back to article Lesser-spotted Raspberry Pi FINALLY dished up

The credit card-sized ARM-powered Raspberry Pi is finally shipping, at £30, allowing thousands of middle-aged dads to achieve their adolescent dreams of computing nirvana. Shipping was supposed to happen last month, but problems with a couple of components, and getting the CE mark organised, delayed things slightly. The first …

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  1. Giles Jones Gold badge

    Unless schools do things using the GPIO on the PI board then I don't see the whole idea of the board since the video I've seen of the unit in use just shows it running Debian Linux and some educational software.

    1. James Hughes 1

      Wuh?

      I've always wondered at this attitude. Since when did programming GPIO's become a necessity for learning to program?

      As to the educational side, let me think... What could be the educational advantages of a Linux PC that runs off an SD card (easily reimaged if broken) and can be programmed in any number of languages, and can be put in a school bag? That costs £30. Including all the software. Tough one.

      1. Rob

        Re: Wuh?

        Leave it, I'm already sobbing at the fact that I would have killed for this sort of thing when I was a kid.

        The BBC Micro in the loft with the 'Replay' chip modded onto it doesn't quite count as the same.

      2. DrXym Silver badge

        Re: Wuh?

        If you put a Pi in a school bag it will be snapped into bits in no time. It's kind of silly that it ships without a case.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Wuh?

          This is a developer release - NOT the main educational release, which will come later in the year and include a case for this very reason.

          1. Dave 126 Silver badge
            Pirate

            Re: Wuh?

            " the main educational release, which will come later in the year"

            Good thing you mentioned that, otherwise we'd soon be reading headlines like:

            Schoolchildren MUGGED by TheRegister Readers for Their Pis

            Hmm, a shade of Withnail and I, there.

            [prepare for boarding, me young hearties!]

        2. James Hughes 1

          Re: Wuh?

          I bung mine in a rucksack and cycle home. No damage yet. Don't even bother putting it ins antistat bag. It is a proto, and a bit bigger than the release version.

          However, the educational release will be cased, because school bags (and schools) are a rough place to be.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Wuh?

          silly not to put it in a case...unless designing your own enclosure is not part of the do it yourself ethic for this? You could embed the board in more or less anything, for fun

          1. DrXym Silver badge

            Re: Wuh?

            "silly not to put it in a case...unless designing your own enclosure is not part of the do it yourself ethic for this? You could embed the board in more or less anything, for fun"

            Er the context of my remark was someone saying throw it in a schoolbag. Something would almost guarantee a broken board in no time flat. 7 people so far have found this remark so objectionable they've had to thumb it down .

            Hell, the cardboard box it shipped in could serve as a case if they bunged a few screws and spacers in with it. Instead people are meant to buy a case which is an added inconvenience / expense or make one.

        4. Stevie

          Bah!

          No case? This is what Lego is for, dammit!

          1. Asgard
            Thumb Up

            @Lego Case

            Lego does look like its proving to be very popular for making experimental cases for experimental boards these days. Here's the Raspberry Pi lego-case-project to prove it. :)

            http://www.raspberrypi.org/forum/projects-and-collaboration-general/lego-case-project

            Also I think Pete 2 is making problems where there is none. If you don't want to cannibalise other systems, then just spend £10 on a mouse and keyboard, they are so cheap these days its pointless to argue and PSU's are cheap as well.

            Thumbs up for the Raspberry Pi (with optional Lego case ;)

      3. Pete 2 Silver badge

        Re: Wuh? wuh, wuh, wuuuuuuhhhhh ...

        > What could be the educational advantages of a Linux PC that runs off an SD card (easily reimaged if broken) and can be programmed in any number of languages, and can be put in a school bag? That costs £30. Including all the software. Tough one.

        Yes, it IS a tough one.

        Especially when you still have to provide a screen, keyboard, mouse and PSU before you can do anything with it. For use in schools these parts can't be cannibalised from other systems - or they will cease working, too.

        A far better solution would be to have a standalone Linux in a thumb drive that plugs into an existing PC and boots Linux (presumably the PC the little darlings would be using for their existing work) and learning to program on that. They can then unplug it, take it home and continue their efforts if they wish. That way the PC, or: display, keyboard, mouse and PSU in this case, is still available for others to use. Whereas with an RPi, any instance of "please Miss, I left it at home" denies every prospective user of that device until forgetful small child brings it back in.

        Since it took 6 years to develop the RPi, I can't help thinking that a some work on a thumbdrive/educational Linux could have achieved the same results many years earlier - and for a small fraction of the hardware costs.

        Maybe it's not such a tough one after all.

        1. James Hughes 1

          @Pete 2

          Small fraction of the HW costs? You do realise that a thumb drive needs to actually plug in to something? Of course, the SD card on the Pi is removable, so works in very much the same way as your thumb driver for taking stuff home, and for a mere £30 you can have a Pi at home to continue your work, rather than a rather more expensive PC.

          Since you believe its a far better solution, is there anything stopping you actually going out and doing this yourself? or stopping anyone else from doing it. I think the fact this has been feasible for the last 5 years but hasn't been done must indicate a problem with the idea.

          1. FrancisKing

            Re: @Pete 2

            "Since you believe its a far better solution, is there anything stopping you actually going out and doing this yourself?"

            They already have. The Raspberry Pi, media craze not withstanding, is not the only development kit, not by a long way. So why just now has everyone got to buy one?

            1. Charles 9 Silver badge

              Re: @Pete 2

              "They already have. The Raspberry Pi, media craze not withstanding, is not the only development kit, not by a long way. So why just now has everyone got to buy one?"

              If there really ARE alternatives to the Pi in terms of size, form factor, AND price, perhaps you NAME a few of them, where their homepages are located, and perhaps (most importantly) if they're already available.

        2. sisk

          Re: Wuh? wuh, wuh, wuuuuuuhhhhh ...

          Eh....Explain to me how a $400 computer plus a thumb drive is a fraction of the costs of a $30 computer? Both still need a keyboard, monitor, and mouse. And, truthfully, these could be scavenged from end-of-life hardware. The school district I work for quit buying monitors for our new computers years ago, and would do the same with keyboards and mice if IBM didn't include them with the box. Even if you had to buy them, you're still looking at a tiny fraction of what you would spend on a standard PC. And I somehow doubt the kids will be allowed to take these home.

          1. Danny 14 Silver badge

            Re: Wuh? wuh, wuh, wuuuuuuhhhhh ...

            Indeed. The local school here only refresh base units. They also teach small basic too and build PCs from scrap parts (installing linux afterwards).

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Wuh? wuh, wuh, wuuuuuuhhhhh ooooh, arrrrghhhhh uh huh

            I think I read that it has HDMI and no VGA so it is ideal for "plugging into the TV at home" but not so much plugging into a classroom of old VGA monitors and PS2 keyboards.

            TheReg is becoming more like the NME every day - many breathless articles about the RasPi before anyone could get their hands on one and now it's actually available the article is written with loaded connotations "middle aged dads", "supposed to interest kids" etc. and ends by questioning its use. Expect future stories to start with "misguided attempt" and "inexplicable popularity" before descending into XO laptop levels of derision.

            TheReg are just hipsters like everyone else!

          3. Pete 2 Silver badge

            Re: Wuh? wuh, wuh, wuuuuuuhhhhh ...

            > Explain to me how a $400 computer plus a thumb drive is a fraction of the costs of a $30 computer?

            Nothing could be simpler to explain.

            Schools already have PCs coming out of their metaphorical ears. They're everywhere. hence to plug in a thumbdrive containing "Raspberry Linux" requires no additional hardware and therefore no additional costs. The schools already have the PCs necessary to supply all the ancillary parts: power, keyboard, mouse, display. Total cost: a couple of quid for a USB stick.

            Compare that to dropping a load of RPi boards into a school. On it's own, each board can do nothing. It has no power, keyboard, mouse or display. They don't come as part of the "$25" package and therefore have to be provided at extra cost by the school, as without them, the boards are useless. You can't "just borrow" the parts from existing PCs - as then those PCs can't be used until they are returned. Economically it makes no sense to disable a £300 PC in order to make a $25 device work.

            It's not as if we're talking about a school in a faraway country. We're talking about Leeds - so the "cheap" solution is just to provide a software solution as a hardware one is neither helpful, efficient or reliable.

            1. Charles 9 Silver badge

              Re: Wuh? wuh, wuh, wuuuuuuhhhhh ...

              Tell me, are you sure all those PCs are capable of booting off of USB? It's a relatively recent thing, you understand. Plus are the PCs consistent across the board?

        3. Parax
          Alert

          Re: Wuh? wuh, wuh, wuuuuuuhhhhh ...

          @Pete2 I'll be bringing round a 12 Yo with a thumb drive to plug into YOUR home computer I'm sure he wont remove your partition table by accident...

          rPi really is a good thing, it can be taken home and simply plugged in without mum & dad having a panic attack over a dead windows box.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Wuh?

        If, by GPIO, you mean general-purpose-input-outputs (switching an external voltage on/off to drive something like a LED), then I think that is very educational. Children can see a real-world effect in response to their programming efforts.

