I just bought a magazine that came with a free computer.
November 26, 2015 6:55 AM   Subscribe

The new Raspberry Pi Zero is so cheap and so small the first 10000 of them are being given away free on the cover of a magazine.

The Raspberry Pi Zero has the specs of a midrange 2005 laptop.
A 1GHz processor (40% faster than the original)
512MB RAM
HD video output
Super Tiny (65mm by 30mm)

The original raspberry was a revolutionary machine, launched in 2012 it was the size of a credit card and sold for $25. It sold the first 100000 in minutes, but as Segundus told us in 2012 "Cheaper versions are on the way".

Incidentally, this new Pi is small enough and Cheap enough to make a throwie from it.
posted by Just this guy, y'know (105 comments total) 78 users marked this as a favorite
 
I'm really excited about this new Pi. With the Beaglebone and Intel Edison/NUCs, even the new Raspberry Pi was looking less appealing. It was kind of stuck between similarly powered boards with better GPIO, and slightly more expensive boards with x86 compatibility and better bus speeds. There's tons of guides to set up a Pi as a server, but without a proper SATA interface and Ethernet sharing the same USB bus as everything else, I got pitiful latency even on stuff like an IRC bouncer.

A smaller and cheaper version opens it up to a lot more projects, and makes it easier to forgive its shortcoming.
posted by mccarty.tim at 7:14 AM on November 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


good. soon they will be small enough to fit under the skin and then the prophecy will be fulfilled. now if someone could please start working on meals-in-pill-form and jetpack/hovercar conveyances all the worlds year 2000 promises would be kept.


in all seriousness this is amazing. i keep waiting for my chip (the $9 kickstarter SBC) because for $4 extra dollars it has bluetooth and wifi and storage all built in. but i do love selling a computing device AT A PROFIT for the same as a cup of inflation adjusted coffee.
posted by chasles at 7:16 AM on November 26, 2015 [6 favorites]


One thing I didn't put in the post is the power requirements.

The previous ones needed about 4W this one reportedly draws 0.8 W
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 7:18 AM on November 26, 2015 [24 favorites]


Takes me back to the days when you'd buy a magazine for the floppy full of shareware that was stuck on the front. Not altogether inappropriately if you think that those were days of excitement when writing your own crappy games in some form of BASIC seemed a natural thing to do.
posted by Segundus at 7:23 AM on November 26, 2015 [19 favorites]


And your computer booted to a command line because there wasn't such a thing as a GUI
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 7:25 AM on November 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Or even better an integrated BASIC interpreter environment.
posted by grumpybear69 at 7:28 AM on November 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


The Raspberry Pi Zero has the specs of a midrange 2005 laptop.

Does that make it better or worse then my 2013 Dell?
posted by biffa at 7:31 AM on November 26, 2015 [26 favorites]


I have a Pi 2 and OpenELEC and Kodi and allllll theTV/ films.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 7:40 AM on November 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


I may have to take a drive to MicroCenter to look at these. I have a first-gen Pi B running as print server at home, and a Chip on order... More tiny computers to play with = more fun!
posted by caution live frogs at 7:40 AM on November 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Christmas shopping done!
posted by chapps at 7:49 AM on November 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


I feel so out of touch asking this, but: what kinds of things would people do with a tiny computer? Would they be plugged into a monitor/keyboard and used like any other PC, or are they used for some other task like running a mechanical device?
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 7:54 AM on November 26, 2015 [16 favorites]


Now look at it, it's 99% container and standardized I/O connectors. Another generation or two (this time next year or summer?) and it should be the equivalent to an I7 with close to a terabyte of onboard storage all embedable on a fingernail. Yes I'm slightly exaggerating.
posted by sammyo at 7:55 AM on November 26, 2015


I do think the bulky USB connectors and over sized package are an issue, that should be resolved as soon as a volume need for "things" push new sizes.
posted by sammyo at 7:57 AM on November 26, 2015


Ooohh!
Great idea.

I normally make crackers for a christmas party me and my friends do every year.
Normal Crackers are bit dull so I try to spice them up. In the past I've made them with tiny bottles of booze and shot glasses in and matching cocktails (find your partner, mix your booze), hats covered in puzzles and games that we could all play throughout the party, and designed and tested (but not yet deployed, for safety reasons, ones made out of flashpaper that vanish in a fireball when you pulled them.

