Well, that was a very long 30 days for both of us. Thanks to the following people and organizations, and one anonymous donor, for raising £1,500 (plus £236 of gift aid) to support Movember’s work in promoting men’s health.
Alan O’Donohoe PiFace – OpenLX SP Ltd Pimoroni Ltd
Chris Swan TR Computers Ltd
I’ll leave you with a picture of the final result, and the scene in Liz’s and my bathroom at one minute past midnight on Sunday morning.
Enjoying one last moment of moustache-themed goodness.
Have you tried turning it off and on again? Decembeard here we come.
One of the best things about working on Raspberry Pi has been the opportunity to meet groups of people who are trying to bring about the same sort of change in the teaching of other subjects that we’re aiming for in computing. One great example is the computer-based math(s) (CBM) movement, which aims to redefine the teaching of mathematics in schools away from mechanical calculation and towards problem solving. From their website:
The importance of math to jobs, society, and thinking has exploded over the last few decades. Meanwhile, math education is in worldwide crisis—diverging more and more from what’s required by countries, industry, further education… and students.
Computers are key to bridging this chasm: only when they do the calculating is math applicable to hard questions across many contexts. Real-life math has been transformed by computer-based calculation; now mainstream math education needs this fundamental change too.
computerbasedmath.org is the project to perform this reset. We’re building a completely new math curriculum with computer-based computation at its heart, while campaigning at all levels to redefine math education away from historical hand-calculating techniques and toward real-life problem-solving situations that drive high-concept math understanding and experience.
Today, at the CBM education summit in New York, we announced a partnership with Wolfram Research to bundle a free copy of Mathematica and the Wolfram Language into future Raspbian images. We believe this will make the Pi a first-class platform for teaching CBM techniques to children of all ages. As Conrad Wolfram said today: “Coders will be able to use the power of Mathematica’s maths out of the box, not only enriching what they can do but also showing off the power and importance of maths.”
Plotting 3d graphs with Mathematica on Pi
Deeply inappropriate use of the Heaviside step function
Future Raspbian images will ship with the Wolfram Language and Mathematica by default; existing users with at least 600MB of free space on their SD card can install them today by typing:
You’ll find Mathematica in the app launcher under the Education menu.
We’d like to thank the team at Wolfram Research for the enormous amount of effort they’ve put to get the Wolfram Language and Mathematica running well on the Pi. Over the next few months we’ll be running a series of blog posts from Wolfram exploring some of the neat tricks you can get up to with them. This is going to be fun!
We’ve talked before about how the camera board and the Model A are natural bedfellows. Whether you’re shooting a time lapse video or hollowing out a sweet, innocent teddy bear, the 256MB of RAM on the Model A is easily sufficient to run raspistill and raspivid, and the much lower power consumption gives you a lot more battery life for mobile applications. To allow more of you to have a play with this combination, we’ve got together with our partners to offer the two together for the bargain price of $40.
Model A and camera board – best of friends
UK customers can visit element14 or RS Components (who are also offering a $45 bundle with an 4GB SD card); international customers should be able to find the same bundles on their respective national sites.
Update: Rob has now added a “NOOBS Lite” option to the downloads page. NOOBS Lite is a minimal 20MB version of NOOBS with no local OS images; images are downloaded from our repository at install time.
Alex has produced a new Raspbian release, which integrates a number of recent improvements. Along with kernel and firmware updates, highlights include:
Sonic Pi is preinstalled so you can jump right in to learning to program while creating your own music.
Significant performance improvements to Scratch thanks to Tim Rowledge and Ben Avison.
A build of PyPy 2.1 is now included to allow you to try out this high performance Python JIT compiler. See here and here for some background on our work on PyPy.
Python libraries required for interfacing with Pi-Face are preinstalled. Once you enable the SPI kernel module in raspi-config you can leap right in.
The Oracle JDK is preinstalled – see yesterday’s announcement.
