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RISC OS Select 3 in detail

By Chris Williams. Published: 7th May 2003, 16:48:07 | Permalink | Printable

Screenshots Icon cut'n'paste, filer thumbnailing, alpha sprite transparancy tip of the iceberg

As developers of the desktop incarnation of RISC OS 4, RISCOS Ltd. have today issued to drobe.co.uk the full RISC OS Select 3 feature list which includes the special secret features they have been saving 'til last. At the start of March this year, we obtained the limited provisional features list to the next public release of the operating system under the Select distribution. At this weekend's Wakefield event RISCOS Ltd. will be demonstrating Select 3 on their stand and also in the show theatre. Originally and admittedly tentatively, they intended to release the new version of everybody's favourite OS around the end of April however we're informed a public release will begin after the Wakefield event as RISC OS 4.36 enters the final stage of testing and packaging up for release. RISC OS Select is usually distributed first online to Select subscribers followed by a mailed CD release.

Essential info
Full detailed feature list
Official screenshots
Geeky modules listing

Our favourites
Curvy graduated icons
Icon cut'n'paste
Filer image thumbnails

After teasers of 'RISC OS 4+' towards the end of 2000 (if we recall correctly), it was Wakefield 2001 that saw the first announcement of Select 1, a softloading version of RISC OS that gets released through out the year to subscribers so they can quickly benefit from updates, enhancements and bug fixes made to the OS. The RISC OS Select team's aim is to get a release out about every four months, although like all big products, the actual release timings tend to flutter around the aforementioned estimation like a moth homing in on a light bulb (closer, closer, wait a minute, closer still, closer...) Despite competition from the 32 bit RISC OS 5 (developed by Castle Technology), RISCOS Ltd. has continued its support for 26 bit users and Select 3 is the result of this.

"Building upon the work done in Select 1 and 2, Select 3 improves upon both the significant changes made to both the graphics and networking components as well as adding many new features", the Select 3 feature list welcomes us. "The focus on Select 3 has been mostly based around stablising features from Select 2 and improving the desktop usability of the Operating System."

Below is our run down on the highlights of today's unveiled features. In italics is the descriptions from the Select development team, our chatter in normal type. The above right sidebar contains quick links for the impatient.

Icon cut and paste
Text in writable icons provided by the Window Manager is now able to be selected by keyboard and mouse.
It's a feature users have been crying for and we're glad to see it implemented. Highlight some text in a writable icon, hit control-c to copy to the clipboard, go to another writable icon, hit control-v to paste from the clipboard. You can also highlight some text in a writable icon and hit control-X to delete the highlighted text. You can even select text in your text editor, copy to clipboard and then paste the clipboard into a writable icon. The behaviour of the cut'n'paste system is configurable.

The filer can now display images as thumbnails, allowing photo albums and other image collections to be browsed more easily.
Any graphics file handled by the ImageFileRender system (PNGs, JPEGs, Drawfiles, Artworks, BMPs, full list here), is scaled down into a thumbnail by the Filer when a directory is in Thumbnail view. Thumbnail view is selected like the 'small icons' and 'full info' Filer views and is useful for quickly browsing image and photo collections.

Overhauled Paint
!Paint's internal and external operation has had a major overhaul to cater for some of the new features of Select 3, including alpha-channel sprites.
See below for alpha sprites. The menu layout and user interface to !Paint has been updated with floating toolboxes around the image being edited so each image has its own toolbox much like !Draw documents. There are now shortcuts to zoom and a colour toolbar which displays the RGB value of a colour for people needing such numbers (like web designers). Like the Filer, !Paint calls on the ImageFileRender system to load a range of graphics formats from PNG to ICO to Clear to JEPG to BMP, it can also save out PNGs as well as JPEGs and spritefiles. "A good number" of bug fixes have been included and better clipboard support.

Alpha-channel sprites
A new class of sprites has been created for alpha-channel sprites... Alpha-channel sprites allow each pixel to have variable translucency, which means that sprites can blend better to their backgrounds.
Currently, in sprites (native RISC OS bitmaps) with a transparent mask, a given pixel is either opaque or transparent. With an alpha channel, pixels can be semi-transparent by having multiple levels of transparency. The OS supports alpha channel sprites whenever it's asked to plot a sprite for user applications. !Paint can create sprites with alpha-channels, add an alpha-channel to an existing sprite, and allow editing of the alpha-channel.

