Raspberry PI

474px-Raspberry_Pi_Logo.svg

Permission to use from http://raspberrypi.org

The Raspberry Pi has become a popular device in the world of Linux, programming, electrical engineering, and hobbyist alike. The small credit-card sized device is an ARM based computer that was originally designed for educational purposes for kids. Eben Upton, Rob Mullins, Jack Lang, and Alan Mycroft noticed that incoming students to the University of Cambridge’s Computer Science program were lacking advanced skills that existed in students during the 1990’s. The original developers of the Raspberry Pi speculated that kids were interacting with computers differently, and were no longer interfacing with computers at a low level.1

The low cost, educational benefit, and relative high power of the Raspberry Pi has led to the popularity of the small computer.  A bare-bones device sells at newwark.com for only $40 with an 8GB SD Card pre-loaded with the Raspbian operating system.  The device can then be connected to a standard computer monitor or TV that supports a HDMI interface, and loaded with free software supplied by the Raspberry Pi Foundation.  The combination of hardware and software provides a complete affordable desktop package for almost any student.2

RaspberryPi_Model_A_Diagram

Permission to use from http://raspberrypi.org

RaspberryPi_Model_B_Diagram

Permission to use from http://raspberrypi.org

There are two different Raspberry Pi models to choose from. The Model B comes with the following input/output ports installed: RCA Video, Mini Phono Audio Port, Dual USB 2.0 Ports, 10/100 LAN, HDMI 2.X, SD Card Slot, and a GPIO Interface.  Where as the model A board comes with the above listed component with some small reductions; such as 256MB of RAM, a single USB Port, and no Ethernet port.3

The core component of the Raspberry Pi is the Central Processing Unit (CPU) which is a Broadcom BCM2835 system on a chip (SoC).  The SoC offers both a CPU and Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) all in one chip.  The BCM2835 was designed with both performance and power efficiency. In conjunction with the ARM 11 700MHz processor the Raspberry Pi can display 1080p 30FPS video without any problems.4  To bring this to a level of comparison that most people would understand; the Raspberry Pi performs like a 300MHz Pentium 2 with much better video.5   To put this in perspective of computer evolution, the computers on the Apollo moon mission had 64Kbyte of memory and operated at .043MHz.6  That would make the Raspberry Pi more powerful than the computer that put a man on the moon, and for only $40.

History

The Raspberry Pi was developed by Eben Upton, Rob Mullins, Jack Lang and Alan Mycroft, based at the University of Cambridge’s Computer Laboratory in 2006.  There was a huge concern with the overall decline in enrollment and high level computer skills of newly enrolled students.  Throughout the 1990 students were often more skilled and where viewed as “…experienced hobbyist programmers”.   As computers evolved, so did the students.  By the 2000’s students were entering Computer Science programs with a much smaller skill set.  The period of hobbyist and self-taught programmers turned into a period where the “…typical applicant might only have done a little web design”.  This brought an inherent need to develop the basic computer skills needed to be successful Computer Scientist.  The founders of the Raspberry Pi wanted to bring affordable systems to the masses, and also intrigue hackers, tinkerers, and programmers alike.1

The initial design created in 2006 evolved into something completely different by 2008, at which point the cost of processors declined considerably due to the mobile phone industry.1  The development team built a relationship with chip designers and started the Raspberry Pi Foundation in 2008 and became a registered charity in May of 2009.7  By April of 2012 the first Raspberry Pi was shipping to customers with over 100,000 confirmed orders in the pipeline.8

One of the purposes of the Raspberry Pi Foundation is to bring the basics of engineering to children and bring back the era of programming that existed on the Commodore 64 and Amigas.  When asked about the Raspberry Pi’s success during a recent interview Eben Upton stated that “[i]ts succeed beyond our wildest dreams…”.7  The sales speak for themselves; by February 2013 one million were sold, and by October 2013 two million were sold.910

Uses

The main purpose of the Raspberry Pi is for educational uses.  The number of input and output options allows for a wide variety of implementations, and options to interface with other devices.  Both the Model A and Model B also include a General-Purpose Input/Output (GPIO) port that can interface with different accessories, controllers, and computer systems.  The number of potential projects and implementations are without exaggeration, infinite. The below list is a compilation of many different project for the Raspberry Pi.  In no way is this a complete list.  However, it does give a general idea the possibilities and the number of potential uses.

 

Lastly, the obvious use is for penetration testing as described in this project.  By using Kali Linux and the Raspberry Pi it is easy to capture network packets, place yourself as a MitM, and perform network scans.  There are many other ways the Raspberry Pi can be used a penetration test tool, however, these currently fall out of the scope of this project.

Summary

Whether you use the Raspberry Pi to learn Linux or use it for advanced robotics the flexibility of the system is its strength.  The number of projects are growing every day, and anyone can dream up a new use with a little bit of ingenuity.  The brief, yet successful history of the Raspberry Pi is only a small beginning for the Raspberry Pi Foundation.  Their goal to reach students around the world to bring back the novelty of programming, electronics, and hacking is off to a great start.  There is no question of the educational value of such a affordable miniature computer.  Anyone with any doubt only needs to do a quick search on Google to find out benefits.

Footnotes

  1. raspberrypi.org. (n.d.). About Us. Retrieved February 1, 2014, from Raspberry Pi: http://www.raspberrypi.org/about
  2. Verry, T. (2012, April 18). What is the Raspberry Pi? Retrieved February 15, 2014, from ExtremeTech: http://www.extremetech.com/computing/124317-what-is-raspberry-pi-2
  3. raspberrypi.org. (n.d.). FAQs. Retrieved February 1, 2014, from Raspberry Pi: http://www.raspberrypi.org/faqs#general
  4. Broadcom. (n.d.). High Definition 1080p Embedded Multimedia Applications Processor. Retrieved February 1, 2014, from Brodcom: http://www.broadcom.com/products/BCM2835
  5. raspberrypi.org. (n.d.). FAQs. Retrieved February 1, 2014, from Raspberry Pi: http://www.raspberrypi.org/faqs#costandperformance
  6. Saran, C. (2009, July). Apollo 11: The computers that put man on the moon. Retrieved Febuary 1, 2014, from ComputerWeekly: http://www.computerweekly.com/feature/Apollo-11-The-computers-that-put-man-on-the-moon
  7. Vilches, J. (2012, 22 May). Interview with Raspberry’s Founder Eben Upton. Retrieved February 1, 2014, from TechSpot: http://www.techspot.com/article/531-eben-upton-interview/
  8. Liz. (2012, April 18). An update for element14/Premier Farnell/Newark customers. Retrieved February 1, 2014, from Raspberry Pi: http://www.raspberrypi.org/archives/1081
  9. Gibbs, S. (2013, November 18). Raspberry Pi: 2m units sold globally of pocket computer. Retrieved February 1, 2014, from The Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2013/nov/18/raspberry-pi-two-million-units-sold-computer-britain
  10. Liz. (2013, November 17). TWO MILLION! Retrieved February 1, 2014, from Raspberry Pi: http://www.raspberrypi.org/archives/5265