I could fit a pi, a battery and bit of USB storage in a cracker.
Everyone gets a tiny computer with... something on it, a film? A game, hmmm....

A song? Could I tie in a little speaker so it's a self playing little music playlist inside the cracker?
Pull the cracker and instead of a bang it triggers a playlist of christmas songs?


I am led to believe non-UK people may not know what christmas crackers are. They are tubes of paper tied at each end to create a handle and a central tubey bit. You pull them, they go bang and a paper hat, a joke and a little toy fall out. Whoever has the biggest bit of cracker (or doesn't have a hat and a toy) gets the hat and the toy and has to tell the joke.


posted by Just this guy, y'know at 7:59 AM on November 26, 2015 [28 favorites]


800mW would make this much much better for solar powered projects. The power reqs on the older models made that pretty prohibitive.
posted by rhamphorhynchus at 8:05 AM on November 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


Oh! It's an English magazine.

I was wondering why'd I'd never seen it anywhere.
posted by madajb at 8:08 AM on November 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Still looking for the gateway project for me. I'm interested in beacons.
posted by xtian at 8:09 AM on November 26, 2015


I feel so out of touch asking this, but: what kinds of things would people do with a tiny computer? Would they be plugged into a monitor/keyboard and used like any other PC, or are they used for some other task like running a mechanical device?

The Pi computers have a good bit of GPIO (general purpose input/output) which is basically programmable pins for hooking up to sensors and actuators (well, relays) to Do Stuff, the extent of which is pretty much just limited by your imagination. So you can use it for a computer-controlled... anything you can think of, really. I've seen home lighting, brewing and sous-vide temperature control, edge-of-space photography from a weather balloon, fancy robotics, as well as all kinds of toys.

It's also got both USB and HDMI, so you could just tape one to the back of your TV and attach a few wires to use it to stream HD video to your living room over the wifi, or audio to your fancy speaker setup, or hook a bluetooth USB dongle into it and install some emulators to run NES or MAME games on your TV like a console, or just bung it somewhere near your router to run low-resource things that you want always-on (such as an IRC client) for only a couple of watts instead of the power draw of a bigger machine, etc, and just interact with it over the network (or internet!) from your smartphone or other computers, etc.

I could go on, but you get the picture.
posted by Dysk at 8:10 AM on November 26, 2015 [18 favorites]


I feel so out of touch asking this, but: what kinds of things would people do with a tiny computer?

Just one example: you can build it into an Altoids tin, stick that to the back of your TV, and use it to stream movies, pull movies off an attached hard drive, or play Minecraft. You can do the same thing with a micro-PC, but this is $5.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 8:12 AM on November 26, 2015 [8 favorites]


How can I get one in America (if that really is UK only)?

Damn, I want one!!
posted by wenestvedt at 8:17 AM on November 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'd like to use one to create a wireless print server since my old printer is too big to fit where my computer is. I could also envision it as the basis for a bare bones NAS.
posted by selfnoise at 8:18 AM on November 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


(And you could totally just plug the usual keyboard, mouse, monitor - or TV - into it, and use it as an admittedly low-performance general PC for browsing the web, email, toying around with programming, whatever - it is a fully-fledged PC that can run Linux and a window manager, you're not stuck with a command line if you don't want to be!)
posted by Dysk at 8:18 AM on November 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


How can I get one in America (if that really is UK only)?

Here, though they're out of stock right this minute (unsurprisingly).
posted by Dysk at 8:21 AM on November 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


wenestvedt, US sellers include adafruit, though their initial stock of the $5 boards is gone already. They have some "budget" and "startup" packs but that gets you up to $30 and $50 respectively, a far cry from $5!
posted by the antecedent of that pronoun at 8:22 AM on November 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


> Would they be plugged into a monitor/keyboard and used like any other PC ...?

You could, but the single-core Raspberry Pi Zero will be a bit too slow. I use a Raspberry Pi 2 (quad core, ~10× the price) as a secondary desktop, and it's surprisingly okay. There are some things you don't want to even attempt (big spreadsheets, vector drawings in Inkscape) but routine tasks are okay. Its browser is a bit basic, though.
posted by scruss at 8:24 AM on November 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Also, you can hook up a USB soundcard and USB midi controller (knobs and/or keyboard) for IO, and save a load of money on synths and guitar pedals (bring your own linux audio processing - not too hard to hook up with puredata, supercollider, or csound).
posted by idiopath at 8:27 AM on November 26, 2015 [6 favorites]


I have a landline in my apartment (whoa throwback zone) and I've been daydreaming about setting up some kind of automatic answer system (it is hooked into the building door lock so maybe it could open automatically if asked).
posted by grobstein at 8:38 AM on November 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


I feel so out of touch asking this, but: what kinds of things would people do with a tiny computer?