        I know that, at a previous workplace, I knocked up a Morse Code generator on an embedded device's LED - there's always satisfaction in seeing something real/external from time-to-time.

  2. Gordan

    Really?

    The RS Components product page for the R-Pi still only offers the option to register interest rather than actually buy one. Seems they still aren't actually available.

    1. Dave Bell

      Re: Really?

      Probably they have the customers for all the things they are being supplied with. Selling something you don't actually have yet is for the likes of Amazon.

      1. LaeMing
        Boffin

        Re: Really?

        You are correct. The first manufacturing batch (the one presently shipping) sold out loog ago. The next, larger, batch is in the factory now, I believe.

  3. Shonko Kid
    Flame

    It's an admirable project to be sure...

    But, the thing that concerns me most about it is this;

    "their own offspring to pick up some light Python, Ruby or even a little C++ for laughs"

    None of those languages are particularly suited to the job of encouraging the young 'uns to tinker. And let's face it, I don't really think the reason kids don't get into programming they way we grey-hairs did is down to the cost of entry. It's more to do with the staggeringly high level of complexity that you have to reach just to get a computer to do anything, and the fact that when you turn them on they don't sit patiently with an empty screen and a friendly flashing cursor inviting your commandments.

    While I don't doubt Raspberry Pi will be a success, and it will turn up in some interesting projects, I can't help but doubt that without some sort of concerted effort on the out of the box software, it will just be consigned to be a hobbyists platform.

    Sure to cause some flames, I know, but I do really admire the project and it's aims.

    1. Bruno Girin

      Re: It's an admirable project to be sure...

      This is exactly why the first batch of boards are aimed at developers so that they can iron out the production issues and get developers to fiddle with them, build software, see what works and what doesn't, basically get them to a large audience. The education versions (which will come in a case and with a manual) are planned for the end of the year IIRC.

      Also, as it's a Linux box, you have a massive choice of languages to tinker with, including LOGO and Scratch. Once they get the basics of programming in those languages, they can move to other more complex languages. Experience so far seems to show that kids are indeed interested: http://www.raspberrypi.org/archives/1022

      1. csumpi
        Stop

        Re: It's an admirable project to be sure...

        Thank god the RPi dudes came up with the most ingenious way to make sure that the first batch gets into the hands of the best developers. The idea was similar to finding the toughest in a prison population: take a huge box of cigarettes, throw it in the middle of the holding area and let's see who gets there fastest.

        But seriously. If the launch was supposed to get the devices to educational software developers, it was a miserable fail.

        Wonder how many of the 10000 units (well, 9999 because one was reserved for Justin Bieber) will be used to develop educational software, vs collecting dust on a shelf (we know Justin's will be put to good use).

        1. Shonko Kid
          Flame

          languages, etc

          Yeah, sure there are dozens of very languages, and environments available on linux, and even if the one you want isn't readily available, it's fairly easy to port/rewrite it to fit. That's not my point.

          Maybe all that is needed is that when these get into schools there is just a couple of educational software packages bundled; Logo, some form of BASIC, but my gut feel is that that isn't going to be enough, as those are freely available for whatever computers are currently sat in your children's classroom, and the kids just aren't interested. It's not about the cost of the device.

          It's not just about language either, it has to be tied to the platform such that you can do something useful with the device, using the language. And not just writing a flamebot in Python ;-)

          Maybe as was said the way most of the old-gits of the IT world got into computing was a product of the time, and just isn't reproducible today. I think that's a shame.

          @csumpi. I agree, they knew there was considerable interest for the first batch of devices, and should've ensured that the first 1000 or so made it to people who were going to actually contribute something back. Not just turn it into a cheap webcam/media server. There are plenty of cheap embedded Linux boxes for that sort of thing.

          Flame-on, I like my Pi well done.

    2. James Hughes 1

      @Shonko

      So, which language would you suggest as encouraging the young to tinker? Then ask yourself - is that language available for Linux?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It's an admirable project to be sure...

      python

      >>> ignoramus = raw_input( "Who is an ignoramus? ")

      Who is an ignoramus? Shanto Kid

      >>> while 1:

      ... print ignoramus + " is an ignoramus";

      ...

      Actually, while I don't use it, I think Python does have potential as a beginner's programming language because of a key feature: an interactive mode. An interactive mode provides an easy way to try out the language.

      What really holds it back is documentation: the documentation is written for existing programmers.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It's an admirable project to be sure...

      python

      >>> ignoramus = raw_input( "Who is an ignoramus? ")

      Who is an ignoramus? This Anonymous Coward

      >>> while 1:

      ... print ignoramus + " is an ignoramus";

      ...

      I hate it when I do that. Sorry Shonko.

    5. Blitterbug
      Happy

      Re: It's an admirable project to be sure...

      Nah, I won't flame you, but...

      Yes, the sheer complexity and skillsets required today can be offputting - but this is why a nice, cheap bit of kit that doesn't require mastery of Apache struts, HTML 5, JS, J, CSS, etc etc may help.

      It was the 'everything you need in a box' approach of the English home PC boom that fuelled most of us oldsters' future careers, and what passes for Computer Science in schools these days is just atrocious. No computer clubs, no young geeks clustered around an RML-480Z punching in space invaders listings from C&VG... it's just not possible to do this sort of thing anymore, and kids would rather get on FB and yooftube, where their clumsily-aquired skills can actually produce something.

      Nowadays it's rarely before uni that real coding interest, and then skills, are aquired - and this is simply too late. And even then, it's usually scripted and semi-interpreted languages that get picked up. Don't even get me going on that one!

      My turn to go flame begging...

      1. Danny 14 Silver badge

        Re: It's an admirable project to be sure...

        small basic, logo, scratch, alice if you have more advanced kids. Flowol is also good. Unfortunately a lot of these are windows only.

        1. Dave 126 Silver badge

          Re: which language?

          Kids (or 'children' as we were known then) of the 1980s started programming for games.

          Today, perhaps they can start with scripts for sandbox-type games, such as Gary's Mod? They would also learn things such as content creation and the importance of organised asset management, to boot.

    6. Will Godfrey Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: It's an admirable project to be sure...

      Python is in fact a very flexible language and easy to learn. It can be used straight from the command line or as a program and in a procedural or OO style or a combination of both.

      Add pygame to the mix and you're off and flying - and not just for games. Based on SDL it's pretty neat for HMI stuff.

    7. Danny 4

      Re: which language

      I started programming reading the BASIC manual that came with the ZX81. It was all you needed in those days. It soon became apparent that I would need to know about Z80 machine code to make the '81 do something useful (and do it quicker).

      With the upgrade to the Speccy came an assembler which made Z80 coding much easier, though Speccy BASIC had some really neat features. Being on ROM it was available on power up ready for hacking away some quick test prog. I still miss the immediacy of this. Nowadays, I use PHP to quickly test ideas.

      Then it was learning 68000 to program Amigas and 8086 to program PCs. I want to look at doing some ARM coding when my Pi turns up.

      It was only when I went to uni that I was forced to learn Fortran, Cobol, Lisp, Pascal...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: which language

        Funny. I went to uni and was forced to learn 68000 assembly language programming. They wouldn't let us near C. Electronic Engineering vs. Computer Science I guess. They also forced us to learn Pascal and Modula2 - and in the final year they were pushing ADA as that was the future... how may programmers use Ada today !

    8. goldcd

      I disagree

      I fully intend to tinker with mine and then I'm 90% sure I'll just get bored, or 'forget to pick it up for a while'

      I think the long life will come from people releasing SD card images that give turn it into an appliance. E.g. XBMC is being ported across - assuming no catastrophes, this means that an RP will be the best/cheapest way to get media onto your TV. It's where I suspect mine may end up. If I'm still wanting to code, then I'll have to buy another. Then somebody else releases another great appliance to... oh I dunno allow you to plug in a £10 chinese webcam and turn it into a ethernet camera.... oh again, this is the cheapest way of getting an streaming ethernet cam, so that's one RP for every cam you want etc etc.

      I can easily imagine building up a pile of them and rather than just giving up on an entire single-purpose device, just repurposing the RP.

  4. Matthew 3

    A rubber-keyed speccy?

    You were lucky. I had to make do with a ZX81 and a wobbly 16k RAM pack.

    1. PyLETS
      Linux

      Re: A rubber-keyed speccy?

      I waited a year or 2 until I could afford a 64K RAM Einstein which ran CP/M, and had a built in monitor and decent keyboard and it could drive a dot matrix printer. This was mainly used for wordprocessing, games and running a small payroll business. I wrote a few minor Basic programs on it also.

    2. LinkOfHyrule
      Gimp

      Re: A rubber-keyed speccy?

      And these days I am sure rubber keys has a completely different meaning, unless it's 'code' for ex spectrum programmers wanting to hook up for some no strings input sessions???

      Sorry I'm mental today, lol

      1. frank ly
        Windows

        Re: A rubber-keyed speccy?

        Ahhhh, I remember typing in assembler code for the Nascom 1 and designing and building my own I/O port decode and latching hardware. Those were the days ........ better days ........... nurse! ....... the pills!!

