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Education Programming United Kingdom Hardware

Raspberry Pi Arrives, With a School Debut In Leeds 148

Posted by timothy
from the when-a-plan-comes-together dept.
hypnosec writes "It seems fitting that the first batch of Raspberry Pi computers landed in the UK in the hands of school children based in Leeds as what many consider as another wave of grass-root computing revolution, another BBC Micro 2.0, begins. The Raspberry Pi has been designed from scratch to get anyone interested in computer programming to do so without forking out much; the base unit can connect to a television like the Commodore C64 or the Sinclair ZX81. According to the BBC, the first batch has been presented [Friday] by Eben Upton, the school project coordinator, in an event held at the Leeds offices of Premier Farnell, one of the official PI distributors."
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Raspberry Pi Arrives, With a School Debut In Leeds

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  • At the price. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by zippo01 (688802) on Saturday April 14, 2012 @07:39AM (#39684145)
    This is also a great way/price for people to get into building and operating clusters. I plan on dropped 200 and building a 8 system cluster, just for fun.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Ordering now means you'll probably get yours at the end of summer. You'll have to wait longer still if you want several, because right now orders are limited to one per person. If you just want to get experience working with clusters, create a couple of VMs and a virtual network. If you want to cluster Pis to get more performance, get a real computer: cheaper and faster (and available).

    • by drosboro (1046516)

      Of course, if you're looking to spend $25 each (to get 8 for $200), you're going to get the version with no Ethernet... the Model B with Ethernet is $35...

  • The First Hurdle (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Duncan J Murray (1678632) on Saturday April 14, 2012 @07:53AM (#39684197) Homepage

    As people have mentioned before, simply creating the product and making it available isn't going to miraculously rejuvenate computer programming in the UK amongst children. After all, many children already have access to computers capable of running python as it is - and so do schools. If schools want to teach computer programming, it doesn't actually need a raspberry pi.

    I think the next step is to create tutorials for the raspberry pi, and to ensure that schools aren't penalised for teaching computer programming (as in it won't detract from teaching time and achieving targets in other subjects), and I think the only way to do that is to make computer programming a new GCSE, with a curriculum, exams, and formal teaching time.

    • Re:The First Hurdle (Score:5, Informative)

      by Techmeology (1426095) on Saturday April 14, 2012 @08:19AM (#39684281) Homepage
      You're absolutely right! The Raspberry Pi foundation is interested in a lot more than simply making a (very cool) machine available. The general thought is that a lot of parents are anxious about the notion of allowing their children to experiment on an expensive home PC (being able to experiment with root access, while not mandatory to learn to program, is useful to get to understand how the computer works) - that's part of the reason why the foundation developed the computer. The foundation is also working to create a library of educational materials that are intended to help children learn to program and find out about their machine, as well as promote and encourage changes to the teaching of IT/Computing/Computer Science.
      • You're absolutely wrong! The focus should be on "educating" children to learn how to self-discover and self-learn using this low cost device. Spoon feeding some government sponsored syllabus is not going to achieve that.
        • by bheading (467684)

          Spoon feeding some government sponsored syllabus is not going to achieve that.

          The funny thing is that the experience the Raspberry Pi draws its inspiration from (the BBC Micro) practically was a spoon-fed government syllabus. The BBC (a government body) specified the computer, and the education authorities were all encouraged to purchase BBC machines for the schools they were in charge of.

          It was a very good thing.

      • by petes_PoV (912422)

        parents are anxious about the notion of allowing their children to experiment on an expensive home PC

        Most parents don't have the vaguest notion of what their offspring do on a computer. The only thing they are more lacking in, is the ability to fix it if the little darlings do manage to screw it up.

