Meeting: Packages, Pling Stores & PD Software

April 2013

Steve Fryatt took a look at some free software and discussed some different ways in which we could get it on to our machines. Despite an unexpected lack of internet connection making the demos more difficult, we saw the Packman package manager, R-Comp’s PlingStore and a selection of software that had caught Steve’s eye over the past twelve months.

Report by Rick Sterry

Steve Fryatt was the speaker for our April meeting, talking about “Packages, Pling Stores & PD Software”.

From a technical point of view, things did not go to plan. Despite the combined efforts of Steve Fryatt himself, plus Steve Bass and Chris Hughes, they were unable to establish a connection to the WiFi system in the sports club. The wireless router was known to be working OK as two members were able to connect to the internet via it using their smartphones. Eventually our group of experts had to admit defeat as time was marching on. In retrospect it seems that the solution was actually quite simple, but then people are always telling me how simple networking is! The configuration issue was resolved at the May meeting and it won’t bother us again (we hope).

The audience was very patient while all this was going on, but it is clear that in future we must have a ‘Plan B’. There is a CAT-5/RJ-45 cable running from the wireless router to a cupboard in the recess at the rear of the function room, so it is straightforward enough to run a long extension lead to the front of the room as backup, when necessary. A suitable lead plus an in-line coupler has since been obtained at very modest cost, and tested at the May meeting. This belt-and-braces approach should avoid any such embarrassment in the future.

Despite the lack of internet connection, the unflappable Steve still managed to do a very good job of showing us the Packman package manager, R-Comp’s Pling Store, and a selection of free software that had caught his eye over the past twelve months. It was while he was demonstrating the Harinezumi application (something to do with rescuing machines with broken !Boot structures) that an oddity with the new projector came to light. When the Beagleboard was being rebooted, it seems as if it momentarily used a screen mode that was not to the projector’s liking. The result was that once booting was completed and the RISC OS desktop was displayed on the local monitor, the projector display was ‘frozen’ with a rather scrambled view of the screen at the time of the reboot.

Swapping over the outputs from the HDMI active splitter box made no difference. Only powering the projector off altogether restored the ‘live’ image, and this is not something we would want to do very often as it isn’t very good for the lamp life. The effect was repeated when the machine was rebooted a second time, so it clearly wasn’t just a one-off. I guess this is what can happen if you throw an outlandish screen mode at a projector designed primarily for the domestic market. We may perhaps be able to avoid this happening in future, simply by temporarily selecting an unused input on the projector during rebooting, in situations where the problem is known to occur – it only involves pressing one button. Our LG monitor, on the other hand, was chosen for being capable of dealing with pretty much anything we are ever likely to throw at it, which so far it has.

So, it’s a case of “all’s well that ends well”, but rest assured that lessons have been learned for the future. My thanks to those who waited so patiently while attempts were made to resolve the problems.