Raspberry Pi 2: Six Things You Can (And Can't) Do - InformationWeek
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2/11/2015
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Raspberry Pi 2: Six Things You Can (And Can't) Do

Now is a good time to look at what you can -- and can't -- do with a brand new Raspberry Pi 2.

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If the words "Raspberry Pi" make you think of dessert more than creative hacking, then it's time for you to renew your geek credentials. The newest version of the "RasPi," the Raspberry Pi 2, provides the perfect excuse to do just that.

The original Raspberry Pi changed the way many engineers and developers thought about the possibilities of an embedded system. A $35 Linux server in a 3" x 5" package, the RasPi allowed developers to write complex control systems using the same languages and operating system functions that they might have used in the business support world.

[ What other options exist for programming the Raspberry Pi 2? Read Google Launches Coder For Raspberry Pi. ]

The newest version has the same I/O capabilities coupled with much more RAM (1 gigabyte versus 256 megabytes in the original) and a dramatically faster CPU (a quad core 900 MHz ARMv7 versus the original 700 MHz ARMv6k). The new speed and power have changed what is possible with the Raspberry Pi, but there are still some limitations that must be kept in mind.

The Raspberry Pi 2 is a bump in power and speed from the original.

(Image: Raspberry Pi Foundation)

The Raspberry Pi 2 is a bump in power and speed from the original.

(Image: Raspberry Pi Foundation)

One of the most intriguing sets of possibilities came from Microsoft's announcement that Windows 10 Embedded will be available on the Raspberry Pi 2. The announcement has led to some hyperbole about cheap workstations and budget corporate assets. There's no question that individuals and organizations are doing amazing things with these little systems, but now seems a good time to look at what you can -- and can't -- do with a Raspberry Pi 2.

  • You Can Run Windows 10 Embedded -- Windows 10 Embedded, like the embedded versions of earlier Windows operating systems, is a command-line version of the OS core designed to power control systems, kiosks, appliances, and other devices for which the Windows user interface isn't required. It allows a developer to use the Microsoft developer tools and attach the embedded devices to a network under Microsoft Active Directory control and management.
  • You Can't Run Microsoft Office -- Office won't run on Windows 10 Embedded because the products need all of those fancy user interface pieces that the Embedded product doesn't have. There are additional reasons, but the takeaway is that you can't replace your Windows desktop with a $35 computer in an Altoids box. Sorry.
  • You Can Build a Better Supercomputer -- People started building Raspberry Pi supercomputers with the Model A. For a researcher with a small budget (or just a very curious hobbyist) the possibilities inherent in a bunch of cheap Linux computers and a pile of Legos are almost unlimited (and absolutely irresistible). With more memory and four times as many compute cores on each device, it should be possible to build much more capable supercomputers at minimal expense.

Researchers at the University of Southampton built one of the first Raspberry Pi supercomputers.




(Image: Simon Cox, University of Southampton)

Researchers at the University of Southampton built one of the first Raspberry Pi supercomputers.

(Image: Simon Cox, University of Southampton)

  • You Can Teach People to Code -- Computer programming has become one of the "must-have" skills for the modern technical employee. Learning the programming essentials in a desktop environment can be difficult, because of all the user interface components that have to be considered. The Raspberry Pi 2 gets around all of those and adds the possibility of blinky lights to show whether the program is doing the right thing. And let's be honest: Everything is better and easier with blinky lights.
  • You Can't Take Its Photograph -- OK, to be more specific you don't want to take a photograph of the Raspberry Pi 2 if you're lighting it with a flash. The sudden, intense light of a flash at close range causes the computer to turn off. Why? It turns out that a key component is photo-sensitive -- something that's not at all an issue if you've got the board in a nice, dark, project box. If you want to take a photo of your RasPi 2, though, just put it on a table near a window and use natural light.

  • You Can Build a Cloud -- Unlike many other single-board embedded computers, the Raspberry Pi 2 has all the components you need to put a project into the cloud. Add a power supply (a 2 amp micro-USB supply is plenty), connect it to the rest of your project, write the code to be delivered to the outside world via the included Web server, and you're in the cloud.

The Raspberry Pi 2 is brand new. At this point, no one knows precisely what businesses and individuals will do with the new power and capabilities. I've already got my eye on several projects: What would you like to do with all that speed? Tell us about it in the comments section below.

