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How do I read Frobnicate ?


You can read either the PDF version or the Ovation(Pro) version.

To read the OvationPro versions, simply unpack the file from the archive (we recommend SparkFS) and double-click to load it into OvationPro.
To read Ovation (original) versions, you will need to have the Ovation1 applet installed (this should be installed as standard).

The OvationPro versions (issues 20 onwards) contain JPEGs, so if you are using OvationPro on an older (pre-RiscPC) machine, please ensure that you have the JPEG compatible SpriteExtend loaded. This is supplied as two modules, JPEGRender and JPEGMsgs. You may experience difficulties loading some issues into low-memory machines. 8Mb is a suggested minimum.

One of the more recent issues contains a few small PNGs. This probably won't be visible on the many RISC OS machines. Obviously PNG use will be kept for times when JPEG introduces too many artefacts and the picture is too large for a high quality setting. By way of example, the OPL Yes/No dialogue in issue 29 is a JPEG at 100% quality. It is the sort of thing that could be PNGed, however as it was small, the 100% JPEG didn't yield a big file so JPEG was used.

If you get a message from OvationPro (for issues 22 onwards) saying that the "Arial" font cannot be located, simply instruct OvationPro to substitute and then resave the file. This has crept in as a lot of Windowsy things seem to 'default' to Arial. It is, therefore, referenced in the file, but it is not actually used - and can be safely ignored .


You can read either the PDF version or the Ovation(Pro) version.

To read the OvationPro versions, simply unpack the file from the archive using something like WinZip. Ensure the file extension is .dpd (for older versions) and then double-click to load OvationPro for Windows with the issue ready to be read.

Don't have OvationPro? Not a problem!
If you go to the OvationPro support site , look in the CD directory listing for the "Main program", you will find - at the bottom of the page - a read only version of OvationPro that may be installed and used to read Frobnicate. Wherever possible, I recommend the use of OvationPro (instead of the PDF versions).

Earlier versions (1-19) are Ovation (original) documents, so require the extension .opd and not .dpd. Please note also that many of the older versions are actually Spark archives (regardless of the .zip extension) so you may need to extract them on a RISC OS machine.
If you find certain diagrams or pictures are missing, that is probably because they are ArtWorks files, and as such they will not be rendered within Windows as there is no ArtWorks renderer system...
Additionally several fonts are unlikely to be present, simply instruct OvationPro to permanently substitute the missing fonts, and go from there - though the documents may need some tidying up before you can print them.
Linux (WINE)
It appears that some adventurous people are running OvationPro for Windows under WINE. Don't ask me though, I do not have this setup (my Linux v5.2 is running on a 66MHz 80486 so I guess WINE would be a bit too enthusiastic!).
Other systems

OvationPro is only available for RISC OS and Microsoft Windows at this time, so you will need to read the PDF version. All issues since issue 20 are available in PDF format.

You can find out more about OvationPro and SparkFS at:


How is the PDF generated?

Issues 20 to 23 were generated under RISC OS 3.70. OvationPro printed to a generic PostScript 2 device, the data of which is saved to disc. Using ps2pdf and GhostScript 7.04, this is turned into a PDF file.
It appears that the images are downsampled, and some people have reported minor faults of text alignment. Other than that, the document should pretty much resemble the original; with the exception of the Sassoon font, which is very similar to Comic Sans MS . It's a useful font, but my version of GhostScript doesn't have it, so it is inserted as a bitmap. Looks ugly on-screen!

Issues 24 and 25 were generated under Windows98SE using CutePDF and Ghostscript 7.06... It appears (to me) to have a strange idea of the scaling of a document, and occasional text issues (italics too large, messed up alignment...), though in its defence it created the PDF in just a few minutes (on a 466MHz processor). :-)

Issues 26 onwards have been created using the Office One PDF Manager (based upon the Amyuni driver). This is supposed to support such things as variable 'quality' levels for images as well as making it a web-friendly PDF that may be viewed as it is downloaded...only the driver seems to be very quirky and fails completely when setting up these options... I persist with it in default mode (non-download-friendly & high-quality) as the output is, generally, not much larger than the CutePDF version and - in its benefit - it doesn't mess up the text like CutePDF did!


Why do you create Frobnicate?

This is answered in the Editor's Notes of issue 20.


No more Frobnicate? You're kidding? What am I going to do!?

