The Raspberry Pi is not going to change the world

…at least not in the way that people think it will. I keep seeing things all over the internet about what people plan to do with their Raspberry Pi when they finally get one. I swear on some of the threads it seems like each post is trying to come up with something more asinine than the last.

“I’m gonna stream netflix” “I’m gonna make an autonomous robot” “I’m gonna play Crysis 3″

Edit: If you don’t know what the Raspberry Pi is, or are not a very technical, skip to the end of this post. My sister read this, and asked me to define half of the nouns I used. She recommended that I summarize this post in the same words that I summarized it for her. If that sounds like you, then this blog is probably not for you, but thank you for visiting.

Unfortunately the RPi is being hyped by the same people that love to push linux on all of their non-techie friends by saying “You can do whatever you want with it!” Not quite. You can do anything in linux that you want if you can also write your own scripts and compile programs from the ground up. You can do anything with an RPi that you can figure out how to program in Python and then figure out how to interface to the GPIO.

For most people the possibilities just got really limited.

I greatly admire what the Foundation is working towards and I think that they are on the verge of getting a huge group of kids interested in computer science in a way that no one has yet. I’m just tired of hearing people think that they will suddenly be able to do things with an underpowered computer that they most certainly can’t do with the PCs they currently use to troll the internet.

Will I get one? Yes. But I don’t really have high hopes. I am hoping that I can use it as a WordPress-capable web server, and maybe a NAS controller, simply because of the ultra-low power consumption. I think it would be really cool if someone figured out how to use its graphics processing abilities for folding@home, but I understand that even if all of those things do work, they will probably perform so poorly that I will keep using other, beefier machines for those purposes.

While, as an electronics guy, the GPIO makes my ears perk up, I think I will still primarily use ultra-cheap PIC microcontrollers for most of my digital projects. The true selling point of the RPi for DIY is its ability to connect to the internet in a way that makes the Arduino look like its sending smoke signals in comparison. (I’ll be ranting about the Arduino culture at some point)

If you really want to change the world with a Raspberry Pi, make a donation to the Raspberry Pi Foundation

 

Non-techie summary: The Raspberry Pi is a credit-card sized $35 computer. It is not going to be a very useful tool for media consumption, or advanced development. However it has already let a huge group of little kids get into computer science, by letting them program simple scripts and create basic video games. It is severely underpowered for high-level computing, but is an excellent education platform.

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