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The Raspberry Pi gets domesticated

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Michael Gilligan02/11/2020 08:44:46
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Received an eMail ‘flyer’ about this, today : **LINK**

https://thepihut.com/products/raspberry-pi-400-personal-computer-kit

MichaelG.

Ady102/11/2020 10:05:42
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The ZX81 was under 100 quid as well when it came out

Built in that famous silicon valley area known as Dundee

Kiwi Bloke02/11/2020 11:15:09
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I've been playing with a Pi 3 B+, wondering whether it's viable as a low-performance 'domestic' PC. It isn't as well known as it should be that several of the later Pi models can boot from a USB device, so, as in my case, a recycled laptop HDD can act as boot device. It works, with the Pi OS desktop, in a slightly clunky, but certainly usable way. However, whilst I can get Ubuntu server to boot from USB, I haven't been able to get a Ubuntu desktop to boot from USB. Not sure whether this is possible with the 4.

Now, steady on, everyone - don't get too excited. You need to add in the cost of the 'extras': a monitor, a USB device, if you don't want everything on the SD card, and it's still tied to the mains. It all adds up to something close to the price of a Chromebook, which is portable, convenient and (dumping ChromeOS) can run many flavours of Linux entirely satisfactorily (GalliumOS on mine).

Steve Skelton 102/11/2020 11:24:08
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I bought one last week and think it is brilliant. It has superb I/O capabilities - the only problem is that I am trying to learn Python - in itself not a problem but I am having to unlearn and forget all my previous programming knowledge. Whilst it is true that you can use most languages with it, Python is now the most universally used language - so to me it makes sense to try and become fluent with it.

I am quite surprised how quick and easy it was to set it up on my network and use my PC to access and control it remotely. Value-wise it is superb.

I am currently using it to replace my underfloor heating control system so I can remotely access it from anywhere and change the program and set temperatures at will and use the data logging capabilities.

Edited By Steve Skelton 1 on 02/11/2020 11:39:06

Michael Gilligan02/11/2020 11:44:06
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Posted by Ady1 on 02/11/2020 10:05:42:

The ZX81 was under 100 quid as well when it came out

[…]

.

Moore’s Law demonstrated nicely, perhaps

MichaelG.

IanT02/11/2020 12:49:27
1816 forum posts
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I'm a big fan of the Micromite family (and Micromite BASIC - MMB which is a very well developed language for embedded control purposes).

I can build a 'Mite' with just two components (a 28pin DIL chip and a capacitor) for less than a fiver. The Micromite 'family' originally began however with Geoff Graham's original Maximite, a 'single' chip computer first released in 2011 that used a monochrome TV as it's console device. This was followed by the Colour Maximite shortly afterwards.

This year the Colour Maximite 2 (CMM2) has been released and it is basically a very well integrated single board computer (based on a very fast ARM one). The general details can be found here...

Colour Maximite 2 - Details

For a quick review of some of it's capabilities look here CMM2 - The 8 Bit Guy

Now I will admit that I don't yet own a CMM2 - although I certainly do have a number of 'Mites' in various guises.

But I do own both Arduino and RPi systems, so have some experience of the alternatives.

My RPi is a 3B and is very fast but frankly, almost as unfriendly. I need simplicity and "enough" speed and in my experience the RPi may be good for folk needing a full 'System' (with its Linux Operating System) but if you need something that actually works out-of-the-box (and which doesn't need continual software updates) then the CMM2 may be much better option for you.

Plug a monitor into a CMM2 (turn it on) and away you go. You will be immediately into MMB, with direct access to all the graphics and I/O facilites that are built-into the CMM2.

If I compare that to my efforts with the Pi, then I know which one I would be choosing if I needed a desktop graphical display that was easy to programme and that could connect easily to the outside world. It's an alternative approach that might suit some here much better than the Pi (especially if they are like me - technically & time limited)

Regards,

IanT

Nick Clarke 302/11/2020 12:54:04
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Posted by Kiwi Bloke on 02/11/2020 11:15:09:

I've been playing with a Pi 3 B+, wondering whether it's viable as a low-performance 'domestic' PC. It isn't as well known as it should be that several of the later Pi models can boot from a USB device, so, as in my case, a recycled laptop HDD can act as boot device. It works, with the Pi OS desktop, in a slightly clunky, but certainly usable way. However, whilst I can get Ubuntu server to boot from USB, I haven't been able to get a Ubuntu desktop to boot from USB. Not sure whether this is possible with the 4.

According to Canonical Ubuntu Desktop will only run on a Pi4 while the server version will run on your 3+

**LINK**

A Pi 4 will replace a desktop PC provided you don't want to run hi definition games at 30fps! Trying both the 4Gb and 8Gb they appear to be identical in this respect. I have ordered the Pi400 because it will be a little faster and can sit on the arm of the chair next to the TV in the living room looking a bit less like a mares nest of wires etc.

