Sunday, January 6, 2013

Raspberry Pi - First Impressions

I got my first Raspberry Pi for Christmas and I just got around to playing with it yesterday. All I can say is that it is everything I dreamed it would be an more. They have managed to squeeze some serious awesomeness into a small form factor. These are just my first impressions in working with it.



Made for Kids?

So one of the big marketing items for the Pi is that it's great for kids to get started into programming. I think that myth has been debunked enough around the internet and the community is growing faster everyday that is deciding what it's really for. I'm sure younger kids who are computer savvy could get this up and running but here in the US I doubt it would be the go-to platform for introducing kids to programming.

Setup

The setup was very easy. I installed the Raspbian "Wheezy" image on a 4GB microSD card and was able to boot right up to it. Everything worked right out of the box for the most part. The only minor issue I had was that I didn't configure the keyboard on the first boot so some of my special characters were off. That was a quick fix. Other than that I was immediately able to get on the internet and tweet my success. Audio and video to my new 24" HDMI Asus monitor worked perfectly with no tweaking.

Performance

I spent the first 3 hours or so working directly on the Raspberry Pi. It is pretty responsive but having more than 1 or 2 things open at once and you'll notice painful latency compared to your zippy desktop/laptop/iPad. I installed the Chromium browser and opening a new tab took 5 seconds or more. It didn't take long to realize that the desktop environment on the Pi won't be replacing my normal machine anytime soon. That said, still very impressive for such a little package.

Node.js Anyone?

After a few hours of interacting with the desktop I realized it was time to give that up and SSH into my Pi from my Ubuntu machine. About 2 hours later I had a working version of Node.js running a simple "Hello from the Raspberry Pi" Express web server application. As a nerdy type it was really cool to build a node app on my Ubuntu machine, SCP it to the Raspberry Pi, start it, and then view the simple application from my iPad. 2013 is going to be so awesome!

Now What?

So now that I've spent about 6 to 8 hours testing the water I think I'm ready to get into some serious project hacking. I found the pi-gpio module for Node that should provide access to the GPIO pins on the Pi. Once I found that the ideas just started to flow into my mind. With Node running a web server app and pi-gpio giving me access to the I/O pins the possibilities are endless. I have a few simple ideas to get started and will do a post as soon as one of them works.

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