Why Pi when you can just run Linux?

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by bobc » Mon Apr 23, 2012 10:17 pm
Andy_Hulse 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.



I am not sure what either of your are going on about, many schools run perfectly good computer science courses using virtual devices instead of having expensive hardware. Secondly the price of an HDMI to VGA adapter cable is less than £2.50, so nobody needs to buy newer monitors.


That £2.50 cable won't do what you suggest, it merely takes digital output from some graphic cards to display on an HDMI monitor. Down-converting HDMI to VGA requires
some actual data conversion and more than just a cable.

A lot of monitors are still sold with just VGA, it saves a few quid. Some at the lower end have VGA/DVI. The vast majority of our monitors at work are VGA, even the newly supplied ones.

Recently I have been buying monitors with HDMI, to get some sort of future proofing. I have old monitors which are still quite usable but they are VGA only, shame to just chuck 'em away.

Of course, HDMI is soon to become obsolete as well...
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by morphy_richards » Tue Apr 24, 2012 3:28 pm
bobc said:


Of course, HDMI is soon to become obsolete as well...


I had a fine collection of mini USB cables and suddenly they became obsolete and everything went micro, now I'm just about getting there with HDMI stuff and that's about to become obsolete as well!

When will people stop improving things all the time! I cant keep up >:-/

;-)
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by Joe Schmoe » Tue Apr 24, 2012 3:31 pm
Just out of curiosity, why/how can someone say that HDMI is about to become "obsolete"?
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by 999frogs » Wed Apr 25, 2012 9:16 am
In my experience the issue with having a majority MS based environment in schools is not the kids, it's the teachers. They have an aversion to learning new IT tools (they just want to teach history or English or Science, not IT !)

I'm sure not all teachers and not all schools. But certainly all the ones I've been involved with as a parent, governor or advisor
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by jamesh » Wed Apr 25, 2012 10:01 am
Joe Schmoe said:


Just out of curiosity, why/how can someone say that HDMI is about to become "obsolete"?


I'm not sure....given it's on every television currently made.
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by tech_monkey » Sat Apr 28, 2012 8:40 am
I doubt very much that HDMI will be obsolete any time soon, upgraded with backward compatibility yes.

I think we are on HDMI 1.3 something at the moment, in 1.4 there will also be an ethernet connection.  This is what pin 14 is for.

HDMI was developed by Hitachi, Ltd. ,Panasonic, Philips, Sony, Toshiba and a couple of others. So I doubt it will be obsolete.

HDMI was developed in 2003 I think. And as of end of 2011 over 1000 companies have adopted the HDMI connector. This means there are about 2 billion or so bits of kit out there with an HDMI connector on it.

What I find strange one of the developers of the HDTV standard LG where not one of the original developers, but they where one of the original adopters of it.
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by budgieboy » Sat Apr 28, 2012 3:18 pm
scep said:


Dave_G_2 said:


……..and I"m not convinced that they havent done so in the UK.


Conviction and anecdotes don't do it for me. Where's the evidence? Where is the proof that the UK ICT curriculum was "written around" MS Office? Where is the evidence that  that Microsoft influenced the 1997 Stevenson Report and subsequent ICT National Curriculum? If they did, they did a rubbish job - Mark East, Microsoft's Education Group Manager at the time, should have been sacked. :)

I mean, the statutory Programme of Study for KS3 barely mentions specific applications like spreadsheets and wordprocessing. Contrary to popular belief, the dreaded databases are not mentioned at all. It's all about concepts and processes that have no ties to generic or specific software. It's ludicrous to think that it was written around Office or that Microsoft influenced it.

I'm not so naive as to think that Microsoft are without fault. They are a big business - of course they have done questionable things, shady things, on the way to the top. Just like Appl€ and Son¥ (see what I did there? Did ya?! ;) ). But you predicted:


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


and I'm saying that this will not happen. I'd go further and say that is smacks of conspiracy.


I have no doubt that M$ is committed to education, as long as it means using their product only by using their dominance to keep everyone else out.


