book review: Getting Started with Raspberry Pi

For the first review on this site, I've chosen a book that really started this entire evolution of my work and focus. While at CodePaLOUsa a while back, I not only won a Raspberry Pi kit from Adecco, but also met with Marsee of O'Reilly Media, a technology publishing company. I had mentioned having access to a Raspberry Pi at home (before I won my own), and she suggested this book as a place to start learning. Here's my review of it. Cover Image -- Link to O'Rielly Media

Getting Started with Raspberry Pi, published as part of the Make: Projects series, is a slim but jam-packed book about all the basics needed to start using your Raspberry Pi right out of the box. But what's a "Raspberry Pi," you ask? Let me explain further.

In the early 2000's, faculty at the University of Cambridge were noticing that new applicants to the computer sciences program were lacking basic programming and computing skills. They wanted to develop an inexpensive and accessible tool to provide potential students the opportunity to be ahead of their peers when applying to Cambridge. Thus a $35, Linux-powered micro-computer was born in 2006. The size of a credit card, and featuring bare components, the Raspberry Pi allows for hundreds of users and potential users access to a computer where they might not otherwise have one.

Raspberry Pi Model B from Adafruit Industries

In Getting Started with Raspberry Pi, the authors walk you through setting up and configuring your Raspberry Pi, creating and installing an operating system disk (in this case, written onto an SD card), and learning the beginnings of Scratch and Python, two programming languages that work incredibly well on the Rasberry Pi. Once you get through these tutorials, there is a collection of projects for connecting circuits, building a soundboard, talking to loved ones through a webcam, and other really great projects.

Don't get me wrong: this isn't just a book for adults or children. Anyone with access to a few tools and the Raspberry Pi could do most of the projects in this book. I see it as a great tool for parents who are homeschooling or unschooling children with an interest in computers, circuitry/electronics, or engineering. It's also a great part of the Maker community, and there are hundreds of user groups, community meetups, and online forums around the Raspberry Pi and it's millions of innovations.

I'm currently running one Pi with Raspbian and one Pi with Occidentalis operating systems. I've additionally got an SD card with RaspBMC to use as a media center hub for a family music system. For peripherals, I'm running a 22" monitor with an HDMI to DVI-D adapter and also have several breadboard/wire setups for prototyping circuitry and builds. I've also got the setup for an Arduino Duemilanove board and connectors to create a variety of incredible and innovative projects.

How do you use your Raspberry Pi? Do you have any questions I can answer?