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Raspberry Pi $25 PC Goes Into Alpha Production 137

An anonymous reader writes "Game developer David Braben caused geeks to get excited back in May when he announced plans to develop and release a $25 PC. It is called the Raspberry Pi and takes the form of a USB stick that can be plugged into the HDMI port of a display ready to act as a fully-functional PC. Two months on and the spec of the PCB layout has been finalized and an alpha release has been sent to manufacture. Any doubts this PC wasn't going to happen should now disappear as this alpha board is expected to be almost the same as the final production unit. Although we don't know a release date as of yet, the Raspeberry Pi Foundation is promising images of the alpha boards in a couple of weeks."
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Raspberry Pi $25 PC Goes Into Alpha Production

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  • But I am not foolish enough to think that a few alpha boards makes it a sure thing (open pandora), its good news to say the least but I will keep my doubts until I can have one in my hands thanks

    • Very sensible. You'll notice we're not taking pre-orders for these boards until we have them in *our* hands. Eben Upton Director, Raspberry Pi Foundation
    • OpenPandora is just what happens if the Entrepeneur is not cynical enough to set down a date in da contract: which of all boards must be finished by.
      "I hear you can have X boards by Y date?"
      "We sure do"
      "Then lets get it down to contract shall we?"
      "But that... But."
      "You promised, either sign it, or leave it"
      Or something like that. Not sure how pushy one can get over legal terms.

  • Any doubts this PC wasn't going to happen should now disappear as this alpha board is expected to be almost the same as the final production unit.

    these are good news, but only an announcement, there are many reasons a mass production can still fail.

    • by DrXym ( 126579 )
      I wonder who was doubting it. It might be a novel application but its specs aren't far removed from what you'd find in various low end set top boxes.
  • Any doubts this PC wasn't going to happen should now disappear as this alpha board is expected to be almost the same as the final production unit.

    Because nothing ever goes wrong, right?

  • David Braben? Of Elite [wikipedia.org] fame? This was cool enough already!

  • I'd much rather trade the HDMI for some sort of Ethernet, and maybe a few GPIOs or something.

    I see something like this as much less of a "game console", and much more of a device I'd glue to my alarm system, and to my sprinkler system, and to my thermostat, and to my garage door opener, etc..etc...etc...

    • I'd much rather trade the HDMI for some sort of Ethernet, and maybe a few GPIOs or something.

      Great, but the point of this is to actually be hooked up to a monitor to use it as a computer.

      I see something like this as much less of a "game console", and much more of a device I'd glue to my alarm system, and to my sprinkler system, and to my thermostat, and to my garage door opener, etc..etc...etc...

      It's not a "game console" nor is it meant to be a microcontroller like you apparently want to use it as.

      • The alpha and the $35 version "B" will have 2 USB, a built-in USB hub and Ethernet.

      • Actually I think it'd work well as, say, a NES/SNES/Genesis emulator. Hook up a USB gamepad, compile znses or whatever you're using, and you're set. Not sure, but it might even be able to pull off playstation 1 and nintendo 64 emulation. That would be a treat.

    • You're thinking Arduino [arduino.cc]. If performance is a concern you can try the Arduino-compatible ChipKIT 32 [digilentinc.com] from Digilent, which is an Arduino-compatible device using a more powerful PIC microcontroller.

      • I don't care what it was "made for" - I'm talking about what I'd want to "use it for".

        That's the point. All of these little microcontroller type units are good - but when you start wanting to put some heavy-duty services on them, they fall short. For $25, I'd much rather have a machine that I can run a "real" Linux system on. HTTP, SSL, SSH, Perl, Python - whatever. Much better development environment than the embedded microcontroller-type stuff. Even for things like Robotics, etc, too.

        • How exactly are you going to connect your alarm system, sprinkler system, thermostat, garage door opener, etc..etc to a device with only an HDMI and USB connector?

        • but when you start wanting to put some heavy-duty services on them, they fall short

          Sure, it's a $25 PC.. you want a $25 PC to do everything a cheap smarthphone can do? Probably you can develop one device under $25 that can do all you want and drown in money. Try taking the device and the specs and figure out WHAT YOU CAN DO WITH IT, instead of complaining because is not what you need, needs that probably you have already sorted out with something else which is *gasp* actually designed for what you want/need.

