Sunday, June 7, 2020
This week we’re covering something a little different, the Raspberry Pi 4.
If you have never heard of a Raspberry Pi, these are basically small single-board computers that were initially developed in the United Kingdom to help teach computers and electronics and robotics in schools. It became extremely popular due to its low cost and its extreme portability. It is sold barebones but does have additional accessories for purchase such as keyboards and plastic cases or mice.
There are now at least 4 versions and a few generations of this device. Millions of these boards have been sold and many are also made around the world.
These devices normally have an integrated CPU that’s ARM-compatible between around 700MHz to 1.5GHz speeds and a GPU and also some network connection capability.
These devices also have various amounts of RAM from as little as 256MB all the way up to 8GB for the most recent Pi 4. The boards also features USB ports, HDMI, audio jacks and SD card capability as well as various types of pins. Many also feature Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.
The best known feature also is the low cost which is often less than $60 for just the board itself.
The first boards ever developed were back in 2012. More features have been added as the cost of computing has gone down. 64-bit quad core capability is now standard and cheap enough to be standard. In addition USB 3.0 ports are now supported as well as 4K resolutions. USB-C is on its way.
The older model A of the Pi which didn’t have Ethernet ports and only a single USB port eventually gave way to the better model B as more people asked for better improvements over the years.
These boards can also be overclocked for the enthusiasts. The boards were designed to allow “headless computing” which means that it doesn’t need peripherals to such as would typically be attached to a KVM or keyboard, video (monitor), and mouse. Yet they can most certainly do so. Probably one of the neatest thing is that as with typical USB standard ports, the available ports allow almost any USB device to be attached and it will work immediately.
Even though the device can support higher resolutions, it may not work well at the highest resolutions.
Another great thing about these mini-computers is that it has operating systems that are based on open source programs. The default official OS is the Raspberry Pi OS which was previously called Raspbian since it was based on Debian. This based distribution of Linux was an excellent choice due to its abundance of software available for it as well as its stability and support in the community. However there are other operating systems available including Ubuntu systems and even a Windows 10 IoT Core and major Linuxes to non-Linux based OSes.
The power of this adaptability to various software and hardware projects is what makes this board so fascinating for many people ranging from college aged kids to tech professionals and enthusiasts to young kids just learning about electronics for the first time.
The community has designed various applications to not only allow further software programs to be writting with compilers but also allow games to run, VNC servers to render, and scientists and engineers to process data points. For instance the boards can be used to teach Pascal or allow game development with Python or even teach engineering and mathematics.
In addition there are several hundred maker projects you can design and create such as using it to drive 3-D printing designs, create a home security camera, create a proof-of-concept radio, or even automate your home lights and equipment.
Most of the boards can be flashed or prepared with NOOBS or a “New Out of Box Software” that is designed to be copied to an SD card for quickly getting up and running.
There are of course many other similar boards. For example:
- Excellent for creating prototypes using LED’s, sensors and motors and program
- Can unplug a cable and attach a battery and create let the board continue to run the program with its built in microcontroller
- Relatively simple to use.
- Only a partial computer, but programmable but not run a complete OS thus needing less power (low power good for IoT).
- Originally developed by Texas Instruments and became open source for the public
- Extendable for hardware development
- More pins that can be controlled
- Has onboard storage and good for development and just slightly more expensive than the Pi.
- Possible to run a full OS.
- Like the Beagle Bone is also quite powerful in that it allows more development.
- Melds together some of the best features of Arduino and Raspberry Pi and a development board.
Of course there are similar devices to these also sold by ODroid by Hard Kernel that rival some of the capability of Raspberry Pi.
The Raspberry Pi in contrast does need to have an operating system to work and has its storage of data in the SD card. But it is also quite popular.
Of course you can find many books and manuals and how to documents as well as videos online for these. There are a whole lot of up and coming development coding projects that help encourage programming and learning for the younger generation. You may have seen for instance the Harry Potter coding kit wand for instance by Kano, not a PC board but still helping to teach basics of programming.
Right now the Raspberry Pi 4 comes with either 2, 4 or 8GB or RAM and you can also purchase a kit that comes with its official cables and keyboard and a small case and a mouse for around $120.
OS’es available include Ubuntu Mate, DietPi, Arch Linux ARM, FydeOS and Android, FreeBSD, Kali Linux, Plan 9, Linutop, OpenSUSE, Gentoo
You can even run a media center like OpenELEC to create a Kodi media center. You can also run OSMC or LibreELEC
Your Raspberry Pi can be used for Retro gaming with distributions like:
In fact a lot of people have been creating their own modified cases and controllers and outfitting them to resemble arcades.
You can also create tiny robots that move or follow lines as well.
You can create weather stations and environment monitoring devices as well.
With so many different things that you can do with them and the documentation that’s out there and relatively inexpensive price consider checking it out. Computers are affordable and everyone should be able to get access to a computer. They truly are helpful learning devices.