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VirtualRPC to be laptop friendlier

By Chris Williams. Published: 31st Dec 2003, 11:27:55 | Permalink | Printable

Power management feature, VVRAM and bug fixes

VirtualAcorn have announced this week that, with the help of RISCOS Ltd., they have developed a power management feature primarily for users of VirtualRiscPC with laptops. Copies of VirtualRiscPC shipped from tomorrow and onwards will include the new power management abilities and a free upgrade for existing users will be available shortly online via the VirtualAcorn website.

According to VirtualAcorn, the new power management feature "will reduce noise, since the machine's fan(s) will not be running continuously, and will significantly extend battery life when running RISC OS."

Also announced is a freely available VVRAM feature that enables VRPC users to use RISC OS with 8MB of video RAM, effectively allowing desktop resolutions of up to 1600 x 1200 in 16 million colours. This 'Virtual Video RAM' 'technology' was first seen in AdvantageSix's A6 Windows PC and VirtualAcorn's Aaron Timbrell took the opportunity to thank AdvantageSix for their "assistance and support" in presumably sharing the video tweak. VirtualAcorn warn that users will need at least a 2GHz PC to benefit from the upgrade. The VVRAM upgrade is available now online to existing users and will be included in copies of VRPC shipping from tomorrow.

Finally, a bug fix update is also available online to existing VRPC users, which addresses faults discovered by end users, including one error relating to the presence of high speed CD/DVD drives. New copies shipped from tomorrow will also include this update. You may recall the hiccup earlier in the year with VirtualAcorn's networking upgrade and we've noticed the networking upgrade has returned online, available to RISC OS 4 users while a Select compatible version remains in the works.

VirtualAcorn will also be charging UK VAT on top of their prices from tomorrow.


VirtualAcorn website - pricings, details, etc.

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Charging VAT - a good sign in one respect, they're making enough money to be above the threshold.

I wonder how ROS Ltd profits will skyrocket from the sale of licences on VARPC - I'd guess it will be one of the first years where shareholders may actually see a return on their shares.

 is a RISC OS UserNodoid on 31/12/03 1:10PM
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If VirtualAcorn have been forced to register for VAT (as opposed to voluntarily registering) this is a could be great start for the new year - I'm already adding 170 to price of any windows laptop I consider buying :-) Best of luck to them.

 is a RISC OS Userdrjones69 on 31/12/03 2:57PM
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A 2GHz processor to achieve such a low res?

says it all really...

Its a good job that laptops capable of doing it are only just becoming cheap enough

 is a RISC OS Userepistaxsis@work on 31/12/03 3:28PM
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Why is encouraging people to switch to Windows XP a good thing ? I mean that is the overall effect of all of this isn't it ?

The biggest winner must surely be Microsoft after all they've now got XP into the hands of people who might never have used it before (but for the sterling efforts of RISC OS Ltd, Virtual Acorn and a variety of "RISC OS" hardware merchants this may not have happened - so take a bow guys).

I wonder if they'll ever be upfront enough to stick a "Designed For XP Windows" icon on the RISC OS Ltd RO4 splash screen - at this stage they may as well.

Mental note to self - be less sarcastic next year. Gripes aside I hope you all have a happy New Year.



 is a RISC OS UserAMS on 31/12/03 4:44PM
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Emulation is short term gain at the expense of the long term survival of RISC OS. These are PCs, and are no more a RISC OS machine than any other middle of the road PC World laptop with a Spectrum emulator stuck on it makes it a Spectrum.

 is a RISC OS UserSparkY on 31/12/03 4:57PM
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Sparky: Why bitch about emulation - most of us here need a Windows PC to do real work, plus I don't see much in the way of hardware-based alternatives:

Omega's shrouded in mystery so much people have said they can't even figure out how to buy one;

Iyonix means buying a lot of new software and is 10 times the price of VARPC-SE for similar performance and can't run Select;

I don't see any Viewfinder+Kinetic+RO4 RiscPC's going around for 170ukp either....

 is a RISC OS Usersimo on 31/12/03 5:45PM
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Simo> The real problem is not the cost - but the fact ultimately it will reduce RISC OS to the same sort of irrelevant curiousty that a Spectrum Emulator is..... if that's what you want - fine.

