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RasberryPi review (bit-tech.net)
100 points by nl on April 17, 2012 | hide | past | favorite | 37 comments

I'm anxiously awaiting the time when I can buy a Pi without jumping though hoops just to check one out. In the meantime, for those interested primarily in the price of the product and the DIY-tinker factor but who haven't been able to snag a Pi yet, you can currently pick up new (well, not new exactly, but never used) Insignia Infocast 3.5" devices for about $25 from various resellers (look on ebay, etc).

While these don't have that much long-term value serving their original consumer-oriented role, they are pretty great embedded hacker boards for the price. You don't get a 3D capable GPU and the processor isn't as fast as the Pi's, but you do get a built-in LCD display w/ touchscreen, wifi, accelerometer , FM radio receiver, etc.

(For those familiar with chumbies, the Insignia Infocast 3.5 is basically the same thing as the chumby one and the chumby hacker board, but the price has dropped even further than the price for remaining chumby ones because of the stupid name and lack of nostalgia factor).

The chumby was, altogether, a disappointing device. While it was "hackable", its capabilities were too limited and you could not boot the stuff to do anything offline. I bought one out of hope that something interesting would come out, but it was not really worth it, retrospectively.

I worked for chumby industries as a developer and won't even disagree with you about the device being a bit of a disappointment. I never quite bought into the company's vision of "channels" of Flash apps (even though I wrote quite a few of them!).

But I wouldn't say the capabilities of the device are limited in terms of hackability. You can easily flash your own bootloader, your own kernel and your own rootfs on to the device and do more or less whatever your heart desires with it. For ~$25 for one of these you get something pretty close to the imx233 developer board kits that Freescale sells for 400 bucks and up.

excuse-me does have a point, though, in that there is less likely to be vibrant chumby hacking community moving forward, though on the flip side of that there's tons of documentation already existing on how to set up a toolchain, how to get your own openembedded OS build up on the device, etc, whereas that sort of knowledge is going to take a while to build up for the Pi, especially if it remains difficult to actually buy one.

Thanks for the post - Let me correct what I said earlier. I do not think the chumby is limited in terms of hackability, however I expected more hacks to come out from a fully opened hardware-software thingy like the chumby. I am not exactly sure why it did not happen.

I totally agree with you on the Flash apps vision. This is such a shame that was the main function of the chumby in the first place. I was expecting to have both offline applications as well, and not flash based. Seems like that was not made to be.

Once more, with feeling: pagination is an inappropriate paradigm for most web content.

While I appreciate that they did not take advantage of the multiple page views to just get more ad impressions, it's still a pain in the ass to view a single item of content like that.

Hopefully they will move to the ARMv7 archicture with the next-generation Raspeberry Pi chip. ARM11 which is based on the ARMv6 architecture is so old, and many popular apps don't want to support it anymore.

Adobe didn't want to support it with Flash, Google won't support it with Chrome for Android (even on ICS), Mozilla didn't want to support it initially, but eventually changed their mind probably because they are desperate for market share on Android. Canonical doesn't want to support it in Ubuntu as well. So yeah, I'm hoping for a Cortex A7 or at least a Cortex A5 to replace the ARM11 CPU in the 2.0 version.

And I want wifi, and a built in 8GB flash and at least 2GB of ram and make the board smaller and cheaper (or even free) and include a touch screen and dual ethernet and a camera, and firewire and thunderbolt and a floppy drive and a battery and gps, and more blinky leds and an extra Alpha co-processor so I can run my favorite version of WindowsNT and a scsi port so I can connect my scanner. I am at least glad they left off the jazz drive, who needs that anymore!

Seriously it is $35. Someone is going to take it give it a case and a SD card that has 1 single application/purpose and do something amazing with it and people will eat it up. This device isn't about what old thing you can run, but about what crazy NEW things can be done.

It is insulting that you would even bring up Adobe in this as they have for all intents and purposes killed flash and it will never appear on this device.

