RISC World

Editor's Corner

Aaron Timbrell's own bit of the magazine.

There was a discussion recently on Archive Online which related to !Dict, the dictionary program for RISC OS. The question was, was this an application that only ran on RISC OS, and was something that Windows PCs simply couldn't do. The short answer was no. PCs running Windows were just as capable of using a similar dictionary program, which provided similar functionality. This got me thinking, was there anything that RISC OS could do that the PC couldn't?

In the end I couldn't come up with very much; indeed many of the things I do now can't even be done on RISC OS, this editorial being an example. So why couldn't this be done on RISC OS? I'll tell you why, it's because I'm not typing it. Instead I am dictating this article to the PC using Dragon Naturally Speaking. I purchased a copy on eBay for the princely sum of eight pounds, complete with a headset. Okay it's not the latest version but it still does the job very well. I simply sit in front of the PC and instead of typing I just say what I like and the PC types it for me. Speaking to the computer is a bit strange. I remember playing with early voice recognition software under Windows 95 almost ten years ago. It was awful and made numerous mistakes and it was actually quicker for even a slow typist to type by hand rather than to use the program.

The lack of voice recognition for RISC OS isn't a fault of the operating system, it's simply that developing voice recognition is expensive and the small size of the RISC OS market means it isn't economically viable. It's a great shame as I'd much prefer to be dictating into OvationPro then into WordPad. There are other areas where RISC OS lags behind windows and other operating systems, for example browsers. Many sites on the Internet now simply don't work properly with RISC OS browsers. Again this isn't a fault of the operating system itself but simply an indication of the small size of the RISC OS market. What we really need is for someone to make a success of RISC OS outside the traditional desktop market and to be able to feed back development into desktop versions of RISC OS. As an example many mobile phones now support voice recognition, indeed a £49 phone I bought recently supports voice recognition for ten numbers. If RISC OS is going to succeed in new markets then it's going to need that type of functionality.

There are a number of things RISC OS does very well. In my view it has some killer applications. I'm thinking in particular of things like ArtWorks2, TechWriter, OvationPro and recently RiscCAD. The point is that although the things RISC OS does it does very well, there are too many things it can't do. If anyone is to make a success of RISC OS outside the existing desktop market then they going to need to address these deficiencies, unless there is a big market for RISC OS powered washing machines or toasters of course.

Editors Rant of the month

The following is about the vehicular faith, not specifically about computing.

What can I find to rant about this month? Well, to be honest, it's difficult to find very much. I had to buy four new tyres for the Shogun, and although they aren't small, they are quite cheap, coming in at just under £200 for the four including all the extras. They were fitted the day after they were ordered by a local tyre fitters who were quick, polite and helpful. The only thing I can really complain about is a long running electrical gremlin.

For some time now the Shogun has been getting increasingly difficult to start in the mornings. The battery is fully charged and the starter motor spins away, but the V6 just won't have it. The normal way for me to get the vehicle to go is to pop the bonnet and fiddle with the wires on the water temperate sensor, provided the ignition is switched on there will usually be a click, then the vehicle will start. Why fiddling with the temperature sensor made the vehicle start was always a mystery, but what the hell, as long as it worked.

Recently this trick has stopped working. Despite waggling the wires in the vain hope of success there was no click sound. The Shogun has a complex multipoint fuel injection system with a myriad of sensors, so in the end I had to dig out the wiring diagram, which showed no logical reason why the temperature sensor waggling should work. So I delved deeper into the Haynes manual to find out what was supposed to go click when the ignition was turned on. After half an hour if intense reading the answer was revealed, a servo mounted underneath the throttle body. I removed the nasty multiplug that connects the wiring loom to the servo and, oh look, the wiring is wrapped in the same section of loom as the temperature sensor, so if you pull the wires at the front the multiplug moves slightly. Inside the multiplug was a lovely collection of corroded contacts, which responded well to a quick attack of emery paper. I then reassembled it all, turned the ignition on and got a nice click and the Shogun started first time.

Next morning it wouldn't start. I will have another stab at it this weekend, but it teaches me one thing - electrical systems are very complex and finding the fault can be very time consuming. Even if the fault can be found, can it be fixed? Who knows, I don't, it's just a shame you can't fit a couple of SU's and ditch the fuel injection.

Printing RISC World

The new look of RISC World means that you will no longer get the yellow background when printing articles from RISCWorld. 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 RISCWorld 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