Musings on the Raspberry Pi

I recently acquired a Raspberry Pi, the £25 computer which is the brainwave of various UK industry luminaries, most famously including David Braben, the author of 8-bit classic 3d-space-shooting trade game Elite. I have a few thoughts about how it’s delivered, what it costs, who it might be aimed at, and what might be done to improve things for level 2.

The Raspberry Pi arrives as a naked circuit board about the size of a box of what we in the UK call fags. This always amuses Americans, but Americans are of course easily amused, albeit for an extremely short duration. The circuit board has as many connectors on it as you could reasonably hope for in a computer – two USB ports, stereo jack, Ethernet port, micro-USB power input, HDMI out, and composite video out. There’s even something called a GPIO which is a bunch of pins which you can connect “things” to that do “stuff”, but that’s for very clever propeller head types who understand electrickery, and not programmers like me.

Of the USB, Ethernet and stereo jack, we shall have nothing much to say. Or indeed the GPIO thing. They are as they are and I dare say no improvements could be made on them. The other outputs represent some rather odd thinking.

HDMI Output

HDMI is the future! HDMI is awesome! VGA is dying! … but unfortunately, HDMI is only available on the very latest monitors and newer TVs. So we’ve got a £25 computer, and the theory is that you’re supposed to pick up and use some existing mouse, keyboard and monitor that you’ve got, probably gathering dust in the spare room, to save you a pile of cash. Except, of course, your monitor only has the usual D-shaped SVGA input. Everyone I know has a spare SVGA monitor lying around. Not a single one has a spare HDMI capable monitor. A few people quite likely have monitors with DVI-D input, but I have a feeling that like mine it is already in use as the main PC monitor. The solution in my case was to buy an HDMI cable and a brand new HDMI-capable monitor. £115 vanishes.

Then there’s this thing about HDMI not exactly being reliable, like SVGA is. In my case, all I got was a black screen on startup. It could have been any number of things but fortunately I’ve got quite a diagnostic mind and I’m not 12 years old, like many of the prospective owners of the Pi are purportedly meant to be. Suffice it to say it took me an entire evening of Googling around to discover that you had to create a text file with HDMI configuration parameters in it to get the monitor to actually display anything. This is fun… for various values of “fun” which unfortunately lie somewhat outside my comfortable parameters. You see, I spend all day, every day, trying to figure out why the fuck stuff doesn’t work properly. I was rather looking forward to plugging in the Pi and tinkering with it straight away, but I didn’t even get that far. I had to wank about fiddling with it just to get a fucking picture. Yes, that made me cross.

Composite Output

A nice touch but pointless. Almost all composite-input devices likely to be found around the home are now rightfully in landfill and those that aren’t are generally massive and not the sort of thing you generally want cluttering up a spare corner of a small room. Not only that but they tend to be Jurassic power-guzzling dinosaurs and prone to going on the blink. The other day I spent a happy afternoon coding in CRT distortion effects in the new version of Ultratron. So anyway: composite output – might as well have saved the money on providing this output, no-one in their right mind needs or wants it who is going to own this device. Yeah, even you. You’ve got a spare old SVGA monitor in the garage too haven’t you? Throw that old black-and-white portable telly in the skip.

Micro-USB Power Input

Er… why? I’ve got about 20 different adapters lying around my house, all with sturdy jacks, providing voltages anywhere between 3v and 12v. I literally have a box full. I expect mostly everyone else does too, because over the last 30 years, nearly every widget you’ve bought came with its own. I bet amongst them all you’ve got a 5v DC input you could have already used. Well, it doesn’t matter, you can buy the flimsy microUSB input instead for another £5.

Supplied without an SD Card or software

Now, here’s probably the most controversial thing I’m going to say about the Pi. As it comes, it won’t actually switch on or do anything, even if you’ve got the spare keyboard, mouse, and shelled out £85 for a monitor and cable. You also need to get yourself a 4GB SD card to put on some firmware and an OS. Although this process is trivial, and the cost is nothing to worry about (literally, the price of a bag of peanuts), it’s completely unlike my first experiences of computing.

