Why Pi when you can just run Linux?

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by rurwin » Tue Mar 27, 2012 6:49 am
curiousengr said:

I dont see many entries from people wanting to program amazing Python/Debian etc software.

I see several people taliking about building routers and webservers, and several more talking about home cinema. Those are ideal applications for Python/Debian (sic). Python also works well in user-interface situations where its power can lead to powerful interfaces and its slower speed is not a disadvantage. So any child-friendly GUI built on top of Debian will almost certainly be produced with Python.

And as morphy_richards says, Python is ideal for robotics. It has the same power as Lisp, and more besides, and Lisp was always the ideal Artificial Intelligence language.

The only things it does not do well are real-time and interfacing to third-party libraries. For those you need C or something equally low-level.
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by glenn66 » Tue Mar 27, 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.






In the local authority where I am, the managed system is currently pretty much locked-down (although this is about to change), but the schools that I work with who do programming modules tend to use virtualisation or 'obsolete' computers (some donated from parents and local business) running Windows and VB.

Also, at GCSE there currently aren't many programming courses so it isn't a huge issue for most schools.
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by error404 » Tue Mar 27, 2012 4:07 pm
I think the real appeal here is not that Pi will replace existing computer labs, but that it makes 'One RaspberryPi Per Child' feasible. Even if you give every student a laptop as some schools do these days, they're still not going to feel comfortable fiddling around and actually learning anything. Especially when the school loads them up with tons of garbage 'protection' software, doesn't give them administrative access and so on. If they have their own development box they can fiddle with without consequence I think those that are curious will feel a lot more comfortable exploring.

Not letting them connect it to the network (either by fiat or by using the model A) will solve most of the security/distraction issues I think, but remember 'life always finds a way'. For me anyway, figuring out how to defeat the school's 'security' was part of the fun and what kept me engaged, I don't think you should be trying too hard to discourage it.
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by tech_monkey » Tue Mar 27, 2012 8:41 pm
@Sanger

I guess the IT department have never heard of MAC address filtering then. Wouldn't matter what SD card they put in with what ever OS. If the MAC address isn't in the list it can't connect to the network, end of story. And you set up filtering rules for these MAC addresses.

Many places have networks attached to networks. So one router/switch is used to connect the PIs in a classroom, this has the MAC address filtering and rules about sites they can visit if any. Or you can set up time based rules, so if one class need the internet for BBC news then you can set this up. This router is then connected to the main school network, which can then also have rules for this classroom router.

Never under estimate the power of flashing LED lights. Getting kids to write there own program to flash 6 LEDs in sequence is far more popular than trying to emulate it. Its just not the same. I remember writing in assembler a program to do a traffic light  crossing.  Had 4 sets of lights and even switches to simulate those induction loops.All programmed via a keypad and LED display.

As for theft, you count them out and then count them in. How do you think they do it in schools with a metal work department. You have tags which you hand in for tools and when you need another tool you give in a tag or hand back a tool. At the end of a lesson its easy to spot missing tools and who has them.

Or you could just put the PI in a bigger box. Or screw them down to a large piece of wood or something.

On cost, many schools get local businesses to sponsor them, so why not do it with the Pi's . OK it may mean a teacher going round to various local businesses, but they are more likely to donate 30 or 40 pounds  for a single PI rather than 300 to 400 for a basic spec PC. And HDMI monitors these days are quite cheap 18 inch monitors cost less than 100 pounds look on Amazon they are selling an ASUS 18.5 inch for just under 75 pounds and they are selling a Samsung one for 72. And I am sure you could get an LCD TV with an HDMI socket for less or similar price.

So for less than 150 pounds you have a PI a monitor, keyboard and mouse.

And if a PI gets broken then its much cheaper to replace than a PC.
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by abishur » Tue Mar 27, 2012 8:48 pm
tech_monkey said:


@Sanger

I guess the IT department have never heard of MAC address filtering then. Wouldn't matter what SD card they put in with what ever OS. If the MAC address isn't in the list it can't connect to the network, end of story. And you set up filtering rules for these MAC addresses.


Changing the SD card shouldn't change the MAC address.  I know you can spoof a mac address, but under normal conditions a mac addressed is burned into the ethernet card itself, so swapping out the SD card wouldn't change the address and that wouldn't stop anything.

As a side note, I actually make it a point to never use mac filtering because of how ridiculously easy it is to to circumvent.
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by SN » Tue Mar 27, 2012 8:51 pm
@tech_monkey - great post :-)
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by meatballs » Wed Apr 11, 2012 11:41 pm
Abishur said:


tech_monkey said:


@Sanger

I guess the IT department have never heard of MAC address filtering then. Wouldn't matter what SD card they put in with what ever OS. If the MAC address isn't in the list it can't connect to the network, end of story. And you set up filtering rules for these MAC addresses.