I got a pi recently and have it set up as an ad blocker for my home network. I'm also trying to get it to work as a Google cloud print server but I haven't been successful yet.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 8:55 AM on November 26, 2015 [7 favorites]


Wow. This thread is really driving home how much computers have advanced since mine was made. My primary computer at home is a 2005 Dell laptop. Pretty much top of the line for the the time, and more or less the last of the 32 bit processor, SATA laptops. It has a 1920x1200 screen that I really like for doing work, and most of what I do is in the terminal or on remote virtual machines anyway. I'm still running Debian Wheezy on it because I haven't rebooted since before Jesse was stable. Currently at 309 days uptime, trying to make it a full year (I know this is a bad idea, and I've decided I don't really care).

Once I make it to that year, I'm planning on retiring my laptop and I've been thinking about a SBC a little beefier than the Pi as my next machine, but looking again at the specs of that little thing, I might be able to replace my computer with something that comes for free in a magazine. Amazing.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 8:57 AM on November 26, 2015 [8 favorites]


I use mine (Raspberry Pi 1) as an aircraft tracking station, using piaware. With it I've tracked U-2 spy planes, Air Force One, E-6 "Doomsday" planes, defense contractors dropping sterile fruit flies, and Dept. of Homeland Security surveillance planes. It also helped me discover a secret FBI aerial surveillance program, and map LA airspace use.

I'm planning on setting up more stations around southern California, which is only something I'd consider because they're so darn cheap.
posted by jjwiseman at 8:58 AM on November 26, 2015 [114 favorites]


I have a landline in my apartment...

Here's an AskMe question that might help you get started with that...
posted by spacewrench at 8:59 AM on November 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Wow, jjwiseman, that is some pretty incredible work.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 9:03 AM on November 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


jjwiseman, I could spend an hour discussing that LA airspace map. I didn't know the Long Beach Naval Air Station gets so much traffic, and I'm surprised there's so little at Long Beach/LGB. Maybe I over-estimate it because it's my primary airport, or are your sensors just less sensitive there?

And I'm really curious about that NE to SW path that goes right over LAX, just a little to the West. I guess it's part of something like part of a San Diego - SFO flightpath and is way up there, but without the altitude info it just looks weird on the map, like putting a freeway through a parking lot.
posted by benito.strauss at 9:23 AM on November 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


I'm not sure the comparison to a "midrange 2005 laptop" is accurate, since by 2005 most people knew that clock speed was a meaningless metric.
posted by 7segment at 9:29 AM on November 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


I have to head out but someone should FPP jjwiseman's presentation about the "secret FBI aerial surveillance program"; it's great. (Assuming you don't mind someone linking to it there. I'll wait 'til you give the go-ahead.)
posted by benito.strauss at 9:33 AM on November 26, 2015 [5 favorites]


As a "car" guy, the first thing that comes to my mind as a potential use for this (sometime in the future) is for the need of someone in 2040 who wants to make a 2010 Big Corp Car work, but the [ECU, whatever] computer is toast. Assuming you had the software.
posted by maxwelton at 9:36 AM on November 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


chasles: "good. soon they will be small enough to fit under the skin and then the prophecy will be fulfilled. now if someone could please start working on meals-in-pill-form and jetpack/hovercar conveyances all the worlds year 2000 promises would be kept."

Please, we're still working on making the Mark of the Antichrist cross platform compatible. Cool your jets, buddy.
posted by Splunge at 9:37 AM on November 26, 2015 [6 favorites]


Hmm. This is small, cheap, and powerful enough to consider making some super-awesome blinky rave toys that have enough smarts to listen to the music and do serious beat-detection...
posted by egypturnash at 9:47 AM on November 26, 2015 [8 favorites]


benito.strauss, tweet @lemonodor for mapchat etc. so's we keep this thread on track.
posted by jjwiseman at 9:50 AM on November 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


jjwiseman, Sorry, I've got no Twitter account — I MeMailed you.
posted by benito.strauss at 10:11 AM on November 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Hmm. This is small, cheap, and powerful enough to consider making some super-awesome blinky rave toys that have enough smarts to listen to the music and do serious beat-detection...

