back to article Raspberry Pi DUMBS DOWN to target world+dog

The Raspberry Pi was conceived of as a device so cheap that anyone could buy one, but also just raw enough that putting the computer to work would require users to learn a little about topics like installing operating systems and confronting BIOS settings. It turns out that “put some people off” to the extent they shelved …


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  1. UKHobo

    I say good idea - until said newb inevtiably finds NOOBS doesn't work with their particular SD card or whatever else for some reason. At that point the newb is unfortunately confused and upset and is confronted with either getting down to nuts and bolts of getting it working (what they hoped they would avoid via noobs)..or just slinging it in the bin.

    1. LarsG

      Lets not be pedantic, if the Pi is really supposed to be a find it out for yourself kind of thing then you might as well ban any website that promotes a help page.

      It's ridiculous to suggest there shouldn't be some kind of 'get you started help'.

      When you learned to drive a car did someone hand you a set of keys and say, 'off you go, get on the roads and learn for yourself' or when you were at school did you teacher sit there (well one or two might have but weren't they di***) and say 'find your own learning material and choose a subject, learn it yourself.'

      Show someone the way first.

      1. Rampant Spaniel


        I assume you never learnt to drive growing up on a farm in yorkshire :-)

        Otherwise you are perfectly correct. If the Pi is intended to help people learn then by definition people will start with a lack of knowledge. Giving people the option for differing levels of help is not a bad thing. Forcing it on them would be, but some people would be put off by a steep learning curve, others wouldn't, hence the choice.

    2. DJ 2

      SD Cards,

      I tried 5 different sd cards in the damn thing before I gave up and bought a preinstalled sd card.

      1. MrXavia

        Re: SD Cards, @DJ 2

        Wow you were unlucky! i've had no issues with the cards I brought, I use two pi's and the install process is fairly easy, well assuming your using mac os or linux... No idea what its like on windows...

        Sure its not 100% user friendly, but its not hard, and that is the point, learning about computers, not just using it as gui computer.. I expect when it is used in schools, they wil forgo the whole GUI and stick to command line, well that is what I will recommend to the head teacher I know who is considering buying loads for his computer lab! one thing the pi is missing is POE, as that would make installation in a school so much easier, just buy POE routers and then there is no need for a PSU or power lead...

        1. chrisf1

          Re: SD Cards, @DJ 2


          Out of interest what do you see as the advantage of Pi over say Arduinos when a school already has computing facilities?

          Is it just easier access to physical computing via the likes of Pi Face or the multi media capabilities?

          Just wondering as was setting up some simple demos for a class (am doing really simple things with primary school lower years without anything programmable so just putting demos together to show the next stage up as it were) and I can almost get to give away toys with arduinos if i bulk buy arduino minis and Pi seems like overkill to all but the most advanced project although i have not made any comparison of eg Pi Face vs scratch for arduino.

          PS not knocking anything here - more advance connected projects and near disposable multi media Pi wins hands down but if not needed basic microcontrollers come in about a fifth to a tenth of the cost.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: SD Cards, @DJ 2

            I think they are aimed at different things, I own two Raspberry Pi's (sadly both sitting on a shelf atm). The Raspberry PI provides cheap reasonably powerfull computing, a large support base and makes it easy to do many things Java, Scratch, Web Server, embedded control.

            Arduino's seem to have a much steeper learning curve and are more aimed at the embedded market. For example I've just bought an Arduino Mini so I can interface a 433.7Mhz transciever to my NAS.

            I think with teaching it depends on what you are trying to do, for software/logic learning The Pi is the clear winner it is simple and provides the best range of languages (python, java, c, etc..) and applications. There are a number of extensions (camera, GPIO board, digital control board) that can help create simple fun projects (e.g. create motion detector, robot arm control, coloured coin sorter, etc..).

            If your looking to teach electronics then the power of the raspberry Pi gets in it's way and an Arduino is probably a better shout. Things like the Arduino mini can help with more complex projects for a low cost.

