back to article Psst, kid... Wanna learn how to hack?

Despite all the excitement and expectation encompassing the RaspberryPi, the most remarkable thing about this low-power credit card-sized computer is its price tag: little more than £20 for a fully functional system capable of, among many things, 1080p video playback and hardware-accelerated graphics. The British-designed Pi …

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  1. daviduk
    Thumb Up

    Wonder if this little beauty would be capable of emulating some of the classic computer platforms as well - which of course gives scope for another market for it :)

    (And also an excuse to play Elite as well :))

    1. simon 43
      Thumb Up

      @ davidUK

      Head over to the RPi forums, it's discussed there... I'm sure we'll see emulators running very soon after they're made available - which is great, but it's not really the point.

    2. Arrrggghh-otron

      More than capable

      The r-pi will be more than capable of emulating lots of classic systems... just gotta port em.

    3. chuBb. Bronze badge

      probably expect a lot of arduino projects to get ported...

      be intresting to see a reprap powered by one of those, almost a perfect educational device then

      Now just have to convince the misses that i really need annother board, to got with my arduino's and netduino's ;-)

      1. Sarev

        RISC OS

        Elite already runs natively under RISC OS on the ARM so once the RISC OS port is complete, that solves that problem. :)

      2. bhtooefr
        Stop

        I'd stick with an Arduino...

        ...at least to my knowledge, the GPIOs aren't buffered on the RasPi, and there's no analog I/O.

        And, if you blow up an I/O on the RasPi (which, my understanding is that's easier), you've gotta replace the whole board. Do it on an Arduino, and you need to replace a $4 chip.

        But, a RasPi would be a good supplement to an Arduino for additional processing power...

        1. Ian 55
          Childcatcher

          You can get - for a bit more than this - a Arduino shield and largely code-compatible ARM Maple already. If you don't want shield and software compatible, there are tiny ARM-powered boards with loadsa-IO ports exposed. If you want Arduino plus 400x300 VGA, there's the lovely Gameduino.

          The Raspberry is optimised for getting stuff on a screen vs hardware IO for the Arduino/Maple.

          Me, I want both :)

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "the misses"

        I am most curious as to just who are these misses that everyone keeps talking about, and why do they seem to have such a stranglehold on the lives of the general population?

    4. Manu T

      @ daviduk

      Well if they get RISCOS running on this thing then YES. It'll run Elite and even better... it'll run D.Braben's other scifi game that amazing Zarch (of which a demo was supplied with every Archimedes under the name 'Lander'.) Zarch is better knonw on non-RIISCOS platforms as 'Virus'.

      A beautifull game with a 3D vector-drawn isometric landscape. One of those unique games that unfortunatly never achieved the some success as Elite.

      In fact I wonder why none of these old scool games never get ported to cell-phones. I mean even the ZX Spectrum had unique games (Marsport, Dun Darach, Tir Na Nog comes to mind) or the C64 (Head over heels, Zaxon) These could easily be ported to todays cellphones without (ab)using too much performance. But to stay in the RISCOS world. I'd love to see a proper port of StarFighter 3000 or even StuntRacer2000. They where both totally addictive (as well as Zarch by the way).

      Perhaps Mr. Braben could supply 'Zarch/Virus' free with every machine sold (as an incentive to potential customers). IMHO I think Zarch is the more appealing game instead of Elite.

  2. Code Monkey
    Thumb Up

    PRINT "Hello, world! "

    They were a lot more polite than I ever was.

    This is a fantastic idea. I'll buy one to support them even if I can never make the time to tit about with it,

  3. simon 43
    Thumb Up

    I've been following the project for some time and am eagerly awaiting the on sale date announcement.

    I was at School in the 70s and 80s and strongly agree that the change from 'computer science' to 'ICT' was good for overall 'computer literacy' but bad for development of the industry as a whole. If this bit of kit can generate anywhere near the level of enthusiasm that we saw during the 80's microcomputer boom then it'll be a good thing!

  4. Stephen 2

    Fed up

    I'm getting a bit fed up hearing about this system that is STILL not available. We all know that it's going to be 60-100 quid when it becomes available for public purchase.

    1. James Hughes 1

      @Stephen 2

      Er, you are talking bollocks.

      Release date has always been Q4 2011- so not sure why you are saying 'STILL' not available bearing in mind it's 'STILL' Q4 2011.

      And the price point stands.

      1. Stephen 2

        We'll see. I can say with certainty that regular people like you and me will NOT be able to buy this thing for $25 this year.

        1. James Hughes 1

          You can say that with certainty? How? The Model A is $25 to everyone, the Model B is $35. You will have to pay P&P and applicable taxes on that, depending on your location.

          So explain again, how can you be so sure you won't be able to get it for the headline price?

  5. Hayden Clark
    Happy

    Darn. Only one Ethernet Port.

    If it had two, it would make a brilliant router. Finally a replacement for a second-hand WRT54G!

    1. Tim Parker

      Re : Darn. Only one Ethernet Port.

      "If it had two, it would make a brilliant router."

      Ethernet over USB maybe ? I'm sure the online discussions and fora will have much advice and thoughts on the matter.

      Rather looking forward to their release I must say.

    2. Nigel 11

      USB Ethernet?

      Assuming the USB is USB2 (someone confirm, please) then you could plug in a USB Ethernet adapter for the second port. Of course that does add £15 - £25.

      It's also a shame that there are few USB ports. Keyboard, mouse, disk and memory stick or DVD drive, I'd have liked 4. One could plug in a USB(2?) hub, but that's ugly compared to integrating the hub chip and , say, 4 connectors. How much would that cost - less, surely, than the £5 you can buy such a hub for. I'm sure it wouldn't complicate the board, just (maybe) make it a little larger.

      Even so, if I can buy one as shown for under £30, I probably will. If it winds up at £100, I probably won't. I'll probably hack it into / onto a monitor, tapping the monitor's PSU which can almost certainly supply an extra watt.

      1. No, I will not fix your computer
        Stop

        Re: USB Ethernet?

        The whole point of the board is to get the price down, even saving 25p is worth it - read the article! adding another USB or Ethernet is the *wrong* idea, after all, what would be next on the list USB3? surround sound? PIO disk interface? firewire? thunderbolt? nope, I'm sure that even one Ethernet was carefully considered,

        1. bhtooefr

          And that ethernet interface is an optional extra (along with 128 MiB of the RAM).

      2. Nigel 11

        I did get it ...

        I understood the point about getting the cost down. In my dreams it would have boasted SATA but I fuly understand why it doesn't. I'm not an electronics engineer so I may be complertely wrong about the following, but I'll fill in my thought process.

        A USB hub chip is obviously a stand-alone chip plus support components connected to a computer system by four wires. Usually it's packaged in a little bit of plastic and the four wires are the PC-to-hub USB A-B cable. Therefore I would have thought it possible to design this system's circuit board so it can be populated either with a single USB connector, or with a USB hub chip and a quad USB connector. If I'm right the extra cost of the cheaper version would be the price of the extra PCB area needed for the (missing) quad connector abd USB hub chip. It's bad idea if (a) I'm wrong and it's not possible, or (b) if the extra cost of a small bit of unpopulated PCB on the cheaper version is enough to put off a significant percentage of customers. I doubt the latter.

        Anyone with more detailed knowledge of board design or economics care to make a well-informed comment?

        1. James Hughes 1

          There are two chips on the Model B board - the SoC and a LAN chip. The LAN chip is multi purpose and takes the SoC single USB and converts it to ethernet, and also provides a two port hub.

          This is a pretty cheap option - higher hub count and the required connectors increases the board price quite surprisingly - you need the bigger 4 port USB socket, the hub chip, and the board space on which to mount them - space is money. All together they put the price up by over 10%.

      3. Mad Hacker

        Really?

        This is a bare board with exposed electronics components and adding a USB hub is "ugly"? I have a regular computer that encloses all the electronics and two additional 7 ports hubs on my desk behind my keyboard. Pretty standard to need a USB hub or two on any computer these days.

        On the other hand I have a Dell keyboard that provides a USB port for the mouse so if you only needed a keyboard and mouse and had a keyboard that provided a USB connection, then you wouldn't need a hub at all.

        1. Nigel 11

          Ever heard of a box?

          I did visit the RasberryPi web-site. A box to put it in is planned, though it won't be available on day one. Then it'll be a neat little (tiny) box with a USB hub dangling from it. Ugly.