Easy enough to do with one of these.
posted by zabuni at 10:16 AM on November 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


"58 years on... #PiZero"
posted by jjwiseman at 10:26 AM on November 26, 2015 [10 favorites]


This is an amazing device, and you guys have made this an amazing thread. As far as I'm concerned, at least, derail away.
posted by JHarris at 11:01 AM on November 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm this close to trying to figure out how we turn this into a FanFare series.
posted by benito.strauss at 11:08 AM on November 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


what the pi is missing is the feature through whih someone uses it to create something cool for you
posted by Foci for Analysis at 11:10 AM on November 26, 2015


This thread is giving me, as they say, all the ideas--thanks, everybody!
posted by box at 11:20 AM on November 26, 2015


I use a Pi to run a local server with a wordpress install so I can bookmark things better, make notes on projects. I've got another earmarked to use in an old Billy Bigmouth Bass, though I'm trying to figure out power issues with that one, but the Pi fits neatly inside the hollowed out battery compartment.
posted by Catblack at 11:44 AM on November 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm this close to trying to figure out how we turn this into a FanFare series.
MePi
posted by NMcCoy at 11:46 AM on November 26, 2015 [9 favorites]


I've had fleeting thoughts as to what to do with a Pi, such as a portable R powered calculator with mini keyboard, and other things to shoot fun into my work.

The zero might just push me to make it...
posted by JoeXIII007 at 11:55 AM on November 26, 2015


Throwies?! Is that page satire?!

Ignoring the environmental statement of that asshole culture of disposability, that thing looks more like a bomb than every device in every bomb scare of the last ten years. It looks more like a bomb than an actual bomb does. It looks like what a hollywood prop-maker would use when the production calls for a bomb prop that not only needs to look believable in a close-up but needs to let viewers understand that it is a bomb, with no possible confusion.
Please don't make those. Some idiot inflicting their precious mixtape on the commons is not worth the destruction.
If you do make one, don't magnetically attach it to important structural support beams of a building, as shown in the video.

That said, wow, the new Pi looks fantastic!
posted by anonymisc at 12:12 PM on November 26, 2015 [8 favorites]


MagPi has a free 200-page book of RasPi projects. It's not even always about the price or power consumption or size. Anything which needs low-level I/O is simply easier to do than with a PC, because PCs don't have parallel or com ports anymore.
posted by ikalliom at 1:08 PM on November 26, 2015 [8 favorites]


I feel so out of touch asking this, but: what kinds of things would people do with a tiny computer? Would they be plugged into a monitor/keyboard and used like any other PC, or are they used for some other task like running a mechanical device?

I bought a Pi 2 a year ago and had to plug in a keyboard and monitor for the initial setup, and it worked great with the ones I attached, so it would probably work fine as a desktop computer as long as the specs suit you.

My plan was to have it run some internet connectivity diagnostics once an hour and post them to a custom twitter account, because I believed my internet provider was being flaky, but the problem got resolved. Maybe I'll build a weather station or something.

It's kind of ridiculous to have a device hundreds of times more powerful than the first computer I owned and just using it for side projects. The future is interesting.
posted by A dead Quaker at 1:35 PM on November 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


This might not be obvious to people who don't work on electronics, but getting a PC to do something simple like turn a lamp on and off is really, really hard. PCs these days can only talk to other computers and microcontrollers (cheap single-chip computers). Every device your computer talks to has some kind of microcontroller in it: your keyboard and mouse, USB speakers, external hard drive, etc. About the only thing that doesn't are headphones, and audio is not a great way to control simple devices like lamps.

The Raspberry Pi is really good at being that intermediate controller, talking to your PC over WiFi on one side, and flipping a lamp on and off on the other.
posted by ryanrs at 1:40 PM on November 26, 2015 [10 favorites]


I'd like to use one to create a wireless print server

...BRB. Going to WH Smith.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 1:51 PM on November 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


It occurred to me this will make old school video game cartridge emulation more of a possibility, saying this not knowing if this has been done with arduino or tiny boards...
posted by JoeXIII007 at 2:04 PM on November 26, 2015


> I feel so out of touch asking this, but: what kinds of things would people do with a tiny computer?

