7ony (7ony) wrote,

Blogging and the Rasberry Pi

I was wide awake by 5 am, a good 2 hours earlier than my usual waking time, but I decided to get up, and here I sit in jeans and a red long sleeve tee shirt doing something I haven't done in a while. LJ blogging. I wear tee shirts now after avoiding them for seventy-odd years. And long sleeves too. I haven't worn long sleeved shirts for many years. I'm wearing red because Kathy asked me too. That's a color I don't often wear at this time of the year. You know, Christmas, red apparel, rotund man with a white beard. Little kids tend to follow me.

Logan and Angelina will be here later today -- a music concert to attend at the venerable Cain's Ballroom in Tulsa. I look forward to seeing them this weekend. A virus caused them to miss our Thanksgiving feast. As I write, Kathy is in the kitchen making pies, pecan and pumpkin.

I have a new toy that I brought myself for Christmas, a $50 Raspberry Pi computer kit. The Pi is a small low-cost educational computer developed in England as part of an effort to encourage math, science and technology at an early age. The hardware, about the size of a bandaid box, combines a general purpose processor with an ARM for graphics processing. The Pi is powered by a phone charger supply, interactive input is via a usb wireless keyboard and mouse, and a HDMI port provides display output for a 1080p hdtv. Internet access is done through a wired ethernet connection or through a wifi usb dongle. A SD card provides up to 32 gigabytes of long-lived memory and the pi has 512 megabytes of ephemeral memory on the board. There are also 20 programmable I/O lines for digital experimentation. The favored operating system is a stripped down XDE Debian Linux called Raspian. Out of the box, the Raspberry Pi runs at 700 mhz, but can be overclocked over 1000 mhz. I'm running about 950. Respectable, not speedy, but then the Raspian window system is not a memory and cycle hog like Microsoft Windows.

In addition its use as a beginning computer for school children--the Raspberry Pi supports a full suite of software: web browsers, office, Mathematica, Minecraft, and software development tools--other popular uses for the Pi are streaming Internet media boxes and robotic controllers. One company has used it in a mixed-drink maker product.

My plan is less ambitious. I want to use our tv as a standalone and continuous mp3 player while displaying a slideshow of family pictures. I've tried doing this before with old retired computers with limited success. Retired computers tend to have hardware issues; they were retired for a reason, and don't run long unattended. Also I used a full-blown operating system with provided display and sound software and the result suffered from performance problems. With the pi, I hope to avoid performance problems by using the underlying linux command-driven components without the overhead of the window system.

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