A call for code
The views expressed in this article are purely the opinions of the
author, Richard Murray, and should not be taken as truth, fact, or resembling anything
whatsoever. So there.
29th October 2000
I have often said that it is a terrible shame to let hard work coding be dropped. I won't
say "go to waste" because sometimes the coding is a commercial success.
However, when a person or company stops developing for the RISC OS platform for whatever
reasons they may have, they often take with them the code. A notable exception here is
Webite (DoggySoft), which is a basic HTML 2.0 web browser written entirely in
assembler (oh wow!) and sources are available from right
But consider another example. Computer Concepts.
I, personally, did not click with Impression's way of working, but I have seen the
system in use, and would never claim that it didn't have style and power. The same goes for
ArtWorks. But now Computer Concepts have gone on with bigger better things (like Xara) and
do not actively develop for RISC OS any more. A number of people still use their software,
and I really do think it is a shame to just say "okay, let's call it a day" and
stop. Really stop.
What I would like to see, and what I will put to various companies/individuals if I can
track them down, is to have the old no-longer-used source code publically released.
After all, if it is now a piece of Acorn history, what does the person concerned have to
Think about it.
- That others might laugh at their code?
If that was a valid excuse, nobody would ever release code. I don't think a lot of
my code, yet people have commented on how clear it is. Well, we're our own worst critic,
- That others might change the copyright and try selling the program?
Well, yes, that is always a possibility. But I rather think that the size of the
RISC OS market, and the fact that the RISC OS magazine editors do remember, I think
it would be highly unlikely that anybody would get far by renaming
Impression to, say, PagePro, and flogging it.
- That users will be downloading untested code?
That is always something to be wary of. When I was discussing the viability of making
the Voyager code open source, I said that the open source version should not
be heavily publicised to newbie users. If a person understands the whole concept,
then using untested code won't bother them. But for 'normal' users, it can cause
But, should that mean that code should not be made open source just because it might
upset somebodies system if they install a bunch of untested things? That logic is
akin to "some kid might shoot his classmates, so we won't broadcast any Quentin
Tarantino movie...ever...". It just doesn't deal with the real issue.
- How about code management?
Well, I do not wish to take on the role of code manager, primarily due to the time I
spend abroad in the Summer, with no internet connection.
However, the code does need to be managed, so that one release is
available, and modifications are incorporated into the main code release; rather than
loads of different versions all over the web.
But please, don't think I'm trying to duck out. If nobody else is willing to take on
the job of code manager, then I will do it. It'll just mean that it is
possible that little happens during the summer.
[2004 - I only get an hour a week (most weeks) on-line at the local library, but even
given those odds - I'd rather try something than nothing...]
- What about royalities? Or payment for the time we spend updating the code?
I'm afraid if you are asking those sorts of questions, then you have missed the
driving force here...
- So this means we'll get once-commercial software as a freebie?
Well, yes and no.
Essentially, yes. Although you will most likely need to recompile it
yourself. However the point here is not so much freebie software, but in keeping
something alive. There will be people we don't code who will benefit, no doubt, but
is that such a bad thing? A number of my early screenplays are written on 1stWord+. It is,
even today, the ONLY word processor I'd found that did tabs like that. I don't use
1stWord+ any more - not because it is 'crappy' as most people tell me - but because the
cursor doesn't appear in 32K/16M modes. It outputs basic styled text to the printer, so I
could have printed ten pages from 1stWord+ by the time the RISC OS Printer Drivers get one
nice bitmapped page done (see, simplicity has its benefits).
Sadly, I suspect that 1stWord+'s cursor problem is a one-line fix. If we had the source
code someplace, then we could have done this...
- But the original author loses!
How? The original programmer(s) no longer develop and support the code. Only under
very exceptional circumstances would I even dream about asking for a currently
developed project to be made open source. As for the rest, I will be trying to get
old source code released. It is something that, as far as the programmer is concerned,
is out of the picture.
So they don't really have anything to lose.
But, conversely, they do stand to gain a little. They stand to gain a good reputation
from the geeks for actually releasing the code; and they stand to gain from the
end-users who benefit from patches and modifications, whether necessary to make the
code work on a newer system or simply wish-list requests.
Surely, you'll agree that this can only be a Good Thing for practically everybody concerned?
I will be looking through back-issues of various RISC OS magazines, and looking to see what
good software we had, but is unfortunately no longer in active development. And, if I can
track down those concerned, I will put this question to them. I am hoping to secure the
releasal of some good source code, so that we may pool together and get some good
applications back into development. But all this depends upon many factors. So, at this
moment in time, all I can do is hope - and try to write something really convincing.
Please please email me with your comments. I really would love to know if you feel as
strongly about this issue as I do, or if you have different ideas. Or maybe you once
developed for RISC OS? Would you be willing to release your source?
29th July 2007
As I have been using my PC a lot, and my RiscPC barely, I have decided that support for some projects just isn't going to happen any more. These are primarily BBS doors and utilities that were last updated a decade ago. I have, also, decided upon a full source release of my teletext software because the era of teletext in the UK is likely to mostly disappear with the last analogue signals - so perhaps we teletext fans should enjoy it while we can!
Here is the old source code - have fun!
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Copyright © 2007 Richard Murray