One of the things I've been thinking of is using one as the controller for an audio preamp. I've seen some Arduino-based designs when I last surveyed the field a couple years ago. But with the Pi's WiFi and bluetooth built-in, it should be easier to incorporate remote controls, a status screen, or even (if I feel ambitious) a remote UI so that I can control it from my phone or whatever device is handy at the time I'm listening. It'll be nice to, for example, level-match inputs and outputs so that I can switch between arbitrary inputs (computer, radio tuner, etc.) and outputs (speakers, headphones) and automatically ensure the volume level is constant without having to remember to do it manually.

A simple black-and-white LCD display will cost probably five times the Raspberry Pi Zero. In fact, using audiophile-approved resistors for the volume control would cost more than the Pi.
posted by ardgedee at 2:39 PM on November 26, 2015


> It's kind of ridiculous to have a device hundreds of times more powerful than the first computer I owned and just using it for side projects. The future is interesting.

On the one hand, that's absolutely true. On the other, what that overhead affords us is accessibility and ease of use. We could go back to custom burning EEPROMs that has exactly and only what is needed to do what we want to do, but think of the effort and equipment necessary to accomplish that. Not to mention the CS degree's worth of prior knowledge necessary to be able to do it.
posted by ardgedee at 2:55 PM on November 26, 2015


My Pi is a headless network audio player running Moode Audio out through a HiFimeDIY Sabre DAC. Awesome sound quality, plays/streams anything and probably a tenth the price of a comparable Sonos setup.
posted by brilliantmistake at 3:08 PM on November 26, 2015 [10 favorites]


Tried my damnedest to get one, but the shops all said they only got two issues each and they vanished at opening. So much for that idea!
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 3:45 PM on November 26, 2015


Same here. The WH Smith I went to had tons of other Pi stuff, but were sold out of the one I wanted. Bleah.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 4:06 PM on November 26, 2015


I was reading about it on Twitter on my bus ride to work and thought I'd pop in on a whim.
They had three or four on the shelves in Hammersmith. I shoulda picked a few more up.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 4:11 PM on November 26, 2015


I keep meaning to buy one of these and turn it into a C-64 emulator for my father so that he can play all the old games (Ultima! Space Taxi!) that he enjoyed in the 80s. As time goes on, that project starts looking both cheaper and easier. I guess I might as well just do it at this point.
posted by 256 at 4:20 PM on November 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


I found a box with a couple raspberries, a beaglebone, some arduinos and a particle photon. It also contained two relay shield and a motor controller.

The photon is at work, it controls a solenoid that strikes a gong when certain keywords appear in the daily lunch menu email.

The raspberry is at home. It monitors a few IRC channels and social feeds. When appropriate it activates a cellphone vibrator motor glued to the underside of my desk. I like desktop haptic communications.

Feels like a waste of computing power, but for $5 and an hour of coding it would be hard to find something better.
posted by Doroteo Arango II at 4:37 PM on November 26, 2015 [9 favorites]


This would definitely be a 'cool uncle' Christmas gift. I'll see if I can score a couple before Christmas.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 5:10 PM on November 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


I feel so out of touch asking this, but: what kinds of things would people do with a tiny computer? Would they be plugged into a monitor/keyboard and used like any other PC, or are they used for some other task like running a mechanical device?

While you can use a pi with a monitor/keyboard, a large chunk of the userbase falls into 3 categories.

1) Education, learn how to program/make lights blink/interface with stuff

2) Headless servers of various types - I use one as an NFS server, squid cache, VPN & DVB-T recorder.

3) Media players - connect to a TV, an IR dongle + remote, attach HDD or network storage, & you have a laughably cheap media player / smart TV.
posted by HiroProtagonist at 5:18 PM on November 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


I feel so out of touch asking this, but: what kinds of things would people do with a tiny computer?