My first real computer was a Vic-20, back when they first came out. It cost quite a lot of money – a lot more in fact than all this Pi stuff has come to in real terms – but: I plugged it in to the telly, switched it on, and tuned the TV using the twisty analogue knob. And there it was: a BASIC interpreter, 3583 bytes of RAM free (though 2 went missing immediately somewhere). It came like this out-of-the-box. I could get coding on it within seconds. It’s this plug-and-play appeal that turned so many people off of PCs for gaming and on to games consoles in the first place and represents exactly why software engineers are so derided by mostly every other engineering principal.

 

Built to a Price, But What Price And Why?

So the Raspberry Pi commands all sorts of cool headlines like “a computer for just £25!” mostly because it sounds, well, cool. Except I’ve spent £200 on mine in total, which coincidentally is about what my Vic-20 cost me albeit in 1982 money. That’s clearly beyond typical pocket money for today’s cash strapped youth who of course absolutely, completely need mobile credit and, er, whatever it is that teenagers spend money on. Drugs I expect, as they can’t easily get booze any more.

About £165 of that cost was the monitor, keyboard and mouse; the keyboard and mouse were really just me being slightly extravagant (I have an awesome tiny Cherry ultra-compact keyboard), but the monitor… well, that was annoying, really, as I could have used one of several other devices kicking about the house if the Pi ditched its HDMI and composite outputs in favour of something more befitting its status as a cheap toy that is meant to be attached to stuff you have lying around gathering dust.

So with the Pi only about 12% of the total cost of the whole setup, why exactly is it designed like this? Why is it built to meet a £25 price point when a few bob here and there would barely change the overall cost but vastly improve the whole experience? Who buying one of these things actually gives a fuck that it’s £25 and not, say, £40? I really have no idea.

It would appear that there have been engineers involved in the market research. Oh dear.

No-one buying computers cares that it costs £25 or £35. Especially when you have to buy a bunch of other things to make it work anyway, and then waste an evening trying to get it to boot. There are of course a few electronic engineering types having gentlemen’s accidents over the GPIO port and that’s great, but I seem to recall that the Pi was all about getting a generation of kids into computing as we used to know it, back when we had Spectrums, 64s and Amstrads. The problem is that price was only a small factor in the choice of whether we owned one of those home computers back in the day, yet it seems to have been absolutely the driving factor in designing the Pi.

What I’d Do To Make Me Happy

Were I to think about the successor to the Pi, apart from the usual guff about making it a bit faster and giving it more RAM through the inevitable march of progress (nabbing the chip out of a Galaxy S II would just be incredible), I’d ditch HDMI and composite out in favour of a technically obsolete SVGA connector. I suspect the cost would be as near as identical as to make virtually no difference to the prospective buyer’s financial situation – as we’ve already established, the cost of a Pi is only actually a fraction of the total cost of actually using a Pi. Not only would this mean you can use that old Dell monitor, it’d also work, unlike the HDMI port, which doesn’t.

Secondly, I’d supply the Pi with a 4GB SD card plugged in to it already, with an OS on it, that boots. In fact I’d probably consider wedging the thing inside a keyboard casing with a trackpad and then you’ve literally got something just like one of those home computers of old, the spirit of which the Pi is attempting to capture. If you sold the bundle of things ready assembled for under £100 you’ve got a no-brainer for any prospective parent thinking about getting one for his or her geeky kids.

Lastly I’d switch from using microUSB power input to a standard 5v DC power input. And then I’d supply the device with one anyway, in the box.

The choice of Linux as an OS is unfortunate but a bit of a necessity given there’s bugger all alternatives yet. Linux is incredibly complicated. Just look at the BASIC interpreter command prompt startup of a Vic-20 compared to the Pi. Eek. This isn’t really going to help a new generation of geeks get in to programming; it’s likely to make them think, this is just too much effort for too little gain. Well done for creating the sort of barrier to entry that filters out all but the most heavily bespectacled and introverted propellerheads but is that really what we need? I believe that the barrier should be as low as absolutely possible in order to hook people into fiddling before people need to get into the nuts and bolts. Look at Mac OS. It’s got Unix underneath but even an idiot can use it after switching it on. I think the Pi is going to need something like that.