          I'll also be paying more for the hub separately than it would cost integrated into the Pi. But that's all argued over above. If the added cost of unpopulated PC board real-estate really is enough to deter sales of the cheaper one-USB version, then ugly it'll have to be. (It's not much real-estate. USB hub chips are tiny and since the single/quad USB socket is either/or, they'd share most of the PCB location). Anyway - since it's less than the cost of a couple of pints, the money (unlike the aesthetics) isn't an issue for me.

          1. The Original Ash
            Thumb Up

            Re: Ever heard of a box?

            A box?! Buy a tin of Altoids mints. Line it with something non-conductive, and you have a very strong case for your little computer. Hell, mount it upside-down with a thermal pad from the CPU to the tin, and you could use the tin itself as a heatsink. Might be good for getting a couple hundred more MHz out of the processor.

            This is on my wishlist.

    3. Luke McCarthy

      RouterBoard

      Get something like a MikroTik RouterBoard if you want a custom router machine.

    4. The Indomitable Gall

      Hopefully some good will come of this.

      In the early days of USB it was claimed that USB didn't need to be daisychainable because it's so cheap that every peripheral would include a hub. But that never happened, did it.

      In my opinion, the correct place for a USB hub is in the keyboard, which can then become that holiest of holy grails: the universal docking station.

      Unfortunately, that was what should have happened years ago. It's unlikely to happen under USB 3 as who in their right mind is going to make a USB3 keyboard?

      But still, we should have been at the stage by now where the majority of keyboards had a pass-through port for a mouse, and hopefully devices like this will finally start the creep towards that....

  6. Ben Brandwood

    Great little media streamer

    Get enough of a bare bones OS and XBMC running on these and it would make a lovely little media streamer!

    1. Wild Bill

      There's discussion about this on the Raspberry PI forums. Apparently it's unknown at the moment if running xbmc is possible, but there are some noises from the xbmc camp that it may be do-able. Would be amazing if they got it up and running.

  7. KevinLewis
    Thumb Up

    HA

    Could be a brilliant little Home Automation system...

    Or maybe even a MythTV front end...

    Or both? LinuxMCE?

    That kind of money and design, and the possibilities are endless.

  8. Daniele Procida

    FIGnition

    I think the Raspberry Pi is a great idea, but I think the FiGnition - http://sites.google.com/site/libby8dev/fignition - is an even better one.

    And it really works - my 14-year-old thinks that the most exciting thing is to program the Game of Life, in Forth, on a little black and white screen, on a computer he had to solder and test himself.

    1. Solomon Emmanuel Goldstien
      Boffin

      FIGnition...

      Sort of reminds me of the Z80 and 6805 kits that were around in the late '70's and early '80's.

      In other words - simple but fun.

      I'm quite looking foreword to the RaspberryPi kit, as it seems like a good dev platform, plus it's basic specs blow the BasicStamp and Arduino (and their clones) out of the water. Plus the price is right - unlike chip mfgs dev kits that cost as much as a cheap laptop in some cases.

    2. ForthIsNotDead
      Thumb Up

      Yay Forth!

      It's a lovely little machine, isn't it. And children seem to take to Forth very easily.

      Forth is very very different to most programming languages, and I find that complete newbies learn it faster than experienced programmers. I think it's because they don't being any previous baggage and misconceptions with them.

      1. Just Thinking

        I often think that if C hadn't have been invented, Forth might have ended up doing the same job.

    3. Trygve Henriksen
      Happy

      It brought back the 14year old in me...

      Yeah, I was that age 'back when the Speccy ruled'...

      Also, a kit that you can solder yourself without special tools or reflow ovens is nice. ;-)

      (Just because I can solder 0805 SMDs by hand doesn't mean that I enjoy it. Soldering through-hole on a nicely-laid-out board, though, can be a joy)

      As for hacking... Well... Just read the Google groups topics on the thing. Weird stuff is happening quite often. ;-)

  9. jake Silver badge

    Broadcom?

    Do not want.

    Proprietary bastards ...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Proprietary?

      How so? They make Linux drivers that work fine.

      1. jake Silver badge

        @Craiggy ... work fine? What's that mean?

        Can I get the source on that? Rumor has it I know how to massage code ...

    2. James Hughes 1

      And yet you already use Broadcom product everyday. In your iPhone, HTC, Nokia, in your laptop, your desktop, in your router, in the switches used on the internet backbone.

      If you don't want to use their product, don't use the internet.

      1. jake Silver badge

        @James Hughes 1

        Uh ... No. There is no Broadcom kit in day-to-day use here.

        Yet TheIntraWebTubes[tm] are quite accessible, thank you.

        HTH, HAND.

        1. James Hughes 1

          @Jake

          Over 99% of internet traffic will end up going through a Broadcom chip somewhere between you consumer device and the remote server..

          Let's hope you are in that 1% eh!

          1. jake Silver badge

            @James Hughes 1

            Care to show me the source on that?

            Oh. You don't actually "get it". Never mind.

            1. James Hughes 1

              Can't show you the source

              As it's under an NDA. but you could work it out for yourself.

              You use Broadcom chips whether you like it or not, at some point in your internet transactions (99% of the time). They are much MUCH more common that you seem to think.

              Live with it.

              1. jake Silver badge

                @James Hughes 1 "Under NDA"?

                Kinda my point, no? If I don't have source, I don't use (or recommend) it.

                I, personally, own nothing Broadcom-branded. On purpose.

                Live with it.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        So do I

        but try getting information out of them if you want to hack your own drivers or %deity% forbid write your own code to run on their chips and aren't prepared to buy thousands of chips off them.

        Broadcom is a very secretive, closed shop for hackers unless you're prepared to buy tens of thousands of chips or breach some very nasty NDAs.

        I really hope Raspberry Pi is open and we can all get down to the metal on it but if Broadcom is involved, somehow I doubt it will be.

        Having said all that, I will be seriously looking into buying a board when it's released.

        1. The Indomitable Gall

          Using APIs has its benefits...

          "I really hope Raspberry Pi is open and we can all get down to the metal on it but if Broadcom is involved, somehow I doubt it will be."

          If you look at open-source hardware projects, they usually sink because the specced components aren't available any more, but the Raspberry PI is as damn near generic as you can get. Ethernet controllers and USB controllers are pretty generic. ARM may be a propietary design, but it's licensable and so heavily commoditised. This means that they should be able to revise the hardware as the market changes and use components from other suppliers without invalidating the existing codebase and forking the system (and userbase).

          The only truly closed component is the GPU. There really is no such thing as a generic GPU on the market, and GPU technology is changing rapidly. Mandating Open GL makes any GPU generic, and this means that they can change the GPU later when the current model is discontinued or they can negotiate a better price with another supplier.

          On the other hand, if the GPU's native APIs were available, you can be damned sure that developers would use them, and software would become irrevocably tied to the current version of the hardware, which would destroy the long-term potential of the project.

  10. Jon Press

    1080p video playback

    Given the woeful, fragmented, secretive and often broken support for video on other "open" platforms, I'm reserving judgment on this one. Especially since the nascent WIKI says merely about the GPU API "It does an awful lot" and has a broken link to further information.

    1. Anomalous Cowturd
      Linux

      @Jon Press

      I have yet to find a video file that my "open" Linux boxen can't open and play.

      GStreamer FTW.

      1. Tom 38 Silver badge
        Thumb Down

        @Cowturd

        I would assume your open Linux box is powered by something with significantly more oomph than a 700 MHz ARMv7 though. I doubt that CPU could do much more than SD MPEG2 in software.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          I don't know ...

          I was editing video on a 386 about 12 years ago. Can't say it was particularly fast but it did certainly do it. And conversions from one format to another were pretty OK.

        2. Manu T

          @ @Cowturd

          Yeah but if a lowly Nokia N8/C7 with it's measly 680MHz ARM11 can record and play 720p then who are we to complain about not having enough oomph?

          It's clearly a matter of optimising the OS. RISCOS on an 8MHz ARM2 equipped Archimedes A440 ran circles around my Atari PC4 (80286 16MHz) at that time (one o/t reasons I ditched my PC and Amiga with its 68030 to get an A5000). And later (early 90's) my ARM3 equipped 25MHz A5000 was a lot faster than the usualy PC clone 80386SX/DX. Things didn't change much untill the Pentium 2. Then with the arrival of dedicated graphics-accellerators and the much higher clockspeeds PC's began to overtake the Acorn machines in performance.

          The Achilles heel of the Acorn systems was their abysmal floating point performance. Which didn't matter until the Pentium's reigned the market with their integrated FP-coprocessors after it became clear that 486DX sold a lot better than their FP-less counterparts 486SX.

