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Review: Raspberry Pi

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  • Review: Raspberry Pi

    here is a quick review of the Raspberry Pi the £30 mini computer powered by the Acorn arm cpu

    I'm sure you all know what it is but if not here is a little bit of background info...

    what is it?

    The Raspberry Pi is a credit-card sized computer PCB that plugs into your TV and a keyboard / mouse. It’s a capable little PC which can be used for many of the things that your desktop PC does, like spreadsheets, word-processing and games. It also plays high-definition video. We want to see it being used by kids all over the world to learn programming.

    The GPU provides Open GL ES 2.0, hardware-accelerated OpenVG, and 1080p30 H.264 high-profile decode.The GPU is capable of 1Gpixel/s, 1.5Gtexel/s or 24 GFLOPs of general purpose compute and features a bunch of texture filtering and DMA infrastructure.

    That is, graphics capabilities are roughly equivalent to Xbox 1 level of performance. Overall real world performance is something like a 300MHz Pentium 2, only with much, much better graphics.

    The Raspberry Pi has a Broadcom BCM2835 system on a chip (SoC),which includes an ARM1176JZF-S 700 MHz processor, VideoCore IV GPU, and 256 megabytes of RAM. It does not include a built-in hard disk or solid-state drive, but uses an SD card for booting and long-term storage. The Foundation's goal is to offer two versions, priced at US$ 25 and US$ 35.
    The Foundation provides Debian and Arch Linux ARM distributions for download. Also planned are tools for supporting Python as the main programming language, with support for BBC BASIC, (As "Brandy Basic", the BBC BASIC clone), C,and Perl.

    what you will need...

    USB keyboard and mouse.
    Prepared SD card (see below).
    HDMI or composite television, OR a monitor with DVI or HDMI input, and an HDMI/composite cable.
    Micro USB power supply – make sure you use a good quality one, capable of providing at least 700mA at 5V. Do not attempt to power your Raspberry Pi by plugging it into a computer or a hub.
    Ethernet LAN cable (optional).

    So on to the review...

    My Pi arrived last week from RS, its been on order for about 2 months now but the delay was expected and not unreasonable i think given the demand and production problems.

    my Pi?

    So what is it ? well its an arm cpu based mini computer on a cigarette packet sized PCB (printed circuit board) its about the size of a tesco fuel receipt. It comes either as a PCB (populated with all the bits) or as a kit if you want it.

    the kit you can get is..

    Pi Computer
    SD card (for the OS) (transcend 4GB)
    PSU (mini usb)
    Audio cable. (3.5mm to twin RCA)

    all in all about £50 worth plus delivery from if i remember correctly.

    The pcb has all the ports you need and a couple of headers for add ons or debugging? Anyway you get 2xusb , 3.5mm audio out , RCA composite out, HDMI out , mini usb power in, LAN socket and a bunch of leds..

    As i ordered the SD OS card with it i simply plugged it all in and waited about a minute to be asked to login , and then you use a xstart command to launch the GUI.

    The OS supplied is a cut down linux distro with surprisingly little on it , i rather suspect the early os built for speed rather than content..having said that you can be surfing the web in seconds and playing mp3 if required. Youtube is another matter , as is html 5 stuff.

    So i quickly removed this and launched the XBMC version on the Pi and I'm much happier with that , i know there are other OS's for the Pi and i will get to them..

    using it.

    The Pi comes with 2x usb , i have cheated and i use an Apple keyboard which has a built in 2x hub , so i have 3x usb ports to use at once. this means one holds the mouse and one hold an 8GB flash stick with data on it. i have heard reports of lower power on the USB ports and keyboards that stop and mine did but it was because the mouse was in the keyboard hub and not in the PI , a swap over and reboot cured the fault.

    So speed ?

    How does the xbmc compare to a real xbox 1 ? well to be honest , its about the same speed wise but the graphics are much better, real 1080p here not low res stuff of the xbox1 (yes i know you can get hi res cables for the xbox1)

    Video performance

    I have watched full screen films on the pi and they look good, i haven't tried the HD content but i will , i have seen other videos showing the Pi running 1080p HD video and its stutter free so i don't expect a problem.


    don't know i haven't tried yet but i will update this as i do. Quake 2 / 3 are running now.


    no idea , I'm looking at that.

    OS changes.

    The supplies OS is a mini linux distro with tools for developing and playing music, surfing the web etc.. you can down load extra apps as you go along. its a basic OS but thats the beauty of it, you can change or modify it if you wish.

