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Select 2: Your survival guide

By Chris Williams. Published: 14th Oct 2002, 22:10:26 | Permalink | Printable

We take a look at the best of the RISC OS 4.32 feature list. For your eyes only.

Select article motif As previously reported on drobe.co.uk, RISCOS Ltd., the desktop developers of drobe.co.uk's favourite ARM powered OS, said we could expect the next major release of RISC OS in October this year and, oh joy, it's all finished and polished off in the form of RISC OS 4.32 under the proud banner of Select 2. Everyone by now should be aware of RISC OS Select, which allows RISCOS Ltd. to distribute the latest versions of RISC OS to users in the form of bundled applications, developer and user documentation and softloadable ROM images. What's more exciting is the length of the changelog, which describes what's new in Select 2 over Select 1. While all the changes, detailed technically and also in summary form, are available to Select 2 users, below is your drobe.co.uk survival guide to Select 2. Enjoy.

Graphics Galore
One of the key feature areas in Select 1 was the significant number of networking updates and features, which included a DHCP client and more friendlier networking configuration tools. Select 2 is similar in picking a specific area and fleshing it out appropiately, this time it's graphics that's stumbled into the Select developers' trained sights.
"Much of the focus of the Select 2 development has been focused around the enhancement of the graphical facilities of the operating system", explains the Select 2 release notes. The main enhancements to the graphics system are aimed at 3rd party software programmers wishing to improve their software by taking advantage of internal OS developments made available through publically documented APIs. Here's the major enhancements:

  • CMYK sprites are now supported natively by the OS, allowing CMYK sprites to be created, editted and plotted. Plus, current software that doesn't try to manipulate sprites directly will be able to automatically handle CMYK sprites.
  • Sprites can be rendered translucently by the OS now, this is primarily used by the Drag-a-Sprite module to give icons being dragged about the desktop a more transparent feel. Of course, normal applications can take advantage and easily plot their sprites at various levels (256 to be precise) of translucency.
  • A new module called ImageFileRender provides a plugin interface for plotting graphics. This simplifies a programmer's task of handling various image file formats as ImageFileRender provides a quick and easy API to plot any supported image.
  • The system that renders JPEG image files has been improved, giving better handling to progressive JPEGs and a wider range of recognised sampling ratios.
  • JPEG and Sprite image files and Drawfiles now benefit from a new colour mapping technology, when being rendered by the OS.
  • Sprite generation from PNG graphics files is now covered by the ConvertPNG module.
  • Another new module, this time BlendTable, which generates the tables required to blend two different colours.


Of Mice and Wheels
Wheel mice, the computer mice with little scroll wheels that are very common now on the Windows platform, are now supported by the OS. The wheel can be used in all sorts of useful ways, including scrolling windows simply by sliding the wheel up and down. PS2 and quadrature wheel mice are supported, an STD PS2 mouse interface is required to fit a PS2 mouse to your RiscPC mouse port. Numerous OS components are already wheel-mouse-aware, such as the Colourpicker (the standard dialog box with a palette that you pick colours from) and the Toolbox Slider gadget. Wheel mouse support in RISC OS is one of drobe.co.uk's favourite Select 2 features.

Casting a better net
As a follow up to the flurry of networking updates incorporated into Select 1, Select 2 has enjoyed a few but still important improvements in this area.

  • Authentication is now used by ShareFS when sharing objects over a network. This is a fix from Select 1 where this feature was issued incorrectly.
  • Econet support is back after popular demand as part of an AUN update, allowing econet over ethernet. This is provided by the NetI module, which basically does Econet over IP. New configuration tools have also been developed to allow easy control over your AUN network. Access has been renamed back to ShareFS too.
  • Support for what's called "Automatic configuration of network interfaces". This enables you to configure your first ethernet interface from a *configure command or a related GUI based configuration option.
  • Support has been added for network based applications that need to monitor network connections for activity. Instead of having to constantly check open sockets for changes, or to rely on shared code to do the job for them, they can now opt to sit back and wait for the OS inform them, via the pollword system, when something happens on a particular connection.


