Credit-card sized Linux-based computer Raspberry Pi

Raspberry PiThe basic idea behind developing this tiny computer named Raspberry Pi was education. The designer of Raspberry Pi, Cambridge, UK-based Raspberry Pi Foundation, claims that they wanted to create an affordable computer that can encourage student programmers to learn something while developing a system themselves and write their own software. The Linux-based computer is reasonably priced at $35.

The Raspberry Pi computer includes a motherboard with a low-end ARM CPU soldered onto it. The user has to provide its own operating system, storage media, and power supply to run it. Yes, a bit of hassle but then can live with it.

The motherboard of Raspberry Pi includes two USB sockets for connecting a mouse and keyboard, a network socket, HDMI and composite display outputs, audio out, and an SD card slot. The SD card functions like the hard disk on a normal computer. Power is supplied to the Raspberry Pi through a micro USB socket. The different distributions for Linux operating system to run Raspberry Pi can be downloaded from the Raspberry Foundation website. There are three officially supported variants of Linux operating system that can be downloaded from the official website. These variants are Debian Squeeze, Arch Linux ARM and QtonPi.

A lower-specified $25 model Raspberry Pi B is also available in the market. Both the versions of Raspberry Pi share the same ARM 700MHz processor, 256MB RAM and Broadcom Open GL graphics chip, which is capable of producing 1080p HD images. Though the Raspberry Pi model does not have an RJ45 Ethernet port, it can connect to a network by using a user-supplied USB Ethernet or Wi-Fi adapter slot into one of the two on board USB ports. Of the two versions, Raspberry Pi B model is the most popular one.

Some of the Raspberry Pi uses are:

  • Coding classroom tool: It can be used as a low-cost platform for young IT students to develop software and applications.
  • Set top media player: Though the ARM 700MHz processor do not make Raspberry Pi a high-end computing device, it can still play full HD video with the right software. So, you can just connect it your home entertainment system and enjoy HD quality movies.
  • Internet radio: You can convert your Raspberry Pi into a desktop Internet radio by using the LAN port to get connected to the nearby placed router. Once connected to Internet, plug in external speakers to the audio out jack, and stream online radio channels to enjoy your favorite programs.
  • MAME arcade box: MAME (Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator) is a popular download for the Raspberry Pi. One can run many retro games on his Raspberry Pi.

A latest technological development related to Raspberry Pi is that it has recently got Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) support. The support for Android 4.0 could further expand the scope and usage of this little PC for developers writing applications for smartphones and tablets powered by Android 4.0 OS. Besides, a 5-megapixel camera add-on for the super-cheap computer too has been announced recently.

Before concluding, it’s important to keep in mind that Raspberry Pi has its limitations. But, given the price tag of $35, it would be unfair to discuss about its limitations. The Raspberry Pi was designed not with an objective to be an everyday PC or a media player, but to be a low cost computer for developing apps or a flexible option for your DIY projects.