Raspberry Pi to embrace RISC OS  

This year's RISC OS London show was an exciting one. The major talking point was news that the £16 Raspberry Pi computer will launch in December running both Linux and, as an alternative, RISC OS. RISCOScode interviewed Theo Markettos and Adrian Lees, two key players in bringing Raspberry Pi with RISC OS to market. Our report also features edited tweets from the day and exclusive photographs.

Click to visit RISC OS London Show website 


Good morning and welcome to the live twitter feed from the London RISC OS show featuring Raspberry Pi.
The plan today is to report live from the exhibition hall and show theatre. By all means join in the chatter. Tag is #ROLS.
I'm currently in the car park at the venue; St Giles Hotel in Hounslow Road, Feltham, London TW14 9AD. Time to go snoop.

The show opens at 11am - I've sneaked in. Lots of stuff set up. I wonder if the Raspberry Pi is here. I'll power it up if it is ;-)
Distracted by BIGGEST MONITOR EVER SEEN conncted to an ARMini. It's to announce the Usable Range  BeagleBoard audio project.

Usable Range Audio Project at ROLS. (c) RISCOScode, 2011

Usable Range Ltd is Keith Dunlop's new venture which is going to improve the quality of the BeagleBoard's audio processing under RISC OS and, possibly, the Rasberry Pi. This photo, taken at the show much later in the day, shows high quality WAV files being played via a RISC OS ARMini computer.

Found the Raspberry Pi stall. Cripes, three small boxes under the table. Got one open. Curses, I need a power supply. Stand by...

I've been caught red handed (Raspberry Pi juice all over me). Promised not to reveal what I've seen. Got lots of photos for release once show starts though!

Raspberry Pi alpha board at ROLS. (c) RISCOScode, 2011

Here is one of those photos of the Raspberry Pi six layer alpha board. Starting on the left edge moving clockwise, power in. Top edge, TV out, HMDI video. Right edge, audio in/out, ethernet. Bottom edge, USB, SD card. The production boards will be four layer and 20% smaller.

Busy carting stuff from my car to the exhibition hall helped by ROUGOL's Alan Drummond. I need to get my MathMagical stall set up.
New version of TechWriter, released today, is BeagleBoard compatible. As a mathematician, I use TechWriter every day. I tweeted this after interviewing Martin Wurthner in the toilet where he was trying to get ready for the show. Poor man - no escape from the press! TechWriter is a premier RISC OS product that on its own could justify buying a BeagleBoard with RISC OS. I use TechWriter to produce PDF mathematics worksheet for the children I teach. They are available online, free.

Impressive display of Robotics from RisControl. Risc PCs driving stuff but also a BeagleBoard running RISC OS with code in BBC Basic. 

I've been watching The Computer Museum set up their BBCmicro which has just powered up and *bleeped*. Nostalgic moment.

Theo Markettos talking Rasberry Pi as the show opens. "Broadcom who make the SoC (System on a Chip) for the Pi only interested in large volume sales".
Theo: "Initial sales of Raspberry Pi expected of 10 000 units". Big plans but these guys seem up to it.

Theo: "The Raspberry Pi needs to sell 30 000 units to break even. A modest target for a mass market device".

Theo: "Adrian Lees has RISC OS booting on the Raspberry Pi into the full RISC OS desktop. Lack of USB drivers then prevents user interaction". i.e. The mouse and keyboard don't work.
Theo: "Work in progress on cannibalising linux USB drivers to get RISC OS running fully on the Raspberry Pi"

Theo: "RISC OS is desirable on the Raspberry Pi as it's just about the only OS left that can still be grasped by one person". "Also smaller memory requirements, and a smoother desktop feel".

