If in these days you take a look at the list of possible gifts/gadgets that will be hot in the next Christmas you’ll find almost for sure the Raspberry Pi.
This is a credit-card sized computer that plugs into your TV and a keyboard. It’s a capable little PC which can be used for many of the things that your desktop PC does, like spreadsheets, word-processing and games. It also able to play high-definition video and sending the output through an HDMI interface to a TV or a monitor and all of this at a starting price of around 25$.
The design is based around a Broadcom BCM2835 SoC, which includes an ARM1176JZF-S 700 MHz processor, VideoCore IV GPU, and 128 or 256 Megabytes of RAM, with two USB ports and a 10/100 Ethernet controller. The design does not include a built-in hard disk or solid-state drive, instead relying on an SD card for booting and long-term storage. The board is intended to run Linux kernel based operating systems and there is a lot of interest on the open source community with many small distro born to support this new hardware such as raspbian, a free operating system based on Debian optimized for the Raspberry Pi hardware.
Recently the Raspberry Pi Model B with 512MB RAM has been announced and put on the market.
So why this small piece of hardware has become so popular ?
Personally I think that there are at least 3 reasons for this :
1) The low cost, with this low price tag everyone can buy one and do some tests.
2) The potentials, in this small board you have everything you need to start a small project such a web radio or to automate the management of your garden/house.
3) The pioneer aspect, this is perhaps the most important aspect of this small device, it brings back the days when you could test your hardware, easily add peripherals or new things.
The point 3 is also one of the goals that you can read on the official website of this hardware device:
From a situation in the 1990s where most of the kids applying were coming to interview as experienced hobbyist programmers, the landscape in the 2000s was very different; a typical applicant might only have done a little web design.
Something had changed the way kids were interacting with computers. A number of problems were identified: the colonization of the ICT curriculum with lessons on using Word and Excel, or writing webpages; the end of the dot-com boom; and the rise of the home PC and games console to replace the Amigas, BBC Micros, Spectrum ZX and Commodore 64 machines that people of an earlier generation learned to program on.
And personally I think that this goal has been fully achieved, this device has brought back to a lot of people the desire to experiment, I know that it is used in some schools and universities as a development platform and is developing a real market of gadgets and components, ready to use that can be ordered on specialized websites such as Adafruit or Farnell to extend the functionality of our beloved Raspberry.
Potentiality of the Raspeberry PI
So what can you do in practice with this small board ?
You can do a lot of things, from a simple and low cost desktop to something really complex, these are some projects that you can find online and that perhaps can inspire you:
Just plug in the memory card with raspbmc OS and you can have a juicy multimedia experience. You can play high quality music, watch 1080p videos and view all your pictures.
Raspbmc is a minimal Linux distribution based on Debian that brings XBMC to your Raspberry Pi. This device has an excellent form factor and enough power to handle media playback, making it an ideal component in a low HTPC setup, yet delivering the same XBMC experience that can be enjoyed on much more costly platforms.
Home Automation is a cool subject – Its futurity, energy efficient, everything is everywhere under control and at least its a little bit nerdy/geeky. So concerning sizing, power and pricing the Raspberry Pi is qualified for an house-controller. The additional hard- and software requirements can be achieved by already existing hardware modules and open source software – the setup itself is no rocket science, more info at this link.
Raspberry Pi can be a perfect set up as a Wifi internet radio. SSH into to set up your playlist. Streams play on MPC and MPD so you have command line access. Hit up or down on the buttons and the player moves on to the next item in the playlist. You fill the Rpi up with streams that you like and save them and thats it, personalized internet radio player for $44.
The full write-up including links to all the important information (where to buy the Wifi, setup, Adafruit instructions, etc) are on this blog: http://contractorwolf.wordpress.com/raspberry-pi-radio/
The raspberry can be the perfect for a weather station, a nice project about this can be found on this Blog
These are just some ideas of what you can do with your raspberry, other people use it in their Car as entertainment box, to manage their garden or to build small ftp/web server or a NAS server for their home, like someone said, the limit is your imagination.
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