RISC World

Letters Page

As our readers begin, to open their traps, what comes out, is a load of words...

This issue's postbag has been a little lighter, I suspect mainly because with Christmas and the general recession based doom and gloom around our readers have some other things on their minds. So without further ado lets have a rummage through the letters that did arrive...

Hi Aaron,
I've just finished reading the latest Foundation RISCWorld disc. Well done. another good issue. Many thanks for your answers to my queries about RISC OS 6 over VA. Your answers were a model of clarity.
Chris Newman

Thanks I am glad that my answers helped. This is one of those cases where the answer is obvious to anyone who knows it, but an obscure mystery to those that don't. The questions covered in the previous issue weren't the end of the minor niggles that Chris has been suffering from.

When softloading RISC OS 6 a weird event would happen. The status of the Caps lock in RISC OS would be the wrong way round. If the Caps lock light was lit up on the keyboard then instead of getting capital letters, RISC OS would produce lower case. Of course if the Caps lock light was off then Chris would get upper case letters. Luckily I have seen this once before and think that I know the answer.

After RISC OS 6 is installed a new set of configuration tools are installed. However it's possible that the old Keyboard configure tool can incorrectly get left behind. The "real" configure tool for the Keyboard will be inside the "Input" section of the RISC OS configure system (found by double clicking on !Boot). If there is a Keyboard configuration tool present in the top level of the Configure window then it's for the underlying version of RISC OS that's in the ROM on the computer. As such it shouldn't be used. Instead click on the Input icon. In the Configure window that now opens select the Keyboard option and then set the Caps lock status correctly. Save the changes then shutdown RISC OS. Then re-start and hopefully the Caps lock status will now be correct.

Now lets hear from someone who;s newly returned to RISC OS after a long time away...

Hi again Aaron!
Good news / bad news - I have gone for a VirtualAcorn - good news for some cash coming your way - bad news for having to support me! No honestly I should be okay I manage okay with red squirrel and that has no direct file access at all. I am excited about rejoining the RISC OS platform in full (i intend to get RISC OS 6 ASAP) as I think it has a great deal of potential and i know you do as well
Having read your most recent editorial it sounds like maybe you need a bit of a holiday thats a heck a lot of work you have done and I hope someone does appreciate it all! Maybe then you can come back with a fresh pair of eyes - i certainly hope so it definitely wouldn't be the same without you.
The only (constructive) criticism I can make (not just of the magazine but maybe the community as a whole) is that things are more than somewhat perplexing for someone either considering using RISCOS or having just taken the plunge.
Even having part of the platform previously I had to undertake a lot of research to find out what was going on these days and couldn't even find a up to date comparison on available hardware or software solutions for the platform (like a9 home versus risc cube etc) - let alone something selling the latest cutting edge software available as a concerted effort. I suppose what I am saying is its only my previous experience with the platform plus a lot of work on my part which made me decide to go for it now and i know most people wouldn't be willing to do that?!
I suppose the suggestion would be a focused web site devoted to just such a thing - or maybe a (ongoing) feature in the magazine? I hope that sounds reasonable!
Bernard Robin

Obviously I am pleased that you have plumped for a VirtualAcorn. I am also pleased that you have decided to get fully up to date with RISC OS and get hold of a copy of RISC OS 6. It really is the best version of RISC OS to date, especially the latest 6.14 release with the cool sliding menus.

I do need actually need a rest as I havn't taken a proper holiday for quite a few years. I hope to be taking a week out in June this year. When I say a week out I mean an absolute week away from all things RISC OS. I am hoping to arrange cover for the issuing of VirtualAcorn unlock codes during this week, but I won;t be available at all.

