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kulminaator
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Re: Why not program on x86 desktop?

Tue Aug 07, 2012 6:07 am

from my point of view raspberry pi is a robotics fan's dream :)

1) it's cheap as hell, it's simple as hell to set up
2) you don't have to reinvent the wheel to get a working tcp/ip stack, networking, device support
3) raw gpio access
4) moderate power usage (heavyweight when compared to atmel, lightweight compared to any x86)
5) usb stack and two usb ports
6) nobody else has anything comparable on the market in terms of (ram + software stacks + extendibility) / price
7) it's reusable for multiple projects
8) hardware acceleration for graphics, should you need it
9) you don't even get a decent atmel programmer device for the price of a raspberry pi (off the shelf)
10) i could continue the list here but you already understood


as just for programming ... not having to be worried to break a 600$ laptop is also a pretty great plus.

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MattHawkinsUK
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Re: Why not program on x86 desktop?

Tue Aug 07, 2012 9:03 am

Here are the reasons I think the Pi is better than a desktop PC for learning :

1) The Pi is cheap. If you haven't got a PC or you can't use the family PC then the Pi is affordable.
2) You can hold the Pi in your hand. It is always more fun controlling something you can velcro to the top of a radio controlled car.
3) It is easy to restore the Pi to a known state with a simple SD card swap.
4) You can easily run different systems by swapping SD cards
5) You can swap systems with friends by sharing SD cards
6) The Pi is super-portable so you can take it places you wouldn't take your desktop.
7) The Pi makes interfacing electronics which you can control easy and cheap.
8) The Pi is small so you build a robot with it, send it into space or install it in the glove box of your car.
9) Schools can teach kids using Pi's and the kids can buy the exact same hardware to continue learning at home. That is impossible to achieve with desktop PCs.
10) Price means you can dedicate the Pi to specific tasks without breaking the bank.

Cost to light up an LED in a sequence of your choice on a Pi costs $30-$50.
To do that on a PC requires $300+.

I've got a desktop PC. It's great but when it comes to hardware/software hacking the Pi is much more fun. Obviously there is nothing wrong with people learning on a desktop if they choose to. Learning is the important bit!
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SuperObComMan
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Re: Why not program on x86 desktop?

Tue Aug 07, 2012 2:49 pm

You cannot teach kids - or anyone for that matter - the relatively simple concepts behind programmable automation with a PC cheaply since the two main IO ports with a decent history and user configurability in them have all but disappeared (Parallel and non-USB serial ports).

You can demonstrate automation on other devices such as PICs and Arduinos but you can't actually program them without an external PC. (True that you need to transfer the OS to an SD card for the Pi but once it's done, the PC is no longer needed. You can hardly say to a mate "Hey can you let me compile my program for my PIC on yer PC?" - it's not quite the same in terms of time and inconvenience)

The cheap PC being touted may have the IO ports I mentioned, but are typically not very 'green', generating a lot of heat, are noisy, and generally if the power supply needs replacing, it costs as much as the PC itself. This is before the extortionate cost of suitable RAM and hard-drives one finds when trying to rebuild a PC wgich is more than three years old.

The Pi in some sense can be viewed almost like a cartridge-based console, given that you can keep an image of whatever OS/distro and setup you desire on multiple SDs (a good example might be swapping between XBMC and Wheezy).

It's not that such PCs - and I like my PCs - can't be useful but if I had a choice between a hulking great box and something the size of a wallet to perform the same task - say a router (I'm thinking of Freesco-style setup here) - then the wallet-sized box would win.

There's also possibly some kind of weird nostalgia trip on my part as a 20 y.o., I used to mess around with my VIC20 back in the early 80's for more than just games (DIY expansion board, DIY expansion of 8k module to 16k, use the user port to drive a PLC output card, etc).

The Pi offers everyone to opportunity to learn while they play - or is it play while they learn? - in a manner which is "non-threatening" on a number of levels (size, expense).... and you can more easily afford more than one if the need arises :)

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DexOS
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Re: Why not program on x86 desktop?

Tue Aug 07, 2012 3:50 pm

I must say i was very skeptical about how it would be any different from a linux distro on a old PC.
I got roped into getting one as there was so many unanswered ? about bare metal coding on it.
But i have been completely won over, its a supper bit of kit, ideal for teaching both kids and bigger kids about both computers and electronics.
I think some of the cheap media player brigade have had second thoughts, but have been replaced with even bigger numbers of people that want to learn.
Batteries not included, Some assembly required.

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abishur
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Re: Why not program on x86 desktop?

Tue Aug 07, 2012 4:25 pm

For me, if you can afford to buy your kid a traditional x86 or x64 computer to help them learn programming, than that's a find choice. The hardware interface options of the Rpi are a nice bonus, but not strictly necessary for learning programming. I discount tablets (be they Android or Mac) as a legit programming options. Using those on screen keypads can be excessively limiting.

The issue at hand, however, is that few people can afford / are willing to pay a hundred or so for an old, horribly outdated computer/laptop just so their child can learn programming. And I believe it is important that children have ownership in the computer they're using. While it would be awesome if all the kids could have their own pi, even if it was just their own SD card there's a lot to be said for the relationship between how well a child learns a subject, how interested they are in that subject, and how much personal ownership they have in whatever they're doing.

