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Raspberry Pi For the Rest of Us 170

mikejuk writes "The Raspberry Pi might be a cheap and reasonably powerful but it has a tough learning curve due to the Linux OS it uses. Adafruit, better known for their hardware, are working on a WebIDE which you can use to program the Pi without having to set things up. You write the code in a browser and run it on the Pi using a web server hosted by the Pi. It sounds crazy but if it can make the Pi more approachable then perhaps it could turn out to be an educational powerhouse."
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Raspberry Pi For the Rest of Us

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  • I've only been waiting TWELVE weeks for the delivery of my Pi.

    I'm not pissed off, of course.

    Perhaps when they get round to delivering it, I'll be able to try some of this stuff.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 20, 2012 @05:36PM (#41404979)

      If your order is through RS, cancel it immediately and order through Farnell. Farnell actually has their act together.

      • by neurojab ( 15737 ) on Thursday September 20, 2012 @06:14PM (#41405375)

        +1 to the parent.

        RS does not have any Raspberry Pis... Newark/Farnell/Element14 have them. I cancelled my RS order and got it in 4 days from Newwark. Newark is showing 100 in stock right now.

        • I concur. I got mine from Newark in 2 days and I'm in Canada. This was just a couple of weeks ago.

          Shipping to Canada is $12 including duty and brokerage, so make sure you call them to place the order vs. going online. It's $24 to ship if you use the online method.

        • by amonlee ( 963270 )
          just waiting for too long, and was informed to wait for another 8 weeks. Now I cancelled order from RS and re-ordered it from Element 14 Australia which has same day despacthing service here.
        • FWIW they have 0 in stock, the orders are fulfilled by another warehouse. At least, in the USA.

          I was told I was getting air shipping for the price of ground but then it took regular ground time to arrive anyway.

      • When I ordered mine Farnell quoted 3 weeks for delivery.

        It arrived 8 days later.

      • by oPless ( 63249 )

        I concur, RS really haven't got their act together, but they do seem to be slowly shipping to their back order list.

        After I lost my Element 14 one (it got "tidied away") and found that Cool Components got some in I ordered through them.

        http://www.coolcomponents.co.uk/catalog/raspberry-model-p-1032.html [coolcomponents.co.uk]

        Next day delivery and they have cases too!

        I've nothing against Farnell either, theirs came quite speedily.

    • by KiloByte ( 825081 ) on Thursday September 20, 2012 @06:52PM (#41405723)

      I've only been waiting TWELVE weeks for the delivery of my Pi.

      That's about right: take 1kg raspberries, 0.5kg sugar, 0.5l 95% alcohol, put into a jar. Four months later, filter out the fruit (give it to your mom/wife/grandma for a cake, or whatever). Let the liquid sit for eight more weeks. Filter again, pour into bottles. Ready to drink.

      This one is so much simpler than my family's usual tincture recipe that takes multiple steppings and eight months, and for raspberrries, gives good results.

  • Evil learning (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fisted ( 2295862 ) on Thursday September 20, 2012 @05:32PM (#41404913)
    Oh no, a steep learning curve on a device which is intended to encourage learning. Seriously.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      If I'm going to teach my nephews python, I don't necessarily need them to learn all the intricacies of building and the device today. It's just an affordable platform.

      I welcome this project, and fart in your general direction.

      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Well and, more specifically, "steep learning curve" != effective learning.

        Most learning is done in order from simple to complex. What you're learning will always be a challenge, but sometimes unrelated barriers aren't helpful.

      • Re:Evil learning (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 20, 2012 @05:54PM (#41405163)

        You don't know what you're talking about. If your nephew has any PC built in the last 5 years to use as a client to this thing then they can run a Linux VM on it and use any number of open source tools to achieve the same thing. You don't need a Pi if you're in the west and are going to be just teaching yourself to code. If you're an engineering student and are looking at doing something cool with the USB interface *maybe* just *maybe* thats ok but you can do that with your desktop/laptop already with VM. I assure you that installing a basic Ubuntu OS on a VM is *far* easier and cheaper than purchasing a Pi. Heck - run any modern Python IDE on windows - you get a fully integrated debugger and python console. Pisses all over your fsckin' web interface. Use the Pi for teaching electronics and systems in engineering classes, for hobbyists to connect home automation and robotics, for third world/developing nations that can't afford full PCs - but its not a glorified IDE just cause you can.

