RISC World useful links
It is almost obligatory these days for every web site to have a page of links. For most RISC OS enthusiasts these will be links to other RISC OS related sites, and although this is useful most of the primary sites will be linked from the main RISC OS portals like The Iconbar or Drobe Launch Pad or the rather less visually exciting but extremely comprehensive Nutshells, which has links to hundreds of dealers, developers, suppliers, FTP sites, and much more.
There doesn't seem to be much point in just publishing yet another list of links to the same old sites, so we've collected together some that you may not know about and not be able to find from the usual RISC OS portals. These aren't RISC OS specific, but they are all places that you might find either interesting or useful, or both.
Foggy's Acorn 2 PC Networking Guide is, as the name suggests, an invaluable guide to networking your RISC OS machine to a PC. You can probably find all the information you need here to get a network up and running.
Quiet PC is mainly aimed at PC owners, and so quite a lot of the products won't be of direct interest. However, they do stock quite a lot of useful stuff, including cables, ultra quiet fans, acoustics material and hard drive 'hush' kits. An alternative site is Cool Case Mods, although, as the name suggests, this is mainly intended for people who want to 'customize' their PCs with windows in the side, laser lights and coloured fans, but they do stock more basic items as well.
Now for some techie stuff.
The Acorn technical documents site has hundreds of documents of all types relating to Acorn computers. Many of these are from Acorn and were the documents that Acorn made available to Registered Developers. Others are from third parties and include various 'How to' and 'Hints and Tips' articles.
For anyone interested in importing 'foreign' files into RISC OS programs or visa versa here are a couple of invaluable sites. My File Formats and The Programmer's File Format Collection both list hundreds of proprietary file types and describe their format. These aren't just limited to the usual PC and Mac files either, but include Amiga, Commodore and even Acorn files.
For people who mess with hardware rather than just software an invaluable site is Mushroom Components. This company has stocks of thousands of obsolete and obsolescent electronic components, including the STPS2045CT dual shottky diode often needed for RiscPC power supply repairs. If you need a hard to find component for a repair on an old machine this is one place you can't afford to miss.
Finally a few companies that can provide something we all need, low cost printer supplies. The price of inkjet printers has now fallen so low while the cost of replacement refills has been rising that it's almost cheaper to throw away your printer and buy another when it runs out of ink. In fact, this is exactly what I found with my (inkjet) fax machine. Cost of machine, £89 with two cartridges. Cost of replacement cartridge, £47.
Fortunately there are lots of places where you can buy 'pattern' refills. However, for the bulk user or the serious bargain hunter by far the best option is to refill your own. The problem then is obtaining good quality ink at a price that makes it worth your while. A good place for both 'original manufacturers' and 'pattern' inkjet cartridges and bulk ink is PhotoGlossy. As the name suggests, they primarily specialise in photographic supplies, so they do film and paper as well, but they've also got a great range of inkjet supplies. For the non commercial user, there's another advantage; they are in Guernsey, so there's no VAT and you still get low UK postage rates.
If you are going to refill inkjet cartridges then the best tool for the job is a hypodermic syringe. These are not always easy to obtain, especially the larger 10ml or 20ml sizes. The best source may be your local vet, but failing that there's an online veterinary supplier, Canine Chemists. If you've got a dog or cat these are people you absolutely must know about anyway, but for syringes select 'Surgical Instruments' from the product index on their web site and you'll find them.
There's another problem with some inkjet printers, especially the latest Epsons. These have a 'chip' that decides when your cartridge is empty. Not only does this often mean that you have to change a cartridge when it's obvious that there's still ink in it, but you can't refill them (which was the main idea in the first place). This practice is shortly to be outlawed by a European Directive, but that's not a lot of help if you've already got one of these printers.
Fortunately there is a solution. Inky Link and BS Print not only each have original and pattern inkjet refills for a variety of printers, they can also both supply a cunning device for resetting the chip in Epson cartridges so that you can either extract the last drop of ink or refill them. You won't have to use this gadget more than a couple of times before it will have paid for itself.
If you use a laser printer don't feel left out. As with inkjets, for most models pattern or 're-manufactured' toner units are available at much reduced cost, but you can also refill them yourself.
It's not possible (or advisable) with all makes, but toner refill kits are available for many of the popular models, including most Hewlett Packard lasers. This is a bit more complicated (and potentially messy!) than refilling an inkjet, but the cost saving can be even more significant. I'll try to cover this in more detail in a later issue of RISC World, but if you don't mind having a go have a look at L.C.Refills who can supply toner and refill kits, complete with full instructions, for a huge range of printers.