You are spot on with your comments about the community being perplexing. The current RISC OS user base is so severely fragmented that it's difficult for someone coming back to RISC OS, or indeed starting from scratch, to find out where to go. There are simply too many broken links to sites that disappeared years ago. There are also too many personal sights with just one or two applications listed on them. Luckily we are not the only people to feel this way. Paul Vigay has tried to create a central hub for all things RISC OS at Not only does this site list news feeds from other sites, but it also contains news about updates to all sorts of applications. Whilst it's not quite perfect it is an excellent effort by an individual and Paul should be applauded for his hard work on the site.

And now some more interesting queries...

Dear Aaron,
Seeing the nice picture of the Advent 4211 running VRPC in the latest Foundation RISCWorld was a pleasant surprise: it looks just like my new one too! One of the few problems I have had with this machine is that under either operating system (Windows or RISC OS) the Home, End, Page Up and Page Down keys (which are the cursor keys with a special Function key held down) do not work as normal. This also means that under RISC OS one doesn't have the (controversially) convenient delete-right function of the End key.
The support people at haven't heard of the problem and can't suggest an XP keyboard driver upgrade. (1) Is there any remote possibility that a VRPC dll is causing this? The problem is also present when VRPC has not been started, but you never know with Windows.
(2) Might I be put in touch with your other Advent customer if only to ask whether his/her machine works OK in this respect?
Bernard Boase

We now have quite a number of people running VirtualRPC on these small cheaper laptops. The Advent 4211, being a re-badged MSI Wind is one of the best performing machines and is still my recommended machine. I've just decided to take the plunge and buy an Asus Eee for support purposes. My choice was based not on the usual buying criteria that I would suggest to a customer, instead I chose the slowest machine I could. This might sound daft but we have always used low spec hardware for testing and support purposes because it gives a better indication of any potential problems that users might run into. I hope to feature my experiences with this in the next issue.

With regard to the key problem. VirtualRPC won't be causing this as it uses the DirectInput functions of DirectX to obtain the keyboard presses. These presses are still processed by Windows itself before being passed to VirtualRPC. There are a number of possible causes for the problem. Firstly it could be that the keyboard driver under Windows isn't properly DirectX compatible and that these keys aren't generating the correct key codes. This seems quite likely as you say that the keys don't work in Windows itself. It's also possible that the wrong key driver is being used by Windows. Since the keys don;t work under Windows itself then your best bet might be to try asking MSI themselves.

I would love to put you in touch with the other Advent users (actually we have at least 3 now). However the jolly old Data Protection Act prevents me from doing so as I cannot pass on personal details. The best suggestion I can offer would be to ask on the VirtualAcorn forums and on the comp.sys.acorn.misc newsgroup in the hope that the other user(s) also read one or the other.

Finally here's a word or two from Martin Carrudus, the unofficial Foundation RISCWorld letters page software developer...

Dear Aaron,
Hard on the heels of !Matrix, comes !Polynmial, a polynomial equation solver, attached zipped, which arose from !Matrix.
It will solve, hopefully, any polynomial (sums of powers of x), up to the quartic, apart from any numerical analysis problems, which I am not aware of.
No doubt, some bug will come to light, but anyway...
Martin Carradus.

Thanks very much. I have included a copy in the software directory of this issue. I can't really comment on how well it works as that level of maths is so far above my head you could fit several large buildings in the gap. Luckily Martin was able to come up with something that is more my level...

Hi Aaron,
As if there weren't enough calculators already...
A simple calculator program I devised to demonstrate programming to my niece, Elizabeth.
Hence the name.
Please find zipped, attached,

Ah yes, that's much more my level. This is actually a very interesting calculator as it avoids the normal "lets reproduce a calculator on screen" approach adopted by so many developers. My only suggestion would be to make the window a bit bigger to spread the text and the buttons around as they are a little close together when using Homerton as a desktop font. Apart from that it seems to work perfectly.

Well that's the end for this issue's letters page. To contact the RISCWorld letters page please e-mail us using the following e-mail address. The deadline for letters being published in the next issue is the 10th of March.

Aaron Timbrell