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RISC OS 5 port hopes for netbook now in production

Published: 26th Jul 2009, 10:57:51 | Permalink | Printable

The new Touch Book netbook, which uses the Beagleboard ARM-powered hardware, could run RISC OS 5 thanks to efforts to port the RISC OS Open flavour of the OS to the ARM Cortex processor family. The tiny netbook is available now to buy, and Bryan Hogan has offered to test the OS port on his Touch Book. Click here here for more potential products that have a realistic chance of running RISC OS 5.

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When a port is tested will the idea be to download it from ROOL or will a company e.g. Castle make a packaged version for purchase?

 is a RISC OS UserAW on 26/7/09 12:19PM
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I assume Jeffrey, ROOL or anyone else with the time to produce a software package and instructions will make a port available for download. I can't remember the exact terms of the shared source licence, with regard to asking for payment or donations for distributing a ROM build and associated OS software.

Whether someone steps in to commercially resell the Touch Book and TI OMAP ROS 5 build will depend on whether there's any money to be made.

I think it'll be a bridge we'll cross after we get to see the RISC OS desktop on the Touch Book.

 is a RISC OS Userdiomus on 26/7/09 12:59PM
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At £250 or thereabouts I'm willing to buy one to use a new RO5 download as soon as things like Netsurf and email access, perhaps Easiwriter start working with it.

 is a RISC OS UserAW on 26/7/09 2:23PM
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I don't want to ruin the party, as I am willing to have a touchbook soon and test ROS 5 on it too, but are we sure ROL will have nothing to say about ROS 5 packaged and/or pre installed on touchbooks?

I am sorry about the following heavy words, but after the last discussions these words are unavoidable IMO... I think with all the mess about ROS-licensing and all the crows who still wants to peck "the last pieces of meat" from the ROS's skeleton, ROOL is going to have troubles with the "ROS 5 on Cortex" distribution as the crows are, probably, just waiting to claim their, questionable, rights.

 is a RISC OS UserPhantomz on 29/7/09 5:18PM
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I think that's extremely unlikely - if that were to happen it would've happened already, when the Iyonix was released. This is much less contentious because no money will be exchanged, and because noone is selling a computer running RISC OS.

I expect there to be a lot of huff and bluster from certain parties if they believe their license is being infringed, but we are very unlikely to see any real action now.

 is a RISC OS Userninja on 29/7/09 5:47PM
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What about the touch screen? Who's going to write the drivers for that?

 is a RISC OS Usernikgare on 26/7/09 1:23PM
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Jeffrey Lee is talking about this on the Iconbar forums, he seems fairly confident about doing the touchscreen drivers.

 is a RISC OS Userthegman on 26/7/09 2:49PM
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In the ROOL repository, there is already a TouchScreen driver written by Thomas Milius. See bsd/RiscOS/Sources/ThirdParty/TMilius/HWSupport/Input/TchScrn/

So it is certainly possible, and a driver template already exists.

 is a RISC OS Userhubersn on 26/7/09 4:44PM
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Is this touchbook's touchscreen capacitive, or resistive? Resistive ones are easy to drive; you just have two ADCs, an IRQ line, and do a bit of calibration. Capacitive ones are somewhat more complex to drive as they require huge amounts of mathematical voodoo, which while often is integrated into a controller chip, there is no standard for talking to them; every vendor's is different, and even with vendors there can be huge differences in how they are attached and what protocol they speak. There is also the possibility of additional problems; many are SPI-attached, and I don't believe RISC OS has any SPI support at all at the moment.

Basically; if it's the old-fashioned resistive multi-film type touchscreen, then they're so easy it's hardly worth adapting an existing one. If it's the modern multi-touch capacitive one, it might need quite a bit of work.

 is a RISC OS Userrjek on 26/7/09 4:57PM
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They claim that it's pressure sensitive, so it's gonna be resistive.

