Show round-up: Wakefield 2014

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W14-2-5a The 26th of April saw the 2014 edition of the RISC OS Calendar’s biggest event of the year take place.

The Wakefield RISC OS Show, held in the Cedar Court Hotel, saw a flock of RISC OS enthusiasts take to the North for a gathering consisting of software and hardware developers, hobbyists and everything in between. All pictures from the show were sneakily swiped from RISCOSitory’s comprehensive report of the event.

Spread across different rooms, the show was split up into a number of sections, with the smaller areas dedicated mainly for the retro exhibits and the main floor occupying the general RISC OS exhibitors, R-Comp, CJE Micro’s etc.

The usual culprits were in attendance, with Andrew Rawnsley and his R-Comp crew demonstrating their ever expanding range of hardware and software solutions. The biggest news was the launch of their new genealogy application – DPGeneology. Based on the DapaPower database engine, the applications expands on R-Comp’s existing Genealogy Records software – which is available for both RISC OS and Windows. For more info, have a watch of the R-Comp theatre talk from the show.

Marin Wuerthner of MW Software was in attendance happily discussing and taking orders for his flagship software packages Artworks and EasiWriter. Both of which did not receive an update in time for the show this time around. Have a view of Martin’s presentation here.

Manned by Matthew and Hilary Phillips, Sine Nomine Software were busy launching their shiny new package RISCOSM at the event. The mapping application uses data from Open Street Map as its primary source and allows for mapping and design to based around said maps. The product is now available for 20ukp, which gets you a CD containing Open Street Map data for the UK and the Netherlands.

Nigel Willmott and Martin Avison were busy with their Organizer stand, where an easily accessible version of their Personal Information Management software Organizer-on-a-stick (USB) was on sale. Martin was also busy discussing his recent work on the free email application Pluto as well his newly updated Keystroke utility.

W14-2-9aA new version of NetSurf was launched at the show, with version 3.1 welcoming in quicker start-up times, faster CSS selection performance, visual improvements as well as some general bug fixes.

Steve Fryatt was busy discussing his free-to-download personal finance management application CashBook as well his system search facility Locate2, which allows users to find any file on their hard drive.

The guys over at CJE Micro’s were able to boast their usual wide array of RISC OS good available to purchase at the event, amongst their usual range of RiscPCs and a massive amount of software, there was a considerable amount of Raspberry Pi accessories available.

For a full take on the show and a more in-depth review, check out Vince Hudd’s RISCOSitory report.

Show round-up: Portsmouth 2013

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The 28th of September saw Portsmouth’s first ever RISC OS show take place on the second floor of the Innovation Warehouse.

It was a considerably smaller show than most others on the RISC OS calendar, but with a decent number of exhibitors showing up and everything neatly spaced out, the show worked very well and hopefully will be the first of many.

CJE Micro’s were as present as usual, with a large (yet not as large as usual) range of goodies, with a specific emphasis on Raspberry Pi accessories as well as software both new and old.

Next along from CJE was Christopher Dewhurst’s Drag ‘n Drop, RISC OS’ only PDF based magazine. The latest issue (July 2013) was on show at the event, with Chris informing visitors to his stand that the next edition will be released mid-October.

Portsmouth 2015 - General Overview
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Personal information manager Organizer was on show, no new version was launched at the event, but version 2.20, which was launched earlier this year, was being displayed for all to see as well as being available for purchase as a download or on a memory stick. Some of the program’s newest features could be seen and played with, including an option to start the week on a Sunday for the Diary and Calendar, a facility to order the Addresses by Organisation/Contact name as well as improved operation of Export scripts.

On the same stand was Martin Avison and Nigel Willmott’s RISC/PI website, run by the same guys as Organizer, the duo were guiding people through RISC OS’ newest news site.

RISC OS Open are as ever present as usual, with their usual range of development and emulation memory sticks and SD cards, as well RISC OS 5.20 running on IOMD-based computers and a fresh batch of RISC OS Collectors CDs – containing an archive of the 5.20 disc image, Iyonix ROM image and flash programmer.

