x0054
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Suggestions for the next PI

Sun Aug 04, 2013 7:35 am

I got a Pi to play with, and I am 30, so I am not the target market. But I have a little brother in law, who is the target market. So I wanted to just get my 2 cents in. If you guys aver make RPi Model C, or something like that, please consider adding WiFi and usb to serial plug, perhaps add the serial capability on the USB power plug. For cost reasons I would say it's safe to ditch the ethernet, if necessary.

WiFi: Most kids nowadays live in a household where if they have internet, they probably have WiFi. On the other hand, they may not have an ethernet cable, or the router may not be in a convenient location. If they do not have ethernet cable, they have to buy one ($5) or wifi adapter ($10). $5-10 may not seam like much, but for most 10 year old kids it is. On the other hand, I believe USB to ethernet (currently on RPi) is about the same price as USB to WiFi module.

Serial over USB: Similar argument, a USB to UART cable can be head for about $5 nowadays, but I bet it can be added to the board for 30 cents or so in cost. This would allow kids to just plug the RPi into a computer at school or home, and get going with it.

Bluetooth: Finally, bluetooth would be cool, just because then you can have a built in way for RPis to talk to each other in the classroom environment. It would be a cool thing to play with and to use for remote control projects. I know that each additional item adds cost to the RPi, so bluetooth is a nice to have but not must have.

Thoughts?

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MattHawkinsUK
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Re: Suggestions for the next PI

Sun Aug 04, 2013 8:18 am

"For cost reasons I would say it's safe to ditch the ethernet, if necessary"

No! Agreed, not everyone needs Ethernet or WiFi but adding WiFi is so easy I prefer it the way it is. When you add a WiFi dongle you can choose the device. You can opt for a small one or device with a removable antenna. Its much better to keep this separate. Removing the Ethernet from the Pi probably wouldn't save enough money (or physical space) to add WiFi without increasing the cost.

Bluetooth dongles are only £1($2) in PoundWorld. Ethernet cables are equally cheap.

But I use Ethernet more than WiFi so I am massively biased :)
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itimpi
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Re: Suggestions for the next PI

Sun Aug 04, 2013 8:29 am

Note that serial is already available via the GPIO pins. There are a number of threads about interacting with the Pi without using USB, in particular to observe the boot sequence.

I see you can now get combined Bluetooth/WiFi dongles for USB at a cost of about £7.50 off eBay. This would be attractive for use with the Model A which only has a single USB port as it would mean that for many users it would avoid the need to connect in a hub. I have just ordered one for myself to test out this supposition. One question will be whether such a combined device is low enough power requirement to be powered from the Pi.

x0054
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Re: Suggestions for the next PI

Sun Aug 04, 2013 8:49 am

Serial is available, but it requires a special cable. I am just pointing out that in a classroom setting 20 RPis with WiFi and serial over usb would be more useful then 20 RPis with ethernet. I not arguing that one is better then the other, I am just saying that by having WiFi and usb->serial out of the box would achieve the educational purposes of RPi better.

Given that Ethernet over USB costs no more then WiFi over USB to integrate into the board, and considering that in a classroom setting it is infinitely more convenient to use WiFi I am just arguing that WiFi is the more logical choice to spend the budget on, if the goal is to use these in schools.

For individual projects perhaps Ethernet is more useful in some situations. But, if given a choice for the same price to purchase boards with WiFi or Ethernet built in for a school, I think most schools would get the WiFi once. I may be wrong, if you purchase these for schools, let me know I am wrong.

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tonyhughes
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Re: Suggestions for the next PI

Sun Aug 04, 2013 9:01 am

In practice, having large numbers of WiFi clients can be extremely problematic for a multitude of reasons.

Your reasoning of convenience is certainly sound, but the generalisation of it being preferable over ethernet is not.

