Saturday, 3 March 2012

No Raspberry Pi left for pudding

IBM must dream of putting a new computer up for sale and selling out almost immediately – even when it restricts sales to one per customer. That’s what happened with the new Raspberry Pi.

The Raspberry Pi (since Android started this fascination with sweets and cakes, everyone seems to be at it) Model B is the size of a credit card and comes as a 45-gram open board that’s the size of a credit card. It comes with a variety of ports to allow users to plug in a keyboard and monitor (not supplied), and runs Open Source software developed by Seneca College in Toronto. It’s manufactured in China and distributed by UK-based organizations Premier Farnell and RS Components for $35 or £21.60.

The software includes a custom version of the Linux Fedora operating system and basic tools like a Web browser and word processor. Other software, adapted and developed by the Open Source software community around the world, will be available for download.

This miniature ARM-based PC can be used like a desktop PC for spreadsheets, word-processing, and games. It also plays high-definition video. It’s an energy-efficient device that can run using four AA batteries, and uses a TV as a monitor and stores data on SD cards.

The full technical features are:
  • Broadcom BCM2835 700MHz ARM1176JZFS processor with FPU and Videocore 4 GPU
  • GPU provides Open GL ES 2.0, hardware-accelerated OpenVG, and 1080p30 H.264 high-profile decode
  • GPU is capable of 1Gpixel/s, 1.5Gtexel/s or 24GFLOPs with texture filtering and DMA infrastructure
  • 256MB RAM
  • Boots from SD card, running the Fedora version of Linux
  • 10/100 BaseT Ethernet socket
  • HDMI socket
  • USB 2.0 socket
  • RCA video socket
  • SD card socket
  • Powered from microUSB socket
  • 3.5mm audio out jack
  • Header footprint for camera connection
  • Size: 85.6 x 53.98 x 17mm
The Raspberry Pi Foundation is a non-profit group that designed the computer as a device that young people could use to learn how to program. The goal is to boost interest in programming and computer science. Rather than the Foundation funding production, the distributors have agreed to handle orders and deal with manufacturers, and they will pay the Foundation a royalty on sales.

And if $35 seems a tad expensive, a cheaper $25 model will be available that has only one USB port instead of two and comes without an Ethernet port.

Let’s hope they get plenty in stock soon, for those of us who’d like to get our hands on one.
Or maybe smartphone manufacturers, which are probably more powerful, could produce an ‘open’ version that we could program to boil a kettle or whatever zany ideas people come up with for the Raspberry Pi.

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