Readership has been dwindling, I have other commitments, and it actually takes quite a bit of time to put together each issue. So with all of this in mind, I feel that issue 30 is the time to draw a line under Frobnicate. I am a bit sad about this decision, yes, but I feel it is better to make a definitive decision once and for all.
As for the future? I may do another issue in the future - perhaps when I'm 40 and lost and on my own (re. Dido)? But if you can't wait to get your fix of the rubbish I write <grin> then there's always my website!


You're a total freak!

That's probably quite true, but that isn't a question...


Are YOU a Newbie?
Lose your cherry!
Lose your cherry with Frobnicate
and become a true Geek!


What computers do you use?

All absolutely cutting-edge stuff!

RISC OS #1: Acorn RiscPC 700; ARM710, RISC OS 3.70, 32Mb RAM, 1Mb VRAM, 2Gb IDE and SCSI CD-R 4X, 10baseT ethernet.
RISC OS #2: Acorn A5000; ARM3, RISC OS 3.10, 4Mb RAM, 240Mb IDE, 10baseT ethernet, Econet.

Old PC: Acer TravelMate 514TXV (no backlight!); Celeron 466MHz, Windows 98SE, 64Mb RAM, 2.5Mb VRAM, about 4.5Gb IDE.
New PC: Generic tower system; Pentium III 450MHz, Windows XP, 128Mb RAM, 64Mb VRAM, about 76Gb IDE.

Much of one issue was written on an Acorn A4 laptop; ARM3 at about 25MHz, 4Mb RAM, 640x480 mono LCD, and 80Mb harddisc!

Also used, for writing articles "on the road" is an Acorn PocketBook II (256Kb RAM, 128Kb SRAM SSD), using PsiWin 2.33 to translate Psion Word files to RTF for importing into OvationPro .

There are not many DrawFiles in newer editions of Frobnicate because I do not use my RiscPC to generate the draw diagrams. Oh no, I use Archie on the PC. An exercise in pain, perhaps? :-)
If anybody has an unwanted/unused copy of OakDraw, please send it my way!


What do I do if a DrawFile font error occurs?

This happens in OvationPro for Windows if the font mapping is incorrect. OvationPro can reflow the text on-the-fly, but cannot (yet?) do this for DrawFile content.
Having said that, this problem shouldn't occur as I try to use only Corpus, Homerton, Trinity, and Sassoon typefaces (aliased to Courier New, Arial, Times New Roman, and Comic Sans MS under the Windows version of OvationPro ).

There are two ways around this. The first, quit OvationPro and then reload it. In the Misc menu, click on Font manager and ensure it is set to Map. Then try to reload the issue.

The other way is more a bodge than a fix, but it is quick. The OvationPro document appears to have 'vanished', but if you look you'll see a set of menus on-screen. Press ^G (or look to the Page menu for Goto page), and tap in the number of the next page. It'll appear. You can continue reading...


What should I do about font/graphics errors in older issues?

There is nothing much you can do really - the font errors will be because a specific RISC OS font is referenced which has no equivalent under Windows (an example would be MDA1 which would be like the VGA OEM font, only that isn't a TrueType font so it cannot be used...). You could try altering the font mapping to a 'similar' font, but your mileage may vary...

As for graphics errors, the only problem you are likely to encounter here is missing diagrams and logos. This is because the diagram/logo in question is an ArtWorks drawing - and there is no ArtWorks renderer available for Windows, thus OvationPro cannot display the drawing!


What happened to "The Wrap Party" in issue 23?

It, along with the Hacker diary, was a victim of space, or rather, lack of space.

All new issues are created to always be a multiple of 4 pages. This allows you to make a 'pamphlet' version of Frobnicate, which I refer to as "FrobLite"!
Options for pamphlet printing.To do this, open the printer options window and choose the Pamphlet format. Ensure that you are printing All pages, too.
To confirm the print is correct, click on the Print setup option to expand the print options window to its full size. The scale should be 71%. This means that each page (A4 normally) will be printed to A5 size, and the sideways option tells the system to rotate the page. That is why a print to a virtual piece of paper that is half the size results in a 71% scale and not 50%.

It could be worthwhile clicking the Set button (not Print!) at this point, and ensuring the print margins are all okay. Then, reopen the print window and click Print...

You're on your own now, but if you've never done this before, ensure only one piece of paper is loaded in the printer. Different printers accept the paper in different ways. My preference (with the Lexmark) is to feed in a single sheet at a time, and turn each sheet over and reinsert it with the blank side up. With the DeskJet 540, the same is done only this time the printed side is up as this printer turns the paper internally.