As to VARPC-SE being the "same performance" as an Iyonix I think not. If you have a PC and want to use RISC OS fine VARPC-SE is a good option - the trouble is a lot of what's on offer here is *new hardware* running VARPC and this *is* damaging sales of *real* RISC OS hardware and to deny this (IMHO) is a tad shortsighted.



 is a RISC OS UserAMS on 31/12/03 5:51PM
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Surely it would be best for the "RISC OS on ARM" advocates to objectively assess the viability of a "real" laptop and put their findings up on a Web site, rather than leaving it to companies who clearly can't deliver to decide whether it is possible. It has been claimed that lots of different things prevent working RISC OS laptops from being made available: the case, no available hardware, lack of hardware abstraction, and so on. It seems to me that all of these no longer apply, except as red herrings and corporate figleaves.

 is a RISC OS Userguestx on 31/12/03 7:00PM
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The main factor that is pushing people towards emulation must be price. PCs can be bought for as little as 300, which are prefectly capable of running VRPC, which adds only 170 to this price. That's effectively 500 for a RPC with the freedom of a DOS based computer: native Linux/NetBSD/etc. and Windows compatibility. Compare this to a RPC (about 900 new with StrongARM) or an Iyonix and it's surely obvious why people are so attracted to emulation. What really needs to happen is a reduction in native prices. Does the Iyonix really cost 1000 to make? Perhaps dropping the price would increase sales and therefore increase their profits. I can understand they need the money but perhaps to compromise would in the long term yield better results. I would love to buy an Iyonix. I'm excited by how well the Cino player is progressing and software that hasn't been 32-bit certified is almost unheard of now. Unfortunately this isn't going to happen any time soon; I'm only 15 so have no income (not even pocket money) and I do realise money does not grow on trees for anybody, especially not my parents. RISC OS is an elegant, beutifully simple OS that is a joy to use, and it's native hardware is equally well engineered. The last thing I want to see is it end, bringing not only the end of a great OS but also an age of British technological engineering in electronics. Happy New Year everyone, let's hope it's a good year for everyone.

 is a RISC OS UserSmiler on 31/12/03 7:40PM
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Maybe the best way to keep RISC OS on ARM is RON, it's a very hard sell to convince anyone to get an Iyonix over a PowerMac G5 similarly priced PC, but RISC OS vs. WinCE on Psion netBook or Series 7 is a compelling argument. Lots of RISC OS apps are great, but maybe underfeatured compared to desktop counterparts on Mac/PC but EasiWriter or TextEase vs. Pocket Word/Excel might be a very different story.

 is a RISC OS Userthegman on 31/12/03 7:41PM
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Is VRPC really damaging sales of hardware?

Are people really buying it and a PC instead of an Iyonix?

If a user just wanted RISC OS, then they would be better off with a high end Risc PC than a virtual one.

It seem to me that VRPC + a new PC would be an alternative to abandonning RO altogether or having an RPC and a PC.

I don't think an emulated RO on any platform with a full OS underneath is going to win any new users. However, it is likely to regain users who had been lost and retain others who would be.

There is one market for emulation that would give the opportunity for serious numbers of new users - the consoles. The lack of games would not be an issue. All the available RO software would be things not otherwise available. (ie on windows system "This browsers can't... etc. I can't edit excel files" on a console "I can now look at some websites, I can now view excel files. I can email.") The systems would not be a threat to native hardware, (I guess a PS2 would manage to perform like a real A5000 or A7000 with 16M of RAM). They would make nice second machines for many existing RO users, and be the only option (if available soon enough) for ordinary users to word process etc on their consoles.

 is a RISC OS Userjess on 31/12/03 8:00PM
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Same old song about emulation!

The fact is that RISC OS is getting crappier by the month when it comes to doing the things that most people want to do with their computers. Yes I still prefer to work in the RISC OS environment but most other things, eg involving the internet (I can't log on for a session without the browser (O2) crashing or pages refusing to load) or multimedia, are a waste of time on any RISC OS hardware, old or new.

So unless these things improve (which I don't imagine they will) then I won't be buying any more truly RISC OS hardware. VARPC-SE on some sort of Windows machine is probably the only way to continue to use RISC OS (unless you are loaded enough to buy several computers!). At least then I can drop into Windows for the (many) things that are broken under RISC OS.

And yes, probably in the end that means the demise of RISC OS on ARM hardware. That's a great shame - but my pockets are not deep enough to do the rescue job that's needed. Are anyone's?