Anyway, more ramblings about the Pi later, as I get to grips with the horrors of Linux and C programming (Python! You must be joking). Eventually I’m hoping to get some Java code running on it.

Afterword

You might think I’m being a little negative about the Pi so far. Actually I’m having a reasonable amount of fun tinkering with it; my fears are really more meta-fears; I suspect that the Pi will turn off more people from software engineering than it will turn on, supplied as is. It is the very raw roots of modern computing. Unfortunately those roots are ugly, messy, nasty, clunky things; and one of the chief reasons I don’t use Linux as my main OS, and also one of the main reasons I use Java as my weapon of choice.

Talking of Java, seeing a bit more of an effort to support Java on the device wouldn’t go amiss. After all, it’s very, very likely that Java is what they’re going to be actually exposed to in higher education. Not Python.

 

25 thoughts on 'Musings on the Raspberry Pi'

  1. I plugged mine in to the TV, I bought the usb power adapter with it for a few quid and used a spare SD card, so mine cost me £35 for the new bits. I’ve not done much with it yet though and I have to wait till nobody else wants to use the TV :)

  2. Humm, while I respect your opinions I don’t agree ( hey this is the internet after all :-P ). Why ship the pi with obsolete SVGA? why learn about something that’s already had its day? If all you have is an old SVGA monitor then a SVGA ->HDMI converter cable is only £5 on Amazon, giving it a HDMI connector as well as a composite output means it can connect most any TV set new or old.

    As for the USB power adapter, this is actually a good thing. Mobile smart phones are subject to standardisation rules requiring USB chargers and as a result they tend to be quite ubiquitous ( kids all seem to have smart phones these days, if not the parents probably do) the connector configuration of any power adapters you may have about is not something the pi manufactures could possibly depend on, USB is more likely.

    Not shipping an SD card is probably a price point thing but the images available online work out the box, in something like 10mins I had the pi up and booting.

    As for the price point, yeah maybe a few quid more wouldn’t matter all that much, but the pi is designed to be tinkered with and inevitably broken. If I break my pi I only want to buy the board again, I already have all the other gubbins needed so why buy another set.

    In short, I think the choices made by the pi developers were actually very clever and well thought out. While I agree that all this is far from the old school computer experience ( I had a Dragon 32 ) in many ways its better, in fact creating an equivalent but updated experience more applicable to today’s technology. Like you I’m a programmer with only limited understanding of the electronics side of things ( precisely why I got the pi in the first place ) but I think on the whole its a well executed idea.

    1. I think the board is well executed, but that the idea is totally off-target. Either that or the marketing message is totally off target. It’s not a £25 computer, it’s a £50 computer once you’ve bought all the other bits you probably need and that’s assuming there’s a monitor handy that it’ll plug in to. (Note also the conversion of dollars to pounds is still incredibly 1:1 after all these years).

      So what I see is, they’ve built a very clever little device, and then aimed it at completely the wrong audience. They’ll either need to make some changes to the hardware – and start thinking about packaging complete, working, out-of-the-box starter kits – or start changing their message.

      1. Cas there are some negatives to the pi and the marketing is a little off but you are getting hung up on ridiculous things.

        I have micro-usb coming out my ears and I would be up in arms if I was forced to use a power brick of yore.
        HDMI is important to ensure the design has longevity, its a bit unfortunate at the moment but a much better design choice than saddling people with obsolete interfaces.
        And there are some with sd card + os bundles, yes its not £25 but eh.

        What improvements i’d like to see from the pi is ram upgrades and more GPIO. And an android distro for a simple to use os.

        A final point you seem to have interpreted the marketed as the pi is all about programming, my impression was the pi is meant to teach you about computers as a whole from hardware to os and software, its not all about the software. This is my own bias though as I am both an electronic engineer and software hobbyist. If the sole purpose oh the pi was to be a software platform i’d consider it a failure.

