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Education Linux Hardware

First Steps With the Raspberry Pi 241

An anonymous reader writes "The Raspberry Pi received an extraordinary amount of pre-launch coverage. It truly went viral with major news corporations such as the BBC giving extensive coverage. Not without reason, it is groundbreaking to have a small, capable computer retailing at less than the price of a new console game. There have been a number of ventures that have tried to produce a cheap computer such as a laptop and a tablet but which never materialised at these price points. Nothing comes close to the Raspberry Pi in terms of affordability, which is even more important in the current economic climate. Producing a PC capable of running Linux, Quake III-quality games, and 1080p video is worthy of praise." Beyond praise, though, this article details the hooking-up and mucking-about phases, and offers some ideas of what it's useful for.
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First Steps With the Raspberry Pi

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  • by bunratty ( 545641 ) on Sunday June 03, 2012 @08:38PM (#40204881)
    Uh, but they have a spare keyboard, mouse, and monitor to hook up to a Raspberry Pi? I think OLAP did it better by offering an all-in-one package that has everything needed built in. OLAP even went so far as to consider houses without electricity by building in a crank to generate power! I still don't get the point of Raspberry Pi.
  • Re:The point? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 03, 2012 @08:44PM (#40204907)

    Could you actually find me a smartphone with HDMI out (1080p), ability to use USB peripherals, and cost within 3x as much as the RPi?

    Space is something I wouldn't bother comparing because I would stream to my RPi as well.

    Restoring firmware on the RPi is a matter of formatting the SD card, most phones are quite easily permanently bricked.

  • by Jane Q. Public ( 1010737 ) on Sunday June 03, 2012 @08:44PM (#40204915)

    "As a resident of the USA, how can I get one of these things?"

    Wait a month and get a Via APC [] instead.

    For $14 more than the Pi, you get twice as much RAM, a better operating system (a flavor of Android 2.3), a better CPU, 2GB of on board flash for your OS (and of course it has the obligatory MicroSD slot as well), plus standard VGA and HDMI out, 4 USB ports, 10/100 Ethernet, and standard audio in/out jacks.

    The video probably isn't quite as good as the Pi (it maxes at 720p), but who is going to be doing sophisticated video with these devices anyway, at this stage? It's a hobbyist board.

  • Different markets (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Namarrgon ( 105036 ) on Sunday June 03, 2012 @08:50PM (#40204943) Homepage

    Agreed - if you want a Pi that also has camera, GPS, wi-fi, 3G radio, mic, speaker, LED light, touchscreen, keyboard, battery, and a case, I've bought Android phones as cheap as $29 off-contract. They make fantastic do-anything devices, from remote cameras to GPS trackers, and all you have to do is download an app off the Market. There are also Android SoCs in a USB/HDMI stick for excellent prices.

    But if you want a hobbyist device with USB, GPIO & ethernet that you can build a project around, the Pi is a great device to play with. Pre-built phones may be more capable, but they're also less flexible in many ways.

  • Re:Different markets (Score:4, Interesting)

    by bunratty ( 545641 ) on Sunday June 03, 2012 @09:00PM (#40204981)
    For hobbiest devices we have Arduino on the low end and PandaBoard on the high end. Where does Raspberry Pi fit into the hobbiest space? I suppose I can understand why someone would choose Raspberry Pi over PandaBoard -- the price is over $100 less! Why would I want to build my latest project with a Raspberry Pi instead of Arduino?
  • Re:Different markets (Score:4, Interesting)

    by JoeMerchant ( 803320 ) on Sunday June 03, 2012 @09:42PM (#40205177)

    Alarm clock - plays a night sky, maybe with very quiet crickets, and progressively turns up the audio/visual stimulation as time to get up approaches.

    Stick a Pi into a spare port on a TV... for the deluxe model, the Pi could also switch the TV on and off.

    Please, make one for me and save me the trouble... guys like this can probably source the video content: []

  • Re:The point? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Belial6 ( 794905 ) on Sunday June 03, 2012 @09:48PM (#40205219)
    Not fair to even include battery life in the equation as the PI has no battery, so it has 0 battery life. Better to count the Android devices battery as a built in UPS.
  • Re:Different markets (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Belial6 ( 794905 ) on Sunday June 03, 2012 @09:56PM (#40205253)
    I have been playing with Arduinos very recently. The places that the PI will fit in is where you need to plug into a standard monitor. A TV will be the most common for this. It will also be better than Arduino in places that need keyboard or mouse input. The Arduino seems like it will be better suited to to projects that need IO. Given that the PI runs a full Linux OS and clearly supports host mode for USB, it seems to me that hanging Arduino Nano's at $13 off of the PI's usb port will likely become a very popular solution. Use the PI as a UI system that handles the non-time critical heavy lifting while Arduino's slave out to autonomously run their particular tasks without the need for the PI to even be powered on.
  • Re:Different markets (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Ford Prefect ( 8777 ) on Sunday June 03, 2012 @10:22PM (#40205371) Homepage

    You can even write code for the Arduinos on the Pi itself [] if you're so inclined.

