Raspberry Pi Might Not Be Vaporware

When we first covered the Raspberry Pi, we secretly wondered if the project might become vaporware. It looks like the tiny, full-fledged computer might actually be produced with the announcement of alpha boards in the Raspberry Pi HQ.

In the announcement of the Raspberry Pi last May, the board was about the size of a USB thumb drive and would cost $25. It looks like the board will be a little larger in the final revision – about the size of a business card – and production of the alpha boards were a bit over cost. That being said, these boards seem a lot more capable than what we’ve seen before. The Raspberry Pi now has 10/100 ethernet, and analog audio and video while keeping the HDMI, USB, and SD card support we saw in the original.

The Raspberry Pi team already has Debian running on these boards, so right now we’re wondering when gumstix boards will come down in price. Of course, this project is intended for use in education, but we can’t wait to see what can be done with this hardware. If you already know what you would do with this, tell us in the comments.

73 thoughts on “Raspberry Pi Might Not Be Vaporware

  1. The alpha boards are a little over cost due to being 20% bigger than the final boards and including all sorts of extra headers that won’t need to be on the final board. According to the RasPi site the final costs should be $25 for a simple board with 1 USB port and 128MB of RAM, $35 for one with 2 USB ports and 10/100 ethernet along with 256MB of RAM. The boards are otherwise identical. Oh and as for video capabilities try h.264 @ L4.1 @ 1080p @ 30 fps (could’ve been level 4.2, don’t quite remember)

    1. Yes, they are. So’s BeagleBoards and PandaBoards- but their goals a bit different- and if you can do what you want to do with a RaspberryPi board, why not, right? You can’t blame someone for looking for something that’s quite a bit more capable than an Arduino, but yet doesn’t provide the functionality of an OMAP3/4 or Tegra 2 based board- which runs the price up quite a bit.

    2. Sorry, but you’re wrong. Gumstix boards are fairly expensive, and the support you get from Gumstix, inc. is horrible. They outsource ALL support to the mailing list, yet it’s extremely rare for one of their engineers to respond to a support request that is specific to their hardware (i.e. something mere users or designers wouldn’t know). Their documentation on the wiki is similarly flawed, likely for the same reason.

      One positive thing I *can* say about them is that their RMA process is fast and no-nonsense. I did appreciate that.

      I like the form factor but after the ordeals (plural) I’ve had to go through with them, I won’t be using their products in new designs.

  2. Roomba telepresence. I’ve put a lot of study into making a lot of parts work together, but this would consolidate most of the needed parts. I’ll just have to get a USB wifi dongle working with Raspberry Pi and the rest is “easy”.

  3. Have to agree with fartface on this one. I just got a sample from TI of the OMAP3530. When I went to grab the datasheet, I noticed the unit price is $115.00. I doubt the OMAP GumStix boards are going to get any cheaper anytime soon and are already priced aggressively.

    1. Indeed. And that’s just fine. There’s needing to be something that fills the slot a Gumstix or similar device fills (which is filled well by a wide range of devices, all priced pretty well…)- and then there’s needing to be a slot somewhere in-between an Arduino and those other boards. Hopefully, this may be filling the role.

  4. Oh, and wondering what to do with one? Well, here are some things (It might be overkill, but it is cheaper than other alternatives):
    1. internet radio alarm clock
    2. internet gateway for smart home
    3. NAS

  5. It’s cool to see this project making progress. So many projects just wither and die.
    I look forward to getting my hands on one.
    I wonder why the Broadcom logo was masked on the board in the video.

      1. read up on how this thing boots, it’s crazy. First the GPU powers up, runs a little bit of code on an internal CPU, gets all GPU functions up and running nicely, then it resets the rest of the board and things start booting properly on the main CPU. GPU’s made by broadcom, expect to see them mentioned a helluva lot :P

    1. One of their main developers works for Broadcom . I believe he/they are sponsoring/subsidizing the development.

      The new Broadcom mobile GPU’s look pretty powerful. I wonder if they’ll support opencl any time soon.

  6. You can’t deny that it’s an amazing price for a machine capable of running Debian. The ARM11 may not be that powerful, but for most applications I would use something like that for the Beagleboard is overkill.
    Is it true that David Braben of Elite fame is involved somehow?

  7. Just a bit more information you could get from their site, release will be worldwide and it’s on schedule for November or possibly December of this year. As for the Broadcom logo’s existence it’s because this is a cheap-ish ARM CPU and a practically top of the line Broadcom GPU with hardware acceleration for video encodes/decodes and a lot of other stuff. Eben works for Broadcom and helped produce this GPU, so you can see why they’re involved. IIRC they might be subsidising this project a bit, but don’t quote me on that last bit.

