back to article The Raspberry Pi: Is it REALLY the saviour of British computing?

It is fair to say that the Raspberry Pi is a success. I love them, you love them, the whole world loves them. It has reminded the rest of the computing world that the UK - and Cambridge especially - has a proud computing heritage. It’s hard to miss mentions of the Pi in the technology press each day. It is spoken of in hushed …

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  1. John Robson Silver badge

    Absolutely

    And that's where the "community" was meant to magically step in.

    There are some pi magazines, although I've not read any of them so can't comment on their content cf+ the BBC Micro fest of our youths...

    We need to get out there and write educational programmes - or are all the "people skilled" programmers of the appropriate age bringing up families now?

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

  2. Jame_s

    HDMI not compulsory

    You don't need an HDMI display for the PI, any old tv with a composite input will work.

    Having said that, I do agree that cheap computers do not make programmers. How many parents in the 80s bought Timmy an 8 bit micro thinking they were helping with his education only to end up with an expert in Jetset Willy?

    1. FartingHippo

      Re: HDMI not compulsory

      "How many parents in the 80s bought Timmy an 8 bit micro thinking they were helping with his education only to end up with an expert in Jetset Willy?"

      My parents, for one. Mugs :)

    2. Dr_N Silver badge

      Re: HDMI not compulsory

      "How many parents in the 80s bought Timmy an 8 bit micro thinking they were helping with his education only to end up with an expert in Jetset Willy?"

      A fair few. That doesn't detract from how many where inspired by having a computer to new heights.

      Without the 80s boom the UK would be a technological backwater.

      1. Roo

        Re: HDMI not compulsory

        "Without the 80s boom the UK would be a technological backwater."

        Depends on how you define a backwater.

        From the point of view of producing semiconductors (including microprocessors) we are a technological backwater, the ARM crew notwithstanding.

    3. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: HDMI not compulsory

      Not all old TV's work - you seem to have to plug the audio cable in too and not many TV's I've tried have one.

      1. Martin Gregorie Silver badge

        Re: HDMI not compulsory

        "Not all old TV's work - you seem to have to plug the audio cable in too and not many TV's I've tried have one."

        Maybe not, but it seems that the 4.2" and 5" flat screen displays sold on eBay as part of DIY car reversing aids do: they come with the composite TV connectors pre-attached. from about 16 quid. Then add a USB mouse, speakers, a cheapie USB keyboard and a Pi case. This can all be had for no more than the cost of the Pi plus wall rat, cables and SD card.

        Or, of course, you add your RPi 'B' to your home LAN with an ethernet cable, install one of the free X-server packages (VcXsrv or XWinLogon) on your PC and run the RPi headless - and all for the cost of the ethernet cable. My RPi has been run headless since I bought it: the only difference is that my PC runs Fedora rather than Windows+Xserver.

        Want a switch instead of pulling the micro plug out of the RPi? Easy: you can get 150mm USB socket to micro-USB plug adapter cables for about a fiver. Another fiver at Maplins gets you a rocker switch and small plastic box to put it in. Just strip the cover off the adapter cable for 25mm or so, cut the RED wire and solder the ends to the switch and put switch into the box. Job done.

        1. a well wisher

          5" screens ?

          Will no one think of the kids eyesight ?

          Another reason for them to go blind in their bedrooms

        2. Frumious Bandersnatch Silver badge

          Re: HDMI not compulsory

          Want a switch instead of pulling the micro plug out of the RPi? Easy

          Use a paperclip or other bit of wire to short the holes at P6. This reset mechanism was added in rev 2 boards, so it can be used to avoid some wear and tear on the USB power socket.

        3. Annihilator

          Re: HDMI not compulsory

          "Or, of course, you add your RPi 'B' to your home LAN with an ethernet cable, install one of the free X-server packages (VcXsrv or XWinLogon) on your PC and run the RPi headless - and all for the cost of the ethernet cable. My RPi has been run headless since I bought it: the only difference is that my PC runs Fedora rather than Windows+Xserver."

          Yes but all this plays rather nicely into the "you've clearly already got a PC, so use it" argument in the article.

        4. WhoaWhoa

          Re: HDMI not compulsory

          "Want a switch instead of pulling the micro plug out of the RPi?"

          On the odd occasion when I've wanted to reset it I've tended to use the more resiliant plug on the big volts end of the power supply. The one plugged into the mains extension lead. Doesn't show any signed of wearing out yet.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: HDMI not compulsory

            "use the more resiliant plug on the big volts end of the power supply."

            Effing engineers. Where's the fun (never mind the article material) in doing it that way.

            Effing engineers. Shoot the lot of them, replace them all with web desingers.

            RIP Lou Reed.

        5. PJI
          Meh

          Re: HDMI not compulsory

          A fiver here, a fiver there, just for odds and ends and second hand bits. Half a dozen of those and you've already spent more than the cost of the Pi and hardly started yet; in addition, the mere ability to find and assemble those bits assumes the sort of knowledge and interest that busy parents who are not interested in or working in informatics just may not have (the child probably does not: he is learning); the schools have not got the time to have a teacher or even a secretary running around acting as retailer for bits and pieces.

          The idea is interesting; but I suspect that most Pi machines, bought for the home for a school in a fit of well meant enthusiasm, will end up in a draw, gathering dust.

          Do remember, schools have a lot more to teach than just informatics: the three Rs, so that the children can read and record and plan their informatics work; a decent grasp of history, geography, art etc. so that they know how their world got where it is and have some feeling for society, state and continuity (and to provide handy sources of silly computer names etc. to show off their intellectual credentials), at least one foreign language because the world is bigger than we are …. Oh, and schools are expected to provide sport, social discipline and on and on.

          While you are moaning about embryo informatics specialists, athletes are crying out for the new generation of sportsmen, businesses are demanding numerate and literate recruits with social skills and at least one foreign language, government wants good administrators, we all want nurses, doctors, radiologists, teachers ….

          Computing or informatics is a particular field, like plumbing or architecture. The educational system, unless it is supposed to start streaming children like like drones at 6 years old, must provide a pool of educated (not trained) pupils who can adapt to the growing needs of their society, one of which (probably a smaller one) is computing expertise. Think too how many of us change career, completely, because the reality of the chosen one turns out not to be what we wanted or that field just withered away: by emphasising something aimed at a particular industry, that change becomes difficult and unnecessarily expensive.

          I know that this purports to be a "technical" web site; but contributors must lift their eyes to see beyond their keyboards or tablets, to what our work is for and its real place in the overall context.

  3. RyokuMas Silver badge
    Childcatcher

    Great expectations...

    I think that a large part of the problem is what else the "kids" that the PI is targeted at have experienced:

    I started mucking about with programming in the 8-bit days - despite their low visual and audio quality (compared to today), I found the games of the time absolutely amazing. More importantly, the graphics that I managed to get going on screen were within shouting distance of those used by these games, which only encouraged me to keep going.

    Nowadays, the kids that the tech pages reckon will get into programming via the PI have been brought up on a diet of XBox and Playstation, near-photo-quality 3D graphics, realistic physics and immersive audio, written by teams of hundreds of people. And I'd be willing to bet that upon realising the vast gulf between "hello world" ant GTA5, the a lot of these kids will be put off rather than inspired.

    It's not a problem with the PI - it's just that too many people expect to be able to do everything immediately.

    1. Gordon 10 Silver badge

      Re: Great expectations...

      All too true unfortunately - although I would have thought a step by step introduction of the usages of different libraries could help in that area. For example starting from a plain text hello world up to a 3d representation that can be spun and zoomed in a 3D space.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Great expectations...

        >been brought up on a diet of XBox and Playstation, near-photo-quality 3D graphics, realistic physics and immersive audio,

        So, use those attributes to teach things. Something like Gary's Mod, for example, allows for Python Scripting. Class project? Design a Rube-Goldberg style mousetrap. Physics. Cause and Effect. If X happens then do Y.

        Whilst you're at it, teach them to record and edit audio. Take it into the music class. Let them mess it up by setting the recording levels too high - they'll learn from that. Have them re-create their school in a virtual space. Use a Kinect (low cost low res 3D scanner) and integrate into Design and Technology. Some of them might become engineers.

        A crazy amount of biological research (a science subject that attracts more females than some other science and technology subjects) involves programming and computation these days. Let's have some 3D proteins and enzymes floating around and interacting. What happens when we turn up the temperature? Do they interact faster, or do they become denatured?

        Zoology, have a virtual ecosystem. What happens to the population of herbivores when I remove all the apex predators? (hint: it doesn't grow steadily)

        I had a graphical calculator when I studied calculus. It was an aid,

        However, hand skills are very important. Mental arithmetic, laying out engineering drawings by hand, laboratory skills. I had a graphical calculator when I studied calculus; it was a great aid to visualising, but it didn't replace doing things by hand on graph paper.

        1. Steve Crook

          Re: Great expectations...

          @Dave 126

          But why use the PI to do it?

          Don't most school kids have access to or own a laptop or other sort of PC? If you want to try your hand at programming, why not write apps for your smartphone. There's a big market out there and the opportunity to make some money out of your class project. The tools for doing this sort of thing are readily available and free if you've already got a smartphone/tablet, a PC and a USB cable.

          I never got the idea that a PI was going to help with teaching programming. Interfacing with other hardware and junior robotics? Possibly... But not straight out programming.

          1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            Re: Great expectations...

            Don't underestimate the effects of it being "your" computer that you are in control of.

            Before the 8bit-80s, computers were dialup big expensive scary machines in universities somewhere that you might be allowed to use if you carefully followed the rules under strict supervision.

            Now computers in schools are strictly administered scary systems might be allowed to use if you carefully followed the rules under strict supervision - with dire penalties if you do something that isn't in the list of permissible user actions for keystage N of curriculum X.

            Yes you can learn to be a professional programmer by just reading CLR and doing 6.046 online. Just like you might be able to become a professional chemist by solving wave equations and never seeing a lab.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Great expectations...

              > Don't underestimate the effects of it being "your" computer that you are in control of.

              What the author of the article failed to understand was that cost is not the driving concern here.

              Most homes have a PC now, but whereas when I was a kid, my Vic20 was mine and mine alone to do with as I pleased. The home PC is used by the whole family and you're expected not to bugger it up. This discourages experimentation.

          2. Nigel 11

            Re: Great expectations...

            But why use the PI to do it?

            Because - see "androgynous cupboard" below - it's cheap enough that if you break it, you don't need to cry. A new one won't break the bank. That's particularly important if you are interested in tinkering with hardware.

            But even if "all" you have done is accidentally nuked the hard disk of a PC while trying to repartition and install Linux alongside Windows, there is lots of work to get it back to how it was and maybe lots of data you will never get back. Lots of expense also, if you didn't appreciate the importance of making some factory restore DVDs on the day you unpacked it (assuming you did get to unpack it yourself). If it wasn't strictly speaking your very own PC, but a shared resource, people will be blaming you. Not a nice place to be, especially not for a kid.

          3. P. Lee Silver badge

            Re: Great expectations...

            > But why use the PI to do it?

            The Pi's strengths are cheap/portable/electrical interaction with other devices.

            You can hook it up to a motion sensor and doorbell and it isn't so expensive that you can't leave it there. It won't replace a pc for general computing but the level of general computing has risen so far its hard to inspire kids to compete with teams of hundreds of adults. The benefit is in little cool things where someone can say, "I did that!"

            1. ridley

              Re: Great expectations...

              TBH At the moment with my class I am getting them to use a PICAXE to monitor light gates and record the data etc. The next project is to control the flight computer for a water rocket.

              I like the PICAXE the is a lot if "8bitness" to it.

              10 Pin 1 Low

              20 wait 1

              30 pin 1 High

              40 wait 1

              50 goto 10

              Oooh look the LED in Pin 1 flashes.

              Besides they really are cheap the 08's are only £1.50 plus a battery and a bit of bread board to start.

          4. Dave 126 Silver badge

            Re: Great expectations...

            @Steve Crook

            Sorry mate, I wasn't being clear.To be honest, I was rambling a bit because my head was buzzing with how great it would be to 8 years old again with some of this kit! (For years I resented my primary school for possessing a BigTrak but not letting me play with it!)

            I didn't mean to advocate the Pi (nor dismiss it), I was just trying to step back from the issue and think about how programming might be used in education by writing down some unordered thoughts : D

            Upon reflection, I think that teaching some programming and then having it integrated into other subjects where appropriate (much like mathematics is) might be a good idea... but it is only my opinion and I have no expertise or credentials in education (other than I have been subjected to it!).

