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Education Hardware

Why the Raspberry Pi Zero Isn't a Practical Tool For Teaching Students (hackaday.com) 190

An anonymous reader writes: This article criticizes the Raspberry PI Foundation's new computer the Zero. It points out that the Foundation says the purpose of the new Pi is to reach students but with all the needed equipment and experience it is ill suited for students. From the Hackaday story: "For development you need to set up the Zero with a power supply, mini-HDMI to HDMI adapter, HDMI cable, the USB OTG cable, USB hub, a keyboard, and possibly a mouse. After some hours of work you’re ready to try the software in your device. The cables are all disconnected and the board connected to the device. Tests are run. You pull the Zero out and plug everything back together for further software work. That’s going to get old really fast so you get a second Zero so one can stay in the device. Now all you need to do is swap the SD card. If you’re going to do that, you don’t need a second Zero since you can use a Pi 2 and get the advantages of its higher speed in development. Alternatively, you can use the USB OTG with a WiFi dongle, copy files to the Zero’s SD, and restart or reboot the device. Over WiFi you can also use SSH or a remote console to monitor the device’s activities. How long did it take you to figure out all the cable connections in the second paragraph above? Do you think a student without a hacker friend will understand that? Remember, the goal is to reach students who don’t know computers."
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Why the Raspberry Pi Zero Isn't a Practical Tool For Teaching Students

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  • How long did it take you to figure out all the cable connections in the second paragraph above?

    There was only one paragraph. Thank you, samzenpus. I was worried that the old failure machine was itself not doing well, due to the collection of surprisingly coherent and minimally-biased articles that have been on the front page lately.

    • by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Wednesday December 02, 2015 @02:56PM (#51043701) Homepage

      You do understand the section is a direct quote from TFA (the quotation marks are a dead giveaway, as is the part which says "From the Hackaday story") and that in the TFA there are paragraphs, right?

      I don't normally defend the editors around here, but posting a submission written by some anonymous guy and quoting directly from the article ... your kvetching about the use of the word paragraph is kind of meaningless here.

      • by damn_registrars ( 1103043 ) <damn.registrars@gmail.com> on Wednesday December 02, 2015 @03:25PM (#51043907) Homepage Journal

        your kvetching about the use of the word paragraph is kind of meaningless here.

        Two things.

        First, he didn't need to paste that sentence, it had no value at all. Samzenpus could have failed a little less by doing a little ... oh, what's the word ... starts with "e" ... eat? No, edit! Yeah, that thing that editors do! He could have chosen to edit the summary before pasting it. I know that is a foreign concept for slashdot employees, who are too busy looking for future jobs to do the jobs they currently have.

        Second, as others have pointed out, if he posted multiple paragraphs the breaks would have been lost by the craptacular code that runs this site. This is a problem that has existed here for over a decade now...

        • Or he could have inserted the br / tag in b/w, so that the paragraph breaks were obvious
        • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
          No, they like direct copy-paste without a summary. I submitted a story, it was rejected. Someone obviously liked it, because someone else re-submitted the same story, but with the summary being the first three paragraphs copy-pasted from the story, rather than a more complete summary of the story, complete with 3rd party links.
          • The slashdot "editors" have been phoning it in that way for some time now. The probability of a submitted story being accepted is so maddeningly difficult to forecast as to not even be worth the effort; just submit and forget it. I've had the same exact thing happen to me where I submit a story and a day (or more) later someone else submits it and it makes the front page in less than an hour. Not worth spending extra time dwelling over.
    • by Geoffrey.landis ( 926948 ) on Wednesday December 02, 2015 @02:58PM (#51043713) Homepage

      How long did it take you to figure out all the cable connections in the second paragraph above?

      There was only one paragraph.

      Slashdot's formatting protocol strips out the paragraph breaks in article submissions.

      • Slashdot's formatting protocol strips out the paragraph breaks in article submissions.

        Even if you use <p> tags to set off paragraph elements?

      • Slashdot's formatting protocol strips out the paragraph breaks in article submissions.

