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Solar powered RISC OS: wrong place at right time

By Chris Williams. Published: 6th Sep 2004, 22:26:36 | Permalink | Printable

Before its time, again

EditorialEvery once in a while, I come across something that makes me think, "wasn't RISC OS going to be used for that?" Of course, it's not about being bitter, it's about being wryly amused when you hear about the rise of tablets and PDAs, STBs and other things that briefly emerged before their time during the late Acorn era.

A RISC OS cog wearing sunglassesA friend pointed me earlier today towards this BBC News article, which reports on solar powered computers being deployed in India. The idea is to use sun powered kit in village schools, which suffer from frequent disruption to their electricity supply, or have no supply whatsoever. It seems a sane, hopefully economically sound idea.

Then you compare the size of the solar panels in the article's photograph to the size of the solar panel in the Explan Solo. You can't help but consider that an ARM powered computing solution would probably work best on such a power source, and would have been an ideal choice.

However, an ideal choice given the right circumstances. Would we have the right software for the end users, the villagers in this case, and with the appropriate language support? Could our platform have been successfully pitched to officials in charge of picking the technology to use?

The Explan Solo was aimed at the Third World, namely Africa, and there was the critical view that perhaps the Third World had other things on its mind, namely issues other than learning about how to use a web browser. The counter-argument to that view is that computers can provide education, technical skills and medical information.

The Solo would have pushed RISC OS some where very new, however by last year, Explan was seriously considering ditching RISC OS in favour of Linux running on an ARM9. I last heard from Explan's Paul Richardson in March this year, when he was working hard on the Solo project whilst facing political hostility in Africa - which may or may not have had anything to do with the almost missionary-esque relationship between the Solo and Explan's HolyBible software.

The World Energy Congress is under way this week and already foretelling the damage our energy hungry global society is causing. If a demand for 'greener' computers that don't gobble watts rises, perhaps RISC OS together with ARM's commitment to efficient, low power design, could be (for a change) in the right place at the right time.

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Nice article. Shocking BBC photo - if the panels were powering one computer. It would seem that they're not, and in fact most of the energy is for use in heating, cooking, etc.

The SOLO was an excellent project, and I'd still love to see it succeed. Given the fact that PC laptop hardware seems to be more energy-efficient than any ARM-based RISC OS hardware, perhaps SOLO should move away from RISC OS entirely? Unless, of course, RISCOS Ltd &/or Castle want to get involved.

 is a RISC OS Userharmsy on 7/9/04 7:50AM
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No doubt the Africains would have used these computers to 419 the rest of us ;-)

Actually they would have wanted to websurf and we've still not got a free web browser with javascript that can access the 99% of web pages designed with Internet Explorer in mind.

 is a RISC OS Userquatermass on 7/9/04 12:59PM
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Although the third world may have "had other things on its mind", one of the best aspects of the Explan project (IMHO) was that they wanted them to be built by companies in Africa, allowing the local economy to develop (rather than simply using it as a profit generator for UK companies). I really hope Explan still have success with it.

quatermass:

I've been quite impressed with Oregano2, even in terms of accessing sites that require javascript. It's kinda free (as long as you buy a new computer ;) ).

harmsy:

Although PC laptop hardware may be very efficient, wasn't one of the points about the Solo that it didn't need a hard drive?

 is a RISC OS Userflypig on 7/9/04 1:31PM
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flypig: And who said a PC laptop required a hard drive? You can quite happily fit Linux, and even Windows on modern compact-flash.

 is a RISC OS Usernunfetishist on 7/9/04 3:53PM
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nunfetishist:

Sure, I accept your point. It's just that in my (rather limited) experience PC laptops tend to be designed with hard drives in mind, so that maybe they also have fans etc.. when an entirely solid state design (like a Teklogix NetBook or Solo) might not.

 is a RISC OS Userflypig on 7/9/04 4:27PM
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Solo was another of those pipedream products that pop up from time to time. For all the worthy bulls*** about having the machines made in Africa for local use, ExpLAN were expecting speculative investment in RISC OS by ROL or whoever without putting cash on the table to pay for it. That's never going to happen. In addition, the double dose of evangelism, for an OS and a view of a god, would put most people off. The other thing, forgotten by most people in the trade in its various forms, is that computers are almost totally useless. (:-)

 is a RISC OS Usermikeg on 8/9/04 7:44AM
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mikeg: *Amen*

 is a RISC OS Useregel on 8/9/04 8:53AM
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Bald smilies don't translate to pretty icons, do they. KISS...

 is a RISC OS Usermikeg on 8/9/04 11:30PM
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flypig: Many modern laptops rarely need to turn the fan on unless they're a big desktop-replacement thing. What with lower-power CPUs that can also change their clockspeed.

 is a RISC OS Usernunfetishist on 9/9/04 1:03AM
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Some other missed opportunities: [link] [link] [link] [link] [link]

 is a RISC OS Useregel on 9/9/04 10:31AM
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