Why Pi when you can just run Linux?

Drop in for a chat and a cup of tea

99 posts   Page 1 of 4   1, 2, 3, 4
by oranda » Fri Mar 23, 2012 10:23 pm
I don't intend to be negative here but I am trying to justify to myself the possible added expense of offering RPI in the classroom, when I can run an emulator with the image running a linux flavour for nothing.

One Pi perhaps for a class, but the cost of moving keyboards mice and new HDMI capable screens starts to put the Pi out of reach for a class of 30 children with 30 Pi's, not to say the extra ethernet cables and net ports to accommodate them.

Someone please explain what added value is to be gained by students attached to a real Pi rather than an emulated one?
Posts: 4
Joined: Fri Mar 09, 2012 11:28 pm
by abishur » Fri Mar 23, 2012 10:44 pm
Well the basic premise here is multifaceted.  We'll start with the assumption that a classroom already has all the computers it needs.  In such a case you wouldn't be paying for extra keyboards, mice, and network cables.  Everything would already exist there.  Now I think it would be silly to replace existing computers with R-pi boards but I wanted to address that first (also HDMI wouldn't be necessary per se, you could just use DVI and a passive $3 HDMI->DVI cable.)

The more accurate purpose would be to populate a classroom or school that doesn't have the budget for new computers or the even more expensive wireless laptop route.  In these underprivileged area the R-pi would be able to bring a computer curriculum where one doesn't presently exist.

One final important application would be the ability to let the students take them home and bring a sense of ownership to the device without having to worry that the student will damage a $700 piece of equipment.  And a sense of ownership can go a long way in motivating a student to get into a subject :-)
Dear forum: Play nice ;-)
User avatar
Forum Moderator
Forum Moderator
Posts: 4257
Joined: Thu Jul 28, 2011 4:10 am
Location: USA
by morphy_richards » Fri Mar 23, 2012 11:01 pm
"Someone please explain what added value is to be gained by students attached to a real Pi rather than an emulated one?"

Because in about one month your average child should be able to save enough pocket money to buy their very own computer
User avatar
Posts: 858
Joined: Mon Mar 05, 2012 3:26 pm
Location: London
by rurwin » Fri Mar 23, 2012 11:19 pm
Which would engage your enthusiasm more: learning to drive a formula 1 car around Silverstone, or doing it in a driving simulator? If you enjoyed it, you could buy your own formula 1 car for £30. You could build your own simulator for free, if you could figure out all the wiring, and if your parents let you.

I am assuming at this point you wont want to consider hardware interfacing, which is also engaging and empowering, because of the added expense.

The RaspPi brings nothing to the table in an ideal world; a world in which every child has access to a computer at home that they can program, and a world in which the Schools' IT departments allow their PCs to be programmed by the children. We do not live in that ideal world. Parents do not want their children messing up the computer with all their valuable files on it, and IT departments lock down PCs so that no unauthorised programs can be run, much less programs written by the children.

We used to live in that ideal world, when the BBC Micro was the schools' PC and the children had their own Spectrums and Electrons at home. The RaspPi is about bringing that ownership and risk-free programmability back.

But if you think you can get this sort of engagement using an emulator, then go for it.
User avatar
Forum Moderator
Forum Moderator
Posts: 2901
Joined: Mon Jan 09, 2012 3:16 pm
by Jaseman » Fri Mar 23, 2012 11:27 pm
If you already have Windows computers and all you want to do is some programming - then there's really no need to buy Raspberry Pi's as well.  If you are learning about Linux you can run it from live CD or under virtualization.

PC's have a useful lifespan of about 5 years normally (In the business environment at least).  When you come to replace those, then you are going to get a lot more base units for your money buying R Pi's instead of new PC's.

However if you are working on hardware projects, there's a good chance you could easily short something out and blow up your computer.  If it's a £22 computer, that won't be the end of the world.  However if it's a Core i7, you might not be too pleased about it.

