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Review: Make: Raspberry Pi Starter Kit

samzenpus posted about a year and a half ago | from the how-it-works dept.

Technology 74

XWWT writes "A few weeks ago Make offered to send us a sample of its Raspberry Pi Starter Kit to see if we would do a review of the product. Samzenpus asked around the engineering team to see if there was someone who would be willing to do an on-camera review of the device. With all of the buzz about Raspberry Pi, I was very excited to get hands-on time with the device so I could more closely examine the platform. At first we wanted to do this piece as a video but quickly realized that a) it would probably be boring to see some blinky lights and push buttons working on a sample project, and b) the amount of audio that would need to be bleeped to cover my frustration with parts of the kit would be annoying. On a personal note, I also wanted to document all of my experience here as I thought it would be beneficial for newcomers to the maker technology and sometimes having someone else’s experience documented can help you avoid pitfalls and mistakes. (Full Disclosure: I am the Director of Engineering for Slashdot Media. We were given a review copy of the Make: Raspberry Pi Starter Kit. We were not paid for this review but had fun doing it.)" Keep reading for the rest of Wes's review.Unpacking the Box:
The box was nicely packaged with lots of little pieces parts in baggies and was well assembled. I immediately pulled out the Pi board and all of the packaged elements to see what was included. It became apparent that the shipping box would be useless to keep all the parts together once I unpacked it and found an old small plastic tool box to keep the parts in for future use and transport.

Included in the box was the 512MB Pi unit, 1A USB charger (underpowered for big projects), Pi Cobbler kit, Pi enclosure, 4GB Class 4 SDHC card, breadboard, a trimmed down version of the Medtronics kit, short HDMI cable, jumper wires (male) and the Getting Started with Raspberry Pi book. They seemed to be packed well as subassemblies so I tried to keep them together as such until later so I wouldn’t lose or mix parts.

The Medtronics kit had LEDs, resistors, capacitors, diodes, pushbuttons, switches, jumpers and some timer chips; all fun toys. Basically it is a collection that anyone doing electronics work would need in order to do a handful of projects. Most of these parts are cheap when bought in bulk, but getting variety collections like this tend to be expensive as you are buying only a couple of parts so it was nice to see them included. I was disappointed that I didn’t see any male-to-female jumpers in the box as these are useful in connecting pins but realized that was the point of the Pi Cobbler Kit.

After I had looked over the board itself, I thought it best to actually try to follow instructions since I was supposed to review the kit. I opened the included Getting Started with Raspberry Pi book and reviewed the first two chapters to get an idea of what was actually on-board the Pi itself and to see how the “Getting Started” would work for a first timer. Typically I find that getting started books from Make try to appear like How-To manuals blended with a lab book and they don’t do well being either. That was certainly the case with this book as I progressed.

The first chapter was really helpful as it laid out what the main components were on the board and what the actual available processing power. The board is an ARM11, 32bit, 700MHz processor. We happened to get the B version so it has 512MB of available RAM. The physical size of the board is a little larger than a stack of credit cards, with all of the components it is about the total size of a mans pocket wallet (about 3”x2”x1/2”). I examined the physical joints on the board and all were machine done (expected) and seemed to be in good order. The first problem I noticed though was that the joints for the HDMI and Audio/Video jacks would not be sufficient to keep them from being broken off the board. Additionally the joints holding the power unit seemed shaky if the unit were plugged in/out too frequently (the book and blogs confirmed that suspicion). The Ethernet port on the board seemed to be in good shape as did the GPIO and Display and Camera Serial Interfaces.

I was pleased to see that there were some status LEDs on-board for simple debugging. Those of us that are used to solving boot problems with status indicators like LEDs or audible tones know that these are important when you just can’t get a board to respond.

I then examined the enclosure case assembly which still had the protective wrapping on it and stunk of cutting fluid. There were no instructions on assembly for that so I set it aside. There seemed to be small parts in that package and I didn’t want to lose them, so I left it sealed.

Setting up Raspbian:
I wanted to validate quickly that there were no problems with the board so I ran through the steps of flashing the SD card with a copy of Raspbian. I actually tried both the dd tool installation under UNIX and the Win32DiskImager to see if there were significant differences in the experience. While the dd process seemed straight-forward the Win32DiskImage was just as easy. I found the documentation here to be the simplest to follow. Some might argue that having a pre-loaded SD card would have been best but I think the point of doing this yourself helps you to better learn the process and get more comfortable with the device.

I then plugged in the HDMI cable to the Pi and dug up a USB mouse and keyboard. Next, I plugged in the USB power supply and SD card. Immediately I made a note to use a powered USB port next time as it would reduce the number of times I would have to torque the onboard USB ports. When I went to plug the HDMI into my monitor I realized that I only had DVI ports and had to scrounge around in my toolbox for a HDMI to DVI converter. (DVI converters are inexpensive and would have been a nice addition to the kit.) I also made a mental note at this point to DX the 1.5m HDMI cable for something longer. I put the board on a non-reactive surface (notebook) so the contacts would not short and then booted the device. I followed all of the default options laid out in the Getting Started book just to make it simple. All-in-all the experience in booting and setting up Raspbian for the first time was satisfying.

Make: Pi Enclosure:
When I first looked at the Pi Enclosure it was pretty easy to see how it was supposed to go together. What I didn’t realize was the amount of swearing it would take to actually get it done. There are only nine parts in the V1 assembly and it should be easy to do, but without instructions it might as well have had a million parts. There is a delicate balance between each of the parts and the tolerance is very low compared to the profile of the board. You also need to torque the enclosure parts to get them to fit together while balancing the assembly in one hand and not drop the Pi. Not at all optimal. In the end I broke a connector slot on the enclosure which required a little superglue to fix. Once I had the board in the enclosure I realized that the opening for the power port was off enough that it would require modification to accept the USB power cord. After taking the enclosure apart I used a project file to widen a couple of the openings (power, GPIO) and tried again, this time adding in the 26 pin ribbon for the Cobbler kit knowing I didn’t want to have to take this apart again just to add that in later. It was even more difficult to put the pieces together with the ribbon cable, but I got it to work. (BTW: Make sure colored ribbon is on pin 1 which is on the same end as the Pi power port.). The how-to for assembling the enclosure here seems to work fine, but doesn’t account for adding the ribbon cable. (I looked over the V2 of this box which uses bolts and nuts to hold together and I see there are problems with how you hold the nuts in place for assembly. I can only imagine the frustration with that version and the number of times nuts are dropped into the box only to have to open it and retrieve them to try again.) Better option: Make your own project box out of LEGOs.

Ada Fruit Cobbler Kit:
Basically the Ada Fruit Cobbler Kit is a simple device to connect the GPIO of the Pi to a breadboard making experimentation a little easier. The kit includes a PCB, socket, 26 pin ribbon and header pins. Assembly was pretty straightforward except for separation of the header pins. My kit came with the header pins in one stick with about 36 pins. You only need 26 (2x13) so breaking this down, while simple, still takes some care. I should have used jewelry pliers or side cutters which would have made sure I didn’t break it into 12, 13 and the balance. Adding back in one header pin is never fun and I should have known better.

