Pi Time

Raspberry Pi and box
After a suitably long wait, I received my much-anticipated Raspberry Pi about a week ago. It’s a tiny single-board computer that runs from SD card and costs the princely sum of $35, yet is capable of running HD video and fitting in your pocket. The Pi was developed as an educational tool to encourage kids (young and old) to learn more about computers in the way that the BBC Micro and ZX Spectrum did back in the 80’s, though it is a sign of the times that today’s “Next Generation Spectrum” comes fitted with HDMI, USB, Ethernet and SD storage. I think the comparison with the Speccy is quite apt, since the Pi does have its limitations in terms of memory and CPU power, yet already people are using it for all sorts of home-brew projects: from running car engines to playing Quake 3.

Since I already have a ‘main’ computer, the Pi is a bit of a foot-in-the-water for me, following on from the purchase and successful construction of a MeeBlip earlier this year. I have a couple of projects I would like to try out on the Pi, which are fairly different in scope.

1. R-Studio server
My recent dabblings in ‘R’ have been interesting (to me at least), but I only have it installed on my laptop and it would be really nice to be able to access it from work or from a mobile device. My programming environment of choice for R is RStudio, which has the ability to run its own web service, which is a great facilty that I hope to be able to make use of. There may be problems getting it to do much, if anything, on the Raspberry Pi due to the memory limitations, but I would like to give it a shot.

2. PureData thingie
PureData (PD) is a visual programming environment for music (and other things) that I have been wanting to investigate for some time now. It is incredibly flexible, letting you control synths with just about anything that can be attached to a computer. The small size and fast start-up time of the Raspberry Pi should make it ideal for using as a sort of music interface brain. I’m not QUITE sure just what the result will be, but I think it could lead to some sort of bespoke music performance device, not necessarily an instrument, but maybe something to control effects whilst playing.

I think the possibilities for this little computer are vast and I’m looking forward to seeing just what it can do!