By Craig Buckler

Why Web Developers Will Want a Slice of Raspberry Pi

By Craig Buckler

February 29 is a great day for a product release and the Raspberry Pi has been anticipated for months. It’s a mini PC about the size of a credit card. The cost: $35. You read that correctly; a fully-functional PC for the price of a decent lunch. There’s even a model for $25 if you don’t require an Ethernet connector.

Admittedly, you’ll require a case, TV/monitor, keyboard, micro USB power cable and SD card to do anything with it, but the 700MHz ARM processor and 256MB RAM and is capable of running Linux, office applications and full-screen video.

Raspberry Pi

The device has been developed by the Raspberry Pi Foundation, a UK charity promoting the study of computer science, especially at school level, which hopes to put the fun back into computing. In essence, they want kids and hobbyists to experience the excitement of IT enjoyed during the late 1970s and early 80s. 8-bit computers may have been basic but they encouraged programming and experimentation.

Various editions of Linux are available for the Pi. It’ll happily run a web server, PHP, Python, Ruby, node.js and most other languages. Add a few browsers, MySQL, GIMP and decent text editor and you have a fully-fledged environment for budding web developers. It’s a great way to learn the techniques:

  • the tools are free
  • it won’t matter if you trash the software or hardware
  • it’s far better than the tedious Microsoft Office skills taught by most schools.

Hopefully, the knowledge will help tomorrow’s developers avoid the mistakes we’re making today.

It’s not only kids who’ll benefit from the Raspberry Pi. The devices may be ideal for:

  • testing your application in different environments e.g. you could install PHP5.3 and MySQL 5.0 on one Pi, and PHP5.4 and MySQL 5.5 on another
  • testing multi-server set-ups for MySQL replication or parallel processing
  • automating back-ups
  • running source control systems
  • performing long-running data analysis tasks
  • demonstrating applications in locations without internet access. You could even leave Pi devices with potential customers for further evaluation.

I want one. I’m sure you do too. Unfortunately, so do many other people and both online shops crashed within minutes of the launch at 6:00 UTC this morning. Did you manage to grab a slice of Raspberry Pi?

For more information, refer to www.raspberrypi.org

  • Would have thought March 14 would been the obvious release day – for the US anyway.
    Definitely have to grab a few of these though – it’s a step up from the Commodore Vic20 I did my first programming on!

  • Roman

    I can’t think of anyone who’d want this. This must have been a joke planned for April 1.

    • Anonymous

      Tomorrow is March, not April.

    • Matthew P

      Really? I got quite excited reading this, I want one for every room in my house! Tons of people must feel just the same given the huge site crashing traffic spike on the merchant stores experienced.

      If nothing else it would be super useful to have a cheap, yet modern(somewhat) and reliable system for testing site performance on lower end machines.

      It also has a pretty impressive video decoder on board, apparently capable of handling h.264 at full 1080p60 and an hdmi output, it would serve as a great little multimedia center for your TV.

      • Guillaume

        Right, it could be nice to have this tiny computer as a full HD video player (if it can do it, but I haven’t see any HDMI output), but as a complete web development computer, I think it won’t manage a multi app usage (firefox + text editor + FTP software…). I can prove i right now : on my computer, Firefox uses more than 230k memory!

        However, this kind of computer will be useful for educational purposes thanks to its low price.

      • Remember that you could use it as a server and run Firefox elsewhere. But there are plenty of lightweight browsers, text editors and servers which will run fine.

  • Adrian

    I agree with Roman – mostly. My inner geek is excited by this, but the Web, SQL and Services coder inside me just says “meh”.
    I will get one for myself, to relive my glory days spent deep in solder and assembly language, and I will get one for my son as I feel it to be an important educational tool, but I’m not in any big hurry – I can wait for a month or so – and as a professional web developer I find this as relevant and exciting as a pack of playing cards.

  • Lovely! And they decided to add 256MB of RAM to the “A” model as well. :)

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