        And Slashdot's "editors" are free to put them back, or indeed "edit" the submission in any way they see fit before it hits the front page... or after. That includes both line breaks and paragraphs, which we often see on the front page. Of course, that requires that they "work" and that would be "unlikely"

  • $5 computer (Score:5, Insightful)

    by byteherder ( 722785 ) on Wednesday December 02, 2015 @02:54PM (#51043685)
    I was thinking that the power supply, mini-HDMI to HDMI adapter, HDMI cable, the USB OTG cable, USB hub, keyboard, and mouse are going to cost more than the $5 Raspberry PI Zero computer you are hooking it to.
    • Re:$5 computer (Score:5, Informative)

      by jandrese ( 485 ) <kensama@vt.edu> on Wednesday December 02, 2015 @03:00PM (#51043735) Homepage Journal
      It depends what kind of person you are. If you are starting from zero, then yes, all of those accessories are going to add up to more than $5. However, that's not really the target market for the Pi Zero. The Pi Zero user is someone comfortable with soldering on headers they need and already has a USB power brick (probably from an old phone/tablet/etc...), USB cables, the correct HDMI cables, and even a spare USB keyboard and micro-SD card. Or maybe they have to buy the HDMI cable but the have everything else already. That's the kind of person the Pi Zero is best for. People in the former group are probably better served by "full size" RPis or other similar SBCs.
      • I was looking at the shelves in my office on how many of the accessories that I had laying around. I had everything except the mini-HDMI to HDMI adapter. They could have put a full HDMI adapter on it, couldn't they?
        • Re:$5 computer (Score:5, Interesting)

          by jandrese ( 485 ) <kensama@vt.edu> on Wednesday December 02, 2015 @03:30PM (#51043965) Homepage Journal
          Probably, but it would have been the tallest connector on the device. Once of the features of the Pi Zero is that you can stick it in exceptionally narrow spaces. The whole thing is only 5mm tall. A full size HDMI port is 5mm for the jack alone, not counting the board beneath it.
        • I already have a mini-HDMI to HDMI cable. It allowed the HTC Evo phone to plug into a TV directly without needing a 2-part (adapter/cable) solution.

          What I don't have laying about is a micro USB-to-USB adapter that I could use to jack in a keyboard or network connection (I often use the Pi via SSH). Other than that, I'm good.

    • by goombah99 ( 560566 ) on Wednesday December 02, 2015 @03:03PM (#51043755)

      The value of a $5 computer is embedded project development. Now a class in tinkering can have dozens of ongoing unfinished multi day experiments and in debugged projects ongoing. No need to tear apart a rig for another class to use a more expensive and bulky raspberry pi. Your smart doorbell or pet door cat recognition system can stay wired up unfinished for weeks. You don't need high value projects to justify using the board. It's small so dozens can fit in a box. A school can afford to let students take home their projects.

      One thing that bugs me about the pi is the lack of analog IO. Why does this seem to be consistently omitted. It limits the use as a sensor.

      • by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Wednesday December 02, 2015 @03:48PM (#51044071)

        The value of a $5 computer is embedded project development.

        Indeed. The Raspberry Pi is not very good for teaching general programming. A "real" computer is better for that. But it is great for teaching kids how to do hardware and embedded system hackery. I volunteer in an after-school robotics program, and we use Raspberry Pis to blink LEDs, and create intelligent sensors that can be interfaced to Lego Mindstorms. Right now, we are using the $35 devices, but if we can get them for $5, then each kid can have their own, we don't have to worry too much about them getting fried, and the kids can build permanent dedicated devices, rather than taking them apart to recycle for the next project.

        • I use them to show bare metal (no OS) programming. It's very difficult to demo on a modern x86 based system with no OS. However, if you can get them to squint and ignore the linker script setup, demonstrating on a pi is amazing. I'm actually very surprised there are no educational books for this topic using the pi. The AVR used to be my go-to, but it uses registers for I/O instead of memory mapped I/O.