If the Raspberry gets seriously established as 'standard hardware' for schools, then there may be other benefits.  A wealth of support material, tutorials and such, as well as knowing that each will give out the same performance.

One other note: You don't necessarily need to network them - depends on what you intend to use them for.
Posts: 302
Joined: Tue Jan 10, 2012 12:59 pm
by Vindicator » Fri Mar 23, 2012 11:47 pm
I am not sure why you are seemingly against this Idea,

1. Most schools wouldn't let the children mess about in the OS which they can on the Raspi.

2. They can take it home and continue the adventure, (while my children always had older systems they could do what they wanted with as I had the skills to repair system for them to have and usually got the systems for free because they needed repair).

3. Price is a big deal any were in the world in my thinking. (Can be given away by enthusiast without the schools involved also).

4. There is many households in my town that have no computers at all and a traditional system is not likely to invade those homes anytime soon but with a Raspi there might be a chance that this will happen sooner.

5. The Raspi can offer a standardized equipment, One standard will hopefully aid in a fast curve of adoption of training for the teachers and students alike.
If you are more worried about ,spelling, punctuation or grammar you have probably already missed the point so please just move on.
User avatar
Posts: 314
Joined: Sat Sep 17, 2011 11:10 pm
Location: Susanville Ca USA
by Phil Spiegel » Sat Mar 24, 2012 8:03 am
Adding to Abishur's comment: it's not simply aboutr the cost of the 'traditional' computer setup, and it's (im)practicality in carrying home physically: this would only be open to children whose parent's collected them by car, and perhaps were able to confirm adequate insurance cover .... with the Rpi, it s only a credit-card sized board and perhaps a few cables needing to be taken home, and possible just the SD card when sufficient have spread to be able to have one at home too!

The 'IT security' of the system coming from its instant replaceability of a pre-programmed replacement SD card with no licence issue in the operating system and basic software package.

Even if the home only has aVideo-Input, the child could show their parents the resulting program or electronic artwork on the home TV, if they didn't feel able to write using it (some domestic TVs ARE terrible!, but most should be okay!)

Perhaps because I'm an 'engineer' rather than a programmer; I see trhe advantage of the small-format, hardy Rpi, as a means to a physical practical end: woith children creating animatronics, controlled-motion vehicles and even CAD/3D printing systems.

(I see a range add-on GPI/O boards as an essential add-on option for the boards fitted to equipment - and pupils creating their own ... in the same way as PICAXE has made programming microcontrollers simpler)
Posts: 209
Joined: Tue Jan 17, 2012 8:17 am
by dextrus » Sun Mar 25, 2012 8:54 pm
For me, it's the "plug and play" aspect. You can pop in a SD-card and within seconds, your R-Pi will do what you want it to do. Want to teach the kids about physics? Pop in a SD card with everything they need. Want to play a game? Pop in a game. It's similar to a home games console, except you can program and modify this with no restrictions other than your network and the power of the Pi.

Consider trying to teach, say, Python on an educational PC. Perhaps it's not the version you require, or perhaps not the editor. Perhaps you want students to be able to watch video too, or heaven forbid, give them the ability to delete files. AFAIK, none of this is possible to address in a locked-down environment.
Have more FUN with your Pi. Visit www.pi-fun.com
Posts: 119
Joined: Tue Jan 24, 2012 10:10 pm
Location: Eastleigh, Hampshire
by toxibunny » Mon Mar 26, 2012 12:57 am
for me, 3 reasons - in order of importance:-

1. standard hardware - this means relevant technical support, a wide community that is all talking about the same thing, and software guaranteed to work. The standard hardware has a competent CPU and a Kickass GPU, along with enough RAM to do something interesting with.