(The other option is that it's a Wacom-style active digitizer using a stylus, which will likely have an open protocol and interface using RS232, but that isn't finger-compatible, and combo Wacom/resistive panels aren't cheap and are harder to drive.)

 is a RISC OS Userbhtooefr on 26/7/09 9:58PM
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Er, wait, I take that back. You can have pressure sensitive capacitive sensors... so, yeah, I'll shut up now. :)

 is a RISC OS Userbhtooefr on 26/7/09 9:59PM
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Wacom finger and stylus panels are done entirely though RS232 (my laptop has one), but you're right, they're not cheap.

 is a RISC OS Userrjek on 26/7/09 10:54PM
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I do recall that the protocol is different, though - I used to have a laptop that had an optional one, and recall that the finger/stylus panel wasn't supported on anything but Windows due to lack of documentation. I had a stylus-only panel, though, so it was a non-issue for me.

 is a RISC OS Userbhtooefr on 26/7/09 11:05PM
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If you just open the serial port with minicom or similar, gerfingerpoken messages are interleaved with the stylus ones; they're just different bytes. I've got some docs I wrote when trying to reverse-engineer the protocol some time ago. Perhaps I should get those back out and finish them off.

 is a RISC OS Userrjek on 27/7/09 12:53AM
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As I understand it, the Touch Book comes in both tablet and netbook formats, the latter with a 95% full-size Querty keyboard. So while touch-screen capability would be nice, simply having a fully-portable (and powerful) RISC OS computer will be a huge step forward, no?

 is a RISC OS Userbucksboy on 26/7/09 10:04PM
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Interesting stuff. Jeffrey seems to be getting through the work at an impressive rate. Kudos to him, and the ROOL team, for making this all possible.

 is a RISC OS Userlym on 28/7/09 8:38AM
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:) Could I be getting close to buying my first 'new' RiscOS - based computer in about 14 years? Without doubt I would get one of these ARM - based sub-notebooks to run RiscOS on it... ...with a few provisos:

-Not too outrageous a price hike please. (should I buy a 'pre-made' one)

-The various bits 'n bobs actually work. (no drivers permanently in the pipeline please)

-Would be nice to think with a bit more grunt in both the CPU / GPU department that development of software such as a media player to take advantage could be done.

Ok, so I'm looking to developments that will probably never come off and regardless would likely be in the faaaar future but I still like RiscOS you see.

 is a RISC OS UserCharlie on 28/7/09 10:27AM
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I suspect the days of pre-built computers and OSes being sold as complete packages as in the days of Acorn or Castle are now long gone, and we'll have to get used to the idea of being hobbyists. We perhaps should have got the hint with the A9 Home and its OS. That said, I'd hope the open nature of ROOL's offering would mean driver development will be more visible than it was on the A9.

 is a RISC OS Userninja on 28/7/09 10:43AM
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On the AlwaysInnovating website: "We don't really do Windows". We don't really DO Windows. I like that!

But seriously, if we could have a sort of essential RO portable with email, internet, a graphics package (other than Draw), desktop publisher - I would be willing to invest a couple or three hundred. It would be nice to have a packaged version but I suppose that would add to the cost.

 is a RISC OS UserDrWhich on 29/7/09 8:01PM
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I notice you didn't mention the web above. Without a full fat browser i.e. Firefox, Flash and other plug-in's what use is a Netbook?

90% of the use of my EEE is the web, 9% email, and 1% Open Office and anything else. Without the full web experience, it just wouldn't have been a consideration.

The big question is how much functionality is sacrificed by running RISC OS rather than the supplied OS of whatever flavour. We need finished quality applications just as much as OSs and hardware.

 is a RISC OS Userdruck on 29/7/09 11:23PM
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Yes but surely an OS and hardware must come first.

 is a RISC OS UserAW on 30/7/09 12:06AM
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No, need and saleability come first.

 is a RISC OS Userrjek on 30/7/09 12:18AM
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But if you can dual boot with the supplied OS easily, you have lost nothing.

Remember the iPhone has no java or flash.

The biggest immediate limits I would find, are the lack of H.264 replay (more difficult to use as a media player on the train.) and wifi.

 is a RISC OS Userjess on 1/8/09 8:44AM
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"But if you can dual boot with the supplied OS easily, you have lost nothing."

Except convenience.

"Remember the iPhone has no java or flash."

And that's considered one of its many big flaws.

 is a RISC OS Userrjek on 1/8/09 9:39PM
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But what it means is that websites have to cater for lack of plugins, which they should do anyway, but would often otherwise be too lazy to do.

iPhone (or other mobile) intended content is usually quite usable on Netsurf (eg Facebook) where the main version isn't.