          RISCOS was (maybe still is) assembler-optimised which is the reason for it's performance. The same with current Nokia cellphones. Symbian is the most optimised ARM-platform to date hence the reason why Nokia can still use olde ARM11 cores and still get very decent performance out of them. I'm let to believe that Windows Phone 7 OS is also quite optimised (it should be if you consider how long M$ have used ARM-code/cpus).

          1. James Hughes 1

            @ManuT

            The Nokia N8 can do 720p encode because it uses a Videocore 3 GPU - the predecessor to the Videocore 4 GPU in the Raspberry Pi.

            Small world eh!

      2. Jon Press

        @Anomalous Cowturd

        That's presumably because either you have a seriously powerful CPU that can decode video in software or you don't realise that your "open" Linux box is running a pile of closed proprietary binary code which the graphics card manufacturer has provided to support the minimum functionality that can be labelled "Linux video acceleration".

        I'm afraid most Linux boxes aren't going to get very far with video that doesn't conform to the lowest common denominator of what VA API and VDPAU can support - provided that the graphics card offers even that. And anyone not using X is mostly SOL. There's specifically not (yet) any documentation I can find about whether the GPU blob for this platform supports either VA API or VDPAU (which would be a start) or whether it provides for video decoding and presentation that would work without X (for example directFB).

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          "you don't realise that your "open" Linux box is running a pile of closed proprietary binary code which the graphics card manufacturer has provided to support the minimum functionality that can be labelled "Linux video acceleration"

          I think that if the video card manufacturer is providing Linux drivers for that GPU to work with Linux in the first place then its internal microcode cannot be in any way shape or form be described as "proprietary".

          An awful lot of graphics code comes from a free and open source anyhow and yes this finds its way into "proprietary" hardware.

          1. Jon Press

            I think you'll find that most of the people working on video for Linux disagree with you.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              More than possible. I admit I may be wrong -- I'm just assuming if you can see the driver source then you could make pretty accurate assumptions about what's going on in the hardware. That might be very wrong of me and I apologise if I've offended you in that assumption. No offence was intended.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                What do you mean, "driver source"?

                What such vendors do is provide a "blob" of executable code, possibly entirely proprietary firmware to load onto the card, and perhaps a shim to stick it where it needs to go. Sometimes that shim is written by some linux hacker and thus GPL and then it might be loading some binary filched from the windows driver distribution instead of anything "official".

                That shim is the only bit you'd get to see the source for and isn't particularly helpful in fixing anything, nevermind writing your own. It's one of those things that sets the "tainted" flag on the kernel, and oftentimes won't on anything non-x86, or on the wrong version of the vendor-blessed linux distribution, or.... Vendors acting like linux can be supplied with drivers like it was windows. It's a bit of a mess, it is.

                Of course, there do exist vendors that do supply open drivers for their hardware, and sometimes they're even decent to good. But those are few and far between. Most vendors and for that matter most of us are usually better off with the specifications published free-for-all; someone'll pick up the specs and write the driver for their pet OS. But of course with the increased threat of patent abuse there's a perverse incentive to make a pheripheral and then not tell anyone how to talk to it. Then again it does help if people contact vendors and ask for programming specs. If enough people ask for them, then more and more vendors will release them.

        2. Tim Parker

          @Jon Press

          "or you don't realise that your "open" Linux box is running a pile of closed proprietary binary code which the graphics card manufacturer has provided to support the minimum functionality that can be labelled "Linux video acceleration"."

          The proprietary binary code blobs i've used on a number of Linux boxes have provided an awful lot more than 'the minimum functionality that can be labelled "Linux video acceleration"' - don't be such a troll. There is a noticable, sometimes very large, gap in performance between, e.g. the AMD/ATi Linux and Windows drivers, in a number of areas - to be expected given the economics - but they are far from minimum functionality. The gap is also closing in some places, all from the same vendor.

          You sound like you may know a fair bit about graphics, so why the mis-leading nonsense ?

    2. James Hughes 1

      Videocore IV supports H264 High profile 1080p30, along with MP4. However, those codecs that need an expensive licence won't be suppled. Don't blame the Raspberry Pi, blame the licence cost. Interestingly AAC is the highest codec cost of the lot, and yet is the simplest format.

  11. Kristian Walsh

    I hope this does well..

    Consider for a moment that this hardware is perfectly capable of running a typical "office" application set, and there may be some serious interest from corporate purchasers - £200 a head for a PC, or £25 for this? (By way of a supporting argument, Microsoft are currently porting Microsoft Office to Nokia's Symbian3 phones which use a very similar hardware configuration). In these times of cutbacks, these would also make good student workstations for colleges - especially if you want to teach embedded and mobile development.

    Raspberry Pi also has Qt available for application development, which gets over the big hurdle of modern systems: how do you start coding if you don't know how to code. Qt Quick is a great way to ease into programming - like HTML, it's pretty easy to get something that moves and reacts, and for simple control you can use snippets of JavaScript... but then there's a full native-code object-oriented MVC architecture underneath for more demanding tasks, and if that's too limiting, you can delve deeper again and get into low-level system calls, all in the same runtime.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'd like one^Wa couple, even if I have everything it does already.

    Currently using a rather anemic old box (single core C7 at 1.5GHz) booted off of usb for the usual browsing and mail checking, which when booted from another usb stick gives me a browser with flash so I can watch video lectures*, take notes, and do some excercises. The former is FreeBSD**, the latter is tiny core linux. So likely the raspberrypi will actually be faster than what I'm training neural networks on now. Bit of a pity I'd have to buy something with hdmi to use it, but I just might as I need a better display anyway.

    Also a bit of a pity the graphics chip is closed up, someone really needs to whack broadcom over the head for being so annoyingly secretive. But at least the mobile opengl is something. Now for opencl on that same hardware.

    Thing is, the ability to stick something in your pocket that's a (near enough) complete environment to do some task is actually quite powerful, moreso than I expected. Even if you can't take the display with you also. We possibly might see the revival of a c64/bbc/amiga-esque "scene".

    On the other hand, though, I'm seriously looking at acquiring some new, much faster kit to give me back a good development environment and a bit of oomph for running data analysis and such. Part of the price (some 500-odd ukp projected and damn those floods) is virtualisation support (with x86's notoriously poor historical support and architectural supportability that's noticeable, yes) so as to run various "OS containers" concurrently. I think that'll stay too, as sometimes the oomph and convenience of not having to swap out devices on the telly is worth something too. Now for some way to migrate those things back and forth from the cloud or even say a friendly local organisation's handy K super clone for real computation, to the desktop to keep it all in hand, to the laptop to keep tinkering abroad, and back again, preferrably seamlessly. There's much to innovate yet.

    * The stanford online classes, all three of them. I really should stop slacking off.

    ** It could do flash with suitable emulation installed, but I opted for trying the different stick method instead.

  13. a cynic writes...

    That's Christmas sorted...

    ...for my son obviously ;-)

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Still too complicated....

    ...for beginners.

    All this talk of tweeting, web browsing, linux nonsense - kids already have that crap on the PCs, why make this thing do all that?

    Machines like the speccy and C64 inspired people because you turn it on and type some BASIC and things happened on screen. When you got the hang of it you move on to machine code and do better things.

    Let this thing boot into a simple editor with a simple language and an assembler. If you're new to coding, I don't think trying to use an OpenGL library is going to be much fun. That comes later, and all this HTML and javascript nonsense - just use a PC.

    1. James Hughes 1

      And there is absolutely no reason why you cannot do this- perhaps to Python, or even BBC basic. It's just a SD cd swap to change the nature of the beast.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @ Anonymous Coward

      Unfortunatly ppl demand some form of basic usability (which include websurfing).

      On RISCOS you simply press F12 to get to a CLI. From there you type 'BASIC' to revoke the BBC Basic interpreter and from withing that BASIC you use [ ] (square brackets) to insert your Assembler code. Neat and easy :-)

      The IMHO very best example of this kind of programming is the program Architec which was written in Basis/Basic-assembler. It was a real time 3D modelling package with real time texture mapping etc...

      I've seen it's code. Not that I could do what these guys had done (I think it was Aspex Software from the UK whom made it) but it showed what could be done in these systems using the inbuild BASIC/Assembler tools.

      Cheers

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Impressive feat of engineering, and I really hope it will be successful and help kids get into computing. Especially those who might not have any other chance.

    I am a bit dubious though. How many people is it going to help?

