Sunday 11 November 2012

Blown away by the Raspberry Pi

I am absolutely gobsmacked. It's terrific!

We got home from caching today, and I decided, time to try the Pi. I plugged in the power, an ethernet cable, an SD card, and I was immediately able to ping it (I'd set up a static IP address when I was setting up the card).

I tried Raspian, it worked immediately. I tried Fedora, it worked immediately. I plugged in the HDMI to my monitor, switched my monitor from analog (VGA) to digital, and got a display. I plugged in a USB keyboard, it worked. A USB mouse, it worked. I'm writing this blog on the Pi, which I've thoughtfully named pi001, because I'm thinking of buying half a dozen more.

The graphics are glorious; it's running at 1890 by 1170 pixels (which is almost the same as the 1920 by 1200 that the screen is capable of).  The speed at which things happen is amazing - it's not as fast as one of my ordinary PCs, but when I grab a window and move it around the screen, there's almost zero refresh lag. It doesn't crash; actually all I can say is that it hasn't crashed in the three hours I've been using it.

I'm writing this blog entry on the Raspberry.

Now remember this. It cost £20, and you can add maybe £3 for the SD card (although actually I'm using one that I had in my drawer and have never really used for anything).

I'm blown away. This isn't £20 worth of computer, it's £200.

There seems to be a bit more software that comes in the Fedora distribution than in the Rasbian, but neither of them come with a DNS server or a mail server; I'll have to look around, but I'd guess that the venerable Bind and Sendmail have probably been made available for ARM cpus. I've already read somewhere that I can run Apache, and I think I can get Perl for the pi. It seems to be only using 180mb of memory out of its 512mb, I'll have to look into that.

There's a header block called GPIO, you can control the pin inputs and outputs, I'll have to look into what I can do with that. I can also try putting a USB-serial converter on it, and from the serial port, I can control an 8-port relay block that I have; I wonder if I could rescuscitate the Geocaching Robot Arm with this (the controller board, a Basic Stamp, died and I couldn't find a replacement).

We're visiting daughter.1 tomorrow; I have a laptop there, and I'll be able to log into the pi remotely from there (because ssh works) and play with it some more.

It is a fully-fledged computer. For £20. And it almost begs you to do neat things with it, to explore what it can do, make it do stuff other people haven't thought of.

Conclusion - if you know anyone aged 6 to 99, get them this for Christmas, together with a power supply, an ethernet cable, and HDMI cable so they can connect to their TV, and a USB keyboard and mouse (if you already have any of the above, use those). And an SD card (preloaded with Linux if you aren't going to be able to set that up for yourself).

 ... update 1 - perl is already installed on the Fedora distro.
 ... update 2 - sendmail is already installed, and I installed bind (to do DNS) by typing "yum install bind"

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