Happy New Year!

 is a RISC OS Usercynic on 31/12/03 11:53PM
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First one of the year - yeah (I hope!) - anyway I keep a WinXp aroud (mainly for playing games) and if I could amalgamate/replace my agin RPC with it I would -surely a, even an emulator encourages software porducers to continue - and at the end of the day I stick to RISC OS becuause I prefer the software on it - frankly I couldn't a rat's fart what machine it's running on - OK not quiet true, but as long as a _real_ RISC OS machine is 3x faster than an emulated one I don't see how the platform can lose :-)

 is a RISC OS Userdrjones69 on 1/1/04 3:28AM
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If emaultion isn't going to kill RISC OS, we need Virtual Acorn/RiscPC/Wahetver on top of an open platform such as Linux, as delivering RISC OS users in to the hands of Windows is suicide.

Those straying outside the emulation for the reasons people who have mentioned, will find themselves being locked in to the Gates monoply just like all other Windows users. Once they start spending money on Windows software, thats money that wont get spent on RISC OS software, and the entire market will then only consist of a diminishing supply of PD software. If it were based on an open platform with a much wider range of free software, there is slighly more chance revenue would still be available for RISC OS purchases.

I think RISC OS hardware companies pushing the emulated hadware better make the most of the oppotunity, as ultimatedly they are cutting their own throat. People wont keep paying a 50%-100% premium over the box shifters if their primary OS is Windows, rather than RISC OS which the company is uniquely able to offer support on. Again if the emulation was over Linux, the fact that over the counter support is far less common for it, would play back in to their hands and let them continue to have a roll.

So to sum up, its too late to ignore emulation as thanks to Gareme it works too well. But with utimately Windows will kill RISC OS even faster than it has been if we have to rely on it, and pay Microsoft to hammer the nails in our own coffin. Any chance of survival must be on top of a free and open platform which can provide additional benefits to complent RISC OS, and at the same time keep our users hard earned money out of Bill Gate's obscenely deep pockets.

 is a RISC OS Userdruck on 1/1/04 9:31PM
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For possibly the first time, I happen to agree with druck: the emulator-in-a-box solutions really should be based on open (ie. open source) operating systems. Given that the actual manufacturer of the hardware behind the A6 (and probably other emulator-in-a-box solutions) is supportive of Linux, even bundling Mandrake Linux in the box for various models, many of the usual excuses about hardware support should be fairly easily demolished.

So is it a port of VirtualWhatever or should ArcEm and Riscose get some more attention?

 is a RISC OS Userguestx on 1/1/04 11:42PM
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Well, I think VirtualWhatever on top of Linux is technically a good idea (and remember, I'm the ArcEm maintainer), but such suggestions don't really address all the practicalities of the situation.

Firstly, MD's marketing (if I can be so bold as to call it that) is of a dual OS solution, with it being so great that you can run Windows apps. This suggestion is somewhat counter to that. I think, for most users, a Linux soultion would be best when it's largely invisible - which a machine booting (in)directly into RISC OS.

Secondly, I expect that most RISC OS dealers are unwilling or unable to either assemble such a solution or provide support when things go wrong. Installing Windows is a no-brainer, as can be support - "reboot if all else fails".

Having said that, I would be very happy if someone thought it appropriate to add a JIT and RiscPC support to ArcEm ;-)

 is a RISC OS Usermrchocky on 2/1/04 10:00AM
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It would be a nice irony if someone started selling modified XBoxes with a linux core, wine, virtual acorn and RISC OS. (Saying that, I'd prefer to see a PS2 running RO, but that would probably be need to be arcem, what performance would a 300MHz MIPS processor manage?)

 is a RISC OS Userjess on 2/1/04 10:54AM
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How long is a piece of string? It's a meaningless question. The architecture of a PS2 is quite different to a RiscPC, and it depends if you're using a JIT or not, and how good the programmer is and how long you're going to pay them for.

