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Thinner than the thinnest thing you can think of...

Last time I said that our e-mail problems had now been resolved, well I was wrong. As of the start of September the connection problems have now finally been sorted, but things got a lot worse before they got fixed....

During August we were still having e-mail problems and to add insult to injury the phone system had been playing up even more than usual. Firstly we had problems dialling out. Roughly half the time dialling a number resulted in a recorded message saying that "the number you have dialled has not be recognised". If you dialled the same number again it would then often connect. Then whilst I was trying to get a few days off the Broadband packed up completely.

I did all the usual tests, including removing all connected devices, plugging the router into the master socket, then into the master test socket, but I got nothing. I reported this to AOL (my ISP). They ran some tests and said the line was working. I pointed out that it wasn't so the modem must be faulty. They said that before they could replace the modem they would have to wait for BT to run some tests and I should ring back tomorrow. As we all know tomorrow never comes so every day I rung I was told there was no update and I should call back "tomorrow". I tried pointing out that I was "calling tomorrow" and had "called tomorrow" for a week no. However AOL were adamant that without a report from BT their hands were tied. They set me up with dial up access for a freephone number so at least I could collect my e-mails.

This was annoying, but not the end of the world. What made it feel like the end of the world was that, coupled with the dialling problem, getting an Internet connection became very difficult. The result was that I had to keep trying again and again to get a connection. When I did finally get connected the phone lines throwed a wobbly after a few minutes. As a result any large download was a complete non starter. I had several RISCWorld articles sitting on the server that I couldn't download, plus there were VirtualAcorn related things that I need to go and grab, but couldn't.

The problem carried on getting worse to the point where it was only possible to connect via dial up by unplugging all other devices from the phone line. So if I wanted e-mails I had to unplug the phones and the credit card machine. If I wanted to make a call I had to have just one phone (in the kitchen) plugged in. As for authorising a credit card payment, even with everything else removed from the line this was still a hit and miss affair. The terminal would often report that the "line was in use" when it wasn't.

I complained to BT, who said the line was fine. I complained to AOL, who said they had to talk to BT. I tried everything to get some movement then finally I had a stroke of luck. The line eventually collapsed completely on a Thursday lunchtime. We have no dial tone, no signal, no nothing. Now I was able to demand service from BT. I rung BT and because they were "busy" arranged a "free call back to any phone, including a mobile." The call back was returned an hour and a half later. "Our system still shows the lines working...". Well they aren't, it's your fault and your problem. "Well we can send an engineer round, but the earliest will be tomorrow afternoon...". I was not pleased. I pointed out that I had been reporting problems for ages. In the end the best I could get was to have incoming calls transferred to my mobile.

Within half an hour the mobile was ringing. "I've been trying to get hold of you since...." Yes. I know. Sorry but it's not our fault. I dealt with a couple of quick calls. Then, typically, got a long tech support call. Just at the end the mobile went flat. I dug out the charger and put the phone on charge. As the battery was totally flat the phone wouldn't start up for about a half an hour. To be honest I had pretty much had enough by this point and took the dogs out. I didn't get back till after 5 so I decided to try and get things sorted out tomorrow.

It was good job the mobile was fully charged as in the early evening the lights in the house blew. Cursing I dug out a torch and the fuse wire and dived into the understairs cupboard to take a look at the fuse box. Just as I was replacing the fuse everything went out. Sensing something odd I stuck my head out of the front window. The entire road was in darkness. A quick view out of the bedroom window (we are halfway up the hill) showed that most of Swadlincote was out as well. The power finally came back later in the evening. I went to bed.

Next morning I was just about to take Hayley to work when the door bell rang. It was a BT engineer. He had decided, as he only lived round the corner, to take a look at our job first. He plugged some test gear into the socket and confirmed the line was dead. "I'll only be 10 minutes" he said. He jumped in his van and shot up the road. In the end he was back in five. "It's all fixed". So what was wrong? "It was just a loose connection at the box, it looks like it was never tightened up properly." I explained that BT had said the line was "fine" with an "automatic test". I won't repeat what he said but the conclusion was that the tests run by BT are apparently not 100% reliable in detecting faults.

After he had gone and I had taken Hayley to work I plugged everything back in. The ADSL modem lit up with a row of green lights. All the phones dialled with no problems and everything was working. As an added bonus the ADSL didn't drop out any more and the problem we had experienced with "quiet" calls where I could hardly hear the person on the other end of the phone seemed to have vanished. Given that we have had this problem, and reported it to BT, since we moved in I am inclined to suspect the line has actually been developing a fault for over two years because it has never been connected correctly.

So hopefully the problems was now resolved and that people can now get hold of us properly. So if you have written to us and your letter has not appeared then please do re-send it. We really aren't ignoring you.

Now lets see what we have received...

Zipfile attached of Ovation Pro inlays for vol 8, 1 and 2. While on the subject of zipfiles I found that a couple of them on those CDs didn't really agree with Sparkplug (I'm not talking about the corrupt GOcam one you mention in the magazine) and double-clicking them led to nothing happening. Dragging them onto Sparkplug's icon also led to nothing happening. I think ArcFs worked in the end, but it was quite odd as other zipfiles in the same folder worked fine. At this stage you'll want to know which ones, but unfortunately I don't have the CDs to hand and I'm off on holiday tomorrow. I think one was in the Iyonix folder, but I'll try and find them when I get back.

Thanks for the inlays. I have put them in the Letters directory in the Software section of this issue. The .zip problem is a bit of a puzzler. Without knowing which files it was that caused the problem I am a bit stumped. The fact that ArcFS opened them is doubly confusing as ArcFS can't handle zip files (although SparkFS can handle ArcFS files, they don't work the other way round). If you can let me know which ones they were then I can investigate. Also if anyone else has had the same problems with files on Volume 8 Issue 2 can you please met me know.

On the subject of GoCam I was pleased to receive this...

Dear Aaron,
Here is a working copy of GoCam you wanted.[Archived by InfoZip]
Thomas Shevels

Thanks very much for this. I couldn't find a proper working copy anywhere. The working archive, as supplied by Thomas, is in the Software section of this CD. Although I am not sure that it was what Andy Brown was looking for it was the closest thing I could find and might prove helpful. It would be great to have a proper webcam application for RISC OS that provided a real time view of the camera on the desktop, but unless a keen developer wants to get their teeth into this, it seems to be unlikely.

Dear Aaron,
I am in the process of considering a replacement for my somewhat aging RiscPC which I have owned, used and enjoyed for a number of years. I should say that at the moment it is working without fault but that I feel, given that it is now over 10 years old, that a replacement is more than a little overdue. I have considered both the Iyonix and the A9 computers and have also studied the emulated offers from R-Comp that come with VirtualAcon pre-installed. Whilst I appreciate that you are involved with the VirtualAcorn could you perhaps offer some guidance as to which machine might be most suited to my needs. I do some letter writing, e-mail and general computing. What would you recommend?
Keith Parsons

Without knowing a lot more about what you do with a computer (use it - HJ) and what you would like to do I really can't offer much advice. It's different horses for different courses. Luckily Dave Holden has been working on a comparison article for a couple of months now and although it was scheduled to go in the next issue I've bumped it up into this one. I suggest taking a look at what Dave has to say and then having a long hard think about which solution might be the best for your circumstances.

If you would like to contact the RISCWorld letters page please e-mail us using the following e-mail address.

Aaron Timbrell