Changing the SD card shouldn't change the MAC address.  I know you can spoof a mac address, but under normal conditions a mac addressed is burned into the ethernet card itself, so swapping out the SD card wouldn't change the address and that wouldn't stop anything.


As a side note, I actually make it a point to never use mac filtering because of how ridiculously easy it is to to circumvent.

MAC filtering might stump the majority of school kids but not the one that would actually manage to hack your network :)

Our school turned out lots of good IT skilled pupils because of the various ways we could play around with the Win95 machines and the dreadful RM lockdowns. With some RaspPis you could easily set up a nice penetration testing lab for pupils to play around on...
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by abishur » Thu Apr 12, 2012 2:19 am
meatballs said:


Abishur said:


tech_monkey said:


@Sanger

I guess the IT department have never heard of MAC address filtering then. Wouldn't matter what SD card they put in with what ever OS. If the MAC address isn't in the list it can't connect to the network, end of story. And you set up filtering rules for these MAC addresses.


Changing the SD card shouldn't change the MAC address.  I know you can spoof a mac address, but under normal conditions a mac addressed is burned into the ethernet card itself, so swapping out the SD card wouldn't change the address and that wouldn't stop anything.


As a side note, I actually make it a point to never use mac filtering because of how ridiculously easy it is to to circumvent.


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by hzrnbgy » Thu Apr 12, 2012 2:27 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


Nothing prevents the school booting from a USB drive instead of a hard drive...
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by andri » Thu Apr 12, 2012 5:22 am
hzrnbgy said:


Nothing prevents the school booting from a USB drive instead of a hard drive…


Yes, they are.

Some school (and university) not allow to boot from USB, for security reason.
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by hzrnbgy » Thu Apr 12, 2012 11:36 am
And they would allow an RPi to boot from an SDcard?


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

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by jamesh » Thu Apr 12, 2012 11:44 am
Apart from SD being the only way you can boot, to get security you can use a case that prevents the SD being removed/replaced with something sinister.
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by markb » Thu Apr 12, 2012 12:58 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.




For a start, unless you are a 'free school', an academy, or a private school, you'll teach whatever the national curiculum tells you to, which at the moment is ICT.

As things stands, I expect that Rpis will be used in LEA schools (either in primary or secondary sector) in after-school clubs, and wont be part of the main-stream curiculum for a good few years.

There's nothing wrong in that, of course, but the idea that millions of school kids will get their hands on one is just 'pi' in the sky at the moment.

PS. As to the VGA question, I checked and at my son's secondary school, all monitors that the pupils use are cheap Dell panels, with VGA connectors. Like most schools, they have not bought new kit in bulk in the past few years when DVI became more popular, and in the current economic environment wont be doing so for a while.
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by scep » Thu Apr 12, 2012 4:24 pm
markb said:


For a start, unless you are a 'free school', an academy, or a private school, you'll teach whatever the national curiculum tells you to, which at the moment is ICT.


A few quick points:

a) The NC Programme of Study for ICT is surprisingly flexible - you can teach loads of CS stuff in Key Stage 3 within the framework.

b) The goverrnment plan to disapply the NC for ICT from September 2012 (consultation finished yestday I think). If this does happen all schools can then do what they want re 'ICT' (sadly in some schools this will be "not a lot").

c) OCR offer GCSE Computing already and the three other main exam boards will do so from September 2012.
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by hippy » Thu Apr 12, 2012 5:40 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?


Some are but I believe that may primarily be through Design and Technology (D&T) or Electronics / Electronic Product courses rather than ICT (though there's probably some crossover). There are a number of well established companies supplying chips, boards and systems for this purpose into the education sector.

For example http://www.picaxe.com/Hardware.....roject-Kit

I'm not sure how the R-Pi will compete or complement extremely low-cost microcontrollers and boards as often used presently but it's a wide subject area and I am sure the R-Pi will find some place there, especially with more advanced students.
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by markb » Fri Apr 13, 2012 5:06 am
scep said:


markb said:


For a start, unless you are a 'free school', an academy, or a private school, you'll teach whatever the national curiculum tells you to, which at the moment is ICT.


A few quick points:

a) The NC Programme of Study for ICT is surprisingly flexible - you can teach loads of CS stuff in Key Stage 3 within the framework.

b) The goverrnment plan to disapply the NC for ICT from September 2012 (consultation finished yestday I think). If this does happen all schools can then do what they want re 'ICT' (sadly in some schools this will be "not a lot").

c) OCR offer GCSE Computing already and the three other main exam boards will do so from September 2012.



