RISC World

RISC OS Connect

Paul Brett introduces RISC OS Connect.

There is one current problem for users of RISC OS for which a solution needs to be found. Although many of us may be running RISC OS on machines that by the standards of the modern age are somewhat antiquated these machines still perform admirably, For the tasks they are able to perform. If one looks to the wider world it does become apparent that there are many things that other machines, running either Windows, Linux or MacOSX, can perform with ease, but that RISC OS machines cannot do. Examples include playback of modern video formats, editing of certain "industry standard" filetypes etc. This is not to say that our machines couldn't perform these tasks, but that the applications needed simply do not exist. A group of RISC OS users have now come together in an attempt to rectify this situation.

RISC OS Connect

The recently formed RISC OS Connect group is designed to help steer software development for RISC OS. In addition they hope to be able to offer RISC OS developers assistance with their projects. For example it might be that a developer has produced a great application, but needs help with the documentation or design of the GUI (Graphical User Interface). The hope is that RISC OS Connect will be able to assist by getting developers with different skill sets together to work on a particular project.

The current suggested areas of assistance that could be offered include:

  • Editing and proof reading of documentation.
  • Design of icons and window layout.
  • Project administration.
  • Bug tracking.
  • Engineering time to assist with some parts of a project.

As well as offering physical assistance I understand that the group are also looking at the posibility of offering financial incentives towards the development of certain applications for RISC OS. There are a number of ways this could work. For example the group could ask the wider RISC OS community to pay a small fee, perhaps as little as a couple of pounds, towards the "development pot". As the pot of money grows it would then be possible to pass this money on directly to the developers. As such the group would operate more as a charity than as a commercial organisation.

The first meeting

Much of the initial work on discussing the project was undertaken on the RISC OS Future Mailing List. This list is open to members only, so in order to enter the discussion one needs to join the list. The first physical meeting was at the Wakefield 2007 show, where a number of interested parties met up, It was at this meeting that the name RISC OS Connect was chosen. The web domain has been registered but at the time of writing discussions were still taking place with regard to the first batch of content to be uploaded.

The colour of money

The financial side of the proposals are potentially the most problematical. One previous project that has asked for donations towards work was the Unix Porting Project. Whilst this initiative, spearheaded by Peter Naulls, did cover a good deal of ground in the early days, some of those who contributed financially, especially towards the port of Firefox were less than happy with the results. In the end, despite hard work on his part, Peter decided to close down the project and refunded the last batch of subscriptions. This was in part due to the lack of co-operation offered to Peter. Although one RISC OS developer I spoke to at the time did say that as far as he was concerned "Peter spelt co-operation with a capital I".

Speaking as an occasional RISC OS developer myself I think that any possible financial reward system needs to be very carefully considered. Many of those who develop for RISC OS do so, not for financial reward, but for the sheer enjoyment. This is especially true if the developer concerned works on projects for other Operating Systems during the working day. There could also be issues involved as the value a users places on a project could well have no reflection of the work involved. A couple of developers I spoke to this week welcomed the proposals in principle, but wanted more detail before pledging their support.


The RISC OS Connect proposals could have major benefits for RISC OS, but it needs involvement from as many users and developers as possible. If you feel that you may have something to contribute, even just ideas for projects are welcome, then you should join the RISC OS future mailing list. If the RISC OS community can pull together then RISC OS Connect could really take off.

Paul Brett