Action buttons, as well as groups and other 3D-style icons have been improved and may be made round or given colours.
Briefly mentioned in the original feature list and given more detail this time. The Window Manager allows separate modules to draw the desktop's icon borders enabling custom icon borders. The supplied iconborder module allows the user to configure icons to have graduated fills, curved outlines and other colour and border effects. These effects can be easily enabled and disabled and example iconborder client code will be provided.

Recycle bin
Files deleted by the user can, optionally, be sent to a recycling bin from which they can be retrieved if necessary.
This is the classic desktop waste basket that hooks into the FilerAction system. When a file is deleted, it's moved to the bin. After a certain configured time, the bin expires old deleted files which are permanently removed. Before a file is expired, it can be retrieved and restored if accidentally deleted.

Zero Configuration
ZeroConf is a means by which an address can be obtained for a machine on a network without any configuration process.
The name 'zero configuration' says it all really and is similar to the configuration used by Access.

Don't forget
  • New utility Netlights is included which indicates network traffic from the iconbar. Command windows opened by single tasking apps are now opened in the center of the screen rather than near the bottom left corner of the desktop. Directories starting with a '!' but contain no !Run obey file aren't treated or displayed as applications and instead remain ordinary directories. JPEG handling is much more robust now and can withstand corrupted data thrown at it. The TextArea gadget renders text more quickly than before and supports the clipboard.
  • Internet, ShareFS and Freeway have had issues relating to large file transfers addressed. The Internet module can now handle changes in interface addresses more reliably. DHCPClient and ZeroConf client both respond to *ShowStat to provided their statistics, for those who like their stats.
  • FileSwitch also no longer leaves streams open if a 'close' fails. OS_EvaluateExpression-type expressions can now extract directory or leaf names from a string, canonicalise a filename and generate a string from the current time.
  • Softload ROM images are now sorted into date order, making selection of ROMs much simpler from the Softload configuration plugin. The Resolver configuration plugin is now able to locate DNS servers on the local network. DNS servers are used to convert textual domain and host names like www.drobe.co.uk or myriscpc.home in IP addresses your computer can understand. The Filer configuration plugin has been re-written and includes configuration settings for the new thumbnail view. The TimeSetup plugin, now used to set the computer time and date, is now capable of setting the timezone - a bug emphasised as the UK entered BST earlier this year.
  • Many, many internal tweaks and bug fixes, documented by the Select developers if you wish to check.

And more
This feature list is all on top of the original Select 3 feature list which includes a WIMP priority sprite pool, a key taskwindow bugfix and Appletalk support in ROM so RISC OS computers can contact AppleTalk file and print servers. Screenshots from RISCOS Ltd. that illustrate new aspects of the OS can be found here, with our captions. We hope to do a review of Select 3 when the product begins shipping to end users.

It's clear RISC OS Select 3 is definitely a "sum of all parts" case. Whilst single features like Filer thumbnailing and the much improved !Paint are all very nice, it's when all the separate features come together to form a much more friendlier, productive and cohesive desktop environment that Select 3 truely hopes to outshine its rivals.

Finally, while RISC OS Select was originally designed to run on RiscPCs, A7000s, RiscStations and Micos, it appears the StrongARM powered Microdigital Omega is able to boot and run RISC OS Select with minor glitches.


Select 3 in action (screenshots)
RISCOS Ltd. RISC OS Select website

Previous: Foundation discloses Select 3 secrets
Next: Surftec-STD launch DigiFlash2


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This all looks lovely. Definitely worth buying.

 is a RISC OS Usermoss on 7/5/03 5:47PM
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Whee. Clipboards! Thumbnails! Beautiful alpha PNGs. I love it. :-)

 is a RISC OS Userimj on 7/5/03 5:49PM
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Woo. Stuck record, I know, but all sensible and nice features that I've been expecting Select to add.

-- Peter, drobe.co.uk

 is a RISC OS Usermrchocky on 7/5/03 5:52PM
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Excellent! A formidable list of features to make my Iyonix jealous of my RiscPC!

