Raspberry Pi: A $25 computer
Casey Hare- September 13, 2012Last time, I wrote about the BeagleBone, so it only seems fitting to introduce Raspberry Pi as well. Raspberry Pi is a credit-card sized single-board computer, designed for educational use. There are two versions, costing only $25 and $35. The $35 version adds an Ethernet port and a second USB port.
Raspberry Pi is not open-source, but it does run Debian Linux (open source) as its operating system. You can program it in any language, but most engineers use Python (also open source).
The Rasperry Pi's ultra-low price makes it an excellent option for educational projects. It's also interesting to hobbyists, granted that there is more money to spend in SD cards, cables, and power supplies. When combined with data-acquisition options, the raspberry Pi becomes interesting to test-and-measurement engineers.
Pico Technology has provided Raspberry Pi drivers for their DrDAQ board, which provides waveform generation, function generation, digital I/O and more to the Raspberry Pi board. Element 14 has announced, but not started shipping, the Gertboard, which will drive motors and sense voltages and currents .
A big strike against the Raspberry Pi is the documentation: The user guide costs a few dollars, which makes it harder to quickly evaluate the board. More importantly, the data sheet for the chip at the heart of the board will not be released by the manufacturer. This means that if you get into trouble, the information required to figure out what needs to happen may not be available.
Raspberry Pi is a great addition to the field, especially for educational use. The $25 and $35 price tags are incredible. For a specific test-and-measurement application, particularly one involving many distributed single-board computers, Raspberry Pi may be a perfect fit. But, I fear the closed documentation and the streamlined feature set could limit flexibility for larger test-and-measurement applications.
I haven't personally taken Raspberry Pi for a ride yet, so please let me know if you have. I don't think Raspberry Pi will become my default solution for single-board computing, but it will certainly will be under consideration when new projects come up.
Please comment below with you concerns or experiences.