          As a general computing platform for teaching its almost useless. When's the last time you met someone th
          • Re:Bare metal (Score:4, Insightful)

            by JoeMerchant ( 803320 ) on Wednesday December 02, 2015 @05:51PM (#51044817)

            I wouldn't call it useless - most people who aspire to learn computer programming at least have a TV (aka HDMI input monitor), if you're willing to scrounge a little, most people will give away old keyboards and mice.

            I do think the network connection is essential for a proper learning device and am surprised that the zero lacks a proper one. Sure, you can connect a $10 USB hub and $15 WiPi to your $5 Pi Zero (lest we forget, with a $10 miniSD card in it) and then you just need to either transport this pile of hackery to an internet cafe or pay $50 per month for internet connectivity for your "$5" computer...

            What the Pi is is expendable - you're not going to "mess up" mom or dad's pc by messing around on your Pi. If the Pi Zero continues at $5 a pop, you can play around with various configurations and keep them all available in parallel. You can also dabble with a soldering iron and not sweat it - back in 1984 when I took a soldering iron to my Atari 800 (which cost approximately 400 hours of washing dishes to acquire ~= one year at my part time job), lots of people thought I had huge brass ones. Today, a Pi costs approximately 20 minutes of minimum wage labor in many cities, hardware hacking is no longer something to worry about - if you don't like the way the solder flowed on one board, you can just get another and try again - show off the one that came out the best and keep the others to recycle into new hacking projects.

        • The Raspberry Pi is not very good for teaching general programming. A "real" computer is better for that.

          Not necessarily. An SD card image with Linux (ex Raspbian) can be downloaded and burned using the computer. There are ample instructions getting a beginner from download to a remote console running on the Pi. A *nix console is a great place to learn programming. From the absolutely critical fundamentals like data structures to more advanced topics such as threading and interprocess communications. Yeah, no GUI but to be honest if you don't understand the critical fundamentals you aren't that useful as a pro

          • I agree that remote access to a Pi is a great thing - I VNC into my Pis more often than I connect monitors and keyboards - so I've got a X desktop to work with.

            I do admit that the Pi is probably easier to program from a console with vi or a similar editor than using sluggish graphical environments, but it all depends on what you're trying to do - if your application is suited to a command line interface, then definitely stay there, but if you want to display images... it's probably worth the patience to dea

        • by JoeMerchant ( 803320 ) on Wednesday December 02, 2015 @05:36PM (#51044723)

          The persistence of the I/O header strikes me as a central feature of "Pi-ness". The makers consistently refer back to personal computers from the 1980s and 90s as their inspiration, that they want to do that but cheaper - but they also have this I/O header as a central recurring feature. I hacked the board connector pins in my Atari 800 to mount an internal amplifier and speaker that carried the TV sound, but it was in no way "friendly" to such hacking - same goes for the Apple II and Commodore 64. Not only is the Pi two orders of magnitude more affordable than those 8 bit computers and three orders of magnitude more powerful, it is infinitely friendlier to digital I/O hacking. Earlier posters lamented the lack of analog I/O, which I think is what the hats/shields are for - though more SPI or I2C ports on the header wouldn't be a bad thing...

          I am disappointed by the lack of ethernet in the Pi Zero, but understand how some applications may not need it. I'm hoping there's another low cost variant in the future that's POE powered, perhaps stripped of all other basic I/O besides the ethernet, SD card slot, and ubiquitous header. HDMI and USB could be added when needed via a daughter card.

      • At $5, a Pi Zero also becomes an alternative to an Arduino in cases where you could use a more powerful system running a real OS. I'm working on a custom home automation system, and I'm revising my design to replace a number of arduinos with Pi Zeros.

        Of course, that's not an education application, which is what they're nominally aimed at. But, still, they're tiny, cheap and (relatively) powerful. What's not to like?

      • One thing that bugs me about the pi is the lack of analog IO. Why does this seem to be consistently omitted. It limits the use as a sensor.

        There's not a lot of call for ADC in your phone, outside of the obvious places. The sensors inside are all going to have digital interfaces, so the cellphone SoCs don't need any non-audio-related ADC except what's buried in the radio. The Pi's use of a common SoC meant that it had to take what was given, and they chose not to add ADC to the board to keep cost and complexity down. You can get 4-channel 16-bit ADC o a breakout for under five bucks, so if you actually need it (because you can't find a sensor t

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        Analogue I/O isn't built into the SoC (Well, except for some internal stuff) so would have cost extra to add to the board.

