price for to encourage take up of those people who still haven't upgraded, but saying that as a RO4 and Select user, that would annoy me as already payed the full price. But if that's whats needed then they should do it. -- Paul Stewart, Bletchley, Milton Keynes

 is a RISC OS Usersa110 on 4/3/03 1:14PM
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What I would like to know is whether or not there is going to be any effort to combine RISC OS 5 with Select?

Have Castle/RISC OS Ltd said that this is never going to happen?

 is a RISC OS UserWalks on 4/3/03 1:16PM
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I beleive to a large extent this has been answered in the NG's. There was a copy of a posting made by PM posted last night which stated that Castle do not have the sources to RO5. It also stated that ROL have a letter from Pace saying they have not licensed a 32 bit RISC OS for use in the desktop marker to any manufacturer. -- Paul Stewart, Bletchley, Milton Keynes

 is a RISC OS Usersa110 on 4/3/03 1:21PM
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What Paul talks about above is beginning to piss me off - we need clear answers. Who owns what, who is the right to what etc. I'm losing faith. -- Gavin Smith, Carrickfergus

 is a RISC OS UserSparkY on 4/3/03 1:39PM
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sa110: Which group/thread etc? Email me if you can.

Chris, drobe.co.uk

 is a RISC OS Userdiomus on 4/3/03 1:40PM
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Does that mean that Castles RISC OS 5 is unlicensed/illegal?

SOunds like more FUD from ROL IMHO

 is a RISC OS Userrobert79 on 4/3/03 2:34PM
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"Following extended negotiations with Acorn Computers Ltd, recently rebranded as Element 14 Ltd, RISCOS Ltd is pleased to announce that it has now secured an exclusive license to complete the development of RISC OS 4."

That makes it sound pretty much as if ROL only ever had an "exclusive" license for RISC OS 4. Which is perhaps why Red Squirrel (RISC OS 3) and the Iyonix (RISC OS 5) may be legal.

If this is the reason, I'm surprised nobody asked Pace to bump the version number up by one before now. :)

 is a RISC OS Usernunfetishist on 4/3/03 2:39PM
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It all looks lovely. However, I can't help thinking that RISC OS Select has no long term future as a 26-bit version - because for the market to survive, it needs new blood - and quite sensibly any new users would opt for RISC OS 5. In other words, Select needs to combine with RO5 or die.

 is a RISC OS Usermoss on 4/3/03 3:50PM
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I'd buy 'RISC OS 5 Select' ...

 is a RISC OS Usersoutherner on 4/3/03 7:25PM
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I really like the idea of user-definable borders. I'd really like to have the ability to change the size/layout of the iconbar and window tools too.

Incidentally, I think the feature in Select 2 to change the position of the close icon is beneficial for Windows (and Gnome) users moving to RISC OS. -- Simon Wilson, Boulder, Colorado

 is a RISC OS Userksattic on 4/3/03 7:53PM
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It certainly does look like a formidable list of additions. Mind you those buttons look a tad bulky ideal if you're blind I suppose :oP -- James Carey

 is a RISC OS Userjmcarey on 5/3/03 1:06AM
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The improvements look pretty good. Lots of bugfixes, and some customisable cosmetics to make things nicer. I think it's great being able to customize the desktop as much as you can now.

I agree with Moss in the sense that RISC OS ownership seems pretty messy at the moment. RISC OS Ltd will eventually need to get the rights to develop the 32-bit OS, won't they?

 is a RISC OS Usertimephoenix on 5/3/03 4:13AM
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When people get to grips with the new buttons etc, I expect we'll have some good new themes being developed.

Will at least give AU something to put on a new cd to try and justify it's high price. -- Paul Stewart, Bletchley, Milton Keynes

 is a RISC OS Usersa110 on 5/3/03 1:01PM
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CD? They dropped CDs months ago for online stuff, remember?

 is a RISC OS Usertakkaria on 5/3/03 8:32PM
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Yeah, but they still kept the high price -- Paul Stewart, Bletchley, Milton Keynes

 is a RISC OS Usersa110 on 5/3/03 8:53PM
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tak : they dropped the online stuff following some interesting stuff left by the online CD editors webcache (or something like that) - though I did notice that [link] was oddly missing...

 is a RISC OS UserNodoid on 6/3/03 10:27AM
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