The iPhone version of iPlayer is very useful on Linux machines and gives the option (via unofficial programs) of smooth (and offline) replay, on machines where using the flash version is hopeless. (I assume the same could be applied to RISC OS.)

 is a RISC OS Userjess on 2/8/09 12:39PM
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I notice that the browser AlwaysInnovating talk about is Mozilla Fennec, which is Firefox but tuned for embedded/handheld/less powerful devices. I believe it can be compiled to run on a framebuffer device, which maybe would be easier to port to RISC OS than the X11 version of Firefox.

That may be the dark horse web browser which might solve the problems present in RISC OS browsers.

I agree completely with druck that a web browser is a preqrequisite, as so much work now is done on the web.

Anyway, I digress, but I'd also agree with DrWhich, when it appears with RISC OS, I'll certainly purchase.

 is a RISC OS Userthegman on 30/7/09 8:33AM
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"I notice that the browser AlwaysInnovating talk about is Mozilla Fennec"

Looking at a review on this. It certainly sounds promising. However, as always it requires a single person or small RISC OS coding team to actually do the port and make it fully functional under RISC OS.

Personally I would like to see the RISC OS port of FireFox 2 brought it's conclusion rather than begin porting yet another web browser, no matter how tempting it maybe.

 is a RISC OS Usersa110 on 30/7/09 9:16AM
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"Without a full fat browser i.e. Firefox, Flash and other plug-in's what use is a Netbook?" - Agreed. Flash is indeed a problem and no solution is imminent, but the other problem of RO Firefox - speed - should be addressed by the higher-performing (compared to X-Scale) Cortex-A8, and Netsurf should run like lightning. As to the chicken-and-egg argument, just having modern, portable hardware available for reasonable money and running a freely downloadable version of RISC OS can only boost interest in the platform from users and developers IMHO. Although Flash and other plugins seem a long way off, the Beagleboard OS port was not even envisaged a year ago and yet here we are with a working version thanks to the efforts and skill of some dedicated individuals.

 is a RISC OS Userbucksboy on 30/7/09 8:47AM
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And once again it seems like to me one of the best chances of getting quality sftware ported is doing what Martin Weurthner is doing. I have just got interested again with RiscOS, not that I ever deserted this platform or operating system I just found myself using the PC for more things, because of the interesting times ahead with RiscOS 5 port to CortexA8 spearheading it for me. I say that you have to be in to win. Now all you TRUE RiscOS fans out there put your 10 or 15 quids worth in and hopefully we will get more programmers stepping up to the mark to do some essential porting / app writing. Me personally am not a good enough programmer to get involved at a commercial level but if I was I would. I don't mean to sound blunt but RiscOS is a superb OS and yes it does need work on it but it definatly deserves to survive on the desktop and any other devices. Is there a webpage out there for RiscOS users to submit ideas, bit like a discussion board, then anyone interested can take there pick. Long live RiscOS.

Just like to applaud Jeffery Lee and say thanks for giving me some belief again. Nice one

 is a RISC OS Usergvrace on 30/7/09 6:34PM
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The issue is not money. The issue is time and willpower. Many developers have long since moved onto other platforms, and they're quite content there.

 is a RISC OS Userrjek on 30/7/09 9:12PM
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"The issue is not money" - no, it's not. Personally I was surprised to see (judging by contributors to the RO Open Forums) how many people got involved with the Beagleboard port and related code-enhancing. I can only conclude that the intellectual challenge is what motivates them. Maybe other erstwhile RO developers will be similarly tempted?

 is a RISC OS Userbucksboy on 31/7/09 7:46AM
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"Personally I was surprised to see (judging by contributors to the RO Open Forums) how many people got involved with the Beagleboard port and related code-enhancing."

Unfortunately the CVS commits tell a different story - despite several people owning beagleboards and a couple of them helping out with testing, so far it's still only myself and ROOL who have submitted code to CVS that helps with the port.

