RISC World

Editor's Corner

Aaron Timbrell's own bit of the magazine.

Editor's Rant of the month

There has been an interesting thread on Archive on Line recently with the title "Why RISC OS?". The thread concerns why Archive readers believe that RISC OS is the best operating system for them. Dave Holden and I have been discussing this, with relation to the current retail RISC OS solutions, for a couple of months now and you can see his thoughts on the matter in an article in this issue. The question is, given that there are three ways of running RISC OS on a new bit of kit (A9, Iyonix, VirtualAcorn) which one is "better". Naturally I totally agree with his conclusions, but I would wouldn't I?

With regard to "Why RISC OS?" I was tempted to join in, but resisted. Here's why. For me RISC OS is an essential. All the accounts are done on Prophet, letters with Impression, RISCWorld is all done with RISC OS tools, websites are done with RISC OS, graphics are DrawWorks or ArtWorks etc. So I use RISC OS a lot, but could I recommend it to someone who is new to computers? Sorry, but no, I couldn't. Now before I make anyone unhappy I perhaps should explain why.

Firstly let me say that RISC OS does the things it does very well. The problem is all the things it doesn't, or can't do. Suppose you had someone who was new to computers and that they wanted a machine having seen all the "wonderful" things computers can do. Suppose I then recommended a RISC OS machine for them, would they be happy? I very much doubt it, imagine this conversation...

"So I can one of these RISC OS machines and I can go on the Internet?". Oh yes, well you might need a few different browsers. "What do you mean?". Well a browser lets you look at websites and RISC OS doesn't come with one. There are several around, but none of them are perfect.

"Oh well, as long as I can do my banking". Err...which bank? "Why?". Because RISC OS only works with some banks, and if the banks upgrade their websites it might stop working.

"Oh, well never mind at least I would be able to look at this YouTube thingy". Err, no sorry, that doesn't work as RISC OS doesn't play those videos. "DVDs will be OK though." Umm, no. "So no DVDs then?" Sorry no. "What about a digital video camera?", sorry that won't work either.

"What about the scanner/printer I just bought in Tesco then?". might work, but if it's a cheap one you won't be able to scan, and if it does print it will be slow and the quality won't be very good.

"Well at least I will be bale to make cheap phone calls to my Aunt in Australia". No...that's Voice over IP, and RISC OS doesn't support that.

"Hmm, what about games and things?" Well you get some quite good games. "What like that Doom3 thing?". of the games are quite old really and there aren't 3D ones. "At least I can pick up some games in Tesco for the grand children." can only get RISC OS software mail order, not in shops.

"So hold on, there are no games, I can't use a cheap printer, or scanner, my digital video camera won't work, I won't be able to look at a lot of websites, I won't be able to do any banking...there's no cheap phone calls...I can't see the point of it if I won't do the things I want. I'll just go and buy a PC that does everything." Well, hold on...I mean...erm...well RISC OS has a really nice drag and drop... "A drag and what?".

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

Last issue I said I would expalin how to fit new brakes and exhaust to a Daewoo Matiz. The brakes are easy. Simply get a set of pads and discs of eBay. Then spend a weekend trying to take the integral hub and disc assembly off. Then give up and get a local mechanic to do the job in an hour and half for £50 in folding stuff. Easy when you know how.

As the the exhaust, well that's a little more difficult. Luckily the small size and weight of the car help. Just pick the Matiz up and turn it upside down (don't forget to put an old mattress down first). Then feed the great long exhaust pipe under the back axle, past the fuel tank (using the correct Daewoo approved crowbar). It's also worth learning how to swear in Korean to get the full job experience. Having finally done all this and bolted up the exhaust all you then have to do is attach all the little rubber exhaust hangers that don't fit. Once you've levered them on just pop the car back on it's wheels and make sure the exhaust hits the side of the fuel tank every time the engine starts. Job done.