A Pi with ethernet is also a very easy device to access after initial OS installation - ethernet with DHCP can be (and is) supported out of the box by Raspbian, and the device can be accessed headless with zero manual configuration on an average network. Not so with WiFi.

I am not currently teaching, but I used to teach NZQA L5/6 (University Entrance level) Diploma Of Computing (Systems Engineering), with a class of 15-30 students, so I understand your pain.

x0054
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Re: Suggestions for the next PI

Sun Aug 04, 2013 9:41 am

The large number of WiFi clients can be problematic for standard WiFi routers, but it's still better then dragging 30 ether cables :)

As for wifi config, I recently played with RaspBMC, and it has a really cool feature that allows you to setup wifi before it writes the image to the card. Adding that function to Raspbian would be simple, it can simply read the WiFi settings from a file in a /boot dir.

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Re: Suggestions for the next PI

Sun Aug 04, 2013 9:59 am

True true...

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Jim Manley
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Re: Suggestions for the next PI

Sun Aug 04, 2013 10:54 am

As someone who actually teaches STEM courses in schools and has to deal with the available infrastructure, the existing $25 Model A (no Ethernet and one USB port) and $35 Model B (Ethernet and two USB ports) is preferable to your suggestion. Building in WiFi would cost at least as much as adding a WiFi dongle (even a couple of million Pi units is paltry compared to the number of WiFi dongles manufactured each year) and would still consume a USB port in any case. A Model A with a WiFi dongle is still less than a Model B and can be remotely accessed using smart phones, tablets, laptops, or anything else with WiFi capability (which does not include most computers in schools). Same thing for BlueTooth, which provides even less value-added.

Our schools, in a relatively well-off area, still only have one desktop or laptop per classroom for teacher use that's on wired Ethernet, a computer lab with about 40 desktop systems on wired Ethernet, and four carts with 20 ~ 30 netbooks each that have to be checked out and moved around between classes in a complex dance to prevent damage/theft (average class size is 35, so one cart per class is never enough for all students). Classrooms are getting WiFi access points, but can't handle more than a few dozen systems' worth of access at one time as the wired network the WAPs are connected to can be as slow as 10 Mbps for an entire school of 1,000 students, teachers, and administrative users. YouBoob viewing is blocked for bandwidth-conservation reasons except in some cases for teachers' wired systems, but even then it's essentially useless during the school day and only useful when material can be downloaded (which most YouBoob videos are not due to default protection) outside class hours.

It's not necessary or even desirable to provide Internet access to Pi boards in the classroom as it's just a source of potential distractions and problems. We typically do as much as possible with local proxy servers and pre-configured local storage to provide content that's been set up in advance to minimize the impact of inevitable network degradation/outages. That also makes it simple to reset systems to a known state with lesson material ready to go, although the Pi's SD cards also make that much simpler than dealing with multitudes of disk drives. We can simulate Internet access by copying relevant server content locally (e.g., Wikipedia, educational sites, news sites, etc.), remapping domain names to IP addresses for DNS, etc. Local networking via Ethernet or WiFi is only used after students have mastered stand-alone system fundamentals such as file system basics, software development principles, GPIO interactions, Arduino programming, etc.

All of the cards seem to point to the next Pi not being on the horizon until probably 2015 at the earliest, and probably only then if the current components are no longer available, e.g., Broadcom no longer manufactures any more of the BCM2835 system-on-a-chip (SoC) devices. Remember that the Pi was developed by volunteers for educational purposes, not by engineers being paid to fast-track a design on a more typical commercially-aggressive, profit-oriented schedule. A next-generation Pi will need to be built using components available at their lowest cost then, so there won't be any custom devices being made given the Pi's continued low price point that is possible in the largest part due to use of last-generation components no longer being used in the latest commercial products. If those components happen to provide things like WiFi and BT at a low enough cost, then they can be used, but increasing cost to get them in is not likely to be compatible with the Foundation's goals.
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Re: Suggestions for the next PI

Sun Aug 04, 2013 11:23 am

x0054 wrote:I got a Pi to play with, and I am 30, so I am not the target market. .......
WiFi: Most kids nowadays live in a household where if they have internet, they probably have WiFi. ......