        In practice, the simplest, cheapest and quickest way to get children programming on a small Linux platform would be to install VirtualBox, whatever Linux image is suitable and then let rip. If this image does become irrevocably broken, a simple VM reinstall costs nothing and has no inherent risks. An alternativ

        • by jimicus (737525)

          I disagree. As soon as you start suggesting "install this software on your PC" - or even "boot from this LiveCD" you wind up with a plethora of support issues, ranging from "I tried it on the underpowered PC my parents bought at the height of the Vista debacle and found it too slow to be able to do anything", going through "My computer's been on the verge of failing for the last year; in a rather unfortunate coincidence it stopped booting immediately after installing your software and now I'm blaming you" a

        • by gbjbaanb (229885)

          Most parents do have a good grasp of what their kids do, its play games, surf the web, chat on facebook. Not necessarily in that order.

          The problem here is that everyone is running Windows, and that's been sold to them as a 'consumer device' rather than a general purpose computer. Its no wonder the vast majority of users knows how to program on it, it's practically not designed for that. Its designed to sell a pre-packaged box to people.

          Your suggestion to "install virtualbox" shows your geek credentials - an

          • by CastrTroy (595695)
            I would have to disagree on that. While Windows is a consumer operating system, and there is no programming required, Microsoft does quite a bit to get people programming on their OS. They give away great developer tools like VS Express Edition. If you don't want to install anything, you can program by creating a .vbs file and running that directly. It's not the most modern programming language, but you can do quite a few things with it. You can access quite a few things from it if you do a lot of digging
            • by gbjbaanb (229885)

              sure, I know that too as I'm a developer for a MS shop, but we're the exception. Everyone else is told to be users, not developers. MS doesn't make it really really easy for them to get into coding. The Pi does things differently, that's why its a good thing.

              (oh, and it's Linux, which is double-good ;) )

    • by horza (87255)

      I think you are wrong. The difference at school between using an Acorn Archimedes and using a Microsoft PC was huge. The latter was always locked down, you couldn't tinker with the OS (even if you could understand the mess of DLLs), limited as to what software you could install on there, couldn't drop down to assembler at the drop of a hat, and couldn't write full-screen arcade games in a few lines of BASIC. If I was forced to use Microsoft Windows rather than the Acorn computers when I was a child I would

    • good thing its not being introduced in tennessee.

      they'd have to spend equal time 'theorizing' about how the raspi got created; and also if 2 ARM chips that are in a tightly coupled union are committing a sin while co-computing.

    • Re:The First Hurdle (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Niten (201835) on Saturday April 14, 2012 @11:59AM (#39685547)

      The thing you might not have taken into account is the actual experience of the teacher who would like to introduce students to programming. I have no experience with the British school system, but I did work for IT in a K-12 U.S. school system not too long ago, so I think I have something to say about this.

      Where I worked, students' computers were heavily locked down Windows machines running a restricted set of software. Because of the machines' age, the bad third-party GPO-wannabe software that the school district used to manage the systems, and various virus infections, these computers were not the friendliest things to teachers and students – and both groups were perpetually scared to death of "messing up" the computers and getting in trouble. In reality, these PCs were used primarily as overcomplicated interfaces to various bits of flash- and web-based educational software, and anything else was deemed too troublesome.

      The point is that between the technical deficiencies and the bureaucratic ones, getting school IT to allow students to run a new type of program and then support it can frankly be a nightmare. You say these computers are capable of running Python, and this is true in the strictest sense, but in reality it's just not going to happen when half of the admins don't even know what Python is, and the other half are too scared of deploying a new, "nonstandard" interpreter.

      And if that's how IT feels about the prospect, just think of how frightening it looks to the teachers.

      Now contrast that with using something like the Raspberry PI. You can program without messing up your "real" computer! No IT support required, you can reset it to factory configuration in a heartbeat, and even if you do manage to physically break it somehow... hey, it was only $25. Perhaps most importantly, you can write a grant proposal to get a classroom full of them without having to go through the IT department. The Raspberry PI, or something like it, is the programming tool that teachers will be able to use in practice.