This is a truism. Should they push Apple's products? Or Linux? If they do bring out a tiny, low-wattage, subsidised PC that is more powerful and cheaper than the RasPi, I will be delighted (as, I'm sure, the Foundation will be). I'd buy them by the bucketload and sell my RasPis on eBay ;)

p.s. all my own work and opinion - not the Foundation's :)



They certainly have great sway in the ICT curricula:

https://www.microsoft.com/about/corporatecitizenship/citizenship/giving/programs/up/digitalliteracy/eng/curriculum2.mspx#internetandweb

This only works on IE and as quoted from that page:

"Digital Literacy version 2 teaches generic ICT skills and concepts, and features screen shots and simulations from Windows Vista and the 2007 Microsoft Office system to illustrate and provide hands-on examples for students. The original version of Digital Literacy uses screen shots and simulations from Windows XP Service Pack 2 and Microsoft Office 2003."

No shots from alternatives then.

Also

https://www.dropbox.com/sh/7xn9dxd3ebg1q8q/8WGIyDQvxe

Microsoft digital literacy computer basics document

https://www.dropbox.com/s/h81rrjs9zqsz1jo/CN1E3QQ001.pdf

NOCN Computer basics qualification (UK)

Specs in the NOCN document are almost word for word as in Microsoft document

AND qualification states (page 4) 'Based on Microsoft Digital Literacy Curriculum...'

So I think you might agree that they have some sway as the above qualification is a UK one.
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by scep » Sat Apr 28, 2012 4:21 pm
budgieboy said:


So I think you might agree that they have some sway as the above qualification is a UK one.


And this is a UK qualification too. But like those MS things you've posted it has no relevance whatsoever to the UK ICT curriculum or the Programmes of Study at each Key Stage. Those MS courses are nothing to do with schools at all – just training offered by MS to anyone who wants to do them (and I don't see how this can be a bad thing).

All you are really saying is that Microsoft offer training in digital literacy. Which isn't surprising really :)

And even as an example to bash MS with, it's not even that good:


Since Digital Literacy simulates software user environments, pedagogically, it does not require a specific application software or operating system to be installed for use

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by budgieboy » Sun Apr 29, 2012 2:50 pm
I'm not MS bashing: just saying they do have sway in the curriculum as this qualification IS used in schools and colleges (it is in mine) so it is relevant to the conversation. It also gives MS leverage.

the point I raised about it only working in IE is true: to be truly agnostic it ought to work in Firefox and Opera etc. I can't get it to run in either Firefox or Opera in Ubuntu 10.04 but I can get it to work on my windows machine in IE and in a virtual machine in Ubuntu on IE. This is not MS bashing just an observation on their standpoint.
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by danpeirce » Thu May 10, 2012 10:30 am
davidmam said:


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.



THis I agree with. When I look at this board I see a very inexpensive way to set up a SPI to ethernet bridge. Our first year students have  been using PIC18F devices programmed with MPlab and the C18 compiler to connect to switches LED's and measure voltages from sensors for many years. This board could make data collected by a PIC accessable to the LAN. It could even run a web server so that the local PC's could interact via a web browser. No GUI development required.

All that for a little computer board that costs about the same as a PICkit2 programmer. Looks like there is a little bare interface board our students could possibly populate with parts too.

By the way our first year engineering students are coming in with their own computers (and very few of those are running  linux). With this board we could have a real nice interface solution at a low cost and without another big learning curve. It would also give us the option of connecting to these machines via remote login. No need for more keyboards and monitors.
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by Michael » Thu May 10, 2012 7:06 pm
JamesH said:


Joe Schmoe said:


Just out of curiosity, why/how can someone say that HDMI is about to become "obsolete"?


I'm not sure....given it's on every television currently made.



There are a couple of newer technologies that could eventually replace HDMI.


