Raspberry Pi 400
November 15, 2020 5:55 AM   Subscribe

The compact single board computer is now available inside a keyboard, turning any TV into an affordable all-in-one computer. Explaining Computers review.
posted by adept256 (68 comments total) 45 users marked this as a favorite
 
I'm excited about how dirt cheap it is. One of the things we've learnt this year is that not every child has a computer at home. We can do a lot better than that.
posted by adept256 at 6:21 AM on November 15 [8 favorites]


I think it looks fantastic, and would love to have one.

Pi's can be tucked into other items quite easily because they're small, but this design -- with its big heat sink, for example -- goes well beyond that.

Putting one in a clacky mechanical keyboard would be sooooo good.
posted by wenestvedt at 6:25 AM on November 15 [4 favorites]


That's a cute machine for $100, and a useful form factor half way between the credit-card-sized original Pi boards and the $200 Pinebook Pro.

I already have a Pi 4, and will probably grab one of these to play with as well.

I've been waiting a long time for something else - anything else - to mount a successful challenge to Intel's awful instruction set architecture in the non-touch-screen space, and it's lovely to see the pincer movement from small designs based on high-volume phone-oriented ARM SoCs like these at the low-priced end and the raw performance of Apple's new M1 at the high end.

ARM is no RISC-V, but it's nicer than x86 and that's plenty good enough for the time being.
posted by flabdablet at 6:27 AM on November 15 [2 favorites]


I don't know why they include the GPIO and don't move that to a USB accessory.

I personally see the Raspberry Pi as a cheap hobbyist machine that fits a weird niche that's hard to describe. Need a computer to power your television? Raspberry Pi. Need to demonstrate K8s actually working for some reason? Raspberry Pi. Kind of like anywhere you need a small computer the Raspberry Pi fits. I hate to say cheap because the Raspberry Pi certainly is cheap but not cheap compared to many devices it replaces. Like I see all kinds fo hobbyist projects where Raspberry Pi is powering something that if it were a commercial project it would be replaced with an insanely cheap $1 piece of a hardware. But as a development platform perfect.

Also I don't know if I'd be for the Raspberry Pi as a general computing device. I mean I like the idea of giving kids cheap computers that aren't branded by big tech but if anything a Raspberry Pi would turn me off as a kid. I don't think I'd seriously recommend this to anyone who wasn't a dedicated hobbyist or who already knew what they were wanting to do.

I guess I'm not a big fan of pushing development boards as anything but development boards because it alienates consumers. I get that the intentions are good.
posted by geoff. at 6:46 AM on November 15 [6 favorites]


This is neat! (It's like One Laptop Per Child, but far better. I guess it's been a while.)

I'd have been tempted to connectorize the gpio in a format that you can buy standard cables for at consumer stores, with an optional break out board. But, it's a minor complaint.
posted by eotvos at 6:52 AM on November 15 [4 favorites]


So this is basically a Commodore 64 for the Internet Age.

But that's not an insult, that's praise. The advantages over the C-64 are more than size, computing and storage power. Among other things, home televisions are *much* higher quality and higher resolution than they were forty years ago. Even a cheap flat-screen from Walmart will work better than any display available for less than four-digit prices in 1983. And oh yeah is this what was needed to bring desktop Linux to the masses? Wait and see, I guess.
posted by ardgedee at 6:52 AM on November 15 [33 favorites]


I've had one of these for a couple days (11/12) and I'm using it for retropie. I would say the killer feature, weirdly, is that all the ports are now on one side. It was always ugly to have a raspberry pi 3/4 hooked up to something. The old design would often float, because it's lighter than the stiff cables. This form factor looks neater under a TV or on top of another PC.

The keyboard is just enough to type on in a pinch. Very good for initial setup or when something suddenly asks y/n. And, also, it obviously saves having another keyboard in a living room. The best part is that it has a power button that works in software. My wife likes that it's heavy/dense, because I guess I've been holding out on her and not letting her touch my other heavy keyboards.

It still didn't seem fast enough to just use as a web browser/desktop, even though it physically fits that role. The normal 3/4 is good if you need to run something with usb and want to hide it in a box. The zeroW is even better if you need some script running totally headless/wireless, otherwise it gets the biggest with all the adapters. This 400 is more for actually having out and using, but I don't know what use.
posted by Snijglau at 7:09 AM on November 15 [9 favorites]


Also I don't know if I'd be for the Raspberry Pi as a general computing device.
I absolutely can see that argument. But, if the OS is pre-installed and includes the software one is likely to need, and the hardware doesn't look too strange, it could work. It looks better than most $100 used laptops. My mom is not a computer person and has been using a tiny linux machine for years. (In this case, mostly so I can answer her questions. But, there aren't many. And security updates and backups just work.) It's been fine. She sometimes brags about doing something different than her friends. Transitioning from an ancient windows machine mostly required writing down some new names for specific software.

The question I'd ask today is how well it runs video conference software and how easy it is to install. Linux ARM binaries aren't a high priority for many companies. Making a deal with companies to let the OS maintainers compile and include that seems like it would be useful. (Perhaps they have. I don't know.)
posted by eotvos at 7:15 AM on November 15 [2 favorites]


I don't know why they include the GPIO and don't move that to a USB accessory.

Because the GPIO goes straight into the BCM2711 and it's easy and low-latency and high-bandwidth. Plus, you can look at the header pins and think about all the projects you're going to get around to one day.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 7:20 AM on November 15 [20 favorites]


So this is basically a Commodore 64 for the Internet Age

Yeah, my immediate thought was recalling running my Atari 800 into a 12” black and white TV in 1983.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:28 AM on November 15 [5 favorites]


It's like One Laptop Per Child, but far better

I'm pretty sure the Raspberry Pi Foundation was guided by “What would Nicholas Negroponte do? Let's not do that”. I recently got an OLPC XO 1.75 (the ARM one) and it is way ahead of what the Raspberry Pi was at the time. But the OLPC foundation were so high on their own supply that they deliberately didn't develop any curriculum (that would have been the dreaded instructionist to them, not their beloved constructionist manifesto), didn't support with spares, and worst of all, didn't translate their system adequately from English. Meanwhile, the RPF has developed curriculum with properly defined outcomes, and even develop software and classes for devices like Arduino that they don't even make.

Sure, RPF personnel aren't untroubled with blurting random stuff (has Eben stopped on his "COVID is harmless!" rants? I stopped listening to him after the first person I knew died of it back in April) but at least they have a clue about classroom use, and listen to people using them in the field.

(If you want to delve into the OLPC backstory, Morgan Ames's The Charisma Machine is a head-smacking read.)

I think I have too many Raspberry Pis right now, so will likely resist getting one of these for at least a couple of weeks. It really is a new home computer. It's even got the heatsink!

