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Game consoles like XBox and PlayStation killing future innovation – Raspberry Pi CEO

Raspberry Pi CEO Eben Upton hopes the device will revitalise the computer industry. Picture: Raspberry Pi

REMEMBER the 1980s, where you could write your own computer software and program it to do all sorts of nifty tricks to impress your friends?

This joy of discovery is what the tiny, programmable Raspberry Pi computer is trying to save, says founder, CEO and Cambridge graduate Ebon Upton.

Though some gaming companies like XBox were beginning to come out of the closed platform cave, (Microsoft released the source code for the Kinect free last year), Mr Upton told News.com.au gaming consoles were killing technological progress because they were not programmable by default.

“I think it’s unfortunate these programmable machines were killed by PCs,” he said.

“Though some PCs are technically programmable, they don’t try and tempt you into programming. I think these closed platforms are a threat.”

The Raspberry Pi on the other hand is the size of a credit card and provides all the basics any programmer would need for just US$25 ($23).

It consists of a naked motherboard containing USB, SD card, audio and video ports along with an ARM processer and a Linux operating system. The screen, mouse and software – that’s left up to you.

“There’s a lot of nostalgia for what computers were like in the 1980s,” Mr Upton said.

“When you turned them on they went ‘beep’. They were the kinds of computers you could type a program at. But they weren’t cheap and robust enough to give to your kids.

“Lots of people did not have computers of their own. Some households would have a family computer that would sit in the main family room and you weren’t supposed to muck around with it too much because if you broke it, it was a disaster.”

Mr Upton said the concept was originally developed as a way to give school children a chance to learn how to program before they reached university. Little did he know that adult tech geeks would want one too.

He said the Raspberry Pi “may not set the world on fire” but the low-budget device would help grow the computer programming industry which he said needed more young, enthusiastic developers.

“From the point of view of the UK there’s a sense that the pipeline is empty, no one is filling the pipeline anymore,” he said.

“I would like to see 1000 more programmers per year, 1000 more people going to uni to study computing. More developers would mean more volume. More stuff getting done. More companies. Just more.”

He said the result would be similar in countries like Australia and the US.

When Raspberry Pi first went on sale a few months ago, the company hoped it might receive 100 orders, total. To date there have been tens of thousands of orders and not enough stock to keep up with demand.

That’s a pretty huge achievement for a company that does not have a single full-time employee.

Mr Upton and his team of six trustees, 15 to 20 Cambridge volunteers and local UK businesses have been working around the clock with distributors and resellers Premier Farnell and RS Components to fill backorders to ensure consumers get their Raspberry Pi while it’s still hot.

“People keep getting in touch and say they’re going to do these crazy things with it,” Mr Upton said.

“A lot of people want to send them into space by putting them in balloons and sounding rockets. A lot of people are talking about using it for home automation, like using it to control their central heating, or opening the garage door. It’s got quite good capabilities so you can connect it to a hard drive much more easily than you can a PC so people wanted to do that.

“I think that’s why people are enthusiastic about the Raspberry Pi. It makes people do what they want to do.”

Raspberry Pi gets Arch Linux

After 6 months of development, Arch Linux ARM for Raspberry Pi is finally ready. Coming mere days after the sell-out launch of the tiny computer, Arch Linux ARM is the second operating system to be officially approved by the Raspberry Pi Foundation. Eben Upton, foundation trustee, wrote about the release on the Raspberry Pi website:

“Arch Linux ARM is based on Arch Linux, which aims for simplicity and full control to the end user. It provides a lightweight base structure that allows you to shape the system to your needs. For this reason, the Arch Linux ARM image for the Raspberry Pi does not come with a graphical user interface.”

Arch Linux ARM will be offered on a rolling-release cycle, with packages updated as they come rather than big releases every few months. A Desktop Environment can be added after installation.

Arch Linux ARM for Raspberry Pi is available from the Raspberry Pi download page

Tiny Raspberry Pi PC Arrives in Late February at $35 a Pop

he Raspberry Pi ultra-barebones PC has a price and a shipping date, according to the Raspberry Pi Foundation blog. The first batch of Raspberry Pi boards are coming off the manufacturing line on Feb. 20 and the tiny PCs will be made available in the U.K. by the end of this month.

The first Raspberry Pi PCs will be priced at $35 a pop, up from the $25 per unit that developers Eben Upton, David Braben, and the rest of the Raspberry Pi team originally projected when they unveiled plans for a USB stick-sized personal computer last spring.

The first units were actually supposed to ship earlier, but the foundation explained in its blog post Monday that the original quartz crystal packaging for the Raspberry Pi boards has been switched out for a different model and those parts are currently somewhat scarce in China, where the computers are being assembled.

The foundation this week also released a datasheet for Broadcom’s ARM-based BCM2835 System-on-a-Chip (SoC) that powers the tiny computer. Developers and customers looking to port their operating systems to Raspberry Pi devices are encouraged to wade through the dense particulars of the datasheet, which PCMag sister publication Geek.com has had a look at.

The non-profit Raspberry Pi Foundation created these tiny computers as a means to get a PC into the hands of children around —a project similar to that of One Laptop Per Child, but at price points that are a fraction of OLPC’s.

Eben, who developed the first proto-Raspberry Pi back in 2006, and Braben, whose background is in video game development, created a working PC that’s about as basic as you can get and still run a standard Linux operating system. The original prototype had a 700MHz ARM11 processor slapped onto a tiny motherboard, roughly the size of a USB stick, with 128MB of SDRAM. Users can hook up a display to the HDMI port attached to one end of the little computer, which is capable of playing video rendered by OpenGL ES 2.0 at up to a 1080P resolution.

From UK Gamer

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e_mDuJuvZjI&w=480&h=274]

We’re not claiming for a second that Doom 3 will run smoothly (although it won’t stop me trying) but Minecraft, Neverwinter Nights, many of the free to play MMOs, classics like Duke Nukem 3D, retro video game emulators and, as proved below, Quake 3 tournament could/should run out at decent frame rates.

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