WizardOfOZ
Posts: 76
Joined: Thu Oct 13, 2011 8:08 am

Re: Raspberry pi, computer science tool for the masses?

Fri Nov 04, 2011 11:54 am

I have to say, I am somewhat puzzled by some of the comments in this thread. I do wonder if the world looks that much different where-ever people live, compared to here in little Denmark.

*) Slight detour: Wired network versus wireless:

- Wireless is problematic in many institutions with a high concentration of clients. The interference gets atrocious due to packet collisions, once you hit a certain number of routers and clients within reach of all the rest. The slowdown you may experience due to this problem can be anything but trivial, and even dual band wireless routers is only a stopgap solution.

- Many buildings are being retrofit with a network connection at almost ever mains outlet, or they are built in at construction time. So I have been reliably informed by a friend of mine, who owns and runs a sizeable electricians installation company.

- Most every wireless router you will get from your ISP for home use, will have a built-in switch for wired Ethernet in addition to wireless. For instance the one I have has 4 Ethernet connections for the LAN. I suspect many consumers ask for this for their gaming rigs, so it is cheaper to just give this to everybody.

*) Cost of laptop/netbook vs. Raspi:

- Raspi is easily replaced if damaged for any reason. Surely I cannot be the only one, who have fried an expensive motherboard due to connecting my contraptions to the parallel port while experimenting?

- Raspi is cheap enough that you can give one to a young person in need. While almost all families have at least one computer these days, many families *will not* be able to afford the second one just for Johnny. Having one of the sons in the house wanting to use the family PC for hours on end is not going to work. Competing for the single PC is already a problem in many households.

On the other hand someone like myself would be able to find a second hand monitor, and flat out *give* a complete Raspi installation to somebody. Even more important would be the fact that the Raspi wouldn't be seen as a 'real' PC, so there would be less risk of competition for it from the recipient's siblings.

If people have a problem with this argument, then I suspect they may not have grown up 'on the wrong side of the tracks'. I did, back in the 8 bit days, and it was only due to sheer luck and a singular event that my parents were able to afford my first computer. In normal circumstances I would have had to wait until I got a real job to be able to afford one. Today a young teenager could finance a full Raspi installation just by running newspapers.

- The major problem with traditional PCs in schools is upkeep cost, in addition to the higher initial outlay. Think forced upgrade cycle from Microsoft et al., in addition to time spent on administration and security updates. The forced upgrade cycle has apparently not been of any obvious advantage to the schools nor the pupils for at least a decade. It only exist to act as a compulsory Microsoft tax on society. The Raspi has the opportunity to become a standard onto itself, ensuring long term compatibility at the application level. And even when you do want to upgrade a Pi installation, the cost of doing so is minimal.

*) Unexpected Raspi advantages aka. potential game changers:

- OPPC: One Pi Per Child. You can give each student/child their own Raspi, just keep monitors and the rest in the classroom/at home. Solves a whole bunch of problems with administration, access control, maintenance and whatnot.

- ODPA: One Distribution Per Application. Stop thinking of the Raspi as a traditional PC. :) Instead abuse the low cost of SD cards and think of the potential for instant OS/distribution swaps by replacing the SD card. You don't give people a copy of the installation files for your custom application. You give them a link to your customized Linux distribution, including configuration tweaks and relevant support libraries. No library dependency h*ll, no hardware conflicts due to standardized hardware, no need for convoluted changes to obscure text files, no problems at all.

For the end user: Download interesting 'application' image. Dump OS image to empty SD card. Swap card. Power up Pi. Play with app (which starts automagically on boot).

(The developer would of course also want to document how to install the application in an existing Raspi installation.)

- OPPA: One Pi Per Application. If you develop a particular, stand alone application, you no longer have to choose between and lock yourself into one of the major platforms. Just develop for the Pi and tell people to buy one if they wish to use your app. The cost is low enough that this is feasible, unlike telling people to just buy a Mac to run a program.

For instance you could (might be able to?) develop support for ARM's Serial Wire Debug (SWD) protocol via the GPIO interface, suddenly turning the Pi into a stand-alone development environment for a silly number of embedded MCUs. The cost of the Pi would be less than, say, the PicKIT 3 programmer, and with the latter one would still need to expose the PC to events in the mad scientist's laboratory.

subminiature
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Contact: Website

Re: Raspberry pi, computer science tool for the masses?

Fri Nov 04, 2011 12:39 pm

Quote from WizardOfOZ on November 4, 2011, 11:54
*) Slight detour: Wired network versus wireless:
Agreed, which is why I think any classroom would be better to have a Raspi with Ethernet. Although I can see some control applications where the cheaper board would be better.

*) Cost of laptop/netbook vs. Raspi: ...
Agreed, but if a school is going the route of one computer per pupil they still might consider a low cost netbook as over all cheaper as they can be used in every classroom not needing to fit each room out with monitors. Some primary schools have used Pocket PC with the majority of class work set and undertaken on them.

- The major problem with traditional PCs in schools is upkeep cost, in addition to the higher initial outlay. Think forced upgrade cycle from Microsoft et al., in addition to time spent on administration and security updates.