    • Unless you're building a cluster from those rpis.
    • It's not a desktop PC. Most rPi projects don't require any of those things. If you're not familiar with the concept, think of the computer that runs your car - it (or they) controls fuel / air mixture, transmission gearing, etc. You'll notice it has no monitor, keyboard, mouse, etc. (The infotainment one may have a display.)

      A typical application might be an autopilot in a model airplane. You attach a digital gyroscope and compass, maybe a tiny GPS module. You don't have a monitor and keyboard on your mode

      • A typical application might be an autopilot in a model airplane. You attach a digital gyroscope and compass, maybe a tiny GPS module.

        And just to ram this point home, the gyroscope/compass is going to communicate via I2C and the GPS via serial, uBlox NEO-7M for example will be perfectly happy with the Pi's 3.3 volt signals. So you'll just need to solder to six pins on Pi to connect this hardware, and you won't go anywhere near the USB ports. If your ESC[s] have linear BEC and put out enough power to drive Pi and all your servos, you won't even need a buck converter. My plane has 3A BEC, but it's switching and it's too noisy for this purpo

    • For students this is often not a problem. Use the devices in a school lab. I think they are confusing students at a school with hobbyists at home, where the needs are different. For example, the use of highly expensive oscilloscopes are extremely useful for physics and electrical engineering students, but may be out of the budget for a home hobbyist.

      So, Raspberry Pi is just fine for many students, inappropriate for others. Going to a completely dumbed down all-in-one hobby kit also dumbs down the learni

    • by jrumney ( 197329 )
      Yes, the resellers are currently out of stock of $5 bare PCBs but are selling bundled kits ranging from $10 (with adapters and cables but no power supply, mouse or keyboard) to $60 with all the above and some breakout boards to make the IO pins easier to access individually.
  • tl:dr (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 02, 2015 @02:57PM (#51043709)

    tl:dr - "thinkin's too hard"

  • Oh just stop it (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 02, 2015 @02:58PM (#51043711)

    Stop pretending everything is about "reaching students" or "education" or "democratization" or "encouraging people to get into STEM".

    We are SURROUNDED BY AN OCEAN of electronics, computers have been in the home for decades, everyone has a phone these days.

    Just say you have a hobby. Jesus fuck already.

    • by tepples ( 727027 ) <tepples@nosPaM.gmail.com> on Wednesday December 02, 2015 @03:28PM (#51043935) Homepage Journal

      everyone has a phone these days.

      A user-programmable one? Flip phones aren't user-programmable, and iPhones aren't very much so either. Even a brand-new iPad Pro can't run Xcode [arstechnica.com].

      It's about preserving the economies of scale of programming as a hobby. As mobile devices continue to encroach on the PC's turf for more and more applications, students are more likely to end up with access only to locked-down devices [slashdot.org], such as game consoles, iPhones, and iPads. A cheap computer such as the Raspberry Pi is commonly touted as a workaround in comments like this [slashdot.org] and this [slashdot.org].

      • Even a brand-new iPad Pro can't run Xcode

        "My brand new car can't fly unless I drive it off a cliff... and then it crashes!"

      • You can get perfectly good PC setups second hand for under $100. In form of a desktop or laptop.
        There are also many miniature computers that sell for under $50 in dongle or stick formats.
        What we might have considered programming in the old days is considered application use these days, such as writing formulas in a spreadsheet.
        Programming as a hobby, is best done on an i or android device, so that the app can be made av available and even make some money.
        Programminbg on pi seems about as useful and interes

        • Programming as a hobby, is best done on an i or android device, so that the app can be made av available and even make some money.

          Agreed for Android. I never said Android was locked down, only iOS. As of today, the peripherals to make an iOS device programmable cost $549: $499 for the Xcode license (which includes a free computer [apple.com]) and about $50 for a USB keyboard, USB mouse, and cable to your existing HDMI monitor. Parents and especially school districts are unlikely to be willing to spend that kind of money on a whim.