Soldering was simple. First I soldered the socket to the PCB so I was working from the inside joints to the outside joints. Turning the assembly upside down worked well for this and my iron was still at a good temperature. I started from one end and worked my way down each set of pins, checked the joints and cleaned up one or two that were messy. Next I placed the 12 and 13 pins into a breadboard, set the PCB on that and worked from the middle pins out and then added the lone pin back in. (2x13 sticks would have made this much easier.) The header pin plastic melted a little because I was being aggressive, but a few tweaks and I was able level the socket with the pins so it didn’t look like my youngest child completed the work. It would have been a better experience if I had a soldering iron with temperature adjustment, smaller soldering tip and smaller diameter solder. My desolder tool helped when I found I had to reset a head pin that I accidentally pushed on with my iron.

I think assembly of the Ada Fruit Cobbler kit will be the most intimidating part of the kit for someone new to electronics. The kit calls out that you will need soldering skills and this is as basic a soldering job as you can get, but still some might shy away from it. I understand that more recent versions actually have the kit pre-assembled for those who don’t want to solder.

Good assembly instructions can be found here.

Working with the OS:
The Raspian OS is Lightweight X11 (LXDE) with Openbox. For non-Linux users this may seem a little scary but there is a whole body of work around this and outside of the scope of this review.

Configuring and setting up the OS on my home network was typical for a Linux install. I wish I had a wireless USB though so I didn’t need to rely on the Ethernet adapter and fear of having a cable pulled and dropping the device. Connectivity completed, I wanted to play with some programming on the device.

I was happy to see Python and IDLE in the install as it made writing a simple program to tinker with the system easy. Additional modules can be downloaded and installed easily. Sample programs are easy to find or write and are typical. At this point I had a working Linux desktop computer, the size of my wallet, connected to my network and a breadboard for experimenting with IO.

I have yet to run this headless but will do so at some point.

Working with IO:
After I completed the assembly items and tinkering, I picked out a project for the breakout board to see if there was something cool that I could show. I worked on the first simple IO example in the book and quickly found that the documentation is really poor for a first-timer.

The first example of GPIO work in the Getting Started book lays out that you should use male-to-female adapters, then promptly tells you that the Pi Cobbler makes it easier to experiment and then continues the experiment with mtf adapters, which aren’t included in the kit. It tries to compensate for this by using a really bad drawing of the GPIO pins that aren’t completely labeled and have caveats about versions of the board. So before wiring the board I had to do a little investigation about the version of the board which you can tell only by booting the device (a nice stamp on the board would have been nice). Fortunately I have a version 2 board making the wiring a little easier to follow. (More information on Pin IO can be found here.) I checked for errata on the book to see if some of it has been sorted out but didn’t see this addressed at the time I was setting the project up.

Note on IO projects: You should really make sure you have your circuits setup and buffered when working with external experiments. It is also important to understand how a breadboard works and which terminals are tied out. Basically if you aren’t careful and paying attention you can accidentally feed power back to your Pi and end up blowing it out. (Mixing the 3V3 and 5V will do that in an instant.) For a $35 board that isn’t too expensive of a lesson, but would probably cause a newbie to be quickly discouraged.

The ‘Hello World’ examples in the Getting Started for IO include lighting an LED and reading from a pushbutton. The setup for these circuits is pretty simple but the author of the experiment doesn’t explain well how the powerbus works on the breadboard which could easily lead to a project discouragement. Additionally, the diagrams are set for mtf jumpers so matching that to the Cobbler kit and making sure you get the correct pins there can be a problem. Reading IO in the samples was easy and was simply a matter of running as su and setting the direction of the pin and then echo or cat the value to set/read its state.

Other sample projects assume you have a PowerSwitch tail relay sitting around, which I don’t, so turning off an external device (table lamp) was out of the question in my first couple of experiments. I would have been nice to see either all of the experiments focused at what was in the kit, or to include all of the items needed for the experiments in the kit.

I tinkered with GPIO and Python to automate some of the work and it was all quite simple to do. Samples in the Getting Started were fine but as with most programming examples, there were some small typos.

I think for someone coming to this the first time the experiments in the book are pretty simple but assume some experience with electronics. For new electronics users I would recommend a copy of Make: Electronics as it does a good job of laying out Electricity 101 in straightforward terms. You will also want to start assembling some other break out tools which can be easily had from lots of sources.

I picked up a copy of Raspberry Pi Users Guide by Upton and Halfacree for more project ideas in the future and look forward to reading and working those projects. I also ended up getting a couple of other books about the Raspberry Pi to see what they have in them and will likely do a book review at some point about their content.

General Observations:
For $35 the Pi is a great buy but the problem is finding the companies who are selling it for that price; Make sells theirs for $50. The added project items needed in this kit seem to be a little pricy, causing the overall price to get it up to the $130 range. Ada Fruit Cobbler kits are running $8, Pi enclosures are running $15, USB chargers run about $7, 4GB cards run about $6, solderless breadboards about $15 and probably $10 for the extra parts in the box, $10 or so for the book. If you are already doing electronics hobby work, I would find a different sourced board and skip the extras here. If you are new and want to give this a try or want to one-stop the parts, then buy the kit.

There is a great deal of an IKEA effect by having you participate in the assembly and feel like you just made something cool. It was largely fun putting the parts together and I am thinking about project applications almost daily. One of our developers belongs to a racing club and we were thinking that these would be a cheap means of tracking and relaying car speed/vitals to a central unit. I am also curious to see if these would be a better solution for tracking car performance for those into hypermiling. In any case, I plan on trying a number of projects and continue to develop with the board.

Lessons Learned:

  • A) Find a project box or assemble one of the nice Lego Pi Enclosures described out on the Internet. The project enclosure in the kit is fragile and difficult to assemble. There is a nice example made by a German Scout named Biz and can be found here. Or, if you are clever, you can make something bigger and better. As there is no heat-sink on board, I would avoid enclosures with a lid so you can vent any thermal from the board.
  • C) Get a powered USB device to control your mouse/keyboard, etc. There are only a couple of open slots on the Pi.
  • D) An HDMI to DVI adapter is helpful.
  • E) Get a longer HDMI cable to make this practical for experimenting.

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Poor documentation on an Open Source project??? (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43203817)

That's unpossible!

Next you'll tell me Richard Stallman isn't a model of grace and tact!

Re:Poor documentation on an Open Source project??? (1)

BanHammor (2587175) | about a year and a half ago | (#43203941)

Th---what? The review specified that the open source documentation on the site was more valuable than the book included.

