Having Fun with a Raspberry Pi

Having Fun with a Raspberry Pi

No, there is no spelling error in the title, although a raspberry pie can be fun too! But I am referring to the single-board computers developed by the Raspberry Pi Foundation in UK (https://www.raspberrypi.org/).

The Raspberry Pi (Pi for short), is an amazing gadget. If you have never heard about it, imagine it as a credit-card sized full working computer, with its USB ports, HDMI connector, etc. Powerful? Not too much, but enough to run a lightweight Linux distribution. As a bonus, it comes by default with a set of GPIO pins that can be used to control external devices! The list of DIY projects is endless: weather-stations, wildlife cameras, robots, retro-gaming…

An extra computer can be very resourceful. A guy I know used it as online server connected to his 3D printer, so he could email it the files to print, and the Pi would take care of everything; an Atkins colleague made the Pi check the weather online every morning, and light a blue LED if it was going to rain; in ICRA we used it to reprogram monitoring equipment on site without the need of an extra laptop, and so on and so forth.

And then, as I was leaving ICRA, fate intervened so a Pi would fall into my eager hands. Thanks guys! I mean… fate!

I have two main learning objectives. The first one is Linux, specifically the command line; the second one is interacting with the net and external devices with Python. For each, I have one book ready:

• The Linux Command Line - William Shotts (FREE at http://linuxcommand.org/tlcl.php)
• Learning Python with Raspberry Pi – Alex Bradbury & Ben Everard

Research, especially when it involves modelling, is increasingly intertwined with programming and data management. Learning Linux is in many ways learning how computers work, and being able to automate tasks with the command line can save me hours in the future. On the other hand, to be innovative I must be able to set up my own prototypes of data gathering sensors, automated data servers, and more. Plus, it is good fun :)