As one of the most unique and exciting products to be released this year, the Raspberry Pi has certainly gained a lot of interest. While the original purpose for the development of the Raspberry Pi was to provide an affordable device for British kids to learn about computer programming, it has now become so popular that the demand for the device is greater than the supply. Over 350,000 pre-orders have been made thus far, while over 4000 Pis have already been shipped to addresses all around the world.
So let’s take a close look at the Raspberry Pi and whether or not it is worth purchasing.
What is it?
The Raspberry Pi is a small PC that has all of its components combined together on one chip. That’s right: The processor, GPU, and memory are all in one credit-card sized board. Try that for portability.
The Raspberry Pi has a 700 MHz ARM 11 chip and comes in two models. Model A comes with 256 MB RAM, one USB port, and no ethernet port. Model B features 256 MB RAM, two USB ports, and an ethernet port. The only difference between the two models is that, for an extra $10, you get another USB port and an Internet connection. It seems odd that the Pi comes in two models, especially considering that they are only $10 apart. I would prefer to see just one model that includes all the features the Pi is capable of because I, like most, would pay $10 extra to upgrade to a computer with an ethernet port.
How does it work?
The Pi boots from an SD card, which acts as the hard drive and contains the operating system. You can use a USB drive as the hard drive, but you do have to perform the initial boot with the SD card. Now, in an ideal world, the SD card would come with a Linux-based operating system that you could simply boot the device on to get started. However, at this stage, you need to download the operating system yourself and install it onto the Pi through a provided downloadable program. Then, you have to configure the settings using Linux console commands. It’s a fairly straightforward process for the geeks, but it will likely be a challenge for the not-so tech-savvy users. I’m certain that, eventually, the SD cards will come pre-loaded with the operating system and be ready to boot up straight away.
What can you do with it?
The Pi is a Linux-based device that is capable of playing high definition videos and can be used for word processing, games, and various other basic programs. You can browse the Web and download basic word processing programs, but the Pi struggles to load graphic applications and cannot run Flash. The graphic capabilities aren’t great, but you can’t expect much from 256 MB of shared memory. In saying that, the video playback performs flawlessly and without any noticeable stutter, although it only plays a few codecs. You can also use the Raspberry Pi as a network storage device. The device can also be plugged into your television to give you a desktop Web browser experience directly on your telly. Considering the fact that the product is the size of a business card, it sure does seem like a pretty handy device that can be utilised for both personal and industrial use.
There have been suggestions that the Raspberry Pi be used in school computer labs and offices. Personally, I don’t think the Pi is developed enough to be used on a wider scale. Sure, it would be a cost-effective way of providing computers for a mass of workers, but performance wise, it’s not quite at the stage where we can start using it for office work-related purposes. The best way to use the Pi would be to encourage students to use it a secondary device to learn about programming, as it was initially developed to teach students about computer science and programming through the use of the Python programming language.
There is no doubt that the Raspberry Pi has a lot to offer and it can only get better as it is developed further. There are already projects started to develop software applications to enable the use of the Pi in industry. I feel that the Raspberry Pi will become more than just a device to teach young people about computer science; it definitely has the potential to be used on an industrial scale. I think we will see the implementation of the Pi in various upcoming projects and it certainly will be interesting to see how it is used in industry.
For a $35 device, I don’t think anyone can refuse a slice of the Raspberry Pi. Or can they? Leave your thoughts below!
CC licensed Flickr photo by jared_smith