Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Raspberry Pi!

I love tech.  A giant server with massive storage?  Oh yea.  A small netbook that I can use on a plane for 6 hours continuously?  Set that right down here!  So when I heard of a computer that can do 1080P video, fit in the palm of your hand, and cost only $25 I already had my wallet in my hand!  

The group over at have built a computer platform based around a broadcom ARM processor.  The reason for their work was to build a inexpensive high quality computer that will allow school children direct access to hardware.  The old 8 bit computers of the 1980's were understandable by most hobbyists.  These computers have been kept up and working because they were easily maintainable, and modifiable.  People like you and I created interface cards in our spare time to get new functions in these machines on shoe string budgets.  And if we damaged something, in the back of most of the manuals we had the full system schematic for the boards and necessary parts lists.  Usually you could fix these pc's with nothing more than a soldering iron, a chip puller, and a screw driver. 

Modern PC's with high speed buses are not as easily modified.  Understanding the base hardware at a chip level is almost impossible, and you won't find many home made pci-express cards.  That and who wants to risk frying their $500+ home computer with a home made part or two?  Especially since these machines really are not user serviceable.  You fry a chip, you replace the whole motherboard.  

The problem is that this type of tinkering is exactly how you learn!  Kids today don't have access to the wonderful rough and tumble machines I had when I was a kid.  That's the point of the raspberry pi.  It's a very simple computer system that is immanently hackable.  It gives a user very low level access so you can start coding even in BASIC right off the bat of turning it on, works with equipment you probably already have, and  costs next to nothing.  If you do wind up frying this little guy while trying to create something awesome, you can just get another one.  

All in all this is a great achievement.  Currently these little guys are not yet for sale, but will be soon.  You can bet I'll have on in my hands shortly there after and I'll post a full review!