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Iyonix reviewed

Our review of the tasty Iyonix PC from Castle Technology.

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Drag'n'drop winter 2018 edition reviewed

The latest edition of Drag'n'drop is now available online to purchase. If you are not familiar with the magazine, it is a nice mix of news, tutorials, reviews and type in apps, utilities and games (you can buy the listings to avoid the typing). It reminds me very much of the 1990s style Acorn magazines. There are also adverts for shows and equipment.
The magazine if provided as a PDF file, which also has the advantage that news and other items can contain links. It can be read on any machine or printed out.
This edition includes a wide selection of reviews covering the updated BBC BASIC Reference Manual, the new Protector game, a wireless keyboard and mouse, and a nifty little magic wand scanner.
There are 3 type-in games (Cake Hog, Buggies and Pebbles), complete with nice explanations of how the code works.
A nifty little SetTyper application completes the programming section.
So, something for everyone and a great selection of material to keen you engaged and entertained.

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.

NetFetch reaches Version 5

R-CompInfo recently updated NetFetch to version 5. You can purchase it easily through the !Store (a very painless process) or get it directly from R-Comp.

I purchased it from !Store (getting a discount for being a NetFetch 4 user) and downloaded. Once decompressed, you get a selection of versions to install. There is the full version, a utility to upgrade an older version of just a copy to overwrite an existing NetFetch 4 installation. I used the last option without issues. There is a detailled readme with full details on installing the software. The archive also includes a version of !Messenger (called NF) and copies of some old RISC OS browsers which may be of interest.
NetFetch 5 is a major update with better SSL support, multiple SMTP server support, better RSS handling and the usual bug fixes. Much of the enhancements are about keeping up with changes in the wider world (such as the way major mail services validate email and detect spam) but there are a couple of new features. Andrew did a really nice talk (now on youtube) covering the features at the London Show.
You can you easily disable the fetching/sending and autosend will now wait a little before it sends rather than sending at once. So you now have a chance to reconsider that hasty reply you scribbled down in anger...
If you are using RISC OS for email the NetFetch update is a welcome addition.

BBC BASIC Reference Manual updated

ROOL continues on its mission to bring RISC OS and its documentation up to date with a thoroughly revised and updated version of the BBC BASIC Reference Manual. This available both as a PDF in the programming documentation and as a hard copy book.
Issue 1 was published in 1992 so quite a lot has changed for this 2017 release 2. It is a fairly substantial volume (510 pages including the index). It is bang up to date, mentioning RISC OS 5.24 and BASICVFP.
The manual is nicely structured so it can be read from cover to cover as a tutorial but is also clearly structured to provide a lookup for people wanting to find a specific item of information. The book identifies 3 target readership groups:-
1. Total beginners looking to learn BBC BASIC as an introduction to computing.
2. Experienced programmers looking to learn a new language.
3. A reference guide for experienced BBC BASIC programmers who want to look-up some details.
To this end, it is split into Overview, Programming Techniques, Reference and Appendices. There are lots of little programming examples to show how commands work. There are no screenshots.
If you are dipping your toe into the programming waters, there are some simple examples and some good explanations of the technical side of programming (integers and floating point, error handling, writing structured code, binary) while there is lots of detail for more advanced developers (?, !, |, $ indirect operators, VDU commands, using the assembler). You will need additional resources to learn to write Desktop WIMP programs but it will give you a full grasp of BBC BASIC.
The book now has pride of place on my technical bookshelf and the Appendix section is becoming increasing thumbed through. What are your thoughts?
Buy the book from ROOL

ArtWorks 2.X3 released

The London Show saw the welcome return of Martin and the latest update to Artworks. You could buy this as the show and from the website.
As with previous releases, the latest ArtWorks is a mixture of keeping the product current and running on the latest hardware, some tweaks and some new goodies.
If you are running Artworks on the latest RaspberryPi, IGEPv5 or Titanium machines, the colour modes all work correctly. With their extra speed, these should be your tool of preference now for most RISC OS activities.....
The Single pixel nudging option is a nice to have which makes it easier to move objects in single pixel increments with the ctrl key pressed. Apply ClipView now lets you wrap and object into a clip View where you can edit it with the new shape painter/eraser tool.
This is the big new feature which lets you paint and edit clip shapes. You can control the accuracy (how many control points you want) and effectively draw big irregular clips very easily which you can then tweak by editing the shape. At the London Show, Martin showed how easy this made it to cut images out of a background which can then be used as part of a drawing as if they were just an image with a transparent background. You can also use it to edit any Vector shape, taking a bite out of the iconic ArtWorks apple...

ArtWorks has always been a favourite tool of mine, both for work and fun. Now it runs really nicely on my Titanium and the new Shape tool is a really nice addition to its featureset. I look forward to 2.X4!
As with all previous releases, there are discounts to upgrade from a previous version.
New features summary
Ordering details

Drag'N'Drop Autumn edition now available

If you are looking for a last minute RISC OS gift, or something interesting to dip into over the festive period, the latest edition of the long-running Drag'N'Drop magazine is now available. You can also buy all the back issues on a USB stick. The magazine is supplied as a PDF which you can read on any device.
This edition is 30 pages of news, reviews and technical articles and always reminds me of the Acorn magazines of yesteryear. Here are some highlights...
Licht is an interesting program to type in which takes its inspiration from the work of Roy Lichtenstein, adding dotted fill patterns to draw shapes. It is written in BASIC and also a nice exploration of manipulating draw files directly.
if you need to copy files from your Android phone to RISC OS there is a nice tutorial using !FTPc and other free software.
A short machine code utility (VMG) will turn sound samples into voice modules for easy use in your own code.
The first part of a new series on Fonts delves into how RISC OS fonts work and how the file format is stored, complete with a BASIC utility to examine the font data.
We have also reached part 3 of the tutorial on RSDP, and we are now writing real programs to generate music using the free software.
For the adventurous, there is also an article on writing your own filings system.
Finally Draw Stroke shows how to draw sophisticated lines with complex styles easily in your BASIC code.
The Magazine is available from the website and you can also buy a version with the listing.

!DualHead puts 2 screens in one

R-CompInfo have been very busy in developing !DualHead and release 3 is now available. This includes more polish and one really cool new feature....

Some monitors allow multiple inputs and have a special mode which allows them to display both outputs together, side by side. !DualHead now makes use of this to give you a higher resolution screen than should be possible with the Titianium.
You will need the right sort of monitor (R-Comp will be happy to sell you one if needed), and you then plug in both monitor outputs from your Titanium. You are still limited to 2048x2048 output on a single screen but using this trick you can get around this issue. The configuration software gives you easy access to these 'new' modes in the bottom half of the drop down list. So you can now have 2560x1440 or higher resolution modes from the Titanium.
I look forward to seeing what R-Comp have planned for release 4.
R-Comp website

Recent discussions

- Drag'n'drop winter 2018 edition reviewed (News:)
- 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:)


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