Due to the addition of Java, the standalone SD card image now requires at least a 4GB SD card, as with 2GB there’s not enough free space left to be useful. The image itself is sized at 3GB to reduce the time it takes to dd it.
But that’s not all!
Following last week’s successful beta test, NOOBS v1.3 has also been released. This is a major upgrade from v1.2, and realizes many of our ambitions for the system. Highlights include:
The ability to install multiple OSes on a single card.
Support for network installation of OSes from our repository.
Multiple “flavours” of Raspbian, including the ability to boot directly into Scratch.
Improved integration of language, keyboard and display settings between NOOBS and guest operating systems.
See the beta test announcement for an exhaustive feature breakdown. Thanks to Rob, Floris and Gordon for putting this release together, to Liam and Pete at Mythic Beasts for the recent comprehensive overhaul of our image hosting infrastructure, and of course to the 2,000 participants in the beta test program.
One of our longstanding goals has been for Raspberry Pi to ship with a complete set of common programming languages. Until now, there’s been one glaring omission from this list: Java, which by some estimates is the most popular language of all (duck and cover – flamewar incoming).
It’s therefore fantastic to be able to announce that we’ve added the official hard-float Oracle Java 7 JDK to our repository. Oracle Java offers significant performance advantages over OpenJDK on ARM platforms, and will expand the range of Java applications that run well on the Pi.
It’s a long time since I’ve used a hotel room TV without plugging a Pi into it. This trip has been no exception.
All future Raspbian images will ship with Oracle Java by default; existing users can install it by typing:
As you’ve probably noticed, Raspberry Pi is a rather unusual organisation. We have two functions: we make and sell tiny computers, and we promote children’s education. These activities support each other (all the money we raise from selling Raspberry Pis is put straight back into our charitable activities), but are in many ways separate, and it’s a real juggling act directing the two together. Back at the start of the year, we split the engineering and trading activities of the Foundation into a separate, wholly owned trading subsidiary, Raspberry Pi (Trading) Ltd. The Raspberry Pi Foundation continues to run the charitable, educational side of things. Since then, I’ve been overseeing both organisations, but really, the two roles require two people doing them, and of necessity most of my attention has had to be devoted to the trading business.
With that in mind, I’m very pleased to be able to announce that Lance Howarth has joined us as Foundation CEO, and will be taking the lead on the Foundation’s charitable activities.
Lance spent a decade with ARM, latterly as EVP of Marketing and as a VP in the office of the CTO. He’ll be driving forward our educational mission, while I continue as CEO of Raspberry Pi (Trading) – you won’t see any big changes in my interactions with you here, at talks and so on. Hopefully we’ll be able to talk Lance into posting here on occasion too, to let you know what he and the board are up to.
You’re seeing some of the results of those charitable activities I’ve been talking about already – Clive Beale, our most excellent Director of Educational Development, is heading up the work on a growing corpus of free educational materials, running workshops, working with teachers, and with other charities; we’ve committed to take on some more people to work on our educational function too. We’re funding development of projects like Sonic Pi, the music programming environment we blogged about yesterday. We’re putting money into open educational resources, like Scratch and Squeak.
Lance will be growing our engagement with this sort of work, and I hope you’ll join me in welcoming him to the growing Raspberry Pi family. And if you want a lapel pin like his, you’ll find them in the Swag Store!
By now I hope many of you have had a chance to play with NOOBS, the new out of box software we released back at the start of June. Although originally aimed at providing a better experience for newcomers to the Pi, we now reckon NOOBS is the best way for almost everyone to get the most out of their Pi.
With this in mind, from today our partners RS Components and element14 will be offering an optional 8GB NOOBS SD card with every new Model A or Model B Raspberry Pi, for only $5.
The NOOBS SD card in all its glory.
