Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Will Raspberry Pi Destroy Civilization?

My Raspberry Pi arrived in the mail today. I anxiously waited until work was done and then started hooking it up.

To make it go, you download a Linux distribution, then burn it onto a SD chip. I followed instructions, installed the Raspberry variant of Debian and it worked. I typed startx at the command line and it was just like 1989 again running X windows.

After I remembered how little I got done in 1989, I looked at installing the XBMC package on it.

Well, the way you install XBMC onto a Raspberry Pi is just download another Linux distribution, then overwrite the SD chip you just got done working on. Well, OK. Did that.

Now, please don't get the false impression that I didn't overlook something obvious and do something stupid that is at the root of the badness I'm about to recount.

You run the Rasbmc and the first thing it does is download the latest-greatest version of itself. I don't think it's completely stable. Or maybe something is flaky in the hardware. It had to restart about three times. After it got installed, the video started cutting out, then starting again, then cutting out over and over again.

Maybe it's got a thermal problem. So, I propped the thing up and set a fan blowing on it. No joy.

Maybe it's got a power problem. So, I unhooked the radio-keyboard-mouse dongle scrounged up a USB hub and plugged the dongle into it.

After another cycle of reboots and redownloads, I got XBMC running stable enough to set things up. This took a while--a long while. Most of the problem was the sluggishness of XBMC running on the Raspberry Pi. And this might be explained by the fact that a lot of network traffic was going on as it was adding my terabyte library of videos in the basement to its database.

But the result was a lot slower than anything I'd experience with any other computer.

At $35, the Raspberry Pi is a lot cheaper than the reasonably priced Apple TV $99. And the Raspberry Pi is a wide open system whereas the Apple TV 3 is locked down and there's no jailbreak available at present. It was just like 2002 configuring Red Hat.

The bottom line is that I've managed to waste the entire evening messing with a computer the size of a cassette tape. If that is not what you want to do, buy an Apple TV, but get an older version you can Jail break.

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