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Six Clicks: Insanely great Raspberry Pi devices you can build yourself

The question isn't: "What can you do with a Raspberry Pi?" The question is: "What can't you do with a Raspberry Pi?"
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1 of 7 Steven Vaughan-Nichols/ZDNet

Raspberry Pi Supercomputer

When Raspberry Pi co-creator Eben Upton helped come up with the idea of an inexpensive Linux-powered single board computer (SBC), he honestly thought, "We would sell about 1,000, maybe 10,000 in our wildest dreams. We thought we would make a small number and give them out to people who might want to come and read computer science at Cambridge." He was wrong.

The maker community fell in love with the idea of the Raspberry Pi and by the time the Raspberry Pi Model B first appeared, the initial run gone in hours with 100,000 units sold in the first day. Two years after it first went to market, more than 2.5 million Raspberry Pi SBCs have sold. Not bad for a computer powered by a 700MHz ARM11 chip, 512MBs of RAM, and requires an SD or MMC memory card for storage.

Doesn't sound like much does it? But this credit-card sized computer has been used for smartglasses, smartphones, servers, tablets, and, believe it or not, supercomputers!

That's only the tip of the iceberg. There's far more you can with Raspberry Pi SBCs than use them to duplicate the functionality of other kinds of computers. Here's my pick of  projects I've found especially interesting. 

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2 of 7 Steven Vaughan-Nichols/ZDNet

RaspBerry Pi Robot

Just look at that cute "face!"

It's not Wall-E, but this cute little Raspberry robot project is perfect for anyone who wants to start exploring the world of robotics.

There are many other nifty Raspberry Pi robotic projects such as this robot arm (pages 9 to 11) and a way to put that robot arm on its own mini-tank  (pages 4 to 7). Or, you can also retrofit an R2D2 toy to work with Raspberry PI,

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3 of 7 Steven Vaughan-Nichols/ZDNet

Raspberry Pi Home Automation

Sure the Internet of Things is bringing us smarthomes with a variety of devices from companies such as Google's latest acquisition Nest. Or, you could do it yourself (DIY)! If a DIY approach to home automation sounds good to you, you can use a Raspberry Pi to run your home with Arduino boards to monitor and control your electronics.

There's also a twinned pair of commercial projects called Pi-Face and Gertboard that can help you build the Raspberry Pi home automation system of your dreams.

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4 of 7 Steven Vaughan-Nichols/ZDNet

Raspberry Pi Spinning Wheel

What happens when you marry the 13th century spinning wheel with the 21st century Raspberry Pi? You get a really cool way to spin thread or yarn. You also get proof positive that you don't need to be any kind of technical expert to build nifty stuff with a Raspberry Pi.

As the Raspberry sPIn inventor, Cyndi Minister, said, "I had ZERO programing or electrical knowledge before embarking upon this adventure." It took her longer than she thought, but at the end it worked out well for her and, as she wrote, "It makes pretty sweet yarn too!"

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5 of 7 Steven Vaughan-Nichols/ZDNet

RaspBerry Pi Magic Mirror

Did you ever think you might like to have a mirror that also worked as a display? Well, that's the idea Michael Teeuw came up with one day while shopping with his girlfriend at Macy's. The programming part of this project looks pretty simple, but the mechanics of putting it together will take a lot of work. I, for one, think that it looks pretty neat and I'm tempted to build one of my own. a

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6 of 7 Steven Vaughan-Nichols/ZDNet

Raspberry Pi Home Brewing

Do you like beer? Did you know that ZDNet's own Mary Jo Foley enjoys making her own beer? If you're a home brewer then you'll want to check out Ted Hale who uses a Pi to control every step of his partial mash brewing. Be warned, however, that this is not a project for amateurs. There's a lot that can go wrong here and when you're dealing with propane and fire this is one project that can literally cause things to go up in smoke if you're not careful.

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7 of 7 Steven Vaughan-Nichols/ZDNet

Raspberry Pi in the sky

OK, so maybe you can't afford to pay to get a reservation on one of the first Virgin Galactic or SpaceX, but you might be able to buy a weather balloon, add some sensors, and a Raspberry Pi and get into the near space of 27 to 40 kilometers above sea-level. That's what Dave Akerman did with his high altitude ballooning, Raspberry Pi project.

This isn't a project you can do on the cheap, but if you like the idea of watching the world go by from say 30 klicks up, it's incredibly neat.

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