VirtualAcorn Tech Support
More from Aaron's tech support notebook
Until Christmas the old tech support department (the far right hand side of my desk) was pretty empty. We were getting the odd problem but not one that involved any head scratching to find a solution. At least, not any problems that I took enough notice of....
The Mysterious Case of the odd Shutdown error
In early November I had a strange report on the VirtualAcorn forums of a shutdown problem with a VirtualAcorn. As the user was trying to shutdown VirtualAcorn they got a strange error, Bad Command 12. The problem was reported in the VirtualRPC-AdjustSA forum. I ran a few tests on a copy of VirtualRPC-AdjustSA and could not reproduce the problem so I ended up suggesting that it was something specific to the user setup. I then thought no more about it as I had no further reports of the problem. Mind you in some ways that's not surprising. Actually all the user didn't really have a copy of VirtualRPC-AdjustSA, instead they had VirtualRPC-SA/SE, but had posted their query in the wrong forum, which was not very helpful. This meant my search for the problem was immediately sent down the wrong track...
In late December, over Christmas when we were closed, we had another report of the same problem on the forums from the same user, this time in the correct forum. However I didn't connect the two as being the same report so they got logged as separate problems, one with VRPC-SA and one with VRPC-AdjustSA. Then a couple of other people also reported the same problem. One of them had a VirtualRPC-SE, so now it looked like a general problem with all versions of VirtualAcorn. Since we had just released some further free upgrades these looked like being the suspect, but I still couldn't find the problem. In the end I had to conclude that the users were doing "something", but I couldn't fathom what.
I then finally had a brainwave, and asked all the users with the same problem to complete a questionnaire. The first thing that struck me was that none of them was using an Adjust VirtualAcorn. Then something else struck, all of them were using a softloaded RISC OS 4.39. There was a third commonalty, all of them had downloaded the VirtualAcorn upgrades designed for RISC OS 6, but none of them were actually running it.
This gave me a big clue, from RISC OS 4.39 onwards the power management system is different. The Adjust versions of VirtualAcorn don't support the older system, but VRPC-SE and VRPC-SA did, except it was now depreciated. So it sounded as though somehow the users were getting bits of one system, and bits of another. Indeed this was the case. Installed in the !Boot sequence of the problem machines was a copy of our old !VAShutdwn application.
So how did it get there? Well except for the gentlemen who had three different copies, of three different versions, in three different places, it got their from the SelectSupport folder we supply with VirtualRPC-SE and VirtualRPC-SA. However it's actually not needed any longer as even the base versions of VirtualAcorn now support the newer standard. What VAShutdown does is provide a neat way of returning to Windows when VirtualAcorn is shut down. However it's no longer needed, as the RISC OS shutdown warning has an Off button on VRPC. So instead of clicking on Shutdown, the user just needs to click on this Off button.
So what's the solution to the problem? Answer, delete VAShutdown, then make sure the desktop shutdown warning is enabled, and remember to click on the correct button. That was easy wasn't it, shame it took me several weeks to work it out. I would remove VAShutdown from the SelectSupport folder, but it's needed for some versions of RISC OS prior to 4.39. I'll have to think about it...
The preview release of RISC OS 6, doesn't support printing. On the other hand the existing VirtualRPC-SE and VirtualRPC-Adjust didn't support RISC OS 6, so we fixed the problem and released an upgrade prior to Christmas. Just after Christmas I had a couple of people claiming they couldn't print. Well of course they can't, RISC OS 6 is a preview and doesn't support printing. Yes, they knew that, but they had reverted back to the base version of RISC OS, and it still wouldn't print. Whoops.
The upshot of this was that I had managed to accidentally break the printing system in HostFS when I produced the upgrades. Fixes are now available from the downloads section of the VirtualAcorn website, note that only VRPC-SE and VRPC-Adjust (not the StrongARM versions) are effected. At least this problem was easy to track down.
More RISC OS 6 malarky
Having resolved the problem with RISC OS 6 on the standard VirtualAcorns we now needed to address the problem with the StrongARM versions. Although these seemed fine for general use we had already discovered that hardware scrolling, for example pressing F12 and typing *modules, would cause a lock up. This problem had been noted before the RISC OS 6 preview was released, but we hadn't had a chance to investigate. Graeme tracked down and fixed the problem in his usual timely manner. In the meantime I was waiting for a report from a user who had found the problem, but none came. Does no one use the command line any more? These updates are also available from the VirtualAcorn downloads section.
I was a little disappointed when the first new release of Firefox didn't work on any VirtualRPC. Indeed, the only machine it did apparently work on was the Iyonix. It wouldn't even work on the A9 computer. Given that both VirtualAcorn and Advantage6 sponsored the work on FireFox, and Castle didn't, I was little miffed. However Peter Naulls has now released another new version of FireFox that works on Iyonix, A9 and on the StrongArm VirtualAcorns. So a well deserved round of applause for Peter's sterling efforts is in order.
There is a copy of Firefox suitable for VirtualRPC-SA and AdjustSA in the Iyonix folder in this issue. I'm off to go any play with an iMac...