        I agree with the previous post - WTF is wrong with learning?

        Unicycles and juggling.. thats all you modern hipster developers want..

        • by slim ( 1652 )

          You don't need a Pi if you're in the west and are going to be just teaching yourself to code.

          I mostly agree with you, but I bet there are kids in the West who aren't allowed to screw around with Mum and Dad's PC, and the family can't afford a PC for them to mess around with.

          OK, maybe $25 would buy a used Pentium. But I'd rather have a Raspberry Pi just because it's easy to carry around and I can buy storage in supermarkets.

          • But I'd rather have a Raspberry Pi just because it's easy to carry around and I can buy storage in supermarkets.

            announcing the TUPPERpi. it seals in freshness!

        • Unlike myself, young folks these days aren't pinned by the constraints of a limited system. Something like the Pi is like throwing a 386 at them and telling them to do something useful with it. It is possible, and it runs a much more capable OS than the DOS I had to deal with
        • by jhol13 ( 1087781 )

          "to connect home automation"

          Is the PI reliable enough? Unless you mean data collection only, any device connected to home automation, e.g. keeping up the home above zero when you go to vacation on winter must be extremely reliable. I do not think PI is anywhere near, not the HW and not the SW.

          • I currently use my PI as an automatic garden watering system (using a relay and an electrovalve). The good thing is that I can remotely change the watering time by ssh to adapt to the weather (I live far from that house). Running for 3 months without a glitch so far, which shows a MTBF higher than 1000 hours. By the way, it was really fun to program in Python.
        • Unicycles and juggling.. thats all you modern hipster developers want..

          +1 insightful there. Kids these days.

      • by slim ( 1652 )

        You clearly have a PC with a browser they can use. Why not give them a Python interpreter on there?

        If you're worried about them breaking the PC, give them a VM.

      • by Dogtanian ( 588974 ) on Thursday September 20, 2012 @06:41PM (#41405653) Homepage

        If I'm going to teach my nephews python

        Damn you! Just one misplaced apostrophe and I could have had an amusing joke about how snakes- and python's in particular- are incapable of learning anything more complicated than Javascript.

        But nooooo..... you had to be gramatically correct. Spoilsport! Where's an illiterate when you need one?! :'-(

      • by Lennie ( 16154 )

        And learning Python is also something you in a browser:
        http://www.pythontutor.com/ [pythontutor.com]

    • steep learning curves discourage learning
      • by fisted ( 2295862 )
        That's mostly true for those who would quickly abandon the whole thing anyway. To me, a steep learning curve rarely played a role when i was truly interested in something. Best example is vim, i guess.
        • by rk ( 6314 )

          I never really thought of vim's learning curve to be steep. A long curve, to be sure, but never steep.

          • by ubrgeek ( 679399 )
            And apparently when my dad was my age and learning it it was a long steep curve, uphill, both ways, in the snow.
            • by c0lo ( 1497653 )

              And apparently when my dad was my age and learning it it was a long steep curve, uphill, both ways, in the snow.

              I concur... supplementary, the wind was always blowing in your face.

        • Kids are more likely to quickly abandon things with steep learning curves.

    • by Twinbee ( 767046 )
      The difference is learning idiosyncrasies and pretty arbitrary knowledge due to the kludges and historical baggage of Linux (not saying any other OS is much better). An OS should mostly be transparent to the user, enabling him/her to get on with actually being productive.

      Linux won't be around forever (at least not close to its current state), but math and science will.
      • > Linux won't be around forever (at least not close to its current state), but math and science will.

        No, but you can bet it will outlive all of us, and hence it's worth using.

        An OS should mostly be transparent to a *user*, but not to an *engineer* learning Computer Science.


    • by fm6 ( 162816 )

      Putting everything behind a GUI doesn't so much flatten the learning curve as make it irrelevant, because you don't have to know as much about how the system works. Which makes the idea even dumber than you suggest.

