At the RISC OS User Group of London (ROUGOL) meeting last night, Elesar Ltd‘s Rob Sprowson was the guest speaker, there to reveal a mystery new product – and having done so, the HAT is out of the bag so to speak. The product in question is a Raspberry Pi HAT (which stands for Hardware Attached on Top, and is a standard format devised by the Raspberry Pi Foundation for add-on cards for their ARM-based card).
More specifically, it’s a HAT that provides a WiFi stack on board, neatly sidestepping the problem that RISC OS itself doesn’t support WiFi as yet.
Software is included that allows RISC OS to access wireless networks in much the same way as its done on other platforms, including browsing those available, remembering particular ones so they can connect automatically, and so on – and it’s hoped that when RISC OS gains direct support itself for WiFi, the same front-end can be used.
The thickness of the board is important, as this may affect whether it will fit in existing cases – for example the RiscPiC range from Soft Rock Software, or various solutions from RISCOSbits (as well as the standard Pi cases from companies beyond the RISC OS market). Combining the PCB and the electronics, it’s apparently 4mm, not counting the 2-pin header (part of the official HAT specification to allow writes to the ID EEPROM).
RISCOSbits’ Andy Marks has commented to say that means it will probably fit in most of his cases, though he might need to make some minor adjustments to where USB hubs sit, and – putting on my Soft Rock Software hat (not HAT) – I think it will probably fit in the RiscPiC cases with no problem, though I will obviously need to check.
Another important point will be the price – and this will be a tough one to decide; the small (but I believe slowly growing) size of the RISC OS market usually forces a high price point in order to cover costs that don’t benefit from economies of scale, not to mention development time, etc. However, at the same time, I suspect that due to the ridiculously low cost of the Pi, many RISC OS users own more than one – so perhaps Rob will be brave enough to factor that in?
Hopefully, he’ll make a formal announcement with all the necessary details before the London Show this weekend.
WiFi solutions are of course also available from RISCOSbits and R-Comp, in the form of Wispy and Pi-Fi respectively, and with a little effort (and a different OS to configure it) another solution is an ethernet-WiFi bridge. A Raspberry Pi HAT is certainly a neater solution for Pi users than any of these, and I imagine would ‘feel’ more like a proper, more integrated solution. However, for users of other RISC OS computers – for the moment – these remain the way to go.