  • DisplayPort, which is intended to replace VGA, DVI and LVDS

  • ThunderBolt, which combines PCI Express and DisplayPort into a single interface.  It uses a mini DisplayPort connector

  • MHL, which uses HDMI and micro-USB connectors, but different signalling

  • HDbaseT, which carries power, HDMI signalling and 100baseT Ethernet over standard Cat5 cables and 8P8C ("RJ45") connectors

  • WirelessHD, WHDI and WiGig - three competing standards for a wireless video and audio link between video sources such as computers or set-top-boxes, and displays


It is unclear which of the above will achieve ubiquity and how soon.  Either way, just like analogue connectors such as Composite, VGA and Scart, it is likely that HDMI will be around for many years to come.
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by danpeirce » Thu May 10, 2012 7:24 pm
Since there is a HDMI on my Andriod I just purchased I don't think HDMI is going to go away in the next few years.
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by Joe Schmoe » Thu May 10, 2012 9:36 pm
I suppose it depends on what the meaning of the word "obsolete" is - i.e., how you, the speaker, defines it.  Some people define obsolete as "out of the lab" - i.e., in use.  Note the famous 1992 (!) discussion in which 'ast' claims that Linux is obsolete.

A more sensible definition of obsolete is "not in (widespread) use".  By that definition, yes, HDMI will not be obsolete for quite some time to come.
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by lhughes » Fri May 11, 2012 8:57 pm
morphy_richards said:


"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



To be fair, an HDMI compatible monitor is something not many people have. And anyone could get hold of a 700MHz computer for next to nothing.

Saying that I still fully support the Pi, I just don't fully see how it could be used educationaly.
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by elmicker » Fri May 11, 2012 10:12 pm
HDMI is ubiquitous, the market penetration of HDMI in displays is upwards of 90%, and has been >50% for some years now in developed markets. For those places it isn't, that's what your component cable is for. If you find a recent device to which you can't connect with either hdmi or component for more than a few quid's worth of adapter I will doff my hat to you sir. There may well be some schools with analogue dvi only and they may turn out to be problematic, but most schools will be replacing their IT equipment every 3-5 years anyway. Before you can turn your head and cough there'll be HDMI or Displayport or proper DVI everywhere.

And while you might be able to buy "a 700MHz PC" for next to nothing, try finding hundreds at a time to outfit a school's worth of pupils with one, all the while complying with public purchase processes (something tells me five to ten year old PCs of questionable origin aren't really the kind of things LEAs like to buy).

Next up integrate those PCs into a school's IT labs, and its CDT workshops (for electronics and that), without displacing the current (adequate for IT and word processing and research in normal teaching, all equally important) infrastructure.

Next up rig it so every pupil involved in programs using the Pi has, when needed, access to identical equipment and environments in the home.

And do that for less than the cost of a textbook per pupil.

That's the pi's purpose in education.

I left school towards the arse end of the previous decade. If you'd asked the poor, overworked IT technician there whether we'd even be able to so much as dual-boot linux on "his" computers (and that doesn't come close to the capabilities of the Pi) he'd have had a fit, if you'd asked him to install (i.e. to buy, install and support) enough software to do the same jobs on the existing Windows machines he'd have gone into cardiac arrest (and you still wouldn't have the gpio etc.).

The secondary equipment, the monitors, the keyboards, the mice, the ethernet in every classroom, that's all there (and it's in the vast majority of homes, too), all we need for the highest quality of computing education is a drop-in computing environment.

Not only does the Pi do that, it does it cheap enough to be as good as disposable, and is a stateless machine so it requires nearly no maintenance. In the process of making this wonder-kit they've managed to excite so many hobbyists and professionals that the machine will have a dedicated and passionate support network around it.

Personally I don't see how someone can't see the point of Pi in schools.
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by EdwinJ85 » Thu May 24, 2012 9:37 am
You could run a virtual machine on a PC to act like a Rpi, but you have to know how to set up a virtual machine and have permission on a reasonably powerful computer to do so. You could boot from a live disc but then you have access to pretty much every file if you use the SUDO access, and parents wouldn't want that. It's would be a nightmare at a school as well.

What happens if you are drinking coke and spill it on your 'virtual' machine? Angry parents. Spill it on a £20/£30 machine and people won't really care as much. They also require less cooling and power so are much cheaper to run than a PC. You are more likely to have access to a TV at home than a monitor if you are 10-15 years old.

