Computer shoppers know they likely need to spend a few hundred dollars – or even into the thousands – on a decent machine for work or play.
But what if you could pick one up for just $35?
That’s all you’ll have to cough up for the credit card-sized Raspberry Pi 2 (Model B), the latest from the U.K.’s Raspberry Pi Foundation, which began selling affordable single-board computers three years ago – primarily to promote computer science education.
While it may not have all the bells and whistles of a sleek touchscreen laptop, you might just be surprised how powerful and versatile (and frankly, fun) this tiny computer is.
Consider this article a short primer on what the just-released Raspberry Pi 2 (Model B) has to offer, what you need, how to set it up and who it’s for.
Is this really a computer?
This second-generation Raspberry Pi might only be 2.2 x 3.4 x 0.8 inches, but it’s powered by a quad-core ARM Cortex-A7 processor (900MHz) – that’s 6x the performance of last year’s model. It’s capable of running many different kinds of Linux, including Snappy Ubuntu Core, as well as the upcoming Windows 10 operating system.
Other specs include 1 gigabyte of RAM (twice as much system memory as last year), a MicroSD card slot and multiple ports: 4 USB 2.0, full-size HDMI (capable of 1080p HD video output), 3.5mm audio jack (which also doubles as composite video output) and Ethernet (for Internet access).
For those who like to hack around, there’s also two rows of 20 GPIO (general purpose input/output) pins, along with the ability to connect a camera, and other accessories.
How to get going
Unlike most computers, the Raspberry Pi 2 doesn’t come with anything other than a power adapter.
Therefore, you’ll need to connect a monitor or television, keyboard and mouse, and Ethernet cable plugged into a modem or router. No, there isn’t integrated Wi-Fi, but you can connect a USB Wi-Fi adapter if you have one. For sound, I also added headphones to the 3.5mm jack.
It took less than a minute to set up everything.
One last thing before you get going: you’ll need a MicroSD card inserted into the bottom of the computer, loaded with the free NOOBS software (download it on another computer from raspberrypi.org/downloads). A 4GB card is required as a minimum, but 8GB is recommended (it can accept up to 32GB, if desired).
There’s no power button. Simply plug the Raspberry Pi 2 into an electrical socket with the provided AC plug and it’ll boot up. A window will appear with a list of different operating systems you can install. I’d recommend using the default one called Raspbian, a graphical OS based on the Linux-based “Debian” operating system.
So, now what?
Raspbian is preloaded with a bunch of applications to get you going, such as the Epiphany web browser, which is lean and fast, and with support for HTML5, Java and hardware-accelerated video decoding.
Like other computers, you can read your e-mail, play media (such as videos, photos and music) and access free word processors, spreadsheet makers and presentation creators. Some software is included, while others need to be downloaded.
But because one of Raspberry Pi’s goals is to advance computer science education, there’s a few pieces of bundled software that can help achieve that goal. This includes a drag-and-drop visual programming language called Scratch (great for beginners to create animations and games), as well as Sonic Pi (for creating electronic music) and more advanced programming languages like Python (also included).
There’s even a free version of Minecraft included in Raspberry Pi’s Raspbian, which is the only edition with a programming interface. This allows users to control Minecraftwith Python code and even interact with external devices via the GPIO pins.
The Raspberry Pi 2 (Model B) is a super affordable way to get kids excited about programming, but it’s also a basic computer that can do more than you might think (for its small price and size).
Because you need to connect your input and display devices to it, however, it’s best used as a stationary (desktop) computer – not to mention it’s recommended to use the AC plug instead of optional batteries to power it up.
Even with its limitations, this exciting product is well worth your time and consideration – especially if you’re interested in encouraging (or supporting) a child’s interest in coding.
http://www.theguardian.com › Science › Mathematics
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