A week to go: 2017 South West show

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The 2017 RISC OS South West Show takes place on Saturday, February 25th and it’s set to be another big show, with lots of exhibitors confirmed and hopefully a few interesting launches – developers tend to time new releases or major updates to coincide with the show so hopefully something juicy comes up.

The show will run from 10.30am to 5pm, with tickets being £5 at the door.

RISC OS Open will be showing off their recent developments at the show, including selling their usual range of goodies like media stick/cards with RISC OS on it as well as their RISC OS documentation range.

R-Comp will be in attendance with their usual range of computers and software. Andrew and Co. will undoubtedly be showing off their ARMX6 computers running on 4K displays as well as demonstrating their massive range of software and hardware.

CJE Micro’s will be flogging their usual wide range of wares – including their Raspberry Pi based laptop, the PiTop RO.

Amcog Games will be demonstrating their range of commercial games for RISC OS, Antony’s latest title Mop Tops will undoubtedly be on display at their stand.

A full list of confirmed exhibitors, which have a few interesting names in there, is available here. Also take a peek at RISCOSitory’s in-depth show preview here.

 

Accessing RISC OS remotely through VNC

posted in: Software | 0

RISC OS is known for its unique graphical interface, so running it on a headless computer or server is not something that is generally associated with the operating system. It is however a very sensible option if you need a machine to run automated tasks such as running a web server or file server.

If you’re running a headless machine, then you will need to occasionally administer it. Admittedly, you’ll need to undertake maintenance on RISC OS far less regularly than a Unix-based/like or Windows system, mainly down to the lack of known security vulnerabilities, but from time-to-time you will need to log into the machine to amend a few things.

So apart from manually connecting a mouse, keyboard and monitor to the machine, there’s a few options out there. You can setup an SSH server and connect it to it remotely, performing tasks through the RISC OS port of Bash (which is not always 100% reliable due to the complex and in-depth nature of Bash) – or you can setup a VNC server and remotely access your RISC OS desktop interface from another machine.

What is VNC?

Virtual Network Computing (VNC) is a graphical desktop sharing system that used the Remote Frame Buffer (RFB) protocol. It can grant access to another system running a VNC client – which will be able to see the machine’s desktop screen and remotely control it using a keyboard and mouse.

There are VNC clients and servers available for a wide range of operating systems, Unix-based/like, Windows etc.

Setting up a VNC server on RISC OS

Originally developed by Hernik Bjerregaard Pedersen, VNCServ is a VNC server application for RISC OS that has had several maintainers over the years – Crispian Daniels, David Llywelyn-Jones and more recently Jeffrey Lee. VNCServ receives regular updates and is compatible with the latest version of RISC OS including ARMv7 machines such as the Raspberry Pi. The latest version at the time of writing is 0.17 (04/02/2017).

The installation process is as easy as you think, download the Zip file and unarchive it using SparkPlug or a similar application, drag and drop the !VNCServ application into whatever location on your storage drive you want to keep it.

You’ll most likely want to ensure that VNCServ automatically runs whenever the machine boots into RISC OS just in case of any unexpected reboots. Editing the ‘PreDesk’ configuration file located here will provide this functionality – !Boot.Choices.Boot.PreDesk

When run, VNCServ will tick away in the background and respond to any VNC requests it receives over the port you’ve specified for it to run on.

Configuring access

VNCServ doesn’t come with its own graphical interface, but it can be configured via a very handy front-end written by Steve Potts.

If you’d rather stay away from the front-end, you can configure access by moidfying the obey file named ‘start’ to use the port number and password you want to use. The password can be at most 8 characters in length.

The ‘start’ obey file can also allow you to set a suitable screen mode, and configure the behaviour of your mouse when controlling your VNC server remotely.

To start the server, double click on ‘start’ and the server will load and start listening for an incoming connection; the server hardly uses any CPU when no client is connected, so you can have the server running constantly.

Local network configuration

If you want to access your RISC OS machine via VNC from an external network (your work’s network for example) then you’ll need to enable the firewall your VNC server is passing through to allow connections on the port you’ve told VNCServ to run under – in most cases this is the default VNC port 5900. With most setups this can be achieved by adding a port forwarding rule in your router’s firewall to allow TCP&UDP connections over port 5900.

It’s important to keep in mind however that VNCServ only allows passwords up to 8 characters in length, meaning it will be reasonably straight-forward to crack the password and gain unauthorised access to your system via VNC. So if you don’t have a need to expose port 5900 (or whatever port VNCServ is running on) to the outside world, then don’t do it. Finding a list of public-facing VNC servers is trivial using websites such as Shodan – a search engine for Internet-facing devices.