    People on this forum could just buy one for £20 and probably have enough spare kit to build a system.

    For a household which doesn't already have a computer, in addition to the RPi they also need to buy a keyboard, mouse, USB hub, cables, power supply, SD card and probably a monitor. Starts to make a second hand laptop look more attractive. But they could have done that already, and haven't.

    Then they need an internet connection as well, most likely.

    For kids who already have access to a computer, what aspect of the RPi is going to inspire them to program? It's just a linux box. They will use it to go on Facebook.

    I don't want to be negative. Its small form factor could make it a more sophisticated arduino. Maybe some schools will use it to kit out a computer lab with a private network.

    Good luck to them though. It could be a game changer in the third world.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Thrid world home computers

      I think the third world market is pretty well sewn up at the moment with keyboard equipped "Famiclones" - a copy of an 8-bit Nintendo system with BASIC, word processor and some educational software in ROM. These things come in many (hundreds of) different shapes and sizes and are churned out in huge quantities by many Chinese factories, and seem to retail at about $10 to the end user. There is a volunteer project to improve the quality of the software that gets bundled with them called PlayPower: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PlayPower

      For a similar sort of outlay to the Raspberry Pi, in the first world one can buy a Chumby One/Insignia Infocast which is an ARM based SoC equipped console with 3.5" touchscreen, built in WiFi and USB host. It runs a Macromedia Flash implementation on top of the Linux kernel, but it has been designed to be easy to get a remote console and do more interesting stuff with. It's obviously not as powerful as the Pi though, and lacks it's more sophisticated video capabilities.

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Go

        AC@13:14

        "I think the third world market is pretty well sewn up at the moment with keyboard equipped "Famiclones" - a copy of an 8-bit Nintendo system with BASIC, word processor and some educational software in ROM. "

        "a Chumby One/Insignia Infocast which is an ARM based SoC equipped console with 3.5" touchscreen, built in WiFi and USB host."

        Fascinating. This is (I suspect) a world most Reg readers know nothing about.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Not quite.

      Most reasonably modern tv sets have hdmi. A cheap mouse plus keyboard plus usb hub can be had for (looks up skinflint... 1.5+2+1 =) less than a fiver if you're lucky. Might already have a spare hdmi and/or usb cable, recent phones already get charged through mini-usb and thus come with a suitable wall-wart, and perhaps you can filch the old card plus microsd-to-sd adapter from a friendly nearby member of the family who recently upgraded the microsd in his phone. There's quite a bit of likely leeway there.

      The big attraction is that it's not the family computer, but something you can drop in your pocket and use wherever there's a suitable telly to be monopolised. It's a great excuse to be doing "something educational" instead of watching cartoons or something, so sellable to the parents too. Schools need only bolt hdmi-equipped screens and usb keyboards+mice to the desks in the classroom (might even see them back integrated, how's that for a throwback?) and the kids will provide their own computing power and storage. It's theirs, they take it with them, and it'll work the same wherever they are. Newer versions will be brought in with newer classes, saving a lot of trouble upgrading -- presumably hdmi and usb will last a while.

      Honestly, I think it's underfunded schools and the underclasses 'round here that'll benefit much more easily than the throwaway charitable goal of "the third world". You'd have to build a power grid there first, for one, and the tellies will be CRT type and will not have hdmi, for another. In fact power even to recharge mobiles there is often a couple hours walking away. An olpc with a humongous battery is what you'd need there. Forget about the third world. This thing is great for here, for getting more kids hooked on making things happen themselves, and through that get them interested in engineering. Which pretty much was the goal.

      1. bhtooefr

        Besides, it has composite out for the CRTs, too.

  16. 0dd84ll
    Thumb Up

    But will the DoE be interested?

    Can't wait to purchase one of these myself, but I worry that too many vested interests within Governemnt will simpy ignore. Today the coalition is talking about improving IT education and moving away from simply teaching kids how to open a spreadsheet but I am guessing this will just mean millions of pounds being spent on more Microsoft and Dell products as their lobbyists move in.

    I think all of us here on these forums need to get information on this product into the face of their local mp's and make this a party political agenda before civil servants kill any chance the device has in education

  17. Eddie Edwards
    Thumb Down

    Hobbyist machine, not a revolution, ffs

    Come on people, this is 2011, not 1981. The "nightmare of frameworks and compilers" is what allows 90% of developers to earn a living programming. They neither need nor want to run "on the metal", or write "tight code". And neither should they; the democratisation of software authorship is predicated on machines having the power to run high-level systems and languages. This idea goes against that, and harks back to a time 30 years ago when only nerds programmed. It's a piece of nostalgia, plain and simple.

    In case you guys haven't noticed, the marketability of low-level coding skills is diminishing year on year, and has been for over a decade. Sorry, but you don't expand the workforce to become coders by propagating an 80s myth about the level of elite skills required for the job, and going on about "coding to the metal" or how we did things when we were lads. Jesus. You may as well try to expand mining in this country by teaching kids to swing a pick-axe.

    It's nice to have a cheap Linux board, but it's not exactly a revolutionary idea, and if cheap Linux boards are so desirable why weren't schools buying them in their millions at the £60 price point? We're being asked to believe this is a revolution, but the truth of that has to be based on there being this immense price sensitivity in the market, which doesn't seem likely given that the prices of bare-board systems have been dropping steadily for the last 10 years and they are still just hobbyist items. Is the next 50% discount really going to make them suddenly go mainstream?

    I can't be the only person who thinks the hype around this is ridiculous, can I? Computers are all about SOFTWARE, it is software which makes them flexible, it is software where the cool stuff is happening that's relevant to a maturing market, and that software is becoming better because it leans on other software. And yet everyone creams their pants when a new piece of hardware comes out that is identical to a hundred other pieces of hardware, but at a somewhat lower price point. It's staggering.

    Here's an idea - if you want kids to learn programming, demand they are given programming courses at school, on the existing kit. Create a demand for simpler development environments. And start by looking at what we already have - Javascript in the browser is an easy way for anyone to get started. You can begin simple and build up, it's a high-level language, it works, it's safe, it's sandboxed, it's fast compared to even the best 8-bit machines, it has its own sprite engine and lately its own 3D layer, and you don't have to buy any new hardware. Most importantly, it's a still-relevant skill, and will likely outlast the current generation of secondary school kids by some time.

    Expecting to be downvoted for this, don't worry :) You do what you have to do :)

    1. James Hughes 1

      Way to miss the point

      In school they are NOT ALLOWED to program the machine in case they bugger them up. They are an expensive resource that need to be maintained.

      This device give them the ability to bugger it up to their hearts content. You just need to re-image the SD card and you are back to square one. No IT support needed. And even if you somehow break the hardware - its $35 so not going to break the bank.

      You are right - it is just another Linux board. But it's CHEAP and therefore more accessible. But because its JALB (c) it can run almost any language you want for free. Unlike all those school computers running Windows. And there is the software angle. Yes, its all down to the software, but you need a device to write software on, and this is a good one.

      And I think you are wrong about the market for low level coding skills declining. We are constantly needing low level coders, and there simply are not enough good ones. There is a constant demand for software for low level devices as so much stuff has some sort of SW requirement nowadays. There is also the fact that a good low level coder is generally better at high level coding and debugging because they have a better understanding of how the device works under the skin. A low level coder can work at the high level. Not the other way round.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Facepalm

      The price

      of only teaching high level coding is bloatware; and don't we all love that!

    3. Sean Baggaley 1
      WTF?

      @Eddie Edwards:

      "Come on people, this is 2011, not 1981. The "nightmare of frameworks and compilers" is what allows 90% of developers to earn a living programming."

      You don't become a successful civil engineer or architect by being ignorant of basic materials science. Knowing the acceptable loading factors and stress ranges is kind of crucial: get it wrong and your building will fall down. You can delegate this low-level work once you've reached the heady heights of building major skyscrapers, but understanding the basic foundational elements of your line of work is most emphatically not optional.

      Programming is the same: there's a big difference between knowing a handful of APIs, and knowing how a computer actually *works*. And the only certain way to learn the latter is to try doing it. In a low-level language like assembly language, or C. (I'm not aware of any CPUs that can do OOP at the assembly language level, so procedural it is.)

      Knowing how a computer "thinks" is the only way to really understand programming at a deep level. It helps no end in debugging. It also comes in handy if you have to code for constrained platforms and embedded devices, as well as in situations where optimisation skills are useful. (E.g. in game development.)

      "Javascript in the browser is an easy way for anyone to get started."