    (Kind of ridiculous for heavyweight embedded purposes, but could be good for kids playing around with hardware.)

  • Re:Different markets (Score:4, Interesting)

    by spire3661 ( 1038968 ) on Sunday June 03, 2012 @10:33PM (#40205413) Journal
    I want a Pi for a video front end, like Apple TV or a Roku box, maybe play some lite mame/console games. Its the video aspects of the thing that really piques my interest. The plan is to use them to roll out my own video network to my friends and family by popping one of these bad boys onto a spare HDMI input on their TV.
  • by Ford Prefect ( 8777 ) on Sunday June 03, 2012 @10:41PM (#40205463) Homepage

    The uptime on mine is over a week and it's still showing the correct time. Actually, an especially correct time - I haven't got round to changing it from BST to PDT.

    (My internal body-clock still runs on British Time, unfortunately.)

  • Re:The point? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Hadlock ( 143607 ) on Sunday June 03, 2012 @11:31PM (#40205619) Homepage Journal

    1080p output on $99, 4" cell phones is only a few years away. If not new, then through the used/craigslist channels. It's too bad the OLPC project didn't invest more heavily in cell phones.
    This 4th of july I'll be launching an old blackberry curve a couple hundred feet in the air using fireworks simply because it's worth more to me as a disposable video camera than anything else. In 2008 that phone cost $250 with contract.
    Honestly these near-daily advertisements for sub-cellphone hardware on slashdot are getting tiring.

  • HDMI and DRM (Score:2, Interesting)

    by wvmarle ( 1070040 ) on Monday June 04, 2012 @12:02AM (#40205741)

    This device has HDMI output, but now I've heard too often here on /. how HDMI is seriously DRM-encumbered.

    There is a lot of protected content out there, and there are too many horror stories how HDMI devices don't want to talk to each other or give degraded video etc. My TV doesn't have HDMI (it's too old); a new one probably will. But I'm really worried about all these stupid restrictions being put on the system. And as such am not really eager to start using HDMI.

    Now a device like this is likely not to have much support for those content flags and whatnot: how does this affect the final performance of HDMI? Will there be problems when trying to play video from this Raspberry Pi?

  • Re:Different markets (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Yahma ( 1004476 ) on Monday June 04, 2012 @01:01AM (#40205951) Journal

    No need to be rude -- I'm only asking what's the draw for Raspberry Pi.

    How about 256MB of RAM and an ARM11 processor (many times faster than the arduino) running a full blown Linux OS. With the Raspberry Pi, you have a chance at using things such as OpenCV + cheap webcam for your projects.

  • Re:Different markets (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Ford Prefect ( 8777 ) on Monday June 04, 2012 @01:14AM (#40206015) Homepage

    Arduino Ethernet: my little HTTP server is utterly idiotic, waiting for a blank line followed by a newline then assuming a GET and spamming out data streamed in from the Micro-SD card. I even managed to run as far as a 64-byte buffer to speed up transmission to numerous kilobytes per second. 2KiB RAM, 32KiB flash program memory. (The microcontroller can't run code from the SD card without somehow reflashing itself.) The SD card library takes a big chunk of the RAM and flash. Interfacing a 3.3v serial JPEG camera (for taking a year-long timelapse, one shot a minute) was piss-easy, with the Arduino bit-banging serial on some of its GPIO. An analogue-to-digital converter allows a CdS cell as a light meter, also ridiculously easy to interface. Lives on a breadboard, held together with Blu-Tack.

    Raspberry Pi: I've got Apache 2.2, MySQL 5.5 (stop laughing) and PHP 5.4 (ditto) chuntering away quite happily. Installing APC [] seriously improved page load times - currently set to a 32 megabyte cache. 256MiB RAM, 8GiB flash. I even had it loading the test version of my blog-thing running on the Pi in Midori, a modern graphical browser running on the Pi. GPIO is much more fragile, and libraries and kernel support really isn't done yet.

    In other words, they're in very different worlds. They're very likely to complement each other, though...