          If I wanted to set up a kid for programming (mine are too young), I'd get them an old laptop to play with.

          That could be fine for home, as I've seen off-lease Lenovo ThinkPad X61 computers on eBay in the neighborhood of $100

    • by bluefoxlucid ( 723572 ) on Wednesday December 02, 2015 @03:33PM (#51043975) Journal

      It's worse than that.

      "This thing can't teach you anything because you won't be able to learn how to use it!"

  • by bunratty ( 545641 ) on Wednesday December 02, 2015 @03:02PM (#51043743)
    I've never understood the hype of the Raspberry Pi because the Pi is only a computer, not a full computer system. After you buy all the other components you need and piece them all together, you've spent way over $25! If you want a cheap, easy to learn computer system, make it a ZX80-type system with everything included but a monitor, then provide a TV connection. It would suck on an old low-definition TV, but on a typical TV these days it could look great.
    • by neilo_1701D ( 2765337 ) on Wednesday December 02, 2015 @03:13PM (#51043827)

      If you want a cheap, easy to learn computer system, make it a ZX80-type system with everything included but a monitor

      The ZX-80 (and -81 and Spectrum) all required a cassette deck, so they were hardly "everything included". In the case of the ZX-80, you also needed to supply your own frozen UHT tetrapack of milk to keep the machine cool enough to keep running with the 4K rampack! Oh yes, the RAMpack... that was extra. A 1K ZX-80 isn't overly useful.

      • by Ichijo ( 607641 )

        The ZX-80 (and -81 and Spectrum) all required a cassette deck

        No, they didn't. I had a T/S 1000 (essentially a ZX-81) and it worked just fine without a cassette deck.

        • Yeah, I bought my Atari 800 without a cassette deck, but with a BASIC language cartridge - it was loads of fun to type programs in from scratch every time you switched the power on. Oh, and when I did get the cassette deck, I found that I could type (short) programs in almost as fast as loading them from cassette (longer programs would get tiring to type that fast continuously), and I was also nearly as accurate: a 1K program had about a 10% chance of having an error during loading, a 1% chance of an un-de

      • A ZX80 was functional without a cassette deck (although you couldn't save your programs to cassette tapes -- no big loss!), completely unlike a Raspberry Pi which is completely unusable out of the box.
    • I think the idea is to pick up a cheap keyboard and mouse at the local Goodwill store. It already has HDMI out to work with your existing HDTV.

    • by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Wednesday December 02, 2015 @03:55PM (#51044113)

      After you buy all the other components you need and piece them all together, you've spent way over $25!

      I volunteer as an instructor for a after-school robotics program. We got all the cables we needed by emailing the parents and asking them to donate unused cables and old monitors. We got way more than we needed. The world has a lot of free junk. Ask and ye shall receive.

    • I've never understood the hype of the Raspberry Pi because the Pi is only a computer, not a full computer system. After you buy all the other components you need and piece them all together, you've spent way over $25!

      No. $5 Pi + $10 USB-wifi adapter. Power adapter, various USB cables, SD-card, probably stuff you have around already from old phones or devices. So what does that give you, a headless Linux box to toss in the closet. One that will use a lot less power than some old repurposed PC.

      The Pi is a pretty convenient and inexpensive way to give Linux a try when you can't or don't want to install Linux on your PC. Not a bad environment to learn *nix programming.

      Now consider that it is easier to add simple hardw

    • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )

      The Pi is for teaching hardware hacking. It's very cheap compared to the usual development boards, and runs a regular OS unlike microcontrollers, so you can do your hardware hacking in Python using a GUI editor and don't have to worry about burning firmware. I've done a fair amount of uC work, but using a Pi is awfully convenient, and great for teaching people.

  • by mwvdlee ( 775178 ) on Wednesday December 02, 2015 @03:03PM (#51043761) Homepage

    This $5 board seems to be something for current Pi users who want to have "throwaway" boards or only require the GPIO for their project.
    The main selling point of these boards is the price. At this price point it becomes more viable as a core component for standalone products.