        1. Ian Davies
          Thumb Up

          Re: A rubber-keyed speccy?

          Nascom 1? Crikey there's a blast from the past! Wasn't that the one that had a case like tank armor plating, but the most amazingly tactile full-travel keyboard?

          1. frank ly

            @Ian Davies Re: A rubber-keyed speccy?

            The Nascom keyboard was very nice indeed, but I think it was the Nascom 2 that had a case. The Nascom 1 was a bare mother of a board where you had to do all the assembly and soldering yourself (while crossing your fingers and praying to every deity you could think of).

    3. Crisp

      ZX81! You had it good!

      All I had was a Z80 and a handful of switches! We had to push all the bits to the processor by hand and that was the way we liked it!

      1. Neill Mitchell

        Re: All I had was a Z80 and a handful of switches

        Luxury! All I had was a bag of diodes and a torch battery.

        Tell kids today and they won't believe you...

        1. Steve Evans

          Re: All I had was a Z80 and a handful of switches

          Bag of diodes and a torch battery?

          Semi-conductors I suppose you posh git!

          I had a valve (vacuum tube) diode and a potato with two dissimilar metal nails pushing into it.

          1. Albert.G
            Headmaster

            Re: All I had was a Z80 and a handful of switches

            Excuse me, but for a valve you'll need at least 3v for the filament ( at a good 100mA bare minimum ) and 15V for the Anode/Cathode to be able to work properly.

            I seriously doubt that you'll get this kind of power from a single potato and 2 nails.

            Obviously, with a good bag of potatos it would be another matter entirely.

            1. Crisp

              Re: All I had was a Z80 and a handful of switches

              It is a mistake to think you can solve any major problems just with potatoes.

              1. hplasm
                Happy

                Re: It is a mistake to think you can solve any major problems just with potatoes.

                For serious computing you need a Carroty Bit.

                1. LaeMing
                  Go

                  Re: It is a mistake to think you can solve any major problems just with potatoes.

                  I had to make my own abacus.

                  Out of potatoes!

    4. Irongut Silver badge

      Re: A rubber-keyed speccy?

      A 16K RAM pack! You were lucky.

      When I were a lad all we had were ZX81 wit 1K an a lump o coal.

    5. Tom 38 Silver badge

      Re: A rubber-keyed speccy?

      You were lucky, I had to make do with whatever computer my friends had.

      And yes, when I was a kid, I was friends with some people just because they had a cool computer, lots of games, and parents who didn't give a fuck.

      1. annodomini2
        Megaphone

        Re: A rubber-keyed speccy?

        Diodes, Valves, Electricity??

        When I were a lad, we had to share one abacus between the whole school!

        1. FrancisKing

          Re: A rubber-keyed speccy?

          "When I were a lad, we had to share one abacus between the whole school!"

          Abacus? You were lucky. We had to do all our calculations in cuneiform.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Cuneiform? Luxury!

            We used to use our fingers and toes. Of course, our evolution hadn't quite got to where it is now, so we didn't all have the same number each, and those we did have got bitten off by the local wildlife.

            1. Danny 4

              Re: Fingers and Toes?

              Fingers and toes? We used to dream of being able to use our fingers and toes. We 'ad to work so hard down mill we were only able to perform calculations in our 'eads.

        2. Frumious Bandersnatch

          Your school had an abacus?

          You were lucky. In my school, we were the abacus. The headmaster would slap us left and right across the classroom whenever he needed to work on the heating bill, payroll, rent we had to pay for the classroom, etc.

          Of course you try telling ...

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Abacus

          An Abacus he says....

          Made from wood using fancy metal tools no doubt. Eeeh you don't know you're born.

          All we had were some rocks and a sound thrashing, and we were glad of it.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            RE: Re: Abacus

            Eeeh, hark at it..

            He should try living in the real world, we did our computing with nowt but a bit of mud to scrape about in.

            Coming round here bragging about his la-d-dah special rocks.....

  5. PyLETS
    Linux

    Learning about computing

    This has more to do with software being open than hardware nowadays, but having hardware cheap enough to experiment with and which doesn't disrupt your main work/office PC is nice.

    1. Dr. Mouse

      Re: Learning about computing

      I have to agree.

      The thing is, with school PCs they need to thoroughly lock down the OS (beyond even what you would see in a corporate environment) to stop kids (especially the clever ones) cocking it all up. I should know, I was one of those kids 15 years ago, and I was the one poking holes in the system until the IT tech realised and asked me (and my friends) to help close the holes (in return for more privileges etc).

      So to encourage kids to do real stuff with computers, buy some of these (cheap as chips, if you'll excuse the pun) and let them do as they wish. If they screw it up, swap the SD card for a fresh install and it's working again, unless they have trashed the hardware, in which case they've lost £30 instead of £hundreds.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Remember that iPad-based guitar effects unit the Reg reviewed the other day?

    Well, run PureData on a Pi, plug in a cheap USB pedal...

  7. qwarty

    for middle aged dads

    Exactly the comment my 14 year old made when he saw the Pi announcement on BBC 'Click'. Added 'not meaning you of course'.

    Also. 'My ICT teacher has enough problems using Powerpoint'. 'Fun for robotics'. 'Why not use a proper computer to learn programming'.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: for middle aged dads

      Then try to teach your child what a 'proper' computer is. Learning to program with a limited amount of memory and processing power is a good thing which teaches good habits in coding. Many programmers these days could do with going back to basics to learn how to optimise their code rather than relying on masses of memory and disk space cos it's cheap.

      1. qwarty

        Re: for middle aged dads

        Very true about back to basics on memory use and processing, within reason.

        Of course he knows computers come in all shapes and sizes which is why he was able to joke about 'proper' computers and ,most importantly, understand the humour in it.

        No need to Actually I have been trying to teach him, most recently n86 registers using _asm in writing 'beat the compiler' embedded assembler in C++. Much easier in a modern development environment with visual debuggers etc. on an HD display than in the world of 1980s nostalgia.

      2. Blitterbug
        Happy

        Re: Then try to teach your child what a 'proper' computer is, etc...

        Yes, yes, YES! But no need to go all AC on us, we need more inciteful rhetoric!

        1. Danny 14 Silver badge

          Re: Then try to teach your child what a 'proper' computer is, etc...

          yes. Whereas limited memory these days is changing varchars to something other than 50...

          1. Blitterbug
            Unhappy

            Re: Varchars...

            ...and any other untyped bollocks make my rage boils bleed so badly...

            1. Danny 14 Silver badge

              Re: Varchars...

              then comes the phone call "how do I cast a date from a varchar as my cross join isnt working properly?" with the answer "by not using varchars for bloody everything"

  8. Dave Bell

    Don't look too much at the past

    Out of the box, this might be enough turn a modern TV into a proper computer. It's tight for RAM, but so were those ultra-cheap Linux boxes which were coming out of China, two or three years ago. You have HDMI and a USB port to power the 'Pi

    What this really needs is multi-player Elite.

    1. Paul_Murphy
      Thumb Up

      Re: Don't look too much at the past

      >What this really needs is multi-player Elite.

      I concur...

      ttfn

      1. Paul Stimpson
        Happy

        Multi-player Elite

        The closest thing I've seen to Elite on a modern platform is Vendetta Online. It's pay to play. It's multiplayer and it is what I wish Elite had been :)

    2. Quentin North

      Re: Don't look too much at the past

      Have you actually tried EVE? Like programming computers today as opposed to yesterday, its just bloody impossible to keep the whole thing in your head at once.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Don't look too much at the past

      I intend to get one of these to look at the Past through my TV.... specifically MegaDrive, SNES, NES & Master system past...

    4. Graham Dawson Silver badge

      Re: Don't look too much at the past

      I have been begging the world for multiplayer Elite for years to no avail. I would almost literally kill for it to happen. Or possibly dump garbage on the edge of the solar system...

  9. Waderider
    Happy

    Think I'll try one as a Mythtv front end, I'll wait till they box them though.

    It's all good!

    1. JetSetJim Silver badge
      Windows

      other use...

      I'm wondering if the USB port on a BT home hub supplies enough juice to run a squid proxy on it

    2. JBR

      Might be a bit tight on memory for MythTV- there's an XBMC set up around though

  10. James 47
    Unhappy

    Blah blah blah

    I'm tired of being told I can almost buy one. Let me know when I can just order one.

    1. Captain Underpants

      Re: Blah blah blah

      @James - yeah, it's a bit wank that RS have, at this point, sent out at least 4 updates about the Pi that all amount to "not yet, but soon. Ish." instead of just getting the $%^& on with shipping out the first batch and lining up the next lot.

      I have to disagree with the closing part of the article though - part of the rationale for the Pi being cheap is to ensure that schools/students who *aren't* flush with cash can get their hands on a computer that they can use/tinker with/break and fix, and which is suitable for software and hardware hackery for those who are interested. Not to mention that it encourages pupils (and teachers!) to experiment beyond the confines of the world of "computers = Windows + Office".

      1. qwarty

        Re: Blah blah blah

        Would also be good for pupils interested in the Pi if comments on the topic didn't encourage use of crude language on message boards.

