RISC World

VirtualAcorn Tech Support

More from Aaron's tech support notebook

I promised myself that I wouldn't start this issue complaining about technical support, but it's so difficult not to. This is because such a large proportion of my working day consists of answering technical support phone calls and e-mails. Further to me comments about the 80/20 rule last issue I've been doing some further monitoring and have confirmed that the biggest tech support load comes on Monday mornings (because people have had the weekend to bugger things up) and Friday afternoons (because they need to check with me before buggering things up). I've also noticed that on certain weekday afternoons the phone is often silent. I'm certainly not going to say which days, because I use the uninterrupted time to get on with other jobs, such as writing and editing Foundation RISCWorld.

Disc and Drives on the Mac VirtualRPC

As users of the VirtualRPC for the Mac may have noticed there are a few components that are present in the equivalent Windows versions, but that are missing from the Mac version. Perhaps the most significant of these is DrivePop. This little app sits on the iconbar and allows storage devices that are connected to the host PC to be opened in RISC OS. So a user can plug in a pen drive, click on DrivePop and hey presto a filer window opens for the pen drive on the RISC OS desktop.

It was always intended to duplicate this functionality on the Mac version of VirtualRPC, but despite some effort being expended we never managed to get it working "well enough". For those that don't know, the phrase "well enough" is developer speak for "not at all". Anyway in the end we released the VRPC for the Mac without this component as we intended to come back to it at a later date. To cut a long story short we didnt get any spare time to look at it again.

Then a couple of weeks ago a thread popped up on the
The MacPop application

Note that MacPop is not suitable for the Windows versions of VirtualRPC (I just know that someone will try it - well it runs, but won't find any devices, so don't bother trying!).

Sometimes it just goes wrong

For some time now we've been trying to track down a bug in later Windows versions of HostFS. OK, that's not quite true, the bugs been there since day one, but only started showing up in the last 18 months. The problem relates to date stamps. A file gets copied and, unlike normal RISC OS behaviour, the copied file has a new datestamp, rather than the old datestamp. We have had a number of attempts to investigate this, but up until recently they all proved to be dead ends. In the end the decision was taken to adapt a "belt and braces" approach and to cache the files details before it was copied and restore them afterwards.

An updated HostFS was sent to a few carefully selected Beta testers. The result was a uniform thumbs up. The changes had indeed resolve the problem and everyone was happy. As this was an important update I sent copies to a few more users and asked for feedback. Where there any unforseen side effects? No. did everything work OK? Yes. We then gave it a six week settling down period so that the new HostFS was running on more than 20 machines so that any niggles could be shaken out. No further problems were reported so we decided to put the new version out to general release.

Can you see what's coming next? Of course within a couple of days of the full release going live one of the beta testers cam back with a serious problem with ShareFS (the Acorn networking protocol). I immediately investigated and confirmed that in certain circumstances there was indeed a problem. We are investigating as I write this, but have not yet tracked the problem down.

Of course it's sod's law that after over 2 months of hard testing a problem only gets reported after the item gets a general release. Don't forget that next time you see me whinging about customers, I might complain about customers messing things up, but I can manage to screw things up pretty well myself.

VirtualAcorn Mailing List

You might be interested in the new unofficial VirtualAcorn mailing list that's recently been set up. Apparently there are some RISC OS users who don't like Forum systems and prefer to read e-mails, seems strange to me, but there's now't as queer as folk, especially RISC OS folk. Anyway the new mailing list is open to anyone with a VirtualRPC (either PC or Mac) and is being run by that lovely chap Vince Hudd.

You can get more details from Rounding it up

That's it for this column. I'd love to be able to tell you what's coming next issue, but I haven't a clue, so we will both just have to wait and find out.