      • by kenh (9056)

        Apparently you spent time in a poorly-run K-12 school district. Where you see a panacea to all that you imagine is wrong in education where computers are concenred, I see problems. The $25 price point is cute, but tarted up for the education market (case, PS, etc) it becomes $50, but that's still cheap. Imagine walking back into your old job, going into a classroom, taking the current "heavily locked-down Windows machines" and replacing it with a Raspberry Pi - what would the teacher think? Would they cheer

      • by Anonymous Coward

        It's the same everywhere...I am a high school computer science teacher in Toronto, Canada. I'm forbidden to teach linux, (I complained so often about how we should be teaching linux, that they assigned me a science teaching timetable...blah...) due to corrupt administrators and (very) profitable 'support' contracts with M$, etc. Hence, locked down computers that can barely handle IE, and approved no nothing, do nothing 'software'. I bring my own linux laptop to school with me everyday, rather than use t

  • by arisvega (1414195) on Saturday April 14, 2012 @07:54AM (#39684199)
    I know about the target price. What is the actual price?
    • Re:Actual cost? (Score:4, Informative)

      by drosboro (1046516) on Saturday April 14, 2012 @07:57AM (#39684209)

      For this model (the Model B, with Ethernet), the target price is $35. The actual price, including shipping & handling, depends a bit on where you are in the world, but it's pretty much bang on $35 plus whatever shipping charge Premier Farnell or RS has come up with for your country. They've done an amazing job at keeping this thing on track, despite delays and major changes in manufacturing plans...

    • by uncanny (954868)
      I paid $35 for the model b & $20 for shipping to the US, still waiting for it though
    • by petes_PoV (912422)
      The actual cost would add on a case, a power supply, a mouse, a keyboard and an HDMI display, per $25 board - say 200USD minimum.

      Since these boards are intended for schools, these extras would need to be purchased, as they can't just be "scrounged" from other equipment - which would then, itself become unusable. In addition there is cost associated with integrating all these parts, reckon on at least 1/2 hour per unit (which is probably cross-charged at the same $25 price of the board) So the whole "we can

      • by Jmc23 (2353706)
        Here's where a smart entrepreneur can make some money by making a basic switch a la KVM and marketing it towards schools. Still have full access to the computers they already have but just plug in the RPI, flip the switch, and keyboard, monitor, mouse, and power, are all now connected to the RPI. This way students can carry around their PI's and just plug them into any available computer.

        Some people just see problems, others see solutions.

      • by kenh (9056)

        Your $200 estimate for a complete kit is a bit "optomistic" (low), but let's work with it.

        I'd like to encourage anyone considereing deploying these "systems" in a public school system take a moment and try to explain to a concerned parent how this cobbled-together "system" at $200 is a better educational tool than a $400 Win 7 PC or even a $300 Linux PC. Once you get past "it has a web browser" answer most parents will find it sorely lacking in comparison and wonder why their children can't get access to th

  • by RotateLeftByte (797477) on Saturday April 14, 2012 @08:08AM (#39684235)

    and if it takes off in the US i forsee a plethora of LawSuits alledging patent, copyright and anything else the syhsters can think of just to stop this in its tracks.
    If this becomes really successful I have no shadow of a doubt that the likes of Microsoft will see this as a threat to their business and try by whatever means to stifile if not downright kill it.
    You really can't have people building a computer now can you? Whatever next? Desiging their own Operating System and giving it away?

    On a personal note, this device really takes me back to my Degree project in 1975 where I build a DtoA and AtoD converter board for the NatSemi IMP16 Microcomputer. in the years afterwards I build a number of UniBus devices for the PDP-11.
    Interfacting 'kit' to computers has gotten a lot easier these days.

    • by Morgaine (4316) on Saturday April 14, 2012 @09:18AM (#39684531)

      Although you're making a "glass half full" kind of prediction, it's not hard to imagine that the opposite of your guess might occur in the US: All the other ARM licensees might see this as a fantastic coup for Broadcom, and follow suit with their own competing $25 - $35 boards.

