The RaspberryPI – Putting Fun Back Into Computing With A Small Price Tag
I recently acquired a Raspberry PI Model B. as a new gadget to toy with and I must say I am very impressed with it. I would recommend visiting the project’s website at http://www.raspberrypi.org/ for a more in-depth overview but will tell you the premise behind the project is to promote learning, development, and technology exploration with a very small investment. The Model A. costs $25 and the Model B. is only $35 and each model comes with 700 mhz ARM based processor, 512 mb of ram, SD card reader for storage, a HDMI port, 10/100 ethernet, RCA composite out, headphone audio jack, and 2 USB ports. The machine itself is not much bigger than a business card and with it you get a fully functional desktop computer that can play 1080p video. That’s a lot of bang for your buck in computer terms!
Here’s a little diagram with the features:
Out of the box you have a working computer that is ready to go but rather than purchase all of the different cables I acquired a starter kit that came with a HDMI cable, Micro USB power supply, 8 GB SD card loaded with the NOOBS boot loader, and a case. Here’s the exact kit I purchased: http://www.canakit.com/raspberry-pi-starter-kit.html
Here’s some pictures of my Kit & Box below:
So far we have covered price, features, and options so I will now dive into what this little machine can do as well as capabilities.
NOOBS Boot Loader:
Assuming you bought the PI with the NOOBS loaded SD card you will be presented with the following prompt when you boot up for the first time. NOOBS allows you to image your PI with several different options including Archlinux, OpenELEC, Pidora, RaspBMC, Raspbian, and RiscOS. For those who are curious here’s a quick breakdown on the operating system below:
Raspbmc is a light Linux distribution created by Sam Nazarko. It is designed as a media center for the Raspberry Pi and is based on Raspbian and XBMC.
Raspbian is a Debian-based free operating system optimized for the Raspberry Pi hardware. It is the current recommended system, and was officially released in July 2012, although it is still in development. It is free software and maintained independently of the Raspberry Pi Foundation. It is based on ARM hard-float (armhf)-Debian 7 ‘Wheezy’ architecture port with the LXDE desktop environment.
RiscOS is a computer operating system originally designed by Acorn Computers Ltd in Cambridge, England. First released in 1987, it was specifically designed to run on the ARM chipset, which Acorn had designed concurrently for use in its new line of Archimedes personal computers. RISC OS takes its name from the RISC (reduced instruction set computing) architecture supported.
Arch Linux is a Linux-based operating system for i686 and x86-64 computers. It is composed predominantly of free and open source software, and supports community involvement
Raspberry Pi Fedora Remix. Pidora is a Fedora Remix optimized for the Raspberry Pi computer.
OpenELEC (short for Open Embedded Linux Entertainment Center) is a Linux distribution designed for home theater PCs. OpenELEC pre‐configures the XBMC as a media player software appliance.
There are several other options available or becoming available out there and you can see a good number of them on the wikipedia by visiting this link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raspberry_Pi#List_of_operating_systems.
The operating system I am using for my PI is Raspbian as I’m a Debian fan and like the overall feel of the OS on my PI. Raspbian has some really cool features baked in and one of my favorite is raspbi-config which allows you to tweak your operating system and hardware with minimal effort. Raspbi-config is automatically invoked at first boot and can be re-ran at anytime by typing raspbi-config in the terminal.