            Disclosure: I should be considered a complete beginner in programming. I read about BASIC when I was in primary school, but hardly wrote more than a few lines. I did a bit of Hypercard a few years later, and at university I used a little bit of VB with Powerpoint, in order to create a mock-up of a MP3 player interface (in the 'information ergonomics' module of my Product Design course.

            1. Dave 126 Silver badge

              Re: Great expectations...

              Steve Crooks' point about smartphones is interesting because smartphones already have motion / light / sound sensors built in. Okay, the lack of standardisation between models would cause some issues, but I could imagine a class project to make a 'burglar alarm' from a smartphone ( IF no light detected AND foot steps detected THEN make a alarm sound and flash light )

              Okay, there is a case to be made for not giving young children smartphones (they don't need to text each other and play games in school) but a phone is a mobile package of CPU and sensors...

              On another note, does anyone else remember those RadioShack / Maplins kits that were a board of electronic components (transistors, diodes, relays, a transformer, a CCD etc) that allowed circuits to be created by just clipping pieces of wire into spring-terminals? I made smoke come out of mine...

              1. monkeyfish

                Re: Great expectations...

                That's what I was thinking, although more on the lines of using an el-cheapo android tablet. Have one or two of those for the class, and use normal PCs to write apps for them. Apps are small, and tap into lots of libraries. Apps can be written as web-pages, or as something better that uses the phone hardware, so the learning curve can be a bit shallower.

  4. Flywheel Silver badge

    "power connector is a micro USB connector - they’re quite fragile. There’s no reset button on a Pi, so if you need to reset it then you’ll be abusing that connector quite a lot"

    Or you leave the connector in the Pi and just switch it on and off at the mains?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Real CS types have a power supply sitting somewhere. They solder two wires to the top left pin header and then they have the RPI powering up. Abusing a USB cable for powering devices is against all good manners in computery.

      I had much more issue with the Flash card, which must conform to "level 4". Then it worked like a breeze.

  5. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

    Car analogy

    (Jesus, a car analogy already. Hello, Slashdot)

    Many familes have a car too, but a 12-yo with a vague inclination towards mechanics isn't going to disassemble it to see how it works: it's too expensive, and the family need it to be in running condition. But give said 12-yo a beat-up old 1960's mini and express permission to tinker, and in ten years you might have a skilled mechanic (*). I know a few people who've done just that.

    Yes there's plenty of hype (from third parties), but I still don't see many articles that say "this will spawn a generation of programmers". However I think "this might spawn a generation of programmers" is accurate, especially given the opportunity for most kids to learn these skills in ICT at school or on the family desktop at home was pretty much zero. So it's undeniably an improvement.

    The difference between a computer and a computer you have permission to destroy and rebuild is quite a big one.

    (*) there are other possiblities too...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Car analogy

      "The difference between a computer and a computer you have permission to destroy and rebuild is quite a big one." (and the rest)

      This man gets it, and deserves more than a few upvotes.

      Kris *nearly* gets it too, apart from the idea of letting the little ones loose on the family/school/library(?) PC, which is already prone to breakage without infant intervention.

      Raspberry Pi makes that a non issue.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Car analogy

        > This man gets it, and deserves more than a few upvotes.

        Then why didn't you upvote him? He has no upvotes at the moment (although I will upvote him once I have posted this).

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Car analogy

        A non issue? Sadly no. do you realise how easy, with an instant short it is to kill Pi's I/O pins which are unprotected?. Without a separate buffer board, the main chip is very vulnerable. And that means you throw away your Pi if you happen to kill pins you need.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Car analogy

          > A non issue? Sadly no. do you realise how easy, with an instant short it is to kill Pi's I/O pins which are unprotected?

          A very large proportion of Rasp Users will not use the I/O pins so they are unbuffered to keep the cost down.

          If you really want to mess with I/O, then a buffer board would be a useful accessory.

          As with a lot of these types of things, the Rasp is a compromise of ruggedness and cost. I think they have it about right.

    2. Tom Wood

      Re: Car analogy

      Yes, exactly.

      If you're into software tinkering only, then the RPi is great - get it configured, back up the SD card, and you can trash it and rebuild with virtually no effort. It's a good way to learn about Linux system administration. You could even have different SD cards for different purposes and swap them around very easily which I imagine is invaluable in a school environment (every kid can have a SD card, they Pis themselves can be kept in the classroom).

      (Admittedly, you could do some of this with virtual machines on real PCs, but I it's much easier to wrap your head around the concepts if you can see the hardware in front of you).

      If you want to tinker with the hardware, there's a bigger risk that you'll fry the board, but if you can get a new one for less than £30 it's definitely in the "affordable toy" category rather than the risk of breaking the family PC. (Not that you have convenient I/O pins or whatever on the family PC anyway.)

    3. Neil 8

      Re: Car analogy

      Agreed: The FEAR of screwing up computers is a very strong limiting factor against tinkering, and not just for children. For me this is the absolutely critical difference between 'Today's Family Netbook' and the 8/16 bit computers many of us 30-somethings grew up with, it's not just about the cost.

      If you totally, utterly screw up your Pi OS & don't know how to fix it, you can just stick in your backup SD card and carry on within 30 seconds. No harm done.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ooh,

    he's having a go at Slackware now! I was brought up on Slackware and it never did me any harm...

    1. MrMur

      Re: Ooh,

      "anyone remember the early days of Slackware?"

      Pretty much every longtime linux user. Ah, how I miss recompliling the kernel just to get the network card to work, etc, etc...

  7. Lee D Silver badge

    Repeat after me:

    Shiny toys do not teach your children.

    Computers do not teach your children.

    Books do not teach your children.

    Omega-3 in their diet does not teach your children.

    The RPi is a tool. In the right hands it's useful. But it's sold many times more as a cheap geek toy for projects than anything to do with education. How do I know? I have a first batch Pi. I work in schools. I bought it to trial it. We never even put it near a classroom. Sure, we could have, but it's no different to the netbooks, tablets, or any other fad that has come along - posh hardware looks nice on parent's evening, but doesn't actually teach anything.

    Mine has been sitting in the attic for months. Mainly because of problems that you shouldn't have to deal with on such a device (The USB shares bus-bandwidth with something else - the SD or the Ethernet I can't remember - and as such can lose USB packets [read: All your devices crash and stop working] silently without any clue what went wrong... it's a hardware problem that recent firmwares try to workaround by tweaking some settings but nothing that can be resolved. The posts on this from the first few weeks of RPi bug reporting are still open).

    And there is zero effort to actually teach schools how to use it. If it appears at BETT it's as a faddy device on some third-party stall to make you buy it for no good reason, and with few resources to use it. The kind of teachers we have nowadays, that means it's dead in the water. The ones who can make their own resources are few and far between and, let's be honest, don't need fancy gadgets to do those things anyway. They'd be able to teach them with a washing up bottle and double-sided sticky tape.

    It's an interesting gadget, but nothing that didn't exist before (BeagleBoards, et al), or hasn't existed since (there are now a myriad of clones, and even Intel has pushed one out recently that's x86-compatible). It has quirks and problems, and it's not really designed for younger kids handling. The older kids using them all have Java-based smartphones, some of them running on Linux, but we're taking them away from the kids at registration and forcing them to cobble together some mish-mash of junk onto a PCB and then get happy when they make a Scratch program they've written in the IT suite run on it. Hell, my five-year-old has a Nexus tablet.

    It was sold as "for schools" but it's anything but. As pointed out, there was a point where it was assumed the community would just "step up" and provide all this for free. What happened instead is all us geeks (who didn't grow up with this kind of hardware, or even the luxury of GCSE electronics) bought one, turned it into an in-car PC, and soldered our own circuits to it.

    It's a tool. Without someone to use it properly, it's worthless. The people who can use it properly almost always would choose a BETTER tool (i.e. a PC or even a smartphone) to do what they want.

    And it doesn't make your children any brighter than spending tens of thousands on bunch of swanky tablets that they all have at home anyway.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "It's a tool. Without someone to use it properly, it's worthless. The people who can use it properly almost always would choose a BETTER tool (i.e. a PC or even a smartphone) to do what they want."

      Choose the right tool for the job then.

      PCs and smartphones are great for doing the jobs the manufacturers chose them to be used for.

      PCs and smartphones as educational tools? Maybe, if the subject is Windows/Office/Android.

      If the subject is a little more demanding/creative, then Raspberry Pi *might* fit, depending on the details.

      "it's no different to the netbooks, tablets, or any other fad that has come along"

      Other than RasPis costing a tenth (or less) or the price of a netbook or PC (even before accounting for support cost), and other than RasPis all being almost completely identical (which matters in a volume rollout), and other than RasPis being able to do something besides run vendor-supplied Windows/Android applications, and a few other things, then yes you're right. It's no different.

      One size does not fit all.

      1. Indolent Wretch

        But that is a myths, it doesn't cost a tenth.

        If you've got money issues you just have to shop around.

        At Aria right now, a refurb:

        Fujitsu Esprimo, Small Form Factor, Core 2 Duo, 2GB, 80GB HD, DVD Drive.

        Windows 7 Home Premium included.

        £90

        Yeah you have add a display and a mouse and a keyboard. But you have to do that with the PI anyway. For someone interested in the more "electronic" side of things I can see the PI as a smart buy. But if you want to learn software development I don't think it's a great match.

        1. Dave 126 Silver badge

          @Lee D

          I think the idea is to make these things so fun that mummy and daddy will want to play with them, and use little Johnny as an excuse.

          This is in contrast to leaving to leaving little Johnny in front of a screen and mummy and daddy opening bottle of wine in the next room.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          individual purchase vs volume rollout

          "At Aria right now, a refurb:

          Fujitsu Esprimo, Small Form Factor, Core 2 Duo, 2GB, 80GB HD, DVD Drive.

          Windows 7 Home Premium included."

          Plenty of similar options elsewhere, will do much of what most people need **from a PC**.

          I've bought and supported nothing but refurb for friends and neigbours (and me) for quite a long time; flavour of the last couple of years has been HPQ DC7100/7700 SFF or similar for << <£100, largely because there are lots of them out there and I can be reasonably sure of getting something compatible for a while to come.

          That works OK for me and my community of half a dozen.

          Now scale up the "buy refurb, keep consistency" approach to dozens of learning tools in hundreds (thousands?) of schools, needing identical systems so that the software and documentation can be consistend and don't need to be different for each.

          It doesn't work on that scale.

          Random second hand boxes can be great for individuals at home, but are entirely inappropriate for a supported volume rollout.

    2. lorisarvendu

      "Mine has been sitting in the attic for months. Mainly because of problems that you shouldn't have to deal with on such a device (The USB shares bus-bandwidth with something else - the SD or the Ethernet I can't remember - and as such can lose USB packets [read: All your devices crash and stop working] silently without any clue what went wrong... "

      [digression] Are you sure? I had that on mine and was convinced it was the pi. It wasn't. It was the power supply. Even though I'd plugged it into 3 separate USB plugs (and the USB output of 2 TVs), as soon as I ran it off my Samsung phone charger (output 3A) it became as solid as a rock.

      Yes the Ethernet shares power with the USB (since the Ethernet actually is a USB device). The Pi would appear to freeze, but that was because the mouse (USB), keyboard (USB) and network (also USB) would all drop.

      It wasn't until I tried it with an XBMC distro that the penny dropped - I noticed the online clock was still working. Ergo the OS hadn't crashed, but it had no I/O to the outside world, so it looked like it had. [/digression]

      1. Lee D Silver badge

        No. It was not power. See the raspberry pi kernel bugtracker.

        It's a bus bandwidth issue when you use the other buses while trying to use the USB bus (e.g. writing USB data to SD, or accessing USB data over Ethernet, whichever bus it is that it shares). It's random and unpredictable and the "fix" was to tweak priorities in the kernel, which reduces the probability of the problem but doesn't fix it.

        When you have a serious bench power-supply with as much (regulated) power as you like, power queries go out of the window quite quickly.

        Hell, one of my SD-cards is still floating around Broadcom in Taiwan somewhere because they tried to blame that at one point too and I had a Broadcom engineer request it from me (and it turned out that it was nothing to do with the cards whatsosever).