        1. I do agree with you on many levels, I’m just concerned about its success. I’d really like it to succeed … it may just be a bit too forward thinking, and cranky, to manage that. On the other hand – for the purposes of electronics fun… I think it’s bang on the money. Slight shame I know nothing about electronics :D but then I really just want to make some little games for it.

          As I understand it Android will be or even already is available for it, which is actually particularly interesting because it’ll give a load of kids the ability to code for hot poop phones that they could never actually afford.

          1. The main problem with android on pi is the gimped ram. Ideally ICS needs something like 300mb, so 256mb just doesn’t cut it. There are people making pi builds at the cost of presumably some functionality but I’m a little confused why there isn’t a ram upgrade option to buy a pi with a decent amount of ram. Or you could run like android 2.1 or something but eww. It would be great to see an android development environment running on android (quick googing revealed this https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.aide.ui&hl=en).

            There are some alternatives. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=96Gfo6V9zxE This thing is probably the closest. Theres also the mk802 and the cotton candy. http://www.theverge.com/2012/5/18/3028202/mk802-android-usb-hdmi-stick. Although why anyone would pay $200 for the cotton candy i don’t know.

            1. I did actually ask about this over on the Pi forums a while back and the simple answer is, there were no 512mb parts available. They could only get their hands on 256mb chips. I’m sure this will change in time.

              256mb is pretty poor but if you just boot it into a totally minimal Linux configuration – like, totally minimal – you can then get an OpenGL ES display and so on directly and you’ve got enough RAM for a good game to run. Even Java ones will run in the amount of RAM you’ve got left over! I await Oracle’s headless JVM to be on general release for the Pi with some interest – it’s really fast (compared to the risible Dalvik VM).

  3. Like most people complaining about the Pi, you seem to fail to grasp 2 points:

    1. It’s a “tinkerers” thing – you’re not supposed to plug it in and go, it would a) make it more expensive and b) make it less “tinkerish” :D
    2. It’s not advertised as a whole solution – so your expectations about VGA output or a useless composite output could be mitigated by just reading what it delivers before ordering

    You just bought it because it was cheap, or because of the hype (?) and now you complain it misses some points that were not advertised as deliverable by it (by the way, I don’t have VGA devices anymore, only HDMI), and the fact that you have none of the devices (keyboard, monitor, USB power supply that is now an EU directive and therefore cheap and ubiquitous) that are explicitly stated as necessary for it and thus inferring it costs way more than it actually does.

    Maybe something like this would appeal to you more:
    http://www.aliexpress.com/wholesale?SearchText=netbook+wm8650&catId=0&manual=y

    They run Android 2.2, but can be hacked to run Arch Linux:
    http://hackaday.com/2012/06/20/cheap-arm-netbooks-have-linux-forced-upon-them/

    I don’t understand the point of this blog post, but kudos for spinning it in a positive way by the end.

    1. I can see you don’t understand the point of this blog post as you have almost completely misunderstood what I have said, as if indeed you seemed to a failed to grasp the entire point.

      I bought the Pi based on an interest in seeing how it reaches the marketed expectations of the device. I don’t have any use for it. I have almost no time to play with it. I certainly don’t intend to develop any software let alone hardware for it. I bought it because I wanted to see how the hyperbole from Foundation matched what is actually provided, not because I actually wanted a Raspberry Pi for any purpose.

      My findings are, that the Raspberry Pi’s marketed hype, which is composed of three fronts – its price, who it’s aimed at, and what they might use it for – are strangely misaligned with the product. I am absolutely aware of any number of alternative devices that sprang into being around the same time, ranging from computer-in-a-USB-stick to tiny-form-factor machines, all at various entirely realistic price points. What I find perplexing is that the marketing message, as given in numerous news stories, press releases and interviews, is at odds with the actual “thing” itself and what you get.

      It’s like, if I may draw a poor analogy, some guys saying, “We really want to get kids interested in flying remote controlled helicopters! So we’ve made a super cheap remote controlled helicopter for £25 which you can pilot with an ordinary tv remote control!” And then when you go to buy the helicopter, you find that you need to buy £50 of batteries, the TV remote control has to have been manufactured in the last 6 months or it doesn’t work, and it’s so difficult to fly with a TV remote control anyway, most people give up after a couple of hours.

