What is a Raspberry Pi and why you should care

What is a Raspberry Pi and why you should care

Summary: Raspberry Pi is a tiny computer that runs Linux for, drum-roll please, $35.

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You will soon be able to have a taste of Raspberry Pi: A tiny, inexpensive Linux computer.

You'll soon be able to have a taste of Raspberry Pi: A tiny, inexpensive Linux computer.

Today, February 29th, 2012, the technology world's eyes are on the release of the Consumer Preview of Windows 8 or on the latest iPad 3 rumors. We don't know exactly how these products will turn out but we can be sure of one thing: They'll cost a pretty penny. On the same day, the non-profit Raspberry Pi Foundation released a bare-boned, Linux-powered computer that costs between $25 and $35.

When I say "bare-boned," I mean just that. The Raspberry Pi, which is the creation of UK-based academics and technology companies, is a credit card sized board with a Broadcom 700Mhz BCM2835 System-On Chip running a lightweight Remix of Fedora Linux for ARM. It doesn't come with a keyboard, mouse or monitor. Heck, it doesn't even come with a hard drive or a case. It's a single board computer without even a case for the bare board.

So what does it come with? The $35 model, which is the one's that's now available, includes the following:

  • Broadcom BCM2835 700MHz ARM1176JZFS processor with FPU and Videocore 4 GPU
  • GPU provides Open GL ES 2.0, hardware-accelerated OpenVG, and 1080p3D
  • H.264 high-profile decode GPU is capable of 1Gpixel/s, 1.5Gtexel/s or 24GFLOPs with texture filtering and DMA infrastructure
  • 256MB RAM
  • Boots from SD card, running Raspberry Pi Fedora Linux Remix
  • 10/100-BaseT Ethernet port
  • HDMI port
  • USB 2.0 port
  • RCA video port
  • SD card slot
  • Powered from microUSB port
  • 3.5mm audio out jack
  • Header footprint for camera connection
  • Size: 85.6 x 53.98 x 17mm

So, why are people so excited about this minimalist computer that the Raspberry Pi Web site crashed from the demand?

It's because, with just this alone, and Linux of course, a hobbyist can still build a working Linux desktop or server. While it was meant for the education market, it's also proof that you don't need two plus gigabytes for just an operating system, which is the case with Windows 8 Consumer Preview or spend hundreds of dollars. Computing power, thanks to open-source software, is still available for anyone with a minimum of technical expertise and a few dollars.

You can now order your own Raspberry Pi from the UK firms Premier Farnell and RS Components.

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Topics: Enterprise Software, CXO, Software, Operating Systems, Open Source, Microsoft, Linux, Legal, Hardware, Windows

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74 comments
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  • Kewl

    I'll have to see how i can make one of these puppies go to work in my home network.
    thebaldguy
  • I'll end up grabbing one of these

    If only to piddle around with it. For 35 bucks, I'll buy something cool like this.

    Even if I don't like Linux.
    Aerowind
    • Same here

      But of course, no SJVN article would be complete without bashing M$ in some way.
      otaddy
      • M$ and bashing

        Microsoft is usually deserving of any sort of bashing... they bring it on themselves!
        JuggerNaut_z
      • Noticed the same thing but...you know when you

        are jealous like he is he has to get his digs in , albeit sad but funny, in some how.
        ItsTheBottomLine
      • There is something wrong...

        ...with certain posters here that they are compelling to post scathing personal insults against this man no matter what he writes. No one "bashed" Microsoft. All the article did was point out that open source is providing a remarkably low barrier to entry (these are going to be marketed to schools to get children interested in programming).

        It's a fact that the new tech toys being touted right now, Win8 and iPad 3, cost hundreds of dollars or have comparatively much larger hardware requirements. The Raspberry Pi is something everyone can play with. Since that can't be disputed, certain people need to make vile personal attacks against this man... and only this man... who does nothing but tell the truth (ironically he's habitually accused of being a liar yet no one can identify these "lies").

        I left this site for a while in disgust, check it out today, and see nothing's changed. On other sites posts like these would get you banned. Ars Technica moderators insist that if you're going to throw a rhetorical bomb in a post, you need to back it up with facts or risk removal or banning. Needless to say, many ZDNet posters wouldn't last long there.
        jgm@...
  • What is a Raspberry Pi and why you should care

    I wonder if its possible to load another OS on one of these. Imagine being able to run FreeBSD on one, you'd have a cheap server server to play with. I will hold off until I know I can wipe linux and put something else on it.
    Loverock Davidson-
    • FreeBSD on ARM

      is still very incomplete. And I don't see the Broadcom chip as being in the works. http://wiki.freebsd.org/FreeBSD/arm
      Michael Kelly
      • Just what might be needed to jump start FreeBSD on ARM

        As a software developer, the big issue with FreeBSD on ARM is the demand for target computers. Most of the boards are for embedded applications and not in high demand. My targets at the moment are all ALIX boards. But at $35, I'll gladly help port FreeBSD to the Pi. Add a 1TB USB hard drive and it'll become quite the home NAS. (See FreeNAS for details.)
        mheartwood
      • Just what might be needed to jump start FreeBSD on ARM

        As a software developer, the big issue with FreeBSD on ARM is the demand for target computers. Most of the boards are for embedded applications and not in high demand. My targets at the moment are all ALIX boards. But at $35, I'll gladly help port FreeBSD to the Pi. Add a 1TB USB hard drive and it'll become quite the home NAS. (See FreeNAS for details.)
        mheartwood
    • you'd have a cheap server server to play with

      It already gives you a cheap server to play with..."It???s because, with just this alone, and Linux of course, a hobbyist can still build a working Linux desktop or server"
      guzz46
    • Been using Azure today? nah.... its a leap year

      and Azure crashes and burns......
      deaf_e_kate
    • You could always

      put RiscOS on it.
      TGM_1979
    • hmm

      Suits me, get to the back of the queue!
      TGM_1979
  • That small huh. . . .

    A PC for Batman's tool belt?

    "Hi! I have a computer under my hat. Wanna see?"

    (Clara Peller) WHERE'S THE MONITOR!!!???"

    Now Mighty Mouse will need Minni Mouse.

    Which politician will say this first? "A PC in everybody's pocket."
    (I'm glad we don't need dial-up these days. Can you imaging that dial-up modem noise coming from your pants? - - EEEEeeeh ahhhh.... Pssssshhhhck. etc. etc. etc.)
    fm-usa
    • Uh, you realize we already have this, right?

      They're called smartphones. They even have a screen (and possibly keyboard) attached. And hell, Ubuntu's going to start distributing a mostly full OS on them as well.
      Aerowind
      • hmmmm

        Smart phone you say... Do you programme your smart phone ????
        djmikemills@...
      • Can you get a month service for $35?

        Let alone the hardware with no contract?
        paulfx1
      • Actually the processor on many smartphones is a LOT faster

        This is just an ARM11 single core which uses the v6 instruction set. My wife's cell phone Samsung Galaxy IIs Skyrocket uses the A9 ARM (dual core) at 1.5 Ghz with GPU AND 4.5" AMOLED display and way more memory. And power supply, and wireless and hdmi and camera and touch display. We paid a little over $100 for it. So your comment is extremely relevant.
        DevGuy_z
      • And yes you can develop for it!

        It is more than possible to develop for it.
        DevGuy_z