Theo Markettos at ROLS. (c) RISCOScode, 2011

(This paragraph updated, 2am, 1st Nov 2011)
What a great start to the day. I'd managed to interview Theo Markettos and tweet the interview as it proceeded. Theo is a postdoctoral researcher at Cambridge University. Although he has no formal direct connection with the Raspberry Pi foundation he shares offices at the University with people who do. Keen to make the point that any views expressed today were his rather than Raspberry Pi's he none-the-less has an impressive grasp of both the Raspberry Pi and RISC OS. I spoke to him at the Raspberry Pi stall where he presided over the precious alpha developbent boards one of which was running a software authoring package for primary school kids called Scratch. As this is not available for RISC OS it prompted me ask Theo if he thought RISC OS software was up to the job of appealing to users of Raspberry Pi. It's probably accurate to summarise his response as being that the Raspberry Pi is intended to get developers rethinking the whole approach to how children and young adults can be enticed and excited by a computing device. The best software for the Raspberry Pi has yet to be written. He pointed out that when booted the Raspberry Pi will go to a prompt like ">" on the thirty year old BBCmicro. This will force users to interface with the machine in a programming manner and think of it as something to be commanded at a fundamental level rather than just used. At that stage, he suggested, the user could type in "Run RISC OS" or "Run Linux", for example.


The first of today's theatre talks, from R-Comp, is about to start. Seventy seats in the theatre and it's just about full.

Technical glitch sorted, Andrew's now in full presentational flow. Andrew: "Did you know that the ARMini/BeagleBoard has hardware floating point? Not much RISC OS software makes use of this".
Andrew: "After The Wakefield RISC OS Show, RISCOS Ltd gave R-Comp licensing hassle but this is now resolved". ARMini = Harmony.

Andrew: "R-Comp acquired FireWorkz Pro code in 2008 when we bought Iota software. From that start, lots of work to make it 32 bit neutral for ARMini/Beagleboard/Iyonix". And Raspberry Pi.

FireWorkz Pro is an integrated word processor, spreadsheet and database. Andrew's demo shows it's slick and outstanding value at £35. Order from here. 
Messenger Pro being presented featuring unicode. This version is not yet available. We're being shown emails in Hebrew and Urdu.

Response to tricky audience question: "ARMini is now close to being a satisfying replacement for the Iyonix". List of key software it does not run is short. e.g. Aemulor, Eureka and Impression.

Adrian Lees representing Broadcom has arrived. He's demonstrating RISC OS running on the Raspberry Pi right now. WOO - HOO !  He's sidestepped the lack of RISC OS keyboard and mouse drivers by using a serial port connected netbook to feed mouse and keyboard input from the netbook to the Raspberry Pi running RISC OS. Adrian's comment, "This netbook is the most expensive mouse & keyboard I've bought".
I've been busy with my MathMagical stall and had a very interesting conversation with Richard Monkhouse about colouring algorithms.

Just shook hands with a fellow twitterer at the show, Robin Hodson. He spotted me twittering.

ROOL USB pen drive with RISC OS pre-loaded. (c) RISCOScode, 201

At this point in the show I spoke with Steve Revill, and later with Ben Avison, both of RISC OS Open Ltd. ROOL had an amazing new product on sale to which my rushed tweets at the time did not do justice. Rather than reproduce them, let me better summarise our conversations here.
"One of the problems that newcomers to RISC OS have faced in the past is the level of technical expertise needed to get a RISC OS emulator running on a Microsoft or Apple powered computer. ROOL have addressed this issue and today launch a USB stick from which RISC OS can be effortlessly run on such machines. The attractively packaged USB stick costs £10. No further costs are involved. Insert into the host computer, follow simple instructions, and RISC OS will run in a desktop window. It has never been easier or cheaper to try out RISC OS. With RISC OS about to be available on the Raspberry Pi this is a timely moment to be making it easy for potential new coders and developers to play around with RISC OS. We believe this USB pen drive pre-loaded with RISC OS does this. A version for BeagleBoard users is also available for £10."
There, I went into "Press Release" mode, and also took the ace "publicity shot" of the pen drive. All this by way of an apology for messing up the tweets on the day.

Steve Revill in white on ROOL stall at ROLS. (c) RISCOScode, 20


Raspberry Pi presentation about to begin.
First 10 000 Raspberry Pi are being *fabricated* (correction) right now. Manufacture in about two weeks time will be at an undisclosed location. Definitely out before Christmas.

