Bit of a waffle…….
My knowledge of the RPi’s existence was probably about 12 months ago via mainstream media. Together with a bit of background reading I’d worked out it was a cheap computer with a strong emphasis on education and didn’t really think of it as a consumer product. Around about October/November time my 15 year old son started to mention it as an Xmas present and the journey begins……...
I googled, found this site and read some of the Wiki. It was obvious this was not going to be plug and play. With long lists of power supplies, USB hubs, keyboards and SD cards that may or may not work, this wasn’t going to be a walk in the park. As we needed all the above I went for getting most of it from a “Pi shop” – ModMyPi. The warnings for win32diskimager (a program I’d never heard of!) about making sure the correct drive was selected otherwise you could wipe your windows drive were frightening. I got a preinstalled card.
It all fired up and worked on the first attempt. We have had a lot of fun but some of it has been hard work chasing down problems. Using XBMC we have had HD movies streaming. We’ve downloaded remotes on to our phones, we’ve streamed stuff from our phones to the telly via the RPi. We installed iPlayer. We’ve played Quake. We’ve run it headless using PuTTY, installed VNC and VNC’d in from our other PCs. All good play (unstructured learning). It’s got my son loading an old desktop with Linux just because. (And I’m now brave enough to use win32diskimager!)
There’s still some problems. Can’t get a reasonable Wifi speed unless sat next to the router, can’t get a reasonable network speed by “sharing” the desktops (Wifi) internet connection. Can’t SSH in using Ethernet on the Pi from the desktop, works fine via Ethernet and either Ethernet or Wifi from a laptop.
The RPi can take you off in many directions. If you have some knowledge of a CLI, programming and electronics but most importantly problem solving, you will love it. We’ve got a breadboard and some bits on order for more experiments and to start our pythonry.
It’s not yet Lego Mindstorms. But it has the potential to be. Mindstorms is the gold standard or benchmark for the out-of-the-box experience. But it doesn’t end there, for those so inclined there is a bunch of extra stuff. There’s a whole community out there, 3rd party support for other sensors and various alternative firmware and coding environments available. I do not believe the initial spoon feeding in anyway limits the possibilities – just google and look on youtube.
Lego would not dream of selling Mindstorms without instructions and none of us would expect them to. This is where you get into the “who the RPi is for” discussion.
The media exposure of the RPi with all sorts of great stories about stuff that could be done with it has really caught peoples imagination. The market is no longer just the “hobbyist” deciding between the Arduino or RPi as the next toy but arguably Mindstorms or RPi. Or dare I say it, an Xbox game or RPi.
Now these are all vastly different markets with people buying the products for different reasons with vastly different expectations. Perhaps more importantly, with different levels of support/documentation needs. Eg diode description on page 6 here http://ardx.org/src//guide/2/ARDX-EG-OOML-WEB.pdf
vs a manufactures spec sheet.
To it’s credit the RPi has got ahead of itself and I would guess sales are beyond expectations with penetration well beyond the hobbyists & developers. The hardware manufacture and sales is all being done by commercial outfits who managed in the main to respond to the demand that was well ahead of forecasts. However they have not been responsible for any support /documentation infrastructure. They have just got on and tried to meet the hardware demand but I do not think the documentation has quite caught up.
The Wiki goes some way to meeting these demands. There are the basics with some good guides and tutorials. But some of the content is a little jumbled eg the tutorials are just listed, the guides grouped, and what’s the point of the model wizard.
Another area for consideration is RPi verified peripherals. This is a nightmare. Some of it comes back to who the RPi is aimed at. But it is not unreasonable to think if it fits the hole, it will work (or at least it won’t break stuff). But it appears the peripherals need to be chosen very carefully. Having read some stuff on the forums some of this may be down to characteristics of some devices being out of spec ie cheap. Some of it may be out of date (keyboards?). If the RPi really is so sensitive to what’s plugged in it’s holes then there needs to be a more definitive list. Possibly as far as ”Foundation Recommended”. I appreciate this would be more difficult to do in an international market and goes against the grain of plugging a phone charger, old monitor, old keyboard and old mouse into the RPi to give you a cheap computer.
Would the RPi benefit with oversite/management of the Wiki? Probably but I’m not sure that’s in the spirit of a Wiki. But it needs to be a little more than just a voluntary effort. If the foundation can’t have some oversite/management of the Wiki then it needs to be bought in house. I had a flick through the RPi User Guide in W H Smiths. I thought it was pretty good (personally I didn’t think it added much to what was on the net). But what it did do was take all that info and present it in a logical and straight forward way. If that was available free and the easiest thing to get to on the website (and the first return when you google raspberry pi) it would go a long way to address the beginners thirst for easily digestible info.
With the emphasis on an educational launch this year there are hints that I’m sure the RPi Foundation are well aware of the need for more detailed beginner type material.
Onwards and upwards.