One question - can alpha sprites be used as icon sprites, ie. for application icons? If so, will they be blended to the iconbar, filer and pinboard background? If yes, then wohoo! -- Simon Wilson, Boulder, Colorado

 is a RISC OS Userksattic on 7/5/03 6:15PM
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Can we see a screenshot of the full desktop with 'Netlights' and the 'Recycle bin' on the iconbar?

 is a RISC OS Usermiddot on 7/5/03 6:28PM
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ksattic> yes. Anywhere you can use a sprite, you can use an alpha-channel sprite.

 is a RISC OS Userimj on 7/5/03 6:32PM
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It's about time the user inteface on !Paint was revamped

The image view app looks promising. Perhaps it could be expanded on in the future to be able to select an image source like a scanner - you know bit like windows imaging in W2K Pro.

-- Paul Stewart, Bletchley, Milton Keynes

 is a RISC OS Usersa110 on 7/5/03 6:38PM
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'recyclone' is not such a good name. It does not seem to fit in with the simple verb names of the other apps, like paint, edit, draw, browse... they should name it something like 'trash'.

 is a RISC OS Usermiddot on 7/5/03 6:39PM
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You never really see "!Recyclone" in a filer tho. It's a bin. It sits there. You sing its praises when you need to undelete stuff. :-)

 is a RISC OS Userimj on 7/5/03 6:49PM
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Trash is primary American though. Recyclone does sound a little odd, but at least it's unique - it won't get confused with anything else. I agree though that the name isn't as obvious as "Paint" or "Draw", though. -- Simon Wilson, Boulder, Colorado

 is a RISC OS Userksattic on 7/5/03 6:49PM
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Could I have said "though" any more times? ;o)

Though. -- Simon Wilson, Boulder, Colorado

 is a RISC OS Userksattic on 7/5/03 6:50PM
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I'm not sure I like the look of the new !Paint, actually. I rather liked having the tools in a window on their own, with more width and less height.

However, the hex representation of the current colour and the other neat things in the new !Paint might make me change my mind...

 is a RISC OS Usertakkaria on 7/5/03 6:52PM
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It's impossible to please everyone.

 is a RISC OS Userimj on 7/5/03 6:59PM
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It's a HUGE improvement over the original !Paint that had remained static for a number of years though.

I keep getting sent 'Select - your subscription has expired' letters,... the features in select 3 are *really* making me think twice about my decision to not subscribe.

I'll probably end up re-subbing at wakefield. Damn the fantastic improvements! :-) -- Ian Hawkins (g0tai)

 is a RISC OS Userpiemmm on 7/5/03 7:41PM
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I'd would have liked to see support for TIFF files in Select 3.

Am I right in thinking that the new 'ImageFilerender' system can have other file formats easily added by 3rd parties?

 is a RISC OS Userquatermass on 7/5/03 7:41PM
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quatermass - yes. Quite easily in fact. This version has added an incredible number of plug-ins already for IFR, and once added, and IFR-supporting application can use them, and all the clever transformation stuff that IFR allows you to do on them.

The API for IFR /is/ documented - if you wanna see what it does, go and root it out. IFR has seen some updates for Select 3 though - so make sure you check out the new doc when it appears too. -- Andrew Hill,

 is a RISC OS Usermd0u80c9 on 7/5/03 7:49PM
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Finally, proper anti-aliasing of app icons. Does nayone else have an ugly Easi/TechWrite icon on their beautifully decorated backdrop? Now with this, it will anti-alias to the backgraound, not just qhite (or grey)! Hoarah! !Paint looks great! Also, with the apps without !Run files, do they still display any !Sprite in their contents? ----------- Smiler - :D Alex Melhuish

 is a RISC OS UserSmiler on 7/5/03 8:47PM
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Why does the info box say "© Pace Micro Technology plc, 1987 - 2002", when everywhere else it says 2003? -- Julian G. F. Zimmerle

 is a RISC OS UserJGZimmerle on 7/5/03 8:54PM
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That looks cool. Well done to RISCOS Ltd for another bunch of hard work. -- Andrew Harmsworth, Cambridge. www.gcse.com owner and author

 is a RISC OS Userharmsy on 7/5/03 9:11PM
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ditto chocky, most of these things are to be expected, blah

 is a RISC OS Usernex on 7/5/03 9:54PM
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Hi middot! I also don't like 'recyclone'. This name isn't short and it doesn't sounds good. I prefer '!Basket'.

 is a RISC OS UserGregor on 7/5/03 9:54PM
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It's a play-on-words of 'Recycle', I believe.