Thoughts?
I'm taking a wild guess here, but I imagine you're not say, based in central Africa?

The RPi, as you're aware, was designed for an educational "market", & I don't think there is any age restriction on learning, is there?

Classrooms in many countries do not have the only dreamed of facilities of say, southern California, so how relevant would you say your ideas are for those "target markets"?

There are several computer boards already available with features you're requesting, but how many youngsters do you think would have access to those in comparison with the wealth & breadth of projects & community support already available for RPi? For you & your contemporaries, such boards might be affordable, & answer your needs without requiring a "new PI"?

The number of projects announced regularly on the Foundation front page suggests that people have barely scratched the surface of RPi's capabilities yet, let alone a "new model".

Heater
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Re: Suggestions for the next PI

Sun Aug 04, 2013 12:39 pm

x0054,

Your suggestions are not unreasonable. But I'm very sure that such features have been considered very carefully in coming up with the Pi as we have it.They were obviously rejected. There can be many reasons for that: not fitting the expected use case, breaking the target cost etc etc. As hinted at in the posts above.

There is a steady stream of posts suggesting ideas for the next Pi. This tells me that the Pi must be really nice already. Why do I say that? Well, I observe that whenever someone makes something, software or hardware, that is liked and used and catches on with a large user base, those users inevitably come with "Can we have more this, more that, this feature, that feature."

P.S. I'm getting on for six decades old and I love tinkering with the Pi, among other techno toys, there is always a lot to learn and it all feeds back into my professional work. Or am I entering my second childhood and becoming the Pi's target audience again:)
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RTD1
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Re: Suggestions for the next PI

Sun Aug 04, 2013 2:29 pm

I tend to agree that onboard WiFi and Bluetooth would be a huge plus. Not sure I'd want to get rid of Ethernet, but I'd like to see an implementation that doesn't have it running over USB.

I think these types of suggestions are much better than the standard "I wantz more gigahurtz and more ramz please" requests.

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Re: Suggestions for the next PI

Sun Aug 04, 2013 3:02 pm

As a brand new Pi guy, at 63 years old, I say keep the ethernet.
The only thing I'd like to see changed is that darned micro usb
power connector. A standard barrel type connector would make
it much easier to power as far as I'm concerned. From what I've
read so far, people have had more problems with
with that connector and cheap phone chargers than anything else.
A new power connector would make it the PERFECT computer!
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Burngate
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Re: Suggestions for the next PI

Sun Aug 04, 2013 4:37 pm

Offcenter wrote:... at 63 years old ...
Similar here
The only thing I'd like to see changed is that darned micro usb power connector. A standard barrel type connector would make it much easier to power as far as I'm concerned. From what I've read so far, people have had more problems with with that connector and cheap phone chargers than anything else.
I'd disagree. Changing it to a barrel connector would open the door to even more inappropriate power-supplies, with wrong volts as well as not enough current

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Re: Suggestions for the next PI

Sun Aug 04, 2013 4:45 pm

Offcenter wrote:As a brand new Pi guy, at 63 years old, I say keep the ethernet.
The only thing I'd like to see changed is that darned micro usb
power connector. A standard barrel type connector would make
it much easier to power as far as I'm concerned. From what I've
read so far, people have had more problems with
with that connector and cheap phone chargers than anything else.
A new power connector would make it the PERFECT computer!
That "darned micro USB connector" is the standard for cell phone chargers in Europe.

That is why it was chosen for the RasPi. The original (alpha) had a barrel connector and switching regulators. It could take 6v to 20v input.