2. Price. Model A is like 16 quid or something. Ridiculous!

3. Portability. The whole thing plus coiled up cables fits in a jacket pocket. It's easily carried to your mate's/dad's/etc. Even including a keyboard and mouse, I suppose. Lots easier than a desktop PC, though less easy than a live USB stick, I suppose..
note: I may or may not know what I'm talking about...
Posts: 1047
Joined: Thu Aug 18, 2011 9:21 pm
by SANGER_A2 » Mon Mar 26, 2012 9:52 am
No-one here has really pointed out the major drawback of the R-PI in schools. Monitors. Schools buy to a budget. I've been a secondary ICT teacher for nearly 10 years in 4 different schools. Not a single school had a HDMI or DVI monitor in the classroom. They were all VGA. Schools buy the cheapest monitors they can because after keyboards and mice, they are the things that are damaged the most and need replacing. They get hit, knocked over, written on and scratched. Also, the cheap business machines with onboard graphics that schools buy don't support DVI, so they don't buy monitors that do.

The network manager at my school and I came up with that problem pretty much instantly after reading the Pi specs and we both came up with it completely independently! I used to be a technician so we tend to think alike!

Schools tend to buy new equipment every 3-5 years. DVI monitors are more common than VGA now for the consumer, but business PCs and monitors still tend to be VGA. When that changes, add a few years, then you'll have lots of schools with DVI monitors.

Another negative is theft. These things are going to get stolen like nobodies business unless they are locked inside cupboards or have laptop locks connected to them.

I think these would be great for computing/engineering at A-level or degree level, but not below that.

Sorry to sound negative, but I think the Pi's are cool as they are, but I don't think many secondary schools will take up on them for a while. Or in very small amounts to use with select groups of students (assuming there is a teacher in the school who wants to take the time to do it and has knowledge of Linux & hardware). I have this knowledge, but not the desire to bring the R-Pi into my school. I've ordered one (cos they're cool), but that's just for me!

Obviously there will be exceptions to this, but I thought I'd throw in the opinion of an over-worked ICT teacher that mars up with the other ICT teachers in my school (I am the only Computing specialist there by the way).
Posts: 46
Joined: Sun Mar 04, 2012 7:39 pm
by rurwin » Mon Mar 26, 2012 10:08 am
@ SANGER_A2,

So how would you and your school implement a Computer Science course below A-level?

If your answer is that you would never implement such a course, then the RaspPi is obviously surplus to requirements. However if you do intend to implement such a course I would be interested to hear what hardware you were intending to use.
User avatar
Forum Moderator
Forum Moderator
Posts: 2901
Joined: Mon Jan 09, 2012 3:16 pm
by jamesh » Mon Mar 26, 2012 10:15 am
SANGER_A2 said:



Schools tend to buy new equipment every 3-5 years. DVI monitors are more common than VGA now for the consumer, but business PCs and monitors still tend to be VGA. When that changes, add a few years, then you"ll have lots of schools with DVI monitors.



VGA is a problem, but would disagree with paragraph I have extracted above. All the monitors we use at work are DVI or Displayport, but at home I use VGA (although both monitors at home are HDMI/DVI). I guess it must vary, but we are buying no new monitors that are VGA only.
Raspberry Pi Engineer & Forum Moderator
Raspberry Pi Engineer & Forum Moderator
Posts: 11473
Joined: Sat Jul 30, 2011 7:41 pm
by croston » Mon Mar 26, 2012 10:33 am
I think that many kids are going to own their own RPi at home. I hope we will have another generation of kids that are self-taught as my age group was. Becoming a really good programmer takes a lot more time and interest than what is possible by just taking a GCSE or A-Level alone. It is a bit like learning a musical instrument.

Therefore in school you will need either RPis or Linux PCs with the same software tools so they can bring in work from home. I don"t think it really matters which in the long run because they both are in tune with the aims of the foundation.
User avatar
Posts: 441
Joined: Sat Nov 26, 2011 12:33 pm
Location: Blackpool
by kevlong » Mon Mar 26, 2012 11:16 am
I am a lecturer in IT at a college of further education.  We already teach a wide variety of courses, from hardware related to systems and programming.  We are also modestly well equipped in terms of client and server systems.