Chris, drobe.co.uk

 is a RISC OS Userdiomus on 7/5/03 10:04PM
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It does sound like a robot from RobotWars, you know one made out of paper mache and wire coat hangers. :D

 is a RISC OS UserSnig on 7/5/03 10:11PM
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Recyclone: I will destory you all with my mind warping ray Flibble: Noooooooooo, It burns my eyes

Recyclone sounds like a Marvel rent-a-baddy :)

 is a RISC OS Userflibble on 7/5/03 10:23PM
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Or even a weather report.

"We have areas of high pressure coming on from the continent and an area of low pressure coming from across the atlantic. Notice from the south, the area of middle pressure reaching up across Cardiff, a Recyclone."

 is a RISC OS UserSnig on 7/5/03 10:51PM
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If those storms that hit the US this week return, would that be a recyclone? -- Andrew Hill

 is a RISC OS Usermd0u80c9 on 7/5/03 11:23PM
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quatermass> The ImageFileRender and ImageFileConvert systems are fully user extensible and docs are provided to select subscribers. It's really very easy to add new types. I've got an IFR up my sleeve which I hope to release if I can make it stable!

I'm sure you'll soon have IFC_TIFF sorted for us, Stuart. ;-)

 is a RISC OS Userimj on 7/5/03 11:23PM
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Is the thumbnailing cached in any way? Ie. are the thumbnails recalculated every time the directory display is opened? Will I have to wait and see for myself? -- Simon Wilson, Boulder, Colorado

 is a RISC OS Userksattic on 8/5/03 1:18AM
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There's a cache of the scaled-down sprites while the filer is open. It's dropped when the window closes.

 is a RISC OS Userimj on 8/5/03 2:18AM
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I must say this all looks absolutely marvellous. Well done to all involved. I may finally have to scrape together the pennies to subscribe. Can't wait !

 is a RISC OS UserMendosa on 8/5/03 9:31AM
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And now for a daft idea. Could Aemulator be used to run Select on the Iyonix via a multipal booting method? Nah , sounds too simple but is it feasable?

 is a RISC OS Userjlavallin on 08/05/03 09:45AM
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No. Much of the functionality of Select is in the OS itself, and cannot be easily separated. This is part of the reason that any theoretical RISC OS 5 Select would likely be a great deal of effort.

 is a RISC OS Usermrchocky on 08/05/03 10:08AM
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True but it *has* to be done.

This situation of 2 versions of RISC OS must change.

Just like the 2 versions of USB.

Just like the non co-operation between companies.

It is killing the market.

 is a RISC OS Userepistaxsis@work on 08/05/03 10:59AM
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I wouldn't say it is killing the market. The market is looking more promising in the past 6 months than ever before. I do beleive you are right, these issues need to be sorted out. Although I think a bit of competition might be good, just to get their socks in order.

 is a RISC OS UserSnig on 08/05/03 11:10AM
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Compare and contrast:



 is a RISC OS Useranon/ via on 08/05/03 12:28AM
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We liked: [link] better ;-)

 is a RISC OS Userg0tai on 08/05/03 12:33AM
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We didn't! ;)

 is a RISC OS Usermonkeyson on 08/05/03 12:55AM
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I can't download that picture, I can't even get to the iconbar index page www.iconbar.com and have not been able to get there for a few days now. Am I the only one with that problem ?

 is a RISC OS Useranon/ on 08/05/03 1:22PM
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works fine here bent bracke

 is a RISC OS Usersa110 on 08/05/03 2:02PM
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So Bent is the only one here who can't surf the IconBar and I am the only one who still consider Select a cosmetic shade above the original RISC OS 4. Nothing new from the OS department, then.

 is a RISC OS Usermaus on 08/05/03 2:41PM
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> works fine here bent bracke Strange. I have just tried it again and it gives a "Failed to connect to the remote host" :-( There are no problems connecting to other sites.

