Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Capacity Focus, 19: Raspberry Pi, a US$ 25 Linux single board, fully functional PC the size of a credit card

Raspberry Pi Logo
Further reports: 1, 2, 3

A credible US$ 25 PC is a potential game-changer. 

And so, it is red-hot news, that for education, and for hobbyist experimentation, next month, DV, we will see the launch of a US$ 25, credit or business card sized Linux, fully functional PC based on a 770 MHz ARM processor. Backed, among others, by Cambridge University.

The Raspberry Pi. (Cf. Wikipedia article here. U/D Mar 2nd: Launched c Feb 28, sold out first day, crashing Farnells' web site due to traffic. KF Update post here.)

Of course keyboard and monitor are extra, and mass storage is on an SD card, but that is probably more than good enough. 

For the first time in a long time, the cost of the processor will be materially trivial relative to peripheral equipment. And, the processor and operating system in question are nothing to sneeze at.

Such a machine puts the PC in the reach of hobbyist or student experimenters, and -- with suitable interfaced equipment -- would make it preferred instrumentation for a laboratory workstation. 

Demo Board (Courtesy Paul Downey/Wiki, CCA.)

 For that matter, it would be a dandy controller for a robot or a process plant unit. 

This also enormously leverages the cross-platform power of the Java programming language, and the reach of the Linux software world.

The main limiting factor is the read/write memory [RAM]: 128 MB for the A model, US$ 25, 256 MB for the B model, US$ 35. But, bang- for- the- buck- wise this cannot be beaten. Especially, in a computer-based, object-oriented, Java programming and interface and control for all context:

Programming in the Java-based, interfacing context. The Raspberry Pi could work as a host PC (with some additional PC hardware), and/or as the controller for the target system

Let's watch a video demo clip:

Bottomline: this shows the feasibility of the upcoming tablet revolution, and in its own right puts serious computing capacity in the "for all" category. For instance, this could easily be used to set up so-called "thin clients" (with a main server hosting what could be termed a local area network computing cloud) for computer labs. Such an approach could be used to set up student workstations for some facilities in a proposed regional network of computer-equipped learning centres similar to:

All of which fits easily with the AA CCS -- Associate in Arts, Concentration in Caribbean Christian Service -- curriculum idea under development (cf.  here for background):
The AA CCS curriculum architecture: building on the personal spiritual foundation and the secondary education augmented by bridging studies, the first 30+ credits of the AA -- one year full time equivalent -- builds a balanced  framework of five pillar areas of study:  (i) discipleship, service and leadership in the small/cell group, (ii) a street issues view of systematic theology and issues C1 - 21, (iii) general studies, Caribbean context & issues, (iv) ICT productivity through programing and authoring, (v) specific area of tentmaking skills. A concentration semester and a project semester then complete the other 30+ credits, bulking up the main area of focus and providing an integrative, capstone unit of study. The underlying curriculum philosophy is the spiral approach, cf here and here. The programme is designed for full or part-time modalities, and can stand on its own as a base for life, work and service under God. It is also intended to accept major transfer of credits from other programmes of study [such as CAPE and/or degree programmes], so that it can complement qualifications in other areas and/or provide a tentmaking second qualification for those with another main area of qualification. The intended implementation is a cyber-campus/cybercollege based main resource (now including a regionally hosted eBook based digital library), coupled to a network of local micro-campus centres, perhaps based in Church Halls or community centres or partner schools and colleges and supported by locally based educators. As a complement, there is also an outline proposal for a regionally delivered Diploma in Education (leading onwards to a Masters in Education) that would help build up capacity of educators across the region.

So, let us conclude by asking the traditional TKI three-pronged question: why not now? why not here? why not us? END

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