Re:Poor documentation on an Open Source project??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43205493)

You should look at the BSDs' documentation. That's how it should be.

expensive and hard to get (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43203833)

this is my exact beef with the raspberry pi.... it's not really a $25/$35, it's a >$100 solution that is hard to obtain. Once the supply chain issues are fixed this may be more interesting. But at this point it's main attractive feature - price - renders it closer to vapourware than anything else.

Oh Shut Up (4, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | about a year and a half ago | (#43203935)

this is my exact beef with the raspberry pi.... it's not really a $25/$35, it's a >$100 solution that is hard to obtain. Once the supply chain issues are fixed this may be more interesting. But at this point it's main attractive feature - price - .

I'm a software developer. I have 8 of them. I have so many of them I sell them to friends at cost instead of turning around and gouging on eBay like a prick. I have four of them in my room so I can do the cambridge distributed processing experiments.

How did I do it? Who's knob did I slobber? Nobody's. Remember back when orders were opened up on (assuming you're in the US) Newark [newark.com] and Allied [alliedelec.com] ? I put in three separate orders for each site for one each. It would be 3-4 months before the first arrived. They identified me as a repeat orderer so they simply reset my orders each time they shipped one. How much money did I have to front? $35 * 6 = $210 + S&H. Lotta money, right? Except, I looked at this just like I would some gaming console and it wasn't. Yes, it requires patience but put in an order and in 6 to 14 weeks you'll probably have a Raspberry Pi from either of the sites above. Totally worth the wait. If you're super American and can't wait a month to get something, go get gouged. Oh, just don't get upset when the 1GB models ship later this year -- it'll probably be good to have at least one 512MB to test for backwards compatibility.

How did I know to do this? Was it the hundreds of Slashdot posts by geeks saying "I don't want to hurt anybody but I would kill a dude in front of his own mother to get a Raspberry Pi" or perhaps the fact that learning institutions were putting money down for millions of them? It doesn't take an oracle to figure that out ...

renders it closer to vapourware than anything else

A product so successful it's Slashdotted into "vaporware?" Come on, there are many good criticisms of the Raspberry Pi -- this is not one of them.

Re:Oh Shut Up (-1, Flamebait)

0100010001010011 (652467) | about a year and a half ago | (#43204111)

When Google Voice first opened up for invites I flooded the system with my own domain. And when those invites started coming in I sold them for $10-$50 on eBay.

Some people don't like to wait. Unless I CAN GET IT NOW. It doesn't exits.

Re:Oh Shut Up (1)

Jaktar (975138) | about a year and a half ago | (#43204145)

I didn't preorder or put myself on any waiting list to get mine. I saw a post on Slickdeals when Newark received a shipment and they were offering free shipping at the time. I didn't even find the post until about a day after the thread started either.

Re:Oh Shut Up (2)

tommeke100 (755660) | about a year and a half ago | (#43204419)

keep a 512mb for backwards compatibility? dude, I have the 256mb version. How about making sure the early adopters don't get screwed with the next software release and use the 256 as base;) .

Vaporware? hell no! I'm running the new XBMC release on it and it works like a charm (guys, remember I have the 256mb version).
With the TED-talks plugin, I'm hooked!

Re:Oh Shut Up (4, Informative)

samkass (174571) | about a year and a half ago | (#43205167)

I ordered one from Newark. It was listed as "backordered" but I put the order in anyway and it was filled within a week and I had it in my hands 10 days after the order. And it really was $35. I had old SD cards, keyboards, mice, HDMI cables, etc. around already. And some legos to build a case. In fact, one might suggest if you don't already have that stuff lying around, you're probably not the target audience for the Pi anyway. I later bought the Adafruit breakout kit and some other extras, but those are definitely not required to have fun with the little thing.

Re:Oh Shut Up (0)

drinkypoo (153816) | about a year and a half ago | (#43212713)

I ordered one from Newark. It was listed as "in stock" but it was really backordered. It still only took me two weeks to get it. It really was $35, plus $15 shipping. I called up Newark and it turns out they never had them in stock, they were actually fulfilled from some other warehouse, so they were actually lying when they said they had them in stock and I'll never do business with them again, if I can avoid it.

I'm glad you had a good experience, and I may well be the outlier here, but I cannot help but see the various distributors who took up the Raspberry Pi as anything but incompetent (and in the case of Newark, fraudulent) based on my own experience and the many congruent stories shared by others.

Re:Oh Shut Up (3, Insightful)

CheshireDragon (1183095) | about a year and a half ago | (#43205787)

Exactly! This is a great cheap product. Very rare to find that nowadays. Now that just about anyone down to a 3rd world country can afford these, they are going to be on back order for a loooong time.

This guy seriously over paid. I bought mine for 35$, with a case 8$, power adapters 5$ and 8GB Class6 SD cards for 8$. Since I bought 4 of each I was over 200$ and got free shipping. :D

Re:Oh Shut Up (3, Informative)

psergiu (67614) | about a year and a half ago | (#43206875)

Don't get too excited about a 1Gb version.
The Broadcom CPU can only access one LP-DDR memory chip.

At the moment none of the RAM manufacturers are producing single-chip LP-DDR RAM chips larger than 512Mb - and it's not cost effective for them to build one just for The Raspberry Pi Foundation.

There is a 1Gb chip in that form factor on the market at the moment but it's made of two stacked 512Mb modules and requires two chip-select lines - which the Broadcom CPU does not have.

So it will be 512Mb max for some time - play with the new dynamic RAM sizing (details on the RaspberryPi forums) that gives most of the RAM to the CPU if the GPU is not used in that moment.

Re:Oh Shut Up (1)

Score Whore (32328) | about a year and a half ago | (#43208503)

Don't know if the timing would work out, but wouldn't the clever sort just wire up the next address line to the chip select?

Re:Oh Shut Up (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43207711)

The only thing you can criticize is that they try to get ppl to use Ubuntu (Ubloto?) on it which makes it suck. I use mine for RiscOS and it rocks. I have a Pandaboard ES which is decent with Ubuntu and rocks with Gentoo but that is 200EUR and you have to buy more stuff for that too.

Oh, one more thing; not actually a problem with the PI. They are trying to sell it to the wrong demographic (like the luser who wrote the article). The Raspberry PI is not an end user computer! Its a toy for people who like to play with computers and hardware. Its a cheap way to do funny little project, not a replacement for an Intel Atom machine. If you don't know what "a = c?x:y;" means or you don't know a soldering iron from a pretzel, it is NOT for you.

Re:expensive and hard to get (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43204033)

So hard to obtain that over 1 million of them have shipped.

Try harder.

Re:expensive and hard to get (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43204077)

>this is my exact beef with the raspberry pi.... it's not really a $25/$35, it's a >$100 solution that is hard to obtain. Once the supply chain >issues are fixed this may be more interesting. But at this point it's main attractive feature - price - renders it closer to vapourware than >anything else.

Yawn. Come back and complain after you've ordered your $35 from Newark or Farnell and didn't get it within a few weeks. Getting a USB power adapter is easy, you can get one anywhere (I used an old blackberry charger). Yeah, the kit from Make costs more, but it's focused on hardware hacking. You want to do that and like what you get from Make, sure, spend the $125, but that doesn't mean you can't get a raspberry pi for $35. You can.