      If you'd suggested an environment like Unity (www.unity3d.com), I'd agree with you, but JS in a *browser*? Seriously?

      Leaving aside the fact that Javascript is a language that has had everything and the kitchen sink nailed onto it—procedural, OO, functional; you name it—so it's not as simple to pick up as you imply, you then have the problem that in-browser Javascript pretty much requires HTML (and CSS, to at least some extent) as well if they're going to get any decent user interaction and interface design done.

      And that's before we get onto the subject of browser compatibility. Not every browser on every platform supports every Javascript feature. Especially if it's an older browser. Schools are notorious for not upgrading their computer labs very often: they don't have a lot of money to play with.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "It's nice to have a cheap Linux board, but it's not exactly a revolutionary idea, and if cheap Linux boards are so desirable why weren't schools buying them in their millions at the £60 price point?"

      Even at £20 you still need a display unless you're doing the kind of low-level stuff that you've already told us is unnecessary. So the cost is dominated by the display, anyway. Of course, there are likely to be lots of schools who are awash with kit and who would perhaps welcome this kind of thing as a discount, but then there are plenty of other reasons why they wouldn't go for it: demand that "business skills" be taught is the primary one, and the one which this initiative is trying to overturn. But apart from schools, this initiative is trying to make stuff more affordable for home use. There, with an existing display, a drop from £60 to £20 is quite something.

      "Here's an idea - if you want kids to learn programming, demand they are given programming courses at school, on the existing kit."

      This is already going on. Unfortunately, the environments are evolving to *avoid* teaching the basics. Not having to worry about how you represent numbers, say, isn't such a bad thing - we all prefer working with abstractions instead of worrying about the details - but there's a tendency for "junior programming" environments to become nothing more than animation software, and then the fundamental skills aren't learned properly by the pupils. Fancy animations and trial and error fill in for actual understanding.

      I kind of agree with what you're arguing, at least around the hardware. I think some of the people involved have a fetish for the microcomputer era (with all the "Model A" and "Model B" non-originality), but then I think that they betray the spirit of that era by wanting to deliver a tools platform with many of the innards cordoned off: read the Partis thread with Alan Cox's comments for an indication of this. If they don't even expose the same stuff that you could play with in the early ARM computers, where the average person didn't even get to tinker as much as they did on the Beeb, then your arguments are strengthened somewhat and this looks a bit more like a vanity project.

      1. bhtooefr

        The display can be a junk (donated) CRT TV, though, so not exactly expensive.

        At least in the US, free or very cheap CRT TVs are a dime a dozen, because of the digital TV mandate here.

    5. Nigel 11

      NB a hardware hacker's board

      It's a board with a collection of digital I/O lines that you can interface homebrew electronics to. A PC is notably lacking in this department. You used to be able to bodge some things onto a parallel port, but now PCs don't have a parallel port. Otherwise you choose between USB (too complex) or buying a digital I/O card (not cheap, especially if it's a notebook PC rather than a desktop).

      Schools may or may not be keen to let their students do real programming, but they surely draw the line short of attacking a PC's motherboard with a soldering iron!

  18. Pahhh
    Thumb Up

    Absolutely great but...

    Absolutely great. The price is amazing. An Arduino board with a single attachment cost more than this. The down side of course compared to the Arduino is its size.

    Definently getting one if they maintain that price.

    I do agree with some above posts that put into doubt how effective this really will be in the classroom. It just isnt that easy to get started with programming now. For all its ills, BASIC which was designed to get you started in programming, was so much more accessable.

    PS: COULD SOMEONE EXPLAIN WHY FOR A UK CHARITY THEY KEEP REFERING TO THE PRICE IN $??????

    1. James Hughes 1

      $ Price

      Its because all the parts are sourced in dollars, so pricing the part in $'s means no issues with exchange rate buggering your margins.

    2. Nigel 11
      WTF?

      Python?

      It'll run Linux and Python. In my opinion if someone doesn't take to Python like a duck to water, s/he'll never be a programmer. What more could you want?

      (Java? Perl? Ruby? Occam? Fortran? C++? Not my choices for a first language, but those as well, and more).

      $$$ because they are thinking globally. Outside the EC most people probably don't have the faintest idea what a £ sign denotes (assuming it even displays right!), and little more idea what the GBPUSD or GBP/local exchange rate is. Global trade works in US$. Even the BBC World Service converts prices to US$.

  19. Graham Marsden
    Thumb Up

    This reminds me of...

    ... the Acorn Microcomputer (AKA System 1) which I played about with in school learning a bit of 6502 machine code!

    See http://speleotrove.com/acorn/ for details.

  20. Scribe

    1GHz BeagleBone?

    I think you mean 720MHz Mr Writer!

    Both products are great in their own way, BeagleBone has a powerful general core with a NEON vector processor and lots of low-level I/O functionality that you'd normally have to use an intermediary chip for like PWM, ADC etc. The chip is commercially available and the design is simple and so easy to produce custom models. The unit is designed to be expanded.

    RaspberryPi is cheap but difficult to reproduce for commercial purposes (cpu can only be purchased in whopping quantities and stacked memory is difficult to manufacture). On the other hand whilst the main CPU is a bit weak it has a very powerful graphics core + DSP and so some dedicated time on coding for it could yield surprising performance. Also has HDMI out. It's more of an Application processor like what you'd expect to find in a smartphone (was originally designed for camcorders).

    1. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: 1GHz BeagleBone?

      Ah, you're right - not sure where I got 1GHz. Fixed.

  21. Spiff66

    pretty cool

    We have something similar for an OU course I am doing. though thats more a hardware and software combo. Principle is the same. Something to cut your teeth on and learn some fundamentals that doesn't need any real support.. Often the simplest solutions are the best, and this is pretty simple.

  22. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Happy

    "not much chance of directly poking registers in the hardware,"

    This will put off 99% of owners

    The results from the other 1% should be more interesting.

  23. Giles Jones Gold badge

    What's wrong with running an 80s machine in an emulator and learning that way?

    This seems to be a great tool for those who want to learn low level development. But for teaching kids they just need to learn BASIC, Logo or some other language. Going into hardware access and embedded development is for the more advanced student.

    1. James Hughes 1

      You can do both!

      It's a linux box, you can load any number of language compilers on to it. QT works, GTK etc. C/C++, Python, Lua, and any number of other languages available for Linux. (See the Wiki)

      I doubt more than 1% of people buying the board will be interested in the HW access side of things. And perhaps some of the rest will eventually go bit lower.

      My plan it to take over the eldest's BigTrac. 16 steps just ain't enough, I want wireless control and on board video streamed back to the PC. Bwahhhahahahahahah

  24. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Coat

    Does the beagleboard need any other comment than

    smoking.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "the days of scamps typing in REPEAT:PRINT "Hello, world! ":UNTIL FALSE on a machine in a computer shop and legging it are long, long gone."

    Hey, I went into a large electronics retailer a couple of months ago, found an unlocked Mac, opened a terminal and typed

    cat /dev/zero > foo

    and legged it*. But then I'm 25.

    *well actually I nonchalantly sidled away so I wouldn't draw attention to myself :)

    1. Chemist

      Just tried that ..

      on my aging laptop and got a 1GB file in ~15 secs.

      How fast can you sidle ?

  26. jon 72
    Terminator

    I for one..

    welcome the creators of our robotic masters

  27. deltic
    Happy

    *FX200,3

    All this talk of scampish behaviour in computer shops reminds me of when I typed a few lines of 6502 assembler to print "Rosie was here" (or something similar) to execute upon hitting the Beebs ctrl-break/break keys. Oh how we laughed as the Brent Cross WHSmith geezer had to powerdown the display to get rid!

    I pray that the Pi facilitates such precious learning. I'll do my best to promote it - never did me any 'arm.

  28. M7S
    Thumb Up

    Now I don't pretend to understand all the tech in this thing

    which is the point this project intends to address, but when these become available I'm going to have a word with the IT teacher at my son's school and see if he'd like enough of these for a class.

    If so, either I'll pony up what I can, and scrounge the rest from other parents and the PTA, or I'll suggest a "buy two, get one" scheme where hopefully enough parents (and it only takes 30 or so out of a whole school to sort out the IT class room unless you've severe teacher : pupil ratio issues) can come up with the £44 required, a whole class is equipped and those who keep the 2nd one at home can see what their little darlings have learned when they come home and demonstrate. Its certainly better than them just learning "how to use Office".

