Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Raspberry Pi: The $35 Computer That Does Everything [April Fools Edition]

The below is an April Fool's Day post. While the Raspberry Pi is a capable little device, at an outstanding price for a learner box, it cannot actually access the future. Nor is there actually such a thing as amadán aibreán (i.e. "April Fool") radiation. Watch here for a write up of some real-world applications in coming weeks!

The Raspberry Pi debuted about 2 years ago, the culmination of a 6-year dream to make a PC tiny enough and cheap enough to restore some of the "hobby hacking" culture of a generation ago. My generation grew up tinkering with DOS-based PCs, Apple II Macs, Commodore 64s, Amigas, and the like - computers that required a bit of hands-on programming and tuning to get the most out of them. Much (not all) of that tinkering culture faded with the advent of graphical interfaces, and later, touch screens, that abstract the nuts and bolts from the end user experience. The evolution of user experience has brought about amazing things, there's less opportunity to "MacGyver" a touch screen.

The Raspberry Pi is a minimalist computer: a processor; a bit of memory; ports for network, video, and sound; an SD card slot for data and operating system storage; a pair of USB ports to attach additional components; and a micro-USB port to supply power. Altogether the Pi costs about $35. You can buy a Pi with a protective case, an SD card, and a power supply for around $50 to $60.

A computer this cheap is no longer a major investment - in fact, in certain cases it can almost be considered disposable. And with a disposable PC have come some really wild uses for a computer.


Anyone can keep score with a traditional scoreboard. But with the piBall plug-in, your Pi becomes a self-tracking scorekeeper. It listens for the sound of a ball going through the hoop to record made baskets. What's more, it can detect the sound of a missed shot to track shooting percentage. But that's just the introductory model. The piBall Plus adds a micro video camera to record shot location and trajectory. The piBall Plus comes with a special needle that fits in the inflation valve of a standard basketball; with the needle in place, the ball is actually guided toward the hoop, improving shooting accuracy by 38%. Who needs a coach when you have electronic assist?
In past years, if you wanted to play a PlayStation game, you had to buy a PlayStation; likewise with the Wii, or Xbox. Universal Pi software turns an ordinary $20 USB CD-ROM drive into a multi-platform gaming system capable of reading any disc-based game media. The Universal Pi adapter allows the Pi to sync with any form of wireless controller, and broadcasts the picture and sound over the air where it can be picked up by a standard television's tuner - eliminating the need for any wires.
Why limit ourselves to entertainment though? The Pi has amazing capabilities with more practical benefits. piMed makes the Star Trek Tricorder a reality. A handheld sensor can identify bacterial and viral infections in seconds, eliminating unpleasant swabbing and waiting for lab results. Through advanced thermoluminescent analysis the device can perform DNA testing in real time to diagnose chronic diseases. And in a medical breakthrough approved by the FDA today, the piMed handheld sensor can emit low levels of amadán aibreán radiation to detect broken bones and speed their healing.
Finally, the $35 Pi can pay for itself many times over through a unique form of investment aid. It turns out that the Pi is actually the first example of a quantum computer, which was theorized by Michael Crichton to enable transport between a multitude of universes. Through multiverse properties only begun to be understood, the Pi can access parallel universes that may exist in what we call the future. The Investment Multi-pi-er app can show stock and bond values up to a week in advance, enabling the owner to make investment decisions guaranteed to pay off.

I am amazed at the uses for the Pi that have shown up after just 2 years. I cannot wait to see what ingenious inventions show up next!

Do you have something to add? A question you'd like answered? Think I'm out of my mind? Join the conversation below, reach out by email at david (at) securityforrealpeople.com, or hit me up on Twitter at @dnlongen

Whois David?

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I have spent the better part of two decades in information technology and security, with roots in application developer support, system administration, and network security. My specialty is cyber threat intelligence - software vulnerabilities and patching, malware, social networking risks, etc. In particular, I strive to write about complex cyber topics in a way that can be understood by those outside the infosec industry.

Why do I do this? A common comment I get from friends and family is that complex security topics give them headaches. They want to know in simple terms how to stay safe in a connected world. Folks like me and my peers have chosen to make a profession out of hacking and defending. I've been doing this for the better part of two decades, and so have a high degree of knowledge in the field. Others have chosen different paths - paths where I would be lost. This is my effort to share my knowledge with those that are experts in something else.

When not in front of a digital screen, I spend my time raising five rambunctious teens and pre-teens - including two sets of twins. Our family enjoys archery, raising show and meat rabbits, and simply enjoying life in the Texas hill country.

For a decade I served as either Commander or a division leader for the Awana Club in Dripping Springs, Texas; while I have retired from that role I continue to have a passion for children's ministry. At the moment I teach 1st through 3rd grade Sunday School. Follow FBC Dripping Springs Kids to see what is going on in our children's ministries.