          2. Altec

            Re: SD Cards, @DJ 2

            If you already have computing facilities then the PI doesn't offer any advantage. The Arduino is aimed at experimentation with digital electronics whereas the PI is just a small form factor Linux machine with some very limited (compared to an Arduino) external interfaces.

  2. OzBob
    Thumb Up

    A good thing in small doses,..

    one of the problems with IT is that it can bombard you with a lot to pick up in a short space of time; (and some IT professionals wear the ability to do this as a badge of pride). As long as it eases the transition with detracting from the experience, its a good thing.

    1. OzBob

      Re: A good thing in small doses,..

      "with" should be "without". Mavis Beacon, where art thou?

      1. Parax

        Re: A good thing in small doses,..

        That should be the second 'with' not the first one.

        1. Steve Foster

          Re: A good thing in small doses,..

          Um... ...third.

          1. Benchops

            Re: A good thing in small doses,..

            Q: How many software engineers does it take to count the word 'with'?

            A: 8.

  3. jake Silver badge

    Probably not good.

    There is a learning curve to actually understanding complex systems. Providing shortcuts to that isn't doing your target audience any favo(u)rs; all you are doing is shifting product at that point, and not developing understanding. Any old idiot can purchase an iFad/Fandroid.

    Put another way, simply installing Windows Server or *buntu doesn't make you a sysadmin.

    On the other hand, if they can shift more product & bring the price down further, I'll be able to hand 'em out as party favo(u)rs to the kids in my "at-risk yoof" camps ...

    1. James Hughes 1

      Re: Probably not good.

      See my post below - but you really don't know what's going on here, do you!

    2. DrXym

      Re: Probably not good.

      The Pi really isn't a complex system. Stick card in, turn it on, it runs. What it runs is dependent on what has been written to the card - operating systems, media players, robot control software, arcade emulator, whatever.

      No different really from every floppy based PC going back through the years.

      1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson

        Re: Probably not good.

        You are about to hear a long story, starting with

        When I were a lad, we never had ......

        Do you still want to continue?

        [yes] [no]

    3. pPPPP

      Re: Probably not good.

      >>Put another way, simply installing Windows Server or *buntu doesn't make you a sysadmin.

      You're right. It doesn't. But nor does dding a bootable image onto an SD card. The learning bit is when you understand what's actually happening during those installation routines, and why the system then becomes bootable.

      I learned computing mostly through the 80s and 90s the trial and error way. There was no internet to look things up on (well there was, but it didn't have much on it). Having an easy way to get an OS up and running is going to stop those people for whom this is all a steep learning curve getting frustrated and giving up.

      Alternatively you could always install RaspBMC. It's a doddle to install. Personally, I installed Slackware without any major issues, but I can think of only a handful of people I know personally who would be able to the same. And they're all IT colleagues. Most IT folk I know wouldn't have a clue.

      1. C 18

        Re: Probably not good.

        >There was no internet to look things up on (well there was, but it didn't have much on it).

        There was no internet to look things up on (well there was, but it didn't have much pr0n on it).

        There, fixed it for you.

        Mine's the one with the rather rude phenakistoscope in the pocket.

  4. gnufrontier

    The Hobbyist

    The PI is cheap but so is an old laptop. The market for PI is the electronics/software hobbyist. Broadening one's appeal by adding tools is not a negative. More people began to try Linux once people didn't have to compile the code.

    If the PI serves a purpose it will flourish for a time, if not it will disappear regardless of what becomes available for it.

    1. James Hughes 1

      Re: The Hobbyist

      Er, the Raspi has been sold to all sorts of people, not just the electronic/hobbyist crowd. WIth 1.5M sold, it's also sold quite a lot...and the biggest problem encountered has been getting the device up and running in the first place. Hence NOOBS.

