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RISC OS interview with Tim H-Smith

There was recently a very interesting discussion about writing a new RISC OS game on Stardot. Our intrepid reporters have tracked down the prospective author to find out more....

Would you like to introduce yourself?
Hi, Iím Square Mezzmer! Otherwise Iím Tim H-Smith - an Interactive Designer/Developer from near London. Pleased to be interviewed here.

How long have you been using RISC OS?
Since I was bought an A3010 on my 14th birthday! I began creating prototypes in BASIC and pixel-art with !Paint for game graphics.

What other systems do you use?
I absconded to Windows PC in 1999/2000. In some ways that was a shame. Also, I love Nintendo, even though Iím too old for it!

What is your current RISC OS setup?
RISC PC 600 with StrongARM. Currently a big desk helps me run the Windows 10 PC at the same time.

What do you think of the retro scene?
Wonderful. So much, Iím recoding a game - Hero: The Realm for Acorn 32-bit/Raspberry Pi.
Hero: The Realm is a hack n slash adventure game I developed for Windows in 2012. It features intriguing puzzles and many levels with original pixel art graphics and my own created sound FX & music. Sadly I had to halt development half-way due to financial/life issues. However this game will be available for all 32-bit Acorn machines. Now a software developer is "on board" (an incredible ARM graphics programmer) Hero: The Realm will be able to run far more "optimised".

Do you attend any of the shows and what do you think of them?
Attending a ROUGOL next week, where I am the main speaker. It will have a Games flavour.

What do you use RISC OS for in 2018 and what do you like most about it?
For the pure feel. I love having a ROM set as an RISC OS (3.70) and will not switch to RISC OS OPEN. Yet.

What are your interests beyond RISC OS?
Game Design Ė Defined as Design in Games, not just graphics or sound, a nice Design integration is what most games need presently. Itís a very interesting subject.

If someone hired you for a month to develop RISC OS software, what would you create?
Iím not hired, but there is a possible Kickstarter for Hero: The Realm where everyone can order a physical copy of Hero: The Realm. Itís all in the works.

What would you most like Father Christmas to bring you as a present?
I have a list somewhere, from 6 years old (1986). Oh wait, my father /did/ bring me an Electron! *poof*

Rougol website for games evening

55 BBC Micro Books on CD

If you are looking to experiment with BBC BASIC (or a bit of nostalgia), you should take a look at the 55 BBC Micro Books CD from Drag'N'Drop.

The disk consists of a wide range of BBC BASIC material, republished. The books themselves are included in multiple formats (PDF, HTML, Impression and EasiWriter) with the BASIC supplied as separate listings.

Many of the listings are quite short and targeted at the capabilities of the BBC range, but there is a lot of material here to explore, nicely presented. There is a wide range of programs and guides, with lots of games.

There are plenty of places to get lost, old friends to rediscover and new ones to find in this compilation of material.

The CD costs 12 pounds from Drag'N'Drop website

February News Round-up

Some things we noticed in the RISC OS world this month. What did you see?

Sprow gives us a new version of Manic Miner for modern RISC OS machines.

AMCS update available

R-CompInfo release NetFetch 5.02 via !Store.

!FamTree now available on !Store

South-West Show took place. Read our report.

ADFFS 2.64 released with new games added.
New edition of Drag'N'Drop released

The South-West Show Report 2018

The exhibitors were generally upbeat, despite a 5am fire alarm at the hotel.

User groups were well represented with stands from Southampton, London and Bristol showing off projects and publicising their upcoming events.

Adrian Lees was demonstrating Aemulor and a new version of Geminus he has just started working on for new machines.

Sine Nomine were showing off the new map packs and also had their full range of software to discuss.

Drag'N'Drop were selling the new edition of the magazine (will be available next week) and had their range of fonts and books.

R-CompInfo had their usual selection of monitors, machines and software (see their talk).

Richard Brown (when not on door duties or making announcements) was showing off his very nice widescreen monitor and talking about Orpheus Internet services (I use them for work and home and can heartily recommend them).

Martin Wurthner was back at the show showing off the 2017 release of !ArtWorks and his other range of products.

Likewise, the Organizer stand was showing off their latest version and taking ideas for new features. They have now fixed the annoying broken line which used to appear on their website.