      I'm reminded of the character on the Simpsons who thought that 5+2=LO BAT

      • by slim ( 1652 )

        I disagree. If you want to start learning a high level language, you shouldn't need to learn a bunch of other stuff first. If you want to learn that stuff, then fine. But you shouldn't need to.

        If you can boot a machine and get a text editor into which you can type Python, and a simple way to execute it, that's great for learning Python.

        If you wanted to learn to paint, would you insist on knowing how to manufacture oil paint, and stretch canvas? Would you refuse to learn to play a guitar you hadn't built you

        • by fm6 ( 162816 )

          If you want to start learning a high level language, you shouldn't need to learn a bunch of other stuff first.

          Absolutely true. Which is why the Pi is a bad choice for somebody whose first goal is to learn a HLL.

          • by slim ( 1652 )

            It's a great choice for someone whose first goal is to learn a HLL, who has a TV, no computer, and $50

    • Oh no, a steep learning curve on a device which is intended to encourage learning.

      You don't think it's possible for it to be too steep? Do you remember how hard it was when you started, because when I started (Sinclair Spectrum) the programming language was built right into the OS. It was immediately available when you unboxed it. I didn't know I wanted to program before I tried it, so unless it was right there I probably wouldn't have tried.

  • Set things up? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Thursday September 20, 2012 @05:36PM (#41404987) Journal

    Isn't the point of the Pi that you can just dump an image onto an SD card and have a fully working environment? Just how bad are the Pi distros?

    • Re:Set things up? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Microlith ( 54737 ) on Thursday September 20, 2012 @05:45PM (#41405073)

      They aren't. The Debian install boots directly into LXDE. The "tough" learning curve is illusory and can easily be overcome in the environment the Pi is used in without suddenly needing two computers rather than one.

      • Another to thing to keep in mind is that the learning curve is not only a function of the inherent difficulty and amount of work involved in getting started but also a function of the difficulty in finding good tutorials and finding people who can answer specific questions. If everyone who's learning to program on Raspberry Pi is using the same stuff (Debian, LXDE, Python for example) and the same beginner's tutorial then you'll 1) get lots of feedback to the tutorial maintainers on the tutorial and 2) get

    • by slim ( 1652 ) <john@hartnup . n et> on Thursday September 20, 2012 @05:50PM (#41405121) Homepage

      And why would a distro with this Web app installed be easier to set up than a distro that boots into a GUI?

      And if you have something that can run a browser, why do you want to run your code on a RPi?

      It's all really odd.

      • by Bogtha ( 906264 )

        It's all really odd.

        The reasons why you might want to use this make no sense whatsoever until you realise that they started with something they wanted to build and then tried to think of reasons why people might want it afterwards. It's a solution in search of a problem. They couldn't find any problems it's suited for, so they've resorted to gobbledegook for marketing.

        • by Hatta ( 162192 )

          Are you referring to the Pi or the OS from Adafruit?

        • by Osgeld ( 1900440 )

          its more like we keep getting questions cause there isnt lego bricks for us, so we did it for everyone who couldnt boot a computer with a live cd, plug in an SD card, and copy an image with word for word instructions

          I dont know if ada is good or bad, she tends to get more people intrested, but those people tend to be less willing to learn and just want magic to plug into the wall

      • by gl4ss ( 559668 )

        gpio pins and that you can dump the machine in some other machine once it's ready.

        that's the point, not much else. a more powerful arduino.

    • Exactly. Make a distribution that boots directly into Scratch [mit.edu] or [[insert name of your favorite programming language IDE here]].
  • It's just a slightly different graphical environment. I think the latest versions of OSes for it have dropped having to manually do a 'startx', so there is nothing there a child can't learn by doing.
  • Oxymoron (Score:2, Informative)

    If you're not prepared to learn Linux then your should be prepared to - give up pursuit of programming embedded/small devices.
    • Re:Oxymoron (Score:5, Insightful)

      by slim ( 1652 ) <john@hartnup . n et> on Thursday September 20, 2012 @06:08PM (#41405319) Homepage

      I don't accept that. The point of the Pi is to replicate the "turn it on and start coding" spirit that us 8 bit kids grew up with.