(The only downer for me is that the very lovely BMC64 bare-metal C64 emulator won't run on a 4B or 400.)

I don't know why they include the GPIO and don't move that to a USB accessory.

GPIO is sacrosanct to the RPF: you won't see a machine of theirs without it. Yeah, it's a bit wispy (fragile 3.3 V, easily shorted and broken, no analogue I/O) but it's a defacto standard.
posted by scruss at 7:32 AM on November 15 [10 favorites]


Also, just to clarify, I don't mean to suggest that making this a thing you give to kids who've never used a computer and don't particularly want to is the best choice. I'm not sure what would be. Government-funded modern laptops seem like the obvious answer. But, unlikely, at least here.

On preview, very interesting, Scruss. Thanks! I barely know anything about OLPC except comments from friends. Looking forward to diving into that link.
posted by eotvos at 7:36 AM on November 15


Although I grew up with a Commodore 64, and desperately want one of these even though I am surrounded by gear, it seems like the average cell phone is more powerful than a Raspberry Pi, just more difficult to connect to a decent monitor and keyboard. Then again, the average cell phone now costs much more than $100.
posted by mecran01 at 7:46 AM on November 15


So this is basically a Commodore 64 for the Internet Age.

That was my first thought as well. Next question: can it be configured to boot straight into something like a BASIC interpreter? When getting started with programming, it's hard to overstate just how much it helped that within a couple of seconds of turning the computer on for the first time, you could type in a couple of lines of code and see something working. I wonder how many people just never consider it now because there are so many more steps needed just to get to that point, rather than the development environment being the main entry point into the system?
posted by FishBike at 7:51 AM on November 15 [1 favorite]


can it be configured to boot straight into something like a BASIC interpreter?

Yes it can; like any Linux box, making it boot into a terminal environment with Bash running in it is very easy. Making a windowed terminal appear inside the desktop GUI as soon as that's started is easy too, and arguably more useful, though startup becomes a little slower.

Bash is at least as useful a language as Commodore BASIC ever was, and comparably easy to learn.
posted by flabdablet at 8:08 AM on November 15 [3 favorites]


BASH = Beginner's Allspice Symbolic Haberdashery
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 8:09 AM on November 15 [16 favorites]


can it be configured to boot straight into something like a BASIC interpreter?

When I got my first pi a few years back, one of the first things I did was hammer out a version of snake with the python interpreter included with RaspianOS. They even had the PyGame library pre-installed.

I mention this because my python version of snake hasn't changed much since the Commodore basic, p-basic, gw-basic and Quickbasic versions from way back when.

It's weird how MS hasn't supported basic out of the box since quickbasic.
posted by adept256 at 8:20 AM on November 15 [1 favorite]


I don't have one of these yet, but the form factor of keyboard is literally the form factor I like. It's literally just slightly smaller than the extremely thin and small bluetooth keyboard I have for my desktop.

I don't, and have never, needed a 10-key extension on a home-keyboard. Waste of space for folks like me.
posted by deadaluspark at 9:15 AM on November 15 [1 favorite]


It's literally just slightly smaller than the extremely thin and small bluetooth keyboard I have for my desktop.

Yeah, this is a notable tipping point for me. The RPi 400/keyboard is not only about the size of many bluetooth keyboards, it's price comparable.

So, the next time I want a bluetooth keyboard, why not buy this instead?

One related thing I've been thinking about is the way the flip side of this intersects with the tragedy of a lot of e-waste. mecran01 brought up phone power, it sometimes makes me physically queasy that something like an iPhone 3 or 4 are *incredible* little sealed computing boxes, overqualified for a lot of the tasks that a lot of microcontrollers projects get thrown at. If there were some kind of linux distro you could throw at them plus a GPIO analogue, lots of them could be given a second life as tinkering tools/project bases instead of total obsolescence they have when they're EOLd for iOS. Hell, this is true for a good chunk of Nokia feature phones from the late 00s and increasingly a variety of other consumer electronics, possibly including other bluetooth keyboards. Water water everywhere and not a drop to drink...
posted by weston at 9:43 AM on November 15 [8 favorites]


If you crave that retro BASIC interactive environment feel, here's a bash script you can save to /usr/local/bin/bashic and run in a terminal:
#!/bin/bash -i
shopt -s extglob
declare -a prog
trap continue SIGINT
while read -ep $'Ready.\n' cmd args
do
	case $cmd in
	+([0-9]))
		if test -n "$args"
		then prog[cmd]="$args"
		else unset prog[cmd]
		fi
		;;
	list)
		for ln in ${!prog[@]}
		do echo "$ln" "${prog[ln]}"
		done
		;;
	load)
		if test -s "$args"
		then
			declare -a prog
			ln=0
			while read line
			do prog[ln+=10]=$line
			done <"$args"
		fi
		;;
	save)
		printf '%s\n' "${prog[@]}" >"$args"
		;;
	run)
		eval "$(printf '%s\n' "trap break SIGINT" "${prog[@]}" "trap continue SIGINT")"
		;;
	*)
		eval "$cmd" "$args"
	esac
done
This gives you the same kind of immediate vs deferred command structure as a 1980s BASIC shell. Any bash command you type will just be run immediately; any command you precede with a number will be added to the current bash program. You can list, run, load and save the current program just as you would have done with BASIC. Because bash doesn't actually use the line numbers for anything, the script doesn't save them with programs you save and it rebuilds them for programs you load; this gives you a way to renumber lines if you find you're packing them in too tight.

Here's a sample session:
stephen@jellynail:~$ bashic
Ready.
cd /tmp
Ready.
mkdir samples
Ready.
cd samples
Ready.
ls -l
Ready.
list
Ready.
10 while true
Ready.
20 do
Ready.
30 read -p "What is your name? " name
Ready.
40 echo "Hello, $name!"
Ready.
50 done
Ready.
list
10 while true
20 do
30 read -p "What is your name? " name
40 echo "Hello, $name!"
50 done
Ready.
run
What is your name? Cranston Snord
Hello, Cranston Snord!
What is your name? Fungo Chutney
Hello, Fungo Chutney!
What is your name? ^C
Ready.
save hello
Ready.
ls -l
total 4
-rw-r--r-- 1 stephen stephen 75 Nov 16 04:27 hello
Ready.
cat hello
while true
do
read -p "What is your name? " name
echo "Hello, $name!"
done
Ready.
list
10 while true
20 do
30 read -p "What is your name? " name
40 echo "Hello, $name!"
50 done
Ready.
10
Ready.
run
bash: eval: line 34: syntax error near unexpected token `do'
bash: eval: line 34: `do'
Ready.
list
20 do
30 read -p "What is your name? " name
40 echo "Hello, $name!"
50 done
Ready.
20
Ready.
30 while read -p "What is your name? " name
Ready.
list
30 while read -p "What is your name? " name
40 echo "Hello, $name!"
50 done
Ready.
30 while read -p "What is your name? " name
40 echo "Hello, $name!"
50 done
Ready.
run
bash: eval: line 36: syntax error near unexpected token `done'
bash: eval: line 36: `done'
Ready.
35 do
Ready.
list
30 while read -p "What is your name? " name
35 do
40 echo "Hello, $name!"
50 done
Ready.
run
What is your name? Cranston Snord
Hello, Cranston Snord!
What is your name? 
Hello, !
What is your name? (I press ctrl-D to generate an EOF on input)Ready.
Ready.
This is so many kinds of wrong I can't even, but I've been playing inside it for the last half hour and you know what? I like it.
posted by flabdablet at 9:46 AM on November 15 [29 favorites]


can it be configured to boot straight into something like a BASIC interpreter?