Flat out the Raspberry Pi consumes 2 watts. Mostly it's happy with 0.5 watts. So much computing for so little energy.

Adrian Lees at ROLS. (c) RISCOScode, 2011

Immediately after the Raspberry Pi theatre talk I interviewed Adrian Lees. I quizzed him about the process of manufacturing the Raspberry Pi prompted by an earlier comment that the board was being fabricated right now. I had taken this to mean "10 000 rolling off the production line". He laughed at this and explained, "You don't press a button and thereby commit to manufacturing 10 000 units. Despite the best endeavours of all concerned, there may remain a bug or design flaw. You'd have 10 000 useless units. The silicon comes off large cylinders and you book a row or two in one of these for your device amongst all sorts of other stuff. If what you get from the silicon foundry behaves as you expect, you give the go ahead for more of your 10 000 unit order. However, you expect minor problems. Or while waiting for a batch of your order to arrive, you may have tweeked the design. If the alteration is major, in that logic gates need repositioning, then you move to revision A or B. The trick is to have built into the device ways of debugging and accessing what is going on. The BeagleBoard, for example, is now on revision C. Sometimes just the connections in the top layer or two of the silicon need rewiring. That's a minor revision. Say revision A1. So the first 10 000 Raspberry Pi will arrive in batches, production ramping up once we're confident all is well and as demand dictates".
Note: This all from memory. I hope I've represented well the clarity with which Adrian patiently explained all this to me. Any errors will be down to me but I don't think I can cope with trying to record conversations along with tweeting, taking photos and running my own stall ;-)

Catching up with John Cartmell, editor of Qercus. The magazine is on hold for the time being. Even so, good to see John at the show as a regular RISC OS enthusiast.
Talking of RISC OS magazine editors, Paul Stewart in here with a surprise; a new issue of Drag 'n Drop. Good to see him too.
RISC OS Open talking about their bounty scheme in the theatre. Scheme was slow to gain momentum but now £590 to "improve the USB stack", for example.
Improving the USB stack seen as important, and something in need of urgent attention - for webcam support, for example.
Several new bounties about to be added to the list on the RISC OS Open website. Most to do with improving the filer.
ROOL disappointed that more developers not seizing the bounties and cash on offer. Talk finished by encouraging us to *grab the cash*.
I've been talking with R-Comp's Alan Wrigley who helped code the new FireWorkz Pro. I did not know that he is also a professional photographer.
I've been talking to Steve Fryatt about NetSurf. He's keen to add (optional) tab browsing over the winter. NetSurf is the main RISC OS web browser and is being enthusiastically developed. As it stands there are some popular websites it's not good with but every few months an update is released and so it inches forward.
I'm enjoying looking at the Lego case for an Acorn A7000+ from 1997. Lovely Acorn green lights on the front.

A7000+ in leggo case at ROLS. (c) RISCOScode, 2011

The RISC OS London show has finished. Hope you have enjoyed the RISCOScode coverage featuring Raspberry Pi.

I will conclude by explaining why I've not covered a lot of the exhibitors and exhibits that were at the show. Before writing this, I waited a day to see how the RISCOSblog and RISCOSitory wrote up the show. Then, so that the RISCOScode report would be different, I decided to focus in depth on three key exhibitors, Raspberry Pi, ROOL, and R-Comp. I am aware that there were many talks and projects being presented that are of great importance to various groups of RISC OS enthusiasts but which are not mentioned here. This time, however, I've focussed on what I feel will be of immediate interest to those looking at RISC OS for the first time. Once new developers and new users are enticed in, they will find much else to enjoy from RISC OS. At the present time however, the Raspberry Pi has given RISC OS a fantastic opportunity to welcome in much needed new blood. I hope those left out this time will understand. Finally, if you are on twitter, you can help spread the word about RISC OS on the Raspberry Pi by using the tweet button below right.

 Click to visit ARMini website 

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