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Education Hardware

Raspberry Pi Reviewed, With an Initial Setup Guide 188

jjslash writes "It has been six years in the making, with the original goal of the project intending to reignite computer programming in schools across the country. Despite those honorable intentions, the $35 ARM-based credit-card sized computer has captured the imagination of programmers, consumers and tinkerers alike, resulting in unprecedented demand for the product. Last month the first 10,000 credit-card sized computers were set to make their way to those who pre-ordered them back in February. TechSpot takes a look at the Pi Model B, covering the basic steps for setting up the computer, as well as basic post-installation tasks those first using it might encounter."
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Raspberry Pi Reviewed, With an Initial Setup Guide

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  • Interesting (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 04, 2012 @10:43PM (#39898673)

    Now you can buy an entire computer for less than a license for the Windows operating system.

  • Alternatives? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 04, 2012 @11:12PM (#39898819)
    Just out of curiosity, what functional (as opposed to ideological) alternatives to the Raspberry Pi are there in this price bracket?
  • by Jah-Wren Ryel ( 80510 ) on Friday May 04, 2012 @11:35PM (#39898915)

    Screw the children. The raspberry sounds like a near perfect platform for a freedom box. [] Imagine your own personal "facebook" server that knows how to find the personal servers of all your friends without actually relying on the "man in the middle attack" that is facebook itself.

  • Re:Alternatives? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Alwin Henseler ( 640539 ) on Saturday May 05, 2012 @12:26AM (#39899115)

    Just out of curiosity, what functional (as opposed to ideological) alternatives to the Raspberry Pi are there in this price bracket?

    None, I think. Only less functional (say, 8-bit microcontroller kit / Arduino stuff?), more expensive ones (like Beagleboard), or used / bulky / second hand gear.

    Personally I like the Raspberry Pi a lot for its combination of cheap, small, brand new, and open-friendly. Biggest minus IMHO is that it's not 100% open due to lacking chipset documentation/drivers. Which limits what OS'es you can run or develop on it. Had such documentation been complete, this would be a perfect dev board for alternative OS experiments.

  • I was too (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ArchieBunker ( 132337 ) on Saturday May 05, 2012 @12:49AM (#39899197) Homepage

    Then by accident I found the rtl-sdr software radio project. Long story short is that a $20 USB dongle designed for receiving digital TV can also be used as a wideband receiver from 64Mhz to over 1.6GHz. Yes it works on Linux too.

  • Disappointed... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by wet-socks ( 635030 ) on Saturday May 05, 2012 @03:04AM (#39899735)

    Well mine arrived yesterday. First impressions:

    Build quality is a bit iffy - the SD / HDMI and power connectors won't last 5 minutes with frequent swapping and some of the solder joints look to have been "reworked".

    Connected keyboard/mouse and HDMI monitor put the Fedora image on an SD card and powered her up.... Kernel panic :( Futzed around for a while and finally found that it didn't like the keyboard I was using (generic cheepie).

    Connected the network and removed the keyboard and mouse. Eventually booted to a login prompt on the display. SSH in and all looked good.

    Decided to try Debian. That had the same problem with the keyboard as Fedora. Found another keyboard (ancient Fujitsu Siemens one) that it didn't object to and got into the GUI. Biggest problem here was the resolution was some strange one (1896x788 or something) which looked awful on a 1920x1080 screen, but at least I was able to fire up the browser and "surf the web".

    Back to Fedora... Tried to get into the GUI again with the working keyboard but startx crashed the first time and just came up with a blank screen the second.

    Reflashed the image and had an awful row with the password settings. By luck I'd set a local timeserver when I'd first logged in by SSH (no, I don't give extarnal access to every device on the network so the default timeservers weren't accessible). This meant the passwords were set with a valid date. Second time around the "firstboot" script ran, setting up users but without the time being set, so the passwords were flagged as expired and had to be changed on every login - very annoying.

    Finally got into the Fedora GUI but it was slooooooow.

    Overall, yes it works. Some effort is needed on the default images if it's to be used by the great unwashed. Need to play with the GPIO as that's where my interest is...

  • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Saturday May 05, 2012 @04:11AM (#39900003) Journal
    I believe the Freedom Box is meant to run things like a dynamic DNS client and XMPP / mail server, so you can, for example, already use it to communicate with anyone with a mail client or chat with anyone using XMMP (including Google Talk). That just leaves the more advanced features, but once you're using them there's more incentive for other people that you communicate with to start.
  • Re:I don't get it (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Spliffster ( 755587 ) on Saturday May 05, 2012 @04:31AM (#39900103) Homepage Journal

    Some people think Desktop with shiny windows if they hear the word computer.