There is RaspberryPi BASIC: "a bare-metal operating system that boots directly to a BASIC prompt, similar to early computers. ..."

This page recreates the C64 programming experience in an emulator, with commentary:
The Lost Ways of Programming: Commodore 64 BASIC
posted by JonJacky at 10:00 AM on November 15 [5 favorites]


It was always ugly to have a raspberry pi 3/4 hooked up to something. The old design would often float, because it's lighter than the stiff cables.
Seen the Argon ONE case for the Pi4? All the connections on the back in a nice metal case. OK, it costs a few bucks extra over a bog-standard case, but it's quite good-looking as a bonus.
posted by Stoneshop at 10:01 AM on November 15 [4 favorites]


The Pi is just short of being a reasonable computer for desktop use. This edition only comes with 4GB of RAM (but they do have an 8GB version of the bare Pi 4) and still lacks a SATA connector or other way to attach a decent SSD/hard drive. You can buy add-ons that connect a drive via the USB port but that's a bit meh.

So close, but still so far. I don't care a whit about the GPIO, gimme a version with 16GB of RAM and the ability to use an mSATA drive and I'd be a happy camper. I could probably use it as my daily work machine.
posted by jzb at 10:11 AM on November 15 [4 favorites]


I use Pis for UAV navigation computers and base stations. They're not the best and I've accidentally fried a few but they're so cheap and easy I can't resist. And light!
posted by klanawa at 10:39 AM on November 15 [2 favorites]


Given that BASIC, with its line numbers and GOTOs, is a relic of the dinosaur age (more precisely, the 1960s), we can do a lot better as a pick-up-and-go language. Python is probably the most common candidate, though one could try others (de-classed Java à la Processing, JavaScript, Scheme, and so on; if you really insist on arrays starting at 1, there's Lua). The idea that things should power up to a BASIC prompt because that's what the ZX81/C64 one grew up with did is a bit too much like “I went through it and turned out alright, so everyone should”.

-- someone who learned to code on Commodore BASIC V2.
posted by acb at 10:52 AM on November 15 [9 favorites]


So close, but still so far. I don't care a whit about the GPIO, gimme a version with 16GB of RAM and the ability to use an mSATA drive and I'd be a happy camper. I could probably use it as my daily work machine.

That's one of the main problems with the Pi. It's system on a chip is not a balanced general-purpose SOC, but one originally tailored to a specific application, namely smart TVs and set-top boxes. Hence things like the lack of SATA (SD cards and USB are good enough for a smart TV) and poor I/O performance (at least originally).

The Pi is flawed, but it is good enough that there's no gap in the market that someone making a Pi-sized machine at a similar price point optimised for desktop computing/server use/general-purpose applications.
posted by acb at 10:57 AM on November 15 [1 favorite]


You can *almost* get to that using the compute module 4 and the associated IO board. You are still limited to 8GB of ram but the IO board has a one-lane PCI-e slot into which you can plug in an NVMe card/drive. Apparently these boards can also be overclocked to 2.2 ghz successfully with appropriate cooling.
posted by Poldo at 10:57 AM on November 15 [2 favorites]


Given that BASIC, with its line numbers and GOTOs, is a relic of the dinosaur age (more precisely, the 1960s), we can do a lot better as a pick-up-and-go language. ...

The page I linked above The Lost Ways of Programming: Commodore 64 BASIC argues that those old BASIC systems differ from modern programming environments in ways that make them more accessible to beginners.
posted by JonJacky at 11:20 AM on November 15 [1 favorite]


you can *almost* get to that using the compute module 4 and the associated IO board.

This is what I do. I sort of want to come out with a product that is like a more general version of the Raspberry Pi. The power of the Pi is that it is so ubiquitous anything can and will be done on it. I think there's enough of a market now that I'd like to see Raspberry Pi to be more like say a standard version of AWS for home. By that I mean: Need a NAS? Buy Raspberry X and hook it to as many SSDs as you can hook up with the USB cables. Need more storage? Add another Raspberry X and just see your storage space expand. Instead of Heroku if I want to push code to something I could confidently push to my Raspberry cluster and if it needs more compute just add more. Or better yet, buy a cool laptop screen, case and keyboard and know that the ugly guts are just a Raspberry X inside. Or have a clear path to manufacturing, where I do something cool and I can more or less make it work on a Raspberry X and someone can optimize it for production.

People try to 3D print and MakerSpace themselves things which is totally cool but in reality if I make a cool set top box I'm okay with getting something a lot more professional shipped to me in 10 days in a real case with my logo and maybe optimized for what I need. A friend wants it? Cool they can just buy it.
posted by geoff. at 11:47 AM on November 15 [2 favorites]


Doesn't Scratch scratch the itch of low-bar super-beginner programming these days? And it has a clear progression to python, iiuc, without creating dependence on goto statements which will have to be unlearned. Why teach people tools they're going to have to forget as soon as they're out of the learning environment? Just teach them proper loops and functions from the beginning...
posted by kaibutsu at 12:03 PM on November 15 [2 favorites]


I sort of want to come out with a product that is like a more general version of the Raspberry Pi.

Come visit the embedded computing space where we play with SOMs all day long. With actual on-board storage and networking. And documentation!
posted by JoeZydeco at 12:13 PM on November 15


The Lost Ways of Programming: Commodore 64 BASIC

There's a lot of rose-tinted nostalgia for C64 BASIC as the-thing-I-learned-to-program-on (raises hand) but it's terribly limited in ways that reward bad practice. Everything's global; nothing except GOSUB for structure.