    Perhaps other readers might consider something similar for any school, youth group etc that could provide the necessary tuition, and with which they have an affiliation. Or even (careful now) if they dont.

  29. Anomalous Cowherd Silver badge

    Been following this for a while

    And I'm really looking forward to it, will be picking up a few I hope to try tinkering with electronics again - at that price point I'm not too worried about my shitty soldering skills cooking something.

    But the really nice bit is their charity status - the profits from the ones I buy help get more of these into schools.

  30. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    Nice but

    Along with everybody on the reg of course I'm going to get one - and I have a few arduinos lying around.

    But I really don't see it's relevance to IT in schools. If the future is the cloud why not give each kid a free "cloud service of the day" account and let them mess around with Javascript, closure, Ruby etc. This is about as important to teaching "kids the skills they need for a high-tech workforce" as writing asteroids clones in BBC basic was for us in the 80s.

  31. NozeDive
    Thumb Up

    I want one. I would put an OS on it that can handle emulators, and some sort of easy-to-navigate-with-a-controller interface, and every emulator and ROM that I can imagine, so that I can finally play things like GoldenEye64 on the TV again. (not to mention all the Mario and Sonic I can get)

    We'll just say that I'm living in a nation who's copyright laws allow this sort of thing.

  32. Ron 6
    Thumb Up

    Low cost cluster?

    At US$35 a pop you could build a respectable (low performance) cluster to experiment on.

    1. Nigel 11

      Hmmmm

      Hadn't thought of that. And you've got hardware I/O lines to play around with for low-latency non-packetized inter-board communications. And you won't need air-con, even if you are playing around with many tens of them costing no more than a workstation-class PC.

      Fun with DIY computer architecture research? Or massively-multi-monitor VR walls?

  33. asbokid
    Linux

    not-for-profit cutout of Broadcom

    Follow the money.. Founder of RaspberryPi, Eben Upton, told slashdot..

    "our dream scenario is that someone in China decides to copy our design and start knocking out millions of clones. Remember we’re a not-for-profit organization under English law, and all our trustees have other jobs".

    Indeed! For his day job, Eben in an executive at Broadcom. The firmly closed source Corporation will be in a dream situation if Chinese cloners take the bait.

    There are plenty of better development boards than this one. Some may not be quite so cheap, like the boards based on the MIPS-compatible Loongson CPU, but you do get you what pay for.

    P.S. It's distinctly bad P.R. (and poor etiquette) to close a forum thread rather than use the focus to defend your decisions. Is that going to happen every time someone questions the RaspberryPi Foundation?

    1. Nigel 11

      Point me at a better alternative

      Show me a developer board with decent display capability and audio, a network port, and USB, that runs a well-known Linux distribution, out of the box and usably fast, for less than twice this price.

      The plug-computing things like pogo-plug and guru-plug missed the mark by not having any AV or accessible user-hackable IO lines. (They also ran too hot).

      I expect if RasberryPi shows any sign of taking off, there will be "me too" products soon enough!

      1. bhtooefr

        Well, that's not the parent's argument, that it's bad value for money or anything like that.

        The parent's argument is that Raspberry Pi is a Broadcom shell company, and Broadcom actually wants Chinese cloners, because they have to buy the Broadcom chip to clone it.

        The thing is, unless these things are being sold for a loss, I'm not seeing the problem even if all of that is true. What's important has either been documented, is readable from source code, or is in a binary blob that's available to ALL OSes (IIRC, the GPU's binary blob runs on the GPU, and the GPU actually can take OpenGL instructions natively with that blob, so the "driver" is an open source stub that feeds the instructions to the GPU side of the device), is my understanding.

        1. James Hughes 1

          Not a shell company..

          Raspberry Pi is an independent charity, that is using Broadcom chip. They use the Broadcom chip because Eben knows its capabilities and the foundation gets a discount.

          The Raspberry Pi is sold at just over cost, making just enough cash to run the foundation.

    2. James Hughes 1

      @Asbokid

      Couple of corrections to your post.

      Eben is NOT an executive at Broadcom.

      The Foundation as far as I know hasn't closed any threads on their forum without discussion. I think one was closed because it was degenerating in to a round the houses repeating thread, as often happens with these OSS arguments. They have welcomed comments, and put forward counterarguments. To me it seems that the more militaristic OSS advocates are entirely unable to acept even an iotas difference from their strict worldview - taking on for example, a bit of pragmatism.

      Broadcom have donated time and money to this project, to no real gain (they are not selling enough chips to Raspberry Pi to make back the money). If they make a few quid on the back of Chinese sales, where is the problem? After all, they are a publicly listed company that needs to pay its employees.

  34. DasEnglander
    FAIL

    "Startled" is not how I would have described the reaction of the open source Nazi's. Many of whom have been quite vocal in their condemnation of the foundation for things which are, quite frankly, way beyond their control.

    Nor are they the only ones DEMANDING the foundation simply discard their own carefully considered plans to cater exclusively to their personal requirements.

    At least in Alan's case he does seem to understand that some things are not under their control. He simply refuses to accept it doesn't actually matter to the target audience.

    Personally, I think the foundation's staff and forum moderators have been incredibly patient with these people. I would have wielded the mighty banhammer against the worst offenders long before now.

    1. Tim Parker

      @DasEnglander

      '"Startled" is not how I would have described the reaction of the open source Nazi's. '

      I've been rather irked (and somewhat bored) by some of the more weird and wacky conspiracy theories coming out about this, but please don't tar everybody who support open source with the same brush; it's un-necessary, unhelpful and insulting, not to mention wrong.

      "Personally, I think the foundation's staff and forum moderators have been incredibly patient with these people."

      I very much agree.

      1. DasEnglander
        Stop

        @Tim Parker

        "please don't tar everybody who support open source with the same brush"

        How on earth did you get from 'open source Nazis' to 'open source supporters' ?

        The two are not synonymous. Any suggestion that they are exists only in your mind and not in my original post.

        1. Tim Parker

          @DasEnglander

          I was taking "the open source Nazi's" to be inclusive, rather than the 'Nazi's' being a sub-set of the open source supporters as might be implied by saying something like 'zealots within the open source community'. If that was not your intention then my apologies, although personally i'd prefer something perhaps less open to interpretation when using such an extreme epithet.

          1. DasEnglander

            @Tim Parker

            "I was taking "the open source Nazi's" to be inclusive, rather than the 'Nazi's' being a sub-set of the open source supporters as might be implied by saying something like 'zealots within the open source community'. If that was not your intention then my apologies, although personally i'd prefer something perhaps less open to interpretation when using such an extreme epithet.

            <>

            The problem is one of perception. People hear 'open source' and they automatically think of the very vocal minority I was referring to. It simply doesn't occur to them that the vastly larger majority of the 'community' might not share this obsession.

            Probably because we don't leap up and down, screaming and shouting every time the subject comes up.

            As for "extreme epithet"... That's more or less the point. They *ARE* extremists. Asbokid's rant above demonstrates this far better that anything I can say ever could.

            I will say one thing for them. They sure do know how to pack a lot of FUD, factual errors and outright fabrications into a single post :)

    2. asbokid
      Linux

      broadcom: open source parasite

      "In Alan [Cox]'s case he does seem to understand that some things are not under their control. He simply refuses to accept it doesn't actually matter to the target audience."

      Since the RaspberryPi is to serve as an educational aid, it matters *very much* that the kernel device driver for a major component on the board is strictly closed source.

      The very involvement of Broadcom leaves a bad taste. The Corporation has a contemptuous attitude towards the Open Source Software community. Yet, perversely, it is one of the greatest beneficiaries of OSS and the benevolence of others who generously grant a GPL to their own source code.

      In terms of OSS, Broadcom Corp is much more the parasite than the patron.

      By way of example:

      Most, if not all of today's routers (and DSLAMs?...) based on Broadcom chipsets, are running MIPS Linux. In the userspace, tools including iptables, ebtables and busybox are found. This is all GPL'ed open source software. Not that you would know it from Broadcom's attitude.

      It took years of legal threats and arguments before *our* GPL'ed source code that had been modified by Broadcom for those chipsets was to see the light of day. See the case of The Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC) v Verizon Communications Inc.

      It is because of that attitude, that many will instinctively frown at Broadcom's involvement in this project. And the fact that the RaspberryPi device serves as a vehicle for Broadcom to gain a foothold in our classrooms must also raise eyebrows in academia.