I'm typing this on a Raspberry Pi 2 I'm using as a thin client for my linux server. Admittedly it's just displaying my desktop, but every now and then I fire up the native web browser to play youtube videos.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 5:45 PM on November 26, 2015


Still waiting for the TronPi, which its creator claimed was a sampled no-latency emulation of the Mellotron through USB MIDI.
posted by infinitewindow at 6:10 PM on November 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


The hardware may be inexpensive but it is not Free. You can't even boot one of these without running non-Free binary blobs, nor can you use the GPU. There are currently no single board computers on the market that actually run 100% Free software without having to give up certain functionality.
posted by Rhomboid at 7:35 PM on November 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


I'm thinking I may do a thing where I rig up a door sensor, and then I can record audio reminders for it to yell at me as I leave for work in the morning. "Did you remember your lunch? How about your umbrella?" I'm not sure a tiny computer is preferable to a sticky note, but it would be more fun.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:44 PM on November 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


  I keep meaning to buy one of these and turn it into a C-64 emulator

Yeah, it's up to that. You can probably get up to roughly Atari ST level before things get too jittery. No emulation's going to be perfect, but it's small! cheap! (and much more friendly to your back than my SX-64 ow ow ow).

  The hardware may be inexpensive but it is not Free. You can't even boot one of these without running non-Free binary blobs

If you're lucky, the other person in the world who cares about this will join the thread shortly. Given that there are something like three different models of computer that can have a totally open boot system installed (from memory, a 7 year old MacBook, a ThinkPad of a similar age, and a variety of rare Loongson MIPS based machines that no-one we know uses), it's not an issue that's important to users. Every other computer in the world does some proprietary blob thing if you want it to work.
posted by scruss at 8:09 PM on November 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


Just because the state of the world is universally miserable does not mean there's no problem.

Ask any of the developers that maintain the distros that run on these boards what they think about being shackled by binary blobs that have they have no control over, about the headaches it creates, and about the bugs they can't fix and features that don't work.

While you're at it you'd better tell all of the various projects dedicated towards freeing the graphics stacks of SoC GPUs that they're wasting their time because you said so.
posted by Rhomboid at 8:38 PM on November 26, 2015 [8 favorites]


Can these things either natively or with some sort of addressable break out board handle lots of distinct I/O? It sounds like they might be great pressed into service as a PLC if you could chain say 64 or 256 inputs and outputs off it. Espcially if they could emulate a well known PLC.
posted by Mitheral at 9:02 PM on November 26, 2015


Many home brewers would love to have the device which controls the heater for their fermentation chamber, also have a web front end that they can query for status.
posted by wenestvedt at 9:03 PM on November 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


The fermentation chamber thermostat project sounds really well suited for the ESP8266 (a microcontroller with a full wifi stack that's under $6 shipped from Hong Kong or Singapore), and Adafruit makes one on a devboard with Arduino libraries.

It'd probably not serve a proper website (although you might be able to hack something together with an SD card or liberal use of strings stored in PROGMEM), but it can respond to HTTP requests without much code.

Granted, this is more setup than using a proper HTTP daemon on a Linux board. And it's probably equally hard to set up the GPIO to thermometers and relays. But there's something amazing about setting up a picoserver on a piece of electronics that comes complete with Wifi and antenna for $6.
posted by mccarty.tim at 9:22 PM on November 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


Mitheral: The Raspberry Pi only has 26 GPIO pins. Not pathetic, especially if you're willing to use shift registers. And it usually runs Linux, but there's nothing stopping people from running other OSes or writing something in ASM.

Still, that's probably not great. I'm not too familiar with PLC.
posted by mccarty.tim at 9:36 PM on November 26, 2015


I may have to take a drive to MicroCenter to look at these.

I know cost isn't the only issue, but consider this weird situation we've arrived in: it would be cheaper to just order one of these speculatively than it would be to drive even ~10 miles to consider it "in the flesh," so to speak.
posted by Western Infidels at 10:32 PM on November 26, 2015 [7 favorites]


Many home brewers would love to have the device which controls the heater for their fermentation chamber, also have a web front end that they can query for status.

The BrewPi project is a pretty amazing thing. At the moment I'm planning a (small) microbrewery where we could potentially have the entire thing automated through the use of a few Pis running the pumps and heating elements as well as fermentation temp control. It's a wonderfully adaptable system compared to turnkey brewing systems.
posted by brilliantmistake at 11:05 PM on November 26, 2015 [9 favorites]


I have a Raspi (original model) controlling my Christmas lights. I can log in and change the colors and patterns with a Python script. Great fun during winter evenings.
posted by miyabo at 11:08 PM on November 26, 2015


I bought a Pi about a year ago, and to my shame i've done very little with it. :(
posted by trif at 2:48 AM on November 27, 2015


There's some good numbers here on power consumption.