Yet they still buy into this when a Linux/Open Office would do very much the same.

They could also use less costly computers - thin clients and other cost saving solutions but don't.

- OPPC: One Pi Per Child. You can give each student/child their own Raspi, just keep monitors and the rest in the classroom/at home.
but monitors in every classroom where using a computer is the route to save on text books, distribute the reading material and set the work. Still makes sense but even at the low cost of the Raspi there is still the cost and the rest for the monitors.

- ODPA: One Distribution Per Application. Stop thinking of the Raspi as a traditional PC. :) Instead abuse the low cost of SD cards and think of the potential for instant OS/distribution swaps by replacing the SD card. You don't give people a copy of the installation files for your custom application. You give them a link to your customized Linux distribution, including configuration tweaks and relevant support libraries. No library dependency h*ll, no hardware conflicts due to standardized hardware, no need for convoluted changes to obscure text files, no problems at all.

One SD card could easily hold all a pupils work for several years at school. But having loads of SD cards across subjects. Bit like the floppies used with the BBC Model B handled out at the beginning of the lesson and collected back in at the end of it.

For the end user: Download interesting 'application' image. Dump OS image to empty SD card. Swap card. Power up Pi. Play with app (which starts automagically on boot).
With one SD slot? To a USB stick or USB card reader perhaps or on the network - back to having a network connection.

All as you say and more and much more than a single use for budding programmers on there own with out network connectivity.

kme
Posts: 448
Joined: Sun Sep 04, 2011 9:37 am

Re: Raspberry pi, computer science tool for the masses?

Fri Nov 04, 2011 12:41 pm

I agree 100% with all of what WizardOfOZ writes - then again I'm also from Denmark.

I'd like to add one more promising usage for situations where the R-PI isn't intended to leave the room: A thin client: Put an absolutely minimal Linux on the smallest (cheapest) SD card with no applications except the NX client or rdesktop* client and connect to a Linux, respectively a Windows server. Then 128 MB RAM is plenty on the client and on the server you can run any RAM hungry application the server can handle.

I realize this isn't the intended use for R-PI, but for Western schools and libraries it would fit perfectly.

* Requires rdesktop can be compiled for ARM.

Michael
Posts: 340
Joined: Sat Jul 30, 2011 6:05 pm

Re: Raspberry pi, computer science tool for the masses?

Sun Nov 20, 2011 12:46 am

Quote from WizardOfOZ on November 4, 2011, 11:54
*) Unexpected Raspi advantages aka. potential game changers:
[...]

- ODPA: One Distribution Per Application.
[...]

- OPPA: One Pi Per Application.


Some excellent points. This week's BBC Click explored how $2 software apps for devices such as the Apple iPad are replacing highly innovative, niche, single-purpose hardware gadgets such as $200 business card readers or $35 electronic chalk boards.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006m9ry (from 10:14)

I'm sure we'll see some companies develop proprietary products based on Raspberry Pi, a custom case and proprietary software instead of developing their own software+hardware solution.

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riffraff
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Location: Newnan, Georgia, US

Re: Raspberry pi, computer science tool for the masses?

Sun Nov 20, 2011 4:17 am

RasPi has advantage of simply being a component in a general purpose Media Lab. I could see this initially as being a serious boon to private and charter schools with a limited budget and a small student body. Server-based video/audio for language arts, CBT, movies - each student able to work at his/her own pace - and then then it's computer science time.

I used to instruct one of those adult education places - the kind you see advertised on late night TV. I was thinking the other night what a headache it was to maintain multi-boots for all the lab computers for the different OS environments we needed for different courses and making sure the students booted into the right partition when they started work. Thinking how nice it would have been to issue SD cards for each student and have them plug in at each session (yeah, I can foresee the software security implications) this and many other advantages, but what I'm hoping that the clever minimalist design of RasPi architecture is a wakeup call for the industry - hell, I'm hoping it's a shot across the bow for the whole Wintel industrial complex.

I really want to rant on here about the wake of destruction MS left in its climb to ubiquity over the last three decades but I'm just too tired tonight. Those who've been around a while remember what a vital hopeful and competitive industry there was before "standards" and MCSE certifications and the like. There were many computer platforms, many networking solutions, many software houses creating many different office solutions. There were many jobs for consultants and programmers and there were many satisfied clients of all sizes who ended up with custom tailored solutions that suited their particular business. These days I see we've been nuked back into the stoneage. I see something I haven't seen since the earliest days of VisiCalc and Lotus123: customer and inventory lists in Excel spreadsheets. Makes me nauseous and sad. The room stinks of MS farts. Somebody open up the damn door (please, God, not the "Windows") and let some fresh air in here!

obarthelemy
Posts: 1407
Joined: Tue Aug 09, 2011 10:53 pm

Re: Raspberry pi, computer science tool for the masses?

Sun Nov 20, 2011 1:51 pm

I think the database niggle is something to take up with users, or their mentors: MS Access is quite OK as a personal database, both feature-wise and the UI. I've yet got to try OOo base.


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