Strap yourselves in… there’s a lot in this post!
Andy Marks of RISCOSbits has been busy in the extended period between the last physical show and Saturday’s London Show, and has a number of new products that he’ll be bringing along to show – and hopefully sell – to you.
Not a new product for this show – it first appeared last year – the Pi-based FOURtress computer marked something of a departure for Andy from his normal form, by using an off-the-shelf case rather than something of his own design. There will be a range of Limited Edition FOURtress machines at the show that customers will be able to take away with them.
The FOURtress Lite will be on sale for an attractive £100 – and you’ll even get a free quid as part of the deal. Okay, yes, that means it’ll be available for £99. The machine is based on a 2GB Pi 4, with its CPU running at 2.1GHz (the sleek aluminium case acts as a heatsink so the Pi is able to cope). It has four external USB ports, gigabit ethernet, and comes with a 32GB SD card with 2GB of curated software included. There is also power and fan control software, a full power-off, and push button power-on.
In that form, the computer can be used right from the outset with nothing further needed – but it can also be upgraded later with a fully integrated SSD. It is also EDOS-ready, which means it will be easy to add a full Linux installation at some point in the future.
Bumping up the pile of readies to £139, you can walk away with a FOURtress Lite Plus instead. This machine bumps the spec up to include 4GB RAM, rather than 2GB, and a 128GB SD card instead of 32GB – but again with that 2GB bundle of software. And for those people buying this at the show on Saturday, a free PSU will also be included.
If you add another bundle of tenners to that price – six of them, bringing it up to £199 – you can opt for the FOURtress EDOS 4240. This variation on the FOURtress theme is set up to run RISC OS by default, but by running a custom application you can reboot it into Raspberry Pi OS, a Linux-based operating system, and when you shut down from that its next boot will bring you back into RISC OS.
The hardware in this case is a 4GB Pi 4, again running at 2.1GHz, with a 32GB RISC OS SD card, and an integrated 240GB M.2 SSD with Raspberry Pi OS installed, and a partition already set up for access from both RISC OS and Raspberry Pi OS so you can easily transfer and share files between them.
Launched by RISCOSbits earlier this year, EDOS – or ‘Easy Dual Operating Systems’ – is designed to make it easy to use more than one operating system with the Raspberry Pi, without the pain of switching cards between boots. As well as being supplied ready set up with some machines, it can also be purchased separately so you can use it with your existing kit.
It’s supplied as a custom SD card and USB drive package for just £40. For that, you’ll get a 32GB SD card with RISC OS, and a specially formatted 128GB USB drive with Raspberry Pi OS installed, again with a shared partition that can be seen and used by both systems. All you need to make it work is to plug in that drive and use that card – no additional hardware is required, and the GPIO ports on the Pi remain fully accessible, and it even works with the Pi 400 as well as the traditional format Pi.
Self-build kits and cases
A number of exclusive cases and ‘self-build kits’ will also be available at the show, such as a number of matte black and translucent white PiAno kits, with an optional (but recommended) HDMI adapter kit that includes a custom PCB to bring all of the Pi’s ports out to the front, and adding an additional internal USB port (intended for use with a USB drive or USB-SATA adapter). The optional kit also provides a cooling fan and heatsink set – illuminated so that it looks as cool as it makes the computer feel, giving the machine a soft purple glow on your desk. And if you want to add something of your own to the mix, the PiAno case has plenty of room inside for a HAT or real time clock.
DeltaXL cases will also be available in a special, very limited run of a oak and glass-effect version. This includes a Pi 4-compatible HDMI/power/USB adapter PCB, and provides enough room inside for a Pi 4 and internally mounted hard drive, and a HAT or RTC. Ordinarily, these cases form part of the PiHard system, but a small number will be available for those people who already have the computer and a suitable drive, so they can pop the kit in a stylish kit that won’t look out of place on a typical living room TV unit!
The Delta Compact case will also be available in limited numbers, but in a newly revised, smaller version of the Delta XL. Featuring black acrylic end-panels and glass effect layers, this case can host any of the main models of Pi from the B+ and above, and comes with an optional adaptor to bring all of the ports to the front.
If as the day wears on you spend your main bundle of notes, and leave yourself with just a little pocket money, then a Thorin case may be the solution. These consist of two oak, acrylic, or glass-effect slices which sit atop and below the Pi, and are available in one of three stylish cut-out designs; Cog, Nut, or Berry. Different versions are available depending which Pi you have – one for the B+/2B/3B/3B+, and one for the 4 – and they cost just a fiver.
If you watched the virtual Wakefield Show back in April, you may remember Andy talking about a couple of new items he was working on – and has continued to work on in the six months since then.
The first is what he describes as an ‘exploratory’ Lapdock device worthy of using with a Pi 4. With a 13.3 inch, full-HD IPS display (and a number of other modes available using EDID without messing around with eigen values), a 360-degree hinge that allows the screen to be folded back to use like a tablet, the Lapdock also features – unsurprisingly – an integrated touchscreen, although RISC OS – equally unsurprisingly – has no support for this). Even without that support, however, the touchscreen is still used to provide access to the firmware settings, battery control, and so on.
The device doesn’t have to be used with the Pi – it’s also able to work with devices such as Pandaboards, BeagleBoards, various Windows boards and Compute Sticks, such as the LattePanda – and when not powering a computer, its 5v USB-C power output can even be used to put a bit more juice in your phone.
The second new development is a collaboration project that has been in development for a few months, and is only now finally coming to fruition – the Fall Pi (which is actually unnamed at the moment, so that’s what I’m calling it here in the bunker1) is a Mini ITX board based on the Compute Module 4 Lite from those nice Raspberry Pi people.
It will fit in a standard Mini ITX case or larger, and features CPU speeds from 1.5 to 2.147 GHz, a number of internal SATA ports, an internal standard ATX power connector, and has a standard ATX-spec compliant input/output arrangement, with a shield, and external USB ports, gigabit ethernet, full sized HDMI ports, and audio-out (with audio-in software in development). It also has a built-in RTC, and internal GPIO compatible with standard HAT devices.
It should happily run standard off-the-shelf ROM downloads as found on the RISC OS Open website, though some work is ongoing so that more advanced features of the board are supported, such as temperature-controlled fans. It will also run Raspberry Pi OS without any issues, and it’s possible that RISCOSbits may make EDOS an option for it.
Although not ready for sale yet, Andy is hoping that the latest prototype will arrive in time for the show – but if not he may have an older iteration available for visitors to see. When it does become available to buy, the anticipated price for the board should be in the region of a cheap laptop, and it’s possible full computer systems based around the board may follow.
- I’ve already used ‘the Eastwood’ for a computer with no name. Remember The Fall Guy, starring Lee Majors? In the theme song, he was ‘the unnamed stuntman’ – so this is the unnamed system, and it’s Pi-based. Therefore: The Fall Pi. Job done.