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Curtis Franklin Jr. is executive editor for technical content at InformationWeek. In this role he oversees product and technology coverage for the publication. In addition he acts as executive producer for InformationWeek Radio and Interop Radio where he works with ... View Full Bio
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PhilS965
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PhilS965,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/24/2015 | 2:20:50 PM
Raspberry SQL Server Capability
Could I set up a SQL server like MySql that I could use as an MS Access backend?
batye
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batye,
User Rank: Ninja
3/2/2015 | 9:33:47 PM
Re: Excited
@Technocrati, yes I could not agree more... as in my mind my B is like back up if I ever need it to use... in case all of my pc's died :) all at once... lol lol lol
Technocrati
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Technocrati,
User Rank: Ninja
3/2/2015 | 7:52:41 PM
Re: Excited

@batye   No doubt.    Truth be told I have not even remotely used the power that the B has yet - but I anticipate I will eventually want another one, so at $35 you can't beat that.

I really envision using them as nodes on my home network for starters but the powering of them seems to leave some room for improvement.  But you have to keep it in perspective. 

Can't have everything, at least not for $35 bucks.

batye
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batye,
User Rank: Ninja
3/2/2015 | 12:32:31 AM
Re: Excited
@Technocrati, I could not agree more interesting, myself I'm still using Rapberry Pi B and not ready to upgrade yet to the new Pi2... but to each his own...
Technocrati
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50%
Technocrati,
User Rank: Ninja
2/19/2015 | 10:50:57 AM
Re: Excited
@Curtis   Interesting.    Underwater drones and Intelligent buildings. That is the great thing about it - with the small foot print the possibilities are endless.

And I am with you Curtis, let's move forward with the possibilities of Technology and hope the majority of us will do the "right things" with it.
Curt Franklin
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Curt Franklin,
User Rank: Strategist
2/19/2015 | 10:40:34 AM
Re: Excited
@Technocrati, I've worked in and around heavy industry just enough to think about problems with sticking people into dangerous situations. But there are many more much less hazardous situations that will benefit from embedded intelligence.

At CES, for example, I saw a great underwater drone. When I think about the possibilities of getting low-cost, long-duration views of what's going on inside our rivers, lakes, and estuaries, it just thrills me no end. I also think we're on the verge of finally seeing some of the benefits of intelligent buildings that we've been talking about for years.

And I'm enough of an optimist to think that we're going to see some really interesting ways for people to interact with one another -- including ways to help make face-to-face interaction richer and easier -- so that some of the "digital loneliness" will start to go away.

I know that there are downsides to some of the digital applications but I'm silly enough to think that the positives are going to outweigh the negatives by a fair margin.
Technocrati
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Technocrati,
User Rank: Ninja
2/19/2015 | 10:15:30 AM
Re: Excited
@ Curtis   Oh Yeah the FCC.  : )    But seriously yours is a great use of it, I hadn't really let the possibilities sink in yet.  But you are right, the generations to come will find all sorts of inventive ways to use this computing power - that I assume will only get better and better.

Using it for data collection in dangerous areas is really something to seriously consider.   I think I recently heard there is some place in Russia is so contaimenated with nuclear waste that no human could survive going there.   This would be a much better form of collection then sending a human in with protective suits.
Curt Franklin
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Curt Franklin,
User Rank: Strategist
2/19/2015 | 9:54:42 AM
Re: Excited
@Technocrati, I love the idea of being able to pilot my drone from the comfort of my office (especially on a day like today), but the FCC has some other ideas <grin>.

What really excites me, though, is the idea of doing advanced instrumentation and data gathering from a drone platform. When I think about the data that could be obtained in various micro-climates, or in areas too dangerous for human environmental sampling (say, around hazardous waste spills or from the middle of large red tide blooms), it gives me some hope for being able to better understand the world around us.

People more creative than me (including young people who haven't yet been taught about all the things that "aren't possible") are going to do some wonderful things with a combination of intelligent platforms and remotely operated vehicles. I can hardly wait to see what sort of applications they come up with!
Technocrati
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Technocrati,
User Rank: Ninja
2/19/2015 | 9:48:09 AM
Re: Excited
@Curtis     I am not really sure what I am going to do with it.  I was thinking I could use it an inexpensive way to have a linux based test server.  Wanted to test scripts on it - configure a web server perhaps.

But I think if I were to try to use it as another way, I would probably try to do something easy like stream video or something.   But still thinking about the possibilities.

Drones sound like a great use for it - interesing to think you could probably pilot one without even going outside.
Curt Franklin
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50%
Curt Franklin,
User Rank: Strategist
2/17/2015 | 11:38:53 PM
Re: Raspberry Pi 2: Six Things You Can (And Can't) Do
@Brian.Dean, I think it's fun to imagine what an imaginative high-school student (or science club) could do with a RasPi supercomputer. I have to believe that we're going to see some truly amazing things coming out of science fairs in the next few years!
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