I'm not trying to shame them by saying this, as I'm sure they've got their reasons for not submitting any code yet; I'm just hoping that they're still silently working away on it. If it's only just myself and ROOL who are doing all the programming work then things could take a while longer than I was hoping!

 is a RISC OS UserPhlamethrower on 31/7/09 1:09PM
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I'm waiting for USB OTG support so I can run it properly on my B6 board. ;-)

 is a RISC OS Userspanners on 31/7/09 1:27PM
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I disagree - I the issue IS money. I don't mean large amounts - but RISC OS is starved of even modest amounts of cash at every level.

For a start, Castle bailed out of producing an Iyonix II because they could not see a way of making a return on the couple of hundred thousand pound investment needed to bring it to market. A couple of hundred thousand in the grand scheme of things is not a lot of money - it's a little over the cost of an average house. But, as always with money, even a small amount is a lot if you don't have it.

Many software developers, writers, reviewers etc, etc have left RISC OS because they can not make a living out of it. Most left do it as a hobby, and part time. I don't think most expected wild returns on their time and effort - but even a modest living wage, say £21000 a year (what a nurse gets) is just not there for more than, I would guess, five RISC OS people today.

Personally, as someone who now uses Windows, Mac OS and RISC OS every day, I can still see that RISC OS has much to commend it - it's certainly impressive how a few groups of determined individuals have kept it going - but I sense that the rest of the world is relentlessly moving on, and RISC OS seems less and less able to do what the average person in the street expects from a computing device. RISC OS is definitely 'hobby computing' these days.

On the plus side, I personally enjoy being part of a small community doing great things with very little but it does now feel that RISC OS is too small, and relying on too few key people to do the 'great things'.

Nope - bring in some money, I say. It's not the whole solution, but I think it's silly to pretend it's not an issue.

Regards, Martin.

 is a RISC OS Usermartin on 31/7/09 1:10PM
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It doesn't matter how much money you throw at/waste with it. The knowledge and skill has all but left for greener pastures. The boat has sailed.

I'd still love to know where this "couple of hundread thousand pounds" came from for the Iyonix II. The number is just... fantastical.

Not making a living out of RISC OS? That's because there's no money, and the last remaining users throwing their savings at developers will not help the long-term problem. You might get a new product. And then you'll be back where you started. Why bother at all? RISC OS will never, ever become mainstream again.

I don't know what the size of the RISC OS economy is, but I would be truly astonished if it were anywhere near £100,000. Even including some dealers' fabulous prices.

Thus, money is not the answer. As you yourself say, RISC OS is a hobby platform. You don't keep trying to keep it alive by poking it with sticks of cash, you keep it alive by getting people interested again. How you get people interested again is the problem.

 is a RISC OS Userrjek on 31/7/09 1:30PM
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Less than £100,000? Per year? Judging by my own very small part of the RISC OS economy, I would be truly astonished if you are not totally and completely underestimating the size of the RISC OS market. Now try to calculate a likely number for the turnover of ROL, VA, R-Comp, CJE, MW-Software...

Overall however, I agree that money will not solve RISC OS' problems. But it helps. Sponsoring part-time developers and sponsoring hardware/software for developers helps accelerating/enabling development.

And that is the key really: we need more stuff that "enables" and motivates developers. Availability of new, fast, cheap hardware is a great enabler, and a great motivation. Availability of a competent toolchain is also a great enabler. And, of course, source availability of the OS.

 is a RISC OS Userhubersn on 1/8/09 12:03AM
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An economy's worth is much less than its turnover. But otherwise, yes; I agree with your post.

Anybody who thinks that designing a new RISC OS box costs two hundred thousand pounds really aught to shop around a bit more, though; they're being ripped off.

 is a RISC OS Userrjek on 1/8/09 12:16AM
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Ok have bought one, might not get it for 2 months though, they have a backlog of orders.

Am looking forward to using it with all the operating systems I can ;)

Cheers, Peter.

 is a RISC OS UserPete on 28/8/09 10:40AM
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Oi, stop pushing in, get behind me in the queue!

I was hoping to have mine before the London show so that we could demo it running RISC OS, but that is looking unlikely now :-(

 is a RISC OS Userhelpful on 30/8/09 6:03PM
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If I get it before you and before the show you can borrow mine. Will post here when it comes. Am happy to help in some way but am not a programmer in any way shape or form. Peter.

 is a RISC OS UserPete on 1/9/09 9:10AM
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