It's all very well saying "I want, I want", but unless you apply some real world reasoning to it, it's a bit pointless.

 is a RISC OS Usermrchocky on 2/1/04 11:02AM
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Sorry - I meant, if the existing ArcEm were compiled for PS2 linux, what could be expected, not what would be the ultimate potential.

 is a RISC OS Userjess on 2/1/04 11:26AM
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I expect it would be far too much to ask you to try this for yourself. I have no idea of the relative merits of PS2 hardware, and I'm not going try and guess. And given the state of ArcEm, it's a purely academic activity.

 is a RISC OS Usermrchocky on 2/1/04 11:34AM
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The question was aimed to find out whether it would be worth trying to get another PS2, and set it up for linux and try. If the expectation is effictively say at least half speed A4000 with fast HDD, then it would be worth a try, but if it were say a 1/2 MHz ARM performance, then it wouldn't.

 is a RISC OS Userjess on 2/1/04 11:53AM
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jess: have you actually tried using ArcEm? Firstly it's not optimised for speed particularly. The Mac port (which is my fault^Wwork) is actually less responsive than the X11 version because of the quick way I got it up and running - anything else would have required a lot more engineering effort (I'm guessing that the Windows port, designed in a similar manner also suffers from this problem, but I've not tried it). But it's at that point you realise that RISC OS 3.1x required a mouse that was nice a responsive - where are the keyboard shortcuts?!?! :)

Also, as chocky points out, the exercise will be rather academic given how old a platform ArcEm emulates. ArcEm is a nice toy, but not much beyond that at the moment.

 is a RISC OS UserDougal on 2/1/04 12:48PM
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The keyboard shortcuts are still working in the application with the keyboard focus, so you can still type whilst using the mouse elsewhere, opening menus, moving windows, copying files etc.

 is a RISC OS Usermavhc on 2/1/04 3:14PM
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I've not used arcem, I have VA5000 that I use on my PC at work. Even with 3.1 it is very useful.

I'm not suggesting a PS2 with (say) VA5000 as a primary platform for existing RO users, but for console users with no computer to allow basic wordprocessing etc, or those who are into retro games (If one of the PS2 games companies had a selection of old RO games, they might be interested in producing something like this). I have seen retro games consoles, so there must be a market of some sort.

 is a RISC OS Userjess on 2/1/04 3:22PM
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So, in conclusion, you're trying to make a product out of an emulator you have no idea about, on hardware you have no idea about, on top of an OS you don't have experience with, and which, I assume, you won't be funding or providing any effort at all.

To say it is ill-considered is probably the most charitable thing I could say.

 is a RISC OS Usermrchocky on 2/1/04 3:28PM
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Druck & GuestX> While I would prefer RISC OS to remain purely native (ie., on ARM hardware) I'd agree that failing that an Open Source OS underlying a RISC OS emulation (such an OS being perhaps derived from Linux) would be a preferable alternative to the WindowsXP route. I would still caution though that *either* a Linux/RISC OS or Windows/RISC OS emulation both will (longer term) damage RISC OS's viability (IMHO) - the virtue of the Linux option is at least we're not helping Microsoft gain even more customers.

I am afraid I would still have some misgivings about going the x86 route given the now near envitable approach of Palladium (or whatever it's now called) and even MS (apparently) trying to get control of the BIOS - which, if this occurs, basically means all OS's on x86 platforms may be vulernable to Microsofts manipulations (as before any other OS can boot some MS code gets a look in first).

Keeping as much distance between MS and RISC OS is the best course - Linux on x86 may represent a middle way - but as MS longer term has Linux in it's gunsights I am not too sure that's where RISC OS ought to be..... a safer approach (IMHO) is an ARM based future.

Kind Regards


 is a RISC OS UserAMS on 2/1/04 4:11PM
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mr chocky: No. I'm pointing out that there are millions of capable computer systems (with USB, ethernet and HDD support) with no desktop operating system. This market will be tapped into by someone, it would be nice if it were using RISC OS.

I am *asking* if putting together the components that already exist (PS2 linux and arcem) would produce a usable system.

If this were the case or someone with the correct ability were to see merit in the idea and start a project, then I would certainly be prepared to get another PS2 (secondhand, since it would need to be "chipped") and help test the system.

 is a RISC OS Userjess on 2/1/04 5:18PM
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You can ask all you want, but if don't want to listen to the answers - of which we've provided plently - then you're wasting everyone's time.

You may have asked some questions, but you've also make a number of nonsensical suggestions - which I'll assume you'll continue with, regardless of the number of people who point this out.

 is a RISC OS Usermrchocky on 2/1/04 5:28PM
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jess: If that market is to be tapped into, then I imagine it'll be with a more lightweight solution than running an emulated system under linux. Indeed, it might just be a desktop style linux system, running KDE and KOffice or such (I have no idea how good these are, I just provide them as possible examples).