What attracts me as an educator is the fact that it seems possible to strip everything down to the bare bones and then build systems and software back up to meet specific needs, whether this be a development environment, OS fundamentals, systems, e.g. simple routing protocols or indeed hardware configuration.

I know that most of this can be done with virtualisation and emulation, but for predominantly vocational learners the simplicity and hands-on approach of real hardware would I think be beneficial, even if it was used latterly in a course as the 'target' for course work and assignments.

My 'vision' if I can call it that is that a lot of complexity can be removed to provide a hardware and software platform where learning about basic computing principles is more straight forward and potentially hands-on and Raspberry Pi appears to me to be an ideal mechanism to achieve this.
Posts: 1
Joined: Sun Mar 25, 2012 9:39 am
by Chris.Rowland » Mon Mar 26, 2012 11:41 am
One comment I got from a school technician was that most of the time the PCs weren't working because the kids* had broken them and it took for ever to get them re-imaged.

The Pi could prove to be more reliable because it's easier to generate new SD images.

*IIRC he called them something like "little darlings" :-)
Posts: 239
Joined: Thu Jan 12, 2012 5:45 pm
by jamesh » Mon Mar 26, 2012 11:43 am
Did he misspell Darlings? Perhaps with words beginning with a B or a S?
Raspberry Pi Engineer & Forum Moderator
Raspberry Pi Engineer & Forum Moderator
Posts: 11473
Joined: Sat Jul 30, 2011 7:41 pm
by morphy_richards » Mon Mar 26, 2012 12:14 pm
rurwin said:


@ SANGER_A2,

So how would you and your school implement a Computer Science course below A-level?





Excited as I am about the Pi and what I'm going to be able to do with it, I envisage most of my computing lessons will be taking place on Virtual PCs on the actual class PCs. The Pi's themselves will be broken out for control, robotics etc. To begin with I think that will happen with smaller groups :- eg. a whole class might use virtual Debian - get them to design some control software and then test it on the real thing in smaller groups. I'm still imagining the setup at the moment. Next year will be officially be Very Interesting Times Indeed.
User avatar
Posts: 858
Joined: Mon Mar 05, 2012 3:26 pm
Location: London
by SN » Mon Mar 26, 2012 12:31 pm
Open question (and I don;t know the answer) to the education people out there - are kids being exposed to computing where they can control "real things" like leds and switches and motors and sensors?

Because thats not people tend to do with PC's these days - the raspi (with a gertboard) can bring that magic (back) for kids.  As a spotty 18 year old I was playing with a NASCOM at college and it was its ability to talk to bits of simple electronics which fired me up - and apart from the foray into building Kempston Joystick Controller Clones I've never personally had that particular computing joy ever since (though professionally I've worked on PDP's talking to Power Station Simulator Control Desks - that was sooooooooooooo cool)
Steve N – binatone mk4->intellivision->zx81->spectrum->cbm64->cpc6128->520stfm->pc->raspi ?
User avatar
Posts: 1009
Joined: Mon Feb 13, 2012 8:06 pm
Location: Romiley, UK
by morphy_richards » Mon Mar 26, 2012 1:15 pm
SN said:


Open question (and I don;t know the answer) to the education people out there - are kids being exposed to computing where they can control "real things" like leds and switches and motors and sensors?


My answer to that - at the moment not a lot. There's some x-curricular stuff that might go on in technology if students pick GCSE Electronics. Once upon a time Science did data logging, but that doesn't seem to happen much these days.

I agree with you wholeheartedly on the whole flashing lights thing - I think at first it's going to be a case of easy does it wins the race. I'd rather show them a raspberry pi at first and then let them build up to actually using it by building software on the virtual version first to help establish a sense of respect and mutual ownership. ( Especially given that my last foray into the world of lego mindstorms resulted in finding bits of lego everywhere for weeks afterwards.)
User avatar
Posts: 858
Joined: Mon Mar 05, 2012 3:26 pm
Location: London
by SANGER_A2 » Mon Mar 26, 2012 2:53 pm
JamesH said:


SANGER_A2 said:



Schools tend to buy new equipment every 3-5 years. DVI monitors are more common than VGA now for the consumer, but business PCs and monitors still tend to be VGA. When that changes, add a few years, then you"ll have lots of schools with DVI monitors.