We designed the Pi so that pretty much all the extras you need can be found around the house: there’s not much point in making a $25 computer if your customers need to go out and buy $100 of accessories to use it. Most people can rustle up an old TV, a small SD card and a mobile phone charger. But we’ve noticed that not everybody has access to a large enough card to take advantage of NOOBS, or to a device which can write to SD cards. Fast, pre-programmed, high-capacity cards like the Samsung ones we’re bundling (and which have turned out to be our favourite cards in testing; they’re optimised for random read/write behaviour, unlike many cards which are designed for the large continuous reads and writes that digital cameras make) have been the best-selling Pi accessory offered by our partners since launch, so we’re expecting a lot of you to take us up on this offer.
NOOBS in action.
$5 is an incredible deal for a fast 8GB card. (Just Google how much these cards usually sell for with nothing on them.) We’d like to thank our partners, and our friends at Samsung, xel and Cardwave for pulling out all the stops to make this happen.
A note on SD card nomenclature. The card we’re offering here is rated as Class 4 – in some metrics, Class 4 means slow. This is not the case with this card, which has outperformed many Class 6 and Class 10 cards in our tests – classification seems not to correlate well with random read/write performance. Samsung’s unusual focus on random-access performance on their SD memory means that this card performs very fast and very reliably: we think you’ll be pleasantly surprised!
Back in May, we mentioned that we’d been sponsoring the development of the ARM port of PyPy, the high-performance Python interpreter. Earlier today the team released a first beta of the upcoming 2.1 release, which for the first time adds ARM as an officially supported architecture.
You can see the announcement here, and download binaries for Raspbian here. Give it a spin and let us know what you think.
Update 12 June: Liz continues to recover, but I’m still not letting her near the blog until she stops coughing like that.
Liz has spent most of this week suffering from an affliction picked up in Tokyo. We’re assuming this is flu, as even the worst sake hangover doesn’t usually last this long. I’ve sent her to bed to rest up; normal service will be resumed when she’s feeling better, hopefully early next week.
Update: Daniel’s blog post here provides some more info, including how to install the technology preview on Raspbian today. And Pekka’s blog post here has some very detailed technical information on the implementation of the Weston backend.
If you’re familiar with the Raspberry Pi desktop experience, you’ll have noticed that windows on the desktop can be a bit slower to move around than you’re used to on your PC or laptop. This is because X, the windowing software (or composition protocol) that we use, is not optimised to use the graphics core of the BCM2835, the chip at the heart of the Raspberry Pi. All the work is done by the ARM processor instead, which slows things down and leaves the graphics core twiddling its thumbs. That graphics core is extremely powerful, so we’re working on putting it to good use to fix the issue.
We’ve made the decision to bypass X completely. Over the past few months we’ve been working with our friends at Collabora to implement the open-source Wayland composition protocol on top of the BCM2835 hardware video scaler (HVS). The HVS is a very powerful piece of hardware, with a scaling throughput of 500 megapixels per second and blending throughput of 1 gigapixel per second. It runs independently of the OpenGL ES hardware, so we can continue to render 3d graphics at the full, very fast rate, even while compositing.
Wayland composited desktop with XWayland and native applications.
In comparison to our current X11 desktop environment, Wayland frees the ARM from the burden of stitching together the top level of the composition hierarchy, and allows us to provide some neat features, including non-rectangular windows, fades for windows which don’t have input focus and an Exposé-like scaled window browser (the sort of thing that Mac users will be familiar with). Legacy X applications can still be supported using XWayland. Check out this video from Collabora to see these features in action, and to compare the current state of affairs with the Wayland future. Those non-rectangular shapes? They’re also windows.
We’re still working to improve performance and memory consumption, and don’t expect to be able to replace X11 as our default desktop environment until later in the year, but we will be including a technology preview in our next Raspbian release. Until then, this post on Collabora’s website gives some more background.
As with PyPy, the Raspberry Pi Foundation has funded this work on Wayland; it’s one of the ways we are trying to give back to the open-source community. Obviously, much of the work on this particular project is Raspberry Pi specific, but there’s a large portion of what’s being done, particularly around XWayland and some of the generic effects in Weston, that can be reused on many other platforms.
We’re looking forward to being able to push out the full release in the next few months. We hope you like the look of it!