Wispy wi-fi on RISC OS

posted in: Hardware, Software, Technology | 0

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 gives 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.

Getting one

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.

Merry Christmas from the RISCOSBlog!

posted in: General | 0

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from Sion and all RISC OS Blog contributors past-and-present!

It’s crazy to think how much activity and buzz there still is in the RISC OS community over 19 years after Acorn decided to discontinue RISC OS development.

Just like in previous years, 2017 has seen a great number of projects come to fruition, from developing RISC OS itself to many interesting hardware and software developments like the various releases to have come out of Elesar, R-Comp and RISCOSBits in recent months.

Here’s to another great year for RISC OS!

A look at R-Comp’s Doom Trilogy re-release – Wolfenstein included!

posted in: Games | 0

A while back I was thrilled to see R-Comp delving into their back catalouge of RISC OS games by re-releasing Final Doom for modern RISC OS machines, and at a reasonable price too.

Andrew and the team haven’t stopped at Final Doom, the Pling Store now features the Doom Trilogy for modern RISC OS 5 computers – including the Raspberry Pi!

Based on R-Comp’s original ports of Ultimate Doom and Doom 2 – the pack includes the main Doom trilogy (Doom 1, 2 and Ultimate) as well a number of official expansions and other additional levels.

Thrown into the mix is the RISC OS version of Wolfenstein, which is not natively supported by modern (32-bit) RISC OS but it does work well under Aemulor. A Doom-engine version of Wolfenstein is also provided, which will run natively on modern RISC OS.

What is Doom?

In case you’ve been living in a cave or under a horrificly oppressive regime over the last two decades, you’ve most likely come across Doom in some shape or form, from the various games to the poorly-received 2005 movie. Doom is a series of first-person shooter games developed by id Software. It focuses on the exploits of an unnamed space marine operating under the auspices of Union Aerospace Corporation (UAC), who fights hordes of demons and the undead in order to survive.

Along with Wolfenstein 3D, Doom is considered to be one of the pioneering first-person shooter games and was one of the first titles to bring 3D graphics, network multiplayer and third-dimension spatiality to the masses.

What’s new in this re-release?

Much in the same veign of their Final Doom re-release, a lot of work has gone into the music. Several different soundtrack options are available, including a new high quality digital soundtrack (optionally) in place of the MIDI.

The game supports a sizeable array of add-on PWADs and user-created levels. Network multiplayer is still present in this release and is compatible with newer 32-bit RISC OS systems, including the Raspberry Pi.

Doom is now fully compatible with Titanium and other systems that require RGB/BGR colour swapping, meaning that this release will run on anything from a battle-worn RiscPC to a an ARMini, TiMachine or Raspberry. It also seems to run well under RPCEmu emulation.

The games pack is priced at a reasonable £14.99 price point – which considering the original price upon release all those years ago was £32.50, it’s not a bad deal.

What’s the advantage when compared to FreeDoom?

RISC OS has had many ports of Doom over the years, most notably the excellent FreeDoom, ported to RISC OS by Jeff Doggett. So naturally you might be thinking, why should I throw £15 at a game that I can play for free?

While it’s a fair argument, for the £14.99 price you can’t really complain if you take into account that all the level files are included – as opposed to having to source them yourself (legally!) in the case of FreeDoom and other free ports of the game.

There’s no setup like you have with the free options, which require sourcing WAD files and placing them in a location the game is expecting the file to be in – plus the game does appear to be a lot smoother and far less buggy than other versions out there. The R-Comp version also has networking support, which I don’t believe is available with any other port for RISC OS.

If you look at what’s included in return for your cash – Three Doom games, a whole host of additional levels including official expansions, Wolfenstein 3D and a Doom-powered version of Wolfenstein, it’s really not to be sniffed at.

The Doom Trilogy can be purchased as a £14.99 download from R-Comp’s Pling Store. If you do pick up a copy and/or if this review’s made you crave a Doom session then I highly recommend you check out Martin Bazley’s RISC OS made (using Deth) WAD files, the ones I’ve tried have all been very well designed.