Polishing those windows
Select 2 boasts a number of enhancements to the Window Manager, the system that provides the RISC OS desktop:

  • Here's an interesting and amusing feature, the new wimp tool order system. This allows you to configure the location of the window furniture (that's the icons like back, close and toggle that sit around the edges of a window). The tool ordering affects all windows on the desktop and allows you to experiment with the desktop design.
  • Disabled icons, the ones that are greyed out by applications, fade toward the background window colour now creating a much nicer effect. Sprites with 32,000 colours or more (refered to as deep sprites) now fade correctly too.
  • Italic desktop fonts are now better supported by the Window manager. The proper width of the text is now used putting an end to the previous problem of text being truncated.


Also, concerning the desktop as a whole, there have been a number of funky improvements.

  • The pinboard can now use drawfiles for your desktop backdrop.
  • Dragging a large group of files has been made more memory efficient, compared to earlier versions which would attempt to use a lot of memory for the task.
  • Various fixes including an update to the filer so it now correctly calculates the length of text for filenames.
  • Draw, the vector graphics application bundled with RISC OS, now uses the Control-D keystroke to duplicated the current selection. Control-C copies the selection to the clipboard, Control-V pastes the current clipboard contents.


Sharpest tools in the box
Toolbox modules aid desktop software programmers by allowing them to use pre-designed gadgets. Using gadgets saves on time and space as well as ensuring consistency across the desktop. The Scroll list gadget is the teacher's pet for this release, being the subject of the following improvements:

  • Scroll lists can now have column headings, with the possibility of grouping lists of relating elements.
  • Scroll lists now fade correctly when disabled, resize correctly when switching between display formats and now also provide interactive help.
  • The Slider gadget can also be manipulated using a wheel mouse.


Configure updates
Being able to easily configure a system is a major strength of an OS and the Select developers have been busy improving the Configure application to give as much control as possible back to the user. Notable updates include:

  • New Time and Date configuration tool enables the user to set the system clock without having to run Alarm, it in fact replaces the Set Clock function of Alarm. There's also support for requesting the latest time and date from the internet to synchronise the clock with the world time plus an option to fetch and set the time in this way on every boot up.
  • New Input configuration tool to manage input devices, such as a wheel mouse (if fitted). The Sound configure tool has also been updated to accomodate the new RateTracker module, which monitors the sound system to ensure old applications don't inconsiderately alter the audio playback system.
  • The multi-user logon system allows a default user to auto-logon without a password prompt.
  • The Boot configuration tools, which allow you to control what software gets booted and run during your machine's startup, have been made more flexible.


Will Paint for bandwidth
Paint, the bitmap graphics editor bundled with RISC OS, gets a special mention due to its number of updates. After a good spring clean out and bug fixing, Paint now features the following lovely features:

  • Paint can now fill locally with the mask colour. On earlier versions, you could only flood globally, gone now are those dark days.
  • Updated window design and the snapshot dialog box is static, it no longer disappears whilst fiddling with other parts of the desktop prior to taking a snapshot. There's also a new choices dialog window to set up Paint just how you want it and a wheel mouse can be used to zoom in and out of the image.
  • New Grab Window/Menu tool to grab desktop objects.
  • Paint can now create CMYK sprites.
  • Better support for unfriendly JPEGs.
  • New Crop tool to replace the Scissors export tool.
  • Tons more, more than we have time for.


Nuts about RISC OS
The RISC OS kernel is the central core of your computer. From the start of Select, it's been RISCOS Ltd.'s aim to minimalise the kernel by stripping out and exporting functions that don't belong at the heart of OS. Every release so far has seen updates to the kernel and Select 2 is no different.

