Aug 4, 2012

Finding a job for the Raspberry Pi

Raspberry Pi, the new favorite toy of all us computer geeks. The small size, low power, no sound and heat makes for a very friendly installment and for some funky case mods. How about a pack of smokes or a deck of cards... I only got mine last week, but I've been waiting since the middle of May. If you want the technical details, here they are.

I tried to compile a small list of possible usages for it here, some are my own ideas, some I've gathered from various discussions on the web. Some of them require specific hardware and possible mad skills in some technical field. For almost every usage there are existing solutions available commercially, but this is for those who love to tinker, customize and learn by doing.

  • HTPC - can play back upt to full HD, has onboard HDMI and toslink outputs. Small enough to be mounted on or behind your TV. Does not need any further hardware except perhaps wifi dongle, if you don't have a cable handy. It's also the most mentioned use for the raspi that I've seen. There's a dedicated Debian-based distro for running XBMC on the raspi called Raspbmc.
  • In-car Media-server ("carputer"). The micro-usb power allows a cigarette adapter to power the unit, and it's small enough to fit inside the glove compartment (or other available spaces). Requires cigarette adapter and connection to amplifier or existing playback-device. Not sure if many regular car stereos have digital inputs, so you may have to cash out for a DAC as well. Luckily there are several USB DACs available in many price ranges.
  • Home Automation a.k.a. "Smart-House" Controller. A low-power unit that can monitor different environment variables (get it?) using whatever sensors you can get working. For example, turn up or down lights, heat, sun screening etc. It can even be used with the Tellstick Duo (or the simpler Tellstick) to turn any kind of power outlet on or off. Seems Tellus are already aware of this. I imagine connecting motion and temperature sensors, RFID or whatnot to achieve a fully automated and energy efficient house.
  • Security camera system, using the raspi as a brain in a multi-cam setup ( Discussion on the subject here )
  • Outdoorsy stuff. It's small, light and requires no more power than regular batteries can provide. It can run off a smallish solar panel or perhaps fuel cells (it requires 5V/700 mA). You can attach GPS trackers to it. Actually, that could come in handy for the in-car stuff as well.
  • Lightweight NAS. If you don't require too much space, a USB stick/HDD and/or the SD card will suffice as a NAS or at least a file server at home, without the space and noise requirements of the usual stuff. 
  • Game console - enclose the raspi in your favorite 80s gaming console box. Good luck getting it to work with cartridges or cassettes, though.
  • Beer brewing system - for monitoring of temperature and pressure, logging this, and starting/stopping your cooler/heater. 
For more creative ideas look to the Raspberry Pi forum or Hack a Day.

Also worth reading is this blog post from Scott Hanselman: Top 10 Raspberry Pi myths and truths.

1 comment:

  1. The Raspberry Pi is definitely one of the best platforms to build on if you want to make a carputer. But, I think it would still need a lot of other parts to become a fully functional carputer. In any case, building a carputer from a Raspberry Pi is relatively easy because it’s easy to install and easy to integrate parts with.

    @Andre Brennan