Zit Seng's Blog

A Singaporean's technology and lifestyle blog

Project with Raspberry Pi

You might already have heard about this tiny little embedded computer that runs Linux. It costs just US$35. When it was first announced, I was excited like many others and wanted to place an order. However, back in March, Element 14 told me I had to wait till July. I quickly lost interest. I eventually got around to ordering two of them when I heard lead times had eventually come down to under 5 weeks.

This is the Respberry Pi Model B. It comes with 256MB of RAM, 2 USB 2.0 ports, Composite RCA and HDMI video outputs, 3.5mm audio output jack, SD card slot, Fast Ethernet port, and various other low-level peripheral I/O ports. Power is supplied via MicroUSB or GPIO header. It’s about the size of a business card, and the highest component on it is the double USB-port stack.

At US$35 (S$45), it’s awfully cheap. Of course, you’l have to add on things like a power supply and a SD card to make it useful. It’s still pretty cheap. I’m still using Guruplugs for some projects, but the Raspberry Pi pretty much surpasses them in every way, except for the lack of built-in WiFi. I’ll probably be looking at replacing the Guruplugs with Raspberry Pis in future.

Another thing that I’ve been exploring is Arduino. They share some similarities with Raspberry Pi in terms of providing GPIO headers to interface with various other basic low-level hardware. They each have their pros and cons, of course. The Arduino is designed to be a low-level basic micro-controller that provides complete control of hardware through a simple C-like programming language. The Raspberry Pi, on the other hand, is essentially a tiny version of a somewhat complete PC.

Why are we playing with these gadgets? Well, we want to build something cool. The trouble is, we haven’t figured out what that thing is. I’ve been speaking with people to get ideas. The general concept is that it has to be something visible, something physical, something that can interact with the environment. It needs to be unique to some extent, it has to have a wow factor, and something that people will remember (in a good way, of course).

This sounds very fuzzy and if you’ve no clue about what I’m talking about, take a look at these two YouTube clips: 3D LED RGB Cube and Kinetic Rain. Of course, we don’t want to do the same thing, and no doubt we also have resource and skills constraints to contend with. But that will give you a general idea of what this vague concept we’re going for.

Oh, if you do have any bright ideas, do share them with me!

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