I'm not convinced that this article makes a good point for C64 BASIC as an immediately-accessible learning environment given how rapidly it starts pulling in CHR$ codes (which a new user would have to go and look up in the User Guide, if they even knew where to look) and POKE direct to screen memory (ditto but might well have to go look in the Programmer's Reference Guide for this, and weirdly the emulator for the examples has the the screen is at 0 which it just isn't on a real C64 right?). Yes, it builds a breakout in BASIC, but it feels strongly like it was written by working backwards from the finished thing -- for example the convenient gaps in the line numbering to leave room for later additions.

(and besides we were all secretly jealous of BBC BASIC really, right? the built-in assembler oooooh)

I'm playing with Python on a Pi and it does feel like some of the same sense of immediate fun. And with the added benefit on Pi that there's a huge amount of cheap snap-on hardware that's immediately and easily usable. The multicolor LED array I'm using now is cheaper, easier, and far more functional than the "8 LEDs hooked up to the C64's USER port" box I built as a teenager.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 12:20 PM on November 15 [4 favorites]


Commodore BASIC, with its janky slowness (as in: wait a few seconds as you watch the screen of the platform game you wrote refresh, row by row) was a good motivator to learn 6502 assembly. Though the fact that the C64 did not include a machine code monitor, requiring you to either buy one as an add-on or hand-convert your program into a set of decimal values to POKE in, was an annoyance.

You ended using a pen, paper and a calculator a lot: for working out the bytes for your assembly-language programs, and the binary values for your custom character sets/sprites.
posted by acb at 12:33 PM on November 15 [2 favorites]


Speaking of BBC Basic, there's a native port of RISC OS, the OS of the Acorn Archimedes family of personal computers -- the first ARM machines (dating to 1985!) and successor to the BBC Model B and BBC Master, and building on Acorn's lineage -- to the entire Raspberry Pi family. Except the original Archimedes ran at 12MHz and had something like 512Kb of RAM, so the Pi 400 is sort of the ultimate Archimedes that never was. Find Open RISC OS here. Yes, there's a GUI, yes there are applications (a bundle of somewhat commercial apps, fully licensed and paid for, is available on SD card for about £55). So if you have a mega-BBC itch to scratch, this is kind of the next generation.
posted by cstross at 12:41 PM on November 15 [3 favorites]


and still lacks a SATA connector or other way to attach a decent SSD/hard drive. You can buy add-ons that connect a drive via the USB port but that's a bit meh.

I've never gotten into raspberry pi & co. but have been thinking about it lately. Is there a similar product that you can directly attach a hard drive to?


can it be configured to boot straight into something like a BASIC interpreter?
> Yes [...] Bash


Making any new coder use bash would be unfathomably cruel. (One bracket or two? Brackets or parens? When is a space optional and when is it crucial? Why??!) Fortunately if you can start a bash environment automatically you can also start any other command automatically, so you can immediately dump the user into, say, a python interpreter (or any other language).
posted by trig at 12:49 PM on November 15 [4 favorites]


can it be configured to boot straight into something like a BASIC interpreter?

This is why I was lamenting that BMC64 doesn't run on the 400: it's a bare-metal C64 (and other Commodore 8-bit) emulator that boots to READY in a few seconds. I don't know of any other bare-metal BASICs that work directly. You could take your chances with RISC OS Pico to boot straight into BBC BASIC under a tiny version of RISC OS, but it hasn't seen much love over the last couple of years and may need work to get going on a 400.

Commodore 64 BASIC is objectively the worst version of BASIC ever made, without useful graphics or sound commands built in. Just because they sold millions of 'em, doesn't make it good: Tramiel's cheapness tarnished BASIC's name forever.

So otherwise you'll need a version of BASIC that runs under the Desktop, aka X11. This may be slightly more complex (and slower than immediate mode) but will give a better experience. Two options:
  1. Richard Russell's BBC BASIC for SDL 2.0. Richard was a tech for the BBC and collaborated on the original spec for BBC BASIC in 1980. Ever since he's been developing interpreters for the language, and these ones are free. It's pretty polished but not quite as fast as other interpreters. There's also an experimental WASM version that runs inside the browser: BBC BASIC for Wasm
  2. Matrix Brandy BASIC. Also written for SDL, it's a very fast interpreter but with no UI. You may have to make peace with a terminal-mode editor for this one.
BBC BASIC still works best in ALLCAPS, and it's one of the few interpreters that requires it (mostly). The versions I listed don't require line numbers, and they support structured programming with procedures and functions. If you remember MS BASIC, it may seem a slightly weird dialect, but it's solid and there's ~40 years of documentation for it out there.

The Raspberry Pi Foundation has spent a lot of time working with developers on Python UIs that are easy to use but still useful. Thonny is the current one, but they've also supported Mu, a tiny minimalist editor that tries to make it hard to do the wrong thing. The problem with Python is that you can't tell if a solution is in Python 2 or Python 3, and because Raspberry Pi OS is based on Debian, you have to type python3 (and pip3, etc) to run the modern interpreter. Consequently there are lots of queries about this on the Raspberry Pi Forums. The Forums are the place to get support, btw.

The only other language I can think of that's a modern equivalent of BASIC is p5.js. It runs in your browser and it is good. It's JavaScript, so you might already know it.

---------------

If you're going to be buying a Raspberry Pi 400 and haven't used them before, please accept the following from a grumpy old bastard who has used every model since launch day in 2012 and lived in the support forum ever since:
  1. If you bought a kit with an SD card, it's probably a standard FAT32 format holding a distribution known as NOOBS. NOOBS exists because it's quick for vendors to put on SD cards, not because it's particularly good. Please re-image the card with the Raspberry Pi Imager and use the Raspberry Pi OS (32 bit) image. That's the one support folks assume you are using, and this is the official line from the Foundation. Anything else? TSMYOYO.
  2. Raspberry Pi OS is packaged in the UK. That means you lovely folks in North America will experience a keyboard that does funny things and you'll have to actively set the the language (once) for the right keys to work. This is how the rest of the world feels all the time. PC LOAD LETTER, you smug gits.
  3. The Forum is the fount of all knowledge (and, as an aside, runs on a cluster of Raspberry Pis itself), but the search is crap and can't be improved. Use site:raspberrypi.org forum "your search term" from your favourite search engine to find anything. Critically, ignore anything from 2018 and older: the hardware and firmware has changed so much that old advice is actively harmful. For example, any tutorial that includes sudo rpi-update is likely really old: it was a command that helped you get the current firmware, but now it's one that enables weird testing versions of the firmware and kernel. It will break stuff and you will cry.
  4. Lots of software that says it runs under Linux only runs under Intel Linux. Printer and scanner support is notoriously shite for ARM Linux. Your best bet is anything that supports Airprint. If it's a Canon printer, or a Brother or HP that was cheap and only connects via USB, it's not worth the bother. There are no official ways to get $YOUR_FAVOURITE_PROPRIETARY_STREAMING_SERVICE to work on a Raspberry Pi, either.
posted by scruss at 1:10 PM on November 15 [17 favorites]


Putting one in a clacky mechanical keyboard would be sooooo good.