        It's just not as nice a piece a hardware as you think when you do anything that remotely pushes it (and children are hardly going to be optimising SD/USB access in their coding). Even the design (i.e. these buses being shared, the weak capacitor situated as the only thing to grip when you want to remove the micro-USB cable, etc.) leaves a bit to be desired.

        I'm not saying it's unusable but I don't think schools would want to be sitting diagnosing problems like that.

    3. rurwin

      Maybe you have missed the fact that the majority of the Raspberry Pi Foundation's time and energy is spent in developing educational resources. They didn't just sit back on their laurels like your Pi did. It's a non-profit foundation -- every bit of profit that comes from geeks and home theater hackers goes to provide teachers with resources to teach children about computers. (Or similar outreach work.) The computer was always only one piece of the jigsaw. Just a tool. It has always needed buy-in from teachers to make a difference to the national educational landscape. Teachers are always the only thing that matters. To suggest otherwise is a patent straw-man. In fact, for schools, The Pi computer is not particularly necessary... if they can get their PCs out from under the IT supplier's lock-down and let the kids actually program them.

      And it didn't exist before. Not for $25. It existed for maybe $100, but there are large numbers of applications for which $25 or $35 is a shoe in, and for which $100 or even $50 is a teeth-sucking decision. Sending it up under a weather balloon springs to mind.

      And no. I would not choose a better tool. A PC or a smartphone is horrible for a vast number of projects that I want to investigate. The Raspberry Pi sits very neatly between an Arduino and a netbook. Its got I/O and its got a network stack and filesystem.

  8. keithpeter
    Childcatcher

    Environments?

    "It will require a choice of language that is appropriate to the age group."

    Do we have any thoughts on these? All cross-platform (some on tablets)

    http://scratch.mit.edu/

    http://www.squeak.org/

    and a wild-card for teenagers who like making a bit of noise...

    http://puredata.info/

    Then there is

    http://processing.org/

    but by the time you are there, it might be best to try a 'proper' language.

    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: Environments?

      Minecraft Pi Edition?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      In The Spirit Of European Education

      ..please use something like PASCAL or Ada:

      + Strong Typing provide assurances

      + Strong Typing makes stuff reliable

      + Strong Typing bitches about your problems at compile time

      + Strong Typing makes you structure your problem properly

      All very Swiss, very French indeed. And very reliable.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: In The Spirit Of European Education

        All fine, but it's 2013.

        Doesn't that mean the answer is (was?) Modula 3?

        Fwiw, Wirth's Algorithms + Data Structures is now legitimately available for free download, updated with examples in Oberon.

        It is left as an exercise for the student to find it.

        .

        .

        .

        .

        .

        .

        .

        .

        .

        .

        Or to scroll down far enough to see that it's at

        http://www.ethoberon.ethz.ch/WirthPubl/AD.pdf

        1. Frumious Bandersnatch Silver badge

          Re: In The Spirit Of European Education

          Fwiw, Wirth's Algorithms + Data Structures is now legitimately available for free download

          Coincidentally enough, I was thinking of this very book the other day when I made a post here. Then again, I suppose that the classics (esp. Knuth's TAoCP) are never too far from many programmers' minds.

          Now if I could only find my copy of Jon Bentley's "More Programming Pearls" ...

        2. Indolent Wretch

          Re: In The Spirit Of European Education

          I'm not sure Modula 3 was ever the answer to anything.

          Not even "what should we call the sequel to Modula 2?"

          1. JamesTQuirk

            Re: In The Spirit Of European Education

            Hi, less than 24 hour pi fan, after reading this artical actually, but has anyone thought of REXX, inter process control language, based on basic, but when you start entering other software to use their routines, you had to learn their programming languages, taught me heaps on Amiga, I wonder if it could same for learners now, if its the right one. Have a PI coming, so will try, but anyone like to say if REXX is to old, or completely wrong for Pi ?

            Linux(ARM) Binary Yes Regina-REXX-3.6-arm-unknown-linux-gnueabi.tgz

            found some reference on Rexx site that it runs on PI fine,..

      2. Frumious Bandersnatch Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: In The Spirit Of European Education

        Prolog would be much better. Better than that Yankee Lisp thing, anyway.

  9. Dave 126 Silver badge

    "So what do you suggest, Mr Clever Clogs?"

    I agree with the last section of the article. How to engage children with programming? Some unordered observations follow. I'm concious that I was once a young boy, and that these points would benefit from someone who was once a young girl:

    The LEGO 'Mindstorms' look excellent (i.e my 8 year-old self would have given his Tonka truck for it!) but are expensive. LEGO Technic taught me about gears, screw threads, differential gearboxes and pneumatics, for example. Destroying some LEGO lights by using them with a 12V model train controller taught me something too...

    These days, a IR controlled mini-helicopter can be bought for 15 quid, containing a silicon gyro and a chip to keep it level... a programmable autopilot function wouldn't be much pricier. The "ten minutes play, 50 minutes recharge" nature of its battery seems ideal for programming its actions in advance and then observing the results.

    Children like inventing and designing things, look at computer-game inspired 'fan art' or new levels drawn on paper.

    What is programming? Just a formal way of expressing "if X happens, then do Y". If car leaves track on left, steer right.

    What young boy could watch http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ErEBkj_3PY 'Robots that fly... and cooperate' without going 'Wow!'?

    I'm having trouble separating programming from other 'tech' orientated disciplines, such as CAD modelling and 3D printing (Design an action figure, print an action figure. Add motors, sounds and actions) in the education space.

    The enemy of these creative activities might be the polished nature of pre-made video games and branded toys.

    Being able to solder is a useful skill.

    The government is trying to get more men to become primary school teachers. The government is also trying to recruit more Design and Technology teachers of either gender. By law they cannot offer bigger grants to men studying to become Primary school teachers, but they can and do offer a bigger grant for Design and Technology (as well as for Science subjects). Why is this relevant? Just look at the gender make up of Reg readers... ...it would seem more of us men have an interest in these things.

    1. Petrea Mitchell
      Go

      Re: "So what do you suggest, Mr Clever Clogs?"

      "I'm concious that I was once a young boy, and that these points would benefit from someone who was once a young girl:"

      All right then, here I am! Actually, I don't think there are many differences in how to get young boys and young girls interested in programming. The big one is that with young girls you have to work against enormous cultural pressure steering them away from geekdom. I count myself very lucky that I first encountered home computers in a time before media depictions of programmers were common.

      I was told repeatedly in primary school that girls weren't supposed to be good at math, but luckily I hated that school and everyone associated with it, so I didn't listen.

      Being able to see how stuff is put together and works certainly helps stimulate interest. For me it was Zoids and Capsela and occasionally Heathkit.

      I think there's something to be learned from the popularity of the steampunk movement. I've long thought that it's partly from a reaction to all our gadgets evolving into shiny slabs with no moving parts. If you could get at what still fascinates people about gears and steam and bring it into the classroom somehow...

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: "So what do you suggest, Mr Clever Clogs?"

        @Petrea Mitchell

        Thanks for joining in! I just wanted to express my ignorance because whilst toys (educational or otherwise) are marketed between girls and boys differently, I didn't want to start a nature / nurture / cultural influences type debate.

        How the cultural pressure can be challenged (and in this thread, with respect to programming and technology more widely) is an important question... but that's getting into sociology, which is a bit too fuzzy for my particular brain to deal with!

        Re. Gears and things, I find solid-state audio players very boring compared to some of the beautifully engineered disc/tape ejection mechanisms found in Walkmans, camcorders and Minidisc players. Many people have a preference for mechanical watches over quartz models, for much the same reason.

  10. Steve Button

    About the cost.

    I agree with pretty much most of what you've been saying, apart from the cost part. An rPi is bloody cheap. You don't *need* a case or an HDMI display, at least not to start with. The kid can probably hook it up to the 2nd TV if needed. Of course you'll need to grab an SD card. A keyboard and mouse can probably be picked up for cheap, or you can borrow the ones from the main PC and put them back again when finished without too much worry,

    Even if a family already have a crappy PC just for Facebook, if that's their only PC they aren't likely to let little Jonny install Linux onto it and start messing around "doing programming" on it. With the Pi, they can break it and re-install as they like.

    In reality you are probably right, and I've been struggling with the same things myself. Do I start with Scratch or Python? How do you explain modulus to an 8 year old? (which you hit pretty quick if you follow the Codeacademy tutorials).

    It's not like the old days where you could just switch on the Vic-20, and within seconds you'd be at a BASIC prompt. No need for any parents help, just play around with it. Sigh.

    1. Mr Anonymous

      Re: About the cost.

      "Even if a family already have a crappy PC just for Facebook, if that's their only PC they aren't likely to let little Jonny install Linux onto it and start messing around "doing programming" on it."

      No, but he could install the Arduino IDE and learn programming on an even cheaper micro-controller that can do all the IO he would need to make his own part of the IOT.

    2. VinceH Silver badge

      Re: About the cost.

      "It's not like the old days where you could just switch on the Vic-20, and within seconds you'd be at a BASIC prompt. No need for any parents help, just play around with it. Sigh."

      But but but

      With RISC OS installed on the Pi, you can!*

      * Probably. I think it boots to the desktop in about 15 seconds if nothing extra has been added in the boot sequence - and on the old Acorn machines it was possible to configure them to boot to the BASIC prompt, so I imagine that's still possible with RISC OS on the Pi, though it's not something I've tried.

      1. Stoke the atom furnaces

        Re: About the cost.

        After booting the machine to RISCOS, press <ALT> F12, giving you a prompt. Then type BASIC <RTN>, MODE 21 (or any other Mode such as 31) <RTN>, and you have a BBC Micro on steroids :-)

        RISCOS, pre- installed on a SD-card, is available here :

        https://www.riscosopen.org/content/sales/risc-os-pi

        1. VinceH Silver badge

          Re: About the cost.

          Good point - I should have added that, if it's no longer possible to boot to BASIC, it's still only a few keypresses away. :)

      2. VinceH Silver badge

        Re: About the cost.

        Wow, I don't remember insulting anyone (or anyone's favourite company) in the post above, so I guess that downvote must be from someone who seriously hates RISC OS.

    3. Nigel 11

      Re: About the cost.

      You also need a case, a decent display with HDMI input, a power supply, some SD cards, a USB hub, a keyboard, a mouse, a network cable long enough to get to the ADSL modem, and a fair amount of desk space.

      Don't need a case (or can improvise with cardboard or grown-out-of Lego). Keyboard and mouse can probably be scrounged for free or liberated from a council tip. Display maybe likewise, or jack it into any half-modern TV. SD card, you can probably scrounge an old small one from anyone who does photography, or source it for pennies on E-bay. Desk? No, floor or lap will do if nothing else available. Next to the router, if needs must and you really can't get hold of a long enough network cable.

      The rest of the argument is a little bit stronger. Low-level programming is always going to be a minority interest. But now it's no longer restricted to a minority of a minority - wannabe hardware hackers no longer need parents who can buy a PC and unusual interfaces, and another one, two or more when your kid's attempts at homebrew electronics let the magic smoke out.

      If you have a kid with hacker nature, the kid will be like a duck in water and you won't have to explain anything much, just answer the questions and encourage him. If your kid doesn't have hacker nature (probably 19/20 kids), trying to teach, explain to or encourage her will just put her off programming for life.

  11. Bobthe2nd
    Boffin

    Mind your language

    What would be your recommendation for a programming language for a youngster at high school..

    C++ sure its useful but what about the combination of PHP/Jquery/Jquery Mobile which seems more appropriate for the internet/consumerist generation?

    1. Frank Long

      Re: Mind your language

      In my opinion, C should be like the Latin classes of yore. The default option, and one that, in most schools, was horrible, but non-optional.

      If you teach kids C & C++* up to GCSE (i.e. 3 years), you can be pretty certain that, unless nothing whatsoever has sunk in, most other languages will be pretty easily managed.

      Some schools could also then follow that on to A level, in the same way that spoken languages are taught.

      Maths and programming are extremely analogous to languages like French and German. For your average British student, they're likely to be more relevant..

      *along with a lot of the theory behind programming, in the same way that language learning is never 100% about just the language)

      1. Nigel 11

        Re: Mind your language

        Personally I'd say that teaching any language that needs a compiler as a first language is misguided and verging on cruel. Any scripting language is better simply because there's so much less of a learning curve to climb. No edit-compile-run infrastructure. No debugging of address / overwrite errors. If you're unsure of something, just try it in immediate mode at the command line and see what happens. Python is particularly good because it is also a very well-structured language (c.f. BBC Basic or, gag, Perl).