      What a BBC Micro had, that a modern PC doesn't is this: you turned it on, and 3 seconds later there was a BASIC prompt. Page 1 of the "learn to program" book tells you to type:

      10 PRINT "Hello World"
      20 GOTO 10

      If you screw up, you turn it off and on again, no harm done.

      20 minutes later, an inquisitive 7 year old will have:

      10 PRINT "Hello World"
      20 c% = RND(8)
      30 COLOUR c%
      40 PRINT "Slim is Rad!!!!!!"
      50 GOTO 10 ... and they build up from there until 11 years later they're doing a CS degree.

      There's no "oh, the install is too difficult? Oh bad luck 7-year-old, you've not got it in you."

      And that's what the Raspberry Pi is intending to replicate.

      (But I don't think this browser thing is the way to do it)

      • Infinite Insightfuls to you, slim.

        I've been programming since I was eight (Coco2 and BASIC), I've got an EE degree, I'm "better than most" embedded coders you'll find, and some of the build instructions for Linux are so obtuse that I can't figure out what the fuck is going on.

        So let's get the kids in on that. Right.

      • by fm6 ( 162816 )

        I don't accept that. The point of the Pi is to replicate the "turn it on and start coding" spirit that us 8 bit kids grew up with.

        Huh? Have you seen [raspberrypi.org] the thing? It doesn't even come with a system case. This is not a turnkey system.

        • by slim ( 1652 )

          It doesn't *need* a case. A case would bump it over the price point.Plug it in without a case, and get coding.

          In the primary school environment it's intended for (sorry, I don't know what American is for Primary School), an early "OK Kids, today we're going to make a case for our Raspberry Pi out of egg cartons" would be entirely appropriate.

          I've got one on order because I need something cheap to run Logitech Media Server. I probably won't bother with a case, or if I do I'll make one out of cardboard.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        It's early days yet, but this is what we're trying to develop at http://curiouschip.com/ [curiouschip.com] - a self-contained modern machine that boots straight into a programming environment that promotes exploration and experimentation. We had our first prototype units on show at the Brighton Mini Maker Faire a couple of weeks ago and had an awesome reception; more details will be released in the coming weeks.
      • Yeah, but it doesn't boot *into* a BASIC prompt though, does it? That first, automatic, introduction that the 80's computers had is more important than people think.

        • by slim ( 1652 )

          Yeah, but it doesn't boot *into* a BASIC prompt though, does it?

          Depends what SD card you boot off.

  • This seems like it's based on bad axioms. "a tough learning curve due to the Linux OS"? What OS is easier? Bear in mind that the the Pi distros to be used for education will boot to a GUI.

    The focus at the moment seems to be on Scratch - great for kids as young as five.

    • I think they meant "familiar" instead of "easy" - heaven forbid anyone should ever have to contend with anything new or different. Like you'd want to spend $150 or more to put Windows on a $25 computer, ffs, even if it had an ARM build that worked.
  • "The rest of us" shouldn't be coding. At least according to the article directly before this one. http://developers.slashdot.org/story/12/09/20/2015204/why-non-coders-shouldnt-write-code [slashdot.org]
    • Ha! Beat me to it.

      Apparently, non-coders (aka mostly stupid people) shouldn't write code. Though, in truth, learning to code is something that about anyone should be able to do.
    • So, in your mind, there is no difference between:

      1) A young child in school and a 40 year old accountant
      2) HELPING someone do something and REQUIRING them to do something
      3) A child's toy computer and a corporate production server

      There's a COLOSSAL difference between making it easier for people who want to code or who may be interested in coding to do so and requiring people who have already determined they have no interest in coding to code.

  • by CanHasDIY ( 1672858 ) on Thursday September 20, 2012 @05:52PM (#41405147) Homepage Journal

    I smell me a slashvertisement...

    Rather thinly veiled one, at that.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    If you need a more expensive host to run the web browser to develop code for the cheap RP, doesn't that defy the entire point of being a cheap educational tool for underprivileged youth?