I have got a Chromebook which I rate highly but I find there are still a few compatibility issues, even when running in Linux mode - and anyway I couldn't resist the charm of a new toy!smiley

Farmboy02/11/2020 12:56:57
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Reliability issues aside, the ZX81 was more than adequate for controlling something like a central heating system, with just 1k of memory and machine code I could understand. I was in the process of adapting one for an automated cattle feeder just before I gave up keeping cattle a few years ago, and the program used nowhere near 1k of memory.

The Pi sounds rather like a sledgehammer to crack a nut in such circumstances. It has as much RAM as around two million ZX81s and the processor runs about a thousand times faster disgust

But, if there was enough free time in my life, I would love to play around with a Raspberry Pi . . .

Michael Gilligan02/11/2020 13:04:15
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Posted by Nick Clarke 3 on 02/11/2020 12:54:04:

[…]

I have ordered the Pi400 because it will be a little faster and can sit on the arm of the chair next to the TV in the living room looking a bit less like a mares nest of wires etc.
[…]

- and anyway I couldn't resist the charm of a new toy!smiley

.

That’s the attitude yes

MichaelG.

Robert Atkinson 202/11/2020 13:05:34
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£100 was worth a LOT more in 1981, about £340 in 2020.

Nick Clarke 302/11/2020 13:15:13
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Posted by Farmboy on 02/11/2020 12:56:57:

Reliability issues aside, the ZX81 was more than adequate for controlling something like a central heating system, with just 1k of memory and machine code I could understand. I was in the process of adapting one for an automated cattle feeder just before I gave up keeping cattle a few years ago, and the program used nowhere near 1k of memory.

The Pi sounds rather like a sledgehammer to crack a nut in such circumstances. It has as much RAM as around two million ZX81s and the processor runs about a thousand times faster disgust

But, if there was enough free time in my life, I would love to play around with a Raspberry Pi . . .

For such control systems Arduino from about £5 or a PIC at less would do the job, but for a development system at home a Pi at £35 upwards offers so much more convenience that it is scarcely expensive.

Regarding wanting to play on a Pi - Great fun so my advice is to follow the sports shoe ad and 'Just do it' (but didn't they steal that from a Norman Spinrad short story?)

Robert Atkinson 202/11/2020 14:08:11
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While I have a couple of Pi's, a a hardware type I don't like that there is virtually no data available for the Broadcom chip they ae based on.

The Micromite is interesting and a bit lower level. Being microchip PIC based there is lots of data. Personally I use "bare" PCs and a basic compiler running on a PC to generate code rather than a interpreter on the chip. I us PicBasicPro PBP3. As I use it for work and hobby I have the full version, but they do a perfectly functional free "student" version for non commercial applications.

It's great for simple, and not so simple, control aplications It won't replace a PC of course.

Robert G8RPI.

Ady102/11/2020 14:19:54
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4285 forum posts
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Just ordered an arduino clone starter kit for less than a tenner, going to look at laser measuring

...boys and their toys...

some of those lidar control system units on ebay sell for outrageous prices, even as second hand "scrap"

Edited By Ady1 on 02/11/2020 14:22:42

Georgineer02/11/2020 14:48:21
502 forum posts
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A friend of mine used a ZX81 to operate his heating system back in the eighties. He hit the pipes with it whenever there was an airlock.

George B.

Andy Stopford02/11/2020 15:23:59
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For an 'in-between' option, the RPi Zero W is worth a look; lower power requirement than the other RPi versions, but you can still have a desktop GUI if you want (I run mine 'headless' and connect to it over the WiFi with VNC Viewer, or SSH if I don't need the desktop), and you can run Python programs on it which, for me, saves time v. C++ for an ATMEGA/Arduino/ESP8266, etc., though the ESP is another strong contender for a monitor/controller.

IanT02/11/2020 15:33:51
1816 forum posts
177 photos
Posted by Robert Atkinson 2 on 02/11/2020 14:08:11:

The Micromite is interesting and a bit lower level. Being microchip PIC based there is lots of data.

Robert G8RPI.

Hi Robert,

My 'Mites' are all PIC32 based (including the 28-pin DIL ones) but there are also versions based on STM Nucleo ARM boards too. The CMM2 uses a 32-bit ARM Cortex-M7 at 400MHz (or 480MHz) with 2MB of flash and 1MB of on-chip RAM. There is another 8Mb of RAM memory on the board itself.

I think back in the day (e.g. late 70's, early 80's) when folk were trying to squeeze the last bit of performance from 8-bit processors - there may have been good reasons to prefer a compiler over an interpreter.

However, these days I value my time more than the CPUs and most of my small programmes spend much of their time just sitting in loops, waiting for something to happen. However, when I'm sat there trying to get something to work, the fact that the system is interactive is a real bonus that saves me a lot of time and patience. Even my little 28-pinners run an order of magnitude faster than an 8-bit 'console' did from back in the day. 'Speed' is rarely an issue for me.

Of course, if I were a games programmer, performance might well be an issue. But with a modern CPU (such as the ARM Cortex-M7) this is much less so today. The CMM2 can currently run over 300K BASIC lines per second and clever people (clever than me for sure) are writing 'retro' games like Wolfenstein on it, that are running at 30 frames per second. That's using just an interpreted (on-board) BASIC like many here may remember from their distant past.