    I formatted my SD (fat32) and installed the XBMC installer on it , which is then placed in the Pi and the PI downloads / formats and partitions the SD card to suit. all in all a 20 min affair. i used terminal on my mac to copy the installer over to the Pi SD card (disk3) in my case.

    Other operating systems are coming or already available in alpha or beta stages. its early days for the Pi yet.

    So is it any good ??

    Id say yes its brilliant and it works very well although its not the most powerful thing in the world. I compares to mobile phone specs or xbox1 era computing - 700mhz.

    I've noticed that in use the CPU reaches full load often and that locks the computer until its finished its task but so what its 700mhz and 256mb ram for goodness sake.

    Over all it is excellent and just what we need , cheap and well made. pop a USB keyboard and mouse in and away you go...

    mods and further reading

    One of the Raspberry Pi developers, going by the name of Dom, has been experimenting with Raspbian and the performance improvements it brings. He’s also managed to successfully overclock the board to run at 1GHz instead of the stock 700Mhz the ARM11 chip ships at.
    heck out the video above for an idea of just how quick the Raspberry Pi can be when running Raspbian. And if you want to overclock your board, it’s really simple as the values you need to change are just stored in a text file. Fusionstrike has a guide you can follow to push up the speed.

    (if you break it its your fault not mine!!)

    Hexxeh has already proven his love for Chromium OS and the Raspberry Pi, obviously the next step was for the hacker to combine his passions into one project. Thus was born Chromium OS for the tiny ARM-powered computer from the UK. The initial commit of the port was officially approved by the Chromium team, meaning that anyone lucky enough to get their mitts on the board can download the code themselves. Of course, there's a long road to hoe before we see a stable version.

    The RISC OS port is progressing along nicely. So much so, in fact, that a Raspberry Pi-based RISC OS machine is in the works. Stable beta release of RISC OS for the Pi planned for September!

    Microsoft Windows, you say? Love it or hate it, some of you are stuck with having to use it, thanks to decisions made higher up the tree at work. As you probably know, the Raspberry Pi can’t run Windows – but the guys at Citrix have come up with a third way via virtual machine.

    links (AROS)

    my videos


    Its early days for me and the Pi , i will update and edit this as i go , I'm sure some things are wrong or missed.


    my config.txt says cpu=800 , now it says 900

    Have fun !

    Attached Files
    Last edited by Justin; 19 October 2012, 11:34.

  • #2
    nice review mike

    still waiting for mine

    dont forget aros is getting a look in too
    Gone but not forgotten. RIP John.


    • #3

      Running a new build of OpenElec

      showing a little vid of SKYFALL .mkv playing.

      Last edited by mjnurney; 2 January 2013, 20:56.


      • #4
        can send me the iso or link for test this xmbc on my raspberry pi?



        • #5

          ---------- Post added at 21:04 ---------- Previous post was at 21:04 ----------

          instructions here

          Install script for OSX terminal below , obviously it needs to be edited to your system name / sd location etc
          Attached Files
          Last edited by mjnurney; 2 January 2013, 21:42.


          • #6
            and of course the youtube app and the internet archive are brilliant.

            computer chronicles and gamesmaster among 1000s of others.

            just watching games master with Jo Guest
            Attached Files


            • #7
              hi mike is xbmc still slugish on the pi
              Gone but not forgotten. RIP John.


              • #8
                A little but set the CPU to 900 in the overclock GUI and its a bit snapper, also set the swap ram partition to USB rather than SD and it zips along


                • #9
                  cheers mike will have a look later
                  Gone but not forgotten. RIP John.


                  • #10
                    hi mike can you post your config txt mate
                    Gone but not forgotten. RIP John.


                    • #11
                      Well, I have made a complete of the Raspberry Pi (256Mb version) for the french magazine Linux Pratique. I have tested a lot of distributions, for me at the moment of the test, XBian was the best for multimedia using with XBMC. At first because XBian uses a swap partition and not a swap file. The second reason is that the SOC is overclocked by default. I think that the last version of OpenElec overclocks the SOC since the setting of dynamic frequencies is allowed by the Raspberry Pi foundation (preserved warranty).
                      One thing also interesting is the possibility to use the remote control of the TV to navigate into the interface of XBMC.
                      I use it to read films in 1080p from my ftp server... and everything works fine!
                      The interface of XBMC is not so fast as my htpc via ION video processor, but it's a good solution for a very low price.

                      For the development, you have a good distribution named Occidentalis from adafruit:


                      This distribution supports I2C protocol and hardware SPI.
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