      We know from the Great Academic Sell-out to Microsoft (not least in Cambridge) that the quality and scope of teaching invariably suffers when corporate invasions of our classrooms are left unchecked and unchallenged. If a company wants to reach our young scholars with its proprietary products then it must play by our rules. The minimal obligation is to release all necessary source code.

      On a technical point, those with experience in building Linux kernels will instantly recognise the major problems of blob driver code. Most of us have our own personal graveyards of equipment that was sold, like the RaspberryPi, with binary-only kernel driver code.

      Those devices became redundant not because of technical obsolescence, but simply because the manufacturer stopped production and soon thereafter, abandoned the release of new drivers. With no source code for the Community to continue its own driver development, the devices soon fail to function with up-to-date operating systems. Outcome? A trip to the landfill.

      "Personally, I think the foundation's staff and forum moderators have been incredibly patient with these people. I would have wielded the mighty banhammer against the worst offenders long before now."

      Hehe!

      With the Official RaspberryPi Forum now safely under control, the Rapid Rebuttal Unit of RaspberryPi has moved on to other internet forums, like this one, to continue the perception management of the project and its relationship with the Broadcom Corporation (market capitalisation today of $16.3bn).

  35. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Thumb Up

    The other 99%

    Will make various uses of the *official* allowed interfaces and produce results ranging from average to astonishing.

    Some will brick it (possibly on several occasions)

    Still a very cleverly engineered idea.

    It seems to attack Sinclairs problem (good price but *inconsistent* quality) while retaining the keen pricing Sinclair was known for.

    1. Nigel 11
      Mushroom

      Brick it?

      Why "Stlll ...". They've thought to boot off a socketed SD card rather than anything soldered down or hard to reload. So download the image if you didn't make a backup, find a PC, borrow a camera-card USB thingy if you don't have one, and re-load the boot media.

      Or if you mean burn out the hardware with a 13.6 volts 1000A down a digital IO line or something like that, it's part of the learning process. At £35 one can afford a mistake or two. (What do beam tetrodes cost these days ... never mind).

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    exactly what I'm looking for

    A small, cheap, ARM-based computer with ethernet and at least 1 USB. If they actually go on sale for £22 then I shall be wanting at least 5 to run some tests. I am interested in how I might be able to use hundreds of cheap solid state computers + cheap solid state flash memory to build a search engine.

    Google's real brainwave was buying the cheapest commodity computers and learning how to thrash them for all they were worth. But now their architecture is too big and clumsy to run on these new low-power computers that are emerging. I see a gap in the market.

    My idea is to focus all the intelligent logic on the communication between nodes, with the nodes themselves being fairly stupid web crawling and file sharing machines with a fairly narrow sphere of influence. The challenge is to devise a set of rules by which these stupid nodes could, as a collective, do something useful. With massive power efficiency compared to conventional search engine models.

    And at the end of the day, even if it takes me 15 minutes to run one search, in many cases I would rather wait than give more of my privacy to Google. In other words, even if my search engine sucks something fierce, I will still enjoy using it.

    1. Nigel 11
      Meh

      Neat idea, but ...

      Are you really telling me that if they offered, you wouldn't take the $100M cheque from Google?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Give != sell.

        If they want to buy personal information from an individual, they can haggle on price but it's pretty certain that everybody will happily sell their own private info for some amount.

        Giving it away or having it taken, that's completely different.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          "Giving it away or having it taken, that's completely different."

          Competitors wanted to build strong new market.

    2. Tim Parker

      Re : exactly what I'm looking for

      "I am interested in how I might be able to use hundreds of cheap solid state computers + cheap solid state flash memory to build a search engine"

      Is this of interest then ?

      http://yacy.net/en/index.html

  37. LaeMing
    Boffin

    Binary Blobs

    My understanding (and I very-much welcome correction if I am wrong) is that the BeagleBoard's graphics is completely unaccelerated under Linux as the drivers are simply not released in any form. This has been the show-stopper for me on this platform, which I am otherwise very keen on.

    With the RaspberryPi, there is a binary driver, at least. I personally have no interest or ability to do anything on that level, so for me as long as there is an open API, I am likely to be happy enough.

    Will be watching this eagerly for classroom use applications.

    1. Neil 7
      Unhappy

      Correct

      The OMAP processor uses PowerVR for it's GPU and the drivers for this line of GPU have never been released as open source, or even binary blob - only the hardware vendor can supply the drivers as part of a complete, finished product (including OS etc.) which isn't really what the Beagleboard/bone is about.

      I try to avoid any hardware that contains PowerVR which is why I'm quite keen to see more SoCs coming to market (mainly so far from Samsung) with Mali GPUs as these are fully open source compliant (thanks ARM!)

  38. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Happy

    I'm definitely in the queue.

    Initially, I'll be mating these with Arduinos So the A's do the 'dangerous' I/O and communicate via serial over USB. Python will be my language of choice on the R-Pi and maybe even PyGame for the simplest of single program stuff.

    And when I want to do something different, simply pop in another SD card.

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "search engine."

    How about controlling a different kind of engine?

    The one under the car bonnet (rather less distributedness to worry about than a search engine, rather more other things to worry about).

    How much engineering does an ECU take these days?

    Sprechen sie CAN?

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

  40. npo4
    Thumb Up

    Love this

    I've been following the Raspberry Pi for a while now, and I can't wait until it's out, I can think of a lot of uses, including take advantage of it's low power to keep it running for downloads overnight.

  41. Ian Johnston Silver badge
    Headmaster

    Making Sense

    I'm hoping someone ports Sense to this soon. That's the Scratch derivative used with the Open University's Sense board. Arduino based, lots of inputs and outputs but alas no stand alone capability. See sense.open.ac.uk.

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It would be brilliant if they could produce a £50 Acorn Archimedes equivalent running RISC OS. I'd buy one for my son to learn programming on using BBC BASIC. It worked for me all those years ago on my BBC Model B.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      BBC Basic

      If it's BBC basic you want, the Brandy project has been ported to many different OSs. £50 should easily stretch to a second hand WinCE palm top and suitable keyboard and should keep the lad occupied for a while. (It might even just about buy you a functional BBC micro of some description and then you would have the genuine article.)

  43. IGnatius T Foobar Bronze badge
    Linux

    Android?

    A port of Android to this little device would be just the thing to turn every telly in the world into a large format Android device. I'd like to see that.

  44. StooMonster
    Thumb Up

    Wants

    So want one of these, not only for me to relive the days of schoolboy hacking but definately getting them for my kids, nieces and nephews too.

  45. Mikel

    It's a little cutie

    Looks like it might do well. I have a USB servo controller it would pair well with.

  46. Neil 7
    Thumb Up

    Qt 5 looks like being a big feature on the Pi

    Nokia are also getting behind the Raspberry Pi by giving away free boards, which is nice to see.

    http://hardware.slashdot.org/story/11/11/26/0732238/qt-5-will-be-available-for-raspberry-pi

    Kids developing simple applications and user interfaces in Qt Quick and QML could be very interesting, and rewarding - it's a great development environment, very clean and simple, and with skills that can be transferred to the same mobile devices the kids may also have in their pocket.

  47. Andus McCoatover
    Windows

    Slavering over this!

    The description has done more for me than Viagra's acheived!

  48. Jacqui

    Why not OpenCL

    as well as OpenGL?

    Should not be too hard as ATI already provide composite OpenGL/CL (linux) drivers.

    A ~20UKP board that can run OpenCL based tasks would be a major plus.

    1. James Hughes 1

      I've been wondering about OpenCL, but it's a big task to implement it. Some work being done to give access to some GPU capabilities, but OpenCL is just too big.

      In order for Broadcom to do the work (and they are the only people who could - the GPU needs specialist knowledge and compilers which are not available outside the Cambridge office), there would need to be some profit motive, and there doesn't appear to be one at the moment.

  49. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Will it be able to...

    run software for a, erm, small aircraft autopilot I'm, ah 'developing'? Just asking.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Is your autopilot safety critical? (DO178 etc)?

      Oh it will doubtless run a variety of potentially applicable software, from languages to OSes, though ARM for some reason have remarkably little visibility in the safety critical embedded world, so far. Counterexamples welcome.

      Whether you'll be able to get it certified (see above) is a different question. Again, examples welcome (bearing in mind that the Raspberry Pi itself probably isn't going to be certifiable...)

  50. Sirius Lee

    Pi in the sky

    It's a laudable objective. But as the article observes, who is going to teach these skills. Many 'ICT' teachers can just about show kids who to use Excel and Word. Is hacking a system in the skill set of any UK teachers?