        1. Captain Underpants
          Facepalm

          Re: Blah blah blah

          Wait, you think that school pupils with internet access (on a site like El Reg that occasionally features NSFW content and practically mandates a hilarious innuendo-laden writing style, at least for headlines) are going to be seeing smut-tastic words like "wank" for the first time in my comment above?

          Oh, it is to laugh :D

  11. Dave Ross
    Happy

    If you ask me...

    It's all just Pi in the sky.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I sure hope things have changed since I was in school, my ICT teacher barely knew how to turn the computers on.. anything other than following a script to teach us how to use Excel, Word and Access was beyond her...

    Even when we finally got x86 PC's instead of a scattering of BBC micros and a room full of Amstrads they were locked down beyond belief for the day! one good thing, it taught me to hack!

    1. James Hughes 1

      And therein lies the Raspi advantage

      No need to lock down - if you break it, re-image the SD card. Sorted.

      As for your quality of teacher - that's a different kettle of fish.

      1. thenim

        Re: And therein lies the Raspi advantage

        Sadly this is where it's all going to end in disaster...

        *The quality of folk teaching IT at schools... *

        1. Audrey S. Thackeray

          The quality of folk teaching IT at schools...

          A serious problem and one that looks hard to solve while the teaching of IT remains less lucrative than even quite a low level of doing it.

          Perhaps instead of paying a teacher's salary to a useless lump of meat to act as classroom monitor while pupils tit about to whatever degree they can get away with we ought to be looking at an IT solution* to this problem and having an on-line / automated teaching setup.

          *I assume the economic solution of paying IT teachers (good ones, not the majority of current ones) a competitive salary is a non-starter.

  13. Ian 62

    Its not just about programming

    It's an entire, real computer. With all the features that entails.

    So actually you can use it to teach the kids about;

    Operating Systems

    Users

    Permisions

    Priviledges

    Drivers/Devices

    Encryption

    Networking

    Security

    All without worrying about bricking the Windows PCs that every other class has to use. You break one of these you swap the memory card for another one.

    1. thenim

      Re: Its not just about programming

      You or I may be able to do this to our own...

      But do you really think that any of the current crop of IT teachers in schools would have the first clue about how any of what you listed works?

      At least my lot were useless, I remember my first "lesson", the guy spent 45 minutes showing us how to insert a floppy disk the right way... FFS...

      1. Ian 62

        Re: Its not just about programming

        Well not 'today' as they've probably not been allowed to discuss User accounts and permissions on the locked down PCs. And the course materials probably dont cover it. They'll be discussing the 'finer' points of Office, Paint, how to 'tripe' with Mavis Beacon or whatever the current thing is.

        But thats why the foundation was set up, to break out of that dreadful content.

        Jumping kids into programming may only appeal to a small number, but some CSI style computer security and hacking? Or networking up with their mates? Skynet-eque grid computing?

        Once someone else has built some tools, someone else has decided on a curriculum content, someone else builds some coursework and exams. It THEN starts to make real difference, today? Not so much. Next years new student intake? more so.

      2. Dr. Mouse

        Re: Its not just about programming

        Yeah this is all true. Hopefully this will work and we'll end up with "IT" teachers who know something about computers (beyond how to use MS Word)

        I remember being thrown out of a computer lesson once (this was using Archimedes, would be about 15-20 years ago). The teacher asked what a RAM disk was. I answered that it was a virtual disk emulated in the computer's RAM. Her reply?

        "No, it's Random Access Memory."

        When I argued, I was thrown out. From then I decided to keep my mouth shut, do the work, and learn the real stuff about computers on my own.

  14. Jason Bloomberg
    FAIL

    Pre-ordered boards

    "All pre-ordered boards should be in the hands of customers by 20 April."

    But what is the definition of pre-ordered? It seems the number being delivered will be a small drop in the ocean of those who have tried to buy a Raspberry Pi and still have little idea when theirs will be turning up.

    It is movement forward, makes a great headline, but, one again, adds no real clarity to what is going on.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Down

      Re: Pre-ordered boards

      I ordered on the first day, from Farnell, and was given a delivery date of 16th April (today). A week later I was told it would be delivered on 14th May.

      I contacted them on Friday and was told they could not give me a delivery date, it might be June or July but don't bother contacting them anymore, they will send me an email at some point in the future with an update.

      1. It'sa Mea... Mario
        Meh

        Re: Pre-ordered boards

        I 'registered my interest' with RS in the very first hour (twice in fact) because that was the only option I got, still not had an order link from them.... or even a 'weekly update' as they called the emails mentioned above since 4th April.

        1. Dr. Mouse

          Re: Pre-ordered boards

          Same here with RS, however did the same with Farnell and have ordered one. Don't think it's going to be the first batch, though, but at least the order is placed.

          Still trying to decide what to do with it though.

  15. P. Lee
    Linux

    Supply Chain Preparation

    Perhaps the portent of better things to come?

    Like an option for SATA instead of graphics, because USB is rubbish for a NAS. Ok, I may be straying from the project goals.

    What we really want is cheap consumer-level ARM kit and the distros to support it, probably because despite the fact that kit should get cheaper as time goes on, an old Socket 775 core2duo +mobo seems to cost less than a new i3 +68 mobo for the same power, despite the "advantages" of greater integration.

    Hardware seems to have sync'ed with the windows upgrade philosophy of new revisions which don't really have much benefit. We look to ARM to shake things up a bit. Motherboards seem to differ only in whether you want 10 or 18 USB and SATA ports. If we can't have innovation in hardware features, perhaps we can innovate in hardware locations. A £22 webcam + Pi rather than a £99 baby monitor? MythTV or thin client for every TV? VoIP phone with an old 15" screen?

    Perhaps it won't do these things, but its worth a punt and the price puts it within the "for dad's birthday" range.

    In any case, I support the project in the hope that better things will come. An in-desktop PCIe connected,independently powered NAS card which talks to my x86 host over ipv6/PCIe bus would be good.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Supply Chain Preparation

      The Pi has my attention, but I also note that it's heavily supply-constrained. If someone else can start mass-producing a similar device at a comparable price, only with better supply, this company could undercut Raspberry.

      I personally find the concept of the Pi very intriguing. I've always been fond of repurposing cheap older computers. A couple of P4s around the house are now working as nice XBMC boxes (they struggle at 1080p but look great with just about anything else). From what I've read, although the CPU's a little on the slow side, it's backed up by a good multimedia GPU. The XBMC team are definitely looking at this, too, so who knows? A DLNA media player for $30 or so sounds like a winner.

      And that's just one of the possibilities. If the computer itself is a little much, perhaps make it emulate one of the old classics. That should bring back memories of the ol' Speccy, Micro, Apple, or Commodore, or whatever you used back then (me, it was a Commodore 128).

      1. James Hughes 1

        Re: Supply Chain Preparation

        If anyone can start producing similar devices at a comparable price, they should go for it (and the Raspi foundation will welcome it). By the time you have designed and tested it of course, the Raspi will be in full production. And of course, the Foundation has no profit motive, which may dissuade /prevent competitors getting to the same price levels.

      2. Danny 14 Silver badge

        Re: Supply Chain Preparation

        problem is it wont be a GREAT xbmc device as it wont have PSU, case or remote control. Sure they can be sourced but so can ATVs and WDTVs that are already XBMC friendly and not too much more expensive. They will (of course) work as geek devices (and I took will be doing the same but thats not the point).

        They are geeky toys :-)

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: Supply Chain Preparation

          Power? Most HDTVs on the market carry USB ports, so they're already sorted. If not, a common plug-in USB charger and a cable should provide the necessary power.

          Case? I'm thinking down the road when they sell them WITH the case. Shouldn't add more than a few bucks to the price tag, and it may even come with a USB cable to power the thing. Bonus.

          Remote? Wireless keyboards where I live run about $25, and USB remote controls can be found for less. WDTVs run around $100 (for starters) and they're the only viable option for me (Sony players are format-limited over DLNA, and all the other "web-enabled" devices don't support DLNA), so the Pi with keyboard/remote STILL wins. Plus most consumer players like WDTV have lousier interfaces and are a lot less flexible.

          1. Danny 14 Silver badge
            Pint

            Re: Supply Chain Preparation

            I didnt say it couldnt be done, its a geeky version. If I put a $50 (all built) PI with an RS sourced box (that is a nice box not my usual $5 metal enclosure, and i'll use drilled pillars not insualting tape), IR remote with wire and hang it off the TV then the wife will flip. If I have a little apple ATV box then she will be happy.

            Both will run XBMC. People seem to be evangelising the PI as being the all saviour of everything. I was simply stating that it wont be a GREAT xbmc for the final price. Looking around shows that it doesnt necessarily work off the USB power, some do some dont. I'll be trying via my TV USB and I plan on putting mine inside the TV casing (with a small mica hole for the IR LED) . Just for the record our LG ST 600 supports DNLA (and thus plex), it is rather amusing to watch the galaxy S2 take over the TV, it does have a lousy interface but it is wife friendly. Hopefully when I integrate the PI into the TV that will be acceptable :-)

            Seems that the PI is becoming a bit of an "apple", call into question even one small aspect and the venom erupts!

