Is there anyone who didn’t hear about Raspberry Pi? It’s like the second thing after Arduino. And this is the result of the right idea at the right time. Many Linux boards around that don’t cost a fortune, but they didn’t make it to the masses. And mainly, they were used by advanced users who know Linux well enough.
Raspberry Pi pros
Raspberry Pi changed things pretty drastically. And there are several key factors why:
- Minimum user effort to get it working. Admit it – the Raspberry Pi team did a great job preparing things to work Linux almost out of the box. Just write a pre-compiled image to flash, and you are done.
- Plug and play capability. You don’t need to mack around to get visual output or input. All you need is to plug the monitor into an HDMI port or use any TV with Video input, and you are graded with the video images. And it supports 1080p video.
- Intrigue from the first moment. Remember how Raspberry Pi was introduced first? The buzz was created way before the actual board appeared. This made people anxious to get and try. And it still feels like the spirit of “Hard To Find Raspberry Pi” flows around. Probably it is from several retailers, but eBay never ran out of them.
- Price. Obviously, it is cheap. A 700MHz + 512MB computer for like $35 is a real bargain. Even original Arduino cost more. People buy them even if there is no real purpose.
- GPIO. This is last but not least important feature. Raspberry Pi has pins, especially for interfacing various I/O devices. You can use this header for attaching custom made boards, appliances, and other electronics you want to control.
What about Raspberry Pi cons?
Several things can cause problems. One thing is hardware drivers. It takes time to get polished, so no wonder if it may fail sometimes. This primarily applies to Ethernet or USB drivers. Another issue is the power supply. Since Raspberry Pi is USB powered (micro USB), it can give up to 700mA, While each USB port can supply no more than 140mA. If you need to connect power-hungry USB peripherals like external hard drives, the only way is to use a USB hub with a separate power supply. It’s OK to connect things like a keyboard, mouse, or Flash drive. The same thing applies to GPIO. Pins are connected directly to the CPU (Broadcom chip), so you must be careful not to short or damage the port with high voltages. Each pin can drive up to 16mA of current. There is no analog input or hardware PWM. Additional features can be implemented with expansion boards.
Even if there are few options to get a visual view of Linux (HDMI, RCA, SSH, VNC, or serial), a DSI interface is included. As far as I looked, there are still no available displays to get with this interface, and the whole DSI specs thing is somewhat not widely accessible. If the connector is already there, this would be great to be usable. Hopefully, in the future, we will see some solutions. The same applies to CSI – camera interface. There are some results with the DSI camera prototype, but there is still no news about the expansion.
Even if it is a fully functioning computer, it is not recommended to use a desktop computer. It may not be very stable sometimes. It is relatively slow – 700MHz isn’t rocket speed even if it can be overclocked. 512Mb ram is also a limiting factor and cannot be expanded. On the other hand, Raspberry Pi is a great learning tool. If you never touched Linux, Raspberry Pi can make this fairly easy to get used to. There are tons of tutorials, hundreds of websites, a rapidly growing number of projects.
No doubt Raspberry Pi is a game changer and is definitely worth trying.