So what is this raspberry pi?
Simply put, the raspberry pi is a really really small computer. It could fit in your pocket (though it's not recommended you carry it around that way.) It's nothing crazy powerful, but it's amazing what it can do. In fact, it really is an indictment of how far technology has come when you can buy a brand new computer powerful enough to be your home entertainment system for less than $40.
Various Linux distributions are available for the Pi, and it is compatible with most entertainment peripherals. Now let's talk about how you can use it.
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Retro Video Game Megastation
Even though it's 2014 and you can buy an Xbox One or Playstation 4 with next generation high definition graphics, there are still millions of retro video game fans. Anyone that grew up with consoles like the Atari 2600, Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis, and more have undoubtedly experienced the urges to experience those favorite childhood games once again.
And while it's perfectly possible to re-purchase all your old gaming setup, retro gaming has some serious drawbacks. For one, it can get seriously expensive. Lots of games, first party Nintendo titles in particular, have spiked up in value in recent years. Granted you have to factor inflation in, but it's twice as expensive to purchase some Mario games now than it was 20 years ago. Furthermore, some limited production games are just ridiculously out of anyone's price range. If you want to re-experience the classic Japanese Role-Playing Game, Earthbound, expect to pay almost $400 for a copy.
There are other stipulations with retro gaming too. This is all very old hardware we're talking about, and sometimes these things wear out. If you have an NES, we're talking about a machine that is almost 30 years old. Things like the pin connectors wear out. You end spending half of your gaming session kneeling on the floor in front of your TV blowing the dust out of this old equipment. It's through no fault of Nintendo quality, it's simply a fact of life for the typical retro gamer. After all, how many cameras, TVs, or phones are you using from the 80s that still work perfectly?
This is where the Raspberry Pi really can shine. It may not be powerful enough to play new games like Battlefield 4 or Titanfall, but it can run just about any game from systems like the NES, SNES, Sega Master System, Genesis, Atari 2600, Game Gear, GBC, GBA, NeoGeo, and even the original Playstation 1. By using RetroPie, you can fit these emulators and all of the games from them on an SD card.
And you're not going to be playing on a mouse and keyboard. You can purchase the original controllers for these systems, but with USB connectors at the end. All of the classics are available, and most are cross-platform compatible. If you ever wondered if Mario would be easier to play with a Genesis controller, now is your chance to find out.
Some Raspberry Pi naysayers will point out that you can already emulate games on your computer. This is true, but most retro gamers want to recreate the experience, or help modify it to be the gaming setup they dreamed about as a child. When you were a kid, you probably imagined playing Sonic on a beautiful giant TV. We've got the big 70"+ ones available for affordable prices now, and there's something to be said about gaming on the couch like the old days as opposed to at the computer desk with the headset on.
The Ultimate Movie/TV/Music All-In-One Box
It's becoming a big hobby of weekend techies and DIYers to build a PC dedicated for the living room. But if you don't have $400 to put into a custom built PC, the Raspberry Pi is a legitimate alternative.
The Pi is more than up to the task of running the open source home theater XBMC. You can use it to stream and organize your movies, TV shows, home videos, pictures, and music. What's more, you can also install add-ons for streaming services like YouTube, GrooveShark, Last.fm, and more. You can also have it perform functions like check the local weather or inform yourself of the latest news stories.
Various skins are available for XBMC, and all can be ran by the Raspberry Pi. This device has literally made home entertainment boxes 8x cheaper, and far easier to throw together. Also, consider just how small this is. If you have your TV wall mounted, this can easily be concealed. If it's on a stand, there are endless possibilities. Some Raspberry Pi users have done things like attach it to the back of the TV so you never even see it. Get a USB wireless remote, and you almost forget it's there!
More Creative Raspberry Pi Uses
Looking for a more creative technology project? Chances are, the Raspberry Pi is more than capable of handling it. Below are just a few original uses that Pi buyers have put together.
Pandora Streamer - Having some guests over and want to stream some music from Pandora? How about having a physical dedicated device as opposed to continually walking over to your computer to adjust the tunes?
Retro Windows - Microsoft's famed operating system has come a long way. Perhaps you're confused with the tile metro interface of Windows 8 and want to go back to simpler days. And it's probably a lot cheaper than it what it cost to get a computer with Windows back in those days.
Play Minecraft - Minecraft seems to be available on almost every device now. There are some issues and hiccups, but it's actually possible to have a dedicated MC machine now.
Web Server - Skeptical as to the power of the Pi? To much surprise, it's not too difficult to set up your mini computer for this. In fact, specialized web servers have now been designed to specifically utilize the Pi.