The RISC OS Open stand
The RISC OS Open stand

Steve Drain was busy talking about his Basalt module, which extends and improves on the BBC BASIC programming language that comes as part of all versions of RISC OS – the utility provides a number of additional structures, keywords etc.

Steve was also showing off his Raspberry Pip combination of a Raspberry Pi modified and compacted into a flatcase and lodged onto the back of a Motorola Lapdock.

Turning again, the next exhibitor was Steve Drain, who was there to talk about Basalt, his module to extend and improve upon the BBC Basic language that comes as part of the RISC OS ROM image, by providing additional keywords, structures, and so on. Steve also had with him his wonderfully compact ‘Raspberry Pip‘ – a Pi that he has modified so that it fits in a flat case, about the size of a typical modern smartphone, and which then fits neatly on the back of a Motorola Lapdock.

Vince Hudd of Soft Rock Software was discussing his WebChange software at the show as well as his RISCOSitory website, which coincidentally, is where all the pictures used for this report have been sneakily swiped from.

Martin Hansen had made his return back to the RISC OS show scene after missing the last few, his MathMagical Software stand was as active as ever, with Martin busy demonstrating his Iconizer software as well as talking people through his RISCOSCode news site.

As well as all that, Martin also had a table in the middle of the exhibition room, with his Power SupPi project being the main attraction. The project itself comes from 12 volt DC batteries salvaged from a wooden sailing boat – with Martin managing to get a Raspberry Pi fully up and running with RISC OS 5 using just those batteries and nothing more. Impressive.

MathMagical Software’s Power SupPi

Andrew Rawnsley and his bunch of R-Comp helpers were in action at the show too, they arrived a little late to the party so space was a little bit short compared to their usual stand.

Their usual range of ARMinis and software packages were on display too, with the company’s new ARMiniX computer taking up the limelight after a recent OS upgrade, which enables ‘SmartReflex’ for more efficient computing.

For a more in-depth report of the show, get yourself over to the RISCOSitory’s full report of the show.

Show round-up: Midlands 2013

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PiCano - Midlands show 2013So the RISC OS Midlands show 2013 has been and gone, the RISC OS Blog has been very naughty this year and hasn’t featured anything about it at all.

In terms of exhibitors, the usual were as present as ever, the ever upbeat chaps over at R-Comp were in attendance showing off their brand spanking new ARM-in-1 and PiCano (first seen as the RISC OS eXperience in the Netherlands a few weeks back).

The first being an all in one RISC OS computer, powered by ARM and included inside a monitor. The latter being a rather sleek looking brushed-metal case for the Raspberry Pi, constructed completely through RISC OS thanks to the help of Steve Royd-Marker, the Belgian RISC OS community and of course RCI themselves. (More info on both can be found here)

The biggest news of the event was seen over at the RISC OS Open stand where version 5.20 of RISC OS was being displayed. Available to buy in ROM form, this is the first version of ROOL’s operating system that will work on legacy Acorn branded (26-bit) machines. The ROM as well as an installation CD can be purchased for the reasonable fee of 30ukp.

Another port of Doom was available to play (networked) on a couple of Raspberry Pi machines. Displaying the newly ported ChocoDoom, a RISC OS port of Chocolate Doom by Franck Martinaux of NO RISC – NO FUN.

For a full show report, pop over to the RISCOSitory, where that fine gent Vince Hudd has written up a full report of the event.

Under the Microscope: Wrangler

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Title: Wrangler – Price: 5ukp – Developer: Sine Nomine Softwarehitorikakuro

To celebrate the recent release of version 1.03 of Sine Nomine Software’s mathematical puzzler Wrangler, I thought it would a good to take an in-depth look at the title, nine months or so after its initial release last April.