    • Is it targeted at students, or is it targeted w/ those w/ plenty of accessories but on a budget?
  • by chispito ( 1870390 ) on Wednesday December 02, 2015 @03:08PM (#51043789)
    The editorial makes it sound like there is false advertising saying the RPZ is only $5. All of the models already require:

    HDMI Cable
    Keyboard
    Mouse (if you're in the GUI)
    WiFi adapter OR LAN Cable
    Power Supply
    USB Hub for A/A+/Zero if you need more than one peripheral or interface
    Audio adapter if you want audio on non-Zero models.

    The only additional equipment required for the Zero is a USB OTG adapter, versus the A+. You'll also need to solder on a header if you're using GPIO, but I doubt most students are going to do that. Audio can be soldered in as well, but anyone can tell you the onboard Audio is crap, you're better off with HDMI or a separate adapter.

    Really, this was a misguided editorial. There is hardly anything different with how they're pricing and marketing the Zero versus their other models.
    • Forgot to add: SD card for all models.
    • Grossly misleading articles seems to be Rud Merriam's speciality.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      The CHIP $9 computer is a bit more complete but not shipping yet. You get 4GB storage, wifi and Bluetooth. The only down side is that there is no HDMI connector, you have to add it yourself.

      There are lots of options.

      • The CHIP $9 computer is a bit more complete but not shipping yet.

        FWIW, it's not a $9 computer, and arguably is even less so than the R-Pi is a $5 computer, since some people can walk into a brick and mortar store and get a Pi Zero for five bucks. The CHIP is about $14 shipped. I know, because I've preordered one. I'll order up a Pi Zero when I can get two for that price, or maybe a dollar more. It seems reasonable given their sticker prices.

        • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

          It's interesting that the cost of shipping is now a major factor in considering the cost of buying a fairly powerful computer. It might not be a Core i7 but compared to what I grew up with it's a supercomputer.

  • by creimer ( 824291 ) on Wednesday December 02, 2015 @03:28PM (#51043947) Homepage

    Thatâ(TM)s going to get old really fast so you get a second Zero so one can stay in the device.

    The good old days of floppy disks. Disk 1 contains the OS. Disk 2 contains the application. Disk 3 contains the user data. Switching disks get old really fast so you buy another floppy drive. If you have money to burn, get one of those 5.25" 20MB RLL drives.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Sounds like a load of twaddle written by someone that doesn't know the first thing they're writing about.

    For development you need to set up the Zero with a power supply, mini-HDMI to HDMI adapter, HDMI cable, the USB OTG cable, USB hub, a keyboard, and possibly a mouse. After some hours of work you’re ready to try the software in your device. The cables are all disconnected and the board connected to the device. Tests are run.

    If this is the best argument the "author" can come up with to make the Zero look bad, then surely the same also applies to all previous Raspberry Pis ?
    And what "device" is he imagining students building to plug this into? Take one look at the Pi Foundations website, you can see exactly the type of students (and projects) they're aiming at , blinking LEDs and reading simple sensors.

    This diatribe at best s

  • Cry me a river (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kelemvor4 ( 1980226 ) on Wednesday December 02, 2015 @03:42PM (#51044031)
    Cry me a damn river, Rud. If you don't want a pi zero, don't buy one. I'm betting most people already have all the extra crap laying around they'd need. I know I do.
    What niche does it serve? People who want a $5 pi and have the stuff necessary.
    And guess what, the $35 pi won't work without stuff like a hdmi cable, power supply, and sd card.

    And corrupted SD cards being the Achilles heel for a device that's about software development? Maybe a software developer could write a shutdown script? Perhaps you could add a battery and sensor to the gpio and detect power loss for a clean shutdown? It's a DEVELOPMENT product.

    GOOD GRIEF.
  • by mccalli ( 323026 ) on Wednesday December 02, 2015 @03:46PM (#51044057) Homepage
    Reading it. Yep, thinking of all the junk we had to hook up for the 80s micros that I cut my teeth on. Sounding familiar so far. Let's see, let's install the sideways RAM, refresh the EPROM, hook up to one of the myriad different I/O ports, learn how to open channels to devices on serial ports over BASIC...

