RISC World

Letters Page

All the comments from our readers that we can print...

After a rant on comp.sys.acorn.misc I subscribed to RiscWorld.
Thanks for the first two issues I asked for. Having found the HTML on my Toshiba laptop. Both issues worked as I expected them to, including the link to MicroDigital, and this e-mail. Tomorrow I will check whether my !Fresco on the Risc PC is up-to-date enough to read the disks.
Thanks again
Henry Falkner

Many thanks for the e-mail. After the couple of letters in the last issue from readers who have stopped subscribing it's nice to have the opposite. It doesn't matter if the copy of Fresco is out of date, as we supply a read only version on each RISC World CD that will read the issue correctly. Remember the more subscribers we get, the more money I have to spend (rubs hands with glee), so recommend RISC World to a friend, you know it makes sense.

I noticed just now that the main arrows and logo lack a mask. Here are some new ones - with masks!
Andrew Harmsworth

You know what, he was right. The new "masked" versions are included with this issue. So thats only taken 12 issues for someone to notice. I always meant to put a mask on them, but I obviously never got around to it. Perhaps someone would like to design some better ones?

Last issue I asked for feedback, and I am delighted to say we have had quite a lot...and some of it I can actually publish...<.P>

You asked for feedback in the last issue. Well I like the whole thing basically. Although I've no interest in games and systems programming, I'm sure others do, so it needs to be there. I particularly like to read other points of view in the letters and especially the interviews sections.
We are all avidly requiring news about our platform and to those 'knockers' who have foolishly swapped to PCs; well that's their bad luck. I work in a large HE college with hundreds of PCs but most luckily I have also got a RPC SRP11 machine with a HP Scanjet 4C and Epson Stylus 850 colour printer. Whenever the PCs can't handle those little (and large) diagrams drawings and illustrations, guess who does them for the college then!!??
There is a PC on my other desk, but it only gets used for the internet, Pegasus e-mail and occasionally Access files from other offices. The RPC is also networked to the college with NetLinks, and this is used to download stuff directly to the harddisc. The college spends lots of cash trying to keep up to date with Bill Gates retirement fund (sometimes called "improving the systems we sell"). They have recently given in and had to start leasing the PCs because of the horrendous cost of upgrades and repairs!
My machine ain't been upgraded once and still outperforms these PCs! The main programs used are Poster (4mation played a blinder with that little gem!) DrawWorks Millennium, EasyWriter, RiScript and a number of conversion utilities. I also use an A5000 and Canon BJC600 for bulk colour jobs such as adverts, and I still use an Archimedes 410/1 and 3 BBC Masters (one for Teletext).
The Archi was bought around 1990 and still works fine. The BBCs are 14 years old! How many PCs last that long? At home I use a RiscStation 7500+, scanner and Canon BJC-6100. Great stuff. I enjoyed Weird Wide Web and Hugh Jamptons humour. Hope he can be replaced. The Messenger stuff is mostly rubbish, but advocacy can be useful to find out other folks views. More articles on 'how to' would be nice (such as connecting to a MIDI organ with RiscStations break-out cable; how to use a digital camera.) I will not be re-subscribing to Acorn User - I think 4.20 for a thin black and white (and recently pretty boring) mag is far too much.
Perhaps they should consider a CDROM output like yours? I bet the advertisers aren't too pleased either! Well hope that's of some use.
Thomas Shevels.

Thanks for the comments. We will keep running programming articles, they may only appeal for a minority, but we think they are important. PCs are a thorny issue. I have had a PC and a RISC OS machine next to each other for 13 years. In that time there have been two RISC OS machines, an A310 and a RiscPC. Both have been expanded over the years, but neither has really cost a great deal. In the meantime there have been 5 different PCs, starting from a 286, going up to a Pentium 4. Each time the PC got replaced the old one went in a skip (well apart from the last one which is still going in a supporting role). Everytime there is a major Windows upgrade I get a new machine, it's more cost effective that trying to get the new Windows running on the existing machine. As for reliability, well to be honest I have never had that much trouble with Windows, in fact I would have to say that for me both RISC OS and Windows have been as reliable as each other.

I hadn't seen a copy of Acorn User for some time, but recently had the "pleasure" of looking at one. To be honest it didn't really appeal, ok, in my opinion it was awful. The argument often used is that the RISC OS community needs a newstand magazine. Well we may well do, but not the one I saw the other day. The future of Hugh Jampton is rather undecided at present, should he be allowed back (Yes - HJ). As a tentative step we have given him a column in this issue, what do you think?

And now a financial question....

Hello again.
I received my RISC world with my review in it, which looks rather good all finished I thought. Do we still get paid for the RISC World articles or not? if so what is the procedure for doing this?
Mat Thompson

Unlike some other magazines we pay for all articles published, and we will continue to do so. So if you would like to earn a crisp £50 why not write an article for us. You will be sent a form to sign, and then you should get a cheque shortly after the issue is published. Now a competition based question.