Regards,

 

IanT

 

Edited By IanT on 02/11/2020 15:36:02

Nick Clarke 302/11/2020 15:33:53
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1154 forum posts
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Posted by Robert Atkinson 2 on 02/11/2020 14:08:11:

While I have a couple of Pi's, a a hardware type I don't like that there is virtually no data available for the Broadcom chip they ae based on.

Quite agree - Broadcom seem to still be following their old policy of only releasing data to 'registered' developers who have made a commitment to the platform, if not actually made purchases.

However I suppose I am only a Pi system user and prefer PICs as microcontrollers. Arduino would be good (and cheap!) but the interface to a sketch is a bit 'toytown' IMHO.

Robert Atkinson 202/11/2020 19:15:45
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Posted by IanT on 02/11/2020 15:33:51:
Posted by Robert Atkinson 2 on 02/11/2020 14:08:11:

The Micromite is interesting and a bit lower level. Being microchip PIC based there is lots of data.

Robert G8RPI.

Hi Robert,

My 'Mites' are all PIC32 based (including the 28-pin DIL ones) but there are also versions based on STM Nucleo ARM boards too. The CMM2 uses a 32-bit ARM Cortex-M7 at 400MHz (or 480MHz) with 2MB of flash and 1MB of on-chip RAM. There is another 8Mb of RAM memory on the board itself.

I think back in the day (e.g. late 70's, early 80's) when folk were trying to squeeze the last bit of performance from 8-bit processors - there may have been good reasons to prefer a compiler over an interpreter.

However, these days I value my time more than the CPUs and most of my small programmes spend much of their time just sitting in loops, waiting for something to happen. However, when I'm sat there trying to get something to work, the fact that the system is interactive is a real bonus that saves me a lot of time and patience. Even my little 28-pinners run an order of magnitude faster than an 8-bit 'console' did from back in the day. 'Speed' is rarely an issue for me.

Of course, if I were a games programmer, performance might well be an issue. But with a modern CPU (such as the ARM Cortex-M7) this is much less so today. The CMM2 can currently run over 300K BASIC lines per second and clever people (clever than me for sure) are writing 'retro' games like Wolfenstein on it, that are running at 30 frames per second. That's using just an interpreted (on-board) BASIC like many here may remember from their distant past.

Regards,

IanT

Edited By IanT on 02/11/2020 15:36:02

Hi,

By lower level I meant closer to the hardware, not lower performance.
For any given processor a compiler will always give better perfomance and I'm not tied to one supplier for my chips. I'm a bit biasied as I started with the BasicStamp intepreter pic modules nearly 30 years ago and with those early 8bit 4MHz chips with little memory PBP was a big improvement.

I try not to say too much but I really don't like Arduinos. It sarted with the realisation that they had offset the two expansion connetors so you could not use standard prototypying board but had to use Shields. This drives the modular culture where an electronics "design" is a bunch of pre-built modules and often not even solder. This does have advantages in getting people interested, but is limiting in the long term. Very similar to the "maker" robots. Rant off.

Robert G8RPI.

IanT02/11/2020 21:51:39
1816 forum posts
177 photos

Hi Robert,

Well, as with so many things, there is rarely a one-fits-all solution.

Everyone has their own personal preferences, usually based on their background and existing skills. There are some here who clearly have a good deal of IT systems and programming skills and that will guide their choice. There are also products (such as Arduino) that have become well supported industry standards, so many have adopted them and invested time and effort into learning them. It doesn't make them the best solution for everything but I'm sure they are a good solution for some.

I have quite a few interests these days but 'computing' isn't really one of the core ones. I'm quite happy with the convenience of Windows 10 (Heresy!) All of my desktop applications seem to run quite happily on it, including my various CAD systems. So I've not had any great desire or need to learn Linux thus far, apart from my venture into the RPi (I was curious, it was very fast and relatively cheap!)

It certainly worked but frankly I didn't find any good reason to invest further time into it. It was the same with the Arduino IDE, it worked but I didn't like working with it. I don't find the "Edit, Compile, Download, Test, Repeat" cycle very good for developing my little embedded programmes. I much prefer the simple and interactive nature of the 'Micromite' eco-system, as it just seems to suit me better.

I also don't think I'm going to be using it long enough to find it "limiting in the longer term" either!

Anyway, enjoyed the Rant.

Take Care!

IanT

Kiwi Bloke02/11/2020 23:50:08
525 forum posts
1 photos

I'm another Micromite fan. You just switch it on and start programming. Micromite BASIC is powerful, easy and elegant. A programmer friend despises BASIC: he worked extensively in Java, on serious applications. I've seen some of his code, for simple applications - it's pages long and has to load several libraries, just to do what a few lines of 'primitive' BASIC can do. Not elegant. The Pi boots up relatively slowly, loading masses of arcane stuff, most of which won't be used, and then you need to find a suitable programming language. OK, in some ways it's more versatile, but it's like having a Ferrari to pull a donkey cart. If I were building an electronic leadscrew, for instance, I'd base it on a Micromite. Horses (including donkeys) for courses.

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