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News in brief

By Chris Williams. Published: 16th Feb 2006, 23:45:47 | Permalink | Printable

XScale hacking, showcasing RISC OS, a bunker of software updates and more

News in briefGCC 3.4.5 released
The GCCSDK team have announced the availability of a new version of the GNU compiler package for RISC OS. This edition can generate operating system modules from C++ code, includes an updated cmunge and Andreas Dehmel's DRenderer module, and various bug fixes. Version 3.4.5 is derived from the mainstream GNU release of the same version. John Tytgat thanked the contributors to this release in his announcement on behalf of the GCCSDK team.

Hit the accelerator
Rik Griffin has been experimenting with the Xscale IOP321's application accelerator. The CPU, as found in the Iyonix, is primarily aimed at hard disc arrays, and includes a hardware enhanced ability to copy blocks of data quickly. Rik, who works for RISC OS friendly radar systems engineers Denbridge, has written an operating system extension module to quickly shift chunks of memory about using this untapped component of the IOP321.

Rik said: "I've found that the overheads of setting up the device can nullify the speed advantages for very small amounts of data. But for larger blocks the results are pretty impressive - copying data at up to 300 MB/s and filling at up to 600 MB/s. There's a chance I might get time to tidy the code up and release the module."

Wicked whispers
Whose website pulled its pixel ad scheme within weeks of its launch? Charging 50 quid for a 10 pixel square was clearly too much of a risc for punters... Which RISC OS dealer issued a press release the other week claiming its 1.7Ghz Pentium M processors were as good as 3.4GHz Pentium 4s? The PC peddling company with a fondness for sugar cube shaped computers is offering a free upgrade to 1.8GHz chips for punters, but turned down an invite to entertain us with independent benchmarks to support its claims. CPUScoreCard.com reckons the P4 can hold its own - inquiring minds want to know... Meanwhile New electronics magazine is running a feature this month on a variant of the ARM9 processor that can run without a processor clock and an interview with an ARM product manager. The article isn't published online but you can always email the dead tree outlet nicely...

Two artful ideas
A new website with a gallery of example graphics made with Artworks has gone live. Richard Ashbery says he hopes to showcase other users' designs and photography work in the future. As a macro-phtotography enthusiast, he also intends to publish more of his own work and wants the website to be an example of what he believes is capable with RISC OS. As well as the vector art package published by MW Software, he also used HTML3 and Pic_Index for the website.

Richard said: "Most of the ArtWorks files are wallpaper graphics produced by the replication tool. The Moorish designs really benefit from this wonderful drawing tool."

On a similar note, risc-os.net has kick started a plan to introduce RISC OS to non-RISC OS users by offering them presentations of the platform in use. The plan is to eventually create a proper video of the desktop being used, iconbar menus opened, and so on, but website maintainer Rebecca Shalfield has called on for members of the community to lend a hand in the production of this endeavor - contact her for details.

Graphics so fast you can't see 'em
Castle recently sneaked out a quick note about its GraphicsV API. The text describes Castle's approach to abstracting its video drivers from the RISC OS 5 kernel, allowing the innards to remain ignorant of exactly how the display works just as long as the driver module sorts it all out. Expect the RISC OS 4 graphics abstraction API to be different.

Software
Version 0.34 of video player KinoAMP is now available. Now under the wing of Andre Timmermans after Peter Everett stepped down due to having little spare time these days, KinoAMP features support for AC3 and PCM audio. It has display acceleration on the Iyonix, faster monochrome mode and various stability fixes. ArtWorks 2.57 has been released to users, and includes fixes for PDF export and ClipView as well as user interface tweaks. TechWriter and Easiwriter have been updated with improved Microsoft Word support and draw export for pages. It's also understood that Martin Wuerthner, current developer of the TechWriter family, has moved over to using StubsG to release 26bit and 32bit neutral builds of TechWriter and EasiWriter.

Primate Plunge screenshotAlan Buckley has ported platform game Primate Plunge to RISC OS (pictured left). You can grab a copy of the latest amusing slice of entertainment to attract the attention of Alan from here. Meanwhile puzzle game SuperDoku has had its drawfile export feature improved.

Database Impact has been bug fixed and now support three types of action triggered by the 'return' key, in record forms.

Open source web browser NetSurf continues to benefit from rolling updates and enhancements: recently it's gained amongst other things, faster GIF handling, overhauled application configuration, HTTP caching, and various bug fixes and user interface tweaks. Support module Iconv 0.07 is also now available (A9home version).

A new release of RiscLua, an interpreter for scripting language Lua, is available. The release is a bug fixing exercise, but its website also hosts a no-frills Lua interpreter and compiler, for those wishing to write truly portable code, and RiscLua source code for anyone looking to customise their coding environment.

A bug fixed version of gallery app ThumbCat is available, standing at version 5.4d. Search engine front end RiscSearch has been updated, as has utility HelpScan. 7th Software's Routines library has been tweaked, and had a few extra functions added. Postscript utility GView can now display PDF files. Conversion tool DrawToSprite can now export vector files in GIF format. Apple lawyer bait ROTunes has been updated, and author Paul Vigay has taken the trouble to release a utility to tidy up loose file handles, and binary calculator for programmers, the likes of which RISC OS hasn't had since 1993.