Any idears ?

 is a RISC OS Useranon/ on 08/05/03 2:47PM
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Re. two versions of RISC OS

Castle, Microdigital, RISCOS Ltd. and Simtec are all giving talks at Wakefield.

There are bound to be questions asked about compatibility in OS versions and USB interfaces.


 is a RISC OS UserMartyn Fox on 08/05/03 3:02PM
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I would like to be able to double-click on a writ(e)able icon, or select the text in some other way, and replace the selected text simply by typing in new text. Can I do that yet, or will I have to delete the old text first?

It was to do this sort of thing that I wrote the IClear module almost ten years ago. I've been pressing since then for the Window Manager to take over this function and render IClear obsolete, because the Window Manager could do the job so much better.

It finally seems to have happened!


 is a RISC OS UserMartyn Fox on 08/05/03 3:08PM
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Martyn: The Window Manager can be configured to behave like Windows (highlighted text deleted and replace on the next key press) or to instead keep on inserting new text.

From what I recall, IClear selected the whole icon. With the new Window manager, you can use the mouse or cursor keys to highlight portions of the icon text, if you so wish.


 is a RISC OS Userdiomus on 08/05/03 3:15PM
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Martyn: It can be set up to do what you ask, and more. The selection can be automatically cut to clipboard when you start typing. Superbly handy when you then think "Oh, actually, I wanted what was there". Ctrl-V and it's back. :-)

 is a RISC OS Userimj on 08/05/03 3:38PM
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select4 (or 5 - to match ;-) ) *must* be RO5 compatible


but we are now victims of personalities.

and they all have their issues.


Surely castle can pay RiscOS ltd enough to get it done?

After all the iyonix is all about having enough money to do it your own way - including some inferior *nix OS's...

I use RISC OS because I love the simple way it works and the fact that it is simply *incredible* in high res.

There is no other OS that works so well at the current limit of CRT as RISC OS (windows is sh1t at 1600x1200 and *nix can be as bad)

Neither of the much vaunted new computers is really a complete solution.

OK as we are going to upgrade from nearly 10 year old (and beyond...) machines the said manufacturers can get away with denying us the bleeding edge of hardware - Oh and we expect this...

After all the last RISC OS machine that pushed the edge was the Archimedes...

Luckily we have such an efficient OS the we will not notice the difference (and have not since the A5000)

won't we...?



 is a RISC OS Userepistaxsis_RISC OS on 09/05/03 00:20AM
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I believe the StrongARM RiscPC pushed the edge after the ARM3 Turbo A310's.

 is a RISC OS Userg0tai on 09/05/03 09:07AM
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Epistaxis - there's nothing wrong with supporting other OSes on Iyonix. Indeed, they're more likely to sell more Iyonixes if they support linux well, because they can sell outside the RISC OS market. And modern versions of linux support 1600x1200 very well - I'm running that at the moment!

However, I agree that the two-OS situation is bad. Even Castle's new OS comparison makes OS5 look like a poor relation (kudos to Castle, though, for putting this up!). If we get an OS5/Select hybrid then I think we could all be happy, and even more hopeful for the future!


 is a RISC OS Userjohnpettigrew on 09/05/03 11:42AM
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Does anyone know whether the new Select-style alpha-channel sprites are the same format as Photodesk alpha-channel sprites?


 is a RISC OS Userjohnpettigrew on 09/05/03 11:43AM
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g0tai: I think epistaxsis is right, in that the original Arc was faster than the PCs available at the time, whereas the two examples you cite (while pushing the envelope of the machine they were in) only boosted the speed to match PCs, they didn't set a target to be matched.

 is a RISC OS UserStoppers on 09/05/03 11:45AM
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I remember the SA RPC was on the cover of Byte magazine on a little bit of card with a metal key which if you took to Acorn world, could win you a RiscPC, on the card I think it said that it was the fastest personal computer in the world. I really think it actually was for a short space of time so I think this was 'pushing the edge'

 is a RISC OS Userthegman on 09/05/03 12:18AM
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KSAttic - you asked about thumbanail cacheing.