Unicomp has a few suitable candidates, especially the EnduraPro sporting a TrackPoint erasermouse[0] so you don't have to attach a mouse or trackball if you can deal with a TP as a pointing device. And as you can just order them new you don't have to worry about cutting up one of your precious Model Ms.

There have been some IBM buckling spring keyboards with an integrated trackball, but they're rare and just as picky as an M about the PS/2 to USB converter they want to work with.

[0] other nicknames exist.
posted by Stoneshop at 1:12 PM on November 15 [2 favorites]


Yeah, if you want people to laugh at you when they ask you what language you're using, learn BASIC.
posted by The Half Language Plant at 1:22 PM on November 15


I've never gotten into raspberry pi & co. but have been thinking about it lately. Is there a similar product that you can directly attach a hard drive to?

There are cases which are big enough to hold both the Pi and a hard drive. Pi Hats (GPIO attached) which provide SATA connections. But I personally just kept it simple with a USB to SATA cable, with the HD sitting next to my Pi 4's small heat sink case.

This blog post gives good advice on how to boot your Pi from an external HD and lists what enclosures / cables work and which ones don't. It's not a comprehensive list but it's enough to get an idea when shopping for one.
posted by Teegeeack AV Club Secretary at 1:23 PM on November 15 [2 favorites]


I've never gotten into raspberry pi & co. but have been thinking about it lately. Is there a similar product that you can directly attach a hard drive to?

Some of the Orange Pi and Banana Pi models have a SATA interface, but I haven't used them and know not much more of them than that they exist.
posted by Stoneshop at 1:26 PM on November 15 [1 favorite]


Is there a similar product that you can directly attach a hard drive to?

Yes, there are SBCs with SATA or PCIe connections on them. Some of them are quite well made. But if they use an ARM SoC, they'll have limited user support. I have a graveyard of once-promising but ill-supported ARM boards: VIA APC, Beaglebone Black, Firefly Roc … all of them fallen off the useful curve due to lack of community support. The various «Fruit ≠ Raspberry» Pi boards fall into that category.

It may be cheaper to get the smallest mini x86 machine, something like a Odyssey Blue J4105 than bodge something together with a Raspberry Pi.

But the Raspberry Pi 4's USB3 is pretty decent: I'm getting very acceptable rates with my setup. You've probably heard it's crap though, because a) it was crap when the very first fry-an-egg-on-it Raspberry Pi 4B firmware came out — but that was 18 months ago, effectively aeons in Raspberry Pi time; and b) it's a bit more picky about USB to SATA adapters than other machines. This is one of the good ones: StarTech SATA to USB Cable with UASP. Coupled with a SATA SSD, it flies.
posted by scruss at 1:34 PM on November 15 [3 favorites]


I have had some success with the Cubieboard and Cubietruck SBCs; they're a Chinese design from some years ago, based on Allwinner A-series SOCs, and both of those have SATA interfaces. I used them to build MPD jukeboxes; i.e., small, low-power Linux machines with a SSD full of MP3s, listening for commands on a TCP port and playing music through their audio interface (the Cubietruck, nicely enough, has a TOSLINK optical output as well).

From what I understand, subsequent Cubie devices have since lost the SATA port.
posted by acb at 1:40 PM on November 15 [3 favorites]


I bought a 400 and it's... almost amazing. Raspberry Pi OS is a bit of a mess as a desktop OS so I switched to Ubuntu Desktop for a more polished feel. Bluetooth now doesn't work (I've read that a fix is on the way) and it's slow & crashy, but should hopefully improve and 4GB seems to be just about enough to not hamper it.
So it's impressive that the full 64-bit OS runs reasonably well from day one, and I could do 90% of my work on it if I had to, but you've got to enjoy faffing with hardware/software or have a specific niche use in mind to make it worth getting.
posted by malevolent at 1:54 PM on November 15 [1 favorite]


Yeah, if you want people to laugh at you when they ask you what language you're using, learn BASIC.

We did a hell of a lot of business with Business Basic, though...
posted by mikelieman at 2:29 PM on November 15


It's not available in my (shithole) country which is just called "rest of the world" on the menu.
posted by Obscure Reference at 2:44 PM on November 15 [2 favorites]


Thanks for all the recommendations!
posted by trig at 2:49 PM on November 15


I'm running Arch on an external drive on a RPi 4, and imagine I'll do the same once get one of these. Sadly my favorite supplier doesn't have them in stock yet.
posted by grimjeer at 3:42 PM on November 15


FishBike: can it be configured to boot straight into something like a BASIC interpreter?

lemme introduce you to snakeware
posted by ckape at 4:47 PM on November 15 [7 favorites]


For you folks that like the size of the Raspberry Pi but want something more capable, Intel and other companies produce "NUC" or "Mini PC" form factors that are generally meant to power TV displays, public kiosks, or low-end terminals for basic office use.

I got a used Dell Wyse "Thin client" with a passively cooled CPU and room for two sticks of notebook RAM and a 2.5" SATA drive. It's now the silent, low-energy NAS machine and Plex server for my house. There's tons of cheap overseas iterations of these boxes that run windows and barely cost more than a Raspberry Pi, but be careful because many of them aren't any more capable than a Raspberry Pi either.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 6:04 PM on November 15 [5 favorites]


Can you point out any specific models?

I have always been curious about the hardware sold as Android TV Boxes, and what it can be repurposed for, for example.
posted by wenestvedt at 6:12 PM on November 15


I mean this is the exact model I got for about the same price I got it. Looks like for this particular one you just have to provide a hard drive and operating system. I can personally vouch for this being a good choice as an always-on home server.

For other options, this article gives a rundown of your choices, from full-on desktop replacements that are little bigger than a hockey puck to low-power point-of-use devices and everything in between. There's barebones ones that you can slot components into and upgrade, and fully configured models that may or may not have components soldered permanently to the motherboard. It all depends on how much you're willing to pay. If you want there are even gaming-focused models the equal to a high-end gaming laptop.

