You might have noticed that Ultibo has been used in quite a few retro projects over the past couple of years, that’s probably not surprising really since there is a huge interest worldwide in all things retro including computers and gaming. It also could be a reflection of the Ultibo model which removes many of the restrictions imposed by modern operating systems, in many ways early computers were a lot like bare metal environments because their operating systems (if they even had one) were very minimal and only provided the most basic services.
For many the attraction lies in remembering their youth and a simpler time when it was possible to fully understand the workings of not only the computer but the software that made it operate, something which has long since ceased to be achievable for everything but the microcontroller devices of today.
But while there is a certain nostalgia and fond memories of the past we’re pretty sure not too many would really give up what we have today and go back to the beginnings of technology, after all computers were slow (very slow), phones had cords, you could only watch what the television stations wanted to show you, wireless was something you gathered around to listen to and without the internet we rarely communicated with people outside of our own small patch of the world.
Maybe Ultibo offers a compromise between the two, a sort of retro future without the limitations of the past. Software that provides the features we’ve come to expect but doesn’t include all of the size and complexity we’re so often told is required. Only time will tell if we’re right or wrong, in the meantime it’s just a lot of fun watching where it leads.
We love all the retro projects but not because we want to revisit the past, it’s just really cool to see what people create.
They say that every human year is equal to about 7 for a dog, so a 5 year old dog is about the same as a 35 year old person. Now imagine how that ratio applies to computers, especially when it comes to mobile computers like tablets and phones for example, with the seemingly relentless release of new models on a schedule that appears to be getting faster each year you could be forgiven for thinking that a human year might be closer to a century in the world of technology.
When the Raspberry Pi foundation released the latest model a few weeks ago the product brief contained a very interesting little note that proudly proclaims ‘The Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ will remain in production until at least January 2023’. At first glance that doesn’t mean much, until you stop for a moment and consider that they are committing to 5 years of continuous production for a device that is essentially a minor upgrade of the model 3B, one that has already been around since February 2016.
There’s much more to producing a board than just the manufacturing, there is the logistics of supplying the components that go on the board. The 2023 commitment means that Raspberry Pi also have to be certain Broadcom will supply the SoC for the duration, that memory supplies will be available as well as peripheral chips such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and LAN, that’s no small undertaking given the speed at which things change in the technology industry.
But there is also a huge plus in this commitment for all of us who seek to use the Raspberry Pi as the basis for creating gadgets, certainty, the confidence that we can design things today and invest time to develop projects knowing that the core component will be available next year, the year after and the year after that for at least the next 5 years.
Many people seem to be waiting, wishing and hoping for the Pi 4 to arrive as soon as possible, while the next release of the Pi will no doubt bring with it exciting new possibilities it will also bring uncertainty and delays while every other part of the Pi ecosystem is updated to support it.
Right now we have 5 uninterrupted Pi years ahead of us so let’s make the most of it, after all if you were a dog it would be almost half your lifetime.
Today marks two years since the release of Ultibo and so much has happened in that time it is almost impossible to remember what life was like before. We won’t deny that there have been some disappointments along the way, like the apparent lack of interest in the VC4 port, still we remain convinced that the need for what we are doing is greater now than ever.
You might have noticed a little less activity lately, we’ve been busy with another project, but we’ve also spent a lot of time thinking about the future direction of Ultibo. No matter how much the project expands and no matter how capable it becomes, one recurring theme we see is that the Pascal language is too often cited as a reason not to use Ultibo.
Ultibo is about making a difference not about making excuses, so the time has come for some changes. In order to grow the project to its full potential we’ve decided to broaden the audience beyond the Pascal language and create opportunities for people to build projects using a wider range of tools. Some may question why, couldn’t those people create their own project after all? We’ve looked long and hard and it seems that in spite of the best efforts of many, nothing else has come close to reaching the capabilities Ultibo already has and the future potential it holds.
We haven’t yet finalized all the details of how this will work but you can be sure that Pascal will continue to be supported as the core itself will remain unchanged, support for new languages will be added on to what we already have. Which languages you ask? We’re not going to say right now but if you look at any top ten list of most popular programming languages you’ll be sure to see the ones we’re thinking of.
We hope you’ll join us in welcoming a whole new group of makers to share the future of Ultibo.
When Ultibo core was first released at the start of 2016 perhaps the most surprising thing for us was how much interest there was in using graphics and displaying information on screen, the questions began almost from day one and have persisted to this day.
We had initially envisaged Ultibo as an IoT platform to be hidden away and used for sensing, controlling and monitoring often without any console, display or visual output at all. Of course IoT means many things to many people so our vision of network connected gadgets didn’t quite take account of the true potential offered by the Raspberry Pi.
It is with great pleasure that we announce today the release of Ultibo core 2.0, the Beetroot release, and the inclusion of full support for the VideoCore IV GPU in all models of the Raspberry Pi. Anyone who has read about this subject will have seen a lot of information, some of it true, some of it not so true and others just plain wrong.
Along the way we’ve seen many claims, there is no documentation, it’s all a secret and closed source or it can’t be done because they won’t release the details. We are not about to try and tell you this was an easy task but with a lot of research, reading, exploration and experimentation we have arrived at a result that we are very proud of. Once again it shows that anything can be done if you really want it to happen.
Today we pass the baton to you, the Ultibo community, it’s your turn to show us what you can do now that you have some of the most powerful graphics features at your disposal. Let’s get the message out to the world and show everyone what is possible if you have a little bit of imagination, it’s time to make something amazing.
As always the latest installer is available from the download page, get your copy now and try it out. For those who might prefer to build their own version for Windows or for Linux see the wiki for instructions.
How do you describe something like Ultibo so that people can decide if it is what they are looking for or not?
At various times, and depending on the audience, we use terms like bare metal, unikernel, embedded platform and so on but none of them really seem to capture both the purpose and the possibilities of the Ultibo project. There are a number of purposes that drive what we are doing but it can be easy to miss the whole story if you just look at any one element. If you focus on just the technical details of creating programs without an operating systems and the necessities of drivers, devices and boards then you might not notice that there is a learning aspect to the project as well.
The world needs more good programmers to drive the development of future systems and applications, sadly there has been a catastrophic failure of industry, schools and universities to educate new generations of developers, many have no concept of how a pixel appears on screen or a packet crosses the internet, let alone the ability to understand the intricacies of modern computing. We don’t claim that Ultibo is the complete solution but without tools that make it possible to concentrate on learning instead of being swamped by the idiosyncrasies of an operating system then the situation is not likely to change.
On the other hand if you see Ultibo only as a teaching tool or a way to learn about the low level functionality of a computer then you miss the fact that Ultibo is a powerful platform which can be used for serious development and creating real products, without the unnecessary overhead and complexity of a full desktop operating system.
It’s a simple question with a multitude of answers, we don’t want to make Ultibo sound too complex or unapproachable so that people think it is beyond their knowledge, at the same time if we make it appear too simple then those who have a definite purpose in mind might think it is not advanced enough for their needs. In truth it should be possible to accommodate both ends of the spectrum, we still don’t know the best way to describe it but you can be sure we’ll continue thinking.