Raspberry Pi

computer

I have several friends that have Raspberry Pi’s and are always talking about how great they are etc.  So I wanted to see what all the hubub was about and here’s basically my experience with the Raspberry Pi.

What are they exactly?

The Raspberry Pi is basically a mini computer that is actually pretty powerful.  You can run a full OS on it, and there are many Linux Distros and even a Microsoft Image that you can install.  The Raspberry Pi also comes with bluetooth, wifi, USB ports, a quad core processor, and many more extensions so it has a lot of options.  You can also purchase accessories and “HATS” which are basically extensions that give the Pi either more sensors or hardware that it can use on bigger projects (here’s a cool HAT https://www.raspberrypi.org/products/sense-hat/).  Checkout the Raspberry Pi site for more info https://www.raspberrypi.org/about/

What can you do with them?

You can do a huge range of things with a Raspberry Pi to include anything from a full blown desktop computer to a home security camera.  If you do some basic googling there are a lot of projects that are possible.  Whats also cool is that the original creators of the Raspberry Pi from the UK created the devices to learn and solve problems.  So this makes them a great tool to teach kids or your friends about computers.

Where can you get them?

Raspberry Pi’s are actually from the UK but you can buy them at places like Amazon or other online retailers.  I didn’t see them at BestBuy, but that doesn’t mean you probably can’t find them there.  It should also be noted that there are multiple versions of Raspberry Pi’s available.  Currently (as of this writing) the Raspberry Pi 3 B is the latest (and most powerful model) available.  You can also get older versions as well as the Raspberry Pi Zero, which is a more slimmed down lower powered model.  In terms of output, the Pi Zero is not good for full computing but is good for robotics or task driven projects.  For my purchase, I wanted the most powerful model possible and an all inclusive kit instead of having to buy the board and then the accessories separately.  In general the Raspberry Pi’s are very inexpensive, but I spent a little extra for a nice kit from Amazon that included a power adapter, case, and 32 GB SD card.

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So I got one, what did I do with it?

Well I went around in circles for a while on this one.  My original idea was to buy it and create a media server.  There are a bunch of blog posts and open source images that you can put on your Raspberry Pi that connect it to services like Spotify and Pandora.  If you have a bunch of music you can also hook it up to a disk full of your iTunes library etc.  After some discussion with my wife (should’ve done that first cough cough), I thought about how we listen to music (and the fact that we already have 2 echo dots) and decided to move on.

The next thing I thought about was to make a homemade Alexa.  Its a really cool project and connects AWS services right to your Pi.  If you have a microphone you can hook it up and be running in no time.  Again as for the 2 echo dots that are staring at me as I write this….well I decided that there are better projects.

I work as a Software Engineer, and thought the idea of a at home build server would be awesome.  I could write code and basically have it as my play box.  So I installed the Raspbain Linux OS on it https://www.raspberrypi.org/downloads/ and hooked it up to my TV.  That worked for one night, but I quickly realized that I probably could do more with this.

So, after some more thought I realized that it would really be nice to have a wireless printer at home.  We have a really nice old printer which is designed for corporate offices.  As a result, the ink cartridge for us lasts like 5 years.  The only drawback is that its not wireless and I have to literally hook it up to my laptop or any desktops that want to print to it…..this would be a great task for the Raspberry Pi!  So see the post here for more info Raspberry Pi

Overall, my experience with the Raspberry Pi was both good and bad.  It was good in that I learned about a platform that powers technologies all over the world.  It was very easy to get setup, and was at a relatively low cost.  Further, the various blogs and how to articles that are out there make it easy to learn about things to do with the Pi.  The Pi itself comes with a lot of basic learning tools that kids can use to learn to code.  With the prevalence of computers, and our world moving more and more into digital everything, the Raspberry Pi is a great platform for kids or people just looking to learn.  The only bad experience I had was that it is exactly what you see.  If you buy it outright, you just get a basic functioning computer.  All the cool projects that you see in your google searches all require you to buy additional hardware.  So basically, its whatever you want to put into it.  My recommendation would be to learn and have fun with.  Just make sure to have fun!

 

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