Jim Nagel was promising a release of Archive magazine once the show reports are added in. He was also offering back copies of previous editions.

AmCog games were showing off their games (and very nice new RISC OS desktop theme) and talking code.

RISC OS Bits had their range of interesting named storage devices and cases. They have not run out of puns yet....

John Norris had his bell ringing rig setup and RISC OS software to help you to practise. He shared a stand with Tasty Treats (who had the most inviting hardware purchases of the show!).

Ident Computer had their old and new range of cases (with Tom doing a talk about the changes and future plans).

Vince was providing sound support for the theatre and also promoting Bristol RISC OS group and his range of software. He also had a range of Vibe graphics demos running, updated for new machines.

Chris Hall was selling !FamTree and demoing his GPS hardware and software. He also did a talk.

Steve Fryatt had his range of software on show including the almost completed CashBook 1.40

Richard Keefe was showing off his work with Impression and talking about his priorities for future development. He gave a very full interview in Iconbar about his plans at Christmas.

Lastly the charity stand was raising money from secondhand software and hardware. Always worth a rummage....

The talks

There were three talks at the Show. All were filmed and will hopefully appear on youtube in the near future.

Tom Williamson

Tom told us about his background in media and broadcast. He is still actively involved in several projects and he told us about his WiFi sheep technology show.

His computer journey had started as a preservation and education project and demand for his homemade computer cases had led him into production. MicroOne was first product and the current release is mk4 - the last few were on sale at show at a special discount.

This is being replaced by a 'range' of CE machines which allows Ident to provide a RISC OS solution and and also target Linux and Retro gamers (2 much bigger markets).

Ident has its own version of RISC OS 5 (licensed from Castle) which includes some extra applications, has been reskinned to be more appealing to his target markets and nicely setup to use with a simple application to access BBC BASIC and a set of emulators. This is supplied with the RISC OS versions only.

Taking inspiration from the RISC PC, there is a two slice version, which Tom demoed with one slice running Linux and the other running RISC OS, viewing the Linux side via !Avalanche.

It all looked very impressive, and Tom has invested in some 3D printers to allow him to product several of his products.

Andrew Rawnsley

Andrew started with R-Comp updates.

The big recent software release is Netfetch5 with improvements for security and ssl. Lots of testing has been taking place in Germany. It also allows multiple servers - needed for spf which many Internet providers use to eliminate spam

The R-Comp hardware has received recent software updates. ARMX6 has new colour modes, and hardware floating point support (which your BBC BASIC code will be able to use). There was also an experimental build to allow developers to start experimenting with multi-core support. TiMachine has dual head support allowing it to display higher resolution screens on a suitable monitor.

A new Quake release allows the game to run on modern hardware and also provide higher resolution on machines which handle handle it.

Lastly Andrew, showed off the R-Comp ultra portable Windows solution to run RISC OS.

As ROOL were unable to attend, Andrew also provided a brief update on developments (and had some ROOL software available to buy on his stand). The big development will be RISC OS 5.24 (hopefully for Wakefield). Andrew was genuinely enthusiastic about the current developments for RISC OS.

With his RISC OS developments hat on, Andrew reported that they had been working with ROOL and had provided funding for bounties to improve the RISC OS networking.

Lastly, he provided a quick demo of the new version of Geminus Adrian Lees working to speed up window redrawing on the latest machines.

Chris Hall

Chris started with a demo of his new !FamTree software, showing how easy it is to create and edit family trees. These can then be dropped into other applications for further use or processing. The software can produce some fairly large A0 page and Chris recommended trying some print bureaux (who will generally charge more for the postage than the printing itself).

Chris also brought along his GPS software/hardware and showed it seamlessly integrating with Sine Nomine's mapping software. The talk turned into really nice demo of the software and its features (hopefully the videos will be out on youtube in the near future).

Next year
Richard and Andrew have been discussing some ideas about changing the venue or date to make the show more accessible. I am sure they would welcome any feedback from the Community.

Final thoughts
Personally, I thought it was a really upbeat and interesting show - well worth my early start and trek from Kent.

