VirtualRPC for the Mac
David Bradforth takes a look at Virtual RPC-Adjust on the Mac in an article originally published in RISC Domain
When I was a small lad in secondary school (some sixteen years ago now) - they'd recently invested in the newly launched Archimedes computers. Something about them immediately had appeal. It wasn't just the games; it was more the style and creative potential of the machines. Sixteen years on and Acorn itself has disappeared; leaving behind a somewhat smaller market but still with a dedicated enthusiast base none the less. As technology demands have increased, the areas in which RISC OS had been a market leader - education, music publishing and (for a while) design - have decreased to the point where sometimes users do have to look towards other platforms to complete their general work tasks.
In my case, working alongside a magazine publisher in Bournemouth I found myself in need of Adobe InDesign and Photoshop simply to be able to share the files with our printers. The magazine, eBay Advisor, frequently features within this magazine. It is designed using a Mac rather than the PC version of InDesign; so I had to buy a Mac to produce it on. A G5 iMac was the result. But I found myself longing for something different. Something that I'd spent much of my young life using - RISC OS - and a peculiar desire to play the majority of the games I'd enjoyed over the years. First announced over three years ago, Virtual Acorn for Mac OS allows you to do just that - turn your Mac into a Risc PC and run software for the RISC OS platform on your stylish piece of kit.
Insert the Virtual Acorn CD-ROM and open your CD folder. Double-click The Manual.htm and you're able to view basic instructions for Virtual Acorn before installation. In comparison with other Mac software installations, VirtualRPC is trouble-free - it installs everything it requires into one place; so if you do decide to remove the application all you have to do is drag and drop the Virtual Acorn folder out of the Applications folder on your hard disk and into the trash. As with the PC version, Virtual Acorn for Mac OS X doesn't require too much disk space, about 500Mb for a full installation. Compare this to Creative Suite, demanding 7Gb of disk space, and you'll see that it's a very compact program.
Running for the first time
The first time you launch VirtualRPC-Adjust SA you'll be asked to enter an unlock code. To get this you'll need to email Virtual Acorn or call them during office hours. VirtualAcorn seem to check their email up to fifteen times a day, every day of the year - including Christmas day. So, unless there's a problem with the e-mail, or VirtualAcorn have gone away, you're pretty much guaranteed an unlock code within 24 hours. While some may not like the inclusion of this protection system, it's by no means unique within the Mac market. As it's a case of having this or not having the software, we're happy to deal with it.
After the program has been unlocked, you'll be prompted to select Arm 710, Arm 7500 or StrongARM. This is reflected in the processor emulated. In practice there is no need to use anything aside from StrongARM mode - there is very little RISC OS software these days that will not run on a StrongARM processor. After you select the processor, the RISC OS startup begins. For me, this is where things became a little different - you see my only experience of RISC OS Adjust has been at RISC OS Shows. My Risc PC had RISC OS 4.02; but I never had the chance to upgrade it to RISC OS Adjust. First impressions of Adjust are very favourable - it seems, on a style and usability basis, to address many of the issues there were with RISC OS 4.02 and provides an experience that is that little bit more fluid. For Mac users, this is immediately noticeable - in Paint, for instance, where you can now save in multiple formats (Sprite, JPEG and a selection of others). Being able to use Ovation Pro again was a pleasure - I've spent too much time using InDesign and Quark X Press and had become used to the time consuming processes required. Playing Desktop Repton with the graphics of the PC version - a processor-intensive task - worked very well. There was no processor slow-down at any point; and the experience lacked nothing on playing on the native PC platform. RISC OS Adjust in general integrates very well with the Mac OS X environment. Some of the aspects of RISC OS that are a pain to configure on a real machine; particularly Internet access; automatically pick up the Mac OS X internet connection.
This will allow you to use a web browser such as Webster or Oregano - trials for both of which are supplied with Virtual Acorn. If you're developing a website to be compliant with DDA rules, this can be ideal - if your web site will run correctly on a RISC OS browser it's straightforward enough to be read using an automatic tools available. When it comes to configuring your Virtual Risc PC, you actually have very little to do. RISC OS Adjust has been pre-configured to work best with the Virtual environment. You'll find occasionally the need to configure RISC OS - one instance is when dealing with printers. As the manual advises, you'll need both a Mac OS X and a RISC OS driver before you can print from RISC OS. However, if you use a postscript driver and print to file; you can then access the postscript file from within the Mac OS X environment and print using the Preview application. This will allow you to access your RISC OS files on the Mac and output them via some rather nice printers - alternatively you could buy the current Ovation Pro and run that as, sadly, there's no native Mac version.
The lack of support for USB floppy disk drives and disk images is, at present, a little disappointing; but this is a beta program and it shows a great deal of potential for the final release. The documentation supplied with the program is superb - it's very well written, and takes readers through virtually any task in a simple step-by-step fashion. It's difficult to criticise a program that shows so much potential. In Virtual RPC-Adjust SA for Macintosh, we have an all-in-one solution allowing RISC OS fans to make the most of existing and forthcoming software solutions based upon RISC OS technology. With the combination of powerful and stylish Mac hardware.
Using Virtual RPC-Adjust in a full-screeen mode is nothing short of impressive. Whatever task you choose to put it. At a price of £119, it won't break the bank - it's a superb piece of software, that works very well even at this stage of development. What we have in the Mac release of VirtualAcorn is essentially the highest specification RISC OS computer; running arguably the two best operating systems in the world and having the potential for the most style in a single box. When the full release version is available, Virtual RPC-Adjust SA for Mac will come into a league of its own.