  5. Jason Togneri

    Defeating the point

    As others have pointed out, there are many small-and-light systems that users can just pick up and use - from Android on a mobile device or USB stick, to SFF computers like the Shuttle DS61 or Intel's NUC - so these devices (Arduino, BeagleBoard, Pi) aren't aimed at those sort of users. The only reason to pick a Pi over an Android USB stick from a cheap and small media serving system is if you want to build and install it yourself, rather than have somebody do it for you. If you get a Pi and then want somebody to do it for you... well, what was the point of getting a Pi?

    1. LaeMing

      Re: Defeating the point

      You do realise you don't actually HAVE to use the new tool if you don't want to!

  6. graeme leggett Silver badge

    useful as last resort and to keep progressing

    You get your Pi and find that you're having difficulty getting it going.

    use the Noobs and now you have a functioning system to tinker with. Perhaps later when you've got more idea what's going on, you'll get a fresh card and start again from scratch.

    There's a reason some kit cars come pre-built for the owner. It's not because they aren't fun to drive.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This is a good thing.

    What someone does with a Pi or any other object after purchase is up to them.

  8. a cynic writes...
    Thumb Up


    I think it may have something to do with a post on their site a few weeks ago, where they had a 10 year old testing some of the returns. It quotes an issue with people using an out of date image (or in one case not flashing an SD card at all) sending multiple units back.

    This isn't about taking away the learning curve, it's about getting them as far as the bottom.

    1. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

      Re: Returns...

      One of the problems I recall is that a manufacturer used a different memory chip which required an SD card image that recognised the memory type or it would not work. People were using SD card images they knew worked, but would not work with a new Pi, so they assumed it was the new Pi at fault, never thought there may have been a hardware change that stopped old cards from working.

      NOOBS on a pre-installed SD card is a good idea in my opinion if it helps a user know what they bought is working. With just a board and everything else DIY it is hard to tell why a Pi will not boot if it does not - Is it a problem in downloading the image, configuring the SD card, a fault with the SD card, a problem with power supply, a faulty Pi, or something else? That is a lot for novices and the inexperienced to figure out, leading to frustration and, sometimes,simply 'junking the damned thing'.

      There is no need to use NOOBS beyond that initial boot but if people want to I don't see a problem with that. I find it much easier to have everything provided on a plate and then learn from that, go in whatever direction I want to go. Not everyone wants to learn from principles before they get stuck in. Why should some kid wanting to use a Pi to learn programming have to learn about disk formatting or Linux before they can dive into programming? To me that's like saying you should not learn to drive before you have built a car and understand its mechanics.

      Those who want to force that model on users are not opening things up to others but are insisting on having things the way they believe things should be done. To me that is the very opposite of what the Pi is about.

  9. Wish You Were Here
    Paris Hilton


    Surely it should be Beginners Out Of Box Set up?

    1. LinkOfHyrule

      Re: NOOBS

      I was just about to say "No matter what your opinion is, at least with it being called NOOBS it does exactly what it says on the tin." If we go with your idea I will have to change my statement to "it does exactly what it say on the silicone!" Which is technically a more accurate description either way when you think about it!

      I'm sticking my thumps right up for BOOBS!

  10. James Hughes 1

    Seemed to be some missing of the point here...

    For those following the Raspi, the biggest hurdle to getting it going is getting the SD card imaged correctly. This would involve using Win32DiskImager on Windows, or DD on Mc or Linux. Neither option is particularly friendly.

    SD cards have been made available already imaged, but often the image is out of date.

    All NOOBS does is remove the need for special imaging software. You just need a formatted SD card; you download the NOOBS zip, and unpack it to the root of the SD card. When NOOBS runs you can select which OS you want, it creates all the require partitions and sets up the OS for you. There is also some recovery stuff if you manage to break your image somehow.

    So, it simply helps the user get on to the first rung of the ladder, which is quite high off the ground. It's not a shortcut straight to the top. It's not dumbing down of the whole experience - just making sure that people can get the Raspi up and running.

    1. DrXym

      Re: Seemed to be some missing of the point here...