And finally, John Williams has written a guide on using RISC OS with Linux firewall and networking package IPCop.

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Discussion

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The RISC OS tour site would look a lot better if the desktop images were displayed at 100% size, or better still were properly scaled down with bi-linear interpolation, rather leaving it to the browser which pixel drops and makes them look naff.

 is a RISC OS Userdruck on 17/2/06 9:12AM
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Actually I sent Chris benchmarks running various popular benchmarks (FarCry, HalfLife) which back up our claim (the 1.7Ghz CPU was actually a little faster) - these can be found on a number of hardware testing sites (I even gave him a site or two!). Additionally I invited Chris (and anyone else) to come and see for themselves at the SW show. Not sure why he didn't write those up but it is horses for courses, i suppose. I'd suggest anyone who is interested come and see us at the show :)

 is a RISC OS Userarawnsley on 17/2/06 9:57AM
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druck: True, but I still actualy doubt that a rotating set of images is going to bring people to the platform... Any form of tour to get people's attention (specially for windows users) will need to be a moving tour and/or something they can look at what they want to, not have to sit through it for ages only to see missing bits and boringly blank desktop images that are badly scaled.

What's the point of showing people the iconbar menus for the hard discs and apps directory? That's useless information as far as introducing them to the platform goes, if someone wants to see an introductory tour of RISC OS, they're going to want to see it actually doing something.

 is a RISC OS Userandypoole on 17/2/06 10:56AM
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Hmm... New Electronics magazine isn't very, umm, New. I work with Simon Moore who was interviewed in the article mentioned above. NE hadn't sent him a copy of the finished article, so he's just requested one from the journalist. It looks like they're sending it... by post.

Sigh, the 21stC digital connected e-economy strikes again.

FWIW an abstract is here: [link]

 is a RISC OS Usercaliston2 on 17/2/06 12:40PM
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I think the best way to experience RISC OS is by working through a tutorial involving different apps like Paint, Draw, StrongEd, Filer, etc., demonstrating how drag&drop between apps works and such stuff. The way to offer this experience over the internet, is to set up a few RISC OS machines with VNC or something similar. The CMOS would have to be write-protected, of course. And the HDD should automatically be restored from a default-image once a user is finished and logs off.

 is a RISC OS UserJGZimmerle on 17/2/06 2:10PM
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I would imagine the 'experience' could be to create a flash movie using VNC connected to a RISC OS machine. That way it would be compatible with the target audience.

TP

 is a RISC OS Usertweety on 17/2/06 2:13PM
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I guess the A9home would be ideally suited for this, because one could easily stuff a number of them into the rack-space of an internet-server in a housing-facility. Alternatively old RiscPCs could be utilised at users' homes, if they have internet connections with fast-enough uplinks and a dyndns-client.

 is a RISC OS UserJGZimmerle on 17/2/06 2:15PM
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arawnsley> perhaps you could share a url to one of the hardware testing sites you mention with us here?

 is a RISC OS Userjogu on 17/2/06 4:10PM
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I'd be interested in those urls too.

 is a RISC OS Userpiemmm on 17/2/06 4:15PM
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I'm surprised no has mentioned Andre Timmermans update to KinoAmp which just happens to do AC3 format now. With Thomas Milius's IntelDMA module it does make a welcome addition to trying out DVD style VOB files on my Iyonix. Well done to both Thomas and Andre. I haven't tried in with Geminius though so it may be even better. Also being greedy a DTS module would be a boon.

 is a RISC OS Userbluenose on 17/2/06 7:59PM
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Chris wrote>"Castle recently sneaked out a quick note about its GraphicsV API. The text describes Castle's approach to abstracting its video drivers from the RISC OS 5 kernel, allowing the innards to remain ignorant of exactly how the display works just as long as the driver module sorts it all out. Expect the RISC OS 4 graphics abstraction API to be different."

When ROL get around to this yes, but in what ways will it differ from Castle's who knows? After all Castle do *publically publish* their API's but ROL don't(*). Pity really all this sort of stuff makes it difficult to support the various flavours of RISC OS that are extent.

(*) ROL generally only make API details available to Select subscribers

 is a RISC OS UserAMS on 18/2/06 7:06PM
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VNC to some old Risc PC? Yup, that's gonna sell RISC OS.

The fact is that we're not going to attract Windows users because RISC OS isn't as good at doing the kind of things that your average, home, Windows user does. I.E. web browsing, emailing, IM and office apps. Oh, and forget trying to plug in any random scanner/printer/gps/etc that you'd like to buy from PC World.

If we're going to win anyone over we have to work out what RISC OS is better at. Drag and drop is fine but from what to what? Dragging a Paint file to Draw is alright but dragging a jpeg into Ovation (or something that is actually actively developed) would be more impressive. What else have we got? And more importantly, how can you use these advantages in the types of jobs that people actually do?

Answers in a postcard to the usual address.

Spriteman

 is a RISC OS UserSpriteman on 20/2/06 12:47PM
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