A few months back the BBC ran an article on this new low-cost miniature computer that was designed to get kids interested in programming. The catch was that you needed a TV as a monitor since it has no screen, keyboard or mouse. It was literally a credit card sized computer called the Raspberry Pi. And then I forgot about it!
Until a couple of weeks back that is when it stopped being a developmental idea and some real hardware emerged. Now the first 10 beta boards are up on eBay and are going for silly money, but it is all leading up to the production boards being released hopefully sometime this month. So what are we looking at and why will I be in line for one or two of them?
Well, lets start with the specifications, for which I am using the better type B model. The Pi is built around the Broadcom BCM2835 running at 700MHz coupled to 256MB of RAM, which, while it isn’t world shattering, is more than sufficient for many applications. It then has analog and digital video over HDMI and is able to output at 1080p@30fps. It has a pair of USB 2.0 ports and a Fast Ethernet port. A 3.5mm audio jack, SD card reader and Micro USB power connector complete the hardware.
Raspberry Pi board overview: http://www.raspberrypi.org/faqs
In terms of software, they suggest that it will run linux, or maybe even Android – which is essentially another version of Linux, and that’s great. However while I respect Linux, and I even use it on a couple of my systems, I don’t love it, hell most of the time I can’t stand the damn thing. So while I would use Linux, I would rather not have to, and thus I did a little research. It turns out the Broadcom BCM2835 is a ARM1176JZF-S built around the ARMv6 architecture. This means that it will support Widnows Embedded Compact 7, Windows Embedded CE 6 and for the terminally stupid you could even run CE 5 on it.
I appreciate that if you’re a Linux fan(atic), you may have just spat whatever you were drinking all over your screen. However hear me out before hitting Ctrl+F4! I have done some development for Linux, I have written an implementation of RSA in Linux to boot and I don’t like it. I have also done a lot of work in Visual Studio for Windows – which I do like. So if I can run either CE 6 or Embedded Compact 7 on the Pi, develop my applications on my PC in Visual Studio 2010 and then compile them for the Pi and port them over, I see this as a big advantage.
Anyway, that’s later and this is now, and right now, there are no boards available unless you’re willing to pay hundreds. I’m not, so I shall wait until they are £22 each and then I shall begin fiddling and post updates. If you’re interested you can check them out at this linky.