      With respect to the devices I already have/didn’t have, again I think you missed my point. I am remarkably typical when it comes to a thirty-something year old tech nerd in terms of crap lying around the house. I do already have a keyboard and mouse kicking about. Not to mention a bunch of displays. But like most people I don’t have HDMI inputs on any of these old displays. HDMI may well be the future but that’s exactly what it is – the future. Raspberry Pi is aimed at people with bugger all money with a load of old junk gathering dust, and it’ll be obsolete within a year or two anyway when they bring out a better one.

      Back to hype: the Pi site is full of pictures of sub-10-year olds playing on their Pis. Except no 10 year old I know or have ever met will have ever gotten one to work. It’s way beyond “tinkering” and into “irritating time sink”. If I wanted a 10 year old to learn about having fun with computing like this I’d just dust off one of my (many) retired laptops and bung Ubuntu on it. Job done.

      The product is not just about any one part of it being excellent – and the hardware really is a nifty little bit of kit, despite the odd decision with HDMI and micro USB – it’s about the entire package and who is going to use it and for what. Right now it’s marginalised to extreme geeks, older kids, and hardware junkies. And people like me who analyse these things to see what they’re doing right and wrong.

  4. Interesting comments and all factual, but I think the context is slightly misplaced.
    My understanding is that the the current release of the Raspberry Pi is on purpose designed for techie types with the educational (for kids) launch coming later in the year when things like cases, recommended PSUs and stable OSs on pre-made SD cards are available.
    Also, the Foundation has been clear on what was needed to get the Pi running, so to some extent the grief experienced is self inflicted.

    On the USB charging. The EU has ruled all mobile phones have to use this size connector so going forward micro-usb is future proofed and with smartphones needing more and more power the chances are the PSUs will also be able to do the Raspberry Pi.

    It’s looks like September before I get mine and I’m looking forward to self-inflicted grief.

    P.S. Like you I did my time on a VIC-20 then C64 then to PC. Not a coder by profession but enjoy it.
    Playing with Arduino also

    1. I think then that the hype may have well gotten well ahead of itself. Have a look at the front page of RaspberryPi.org today. I think the message is pretty unambiguous. I don’t think that too many people are actually going to fall for it mind – let’s face it, parents buying computers for young kids are very unlikely to want to buy them a Pi in the first place unless they themselves are remarkably geeky – but it has made me wonder exactly what they’re going to do to make the photos more representative of reality. Eg. their little disappointed faces when Daddy gets a black screen and nothing happens, the hourly pestering whist Daddy tears his hair out on Google attempting to find out what causes black screens and what arcane wizardry is needed to fix it, etc.

      It’ll be great when you just unbox it, plug in the telly, mouse and keyboard, and switch it on to get to a UI.

      1. That is possible – with the right SD card, and an HDMI-input TV set, or even a composite one :D

        For me, as a would-be Dad, all I would need to do would be get a case for it and the proper image on an SD card (one that boots into a BASIC prompt, if you think it’s a good idea – it’s not hard to cook one up) and I’m *pretty sure* my 8-year old would be able to plug it to a TV, plug a keyboard and a mouse and use Dad’s phone charger to start it up. And I don’t think it makes me “extremely geeky” to pull off buying a case and writing an image on an SD card.

        I’m sorry if I offended you, but you still make little sense. It’s not marketed as anything else that what it is, and the parts needed are mentioned in the Quick Start guide. Was the ZX 48k more costly than stated because it needed a TV or a monitor? Or a cassette reader?

        Now – HDMI is too recent for you, composite output is too old, getting an image on an SD is too much work, an EU standard phone charger is too hard to find… you bought to see if it matches the hype. I wonder what would have happened if you would have bought it because of what it can do, and had actually read the specs and needed materials before going for it.

        I’m a 32 year old geek that has 2 HDMI TVs at home, and one that accepts composite signals – your “future” has already happened for me.

