A look at RISC OS 5.24 stable

posted in: General | 0

RISC OS 5.24 stable is now out for all to take advantage of the 708 changes since 2015’s 5.22 stable release. 20 or so of those changes would be considered major improvements.

The biggest news is the addition of RISC OS’ ability to handle larger hard drives, JPEG support, monitor EDID support and a number of tweaks to the network stack.

This release incorporates a huge 707 changes for the OMAP3 platform used by the ARMini and 708 changes for OMAP4, used by the PandaRO and ARMiniX computers. Older platforms such as Tungsten (Iyonix PC) and IOMD (26-bit RiscPC & A7000 range) have also seen a deludge of changes. For the first time the stable release includes the Raspberry Pi and Titanium ports.

A number of these major improvements have come as the result of the ROOL Bounty scheme, which for those of you that may be unfamiliar, is a RISC OS Open initiative where a list of development items is published on ROOL’s website and people can throw money at the items they’d most like to see come to fruition. This then allows for developers to work on something that they not have enough spare time to work on in their free-time.

Userland features have also seen some TLC – with Printers, DosFS, Maestro and other utilities getting updates. Access+, Econet suppor on Omniclient and the NFS client have also seen their first updates in many years. LanManFS has also been updated with some security tweaks as well as the ability to connect to Windows 8 and 10 shares.

In their announcement of 5.24’s arrival, ROOL have also said they’re hoping to see RISC OS back in the NOOBS software for Raspberry Pi, after it was removed a few releases back.

This release has also seen ROOL improve the release process, there is now a more formal set of criteria to verify each platform supported and a traffic light system with statuses of red, amber and green.

Useability & upgrading

From a useability standpoint, the RISC OS experience is exactly the same as it was so there’s no nasty surprises for when you upgrade your machines.

The upgrade process on my Raspberry Pi was very straightforward and pretty quick – ROOL have a nice guide to take you through the upgrade process that is worth checking out.

Computer and board-specific advice relating to the installation and upgrade process for this release is also available on ROOL’s website.

Backwards compatibility is very good, I’ve encounter no issues with running any applications or utilities so far – which is to be expected from a stable release, afterall 5.24 has been a long-time in the making.

Improvements of note

  • Filecore – Reports sector offsets correctly with the *Map command on old format disc. Full directories on long filename discs are now correctly faulted rather than producing an unreadable disc. Filecore can now use up to 21 bits for the disc address, meaning a smaller logical file allocation unit, for more efficient use of space on large discs. Bug fixes to 4kbyte sector support allowing drives up to 2TB in size to be used, instead of the previous limit of 256GB with 512 byte sectors.
  • ADFS – Compatibility with flash drives has been improved, where previously they might report disc error 20.
  • Kernel – A new concept of ‘physical memory pools’ has been added, this is where a dynamic area can set aside lots of physical memory but only use a small window of logical memory, for example to allow a large RAM disc. Extra APIs have also been added to allow low level software to discover features of the ARM processor such as its support for exclusive monitor instructions as and when they are removed depending on the ARM core.Teletext video modes can now have extra characters on each line rather than being constrained to 40 (up to a limit of 255). An extra conversion for OS_ConvertVariform to handle globally unique numbers (UUID). Some preparations and reorganisation for multiple ARM cores have also been made. A new option to configure a MonitorType of EDID which will read the settings from the monitor directly as part of the EDID bounty work.
  • LanManFS – It will now connect to NTLM authenticated shares which is a minimum requirement on many servers to improve security. It also now correctly performs writes over 64kbytes when the server declares a buffer size of larger than this.
  • USBDriver EHCIDriver and OHCIDriver – Scanning keyboards, particularly when hidden behind hubs, at power on in order to do power-on-delete (for example) is now more reliable as part of the USB bounty work. The drivers have been updated where practical from the parent copies in NetBSD

Where to grab it

You can download RISC OS 5.24 for free from ROOL’s website and for purchase it on their SD cards. Their ePic card has also been updated with RISC OS 5.24 and latest versions of SparkFS, PhotoDesk, DDE and Impact – you can purchase it from the ROOL store.

Just like magic: RISC OS on the Wandboard

posted in: Hardware | 0

A development image of RISC OS 5.25 for the iMX6-based Wandaboard is now available to download from RISC OS Open’s site, which adds another low-cost board to the ever-growing list of machines that can run RISC OS 5 natively.

The Wandboard i.MX6 is an ultra low-power computer which claims to have ‘high performance multimedia capabilities’. The board is based around the NXP i.MX6 Cortex-A9 processor.

On the Wandboard website, there’s currently four boards available for purchase. There’s the single-core Wandboard Solo, then the dual-core Wandboard Dual, the quad-core Wandaboard Quad and the very deluxe-sounding QuadPLUS – although from their website I can’t actually seem to find out what you get from the QuadPLUS that you don’t already get from the standard Quad!

As RISC OS does not currently support the use of multiple cores, there’s not much point in opting for anything other than the Solo at this point, unless you’re planning on running other operating systems on the board too, in which case opting for the Dual or Quad options could be a good way to go depending on what you want to do.

The Solo currently packs 512MB RAM, on-board audio, serial, USB and HDMI ports. It also has a MicroSD card slot to run your operating system on much in the same way as you would on the Raspberry Pi. All boards have networking capabilities and an expansion header. The Dual and Quad editions have built-in Wi-fi and Bluetooth support (although RISC OS can’t take advantage of this) and the Quad packs a SATA connector too.

Full specs:

Wandboard Solo
Wandboard Dual
Wandboard Quad
  Processor
i.MX6 Solo
i.MX6 DualLite
i.MX6 Quad
  Cores
ARM Cortex-A9
Single core @ 1GHz
ARM Cortex-A9
Dual core
@ 1GHz
ARM Cortex-A9
Quad core
  Memory
512 MB DDR3
1GB DDR3
2 GB DDR3
  Audio
  Optical S/PDIF
  HDMI
  Camera interface
  micro SD cardslot
2
2
2
  Serial port
  Expansion Header
  USB
  USB OTG
  SATA connector
Not populated
Not populated
  Gigabit LAN
  WIFI (802.11n)
  Bluetooth

 

The Solo is currently available for $69.00 – so roughly 50gbp. The Dual starts at $89.00 and the Quad weighs in at $119.00.

Just like similar ARM-based boards, the Wandboard ranges of machines will run RISC OS and Linux off the bat. FreeBSD has also recently started supporting the Wandboard.

Overall, the Wandboard looks like a  piece of kit that gives you an awful lot of bang for your buck at a pretty reasonable price. Without getting my hands on one I can’t say how the Cortex-A9 CPU at 1GHz will compare to say a Raspberry Pi 3, but it will undoubtedly be powerful enough to run anything you want RISC OS wise, even with the 512MB RAM that comes with the Solo.

The development image of RISC OS 5.25 for the Wandboard is available for download from here.