RISC OS setup

Yesterday I wrote about how to get going with Raspberry Pi and Noobs. Today I have completed installing the operating systems I wish to use and it is time to configure them to match my own preferences...starting with...

RISC OS Pi is a version of the 30 year-old operating system that originally started life on the Acorn 32 bit machines that you may remember from their golden age in the early nineties- where they could be found as work-horses in nearly every school in the UK. It lives on today and is maintained by RISC OS Open.

And there is a version for your Raspberry Pi.

The RISC OS Pi desktop. It is very easy to think that this is a modern operating system, however it is actually thirty years old. Also, if you are expecting it to behave like Microsoft Windows then you are in for a surprise.

I wrote all about setting up RISC OS in a previous post last year where I talk about some of the essential productivity apps that you should download for your RISC desktop. Today I have downloaded all of the apps that I think will make my raspberry Pi as useful machine and then I then followed my own instructions for how to bind operations to the function keys.

Installing apps from the Pling store is usually a painless process, however some apps do require you to install additional packages (for example the Internet Radio app requires the Mplayer package) which can be installed with the !PackMan program, or may require additional resources to be merged with the operating system resources folder. Thankfully, most apps have very helpful help files included. I haven't managed to install the News app with success this time round, and I do not know what is wrong with it.

It's not Windows

If you are expecting RISC OS to behave like Windows, then you are in for a surprise. Here are some of the main differences.

  • You need a mouse to operate RISC OS. Furthermore you need a mouse with three buttons. If your mouse is one of the two-button varieties with a scroll-wheel, then the scroll wheel will probably act as a middle button. If you have no suitable mouse, then I would recommend the light-weight RISC OS Pico which will boot (in a few seconds) into a RISC BASIC prompt with more memory than you could possibly need.
  • The left mouse button is used for selecting items. The middle mouse button brings up a menu. The menu is always associated with whatever item is currently under the mouse pointer, so you do not need to aim at a separate menu bar at the top of the program. In fact, RISC OS programs typically do not have a menu bar as in Windows or Apple software which makes them look more minimalist. In effect, the menu is always just under the mouse pointer. The right menu button is for adjust. Often it behaves like the right click, but most often it provides you with more options that can be performed on an item under the mouse pointer.
  • When you launch an application, it doesn't actually open. This can seem very strange to a contemporary user who general expects their apps to open on demand. In RISC OS, when you launch an app, an icon will appear on the Icon Bar. This tells you that the app is running and ready for you. Selecting it with the left mouse button will usually open it as a window, otherwise you can drag files onto it or use the middle mouse button to generate a menu.
  • There is no desktop. You will get strange looks when you talk about the desktop. In RISC OS world, the part of the screen with the icons on it is called the 'pinboard'. Windows can be 'minimised' like in Windows operating systems and they become pinned to the pinboard instead of appearing as an icon on the icon bar.
  • Menus are interactive. Unlike other operating systems menus in RISC OS are an interactive experience. Often times you will be dragging icons into a menu, in order to get something to work, or you may be typing into an edit box in the menu itself as shown below.
Here the text file is saved by dragging the file out of the menu and into the folder that you want to save into.

Other useful stuff to know

  • RISC OS can rebooted by pressing CTRL + Pause/Break at the same time.
  • Pressing F12 will open the command line shell.
  • CTRL + F12 will bring up the TaskWindow.
  • If you have a USB storage device plugged into your Pi, you can access the files on this disk through the GUI or from the command line using the *fat32fs command. Go back to the main file system using *sdfs
  • If you have a ram disc set up, your can access this file system from the command line with the *ram command.
  • A BASIC program containing scripts can be set to run on boot-up by dragging the basic file into the !Configure > Boot > Run folder.
  • You can set the date/time using the following commands:

TIME$ = "Thu,30 Mar 2017,17:30:49"

...or whatever is the current time for you.

Well, that's all for now. I hope this post has inspired you to try out some RISC OS goodness, or has helped you get started with RISC OS on the Raspberry Pi.  See you next time.