Raspberry Pi anyone?

What is all this talk about Raspberry Pi?

Essentially the ‘Raspberry Pi’ is a single-board computer developed in the UK by the Raspberry Pi Foundation. Their intention is to revive that era of BBC Micro script-kiddies by stimulating the teaching of basic computer science in schools. This essentially failed first time round due to the fairly inaccessible cost to the average working-class household, but the not-for-profit Raspberry Pi foundation has partnered with the likes of RS Components and Farnell in order to deliver this amazing device for under £30.

Yes… you heard me correctly…. under £30!Raspberry Pi

So what do I get for the price of an Indian takeaway?

Based on a Broadcom BCM2835 system on a chip (SoC), the design includes an ARM1176JZF-S 700 MHz processor, high performance video and graphic capability from a VideoCore IV GPU, 256 megabytes of RAM, 1 x Audio out, 2 x USB ports, an SD Card socket, Ethernet, Composet Video-out and HDMI Video out too. In addition there are some GPIO (General Purpose Input/Output) connectors for future expansion and to add electronic development (think Arduino….) to it too.

The Raspberry Pi website offers pre-built Debian and Arch Linux ARM distributions for download, and they plan to include tools for supporting Python as the main programming language, with support for the fabled BBC BASIC, (using “Brandy Basic”, the BBC BASIC clone), and Perl.

Why is it so cheap?

The Raspberry Pi Foundation a charity, so you can’t buy shares in their company. They want to see it being used by kids all over the world to learn programming, and to support them, they’d love you to buy one!

They will also be offering a package where you can do a buy-one-give-one purchase, and will be accepting donations too.

Come on now, isn’t this just a toy?

Well… No, not really. This tiny platform has as much processing power as a cheap PC did 7 years ago, and with the integrated GPU, it can handle full 1080p HD Video. That’s something that some of you will have trouble doing with your games consoles. In fact it is so powerful that people have already demonstrated Quake 3 running on it!

Can you use this straight away?

Yes and no… Once you’ve managed to actually get your hands on one, it’s no mean feat to get it up and running. The Debian ‘Squeeze’ Linux distribution on the Raspberry Pi website gives you a recognisable linux distribution with a reference root filesystem from Gray and Dom, containing LXDE, Midori, development tools and example source code for multimedia functions.

But what can I really use it for?

How about a Media Centre for your TV? The clever guys at www.raspbmc.com and OpenELEC  have already ported XBMC (XBox Media Centre) onto the Pi, and early reports show that it can handle the video and sound very well, and draw its power from the USB port on the back of your TV!

Ok, you’ve got my interest, where can I buy one?

RS Components [LINK]

Farnell [LINK]


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