    It'll be interesting to see if the DoE has *any* interest. Aside from the dearth of teachers I'm sure HM Constabularies are going to be delighted they can look forward to a new generation of hackers in a few year time and will be lobbying accordingly.

    To me learning to program is learning to use a tool like learning to drive or use a hammer. Not an end in itself. If it is the end, where are the jobs for this mass of kids? These days the grunt work of programming is done in India and China. Maybe there are a few specialists here and there and Uni CS departments will need a handful post-grads.

    As an unrepresentative statistic we have a household stuffed to the gunnels with PCs with which which our boys can do what they please and the resources around them to learn about the innards of PCs and operating systems. Do they choose to hack and program? No. It's way too hard and there's too much else to do. The first thing any kid wants to do is develop COD and, at least in the case of my kids, were turned off the whole idea of programming when it became apparent just how hard that is.

    For kids brought up with Windows even getting to a command prompt, much less hack a system, is an unwelcome experience.

    So I applaud the Raspberry Pi initiative and I look forward to getting and using some of the devices. It's like reliving a youth, Z80 redux. And anyway I can think of loads of uses for a fleet of inexpensive headless devices like these. But I am not convinced of the case for the stated direction of the project.

    1. kwhitefoot
      Thumb Down

      I upvoted this post but

      you say:

      "To me learning to program is learning to use a tool like learning to drive or use a hammer. Not an end in itself. If it is the end, where are the jobs for this mass of kids? These days the grunt work of programming is done in India and China. Maybe there are a few specialists here and there and Uni CS departments will need a handful post-grads."

      So what happens when the Chinese are rich and don't need our money anymore, how are we going to afford to buy their products if we don't generate any wealth of our own? Don't forget that they have perfectly good universities of their own, it isn't just our unskilled workers they don't need, they don't, or soon won't, need our high level expertise either.

  51. David Cantrell
    Boffin

    "it became too expensive to give kids a simple computer to toy with"?

    Rubbish. Back in 1984 my parents bought an Amstrad CPC 464 for me and my sister. It cost 400 quid and came with a monitor. That's about the same as a grand these days, for which you can buy *two* cheap Dells, with monitors.

    No, the problem of kids not having simple computers to play with isn't cost, it's that users aren't forced straight into a programming environment, which makes it more difficult to just play with the damned thing and see what you can make it do.

    A side issue is that families these days appear to be addicted to the telly, and so kids can't unplug the idiot box to use it as a monitor. There's no technical barriers to doing this - lots of modern digital TVs have VGA ports, and DVI-to-HDMI converters are common.

  52. Not That Andrew
    Happy

    I think I'll be buying one for my nephew. It might unglue him from the XBox

  53. PeterM42
    Facepalm

    It's NOT true........

    .....that Microsoft is making a version of Windows 8 for it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Not Windows 8 compatible

      Seems fair.

      Its memory size is measured in hundreds of megabytes not gigabytes, and even after allowing for ARM's small program sizes vs x86 equivalents, RPi is a bit on the small side for the Windows system of recent years.

      A Linux and SIMH or similar emulator may open some interesting avenues.

    2. Neil 7

      Raspberry Pi is ARMv6

      So, basically a Nokia N8 without the touchscreen.

      Windows 8 will most likely only run on ARMv7 and above, so possibly Cortex-A8 (Beagleboard/Beaglebone) but more likely Cortex-A9. Although it wouldn't surprise me if Microsoft only support Qualcomm SoCs initially.

      1. DasEnglander

        @Neil 7

        Our Microsoft rep did mention in passing that they have no plans to support Broadcom SoCs. He wouldn't or couldn't go into detail but did mention "open source issues".

        It seems that Broadcom are damned if they do and damned if they don't.

        Some of the open source Nazis scream abuse at them because they won't open source their extremely valuable IP. Others scream abuse at them because some of their customers have violated the GPL.

        And then, to add insult to injury. Microsoft - probably the worst offender of the lot when it comes to 'misappropriating' open source code - won't support their SoCs because of unspecified "open source issues".

        Of course the latter could simply be the usual sales rep 'in the know' horse manure of which we have all seen far too much...

        1. Neil 7
          Unhappy

          @DasEnglander - re Lack of Broadcom support

          As with their smartphone OS, I very much doubt MIcrosoft wants to find itself having to support more than one or two ARM SoCs. Maybe there really are "open source" issues with Broadcom SoCs (although this hasn't exactly held back various Linux distributions as evidenced by the Pi) so it does sound like spin from the MS rep - anything to shift the blame rather than admit MS don't want/aren't capable of supporting multiple ARM platforms, and would rather support a limited number of "anointed" companies, eg. Qualcomm initially, but eventually ST-Ericsson through Nokia's involvement with WP7 and trying to create a (price) competitive hardware ecosystem.

  54. serviceWithASmile
    Thumb Up

    more

    of this sort of thing

  55. Martin Howe
    Happy

    Back to the future

    Blimey, it's the ZX80 all over again! Actually it's more SC/MP + a subscription to Elektor :) Oh happy days...

  56. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "the grunt work of programming is done in India and China. "

    And it's managed from the UK by managers who haven't a clue what they're managing, managers who have no way of knowing when they're being accidentally or deliberately fed a pup (and worse, management who resent being warned of the possible arrival of pups by the local folk who might actually know), and consequently UK software projects end up in deep deep doo doo more often than not.

    Does that happen elsewhere in Europe? Especially does that happen in the countries where "engineer" means something other than vacuum cleaner repair man ("Hi, I'm a VAX engineer. My product sucks.")?

  57. An ominous cow heard
    Thumb Up

    Elektor

    It's still around. Have a look. You may be pleasantly surprised.

    www.elektor.com

  58. Stephen Usher
    Facepalm

    It's all in the documentation.

    The problem I see with the RaspPi is not with the hardware, or even the software, such as it is. No, it's the lack of a single, bound, dead-tree manual, as they had originally envisaged, but dropped.

    You see, the reason for the burgeoning of the programming teens in the early '80s only had relatively little to do with the actual hardware (other than the ability to annoy their parents with stupid noises within 5 minutes or annoying their sister by plastering their "boyfriend"'s name on the screen in multi-colours) but all to do with the excellent manuals which came with the devices. These lead the user through the basics of BASIC and on without talking down to them. They also had the teasing technical information at the end, which acted as a goal to understand.

    Now, if you look at the late '80s, even the ZX Spectrum had lost its programming manual and what came with it was little more than a pamphlet telling you how to load a game. The bedroom coders stopped being inspired. The hardware hadn't changed, only the documentation had.

    So, in my opinion, it would be far better for the Raspberry Pi Foundation to get a good manual writer on board, make the default boot environment a stripped down Linux kernel with a BASIC or other interpreter directly on top (which has to have simple sound creation and sister annoying ability within 5 minutes) and sell the thing as a bundle. Possibly sell the book with the hardware as a freebie which comes with it.

  59. jungle_jim

    this has got carputer written all over it...

    cheap touchscreen jobs a goodun!

  60. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Cheryl Cole learns to program

    (probably) NOT.

    As much as I would like to see the Pi promote programming education, I haven't seen the killer argument for it yet.

    All schools have computers these days; what will the Pi do that they couldn't already do with their existing computers? Cost is not an issue - they already have perfectly adequate programming platforms sat in their ICT suites. Security? I don't believe it is beyond the wit of man to come up with a secure educational programming environment. If it doesn't already exist.

    If there really was a demand for it, I'm sure there would be some enterprising company happy to supply a cheap and secure programming environment for schools. In fact there already is, for example Scratch from MIT which is free. It's a great tool aimed at kids for learning to program. My son loves it. So I showed him Eclipse. He ran a mile!

    So if its not cost or security, what is it? Hard work? Concentration?None instant gratification? Something not related to celebrity culture? If Cheryl Cole or David Beckham started to program, you can bet your bottom dollar the kids would be doing it like its going out of fashion.

    The Pi will be a game changer, IMO. But not in the education sector.

  61. doveman
    FAIL

    Would have bought if it had VGA

    When I saw these I was rather excited at the prospect of replacing two of my friends' aging, large and power-wasteful Pentium 3 boxes (which are only being used as Thinstations to access servers via RDP or VNC) but unforunately they both have LCD monitors with only VGA inputs.

    Considering that CRT monitors can be got hold of dirt cheap (or free) nowadays, which would obviously make the total outlay more acceptable to poorer people/schools who might benefit from these, and most LCD TV's have a VGA input, it seems a shame that they didn't fit these with VGA rather than HDMI :(

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