UPDATE: R-Comp have since made the Wolfenstein 3D version bundled wiith this trilogy fully 32-bit and ARMv7 compatible.

OBrowser: A RISC OS front-end for the Otter Browser engine

posted in: Software | 0

A little while back we took at look at the various web browser options available to RISC OS users, Otter Browser was one of those under the spotlight and for the most part I quite like it.

Otter Browser focuses on being visually appealing and feature rich over performance (although I haven’t had any major issues with speed or stability). Otter comes with a built-in password manager, bookmark and add-on manager as well as content blocking and spell checking tools. It has quite a customisable GUI, which allows the majority of the way it looks to be modified.

Ported to RISC OS from Linux by Chris Gransden and Lee Noar a few years ago, it has won over many as being a good technical achievement it, but in its current state iy has very little integration with the RISC OS enviroment – for example, the look and feel is not in-line with the operating system, it’s lack of an iconbar icon is a good example of this.

Richard Brown and Andrew Rawnsley of RISC OS Development Ltd have now announced a new front-end application for Otter, called OBrowser. This front-end brings the browser in-line with what you’d expect from a RISC OS application. It displays an icon on the icon bar, where you can configure several options including closing the application.

A nice addition is its ability to drag and drop handling any necessary parsing of a file before passing the necessary elements on to Otter Browser.

RISC OS Developments have made this available as a semi-commercial product, but with the express message that the aim of charging for it is not to make profit but to help fund their work – which involves things like helping overhaul RISC OS TCP/IP networking stack. OBrowser is now available in return for a donation to RISC OS Developments’ work – suggested donation levels are hinted to in RISC OS Developments’ press release:

“We suggest two levels of donation – if you’re just using it on one system, and want to make a smaller contribution – 40ukp.   If you’d like to use it on more systems, and/or can afford a larger donation – 80ukp.  You’re welcome to offer more, but that’s down to how you feel about RISC OS Developments and what you can afford.” says Andrew Rawnsley.

“Please only consider our OBrowser CD if you’d like to support our RISC OS Developments work, and/or the enhancements shown above seem worthwile.

We need to stress that the prices mentioned reflect funding RISC OS Developments’ work, rather than OBrowser itself, which was always a bonus item for [RISC OS Development] Shareholders. Indeed, Investors do not need to buy this CD, as they can already download OBrowser free of charge.”

While OBrowser does not add any additional functionality to Otter Brwoser per say, it does turn it a far more polished RISC OS application. It has a proper iconbar icon for a start. It global clipboard, drag and drop and all the things you’d expect from a browser on the RISC OS desktop.

If you look at the browser choices we had on RISC OS five years or so ago, it’s a breath of fresh air to see such a resurgence in the amount of decent and usable browsers on the platform. Otter Browser and in-turn OBrowser being one of them. Javascript JIT support was enabled back in April, meaning that a number of websites that were previously not accessible on RISC OS, are. Google Maps, Gmail, speed test websites and most banking and online shopping sites should now work, although patience is required as performance is not always the best with the ports in their current states.

OBrowser can currently only be sourced directly from R-Comp – contact via email or telephone is best, although Andrew has advised that OBrowser is likely to make an appearance on the Pling Store soon.

Running a RISC OS file server with Samba

posted in: Software | 4

RISC OS is best known for its stability and performing with very little resource. Things rarely break and unless there’s an application-specific error the operating system will just run until hardware components die. Naturally this makes RISC OS a prime candidate for running a file server that needs to be up 24/7, collecting back-ups and storing important files.

The only limitation with using RISC OS as a file server is it’ll be next to useless in acting as a media server for offering video streaming services to client machines. This is because Unix-like systems that are commonly used for media servers utilise ‘binary blobs’ that can interact at a low level with the Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) making high-quality video decoding easy as pie.

Like a VGA card of old, RISC OS only really considers the GPU to be a framebuffer which means video decoding must be done in software. In theory, serving media files from RISC OS running on a very powerful processor may give positive-ish results, but I wouldn’t want to put it to the test.