Wrangler is developed by the same folks that brought you SuperDoku. Wrangler brings a number of spicy new puzzles to the table, some of which are just darn devilish to play, there’s Kakuro, Cross Sums, Shikaku (so many puns, so little time) and brand new to version 1.03, Binary.

It has many of the same features as SuperDoku, you can design your own puzzles, or if you’re really lazy, have puzzles made for you at three levels of difficulty. Wrangler will give you hints on how to solve puzzles, solve a single cell, or solve the whole puzzle for you. You can also leave a puzzle half way through and come back to it later on, handy.

A nice little feature I’m quite fond of is Wrangler’s ability to export puzzles as Draw files, so that they can be printed and completed away from the computer. There’s also a handy notepad window that you can use to scribble notes and hints to help you complete the puzzle.

Right, let’s get down to the puzzles. Kakuro produces some puzzling arithmetical crosswords for you to get your head around. Shikaku fills the puzzle grid with rectangles so that each contains one numbered cell and exactly that number of cells. Cross Sums produces a grid with three horizontal and three vertical sums crossing over each other, the objective is to place the numbers 1-9 to fill in the gaps to make the answers come out.

Binary puzzles, the newest addition to the Wrangler family, requires you to complete a grid with the numbers 0 and 1 in a way that each row or column must contain equal numbers of 0 and 1 and has no more than two consecutive cells in a row or column may contain the same value. Sounds easy? It’s not.

It’s evident from the moment you play Wrangler that a large amount of care and time has gone into the making of this neat little puzzler. It follows the same pattern of ease and simpleness as SuperDoku, making it not only a joy to play, but quick to pick up and easy to use.

Version 1.03 is free to download for registered users, Wrangler, although free to download, costs 5ukp for the full version.

Under the Microscope: Botkiller 2

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Title: Botkiller 2 – Price: 15ukp Free – Developer: Artex Softwarebk3

Artex Software were on a high prior to the release of Botkiller 2, their two flagship tites Exodus and Ankh were selling like hot cakes and had enjoyed been rave reviews. So it was incredibly important for Artex that Botkiller 2 lived up to expectations, and thankfully it did.

The object of the game is to save SpaceTronic Inc. from being taken over by a nasty horde of futuristic robots. You control the game’s sole hero, who doesn’t appear to have a name (although presumably he’s ‘the Botkiller’).

You can walk, jump, fire and duck and use one of the game’s five different firearms. The game has you completing puzzles and using the level’s surroundings (boxes, beams, locked doors, transporters etc.) to proceed onto the next stage. It’s all rather fancy.

The differences between Botkiller 2 and its predecessor are immediately noticeable, the game’s animation sequences are far sleaker, the game’s graphics are more appealing and the sounds effects and music are quite palatable.

The game’s level design for the most part is quite well thought-out, although it can strike you as a little repetitive at times. The majority of the game sees you trawling around for keys, which once found, can be used to progress to the next level. It sounds easy, but once you throw in a number of objects, transporters and nasty ol’ bots, it can give you several hours of frustration/fun.

bk6Botkiller 2 uses tracker-based music for the most part, which does well inproviding an absorbing atmosphere (althugh it can be a bit repetitive after a while!). The sound effects used are pretty much what you’d expect, they’re nothing spectacular but they do the job quite well.

The only grievance I have with Botkiller 2 is the main character’s slow movement, which can be a bit annoying at times. Apart from that though, Artex have successfully developed a fun platformer with decent longevity and even a level editor so that you can make your own maps.

Originally a commercial release, Botkiller 2 can now been downloaded free of charge from Artex Software’s website. Alternatively, the game is also bundled with Artex’s impressive real-time strategy game, TEK 1608.

Compatibility wise, Botkiller 2 will not run on anything newer than a StongARM RiscPC or Omega, although you’ll have no problems running it under Virtual Acorn or RPCEmu. You can however run the game with Aemulor, so it can be run on an Iyonix and A9Home but unfortunately Aemulor isn’t compatible with the Beagleboard, ARMini, Raspberry Pi etc.