Should you decide you don’t require access to your VNC server from an external network – for example, you only need to connect to it from devices in your home, or you use a VPN connection to remotely access your network remotely – then you don’t need to do anything, traffic should pass over port 5900 without a problem unless you have device-specific firewalls blocking this port (you’ll probably know about it if this is the case).

Accessing your VNC server

Once your VNC server is setup and running on RISC OS, you can remotely access it by pointing a VNC client to the IP address designated to your RISC OS machine running VNCServ.

If you’re looking for a VNC client, TightVNC is good for Windows and Linux computers, Chicken of the VNC is available for Mac OS. You can use Avalanche on RISC OS, the application is not regularly updated but it is very stable and shouldn’t cause you any problems, it’s also free! There’s also VNC clients for Android and iOS so that you can access your RISC OS desktop when you’re on the go!

LAN Access – If you’re accessing it from a device connected to the same local network as your server, then you can specify the LAN IP address for your device (e.g. 192.168.0.2) – it’s worth setting up a static LAN IP address in your router’s DHCP settings to ensure this stays the same and you don’t need to continually update your VNC client with the LAN IP of your server. If you will be accessing the server from your local network and from external connections, then following the steps in the ‘WAN Access’ section below will be your best bet.

WAN Access – If you’re going to be accessing your VNC server from machines outside your home network, then you’ll need to point your client to your WAN IP address, which will be assigned to your Broadband modem. You can find out your IP address by searching ‘My IP’ using most major search engines, click here for a pre-configured search query.

There we have it! You’re connected to your RISC OS desktop from a remote device. Happy dragging and dropping.

Experiments with StrongED – 1

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StrongED has been a popular text editor for RISC OS for three decades. It comes with a huge range of features.

The aim of this series, Experiments with StrongED, is to demonstrate how to create new features. Which version of StrongED you are using yourself should not matter very much. I am in fact using version 4.70a10.

StrongED uses different modes. When you click Select on StrongED’s iconbar-icon an empty StrongED window opens in BaseMode, the default mode. upon which most other modes are based.

You can see a list of the modes available to you already if you click on the iconbar-icon with Adjust. But actually you can define your own modes, for your own special purposes, and this will be the first thing that we demonstrate here. We will call the new mode Trial. You could call it anything else, subject to the rules of RISC OS filenaming. Initially it will not have any special properties apart from those furnished by BaseMode. The point of it is to have something to experiment with.

  1. Click SHIFT-Select on StrongED’s iconbar icon or, if you have version 4.70, click Menu on it and select Open config->UserPrefs. This opens the UserPrefs directory. Create a directory called Trial in UserPrefs.Modes.
  2. In it create an empty textfile called ModeFile.
  3. From the iconbar-icon menu click Rescan dir -> Modes.

You should now find that you have a new mode called Trial available. You should be able to change to it by selecting Change Mode from the submenu appearing when you select the bottom item of a StrongED window’s menu.

Now suppose we want any textfile that starts with the phrase #! trial at the beginning of its first line to be loaded into the Trial mode on being doubleclicked. To ensure this create a textfile called ModeWhen in the directory !StrED_cfg.UserPrefs.Modes.Trial containing

Rules Include
fff, ** ; _trial
End

Match
--->_trial->---><"#!" {White} "trial"
End

The red characters indicate use of the tab key. This is an example of StrongED’s command language, which is described in the Help files that come with StrongED. You will note that Trial mode looks exactly like BaseMode. To give it extra icons along the top or extra entries in its menus we will have to put something in its Modefile. However, if you open a StrongED window in Trial mode, click Menu and go to

Trial->Open Choices 

and save your choices you will see that the Trial directory in !StrED_cfg.UserPrefs.Modes has gained two files: Choices and ColoursStd. These store your choices. So even without giving Trial mode any extra functionality you can still use it to try out alternative effects.

BaseMode is the default mode. In fact I use a non-standard BaseMode because I do not use spell-checking or the Speech module and I prefer a minimalist user-interface to the maximalism of a jumbo-jet cockpit. It is a matter of personal taste.

The point is, StrongED lets you choose. I have been using a non-standard BaseMode for many years and through many versions of StrongED. However, I realize that my own way of using StrongED is very different from other people’s, so I am going to have to rely on plenty of feedback from them. I tend to have only one or two StrongED windows open at a time – minimalism again. But some people have lots of windows open simultaneously. You can drag a directory of textfiles onto the iconbar icon and all will be opened. StrongED provides many facilities for searching, editing and moving between multiple files.

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