  • Functions provided by the kernel are now signed by name to allow greater debugging by programmers, who will now be able to identify and pinpoint fault locations. Also, module operations that once could only be invoked using the command line, notably *unplug and *rminsert, can now be performed using the standard OS_Module SWI.
  • A fault concerning operations on 1 bit per pixel sprite masks has been fixed.
  • RiscStation hardware is now finally supported, as reported here, with RiscStation users now being able to softload Select ROM images.
  • And a number of under-the-hood updates to the OS core.


RISCOS Ltd.'s summary of what's new can be read by all here. As far as drobe.co.uk's opinion goes, we give this release a clear thumbs up as well as recognise the hard work and effort required by the Select team to continually develop and release RISC OS in this manner. Here's to RISC OS 4.32.

Screenshots
See some of RISC OS 4.32 in action, right here. Right now.


Links

Select website

Previous: Select 2 is here. Now.
Next: WOOT! It's a 32bit XScale RISC OS PC!

Discussion

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Great article :-)

Erm, no, I have nothing else to add. Go on, bugger off!

 is a RISC OS Usermoss on 15/10/02 6:36PM
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Regarding the internal OS developments - you're obviously using some definition of "publically documented" that I'm unaware of with regard to the APIs.

 is a RISC OS Userajv on 15/10/02 10:09PM
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Get Select. Get the documentation. It's pretty simple. All the changes and new and updated APIs are available to Select users.

Chris, drobe.co.uk

 is a RISC OS Userdiomus on 16/10/02 10:00AM
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Great article, guys! This release certainly looks worth it, if only for the scrolly mouse and the local mask fill in !Paint. ;) -- Andrew Harmsworth, Cambridge. www.gcse.com owner and author

 is a RISC OS Userharmsy on 16/10/02 7:17PM
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Thanks, that's very kind of you to link to the article from www.riscos.org :)

Chris, drobe.co.uk

 is a RISC OS Userdiomus on 16/10/02 8:18PM
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diomus> As I said, you're obviously using some definition of "publically documented" that I'm unaware of.

Publicly (adv.): In a public manner; in the presence or with the knowledge of people generally; with publicity; in public; openly; without concealment.

 is a RISC OS Userajv on 19/10/02 11:58PM
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ajv: Yes, you have to pay for things in life. Fancy that. It's publically documented in that it's available to people outside of RISCOS Ltd. You are terribly bias against RISCOS Ltd., I don't think you deserve to use the OS in my truely honest and yet God like opinion.

Chris, drobe.co.uk

 is a RISC OS Userdiomus on 22/10/02 2:46PM
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Pay for things - yea, don't I know it. However, it wasn't me that said in a user group meeting that the new API documentation was going to be available to the general public, and not restricted solely to members of a Select club.

You have no idea what I do with RISC OS, and very little information about me generally. What on earth gives you the right to decide whether I "deserve to use the OS" or not?!?

 is a RISC OS Userajv on 22/10/02 3:32PM
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I'm sure that RISCOS Ltd. did at first say they would make all the Select docs public for free but they have obviously changed their minds. It takes a lot of effort to document changes and new APIs and maybe RISCOS Ltd. felt that people ought to pay for this kind of work. I don't believe any of us can dictate to ROL what they can and can't do. My God like opinion gives me the right to sigh at you and think, "crumbs why bother using RISC OS at all, if that's your attitude". No one gets my humour.

Chris, drobe.co.uk

 is a RISC OS Userdiomus on 22/10/02 3:41PM
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If they feel they have to charge, then great - I'd buy updated documentation. However, I won't buy Select (at this moment in time). There is not the level of information about Select available in order that I can justify it. Perhaps releasing documentation would allow informed decisions to be made - and yes, I'd not object to that documentation being charged for.

I'm someone who (for various reasons) saw the RISC OS 3 PRMs a long time before I got to play with RISC OS 3 itself. I see little in Select that justifies the price (to me) - that could change if I had some detailed information about the APIs and changes that had been made (rather than a scant list of bullet points).

