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For beginners and tinkerers

What is Raspberry Pi?

March 26th, 2014

What is Raspberry Pi?

Raspberry Pi is a cute, tiny piece of hardware and there are hundreds of projects that you can create with it. It was developed by the Raspberry Pi Foundation with the primary goal of promoting the teaching of basic computer science in schools.

For now, only two models of Raspberry Pi exist: Model A and Model B. Both versions run a Linux operating system, however the Model B has more RAM and Ethernet port for network connectivity. The Model B is just a little bit more expensive compared to the Model A, however its range of uses is a lot wider.

That’s how Raspberry Pi Model B main-board looks like:

Raspberry-Pi-B

 

What you can do with Raspberry Pi?

Raspberry Pi usage (not exhaustive) list:

  • learning Linux basics, Bash scripting or programming (Scratch, Python),
  • your home automation;
  • running Raspberry Pi as home server with SSH, SFTP, Samba and other services,
  • using it as a test platform for Linux based different setups/systems,
  • running it as a backup server,
  • using it for wide range of the projects by the tinkerers (e.g. network documents scanner),
  • using as a media server or a media client.

A good starting point to get started with Raspberry Pi may be this Raspberry Pi educational manual or if you or your child are interested in coding, here is a very nice website to learn almost all types of code www.codecademy.com.

You may visit a Raspberry Pi forum, which is quite active with its users ranging across newcomers and even advanced users,  looking for some RPi related answers:

Raspberry-Pi-forum

Raspberry Pi hardware

The Raspberry Pi Model B’s specifications are given below in the table.

Model B
Central Processing Unit (CPU) BCM2835 (700 MHz Low Power ARM1176JZ-F)
Graphical Processing Unit (GPU) BC28155 (Dual Core VideoCore IV) Supports: 1080p30 Full HD H.264 Video Encode/Decode; hardware decode H264, MPEG1/2/4, VC1, AVS, MJPG at 1080p30. You have to buy a MPEG-2 and VC1 license keys, in order to activate them.
Memory (RAM) 512MB SDRAM
Ethernet (Internet connection) 10/100 Mbps Ethernet Connector
USB 2.0 Two connectors
Video Output HDMI connector
Audio Output 3.5mm jack/HDMI
Operating System Linux

The CPU speed is 700MHz, which may appear quite sluggish by running Raspberry GUI . However, as you could see Raspberry Pi’s GPU is enough powerful and looks promising as a media player. It supports one of the most popular video codecs h264 in Full HD (1080p). And that’s very good news.

Another pleasant detail (which I discovered myself after plugging to my Sony Bravia TV) is that the Raspberry Pi supports HDMI CEC commands. HDMI CEC is also known under different marketing names: Sync (Sony Bravia), Vierra Link (Panasonic), Easylink (Philips), Anynet+ (Samsung) etc. This allows the remote of another HDMI CEC compliant machine, like SmartTV to control XBMC through the HDMI connection.

Raspberry Pi is power efficient and will use less as 100 Wh per day.

Raspberry Pi price & accessories

Many sites say that Raspberry Pi is incredibly cheap. Well … it depends on how the price is calculated 😉 Yes, the main board costs only USD $35 (£29). However, some accessories are required, in order to call it a credit-card-sized single-board computer. The accessories list might be shorter or longer, what depends on how you are planning to use Raspberry Pi.

These are the requires accessories:

  1. Raspberry Pi case
  2. 1A 12V power supply
  3. SD card
  4. HDMI cable
  5. keyboard
  6. mouse
  7. HDMI monitor
  8. Internet connection

If you will want to set-up Raspberry Pi as a server or media player, you will need only temporary some of the accessories (e.g. keyboard, mouse & monitor). However, if you want to use all of them permanently, you will have to buy them. Then, you can expect the total spent amount on Raspberry Pi reaching more than advertised $35 price tag 😉

For that reason, I would recommend to buy Raspberry Pi starter kit. I have not done this for my 1st Raspberry Pi, however I changed my mind for the 2nd. The reason is quite simple – I had to source myself the power supply and the case plus a SD card. Those starter kits are available from Amazon or other online stores. These would bring way less hassle and you still get the essential accessories.

I believe that the Raspberry Pi is quite a nice platform for people just starting with Linux and of course for the experienced tinkerers 😉

Have some fun with your Raspberry Pi!