Re:expensive and hard to get (5, Interesting)

bobbied (2522392) | about a year and a half ago | (#43204203)

All you really need to get a Pi running is a power supply ($10), a SD card ($10). Everything else is "optional" depending on what you want to do with your Pi. So by my calculations you are going to be out $55.00 (or less if you go with the stripped down model they announced a few weeks ago). Of course, if you want to do something more with your Pi, your costs then go up from there. So it's not >$100 unless you simply have to have a case $10, USB Keyboard $10, USB hub $10, USB mouse $5, USB WIFI adapter $15, Network Cable $5, HDMI Cable $10 and a large SD Card $10 more. (Total of $130) Then if you want to add special interface cards things go up from there. As with anything, you can spend as much as you like on your Pi.

Personally, all I need is the Pi. I have a workable USB power supply and the needed cables in my junk box and I have some old SD cards laying around from old cameras that should work great. So for me, it's $35 plus shipping. I even have an HDMI cable, old USB keyboard and mouse in the junk box now that I looked.

Pi's are not that hard to get these days. Initially they limited you to one Pi per order, but the limit has been lifted of late and you can usually get one (or ten) within a few weeks or less. I expect the supply to continue to get better as manufacturing yield improves and demand starts to abate some.

So I'm not really convinced you are correct on your claims.

Re:expensive and hard to get (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43204923)

If you are spending $10 on an HDMI cable you're getting jacked

Re:expensive and hard to get (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43205087)

Do you have an example of a cheaper cable? Personally, that's a small enough price point that I'm not considering it "getting jacked" unless they're commonly available for, say, $3. Even that $7 is barely a cheap lunch... so no, I don't think $10 is "getting jacked".

Re:expensive and hard to get (1, Insightful)

rwa2 (4391) | about a year and a half ago | (#43205231)

Not to support the original troll, but I'd kind of agree with the (somewhat) expensive part.

My father got me a Pi B which I've been toying around with using RaspBMC. I like the fact that this piece of hackable equipment exists in this form factor, but I can't really think of anything to do with it that wouldn't be done better with something else for not much more money, once you figure in all the "extras" you need to add to make your project work.

For a set-top box, it'd be cheaper and easier just getting a Roku (~$80), which would also let you do Netflix.

A slightly larger ION miniITX box (~$200) that does a much better job pretending to be a full PC and has built-in wifi. Or use an EeePC netbook (also ~$200) if you also want a webcam, mic/speakers, keyboard/trackpad, & small screen to go with it. A cheap android device such as the $200 Nexus 7 would also probably let you do random touchpads / multimedia / remote webcam/VTC endpoints for very little effort, and is still pretty much top-of-the-line as far as tablet hardware specs go.

For remote I/O hardware interfaces, I think the Arduino UNO (~$34) does a good job, and doesn't really need any add-ons to make a functional project.

Re:expensive and hard to get (1)

Bob the Super Hamste (1152367) | about a year and a half ago | (#43205605)

Well as far as projects for it when my 2 I ordered a week ago show up I plan on building a RTK setup for GPS. It will probably end up costing me about $350 when everything is all said and done but I will end up with a stationary and remote GPS unit that when combined can produce a position accuracy of a few centimeters for the remote unit. I could buy some professional GPS survey equipment but I could probably build close to 50 of my own setups for the cost of one of those (seriously a base station plus mobile unit start at about $15,000 and go up from there). There are also the people who are using the Pi as a device to control automate weather stations and do the reporting. It would also seem like the Pi would make a good device to put at the core of a robot one would like to build (maybe mine will eventually get remade into a lawn mowing robot cause I hate doing that). Just because you can only see them as something to replace a better optimized device doesn't mean others can't.

Re:expensive and hard to get (5, Informative)

Oceanplexian (807998) | about a year and a half ago | (#43205261)

Actually, no offense to the Pi guys, but the concept is absolutely not new. They were just really good at marketing.

For $42, you can get a fully functional Android mini-PC [dx.com] with a a Mali 400 GPU & a Cortex A8. Unlike the Pi, it has 1Gb of RAM and a significantly faster processor. Also unlike the Pi, they don't stiff you on the case or power supply. Add to the fact that the Pi's GPU is a binary blob and the Mali has some open source drivers [limadriver.org] , and you pretty much seal the deal on this "open" computer. Now, even before these mini Android PCs, you could go on Ebay and buy an ARM dev board for like ~$60.

This is just the same crap they throw in cell phones. There's absolutely no reason to put up with shipping times measured in months for a cell phone with some GPIO pins.

Re:expensive and hard to get (1, Informative)

ctid (449118) | about a year and a half ago | (#43205711)

The Raspberry Pi Foundation was set up to encourage children to get into programming. As such, an Android device would not really be appropriate. The concept is certainly not new. The inspiration is from home computers of the 1980s, where, on switching them on, you were immediately offered a programming environment, irrespective of what you were actually planning to do with the computer.

Eben Upton did a keynote at PyCon a short while ago; it's worth watching the video, if only to convince yourself that they really were not good at marketing. Eben Upton PyCon Keynote [youtube.com]

Re:expensive and hard to get (1)

Schnapple (262314) | about a year and a half ago | (#43208755)

Also, his "it's been done before" example is an Android stick - so, basically, a cut down Linux aimed at cell phones and sealed in a box, with no GIPO pins. Maybe there's more to it and you can load up your own Linux distros on it but the Pi is closer to a "real computer" than this thing is. In fact, the original goal of the Pi was to be small and stick-based like this but it made accessing the pins impossible.

Re:expensive and hard to get (3, Informative)

bobbied (2522392) | about a year and a half ago | (#43205751)

Actually, no offense to the Pi guys, but the concept is absolutely not new. They were just really good at marketing.

I don't disagree that you can find other options out there that have comparable features and less overall cost. Depending on your application, there may be a bunch of other options that are cheaper or have better performance in the same price ranges. My point was that you can usually get into a Pi for well under $100 for almost all of the normal use cases I've seen.

The Pi Foundation does have unusually good marketing for the kind of thing they are selling. They do spend a lot of time with their trademark on their website but I think they have accomplished quite a lot with their current offering. They have working hardware that's selling like hotcakes (Seems they are selling 10K + units a month) and they also have multiple supported software platforms which is based on common Open Source systems that can be easily extended. Want compile some standard package? We have a compiler for you. Want SAMBA? You can build it. The list is seemingly endless. Most of the other cards available do not have as much support or they are much more expensive, or both.

Re:expensive and hard to get (2)

bobbied (2522392) | about a year and a half ago | (#43205991)

After some further looking... They have sold over a million Pi's in a year. So we are talking about nearly 100K per month...

Sorry to be off by nearly an order of magnitude...