I must admit that I've also done very little with my original pi (I had it running some XBee tests, but that's about it). The new one I'll need a bunch of cables (I don't have any displays that take HDMI, so it gets run through an HDMI / VGA convertor) a microusb hub of some sort, a microSD (I might just get the preloaded one from here). But it's christmas and I have a toddler to entertain and a boat to build and work to so, so by the time I have the time, energy and money to even get the thing running they might have actually brought out a new even cheaper, even smaller pi.

But... even knowing all that, it was a computer given away free on the cover of a magazine, in newsagents!
How could I not buy that?
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 3:44 AM on November 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


All that aside I just saw this and now I'm wondering if it will work through a thin piece of wood and if I can make cupboards open with the right secret gesture....
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 3:46 AM on November 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


My current RPi project is monitoring of my wife's greenhouse. I have air humidity/temperature sensors in the mail, and in the meantime I've messed about a bit with Gnuplot to create pretty graphs of logged data. A camera module is connected, and in addition to a webcam function I'm planning to collect snapshots for a timelapse video during next summer.

I've bought a suitable box and mounted the RPi in it. The only other HW concern is making some kind of box for the camera module, as it's a bare circuit board at the moment.
posted by Harald74 at 6:04 AM on November 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


I feel so out of touch asking this, but: what kinds of things would people do with a tiny computer?

Learn a bit of Lua. Then install imapfilter and write some rules. You now have an always-on mail filtering appliance that barely sips electricity for less than what a similar Saas service would charge for a month's service.

(And then buy a second one for retropie.)
posted by sincarne at 8:42 AM on November 27, 2015


I think one of the problems with this is that a lot of the cool things you can do with it are only minimally interesting to non-geeks or newbie-geeks. I have no idea why I would want an always-on Mail filtering appliance!
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 9:02 AM on November 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


Hey, I just posted a question on AskMe motivated by the discussion here. I think some of you people here could give valuable responses. (I don't want to fork the discussion; I just didn't want to take up all the space here with my particular set of issues.)
posted by benito.strauss at 9:48 AM on November 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm back to my occasional itch to be able to drive my wheelchair remotely from my phone, which would I'm fact have practical applications, and this rpi is even better suited to that, maybe, than the previous generation. Wire up the gpios to the auxiliary control port, and add a Bluetooth dongle and write a small app.

We'll see if I actually get around to it, but that'd be a pretty sweet piece of customization.
posted by spaceman_spiff at 10:18 AM on November 27, 2015 [6 favorites]


grobstein, the easiest way to do what you want is to stop having a landline and port the number to a VoIP provider. For many years I lived in an apartment complex where the gate could be opened after someone called from the gate phone. Being cheap, I didn't want to pay a deposit for a second gate remote, so I set up my Asterisk server to automatically answer calls and dial the pound key whenever the gate called, and ring my cell phone otherwise. It was all of 5 or 6 lines in the dial plan.

You can get a hosted Asterisk service for nearly free and a VoIP line for about $1 a month. After dropping the landline, you're saving money relative to using a Pi to answer the phone for you, and you don't have to find/pay for the necessary extra hardware. (either a PSTN-SIP bridge or a USB attached ATA, which would cost more than a Pi anyway)
posted by wierdo at 10:23 AM on November 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


As far as other uses for a Pi, dump1090 is fun when combined with PlanePlotter. Way cheaper than running it on an old laptop. And way, way cheaper than a dedicated ADS-B decoder. Even used they are a couple hundred bucks at minimum, while a Pi and RTL dongle costs $50 total.

That RTL dongle is good for a lot of other radio receiving tasks, also. You can scan for GSM or LTE base stations, thereby being able to note when a new one pops up, thus detecting a likely stingray in the area. Or you can use it to listen to airband or public safety radio, or even NOAA weather radio. With enough CPU power you can even do GPS in software, which isn't so much useful as geek interesting.

Or you can just plop XBMC on it and have a pretty good media player for under $50.

Another interesting possibility would be to hook a weather station to it and use it to control your sprinklers so they don't waste water running unnecessarily. Or maybe set it up to access unsecured red light cameras and log all the assholes in town who don't stop for red lights so you can publicly shame them. The possibilities really are endless, even if in some cases it might not be the absolute best tool for the job.
posted by wierdo at 10:33 AM on November 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


chapps: "Christmas shopping done!"

