RISC World

Editor's Corner

Aaron Timbrell's own bit of the magazine.

Do people read these editorial bits any more? I don't know, well that isn't true I know Andrew Harmsworth reads them, but does anyone else? So I could say what I liked couldn't I? But then isn't that point of Editorials, they are an opinion by the magazines editor about something or other. I am not sure if I ought to express any opinions about anything, have I any more right than anyone else, just because I sit here putting the magazine together? I do have the right to say that I am very pleased with our newly decorated lounge, even if it did take a week and a half (and was done while we suffered from a series of power cuts caused by a faulty substation). I can hold an opinion on it because it's my lounge, in my house and of course anyone is free not to like it. I will then throw them out, but that's neither here or there.

This thought on opinions also extended to my new surround sound speakers in my office, I like them a lot, I choose them, I use them and I paid for them, so they are mine. However when it comes to software (see this is going somewhere) you chose it, you use it, you paid for it, but you don't own it, you have the right to use it but it's not yours. So why do people get so attached to some bits of software that aren't theirs? I think it's because they forget that they don't own it. I am always seeing posting on usenet (Oh God he's on about usenet again - HJ) saying that "company x should do thing z". What the posters actually mean is "company x should do this, oh, and it doesn't matter if it costs thousands, customers should have it for 2/6d if you don't mind".

So they are expressing an opinion, and are quite at liberty to do so. On the other hand company X is quite at liberty to have a different opinion. There never seems to be a shortage of opinions flying around the RISC OS world, what there is a shortage of is actions. Lots of people seem to think that certain "things" ought to be done, but don't seem to want to do anything to help. If these people want things done then they should offer to help, after all I am quite sure they are capable of feeding themselves (in most cases), so they should be capable of assisting in some way, either physically or financially. If they can't do either then in my view their opinions are pretty worthless. There are lots of things that I would like, but I know they are not practical so I don't express a pointless opinion. Well I could do, how does "Someone should come round and weld up my Camper for 2/6d" sound? It's an opinion, but it's never going to happen, so why express it?

I have just re-read the above couple of paragraphs and I am not sure that they make any sense, but since I don't know if anyone is reading this (apart from Andrew) I don't think its worth having an opinion about. What do you think?

Aarons sad facts corner

I have just finished this issue of RISC World (and yes I have checked all the GIF files - see the letters page) and just wondered how big it was since it seems like our biggest issue ever. So here are some sad facts, laid out in A4 two column format using 9pt Homerton Medium this issue runs to 70 pages without illustrations. I have no idea how big it would be if you put in the pictures and sensible page breaks. This issue also contains over 60,000 words, and has 38 article entries off the main index page. A lot of the size is down to the large Rhapsody manual, but then if we don't publish the manual how will anyone know how to use it? Some more is taken up by our reprint of the BASIC V guide by Mike Williams, but I regularly get asked where users can find a simple BASIC guidebook, and they are almost impossible to find even second hand. Some more of the wordage is taken up by the UltimaIV documentation, you could go and download all of this, but its a lot easier having it on a RISC World CD, for those on a dial-up connection downloading the entire game would take many hours. We still have our mix of regular columns and reviews, plus other special articles that we commission. When you think that RISC World costs not much more that £3.00 per issue it makes me wonder what some other magazines are doing to justify their price.

Editors Rant of the month

This month's rant is about one man, an individual so stupifyingly stupid that he is overqualified to be the winner of the stupidest stupid person ever competition. So who is this brain dead moron? Me. Earlier today (actually several hours earlier) I decided it was about time I updated my old RiscPC. It still does a lot of useful work, including getting used to assemble RISC World and running various other useful bits of software. Anyway my !Boot sequence could be best described as "esoteric", a flipping great mess might be a better description. So armed with the latest updates from RISCOS Ltd and Castle Technology the first port of call was my !System folder, this contained multiple modules directories, all of which seemed to contain the same set of modules. For some reason I then decided it would be a good idea to sort this out and have one up to date set all in the correct place.

Can you see where this is going yet, would it help if I said that my machine is still running RISC OS 3.7? Nope? It does however also have the Universal !Boot sequence and the nested Wimp. Can you guess what is going to happen? Well I couldn't. So I sorted out all the modules, put them in the right places, including making sure that WindowManager 3.98 was in the 370 directory.

I then re-booted the computer and noticed a couple of silly errors from PreDesk, the computer then entered the desktop, but why wasn't it running my usual screen mode? And more importantly why was it continually moaning about not having any free memory? There was over 60Mb sitting in the Applications free slot, but whenever I tried to free any up it vanished into a memory abyss.

Now of course whenever a customer wants to update their boot sequence I advise them to make a backup just in case. Of course I don't do this because I am an IT Professional, and I don't make silly The first thing I tried was to put the screen mode back, but every mode I tried reported that "This mode is unsuitable of viewing the desktop", and that included the 800x600 mode the machine was starting up in! No software would load as all my memory was disappearing. I went back through the boot sequence but couldn't find anything wrong, everything was in the right place. Since I need my odd !Boot sequence as it lets me do some clever tricks I couldn't just replace it with another copy from CD. Even if I did do that would I find the cause of the problem? Would it happen again if I tried the latest updates?

After nearly half an hour of messing around I decided to see if I had a nasty module mis-match going on with some new bits and some old stuff loaded. So I went through each module by hand to make sure it was correct. Finally I got to the WIMP module, and this was indeed Window Manager 3.98 (the one with the nested WIMP), but it was the wrong one! It was the module intended for RISC OS 3.1.....whoops! What I must have done is seen that the datestamp was newer for the copy into 310 directory, and copied that into the 370 directory. The computer was softloading this before the desktop started and that was the cause of the problem. Replacing this one module fixed everything (well at least it seems to so far).

So what is the moral of this story? Firstly it's that stuff intended for one version of RISC OS can cause havoc on another version, secondly that Acorn were bloody silly giving all the modules the same version number and thirdly that I am an idiot. I will try to be more understanding in future when customers delete all the drivers from WindowsXP and then wonder why the computer doesn't work properly any more.

Printing RISC World

The new look of RISC World means that you will no longer get the yellow background when printing articles from RISC World. However you will still get the blue border on the left unless you turn off the printing of background images. The example below shows the print dialogue box from Fresco.


As you can see the option "No Background" is ticked. If you want to print out any of the RISC World pages and don't want to waste ink on a blue border then make sure you have clicked a similar option in your browser.

Aaron Timbrell