        AFTER a kid has mastered Python is the time to explain that compilers generate code that runs maybe three times faster if you have a problem for which that actually matters, and what you have to give up in order to gain that speed. As computers get faster and open-source Python libraries of other people's numerical codes expand, such problems get rarer.

        If a kid can't "get it" even in Python, a career in something other than programming beckons!

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Regarding "C"

        Certainly the C language and its wide application only created the "Cyber Warfare Domain".

        Kids should not have their mindset destroyed by this abomination before some crap economic setting forces it onto them. They should learn at school how to properly do things.

        Proper Data Structures and Algorithms are key concepts. Don't fuck their brains with C and the void*/cast-everything-into-anything crap, please.

    2. chrismeggs

      Re: Mind your language

      I don't believe the language is the issue. My offspring now flip readily between Python, C, C++ and Java. But they have struggled with database concepts, OO constructs and so on, these are the real lessons.

      I set my youngest a few "tests" which he struggled with but then aced a bubble sort in a few seconds flat! -How?, he admitted copying it off the net, and I knew my job was finally done! Yes, he had to Explain it to me line by line, but that was an exercise that taught us both a lot.

      Next up we are building a four-Pi network with a db server, DNS server, Sharepoint server and so on - a lot of Unix scripts and more reboots than a Windows install, but what a sense of satisfaction.

  12. Zot

    It all seemed a bit melancholic to me...

    ...I don't want to go near the PI, sorry.

    With regards to kids mucking up your Windows machine, doesn't Win7+ allow for locked down user permissions?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It all seemed a bit melancholic to me...

      Why don't you $hills move back under your Rock Of Corruption ?

      We all know in the "Bu$ine$$ World" Excel and Powerpoint are indispensible. Just accept to 0wn that domain and don't always try to go for World Domination. You will only burn your fingers,. Or your Platform Partners (that telephone company you burned down).

      1. Zot

        Re: It all seemed a bit melancholic to me...

        What?

  13. Pete 2 Silver badge

    Bogosity

    Despite the oft repeated mantra about teaching children, it's clear that the Pi is completely inadequate for use in an educational environment. Especially when most UK schools (and that's what we're talking about, not some third-world location) have PCs coming out of their ears. If you want to teach programming, drop some educational software on a PC and just get on with it - with the kit you already have.

    No. What we see with most of the million-sold Pis - at least the ones that generate publicity - is a split between children using them to play games, people trying to pimp their cars with an on-board "PC" and the home enthusiast who sees it as a cheap way to run XBMC. There are a small minority of experimenters who get an LED to flash and a smaller minority who write some original software - a tiny proportion of whom go on to contribute something new and useful to the community.

    However, any serious home SBC-hacker will already have moved on to one of the A20 boards that are so much more powerful and better designed.

    1. James Hughes 1

      Re: Bogosity @Pete

      It's 2M actually (or very close).

      If its easy for schools to drop SW on their PC's and use them for programming, they should do it, the Raspi is just an additional tool, intended more for the people at home than the schools themselves.

      And if you think an A20 is so much better, and the boards so much better designed, well, try some benchmarks, and look at the sales figures and the community support behind them.

      1. Pete 2 Silver badge

        Re: Bogosity @Pete

        > And if you think an A20 is so much better, and the boards so much better designed, well, try some benchmarks

        OK. RPi BogoMIPS = 700 or thereabouts

        Olimex A20 BogoMIPS = 1800 a Cubieboard2 with the same spec scores bout the same, provided you have CPU clock scaling turned off.

        root@A20:~# cat /proc/cpuinfo

        Processor : ARMv7 Processor rev 4 (v7l)

        processor : 0

        BogoMIPS : 1816.97

        processor : 1

        BogoMIPS : 1823.52

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Oh yeah, M$FT $HILL

      Just wait a bit until we bring out the RPI-powered mobile computer. The RPI doubling as a cheap oscilloscope. The RPI doing software-defined radio wireless networking. The PRI doing robots with a real-time OS, the RPI controlling automatic space-scanning amateur telescopes all night long, the RPI running a Freedom Cloud (not of the GWB sort of freedom, though), the RPI controlling chemcial reactors, the RPI running home-made alarm systems.

      I grew up with an Atari ST and it was a powerful machine then. With 1/1000th of the RAM of the RPI it had much more memory than pupils could usefully fill with programs.

      The truth is, RPI is "all the computer you need" for a useful programming education. I got mine on a 386 with 4MByte of RAM, continued on an HPUX workstation with 96Mbyte of RAM.

      1. David Hicks

        Re: Oh yeah, M$FT $HILL

        "The truth is, RPI is "all the computer you need" for a useful programming education."

        The truth is the RPi is not really innovative, not the first single-board computer, not as open as it promised or as much of the competition is, nor really anything special. All of those things can and are done with other systems. I hope that RPi doesn't end up killing them off, or become the only platform these things work on, because it would be a shame if we got a monoculture.

        What it has done is drive prices down, and that I like.

  14. James Hughes 1

    Right and wrong

    Kris is right in his premise, that the Raspi is not by itself the saviour of British computing. But his arguments for that are aimed badly.

    1) Yes, most household do have a computer. But they don't usually have one that available for enough time for development. Case in point - at home we have one PC shared between 4 people. That's simply not enough time for me to sit down and do dev work without someone else needing to use it. Also, PC's are not great for any sort of HW interaction.

    2) The Pi is easy to tinker with. Yes, it is, considerable easier than a Windows PC. Arduino is also a good option here, but needs a separate PC for compilation - the Raspi can do everything on board. Or attach an Arduino board to the Raspi for the best of both worlds.

    Note that the uUSB connector is not fragile - it's rated for many thousands of connections. Or you just turn off at the mains...I do both.

    3) Linux is not easy. True. Easier than it was. But don't underestimate the knowledge absorption capabilities of the average 14 year old. If they learn Linux at that age there will be no stopping them.

    4) Lots more bedroom programmers. Difficult one to assess. There may well be, but the arguments put forward are not related to the Raspi at all. Yes, there are many languages to choose from (but, TBH, just go with Python or C), and read up on the turorials from the MagPi or from the coursework being produced for the new curriculum.

    5) Well, I think you are stating the obvious here. Of course, by itself the Raspi is not going to change to the world - it needs teaching material, good teachers, the right languages (easy - Scratch for the young ones, Python and C and perhaps Java for the older ones) - all those things. But then, so does any other teaching device.

    But most importantly - teach the concepts and logical thought. And when only 5% of those you teach think this is great and show aptitude -' I'd like to do this for a living' - then you have a success.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    From The Teutonic Perspective

    The RPI is a God-Send, because it will allow The Net to liberate itself from the tyranny of the Corporations and the snoopers of a certain nation which I will not mention here.

    It would be even better if we had a German-built piece of hardware (who knows what they will force ARM and Samsung to put into the logic circuitry), but it's a very good start nevertheless.

    Just think about how many transistors it takes to replicate certain machinery of the past. Now run the RPI 24/365 and erect a middle finger to the World Government Maniacs. You know, the Schmidts and Zuckerbergs. And the Alexanders, of course.

  16. Bassey

    Strikes a chord

    I'm about to be made redundant (1,2,3 ahhhh). Despite numerous offers I'm taking a break for a bit. My wife has just taken over the local pub so we have an income, a decent bit of redundancy and, as we now live above the pub, we have also rented out the house. So, I will have some spare time and, as the pub is next door to the primary school attended by both our kids I've volunteered to do some teaching. Specifically, I'll be spending one morning a week teaching the year 6 kids the basics of programming when the new term starts after Christmas.

    So, I have been spending some time thinking about this. I've collected a range of online resources, books, opinions etc but still haven't settled on anything. However, I do have a few thoughts. To my way of thinking, the new BBC micro is not the Pi, it is the smartphone. Nearly every 11 year old has a smartphone of one type or another. Huge industries have grown up around apps and every company now has some kind of mobile presence - whether that be through an app, mobile website or whatever. Mobile is the present and foreseeable future.

    Given that the kids will have various iphones, androids and - Who knows? - maybe even a WinPho, I'm thinking web development. Start off with a simple website. Get them to make changes and then see what effect those changes have. Introduce css, java etc and maybe even work towards a simple game.But iI'd quite like the kids to drive it. I'll have the time to set stuff up for them during the week and, by keeping the site available, there is no reason why any enthusiastic kids can't experiment outside of actual lessons.

    However, advice from those who might have done something similar would be most welcome.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Strikes a chord

      "Smart phones" are actually Shiny Golden Cages for the plebs. The RPI is about education, if properly used. Phones must be hacked to run a single user-provided piece of software. Don't get me started about the nasty-corps who control the gates to their software stores.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Strikes a chord

      "Start off with a simple website"

      Fine, so long as you are aware that web design is not the same as programming.

      If you need a reminder of this, just wait for the next IPO website to fall over

    3. TechnicalBoy

      Re: Strikes a chord

      This is a great idea, and I applaud your spirit, but it isn't what the Pi (or this article) is about. You're going to be teaching web programming for portable devices.

      And the trouble with the smartphone industry is its pace-of-change. You already have multiple flavours of Android, Apple's Walled Garden (good luck with getting anything past them!), or WinPho. Trying to get something that all the kids can access from all their devices will be a nightmare. Also, what will you do when little Johnny's parents turn up with his phone that he's just bricked by being a bit over-zealous with it?

      What you need is a simple, cheap, easily-wipeable, flexible OS that all the kids can connect to as a defined common platform. Easy as Pi....

    4. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: Strikes a chord

      This term I've started helping with a Code Club at my local junior school. (https://www.codeclub.org.uk/) They have produced resources pitched at roughly that age group that start from nothing. If you decide to use them, I think you will find that the smarter year 6s race pretty sharply through the first third, and some of your group will have quite a lot of prior knowledge.

      But I recommend you have a look anyway. It's working for us.

    5. HippyFreetard

      Re: Strikes a chord

      Please, for the love of God, don't teach them web! It's nuts. Three different languages to learn, each with different syntax, that works different depending on browser, browser version, operating system - seriously, try not to. And don't go the Dreamweaver route either. You might as well teach them MS Paint.

      This may sound crazy, but I'm actually talking from experience here - binary. It is unbelievably simple, and kids love it. Just a few simple additions and subtractions (like they're used to with "borrows", you don't have to go all 2's-comp on primary kids) can be really fun. It's all pencil and paper, so a short sheet of binary sums can quickly become addictive. Before you laugh, just try it. Give them three or four sums and ask if they want more. To teach hex, simply make cardboard "coins" in 1, 2, 4, 8, 16 etc and just let them play money with it.

      I'm a huge fan of Scratch. It's free, and it's sneaky, in that it's not just programming. Little girls just make pony stories and animations, completely oblivious to the fact that they're learning threaded, procedural, and object based programming. Take them through a couple of games (like the shark game) step by step, and take it from there. The Scratch methodology also leads nicely into stuff like AppInventor and GameMaker, where kids can make real apps and games for their own phones etc later down the line, so it would have the same effect as teaching them Java or web, but without the headaches!

      Also, I have to say, throwies, or a cheap battery/resistor/led combination they can make themselves. Hands on, and fun. This is like magic to kids. You can make a cardboard demon with red eyes, or a clown face, that sort of thing. Really easy, but they learn that electricity goes one way, and you need these little brown things to stop too much electricity going to the little light. More importantly, they learn that electronics isn't something that only "other people" can do.

      These three approaches are all really fun, and don't take much time or money to teach, but they set the little'uns up for further computer science learning, and gives them extra options for their playing time. A RPi in the hands of these kids further down the line will be more meaningful.

  17. phil 27

    I really like the PI and we have a few of them. We were watching streamed hdmi feeds from my mythbackend running xbmc with the mythpvr connector, something even my low end atom's cant managed the other night (atlantis in hd). Granted its the one with a usb key as the disk instead of a sd card, the sd only ones can only manage sd content and I should probably add some more heatsinking for that level of abuse. We have one doing 24/7 duty as our home automation computer also.

    It only has one major downfall as far as I'm concerned, the ability to corrupt some sd cards when power cycled, but this can be mitigated with certain types of card. I just dd a new image on when they get corrupted and away it goes. Some of the cards seem immune to corruption though, I have found older smaller capacity cards are better in this respect.

