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What is Raspberry Pi ?

11/10/2015

The Raspberry Pi is a series of credit card–sized single-board computers developed in the United Kingdom by the Raspberry Pi Foundation with the intention of promoting the teaching of basic computer science in schools and developing countries. This incredibly cool little computer is capable of doing everything you’d expect a desktop computer to do, from browsing the internet and playing high-definition video, to making spreadsheets, word-processing, and playing games. What’s more, the Raspberry Pi has the ability to interact with the outside world, and has been used in a wide array of digital maker projects, from music machines and parent detectors to weather stations and tweeting birdhouses with infra-red cameras.

Nowadays when I'm writing this blog you can get Raspberry PI 2 from many stores based in UK, USA, China and in many other countries. Comparing with ancestors, this model is 6 times faster and don't look like educational device, meant for hobbyists and aspiring youths out there to learn about programming and electronics.

The Raspberry Pi 2 is the latest version of the Pi and is the fastest version of the PI at the writing of this article. This and the version B+ is the most popular version you will find around due to the processing power and amount of ports you get on with it.

The Raspberry Pi 2 is the replacement of the B+ and features a 900 MHz quad core CPU and 1 GB of ram. The rest of the specs remain the same as what you will find on the previous model.

So what does the Raspberry Pi do?

The small size makes for an easy-to-hide computer that sips power and can be mounted behind the display with an appropriate case. It could also be used in niche applications, like digital signage. While it will not blow away any recent hardware in performance, it does make for a cheap secondary computer which could be useful for troubleshooting and researching solutions if your man rig fails to boot as well.

Here is a small list I've found where Raspberry PI was used in a creative way

What kind of operating system does the Raspberry Pi run?

The Raspberry Pi was designed for the Linux operating system, and many Linux distributions now have a version optimized for the Raspberry Pi.

Two of the most popular options are Raspbian, which is based on the Debian operating system, and Pidora, which is based on the Fedora operating system. For beginners, either of these two work well; which one you choose to use is a matter of personal preference. A good practice might be to go with the one which most closely resembles an operating system you’re familiar with, in either a desktop or server environment.

If you would like to experiment with multiple Linux distributions and aren't sure which one you want, or you just want an easier experience in case something goes wrong, try NOOBS, which stands for New Out Of Box Software. When you first boot from the SD card, you will be given a menu with multiple distributions (including Raspbian and Pidora) to choose from. If you decide to try a different one, or if something goes wrong with your system, you simply hold the Shift key at boot to return to this menu and start over.

This is a list of OS available for the Raspberry Pi. So I presume this might be enough for many cases. For those who have special needs check this extensive Raspberry PI OS list on Wikipedia or just check on Raspberry Pi Foundation web site

Specifications and performance

Here is the specs of Raspberry PI 2 model listed below :

  • 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

Here is a nice introduction video from "Pi My Life Up"

What are alternatives to the Raspberry Pi?

The Raspberry Pi is not the only small device of its kind — two prominent examples in the enthusiast community are the Arduino and BeagleBoard.

The biggest difference between something like the Arduino and the Raspberry Pi is in the intended usage. While the Raspberry Pi is a fully functional computer, the Arduino is meant to be used as a development board with micro-controllers that will be programmed and then integrated into larger machines or electronics and allowed to run on their own. This means it does not run an operating system, but instead, runs very specific, small blocks of code written by the person using the device. There are numerous add-on boards that give it more capabilities, but out of the box, it’s less ready-to-go than a Raspberry Pi

Another option is the Beaglebone series of boards, which are more similar to the Raspberry Pi, but a little bit more powerful (and a little bit more costly, too).

Arduino and BeagleBoard both have extensive device lineups that include expensive higher end models whereas the Raspberry Pi computer is designed around the idea of producing a computer that is “capable enough” as cheaply as possible. When keeping expectations in check — especially where performance is concerned — the Raspberry Pi is a capable little computer for the price. And one of the biggest advantage of using the Raspberry Pi over some other alternatives is the size of the community. If you have a question regarding a project you are working on, there are a lot of people who might be able to help you because of the large reach of the community.

Google Trends Comparison for Arduino, Raspberry PI and BeagleBoard

Popularity of Raspberry PI on the world map by rastrack.co.uk

Popularity of Raspberry PI on the world map by rastrack.co.uk

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