Cloverleaf Kickstarter campaign goes live

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And gets off to a good start

Since late 2019, RISC OS Cloverleaf has been mentioned a few times here on RISCOSitory. It was clear from when the name first appeared that there was going to be a crowdfunding campaign, and this has since been confirmed and expanded on further by Cloverleaf’s Stefan Fröhling.

From that first appearance, the aim of the project was ostensibly to to raise funds for the development of new hardware for RISC OS users (or more accurately, bringing an existing hardware platform into the RISC OS fold with a port of our operating system to it). However, as Stefan has since explained at his appearances at the Southwest Show and a ROUGOL meeting, as well as in comments online in various places, that’s just one part of the whole.

First and foremost, with Cloverleaf he wants to promote RISC OS, and gain new users from around the world – and over the last year or so, judging by the membership of the RISC OS Cloverleaf group on Facebook, the project certainly has built up a widespread following, with plenty of people expressing an interest in and/or discussing RISC OS, and its history.

Another goal, recognising the various areas in which RISC OS is weak or lacking, is to improve the OS, and the software-base available for it – and an initial application has already been released; ChatCube, an instant messenger system that allows RISC OS users to chat online, with plans to implement open APIs from other online chat/messaging systems, such as IRC and Twitter. An example third party system, Telegram, has already been implemented.

Widespread recognition of Cloverleaf as a RISC OS-based brand is another goal of the project, with the emphasis being on the brand being associated with the OS, because that means any promotion of Cloverleaf is also promotion of RISC OS.

The other aim is, of course, the more obvious one – that new hardware. Work has already been underway for a while to adapt RISC OS to work on the RockChip RK3399, a chip-set that features both a dual-core Cortex-A72 and a quad-core Cortex-A53, and should the campaign prove successful, Cloverleaf plans to bring out a range of machines based around it, including a laptop, desktops, and an All-in-One PC.

Details of these machines can be found on the Cloverleaf Kickstarter page, but in brief:

  • Kitten is a small footprint desktop PC based around a board featuring the Broadcom BCM2711 (so almost certainly a Raspberry Pi).
  • Puma is a another small footprint desktop PC, but this time using a board sporting the RockChip RK3399 – which appears to be the Rock Pi. Two different versions of the Puma are detailed, with different storage options.
  • The laptop doesn’t appear to have a cat-based name, but is also based around the RK3399, and features a full HD (1920×1080) 14.1″ display, and 128GB eMMC 5.0 storage.
  • The All-in-One system, which also lacks a cat-based name, will be another RockChip RK3399 system built into a 24″ 1920×1080 display.

There are different levels at which the campaign can be backed, some of which are directly linked to one of those hardware platforms – i.e. the idea is that should the campaign be fully funded when it ends, backers at those levels should receive the hardware in question.

The obvious caveat to mention here is that backing anything on platforms like Kickstarter brings with it a risk. Many campaigns complete with the people who backed them receiving the goods they thought they were getting, and those products have then gone on to better things – which is pretty much the whole idea behind the system – but there have also been cases where people have stumped up the requisite funds and then been disappointed. If you wish to back this campaign, please keep that in mind.

Having said that, note that work has been underway for some time to get RISC OS ported to the RK3399, and the hardware isn’t being developed for the RISC OS market – RK3399-based laptops and All-in-One PCs already exist, and you can expect one of those to be re-badged as a Cloverleaf machine and supplied with a ported RISC OS on board, and the desktop machines will be based on an RK3399 board, with a custom designed case.

In my view, with the laudable goals of trying to raise the profile of the RISC OS platform, the real target for the campaign isn’t really the existing RISC OS user-base – who already know about the OS, and already have one or more computers running it. With that in mind (and if you don’t want to risk the asking price for one of those machines), you can still back the project at a lower level – €19, for example, allows you to support the project in return for a t-shirt, which isn’t a bad way to help and get something in return.

The crowdfunding campaign itself officially went live one week ago on the Kickstarter platform, and has a further 53 days to run, ending on 16th January, 2021 – and after only a week it has reached almost a quarter of its €50,000 target (though Stefan says he hopes they reach over €100,000).