Questions and Answers
David Bradforth answers more of your problems
Welcome back to the Questions & Answers column. We've yet to receive any questions, so this time it's another selection of queries from the Internet and past queries that have been put towards members of the team. If you do have any problems, please direct them towards RISC World in the usual fashion, and we'll do everything we can to help. We don't particularly mind what it is: if the problem is causing you trouble, do let us know and we'll do everything we can to help.
I do need to start off with a little apology. I wrote the first Q&A column using Microsoft Word on an Apple Macintosh - in my opinion the best way to use the program. The problem is the text that ended up in RISC World had smart quotes, something which has a tendency to disagree with the Fresco web browser - the result was a lot of strange looking characters where there should have been quote marks.
This month's column has been written using Impression Publisher, so the problem should not arise: it does raise an interesting point, though. Has anybody written a utility to automate the conversion of smart quotes into unsmart quotes? All offers to the usual address, please: if it's a RISC World original we may even pay for it!
Anyway, enough apologising. On with the show - don't forget direct all of your questions towards firstname.lastname@example.org for a reasonably quick answer. All emails sent to this address will be published, but you will also receive a quick answer to your problems.
AUTOMATIC BOOTING OF CD-ROMS
I am fortunate enough to have an Acorn, a Mac and a PC all available for instant use. I have noticed that, on some CD-ROMs for the Mac and PC once the disc has been inserted into the drive the software starts automatically, allowing me to use it straight away. True most of the PC stuff requires installation first, but after it's done once the disc will allow me to use the software straight away.
I was wondering how easy it would be to do a similar sort of thing under RISC OS. I've recently written a suite of applications which I hope to release soon, and some education software. To be able to start the software automatically - even if it requires a click on the CD-ROM drive icon first - would be most useful. Can you help?
It's incredibly easy to automatically start a program on both disc and CD-ROM. What you need to bear in mind is that whenever you open a directory, the first thing RISC OS does is to run the !boot files contained within each application. So if your main education program - which launches the others - is called !Menu, whatever is contained within !Menu.!Boot will be run immediately when the directory containing !Menu is opened. So, if your !Boot file contains...
| !Boot file for !Menu IconSprites
modify it to become...
| !Boot file for !Menu IconSprites
You should now find that whenever the directory window is opened your program launches automatically.
(Can anyone spot the potential problem with Davids solution - ED)
I Wouldn't call myself a die-hard games fanatic, but I do like to play the occasional game which is likely to tax my mind. I do, however, have very real difficulty finding games for RISC OS, and I'm not particularly keen on paying a lot of money for what is essentially a ten year old title. Do you have any recommendations on sources of cheap older titles, or more modern newer titles?
There are now very few companies providing games to the RISC OS market - this is essentially the main reason why the games column ended last month. There are a few still making occasional offerings - Paradise, R-Comp Interactive, iSV Products and APDL (Oh the same company then - ED) have all made recent offerings; and rumour has it a new version of Repton 3 is due for release shortly.
Our recommendation would have to be try R-Comp Interactive for the latest, conversion from other platform, selections - the Krisalis CD is reviewed in this issue, and Descent II will be featured next time - and keep an eye out on the newsgroups for announcements of other releases. A good selection of PD games are available from APDL, or through many web sites.
RISC WORLD INTRODUCTION PROBLEMS
I recently received Volume 2 Issue 1 of RISC World. Having passed through the usual introductory screen, I started reading Aaron's editorial; but found half-way through it that the text suddenly stopped and the rest of it seemed to be a hyper link. I don't use Acorns for internet access, so I couldn't even click on the link to progress further.
Any idea of what I can do, as I want to know the rest of what Aaron had to say - his rant of the month makes me laugh often when I think just how familiar it sounds!
A small number of the previous issue CDs went out as described above. To sort the problem, you need a little understanding of HTML. Whenever you reference a hyperlink in the form
The web browser of choice will use the 'A' tags to reference the start and end of the links, but will use the quote marks to see what the actual link address is. The problem with the previous issue of RISC World was, where Aaron referred to the 3QD website the final quote mark was left out. If you wish to fix this, you'll first need to copy the entire RISC World text to your hard disc. To do this, open a directory window on your hard disc and, from the RISC World disc, copy the HTML folder to the hard disc directory window.
Next, open the HTML folder, then EDITOR folder on your hard disc. Double-click on INDEX.HTM with the SHIFT key held down. The file will open into your favourite text editor. Using the search functionality, locate 3QD.CO.UK. You should notice that the final set of quote marks has been left out - replace these by typing them in, then save the HTML file back to your hard disc.
You should now be able to read Aaron's full and unadulterated text, simply by double-clicking on the file.
(Ok, I'm sorry I missed out a closing quote - but I did find out, but only after a batch of CDs had already been duplicated and mailed - ED)
IMPLICATIONS OF THE PACE-SEGA HYBRID STB
I've noticed a lot of talk recently about the agreement between Sega and Pace Micro Technology to allow the next generation of set top box to take advantage of the Dreamcast gaming technology. There's a lot of question as to whether it will have any impact on Acorn desktop gaming itself - can you provide an answer?
Whilst I'd like to put it differently, the Sega-Pace deal is unlikely to have any implications for the gaming aspects of the RISC OS desktop machines. The next generation of Pace set top box will most likely include special hardware to handle those aspects of the set top box service. The Dreamcast used as its operating system a variant of Windows CE, and given the unlikelihood of that getting ported to the 26bit RISC OS operating system, I suspect it's nothing more than a pipedream. Sorry.
RANDOM NUMBERS - INDEPENDENT RANDOM NUMBERS
I'm experimenting with BASIC, trying to produce a simple program to generate lottery numbers. However I do occasionally find that my random number generation (in the form of A=RND(49)) tends to generate six numbers with occasional repetition. Do you have any idea as to how I can avoid this?
Back in 1997, I wrote a program for the BBC to do just that, and reached a similar problem. My solution wasn't particularly novel...
a=RND(49):PRINT a; REPEAT:b=RND(49):UNTIL b<>a:PRINT b; REPEAT:c=RND(49):UNTIL c<>b AND c<>a:PRINT c; REPEAT:d=RND(49):UNTIL d<>c AND d<>b AND d<>a:PRINT d; REPEAT:e=RND(49):UNTIL e<>d AND e<>c AND e<>b AND e<>a:PRINT e; REPEAT:f=RND(49):UNTIL f<>e AND f<>d AND f<>c AND f<>b AND f<>a:PRINT f
What this essentially does is to generate your first number - using a. Each subsequent number is generated, then checked against every previous number to ensure that it's original. If it's not original, another number is generated until you have a set of six independent numbers. There are other ways to do it, but this is the most straight forward and easy to follow. More for curiosities sake than anything else, the full program is included within the SOFTWARE directory of this disc.
(Mr Bradforth would like all readers to know that he did not make up any of these questions himself, indeed this would be a gross slander on a man of impeccable credentials - ED)