A $35 computer with so much to offer!

The Raspberry Pi is a $35 (US) computer the size of a deck of cards. It isn't the fastest computer in the world but it can do lots of what you already do on your computer every day (and even some things your normal computer/laptop cannot do!).

  • Programming with python

The original idea of the Raspberry Pi was to give children a cheap, replaceable and easy to use computer that will help them get into computer science, in particular programming. The programming language that the Raspberry Pi foundation decided to include with the computer was Python as it is easy enough to pick up while still being a powerful language to use.

  • Web browsing

The Raspberry Pi foundation have created a distribution of Linux that you can download for free and put on your SD card to use with the Raspberry Pi that they have nicknamed "Rasbian". Rasbian comes with a web browser that will let you get to all your favorite websites straight out of the box.

  • Security camera

With a webcam and a few extra (free) programs you can easily set your Raspberry Pi up as a security camera. This can help you keep an eye on anyone trying to break into your house if you are at work or on holiday. It can also help trying to figure out why your large store of nuts has been slowly disappearing.

  • Emulation Station

The helpful folks on the raspberry pi forum have been hard at work making a program that will help you play all of your old favourite video games. Currently there are many different emulators that are working with the Raspberry Pi. some of these include Nintendo Entertainment System, Super Nintendo Entertainment System, Sega Mega Drive, GameBoy and many more. Please note: you have to own the games legally and have access to the rom files in order to play games with an emulator on the Raspberry Pi. No one will help you download ROMS illegally on the Raspberry Pi forums.

  • Media player (on your tv or just as a music player)

Using programs such as XBMC (Xbox Media Centre) or mplayer you can listen to or watch almost any of your favourite movies, songs and audio books. The Raspberry Pi is so small that you can stick it to the back of your TV and you wouldn't even notice it was there, making it an ideal Home Theatre PC (aka HTPC). There is a handy Linux distribution that some clever folks have created for the Rasbperry Pi called RaspBMC. This distribution lets you easily set up XBMC which essentially turns your raspberry pi into a media player with a very nice looking menu suitable for your TV. If you have another computer with all of your movies and music on it you can (after some setting up) stream it all straight to your TV! Just put some popcorn in the microwave and watch all your favourite movies with your friends.

  • Control LEDS, motors, servos and many other mechanical devices.

One of the more educational and fun projects that you can do with your raspberry pi is to make electrical circuits to control LEDS (Light-Emitting Diodes), Motors, Servos and many other low-level mechanical devices with the GPIO pins. There is nothing as exciting as creating a program to blink an LED that you have attached to your raspberry pi and seeing it all come together. It gives a wonderful insight into a world of basic electronics. 
Once you discover how things work at this level your eyes begin to open to a whole new world of fun that you might have thought was too hard before. all from a small $35 computer and some LEDS!!

 

  • Learn how to use Linux

If all this talk of Linux and distributions seem foreign to you then don't worry, the Raspberry Pi has you covered. It is a great place to start learning about the greatest free operating system, Linux!
If you accidentally do something that makes your Pi unusable (apart from physically damaging it), you can get it back up and running again quickly and painlessly. This is possible because the Pi uses an SD card to put all its operating system files on. If you break it you can easily pull the SD card out, wipe it and start again from a fresh install in less than 10 minuets.

  • Computer in your car 

Because this little computer doesn't use much power (5v 1Amp) it can be powered off a cigarette lighter in your car. This, along with a small screen can help turn your Pi into a car PC for listening to your music, watching movies (for the passengers) and with a bit more hardware you can even use it for navigation!

  • Find more ideas on the raspberry pi forums.

If you like the sound of the raspberry pi and want to give it a go then just check out their website www.raspberrypi.org for how to buy one and get started today! The Raspberry Pi forums are a great place to learn about what others are doing (or planning on doing) with their Pis.