  16. Enverex
    Coat

    To anyone complaining about delays...

    ... be glad you didn't order a Pandora. They put the arse in farse.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: To anyone complaining about delays...

      Not sure what a Pandora is, but I like the expression you employed!

    2. Bronek Kozicki

      Re: To anyone complaining about delays...

      Yup got one. The trouble is all the excitement wore off by the time I received it, and now sad Pandora is sitting in my private museum of unused gadgets :(

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Post in goddam £!

    We are not, nor are we ever part of the USA or canada, please please please stop posting prices in bloody $$$!

    1. Neill Mitchell

      Re: Post in goddam £!

      I think you'll find it's goddamn. Keep your profanities British please ;)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Post in goddam £!

      The Raspberry Pi is priced in dollars, not pounds. The pound price depends upon the exchange rate so if there are large changes in the value of the $ the pound price will change.

      1. James Hughes 1

        Re: Post in goddam £!

        And it's priced in dollars as that is what all the components are purchased in. Converting back and forth to local currency is best done right at the end.

        1. Andus McCoatover
          Joke

          Re: Post in goddam £!

          Post in €'s. We know it's stable. Just ask Greece, Portugal, Spain...

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Headmaster

    Millions of homes

    Slight exaggeration as Acorn only sold 1.5 million units and most of those were into schools.

    In fact in our class at school only one kid had a BBC (a Master) and while we were playing the likes of Matchday and Head Over Heels on our Speccy, Amstrads and C64's he had to make do with a laughable Donkey Kong rip-off called Killer Gorillia. And yes we did take the piss.

    1. Steve Evans

      Re: Millions of homes

      Nothing wrong with the games on the Beeb. Defender and Pac-man were authentic copies of the arcade versions. Elite was written for the Beeb originally.

      Not to forget the huge expansion possibilities on the Beeb. RGB, composite or modulated video out, serial ports, parallel printer ports and 8 bit user I/O. I personally had great fun with those.

      1. ChrisC Silver badge

        "Nothing wrong with the games on the Beeb"

        Yup, I had a Speccy, my best mate had a BBC B, and our regular weekend gaming sessions at one or anothers houses suggested that, whilst there weren't as many games available for the big beige box, the average quality of the ones that were was higher than the average quality of the stuff being shovelled out onto Sir Clive's baby.

        For every fond memory I have of playing stuff at home like Laser Squad, Tomahawk, or pretty much anything produced by Ultimate, I've probably got as many equally fond memories of playing stuff at my mates house like Frak, Citadel, Firetrack, Revs... And yes, Elite. Although given its fairly rapid spread onto practically every other platform out there, I ended up logging far more time on the Spectrum version than the BBC version (and eventually at least as much time again on the Amiga version too), so my memories of Elite don't fire all that many BBC-specific thoughts in my mind.

      2. nemo20000
        Coffee/keyboard

        Re: Millions of homes

        @Steve Evans “Not to forget the huge expansion possibilities on the Beeb. RGB, composite or modulated video out, serial ports, parallel printer ports and 8 bit user I/O. I personally had great fun with those.”

        This I think is a crucial point not addressed by the Raspberry Pi project – what is the point? What is the point of programming this machine, if you can’t plug it into anything? I know it has USB, but what use is that to someone with a couple of potentiometers and a soldering iron? Where is the connectivity board, with all the lovely interfaces on it you mention, easily accessible by ALL the languages one might employ?

        The BBC Micro was NOT a processor in a box, that was the Master ET. Where are the interfaces?!

        I suspect I may be betraying my middle-aged-dad credentials here.

        1. LaeMing
          Boffin

          Re: Where are the interfaces?

          Two woris: Gert Board.

          1. Glen 1
            Boffin

            Re: Where are the interfaces?

            To elaborate:

            The Gert board is/will be similar to the arduino shield system, bringing out the GPIO pins.

            Videos of it in action:

            http://www.geek.com/articles/chips/raspberry-pis-gertboard-expansion-board-already-works-video-2012019/

        2. Steve Evans

          Re: Millions of homes

          I know what you mean Nemo. Luckily since the Beeb I have continued my tinkering, so I'm planning to add interfaces to mines with the aid of an ATmega (or two) :-D

  19. Sonny Jim
    Thumb Up

    Did some say "Homemade pinball"?

    Because that's exactly what I've been doing and I have plans to port our project to the Pi (if I can ever lay my hands on one)

    http://code.google.com/p/freewpc/

    1. Magnus_Pym

      Re: Did some say "Homemade pinball"?

      On a big flat screen HD TV mounted horizontally like a table top with a couple of buttons at the corners of one end? Want one.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Stop

    Learning (Programming|Other Hard Stuff)

    I do not think this device will be actually useful in learning programming or any other kind of academic thing.

    My countersuggestion is:

    A) create a Linux distro-on-a-10pound-stick, which includes FreePascal/Lazarus

    B) Boot it on any broken, formerly-Windows-PC

    C) Train some motivated teachers to teach some basic kind of algorithms-and-data-structures course. Then try to solve Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Math problems on the PC (e.g. heat transfer, n-body problems, solving equation systems). That could actually improve more than computer skills, when pupils can look at problems through the "computer lens".

    D) Don't expect computer to do the teaching. TEACHERS, who a properly trained and motivated will do the teaching. No amount of cheap or expensive hardware will replace the skilled teacher. And that applies to RPI as much as to those doo-gooder-third-world computers.

    E) Any 10 year old surplus PC will be as useful as this thing.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Learning (Programming|Other Hard Stuff)

      Counter-countersuggestion to (A) and (B) would be to simply install FreePascal/Lazarus on the Pi. No need for another computer (which may not be able to boot off USB--depends on how old it is), plus it lends consistency, which helps a lot with the curriculum. Then you can implement (C) and (D) as you described.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Learning (Programming|Other Hard Stuff)

      Also, use PASCAL , not c++.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Gimp

        Re: Learning (Programming|Other Hard Stuff)

        Just IMO but learning PASCAL caused me headaches when I came to learn C. I wish I'd never set eyes on PASCAL and done C from the start.

        Just my own experience. Everyone else will probably think I'm a loon.

    3. graeme leggett

      Re: Learning (Programming|Other Hard Stuff)

      All good points.

      The one problem i see is that a 10 year old surplus PC is likely to break down at an inopportune moment whereas a new PI should either last a reasonable length of time or be replaced quickly and inexpensively. PAT is probably also avoided.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Learning (Programming|Other Hard Stuff)

        I've come across this problem of old hardware breaking and not being able to replace it many times 'in the real world' where PC's interface with something other than just humans and a broadband connection.

        Give me a Raspberry Pi and a Gertboard over any 386 or similar PC with a parallel port.

    4. Audrey S. Thackeray

      @Cantennas

      "Train some motivated teachers to teach some basic kind of algorithms-and-data-structures course ... TEACHERS, who a properly trained and motivated will do the teaching."

      Teaching these days (in the UK) seems to be all grief and no reward - even the really dedicated lot that I know who see it as a vocation consider giving it up every year.

      IT skills are worth money and can lead to some interesting work.

      Without fundamentally changing the way we approach the teaching profession we're not going to achieve your utopian ideal here.

      If we have trained and motivated teachers the devices used would be unimportant - you could run a good class using smartphones or x-boxes or pocket calculators.

  21. Steven Pemberton
    Stop

    Game changer

    This is one of the most cynical articles I've read on El Reg, and that's saying something...

    Anyway, Alexander Graham Bell is reported to have believed that the invention of the telephone would help the deaf in some way or another, and I think people are making the same thought mistake here. I don't think the Pi will turn out to be of particular use for education, but for loads of other things we haven't even considered yet. The key thing about the Pi is that it is an order of magnitude cheaper than other commercial computers. Like the PDP 10 was in its day, or the personal computer. When the price drops by an order of magnitude, people start using computers in completely different ways. Handled right, we will be able to look back at the Pi as the first generation of the £10 computer, that changed the way we thought about and used computers.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Game changer

      That 10 year old surplus computer comes with a case, a harddisk and a power supply. Also with a parallel port which can be used for basic electronics experiments such as a basic D/A converter or a driver for any TTL circuit. It will cost about 5 <yourPaymentUnit> to buy and about 10 payUnits to ship.

      1. John G Imrie

        Re: Game changer

        My ZX Spectrum didn't have a Monitor. I had to beg time of the family TV. It had no disk drives, I had to find a tape deck. I wouldn't have my Job in IT now if it wasn't for that though.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "B) Boot it on any broken, formerly-Windows-PC"

    That's fail number 1.

    You can do that, I can do that, but try getting an army of barely-trained teachers with a collection of PCs of unknown capability and configuration to do that.

    When you've worked out what "volume rollout" means, come back and have another go.

    "TEACHERS, who a properly trained and motivated will do the teaching. No amount of cheap or expensive hardware will replace the skilled teacher. And that applies to RPI as much as to those doo-gooder-third-world computers."

    On that we are agreed, but do not underestimate the volume rollout benefits of having a single uniform standard of hardware and software.