      Someone should produce a tool which turns a an .img and the disk imager exe into an executable zip file. Just download the dist installer, run it and it pops up with pretty much everything prefilled except the target device letter for the SD card.

      1. James Hughes 1

        Re: Seemed to be some missing of the point here...

        Weird, something called NOOBS does almost exactly that! Only bit missing is you actually need to copy the data to the SD card yourself.

        Having an installer limits you to the OS the installer was written for - the current scheme works on any device that can write to an SD card.

      2. Phill 3

        Re: Seemed to be some missing of the point here...

        You'd still need the user to know which self-extracting executable zip to use: Win/Mac/Linux/Other.

        If they can't cope with this new system then they probably shouldn't be making a decision such as "Which disc would you like me to wipe/format/over-write ?"

    2. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Seemed to be some missing of the point here...

      >So, it simply helps the user get on to the first rung of the ladder, which is quite high off the ground.

      You're making out to be so much harder than it actually is but thanks for making a simple task seem so dramatic.

      1. James Hughes 1

        Re: Seemed to be some missing of the point here... @Daniel Palmer

        Since you don't have the answer the endless questions on how to set up SD cards on the Raspi forum (whereas I do, and have been doings o since release), you have probaly missed the fact that many many people fail at this stage. So for complete beginners it IS harder than you seem to think.

        So well done for figuring it out. It's not difficult, as you say, but its still difficult enough for a LOT of people to be put off. Not everyone is as clever as you. Although lots of people are cleverer.

        1. Anonymous Coward

          Re: Seemed to be some missing of the point here... @Daniel Palmer

          >So for complete beginners it IS harder than you seem to think.

          It's not hard. It really isn't. The tools to do the job are point and click. If you need to keep explaining it you need to explain it better or write it down properly. There is a wiki page that explains how to do it. You should be directing people to read the instructions that someone has written down for them instead of holding their hand all the time. If they can't read how are they going to make use of Linux or any of the limited features of the Raspberry Pi?

          BTW you can use cat instead of dd in you are having problems working out how to use dd..

          >Although lots of people are cleverer.

          I like what you did there! Did you want your cookie now or later?

  11. Pete 2 Silver badge

    If Windows™ taught us anything ...

    > and chose [sic] from a list of operating systems they wish to run

    ... it would be that new users don't want choice. They want simplicity. Just switch the puppy on and up it comes - no questions, no decisions (if they are that new, how can they make an informed choice about O/S's anyway), none of that nasty configuration and numbers with dots in them. In fact, it's better to not even ask them what timezone they are in - considering the number of emails I get from friends in the UK with an american "default" timezone in the header.

    Now that's not to say the system shouldn't be configurable., Just that it shouldn't need to be configured.

    If you want to teach people to be programmers that's different from teaching them to be a sys-admin - as pay scales illustrate all too well (as does the mess a lot of programmers make when they try to administer their own machines). Don't put barriers up, just provide an environment that boots with no fuss and leads 'em by the nose into their first program.

    1. Andrew Jones 2

      Re: If Windows™ taught us anything ...

      That'll be the fault of OEM's -

      The number of XP machines I have had over the years that run something like this - on first boot -

      - Your Name

      - Do you want automatic updates

      - Should the firewall be switched on

      *Loading personal profile*


      There is no option to select timezone and the clock in the lower right is set to the correct time. I'll admit I have been caught out a few times - mistakenly assuming a device sold in the UK that asks so few questions must already be set up for the UK timezone. It's usually when I [Shift + @] and get " instead of @ that I remember it's still set for US.

  12. ukgnome

    I don't think that this is a bad idea at all. You have to start somewhere.

    The Pi recently featured on the BBC springwatch program as a board that can record metrics for bird boxes. The average user with an interest in nature may be put off if it's too complicated to set up.

    By simplifying the process you open the board up to users that have little interest in programming but do have an interest in other fields. Not everyone wants to program or do some HAB.