The main benefits of these devices is that they have power requirements comparable to a laptop, but a form factor that can either act as a headless (no monitor or keyboard) server or as an everyday desktop computer. So basically the same thing that draws most people to the Raspberry Pi, but with more oomph and the ability to run Windows.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 6:55 PM on November 15 [4 favorites]


wenestvedt (and anyone else): there’s a pretty robust YouTube community of video creators who cover the full spectrum of small form factor PCs, from Pis to NUCs to chromeboxes. ETA Prime is the one I follow, but it’s a fairly tight-knit community so they’re always linking to each other.
posted by Ian A.T. at 10:18 PM on November 15 [2 favorites]


the EnduraPro sporting a TrackPoint erasermouse[0] so you don't have to attach a mouse or trackball if you can deal with a TP as a pointing device
Note to anyone considering this that the TrackPoint in the EnduraPro is a TrackPoint II, which lacks the negative inertia feature added in the TrackPoint III and won't feel like that in any ThinkPad that's been released since 1998. You can get a modern TrackPoint in the TEX Shinobi (this very post typed on one).
posted by Strutter Cane - United Planets Stilt Patrol at 12:25 AM on November 16 [1 favorite]


The idea that things should power up to a BASIC prompt because that's what the ZX81/C64 one grew up with did is a bit too much like “I went through it and turned out alright, so everyone should”.

-- someone who learned to code on Commodore BASIC V2.


I started learning to code on a random collection of little machines on shop counters - Commodore PET, Exidy Sorcerer, TRS-80 Model 1 - and then on the Apple ][+ that Dad eventually spent a ridiculous sum on because I wouldn't stop nagging him to, and then on a succession of large college mainframes.

I loved the Apple ][+ and I would never have acquired any of the programming skills I now have without it.

But that was then, and this is now. And the main thing that makes computing in 2020 different from computing in 1979 is forty years of raised expectations.

I've often said that cutting my coding teeth in the era of the Apple ][+ makes me feel as lucky as somebody who learned to fix cars in the era of the Model T Ford. Of course a lot of what I learned was completely unsound and of course I have had to spend a bit of time superseding habits I established pretty solidly then, but the tradeoff is that my response to new technologies has been able to remain instinctively analytical rather than fearful or worshipful.

Digital machinery is ubiquitous in 2020 to an extent that I can personally attest was literally undreamt of in 1979. And yes, I'm absolutely including Steve Jobs and every other alleged "visionary" in the set of people who, in 1979, showed no sign of having any fucking clue at all how ICT would be shaping the lives we live in 2020.

In 1979, nobody expected a computer to be useful. The standing joke at the time was that the standard excuse for having bought a computer was to "balance my chequebook and store recipes" - and the reason this was funny is because nobody who had one ended up doing that with it. Not on 1500bps (or slower!) cassette tape. Computers were literally useless. Endlessly fascinating to those of us with an interest, but useless.

Steve Wozniak designed the Apple I in 1976 because he'd dreamed up a cool way to get color graphics onto a home TV screen via creative abuse of cheap digital logic chips, and thought that it might be fun to build something that would play Pong variants around one of the new cheap general purpose microprocessor chips instead of having to redesign hardwired logic every time. Bet your arse he had no interest in "balancing his chequebook and storing recipes" with what he'd made.

Home computers were fascinating to people bitten by the programming bug and virtually nobody else. The move into being seen mainly as a thing you'd buy to play video games on was quite distinct and didn't happen until a few years later; the first generation of bought-complete home computers were very much riding on the coattails of a hobbyist market previously served only by kit machines, many with blinkenlights on their front panels.

So there was a lot of hacked-together half-assed bullshit software in circulation. A lot. There were entire publishing houses devoted to magazines listing this stuff for people to type in, and it was completely reasonable for anybody with a passing interest to sit down at an Apple ][+ and teach themselves to hammer together something of comparable quality. The barrier to entry for learning to code was much much lower when the aspiration was to make another Hunt The Wumpus than when "game" means Minecraft or Portal or GTA V.

Kids These Days have a completely different relationship with the tech that some of them might develop an interest in programming. There is no way on God's green earth that any of them are going to end up with the kind of gates-to-engines understanding that I've had the opportunity to build over the last forty years, because it takes forty years to build that. From now until forever, all developers are forced by circumstance to treat everything they don't have time to study - which is now almost all of technology - as sufficiently advanced to be essentially indistinguishable from magic, and therefore best dealt with by brute force application of appropriate spells.

And although the grimoire is also unimaginably vast, I do worry that this totally unavoidable narrowing of understanding is going to have - is already having - consequences that none of us are going to like very much.

I thoroughly approve of the Pi-class machines because they can scratch the kind of itch that comes from wanting to make cool stuff but not having much money to throw at it. But they are really not comparable to the Apple ][+ - both because they are in and of themselves much less accessible (how many of us can honestly say that we could look at a multi-GHz SoC with hundreds of hidden solder blobs sticking it to a miniature multi-layer surface-mount PCB and have any real clue about how it does what it does?) and because their context would be literally unrecognizable to the 1979 versions of those of us old enough to have enjoyed an Apple ][+.
posted by flabdablet at 4:36 AM on November 16 [16 favorites]


Kids These Days have a completely different relationship with the tech that some of them might develop an interest in programming. There is no way on God's green earth that any of them are going to end up with the kind of gates-to-engines understanding that I've had the opportunity to build over the last forty years, because it takes forty years to build that. From now until forever, all developers are forced by circumstance to treat everything they don't have time to study - which is now almost all of technology - as sufficiently advanced to be essentially indistinguishable from magic, and therefore best dealt with by brute force application of appropriate spells.

For what it's worth: as a 37 year old (first-time) college student who's first machine was the Apple IIe and who is studying computer science at an Ivy, there is absolutely a serious effort to start at the transistor level with computer systems education. As recently as last year, I sat in a building called the Laboratory for Research on the Structure of Matter and was made to draw circuits by hand. Transistors to gates to latches and flip flops to machine language to assembly etc etc etc etc, write a lot of that out by hand, then learn to code in it and turn in homework to that effect. There was also a good bit of history sprinkled in, going back to ENIAC (with a visit across the street to see the real one!). Two classes that operated at this level of granularity, both of which were required core and not electives.

Granted, once a concept was taught and homework completed, we drew a black box around it and never went back, so there's definitely no way of anyone ending up with the same level of expertise at the gate level as you. But it is not completely avoided, even to this day.
posted by lazaruslong at 6:40 AM on November 16 [2 favorites]


I loved the Apple ][+ and I would never have acquired any of the programming skills I now have without it.


The Apple IIs came with an absolute gem of a manual. With the information in the reference it was possible to trace every step between throwing the power switch to seeing the "]" prompt on the screen. It even included schematics (although these were/are way over my head). But the ROM listings were invaluable for learning how the thing worked, and it was possible with effort to fit the operational model of the computer in your head, even as a kid.

I contend that the biggest problem with RPis is Linux. While there are various attempts to create retro "skins" that provide the superficial characteristics of the old systems, they are sitting on top of an incredibly complex and powerful operating system that, by design, obscures the low level workings of the machine. Graphics are inaccessible without X and all of the baggage that comes with it. To really get at an understanding of the hardware you need to need to work your way through layers upon layers of very complicated software.