Now yes, there are *lots* of other fringe benefits associated with the RPi. Things like: A healthy on-line community, tons of material being designed specifically for helping kids learn programming, the fact that it's Geek chic right now, the hardware interfacing options (programming meeting real world), and even the fact that it can play games and HD video. Those are all great and good, but can just as easily be filled with smart phones, and PCs as it stands.

So it's not really about "why is the Pi better than "x" to learn programming", it's about providing a means for children to be able to take pride in "owning" their own PC and giving them full range authority to mess with it. :-)
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robwriter
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Re: Why not program on x86 desktop?

Tue Aug 07, 2012 7:10 pm

I totally agree that the Pi is a great machine and idea, but I think people are overestimating the risk in coding on your desktop. Writing Python is unlikely to wipe your hard drive!

I've coded on lots of PCs over the years. I rarely know what I'm doing, but none have ended up losing data because of what I've done. The closest I came to that is writing images to memory cards using DD for the Pi!

I see the Pi more as a gateway machine - I'd imagine the people that get the bug will move on to more powerful machines.

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rurwin
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Re: Why not program on x86 desktop?

Tue Aug 07, 2012 8:50 pm

I know that. You know that, But 99% of parents do not know that. A great number of them only know where the big blue "e" is and who to call when stuff goes wrong.

Daverj
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Re: Why not program on x86 desktop?

Tue Aug 07, 2012 8:52 pm

I think a lot of people here are confusing the goal of the Foundation and it's original intended audience for the Pi with who it is that has actually purchased all of them.

While it is the goal of the Foundation to put the Pi in the hands of kids to encourage a new generation of talented programmers, do you really believe it was a bunch of 11 year olds who bought 10,000 Pi's that first day? Or are buying them at a rate of 4,000 a day now? Not a chance.

I would guess that 99.9% of the Pi's sold so far have been to people over 20, and probably 90% or more to people over 30. Some percentage have gone to experienced Linux users and programmers who thought it would be cool to have a tiny Linux box for a low cost. But I would guess most of them have sold to people with various levels of experience on different computers, many with years of programming experience already, who want to build some black box to fill a need they envision that it would be capable of doing at a low cost. And then there's an additional percentage of buyers who are developing commercial products that they plan to have a Pi buried in the center of.

The actual buyers of the Pi are a wide demographic, of whom very few are the actual intended audience the Foundation originally foresaw. Those buyers are in turn funding the Foundation's projects and ultimately paying for the Pi's that will end up in schools.

While all the suggestions about how to use the Pi to learn Linux or to learn programming from the ground up are valid suggestions for the grade school students the Foundation is targeting, and for the few adults who bought the Pi as a learning tool, those suggestions really aren't that useful to the large number of people who already know how to program and are trying to get a comfortable development environment set up so they can turn the Pi into whatever pet project they plan to use it for.

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abishur
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Re: Why not program on x86 desktop?

Tue Aug 07, 2012 11:50 pm

Daverj wrote:I think a lot of people here are confusing the goal of the Foundation and it's original intended audience for the Pi with who it is that has actually purchased all of them.

While it is the goal of the Foundation to put the Pi in the hands of kids to encourage a new generation of talented programmers, do you really believe it was a bunch of 11 year olds who bought 10,000 Pi's that first day? Or are buying them at a rate of 4,000 a day now? Not a chance.
I do believe that is a text book ad hominem attack right there ;-)

The topic of discussion has nothing to do with who has or has not gotten a pi. The question posed is why not program on a traditional desktop, which is what everyone has been answering. Whether or not a certain made up percentage has reached the hands of the right individuals is irrelevant to the issue proposed.
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simplesi
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Re: Why not program on x86 desktop?

Wed Aug 08, 2012 4:01 am

Daverj wrote:I think a lot of people here are confusing the goal of the Foundation and it's original intended audience for the Pi with who it is that has actually purchased all of them..
Eben has said that the Foundation is not here to supply a small computer for geeks - its to re-kickstart/help/encourage computer skills.

But as a practical step, it needed to be got into our hands - so that Raspbian got made, to get Gert types boards in production - even to get cases designed so that it can be rolled out as a fully working, nice little piece of kit to schools.

I've got one (I'm 53 of course :) and my primary aim is to get it working as a Scratch programming environment with hardware input/output control for as least money as possible so that it can become THE primary school control device that us and teachers can provide for kids to learn/play with as opposed to usingt >>£100 Lego Mindstorm/Nxt type kits.

And back on topic - you can't do that with a desktop PC - the battery pack alone would cost too much :)

Si
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jackokring
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Re: Why not program on x86 desktop?

Wed Aug 08, 2012 4:18 am

Scratch itself may make more IT savvy people. If an x86 desktop suits you, then you don't need to be convinced of the value of pi. If pi is what you want, or can use for yourself, then it's a good idea to get used to small things now.

Cheers Jacko
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Pi[Work]=A+256 CL4SD8GB Raspbian Stock.
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