Deep Geek Dive with the Raspberry Pi

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We are going to go a little bit geekier and a little more technical today than we normally do, but I promise it is worth it.

Before we begin I want to note that several people have attempted to make Pi/pie jokes every time I talk about this on the internet.  I promise that there will be no pie jokes in this article.  I also reserve the right to make pie jokes on Facebook, I promise that they will be terrible and barely tolerable.  You are welcome.

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The Raspberry Pi is a tiny, almost adorable full computer on a single circuit board for under $50.   The computer itself isn’t beefy enough to run Microsoft Windows or Apple OSX, but runs Linux which is a free operating system that is pretty darn awesome and in some ways better than the more popular software mentioned above.  I repeat, the software is free and it is hard to argue with free.

What can you do with this thing?  Pretty much anything you can use a computer for.  Because it is small and cheap most people use it for projects that require some intelligence, but where a full computer would be too expensive or too bulky.  I’ve seen people build web servers, automatic plant waterers, audio players and jukeboxes, devices that automate the lights in your home.  You can do pretty much anything your imagination dictates and people are definitely stretching their imaginations.  I haven’t seen one yet, but the Pi is also a prime candidate for a cheap Emergency Party Button.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nZIfIzNW9xM

I had been hearing geekoids freaking out about the Raspberry Pi for some time.  So I did my research, looked at several projects and decided to build a home media center.  If you are like me you have a long history of buying CDs, DVDs, Blu Rays and other media (and….ahem mini discs, VCDs, Laser discs, cassettes  8-tracks and vinyl.  Yay! children of the seventies and eighties!) What are you going to do with all this stuff?  The enterprising geek will digitize it all (ask me if you need some tips) and throw it on a hard drive, attach it to your media center and BOOM instant giant library of entertainment.

I am not going to go into a huge amount of detail because the instructions for building a media are all over the internet.  I followed the instructions from the Raspbmc  project.  The setup took all of 30 minutes and the end result looked very much like this:

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This is what the software looks like:

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and when you navigate to a movie it looks like this:

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For you video nerds out there I also want to mention that this little number was running at 1080p with 5.1 surround sound at greater than 30 frames per second.  No slouch when it comes to media centers.  It has played every type of media I have thrown at it, including movies with multiple audio language tracks and subtitles.

We at Serious Play  like to have fun and building things for cheap that are practical and useful satisfies the fun requirement.  You will learn a lot and whenever you learn something you start to see the world in different ways.    There is a whole world out there waiting to be hacked, taken apart and rebuilt better than when you found it.

This project was so easy and satisfying I have already started researching my next one.  As a kid I envied Ricky Schroders room in Silver Spoons, especially the arcade cabinets.  I promised myself that when I was older I would have some.  Since my wife wisely won’t allow a full arcade cabinet in the living room I am going to be building one of these guys.

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I was inspired by this blog post.  LINK  There are several arcade projects in the works and I am thrilled to have a tiny cabinet near me with the ability to play hundreds of games any time the mood strikes me.

If this seems like something you would like to try do some searching or ask a question on our Facebook page.  I am looking forward to hearing from people.  Check out the link below at Instructables for dozens of other Raspberry Pi projects.  I promise once you dive in you will be addicted.

Instructables Raspberry Pi Projects