By Paul Winstanley, Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager Consultant, SCCM Solutions Ltd. He has 20 years’ experience in IT and is a community contributor to Windows Management User Group (WMUG) and blogs at sccmentor.wordpress.com. He’s also involved in the Raspberry PI community, teaching kids to code music and runs a Code Club at his children’s local primary school.
The Raspberry PI has recently celebrated its third birthday. In that time it’s launched various variations of the PI, from the original Model A board through to the newly released Raspberry PI 2, becoming the best-selling British computer along the way, shifting over five million units.
What exactly is the Raspberry PI?
The Raspberry PI is a credit card sized single board computer, selling at a low price, aimed at promoting computing within the Education sector and particularly at getting children into computing.
Depending on the model of PI, it comes with 2 or 4 USB 2.0 ports, a HDMI connector, Ethernet port, RCA video, audio port and a Micro USB port for power. Storage is achieved via a SD card, micro being supported on the later models released.
The team behind the Raspberry PI 2, which was released on 2 February 2015, has upped the ante with its claim that the 900 MHz quad-core ARM Coretex-A7 CPU can achieve six times the processing performance of previous models and with more memory, all for £22.85 excluding VAT or $35.
The new model has gained further interest with news that this latest generation of board will support Snappy Ubuntu releases, and for those of us in the Microsoft Community, a Windows 10 release. Exciting times ahead for this amazing piece of hardware.
There are five models of the Raspberry PI available.
- The original Model A: 700MHz single core CPU, 256 MB RAM, 1 x USB & HDMI port.
- The Model A+: a revised version of the Model A that supports Micro SD Cards.
- The Model B: supporting 0.5 GB RAM, 2 x USB ports, 1 x 10/100 Mb/s Ethernet port.
- The Model B+: a modification to the Model B which added a total of 4 x USB ports along with Micro SD support
- The aforementioned Raspberry PI 2.
A plethora of Linux based operating systems exist for the PI connoisseur to choose from, each tailored to cater for the needs of the PI. There’s the recommended OS Raspbian, Pidora – based on Fedora and Archlinux. RISC OS, developed back in the 80s for Acorn Computers ARM based processors, gets a new lease of life on the PI and full image based products can be downloaded that cater for specific needs such as media centres, music streaming solutions or game emulation.
How is the Raspberry PI currently being utilised?
Since its release the Raspberry PI has generated a buzz within the Education sector, where its usage was originally targeted. The national curriculum for Computer Science has changed in the last few years to get children understanding the concepts behind abstraction, logic, algorithms, and data representation. A key focus is for them to understand and solve problems in computational terms and introduce computer programming at an early age.
Nationwide coding clubs, such as Code Club and CoderDoJo have sprung up, run by a network of volunteers, helping to give the next generation of skilled IT programmers their first tentative steps and assist them with skills that can be applied in the real world.
The PI also has its fair share of grown up aficionados. Bedroom programmers of old, brought up on a mix of ZX Spectrums, BBC Micros and Commodore Amiga’s. Users keen to program for the love of it, keeping code open source, available to all, ripe for adapting and improving.
But it’s the younger generation of users that I am fascinated with, and I have met many of them over the past twelve months. I’m fascinated by their ideas, how far they are pushing this low cost device and how motivated they have been to get their ideas and inventions out to the public via crowd funded campaigns such as Kickstarter. Products like Kano, a build- your -own computer for kids running its own child friendly release of Raspbian; the PiPiano, a 13 button device developed by 14 year old Zach Igielman, that fits onto the PI’s board to create a mini piano; the PiTop, a print your own laptop that houses a Raspberry PI created by a couple of college graduates. The list is endless and the release of the Raspberry PI 2 will only further these sort of inventive ideas and concepts.
The big announcement for IT Professionals in the Microsoft Community on February 2nd, that the Raspberry PI 2 will support a release of Windows 10, has started tongues wagging. IT Pros not previously interested in the device are now taking note wondering what will be achieved by this combination of hardware and software.
What do we know about this version of Microsoft’s latest buzz product? At this stage not much. We know for sure it will be free for makers. What does this mean? Microsoft themselves state ‘We see the Maker community as an amazing source of innovation for smart, connected devices that represent the very foundation for the next wave of computing, and we’re excited to be a part of this community.’
Personally, I welcome this stance from Microsoft and I hope that this is the approach that they continue to use through the product cycle of Windows 10 and beyond- to get the new generation working on their products and developing new and cool ideas.
Build Your Own PI
As we await the release of Windows 10 on Raspberry PI 2, why not take advantage of the software currently out there and get familiar with the device. Installing Raspbian OS is very simple.
Download and install a copy of SD Formatter from SD Association.
Insert your SD and load up SD Formatter.
Ensure that you are pointing to the SD card’s drive letter and ‘Format’ the card.
Head over to http://www.raspberrypi.org/downloads/ and grab the release of OS you want to install. If you want to keep it simple, download the NOOBS disk zip file.
Extract the Noobs zip file on to your hard drive and copy and paste all content onto the formatted SD card’s drive.
Once the copy is complete, plug the SD card into the Raspberry PI and fire up the device. You will be presented with the menu to install Raspbian. Select Raspbian and click the ‘Install’ icon
At the Raspi-Config screen set any international options and enable boot to the desktop.
You’ll then be presented with the Raspbian desktop. Welcome to the world of the Raspberry PI.
To sign up for Windows 10 for Raspberry PI 2 go to the Windows Developer Program for IoT.
Are you looking forward to the release of Windows 10 on Raspberry Pi 2? Let us know how you get on with Raspbian OS in the comments section below or via @TechNetUk