    I bought the first solely with the intention of putting it on my lad's bedroom tv as a mythfrontend this coming xmas, and give him general computer use in there with a usb wireless kb etc. He has a android laptop, but all that leads to is being stuck in xyzville and playing facebook games in a closed ecosystem...

    We've already had a tinker with basic (running on a genuine zx81 out of my weird old computer collection no less) and he's eager to tinker. Ideal for the job I'd say! And when he messes it up, five minutes and two dd's later, it'll be back to working.

    Will he grow up a programmer? god I hope not. I hope he does something that can't be done remotely in india therefore stands a chance of having a career and a future...

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Regarding "Learning Programming"

    I have a CS degree and I received a very good physics education. We did learn Pascal at grammar school. I developed simple physics simulations at grammar school (e.g. simulating a pendulum or an n-body gravity simulation).

    Looking back, it would have been an excellent concept to "weave in" software development into mathematics and science. Solve math, physcis, chemistry and biological problems using pupil-developed software. Start small, grow big over the years.

    The smart crop of students will comprehend how much the computer can speed up solving complex problems and appreciate its usefulness.

    But you certianly can't do that without a useful "problem domain" and with badly educated "Computer Teachers". Computer Science is as much a hard science as is math or physics and if you don't believe it, we can explore that here. So we need proper teachers for CS, plain and simple.

  19. George 8

    What do you mean the king has no clothes on?

    Kris has finally hit the nail on the head with this, the RPI Reality Distortion Field has been broken. RPi is exciting for all of us who lived in the Vic20/Spectrum/BBC era. I cant see RPi doing it alone. In the school my teenage children go to, the IT classes are for the less able students -- the type of children who took wood work or metal work when I was at school. How did we get here?

    I like Frank Long's suggestion. The way to solve this is to make development compulsory. The argument is that not all children are capable, but in a similar way not all children are good at maths or french or RAVE(! why is that compulsory?)

    Its time to come up with a radical new approach. Frank for PM!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What do you mean the king has no clothes on?

      Oh my god. "Working with wood and metal" is for the "dumb" pupils. Hand me the popcorn and let me see how the bankster kids fuck up themselves and the world.

      1. Stevie Silver badge

        Re: What do you mean the king has no clothes on?

        <<Oh my god. "Working with wood and metal" is for the "dumb" pupils. Hand me the popcorn and let me see how the bankster kids fuck up themselves and the world.>>

        Agree in spades. Once again some programmer makes themselves look like a dimwit. Next up: why you'd be a fucking idiot to hold that 3D printed gun while firing it, why a stock trading app is *not* a substitute for an education in the markets and why being able to haxxor my Gibson isn't halfway as clever as being able to MAKE a Gibson - especially if we are talking about the one which needs fretwire.

  20. Stoke the atom furnaces

    RISCOS

    I agree with the author that Linux (at least for the Raspberry Pi) is not the friendliest operating system for the casual user, it also rather slow on the RPi.

    Fortunately RISCOS is simpler and much faster.

    My experience with the Raspberry Pi so far is that BBC Basic on RISCOS is the closest to the ideal choice for the adolescent hobbyist.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: RISCOS

      Wait and see how many little Bedroom-Built Operating systems will be invented and spread like weed. Linux is indeed overkill or wholly inappropriate for many use cases. Linux is not real-time, for starters.But if you want to control your home-made drone with an RPI, you better run a realtime OS.

      Same for your home-made model Zeppelin, your Submarine Drone or your Model Reconnaissance Car. All powered by the RPI and a realtime OS.

      Did I mention pupil-made micro-satellites which weigh 200g and do some sort of useful earth or exo-athmospheric research function ? The RPI looks like an excellent computer for that kind of thing.

      1. Lee D Silver badge

        Re: RISCOS

        It's been out and available for over 18 months now (not even counting a lot of the "pre-release" build-up). Though we have some ports (by serious geeks) of various Linux and Linux-like distributions, about the most esoteric thing you can find is RISC OS (originally designed for ARM devices, and released by the people who own RiscOS).

        In terms of low-level hacking, there's not much going on. Run an OS that we already have, port software over to ARM (which can take minutes in some cases, especially with the Debian-ARM ports of most things just being "there" nowadays), job done in most cases. (And I don't believe for a second that you need real-time OS to control an amateur model aircraft of any kind - hell, just running as root with max priority brings the response times down to ludicrously low numbers so long as you don't routinely overload the capabilities of the machine).

        In terms of real-time OS or Bedroom-built OS? Nothing that I can see. So it's really doing jobs that were previously the domain of Arduino boards (have you seen the latest ones of those though?) and mini/nano/pico-ITX boards. And it needs a lot more power than you might think because the stability of the PSU is critical. Battery-powered applications are more difficult to do than you might think.

        Micro-satellites - yes, there you'd want something serious. And the RPi hardware is about the worst you can try to use for something like that (especially given the highly-regulated environment it would need to operate in). Did you know that if you slag one bus of the RPi, you get packet loss on others (I think it's SD/USB or Ethernet/USB, but memory fails after months of my RPi being in a box waiting for a fix that will never come as it's a hardware issue)? That's not the sort of crap you want NEAR a satellite of even amateur scale.

        And there, the latest Arduinos weigh less, do more, connect better, take less power, are more reliable, and are in the same price range.

        RPi was a kick up the bum for the embedded-board crowd, but they've caught up now. Shame that these "bedroom OS" that you think will appear haven't even been started on in the time that's taken.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: RISCOS

          If that microsat lives for just a week, it might have performed the function it is supposed to perform. As long as the txmitter behaves nicely, nobody cares about the regulations your Corporate overlords and their overnment Fri€nds have set up in order to stifle the competition. The worst that can happen is that the micro-sat is a dud.

          As I said, just wait.

  21. Salts

    It's about the support

    @ James Hughes 1

    Totally agree

    In addition I would add

    If the Pi Foundation had just offered the RPi and that was it, the RPi would be of little use to schools.

    But they have not, they have put some serious effort into making it an educational device, by providing the backup it needs. Anyone having a proper look at what the Pi foundation is doing can't help but be impressed, they accept the RPi being used as a media centre, it funds development of the of the main goal.

    Yes, on it's own the RPi would be no great benefit to schools, but the Pi foundation works hard to ensure it is a complete package. Considering when first launched that they expected to sell about 10,000 units into the education market to make it a success, i am amazed at how they have adapted and kept going.

    As for the educator above who commented that parents are more impressed with flashy new computers and that learning to program on mobile devices is better, the former I am just saddened by the latter, who F*&# writes mobile apps on a mobile device? Also Android is being ported for the RPi.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It's about the support

      Why the bitching about RPIs being used commercially or for entertainment ? Au contraire - the more RPIs are "out there", the easier it will be to liberate the world from he idea of the "commercial cloud controlled by an opaque corporation in burger-land". All Emails concentrated in a few datacenters.

      Wait for another spill and then see people converting their media-playing RPIs into a tiny part of a Freedom Search Engine. One controlled by users, not corporations (conceputally similar or identical with YaCY). Same for email, chat, facebooking, file exchange. RPIs can run all day long, because they need just 5Watt of power.

      Or, somebody might convert the media player into an education device because their nephew is actually interested in computers. Or she will sell her RPI over Ebay to someone who wants to tinker with computers. In short - the more RPIs distributed, the better.

      Ballmer, $chmidt, Zuckerb€rg and $hills will hate this, no doubt.

  22. G_R

    Language not platform

    I would argue that the thing that made computers like the BBC Micro and Commodore PET accesible was the BASIC interpreter. Power the machine up and pow - you can start coding immediately, run the code and see what happens. It doesn't do what you want, fiddle with some lines and run it again. When you are just starting out that's what you want to do - get stuck in and working.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Language not platform

      So, why don't you assemble a Linux image which will boot the RPI into a BASIC console ? Write a handbook, record some educational videos and so on ? Then distributed via Bittorrent ? I am sure there are some free BASIC interpreters "out there". I am strongly in favour of Pascal (of which I know an excellent free implementation), so you need to do the searching for a free BASIC interpreter yourself.

      NOTHING stops you to do that.

      1. G_R

        Re: Language not platform

        Indeed not - but I don't want the hassle of doing it....and my point was that a BBC Micro user didn't have the hassle of doing it either. Really BASIC was just an example - the Pi (to me at least, and ok I was brought up with a D2 kit and assembler (ahem...that is, a while back...)) is a bit of a faff to get going as a programming environment as it is shipped......

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I never really got the point of PI

    I never really got the point of the PI. It looked to me like a computer that only included all the cheap bits and for which you had to supply all the expensive bits. Moreover if its aim was to teach about computer software, it feels like a software solution rather than a hardware solution is more appropriate.

    Being on the edges of education I did look at the community surrounding PI last year. Most contributors seemed to fall into two camps, the "I have my PI on order and am really excited about it" camp and the "I've got my PI and don't know what to do with it" camp. One example of something useful you could do with a PI was some kind of access point for students on field trips, and as such I struck me as an unreliable and expensive alternative to having a mobile phone.

    The most exciting way I've recently seen of introducing people to programming was starting from a craft angle. Young people are often taught how to make things, many of these things involve repeating patterns that have special cases at the start and finish, think knitting. Showing people here's a skill, here's how the skill works, here's how you tell a machine to do it feels like a far better introduction to programming than saying here's a bunch of electronics, pull your computer apart to make it work and then do all these obscure meaningless technical things to actually get it to do something.

    For me things like cheap 3D printers will introduce the next generation to programming far more than things like the PI.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I never really got the point of PI

      You mean your Bo$$ threw a chair at the RPI and it wasn't scared ?

      Very scary, those plebs who don't eat Seattle Burgers !

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    agree

    I agree entirely with Kris. If we wanted to teach kids programming, we didn't need to build a completely new computer to do it. I said as much on the rpi forum while we were all waiting to receive the first shipment so we could all hopefully build our own low-priced media centres. I got accused of trolling. 'Think of the children' and all that. If a school does want to teach programming, chances are high they already have enough hardware already sitting in their ICT suites to give their children a sterling programming education.

    I bought two, one for me, one for my 12 year old son. I used mine as a web server. My son didn't use his at all - he carried on with Scratch on the home PC and programmed his robot with an Arduino connected to the home PC.

    But the one thing that the rpi did do was help highlight the lack of programming education in school. Which I think needed saying. But as we know, many people don't necessarily agree. I applaud the rpi and its intentions. I just think there could have been more effective ways to achieve the goal.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: agree

      Of course I don't know the situation in the UK or America (or any other English-speaking country), but here in Germany we do have some schools where you can learn the first few steps of programming. We had them 20 years ago and the hardware was about 1/100th as capable as the RPI. I still learned quite a few important things such as how things would "sooner or later fall into the right places" if you start with correct data structures.

      We used a 386, 4Mbyte of RAM (NOT 4Gbyte, the RPI has 500 Mbyte, the CPU had a 25 MHz clock (RPI is the GHz range), we had a color-character (VGA ?) type of display and we ran Turbo Pascal. It was enough to run an exciting simulation of planets circling each other in almost unpredictable ways (sometimes).

      The truth is that very serious simulations were done with computers that had 1/10000th of the capabiltiies of the RPI. Things like nuke R&D, operations research, weather simulations and so on.

      A good teacher and the 386 I mentioned would still be much, much more useful to pupils than a contemporary latptop with retina display, VC# and a muppet teacher.

      But that goes against the $$$-ideology which powers the world, so this "secret" must be buried under a pile of bull$hit.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: agree

        "here in Germany"

        Ah.

        Explains a lot.

        Your country made the mistake of wanting trained and qualified young people, whether it be for chimney sweeping, soldering, or whatever, people often actually capable of running (or contributing to) independent businesses rather than megacorps.

        Here in the far more succesful US/UK, we have achieved our current success by abandoning training in favour of developing an "education" system focused on producing compliant wageslaves with little expectation of constructive employment let alone adequate rewards, and an economy reliant on gambling (although it's not advertised as such).

        Got any jobs going (mostly English only, I'm afraid)?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: agree

          I guess there are lots of jobs for english-speaking people here in Germany.

          Just search for "software entwickler C++ stuttgart" "software entwickler C++ München" "software entwickler C++ Köln" "RF Ingenieur München" "Mathlab Ingolstadt" "SAP Stuttgart" or the like.

          I found learning English not too hard, because my general language skills are good and about 50% of the vocabulary is essentially the same (or shares the same roots). As in Saxons and Sachsen (now a state of the German federation), you know. The other way around should not be harder than my experience.

