CNet Rich Brown has a hands-on preview of the Raspberry Pi $35 computer. Powered by a system-on-a-chip that gives it the same computing power as an iPhone 3G, the device boots from a distribution of Linux downloaded onto an SD card, and uses USB or network-connected drives as storage.
Part of the fun of Pi ownership so far seems to be discovering what others have done with the system, and then trying it out for yourself. In addition to the discussion board linked above, the Raspberry Pi Foundation has its own forum with hundreds of posts covering support issues, projects to try, and general user chatter. You can also type "Raspberry Pi" into your search engine of choice and you’ll uncover a vibrant community of hobbyists and hackers.
One of those hobbyists might be ChromeOS hacker Hexxeh who has produced an officially-approved port of Google’s Chromium OS to the Pi—still a work in progress at this point, without an actual user interface. But it shows the potential of the system for easy hackability, at any rate. (Found via Engadget.)
Brown noted that the GUI can be a little sluggish to respond, but given the $35 price it’s not really fair to complain. Though he hadn’t gotten to try it out for very long at the time of writing the article, he anticipates trying the Pi out some more over the next few days to see how well it works.
As I’ve said before, the Pi could be quite useful for e-book readers. Quite aside from the possibility of rolling your own tablet if you can get your hands on a decently cheap display, or using a TV as a network-based e-reader if that’s all you have, the Pi seems to offer promise for those looking for an inexpensive way to manage their e-book libraries without paying for a full-sized computer. Add a $10 laptop USB hub and a memory stick, and you have a machine that could run Calibre and a place to store your library.
It might be best to wait until supply catches up with demand. I ordered mine on 2 March and recieved my Pi last week.
And a few other points – the Pi is a bit fussy about power, and not all phone chargers will work; not all USB hubs work properly, I tried three; this appears to be a software problem; and finally the sound driver is still an alpha release; again a software problem.
I am enjoying working with my Pi, but it isn’t quite ready for non-techy or impatient people. Perhaps another three months of hacking will get it there.