What I'd like to see is some kind of monitor program or lightweight OS that would permit:

* Full access to the hardware, including GPIO and USB
* Access to mass storage
* Full access to graphics and the GPU
* Support for some kind of concurrency to allow use of all of the ARM cores, maybe via cooperative multitasking

I'd be willing to sacrifice multiuser, virtual memory and even memory protection in this context.

It seems that a bare metal Forth with support for the RPi hardware would be an interesting vehicle for this, but I suppose it could be done in other ways. Alas, it remains to be seen how much of Linux one would have to reinvent to achieve this simpler OS.
posted by 4CFCFF at 7:03 AM on November 16 [5 favorites]


In 1979, nobody expected a computer to be useful. The standing joke at the time was that the standard excuse for having bought a computer was to "balance my chequebook and store recipes"

And to help with your homework.

- and the reason this was funny is because nobody who had one ended up doing that with it. Not on 1500bps (or slower!) cassette tape. Computers were literally useless. Endlessly fascinating to those of us with an interest, but useless.

One of the people I knew in University was sufficiently loaded that he was able to fit his Apple ][ (clone) with TWO DSDD floppy drives (and bought diskettes per box of 10, where everyone else who had a disk drive bought just one or two diskettes as they needed them). Speed! Storage space! And random access!
posted by Stoneshop at 8:32 AM on November 16 [2 favorites]


Kids These Days have a completely different relationship with the tech that some of them might develop an interest in programming.

lazaruslong:

I forwarded the link to this page to my friend Max, and he replied (and I 100% concur and would have written myself ... but ... he did first) ...
Very fascinating read. My experiences parallel yours, of course. I sweated it out in the trenches with that TRS-80 in 1979-80. One big difference, which I think is dangerous and horrible, is the element of "magic" mentioned in that forum. It's not just that computers and programming have become so complex that a newbie can't afford the time to understand the low-level workings. They could. And they should. It's that people no longer see any need to. I have seen this in new programmers coming to work for at least 10 years. Their understanding of what a computer does stops at the border of a high level language like C++, and they get burned by this repeatedly. Sooner or later you will be confronted by some mysterious behavior in a section of code that can only be explained by examining the assembler code, and understanding that takes you down the rabbit hole of understanding something about how the hardware actually does what it does.

For me, I cherish the fact that I came up in a time when I had to learn crude low-level ideas and work my way up. It's much harder to have to "back learn" things at the low level than it is to learn low level technology works and understand building blocks made up from it. For example, if I understand how a transistor works, it's not too hard to understand how a chip works that has 100 of those on it to form logic gates, and it's not too awful a leap from that to understanding how millions of those can be used to build a processor. But take somebody who views a processor only as a black box that has an "adder", "multiplier", "local cache", "four cores" on it and get them to go the other way back to the transistor and it is a formidable task indeed.

I chuckled at the "balance your checkbook" and "store recipes" thing. Yes, that's what all the guys in Radio Shack would tell their customers when they tried to convince them that a computer would be useful. They even sold crude application programs for the TRS-80 that did these very things. "Inventory" was another joke of a useless application. I can remember when I was saving money to buy that first TRS-80. My dad heard the sales pitch about these programs and said, "Why would anybody want to do that with a computer?" Why indeed. Recipes in a small card file box were indexed, illustrated, random-access, easy to retreive and update - everthing that they were NOT on an early computer. Who would want to have to enter stuff into a keyboard on a computer they would presumably have to keep turned on and in the kitchen all the time, taking up 4 square feet of counter space? They could do all that much faster and easier with a little 5" x 3" filebox. Balance my checkbook? Who on earth would want to go through the tedium of entering all their check data with a keyboard so the computer could "balance"? What does that even mean? Do the simple arithmetic and tell you that it doesn't balance? And then what? 99% of the time that happens because you forget to enter a check or you enter the wrong numbers - exactly the same mistakes you will make with the computer as you do in a paper checkbook, and the computer isn't going to help you.

Other than nerding out and learning about programming and how computers work, computers were not useful to me until about 1986, when the Apple Mac appeared with drawing and word processing applications on it that really, truly, did those functions better than I could do on paper or a typewriter. It wasn't so much the computer speed or memory improvements that made the leap from "toy" to "tool" as it was the interfaces. That means the mouse, a monitor that wasn't a wonky TV set with wobbly wavy dot matrix characters, and a hard drive that could quickly and safely store data (instead of the comedy that was storing your data on casettes!). In the 1970s, we nerds focussed on what the "computer" could do and we overlooked how awkward it was to tell it to do it. But for the rest of the world, that communication - the interfaces - is everything.

To this day, I cringe at some of the things I see people doing in my model train hobby with high-powered digital electronics that can be solved by understanding basic analog electricity and mechanical principles. The motor control inside modern model train engines is a PWM microcontroller that is addressed with commands sent in a well-defined protocol through the track ("DCC" or Digital Command Control). But when an engine doesn't run right, I see a strong propensity for people to immediately start puzzling over changing DCC settings, messing with the motor control parameters, trying a different decoder, clearing the decoder settings entirely, etc. It never even occurs to many of them to bypass the DCC stuff entirely and just see if the motor itself runs correctly on straight DC current, or if all the pathways to conduct power from the track to the decoder and motor are working. The biggest low-level hurdle is checking the thing mechanically. What about the gears, bearings, alignment of all the moving parts attached to the wheels? Most of the time, they are trying to solve a mechanical engineering problem by looking at computer settings. And that works about as well as having grandma type all her recipes into a "TV set".
posted by ZenMasterThis at 8:43 AM on November 16 [11 favorites]


Love it. I'm really glad that my program made us go all the way to transistor level and build up through gates and machine language and assembly and reading an ISA before even starting on C.

Even if none of what I learned is ever of any "practical" use, most of the other students in my very large class agreed that the information had intrinsic value. Like I said, I'm 37 and I've been messing with computers since I was 6 years old or so. I still had no real idea how computers work below the software level of abstraction. So really understanding at a deep level how a computer actually works both demystified the process and made it that much more incredible and wonderful. The emergent complexity of a shitload of extremely simple transistors is mindbogglingly cool. I am sorry for comp sci students who miss out on that sense of wonder.
posted by lazaruslong at 9:04 AM on November 16 [1 favorite]


In the mid 80s I worked for a firm that made High Capacity floppy drives and an Apple II controller to suit. The drive case contained two half-height 5.25" 300rpm floppy drives, each one double sided with 80 tracks; with twin disks each formatted for ProDOS at ten 512-byte sectors per track, we could put a whopping 1.6MiB online.