    Not suitable for learning? Sounds better for learning.
  • by thermowax ( 179226 ) on Wednesday December 02, 2015 @03:54PM (#51044107)

    From the RPi foundation's mission statement:

    "But we felt that we could try to do something about the situation where computers had become so expensive and arcane that programming experimentation on them had to be forbidden by parents; and to find a platform that, like those old home computers, could boot into a programming environment. "

    The point of the thing is to be a cheap platform for learning programming and principles of Computer Science. They go on to say that the multimedia capabilities were added to make it interesting to kids that weren't interested in a purely programming oriented device. I have to think the GPIO capability is basically for the same reason, although they don't mention it explicitly. I believe the charter was expanded at some point to include third-world students.

    *ALL* the RPis require a power supply, SD card, cables, mouse, keyboard, etc. The only thing the Zero really lacks compared to (some of) the other versions is Ethernet and multiple USB ports. AND ITS $5.

    The fact that the Pis have become attractive to hackers doesn't make your needs paramount. If you're using them for embedded system development and it's such a pain in the ass to move cables around, you have enough money- if you don't already have most of the crap in your closet- to buy two complete setups. (I do, with 2-3 each of the various versions of Pi). It's not that expensive.

    RPis absolutely fulfill their intended purpose, even if the single core models are a little pokey. While pushing things beyond their envelope is admirable and What We Do, you can't really complain if things get a little sketchy outside of expected operational modes.

  • PIC (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dohzer ( 867770 ) on Wednesday December 02, 2015 @04:11PM (#51044215) Homepage

    I'll never forget the class where the teacher handed out a PIC to every student, told them to buy a breadboard, some wires, resistors capacitors, a crystal and a power supply.
    I learnt that even though the development boards we'd been using previously cost hundreds of dollars and were far more powerful than we needed them to be, there were still ways you could build your own micro-controller system on the cheap.

    • I'll never forget the class where the teacher handed out a PIC [..] you could build your own micro-controller system on the cheap.

      How did you flash your programs onto the PICs? That was a big hurdle for micro controller development when I was a penny-less student.

  • by wonkey_monkey ( 2592601 ) on Wednesday December 02, 2015 @04:30PM (#51044337) Homepage

    For development you need to set up the Zero with a power supply, mini-HDMI to HDMI adapter, HDMI cable, the USB OTG cable, USB hub, a keyboard, and possibly a mouse.

    Yes? And? Did you think anyone was going to buy a Raspberry Pi Zero thinking they could plug their kettle lead and PS2 keyboard into it?

    But let's go through the list anyway:

    a power supply

    I've got dozens of the bloody things. Who hasn't these days?

    mini-HDMI to HDMI adapter, HDMI cable

    Or just a mini-HDMI to HDMI cable.

    USB hub, a keyboard, and possibly a mouse.

    Well, if it's only possibly a mouse, then you might not need the USB hub at all, eh?

    And you can get micro-USB-to-USB-A hubs.

    Alternatively, you can use the USB OTG with a WiFi dongle, copy files to the Zero’s SD, and restart or reboot the device. Over WiFi you can also use SSH or a remote console to monitor the device’s activities.

    Well that sounds very easy. Why didn't you just say that in the first place?

    How long did it take you to figure out all the cable connections in the second paragraph above?

    Uh, about 0.68 seconds. Why? Was it supposed to be complicated?

  • I'm amazed at the absolute ignorance of the possibilities that abound with a 5 dollar computer board. The only limit is your creativity. Sure it's only a starting point but it's cheap and you only need to buy the stuff that your project requires. If you need all the crap that's on the 35 dollar pi then hell, buy that one. This a tool for teaching how to use computers for building things, not how to use excel and powerpoint.

    • What project have you made? Why not use the Arduino? The Raspberry Pi is a cheap shitty computer. It's not really suitable for students, it's suitable for nerds who like the price and want something to install XBMC on.