          Seems like it could run a Quake2 server, a simple Proxi (traffic sniffer) or an Ed

          • But that's my point. The "things that are already designed to do that" aren't as well suited. I don't want to have to install/learn a new development tool/language/environment to use something like Arduino. It also doesn't have all the services and support I need on-board. It may be "designed to" interface to my sprinkler, but does it have a whole LAMP stack in it, that would let average-joe-developer develop a robust web-based application for a sprinkler control system?

            I'm sure there are a billion things

            • I agree with you on the HDMI since theres not a lot of TV or monitors with that available in developing nations where this device would be actually useful. I'd say (taking numbers our of my ass) that the share of conventional ctr/hdmi TVs is 60/40. BUT, it does have composite video out.

              So - I'm just stating my personal opinion of the device. I could never foresee any desire to connect it to a TV and use it as a desktop. I could see a HUGE opportunity for a tiny, $25, "full" Linux machine (none of this flakey uCLinux crap), in an embedded space.

              Try plug computers/servers from sheeva and marvell, they have more grunt and additional things like WIFI and BT, even homeautomation interfaces.

              After reading bits of www.raspberrypi.org I found that the focus is in education

            • by Nikker ( 749551 )
              I don't know what your bitching about but for $25 and a USB wifi dongle you can run XBMC off this nicely (I can attest as I run it off my lower spec iPhone 3GS) and use a remote control app to use it. Maybe get a hub and connect your wifi as well as a Bluetooth adapter for a keyboard /mouse. I find it hard to believe there are this many nay-Sayers on this forum about a really cheap and fairly robust piece of hardware we all have the specs to.
              • "Been there, done that".

                I had a Ubuntu MythTV in my livingroom, hooked up to my big plasma, with a wireless keyboard and mouse.
                I had a Windows Media Center PC hooked up the same way.
                I had Java apps running on my Tivo box on my living room TV
                I had JavaScript and Flash running on my TV on my Wii

                None of them were really good for anything. Give me a tablet, iPhone, or laptop - yea, that's what everyone uses.

                It would make a good "thin client" maybe - alright, I laughed too when I typed it. We all know ho

                • by adolf ( 21054 )

                  I think the "some reason" is that often a lot of time and energy is expended in the hobbyist world just trying to get some manner of character display from an inexpensive standalone device -- let alone something capable of displaying graphics.

                  This widget speaks HDMI and (by extension) it also speaks DVI. And that means that of the standalone 7 LCD monitors in my own house (including "televisions"), it works with all of them.

                  It's $25 (or $35 for one with Ethernet, more RAM, and another USB port), and uses 1

    • by jcombel ( 1557059 ) on Friday July 29, 2011 @12:12PM (#36922460)

      FTA, there's a rad $35 model in development that will have more RAM by a hair, an extra USB, and ethernet. will probably get a few myself.

    • by repetty ( 260322 )

      I'd much rather trade the HDMI for some sort of Etherne...

      From the designer:

      Key differences between the alpha and final boards are:

      * The alpha board is roughly 20% larger than the credit-card-sized final board. As you can see, our size is already dominated by the area of the various connectors.

      * The alpha board has six layers rather than four, and uses a variety of expensive HDI features (blind and buried vias, via-in-pad) which we wish to eliminate from the final board.

      * The alpha board has various test and debug features which will not be present on the final bo

      • by Hatta ( 162192 )

        One thing I don't see is where the power comes from. Is there power available over HDMI? Or is there another port for a wall wart?

    • Sounds like that would move it away from the intended market, which is "Plug-and-Play" "Just Works" style uses.

      I always imagined this as a future replacement for the OLPC except for the requirement of an HDMI-compatible video display. I think perhaps a coax RF connector would be more useful for a majority of the undeveloped world.

    • I see something like this as much less of a "game console", and much more of a device I'd glue to my alarm system, and to my sprinkler system, and to my thermostat, and to my garage door opener, etc..etc...etc...

      Try this: http://www.arduino.cc/en/Main/ArduinoBoardEthernet [arduino.cc]

      I got mine hooked up to the home router and I can control the stuff connected to it via my mobile phone's web browser (from anywhere on Earth!)

    • From the article:

      a USB 2.0 hub and 10/100 Ethernet controller are present on the board

      No need to choose.

  • I'm confused-- how is this a USB stick if it plugs into an HDMI port? Wouldn't that make it an HDMI stick? Inclusion of a USB port does not make it a USB stick.
    • Likely it means the form factor is of a USB stick. I would imagine it needs at least an HDMI port, a USB port, and some sort of power input.
  • With a price point of around $25 I can waste some money and probably come up with some interesting uses even if I break a few.
    • by Hatta ( 162192 )

      Indeed. This will be pretty neat to tinker with at hotels.

