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Okay, so now my Raspberry Pi has arrived -- so what am I going to do with it?
Yes, FUNet is the main reason I bought this little gem (and will of course, have to buy another -- a network of one is pretty useless) but what other applications can we put this SBC to?
The first thing that sprung to mind was a device to replace the somewhat awkward PC-based 2.4GHz spectrum analyzer (SA) I currently use.
I could either just plug the WiSpy into my Pi and write some interface code -- or I could go the whole hog and use one of the very cheap 2.4GHz transceiver chips to do the "sniffing" for me.
Now you might think this would be simply a case of reinventing the wheel -- but wait, there's more!
Making a simple SA could be done with just a very low-cost 8-bit microcontroller and a suitable RF chip with maybe a low-cost 128x64 mono LCD -- so why use something as complex as a Pi?
Well there are several reasons and those reasons are common to many other projects I've got planned for these boards.
First-up, the Pi runs Linux, so you can do lots of cool stuff such as pre-emptive multi-tasking and programming in a relatively high-level language instead of assembler.
Secondly (and this is perhaps the real bonus), the Pi has a composite video output capable of displaying rich graphics on those uber-cheap LCD screens you can buy from China for about US$30 including shipping. This makes for a much more impressive and functional bit of kit than a dowdy old monochrome LCD.
Finally, the Pi has a good array of peripheral connectivity already built in. HDMI, analog audio out, USB, ethernet etc.
While a purpose-built 8-bit PIC or Atmel-based board would do the job just fine, the Pi allows for massively increased functionality at no extra cost.
Want an SA or other device that logs data to an SD card?
Piece of cake -- the Pi has an SD card
Want a network-aware device that perhaps sends or receives data via cable or WiFi?
No problems - the ethernet or USB interfaces are sitting there, waiting to be used.
Want a device that creates an alarm on certain conditions and announces that state using a pre-recorded voice warning?
All these things could be done with a much lesser board -- but at great cost in writing bespoke code and peripheral componentry.
Of course the Pi isn't without its weaknesses...
Due largely to its GPU, the Pi is going to suck a lot more power than a little PIC-based board so that kind of precludes getting any sensible battery life from a small form-factor lithium cell.
However, so long as your need for the pro's outweighs the effect of any con's, the Pi is starting to look like a dynamite basis for so many projects that it makes your head spin.
Now all I have to do is find some time to sit down and get onboard the learning curve.
I'll keep everyone informed.
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