Re:expensive and hard to get (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43209105)

And now there is a raspberrypi.com from which you have to buy codecs. Buying CODECS for linux how ridiculous. It was supposed to be sort of a charity but I suspect SOMEBODY is making a lot of money on this.

Re:expensive and hard to get (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43207561)

For $42, you can get a fully functional Android mini-PC with a a Mali 400 GPU & a Cortex A8.

As far as I can see there are no GPIO pins in case you actually want to, you know, interface with something.

But aside from that, yeah, it's a better deal.

Re:expensive and hard to get (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43211129)

Yeah right, the concept is not new - so how many units did these other examples you listed sell?
Just like the million+ the Pi has sold within the year, right?

And a handful of guys running around sleeplessly to different hacker events to talk about their hardware (many by invitation by the sound of it) and popularity by word of mouth of people of have found the Pi useful is not "marketing". Apple and Intel with their glitzy Superbowl adds is "marketing". But the Pi's rise in popularity can be compared in many ways to how Linux came out of nowhere as well.

And you missed the whole reason why it has become so popular by so many people. It's not just a basic PC platform for learning as it was intended, but it has become extremely useful for microcontroller applications, where you do not need or want to shell out the extra money for a case, nice power supply, etc.

Re:expensive and hard to get (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43204239)

I know this will never get modded up to be seen but I'll say it again anyway: I got mine from MCM Electronics in a week or so.

They sell both kits and just the board by itself for $35 + shipping. In fact, they show IN STOCK right now.

http://www.mcmelectronics.com/content/en-US/raspberry-pi

Re:expensive and hard to get (2)

RabidReindeer (2625839) | about a year and a half ago | (#43205473)

I know this will never get modded up to be seen but I'll say it again anyway: I got mine from MCM Electronics in a week or so.

They sell both kits and just the board by itself for $35 + shipping. In fact, they show IN STOCK right now.

http://www.mcmelectronics.com/content/en-US/raspberry-pi

MCM seems a little screwed up. From what I can tell, they have 2 or 3 different divisions that deal in Raspberry Pi's. One is perennially out of stock, but slated to ship about 7500 orders on almost any given day. Finally I hit the other site, listing them in stock, 2-day delivery. Allowing for the weekend, I'm supposed to get one either today or tomorrow.

Allied lost my order. It was held so long the credit card expired and someone managed to cancel the order in the process of getting my new card info.

In my younger days, I was cheap and would have just ordered the $35 board. Now I've got no patience and I ordered a case and USB power with the board. I've probably got a suitable-sized box in my general electronic junk collection and odds are that my phone charger can deliver the power, but we're talking less than $20 extra here for not having to find out otherwise.

I am recycling the SD card and HDMI from other places though. No sense in overdoing it.

Re:expensive and hard to get (1)

RabidReindeer (2625839) | about a year and a half ago | (#43227829)

Followup. Got the unit in today. UPS had it hostage at the local warehouse all day yesterday or it would have arrived sooner.

One thing they don't tell you is that the Raspberry has no "bios screen". If you don't have an SD card with something executable on it, all you'll see is a power LED and a black screen.

I forgot I don't have any USB keyboards hanging around, though. Dang it.

Re:expensive and hard to get (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43205841)

I ordered one from MCM in January and got it in a week or so. That's the good news. The bad news was, it was advertised as 512MB but was actually only 256MB.

Re:expensive and hard to get (2)

jones_supa (887896) | about a year and a half ago | (#43204755)

this is my exact beef with the raspberry pi.... it's not really a $25/$35, it's a >$100 solution that is hard to obtain. Once the supply chain issues are fixed this may be more interesting. But at this point it's main attractive feature - price - renders it closer to vapourware than anything else.

Well, as Albert Einstein is quoted, "The most important decision we make is whether we believe we live in a friendly or hostile universe." It seems that you have made your decision.

Re:expensive and hard to get (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43211279)

Just because you only tried to order once does not mean it is hard to obtain for others. Especially for us over 1 million adults, kids, and organizations who have been hacking with their Rasberry Pi for the past year, which also take it out of the realm of vaporware.

First Post (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43203859)

Unfortunately my Pi isn't quite quick enough

Re:First Post (1)

psergiu (67614) | about a year and a half ago | (#43207125)

Looks like your RPi is overclocked :-)

Slashdot engineering team? Sure. (-1, Troll)

BitZtream (692029) | about a year and a half ago | (#43204105)

Seriously? Have you looked at your site? Your HTML is crap, half your javascript doesn't work in any browser, your pages load slower than shit now days and your editors wouldn't know actual technology from snake oil if it bit them in the ass.

I stopped reading so early in your 'review' that I didn't finish the first paragraph. You apparently don't even know the difference between male and female jumper wires ... let me give you a hint. There is no where on the rasberry pi to plugin your male jumper wires. Perhaps you should learn a little bit about the sexs before you start using terminology related to them.

First impressions (3, Funny)

Gothmolly (148874) | about a year and a half ago | (#43204569)

No wireless. Less space than a nomad. Lame.

Re:First impressions (1)

Tool Man (9826) | about a year and a half ago | (#43204863)

Mine's got a USB wifi card, and does just fine.

Re:First impressions (1)

AAWood (918613) | about a year and a half ago | (#43207073)

Hold on, let me go grab my box of expired Slashdot memes, I think there's one in here for... ahh, here we go. Ahem.

Whoooosh!

Re:First impressions (1)

cant_get_a_good_nick (172131) | about a year and a half ago | (#43207091)

GP post was a joke, referring to how the first iPod was slammed, including in Slashdot [slashdot.org]

Re:First impressions (1)

Tool Man (9826) | about a year and a half ago | (#43207167)

HAHAHAH. OK, fine. I'll go back to sleep now.

Re:First impressions (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43207583)

Wow, that is a blast from the past.

FireWire (400Mbps) data syncing _and_ recharging at the same time. That's cool.

firewire!

5 GB still is more than my whole mp3 collection

lol

I'm speaking as a longtime PC owner and Linux, not a Mac owner (though I do love my Newton)

newton!

and the creme de la creme

Raise your hand if you have iTunes ...

Raise your hand if you have a FireWire port ...

Raise your hand if you have both ...

Raise your hand if you have $400 to spend on a cute Apple device ...

There is Apple's market. Pretty slim, eh? I don't see many sales in the future of iPod.

~LoudMusic

This is pretty neat! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43204721)

http://www.amazon.com/Apple-Laptop-M8602LL-700-MHz-PowerPC/dp/B000068IE6

$130... compare that to a raspPi. Less ram, more hard drive, and compatible with off the shelf components with no soldering or typing into cli to get it to do what you want it to do. I think their target market should be changed to 'erector set' junkies, or the next idiot who claims he built a fusion reactor in his basement out of $30 of parts. Those project type people are really keen and awesome.

Pictures (3, Informative)

jones_supa (887896) | about a year and a half ago | (#43204809)

You could have spiced the article with some photos.

