RISC World

Hardware Comments

Dave Bradforths thoughts...

David Bradforth takes a look at some hardware which now has the potential to become available under RISC OS.

Here's an exciting new development for RISC World. We're going to take an occasional look at hardware that offers useful functionality, and has the ability to become available under RISC OS if we can find some kind soul (or a suitably minded company) to develop the appropriate drivers. We're calling this a hardware comments, but it's possible it may become a hardware speculation column, but we shall see.

Back in the early 90's, Computer Concepts and RComp brought to the RISC OS market a number of drivers for Wacom graphics tablets. Making use of the serial port at the time, these allowed RISC OS users to control their mouse pointer in much the same way as creatively inspired PC or Mac users. Sadly as time moved on, support was lost as indeed was support for the hardware.

We've now got USB support for RISC OS, and as such there's no reason why a USB graphics tablet could not be supported. With the Linux userbase containing more than a few gifted programmers, it's likely that the specifications for these graphics tablets (even covering pressure sensing) are freely available to reverse engineer and produce suitable drivers for our platform.

This would make available the latest high-end developments, such as professional Wacom graphics tablets or even the entry-level offerings from the likes of Trust. It's certainly worth thinking about.

On a similar topic, printer drivers for RISC OS users has long been a cause of much confusion to current owners of RISC OS computers. What choices exist once your current printer reaches the ripe old age of obscurity, only to require a replacement for which one seems somewhat lacking?

MW Software have been working on a port of GIMP Print, with the aim of making available virtually any printer for RISC OS. It's possible that the likes of the Lexmark ranges will still remain unavailable, but anything that aims to improve the current state of play as regards drivers can only be an improvement. Visit MW Software at and click on GIMP Print to support this exciting development.

The developments of Virtual Acorn have been very much in the spotlight recently, starting with the launch of the Microdigital Alpha (a Windows XP based laptop which made use of RISC OS 4 as part of an emulated Risc PC) through to the more recent launch of various branded computers offering VirtualRPC-SE as part of a solution. A number of developers have reported custom from users who have previously not purchased in some years, and it's all looking very positive for the market in general. Virtual Acorn had one other piece of news recently, in that they've had to become VAT registered. This is a good sign in some ways, as it means the company has a healthy turnover, but from the bad side there has had to be a £10 price rise in order to incorporate an element of the VAT now charged.

I'll be back in the next issue, with a detailed buyers guide to the current RISC OS computer ranges, whether they be truly ARM at the core or Intel/PC based. The processor is no longer the issue, but the choice available to the consumer is.

Dave Bradforth