When looking around for various file transfer solutions that I could use on RISC OS, my first port of call was SFTP as it’s a protocol I widely use for accessing files on other non-RISC OS systems I use.

A year or so ago on this very blog I also took a look at SSH on RISC OS, which took a look what offerings are available to us to communicate securely with remote systems.

While there are a number of good SSH and SFTP options available for RISC OS, none of them including the port of OpenSSH offer the ability to run an SSH server, so you’re limited to accessing other SSH systems from your RISC OS desktop rather than vice versa.

From what I can also find, all FTP server applications for RISC OS are pretty ancient and are no longer compatible with 32-bit RISC OS.

That leaves me with Samba – it’s widely used amongst RISC OS users and it’s highly compatible with other non-RISC OS systems.

What is Samba?

Samba is a free software re-implementation of Microsoft’s SMB/CIFS networking protocol. It provides file and printer sharing services and is especially widely used on the Windows operating systems. Samba runs on the majority of major operating systems, Linux, Solaris, the BSDs, MacOS, Windows and more. Samba/SMB is usually pre-installed on most Windows, Mac and Linux systems – and can usually be configured to act as a file server with very little effort.

Samba on RISC OS

The latest version for RISC OS is a port of Samba 2.0.2-19990209 for Unix/Linux – versions of Samba 3.6.3 and lower suffer serious security issues but given that RISC OS is an entirely different beast I find it unlikely that Samba on RISC OS will be exploitable. Saying that, I still wouldn’t expose the Samba port (445) past your firewall and to the wider Internet, that’s always a bad idea regardless of if you’re running it on a RISC OS machine.

Samba for RISC OS is also 32-bit and 26-bit compatible, so it will run on the latest RISC OS compatible systems, including the Raspberry Pi.

Advantages of Samba:

  • Communicate with Windows and Apple systems on your local network with almost no-configuration (providing file-sharing is enabled on those systems)
  • Ability to browse your RISC OS systems’ hard drive(s) on remote Windows, Mac and Linux machines
  • Free and open-source software
  • Very fast and responsive on a local network

Disadvantages of Samba:

  • RISC OS port is of an out-dated version of Samba
  • Not a good solution if you want your server to be accessible from outside your home network
  • Samba doesn’t utilise encryption, data is passed between systems in plain text

Setting up the Samba server on RISC OS

Samba requires at least 8MB of memory in order to run. Once !smbserver has been downloaded and unzipped into a location on your hard drive, run it and a Samba icon should appear on the left side of the iconbar.

Please note that the latest version of !smbserver (v0.08) relies on you already having version 0.07a installed on your machine. So to install from scratch, download 0.07a and place it into somewhere on your drive, then download 0.08 and drag the !smbserver icon over the existing 0.07a to overwrite it.

Something else to keep in mind when downloading the Samba server application from here, the downloaded files are not pre-configured to show up as Zip files, RISC OS will just show it as a data file. To fix this just middle click on the !smbserver icon and go down to Type, set the type to Zip.

Once run, you can then configure !smbserver so that a remote computer can connect to it remotely and pull or drop files from it. Middle click on the Samba iconbar icon then click ‘Configure’ to bring up the main configuration options, fill in the relevant entries with the details for your specific setup:

  • ifconfig -a output showing my machine’s IP address

    Server string – This field allows you to set a name for what your RISC OS Samba share will look like to other machines – e.g. Sion’s RISC OS NAS

  • Interfaces – Enter the IP address of your the machine you’re setting up the server on. Running the ‘ifconfig -a‘ command on the RISC OS command line will show you the IP address assigned to your machine – on most home network it will be something like The subnet mask is in /xx notation, with the most common setting being /24 which is equivalent to (ie. 24 bits being masked).
  • Workgroup – This is where you can definie what local workgroup you want your Samba server to be available on. In most cases it’s safe to leave it as WORKGROUP.

The other settings can be left as default unless you have a specific need to change them. That’s it for setting up the Samba server itself.

