09 November 2012

Raspberry Pi!

I got a new job at the Biomechatronics Group in the MIT Media Lab. But that's not what this post is about, it's about the 

What is a Raspberry Pi, you ask? 

SO CUTE! ^_^

A Raspberry Pi is a full Linux computer the size of a wallet. Its 700MHz (256MB RAM) ARM CPU/GPU runs off a 5-volt 1-amp power source, like a phone charger. It has a built-in ethernet, USB, HDMI or composite video out, a useful GPIO (So you can set use IO pins like an Arduino, use UART, SPI, I2C, and other communication protocols). You can plug in a USB hub to use flash drives, keyboard and mouse, a WIFI adapter, an external hard drive...

It's supposedly $25.00 from the manufacturer, but an Amazon search puts us at $79.95 for the latest one, Rev B. Not bad for Amazon Prime free 2-day shipping. As for availability, it tends to go out of stock often. I feel this was a bigger issue in the past, though. 

I also highly recommend purchasing Raspberry Pi User Guide, written by Eben Upton, Co-Creator of the RPi. It not only details the RPi itself, but the recommended modified version of Debian Linux it runs. The Raspberry Pi and this book is an excellent way for anyone to become learned in Linux and python, two skills I deem highly valuable in being able to get things done. 

The Raspberry Pi is a really nice next step up from an Arduino in terms of DIY Electronics projects. The RPi is perfect for hobbyists looking to use the massive catalog of software available for Linux with the simplicity and speed of Arduino. Funny thing is, this Raspberry Pi is being used for Legit Research. (We're using a $800.00 Maxon motor, a $740.00 Servo Driver/Controller, an external fabrication shop to make our parts...)

After a few attempts to flash the RPi "Raspian" Raspberry-infused Debian OS onto a 32GB SD Card (The main storage method of an RPi), I managed to get write the image in Windows. 

After booting up the Pi, you log in with user "pi" and password "raspberry", and are at the main command line. To start the LXDE GUI, type in "startx". 
It comes with Python IDLE, Midori web browser, and other useful little tidbits. It's an $80 Linux box the size of a wallet running on all solid state hardware (No spinning hard drives to deal with). Catch is, it's SLOW. 

Doing anything on this reminds me of back when my primary computer ran Windows ME. Those were dark days indeed...

However, this thing is so tiny, so cute, so inexpensive, so available, and so powerful for the size, that I am SO putting one of these on a robot one of these days.


  1. You can pick them up for $35 plus post from RS Components/Allied Electronics here: http://www.alliedelec.com/lp/120626raso/ and Premier Farnell/Newark here: http://www.newark.com/jsp/search/productdetail.jsp?sku=43W5302 :)

    There's about a 4 week delay, and Farnell tend to be quicker/more reliable with shipping. The Model B includes 512MB of RAM now (revision 3 board) - and a new ethernet chip that doesn't get upset under high load XD

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