RISC World

Editor's Corner

Aaron Timbrell's own bit of the magazine.

Editors Rant of the month

There has been a very lively discussion on the newsgroups recently under the topic of 'What does RISC OS mean to you'. Some of the most interesting comments are included in an article in this issue. I haven't responded myself as my answer isn't very exciting, actually it's a single word answer. Work.

Yes, work. I suspect that there are very few people around who can give that answer. Indeed the last time I sat down to work out who I knew who earned their living entirely from RISC OS I wasn't able to get very far into double figures, and that was some time ago. So lets try and examine my answer (work) in a bit more detail, surely I must use RISC OS for more than just 'work'? Much to my surprise the answer is no. That's all I do use RISC OS for, work, not 'pleasure', if you see what I mean. Let me elaborate...

I've been 'involved' with Acorn machines in some capacity since 1981 (when the Atom was top of the heap). I have been earning a living from activities related to RISC OS since 1991, that's 17 years. Over that time I have written nearly a hundred commercial applications and been involved with many more in some capacity. I have also published over twenty applications on behalf of the authors. In addition I've been a director of RISC OS Ltd (on several occasions) and have been running VirtualAcorn since 2001. My companies have also been the fourth largest supplier of copies of RISC OS. First place is Pace, second place is Acorn, third RISCOS Ltd and fourth place is VirtualAcorn. Of course I shouldn't forget that I also edit RISCWorld magazine.

Having sat down and worked it out I realised that I have had significant involvement in a lot of RISC OS over the years. Or to put it another way. For the last 17 years I've been involved in a new product release roughly every 5 and a half weeks, or nine new products a year, for seventeen years. To coin a phrase I am 'RISC OS'd out'. That's why RISC OS, to me at least, means work.

So what's my point? Firstly it's that in order for RISC OS to grow we need other people who are prepared to pull the same sort of hours. We already have some, APDL, R-Comp and Martin Wuerthner spring to mind, but I can't think of many more off the top of my head. We also need people to buy what's produced by developers. Fewer customers means fewer developers, which means fewer products, resulting in fewer customers. It's a vicious circle. What was interesting reading the responses on the thread was that there were a number of people who, for want of a better word, 'loved' RISC OS and were prepared to put up with it's lack of modern features and applications. Hats off to all of you, you are the people that keep RISC OS afloat.

However it's not enough. We need more users and more developers. I don't have a solution, but I do know what isn't the solution. Sitting around doing bugger all won't help. If there is something RISC OS related you have been meaning to do then now's the time to get on with. Got a website that needs updating? Then do it. Written an application that others might like? Then release it. Got a RISC OS news site that hasn't been updated in months? Then either get going with it or hand it over to someone else. This isn't a time for slackers, to misuse a famous quote, 'ask not what RISC OS can do for you, ask what you can do for RISC OS', then go and do it.

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

I am reluctantly having to admit with defeat with regard to my fleet of rusty old rubbish. Let us begin with the Monterey. I mentioned last time that it had an oil leak and my initial diagnosis that it was from the gearbox was proved correct. Since the underside was covered in the stuff I dug out the pressure washer from the roof and cleaned it all off. I then placed a sheet of cardboard under the gearbox area and started the engine. Within a few seconds a few small drips started appearing. it was now possible to see that the leak was coming from the bell housing. This spells trouble as it means that the main oil seal has failed. Bugger.

I went online and did some research. I rapidly discovered that this wasn't an unusual problem, but that a proper fix required a strip down. Whilst I have the technical skill to do this I don't have the time or the space to work on the truck at the moment. I also lack the heavy duty lifting gear to remove the huge automatic gearbox. A suggestion that was offered was to try a product called 'Lucas Transmission Fix', which comes from America. Since a bottle was only going to cost me £15 and the truck was broken anyway it seemed well worth a try. Initial results looked very promising. With the engine idling and the gearbox in drive I added the 'magic' fluid and, after about 10 minutes, the leak stopped. I then topped up the box to the max mark and took the truck for a spin. The gearchange felt smoother than it had for some time and the truck seemed to be going well. However on my return I checked and the leak was back.

I decided to see how things progressed as some of these 'magic' fluids (which work by swelling the seals to make them oil tight again) can take some time to work. As we had guests that week we decided to go shopping in Derby and to use the truck. Things went fine on the back roads, but by the time we had got onto the A38 it was obvious that something was wrong. By a careful combination of swearing and coasting in neutral I navigated into Derby and found a parking space. There was no point in looking at the truck so we went shopping and let the gearbox cool. When we returned there was a large oil stain on the tarmac. We needed to get the truck moving and get home on the back roads. But no, now we have to go to Burton to continue the shopping. I wasn't happy with this but got outvoted. So I drove to Burton, slowly. Again I parked up but when we returned this time the combination of transmission fluid and rain was making wonderful rainbow patterns all over the car park.

However, in the truck's defence it still managed to drive home (just). It's still outside the house where I parked it 6 weeks ago. I left it with the nose down the hill in the hope the fluid might still swell the oil seal. Later this week I will take another look. Given the current value of big petrol 4x4s it's not worth repairing, so if the leak is still bad it's going to be scrapped.

Which brings me to the Porsche. Despite the previous lack of activity on this I started re-assembling the engine. However I didn't get far as I needed to replace the cooling hose that runs from the back of the head to the heater matrix in the bulkhead. Can I get hold of one? No. I can't even make one as it's a 'U' shaped hose that's 15mm at one end and 22mm at the other. I spent 2 weeks looking. then decided to have a long hard look at the Porsche. Despite having many good points and a full service history I have to confess that it is a little tired in some areas. I also discovered that it's a little rusty in some areas. Rust? Yes rust. It's only 27 years old so it shouldn't be rusty. Before you start laughing Porsche 924's were fully galvanised from new (1970's versions only had a galvanised shell) and so rust can only mean one thing, repairs. Indeed having looked very carefully there appears to be some evidence of repairs to a shunt on the passenger front corner. Given the low value of these cars and the number around I am trying to decide wether to continue, or to break this one for parts and to buy a better one.

If I do get rid of the Porsche and the truck that will leave us with one vehicle. I can't remember the last time I only had one vehicle, but I suspect that it was a ride on Triang plastic tractor, at least they don't rust and the gearbox's don't go wrong...

Printing Foundation RISCWorld

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