OK, perhaps that's a little facetious, but it's not far from the mark. Before we leave the Matiz for pastures four wheel drive I ought to also mention the drive belts. Ever sine we bought the car it's had a drive belt squeak when the air con was turned on. I tightened the slightly loose belt and the problem promptly didn't go away. Since the belt was new I gave up and just didn't use the air con. In the spate of recent wet weather I also discovered that the squeak would turn into a squealing howl every time the car went over a puddle. I adjusted the belt again, but it was still no better. The solution presented itself last week when I gave the car an oil change. This is best done using car ramps. So up the car went and out came he sump plug. Whilst underneath I noticed the alternator was behind and below the engine and it had its own drive belt. Although I couldn't see it very well I could feel it. Shouldn't it have teeth? Ideally yes. In order to remove the belt you have to take off the other belt. Which means losening the power steering pump, then wiggling about, then getting underneath (whoops watch that drip tray...bugger), then finally getting the top belt off, then losening the alternator (two bolts underneath and one over the back of the engine). Then levering the belts off. The result was the worst drive belt I have ever seen. I guess it's never been changed, despite the car having full main dealer service history. Well it's been changed now. The air con works and you can drive over puddles without the sound effect of 2000 parrots with full steam roller accompaniment.

So that's the Matiz, what about the 4x4? Well it needed two new tyres for the MOT. I got a mobile company to do this. The new tyres were fine, but the wheel studs on the driver's side were mangled. This meant you couldn't put the wheel back on properly. This needed some thought. I discovered that you can get new wheel studs, but to fit them means disassembling the hub. OK, but how do do it? Given that the Monterey has a complex 4x4 system that electronically engages at up to 45 mph getting things wrong could be rather nasty. Try as I might I could not find any instructions for working on the hubs on 1996 model petrol automatics. I could find the hub diagrams for other models, but not for mine.

In the end we hit in a brilliant wheeze. Since the wheel was already off I banged the studs in a bit more and cut the heads off the back with an angle grinder. I could then pull the studs out. In the end only 3 were damaged - so these were removed. I then ordered some more studs and sat down with my favourite CAD package (Draw) to design some new studs with screw on heads. These could be fitted without any dismantling. Just bang the stud in (with an old nut on) and then screw the new special nuts on the back of the modified studs. A little bit of thread lock and the jobs a good one. I took the new studs and my drawing of how they needed to be machined to my local engineering firm. They were able to turn down the studs, add a thread and make a special size nut for each one. As a true testament to British engineering the job only took them three times as long as they had said and cost twice as much.

Having fitted the new studs (yes the idea worked) I noticed the inner CV joint boot was damaged. So I ordered a new one, which arrived next day. I was able to find instructions on replacing the boot on-line and it looked quite easy. All you had to do was undo four very large bolts and wiggle the suspension about until the driveshaft came out of the front differential. Do you remember those mangled wheel nuts? Well the same twit must have been under the suspension because all of the four big bolts were damaged and couldn't be unbolted even with a four foot breaker bar. I will cut short a long story of scaffold poles, nut splitters, vernacular language and hacksaws. In the end the bolts were cut with an angle grinder. The drive shaft was wiggled and the boot came free. In the attempt to remove the bolts the outer CD boot had also been damaged and so I had to order another one. The outer boot had to be changed first, then the inner boot was fitted, then the drive shaft was slid back in place (with the ball race fitted the correct way round this time).

Now I just needed to find some new bolts...and I tried...and tried. In the end I gave up finding bolts the correct length and went and bought a threaded bar with some nuts. I cut four equal lengths from the bar, slid it up and fitted a nut to the top with more thread lock. Then I bolted up nuts to the bottom. Fitted the wheel and the job was done. Brimming with confidence I took the Monterey for an MOT. It failed.

The handbrake mechanism wasn't working. This wasn't a major problem. I just had to jack up the back, take the wheels off, remove both rear brake assemblies, pull the hubs, strip the internal handbrake mechanisms, clean it all up, copperslip all moving parts, check it, re-assemble, then set the brake balance with the adjuster nuts. All done in a couple of hours. The other failure was lose front wheel bearings...gulp. This meant I would have to disassemble the hubs, which I had avoided doing with the wheel studs. I bit the bullet and started taking one apart. It actually looked quite simple. There was just a bearing behind a plate...hold how do the four wheel drive hubs work? Err...they don't. On my vehicle the complex 4x4 stuff is all internal in the diff. It got changed because on the older vehicles (with 4x4 hubs) it was too difficult to change a damaged wheel stud. Arghhh!

So there we will leave the saga. The Monterey now has a fresh new MOT, the Matiz has had all the jobs done and I've stamped the service book. Now all I have do is take a look at that £540 Porsche I bought on eBay....

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