Double Standard (5, Interesting)

necro81 (917438) | about a year and a half ago | (#43204875)

Perhaps this is a result of the author's experience, or how the author structured the review and geared it towards the /. audience, but I find a lot of griping and warnings about the electronics and not so much about the software. For instance: Regarding electronics:

I think assembly of the Ada Fruit Cobbler kit will be the most intimidating part of the kit for someone new to electronics. The kit calls out that you will need soldering skills and this is as basic a soldering job as you can get, but still some might shy away from it.

In the next paragraph, regarding the Linux install:

The Raspian OS is Lightweight X11 (LXDE) with Openbox. For non-Linux users this may seem a little scary but there is a whole body of work around this and outside of the scope of this review. Configuring and setting up the OS on my home network was typical for a Linux install.

To expend two whole paragraphs explaining how he soldered a bunch of header pins, and sum up that it might be intimidating to newbies, and then to basically say "RTFM" about installing and configuring Linux seems to gloss over an awful lot.

More on the difficulties of hardware:

You should really make sure you have your circuits setup and buffered when working with external experiments. It is also important to understand how a breadboard works and which terminals are tied out. Basically if you aren’t careful and paying attention you can accidentally feed power back to your Pi and end up blowing it out. (Mixing the 3V3 and 5V will do that in an instant.) For a $35 board that isn’t too expensive of a lesson, but would probably cause a newbie to be quickly discouraged.

But software is just fine and dandy, and oh so simple

I was happy to see Python and IDLE in the install as it made writing a simple program to tinker with the system easy. Additional modules can be downloaded and installed easily.

I can understand that the reviewer is relaying their own personal observations, and perhaps the software really is that easy and straightforward compared to the wiring and breadboarding. Not necessarily true in my experience. The reviewer is assuming, or representing, different levels of experience and comfort between hardware and software.

Re:Double Standard (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about a year and a half ago | (#43212639)

The instructions for raspbian are fairly straightforward. This was a review, and not an introduction, so it seems reasonable to me. If anyone out there is reading this and wants help, please install BerryBoot [berryterminal.com] on a decently-sized SD card, say 8GB.

The hard part to me is selecting an SD card, because many of the fancy ones have poor random read performance... and that is outside of the scope of this comment. Even a slow card will work, though. No card under 1GB is useful and most things need 2GB to be useful. You'll need at least 4GB for multiboot to be useful, but berryboot still makes installation easy.

I wish he'd said more about the buffering, does he mean the examples are unbuffered? If so, this kit is unsatisfactory in literally every way.

Pricing. (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43205155)

In fairness the author does eventually get the more realistic price of $130. But, he still perpetuates the Raspberry Pi myth about price by leading with "For $35 the Pi..."

The $35 Pi, if it ever existed, is completely non-functional. Resellers are selling base units for over $35 and you are required to purchase accessories just to make this thing boot, let alone not short out due to exposed electronics and pins.

A fully functioning Raspberry Pi is no where near $35. At best, it is more in the $70 range.

For the $70 range, you can get a Rikomagic Android PC [rikomagic.co.uk] which includes:

  • Much smaller/more compact form factor.
  • A durable case.
  • Builtin WiFi.
  • Builtin Bluetooth.
  • Preloaded Android with complete app store. You can put Ubuntu on it if you wish.
  • Plug and play functionality.
  • and more...

The only thing that the Rikomagic lacks that Raspberry Pi has is GPIO access, which can still be achieved with the right USB device.

The Raspberry Pi is a great idea whose time passed before they could really ramp up production to meet demand.

Re:Pricing. (1)

bugs2squash (1132591) | about a year and a half ago | (#43205567)

The other thing that the Rikomagic lacks is a large and growing community of users, vendors and educators. Hardware's fine and all that but creating a common basic platform for a broad community is much harder.
Besides the lack of GPIO/SPI/I2c is a huge deal, it cuts out a lot of hardware tinkering.

Re:Pricing. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43211429)

You completely missed the reason why the Pi has become such as a success. It is a great hardware hacking platform where in many cases it is not being used as a standalone computer, but for projects that requires a bit more "intelligence"/programmability such as robotics for example (think home-made T2 built in someone's garage). So for many people who are using a Pi, it truly is a $35 component that will be integrated into something more complex. Just because you don't know what to use it for does not mean others don't (and are making good uses of the Pi), which is why they are selling like hotcakes.

Re:Pricing. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43211839)

I've got a rikomagic MK802III. I don't use it... because I bought it as a media player.

It doesn't work... android bombs about when trying to read from samba drives and the video isn't hardware accelerated.

So I still use the raspberry PI with openelec XBMC.

Any questions?

It's a pretty neat little gadget (2)

yog (19073) | about a year and a half ago | (#43205639)

I got one about a month ago from Newark. I got a ($12) case too, and that came much sooner; the Pi took about two weeks to arrive.
Setting it up was pretty straightforward. I installed the Raspbian image to an 8gb Sd card (about $7 from Amazon), plugged the Pi directly into my router, and powered it up using one of my various microUSB chargers I have lying around.

Then I was able to get in easily using ssh. I updated the OS, added a few utilities, and started vncserver. From that point, I could access the graphical UI from a window on my Suse desktop. SSH is faster, however; the board isn't that fast.

I plugged in a spare bluetooth dongle that was not recognized by my Suse desktop, but the Pi recognized it properly and could see other bluetooth devices around the house. Neat!

I then plugged in a USB wireless dongle that I had lying around, and it came right up. Now it's completely portable around the house, no longer tied to the router. I attached a cheap webcam I had gotten a while back on ebay, and I installed motion, as per a nice how-to, and immediately the Pi became a surveillance system.

I was going to set it up in front of the house, but then I got the idea I wanted to interface it to my electronic piano in the living room. I got a $6.75 MIDI-to-USB cable and attached the Pi to the piano. Previously I had an identical cable working nicely with a midi keyboard and my Suse desktop. This one did not seem to register as a midi device; I'm going to have to find a driver, or else write some software of my own. My goal is to have a tablet-controlled midi sequencer, so that I can record midi to the Pi and play it back through the piano. A bigger project than I've had time for up to now, but I hope to get to it soon.

It's a fun little board and I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys hacking around with Linux and automating things around the house. There's probably fifty other uses for it that I haven't thought of yet.

Re:It's a pretty neat little gadget (1)

xaxa (988988) | about a year and a half ago | (#43206955)

Try the MIDI-to-USB cable on your desktop.

It's possible whatever driver it needs exists in Linux, but hasn't been included in the kernel you're using. (I'm expecting this situation with a touchscreen I bought: http://engineering-diy.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/adding-7inch-display-with-touchscreen.html [blogspot.co.uk] -- so far it works fine on Ubuntu, but I haven't yet tried it on Raspbian, it's in use for something else.)

Re:It's a pretty neat little gadget (1)

yog (19073) | about a year and a half ago | (#43209613)

It works on my desktop running OpenSuse. I went ahead and ordered an EMU XMIDI adapter from Amazon for $40. The cheap adapters seem to get overwhelmed very easily especially when sustain is on.

