Raspberry Pi 2 Model B (1GB)

I’ve ordered a Raspberry Pi 2 Model B that includes a case, power supply, heat sink, 8GB microSD card/Adapter, Wifi USB dongle, HDMI cable, and instructions. I have a tentative delivery date of Early March, but knowing Amazon, it should arrive quicker than that.

I was fascinated by the original Raspberry Pi when it debuted back in 2012, however I soon realized that while it made for an excellent learning tool and super low end pc for certain tasks, it was far from being powerful enough to run as a basic media center pc, or portable low end workstation. For those reasons, I elected to skip it, though I did enjoy reading about other people’s experiences with this machine and what they got it to do.

Once I saw the new specs for the Pi 2 Model B, I knew I needed to get one, as the upgrades to the CPU/RAM in particular are going to result in significant performance gains, which manifest in expanded potential roles for the Pi 2 that the original Pi could never handle.

This won’t have the power of the Intel-based fanless computer I’m working on (as soon as I can get a hold of the chip, I will start a series of posts on that), but for a portable system that I can team up with my external SSD (I will write a post on it as soon as I have used it a bit more) to take with me to friend’s homes that will allow me to play back media files, as well as handle typical thin client pc tasks, I think it’s a intriguing and dirt cheap option.

My neighbour and Linux

I recently got a call from my neighbour, whom I’ve helped with computer questions and problems for a few years now. His laptop was acting funny, and so I went over and checked out his machine, only to find out that it had a whole slew of nasties that had been installed on it somehow. Firefox had been hijacked, and 3 extra tool bars cluttered the interface. I resigned myself to having to reinstall windows for the second time this year. However, my neighbour said: “I’m kinda thinking of having you just install Linux on this machine. My other laptop that you put Linux (x64 XFCE) on never gives me any problems.” I told him to sleep on it, and I would redo the laptop the next day.

He didn’t change his mind, and so I had the pleasure of wiping out Windows 7 on his laptop for the last time and installing Linux Mint 17.1 x64 MATE on his Sandy Bridge i3 6GB RAM Dell Laptop. It took only a small amount of configuring to get everything working the way he likes it. Since the laptop is hooked up to his Smart TV most of the time, that presented its’ own set of problems and solutions. I had already gotten him into open source software earlier, so he is still using a lot of the same programs that he was using under Windows 7.

The only change I’ve noticed so far, is that he has been able to solve several problems on his own, because he is not afraid to go into control panel and try different things. Having an OS that does what you want it to, and doesn’t rot over time, is something that can change a person’s relationship with their computer to something more positive. Add in the fact that it’s free and constantly getting better, and you have something whose fan base will continue to grow as the smooth desktop experience provided by Linux Mint wins over more disgruntled Windows users.

My love for Linux

I started tinkering with Linux on my own computer back in 1998 (Pentium II 233mhz, 96MB RAM, 16MB NVIDIA TNT AGP video card, 3.2GB Hard Drive), having earlier experienced an install at the San Jose Public Library system, where I used the Lynx web browser to login to my Hotmail acccount (before it was purchased by Microsoft) and type away for hours, rather than be limited by the 30 minute time limit on the Windows machines they had. Besides attracting attention for my relatively fast typing speed, I also attracted people to the power of a simple console-based browser in the hands of someone willing to learn how to use it.

That experience stayed with me and, after moving up to Santa Rosa in 1998, I soon purchased my first computer. Being that I finally had one of my own, instead of using other people’s machines, I was free to experiment. When my pre-installed Windows 95 OSR 2.5 installation crashed, I ended up creating a dual-boot Windows 95/Windows NT 4.0 installation. With a relatively stable OS (at least compared to Windows 9X) to use, I soon explored emulators so that I could try out Linux, which at that point, barely had support for USB. This gave me a chance to experiment safely, while still retaining the usability for Windows NT for most other things, leaving Windows 95 (and later 98SE) for the few things that I couldn’t do on the other OS’s.

As the years went by, I upgraded and built new machines, giving my parents the older machines since their machines were very old. As the power I had available to me increased, so did my experiments with Linux, especially when I finally had a spare computer to install it on. While for the longest time I couldn’t do everything I wanted to do in Linux, mainly for the lack of quality open-source software replacements for the Windows-only programs I had grown accustomed to using, I still found myself increasingly impressed with what I could do.

Having a Linux machine to handle tasks such as email, writing, and photo editing was a real pleasure, and I longed to be able to use Linux exclusively. This finally became a reality this Summer, as I set up a Linux-based TV computer for my Mom and stepfather using Linux Mint. I was so impressed with how smooth things had gotten, that I decided to install it on my secondary computer that I had left to the side as I used my newest computer, built in March 2014.

I was astonished to see that the older computer (i7-2600K, 16GB RAM, 1GB eVGA NVIDIA Geforce 560ti SC, 120GB SSD) felt faster than my newer computer running Windows 7. That was the last straw, and so I backed up my old files on my main computer (i7-4771, 32GB RAM, 4GB eVGA NVIDIA Geforce 770 Classified, 1TB SSD) and wiped Windows for the last time.

While it has taken a bit of work to get a few things to my liking, my experience has been nothing short of wonderful. A large part of this, is the fact that so many of the programs I used under Windows, are open-source. Combined with emulators like DOSBOX and VirtualBox, as well as the excellent WINE, there are very few things that I cannot do.

It’s amazing how receptive people are to Linux when they’re presented with it. I set up my neighbour’s older laptop with it and he was really impressed. His main laptop has Windows 7 and, every two months when, despite installing anti-virus/anti-spyware software, his system gets infected with nasties that infect his browser and then spread to the rest of the system (although I suspect he downloads and installs programs and forgets about them), he still has a system to fall back on while I backup and reinstall Windows on the main one. I am hoping to eventually get him to Linux for the main machine, but I don’t know when that’ll happen, since he uses several hardware devices that don’t work with Linux (yet), as they have proprietary software/drivers that don’t have an open-source alternative.

On the upside, I will be creating a new TV computer for him when he has the money for the hardware. This will allow him to avoid using Windows as much as possible and, hopefully, save me from having to service his Windows computer every other month. I will be posting more about the TV computer once I am building it. Intel’s latest low-power CPU’s (Broadwell) should be out in the next month or so, which is one of the things we’re waiting on.