Missed a sheet? Printed the same side twice? Don't panic! You don't need horrible maths to work out what to do to get the right pages to print. Oh no. D'you see that Print sheet button? Click that and you can choose any of the double-page spreads, front or back sides, and print them directly.


What happened to the summer 2005 issue?

Basically, I need broadband access. The website (this!) has to be updated, as well as uploading the OvationPro version and the PDF version - the upload could easily run to six megabytes. That isn't a lot, but if you are trying with a 28k8-56k modem on noisy country phone lines, you can understand the process could be rather time-consuming.
So I upload at the library, where it takes maybe a minute or two?
Only... France pretty-much shuts down for the summer, and this includes the library which takes on weird and erratic hours (as opposed to the normal weird hours). Therefore, the summer issue was abandoned - it's no good if it is just sitting on my harddisc!

For what it's worth, I did enjoy a nice glass or two (or three...) of wine on the proper 10th anniversary. :-)


What fonts are used?

With one exception (something like issue 6?), the following fonts are used:

  • Corpus
  • Homerton
  • Trinity
  • Sassoon

The aliasing under Windows is:

  • Corpus --> Courier New
  • Homerton --> Arial
  • Trinity --> Times New Roman
  • Sassoon --> Comic Sans MS

These have been chosen because RISC OS and Windows always ship with the respective fonts.


Why doesn't this look correct in my browser?

The first thing to consider is that this site "looks best" in Internet Explorer, or something that offers very similar capabilities (Firefox, Opera, etc). It is a sad fact that RISC OS browsers don't make the grade these days, though things should be workable with Fresco and Oregano, despite partial/broken support for the <font> attribute.

The other, more serious, reason for incorrect output is that this site was designed using Micro Application's "Votre Site Web", which is fundamentally broken in loads of ways - this is discussed in issue 24.

(congratulations, I've found something more screwed up than FrontPage!)


Will older issues be available as PDFs?

Issue #1 is available as a PDF. There are no plans for other issues at the moment, but I'm sure it'll happen eventually...


I have the original issue #1 file and it doesn't look like your PDF, why?

Basically because in order to get the layout and formatting exactly correct, I would have to load it up on an Acorn machine. I did not have the inclination to monitor-swap or whatever, so I loaded it under OvationPro for Windows, and tidied up various aspects of the automatic conversion. I don't recall if SwissB (like Arial) was used as the body font. I figure it must have been as I have an alias for Paladin (like Times) and it didn't appear as that... I have also made minor tweaks to the sprite files while converting them to JPEG.
Please note also that a faithful conversion is not possible as I have no "console" font (like the DOS character set). Certainly, Windows has the "Terminal" font built in, but it is not a Truetype so OvationPro doesn't want to know. If anybody knows a good mono-spaced 'terminal' (DOS PC-ANSI) font that is a genuine Truetype, please get in touch!


I sent you an email but you never replied, why?

You'll notice I'm giving out my more 'personal' email address (MerseyMail). This is because several of you were emailing me at BushInternet and those messages were never arriving, or were arriving in 'bits'.
Alternatively, if you have been sending messages to the HeyRick mailbox, note that I now tend to bulk-delete it all without reading anything as I tend to get hit for around 1,400 spams per is too short to be doing with that. I've publicised the MerseyMail address for more than two years now, so there's no excuse...
Use MerseyMail.

Use the Yahoo address that is on the site main page and all around my blog.
MerseyMail is dead.
I only have a short period on-line, but I do try to download messages one week and send replies the next week. If for some reason I do not get back to you, don't take this personally. My brain is about as useful as an 8 inch floppy disc - so just send me the message again to remind me! :-)
I do read every message received.
Note - if the message is rejected, it may be because the mailbox is 'full'. It has a quota. I stick with MerseyMail as it is free, reliable, and only has one advert (for their own services, usually) even though the quota offered is tiny in comparison to other providers. It isn't ideal, but it'll do for now. In this case, please accept my apologies - but obviously I cannot control what people send me when I'm not there to pick up mail. Please resubmit your message the following week.
Note that people who fail to read this, or simply don't use any common sense, will be killfiled (that means all messages from them will be automatically discarded). I will never see another email from that person again. This is a very cruel thing to do - so I reserve it for people who do extremely dumb-ass things like sending me a 1Mb PowerPoint and following it up every following day with another copy and a note attached saying 'did you get...'? Such people, in my opinion, don't deserve to be let loose on the Internet; it is the equivalent of driving through a town at 90mph on the wrong side of the road...


Over to you...

If you have a question - don't hesitate to ask! heyrick -at- merseymail -dot- com

2008 Rick Murray