What would it take to be added to your list?
posted by Samizdata at 10:41 AM on November 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


egypturnash: "Hmm. This is small, cheap, and powerful enough to consider making some super-awesome blinky rave toys that have enough smarts to listen to the music and do serious beat-detection..."

I want one for PiHole, truthfully.
posted by Samizdata at 10:43 AM on November 27, 2015


This might not be obvious to people who don't work on electronics, but getting a PC to do something simple like turn a lamp on and off is really, really hard.

It used to be. Belkin now sells a wifi enabled electric socket (for 10x the price, mind you) but for those that just want to be able to 'prime' a product off Amazon, and be able to wirelessly turn appliances on and off from a PC or smartphone, it's easy these days. The same advances that make the PiZero available for $5 didn't happen in a vacuum, and manufacturers aren't sitting still.

Personally, the PiZero's price point doesn't make up for the lack of wifi and weird port configuration. A board using the a similar chipset with 2 full-size USB ports and wireless built-in, but drops the HDMI and composite would be far more useful for many, I suspect.

The lack of a wired Ethernet port makes the lack of wifi even *more* conspicious.

Not that those shortcomings can't be made up for, but unless the shields are free, it no longer costs me $5.

I'm only aware of the Photon and Electric Imp in the cheap hobbyist-level platforms that have wifi built-in and they're more basic, like an Arduino. On a slightly higher level of the market is the Beaglebone Black but that has only one USB port and no wireless, and the USB port count on and wired Ethernet on the other Pi boards was the main thing they had going for it.

(Which is to say my take on the Zero can be boiled down to "no wireless; lame". I'm aware of the history of reviews that go "no wireless... lame" but it's 14 years later, and the lack of wifi on the Zero is rather conspicuous.)
posted by fragmede at 11:25 AM on November 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


(Not gonna kid myself; I'm going to end up buying a couple of these anyway.)
posted by fragmede at 11:32 AM on November 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


Does it still have the camera connector? I couldn't tell.
posted by GuyZero at 12:53 PM on November 27, 2015


Regarding PLC, looks like there are companies specializing in this usage of the Raspbery Pi.
posted by idiopath at 1:07 PM on November 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


> Does it still have the camera connector? I couldn't tell

The Zero doesn't, no.

I too will end up with more of these, for no well-defined reason. I already have a bunch of the older units doing things (one was the slowest dogecoin miner in the world, until I got an Intel Galileo), but these are ineluctible.
posted by scruss at 3:09 PM on November 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


A solar cell to power this device is about $5 delivered on ebay. That opens up some possibilities, although the older versions were pretty parsimonious with power anyway.
posted by bystander at 11:48 PM on November 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


And people are already fine tuning the power-usage. (More detailed article about power usage on all the models.)
posted by benito.strauss at 8:17 AM on December 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


My Raspberry Pi arrived yesterday! I am installing a disk image on it as we speak!
posted by 256 at 9:06 AM on December 2, 2015 [4 favorites]


Christ, what an asshole - Turning Pi Zero into an Instagram blocker
posted by Gordafarin at 8:18 AM on December 3, 2015


"It powers up from a battery and looks for DNS records on open wireless networks that meet target keywords and deauths the client when it finds a match, ..."

Well it doesn't seem like that should be possible. In fact the whole list linked in the article is a bit frightening.
posted by benito.strauss at 8:49 AM on December 3, 2015


Well, it boots! And I can play Zork! I'm having trouble figuring out how to make other games work though...
posted by 256 at 8:13 PM on December 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


Well, I got PiHole running on the Linux laptop I pretty much only use for World Community Grid (and, yes, before anyone asks, I AM on the MeFi team.)
posted by Samizdata at 11:05 PM on December 5, 2015


UPDATE: Got a whole suite of C64 games running. Now to figure out how to set the input configuration and front-end to be straightforward enough to reasonably gift this to someone in their sixties...
posted by 256 at 8:57 AM on December 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


That sounds like an amazing thing to do 256, and I am with you in spirit.
posted by JHarris at 12:08 PM on December 6, 2015


My sister signed up with Adafruit to be notified when the Zeros were back in stock. She got notified today, so we called up Microcenter and they had some too. You have to ask at the cashier, it's not out with the other Raspberries. We went to the one in Irvine and picked up one each. Now to get the cables and install the OS. Yay!
posted by benito.strauss at 11:18 PM on December 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


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