  23. NikT

    VAT for schools

    Schools always pay VAT, as do businesses. VAT registered organization just get the chance to reclaim it (or offset it against the output VAT they've collected...)

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Facepalm

    So can I buy one then?

    Can I order one today and have it turn up in the morning? Or is this more Pi spin?

    I'm very much behind the project but at the moment it's looking rather like a Sinclair launch. You order, go on a waiting list and then assume the delivery date is 3 months after the date they give you .

    I'll be first in line as soon as actual physical units are ready for next day dispatch.

    1. James Hughes 1

      Re: So can I buy one then?

      That should be around July/August. Lots of backlog to get through first, and, of course, all the while you are waiting for that elusive next day order, people are getting in the queue, and getting their Pi before you do.

      And of course, your last sentence makes no sense - if there is next day delivery, you won't actually need to get in a line.....

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: So can I buy one then?

        It's a classically mismanaged computer launch of the early 80's model. They have the "I want" factor, so get a load of them made and get people queuing around the block like the Apple fanboys. Instead there are naff all stocks, just a waiting list.

        A queue of bearded middle aged men setting up camp outside Maplin would not only be great publicity but would show that these things are out there and can be bought even if they limit them to certain stores only.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Maplin? Please God no.

          That'd be worse than Farnell.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Go

    The 11 Euro Alternative

    http://www.ebay.de/itm/2-PC-ohne-Festplatten-1x-Asus-1X-PC-Spezialist-/190667236421?pt=DE_Technik_Computer_Peripherieger%C3%A4te_PC_Systeme&hash=item2c64a72445

    1 Euro for the PC, 10 for a USB memory stick with Linux and Lazarus/FreePascal.

    (yes, plus some shipping Euros)

    1. Captain Underpants
      Thumb Down

      Re: The 11 Euro Alternative

      @Cantennas are easy and powerful

      Are you a second-hand computer salesdroid or something? You seem heavily invested in pointing out that nobody wants or needs a Pi, despite the evidence otherwise.

      It's very nice of you to point out that I could bid on an 11 euro desktop (that's ancient and broken), but unfortunately, the disadvantages of such a machine over something like the Pi include:

      1) No warranty - the Pi, as a new device, will be subject to warranty provision. Ancient second-hand electronic crapware will not.

      2) Modest power overhead - I wouldn't want to know how much power is lost to leaky capacitors and a horrendously inefficient 10-year-old PSU, even when doing moderate amounts of work

      3) Being the size of a full minitower desktop (vs being around the size of a GameBoy Advance).

      Here's an example for you - if I want to build a small network for experimenting and learning, I can buy 5 cheapy ancient desktops (for £50-75, hope they all work, run them all off the mains, find somewhere to put them when they're running that doesn't constitute a fire hazard, and hope I don't have to take out a loan for the spike in power usage.

      Or I could spend ~£150 on 5 Pis, at which point I've got the same hardware power only in a form factor that will fit in my desk drawer if I don't have storage space. Hell, you could mount them on a piece of wood the size of a hardback book without difficulty. And they're under warranty, so if one of 'em breaks I can get it replaced.

      Please don't misunderstand me - if someone has an old desktop lying around they can (and IMO should) reuse it, even if doing so means giving it to someone else who has need for it. But there are many folks who don't have an old desktop lying around whose needs would better be met by the Pi. It is entirely possible for both options to be valid, you know.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The 11 Euro Alternative

        The point is that a used PC comes with a case, a power supply and often with a harddisk. RPI is fragile w/o a case.

        The whole notion of "now you finally can learn computers" is wrong. The major obstacle for learning programming and hardware tinkering (not just swapping HDDs, but soldering TTL circuits, using a scope) is the incompetence of teachers. You can take the soldering iron directly to an old PC mainboard, if you know you will buy an new one from Ebay for 10 euros.

        Physics, Math and EE teachers must be sent to courses which last something like two years so that they get some real software+hardware competence. Apparently the education ministies assume that some kind of crazy enthusiasm will compensate for their non-doing.

        1. Captain Underpants
          Thumb Down

          Re: The 11 Euro Alternative

          @Cantennas are easy and powerful

          1) They don't have a warranty, so any notion of this being feasible for schools is right out. Publicly funded educational institutes are restricted in what they can buy and where they can buy from, and procurement frameworks require that they try to account for full-lifecycle-costing by incorporating a warranty into the purchase. You *cannot* get that with second hand equipment of the sort you're espousing.

          2) Second hand desktops are huge and power inefficient compared to the Pi.

          3) As for the issues re: cases - this is only a given for the first round developer preview units. If you can read, go to the FAQ at http://www.raspberrypi.org/faqs and you'll realise that when the education release goes ahead, cases will be available at the time of purchase.

          The thing about hardware tinkering is that getting kids in a class to go soldering circuits on old desktops is unlikely to be allowed in a lot of schools, whereas if you're talking about being able to use Arduino-like connectors from GPIO ports it's a lot more feasible. Not to mention that such learning is more likely to be successful when every kid in the class can have their own unit to tinker with rather than gathering around to watch teacher do it on the one sample unit they've got.

          Without good teachers, this initiative will fail. But your conviction that small, cheap, decent hardware that can be used for a variety of things won't help get kids interested in computing (or to make ICT classes more interesting for those teachers who know or learn their stuff) is at odds with reality.

          I work for a university and know a number of teachers working in both primary and secondary schools, and the general concensus in the academic world is that the Pi is a good idea and will have a positive impact. What's your basis for being so convinced it's a terrible idea?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: The 11 Euro Alternative

            Actually the RPI will be less useful than an old PC, because it does NOT have a parallel port.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raspberry_Pi

            A parallel port can be used to drive lots of stuff (TTL circuits, FPGAs, LEDs, small relais) directly. And it can be used to gather data equally directly. With the RPI you need a USB-2-TTL device for the same. Actually the USB ports of the RPI serve to make computing more opaque, as it is a complex, high-performance serial protocol which you cannot observe with low-cost analysis tools.

            Why can't parents get off their sitting flesh and "organize" old PCs, which would be loaded with a lean Linux distro ? If the pupils kill one of these, nobody will really bother. Instead, tens of thousands of old machines will go on the landfill every month...

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: The 11 Euro Alternative

              Actually the RPI will be less useful than an old PC, because it does NOT have a parallel port.

              Look and learn:

              http://www.geek.com/articles/chips/raspberry-pis-gertboard-expansion-kit-gets-revised-20120326/

            2. Captain Underpants

              Re: The 11 Euro Alternative

              @Cantennas are easy and powerful

              If you really think that the Pi is being aimed exclusively at households that already have several computers lying around doing nothing, you're even more challenged in the area of reading comprehension than you've demonstrated so far.

              When you've explained to me why access to a parallel port is so vital for a project like this, and why its benefits can't be reaped by using cheap-as-chips USB adapters or direct connections to the GPIO pinouts, then we can evaluate whether those advantages outweigh the larger size, greater power consumption, and lack of warranty of second hand minitowers.

            3. Peter Kay

              Re: The 11 Euro Alternative

              @cantennas - sorry, but no

              I'd note, owning far too much Old Crap myself, it is MUCH more fun to use modern kit or a VM the vast majority of the time unless the old kit has specific custom hardware (like the SGI O2 I have, or the legacy DOS games PC with an AWE32, Voodoo2 and Roland sound modules). Even open source systems follow the progress of time - support for older hardware and processors is dropped, operating systems become larger despite cutdown distributions, and compiling the latest version of software is a pain in the arse.

              Examples of the delights of owning old kit :

              Noise, power. This is why the sparcstation 10 is in my loft, gathering dust.

              Hardware that goes foom, especially power supplies. The price of a decent new power supply is considerably more than a second hand PC or a Raspberry Pi, and owing to the change in ATX specs between 1.3 and 2.x, you can't put a low power 2.x ATX PSU on a 1.x system, because the rail loading is different.

              No drivers. In *theory*, e.g. the AMD Geode GX1 is supported by X, unfortunately it rotted in the X->Xorg transition and no longer works. No one can be arsed to fix Pentium 1 era hardware (never mind 486, and 386 support has dropped even from NetBSD now). Hell, no-one could be arsed to fix my 975X (Core 2) boot hanging problem on a specific but not too rare motherboard for OpenBSD! (yes, I may fix it sometime. Currently I also have other priorities).

              Horrifically long compilation time. My how I enjoy spending an entire week waiting for a usable X environment to build on an SGI O2 or AMD Geode system. Cross-compilation can work, but is yet more hassle.

              The joys of weird connectors and the need to find SoG monitors.

              Security. You can't stick an old system on the net because it has vulnerabilities, but the new release of the OS either doesn't support the hardware, is hideously slow or uses too much memory. Backporting security/application fixes is Not Fun.

              Web browsing. Many websites are now utterly unusable due to the heavy use of javascript.

              A low power system, that uses a generally reliable brick PSU, with a reasonably fast CPU, half decent graphics hardware and ONE configuration (no thousands of motherboards to handle) and features a warranty is immensely more appealing than any of the old stuff out there.

