These days, RISC OS laptop computers are a proper real thingtm (again – we did have Acorn’s A4 once upon a time), with devices like the Pinebook and Pinebook Pro able to run the operating system. However, while a laptop is a handy thing to have when away from the desk, it’s probably not ideal to use as a main machine in its standard form: The screens can be a little on the small side, the keyboards horribly flat and fairly cramped, and a touchpad is a long way from being as usable as a mouse1.
It is possible to use a laptop as a primary machine, even if you aren’t a fan of the screens, keyboards, and touchpads – the trick is to plug in external devices; an external screen, a descent keyboard, and a proper (three buttoned – or two plus a clickable scroll wheel) mouse2.
Doing so with a device like the Pinebook Pro running RISC OS has now been made a lot easier, thanks to RISCOSbits, and the newly introduced Desk Dock for RISC OS laptops.
Connecting to the laptop with a single cable, the hardware device gives you four USB 2.0 sockets for your keyboard, mouse, and other devices, and a DVI video port supporting resolutions of up to 2048×1152 for your monitor. There is also an ethernet socket, allowing easy connection to your network for those laptops that don’t come with one, and more besides.
The Desk Dock has been tested with the Pinebook, the Pinebook Pro, and even the Raspberry Pi-based Pi-Top v2 – and although intended as a way to make the laptops more usable on the desk, it also works with other computers running RISC OS, such as the Raspberry Pi, Wandboard, Titanium, etc.
The Desk Dock is available now from RISCOSbits for just £49.00, and comes with the docking station itself, a suitable cable for use with a RISC OS laptop, a DVI to VGA adaptor, a power supply, and a RISC OS instruction manual – but as the supporting software is further developed, the price is likely to rise to reflect the work that has gone into it (though early adopters with get the updated software free of charge).
- Some people might feel differently about them, but that is my restrained and polite opinion of touchpads!
- There are a lot of computers here in the RISCOSitory bunker, and while all of the RISC OS ones are normal desktop computers, most of the ones that run other operating systems are laptops. It’s one of the laptops that I use as my main machine, and it’s usually connected to a 27″ monitor, a chunky Elesar keyboard, and a proper mouse. It’s only used without these if I’m away from my normal desk with it.