  8. It’s good to see progress on this project. I’d love to use these boards for multiple embedded projects – robots, networked sensors, etc but I thought I read that the motivation for Raspberry Pi was to make affordable computers for students. If that’s the case why HD video? Seems like overkill if the goal is for learning/simple applications.

  9. I am thinking about getting a couple of these boards for some in home stuff. I have a TV in my kitchen that would be great to have a computer built into it. Toss a wireless keyboard in the cupboard and have it default to have my RSS feeds, email, weather, and comics right there for when I eat breakfast or am cooking or what not. Great for pulling up new recipes on the TV.

  10. Answers to some Q’s above.

    November/December release date

    HDMI royalties are pretty low and covered in the cost of the SoC. Board price still $25 ish.

    I got a USB wireless N dongle working today (well, up and running, not connected to local network yet – should be done over weekend)

    Boot sequence is odd but a hangover from the way the chip developed.

  11. GumStix boards also have OpenGL ES 2.0 support in hardware. By the look of it, the Raspberry doesn’t, unless I’m mistaken. There a number of other features on the GumStix that is missing on the Raspberry. Hence the price diff. But damn, $25 is still cheap for a fairly capable computer. Looks fun.

    1. Yes it can support openGL es in hardware, it can even support flash . It is the same chipset that is running on the new roku2XS boxes just without the onboard flash storage, raspberry pi went with flash cards which is much better for hobbyist.

  12. Does anyone know if these boards will have a serial port (TTL would be fine) or other bit oriented interface that can be used to connect to other devices like a microcontroller? $25 for a linux device controller would be simply amazing.

    1. Yup, it has an I2C port (or was it 2 ports?) Not sure if those ports are available on a connector or header.

      This is an arduino² !

      The only thing missing is an arduino like IDE with all it’s libraries to connect various physical things on it. Sure someone already has a solution for this.

      1. Now, now, JamesH…

        There’s going to be people that don’t get that this might be possible in the first place- at least until they can lay their hands on it. Considering that the RokuXS uses the same SoC, I’m just waiting for a board in hand for myself.

    1. That’s my thought too – There are quite a lot of emulators for Linux, and writing games is not especially complicated and doesn’t require any “jailbreaking”.

      So one of those in a box combined with a TV and a USB game controller would give you an “Open Source Games Console”.

  13. home automation/security/2-way video
    advanced UAV
    carputer? this is small enough to put a computer in a touring bike like a honda goldwing. i could put it right between my heating vent and cigaratte lighter :)
    would be great to make a durable PC in my paint booth for viewing reference photos (could be a sealed unit – no fan, just put seran wrap or something disposable over the screen)

  14. assuming the price point is reasonable, and these will have rs232 capability, i will be using them to replace many desktop computers in an office/oil field enviroment. less moving parts = mucho better, they will take quite a bit of abuse.

  15. Of course it isn’t vaporware.
    These guys are pretty comitted and I laud their efforts. I don’t know about anywhere else but my high school didn’t have electronics or computer science related courses. So this can be the catalyst for something resembling that, instead of strictly vocational school. They both serve purposes.

  16. Step 1: Wait for XBMC to be ported.
    Step 2: Buy board.
    Step 3: Install the smallest possible linux distro.
    Step 4: Install torrent with web interface.
    Step 5: Install emulators(I’m guessing MAME, snes and similar ones).
    Step 6: Connect to 42″ plasma.
    Step 7: ????????
    Step 8: Profit.

    I’m really hoping this works as advertised, if so, I’m buying 2, one the HTPC described above, and other as an small web and file server for tests and backups.

  17. WOW!!!! A proprietary Broadcom application processor breakout board. This is sooooo exciting and definitely worth all the hype.

    Why wouldn’t you post Milkymist for a change?

  18. From the web site, there will be a 4-pin serial port — it looks like it will be open holes you will need to solder to. 3.3v so will need level converter or usb interface chip, same as most arm boards.

    About 16 GPIO will be on a connector or two, 1.27mm pitch. This includes 2 I2C and an SPI interface (also 3.3v).

  19. I think if you put one in a nice homebrew case and pair it with a pico projector you’d have a great portable “screenless” computer. Anywhere you have some whitespace on a wall or ceiling you would have a screen, and depending on the projector you could use its charge cable to power the Pi. From what I’ve read on their website the power requirements are pretty liberal, and the developers have suggested running it off of four AA batteries for portability. I think a LiPo with a charging circuit would be great to build into a small case with it.

    I can definitely see myself buying at least three of these when they are released: Homebrew in-car-information center, portable computer as described above, and one just to play with on the workbench.

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