Monthly Archives: February 2017

Christmas Toy

It must be Christmas when a software author sends you some new software and doesn’t know what to call it. Per Witte says it could be a screen saver, a toy, or just a gimmick. Inspired by the Matrix movies, he came up with this little program which can be used as a screen saver module under CueDark screen saver, for example, or simply as a stand alone relaxing toy of a program. It has a relaxing, calming, even hypnotic effect while running. Per calls it MatriQx and it can be downloaded from the Screen Savers section on my website at (CueDark screen saver is also available from the same page).

PCBdesign v7.47

Malcolm Lear continues to update this PCB design software. At the time of writing, version 7.47 has been released. Here’s a list of revisions in recent versions:

7.45 Changes  made  to  correctly  export  and  render  finger  pads composed of multiple polygons. NC  drill  correctly  determines  finger  pads  on single layer boards.

7.46 Revised order of editing control bits in the assembler code. Replacement bombsight symbol created to replace the pad version due  to  its  imminent  deprication  (bombsight is not really a pad).

Edit  mode  order  revised  when dealing with finger pads, now: corner > whole > pad > corner. When finger pads are edited such that they become tracks, editing mode change is: pad > corner.

Polygon  control  directives in the Reference/ID field such as: ‘ko’,’bg’,’pwr’,  and ‘gnd’ now automatically switch visibility off. Drill  hole  sizes correctly selecting on finger pads (via size was not masked out).

Finger  pad  edit  mode  always deselected by finger pad detect routine. Finger  pad holes and slots only appear on correctly identified finger pads. Finger  pad  hole  slot  size and shape can only be modified on correctly identifed finger pads.

7.47 Automatic Gerber export element and drill file logic for 4 or 6 layer  boards  was  a  mess, with many issues including missing intermediate  through  hole pads and incorrect drill files. All these  issues  and  many  more have been addressed with a major rewrite of the export routines. After this rewrite a crosscheck of  export  behavior was performed against the previous release using a complex 2 layer board to ensure correct operation. Input  checks  are now perfomed to ensure only legal layers for vias and elements can be entered.

Solder  resist,  solder  paste  and  plating  masks  can now be created  by  polygons  (zero width tracks) and can be edited as finger pads. Auto  resist  layer  for older designs is now 5 mil larger than the pad. Thermal pads are not drilled.

Download Lear PCB Design from the Graphics programs page on my website at

IPnet Update

Martin Head has released version 1.02 of IPnet, a device driver to re-enable the QL networking facilities of QPC2 using the built in IP device driver. It supports most of the features of the standard QL network including FSERVE and the NFS_USE device. Version 1.02, Martin says, has fixed “a problem with the IP_ADDR/NET command failing on IP addresses with octets greater than 100” and also “allows FSERVE on network stations with station numbers greater than 8”. User manual now included in Word/RTF/PDF formats. Download IPnet from

SQRview Update

Bob Spelten jr. has released an update of his SQRview graphics viewer program, v1.02 of which is available to download free from

In addition to the original specs, this program now uses David Westbury’s PHGTK extensions to do fast JPEG, GIF and PNG graphics file conversions as well as BMP files, QL screen , PIC, PSA and sprite files. It is also possible to convert to GD2 sprite file format. The options are many and varied.

Trimming is supported, allowing you to shave a little bit off the edges of a picture to adjust its size.

SQRview requires a Window Manager 2 system to run – this would mean SMSQ/E v3.00 or later – and the Menu Extension.

Movies On The QL

Some tentative first steps have been taken by users on QL Forum to implement animated graphics and even simple movies on faster QL-compatible platforms.

There have been some previous moves in this direction – software such as the Q-Top Animator by Urs König (available on his The Distribution and QL/E packages), and some “Tv Movies” on PD software disks – I think they were originally published via the Italian QL group Q-Italy.

QL Forum member Cristian started the discussion by providing a fairly simple routine to rapidly copy screen image files to the screen from ramdisc, taking advantage of the speed of LBYTES working with files from ramdisc, loading a numbered sequence of screens with suitable pauses in between, something like:

FOR n = 1 TO number_of_screens
LBYTES ram1_SCREEN’&n&”_scr”,131072
PAUSE speed%

Various suggestions were made, such as making use of the second screen space in memory on a Minerva-equipped system, so that frames could be loaded to either screen area and quickly ‘switched’ between the two screens.

The main limitation here was that it only displayed 512×256 (32 kilobyte) QL screens, and relied on the screen being at the same address in memory as on an original black box QL.

Per Witte took things a stage further by utilising Bob Spelten jr.’s SQRview program to convert screens to sprites, which can then be output to the screen using the SPRW command from Easyptr, which allows for a variety of frame sizes to be handled and a coordinate to be specified within a window.Per went on to produce a basic player, eventually called Qplayer.

David Westbury’s PHGTK (Photon General Toolkit) allows multi-frame animated GIF images for example to be output as individual PIC files, with the unused 10th byte in the file altered to specifiy a frame timing parameter, which opens up another avenue for animating using multiple PIC files, pasted to the screen in the right order with frame timing taken from each file to pause before the next file. Some PIC file window load/save functions such as David’s could be used to display the individual frames.

The disadvantage of this approach is that PIC files are uncompressed, so anything other than the shortest of animations could produce massive output files. GD2 sprites do at least have the option to be compressed using a simple Run Length Encoding RLE) which does go some way towards reducing file sizes.

There was some discussion of combining the individual frames into a single large file so that an entire “movie” or animation could be made into a single file for convenience.

There was some discussion of exploring the use of compression utilities such as Zip or Bzip to reduce file sizes, but it was eventually determined that decompression could not take place fast enough to keep up with, say, a 10 frame per second video.

Marcel Kilgus joined the conversation and true to form he could not resist the temptation to write what he called a “quick and dirty” movie player including sound, which he made available to download at – this is 135MB in size and Marcel warned it may only work on QPC2.

The movie file itself is about 320MB in size and contains about 2 minutes of concert footage shot by Marcel himself.

The source files are included for those wishing to tinker with this. It is all supplied as a copy of QPC2 and SMSQE.BIN configured ready to go with no user intervention once unzipped to a folder on your Windows hard drive. Some of the files are in a file, the others in the Windows folder accessed by DOS1. The movie file itself is accessed via DOS1_ – Marcel says that strange things happen when trying to move this sheer amount of data quickly via a WIN file.

He established that the player has to stream about 2.6MB per second in this case, meaning most systems could only handle this much data without compression – using BZIP2 or GZIP would result in too many decompression delays. Marcel ended up with a Qmovie file which is an interleaved data format with one second of audio, followed by one second of video in uncompressed format, with information such as resolution and frame rate hard coded into the qmovie_exe file.

QL On The Cover

It’s not every day that you see our favourite computer grace the covers of a non-QL magazine.

Phoebus Dokos

The magazine in this case is Retro Planet, a Greek retro computing magazine.

Featured on the outside of the December 2016 issue, the cover story is a detailed tribute to the Sinclair QL written by Phoebus Dokos (left), illustrated with some great photographs by Anthony Nicholas.




This is the 14th edition of Retro Planet

For further information, visit the magazine’s website at