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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

2. The Raspberry Pi

When I heard, just over a year ago, about the Raspberry Pi, I thought I would just have to get one. (Well over a million have been sold in the year or so since their release).  The Raspberry Pi Foundation has recently been described as the fastest growing computer company in the world.  The RasPi needs no introduction – there is more than adequate information out there on the web.  Its web page is, and this includes an extensive forum on all aspects of the RasPi.

I’ll just say that the Raspberry Pi is a Linux computer with a footprint roughly the size of a credit card.  It’s cheap and easily obtainable, and importantly, it provides a set of pins allowing connection to physical devices.  You can program it to make things happen!  You can flash lights, drive motors, control robots, do things over the web, and much, much more.  Here is a picture of the RasPi:

I’m not going to take you through it, because a complete description of the various parts of the Raspberry Pi has been done many times on the web.
However, if you are serious about starting a hobby, you’ve got to make a few investments, and although I find myself continually buying stuff, it’s not expensive, nor does it occupy much space.  Nor is it difficult – this is a new route to getting young children skilled up in computing – and it’s working very well indeed.  Nor is it unsafe – as long as you’re not using voltages more than a few volts.  The main hazard at the beginning is probably the hot soldering iron.
Setting it up next to my PC is ideal as you are always looking up the internet on all kinds of related things.  Here is a picture of the desktop of my Raspberry Pi:

I of course had to buy a small TV, and find a power supply, keyboard and mouse.  That’s only the beginning of the shopping list, but the most expensive accessory is probably the TV itself, and everybody’s already got one, so you can use your family TV. 

The operating system is Raspbian Wheezy, an optimized version of Debian Linux, downloadable free of charge on a regurlarly-updated basis from

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