raspberry-pi-logoFor my birthday this year I picked up a Raspberry Pi 3 Model B to check it out and learn a little bit more about the popular mini-computer. The machine has a 1.2GHz 64-bit quad-core ARMv8 CPU, 1 GB RAM, 802.11n Wireless, Bluetooth, 4 USB ports, Camera Interface, 3d Video Capable, with a Micro SD slot. If that reads like a lot of computer it is and it fits in a case about the size of a deck of cards. Compared to my first 386 machine that was running a processor speed of 33Mhz with 4 MB of RAM and weighed about what a car battery does and it seems even more impressive. (That’s 36 times more processing power and 250 times more RAM.)

What can you do with this computer?

I feel like this is a cost-effective solution for a lot of computer uses especially at home. For me I have a laptop, a server, and a couple of machines that are around the house. Another computer isn’t something that was going to solve a computing need issue but for a lot of folks the $64 starting price is a huge win. Especially when the NOOBS (New Out Of the Box) OS includes a functional word processor and spreadsheet program similar to Word and Excel. Add a few games and a nice web browser and you can replace most of what you do at home with this machine. It is great for a home theater where you could use it for Netflix, Hulu or web surfing on a large screen.

What is the downside?

You don’t know Linux and you’ve been living in a Windows world too long. Don’t worry NOOBS has a graphical interface and most of what you want to do is available from the first boot. Want to get fancy? You can – right now I am running a web server on my small machine. I am researching writing a Twitterbot to automatically post for me. There is plenty you can do on this platform and how far you decide to push things is up to you. Learning Linux isn’t hard and using the terminal may make you a better windows user. So the downside is minimal and if all else fails you can turn the machine into a RetroPie/Nintendo Gaming System.

Want to build your own Raspberry Pi?

These are the parts and software you’ll need to get started. I bought mine from Amazon and found the prices to be competitive and the delivery to be within two days (thanks Prime). You can always buy direct from the Raspberry Pi Foundation but Amazon’s prices were better and you didn’t have to buy a package – you could select the individual parts you wanted.

I’ve had a lot of fun with this machine and plan on posting more as I do more with it. I’ll do a write-up on the LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP) Server and possibly post a link to that in the near future. If you end up buying the parts and need help let me know. I am not an expert but I have learned a lot over the past month on how to get started. As I continue to grow the ‘internet of things’ at work and home I’ll share more about what we’re doing.