  • by Weaselmancer ( 533834 ) on Monday June 04, 2012 @01:45AM (#40206107)

    I see what you are saying. Learning computers? Ok, let's look at RasPi:

    RasPi: $25. Monitor: About 100. Mouse/keyboard: 20 or so. Power supply: 5. Speakers: 5. SD card: we'll say about 20. So we're talking about $175, total for a 700 Mhz machine. I'll bet you could do as well on Craigslist looking for used laptops.

    I think the "thing" with RasPi is its hackability. Sure, you could learn to program on any capable machine. But this thing has...other applications. It's small. Embedded small. And very capable. And has lots of exposed I/O which a laptop wouldn't have. This is a device to inspire future geeks, not teach the masses how to program. I think that's the idea.

    Honestly the first things I thought when I heard of this project were all pretty black-hat, I must admit. A nifty little proxy you could hide in a wall at a college dorm or computer lab. Or little dinky tor nodes hidden around third world countries. Or stick it in an Altoids tin with a battery near a public wifi spot and have it bittorrent things for you. Or a dinky little sniffer you could leave somewhere strategic running Aircrack or Wireshark and pick up later. Not that I'd do any of these things, or would advocate such, of course, oh heavens no. But you have to admit...a fully capable computer of this size and price - there are a lot of naughty things you could do with it. With nearly zero consequences. Twenty five bucks isn't a lot to gamble.

    I think that's the gist, honestly. It's like an arduino on steroids. A little tiny Rorschach test. When you look at it what do you see? What can you make it into?

  • Re:Different markets (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Xenna ( 37238 ) on Monday June 04, 2012 @03:16AM (#40206417)

    But how much is an Arduino with ethernet and SD card storage? To name but a few features. (The answer is $13 + $40 + $25, that's $78 total, nowhere near $25 for a Pi model B)

    Can I run an Apache server on that Arduino? Can I program it in PHP/Python/Perl etc, etc. Because I can with the Pi. (I own both)

    An Arduino is a great device that can beat a Pi in many applications, but the same goes the other way around.

  • I like my RaspPi (Score:5, Interesting)

    by hamster_nz ( 656572 ) on Monday June 04, 2012 @05:07AM (#40206765)

    I've been playing with my Raspberry Pi today (just twiddling with 'ncurses' under C). I see it being excellent for learning it is perfect as the standard reference platform for a lot of CS courses from "Introduction to Programming" up - but maybe a bit out of it's depth at OS the design level.

    For around the same cost as a text book everybody it ensures that everybody will have the same hardware, the same OS with all the same toolsets. This will avoid the "Jimmy owns a Mac, and I have 32 bit XP, and Bob has an Android tablet" problem. As a bonus it also has zero product licensing issues...

    Sure, you wouldn't want to compile a big project on it, but for anything you would do in school it would be fine.

  • Re:The point? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Half-pint HAL ( 718102 ) on Monday June 04, 2012 @05:43AM (#40206845)

    Learning should not be done on a minimalistic system. It simply isn't worth it. Get an old PC for that. You don't want your learning to be constrained by irrelevant factors such as lack of RAM or poor performance or insufficient disk space or unavailable libraries. Get a PC, load a development system and install every development package under the Sun. Your task would be to learn how to code in $foo, not to discover problems with interpreter of $foo on architecture $bar. It is not always easy even for experienced coders to port an already working software from the development system into the embedded target.

    I think you're missing the point somewhat. The PC is a heterogenous environment, so you will always have to deal with funny little quirks of compatibility in libraries etc. It's only when you get a homogenous, uniform environment that you stop having to work your way around machine-specific problems.

    No, not everything is available on the Raspberry Pi... yet. Yes, someone has to port it. But that's the job of the early adopters, and it only needs done once, and then it is available to everybody.

    By the time the first in-a-case Pi comes out, there will no doubt be a hell of a lot of stuff available for it.

    The secondary effect will be that there will be better software coverage for all variants of ARM Linux, and Linux users will be able to start migrating away from the Linux i386 and x64 architectures. I've been waiting a long time for desktop Linux to cease to be a PC OS, as it limits its appeal. A desktop ARM Linux would be in direct competition with dumb terminals in the enterprise, and would offer the added bonus of being able to do mixed-mode local and network computing -- maybe they'd still want to use Microsoft Office remotely rather than LibreOffice locally, but they could use Firefox locally without bother.

"This is lemma 1.1. We start a new chapter so the numbers all go back to one." -- Prof. Seager, C&O 351