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Leaving England

Ten years ago this very day I left England.

It was a reasonable afternoon in Portsmouth ferry terminal. We arrived really early, and I wore through the battery on my phone talking to a friend. We used to talk all the time. We barely talked at all afterwards due to the price of international calls, but now I get free calls to landlines in the UK (and other places), other obstacles are in the way...

I don't have any photos. I wanted to take some as the ferry departed, but it turned into a gloomy miserable evening and pictures of mist aren't that impressive really.

I watch British TV still, with a satellite dish, so I can sort of keep up to date with what is happening, though I'm not sure if I'd really recognise the country if I was to go back. In a way, it would all seem so very foreign. Back in March we drove through a town that was little brick bungalows in neat rows with tidy roads. "Bloody hell, it looks like Bournemouth!" I said. I was referring to the housing development that would have been new a quarter century ago. It didn't really look like it belonged there.
Basingstoke. I don't remember it much, except that it was a big mass of preformed concrete. Like Farnborough Kingsmead on drugs. Are those places even still around? They were starting to look ill when I last saw them in 2002. I recall Bridgwater circa '93 and the awful shock I got when I saw it around 2001 and saw so many shops either closed and boarded up, or charity shops, or "pound land" shops. There is certainly a convenience to supermarkets, but at what cost the town centre? I don't believe supermarkets clobber businesses that can't be competitive as the sole reason - I think greedy landlords and exhorbitant rates/utilities will all take their toll. So businesses pack up and go. The town centre starts to die. If something isn't done to halt the decline, it'll turn into a wasteland.

Same thing is true over here, mind you. There's a town nearby that had two mini-mart stores. One closed up a year or two back. Now in my mind I'm walking down the road. There's the remaining little supermarket. A hairdresser. An estate agent ("realtor" to US readers). A baker. In town is another baker, two more hair salons, a butcher, half a dozen bars, two banks, and a chemist. Plus some specialised places most people walk past (a kinestherapist, for instance). However, it seems like every other property is a closed shop. There used to be so much more.
There's another town nearby where a similar thing is happening, but the mayor is definitely not placing his fingers in his ears and singing lalalala. Shops close, but he is encouraging new business to come in. There's nowhere that'll do me a teriyaki on rice, yet, but I've got it made if I want a kebab, and if having a Pizza Sprint (think "Domino's Pizza") wasn't enough, there's a Giopepe a mere stroll down the road. The people running the shops have mostly grouped together to try to encourage locals to use the town in preference to just going to the supermarkets.

The second town, on the whole, hasn't changed much. The first town that seemed a lively little place a decade ago now just feels like it has lost its way. It isn't dead, yet, but it is gasping.

I suspect I would feel the same about England. Maybe the places I used to go and the people I used to know are best kept in my increasingly flakey memory. We might take a short trip back to England one day - there's a place in Aldershot that sells imported American food. I wonder if Aldershot will be anything like I remember?

As I write this, at midnight, we'd be somewhere in the Channel. On our way, our time in England now behind us.


Beagle xM

Having had RISC OS running, I installed the Boot and configured the machine. I also tweaked the mode def file to offer a full 720×576. Then I installed SparkFS, OvationPro, Zap, and the software development tools. No problems there.

PDFs - still to be done. A supposedly working version of !PDF dies with the bizarre error "Task not known".

Can't play MP3s either. A version of AMPlayer that is supposed to be 32 bit compatible aborts when you try to load a music file, and given what I found in the example player program (highlighted in magenta), I wonder if somebody got their archives mixed up?

Not 32 bit
Using ^ with LDM PC in a 32 bit world? I don't think so...

But it wasn't all doom and gloom. MPlayer worked surprisingly well, all things considered. Here is an H.263 AVI of "The Walking Dead" (624×352). This is the end of series 1, episode 6. I was just rewatching it prior to the start of series two recorded off five last Monday.

Walking dead
Post-apocalyptic fire will be BLUE!
The colours are messed up as, I think, red and blue are back to front in 16m colour modes (probably something using an RRGGBB vs BBGGRR format). It played fairly well, though stuttering when it came to fast movement.

Next up, episode 1 of Kara no Kyōkai (Garden of Sinners). Being 720×480, this pushed the machine harder. Again, colour issues aside, it did a fairly good job except when it came to action at which point all you could hear was Yuki Kajiura's lovely soundtrack. That said, I am not aware of anything even remotely resembling hardware video acceleration for RISC OS, not to mention having my doubts as to if this build of mplayer contains any code for using the on-chip hardware to aid in video decoding. It is possible that this is running entirely in software, which would explain the choking. Still, I never thought I'd see animé playing on RISC OS, so it's a start!

Kara no Kyōkai
It is supposed to be cold&creepy blue, not urine-yellow.