    • I'm excited, when I first heard of this I started to look for ideas of what I can do to use it. USB Bluetooth radio and WiFi Dongle, plug it into the HDMI input in the TV built into my fridge and have a nice terminal that can query my recipe database! From the size I do have enough room in the door, and to my surprise the built in TV did have HDMI input.

  • than the HDMI-> VGA adapter I'll need to use it with a cheap display. I guess you have to pick a single port when you're going cheap, but DVI would have been a lot nicer.
    • by rthille ( 8526 )

      Likely, an HDMI port sporting TV will be cheaper than a "monitor" for a given size. The trouble is finding one small enough to be cheaper than the small monitor you were thinking of...

      BTW, does it seem funny that the HDTV this thing plugs into probably runs linux or a similar os, and probably has more compute power as well?

      • by m50d ( 797211 )
        In terms of physical dimensions, sure, but I doubt it for resolution. I picked up a 1440x900 monitor for $30 three years ago, even a 1280x720 TV would cost a hell of a lot more.
        • by rthille ( 8526 )

          After a bit of searching (as opposed to talking out of my ass), suggestion withdrawn :-)

  • and I guess that means 'on the desktop (or bedroom TV)' too.

    Now if someone can come up with a set of teaching aids, or lessons that show a teacher what to do with this device, demonstrating computing principles as it goes, then there's really no reason not to buy one of these for every schoolkid in the world.

    I might have to buy some ARM stock if governments collectively place an order for a few billion of these :)

  • by Grizzley9 ( 1407005 ) on Friday July 29, 2011 @12:36PM (#36922850)
    No screen so you attach it to HDMI port. No input device unless you attach it via USB. No internet unless you attach it via USB, no storage unless you attach it via USB, you also have to connect the power cord (can it even run off battery pack?), etc, etc.

    Remind me again why this isn't just something to be used as a garage door opener or sprinkler timer? Sure it's only $25, and would be fun for hobbyists, but by the time you add all the rest of the needs for basic programming and interaction I don't see it fulfilling their grand vision of a "computer" in ever students hand. It's only slightly more useful than the Linux liveCD that runs off a USB flash drive. It also stretches the definition of "computer" if you have to add all those things to make it useful. Seems an old pentium or x386 would be more useful in their current state and cheaper as well (free). I'm not discrediting the whole idea but I think their grandiose vision is a bit off.
    • I'm pretty sure it's powered from the HDMI port, and I think anyone who intends to use this probably has, or can get, a cheap(probably free) USB keyboard/mouse setup. I see these in the trash and on Craigslist for free all the time.

      As far as the internet, it's a bit troublesome that I don't have a USB wifi adapter, but I'm sure I can grab one for $20 @ some big box store, bringing my total 'working computer with net' cost to about $50.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Isn't that the case with all computers - you attach peripherals? I can't buy a basic box that will run Ubuntu for $25, and even if I could, it is the small form factor that makes this desirable. Like a plug computer but much cheaper and with a display option by design. I'd be interested in seeing how versatile it is once a final product comes about. Cheap NAS controller with USB disk(s)? I've already got an embedded NAS box for about that price, and with SnakeOS on it, with transmission and a USB stick, it'

    • Also, regarding storage: "Storage is catered for by an SD card slot." from the original release article.

    • The main intended use is for classrooms.

      The keyboard and screen would be permanently in the room, and each student brings it's own computer. Using this approach, students can have complete control over the computer (i.e. root access). Agreed, you could achieve similar results with a bootable USB stick, and permanent computers in the classroom, but with this approach students can plug the computers to the TV at home, even if they don't have access to a real computer (they still need to buy a keyboard, but th

      • Ethernet port? Wonder if it could take power from that?
        Heck, once wired up the local keyboard becomes pretty redundant.

        • by Toonol ( 1057698 )
          I'm also thinking you could plug in a cheapo little bluetooth adapter, and connect a wiimote to it. That would be sufficient controls for web-browsing, emulators, media playing from the couch.
          • You sir/madam are a chuffin' genius.
            One could then have an "Internet enabled" TV that was stuck with the OEM's walled garden or lacklustre codec support.

            • by adolf ( 21054 )

              Maybe. Does it have hardware support for video decoding? (And just as importantly: Are there drivers for this?)

              The only way we're able to get away with playing MPEG4-ish video on cheap, low-powered portable devices these days is because of the amount of work being done in specialized hardware instead of with software.

