RISC OS Open is ten years old!

posted in: Miscellaneous | 0

rool_text_reflectA lot of you will remember the sorry state of RISC OS prior to the founding of RISC OS Open back in 2006.

RISCOS Ltd and Castle Technology were fighting with their own branches of the operating system, 26-bit RISC OS 4 & 6 and 32-bit RISC OS 5. Both closed source, and both running on limited hardware. Your choice was to run RISC OS 5 on an Iyonix, a sort-of 32-bit version of RISC OS Adjust on the A9Home or you’d have to opt for a legacy machine, a such as the RiscPC. All of which were not the cheapest to get your hands on, especially if you opted for a MicroDigital Omega and never saw your machine or your money again.

Thankfully, things have moved on massively since – and not only is RISC OS now open-source, it is developing at an ever-growing pace. The range of hardware to run it on is now mind-blowing, be it a DIY option such as a Beagle/Pandaboard or the Raspberry Pi, or a commercial solution such as the ARMX6 or the Rapido IG.

None of this could have been possible without the tireless work from the guys over at RISC OS Open – who since their inception have worked has been an enterprise powered by the efforts of people working in their spare-time and not for a profit.

RISC OS has never been in better shape – the userbase is growing, software development is active, heck there’s even a commercial games scene now – a sight I never thought I’d see again after the Artex Software’s departure from the RISC OS market following the release of TEK 1608 in 2002.

Thanks for the hard work ROOL – and here’s to the next ten years!

The Pi Zero – a board for less than a fiver

posted in: Hardware | 2

raspberry_pi_zero_1

You don’t get much change from a fiver for a lot of things these days, but the fine chaps over at the Raspberry Pi Foundation are all for giving as much bang for your buck as possible.

Released in November 2015, the Raspberry Pi Zero immediately drew people’s attention with its ridiculous price tag of just £4. The board is essentially a cheap and very small version of the Pi Model A+, making it very capable for a good number of uses.

The intention behind the Zero was not to provide a useable desktop experience(driving a GUI output while multi-tasking etc.) but instead to be a device that can be left running standalone to perform its tasks day-in-day out.

I initially attempted to get my hands on the Zero when the machine was announced at the same time as the first 10,000 units were being given away free with issue 40 of MagPi magazine. All newsagents I could find that stocked the magazine had sold out pretty quickly unsurprisingly.

The most ideal use-case for the board would be for it to be installed inside other machines as a control board or perhaps for running basic low-intensity tasks. Here are the board’s specs:

  • A Broadcom BCM2835 application processor
    • 1GHz ARM11 core (40% faster than Raspberry Pi 1)
  • 512MB of LPDDR2 SDRAM
  • A micro-SD card slot
  • A mini-HDMI socket for 1080p60 video output
  • Micro-USB sockets for data and power
  • An unpopulated 40-pin GPIO header
    • Identical pinout to Model A+/B+/2B
  • An unpopulated composite video header
  • Size: 65mm x 30mm x 5mm

The main question is however, can it run RISC OS?

Well in theory yes, but as it stands it’s not straightforward. The Zero needs the latest firmware, which causes the processor to default to slow speed in order to allow the kernel to ask for the higher speed when it deems it necessary. RISC OS was initially unable to do this, but in the last few months it has since been updated to support switching – meaning forcing ‘turbo’ mode is no longer required to get RISC OS running on the board.

Although it’s got the same single-core, ARM-based processor as the first gen Model B, it’s slightly faster, with the clock speed bumped up to 1GHz. The system memory remains the same, with 512MB of DDR2 SDRAM.

Then there’s the board’s lack of an ethernet port – which means only RISC OS 5 ROMs dated 20-Dec-2015 and older will support a USB-to-Ethernet adapter in order to provide networking. This is due to complications risen from the implementation of ZeroPain.

It is however do-able if you have patience and spare of time on your side. Chris Hall has documented the process on his website.

The Pi Zero is still flying in and out of stock pretty fast despite having been on the market now for several months. The Pi Hut however do appear to get Zero’s in stock relatively regularly should you be wanting to take the extremely walltet-friendly plunge and have a play around with one.

RISC OS eXperience 2016 just a few days away

posted in: Miscellaneous | 0

RISC-OS-LogoJust a few weeks on from the Wakefield Show, the RISC OS calendar will see the Netherlands’ Big Ben Club hosting the 2016 edition of the RISC OS eXperience on May 21.

The usual faces will present at the event from an exhibitor side of things. R-Comp will be there with their usual range of hardware and software, including their Titanium-based TiMachine computer.

CJE Micro’s will also be present with their ever-large range of software and hardware – including their latest flagship computer, the RapidO-ig. Space is still available for businesses to exhibit at the event, slots are free.

The show will take place in the northern town of Koog aan de Zaan, located 11km northwest of Amsterdam, with the event starting at 10am and finishing at 4pm. For more information, visit the show’s website.risc-os-experience