Next we’ll need to configure what drives are available for other machines to access. If you click on the Samba iconbar icon it will bring up your Samba shares, by default yours will be called ‘MyRiscPC’ but if you middle click on it, go to ‘Share MyRiscPC’ hover over to ‘Rename’ then you can change it to something else. This name will be visible as a folder you can browse to when you’re accessing your Samba server from other computers.

Configure a folder to share

The final step is to configure a folder on your computer that will be accessible to other machines who’re connecting to it via Samba.

Unless you configure the folder to be ‘read only’ this folder will allow anyone who’s connected to it to be able to drop files into it, delete files, edit them etc.

In my instance I created a folder on my hard drive called ‘Public’. I then clicked on the Samba icon then the name of my Share to bring up the configuration page for what folder I’d like shared via Samba.

In my example I’m using RPCEmu so the path to my Public folder is HostFS::HostFS.$.Public – if you’re running RISC OS natively then your path will be ADFS::HardDisc4.$.Public unless you’ve configured your hard drive under another name.

Once that’s done, enable or disable any options as you see fit then click OK.

Setup a password

To set a password for your share, middle click on the Samba icon again, go to ‘Share MyRiscPC’ then hover over to ‘Set Password’.

Unless you’ve specifically configured your router’s firewall to allow port 445 to be accessible past your local network, then this Samba server will only be accessible to other computers on your network.

In most cases it’s safe to leave your share open with no password, as it’ll only be users on your home network that can look and edit files in your shared Samba folder.

Configure Samba to run on boot

As a last step, you’ll most likely want to ensure that !smbserver automatically runs whenever the machine boots into RISC OS just in case of any unexpected reboots.

Editing the ‘PreDesk’ configuration file located here will provide this functionality – !Boot.Choices.Boot.PreDesk

Local network configuration

If you want to access your RISC OS machine via Samba from an external network (your work’s network for example) then you’ll need to enable the firewall your Samba server is passing through to allow connections over port 445 TCP . With most setups this can be achieved by adding a port forwarding rule in your router’s firewall to allow TCP connections over port 445.

Should you decide you don’t require access to your Samba server from an external network – for example, you only need to connect to it from devices in your home, or you use a VPN connection to remotely access your network remotely – then you don’t need to do anything, traffic should pass over port 445 without a problem unless you have device-specific firewalls blocking this port (you’ll probably know about it if this is the case).

Accessing your Samba server from other computers

Accessing your RISC OS Samba server from other computers is pretty easy. All major operating systems will allow you to access a Samba server on your network directly from your file manager.

Windows – On Windows, it’s just a case of clicking onto ‘File Explorer’ then clicking the ‘Network’ option on the left side of the window.

If you click onto your RISC OS computer’s name, in my screenshot it’s 192, you’ll then see the folder you’ve told !smbserver to share there, in my case it’s called ‘RISCOSBlog’.

If you’ve set a password on your Samba share then you’ll be prompted to enter it when you attempt to click into the folder.

Mac OS – On a Mac it’s just a case of bringing up ‘Finder’ and navigating down to ‘Shared’ on the left side of the window. There you’ll find your Samba server that you can click into and access just like you would a part of your hard drive.

Linux and other Unix-like systems – Methods of accessing Samba shares on Linux and other Unix-like operating systems vary but in the majority of cases it’s just a case of going to your file manager application and navigating to the section that allows you to look at other computers on your network.

Automation – Automating file uploads to your Samba server is also possible. Say for example you want all your computers to send backups of themselves every night to your RISC OS file server. Ways of doing this vary between operating systems, it’s possible to do this with a basic scripts on Linux/Unix systems.

Modern versions of Windows allows you to do this by going to the ‘Backup settings’ utility and configuring your system or certain folders to back up to your Samba server at specific times.

There we have it!

You now have your RISC OS system configured to act as a file server for other computers and devices on your network. Desktops, laptops, tablets and phones will be able to use your Samba server as a central hub for dropping in files, documents, backups etc.