Linux Beginners SIG, February 2013, Raspberry Pi and Python

February 12, 2013
6:00 pmto9:00 pm



This month I’m going to show off the world’s smallest and cheapest full-function Linux computer, namely the Raspberry Pi. It’s the size of a credit card, and assuming you already have an extra micro-USB power supply (i.e., from a smartphone, etc.), a spare HD card of 4MB or larger, and an HDMI cable, you can be up and running for the grand total of $35, not counting tax and shipping.

It runs full-featured Debian, so you can install and run thousands of applications. It isn’t the fastest computer in the world by any means — you can consider it the guts of a cheap smartphone — but there are several possible uses:

1. What it was intended for: a cheap computer for children.
2. A fully-usable video streamer (it has built-in ethernet) to your HDTV.
3. A very cheap network file server, using an external USB drive. (It has two USB ports.)
4. A network-connected video and still camera (a $25 add-on).
5. A way to experiment with hardware and software without the possibility of screwing up your main computer:
a. It has the pin-outs so you can hook a breadboard and all sorts of sensors and switches to it.
b. It boots from the SD card, not its internal memory, so you can have several operating systems on different cards. Just plug in a different card and re-boot.

The second topic for this month is a very high-level introduction to the Python programming and scripting language. Python has the advantage of being more readable than Perl and probably has a shorter learning curve. It is extremely powerful, though. For example, the Calibre ebook-management program, which quite a few of you use, is 100% written in Python. (Python, Perl, Ruby, etc. are all cross-platform, so the same code runs on Windows, OSX, Linux, or whatever.)

Full disclosure: I normally use Perl for scripts, because I know it backwards and forwards. YMMV.

See you Tuesday.


See the Linux Beginners SIG page for location, contacts, etc

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