          Also, most Germans are at least trying to be helpful to English-speakers. They like to improve their language skills by speaking English with their Anglosaxon colleagues.

          A German application includes:

          + current picture

          + motivational letter (six or seven lines)

          + CV

          + School certificates and employment certificates if you have these

          + list of previous projects

          As I said, just use English in the application letter and wait for the response. I am sure you will get a high percentage of encouraging replies. Google Translate will help in identifying positions.

          If you post an email address, I can reply with the email address of my boss who is definitely looking for VC#, VC++, Java,SQL developers for all kinds of automotive diagnostics support software. I don't want to post his email address here because I use very direct arguments against certain entities and I am not sure my boss wants to take the heat that can come from that....

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: agree

            There is also GULP.de, which is a project marketplace. Many of the project descriptions are in English; that implies that they look for people without German language skills (if not specified otherwise).

            Hourly rates for project developers are in the 60-100 Euros range, but you should be aware of the tax rate and the health care insurance requirements (about 800 Euros/month) in this kind of thing. Plus you need to collect VAT tax of 19% which your customer can deduct from the VAT he/she collects.

            The flip side is that you get good healthcare, a social safety net and your kids get an excellent education for more or less FREE. If you don't have enough income, your kids will even receive money for studying here. Getting through Grammar School (called Gynmansium here) is tough, though. Grammar School is precondition for being admitted to tertiary education.

            I knew three Englishmen who were colleagues and they seemed to be happy with working in Germany. One guy always wanted to marry the policewoman who shared a cantina with us. I think he even bought a house in the black forest.

  25. Faye B

    More programmers?

    Do we need more bedroom programmers? Surely what we need is more professional software developers who can program or is it the age old claim of industry about skills shortages. Yes there is a demand for 'progammers', for want of a better word, but if you look at what is being asked for in the job ads you can see that the industry has fragmented into very narrow verticals. Either you are a web developer or a iOS developer or backend developer etc etc, each requiring specific skill sets and languages. So what looks like a shortage is actually a sign of an industry refusing to invest in cross-training and determined to 'cherry-pick' from a pool of candidates. And its this apparently empty pool that is promoting the idea that there is a need for more programmers and consequently the bleating from government for more bedroom programmers.

    It is like when they complained that there was a shortage of plumbers and builders, when what they really meant was there is a shortage of cheap plumbers and builders. Notice how the cry for training more of these disappeared when all those Polish workers started turning up and undercutting the homegrown workforce. Given that large proporations of many software projects are now hived off to programmers in off-shore sites, in places such as India or China, where is the incentive to train up new expensive programmers here in the UK. Software development is going the way of the clothing industry in that only the design houses are here in the UK and the 'making' of the product is done in some poor thrid world country using cheap labour.

    So I would suggest that its not more bedroom programmers we need as there won't be any work for them but then that won't allow the industry the room to 'cherry pick' talent and keep the costs down. This whole idea of teaching kids programming is just a distraction from what is really happening and using Rasberry Pis won't change that.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: More programmers?

      Even Software Engineers (not the same as "Programmers") need a Device to work on. If you want to build a simple oscilloscope or a signal generator, you need GPIO PINs as close as possible to the CPU.

      The RPI fits the bill, IMO.

      Of course you also need a Proper CS Education. That's what Universities, Colleges and Academies are for.

    2. TheOtherHobbes

      Re: More programmers?

      >Given that large proporations of many software projects are now hived off to programmers in off-shore sites, in places such as India or China, where is the incentive to train up new expensive programmers here in the UK.

      Exactly. The whole premise is idiotic.

      What's needed isn't Moar Programming - which China is already far better at than the UK is, with India trailing along close behind - but a realistic attempt to get started on the next wave of innovation.

      NostalgiaTech is not the answer. Biotech, space engineering, and all kinds of other things are far more likely to make a useful difference.

      What the Pisters seem to have forgotten is that back in the 80s, it wasn't a composite video output or BBC Basic that created a new generation of entrepreneurs, but the fact that having an affordable home micro *was* the innovation, because it was only available in the UK and Europe.

      The US had an established hacker culture, but the machines all cost $$$$$. The UK made the new technology so affordable almost anyone could have it.

      The Pi is not the modern equivalent, because most people have something that kicks the Pi's arse in their pockets. And some of them know how to write apps for it.

      So it's a nice toy for Makers. But it's not the saviour of the next generation.

      What would save the next generation would be a crash program of combined business development and applied science at secondary and undergrad level. Instead of dicking around with single-subject GCSEs and As, combine a group of subjects, including art, music, design, basic physics+chem+bio, and programming/technology, with business start-up skills.

      Unfortunately you can't buy a single doodad for all of that. But that doesn't mean it couldn't be possible with some imagination...

      And that's the problem, isn't it? The UK's educational system hates imagination. You can be trained to be a corporate spare part, and if daddy and mummy are rich enough you can qualify as a Hoxtonpreneur.

      But if you're some working class oik - who do you think you are trying to create a start-up?

      Good heavens - what would the world come to if the soiled toiling masses forgot their place and starting trying to run things for their own benefit. clear and loan-free?

      So - not invented here. Literally.

      It's a criminal and lunatic waste of talent. But there it is.

      1. David Hicks

        Re: More programmers?

        "What's needed isn't Moar Programming"

        So why are the leaders of industry always in the news bleating that they need more IT people and if we don't get any then they'll have to import them? And why are the job sites full of vacancies?

        (OK, so I know a partial answer is "they want cheaper people" and "they aren't paying enough", but still...)

        1. Sooty

          Re: More programmers?

          Most of the professional programmers, developers, software engineers, I've worked with over the years are no longer allowed to do it, they sneak around cobbling little tools and utilities together in their spare time to keep their hand in as the bulk of it has moved to somewhere cheaper. I'm not sure that teaching a new generation programming just so that they can supervise a sea of offshore coders and review some shocking quality stuff is that worth it.

          I like the idea of everyone being familiar with programming, especially if theyar e familar with doing it properly, but I'm not sure it will be the saviour of british computing when so few of the already qualified and experienced coders are actually allowed to do it as a job anymore.

  26. Paul Shirley

    did DIY programming actually die?

    I'd claim it didn't. What actually changed was:

    1: easy availability of prebuilt software for every popular platform removed the *need* to program just to use a computer

    2: (1) drove massive sales to the majority that don't enjoy programming, that would not have used computers otherwise

    Youngsters didn't stop learning to program, they just got massively outnumbered by the computer owning hordes that never would have learned it. Just throwing the opportunity at more of them won't magically get major change, DIY and self taught programming never went away, in fact it got easier and cheaper as the non-programming masses pushed down the price of both hardware and software. There just aren't that many of us that want to do it in a world with an endlessly increasing demand.

    The only way RPI can help is if it drives educators to try harder. That's probably only good for training up large numbers of low end coders for the grindingly dull stuff we all hate though.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Did "Mechanical Engineering ever die ?"

      No, there are just billions driving around in cars they can neither build nor fix.

      There is a still a need for well-educated and experienced mechanical engineers in many countries then and now. Don't ask for a mechanical engineering job when then the finance muppets had their Insanity Runs, though.

  27. agricola
    Boffin

    "Is the Rπ the savior (sic)..."

    Caveat: from an EE, ECE, CIS, Solid-State Physics prof:

    As one of my favorite (sic) (have you ever considered that if we Yanks had lost 'The Big One', we'd probably be speaking--and spelling--English today?) tee-shirts says, "What?! Do You Think I'm a Rocket Surgeon?"

    The obvious--to most, but I'll get there in a moment--answer is, "OF COURSE NOT"!

    Only an idiot would (I'll get there in a moment) so think, and formulate, and implement, a program based upon such a premise. Being a college teacher, I tend to ramble, so I'll make this shorter than I can.

    The problem with education at any level is that its direction and--most importantly--implementation has been hijacked by people who have no idea how to teach and motivate CHILDREN--those REAL, HONEST-TO-GOD PEOPLE, people, whose formative years are between two and seven.

    Until YOU get the "Professional Educators" out of the way of the education of our young, you will see only what you're now seeing: disaster. 'Nother (sic) caveat: I quit teaching, in no small part, because of this problem.

    Again: from someone who has seen for far too long what Cambridge and the Raspberry Pi Foundation has observed; and are trying, in their own small way, to provide a starting point for attacking the problem.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "Is the Rπ the savior (sic)..."

      Nobody stops your son from attending the local ham radio or computer club. Nobody stops you from educating your nephew about the ESSENCE of computing, which is mangling numbers and symbols, not painting nice pictures. Nobody stops you from writing a useful CS book for pupils.

      1. agricola
        Boffin

        "...NOBODY STOPS YOU..."

        Three points:

        1. Good arguments, all.

        2. The REAL message of your response totally escapes me.

        3. Since you've chosen the format for a reply to my (I--supposedly wrongly--thought) fairly-well-thought-out defense (sic) of one small step taken by some very selfless and very concerned individuals to START the stemming of a pernicious tide, I can assure you that we'll all be awaiting your VERY long list of EVERYTHING WHICH I AM NOT DOING BUT SHOULD BE, which no one is stopping me from doing.

        I DO have to question the logic of some of the items in your list as to what they have to do with, and how the results compare with the long-term effects of the efforts of Eben Upton, Cambridge University, the Raspberry Pi Foundation, and all who have selflessly devoted themselves to the increase in knowlege of our young people. But, then again, having taught logic for many years, I can assure you that your perception of logic can differ markedly from others'.

        We'll all be eagerly awaiting your voluminous additions to the list you've started.

        I will read every one. I will not speak to the level of possible boredom of anyone else.

        Warmest regards; hands across the sea; be careful what you wish for; and all that. ("Not ending a sentence with a preposition is one of those pathological rules of grammar up with which I will not put..."--Sir Winston Churchill).

  28. All names Taken
    Paris Hilton

    On one hand: tokenism, just mere tokenism. It looks like a solution but is no solution at all although it really is fantastic at looking like a solution of sorts.

    On the other hand: if it were not there what else could be done?

    Potential answer: how about meaningful training from the major it sectors even if it is limited in geographic footprint?

  29. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    I agree with you an many of your points, especially the one about the telly programs being a big part of the BBC computer fandom, and in spades about giving people an instant pay-off when trying something new like programming. The ability to immediately see and assess the results of one's endeavours was the reason Visual Basic became so popular for one thing. Simple robotics would seem to be an ideal way to hook a few programmers, especially if the robot is somehow extensible in capability (modular chassis?) and the challenges build in complexity as the term goes on.

    The only point at which your anti-Pi arguments fall apart is the lame reset button objection, which I would have expected any halfway competent programmer to be able to figure out: you unplug the *other* end of the cable. That's why your wall-wart has a USB plug socket too (unless you daftly bought one with an integral cable). Even then you can pull the wart for a reset, or better still use a power strip with a switch to do the job.

  30. TechnicalBoy

    Missing the Point?

    I think the genius of the PI is its lack of case. It's designed to demystify and simplify computers, not to necessarily be cheap or replace anything else. So, you've got a massive choice of OSs, with multiple programming options, and moderately easy access to motors, sensors, cameras, etc. This can make it a bit bewildering to use, with so many options, but the community is definitely stepping up to this. The free MagPi magazine is a great place to start:

    http://www.themagpi.com

    and the tutorials run by Adafruit are also great:

    http://learn.adafruit.com/category/raspberry-pi

    - check the examples there of the kit they're linked to, and see whether a cheap'n'cheeful laptop could do the same! It's also small (and low-power enough) enough to build INTO a lot of projects as a component.

    I also disagree that you're learning to program in Linux itself - there's very little coverage of anything this hard-core: as far as I can see it's all C, Scratch, Python, RISC, Java, XML, Fortran, MySQL, and so on.

    And in terms of the Mr Clever Clogs section, I agree with the broad thrust of this, but a lot is happening already. My 14 year-old son does the compusory ICT lessons (which bore him to tears), but has chosen Comp Science as a GCSE option (which he loves to bits), where he's programming in Python. His school bought 40 Pis as well. The teaching community needs more support to embrace this, but they're certainly working on it.

    Perhaps a more constructive approach would be to investigate who sets the current curriculum targets and see whether they can be helped to keep these realistic and relevant, and also ways to help local schools work with these?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Missing the Point?

      Thanks for the links to the magazines. Very good material !

