In amongst not posting daily to the blog, I’ve been not getting through all the photos I’ve been wanting to select for posting here and elsewhere. At least I sorted out a five-month backlog of family photos—just before we went away last week for half-term and generated a new one.

As a small nod to all that behind-the-scenes activity, here’s a photo from Charleton Fruit Farm near Montrose at the end of July, a pick-your-own place where we enjoyed a brief burst of sun.


Which reminds me of another Raspberry I’ve been playing with. I went along to a talk by Eben Upton at the Turing Festival in August, a great behind-the-scenes look at what drove the development of the Raspberry Pi. He handed one around the audience, and at the end had a bagful for sale, so I bought one. As functional computers go, a Pi is about as impulse-purchasable as they come.

It was a while before I did much with it. I was waiting on a PiBow case, for one thing, so that I didn’t damage the card somehow. Once that arrived, I finally got around to sorting out the other bits and pieces it needed. A bit of research on Amazon provided the power supply, wifi adapter, HDMI-VGA adaptor and keyboard (all my spare old keyboards are Mac, so I needed a PC one); a computer graveyard in an out-of-the-way corner at work provided an old laser mouse and Dell CRT monitor; I had a USB hub I wasn’t using much; and while sorting through an old box in the attic, I found a pair of powered speakers we bought years ago for a portable CD player we were never going to use again in this iPod age.

I loaded a spare SD card with the Raspbian “wheezy” image to run the thing. Fortunately, I’d had enough contact with Linux via the Acer Aspire One netbook I was using quite a lot a few years ago (although that’s tailed off now that its battery has died) that I wasn’t intimidated by all the command-line set-up instructions. The only real glitch came when I tried booting it and was getting no picture on the monitor; that turned out to need some tweaks to the config.txt file on the SD card (something I discovered on the Amazon reviews for an entirely different model of HDMI-VGA adapter). Once that was sorted, it all worked. Setting up a desktop environment rather than the default command-line was straightforward, and the wifi wasn’t too hard to configure on my university network. And so...

Raspberry Pi

Total cost including the Pi itself was approximately £85, but if I’d had to buy a basic VGA monitor, mouse, USB hub, speakers and SD card I would have been out as much again, although at least it would have been an LCD monitor rather than an obsolete CRT.

Now that it works I’m not sure what I’ll do with it, but my son is only a few years from prime beginner-programmer age, so it could well lie in his future. And it’s fun to have a teeny-tiny Linux box kicking around. It’s fun just looking at it and marvelling that it’s more powerful than any computer I used last century.

Meanwhile, come the new year I’ll be spending about twenty times as much (or ten, depending what I count as Pi expenses) to replace my creaking seven-year-old home iMac with one of the new ones that have finally been announced. So, amortised over seven years, one annual slice of Apple costs about the same as a Pi.

26 October 2012 · Infotech