        1. Oh, and “website full of pictures of kids” is kinda misleading – it’s one blog post among many that features said photos of kids.

          1. It’s not just the Raspberry Pi site – it’s all the buzz about it, everywhere. High profile example:
            http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-17190918

            “The machine, which runs on open-source operating system Linux, can be hooked up to a typical computer monitor” – no it can’t. Only the very latest monitors have HDMI.

            “Initiatives like the Raspberry Pi scheme will give children the opportunity to learn the fundamentals of programming” – no it won’t, it’ll teach them how difficult diagnosing Linux problems on unusual hardware is and why most people can’t be bothered with Linux in the home. It’ll be a miracle if they even get to start programming if it’s anything like the carry on I had getting the thing to even show a command prompt.

            “Now we can concentrate on teaching people to program” … you could teach them to program on any old heap of shite they have in the house if they want to jump through the same hoops. The problem with learning to code these days is the barriers before you even get to the coding stage quite often.

            And one last thing, because you still appear to have no idea what I’m trying to say here: what part of you thinks I don’t know every last god-damned detail about every little part of the Pi’s specifications? Let me repeat this to you again: I didn’t buy it because I had any use for it. I bought it because I wanted to see how the product lived up to the expectations propagated in the media. My conclusion is: it misses its target by some degree, perhaps through a lack of market research. There was virtually no point in creating a tiny cheap PC motherboard for people to learn to program on: we already have PCs, and they’re already cheap, and they already fit all the hardware we’ve got lying around. This device, whilst unbelievably cute, does not serve the purpose for which was probably intended for the people it was intended to serve.

            Someone make another C64 already. That’s the market that needs serving.

            1. I’m trying to be polite here, no need to throw punches without pointing out where do you think I’m missing your point (like I do for yours, by enumerating them).

              So the Raspberry Pi is to blame for what the BBC says of them? OK.

              So only recent monitors have HDMI? Mine is 2 years old (I don’t think I need to tell you how long that is for an industry like IT).

              Initiatives like these WILL give kids an easier opportunity to learn coding – provided the image you boot it with is adequate. Would the C64 be the same if it booted up to an assembly editor?

              You bought something to see if it lives up to the expectations of the media? What kind of sense does that make? If there was an ad for a phone that said it would “revolutionize your workflow” you would take offense that it did not?

              Yes, there are already cheap devices out there – this one is just cheaper, and some of the proceeds go towards a foundation dedicated to further a laudable agenda. This device takes up 5W, has GPIO pins, and can decode 1080p video and do capable 3D – can you name a laptop that can do all these?

              Haters gonna hate, sure. I was just expecting more from this blog, since I’m a big fan of your games (bought all of them so far) but I guess you just never know.

              1. I think there must be some sort of language gap here if you are under the impression there are punches being thrown.

                The quotes from that article are not made by the BBC.

                2 years is recent. Most people at home wait 5 years to upgrade their kit. I’m a games developer and I only buy new hardware for myself every 5-6 years. If I were worried about the price of the hardware being over £25 – then I wouldn’t have an HDMI monitor to plug it into, simple as that. If I could afford to have a spare HDMI capable monitor or TV lying around the house doing nothing much else, then frankly, buying a Raspberry Pi because it’s £25 is irrelevant. I can buy an entire PC instead and save myself a lot of bother. Some of the language barrier here is my fault because I’m saying “I” when I should be using the impersonal pronoun “one” instead; I do not mean me, I mean, any random sampling of the general population who might otherwise be interested.

                It takes a remarkable twist of perception to describe what I would like to think of as a business perspective critique of a consumer product as “hating”. Maybe you spend too much time on forums populated by gamers? This blog post is about business and market research, not how good or bad the specific hardware on the Pi is. It’s great. It’s just useless for a lot of people who would otherwise have been able to play with it.

