Manufacturing AUTOMATION

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You’ll want to try this Raspberry PI


Raspberry PI Single Board Computer
Cost: from $35.00
Vendor: Element14.com

While my columns deal with software exclusively, I have often paired hardware and software where I believe can provide benefit to you, the reader.

I first ran into the Raspberry PI single board computer (SBC) six months ago. I had been looking for a Windows Embedded SBC for some work I was doing. I didn’t want to spend an arm and a leg, but it seems you have to if you want Windows.

The PI is a Linux-based, ARM-based processor board with HDMI video, network connectivity, sound and USB ports. It also has headers for special purpose interfacing.

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Installing the OS on the SD card was fairly simple, even for me! Using a Windows-based computer, the OS image file is written to the SD card. Insert into the PI and fire it up.

The PI boots to a command prompt after you log in. It has a built-in X-Window interface and can be invoked by typing ‘STARTX.’

You can set up the user as an admin, which allows for file manipulation, or as a basic user.

The really cool thing about this environment is that it can take you back to the days of being able to really control the device at a register level. This may allow you to do various things that you may not have been able to do before.

The amount of community support for Linux and PI is astronomical. I believe that the PI was originally intended as a STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) educational device and for hobbyists, but it can do much more than control a crane.

How about 3-D printing? Or how about a low-cost device for kids at home to run a virtual session on a VMWare server? Or how about a remote terminal?

The Linux OS command set is vast. Depending on the image of the OS you install, it will determine what is available. ‘-VI’ is the editor for text files for instance, so it really isn’t intuitive.

While the PI may be child’s play, the STEM community can use it as a springboard for young ‘uns to learn a bit more about engineering applications. Want ice cream with that PI?

This article originally appeared in the May 2013 issue of Manufacturing AUTOMATION.