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New toy: Raspberry Pi

The Raspberry Pi is an VERY low-cost computer that I picked up earlier this summer for my Birthday. It’s been a fairly fun [and tremendously geeky] thing to play with. For around $40US you get what is pictured below – a computer on a card. It’s a bit larger than an Altoids tin.

You have to add your own power supply [a cell phone mini-usb charger that provides at least 700 milliamps] – that cost me a whopping $5 on ebay.

There is no hard drive – the OS runs off of an SD card. I picked up an 8gig card for well under $10, again on eBay. The OS will run on a 2gig card, but I decided the extra room would reduce the amount of hassle later on.

The case was made from a piece of cardboard I had laying around – actually, it’s the chipboard that was the back of a legal pad. Using THESE PLANS I cut it out and assembled it in about an hour. It took that long becuase I work slow when using knives!

 

You do have to have access to another computer with an SD card reader available – that’s to install the OS onto the SD card. Once you’ve done that you’ve got a fully-functioning computer for well under $75 that’s about as powerful computationally speaking as a Pentium 3, but that will output HD quality video with an HDMI connection.

Sadly, I don’t have an HDMI capable TV [we’re waiting on the CRT TVs we have to die before replacing them!], so I’m stuck with an analog output, which is still usable on a larger screen.

There is a builtin 100bastT ethernet port and two USB2 ports built-in, so you run an ethernet cable to the port and hook up a standard keybaord and mouse and the thing is good to go!

What’s that? Uses? What, you want this to be actually USEFUL?

Turn out this little toy in the cardboard case that is help together with rubber bands can actually do some fairly significant useful work! It WILL do the standard office type stuff, though I really wouldn’t want to edit audio or especially video on it!  It will do email and basic web stuff quite nicely.

I’ll be using it as a print server so that we can print to the two HP printers I’m using from any of the other computers. It can also be used as a file storage location – hook up a larger capacity USB hard drive to it, configure SAMBA, and there you go – compatible with Windows, Macs, AND Linux boxes (as well as Android devices!).

COULD THIS BE USED IN BUSINESS?

I really think it could – especially as a print server or storage device in a small business [maybe fewer than 5 people accessing it]. Backing up the OS is a snap, and you actually could have multiple cards with multiple setup. Need a print server? Snap in the print server card and reboot! The power supply would last AGES running from a UPS, so you really would have very few worries when the power goes out.

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