  13. ElDuderino

    Far as I'm concerned, if it pushes more Pis to folks who wouldn't otherwise buy them, gains the foundation more recognition, and more money for R&D, they Ebon, Liz, et all can do whatever they want.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Not dumbing down

    Excellent development by Raspberrt Pi et al. because it's not really dumbing down is it - I know an article needs a headline but "Raspberry PI DUMBS DOWN to target world+dog" is OTT.

    For NOOBS, users still have to format an SD card, and download and unpack a file to the SD card, which is not exactly tyro fare, even if simpler than having to install from a IMG file. Out of the box, a simpler start up is a good thing in order to be able to get online access to the links that explain how to use IMG files and install OS and programs.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not dumbing down

      I'm afraid the Register headline writers are basically a bunch of attention seeking bottom feeding journos just out of whatever third rate college red top journos come from. So you have to take all the headlines with a pinch of salt.

      Shame really, been reading the Register for years and recently it's really been going downhill. I guess the requirement for page hits is overwhelming the desire for quality reporting.

      1. no-one in particular

        Re: Not dumbing down

        Or the Reg headlines are just a cheeky bit of fun that no-one takes seriously?

      2. hplasm

        Re: Not dumbing down

        Shall we get off your fucking lawn too, AC?

        1. James Hughes 1

          Re: Not dumbing down

          Well, I sort of agree with the AC - the headlines have been getting more and more stupid, and the articles are not far behind. . This one for example, has absolutely nothing to do with dumbing down, and everything to do with making the first steps easier for first time users, as anyone who had actually tried out NOOBS would have known. SO they have written an article without trying it out, then based a headline of their incorrect understanding of what NOOBS is. So what is that, bad journalism, or good journalism? If the Sun or Fail had done this, you would be up in arms.

      3. Fatman

        Re: the Register headline writers

        Are borrowed from the Daily Mail Fail!!!

  15. burtonash

    Obviously a good thing

    The goal of the Pi is to get more people (and hopefully younger people) programming and watching them fall at the first hurdle seems pointless to me, it's just soul destroying and with the low cost of the Pi will cause them to be abandoned very quickly. In this instance the Pi, and Linux are just a means to an end so lets get people into the OS and writing software as quickly as we can.

  16. Phill 3

    Excellent new system suitable for wider adoption

    First this is an excellent idea and not at all dumbing-down. It's lowering the entry point for those who need it and not getting in the way of those who don't.

    I think the best aspect is that it allows vendors to ship ready to run SD-cards or packaged bundles, without pre-determining which OS the user might want. So less stock management for the vendor and less confusion for the shopper.

    I actually think that this is such a good idea that it should be built into x86 PCs for those who want to buy without Windows. Though I don't see any reason why Windows shouldn't also be one of the OS choices.

    There have been several attempts to sell Linux or OS-less PCs over the years but with all the diversity of distro choice a vendor is forced to select just one, as it would be impractical to stock one of each. With the ability to summon the selection at any boot time, this gives the new user the ability to try each distro without inconvenience. Perhaps as a more thorough test after a quick look at a LiveCD. This is exactly what this system is designed for and I think it's a great idea for Pi's & PC's alike.

    As a side note, I think it would be nice if there were an option to delete all the distro sources and recover the space once the user has found their preferred new home.

    1. Jes.e

      Re: Excellent new system suitable for wider adoption

      I agree with the multiple OS selection sentiment.

      To those expousing the sentiment that as users don't like choice, there should be only one operating system on the NOOBS download, they miss the point.

      Lack of choice is made Microsoft strong. Not any technical innovation but the idea to have an OS pre-installed on your machine.

      Before pre-loaded systems; you purchased your IBM or clone, your peripherals, and then your OS (PC-DOS, MS-DOS, CPM/86, or UCSD-P System.)

      Today's consumers have been trained into a mindset that they don't know any choice is available..

      Try explaining to someone that the difficulty they are experiencing with their computer system is not in the device itself but in the OS, and that _that_ can be changed out.

      The OS *is* the computer in their view.

