Simon Willcocks is a man on a mission, albeit an unusual one that no doubt many developers will recognise as being something of a geek driven dream. The mission in question to deliver native RISC OS desktop applications under Linux. This dream is fast becoming a reality, however, with the news that the RISC OS Look and Feel (ROLF) project is ready to produce a live bootable CD to demonstrate just what it is capable of. The ROLF live CD is said to include an iconbar, filer, terminal emulator, MP3 player, NetSurf, Inkscape and more.
The idea of being able to run native RISC OS apps alongside Linux ones, all the time retaining a familiar desktop environment, is certainly ambitious. If Willcocks can pull it off, the end result will be a Linux driven PC that can produce the RISC goods as well as being able to play DVDs, games and deliver the latest web technologies.
Using a custom written window manager, ROLF enables GTK+ applications to run on a RISC OS style desktop courtesy of an interface layer. Using the bundled library it is possible to develop native ROLF applications, although it should not be too difficult to port programs using OSLib in the enar future either the developer promises.
What is missing at the moment is the ability to allow native ARM-targeted RISC OS applications to run over the Brandy BASIC interpreter and QEMU on a standard Intel-powered Linux PC, although Willcocks says he will be starting work on this soon.
Talking to Drobe Willcocks said "It's probably worth noting that I'm not intending this system to be used for multi-user or Internet server purposes. It's just for a single-user, simple to use system with a RISC OS style interface and enough oomph to permit the applications people are starting to miss on real ARM hardware to be realised. Nobody should expect anything polished or fast. Optimisation of the images library is being left until I have proof-of-concept code for all the basic features - or until I find it too annoying to put up with. I'm unsure at the moment how much standard Unix behaviour to leave in, and how much should be done using more RISC OS-like applications. I expect to evolve an approach over time."
He also made it clear that anyone wishing to offer help with progressing the ROLF project would be welcomed with open arms.
More details at the ROLF website.