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Raspberry Pi Model B used in this review was sponsored by getDigital – Your Geek Stuff Supplier. I would really like to thank getDigital for sponsoring GeekPeek.Net. They are the first to respond to GeekPeek.Net invitations and requests for sponsorship and we really appreciate it! I hope this will trigger other sponsors to start sponsoring GeekPeek.Net.
About Raspberry Pi
Raspberry Pi was developed in UK for educational purposes and it quickly became a hit and started selling all over the world. With it’s hardware specifications, Raspberry Pi enables you to run your favorite Linux based operating system. Plug it into your mobile phone charger (micro USB) and connect it via HDMI to your big screen TV or computer monitor.
Hardware Specifications (model B rev2)
- CPU: 700 MHz ARM1176JZF-S core
- GPU: Broadcom VideoCore IV @ 250 MHz
- MEMORY: 512 MB (shared with GPU)
- USB: 2x 2.0 USB ports
- VIDEO INPUT: CSI input connector
- VIDEO OUTPUT: Composite RCA (PAL and NTSC), HDMI (rev 1.3 & 1.4)
- AUDIO OUTPUT: 3.5 mm jack, HDMI
- STORAGE: SD / MMC / SDIO card slot
- NETWORK: 10/100 Ethernet (8P8C)
- POWER: 5 volt via MicroUSB or GPIO header – 700 mA (3.5 W)
- SIZE: 85.60 mm × 53.98 mm (3.370 in × 2.125 in)
- WEIGHT: 45 g (1.6 oz)
Raspberry Pi Review
There are many supported operating systems you can install on your Raspberry Pi. In this review i wanted to find an operating system which would enable me to connect my Raspberry Pi to my big screen TV via HDMI and use it for everyday tasks like web browsing, checking and responding to my emails, look at Youtube videos and play high definition videos from my 1TB USB attached hard drive. I tried out a couple of Linux distributions just to find out using Raspberry Pi for desktop is quite limited and unusable.
For MediaCenter Raspberry Pi is much more usable with certain dedicated Linux MediaCenter distributions and definitely the best to be used as a linux server without graphical user interface. I used my WiFi USB AirMouse Keyboard with Raspberry Pi which worked out of the box so i think you could use any USB keyboard out there without any problems. I also attached my USB 1TB hard disk which Raspberry Pi had no problems with on any operating system.
I installed operating systems on my Raspberry Pi using the dd method. If you run OS X, Linux or other Unix like system you will probably already know how to dd an image to your SD card. If not, there are good installation instructions for every operating system on their homepage.
Tested Linux Distributions
- Raspbian – Debian for Raspberry Pi
- Pidora – Fedora Remix for Raspberry Pi
- Raspbmc – XBMC port for Raspberry Pi
- OpenELEC – XBMC port for Raspberry Pi
- PiCore – Tiny Core for Raspberry Pi
– Raspberry Pi Cons
No Adobe Flash
There is no Adobe Flash Player available for Raspberry Pi and probably never will be. Adobe only made one version of Adobe Flash available for ARM even that was for ARM v7 CPU (Raspberry has ARM V6) running Android. There is a possibility of installing Gnash, this is the open source Flash but i did not find it usable and do not recommend it. I tried to watch a Youtube video with Gnash, it started loading but never started playing.
Slow Graphical Interface
Yes, i understand that Raspberry Pi is not my big old desktop computer but still. I think we got spoiled with ultra fast computer speeds, therefore i can’t get past the slow(er) graphical user interface speed. At first i tried out Pidora (Fedora Remix for Raspberry Pi) which is running XFCE Desktop Environment. I must say, i expected it to work a little bit faster. The fastest operating systems i tried were RiscOS which i am not quite familiar with and is quite “old school” and PiCore which is very nice, but if you want to run your favorite software you will have to compile it yourself. The best compromise between speed, good looks and software availability is Raspbian which is also the recommended choice of operating system for Raspberry Pi and is running LXDE Desktop Environment.
Limited Number of Desktop Software
It is logical that not all known software is available for Raspberry Pi on ARM V6 but there is a big Raspberry Pi community out there and they are working every day on making more and more software available to Raspberry Pi users for different distributions. The most active is the already mentioned Raspbian community. Raspbian is also the most up-to-date operating system for Raspberry Pi and has the most of software available for download. Well, you can always run your favorite software by compiling it yourself.
No Built-in WiFi
I really missed the built-in option of wireless connection. Raspberry Pi only has 100Mbit Ethernet port so you need to connect it to your network via UTP cable. There is a possibility of using and USB WiFi dongle but i didn’t have one by my hand so Ethernet connection it is.
+ Raspberry Pi Pros
Size must be why Raspberry Pi is so fascinating and known all around the world and is definitely something special. It is a mini computer the size of a credit card you can run Apache webserver with a MySQL database on. It can easily be hidden behind a flower pot or a sound speaker.
Raspberry Pi only costs around 40€ (55$ or even less) and has already become an iconic mini computer. You can play around with it for days, reinstalling operating systems and different softwares. You can order different colourful casings or leave it open for everyone to see.
Why buy some pricey 100$ network media tank when you can get Raspberry Pi for as low as 55$. I have tested out two MediaCenter distributions for Raspberry Pi both based on XBMC – Raspbmc and OpenELEC. I must say both of these distributions blew my mind. Everything worked out-of-the-box. Raspberry Pi played Full HD 1080p movies with subtitles from my 1TB USB hard drive almost without a glitch. I even tried out the iPhone XBMC remote application which worked perfectly. I must say after using each of these two a while, OpenELEC turned out to be a bit faster and smoother than Raspbmc, so i prefer OpenELEC.
Last but not least is the Raspberry Pi no graphical user interface linux server. If you are a linux enthusiast and got spare time, you can do wonders with Raspberry Pi. Choose your favorite linux server distribution and use Raspberry Pi whatever way you want it. You can use Raspberry Pi as your Smart Home web portal, maybe you would like to use it as a web gateway or maybe your favorite linux firewall. Maybe you just want to run some webserver with your favorite database and put your blog on it. I must say i have not made my decision what to use it for. When i do, i will sure let you know.
At the beginning of this review i mentioned i would like to find an operating system for Raspberry Pi which would enable me to connect my Raspberry Pi to my big screen TV via HDMI and use it for everyday tasks like web browsing, checking and responding to my emails, watching Youtube videos and play high definition videos from my 1TB USB hard drive.
To be honest i did not find an operating system that would enable me to do everything i wanted. Desktop experience on Raspberry Pi is limited by Raspberry Pi hardware resources and none of the Raspberry Pi supported operating will never support Adobe Flash. If you want, you can use Raspberry Pi as a MediaCenter installing OpenELEC on it, if not you can definitely use it as your default home linux server with preferred linux distribution.
Nevertheless Raspberry Pi is definitely a gadget every tech-savvy person has to own, no matter what he uses it for. Raspberry Pi is an iconic breakthrough mini computer of the 21st century. There are countless options you can use Raspberry Pi for, you are only limited by your own imagination.