Dear Aaron,
As the dubious winner of the lowest BogoMips score on my A5000, (my RISC 600 did not give a much higher number!), changing elements such as screen modes did not make much difference. I thought on this months disc you would reveal all about how best to use BogoMips to improve the speed on a machine. Perhaps the only answer is to upgrade the hardware.
Brian Tunbridge

Upgrading the hardware is about the only way to improve a bogomips figure. The BogoMips test runs in the processor with no input or output, so overclocking the processor is the easiest route. The StrongARM can be over clocked quite easily at home, if you are brave enough to cut the tracks, and remember to fit a cooling system. The only was I know of overclocking earlier processors is to change the crystal - which is why I had a 36Mhz ARM 3 in my Archimedes A310.

Dear Aaron,
There are certainly questions over the continuing viability of RISC OS, as several of your correspondents have indicated.
The most "popular" issue is Web page access. I am puzzled. People report difficulties accessing Web pages with RISC OS browsers. I generally use Fresco v. 2.13, and except for a cranky bank site in New Zealand, I don't experience problems. Anyway, I don't really want to risk Internet banking, so that's no big deal. In fact, in my experience Fresco stacks up well alongside Internet Explorer and Netscape, both of which I have dumped off the Wintel box at work in favour of Opera, the former on account of security issues, and the latter on account of it's horrible. The only area where Fresco really lets me down is that it won't decode Japanese pages. That can be done using Oregano, but that suffers from the huge drawback that even the latest version has been verified to fail to decode the Japanese text inside pull-downs (which is why on the rare occasions I go Japanese, it's using the Oregano demonstrator - I'm blowed if I'm going to pay 50 quid for something that doesn't work).
So, if Web access isn't that huge an issue, what is the problem? That's simple - peripherals. If my printer dies I will have great difficulty replacing it. Not only are drivers an issue, but here in Japan you basically can't buy parallel printers - it's USB or nothing. Likewise my ISDN terminal adaptor, which is the last I've seen in captivity with an RS232-C interface, as TAs are all USB, too. Yes, a couple of USB cards have now come out, but that same dirty word is being bandied about for them, too - "drivers". I'm not sure how big a problem that really is, as my sons' iBooks run anything plugged into their USB ports without additional drivers. I have no idea whether that simply means that Apple have built into OSX drivers for every peripheral under the sun (seems improbable), or that they've found some clever generic-driver trick. I await with bated breath further information on peripheral compatibility of USB-equipped RISC OS computers. The shops here are full of nice-looking scanners, all USB...
For the time being, I'm sticking to RISC OS, for two reasons - I've got a RiscPC, and it works nicely. I won't go the Wintel route if I have to abandon ship. I use a Windows 2000 box at work, and although the OS is rock-solid, it's horrible (Microsoft never have discovered that a GUI is actually meant to be used). My sons love Mac OSX (especially after OS 8 on their old PowerBooks), but they're old RISC OS hands and say the RPC remains much nicer to drive, even our now-ancient v 3.60. So the probable replacement, if there has to be one, would be a Mac. Just one thing, though - whereas Windows, even Win 2000, has Jaws lurking underneath in the form of the remnants of DOS and all those crazy DLLs, Mac OSX has an actual T-rex down there, called UNIX. OK, so it's rock-solid and the gurus love it, but if it decides to bite, it's terminal, as the non-Apple Mac OSX book admits (also a disincentive in the direction of Linux). With RISC OS I feel safe - you can't break it, and believe me, I've tried.
Now, about connecting to and driving those USB peripherals...
Michael Poole

Long term supply of peripherals for RISC OS machines is a potential problem. We now have two competing standards for USB interfaces, although it seems that most people are gravitating towards the Simtec designed interface as the standard. Of course an interface on its own is useless without the drivers. So someone is going to have to write the drivers. Who should do this? Should it be RISCOS Ltd, or should it be the manufacturer/supplier of the card? Lets face it it isn't going to be manufacturer of the USB device in question, will the likes of Canon and Epson be producing RISC OS drivers? No. However USB is only part of the issue, we need updated printer drivers. Many modern printers don't have error lights, they report problems via the software control panel on the computers screen. Since most manufacturers use their own methods for error reporting, and they seem to change it with every printer model a small company would have great difficulty in keeping up, as we have seen over the last few years, how much development have you seen to the RISC OS printing system over the last two years?

RISC OS is an excellent operating system, but its getting left behind. What is needed is someone to grab RISC OS by the scruff of the neck and put people to work on it and this should be the job of RISCOS Ltd.

So far it seems we had a mistake free issue last time. Surely that can't be right,

Dear Aaron,
Not fatal, but you forgot to close the <ul> 2/3 way through: file:/CDFS::RISCWORLD_3_2/$/HTML/BELLS/INDEX.HTM. There's also a spurious <li> but who really cares? :-)
Andrew Harmsworth

Hmmm. So it seems that apart from un-masked images and duff tags we had a fairly mistake free issue last time. Can we reduce the number of mistakes to zero, only time will tell...

Aaron Timbrell