From an adult perspective, I don't want to bloat my personal computer with VMs and things when I could just buy an Rpi for practically nothing and plug it into my TV - job done. If anything goes wrong I just replace a memory card, if I somehow broke my windows computer it would be far more expensive to fix. It's also a lot easier to see the insides and learn how the whole thing works with a Rpi, I don't fancy opening up my £500 PC case and mucking around with its guts at all.
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by Morley » Fri Jun 22, 2012 1:24 pm
Excuse my ignorance but, why can't schools make use of their VGA only monitors and networked PCs to access the childrens Pi's remotely? I have a similar problem at home and thought I would see if this forum could help me with my dilemma. Within a few minutes I happened across a post, and a blog explaining how I could use my Windows Desktop PC to connect remotely to the Pi. Why can't the schools make use of this approach or am I being just a little naive?
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by jamesh » Fri Jun 22, 2012 9:25 pm
Morley wrote:Excuse my ignorance but, why can't schools make use of their VGA only monitors and networked PCs to access the childrens Pi's remotely? I have a similar problem at home and thought I would see if this forum could help me with my dilemma. Within a few minutes I happened across a post, and a blog explaining how I could use my Windows Desktop PC to connect remotely to the Pi. Why can't the schools make use of this approach or am I being just a little naive?


It's certainly an option. You cannot break the host PC as any work you are doing is on the Pi. Good solution. And people could take the Pi home and continue work there.
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by evan » Sun Jul 08, 2012 5:46 pm
The U.S. Embassy Paris is running a summer program for disadvantaged muslim kids from the outskirts of Paris. The value we see in our school for the Pi is that it is part of the science project. Sure, they could learn programming on a virtual machine in the classroom (something we spend a lot of time doing) but the Pi allows them to apply that programming in a fun and real-world way. For example we are learning how to write assembler code to control micro-motors, temperature sensors. Using the Pi they see the "big picture"! That is, system architecture, project planning, resource assignment, power management, writing code, scripts, wiring up breadboards, and packaging everything into a "product".

Essentially they are seeing what it potentially takes to be a Computer Engineer, Electrical Engineer, and Designer all rolled into one!

The Pi is absolutely essential to getting these kids away from bad influences and getting them on the path to a great future.

We've managed to obtain just a few units but when the Edu program goes into full swing we'll be expanding this program to other areas of the banlieue.
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by Newborn » Sun Aug 26, 2012 5:04 am
Hello All,
I am a newbie, just wrote a post and it disappeared (I'm pretty new to this) so I am trying again.
I am physics guy, lots of lab work but always been afraid of the digital stuff, but now I am in a crash course. I'n writing C code for just a few months now, I say that just to make clear how foreign all this is to me. But as on of you said earlier you have to do about 3 very high-level demanding mental tasks at the same time (truly pushes your internal stack). Embedded systems guys you are sort of like the MMA of tech stuff. :) Fun to start to see it :)

But I will read through your thread thoroughly, and pipe in when I can understand enough to ask a useful question.
But I am building an embedded system, I do want some top level software sitting on top of my embedded system but more for monitoring and not primary control ( I do also want some of the plain jane tools of skype, play training videos, use excel etc. That can be a MS flavor (I was thinking Win CE, but not because I love MS, (philosophically I prefer Linux) but trying to choose solutions that are within my grasp of accomplishing (at least for a prototype level) in the next several months.
Hence why have Pi when you can write it in Linux (I am trying to figure out how many languages I can squeeze in my worn out brain ).

Thank in advance

Feel free to comment now(insults are fine too :), at this point any feedback I can use, or later I will be able to ask more specific questions etc.

NB
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by danpeirce » Sun Aug 26, 2012 4:13 pm
Newborn wrote:{snip}....
Hence why have Pi when you can write it in Linux (I am trying to figure out how many languages I can squeeze in my worn out brain ).

Thank in advance

Feel free to comment now(insults are fine too :), at this point any feedback I can use, or later I will be able to ask more specific questions etc.

