When they announced the launch date of the Raspberry Pi, I kind of knew that it would never ship on time, no matter how much I wanted to believe it. Anyway, due to a manufacturing problem, it looks like we’ll be getting our juicy boards towards the end of this month. So when I do finally get one, what shall I do with it?
Anyway, while I wait I was just looking at what is involved with getting Windows Embedded Compact 7 to run on the Pi. I am hoping that since ARM supply a BSP for the processor, it should be relatively easy, if not as trivial as an x86 installation on Win 7 to get things up and running. Either way, we shall see, but a small windows unit does look appealing, regardless of how many people say that it’ll be a horrible thing.
But what else could you do with a Pi. Lots of people are talking about, and developing media players for it, and yes that’s great, but what else could it be used for, something more rewarding for amateur developers like myself, and complete novices. What sprung to mind was a variety of low [compute] power server applications.
Why? Well, looking into a post by Eben at Raspberry Pi, a model B using networking and a high-current USB peripherals such as an external HDD will require about 700mA. Going back to school and my GCSE electronics class, we know that for DC systems P=VI or power is the product of voltage and current and that USB runs at 5 volts (Sorry for anybody that knows this, but I am trying to explain to everybody.) Doing the maths we find that the board will use at most 5V * 0.7A or 3.5 Watts of power at max load. Now lets assume electric is charged at a relatively high but flat rate of ten pence per unit (1KWh). Then we can calculate that the annual bill for running a Raspberry Pi at full load will be 0.0035 KWh * 10 pence per unit * 24 hours * 365.25 days (I hate leap years). This gives us a total cost of 306.81 pence or £3.07 GBP per year, and since the board will never run at full load, the cost is likely to be closer to £2 per year.
So what does all that mean, well for me it means that I may jolly well stick one up in the loft of my house, plugged into the Cisco 3500XL Switch that I have humming away up there. This brings me back to my original question, what shall I do with the Pi. My first thought is a LAMP server. For the uninitiated this stands for Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP, or potentially the most widely used web server platform in the world. Assuming it is all available for ARM-Linux distributions then it would allow you to run a low cost web server, which would be perfect for playing around, or for small companies running a website etc etc. Just stick a memory stick in it for storage and off you go.
Another thought is that you could create your own file syncing service like Dropbox, but which you control. For this you would set up something like OpenSSH on it, open port 22 though your router, and register for a Dynamic DNS service, then you could use WinSCP or your remote file program of choice to upload and download files at your leisure.
If you have any other ideas that aren’t the usual “ooo lets make a media player”, then drop me a comment below!