      After all, Texas Instruments already has their own $5 SoC [ti.com] available and used in their BeagleBone [beagleboard.org], so they could quite easily remove features from that board and release something into the Raspberry Pi price niche for education. (The BeagleBone's $89 [adafruit.com] places it far outside the Raspberry Pi's price niche.)

      The Chinese will of course follow suit with boards based on their wildly successful Allwinner A10 [rhombus-tech.net] ARM device, which is far better than Broadcom's SoC (on specs) and only costs $7 in production volumes. Expect a pile of competitors from that quarter!

    • Since when was I not able to build a computer before Raspberry PI? Everything from SBC's to cluster builds are easily availabe, just at a higher cost than RPI. RPI isn't innovative, it is just cheap.
    • by kenh (9056)

      You seriously think this will ever be a threat to Microsoft? On what planet?

      This system reminds me of the COSMAC ELF [cosmacelf.com] of the early 1970s, but with a an ethernet port and an HDMI connection for the TV. Those who think this is revolutionary need to expand their knowledge of computer history to at least a point prior to Saint Linus came down from the Mount with his Linux Kernel...

  • by Grieviant (1598761) * on Saturday April 14, 2012 @10:44AM (#39685127)
    How many more RPi non-stories are going to appear on /. before the device is actually released to the masses? The device sounds great and all, but this has gone past the point of absurdity.
    • Absurd? Wait until they post a Slashdot review of Packt Publishing's "Programming for Raspberry Pi" (available for pre-order now for only $19.95 or 2.375 bitcoins).
  • I thought the first 10k batch had already been sold and they were scrambling to get them certified to be released from customs. All of a sudden they have a batch ready to give to a school. Looks just like more PR to me. Maybe I wouldn't be so suspicious if their didn't already have so much delay delivering the goods to the actual customers.

  • Do you already have some ideas about what you plan to do with the R-Pi? Aside the teaching programming part, it should be a wonderful platform for all sorts of embedded projects.
  • In other news... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by kenh (9056) on Saturday April 14, 2012 @12:25PM (#39685715) Homepage Journal

    So could someone explain to me how these $25 circuit boards are "better" than any one of the countless millions of P4 computers that we dump in the cargo holds of contaner ships heading back to China to be "recycled" into a small amount of precious metals and a whole lot of toxic waste???

    Last time I looked this system required a power supply, USB keyboard and mouse, case, and a display that can accept a digital signal - in comparison, the Vic-20, Commodore 64, and Sinclair ZX-81 all came with keyboard, case & and power supply, and only required a composite video capable monitor (or a TV modulator).

    This is much more like the Apple I - the circuit board that could be bought unpopulated or completed, and was quickly snapped-up by a small community of enthusiasts and then made obvious the need to offer a complete system that included a keyboard, case and power supply.

    How long till Raspberry Pi offers their version of the Apple II, a system in a case with a keyboard, mouse, and power supply?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Troll much? In what condition are these p4's? Whose will oversea the inspections of them to ensure all components are working? Where can you get replacement PCI cards for under the cost of the pi? Do they come with monitors? Are they small enough to Cary around? How much work is involved in making a distro that is guaranteed to work on all of them?

      There are some mnay things good about the pi. It is a rare example of what the site is/was all about. The best comment you can come up with 'everyone should use o

  • by Osgeld (1900440) on Saturday April 14, 2012 @12:55PM (#39686003)

    What? are there NO computers in the UK? making a small cheap computer is not automatically going to spark a fire in a child who is surrounded by more powerful machines every moment of their lives capable of doing the exact same thing

    • by Patch86 (1465427)

      In a way, it's "nudge theory" in action again (the political class's buzzword du jour, but it does have some merit).

      The idea is that while a kid could be adventurous with the £600 home Win7 laptop, odds are both they (and their parents/teachers) will feel overly cautious, treating it with kit gloves, in case the kid somehow "breaks it". It's irrational, but that's the way people think.

      Give them a £30 computer that looks like a piece of soldered electronics, it's far more likely that both the kid

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