Warm Silence Software
Alasdair Bailey has a brief look at a few of the items on offer from Warm Silence.
Warm Silence Software (or WSS) have been building up their catalogue of RISC OS utilities for some years now. Past achievements include MovieFS for playing back foriegn movie files on the Acorn as well as LanMan98 for accessing Windows shared discs over a netework. In this issue, we take a look at three of their offerings which essentially patch RISC OS.
When I first saw PhotoShop running on a Mac, I marvelled at its ability to seamlessly replace those dull file icons with small thumbnails of the pictures within. Last year, I saw a similar feature in Irlam's digital camera driver software on the Acorn. This did the job but left much to be desired; it's quite slow and stores thumbnails in extra directories all over the place. PhotoFiler from WSS, on the other hand, is rather good.
The program takes the form of a small module which, once loaded, looks out for new directories being opened containing images. When it sees a supported image type, it quickly reads the file to memory then places an icon-sized thumbnail sprite into the system sprite pool. With all but the largest of images this process happens in a blink of the eye on a StrongARM. On lesser hardware things will be a little slower but still bearable.
By default, PhotoFiler will support sprites, JPEGs and drawfiles. If you have ImageFS loaded (even the version bundled with RISC OS 4), support for all of its formats, including .wmf files will be added. Unfortunately, no support for ArtWorks files currently exists.
PhotoFiler includes a few other little tricks to make the RISC OS filer more aesthetically pleasing. Most notably, directories can each be given their own customised icon sprite to brighten up the desktop. Another nice feature is the option to hide the pling (!) character from the beginning of application names. This may lead to ambiguity if directories also have their own icons as previously described, but these things are all user-definable so it shouldn't be a problem in practice.
As PhotoFiler needs to read the whole image to memory before the thumbnail can be generated, things can get a little slow when working with floppy discs or an older CD drive. This needn't be a problem though as a brief press of the CTRL key will suppress thumbnail generation temporarily.
This former shareware offering does have a few shortcomings though. Namely, thumbnails are stored in memory solely referenced by the file's path name. Since no tracking is done to keep an eye on filer operations, if one file is deleted and another given the same name, the wrong thumbnail will be shown. Okay, so a little speed is probably gained by not tracking filer operations but a keyboard shortcut to force a refresh would be nice.
At £11.75 (inc VAT), PhotoFiler is good value for anyone who takes clipart or imaging even semi-seriously. Unfortunately, PhotoFiler does not support any version of RISC OS below v3.5 so you need at least a RiscPC or A7000 and it can't be used on older machines like the A5000.
Ever put a PC formatted disc in your Acorn and had it show odd names like FILE~1.TXT with broken filetypes? Well, this is because of the rather hacky method Windows 95 and above use to manage long filenames whilst maintaining backward compatibility with DOS. To cut a long story short, DOSFS under RISC OS displays the truncated form of the Win95 name and the rest of the name messes up the space on the disc that RISC OS usually uses for filetype information.
Win95FS fixes all this, and I must admit I've been after this little utility for a long while now. Luckily, it has fully lived up to my expectations. It even remedies the problem for FAT32 formatted hard disc partitions if you need to access such things over a network or locally.
On the whole, Win95FS is a program that is hard to criticise, it does all it claims to and does it completely transparently to the user. If your need to access Win95 and above disc media warrants the £41.25 (inc VAT) price tag, then talk to WSS now.
CDROMFS is another utility which enhances RISC OS. Although its functionality should have been built into the OS years ago, now's not the time to complain. The program is a replacement for Acorn's CD filing system module, CDFS. As well as maintaining the same level of standard data and audio CD compatibility, CDROMFS adds support for Microsoft's Joliet standard and CDPlus.
The CDPlus format is used on those enhanced audio CDs which include movie data in addition to the song as an audio track. Playing the video is another matter though; another product from WSS, MovieFS may be of some help here but check before buying. Joliet, on the other hand is the CD format coined by Microsoft to allow long filenames to be used on CDs. We mustn't criticise Microsoft in this respect though, even people putting together CDs for RISC OS find the ISO9660 format a pain.
In testing, CDROMFS performed very well indeed. None of the CDs we put together using a CD writer on the PC proved at all problematic. It is worth noting that Joliet format CDs will often crash Acorn's CDFS completely. This can be a pain if you regularly have to read home made CDs from PC users because there's no way of knowing what formt the CD is until it goes in the drive.
A couple of well-established formats are not at present supported by CDROMFS; most notably packet-written CDs. These are created by software which allows CDRW (CD re-writable) discs to be used as if they are large floppy discs. Hence, data is burnt onto them in small packets rather than in long sections as with a conventionally recorded CDRW.
Since CDROMFS still uses the same lower-level modules as CDFS to talk to the CD drive, all drives which work under Acorn's filing system should work with CDROMFS. On the other hand, this does also mean that no extra drives are supported by CDROMFS either.
Once CDROMFS is up and running, the CDFS module which it replaces can be unplugged. When I say unplugged, I refer to the process of configuring the module not to load on startup in software; there's no physical unplugging to be done. The WSS alternative also offers all the same sharing and volume options as CDFS. It even supports Computer Concept's MacFS for reading Mac format CDs.
Overall, CDROMFS is a good product. Granted, in-built Mac and packet written CD support would be nice to see in the product. As with Win95FS, if you feel your need to access Joliet or CDPlus CDs warrants the hefty £35.25 price tag then make the buy.