      Being presented with a list of choices immediately will cause the new user to ask the question" why are there different operating systems?," and thus starts the beginning of a lifelong education rather than training.. which will become obsolete given enough time.

      The very idea of choice becomes a mental tool to the educator.

      The PI was designed for educational use and not for consumers.

  17. JeffyPooh

    "Please Select Your OS Choice:"

    NOOB> "You have selected the 'RISC OS' ..."

    NOOB> "Confirm. Please press the *middle* mouse button to continue."

    NOOB> "No, I said *middle*."

    NOOB> "Please press the *middle* mouse button to continue."

    NOOB> "Middle!"

    NOOB> "Please press the *middle* mouse button (try pressing the scroll wheel) to continue."

    NOOB> "Middle, middle, middle. Not Left and not Right. Middle."

    NOOB> "Please press the *middle* mouse button (try pressing the scroll wheel) to continue."

    NOOB> "Please press the *middle* mouse button (try pressing the scroll wheel) to continue."

    NOOB> "It appears that your Dollar Store mouse doesn't offer a middle button."

    NOOB> "Please Select Your OS Choice." [with RISC OS greyed out until next reboot]

    1. Phill 3

      Re: "Please Select Your OS Choice:"

      "Adjust" & "Select" together bring up the "Menu" function (L+R=M).

    2. Ben Holmes

      Re: "Please Select Your OS Choice:"

      Or click the scroll wheel. For 'tis a button too.

      P.s. Good OS choice. Well done.

  18. agricola

    If 'dumb' is what they want, let them use Windows, or Ubuntu. If not...

    Will there be jubilation and dancing in the streets if the Rsapberry Pi Organization dumps all its current aids to learning the device, and, instead, forces everyone who wants to use it to write their own Linux OS from scratch? To really weed out the slackers, how about Slackware? (not sorry about that).

    "...Thou hast most traitorously corrupted the youth of the realm in erecting a grammar school... thou hast caused printing to be used...".

    --Shakespeare; Henry VI. Part II

  19. lunatik96
    Black Helicopters

    problem exits for many

    I have a panda board and the same problem exits for beagleboard owners. I have a buggy version of Ubuntu running on the panda with constant network connect disconnect. Some issue on the other end prevented DL the newer load at the time. But bugs exist.

    This would be a great boot/ script project for all (ARM) development boards.

  20. btblueskies
    Thumb Up

    I love the new installer...

    I went to rebuild one the other day and was pleased with the new process... saves time.

    As a long time linux fanboy, and a professional software engineer etc... I have no complaints about easier to use systems.

    Thanks for the new installer :)

  21. WatAWorld

    Great idea, good to see

    It is nice to have a cheap little computer people can experiment and learn with, but some people will to experiment and learn things other than bios settings and operating systems.

    This extends the use of Pi to those other people and those other projects: art works, mechanical projects, even electrical projects where the computer is only a means to an end.

  22. HBT

    Great, so

    Now all they need is a hardware revision that works with any USB power adapter and SD card, doesn't corrupt anything and has an on/off switch.

    1. James Hughes 1

      Re: Great, so

      Any USB power adapter? What? Even the ones that are 500mA, and couldn't possibly work due to, you know, not producing enough power?

      Because the problem with power isn't the Raspi device, but the generally appalling quality of some cheap USB adapters, which you simply cannot fix using a new board revision.

  23. Julian C

    What nonsense! Why any betrayal?

    Just who has defined the specific purposes of the Pi to the extent that any particular solution or part solution is a betrayal. The Pi is what it is ... an open, multi-purpose platform with a wide range of uses in the world of education, skills etc. There are alternatives out there, but who wants to fry a £200 assembly of components while 'playing', 'experimenting', 'investigating', 'prototyping', 'exploring', 'educating', 'learning' and even simply 'applying'.

    If I were to set off to investigate an unmapped area of rain-forest in South America would I be betraying my principles if I used maps, public transport, airlines etc. to get there in the first place or do I have to hike and camp all the way?

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