The Raspberry Pi Foundation has announced that the first of its $35 mini-computers are now available for purchase… sort of.
The group signed up two retail partners to help produce and distribute the computers, but both RS Components and Premier Farnell had problems keeping up with the heavy demand placed on their websites this morning… and it appears both companies have sold out of Raspberry Pi devices.
You can now register to be notified when more computers are in stock. The good news is that the reason Raspberry Pi partnered with these companies is so that it would be able to produce large quantities of the little computers more quickly than the foundation would have been able to achieve on its own.
The Raspberry Pi features a 700 MHz Broadcom BCM2835 ARM system-on-a-chip processor with support for 1080p HD video playback and hardware-accelerated graphics. It has 256MB of RAM and an SD card slot for storage and HDMI port for video output. The computer can run Fedora or other Linux-based software.
At launch only the $35 model is available. This is the version with built-in Ethernet capabilities and 2 USB ports.
Soon there will also be a $25 model which lacks either of those features, but which has the same processor and other components.The group has also announced that this model will ship with 256MB of RAM, which is twice the original goal for the $25 version.
Initially the folks at Raspberry Pi had designed the computers for schools and other educational institutions. But it turns out that when you tell tech geeks that you’re working on a $35 computer that can play Quake III, function as a media center PC, and run a pretty functional version of a popular Linux distribution, they get a little excited.
So the first batch of computers are being sold to enthusiasts, which the foundation hopes means that by the time Raspberry Pi is ready for educational use there will be a robust community of software developers and hackers building interesting things for the platform.
While this deal will solve the supply problem, I kinda expect that now that normal market forces are being brought to bear the price is going to go up. Major supply houses aren’t going to operate at charity margins. Selling through this initial inventory at the promised price was the cost of closing the deal but I doubt they have bound themselves to continue selling in quan 1 at those prices for any length of time.
The only thing that IMHO holds the Rasberry Pi back from being a great device and makes it just a damn good one is that a 700 Mhz ARM11 isn’t enough to play flash video.
Seeing how Android devices require at least an 800 Mhz Cortex A8 to be certified for mobile Flash 10/11 and the ARM11 Architecture being slower per clock by about 40% compared to that, the Rasberry Pi essentialy only has half the oumpf it would need to accomplish the task.
And so no one can say i’m pulling performance numbers out of my ass, ARM Holdings own marketing materials about the inherent performance of current ARM architectures state:
ARM11: 1.2 DMIPS/MHz
ARM Cortex A8: 2.0 DMIPS/MHz
ARM Cortex A9: 2.5 DMIPS/MHz
your missing the point, RasPi is not about playing flash content in a web browser, it is about teaching programming.
The tighter the constraints on the programmer the more efficient the code has to be. back in the day (80’s ) we ha tiny amounts of ram and clock cycles to work with and some very ingenius programming was achieved.
the point of the RPi is to get away from just bolting APi’s and libraries together….
obviously the educational edition due out later this year and its intended target market is about teaching programming.
The hardware itself however, for a lot of geeks and enthusiasts, simply boils down to “ultra cheap, ultra small gadget that can replace traditional computers in a multitude of use cases” or be used to think up new ones.
cheap & small desktop replacement is one of the things poeple want a RPi for, and although it does Office / surfing / local media consumption on an ARM linux fairly well already, webvideo unfortunatly doesn’t come in HTML5 flavors from every relevant source yet.
P.S.: i can apreciate working on resource limited machines. Making my own Breakout Clone in Atari Basic on an Atari 800 XL was a bitch back then, especialy since that damn thing didn’t come with a debugger.
Fiddling around with a little ARM Linux programming will be fun aswell, but i personaly want to get an RPi mainly to dick around with running existing programs doing mostly enduser things.
Actually the system has no problem with 1080p:
Like many mobile processors, the broadcom chip has decoding co-processors which handle 1080p just fine.
That’s why i specificaly said flash video.
Local Media Playback fairs worlds better on most mobile platforms because they mostly have media players that have access to media decoding DSPs within the SoC. Flash for some reason doesn’t fully utilise these or produces so much overhead that it is much more demanding.
While HTML5 video implementations in browsers vary, they in general seam to be much closer to local media playback than flash in terms of performance.
The problem comes from sites that unfortunatly don’t offer a choice of HTML5 or Flash.
That leaves you with 3 options:
1. simply not watching it
2. finding a service that on-the-fly reencodes and streams in a format your device can handle (ala SkyFire Browser on Android)
3. downloading the video and, if necessary, demux the flash container and remux in a format a local player can handle.
Now obviously option 1 is non desireable, there is no guarantee 2 exists for every platform/OS and 3 is a lot more work than seems reasonable.
Kind of disapointed I didn’t stay up to buy one. Hopfully they make more soon.
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