For the record: I have no objection to public filetype databases being created, nor do I object to documentation being charged for. However, I do object to information given in confidence being placed into the public domain, and companies misleading the punters.

 is a RISC OS Userajv on 22/10/02 4:51PM
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So much bitterness. So much rant. Let's try to address a few problems.

No one is forcing you to buy Select and you may have your own reasons for deciding against getting it. I'm really not bothered. I can assure you the docs are quality.

I can see you're still bitter about this filetypes thing, even though I quite clearly corrected you on iconbar.com. RISCOS Ltd. are not breaking any confidentiality agreements. Nor are they misleading anyone.

Chris, drobe.co.uk

 is a RISC OS Userdiomus on 22/10/02 8:34PM
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Yet still more patronising. You didn't "quite clearly" correct me, you "quite clearly" gave me your interpretation of the press release. There is a difference.

I'm sorry, I'm not a member of the "ROSL Fan Club" - you appear to be under the impression they can do no wrong. By my reckoning, they've abandoned at least a third of their published mission statement.

If ROSL publish details from the existing allocation database, details that were given in confidence, without the permission of the people whose details they are publishing, that is a breach of confidence. It doesn't matter whether it's a company name, or the tea person's inside leg measurement. If you don't get that by now, then I don't think you're ever going to. *sigh*

Oh, and this isn't a rant. It's not even approaching a rant.

 is a RISC OS Userajv on 22/10/02 10:49PM
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My interpretation happens to be correct. I don't see why your negative and incorrect interpretation of their press release is somehow better than mine. In the database they'll say a number (like &743) is taken so people don't waste their time trying to ask for an already allocated number. That's it. You have to mail them to confirm full details.

This rapidly becoming a pointless discussion which you can take up by email if you really want. You're not listening to fact, you assume the worst and you interpret information to convince yourself that your bitterness towards ROL is justified. Thank you, goodnight.

Chris, drobe.co.uk

 is a RISC OS Userdiomus on 22/10/02 11:16PM
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The allocation process generally doesn't allow people to request specific numbers - there seems little point in having a "yes this filetype is allocated" entry in the database.

You assume I'm not listening to facts - up until your most recent posting, there weren't any "facts" to listen to.

You're also assuming a lot about my emotional attachment (or not) to ROSL. This may not necessarily be wise - especially given you appear to have no idea whatsoever of my particular circumstances. However, I bow to your God like opinion to be absolutely right, about absolutely everything, all the time.

 is a RISC OS Userajv on 22/10/02 11:30PM
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Good. I knew you'd see the light ;)

Chris, drobe.co.uk

 is a RISC OS Userdiomus on 22/10/02 11:36PM
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Guys,

Appreciate you love RISCOS but I have to look at what I'm asking the computer to do. It's a tool afterall. I started life in RISCOS and then in parallel used PCs. In 1998, I switched over to PC exclusively. In 2002, I switched from PC to MAC because of OSX and it's Unix heritage; so I am not biased towards any platform.

Back to my point, the computer (and the OS) is just the tool. What matters to me are the applications and how both the hardware/OS and apps work together.

I have been watching the RISCOS platform for some years on the bench and even with the latest high speed models and great improvements, don't intend to switch mainly because the MAC does what I want it to do in the most producive way possible. Windows XP has moved on too but is still pants when compared to OSX and indeed BEos and RISCOS.

Why is it the little guys with the great products never win - Apple included (it's tiny compared to WinTel).

The ONE thing Apple have that Acorn didn't, is presence in the face of the mighty WinTel monopoly. Acorn never had a constant stream of revenue coming in that was stable.

Having said all that, I'm glad a small but dedicated community of enthusiats exist and it really shows that Acorn made the WRONG decision to give up. There is money to be made in the Acorn market.

Here's a thought, why not use a UNIX core and write all the necessary RISCOS layers on top - just as Apple did. That's where your gonna get your killer-apps from. If you don't believe me, watch Linux space and see MS quake in their boots.

Crash

 is a RISC OS UserCrash Bandicoot on 16/2/03 9:58PM
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