That is not likely to change unless the EU goes to a different connector.
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Re: Suggestions for the next PI

Sun Aug 04, 2013 6:28 pm

RTD1 wrote:I tend to agree that onboard WiFi and Bluetooth would be a huge plus. Not sure I'd want to get rid of Ethernet, but I'd like to see an implementation that doesn't have it running over USB.
That would require a different SoC...which in turn would require a whole new board design, since the BCM2835 has no on-chip Ethernet and only one USB channel.

On topic...what I'd like to see would be a cheap RJ-45 WiFI adapter. They exist, but prices, last I checked, were pretty consistently around $25, as opposed to USB adapters that can be easily found for less than $10.

x0054
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Re: Suggestions for the next PI

Sun Aug 04, 2013 6:33 pm

Jim Manley: I understand the reasoning that internet in schools is slow and I agree that it's probably a distraction for kids. But, if they do roll out a better network in your school, do you think it's going to be wired. So, the argument would be that model A is more bang for the buck for your school. But given a choice between model B with WiFi or Ethernet, wouldn't you go for the WiFi? Basically, what I am arguing is that a school is far more likely to have WiFi infrastructure then Ethernet infrastructure.

As for the costs, changing from Ethernet to WiFi does not require a redesign of the board. The current Ethernet module is connected via USB. You can simply connect a WiFi module in it's place. The WiFi module would probably be actually cheaper per unit then the Ethernet adapter because it's more commonly manufactured nowadays (more volume) and does not have hardware components (like the plug connector).

Addition of serial over USB is just one chip away, probably 10-20 cents in cost. I know, it's still money, but it makes the Pi much more user friendly for robotics projects.

tvjon: I am indeed not based in central Africa, but I do believe that my suggestions would be equally valid there as well. Here is a simple example. Let's say a school in impoverished nation receives a grant to get say 100 RPis for their 20 classrooms. And let's say that school want's to use the RPis as general purpose computers, connect keyboards and mice to them, and have kids have access to Wikipedia on them from a local cache server. What's more likely and cheaper? Setting up a wired Ethernet network or 6-10 WiFi access points? Further, if they use a dual band WiFi chip for the RPi, the wifi can be setup in both access point mode and client mode. This means you can create a WiFi network with some RPis acting like base stations and clients at the same time, getting even more bang for your buck. Just because people in Central Africa are poor, does not mean they have to get older technology, such as 100 Mbps Ethernet, rather then getting something more useful to them for the same money.

Offcenter: I would recommend getting a separate USB wall charger and a USB cable to power the Pi. I think the problem is that many USB chargers for phones (what people use most) are in the 0.6-0.8 Amp range. This means 3-4W range, where as the Pi some times needs as much as 5W+. If you have an adapter with at least 1 Amp of power, you should be good. I agree that barrel connector would be more durable. That, BTW, is yet another argument for Serial over USB chip addition. If you are going to use the USB connector for power, you might as well make it possible to use it for serial communications as well.

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Re: Suggestions for the next PI

Sun Aug 04, 2013 6:35 pm

Offcenter wrote:As a brand new Pi guy, at 63 years old, I say keep the ethernet.
The only thing I'd like to see changed is that darned micro usb
power connector. A standard barrel type connector would make
it much easier to power as far as I'm concerned. From what I've
read so far, people have had more problems with
with that connector and cheap phone chargers than anything else.
A new power connector would make it the PERFECT computer!
Besides the other points that have been mentioned, I have to ask which "standard" barrel connector? I've seen so many different sizes of them in use lately that every time I find something that uses a barrel connector I am reminded of the old Engineering saw: Standards are a wonderful thing. There are so many to choose from.

In practice, a switch to a barrel connector would virtually require that, at a minimum, the Pi is delivered with a power cable (that's what the Cubieboard does...it uses a 1.7mm barrel connector and has a USB to 1.7mm barrel cable). Better would be a power supply (at which point you have to worry about all the different plugs in use around the world). Even better would be a good voltage regulator on board. Best would be all three.

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