Start thinking about how to exploit what the device gives you. The feature of this device is that it is dirt f*n cheap. A $3000 computer you want to keep working for months/years, but at $25 who cares if it dies and you have to buy another. Rather than sharing USB sticks you share your Pi. Put them in colorful cases and kids will trade them at school. Mount them in locations where water damage is very possible and just replace it when it dies. Give it a big battery and _bury_ it in your yard. Drop it in the ocean and have it transmit until it is crushed for amusement. Buy four of them and make some sort of game. Etc

Edit how cheap can you get a screen for this?

That's kind of where I see it.

An Arduino Uno costs $30, has 2KB of RAM, and runs at 16 MHz.

The Raspberry Pi costs $35, has 256 MB of RAM, and runs at 700 MHz. It also has two USB ports, ethernet, HDMI, composite video, a great GPU, SD card, and more.

You only get 8 GPIO pins, but you also have I2C and SPI. Plus they were developing a board to help with that.

There are quite a few projects you might want to do that would take quite a bit more horsepower than an Arduino, but a Raspberry Pi would do great for. Think of using something like a Raspberry Pi with a serial breakout board for running a Reprap or Makerbot. Enough power to run the machine and provide an amazing 3D GUI of the object being printed during the process.

It still has less IO than a Beaglebone, but it also costs 1/3rd the price.

I don't think many people will be using the Rasperry Pi to replace netbooks or most desktops, but I see a ton of hobbyist uses.

> Drop it in the ocean and have it transmit until it is crushed for amusement.

I now have a new hobby.

You won't get very far on radio waves so you best look up torpedo wire or something around the .1mm diameter range to tether to the pi to get a signal.

edit: farnell do 19300ft of 38awg .. that should do the trick.

Has the point that this machine is meant as a ubiquitous children's "learn to program" environment escaped everybody? It may offer cool alternative uses, but that's not its raison d'être. It's supposed to something kids can muck about with without screwing up the family computer so that there will be the same pool of kids to draw from going forward as there were with the BBC Micro (or the Timex/Sinclair machines) in play. Scratch is the killer app for the platform, not Flash or even a web browser.

I agree. A lot of the points in this review are simply irrelevant. They're talking about support for HDMI and other features not being available in default Debian distributions, the abililty to render Quake 3 (seriously), and other ridiculous comments.

If you're a hacker/tinkerer/kid learning, the default distribution isn't likely all you'll be using anyway. And if you're buying the Raspberry Pi to try to get a cheap gaming system, you've completely missed the point.

+1, Really not sure why these reviewers are going on about its rendering capabilities, its quite adequate for learning python or C++ on and totally overkill for any embedded projects (Think Arduino on steroids).

Once some optimisation work is done I think people will be amazed by what it can do.

I can picture myself starting a Raspberry Pithon hacking club. :)

Also: I want to write a port/clone of Elite, in Python, that runs on the Raspberry Pi. A tribute to Braben. On the other hand, I would not be surprised if he's already done something like that himself, as a "test" of the system.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/VideoCore#VideoCore_ICs are comparible chips. Presumably there Broadcom will sell versions of the beefier ones with the 3G turned off.

It will surely come eventually, but only when it fits with their goals. Price is a huge constraint on the project, so it will mostly depend on the forward march of Progress bringing down prices of comparable chips with ARM11 cores.

Flash I could care less about these days, and surely most things where source is available can be tweaked and compiled for arm6?

Also, midori has been tested and seems fine apparently.

Besides, why, unless you had no other option, would you be using this as a normal desktop? Surely it is there to tinker with and build cool stuff? The fact that it can run a linux desktop is impressive, but surely that is more of a demonstration of abilities, rather than the main use for the thing.

I'd be far more interested in seeing what new classes of devices can be built with one of these as the core, than in using one for web browsing, although I like the fact it can be used for that in a pinch.

One of the first things I am likely to do with one of these is to try mucking about with RISCOS, just for old times sake. I suspect that given that it runs so close to the metal, you could make some extremely low latency devices that way.

Anyone know anything about what a "Display Serial Interconnect (DSI)" and an "MIPI camera connector" is?

