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Some of the alternatives (Orange Pi Zero in particular) might be a good option... They have more powerful hardware too, AFAICT, though the mainline linux support isn't as good.

(Although looking at that now, the cheapest board is still about $9)

I got frustrated with the 1 per customer policy of Raspberry Pi Zero so I ended up bulk buying a bunch of Orange Pi Zero's from Ebay and I could not be happier. I found the support materials great, and the addition of an RJ45 port with PoE was a big plus.

See, being able to run "just Linux" is about the main selling point of RPi. It's no secret you can get boards with better performance/price or performance/power, or even build your own RPi at a lower price (not sure about zero). But RPi being just "plug and play" with familiar software platform means that I can just go and link my software skills with physical doohickeys.

Just about every other board out there is just as plug and play as the RPI.

I'm not saying that to downplay the RPI - the community it has around it is great, but long gone are the days of trying to get Linux running on a random arm board. And I should know, I have over 100 different arm machines at my place.

For the Orange Pi Zero, you can just download an Armbian SD card image much like you would with Raspbian - except that unlike Raspbian, everything but the kernel and bootloader is just stock Debian and receives updates straight from Debian. (In theory the next upcoming Debian release should work stock out-the-box, but it's a lot less user-friendly to get working.)

Eh, my experience with the orange pi zero was similar. But then I've been playing with debian on embedded boards since the NSLU2 days, so I guess I'm probably a little blind to the challenges.

Any build that doesn't start with a multimeter, a soldering iron and a TTL->USB cable is pretty straightforward...

I used the 'slug' (NSLU2) to run my first NAS. For me, that was a great introduction to setting up useful linux devices on my home network.

(A wee pang of nostagia there when I saw it mentioned)

Nice, I had two slugs. The community and Wiki were awesome. I eventually ended up adding a page about soldering a USB wireless card on to one of the unused USB headers on one. The other ran my website and an email server.

Happy days :)

> even build your own RPi at a lower price

How would you go about doing that? Any guides out there for something like this?

I'm afraid step 1 of such a guide would be "get a relevant engineering degree". I got mine on the wrong floor of the building, so all I know is that "RPi is overpriced for what it contains".

Could you provide a breakdown of what you know it should cost? That would be interesting.

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