As ROOL had hinted in the run-up to the show, Wakefield 2017 saw the long-awaited release of RC15.
RC15 (RC stands for release candidate) was the official release of RISC OS to run on the Raspberry Pi 3. All the issues found in RC14 have been fixed and this version is now considered stable and reliable to run. RC14 was actually fairly good but several 3rd party applications (which are shipped with RISC OS) did not. There are actually a lot of changes in RC15 (it is an ePic release) which you can read on the changelog.
It is still RISC OS 5.23 (so officially no new features) but it has needed a lot of changes to make it run on the latest version of the Raspberry Pi. The hardware used has changed significantly in this new model and this required some updates to the code to make it work correctly. In particular, it uses a different ARM chip (Cortex-A53) which no longer allows some ‘old’ ways of doing things. This does not effect BASIC code, and C code needs a recompile. ARM code is more messy as it needs to be updated if it still uses these old methods. Otherwise the software will crash. And much RISC OS software is still written in ARM assembly code. We have been playing this catch-up game for many years (remember moving to 32bit for the same reason).
The release is important because it once again means RISC OS can run on the whole range of Raspberry Pi machines.
Setting up RISC OS on the RaspberryPi 3 is a bit of an anti-climax… I plugged the SD card in, switched on and it all booted straight into the RISC OS desktop. It even autamatically setup my a network connection for me. A quick screen resolution change, and I was up and running….
RISC OS is available for the Raspberry Pi in 3 ways:-
1. You can download the SD card image and copy it onto your own SSD card for free from ROOL.
2. You can buy an SD card already setup from the ROOL store.
3. You can buy an SD card containing both RISC OS and all the software on the Nut Pi together on an extra large, superfast SD card from the ROOL store.
RISC OS does not really make much use of the extra features so it is not worth upgrading to a Raspberry Pi 3 for a faster RISC OS experience. Where you will see a real benefit is in running other Operating Systems (which can make use of the 64bit chip and multi-threading). This is the first Raspberry Pi which I feel runs Raspbian (the office Linux release) well enough for my personal real, everyday usage. I actually have my Raspberry Pi 3 mostly setup as a Linux machine to use as a web browser (it now includes Chrome) and run Open Office (easily accessed from my RISC OS machines using VNC).
The Raspberry Pi is an amazing phenomenon and it is great to see our favourite OS available for all the versions and providing a really cheap entry point for RISC OS and a whole new generation with the chance to try RISC OS.