Each one is rendered whilst multitasking - so your window opens immediately with, say, a JPEG icon as usual. Then it tries to render the thumbnail. Once that's done, it's cached. Very slick :o).

 is a RISC OS Usermd0u80c9 on 09/05/03 12:48AM
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IClear does indeed select and invert the whole icon. This was the only way I've been able to come up with for safely doing something which basically interferes with another application.

As I said, I thought that the OS should be able to do the job so much better. Clearly now it does.


 is a RISC OS UserMartyn Fox on 09/05/03 12:49AM
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Does anybody know WHEN we get these goodies?

See you all at Wakefield.


 is a RISC OS UserMartyn Fox on 09/05/03 12:50AM
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At a guess, judging by previous announcement->release date times, I guess around 4-6 weeks for Select 3i1 to go on the subscribers website. The full release and CDs will probably take quite a bit longer. Just a guess, tho.

 is a RISC OS Userimj on 09/05/03 1:26PM
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The article says after the Wakefield show.


 is a RISC OS Userdiomus on 09/05/03 1:28PM
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Simon> When the SA RiscPC was released, it was faster than currently available PCs (certainly in terms of chip clock speed) at the time. Heds might be able to confirm/refute this.

 is a RISC OS Userg0tai on 09/05/03 2:25PM
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I just don't get the point os Select. It's nice to see these features certainly, but seeing as they're pretty much standard on Windoze, Linux (Gnome and KDE) and MacOS, how come we have to pay £155 for the privelige of getting a few 'tweaks' that they get for free - I mean, when they update their OS they normally get a major OS update (or downgrade for Windows) for the money. Sorry but it just seems a bit too expensive to me, even if you do get 4 updates a year, there really hasn't been anything that significant to mention.

What about decent features like Virtual Memory or (god forbid) a decent printer driver? I'd much rather see RISC OS become a recognisable competitor than a pretty toy.

 is a RISC OS Useriamnotamused on 09/05/03 3:45PM
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If you think Select is "just a few tweaks" on RISC OS 4 then you've not even bothered to look at it, have you? Do, then you'll see why it's well worth it.

 is a RISC OS Userimj on 09/05/03 3:55PM
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The size of the platform again plays a significant part here, Morgan. Developers need to cover costs from such a small user base which is why you pay extra for, yes, the priviledge of using RISC OS still. There's fewer developers working on RISC OS than the OSes you cited so it'll obviously take longer for features to appear.

Suggesting things like virtual memory is worrying. I don't like the idea of a StrongARM swapping pages over the internal IDE bus, thank you ;)


 is a RISC OS Userdiomus on 09/05/03 4:22PM
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If you already have RISC OS 4, then it only costs 24p a day to use Select.

 is a RISC OS Userjonix on 09/05/03 4:36PM
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With Select, I read you get a year's subscription, does that mean that if Select 3 comes out in (say) one month, I'm better off buying it then, as I might get one more update out of my year's subscription (as opposed to if I bought it right now) or are you always assured of getting 3 or 4 updates or something?

This latest update has finally convinced me that Select is worth having, but I boot off a RapIDE disk, are there any known problems with this?

 is a RISC OS Userthegman on 09/05/03 4:54PM
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"When the SA RiscPC was released, it was faster than currently available PCs (certainly†in terms of chip clock speed) at the time." I can't say for sure, but looking on Google Groups, there's a message from Stuart Halliday, dated 1996/05/21, where he states the price of a 200MHz Pentium CPU (£730)and talks about "when people upgrade in a few months from a ARM 700 to a StrongARM 200 for only 250UKP (+VAT)" So it doesn't sound likely (although there's always the 2Hz difference).

 is a RISC OS UserStoppers on 09/05/03 6:48PM
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Nope - there should be no probs. whatsoever with booting from a RapIDE disk.


 is a RISC OS Useranon/ on 10/05/03 11:10PM
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re. Selection of text in writable icons:

I only managed to have a quick play with Select at the end of the show (while they were asking non-exhibitors to leave the hall!) and could not find any way of configuring the way it behaves. Certainly, it didn't clear the selected text when I typed new text.

Perhaps all will become clear when we get it.


 is a RISC OS UserMartyn Fox on 11/05/03 5:57PM
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