The Education Column
Andrew Harmsworth with the latest Education news
Gosh - summer's here at last (and now it's gone - ED) and as always time is very precious. This month I report of yet another way of accessing broadband from your RISC OS machine. Staying on the networking theme, I try out the amazingly useful little utility provided with Select - !AT Print. Lastly there is positive feedback from the first consumer users of MicroDigital Alphas.
Last column, I briefly wrote about Paul Vigay's support for ADSL under RISC OS. Unbeknownst to me, ADSL access has been available natively for RISC OS users for some time from none other than prolific software and hardware producers, R-Comp. Pay attention, Harmsworth!
According to R-Comp, they have been doing ADSL and Cable broadband/networking kits for around 18 months, and it's proving very popular indeed. They also have (printed) manuals detailing how to network your machines. These fall into three categories: general (e.g. networking to Windows, file sharing, etc.), ADSL in-a-box and Net in-a-box. Now that I'm finally moving house, I'll have need to set up an ADSL connection for my RiscPC, so hopefully I'll be able to report successfully on this next issue. Which product to go for is the big question...
Check out http://www.rcomp.co.uk/rci/networking for more information on R-Comp's ADSL and networking solutions.
Select: Network Printing
One of the great things about the Select Scheme is that it provides you with more and more surprises each time you look at what you have. One little utility that I had missed was !AT Print. This wonderful program allows the queueing of PostScript files for AppleTalk printers.
I happened to find this little darling whilst on the phone to our Music Faculty - who are avid Apple enthusiasts. My colleague was intrigued to see if it would work, so I set !Printers up to output a Postscript file.
Fig. 1. Re-activating the PoScript2 printer driver
In case you don't know, the PoScript2 driver is a standard Acorn PDF (printer definition file) installed by selecting PRINTER CONTROL from !Printers' iconbar menu, then dragging the PDF file to the window.
The Postscript driver does need to be set up to print to a file, as you will need this to send via !ATPrint (unfortunately it can't do this seemlessly, but it's very easy).
Fig. 2. Remember to set the driver to print to a file
Next, I fired up TechWriter with a letter I'd written earlier in the evening, and hit print. The file rapidly appeared in my root directory. !AT Print has two different windows that show all print jobs:
Fig. 3. Four available printers supporting AppleTalk printing
... and individual print job information:
Fig. 4. Information flashes up here!
It worked first time, and it worked within minutes, so I (and my Apple-eating colleague) was certainly happy with the result. It has already proven useful and was so easy to set up. Let us hope that RISCOS Ltd are able to continue to offer such gems in the future.
Arguments and Gossip
Drobe - the RISC OS portal with energy - is one of the best places on the web to visit in order to keep abreast of day-to-day RISC OS news. Recently they posted users' comments about the new MicroDigital Alpha laptop which was seen first in the last issue of RISC World. They certainly seem happy with their machines, reporting solid reliability and StrongARM-like performance. Various benchmarks have been made, and overall this would seem to be a highly desirable solution to RISC OS portability.
Yet, as always, there are those in the forums who don't seem to accept that it is the ability to use RISC OS (software) on the move that makes the Alpha route a perfect (indeed, currently the only) solution. I've borrowed a very old Windows 95 laptop for the summer. Whilst it isn't fast, it does run Microsoft Word (I needed the machine to do some writing) and I can sit with it at the dining room table, or outside on the patio. I cannot consider moving my RiscPC into - and out of - these locations and expect to remain sane!
As I've said before, laptops for teachers in schools (and indeed the pupils!) are rapidly becoming the norm all over the country. The requirement to use Windows and its associated applications is now unavoidable (unless you really want to become unpopular and jeopardise your professional development in the process). The ability to run RISC OS programs reliably and at speed on a laptop is a very significant bonus. I would hope to see Alphas priced competitively for school use, but time will tell. Once I've bought the new car and paid for my wedding, my order will be in...If you have any questions or comments on the use of RISC OS computers in education, please either email firstname.lastname@example.org or better still join the RISC OS Education Discussion List, and air them there.