$35 for a rather useful little machine?
“Little” in this case meaning the motherboard is about the size of a credit card, so it is a rather small little machine. Named the Raspberry Pi, this continues the old nerd tradition of naming things in order to lend themselves well to puns and wordplay; with a tagline like “take a byte,” they succeeded rather nicely I should think. With the preceding sentence as nerdy as it is, I feel justified in quickly providing a link to the optimized operating systems designed for the Raspberry Pi hardware, in case anyone else is interested in getting on of these up and running. Or two, like I will, since they are so cheap and low-power-consuming. Put simply: this device is meant to be a $35 computer for institutions seeking to teach younger children the beginning of programming without breaking the IT or utilities budgets. Why do I have them, one might ask? Because 1) it is an excellent low-cost tool for setting up and learning to properly run a web server and 2) it can stream 1080p to HDMI connections across a wired network, which is EXTREMELY cheap for screening high definition video. Plus, given my computer science education during my undergraduate and first graduate degree, I am excited to have the ability to fool around with Linux of various flavors more consistently. Nothing forces you to make sure you remember commands like storing important documents on your Raspberry Pi for safekeeping, and then having to use PuTTY from a Windows machine to access them across a network!
In terms of the enclosure you’ll see below in the photo section, it is laser-etched acrylic purchased from this site, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. For a very cheap price, you get a sleek-looking case that allows easy access to all the ports. Coolest feature: the L-shaped clear acrylic pieces that make the status LEDs visible outside the case. Most annoying feature: taking all the protective contact paper off the acrylic when you first receive it (it successfully prevented scratched, but took WAY too long to do).
For interested parties, I got a cheap and reliable SD card and phone charger, to serve as hard drive and power cord respectively. The monitor, keyboard, and mouse shown below do not belong to me, as I am borrowing them at work to get this up and running – in the future, I will either ssh in from another Linux machine or figure out a way to access them from my phone.
Potentially trying this fall laptop-free.
Alongside this attempt to reduce space and utility costs to run computers for this coming fall, I am also interested in possibly trying to cut down on the amount of computer(s) I have to carry to classes with me. Over a month ago, I happened to be cleaning out old cellular accessories at work and came across some of those delightful old Palm Pilot folding bluetooth keyboards, which rekindled my interest in trying to get something like those. I looked online and found a brand new product called the Nomad Keyboard and found myself both intrigued to try it out, as well as an online coupon to make it more affordable. It arrived in the mail, and since then I have used it for everything from a stand-in remote control for my projector in the basement to getting work done on AMTRAK using my phone as my computer (Google Documents work just fine on Android and lend themselves well to easy editing and sharing right from the phone without worrying about hard drive space on the phone). Though I am not too sure how viable it will be to keep up for the whole semester (too much going on during each weekday during most semesters means I usually need a fully functional computer that won’t constrain me to mobile versions of websites, for instance), I am thinking I will try to go ahead and use my phone and that folding keyboard to take notes during some classes. Who knows, if it works that is a 10 lb lighter backpack!
Take a look at the building process for the RasPi; the board itself is about the size of a credit card, so this is a rather small computer! Also, a couple of shots of the Nomad keyboard.