8-Bit Software Online Conversion

MORE POSTAGE AND PACKING After my comments in issue 21, a member living in the south of England has commented that it costs him 45p to mail two disks in a padded envelope. It appears that higher prices in the south apply to postage as well; by comparison I have just received a return P&P envelope from a member in Newcastle-upon-Tyne which is for three disks (+ cardboard); it has one 18p stamp on it. So now we know why the majority of PD libraries are in the north of England! SOURCE CODE I have received the following message from user B27: "I should like to make a plea for the availability of source code when possible. I know that it takes up valuable disc space. I am also aware that some programmers, while they are prepared for users to try and disassemble their code, do not like making their actual source code available - an attitude I do not pretend to understand. In the last disc magazine you pointed out that the main function of BBC machines was to do your own programming. A very useful way of doing this is by fiddling with other peoples programs - but for machine-code programs this is difficult without the source code. Is it possible for source code programs to be sometimes available on the disc?" I have in the past complained to Alan Blundell about BBC PD disk 50, which is largely made up of source code which you need to assemble yourself. This reduces the accessibility and appeal of the software, and is also extremely frustrating when you spend ages assembling a program only to find that it doesn't work. For this reason I will only publish programs as either working programs or compressed versions of working programs if lack of space makes this unavoidable. On the other hand, of course, there is no reason why I cannot publish the source code in addition to the working program, and I generally do so wherever possible (e.g. *CLONE and *VIEWCON in this issue, JACKPOT (with a great deal of assembler source in the BASIC program) in issue 21). However, most programs are in BASIC anyway, and assembly-language programmers either consider that no-one will be interested or wish to hide secrets of some sort. The issue of space is secondary, except as regards filenames under DFS, and in extreme cases like Power Raider, whose source code may well have approached 100K in size. I could always produce a source-code archive for each issue, with all available source-code. So essentially the availability of source code depends upon the willingness of programmers to supply it. I imagine Chris Richardson has quite a lot lying around? THE ARCHIMEDES ETC. Members will no doubt have noticed my opinion on the necessity (or rather, lack of necessity) of upgrading to an Archimedes. To offer a rather more informed comparison of the Beeb and the Arch, M.T. Farnworth has taken a look at the subject from a programmer's point of view (see separate article). Considering the difference in price, the fact that the Arch doesn't exactly win this comparison easily is perhaps indicative of something. I know we have had some members enthusing about Archs in the past, but I hear that Duncan Webster is not as impressed with his A3000 as he used to be (rumours of buying a 386 PC?) There is also the fact that a considerable number of Arch-owners still find the 8-bit world far more interesting - nearly a third of 8BS members are Arch-owners. I know the A3010 is only #500 or something, and the Arch is a very good machine for DTP, but the two don't exactly fit together. If you are that serious about DTP you will need 2Mb of RAM and a hard disk, and the A3010 doesn't have either. There are also people who say that an Arch DTP system really needs an ink-jet printer, a multi-scan monitor, an ARM3, and an A4 scanner. Which you can't really get for #500. Well, I'm not at all close-minded on this subject; if anyone would like to reply to either the above, or to M.T.F's article on Beeb vs. Arch, then I would like to hear from them...I would also like to point out that any other alternative computer as an upgrade is even worse than the Archimedes. THE COMMERCIAL COMPETITION A few people have recently written in commenting on the diminishing level of support shown to 8-bit users by commercial magazines. In particular the 8-bit content of both the Micro User and the 8-bit subscription disk available with it have been criticised. TMU has now been transformed into Acorn Computing, and I have asked two people whether things have improved from an 8-bit point of view (actually they were both Arch-owners, which probably didn't help to give them an 8-bit point of view). Anyway, one said that there was "virtually nothing" for 8-bit users in the magazine, and the other said that the 8-bit subscription disk was quite good (but not as good as 8-bit software issues). I have been expecting the decline of commercial support for the Beeb for the last eighteen months; it was one of the reasons I considered 8-bit software and the PD world in general to be important. However, some people have mentioned that they are thinking of subscribing to another magazine instead. The options available are fairly limited. BBC Acorn User is a magazine aimed at much the same market at Acorn Computing, and the emphasis is similarly upon the Archimedes. However, Acorn User are making an effort to continue supporting the 8-bits; I have heard that they are planning to feature an article on 8-bit PD libraries soon, and a fairly recent issue that I saw had a few Beeb programs and articles; also they appear to concentrate on serious computer use, especially programming, somewhat more than TMU. Subscribing to Beebug magazine is around the same price as the other magazines, but although this buys you membership of a "user group" with free advice etc., regular readers of the other magazines will be disappointed at the considerably smaller size and unpretentious presentation of Beebug magazine. However, from the one issue I've seen, the magazine is totally 8-bit orientated, and also covers programming topics more often. They also featured long series' on the Master 512 and on PD software. However, the disk that you can order with the magazine is probably even worse than the others. So to conclude...I suppose you have to make up your own mind. But there is always 8BS and the other PD libraries who will be around to support the 8-bit machines for a while yet (maybe). GENERAL NEWS ============ For those who don't know, it is probably worth mentioning that Alan Blundell has now removed a large number of disks from the BBC PD catalogue. The following is a direct quote from the latest BBC PD catalogue & sampler disk: "The latest update of the catalogue has seen several discs withdrawn. They include several discs of sampled sounds by the 'Yorkshire Boys' and others containing computer versions of a large range of well-known tunes. The withdrawal was for two reasons; firstly, the Yorkshire Boys wrote to me demanding a 'licence fee' to allow me to continue distributing their work (Yorkshire Boys discs ARE public domain, and if you have copies I understand that you can continue to give them to your friends, in case you are confused by this). At the same time, I was beginning to hear of the interest shown by the Performing Rights Society in Amiga and ST public domain music software, and I investigated the position. Perhaps, with hindsight, I should have considered copyright in the original music on which the software is based earlier, but perhaps the common acceptance of the software by PD libraries, users and the computer press for all musical makes of computer stopped me. Anyway, the position is that it is illegal to knowingly use someone else's copyright work (such as a piece of music) without their permission, either by sampling the sound of a performance or recording or by rendering a tune via a computer program. In the light of this, I have withdrawn those discs which contain such software." 8-Bit Software remains open-minded on this topic, as do a number of other libraries, which means that, for the moment, both the TYB software and other music will continue to be featured in the TBI pool. OTHER NEWS IBM are planning to introduce a RISC PC by about 1994 or 1996. One little problem - it will be a non-PC-compatible PC. Hmmm. Acorn have a new range of Archs out (A3010, A3020, A4000), all with 1.6Mb floppy disk drives, very little expansion capability, the ARM250 processor (50% faster than the ARM2 used in the A310, A3000 etc.), RISCOS 3.1, and, best of all, EDIT built-in (nearly as good as a Master 128 eh?) Prices for the new range start at #500, and prices on the existing range have also been cut. I'm sure something else has happened but I can't remember what.