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Raspberry Pi Tiny Computer



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Raspberry Pi Australia

 

RASPBERRY PI ~ TINY COMPUTER



What is Raspberry Pi ?

The non-profit Raspberry Pi Foundation developed these tiny computers as a way to get a functional PC into the hands of tinkering children around the world in a project somewhat similar to One Laptop Per Child, but with pricing at a fraction of OLPC's.

The Raspberry Pi Foundation have now entered into licensed manufacture partnerships with two British companies, Premier Farnell and RS Components, who are manufacturing and distributing the devices on their behalf, and handling the distribution of the original batches as they arrive in the country. They continue to make a small profit from each Raspberry Pi bought, which they are putting straight back into the charity.

They are no longer limited to batches of only ten thousand Raspberry Pis; the Raspberry Pi will now be built to match buyer demand. Both partners have worldwide distribution networks, so wherever you are in the world, you will be able to buy from a local distributor.


Raspberry Pi Australia Buy Raspberry Pi Australia


Why Rapsberry Pi ?

The idea behind a small and cheap computer for kids education came in 2006, when Eben Upton was lecturing and working in admissions at Cambridge University.

Eben had noticed a distinct drop in the skills levels of the A Level students applying to read Computer Science in each academic year when he came to interview them. From a situation in the 1990s where most of the kids applying were coming to interview as hobbyist programmers, the landscape in the 2000s was very different; a typical applicant now had experience only with web design, and sometimes not even with that. Fewer people were applying to the course every year. Something had changed the way kids were interacting with computers.

Eben and colleagues from the university like Rob Mullins and Alan Mycroft (both now trustees of the Raspberry Pi Foundation) mulled ideas about what had happened in schools to cause this change in direction in computer education.

A number of problems were identified:

The colonisation of the ICT curriculum with lessons on using Word and Excel. Writing webpages. The end of the dot-com boom. The rise of the home PC and game consoles to replace the Amigas, BBC Micros, Spectrum ZX and Commodore 64 machines that people of an earlier generation learned to program on.

They agreed that there wasn't much any small group of people could do to address problems like an inadequate school curriculum or the end of a financial bubble. However, they felt that they could try to do something about the situation where computers had become so expensive and arcane that programming experimentation on them had to be forbidden by parents; and to find a platform that, like those old home computers, could boot into a programming environment.

Over the next few years, Eben (having left the university for industry) worked on building prototypes of what has now become the Raspberry Pi in his spare time.

By 2008, with the sudden rise of smartphones, processors designed for mobile devices were becoming more affordable, and powerful enough to provide excellent multimedia (a Raspberry Pi can play Blu-Ray-quality video), a feature they feel makes the board more desirable to kids who aren't initially interested in a raw programming device.

The project started to become very workable. Eben came together with a group of friends and old colleagues with a wide-ranging group of skills, some of whom were already wrestling with the problem of what to do about producing new young programmers. These people became the Raspberry Pi board of trustees:

David Braben :: A star game designer and Cambridgeshire entrepreneur with a book of contacts as long as your arm.
Jack Lang :: A local academic and business angel who worked on the original BBC Micro project.
Pete Lomas :: MD of a hardware design and manufacture company where their earliest boards had been designed and built.
Professor Alan Mycroft and Dr Rob Mullins :: Cambridge University Computer Lab, who have provided a lot of the educational direction of the project.



Raspberry Pi Specs

On March 3rd Raspberry Pi Foundation announced a doubling of the Model A RAM capacity to 256MB.

The US$35 model, which is the one that is now available, includes the following:

Raspberry Pi Spec Sheet
:: Broadcom BCM2835 700MHz ARM1176JZFS processor with FPU and Videocore 4 GPU
:: GPU provides Open GL ES 2.0, hardware-accelerated OpenVG,
and 1080p3D H.264 high-profile decode GPU is capable of 1Gpixel/s, 1.5Gtexel/s or 24GFLOPs
with texture filtering and DMA infrastructure
:: 256MB RAM
:: Boots from SD card, running Raspberry Pi Fedora Linux Remix
:: 10/100-BaseT Ethernet port
:: HDMI port
:: USB 2.0 port
:: RCA video port
:: SD card slot
:: Powered from microUSB port
:: 3.5mm audio out jack
:: Header footprint for camera connection
:: Size: 85.6 x 53.98 x 17mm




Raspberry Pi Cases

The SoC (system on a chip) is a Broadcom BCM2835. This contains an ARM1176JZFS, with floating point, running at 700Mhz, and a Videocore 4 GPU. The GPU is capable of BluRay quality playback, using H.264 at 40MBits/s.

Graphics capabilities are roughly equivalent to Xbox 1 level. Overall performance is similar to 300MHz Pentium 2, with better graphics.

There's a little overclocking headroom – most devices will run happily at 800MHz.

The device is powered by 5v micro USB. The device should also run well off 4 x AA cells.

Power over Ethernet (PoE) isn't possible though a commonly requested feature, so it's being considered.


Why are people so excited about this small Raspberry Pi computer ?

The reason their online ordering system crashed under unprecedented demand is because with just this hardware alone, and a compatible Linux distribution of course, a hobbyist hacker can now build a fully working Linux desktop or server.

Even though it was designed for the education market, it's also paving the way as proof that you don't require two or more gigabytes just for an operating system (a la Windows 8 Consumer Preview) or pay hundreds of dollars. Computing power via open source software is still available for anyone with minimum technical expertise and a few dollars.

The Raspberry Pi may only be tiny but it has the graphical power to play HD video. Throw in some USB storage or a network share and you can run a full blown media centre application. Raspbmc is a project to build a special version of XBMC optimised for the Raspberry Pi that supports DNLA, AirPlay and 1080p video playback!

OpenELEC

OpenELEC is an embedded operating system (OS) built specifically to run XBMC, the open source entertainment media hub. This allows you to use a computer as their Home Theatre (HTPC).

OpenELEC has now been ported to support the ARM chip that the Raspberry Pi uses, therefore allowing Raspberry Pi to run OpenELEC and XMBC.

Why waste money on an expensive smart TV that only gives you a few apps and a questionable web browser. Upon plugging in a Raspberry Pi to your television you get a proper desktop web browser that will actually work with the modern web and a huge library of applications and games!

A small army of tech experimenters are already working on more specialist distros for you to install on to your Pi that will outfit it as a mini office machine, a social media powerhouse, or even a retro gaming arcade to name a few.



Green Advantages

The Raspberry Pi also comes with various green advantages to it. Firstly its size means that it produces considerably less of a carbon footprint, using the minimal parts possible (compared to a regular sized computer), and this is even further reduced by the limited power consumption to run such a tiny computer.

Another significant advantage is that this device can aid greatly with those tinkering in small to medium scale eco electronics projects where computing power beyond a basic controller would be to your advantage.

Effectively this is a small computer that can be used by anyone with basic computer needs (email, web browsing, documents, photos, video, music etc) that wants to save energy and money!



Educational Uses

With the key demographic for the Raspberry Pi being the educational sector, what educational material will be available?

We're working with partners to get software materials developed, as well as with the open source community. Computing at School are writing a user guide and programming manual, we're aware of a few books being planned and written around the Raspberry Pi, and others have already started to produce some excellent tutorials including video.
We're also working with partners to use it as a teaching platform for other subjects, including languages, maths and so on.
Once we launch, we hope that the community will help bodies like Computing at School put together teaching material such as lesson plans and resources and push this into schools. In due course, the foundation hopes to provide a system of prizes to give young people something to work towards.




Rapsberry Pi Specs

>> You can buy Raspberry Pi in Australia here for AUD$38.00



 

 
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