The Raspberry Pi, single-board computer, has been shipping for a few months now and you’re lucky if you can fit in an order. A month ago, over 20 000 boards had been sold, and suppliers are struggling to keep up with the demand. We decided to take a look around to see why the boards are proving so popular so quickly after launch.
Eben Upton, one of the core designers behind the board, envisioned bringing hardware back into schools and to interested hobbyists to try to kickstart the hardware hacking culture that seems to be dwindling in recent years. Recently, the BBC ran an article showing how the Raspberry Pi was being used in an English school to teach children as young as seven to start coding in Python to interact with electronic components. The board seems to have had a warm reception from the kids, and its exciting to see how quickly they engage with it. Of course, Arduino fans will know that kids could have been learning this stuff ages ago, and they didn’t need the Raspberry Pi to do it. Nonetheless, an Arduino board does have it limitations and when you look at all of the functionality that you can get straight off the Raspberry Pi at such a low price point, it does look bound for glory.
Linus Torvalds is busy making headlines for his damning outburst against NVIDIA at the now famous Aalto Talk at the Aalto Center for Entrepreneurship in Finland, but during the same talk he gave a real heads up for the Raspberry Pi. Torvalds doesn’t believe that everyone should learn to program, but he is excited by the opportunity that the Raspberry Pi board gives to children who have an aptitude for it.
Raspberry Pi has taken to the sky. Literally that is. Developers working for OpenRelief, have been building an autonomous robotic plane (or ‘drone’ in geek speak) with the intention to use it to help save lives. After the earthquake in Japan last year, one of the founders of the organization found that their efforts to carry supplies across the country were set back by a lack of information about the conditions of roads and bridges in the area. Shane Coughlan has since spearheaded a project to build a completely autonomous small aircraft, much like a radio controlled plane, that will be able to fly a route and feedback information from its many sensors, including a small camera. This will enable the drone to get to otherwise inaccessible areas at low altitude and snap aerial photographs. OpenRelief is working on its own image-recognition software to spot smoke, roads and people in the affected area.
The aircraft itself is controlled using an Arduino board, but the Raspberry Pi will hitch a ride to gather intelligence using an array of digital sensors to detect weather and radiation. Since the Raspberry Pi can run a complete Linux operating system, it can do a lot of the processing while in-flight and can relay data back to base using GPRS or other wireless technologies.
If you’ve used XBMC before you’ll know that it is a fantastic media center, allowing you to take advantage of many online media resources while also providing a great menu system for your digital music and videos. Various developers have been working hard to get XBMC to work properly on the Raspberry Pi. This is great news, because it means that you can use a very low powered, credit-card sized computer to drive your media center at home. It also means that you can build a pretty amazing HTPC for £22 (US$35). Check out this video to see XBMC in action on an early Raspberry Pi board.
In the three months that Raspberry Pi has really been on the market, there has been a mass of interest and the board is already finding adoption for a huge range of computing projects. I’m really excited by this and am looking forward to getting my own board soon. If you’ve already got one and have been using it for any of your own interesting projects, I’d be keen to hear your feedback on the board and what you’ve been able to achieve with it.
Drop a comment below if you’ve had a chance to taste some Raspberry Pi.