My MoreKeys didn't work - it seems this version of RISC OS defaults to Latin9, which is more or less the same as Latin1 (save an few small things). As a patch, I copied the Latin1 def as Latin9, then it worked okay. I'll do a proper def soon.

Likewise, some of the tools I'm used to (such as "listopen") sort of work and then crash. I bet if I drag it to Zap, it'll be an LDM of PC with '^'. I'll need to patch these things to get them working again.

Having said that, although RISC OS 5.xx and the 32 bit world are not new, the transfer process hasn't been that painful. Installing stuff onto the Beagle hasn't been that painful. Certainly, it was a lot less grief than the move from W98SE to XP (a lot of userland software worked fine, however pretty much none of the hardware device drivers worked, at all). Some of the hardware I would have given up on if it wasn't for a friend (hi Ewen!) tracking down rubbish like "this company was sold to this company and its assets went here, so" and locating a driver in some dusty recess of the Internet where few people venture.

Actually, thinking back, the change from RISC OS 2 to RISC OS 3.10 wasn't painless either, and that was on the same hardware, thanks to the old speed-up trick SYS "OS_UpdateMEMC", 64, 64 not only no longer working, but having the side effect of stiffing the machine. Thanks, Acorn, for not adding two instructions to detect and reject those parameters, since so many had used it as a cheap way to speed up BASIC programs!


I'll leave you with one last picture. You wish your operating system could itemise its memory use this clearly...

RISC OS memory use
Red bars can be changed, just drag 'em...


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Chris Gransden, 20th May 2012, 09:20
You are right in saying mplayer using no hardware acceleration on RISC OS. To sort out the colours try adding '-vf swapuv' to the mplayer command. The stuttering of the sound can be caused by lack of io bandwidth. Using a Fat32fs formatted USB key should help.
Patric, 20th May 2012, 13:23
DigitalCD 3.06 works fine for mp3 playback etc.
Rick, 20th May 2012, 15:59
Thank you both for your suggestions. I'll try them in a little while. 
As for reading from USB - the harder file (Kara no Kyōkai) was playing from RAMdisc, I figured that'd be the fastest method!
Stewart Goldwater, 3rd June 2012, 19:24
"...greedy landlords and exhorbitant rates/utilities will all take their toll. So businesses pack up and go. The town centre starts to die. If something isn't done to halt the decline, it'll turn into a wasteland." 
See here for the solution:
Rick, 4th June 2012, 18:02
From the site linked by Stewart: 
"we propose that the rental value of land should be collected and used as the principal source of public revenue, as a replacement for present taxes on wages, profits, goods and services. This policy is a prerequisite if chronic economic problems are to be eliminated." 
As a REPLACEMENT? Do you really think that we are gullible enough to believe that? Furthermore, what happens in cases of scrubland, moors, roads? Land owned by people why cannot afford to pay, or have otherwise abandoned it? The Crown (and local councils) own large tracts of land. Will they pay taxes accordingly? Consider school playing fields. If they pay, they will need money in order to pay, so some sort of tax will need to be levied in order to provide the money for them to pay. Either that or this land is sold off for development. Then consider farming. Will farmers pay at the same rate as somebody in a cottage? If no, why not? The cottage owner has a BBQ and a couple of gnomes, it only really provides a benefit to themselves. The farmer uses his land in a commercial sense, and may even get subsidies for the things he does upon the land. How about if the cottage is a little council building and the person living there cannot pay? Who will? 
I read this site yesterday, giggled at the "Cornish Patsy", and frankly I think the idea is unworkable in the long run. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with taxing wages and goods. The fault here is not in the act of taxation, it is a wider problem or laziness and greed, from people on "disability" when they are perfectly able to work right up to rich people looking for every possible loophole to minimise their exposure. The land does not need to play its part fairly, it's the people that need to do so. 
As for the city centres dying, taxing land isn't going to deal with the rising rents nor the rising utilities bills, nor the fierce competition from big supermarkets. In reality, your solution does not even begin to address the problem (and it may actually exacerbate it).
Stewart Goldwater, 6th June 2012, 23:06
All these objections (and more) are answered on the site, but if you can't be bothered ... 
Anyway, I've asked Henry to respond. 
Henry Law, 6th June 2012, 23:16
Your criticisms show that you have not taken the trouble to find out what is actually being proposed but have rushed to criticise and ridicule nevertheless. 
There is everything wrong with taxing wages and goods. It is, nothing more than legalised state robbery. Its ultimate effect is to depress land values, but in the process, it causes poverty, unemployment and a whole stack of other ill effects. 
Taxing land values in the correct way, as explained on the web site, will cause rents and land prices to drop to market-clearing levels, which is a prerequisite for economic recovery.

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