I take your points, but as you well know, most schools teach to the exam and until programming becomes part of the syllabus, not a lot will happen. With the vacuum created by the removal of ICT next year I fear many schools will just drop the whole subject (unless a board offers an 'easy' alternative exam)
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by morphy_richards » Fri Apr 13, 2012 12:17 pm
I think simply dropping ICT wont be an option as it will remain as compulsary in whatever reboot it becomes. There is already too much interest to allow it to just peter out. Teaching without specialists who have sound computer science will be challenging. Industry and teachers with compsci can help by producing resources for non specialists like the old Sample Teaching Units for ICT that came out in the 00"s
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by techtoxic » Sun Apr 15, 2012 4:29 pm
That is actually a very good point. My school has expensive computers and even a team of technicians for the school computers. Why would they pay for Raspberry Pi. I ,too, am not trying to be mean and throw back all the foundations work back at them but it is a point. As far as I am concerned, I will be ordering one but my school won't.

Also http://www.techtoxic.com/index.....rry_pi/0-9 raises a good point about the cost of monitors/displays. Our school's PCs certainly don't accept HDMI ports.
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by techtoxic » Sun Apr 15, 2012 4:35 pm
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by techtoxic » Sun Apr 15, 2012 4:39 pm
morphy_richards said:


I think simply dropping ICT wont be an option as it will remain as compulsary in whatever reboot it becomes. There is already too much interest to allow it to just peter out. Teaching without specialists who have sound computer science will be challenging. Industry and teachers with compsci can help by producing resources for non specialists like the old Sample Teaching Units for ICT that came out in the 00"s
http://webarchive.nationalarch.....ctsampley7



Disagree, my school has refused to allow anyone to do ICT for GCSE since they ,like me, believe the current national curriculum is strictly using ICT as a tool via Microsoft products. E.G. Microsoft excel is great for businesses but the whole ICT subject is completely full of it. This is not ICT, this is business study. The Raspberry Pi's intentions are what ICT should be about.
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by morphy_richards » Sun Apr 15, 2012 6:30 pm
I would call this "computing" not ict and I like the distinction. To me its a bit like the difference between learning to drive a racing car or learning to design one. There is definitely a massive amount of related material between bs and ict but lots of good reasons to keep them as separate subjects imho.
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by Dave_G_2 » Mon Apr 16, 2012 3:00 pm
My 2 cents worth:

The RPI is a fantastic idea and product but there are several things that could get in the way of it being adopted as the defacto standard for schools:

1) The lack of a VGA port.

I can understand why Broadcom decided to omit VGA support, however this leaves only the very high end (HDMI) which not many school monitors have or the very low end (composite video) which has atrocious resolution for computer use.

VGA (middle-of-the-road) is by far still the most widely used in schools and has acceptable quality.

2) The boot problem with some SD cards.

It would be nice to be able to use any SD card.

3) In many countries the ICT (or equivalent) cirruculum was written around the software from our "friends" over at Redmond.

In some cases they have even donated the hardware via their local agents/partners.

Do you really think they are going to sit back and allow the introduction of other hardware and software that threatens their market share?

Given their track record, they will try all sorts of tactics to keep them out of schools as much as possible.

4) Lack of a case/housing.

Apart from protecting the Pi from static laden fingers, a "cool" looking case will do wonders to attract most youngsters which think form over function.
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by RaTTuS » Mon Apr 16, 2012 3:11 pm
Dave_G_2 said:


4) Lack of a case/housing.

Apart from protecting the Pi from static laden fingers, a "cool" looking case will do wonders to attract most youngsters which think form over function.


the case comes next - for schools use it will have to have a case anyway

initially this is just to get the card into hands of people to be able to boot strap the rest of the process
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by jamesh » Mon Apr 16, 2012 4:12 pm
1). VGA is a problem, but not one fixable in an acceptable amount of money. Would  cost $15-20 extra at least per device. That's over 50% more. Note you can use DVI monitors.

2) Indeed. However, all the cards I have tried have worked fine. We are getting to the bottom of the problem, some issues might be fixable in software, others not so easy.

3) It's going to be interesting to see what happens here!
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by davidmam » Mon Apr 16, 2012 4:23 pm
The real advantage with RPi over just running Linux is the form factor and acessibility to hardware. Ideally a RPi case for schools will expose the GPIO header via a convenient (and protected to prevent bricking of the board) set of connections on the case. This would require an expansion board but would not be too expensive.
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