My experiences (4, Informative)

xonen (774419) | about a year and a half ago | (#43206149)

A friend got me a PI recently as little present, which was very welcome.

It's a great little device, though with some very odd design decisions.

For me personally, the graphics chip is simply not needed. Also, onboard is a DSP that's unfortunately undocumented and hence disfunctional.

The I/O pins are hardly protected - so if you want to experiment with electronics, best start by a simple circuit to protect them, with some transistors or an optocoupler. Also, the pens are 3.3V and provide no power more than a 10mA... Not really an issue, but also implies that you cannot drive a relais from it directly.

The biggest issue is in the power. The power supply i had was adequate (1.4A), but, the PI itself is not. Hotplugging the USB with any power hungry device - like a WLAN key, or a webcam, is likely to power-cycle the PI. It is known issue - but can come unexpected. Low power devices like mice and keyboards are likely to be hotplugged but, any sane person only uses those during installation process.

Software - What works, what not works. Firefox runs. This is really impressive, it actually works. Albeit, that even when idle, the FF process alone will take 60-80% of the CPU power.

What not works - mono. Well, mono works. But, there are issues - especially regarding floating points, and it typically shows when accessing databases. 'Conversion error in (system.sql.data.import or some - i'm not that good with mono).

Performance - it is said it 'feels' like a pentium 300. I agree, overal the performance is not very sluggish, and much what you'd expect from such device. However, when running benchmarks, things turn out different. For example stockfish, the chess program. With parameter 'bench' it'll perform a single-core benchmark.
Ubuntu-pc-32: 4900ms
Ubuntu-pc-32 / optimized build: 4500ms
Ubuntu-pc-64: 3300ms
Raspberry pi: 239.000ms
From this benchmark, the PI more runs like a pentium66. This is a cpu and integer intensive benchmark. I'm sure modern memory access will make up for it. However, it is very clear that the ARM instruction set is very very elegant, but also very inefficient.

As far as connectors etc go, i agree with the reviewer. It's soldered, but does not look very bullet proof. Best be handled with care, and unplug power by unplugging adapter from mains might be prefered. That being said, apart some installation quircks i did not have to powercycle it often.

Stability. On idle load, it is very stable. I installed 'motion' - the videocam 'guarding' software, and configured it. However, this software was not stable. I don't know if it's the software, the port, or the PI, but it will not run much longer than a day, when making repeated snapshots (like 1/second).

The basic distro's seem fine. When adding custom software, the debian package may well be present (very very much kudo's to those distro maintainers!). Compiling software yourself on the PI is going fine in most cases, though may take a while. On larger compiles it may suffer from low memory and break - so, if you want to compile a lot for your PI, best set up a crosscompiler. The biggest issue i had was in unforeseen instabilities, either when putting the PI under load, either when using not-too-well-tested software like mono. That being said, it is very impressive that almost anything in a standard debian distro just works.

On occasion, i had a process that could not be killed. Here, it shows the architectural differences between i386 and ARM i guess. On a pc, the kernel should be able to kill any process. On the PI arm, this seems not always to be the case. I'm not enough cpu guru to guess details on this, just i guess it has to do with ARM.

Wifi - i had a nice wifi stick. It works fine. However - again, not perfect stable in my view, it may loose connection. May be my adapter maybe the pi. If you have chance, just use ethernet - it will releive the pi's cpu on the fly, and you may need the cpu power for other things.

What's missing:
Audio-in. This is really a bummer. The pi would have been an excellent noise-free recording device.
A/D in or out - only logical IO. Tristate though for many pins.
Expansion for 2nd SD card - and why use SD and not microSD? They could have fitted like 2 microSD slots on the same place, still saving space.

So, my biggest critisism is in the power circuit. I really wish they had spent a few pennies more on that. I also suspect it being the major cause of instabilities. It is solvable by using a powered USB hub, though - but that kinda defeats the small form factor if you need a second case and second power supply.

* just a few random notes, there's more details but i'd encourage anyone to find out for themselves. overall the PI is great value for money.*

Re:My experiences (1)

xonen (774419) | about a year and a half ago | (#43206237)

Note about the floating point - before ppl start pointing out - i tried both available debian distrubitions (with hard and soft floating point). While the soft floating point did fix some issues, unfortunately, not all of them (when it came to mono/mysql).

Re:My experiences (1)

psergiu (67614) | about a year and a half ago | (#43207107)

1) Have you done

apt-get update
apt-get dist-upgrade

(or "raspi-config" and select "update")

to get the newest (and fastest binaries) from those distros ? With the latest 3.6.11 kernel and optimised libs using the HW floating point and other hardware goodies, the RPi is way faster that when running the default, half-a-month old packages.

2) Have you tried overclocking ? The UK-made RPis with Samsung RAM have no issues running at 1Ghz (from the default of 700Mhz) and with RAM at 600Mhz (default 400Mhz). The Chinese ones with Hynix RAM work okay at 800-900Mhz with 450-500Mhz RAM speed.

"raspi-config" and choose the overclocking option. None of them will void your warranty (you can void it only if you edit config.txt by hand and use the higher voltages needed to reach 1.1Ghz or higher)

You can plop a RAM heatsink on top of the CPU but unless you run-it outside in the summer, it's not really required for overclocking.

3) For compiles, configure the memory-split so the GPU will get only 16Mb of RAM and give the rest to the ARM. You won't have 3D or HW Video decoding (X11 still works) but you will have lots of RAM for compiling.

Re:My experiences (4, Informative)

xaxa (988988) | about a year and a half ago | (#43207129)

Note that the processor in the Pi was designed in 2002 (!), so it's probably not a fair reflection of current ARM chips: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ARM11 [wikipedia.org]

I've bought a Hardkernel Odroid-U2 http://www.hardkernel.com/renewal_2011/products/prdt_info.php [hardkernel.com] and plan to replace my webserver. The Pi was almost powerful enough -- it was fine for everything except resizing photographs on demand. The Odroid-U2 has 2GB RAM, and a processor that was released last April ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exynos_(system_on_chip) [wikipedia.org] "4 Quad", if I follow the description correctly).

I will still use the Pi, but more for toy/hobby stuff. At the moment it's monitoring my household electricity use (519W), and drawing a nice graph. Not too taxing:
20:31:08 up 14 days, 23:09, 1 user, load average: 0.18, 0.08, 0.06

Re:My experiences (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about a year and a half ago | (#43212661)

Amazon, twenty bucks, Pogoplug. 3xUSB2 that actually work, Marvell ARM chip, if you are careful about selecting the proper model you get 512MB RAM. And the icing, GigE not attached to flaky USB. I think they ones they're making new now have only 128MB RAM or something. There's a second generation device with USB3, but it has a slower processor. Read about them in the arch linux devices section, they detail all of them since Linux runs on all of them. If you don't need the video, this is by far the cheapest way to get a small ARM system running Linux in a finished case with a working power supply.