    The Pi has (for example) GPIO ports along with SPI, I2C, UART and more. If this is not enough, or you don't want to design your own PCB you might add a gert board [] and you get motor drivers without any knowledge of electronics. Now you have a robotics platform. Since it is running Linux one has a plethora of programming languages at hand to do something useful with these features (for example robotics).

    Or you may just want to build an appliance which can be controlled via http, IR whatever (media center any one?).

    Of course, it can also be used as very cheap desktop or server of some sort. But for people with an imagination beyond the Desktop this little computer is a big deal.

    2 millions ordered in that short time without millions of marketing budget tells me that some people might have a vision beyond the Desktop. And that for only $35.


  • by Jah-Wren Ryel ( 80510 ) on Saturday May 05, 2012 @04:43AM (#39900139)

    the advantage of Facebook is that random family & friends are likely to have an account, while you don't know a single person who has a freedom box.

    Network effect. And for those who don't want an actual freedombox, let them run an instance in the cloud, it is still better than facebook's model of centralization for corporate stalking purposes. Amazon has tiers that are essentially free for personal use as long as you stay under cputime/diskspace/bandwidth limits.

  • Re:Interesting (Score:5, Interesting)

    by realityimpaired ( 1668397 ) on Saturday May 05, 2012 @06:38AM (#39900483)

    1: Some modern distros require 768 MB RAM or more, and almost all of them are 256 MB+, while XP Home Edition is 64 MB required, 128 MB recommended.
    Much of this bloat is in the kernel, which even if built fully modular now has so many hooks and semi-optionals that you can't run a normal distro on minimal hardware.

    You'd be wrong on that point. My system boots up to 80MB of RAM used (full graphical desktop, with several applications open in the tray, using a 3.0 kernel. There is a newer kernel available in the distro, but I don't see the point in upgrading yet, as there's no new support for my hardware), and even now, with Chromium open and a dozen tabs, it's peaking at 236MB of memory actually used. If I was actually trying to pare down the memory usage, this particular distro (which is quite modern) can boot up to less than 40MB of memory in use, simply by disabling CUPS at startup, using a lighter weight browser, and getting rid of a few of the widgets in e17. The minimum spec for this distro is 128MB of memory recommended (but it'll install in 64MB if you don't mind having a swap partition), and a 300MHz processor.

    It's not the kernel that uses so much memory in mainstream distros, it's the desktop environment. KDE in particular is a beast, but Gnome3 isn't that great, either.

    Also, Windows XP recommends 64MB minimum memory in the same way that Vista recommended 1GB minimum memory: It'll run, but if you're planning on doing more than one thing at a time, you'd better hope most of them are editing a text file in notepad.

    2: The good old problem with hardware support. All old desktops will have XP drivers, but the same can't be said for Linux drivers. (And when they do, depending on the hardware and type, they sometimes won't work as just generic .ko modules, but need special hooks in the kernel, see #1) You have to do your homework to know you get hardware you can fully use under Linux.

    That's weird. It's weird because every old computer I've tried installing on, including an ancient Dell laptop (a Latitude LS from ~1999) as recently as yesterday, everything "just worked". No need to install graphics drivers, audio drivers, special hooks, or anything. Even the Prism2-based PCMCIA wireless card worked out of the box. And e17 absolutely flies, even with full screen OpenGL compositing enabled, on the 800MHz P-III with 256MB of RAM.

    I still haven't had a single machine where everything Just Worked, and I've lost count of how many dozen Linux installations I've done over the years. The closest I have gotten is the current "Dell Optiplex n" machine at work, but even there, the front panel audio detection doesn't work. You'd think that their "n" line which is sold with no OS (ok, with FreeDOS) would have full hardware/driver support in non-Windows, but this doesn't seem to be the case. I suspect they really sell them for a market of pirates that run illegal copies of Windows, plus a few MS Select customers who do their own licensing.

    And yet, here I am typing this on a Vostro v130n, which came with Ubuntu LTS preinstalled, where again, everything "just works". It's been a *very* long time since I've had to fiddle with drivers on a Linux installation, and it's almost always because I want better performance out of a video card.

    Of course, all of this is missing an extremely important point, which is that the OP was talking about *new* computers, not something you got 2nd hand from a thrift store. I plan to buy one of these myself, once I see some reviews of XBMC decoding performance. I can power it from the USB plug on my TV, and connect it by HDMI to the TV. Plug it in to the ethernet then point it at my network fileserver, and it's a perfect silent HTPC.

"Hey Ivan, check your six." -- Sidewinder missile jacket patch, showing a Sidewinder driving up the tail of a Russian Su-27