Saturday, August 18, 2012

Have you heard of the Raspberry Pi?

The price above is the B model, not the A model.
If you follow the Linux community a lot, or focus a lot into software development, you might have heard of this device called the Raspberry Pi. This device is a credit card sized ARM based computer, and I thought that I should share my thoughts on it even if you might have never heard of it.

First off, yes, the image to the right is not a joke. A major selling point of the Pi is the price. The hardware on this device is part of why it is so cheap -- and why it is so popular. Model A is $25, and Model B is just $10 more at $35. All money is USD.

As you can see above, this is a fairly accurate model of the Raspberry Pi, model B. And remember, this device is only the size of a credit card. This device features an ARM CPU, and it even has  few USB ports built into it. This device is capable of playing 1080p video, so that is why there is an HDMI port out there.

The entire system takes little power, and any good 700mA (many phone chargers meet this requirement) Micro USB plug should do for the B model, while model A can get by with 300 mA due to it not requiring more power because it has less hardware. More charging info can be found here.

The Raspberry Pi has two models, a model A and a model B. I personally recommend the model B because it features an Ethernet port (so it actually has a network connection, because it does not have WiFi), and an extra USB port. Go here for more info, and then scroll down to the general questions. The first question is the question you are looking for.

The Raspberry Pi was originally invented to help little kids get interested in software development. Python is their supported learning language if you were wondering. There are plenty or more uses for the Raspberry Pi then just learning how to write code, you can also play media on this device like I have said before.

How it works
While most of these questions are answered and well documented in the FAQ, I'll go ahead and lay down some of the basics here. 

  • First off, the Raspberry Pi does not have an on/off switch. To turn the device on, plug it in. To turn it off, unplug it.'
  • The Raspberry Pi works off of SD cards. To boot an OS, just make sure you have said SD card plugged in and the Pi will attempt to boot it. Right now you have to have a SD card inserted to boot the device, but since there is no real BIOS you could, say, invent one that could be stuck on a card then booted. That way your computer would boot into a BIOS, but you would have to have additional devices plugged in. Make you have flashed/burned a ARM linux image on the SD card so it can boot.
  • To connect the Raspberry Pi to the internet, you must buy the B model. The Pi does not include a WiFi chip, so you could either use Ethernet, buy a USB WiFi card, or buy a Ethernet bridge. There are a list of tested USB dongles at the wiki.
  • The Raspberry Pi uses an ARM CPU, ARM11 specifically. The Raspberry Pi foundation choose the ARM11 CPU because of "costs and performance"
The FAQ for the Raspberry Pi can be found here. Click here to access the wiki on the Raspberry Pi.

My thoughts on this device
I personally think this device is great. It packs a lot of power for its price and what is built into it. I will look into ordering one later on into the next week. If you want to order one, you can take a look at the FAQ for the two suppliers. You can also order some accessories there, like power supplies and USB hubs. Ethernet cables and more. You can also look into those WiFI USB dongles.

If you already own a Raspberry Pi and want to share you're impressions on it, then let me know in the comments below. Below is a video from BBC news giving an in depth look at the Raspberry Pi.