      Regarding Python, I do think it is a fad. It needs a complex runtime and an interpreter to get executed. Ada, Pascal and even C is much more straight-forward for beginners to see the connection between "machine and software engineering artifact".

      E.g.

      INC(A) is something like ADD AX,1 (in x86, IIRC)

      Y:=X*5+77; is something like LD AX, $addressX; MUL AX,5 ; ADD AX,77; LD $addressY,AX (in x86 IIRC)

      So your son could see the direct connection between the high-level language and what the machine will do. As far as I understand Python, you cannot see the direct relationship.

      I am all for the RPI as everybody can see in my postings, but as a CS graduate and software engineer I don't think Python was a good choice for the "preferred language". If you really want to understand computers from top to the bottom, you need to see the relationship between high-level language and assembly instructions. Having an interpreter and complex runtime in between makes this much harder for the novice.

      1. David Hicks

        Re: Missing the Point?

        Python is not a fad, it is a very useful RAD language, and also good for quickly knocking out scripts. It's perfectly good for full-on app development where performance isn't an issue.

        I agree it's not the best thing in the world if you want kids to understand the real low-level stuff. But for beginners it's far more important to get them interested with rapid results (IMHO) than it is to get them understanding the whole stack. That can come with time.

  31. LeeS

    Good article, I grew up sat in a kitchen with a black and white telly typing basic into a ZX81, but it gave me a hobby and a career thats served me pretty well. I also agree completely that it helps develop logical thinking and fault finding which is seriously missing in kids these days (perhapa not having a 'reset' button is a bonus!)

    Then I see the media spouting about the pi, while it is great is doesnt make programmers or developers out of kids that play online.

    How often do you hear 'my lad/daughter/nephew/niece knows all about computers, they can do anything'. Actually no, if you pointed most of them at a line of code they wouldn't have a clue, all they can do is web browse and install games because they don't actually understand the hardware, or architecture and don't understand the fault finding process. I see it today with mechanics, looking at a snap on pc to find a fault when the wheels have fallen off!

    Anyway well said

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Standard prog language for Pi

    We need something with the simplicity of the BBC basic with advanced programming libraries for games. And it needs to be standardized. Also pre made Pi computers with everything in a box like the 8-bit computers of the 80s would have been cool.

    1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

      Re: Standard prog language for Pi

      BBC BASIC has the simplicity of BBC BASIC, and ARM BBC BASIC runs on the Raspberry Pi.

  33. Dick Emery

    It's not the pupils need teaching

    It's not the pupils that need teaching. It's the teachers need training first. School IT departments generally lack skilled IT programmers anyhow. They are also not paid enough for the task at hand to be lured into the profession in the first place. If you want an army of kids with complex skills you will need to do more than connect up some cheapo box with Linux running on it and have some wazzock barely out of college themselves (or worse still someone old and completely out of touch with current trends) trying to teach it to a disinterested class of Xbox/PS generation kids.

  34. TheDoc

    Do you actually know any kids?

    Perhaps it's not the norm, but my nine year old is learning games programming in primary school ICT lessons. They use Scratch, and are building some fairly complex platform games, learning all about computer logic. I agree you don't need a Pi to teach kids computing - it's not about the hardware, it's about the teachers being prepared to teach it, and with simple languages like Scratch, the teachers aren't too daunted.

    What holds other kids back is having teachers who don't know how easy it is. Any kid can write a program to make a cat run around the screen in a 1 hour lesson, but the teachers don't realize how easy it is. Train them up, and the kids interest and skills will grow.

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    couldn't agree more

    Being educated in the 80's I was taught a mix of CS and programming at school , I still like to tinker with comp languages on my decrepid old Linux box. It would seem you're preaching to the converted here though, and that for things to change politicians are the ones who need to understand the importance of all this, good luck with that though. Look across the atlantic and American children/teenagers are taught these skills, I believe Java is the usual introduction to programming they receive. Funny hey! our youngsters only get to learn how to use well known commercial software products, and are then considered IT educated.....We're selling them short surely?

  36. peter collard

    Managing Server farm

    Having worked in the City a few years ago, the idea of running Windows server farms soon gave way to Unix/Linux simply due to the flexibility and networkability of being able to run shell scripts that standardised operations. After seeing entire windows server networks crippled by one GUI misclick on one machine by an "expert", the whole unix/linux concept of scripting - while appearing antiquated - was really very appealing in terms of robustness, repeatability across multiple servers. If you have 1000 databases to manage and don't want to be kept up doing support every night then standardisation and scripts are the way to go - forget windows unless you are good at Perl.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Managing Server farm

      You appear to have been misinformed.

      You can script in Windows environments, usually but not limited to Visual Basic or now Powershell, not sure where Perl came from and you can break things with a script just as badly if not worse than running a command directly.

      Commands work the same whether you type them in, call them via a script or click on an icon in a GUI tool.

      Scripting has never been considered antiquated by those who actually have to work with systems.

      Me, I use a mix of Windows, Linux and BSD, but then I pick the best tool for the given job, not what someone has told me is the One True Way. I'm not paid for ideology, just getting the job done!

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I have a couple of these ...

    http://mbed.org/

    ... CPU's not as powerful (only an ARM Cortex-M microcontroller) but it is trivial to whack in a breadboard and hack together some fun projects interacting with the "real world" - no soldering required.

    The whole toolchain is web-based and you download over USB from the browser (just drag and drop the program to the flashdisk). Not as flexible as some of its bigger brothers, but for teaching kids it hides all of the grotty bits they don't need to know about (yet) and lets them focus on the fun stuff.

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I think the Pi arrived too late. The biggest threat to getting kids into real computing is the app stores and tablets.

    To be a quick and easy development introduction the Pi needs to boot into a programming environment immediately. Not boot into a desktop.

    With old machines you switched them on and you were at a BASIC prompt immediately. While it was simple stuff you could change screen colours, make sounds and move things around on the screen. Try doing that on Windows, OSX or Linux.

  39. bed

    And the point is?

    I started skipping through this article soon after the, ignorant, critism about the implied extra cost of the "required" peripherals and the desk space taken up. Hmm. I got one today with a case and PSU. It is now hiding headless somewhere upstairs and I am using it downstairs by the fireside.

    1. Stevie Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: And the point is?

      started skipping through this article soon after the, ignorant, critism about the implied extra cost of the "required" peripherals and the desk space taken up. Hmm. I got one today with a case and PSU. It is now hiding headless somewhere upstairs and I am using it downstairs by the fireside."

      So your extra peripheral was a fully plumbed network and whole 'nother computer? What did that cost, then?

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I don't see why anyone thinks that learning programming requires taking a usable computer, the household computer, and installing linux on it. That sounds more like a system administrator task.

    A user with limited rights can learn about programming on just about any common computer with a simple text editor and an html page with a script block.

    While I would have loved to have access to something like the RPi when I was a kid and using a Vic 20, but times have changed. As a programmer, I see it more as device that would be interesting to hardware hobbyists, its a much less expensive starter option than Lego Mindstorms.

  41. heyrick Silver badge

    Corrections?

    The Pi needs a keyboard and mouse. You can get a pack with bog standard ones for under a tenner from a supermarket. Or scrounge - the optical mouse I am using was being thrown out at work. I opened it up, cleaned out the coffee, now it works fine. SD card? You can get going with RISC OS on a 2Gb card. Or a 4Gb card for the NOOBS. What is it, about a quid per gigabyte or something? HDMI monitor? You can start with an old television, and upgrade to something better later. I am using a 1280x1024 monitor (cost three quid) and an HDMI to VGA adaptor (a tenner off eBay). Power supply? Actually I cannot tell you, it runs quite happily from the USB port on my eeePC. So, a Pi setup can cost under fifty quid if you keep your eyes open.

    Oh, and the reset button? My Pi has a two pin header just to the left of the HDMI socket (with the USB power connector on the left and the USB on the right). Short this with a screwdriver, spoon, hair clip, or anything else metal that you can reach [*], the Pi will reset itself. Very useful if you cock up writing an interrupt handler! No need to unplug stuff.

    * - I even once reset my Pi by gently tapping the pins with the bottom of a can of soup that I was eating (cold)! If there is a competition for "strangest thing you've used to reset a Pi", count me in!

  42. Tromos

    It isn't going to happen

    Forget the next generation of bedroom programmers, it just isn't going to come about. It happened in the 80s because of the lack of Linux distros and software packages and internet. Few people were content to be limited to what their computer came supplied with. The only options were a limited range of (usually quite expensive) software, entering source code from hobbyist magazines (the cover cassettes soon followed) or do-it-yourself. Even the purchased software often led to a future programmer as I know of several people who learnt Z80 assembler purely to hack Jet Set Willy, etc. These days, they'd just look for an extra lives patch on the internet. Back then, every classroom needed at least one machine code expert. There is no incentive now to learn anything beyond using Google to find whatever it is you want and then download it. The magic has gone out of computing and nobody will ever again struggle with trying to get their complex text based role-playing adventure squeezed into 4 kilobytes of RAM.

  43. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

    Bollocks

    "Secondhand computers have negligible value and can be bought for pocket change from secondhand shops." Take the bits from the ones in your garden shed and fit your Pi to them.

    "Broadband is considered an essential service these days, and even poor families have it. So it seems fair to suggest that most households have a computer, even if it’s just for" downloading stuff for the Pi

    If there’s a lack of budding programmers in this country, it isn’t because they don’t have access to a computer.

    “Everyone can afford a Pi”

    But that’s not the only cost, is it? You also need a a machbox, a ummm donnection to an old tv with HDMI input, a power supply, some SD cards, an old USB hub, a not too badly junked keyboard, a mouse that still works~ish, a bit of old network cable, and a fair amount of bedroom flood space. And as a bonus for budding geeks and little children everywhere: it's far messier, too.

    Who else is leaving the nest?

    Because this authoir has passed the sell by date.

    Now, you, the adult geek, probably have most of those extras rattling around in a drawer in your Man Cave. But the Tim Berners-Lee of Tomorrow - who, at this moment, is reading comics and watching Almost Naked Animals - does not. Neither does the overworked IT department of your local school. They can’t just buy a lorry-load of Pis and hand them out - they’d have to find all the other bits too. After that, there’s a whole world of connectivity and support pain.

    1. JamesTQuirk

      Re: Bollocks

      Yeah, my other nick is thecomputercase around the net, I got it by having a mutant Amiga 500 when I was younger, in a old wooden fruit box, so I could attach extra scsi drives to a590 controller, and have a multi selector for 3 different OS roms, and a multitude of other crap I can't even remember now ... but I loved the way Older PC people would die when they saw it, and almost fall over when it worked ...

      Before that it was a mutant Commodore 64, with a "coachroach" turbo ROM, reset switch, and a few other gizmatrons ....

      Play is answer, let kids play with it, let them break it, fix it, let them try again ....

      After reading this artical & posts, I am going out to buy a PI, see what it can do, I have been playing with Parrot Drone, its a flying Linux Box !!!!!, 1 GB Ram, USB Slot (32gb key=OK), plus avionics....

      Had DSL & TinyCore on ii, working on a HAMRadio control version, Wonderful Linux Software Repostitorys !!!

      HOLY flying onion/tor servers, BATMAN !!!!

  44. Benito

    Fragile?

    Is the usb micro connector fragile? I've not managed to break one on any device yet, despite some abuse that would make some old connectors cringe. It was designed to be robust, here's an excerpt from the usb Wikipedia article:

    "The newer Micro-USB receptacles are designed for up to 10,000 cycles of insertion and removal between the receptacle and plug, compared to 1,500 for the standard USB and 5,000 for the Mini-USB receptacle. This is accomplished by adding a locking device and by moving the leaf-spring connector from the jack to the plug, so that the most-stressed part is on the cable side of the connection. This change was made so that the connector on the less expensive cable would bear the most wear instead of the more expensive micro-USB device."

  45. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    reminds an old fart of his youth

    When I see the Pi it reminds me of the 8088 motherboards I would wirewrap from an Intel kit. Nearly 30 years ago. It came with a software monitor in ROM and the 8052 UART connection to a dinosaur terminal.

    It has a emotional pull.

    I'm a busy professional software engineer with a whole lot of work I've got to get done so haven't yet even bought or played with a Pi, but if I was 16 years old again...

  46. Sirius Lee

    Reflects my experience

    I agree with this author 100%.

