Cool little cheapo Linux device for 2012…

Good news this start-of-year 2012 for some of us Linux DIY tinkerers:
The little Raspberry Pi device is set to be released soon.
The Raspberry Pi comes as a Printed Circuit Board with a processing System on a Chip (also known as a PCB with a SoC). Already eBay is auctioning off the first Beta releases of these boards, see Raspberry Pi – first 10 on eBay!

What’s a Raspberry Pi?
( NO, NO, NO, a “raspberry pi” is NOT your typical sound of Thhhbbbbbbbbtttt or Tphttphttphtphtphtphtpht or :)~ +plus+ the Greek letter for the infamous mathematical Euclidean constant near 3.14 !!! )
The Raspberry Pi is actually a credit-card sized computer that plugs into your TV and a keyboard. It’s a capable little PC which can be used for many of the things your desktop PC does, like spreadsheets, word-processing and games. It also plays high-definition video. We [the Raspberry Pi creators] want to see it being used by kids all over the world to learn programming.
(this from the Raspberry Pi FAQs webpage )

The main Raspberry Pi website is and here is a nice video of Raspberry Pi Foundation’s Executive Director Eben Upton describing and demonstrating the Pi model “B” beta PCBs that are to be auctioned off (in his “blimey mate” UK accent)

Key Features of the Raspberry Pi “B” Model:

  • It is projected to cost $35 USD, it comes with 256MB onboard RAM, and it has built-in 10/100 wired Ethernet capability.
  • It measures 85.60mm x 53.98mm x 17mm (that’s 3.37″ x 2.125″ for its two major dimensions), with a little overlap for the SD card and connectors which project over the edges. It weighs 45g.
  • Its main processor is a 700MHz-speed ARM11 Broadcom BCM2835 SoC.
  • Power to the board (Power to The Peopletoo!) is through a 5V micro USB power supply.
  • The disk used to boot and load an OS on the Pi is a standard-profile SD card. Debian GNU/Linux has already been preloaded onto SD cards and tested for Beta versions of the Pi board. Fedora and ArchLinux have purportedly been SD-preloaded as well. Ubuntu, however, has apparently not yet committed to fully supporting the device at this time, due to issues with newer releases of Ubuntu and the ARM processor the Raspberry Pi Foundation is using.
  • External storage (semi-permanent), mice, keyboards, wireless adapters, and other add-ons will all connect to the Pi via an external USB expansion hub (non-supplied) attached to the Pi’s single built-in USB 2.0 root hub. Further USB add-on devices will connect to the Pi through one or more additionally-supplied USB hubs connected to the first.
  • There is composite and HDMI built into the Pi board, so you can hook it up to a digital or analogue television or to a DVI monitor. There is no VGA support, but adaptors are available.
  • The Pi’s standard 3.5mm jack provides audio to your speakers or headphones.

Cool little tchotchke, eh?

Note that covering-cases are not yet easily available for the Pi, although vendors will probably offer these in the future depending upon how successful the Pi becomes.
DIY’ers might want to use easily-malleable materials to make or mod their own Pi cases, e.g., using wood, plastic, metal or whatever else is suitable for the task.


Here is one my first estimates of the breakdown and total cost of a complete computer system using the Pi board (prices in USD):
+ $35 for the Pi “B” board itself
+ $40 for a used, budget-conscious LCD monitor with VGA
+ $30 for the cost of a discounted wireless USB adapter
+ $30 for the cost of a discounted 4-port USB 2.0 hub
+ $20 for the cost of a discounted 4GB SD card
+ $20 for the costs of a used and discounted USB keyboard and USB mouse
+ $20 for the cost of a HDMI-to-VGA converter
+ $10 for the cost of a 4GB USB thumbdrive used for semi-permanent storage
+ $40 for Taxes plus Shipping & Handling of all the above, if ordered from an outside vendor
+ costs for any extra materials & labor (e.g., for constructing a case)
~ $250 Total

I’m uncertain exactly HOW realistic this first estimate actually is.
Of course, you would pay far less than this estimate if you already HAVE these items laying around -or- you can get these for far less than the above estimate via eBay/Amazon/Craigslist/other-online/local venues. Then again, maybe my above first estimate may be an UNDERestimate and you might have to pay more.  I suspect that most longtime computer techies already having most of the equipment listed here will realistically have substantially lower total costs for the above-listed items; probably well below $100.


I’m further guessing that if a complete computer system containing a Pi board falls well below an $80 pricepoint (e.g., due to mass-production, consolidation of components and deep depreciation of component costs), then such a computer system would be a good deal and more and more persons will want to jump on board, so to speak :-D.

Feedback on all this from anyone reading this post?

I wonder whether more of these Raspberry Pi beta boards will be available at the big Southern California Linux Expo SCALE 10X going on later this month??

4 thoughts on “Cool little cheapo Linux device for 2012…

  1. Great article with lots of details, thanks for making this more widely known. I’m excited about the release of these too. One point made me quickly look this up. It’s an ARM1176JZFS processor which is in the ARM11 family but is still in the ARMv6Z architecture.

    With it’s 256 MB of RAM it’s not a barnstormer. Most smart phones are way faster than this but it’s unique niche is wonderful. I heard a similar unit is at the heart of every Roku box.

    Unfortunately the ARM world is still quite a fragmented environment but it’s getting better thanks to Canonical partner Linaro.

    I hope many folks from will be able to attend at least part of the coming to Oakland in May 2012!

  2. In the last few days this week, several articles have come out about the Raspberry Pi. According to the Linux User story Raspberry Pi sells out within one hour , the devices are so popular they not only sold out, but they even remain on backorder. Talk about an over-successful launch!

    In another Linux User feature interview Raspberry Pi interview: Eben Upton reveals all, Eben Upton reveals a number of matters concerning the state of development of the Pi, e.g., the hardware, the dev board pricing scandal and – amazingly – why Ubuntu doesn’t want anything to do with it. From this feature interview, here are the Pi’s current hardware specs:
    SoC: Broadcom BCM2835 Multimedia Processor, comprised of:
    CPU: Single-Core ARM1176JZ-F (ARMv6 ISA) at 700 MHz
    GPU: Broadcom Dual-Core VideoCore IV Media Co-Processor
    RAM: 256MB (Model A & B)
    USB: 2x USB 2.0
    Video: 1x HDMI, 1x RCA Analogue Video
    Audio: 1x HDMI, 1x 3.5mm Analogue Jack
    Storage: SD Card
    Networking: None (Model A) or 10/100 Ethernet (Model B)
    Additional Connectivity: GPIO, UART, I2C, SPI, CSI, DSI, JTAG
    Actual Size: 85.6mm x 53.98mm

    These seem pretty much identical to those I bulleted in the main post above and which grantbow did a follow-up on.

    Another story at Gizmodo, Five Things You Can Do With the New Raspberry Pi, mentions some good uses of the device for those who actually have it.


    I wonder if any of you reading this were able to order or backorder one of these?? (Haven’t done so myself)

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