RISC OS’ lack of built-in wireless support has grown to be a noticeable issue since the rise of the Raspberry Pi and similar ARM boards.
Going back ten years ago, RISC OS was mainly used natively on an Iyonix or a RiscPC – desktop machines that you wouldn’t generally need wi-fi support on.
As times have progressed however and the number of small RISC OS compatible computers has grown, no wi-fi support has started to become a more pertitent problem – especially now that first-timers to the OS are most probably trying it out for the first time on the Raspberry Pi 3, which has built-in wireless support.
Developing built-in wireless support into RISC OS itself is a complex and very resource intensive task, but interesting third party solutions are now out there to bridge the gap. Two years ago I wrote about R-Comp’s Pi-Fi solution, and now we have Wispy from RISCOSBits.
What is Wispy?
Wispy is a software-based wireless networking solution for RISC OS, designed to be run on an Orange Pi Zero 512MB (no other boards are currently supported), the software allows for the Orange Pi board to be connected to another RISC OS computer, such as the Raspberry Pi, and in-turn give said RISC OS computer wireless networking.
It can be powered from either a standard USB port or using a molex splitter to microUSB port. A custom-built PCI bracket is also available if you’re trying to jam it into a tight case.
The Wispy software comes with a few neat features, the main one being it allows for wireless networking configurable within RISC OS and it has the ability to setup Samba and NFS shares for fire-sharing on your local network. As the Wispy is essentially an add-on board, it give you the option for additional storage via USB and it can give you access to your OwnCloud files via your RISC OS machine. This is all configurable and accessible via a web interface you can pull up in Netsurf.
Essentially what you have with the Orange Pi running Wispy is a little Linux computer, which is connecting to your wireless network and in-turn passing that to-and-from your RISC OS computer.
The web interface gives you the ability to use Linux-based applications that aren’t available for RISC OS, such as word processors, image processors etc. These can be used inside the RISC OS desktop. Obviously, graphically intensive Linux apps or tasks won’t run terrificly well in this enviroment – but it ‘s a nice tool to add to one’s overall RISC OS toolkit.
A nice addition is despite the fact that the Wi-fi connectivity the Wispy provides is not RISC OS-native, it is fully configurable from within the RISC OS front-end, no need to setup on another operating system first. One little downside is ShareFS is not supported.
Wispy is distributed on a 16GB USB drive that can be purchased from RISCOSBits. Once in your posession, you’ll need to burn the image onto your own microSD card from the compressed 1.2GB image included – then stick that microSD into the Orange Pi and away you go. A detailed manual is also included on the USB stick.
RISCOSBits also offer a custom PCI bracket for a fiver so you can mount the Wispy inside a standard ATX or ITX MicroATX PC case.