The show seemed to have just the right level of 'busy-ness' - I got to talk to everyone I wanted after a small wait. Lots of the developers have some really interesting ideas for future features and products. There was a good selection of stands, and we even received a free slice of cake...

The show in pictures

The South-West Show 2018 in pictures

The South-West Show 2018 in pictures (taken before and during the show).

Show report











































Returning to ImpressionX

Impression was always one of my favourite applications, so I was very interested to meet Richard Keefe at the London Show and sign up for his Impression release.

What Richard is offering is a scheme where you will get access to his latest version. Potentially this offers three advantages:-
1. An update in the sense it is Impression-X rather than Impression Publisher. This is the flagship release. Most of the features are high-end, but it is always nice to have the top version.
2. An upgrade in the sense that Richard is making Impression run on the latest software. Some use of Aemulor is still needed, but the aim is to totally convert the software to run unaided on modern hardware.
3. Enhancements with better JPEG support, bug fixes and a support piece of software.

Richard supplied the software at the London show as a set of Archive files to decompress and install. The most noticeable change is the new splashscreen shown at the top.

After that, it is like having an old friend back reinvigorated and refreshed.

You can read about Richard's plans for Impression in his indepth interview with Iconbar.

New RISC OS !FamTree application reviewed

RISC OS stalwart Chris Hall has turned his attention to a new product which will be released at the South-West Show this year. He was kind enough to send us a pre-release copy for review (version 1.3), so here is a taster of what you will be able to buy at the South-West Show.

!FamTree is a program for creating graphical family trees, showing all your ancestors.

The software works on the basis that family trees are rather like Directory structures, with parents and children. You create a simple set of directories with text descriptions and the software turns thins into a proper family tree which can be exported as draw file. The software takes care of figuring out all the layout.

If you want to use the software with existing data rather than create a tree from scratch, there is a feature to import data from GEDCOM data files. There are currently some (generous) limits to filesize on this. So it only allows the last 20 generations and 250 family trees. Probably need to wait for release 2 if you want to do entire tribes or nations.....

The software is nicely designed as a RISC OS application and follows all the conventions, so you should have no trouble picking it up quickly.

A minor complaint I did have was that firing up on my Titanium (running the latest OS), gave me the message that I needed MakeDraw 2.53 or later but I could not see any advice on how to fix. This might be off-putting to non-technical users. Otherwise the application feels really nicely polished and finished off.

There is a ReadMe file telling you haw to get started, a comprehensive StrongHelp manual which includes lots of advice on running and customising both the software and the output. The main program itself is a 50,000 line basic application. Chris has even registered the filetype with ROOL. Chris has some ideas for version 2 and we look forward to see how he improves on an excellent first release.

Chris is selling the software at 15 pounds. If you have an interest in family trees, it produces some polished output, is really nice to use and I think it will quickly repay the cost in time saved. And if you are at the Show, Chris would welcome your input and ideas.
Website and more details.

January News Round-up

Some things we noticed in the RISC OS world this month. What did you see?

RDSP (the free Sound module from AMCOG games) updated to version 0.40. Some new effects and Stereo sound placement have been added.

Font Directory Pro updated to version 3.22 to improve compatibility on RISCOS 6 and Select.

R-CompInfo released OS Update 10 for ARMX6 along with a beta version including the SMP Multi core support to experiment with.

BBC Radio 4 talked to Eben Upton about the Pi (available on iPlayer for the near future).

Lots of interesting updates on the Raspberry Pie competition at riscos.fr

Elesar updates their Linux release for Titanium to keep current with Debian updates.

News appearing for next months South-West Show.

Jim Lesurf has republished a large collection of his sound articles on his website
Wispy wifi interface reviewed on RISC OS blog.

Updated StrongHelp C Library manual is now available on riscos.info

Recent discussions

- RISC OS interview with Tim H-Smith (News:1)
- 55 BBC Micro Books on CD (News:)
- RISC OS interview with Richard Keefe (News:3)
- The South-West Show Report 2018 (News:9)
- February News Round-up (News:)
- The South-West Show 2018 in pictures (News:)
- AMCS free versions are live! (Gen:12)
- New RISC OS !FamTree application reviewed (News:1)
- Returning to ImpressionX (News:)
- South West Show is fast approaching (News:4)


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