              Add in to this the likelihood of the power supply failing (high), the cost of PAT testing, the possibility of there being hard drive failures, motherboard faults or similar and it's completely uneconomic. When it fails, they need to pay commercial disposal costs.. Fine for individual users with plenty of time - not for businesses or schools.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                "The joys of weird connectors and the need to find SoG monitors."

                I cheated and soldered a bit of ribbon cable to the bottom of my Octane's graphics card with a VGA socket on the other end.

                1. Peter Kay

                  Re: "The joys of weird connectors and the need to find SoG monitors."

                  I decided not to go for an Octane based on the fact it uses lots of power and sounds like a jet engine when in use, not that the O2 boxes are actually particularly quiet. At least the O2 uses a standard HD15 so I just needed to use an appropriate monitor..

                  If I had to get something better than an O2, I'd probably go for a Fuel, even if it isn't as fast as a full spec Octane and doesn't have quite the same sturdiness or design chic.

                  1. Anonymous Coward
                    Anonymous Coward

                    Oh, my Octane is only the minimum spec

                    I just collect a variety of old kit. I must say the Tezro looks interesting.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      FAIL

      Re: The 11 Euro Alternative

      I'd like to see you mount one of those beige monstrosities on a lego chassis and make something like a self-navigating robot out of it.

  26. Stu
    FAIL

    Protestations

    I 'preordered' so to speak an RPi on 3rd march, now just this weekend Farnell get back to me and say it'll be in my hands August / September.

    So reading this article has been one great laugh!

    Fail icon for the RPi foundation AND RS / Farnells wonderful handling of the situation over the last few months.

  27. jason 7
    Happy

    Nice work!

    Shame someone hasn't brought out a similar but far more hardcore version with a Z80 and just 128k of ram in it.

    Compact, neat and tidy code is a good way to start.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Headmaster

      Re: Nice work!

      Amstrad already did in the early 90's. It was called the NC100 and they did want to get them into schools but it didn't really make an impact in them:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amstrad_NC100

      It's akin to a Z88 except without Sir Clive's usual achilles heels. But there is still an active modding/programming community. It has serial, parallel and PC card connectivity as well as BBC Basic so it's pretty easy to hook up to stuff.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Nice work!

        Yeah, if you can get the relevant PC cards for less than £50 because the only other thing they're used in seems to be industrial machinery.

  28. Mr Young
    Happy

    When I were a lad the Speccy was an excellent toy

    I got my first taste of indexed addressing with Z80 block move instructions. Google reminded it's LDIR or something like that etc

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You want hardcore?

    Go back to the days when SoC didn't just mean System on Chip.

    Look up SoC MK14. £40. 1977.

    That's hardcore.

    1. Chemist

      Re: You want hardcore?

      "MK14."

      Got one , 256 BYTES of RAM, raw machine code programming, hideous instruction set, hex keypad and calculator display output

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Gimp

        Re: You want hardcore?

        I have a Jupiter Ace in the cupboard. Any home computer system that chose to use Forth over Basic, has to be pretty hardcore.

  30. Dr Trevor Marshall
    Thumb Up

    Where is the Fortran?

    The Nevada Fortran for my Z80 CP/M machine ran nicely in 64K. Should be a doddle in the Pi, except we all seem to have forgotten how to program in 64K of memory..

    I was looking at an old database I once wrote for 64K, and was amazed to recall that all the hash tables were saved on 8 inch Floppy, yet the interactive response was quite acceptable... Sigh... Those were the days...

    ,

    .

    Yes, I know the Kids are taught Matlab these days... Sigh again...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Where is the Fortran?

      Probably this will do what you want:

      http://gcc.gnu.org/fortran/

      1. James Hughes 1

        Re: Where is the Fortran?

        GNU Fortran works fine on a Raspi - testing was done by someone who received the device yesterday.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If you want to let kids play....

    ..why not simply install Virtual PC (to create a VM) on your existing home PC or laptop.

    A VM has all the benefits of being able to install whatever o/s and programming language you need, without ever having to break the existing workings of your current home XP/Win7 PC.

    It has the advantage of having a keyboard, mouse, screen already set up in a box, and you can install any flavour of Linux o/s and programming language and apps you like (within reason).

    So - the 'sell' of the device is 'schools need cheap hardware' is nonsense. They already have an ICT suite - just put a VM on there for them to play with.

    The real obstacle to entry and engagement for children into IT is not the flexibility and cost of the hardware, it's the crap IT teachers and poor syllabus in schools, and the lack of interest in the general population as to how IT works under the hood.

    Dads and IT geeks (like me) will buy this. My kids will get a VM.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: If you want to let kids play....

      the VM is good if they want to program an application to run on a computer, but there is not the "connection" between the hardware and the real world application of a specific device to get the enthusiasm for hands-on engineering.

      eg VM on an existing PC for programming the next Angry Birds

      Software (of your choice) on the Pi to get a hoover that knows which day you last vacuumed the bedroom and how many feet of carpet it's been since you emptied it.

  32. Mage Silver badge
    Coat

    Tablet

    A cheap Android tablet is about £70

    But the problem with a Tablet or Laptop is controlling anything, Cheap USB I/O adaptors cost more than a Raspberry Pi and are REALLY slow... Maybe 100Hz sampling or Polling.

    If the GPIO is sensibly available and able to do "bit bang" serial (not RS232, but arbitrary protocols and bits per i/o) in SW at 1kHz min (40KHz+ is better) then it's a winner. At the minute it's easier to do that on PIC 18F in JAL (with optional USB to PC) or Ardunio, but pretty much impossible on PC or Tablet on any OS such as Linux, Windows, OSX/

    So, yes the GPIO, SDI, I2C etc support is the important bit. It's not just about programming. Plenty of routes to learn programming (Though your kids are better off doing NO ICT or Programming at School and concentrating on Physics, English, Maths, Chemistry and learning ICT & Programming off the Internet at home. No one has ever since 1980 and start of Computers in Schools properly trained the Teachers).

    Mines the one with the I2C spec and GPIO register maps in the pocket.

    1. Mage Silver badge

      Re: Tablet

      The last time I was able to use PC parallel port and Serial Port for arbitrary I/O with ACCURATE timing was Modula-2 on a 286 or 386 booted in DOS (The M2 Program didn't use BIOS, but direct HW I/O for everything except file system and its own co-routine based Multitasking).

      The PC parallel port (and newer PCs don't have Parallel or Serial) isn't useful on Windows or Linux unless you write a specific device driver.

      Even then you need a real time version of Linux kernel to have accurate timing even at 1KHz i/o. Ordinary Linux distros and also the x86 are not predictable in timing.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Flame

      Re: Tablet

      So the whole idea of "lets pack some fancy, modern serial high-speed interfaces on the little board" is actually technologically stupid ?

      Maybe a DOS PC which can control the parallel port is a better solution to do serious hardware experiments/projects for pupils ?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Tablet

        Yeah, mod me down, you have no clue of why directly controlling hardware I/O pins is a necessity if you want to use the computer as a function generator without lots of jitter.

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Stop

    Why not a 68K board with a basic DAC and a basic ADC ?

    That one would be easy to observe by scope and let kids solder their contraptions directly to a TTL bus. No USB, no ethernet. No Linux, but a simple RTOS.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Why not a 68K board with a basic DAC and a basic ADC ?

      Most amazingly, they could build it on their own using wire-wrap tools ! Thunk that - building a computer at school YOURZELVES !

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        68K Wirewrap

        http://www.mwbinc.com/projects/68k_sbc.htm

        Yeah, maybe a Z80 would be more feasible.

      2. Nev Silver badge

        Re: Why not a 68K board with a basic DAC and a basic ADC ?

        Because building wire-wrap 68000 systems would be BEng level stuff?

        (Well it was back-in-the-day...)

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Me personally,

    I think the real emphasis will be on acessorising, (kids like stuff they can see animated) so I imagine a Lego-mindstorms style kit of external sensors and motors would be a real boon to make and sell for the Pi.

    Or maybe combine subjects, like writing a trading program to bid against each other then use the results for economics class to explain the stockmarket and supply and demand.

    I am ordering 1 but will try to get some extras as gifts for my teenage nephews.

    And for the "just buy a PC" brigade, I can't fit a PC in my school bag, and fondleslabs are espensive and fragile. I want something "portable" and "robust" and "mine!"

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Stop

      Re: Me personally,

      The current RPI (without TTL-compatible pins ready for soldering) is less useful than a 386 with a parallel port running TurboPascal to learn about electronics.

      1. Cyberspice
        FAIL

        Re: Me personally,

        I'm old but you make me feel young. If kids can learn about electronics from Arduinos they can learn about it from Raspberry PIs. Get off your fecking hobby horse about Turbo Pascal (shite!) and PC parallel ports.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Stop

          Re: Turbo-Pascal Swearing

          What substance has your ridiculing of Turbo Pascal ?? It is probably 30 times faster in compiling real programs of equal functionality than any C++ compiler. The generated code is competitive with C++ and certainly much more efficient than Java.