Still debating if I want a Raspberry Pi (1)

asm2750 (1124425) | about a year and a half ago | (#43206307)

I already have a beagle board and a beagle bone, is there anything the Pi can do that the beagle boards can't?

Re:Still debating if I want a Raspberry Pi (3, Informative)

psergiu (67614) | about a year and a half ago | (#43207195)

h264 1080p HW-assisted playback over DVI with Audio and CEC.

Re:Still debating if I want a Raspberry Pi (1)

xaxa (988988) | about a year and a half ago | (#43207217)

I already have a beagle board and a beagle bone, is there anything the Pi can do that the beagle boards can't?

You can buy four Pis for the price of one Beagleboard. Maybe that means you can do four projects rather than one, but the Pi has a somewhat older CPU.

The only reason for you to get one is if you've made a project with the Beagleboard which doesn't use all its power. You could move the project to a Pi and use the Beagleboard for something else.

(I don't own a Beagle-anything. See also http://www.adafruit.com/blog/2012/06/18/ask-an-educator-whats-the-difference-between-arduino-raspberry-pi-beagleboard-etc/ [adafruit.com] )

Never really was interested in the Rpi (2)

pjr.cc (760528) | about a year and a half ago | (#43206413)

Personally, i've never been interested in an rpi, im really very into arm based tech, but at least in australia where i am, the rpi ends up being quite expensive. Its been nice as a project for the general community to work on cause it seems to have focused everyone on a single arm board and so alot of projects have errupted from it. However as a piece of hardware, by the time you could get it in australia there were (and still are) much better options. Ultimately you'll end up spending $50 here, and then theres the stupid decision about the distributors which charge rediculously for shipping over here.

Ultimately though it was the specs on the board that switched me off in the end (which now with the larger one, still are a little light imho). For around $60 you can pick up several a10 based options which have much better cpu's and memory - often when you factor in shipping, they end up being cheaper. But then, im not exactly a third-world person, so the cost of the board was never really that important anyway. i.e. at the time the hackberry was $75 for a dual-core 1.2GHz and 1g of RAM, vs the RPI's ~$30 for 800mhz and 256M. You can either look at that as 3times the price or (as i did) a fairly insignificant price difference for a much better board and they're still cheap enough for me to own a number of them.

Re:Never really was interested in the Rpi (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43212329)

I have three of them, all purchased from AU-Element14 from $38 to 41.xx each! Best delivery was 4 days and I am in Western Australia! Just hanging out for the Model A and camera module to be released.

Re:Never really was interested in the Rpi (1)

pjr.cc (760528) | about a year and a half ago | (#43213533)

if i login right now and go thru their order page, its $53 inc shipping to Sydney...

As i was saying, for 60$ you can get an a10 based board (dual-core, 1.2-1.5Ghz + 1gb of ram) shipped (at 70-75, you'll get every cable you'll ever need too) - and it has every connector the rpi has. But there is a world of difference between 256 and 512 of ram, and another world of diff between 512 and 1024...

Dont get me wrong, the rpi has done one wonderous thing - its gotten people very firmly interested in a architecture i love (and have since around the time of the nslu2 - which in reality was not really an arm board, but based off the arm architecture). the things (and projects) it has spawned are fantastic...

Its just that when i sit there and compare an rpi to those a10 boards, i just dont get why people are all going "yes, for 10-20 more, i could get a board with 4 times the grunt, but i'd rather save the 20$"... sure in a third world, a $20 diff is important, but to the very vast majority of people who are doing projects with them, they are ultimately an expensive board for what they do and should probably be a little cheaper.

Re:Never really was interested in the Rpi (0)

drinkypoo (153816) | about a year and a half ago | (#43212685)

I don't know what you'd pay in Australia, but in the US I can get a Mk802 for around $45. For a media player, it's a better choice. But the R-Pi is still a nifty board from a hacking standpoint, since it has so much more GPIO than other options. But again, you could cheaply add an Arduino knockoff to any cheap device and get plenty of IO.

The coolest thing I have seen done with a Raspberry Pi is adding Ambilight functionality to XBMC. XBMC runs basically OK on the Pi, though it's a bit gutless for it. Someone ought to consider selling a case with LED driver module, I bet people would buy it. People looking for a use for their R-Pi :)

Re:Never really was interested in the Rpi (1)

pjr.cc (760528) | about a year and a half ago | (#43213731)

Well, the mk802 is a system on a stick (which isnt what im refering to)... but for the same price you can get an mk802, you should be able to get its dev-board cousins - i.e. what the rpi is (which typically will have all the connectors on the arm chip exposed, gpio included) - and those dev boards have been around as long as the mk802 has.

As I said in the post above though, i love how the rpi has gotten this ground swell of support following it, and its spawned some very kewl things (all of which work equally well on the a10 hackberry/cubieboard/etc type boards), but my point is more that bang for buck, the rpi is actually quite expensive... but consider, for me the rpi is 53$ (shipping, etc) and an a10 based board i can get at ~$75 (inc shipping + cables) and for that i get dual core, 1.2ghz and 1gb of ram - this is not a small difference (and if it were being sold in the quantities that the rpi is, it'd be cheaper still).

I guess one thing that does irritate me about it all is that it starts out as a $25 board (roughly?) and then between me and the people who make them there are 3 layers of idiots just reaping money out of the whole thing - i have had to deal with both rs and element14 for quite a long time (or the companies which they were originally) and they really couldn't have a chosen a worse set of distributors in Australia for something like the rpi.

Biggest Problem - USB Not Hot-Pluggable (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43207599)

I've had an RP since Christmas (my children know the right gifts to buy Daddy). It's a nice, but not-that-fast, Linux system with one major problem. Everytime I hot plug anything, the system reboots. This teh suxors when you want to load or save some file. I need to ftp for that. After initial setup using an HDMI-VGA converter, I now work with it using X on the home network. LAMP server works well, but don't try phpmyadmin with the local web browser, it's far too slow for that. Phpmyadmin works well remotely.

Re:Biggest Problem - USB Not Hot-Pluggable (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43210241)

Not only that: the network stack is on top of the USB stack. This means that whenever USB fails the network fails, thus running headless is a pain. External USB hubs are also unstable to say the least, so for my RPi has been a disappointment. I still run it though, using a minimal configuration and using the serial port on the GPIO headers.

There is work being done on the USB drivers, but no real news since the end of January on that. Kind of suck.

Raspberry Pi XBMC (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43208415)

I'm putting one of these together now. Quiet, cheap, and looks to outperform most of the $150 media players out there...
http://wiki.xbmc.org/index.php?title=Raspberry_Pi

"with all of the buzz about Raspberry Pi" (1)

csumpi (2258986) | about a year and a half ago | (#43209685)

You mean all the /vertisements? That's your own doing. Should've eaten your dogfood first. I mean pie
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