Both are standards for IC to IC interconnects. DSI is just what it sounds like, a standard for connecting a display via a serial connection. The simpler parallel connections you would see in other embedded products are too large to use in a cell phone. "MIPI Camera Connector" probably means its using the CSI standard, again a serial link for connecting a camera to the SoC. MIPI is actually the standards body and is just a loose consortium of companies that define inter-operable standards for use in cell phones: http://www.mipi.org/

Wikipedia has a little info on DSI: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Display_Serial_Interface.

Unfortunately, it's one of those "closed until you join" standards; you have to be a licensed member of the MIPI Alliance (Mobile Industry Processor Interface) to get the full specs.

Basically, DSI is about "lanes" of balanced differential serial connections between a display driver (in this case built into the CPU) and a display. There is a set of commands for configuring the display, setting pixels (and, if the display is "smart" and has on-board memory, also for reading pixels) and so on.

While slightly more powerful (still, after all these years), the OpenPandora (http://openpandora.org/) seems similiar enough that its OS should work on the Pi.

The original specs for the OpenPandora also called for 256 MB of RAM, it has only recently been upgraded to 512 MB, since sourcing the original chip turned impossible.

I'm sure this has been tried already by the (rather active) OpenPandora hackers, wasn't able to find anything quickly though.

440€? no way!

If you need performance and graphics:

   PandaBoard ES (182$, dual 1.2GHz, 1GB RAM, wifi)

   BeagleBoard-xM (140$, 1GHz, 512MB RAM)

If you need a small form factor ("Altoid"-size):

   BeagleBone (90$, 700Mhz, 256MB RAM)

All are able to run the latest official Ubuntu ARM release e.g.

Yeah ... It's expensive. I paid less, but on the other hand (which is a rather painful hand, at this point) I also haven't actually received it yet, due to various manufacturing problems that are now being straightened out by shifting factories.

And also, of course the OpenPandora is more of a consumer electronics product in a case, with custom controls optimized for gaming, it's not a bare circuit board.

My friend ordered his nearly 2 years ago and has yet to receive it.

He was a bit late to join, then. :) In other words: my order predates his, by quite the margin.

I'm trying to get my head around it. What type of simple use cases might such a small computer help with?

It has a pile of IO pins, plus HDMI and USB connectivity. You can use it to make nearly anything programmable.

Make it into an intelligent garage door opener that opens the door when it picks up your phone nearby.

Stuff it into a bear and make a talking toy for your children that responds to being squeezed.

Use it to render attractive screensavers on your TV during a party without having to drag your PC downstairs.

Put 20 of them in weatherproof boxes and build a cheap wireless mesh network using usb network devices.

Be creative!

All pja's are great ideas. I'm going to attach one to a Roomba and finally have enough power to do something entertaining with it..

So that review says multiple times, that Debian is the OS of choice. I remember reading that a Remix-version of Fedora is the "official" RaspberryPI-Distribution.

Maybe that's the reason for some negative test results?

I think the article is accurate, and the recommended distribution is currently Debian-based. Here’s the official Raspberry Pi downloads page: http://www.raspberrypi.org/downloads

Fedora 14 Remix

A little buggy, so for now we’re recommending beginners use Debian Squeeze.”

Has anyone been able to purchase one yet? I've signed up to all those sites saying they'll let me know when I can purchase one and haven't received any emails back yet.

Mine was delivered yesterday. I've ordered from Farnell early on February 29th.

I ordered mine in March sometime (I forget exactly when) from Element14 and my "estimated delivery date" is August 2012.. :-)

You may or may not be following their blog, so just in case (from http://www.raspberrypi.org/archives/913)

   We’d like to apologise to all customers who placed 
   orders with Newark element14 and  have seen their 
   acknowledged delivery date suddenly change on our 
   website’s order backlog to August 2012.
   At present, as already communicated by Raspberry Pi,  
   all deliveries are  on hold awaiting the outcome of the 
   compliance testing currently taking place.
   Apologies again for any  confusion this action has 
   caused. We firmly believe delivery will be much sooner 
   than August.

I managed to order one on day 1 but I expect to wait many more weeks before they actually deliver it.

Please, someone change the name of this post to "Raspberry Pi review", as "RasberryPi" ensures no one will find it when doing a proper search.

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