                1. Cool.

                  So, as a wrap-up, since apparently I’m spending too much time on forums populated by gamers (like this one, I guess), and since you’re starting to reach for the language gap excuse as a form of cop-out :D I will just say that I do not subscribe to your affirmations that:

                  - monitors only recently have been featuring HDMI inputs (HDMI has been around since 2003, in force since 2009, surpassed DVI shipment volume in 2008)
                  - most people at home wait for 5 years to upgrade their kit
                  - this blog post is about business and market research, not how good or bad the specific hardware on the Pi is
                  - the Raspberry Pi is useless for a lot of people

                  Oh, and also that buying things for the hype and then being outraged enough by the difference to the real thing to write a blog post about it is, in any way, not an exercise in futility (all hail the power of Marketing! :D)

                  Looking back on how much I idolized your products, and how much I just can’t now is revealing.

  5. I always took the Pi as being for the “build your own robot” types. The kind of people who cared about GPio these days and who cared about the schematic that came with the VIC 20 back then. It’s not for the pure software types.

    On a couple of different perspectives, I have several screens in the house that still support composite including the newish flat-screen TV in the living room. By contrast, I thin USB power is great since I have a lot of ways to power that. I had a gnarled message of adapters at my disposal in the 80′s, but not since then. I’m not really trying to call you wrong. Just pointing out that some things might not be as universal or dead as you might think.

    1. I think you’re right there – the Pi is an excellent choice for the build-a-bot sorts – though the message I’m trying to deliver is that it is mostly being marketed as a “super cheap computer for kids to learn programming on”. Which it is not really good at, and even if it was… there are many more cost-effective means to do that around already which work better.

      I’ve got a composite-in TV too but these days the picture quality makes my eyes bleed. That may be because of rather too long doing hi-def video work for TV and such… but I also suspect that composite-in devices are just as rare as HDMI devices are these days. There are literally thousands and thousands of ordinary SVGA LCD monitors just chucked away, working, every year. I bet you could wander down to the local recycling centre and pinch one…

      The USB power adapter is, I agree, a reasonable forward looking choice, but possibly premature for the next couple of years; the EU directive for mobile phones and such is in its infancy. At least the actual adapter is cheap as chips – but again, not mentioned anywhere in the headline-grabbing price. All the little bits keep adding up…

  6. I agree with most of what you’ve said. My first computer was a ZX81 and being able to plug in and go was a massive bonus. That and my Spectrum +3 a few years later was almost certainly the reason I got into CS.

    I’d happily pay a little bit more the Pi came with a power adapter and an SD card. Sure I’ve got AC adapters knocking around but I’d rather pay the extra and know I have the right thing than search around for it or have to unplug my phone to use the thing. I don’t mind having to load software onto the card, but it’d be a nice touch if it came with it. Heck, you don’t have to use it ;)

    The only thing I have in my house that has HDMI that I’m not already using, and would want to let the kids use, is my projector. I have (counts…) six spare monitors knocking around the house and office of various sizes that all have VGA so I’d definitely buy a VGA model if there was one available.

    So yeah, I’m pretty much there with you but I’d approach the sales differently. I’d make two flavors – one with VGA and one with HDMI (I’d probably buy one of each if they stay at the same price point), then I’d do a Dell style add on in the ordering process, five quid gets you an ac adaptor, another five gets you an SD card with pre-loaded software. That way everyone’s happy :)

  7. I see all the elements being flogged about here as equally valid dialog about the Pi.

    *If parsed down to content shorn of dramatic phrasings*

    It’s a single board computer with a set of specs and design decisions made for it’s intended niche/s.

    It’s simply NOT intended to be a Plug&Surf device for non-techies.

    There’s a sadly overlooked reality check in the evaluation process>design/execution choices that you pegged spot on RE HDMI and MicroUSB both as “Standards” and their inclusion in the Pi.

    HDMI and MicroUsb both share the failmode of unreasonably fragile connectors. Plus arguably causing more landfilling from forced deprecations than simply STAYING with MiniUSB.

    Oh- the prime difference between my rightly slagging HDMI and MicroUSB as opposed to flaming Pi ? It is based on their being proof incarnate of cruddy planning/execution in standards that ended up being wrongly chosen by Pi. IoW- yeah- what were they thinking?

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