    This sounds significantly less useful than self-hosted development. It sounds like it's inspired by Linux-phobes who are phobic for no particular reason.

  • ...a decency of not programming an embedded Linux device from a Windows desktop? Seriously, what is wrong with those people?

  • by Bill, Shooter of Bul ( 629286 ) on Thursday September 20, 2012 @06:15PM (#41405385) Journal

    Slashdot: news for non-nerds that don't want to have to deal with linux.

  • Sounds exactly like IPython Notebook, which is awesome in power and ease of use.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The premise of the article appears to be that
    A) A Linux distro that boots into a graphical interface is hard to learn
    B) Kids who can learn Python can't figure out how to use LXDE.

    Both of these ideas are, well, silly. The solution to these "problems" are actually more complicated than just using a plain Raspbery Pi.

  • I received a my Rasp Pi in the mail a few months ago. It is a bit underpowered for IDE programming, and no way a beginner will use the command line. Scratch comes preinstalled and seems to be what most kids use. Python with an IDE is preinstalled too and is fine, but it's hard to do anything except console apps. I think kids like to see graphics, colors, and maybe write a game, right? Running apache, and likely php for this WebIDE is a bit much for the Pi. Things will be sluggish.

    To my surprise, the Pi co

  • The whole point (from the Raspberry Pi Foundation point of view) is to teach kids programming?

    You get a RPi, with a SDcard already with the OS on it, plug it into the monitor, keyboard and mouse and go.... Covering all that up with a web interface which just adds another layer of stuff doesn't make sense. Personally, I prefer to use it command line, no GUI and get right into code.

    As for delivery... if you are still waiting for one, you bought it from the wrong place. You can order them now and get them in

  • by StealthHunter ( 597677 ) on Thursday September 20, 2012 @09:57PM (#41406945)

    I ordered my Pi from Element14 on Aug 14th and it shipped on Aug 28th. I don't know what you are doing wrong such that you haven't received yours yet.

    Once my Pi arrived, I downloaded an SD card image, wrote it to a card using dd, added power to the Pi and everything worked straight away. The parts that took the most effort were retrieving my spare cell phone charger and finding an HDMI cable to connect it to my TV.

    Where is all the hate coming from?

  • by randomsearch ( 1207102 ) on Friday September 21, 2012 @03:37AM (#41408409) Journal

    One reason people seem not to "get it" is that we have a tendency to underestimate the ability of kids to learn things like Linux. Many primary school children are not at all phased by a Linux shell, and they're already expert in googling things and working stuff out for themselves. Perhaps because older geeks didn't grow up with the tinterweb, we can't imagine how easy it is for kids to learn geek knowledge at a young age.

    All hail the coming Pi generation. I, for one, welcome our young Linux-hacking overlords.


  • by cbope ( 130292 ) on Friday September 21, 2012 @04:55AM (#41408693)


    I means seriously, the Pi is designed to get kids (and adults) to LEARN how a computer works and how to program the device. It's TRIVIAL to download a system image, transfer it to an SD card and boot your Pi. Hell, RS even offered to sell me a pre-formatted SD with the OS pre-installed! How hard is it to click "add one to cart", if you don't want to set up the SD yourself?!?

    Seriously, the Pi is not for the iDevice consumer... it's for people who are interested to learn how things work and how to build and code stuff. Making the device idiot-proof is not the way forward.

  • by maitas ( 98290 ) on Friday September 21, 2012 @06:23AM (#41408963) Homepage

    Only lousy documentation.

  • The appeal of the R-Pi is that you can connect it to a display device.

    Personally, I'm waiting for Android to come out for the R-Pi. They have it running but there are some problems (in networking, IIRC) and rather than get help from the community they refuse to release what they have got. The design of R-Pi may be open, but nothing else is, including the process.

  • The Roku is a very similar device and might be more accessible to people who want to develop content-bearing channels.

  • Since this is the "waiting for Pi" gripe thread I'll throw in. I ordered 2 from Allied Electronics on 8/14. Booooo, so many projects on hold.

Things equal to nothing else are equal to each other.