Computer
Business
Services
Driving your IT costs down

Raspberry PI a Computer for under £30

The Raspberry Pi is an ultra-low-cost (£20-£30) credit-card sized Linux computer which was conceived with the primary goal of teaching computer programming to children. It was developed by the Raspberry Pi Foundation, which is a UK registered charity (Registration Number 1129409). The foundation exists to promote the study of computer science and related topics, especially at school level, and to put the fun back into learning computing.

This is a serious computer and comes with the following hardware ..

  • Micro USB (5v) power jack
  • HDMI connector providing full 1080 HD output to a TV
  • Composite Video connector: RCA
  • Audio connector: 3.5mm stereo jack (output only)
  • SD/MMC/SDIO memory card slot
  • Either 1x USB 2.0 (Model A) 2x USB 2.0 (Model B)
  • Ethernet Network Port

… it is designed to run the Linux operating system and allow users to program using the Python programming language. This is all included in the package and/or free to download.


There are a host of websites to help you get the most out of your Raspberry PI as well as some companies who sell complete starter kits.


I bought a starter kit from Maplins plus a transparent case (Pibow Colour Case) for the actual computer. This allows you to still see all the electronics. The kit comprises …

  • Power adaptor for the computer
  • USB Hub with power
  • USB Keyboard
  • USB Mouse
  • USB Wi-Fi adapter
  • 4 Gbyte SHDC Card with Linux, Python, Games etc.


… and the transparent case …

 

… all I needed to do was connect it to a TV with an HDMI cable (not included in the kit) and it booted up straight away, found the Wi-Fi hotspot and joined the network. I was surfing the Internet in minutes. Since Linux is (almost) infinitely configurable Maplin have chosen to include a small game called Scratch.

‘Scratch’ the computer game – teaching children how to program.

Scratch is a computer program that can be used to design and program games. It was written by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). It uses an interface like the one shown below. The characters are shown on the white screen on the right of the Scratch interface. You can move, change the look or do anything else to the character or sprite on the interface.


By dragging and dropping some Controls and Motion blocks, a bit like a jigsaw, they ‘click’ together to form a set of instructions that tell the ‘sprite’ (cat, but can be anything) to move around and do things, play a tune when it bumps into the walls, for example. Here is a screenshot of a sample program …

 

Scratch games can be saved to your computer and/or the Internet and shared with others. When I last looked at the Scratch web site there were nearly 3 million, yes 3,000,000, games to try.

 

XBMC – XBox Media Centre

Following some instructions I found on one of the Pi web sites, I downloaded a completely new Linux build, this time it contained XBMC a fully operational Media Centre program first released on the Microsoft XBox game console. This allows you to store and play your music, photos and films from the Raspberry Pi which now becomes a media streaming computer. All you need is an external Hard Disc with music, photos, films etc. and they can be played anywhere in your networked house. The program is graphically very rich with many, many options to configure it. Check out the Raspberry PI XBMC screen-shot below …