VGA is a problem, but would disagree with paragraph I have extracted above. All the monitors we use at work are DVI or Displayport, but at home I use VGA (although both monitors at home are HDMI/DVI). I guess it must vary, but we are buying no new monitors that are VGA only.


Do you work in a school too?

If so, your network manager must have a massive budget. All the ones I know have to save every penny and the easiest way for them to do that is to buy cheap monitors and PCs that have low-spec onboard graphics. They'd rather buy a better server or upgrade the RAM in all the office computers with the money they save.

The computers that the office staff and sometimes teachers have tend to be of higher quality. Private businesses are much more likely to have decent monitors etc because the staff there spend much more time looking at them for long periods of time and also, they are going to be treated much better than by a load of 11-16 year olds!
Posts: 46
Joined: Sun Mar 04, 2012 7:39 pm
by SANGER_A2 » Mon Mar 26, 2012 3:02 pm
rurwin said:


@ SANGER_A2,

So how would you and your school implement a Computer Science course below A-level?

If your answer is that you would never implement such a course, then the RaspPi is obviously surplus to requirements. However if you do intend to implement such a course I would be interested to hear what hardware you were intending to use.



We are implementing a Computing course next year for years 10-11. They get one GCSE from it. The whole course can be covered using free programming software from the Internet such as Scratch and Kodu - which we already have installed on our machines. Also, they use the Microsoft Office software that is already installed and the Serif graphics/web software that again is already installed. There is no need for the R-Pi at such a low level.

Something else is that kids need to be controlled to keep them productive - unless you are working with a small focus group. I have classes of 25-30. We use software called LANSchool to restrict their access to games, apps they don't need and the Internet. if we didn't do this: whenever our backs are turned they would be off-task playing a game or looking up what Justin Beiber is currently upto! We wouldn't be able to do something like this with the R-Pi. Also, we couldn't safely join them to our Windows Server 2008 domain as the technicians wouldn't be able to restrict the R-Pis enough. Especially when all the kids have to do is bring in an SD-card from home with a different OS on and use that to hack the network or play Quake 2!

So I believe the R-Pi is good for small groups managed very closely at secondary level, or for Computing/computer science specialists at A-level or above. Or for kids to hack around with at home. One of ours has ordered one. But when I asked him what he was going to use for a case he just gave me a blank look so his will probably short out in a week and he'll go back to playing Minecraft in his free time!
Posts: 46
Joined: Sun Mar 04, 2012 7:39 pm
by SANGER_A2 » Mon Mar 26, 2012 3:04 pm
morphy_richards said:


rurwin said:


@ SANGER_A2,

So how would you and your school implement a Computer Science course below A-level?





Excited as I am about the Pi and what I'm going to be able to do with it, I envisage most of my computing lessons will be taking place on Virtual PCs on the actual class PCs. The Pi's themselves will be broken out for control, robotics etc. To begin with I think that will happen with smaller groups :- eg. a whole class might use virtual Debian - get them to design some control software and then test it on the real thing in smaller groups. I'm still imagining the setup at the moment. Next year will be officially be Very Interesting Times Indeed.


Yup. I think that they will be really good for control. Especially looking at home much the control boxes you can buy nowadays cost. But in my school and most of the ones before that control was covered mainly by the technology department and the ICT department would cover the software side of it etc. We don't get to play around with RoboSapiens etc! :(
Posts: 46
Joined: Sun Mar 04, 2012 7:39 pm
by jamesh » Mon Mar 26, 2012 5:20 pm
SANGER_A2 said:


rurwin said:


@ SANGER_A2,

So how would you and your school implement a Computer Science course below A-level?

If your answer is that you would never implement such a course, then the RaspPi is obviously surplus to requirements. However if you do intend to implement such a course I would be interested to hear what hardware you were intending to use.