              If all the Pi provides is a glorified framebuffer, I'm strongly inclined to say that it's not going to be a very fun video player.

    • It's low power vs 200-350 watts for a used 386 or pentium, the screen and keyboard are meant to be left at the station(at the school maybe) and shared by who ever is using it. and yes it will need at least a few gigs of flash. Try fitting a XO in your pocket.
    • Add an ADC, an DAC and a few binnary I/O ports and you can have an alarm/garage controler, but to have a PC like we define it now, you'll only need to add networking.

      I think calling it a PC streches a little less the definitions.

    • by adolf ( 21054 )

      For $25, it'd make a damned fun sprinkler timer. Just saying.

      It's also bound to be far more miserly of power than an old Pentium, and more efficient (in terms of Joules per unit of work) than a normal 386.

      Besides: Who needs local storage if you've got network connectivity?

      • I don't think it can handle the cycles to perform the sprinkler function. Don't think it can do the math to prove or disprove your second statement. Don't think it has enough storage to maintain your third.

        *snort snort*

    • by Nyder ( 754090 )

      ...Seems an old pentium or x386 would be more useful in their current state and cheaper as well (free). I'm not discrediting the whole idea but I think their grandiose vision is a bit off.

      Is your old pentium and 386 small enough for fit in your hand? How small of a power supply you going to use for the 386?

      Oh, wait. We have an item here, thats more powerful, very small and can connect to modern things.

      While I'm sure you can't think of anything useful (which was apparent by your post), a lot of us can see the potential in this item.

    • A pentium or an x386? It'd be nearly useless for much of anything written today, I don't see many packages below i686, and I don't see any below i486. Not to mention clock speeds would be abysmally low on an old pentium, somewhere in the neighborhood of 100MHz. These things run at 700MHz and draw an unbelievable low amount of power compared to an old computer.

  • I'll call it a PC when it is complete and turnkey.
    • I wonder if the chassis has enough stability to turn a door locking mechanism..... Hmm.. Better go patent that one. See ya! :>

  • "...this alpha board is expected to be almost the same...we don’t know a release date as of yet..."

    Yeah yeah, pull the other one.. My doubts will disappear when I seen the thing on the shelf, and at 25 dollars

    • For the purpose of demonstrating the power of the new Pi, they used one to hack every box on the Internet that has any record of it and its price, and divided the price by 1000.

      Now THAT'S a sales maneuver that's worth its price in puddin' and Pi.

      No laughs? Fine. I'm gonna use my Pi to brute force everyone's wifi. I'll show you all!!!

  • 10 PRINT "Most useful device ever!"
    20 GOTO EpicFail

  • Do students nowadays all have a HD television with an HDMI port?

    • I don't buy things until it's almost completely necessary; I bought a 46" HD flat with minimal specs for $400 a few weeks ago and it's excellent compared to what I'm used to. I'm not a student (I'm 31), so my demand is way below what it used to be, let alone the overall demand ratio of today's young.

      With parents, status symbolism, $%#! length sustenance, nownownow needs... I'd say yeah. Most do :)

      Wait, I said 'most'. I guess my answer to your question of "all" is no.

      Now let's do a study on how many stude

    • No, but most of them can pick up an old analogue TV for free at the refuse tip (at least in the UK). Eben Upton Director, Raspberry Pi Foundation
      • Hi, I was looking at my desktop behemoth here and I was thinking what if instead of the motherboard you have your Rasperry Pi board, and instead of the power supply a DC brick and instead of the cd-rom drive the sd card slot... I'm imagining included in this tiny tower would be the usb hub components with wi-fi and blue tooth adapters so that you could just have this little tower that just had an hdmi and power plug coming out of it... I wonder how small this tower could be?
    • by aeiah ( 937509 )
      i suspect a lot do, but really, i can see them making an adaptor available. if not, it should be easy to make. hdmi is just dvi with a few extras, so you could make a hdmi to dvi+5v power adaptor without much hassle.
  • by Ant P. ( 974313 )

    Couldn't they make it cheaper by not paying the HDMI Tax?

  • I realise this is as close to "hit the bits" as most people want to get, but there is no mention of non volatile storage on board, ie SD card or similar. I have some wicked ideas and want one, but without storage its going to be a bit limited or some cludgy work round hacks.

    If it has got non volatile, user modifiable storage on it (ie no flashing involved) id buy a dozen of these things!

  • the coin in the picture makes no sense for me, however i got the feeling of size by USB connectors :)

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