rockhawk
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Re: Raspberry Pi base station

Thu Feb 09, 2012 9:43 pm

It seems that to really make use of a Pi model A in many scenarios, students are going to need access to:

- A USB power source

- A USB hub (preferably powered)

- Network connection (maybe WiFi or wired)

(obviously they'll also need a keyboard, mouse and monitor, but the above requirements are slightly unusual to the Pi).

That led me to thinking, has the Foundation thought about producing a device, maybe one that could be shared between 2 students, that has:

- 2 1A 5V outputs to power the Pis

- 2, say 3 port USB hubs, one for each Pi

- an Ethernet port that could be shared between the two devices?

Obviously you could extend this to say 4 devices, although the advantage with 2 is it can just sit between two people and be easily accessible by both.

Having just bought some SD cards, a powered hub (that isn't so cheap it will fall apart in a month or cook the Pi) and an HDMI to DVI cable to use with my Pi (when it comes along - really hoping I can get one of the first batch!), it seems that getting this peripheral stuff a bit cheaper is going to be quite important - just the hub cost as much as a model A will!
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alexandru.cucu
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Re: Raspberry Pi base station

Fri Feb 10, 2012 9:17 am

From what I have read, there will be a "certified" power supply available from the foundation. Many of us complained about the PSU and this should be top priority after the first batch is out.

I don't know if a student will ever need more than a keyboard. I remember the old days when everything was done by using only a keyboard and we had no problems with it.

If you need networking, why buy model A? Because its cheaper? Well, if you buy a separate USB hub and USB Ethernet adapter, you will need more than $10 so think again.

The minimum a student will need:


PSU
Keyboard
a TV or computer monitor

My first computer was a ZX Spectrum clone that in text mode could show 32x24 characters. In pixels I think it could show 256x192.
Basically the computer was sharing the same case with the keyboard. All you needed was to connect the PSU to the computer and the computer to a TV.

Why do you need all those fancy devices?
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rockhawk
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Re: Raspberry Pi base station

Fri Feb 10, 2012 12:02 pm

Technology has moved on since the 1980s.  Back then it made sense to just have your computer on its own, but I just don't think that will be acceptable for kids born in the 21st century!  For some projects (e.g. robotics) it does still make sense, but I think so many software projects are going to want to have access to the internet (and a mouse!).

Also - can you imagine trying to program in e.g. Python without access to google, pypi and python.org?  Not everyone is going to have access to a laptop alongside the Pi.  Yes you could produce reference books, but that's just not how it's done any more - it would be the wrong way to teach!
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abishur
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Re: Raspberry Pi base station

Fri Feb 10, 2012 2:50 pm

rockhawk said:

 Yes you could produce reference books, but that's just not how it's done any more - it would be the wrong way to teach!

That's an interesting thought.  That learning/teaching programming without internet cheat sheets is flat out wrong.  Which is really rough news for people who don't have internet access but still want to learn programming.

You need google to learn programming for two reasons to supplement a lackluster programming book or to just give you the answer rather than you learning how to do it on your own (which is usually done by people who want to do a specific task without learning the steps that need to come before it).

The second issue encourages lazy/unskilled programmers, which is what the r-pi is trying to prevent, and the first issue is solved by using/providing an excellent teaching (not reference) book.

All of which is to say, using an offline printed tutorial/teaching book is not wrong, rather the mindset that offline = no good is false, though I understand it undoubtedly stems from trying to use cheap reference books to teach programming (which obviously a reference book isn't designed to teach, it's designed to supplement a firm existing foundation of programming skills).
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alexandru.cucu
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Re: Raspberry Pi base station

Fri Feb 10, 2012 2:55 pm

Model A is suitable for developing countries where internet access is a not even a luxury, but a dream.

Kids in those parts of the world will never miss a mouse or the access to a network because they have never seen and used something like that. Most of them don't even have electricity at home.

This is why the OLPC devices have hand cranked generators.
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XAPBob
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Re: Raspberry Pi base station

Fri Feb 10, 2012 3:30 pm

Many TVs and the like come with USB ports – so power can be brought in from many places.  Keyboard with a built in trackball, or touchpad will do for most users.

I agree that the lack of an ethernet port is a weakness for hobbyists.  But in a school environment it means that students can't break each others work!

It means that the boxes are $10 cheaper, and that adds up!

For schools an HDMI -> DVI convertor built into a 2 port KVM would be rather nice (so, power from the PC, DVI from the PC, Power to the RPi, HDMI+USB from the RPi, USB to the Keyboard/mouse/USB stick... would be really nice.  And someone might build one, if they can do it for the right money...

nullstring
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Re: Raspberry Pi base station

Fri Feb 10, 2012 4:28 pm

Abishur said:


rockhawk said:


Yes you could produce reference books, but that's just not how it's done any more - it would be the wrong way to teach!


That's an interesting thought.  That learning/teaching programming without internet cheat sheets is flat out wrong.  Which is really rough news for people who don't have internet access but still want to learn programming.



It's not about "internet cheatsheets". It's about a universal resource for all information. If you wish to straight up just "learn how to program", you can do so from a textbook. That will teach you flow control constructs and the likes.

However, this won't teach you the full story, and it won't give you the experience necessary to do any real work application development. For that, you would need to write practical and usable applications that would use various interfaces that couldn't possibly be documented in one book.

Long story short: You either need internet access or ***lots*** of books. It certainly wouldn't be impossible to learn something useful without the internet, but to say they aren't severely disadvantaged would be a lie.

For a school environment, students are just really required to read chapters and finish assignments, a textbook will work just fine, and I don't think this is "wrong" at all.

If they need to look something up online, chances are they already have computers setup that are used for other research.

Also, forcing a student to work without a mouse is just mean. They may not "need" one, but you're suppose to make it fun for students at the same time.

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alexandru.cucu
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Re: Raspberry Pi base station

Fri Feb 10, 2012 6:25 pm

Just remembered there are USB converters that give you two PS/2 connectors for keyboard and mouse.

You can find them for a price between $3 and ... wait for it ... $20.
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foo
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Re: Raspberry Pi base station

Tue Feb 14, 2012 11:48 pm

Having a purely standalone device is great for a learning environment.  There isn't any behind-the-scenes information being loaded in, the state of the system purely reflects what you've done to it.

Many will have a machine next to them with internet access for accessing documentation, but getting the RPi to dance on its own should be a perfectly reasonable learning experience.

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