NB


Your actual question is not all that clear. You know that Linux is an operating system and not a programming language?
As a real general answer I could say I have worked in post secondary for 25 years and in different departments. Not everyone is interested in having dual booting or Linux based computers around. When I worked in a engineering technology department with Electronics and Automation programs we had dual booting computers (windows and linux). We also had a lab where students could swap in blank hard drives and install linux and get some networking up and running. Now I am working in a physics department and we don't have a lot of space for extra computers.

To me the Raspberry Pi is looking quite attractive. We could conceivably have a bunch of Raspberry Pis to augment what we are already doing with microcontrollers. The cost would be small since 10 raspberry pi's cost less than a single desktop. We would not have to worry about annoying anyone who would be put off by a boot-loader they are not familiar with (for dual booting). A class set of R-Pi's is even smaller an lighter than a set of extra harddrives! If we want different boot images for the R-Pi all we need is extra SD cards.

Eight bit microcontrollers provide a nice simple target for simple C programs that can control some IO. By simple I mean that one does not need to worry about how to interact with an operating system since there is none. The Raspberry Pi will allow remote SSH access to those microcontroller projects with little extra effort (and very little extra cost). The remote access can be from a desktop, the student's own laptop, or even an Android tablet or phone (via wi-fi). Once we have the Raspberry Pi's perhaps we will actually do more with them than just that. For example the R-Pi can run an Apache web server and a PHP interpreter. Students could conceivably set up remote web browser access to their projects. The raspberry Pi is small enough that it could fit into the tool box we provide to the students for the microcontroller projects.

The objectives in primary or secondary school might be quite different but the advantages of the raspberry pi are going to be similar. They are small inexpensive and portable. They can be used without disrupting existing networks and if someone manages to mess up the operating system it can be re-imaged with little fuss. In fact if some extra SD cards are ready to go it only takes seconds to swap SD cards. The PC's in the room can be locked down with deepfreeze and it won't make any difference to programming.
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by Newborn » Thu Oct 11, 2012 6:15 pm
Thanks Dan,
Point taken. I have a vague understanding of top level needs. As I said I coming bottom up.
But yes I can imagine that Rpi (or even the arduinos (or like) can control my high level I/o. But due to my user base, it really helps if it it tools they are familiar with. Yes it is strange, it's sorta big project but for lower end developing world hospitals. so I wasn't looking for dual boot, for the end machine it will be more or less locked so docs don't change to many settings.

Again I will write more clear questions and post, setting my my dangerous prototypes logic sniffer now and then things should get more exciting :)

Thanks for your input we'll talk more later
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by Newborn » Thu Oct 11, 2012 6:19 pm
Hi Evan,
sounds great about class using Rpi. I have wanted and waite about 20 years before I jumped in beause it seemed daunting. sounds great for the future.
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by SiriusHardware » Sat Oct 13, 2012 6:46 pm
SANGER_A2 wrote: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 agree with your comments about the lack of VGA output on the Pi. As I've said elsewhere, there must be hundreds of thousands of working CRT monitors dodging landfill sites, most having been replaced simply because their owners wanted something nicer and neater. I'm willing to bet that nearly every computer equipped household has (or had) a spare working VGA monitor. Very few will have a spare HDMI equipped TV or monitor yet.

The composite output does have value - it could be fun to put together a home-made 'movie' and record the finished product onto an old VCR or newer HDD video recorder through the RCA / Composite video input - but if it was a choice between VGA and HDMI, between the two, at the moment, I would have gone for VGA. After all, most VGA monitors can manage at least 1024 * 768, which is 'HD' enough for me.

Re: theft - also elsewhere, I have proposed the idea of a commercially modified / supplied version of a standard keyboard / touchpad combo with the base deepened and partitioned so that a Raspberry Pi and commonly available powered hub could be fitted into it, with the keyboard / touchpad internally connected to the hub and all other connections taken to the rear of the unit via extension leads - this would give a very 'clean' configuration with just the power supply cable going in and the HDMI lead coming out, and the whole package would be much too big to stuff in a pocket. You could screw the assembly together with a variety of different security screw types and, moreover, chain it to the desk.

I didn't originally propose this idea with the aim of preventing theft in schools - I just wanted a neater looking Raspberry Pi setup for myself.
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