Raspberry Pi 2: We're Giving Away 50 Units!!! - Review

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RoadTest: Raspberry Pi 2: We're Giving Away 50 Units!!!

Author: jdlui

Creation date:

Evaluation Type: Independent Products

Did you receive all parts the manufacturer stated would be included in the package?: True

What other parts do you consider comparable to this product?: Arduino Yun

What were the biggest problems encountered?: No clear idea of truly where a newbie should start (My device didn't come with an SD card that had an OS loaded)

Detailed Review:

This is my first review with a Raspberry Pi and so I was very excited to get my hands on this popular piece of hardware and test it out. As I mentioned in my Arduino IOT review, I am very new to these technologies so I am evaluating the quality of the hardware but specifically chronicling the experiences from the Point-of-View of a junior user who doesn't have an education in circuitry, and is just getting exposed to these new products. As such I more frequently fall into roadblocks that an advanced user may not think about, but I think this is useful feedback because several times the reason for the confusion was simply badly written documentation on websites or tutorials


In a nutshell:

  • Good board to play around with for a newbie who wants to run some software applications for fun or around the home such as a media centre
  • If you're a newbie who wants to simply make a light show, consider Arduino first. Raspberry Pi has more of a learning curve than simply uploading code to an Arduino and then running a basic light blinking sketch
  • Generally using the Raspberry Pi was a great learning experience for a newbie, and there is a decent amount of documentation and tutorials out there for specific projects
  • This device worked well with Windows 10 IoT once I figured out how to use it, but Microsoft's software, documentation, and support needs a little refresher for me to certify it "newbie friendly"

 

My first experience receiving the product was just pure joy to be getting my hands on new hardware, in a snazzy compact little with bright red colours. I took the board out of the box, marveled at it's prettiness, and then really didn't know what the first easy thing to run would be. I know Raspberry Pi can run operating systems, and this is extremely new to me, as I've only really played with the Arduino Uno and dabbled in the operating system stuff with Arduino Yun. So I figured my easiest first test would be to follow a guide to install a media centre application like XBMC, since I should be able to follow a clear guide and quickly get a visual confirmation of whether I'm doing things right or not.



First impressions on the hardware: Slim, small, sexy. Heats up a little bit after I ran it for a couple hours, I'm interested to see how well this thing could run as a 24/7 weather station or server.


Bonus image: Here is a 3D printed case that made for me! May as well protect my Pi and also present it in style Thanks Peter!


 



Test 1: Basic Media Centre

I was astounded at how many media centre options were available to me. I picked and installed OSMC, which was a good test for me to make sure I'm doing the basic steps of formatting of the SD card, loading the OS on it, and all that. I boot it up and I'm pleased to find out that the system boots up quickly and easily accepts inputs for my keyboard and mice. I'm even more surprised to discover that the wireless mice work without any hiccups either. I explore some of the menus for OSMC and find the menus generally intuitive, and I test out the capability to play movies and view photos. Everything works fairly consistently but I was struck by the fairly slow load-up speed of the video. I'm not sure if this is simply a fact of the matter from using a little device to play large movie files, or maybe I need to consider a more lightweight media centre app or video playing app. In any case the video plays fine and without issue after the initial load up period.

Verdict: Works well for a media centre, which should be no surprise to anyone, but I think it requires a dose of patience. If it always worked and I could rig it up to a remote, it'd work well for my parents who have more patience for their electronics than I do. However I'd personally rather just use a computer and Chromecast or cable connection to a TV. And then use the Raspberry Pi for other things!


First test - OSMC media centre


Test 2: Hello World

My next steps revolve around getting into something that really interested me: Getting Windows 10 IoT running on this little guy. I was interested when I heard about Microsoft's free technical preview for Windows 10 and the interesting stuff that you could do when you load it onto single board computers such as the Raspberry Pi. So the first step of this adventure was getting a computer setup with Windows 10 Technical Preview, Visual Studio Community Edition and getting Windows 10 properly loaded onto the Raspberry Pi. After fumbling through some of those steps. I was happy to finally get the Windows 10 main screen displaying on my monitor.


Very very happy to have this screen up!


I then went about the process of navigating myself through Visual Studio for the first time ever. I've dabbled in code, but I'm newed to the Visual Studio layout and their jargon, so I definitely needed a tutorial to carefully follow, and ensure I didn't lead myself down a rabbit hole. The tutorials were decent enough, but I hit some snags where I think the tutorial writer glossed over a point which I didn't understand, and I had take an hour to retrace steps and think again about what I was trying to do.

I eventually found my way through this and got the code properly loaded into the Raspberry Pi and was ecstatic to see my program run on the monitor. One thing that I didn't clearly understand was that I was sending the program over to the Pi with Visual Studio set to Release mode instead of Debug mode, and the app would still only run properly when I sent the program from the computer to the Pi. If I was to turn off the Pi and turn it on again, I wasn't able to get the app to run properly, even when I set the sketch as the Startup App. This may just be something I need to practice more so that I can learn the intricacies of deploying and running apps.


My hello world is running!


Test 3: Blinking a light

My final test was getting the Pi to finally do something in the physical world. Simply making the light blink was a good enough starting point for me. Luckily this app runs without any major confusions, other than some deploy errors being thrown by Visual Studio. As I'm quite new to Visual Studio, I'm assuming I'll simply improve my work technique over time and create less errors.

In summary I really like the hardware and I've enjoyed learning on this device for the first time. I think the Arduino overall is a lot easier from a newbie point of view, because you only need 5 lines of code, two wires, and some lights/sensors to start making some magic happen. The Raspberry Pi has been a lot more popular and has a lot of documentation out there, and it worked very well for getting some basic projects started like the media centre, and I'm sure this documentation and tutorials will work well to teach me on many future projects.

Where I did find several challenges trying to get into Microsoft IoT and Visual Studio for the first time (understandably, Windows 10 is in technical preview right now). There are a number of pitfalls that newbies can easily fall into, but don't always find their way out of the holes. The documentation and learning experience needs to continually mature and formalize for Windows 10 IoT as these types of products continue to come further and further into a popular consumer space and stop being viewed simply as "geek toys".

I've finally gotten started in Raspberry Pi and I'm excited for my next projects!

 

I found the Microsoft IoT process hard to do without several monitors and machines to read from simultaneously

 

 

A basic blinking light app is ready to go!

 

In summary this was definitely a fun adventure for a newbie who wants to try some software apps and projects for around the house, Arduino is still a great starting point if your focus is purely hardware. The Raspberry Pi obviously delivers more kick if you're interested in getting an Operating System involved to make that media centre or something else. Windows 10 IoT has some great potential but a few little roadbumps that are enough to seriously confuse a true newbie like me. However I'm very very excited to see what else is possible with Windows 10 IoT, now that I finally have gotten my feet wet!

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