I modified a pair of these, adding disk-present microswitches, a board with a couple of TTL chips on it, and a DB-25 cable with the two outermost pins extracted and the ends of the shell dented a bit so it would fit upside down in my Amiga 1000's hard-to-match DB-23 floppy drive expansion port. Because the rotation rate, surface and track counts were the same as those used by the Amiga's inbuilt 3.5" drive, it formatted my 5.25" disks the same way and got me the same 880kiB on the 5.25" disks I could buy cheaply in bulk as on the super-expensive hard-cased 3.5" ones. I still have that pair of drives, and the Amiga 1000, and a bucket full of 5.25" floppies, gathering dust in the shed out back.

In the same shed there's also an Odroid N2 with four 10TB Seagate Backup Plus Desk Hub USB3 drives hanging off it, running Debian and working very nicely as an energy-sipping home NAS; and a BeagleBone Black with a USB2-to-Ethernet converter stuck in its USB2 port, giving it the two network ports it needs to be my home's Internet router.
posted by flabdablet at 9:16 AM on November 16 [1 favorite]


For example, if I understand how a transistor works, it's not too hard to understand how a chip works that has 100 of those on it to form logic gates, and it's not too awful a leap from that to understanding how millions of those can be used to build a processor.

And if I've spent a few years dragging performance out of the 1MHz 8-bit 6502 in a machine that becomes ready to use the instant you switch it on, I've got a really solid basis on which to be annoyed that something with a CPU clocked literally thousands of times faster, hooked up to an SSD that can ship data over the wire also literally thousands of times faster than the 6502 could fetch it from RAM, still takes 15 seconds to get its arse in gear.

Wirth's Law is a hell of a thing.
posted by flabdablet at 9:30 AM on November 16 [5 favorites]


Lots of computer science is quite distant from electrical engineering concerns. Some of it doesn't touch physical computing devices at all. I'm glad the EE-adjacent folks have curricula that suit them, and I hope they feel the same way about the math and algorithms folks. Or the many working programmers with no interest in math, algo, or EE!

(I started programming in Logo in 3rd grade, long before I found transistors or logic gates remotely interesting)
posted by Ptrin at 10:53 AM on November 16


I contend that the biggest problem with RPis is Linux

Thing is, Linux is a simple OS. It was the easiest one for the Raspberry Pi Foundation to get working. I remember in the early days of the machine, there were high hopes that RISC OS would become the standard, once it got over a few teething problems, and Linux would be left behind. Eight years later, we're still waiting.

RISC OS is super lightweight, but written almost entirely in an obsolete dialect of ARM assembly. Some of it's not exactly compatible with 32-bit ARM conventions, so it needs to have (as far as I understand, which isn't very) some kind of interrupt manager overlaid on it so it won't skate off into infinity. A lot of the code was written by the original designer of the ARM chip, so it needs the same genius-level understanding of ARM internals as Sophie has to be able to modify. RISC OS doesn't understand wifi, filesystems over 2 GB or multiple cores. It would take a full code review and cleanup to virtualize. It's only recently open source. I'm not even sure it can be built with a free toolchain. Worst of all for modern SoCs, its cooperative multitasking runs in a very tight CPU loop, so you can hit thermal throttling easily.

But I still urge people to try RISC OS, once. It works like nothing you've ever used. A common file save mode has programs opening little windows containing an icon, and you drag the file to where you want it. It used a forked filesystem (like old classic Macs), so if a file loses its metadata, it's up to you to recognize it and do the necessary magic. All the applications use their own weird file formats. Converters to file formats you might see elsewhere sometimes cost money (if the developer hasn't lost interest or died, something that's happened to some very useful RISC OS tools). Oh, and memory allocation? It's manual. Your process will happily run out of memory and stop unless you know how to give it enough memory by dragging a slider.

The Raspberry Pi is an educational computer for kids that some adults (including me) seem to find useful. You're never going to see the full internals of the GPU. You can do baremetal things, but you still need the right firmware blob to start the SoC from the GPU bootstrap. Everything else lives behind a Broadcom NDA.

webshit weekly nailed the HN response (and a bit of the response here) to the Raspberry Pi 400:
Raspberry Pi 400 Desktop PC
November 01, 2020 (comments)
A Broadcom factory outlet introduces a slightly bulkier model of a bad computer it already sells. Hackernews believes that this, finally, is the computer that poor people will be able to buy. The rest of the comments are nostalgic ruminations on 80s computers.
posted by scruss at 2:50 PM on November 16 [4 favorites]


Hey!

I'll have you know that my nostalgic ruminations are about 70s computers.
posted by flabdablet at 6:03 PM on November 16 [4 favorites]


Everything else lives behind a Broadcom NDA

The fact that so much technical detail is now routinely hidden in this way (it's not just Broadcom who does this, not by any stretch of the imagination) is another thing that makes broad-spectrum understanding so much harder now than it was in 1979.

There's pushback but it's a drop in a terribly polluted ocean.
posted by flabdablet at 8:08 PM on November 16 [3 favorites]


Unrelated to the release of the Pi 400, I bought an 8GB Pi 4 two (or is it three? four?) weeks ago, and my desktop (my only other proper computer) hasn't been turned on since. It genuinely is good enough for daily casual use - browsing news sites and social media, watching YouTube and streaming television/video. And this is on NOOBS - I'm very much planning on moving to USB boot with a 64bit OS (likely RasPiOS, but maybe Arch or Ubuntu) but I intentionally myself a month or two to excitedly fiddle before making that move. It's the first first-hand experience of a Pi I've had since the SD card slot on my 256MB absolute-first-gen Pi 1, and the difference is stark.
posted by Dysk at 6:15 AM on November 17 [2 favorites]


*since the SD card slot died on my first gen pi, that should be. I may have missed the edit window by just a bit...
posted by Dysk at 4:26 AM on November 18


There's tons of cheap overseas iterations of these boxes that run windows and barely cost more than a Raspberry Pi

As a data point and minor warning, I got one on the long-awaited and mostly well thought-of ROCK PI X Intel in Raspberry Pi format boards. It's got an Intel Atom x5-Z8350 (Cherry Trail, 4 core) CPU at 1.44GHz, 4 GB of LPDDR3 (boo) RAM, a 64 GB eMMC and one USB3 port. It's a little slower than a Raspberry Pi 4, and the setup felt like configuring a Raspberry Pi back in 2013: everything needs a little work to get going but the web links aren't really there. The passive heatsink case is pretty, but I could have (and really should have) bought 2× Raspberry Pi 400s for the same price. What's really annoying is that it needs a chonky and expensive USB-C PD adapter pulling 12 V: the Raspberry Pi's use of only 5 V is a big plus.
posted by scruss at 7:23 AM on November 21


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