Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The "raspberry" that wants to change computer science

Some months ago, the project RaspberryPi has been announced. Its purpose is very ambitious: creating a good computer at a very low price, so it will be possible to reduce the "digital divide". In January, models A and B have been  presented (, and they will be available after February 20th. The B model will cost 25 euros.

The "flow rate" of this thing is enormous: having a computer, perfectly working, at about 25 euros, means that we will be able to computerize a lot of things: used with Arduino, RaspberryPi will make possible the low cost domotics.

I asked some questions to Eben Upton, and I have managed to undestand a little bit more about what they are going to do.

First of all the name: they have choosen "Raspberry" because there are many computer industries with fruit names (e.g.: Apple, Blackberry,...) and Pi because, originally, they thought to use only Python (at least to let childs learn to write programs for this computer). Obiously, now is possible to use every language you want (it just needs to run on GNU/Linux sistems with ARM processors).
RaspberryPi is a complete computer, so it can be used for every operation you usually do with a normal computer, but its low price has been the most important feature for Raspberry's creators: in fact, they thought as an educational instrument for childs, to learn them how to program a computer. Personally, I think that primary and secondary schools should teach programming to the kids. In fact, we are running into a world where everything works with a computer, and if you know how to control the computer, you will be able to manage your life. And, programming is really important for improving child's logic skills. I don't know how the rest of the world is, but in Italy our schools are mainly based on memory. They does not teach you to understand what you are doing, what you are reading: they only ask you to be able to repeat some phrases written by someone else before. Teaching computer programming will encourage childs to ratiocinate.

The recommended systems, for RaspberryPi are GNU/Linux distros, like Debian and Fedora. And, as you can see down here, Qt libraries work very good:
In a near future, a lot of companies will probably use Raspberry in their products, but actually RaspberryPi creators have no plan about this.
I also asked Eben about the possibility of delivering another model of RaspberryPi with a wi-fi network card integrated, that could be a lot easyier (so you don't have to connect every computer with a cable, that is a little confusing in a classroom of 20 students). But, unfortunately, they don't have any official plan about wi-fi, actually (but I know they are thinking about it).
There will be also a certain number of local shop points, so you won't need to get the computer shipped from  the United Kingdom. Actually, anyway, there are no reliable informations.

Ok, dreams time: now, just think about a mediacenter built with a RaspberryPi and a GNU/Linux distro with Plasma Mediacenter (I know it's not ready to be used, but I'm dreaming). With less than 100 euros you can have a complete Full HD mediacenter, usable to control some areas of your house (with the help of Arduino). For example, turn on a light with a console command, maybe from a remote ssh console.

A conclusive note: obiously, Eben Upton recommends you to follow the official site and consider buying a computer, when they will be available (after February 20th).

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