    I, too, thought the Pi would be a good way to interest my kids. So I signed up and ordered one long before they were available and waited. Eventually it arrived and I was disappointed. I knew there was no keyboard, power supply, etc. but there are spares in my cave. But seeing this hub surrounded by wires did not inspire any of my kids, just the opposite. They can build a PC but those big cases, ugly as they are, serve to hide wiring.

    My kids have grown up with Windows. High quality displays attached by a S-VGA or even better a DVI connector. Rarely, if ever, do they touch a command line and even then only with guidance from me. "You want me to get the computer to do something by typing a command?" Yes, they do it in games but not in Windows.

    So imagine their horror at seeing the Pi boot to the command prompt. Oh, and the display was terrible. It was probably the screen I chose or the HDMI connector but it was horrible. It was like hooking a Spectrum up to a cathode ray TV screen used to be. Back then it was OK, there was nothing better to compare with.

    By now it's all I can do to stop them running, screaming, out of the room. But I persist. We start Linux and see the GUI. I'm really pleased. To kids used to Windows XP and Windows 7 it was an alien, nightmare world where things look kind of the same but in a grotesquely different way.

    I use Linux daily, mainly at the command prompt, so to me this is all normal. I really failed to understand how different is the Pi environment, how disenchanting this is for a modern kid who just wants to chat with friends over WhatsApp or play some edition of COD or watch a movie fragments on YouTube. Maybe even do their homework.

    The Pi is a good idea. But the hardware is just the start if it is to be used to motivate kids to learn. As the author suggests, it's missing all the learning materials. One of the problems of much open source software is the lack of documentation - because engineers hate writing documentation. It doesn't float their boat. That's OK for much open source because the users are going to be knowledgeable and will be able to find posts from others to answer questions.

    It's clear to me that the Pi is a device created by electronics enthusiasts who, like their counterparts in the open source world dislike writing documentation much less the structured learning materials that will be required if the Pi is to be anything more than a curiosity.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Reflects my experience

      I don't agree, kids need a reason to become interested in programming and low level stuff, it depends on how it grabs them and to a certain extent who teaches you, and what their friends are doing.

      If a kid doesn't want to program on a laptop or desktop or have an interest in electronics they are hardly likely to be interested in the PI at that point, in the same way as if you point them at any other hobby, but the PI at least gives a chance that they will become interested in the lower level stuff which is not tied up with a nice neat bow if they experience it in the right environment (how many kids in the Eighties learnt FOR NEXT loops in BASIC from friends just to annoy the hell out of staff in Dixons?).

      The UI and the installed software in Raspbian is fine and I've had no problems with the graphics using a decent cable and monitor and have also run X remotely quite happily from other PC's, running it headless is pretty normal for me and command line SSH or X runs fine, also there's a wealth of information blogs and projects online for the PI and an increasing number of books, just use any search engine and you'll usually find a solution that works or confirmation it doesn't.

      If you think the PI is bad in respect of support and information then try the Beaglebone Black then you'll really have something to complain about (though in fairness they make far fewer of them that the PI, the community is therefore much smaller, and it's focus is not on education).

      1. JamesTQuirk

        Re: Reflects my experience

        Don't bad mouth the FOR/NEXT loop thing, Kmart Stole my software ........

        I use to type multi-line one on Vic20, C64, Amstards, etc, my Local Kmart saved it and used to advertised .... Bastards !!!!! I though "Apple sucks !!!" & and other noble sentimates looked so cute ....

        I just ordered a PI, gunna have a look at basic, Why can't typing a program in to understand how it works, have any interest for KIDS since Cartiridges, CDROM, DVD, BLUERAY, hmmm thinking ...

        I started programming when "Telengard" on C64 pinged me off one night, I coded my own, I typed in others to see how it COULD be done, I headButted the C64 regularly when I lost hours on typing with a power glitch, Eventually generating running software of my own...

        Kids today have same drive to explore, but if they put "HALO9" in a mag, (a really thick one), how many would type it in, including a Machine language dump of 3D Images, to get the FREE game they expect ? (Not that I ever got what I expected after typing one in, COVERGRAPHIC<>SOFTWARE)

        I am gunna have a look at REXX & basic, as its inter process control you get easy basic, but lower/higher level software & language as well, but I think maybe some easy "pretty" software to type in may work, it seemed to work here, got me INTERESTED, which is what is needed with young, it seems these days that it has handed all on a platter ....

        It bothers me, I watch DRWHO even the really old ones, cause its about the story, my IMAGINATION fills the BBC Props dept Black Hole, but you can't get many to watch one for more than a minute, if Spielberg or Lucas etc haven't layed it out in front of them in 3D and made sure their IMAGINATIONS are the ones KIDS use.......

        or maybe I am just old & getting Grumpy !!

  47. JaitcH
    Unhappy

    Time for an RPi upgrade

    As a home/school experimental device the RPi has proved it's worth BUT compared to the newer competitors, it's a little aged.

    I bought some hoping we could use them in some short-run projects.

    Hardly fit for commercial use. We ran tests on the units, the vibration tests made them like birds with flapping wings! The irregular outline shape, caused by protruding connectors, etc. makes the cards harder to us - even house.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Time for an RPi upgrade

      "As a home/school experimental device the RPi has proved it's worth" ...and therein lies your answer, it's never pretended to be anything else, the fact that people are using it for more is besides the point, there are a growing number of small scale low power boards emerging, pick one that better suits your needs.

      This reminds me of the arguments when the iPad first came out "well you can't program using it or write a book easily" ...1000% NOT what it was designed for.

  48. JayB
    Go

    Pi and Education

    I'm reading a lot of "this needs to be taught better" and "people need to get involved" yet I'm seeing very few "I've got involved" comments.

    Part of the problem we have, and not just with Programming, ALL STEM subjects is we're asking people whose (usually but not always) background, career and qualifications is that of, a teacher, not a professional Tech. It's no wonder that the material we all want/need as industrial bods isn't being taught, because we're not involved!

    There's a number of organisations out there, from our own Professional Bodies, eg IET, IMechE, Royal Soc. Eng, BCS, to other groups such as STEMNET and Greenpower, who are all trying to encourage and help get kids into all these tech subjects, but they need our support and help. Code Clubs are great and generally your average school is grateful if they can get some help to set and run these. I personally do work with STEMNET as a volunteer, so go into schools every so often and the response is fantastic. I see regular pleas from schools to help them teach Pi's, sadly not my field so I can't help. Can you?

    If we as professional tech heads, be it Programmers, Designers, Scientists etc etc etc cannot get off our butts and enthuse the kids, then please don't be surprised that teachers aren't able to do it, and don't be surprised when the whole gig falls on it's arse because have a bunch of kids who have no idea how to be a techie. Pi's, Arduino's, these are just tools, and like all tools, needs a person to wield it and show others how to.

    So, challenge for us all... you believe strongly enough about the subject? Get involved. Find your local STEMNET Rep, approach your kid's school, go to your Professional body, whatever.... just get involved.

  49. Vision Aforethought
    Childcatcher

    Most who I know who have a Pi...

    ...are in the their late 30s to up to 50!

    The very people who coded on the Sinclair or Acorn machines here in the UK or Apple II etc in the US during the early to mid 80s.

    No one I know who is under 25 has any skills to even code in Basic or html never mind develop with something like the Pi. Today's youth appear to be any of the following: Baristas, Burger flippers, Hair dressers, Media studies students, 'working' for overseas charities (effectively, an unpaid expenses covered holiday) or hanging around McDonald's or shopping Malls.

    People have too many things to enjoy today that provide instant gratification, so there is no incentive to create a machine or program ('app') that provides a sense of achievement in the same way as we entrepreneurs of the 80s did. (I designed and co-developer AMX Pagemaker etc on the BBC Micro etc - and did it because I wanted it myself, and fortunately, so did a lot of other people.)

    Either way, Pi is a superb initiative and you can bet the educated Chinese will lap them up to use to (eventually) create the very products that will compete with us (Apple, Samsung etc) in the future, just as the Sinclair and Acorn machines created the IT professionals of the 90s in the West.

  50. Mr Flibble
    Boffin

    Reset button?

    See those two holes a little way to the left of the HDMI socket (towards the power socket)? You can solder in a couple of pins there then attach a standard PC reset button. Press it and, yes, one reset Pi.

    (Unfortunately, older models don't have these two holes. No reset buttons for them…)

  51. Chris Taylor 3
    Happy

    Stuck in the past

    Where I see my kid coding (kind of) is in writing/modifying scripts for command blocks in Minecraft. It's coding in a basic environment, but the results are appealing within _his_ context rather than my trying to timewarp us back to when cutting edge games were distributed by magazine to be painstakingly typed into a ZX81 ("guide your 'V' through an increasingly narrow and twisty valley of paired 'I's" etc.).

  52. Simone

    What is the Pi for?

    There is a lot in the article and comments above that I fail to agree with, although most of that comes down to one key question: "What is the Pi for?"

    I work in IT, but in a Business Analysis sort of way. Programming is not part of my job, but is a hobby. I had a BBC when I was young (ish). Looking at the stories about IT issues or failures often reveals that the IT project failed to gain the understanding between what the customer wanted and what was coded. In between these is the design step that needs people on both sides of the contract to understand both the IT principles and the business processes. I often visit clients where the "office youngster" has "written" a spreadsheet for some office task that saves a lot of clerical effort but puts enormous holes in the process auditability. We teach youngsters MS Office without the principles that need to be followed in IT, and they find themselves ahead of those that have not been taught. I got into IT in the first place because I knew more than others, not through being taught programming. I have learned the rest by seeing the same mistakes made over and over again.

    If more people in organisations understood IT principles enough so they can have meaningful discussion with an IT Consultant they have just hired those IT projects could be designed better. I don't think those skills are being taught at schools. The internet is full of projects that someone has started and dropped or is "rambling on" because there is not a good understanding of what it should do; these projects need design, management, leadership, documentation and testing, none of which need expert code writers. People do not need the Pi to do these things. Many of these projects would not run on a Pi, so it wouldn't be a help anyway. I think we should be encouraging people to help on these projects.

    The Pi Foundation have stated that the Pi is not for classrooms but for students; a subtle difference that suggests they would be better in after school clubs than in mainstream classes. Like science, engineering and languages some people won't see the point and just want the IT in their phone or games console to "just work". It is the others, who find the subjects interesting or even fascinating, that we should be filtering out and encouraging, not for a life of programming, but for the other things that are important to business.

    So, what is the Pi for? I don't think there is only one answer that it can do justice to, but it can be a good thing for many uses. The limitations of the Pi make it easy to find alternatives for many of these uses. Sadly the Pi community rather exploded and fragmented because of that early success and there does not appear to be adequate leadership in a lot of those areas. Hopefully something can rise out of the smoke; something that is worthwhile that uses the Pi and other equipment, not something that can be done because we have a Pi. I see the Pi as more of a major piece of an electronics / computing kit rather than a computer; something that invites the buying of additional parts on birthdays rather than a one-off purchase. I hope that it can catch and encourage those that can develop an interest, but at least it is cheap enough to risk on those that don't see the point of it.

    1. JamesTQuirk

      Re: Whats the Pi for?

      Sorry about this, but PI is ... amazingily complex, and mine isn't even delivered yet,

      A computer ..

      A control system ...

      A brain with neural network....

      If u give it a ir camera/sensor, and a good programme, it will say hullo ..

      If u give it a ir camera/sensor, and a bad programme, and a robotic leg it will kick you in the Shin ..

      Thats the Pi, it can do anything .....

      I wonder what will happen if I grouped half a dozen in a net & tie it to 3d printers & Robotic Arms to Manufacture a army of drones to kick your butt ?

      Was I awake then ? Sorry dreaming again ....

      MSOFFICE is a overpriced typewriter, I have only used WORKS in last 43 years, Office was always overkill for wankers ....

      1. Bob Hoskins

        Re: Whats the Pi for?

        Take your lithium you fruit cake.

        1. JamesTQuirk

          Re: Whats the Pi for?

          hmmmmm, lithium Fruit Cake, can I use a pi to bake it ?

  53. Bob Hoskins
    WTF?

    The Raspberry Pi: Is it REALLY the saviour of British computing?

    Answer: No.

  54. Gaius Maximus

    I was thinking that something like the Pi would make a great basis for clustering. That's what I see as the next great leap in computing. Although, I'd like to see a model C with a capacity for, say, 4GB RAM, and a second network jack.

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