      For students, a $20 Ubuntu or Windows computer (or a practical way to use an Android as a home PC) would be revolutionary. Raspberry Pi isn't a part of the conversation. Raspberry Pi is for people who want a cheap shitty PC.

      • by amiga3D ( 567632 )

        I've got a cheap shitty pc, the raspberry pi isn't really a pc, it's a computer. I can't put the fucking 30 pound pc in a tiny little case and stick it up on a pole outside my house with a small battery and solar panel. I don't know if you're really an idiot or just trolling but seriously don't you think computers are good for anything other than watching pr0n?

  • If you want to drive around in town get a car. Don't buy a lawnmower and extend it into a car-like thing. The thing you build would not be pretty, practical and probably not even, in the end, very cheap. If you want to learn how to build a car - maybe - get a lawnmower...
  • The Rasberry Pi is a basically a complete desktop computer. Even running distros without rendering of a graphical desktop, it has all the internal complexity of Linux. Not a good place to start - Linux is immensely complicated and there are many ways to go wrong if you're just starting out. So you get a desktop PC with the muscle behind a decent desktop PC, like a fast processor, a bunch of ram, and a nice set of I/O ports. Not good if you have access to something better.

    Arduinos, on the other hand, are

  • Biggest downside of the Raspberry Pi zero in my opinion is that you can get a C.H.I.P. board instead at $9 that includes 4GB onboard storage in addition to an SD card slot, open hardware and a onboard battery charger.
  • by adosch ( 1397357 ) on Wednesday December 02, 2015 @05:10PM (#51044585)

    Jeezis F hell, who are you people who write up this shit? I think if plugging in USB/HDMI cables and writing a completely pre-figured, tested OS distro to an SD card is a difficult line of steps, then find a new F hobby and get off the rest of our lawns. What the Raspberry Pi Foundation has dropped in your lap is about THE SIMPLEST FORM OF ABSTRACTED HIGH LEVEL EMBEDDED DEVELOPMENT YOU WILL EVER GET TO WORK WITH. Period.

    I'd honestly hate to see the thought of you doing FPGA programming over a JTAG interface. Heck, I bet an Arduino anything is probably too much for you.

    You damn millennial babies make me want to gouge my eyes out sometimes. Go turn your Playstation/XBox back on.

    • I think the point is the (mostly theoretical, but often discussed) idea of the Pi being used in a classroom, where there's 30 kids all mucking about with this.

  • Stupid then, stupid now. How about trotting out the "LOLZ mah cellphonez iz smarters than that raspberrry pie!" chestnut as well?
  • Is that you Bill :) (Score:4, Interesting)

    by nickweller ( 4108905 ) on Wednesday December 02, 2015 @08:17PM (#51046043)
    He says the Raspberry PI isn't suitable for education because it requires effort to configure and students would lose interest and he doesn't like the Raspberry Pi Foundation ..
  • I'm looking into teaching introductory embedded programming to CS undergrads. The thought of a $5 computer that they could simply all buy at the start of semester was very appealing.

    However, I'm leaning towards using the Beaglebone Black rather than the Pi Zero or even the standard Pi, on the following grounds:

    • If you want to hook anything to the Pi Zero's GPIO pins, you need to break out the soldering iron. In a university context with OH&S laws, that means getting access to the electrical engineer
  • The first computer my dad got was a 286 which didn't work but we got it upgraded to a 386! It didn't come with a hard drive so guess what? I learned really quick about memory and how to load floppies and run c prompt commands to play my games. Most of the time after that if a new game came out you had to buy new hardware. I still remember fretting and trying to figure out how to get a TSR driver out of the memory so my game could fit in it. When I learned about microprocessors in college, I was the last cla

  • "For development you need to set up the Zero with a power supply, mini-HDMI to HDMI adapter, HDMI cable, the USB OTG cable, USB hub, a keyboard, and possibly a mouse. After some hours of work you’re ready to try the software in your device.

    How on god's green earth is that hours of work? How is that more than one, -possibly- two minutes at most? And if they get that so wrong, why would I listen to the rest of it?

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from a rigged demo. - Andy Finkel, computer guy

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