Raspberry Pi

Teens and children today have incessant exposure to game consoles, tablets and smartphones.  They are used to download and instantly install apps.  The situation was very different in the ‘old’ days, around thirty years ago, when loading time on tape decks was painstaking and we used to type computer listings.  Thousands of young people were programming and there were many pages of computer listings on computer magazines.  This was the idea behind the main objective of the Raspberry PI – to be used by kids all over the world to learn programming (See http://www.raspberrypi.org/faqs). RaspberryPi is a cheap (about €37), small, credit-card sized computer which can be plugged to a TV or monitor just like a normal PC.   And just like computers in the 80s it is very easy to set-up.  Since it is low powered, it is in fact powered by 5v micro USB, many mobile-phone chargers will work to power the Raspberry Pi.

Get Started

 If you bought the PI without and SD card image, you need to download it.  This is important because the work of an operating system, on every type of computer, is to manage computer hardware resources and provide common services for computer programs.  Unfortunately not all operating systems can be downloaded for your raspberry PI.  Raspberry has an ARM architecture and 512MB of RAM.   So no, till the completion of this article, no version of Windows can be installed on it.  One even cannot install Edubuntu, Qimo4Kidsm DoudouLinux and other environments designs specifically for kids.  However there are many flavours which you one can enjoy even for educational purposes.  pberry Pi is supported from several different Linux distributions

Among the stable distributions I tested myself are Bodhi Linux, Moebius, Raspbian Wheezy – the “soft-float” and the “hard-float” , SliTaz, and RaspBMC.   One may start with the Raspbian “wheezy” recommended by the Raspberry Pi Foundation (See http://www.raspberrypi.org/downloads) and download this image on your PC.  Then you should use something like the Win32 Image writer for windows (See https://launchpad.net/win32-image-writer/+download), and once installed open the Raspbian Image and stream it on an SD card.  Once this is ready, you may use your Raspberry. 

Plugin your SD card so it goes on the back of your PI.  You can use the HDMI for the Video connection.  It also caters for the analog video and the analog audio. Plugin the Ethernet for Internet access and plugin the usb of the keyboard and the mouse.

When using it for the first time you may be asked to perform some initial configuration of the Raspberry Pi such as allowing the user to set various options, including the keyboard layout, locale and timezone, as well as expanding the root partition to fill up the SD Card.  You may also wish to load directly to desktop. 

On your desktop you may find besides the terminal, Midori and other Internet browsers etc,  and Scratch which is a graphical programming language for kids widely used to create stories and develop programs and games.   

The Wheezy now comes with a PI Store (http://store.raspberrypi.com/)  where one may download some games, apps and tutorials.  This store cannot be compared in anyway to the AppStore or the PlayStore.  However it is intended to download and share your own programs.  Yet, you may surely be happy to download Libre Office which gives you six feature-rich applications for all your document production and data processing needs: Writer, Calc, Impress, Draw, Math and Base.

Figure 1:  PI Store

If for some reason, the PI Store it not visible on your desktop, you may open a terminal window and type:

sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install pistore

There are other things you may do.  You may download VLC by typing:

sudo apt-get install vlc

from your terminal.

If you usually use Google Chrome on your laptop or PC, you may also download Chromium Browser on your PI by typing:

sudo apt- get install chromium-browser

Many learning objects kids may find online are flash based.  One does not find flash on your Raspberry.  A quick solution would be to install Gnash which is a free GPL’d SWF player, and IceWeasel Internet Browser.

To install IceWeasel with Flash simply type:

sudo apt-get install iceweasel browser-plugin-gnash


You may spare plenty of time having fun using The Raspbian “Wheezy”.  However you may wish to download other SD image and experience other environments.  Bodhilinux  also offers images for several ARM devices (See http://www.bodhilinux.com/downloads_mobile.php).   To be able to use this image, you will need login information, which is; Username: pi   and Password: bodhilinux

Bodhi offers the possibility to download resources from the AppCener which include Image Editors such as GIMP and Scribus,  developmental applications such as TuxPaint, gCompris which consist of a  large collection of educational games for small children, Libre Office.and other programs such as Google Earth and Stellarium.

Figure 2:  Bodhi AppCenter


There are many other fun and educational things you may use on your PI.  The Raspberry Pi can also be used as a Home Theater PC and you may add educational media.   You may download both OpenElec or Raspbmc (http://www.raspbmc.com/).

Figure 3: RaspBMC

Computer Studies students and teachers may try to download the Java SE for embedded (See http://www.oracle.com/technetwork/articles/java/raspberrypi-1704896.html).  The PI’s small size makes it an excellent choice to be used in robotics. (See http://issuu.com/themagpi/docs/the_magpi_issue_1_final?mode=window)

There are other fun stuff you can do.  Children may enjoy creating their own cases.  For a printable PDF pattern see http://squareitround.co.uk/Resources/Punnet_net_Alpha3.pdf.   This pattern may be decorated


During these last months there has been a fast growing interest in the Raspberry PI.  However, a few months ago, the bare, unprogrammed circuit board of the PI and operating system distributions which remind remind us of the Linux early days, was not a suitable choice for the average user.  With the emergence more user-friendly SD images distributions, the PI Store and more applications developing everyday it is becoming a wonderful gadget and also an educational resource which can be used by all students.  With its breathtaking ridiculous price the Raspberry is surely affordable and with its small size portable.  However as stated in the beginning of this article;  I would not recommend as an end product for beginners but neither as the only solution to teach programming, since any PC will do this job perfectly well.  Its advantages are its immediacy and touch and feel:  kids who want to go beyond downloading apps on their smartphone, will love their own small computer as their toy.