We are implementing a Computing course next year for years 10-11. They get one GCSE from it. The whole course can be covered using free programming software from the Internet such as Scratch and Kodu - which we already have installed on our machines. Also, they use the Microsoft Office software that is already installed and the Serif graphics/web software that again is already installed. There is no need for the R-Pi at such a low level.

Something else is that kids need to be controlled to keep them productive - unless you are working with a small focus group. I have classes of 25-30. We use software called LANSchool to restrict their access to games, apps they don't need and the Internet. if we didn't do this: whenever our backs are turned they would be off-task playing a game or looking up what Justin Beiber is currently upto! We wouldn't be able to do something like this with the R-Pi. Also, we couldn't safely join them to our Windows Server 2008 domain as the technicians wouldn't be able to restrict the R-Pis enough. Especially when all the kids have to do is bring in an SD-card from home with a different OS on and use that to hack the network or play Quake 2!

So I believe the R-Pi is good for small groups managed very closely at secondary level, or for Computing/computer science specialists at A-level or above. Or for kids to hack around with at home. One of ours has ordered one. But when I asked him what he was going to use for a case he just gave me a blank look so his will probably short out in a week and he'll go back to playing Minecraft in his free time!


Just a FYI,

Plus Points:

Scratch works fine on a Raspi.

Office style apps also work fine (LibreOffice is a bit heavyweight but there are alternatives)

Don't want games? Don't install then.

Don't want Justin Beiber (why???), don't install a webbrowser. Same with general internet access.

Raspi is a Linux system - network security is all there, it's just needs to be set up. More secure than Windows....

Minus Points :

Yes, they could bring in their own SD card. (or tie wrap the base one in?). Although I would say that if your network can be hacked just by adding a machine to it, then your network isn't secure enough.

It's not a CPU powerhouse, so some things are a bit slow.

So, if all you need to buy is a monitor, this £22+vat device could save you a lot of money in PC's. Note, all the software above is free.
Raspberry Pi Engineer & Forum Moderator
Raspberry Pi Engineer & Forum Moderator
Posts: 11473
Joined: Sat Jul 30, 2011 7:41 pm
by curiousengr » Mon Mar 26, 2012 9:09 pm
As an Engineer I see educational establishments at all levels and I must just point out the differences in the DVI available in those monitors I see that have SVGA and DVI inputs. Unfortunately there is several versions of DVI Digital and Analogue the monitors that also have DVI is the analogue type – you can easily plug in a adaptor or VGA to DVI (analogue) to these as it uses the analogue pins of the connector.

Unfortunately the HDMI to VGA adaptor/cable is Digital DVI and there is nothing to convert the Digital multi channel output of HDMI to Analogue.To do that would need some active components- an HDMI to SVGA adaptor box at least £40 a time!

All of the current PCs and Laptops in use could also run Linux or an Emulator to do everything the Pi may do if I ever get my hands on.

Asking students to take one home to do their home/project work is interesting but I can't see the students being keen to do 'work' at home- if it is educational.

Edited this as it was getting late and mixed up my connector types.Apparently HDMI to DVI-D should be possible with the right connector HDMI to VGA is not.

Many monitors with fixed (VGA) type leads wont have the extra DVI connector which would be on the back of the monitor itself.

All the forum enthusiasm for building devices using the Pi (robots etc) seems to be hardware minded enthusiasts and the Gert board will extend that use.I dont see many entries from people wanting to program amazing Python/Debian etc software.
Posts: 20
Joined: Sat Mar 10, 2012 8:00 am
by morphy_richards » Tue Mar 27, 2012 6:11 am
But the robotics will lead to amazing python software. I envisage a kind of central nervous system as components for rbotics that will be built up by kids using languages like python under GNU / PL during projects. Applications will span from simple potentiometer feedback to stereo machine vision using live video
User avatar
Posts: 858
Joined: Mon Mar 05, 2012 3:26 pm
Location: London