          FreePascal carries a lot of that spirit into the future:

          http://shootout.alioth.debian.org/u32/pascal.php

          http://shootout.alioth.debian.org/u32/benchmark.php?test=all&lang=fpascal&lang2=java

          Now, what are your arguments again ??

          1. Peter Kay

            Re: Turbo-Pascal Swearing

            No one uses it. It's a horrid language that's completely unusable in its ISO standardised form, and useful but non standardised in its other forms. I don't care if it's fast - so is assembly...

            For children a scripting language with decent libraries would be better, or some form of VM base Java/.NET language. I'd rather throw Logo in their direction than Pascal - at least Logo is fun to use, can actually write basic programs and creates pretty pictures too.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Mushroom

              Re: Turbo-Pascal Swearing

              To the Turbo Pascal fan. Are you my old 6th form Computing lecturer?

              Even we, the students, knew it was dead on it's feet and that was 1994. We begged for C, it was more useful and what the universities used. But no, you persisted with Turbo fecking Pascal and teaching us about other ancient technologies that were of no use.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Stop

                @Turbo-Pascal Antagnoists

                Did it ever occur to you that many of the nasty programming errors (most of which create security risks in the internet age) are due to all the funny features of C and C++ ?

                We used TP in school and in uni for algorithms&data structures. It demonstrated to us the essentials of procedural/imperative programming. If you are offended by syntax and not substance (such as the pointed/casting buttfscking of C/C++), I would say you don't have a deep understanding of computer science.

                The "nobody uses Pascal" argument is also quite weak. Just because 70% of the world population has standardized on oxcarts does not mean high-speed trains and maglevs should be scrapped.

                The aircraft industry uses Ada for a good reason and Ada is very close to Pascal in spirit, structure and syntax. Because it matters if a plane crashes and people are killed.

                I am using C++ daily and I literally waste a serious part of my life waiting for the compiler/linker. With Turbo Pascal I could use that time for coding or spend it with my little daughter. My boss would have results delivered earlier.

                C/C++ is broken in so many ways that it is a crime on humanity to teach it as a first language. Java, C# and the like promote a culture of waste.

      2. James Hughes 1

        Re: Me personally,

        @cantenna blah blah

        Anything you could do on a 386 with a parallel port, you are most likely (YMMV) to be able to do ona Raspi with the GPIO's or I2C or SPI.

        With the added bonus you can actually buy a Raspi.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Me personally, @ James Hughes 1

          "@cantenna blah blah" along with other comments on this article and others :

          Defensive little boy, aren't you?

          1. James Hughes 1

            Re: Me personally, @ James Hughes 1

            Defensive *big* boy thanks very much.

            (Well, you would be if you were part of the project and really believed in it, wouldn't you?

  35. MrT

    "the toys they wanted when they were kids"

    Since my boy has, over the past couple of years, gathered a Stylophone, a 'Build your own Morph' kit, an Evel Knievel stunt bike and most recently a BigTrak, he's got things I wanted as a kid.

    This one's mine... and if he argues I can break out the Master 128, QL or finally build the ZX81 kit from the attic - for that genuine retro experience...

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Putting the software on an SD

    Is a brilliant idea.

    Main reason is that if something breaks it is a very simple matter to fix.

    Would have made more sense to put it on a cheap pendrive but meh.

    As most laptops now have SD built in, the same card can be used for several projects and still have enough space for the PC apps needed.

    I'd have added a direct "write OS via USB" feature, on the basis that it can then mean a single working RPi can be host to several others which got messed up.

    AC/DC

  37. John Robson Silver badge

    The problem with live distros...

    is that you can trash the host hard disk - as I have just accidentally done to my wife's machine.

    I think I can recover it - but I read el reg. I'm not a normal parent.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The problem with live distros...

      "but I read el reg. I'm not a normal parent."

      Most of those who read this site don't seem to qualify as normal in any way.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I'm normal

        They gave me a certificate to say so when they let me out.

        1. Mr Young
          Thumb Up

          Re: I'm normal

          And I'm ok as well - the meds work;

  38. toadwarrior

    There have been enough cock-ups and delays that I'm not sure I have anymore enthusiasm for the pi.

    The alternatives aren't much more expensive. I'm not entirely sure kids want to tinker.

    1. Captain Underpants

      @toadwarrior:

      "I'm not entirely sure kids want to tinker."

      Well...it depends. Some kids will want to tinker and do it regardless of encouragement. Others won't, and won't do it (or enjoy it) regardless of encouragement/badgering. Still others may or may not get enough encouragement to try it out, and won't thus discover whether they have any interest in it.

      In the same way, some kids like Lego^W $GENERICBUILDINGBLOCKTOYS and some don't - but it's not always obvious before you give them a chance to try it out. The Pi could be a very good low-cost platform that schools or parents can use to let their kids find out whether they're interested in tinkering and/or building stuff. I doubt this'll turn an entire generation into millionaire codemonkeys, but I would have *loved* to be able to get something like that when I was a teenager.

      1. Skydreamer

        Lego^W $GENERICBUILDINGBLOCKTOYS ???

        Harder to get these days -- now you have to put up with the brick toys being so heavily themed against popular movies that they bear little resemblance to the bricks of my youth.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Stop

      Tinkering

      Those who will be the future engineers and scientists should be given the opportunity to tinker. Deep understanding on anything comes from playing with it. Understanding electricity means you have to experience the shock of 220V at least once. You need to burn your finger at an overheated transistor to know what heat means. You need the smell of burned stuff from the soldering iron in your nose to become a proper EE engineer.

      You need to mix explosives and blow stuff up to become a good Chemist. Dave Packard blew off a few fingers as a youngster then they collected explosives from mines in their backyard. It didn't his later career, though.

      Soldering components to a computer (parallel port) is the best way to get a deep understanding of hardware and computer systems.

      As said before, the RPI is not well prepared for that, because it misses TTL drivers/receiver pins and it misses a basic ADC/DAC I/O. THAT would make it a great tool also for physics and chemistry. The USB and ethernet ports are not useful to that end, as they degrade the realtime capabilities of the RPI if you connect I/O through these serial ports.

      1. James Hughes 1

        Re: Tinkering

        I think I may be wasting my time but...

        PC with parallel ports haven't been made for some years and no-one uses them nowadays.

        The Raspi has GPIO's, 16 of them. Use them for parallel stuff if you want. Or add a Gertboard for even more HW interfacing options (all the ones you mention)

        But my main point is that this is a device intended for teaching programming, cheaply, not necessarily programming HW, and really not intended for real time HW programming (linux isn't great for that). Arduino's and similar are much better at that, but of course, they are not standalone devices, so you need another PC.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Tinkering

          The German wiki page did not list the GPIOs. (I can see the pins on the picture, now, though) So if you can do something equivalent as writing to x86 I/O registers, I retract my criticism regarding that.

          http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raspberry_Pi#Prozessor

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            GPIO

            Ok, I can now see it under "Bussysteme". Maybe I did not look hard enough.

            How will we access the Pins ?

  39. Audrey S. Thackeray

    Agree.

    But I still want this (Amazon link)

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    GPIO Programming Thread

    https://groups.google.com/forum/?fromgroups#!topic/beagleboard/_29qqEOv2VA

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I don't see it ever in schools

    What with government policies meaning Council networks are among the most secure, the School networks equally so the Pi just won't get a look in. Unless its used in stand alone labs.

    Any market there is for the Pi is already filled by a Desktop PC in a School.

    Shame too because the Pi is a good idea.

    1. Anonymous C0ward
      Coffee/keyboard

      Re: I don't see it ever in schools

      Council networks the most secure? Schools equally so?

      Can we have a 'rolling on the floor pissing myself laughing' icon? This one doesn't quite cut it.

  42. Dexter
    Thumb Up

    Robots!

    This thing is ideal for driving Lego or Meccano robots.

    What could be more educational that terrorising the cat with a home-made robot?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Gimp

      Oddly enough I came across a 1986 issue of Amstrad Computer User that indeed had a project for driving a home built robot from the parallel port of a CPC. Although it did look like a pretty easy way to blow up your 400 quid CPC should you get the wiring wrong.

      In 2012 cash that £400 is nearly a grand so I can now understand my Dads refusal at the time to let me tinker with the back of the CPC. But at 25 quid (or whatever Pi works out at) you'd be much more keen to try it it. The price of a couple of DVD's!

      So I look forward to seeing some projects on websites to build robot overlords to terrify the cat. Or even better shoot burning laser beams of death to next doors mog when it's shitting in my pansies.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
        Boffin

        "So I look forward to seeing some projects on websites to build robot overlords to terrify the cat. Or even better shoot burning laser beams of death to next doors mog when it's shitting in my pansies."

        Absolutely!!

        Whatever happend to Practical Electronics, ETI, Everyday Electronics etc?

    2. Captain Underpants

      @Dexter

      "What could be more educational that terrorising the cat with a home-made robot?"

      Heh, I was thinking along similar lines. I mean, yes you can buy remote-control toys that would fit the same purpose (some even include a webcam as well as spring-loaded toy weapons , and at least one is designed around the idea of streaming the webcam feed to you), but how much more satisfying would it be to have build the thing yourself? :D

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