And, bold italics aside, Chocky and I had attempted to provide you with the answers you sought, but you seemed to keep asking regardless :)

Chocky and I have discussed, along with others, what it would take to make ArcEm a compatitor in terms of usefulness to the virtual acorn products, and whilst its certainly feasible in terms of the ArcEm team havign the knowhow, we all have day jobs, and can't give it the level of commitement it needs, certainly not to do the job justice like we'd like to see done, and if you're not going to do a job properly then there's not much point in starting.

Of course, the source code is there if others feel the need to correct us - I'm happy to maintain the ArcEm mac port if people do improvements to the core of ArcEm. Just I don't have the energies to dedicate to the substantial effort myself, at least not at the moment.

 is a RISC OS UserDougal on 2/1/04 5:44PM
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People keep ignoring the root of this problem!

If RISC OS software doesn't keep up, specifically its internet software, then people are going to need Windows in order to do the things they want to do online. It's really irrelevant whether some clever person runs Virtual Acorn on top of Linux or MacOS instead of Windows, or even if new ARM hardware appears, if the software people want to use isn't available on RISC OS.

Increasingly it isn't!

 is a RISC OS Usercynic on 2/1/04 7:02PM
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Dougal: The bold itallics were to point out (to mr chocky) that I was not trying to create a product but asking a question, I wasn't trying to imply that you hadn't answered and I apologise if I gave that impression. (I should have said was rather than am).

WRT KDE the PS2 only has 32MB which, if not enough, would require the very expensive sony hard drive for virtual memory, where as (assuming an emulator would be possible in the RAM available) an RO solution could just use a usb pen drive for storage.

 is a RISC OS Userjess on 2/1/04 7:19PM
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jess: WRT to KDE et al - I acknowledge it may not be the slimmest of systems, but I was just trying to give an example that there are existing technologies that can be used, rather using an emulator on top of an existing system, but this is all rather getting a little off topic :)

 is a RISC OS UserDougal on 02/01/04 7:40PM
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Ignoring mrchocky's evasions, I can report that six/seven year old hardware runs ArcEm fairly sluggishly without any graphics acceleration, although if you're used to pre-Risc PC hardware and desktop applications then it probably isn't an excruciating experience. I'd imagine that you'd need a very fast processor indeed to get ArcEm running at Iyonix speeds. ;-)

As for putting Linux at the bottom of the software stack for an emulator-in-a-box solution, remember that you wouldn't need to have a full desktop environment, and if ArcEm ran on SDL (which I don't recall whether it can or not), then I suppose you wouldn't even need XFree86. What Linux and XFree86 would give you, however, would be the hardware support necessary to avoid the situation that the RISC OS scene currently finds itself in. Given the mere repackaging of Shuttle systems which is going on, and the amount of memory that you're going to be getting as standard, I don't see any real motivation for throwing out something like KDE in order to save 10-15% of your RAM for the emulator, however.

 is a RISC OS Userguestx on 02/01/04 11:00PM
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"Evasions"? No, merely a reluctance to waste my time explaining things in detail to someone who isn't able to make an effort to find out things for themselves, nor do anything constructive with the information.

 is a RISC OS Usermrchocky on 02/01/04 11:16PM
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Who asked for a detailed explaination? And wouldn't declining to answer save even more time? Constructive? I was looking at trying to get linux on (probably a second) PS2 and giving it a go, but I don't seem to have an enthusiasm left to try now.

 is a RISC OS Userjess on 03/01/04 03:34AM
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jess: >I was looking at trying to get linux on (probably a second) PS2 and giving it a go, but I don't seem to have an enthusiasm left to try now.

Oh go on! You can run BeebEm on it:


 is a RISC OS Userdavidb on 03/01/04 5:13PM
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Evasions? It's all evasion! The RISC OS user base won't grow without improvements to the software we have.

Better software >>> more users.

More users >>> better hardware >>> better software >>> OS development >>> more users.

The hardware (esp notebook flavoured) can't improve without a bigger userbase. Virtual RPC - on Windows, Linux or MacOS - is just rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic. I suppose we might stay a float a little longer and hope for rescue.......

 is a RISC OS Usercynic on 03/01/04 6:33PM
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"More users >>> better hardware"

Please explain how emulation helps in this transition.

 is a RISC OS Usermonkeyson on 03/01/04 7:25PM
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more users>>software development is worthwhile. bob

 is a RISC OS Usernijinsky on 06/01/04 5:36PM
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