I just saw in the news yesterday that Raspberry Pi has released a new computer which is built into a keyboard. If you’re not familiar, Raspberry Pi is one of a number of relatively recent tiny computers on a single, small board often used in specialty projects such as robots or holiday lighting scheme drivers. This one is unique in that, like the old Commodore or Amiga computers, the entire computer is built into the keyboard (only much, much smaller than those old systems).
Essentially you can get an entire computer (except the monitor) for under $100. But there are some limitations.
First of all, the “hard drive” in the computer is a 16GB SSD card. This is not a terrible thing, except that it’s 16GB. Because the computer comes with it you are buying that even if you intend to replace it with something much bigger.
But the biggest issue is that it comes with Linux (yuck!). If you are unfamiliar, Linux is a geek operating system which is pretty much entirely useless to the average user. Linux geeks love Linux for its robust command line interface…the end. Linux is HEAVILY focused on the command line. That means if you want to perform a simple task, such as to add an icon to your desktop, maybe the particular geeks who made your version of the desktop thought about how the average user would do that. But more likely you’re going to have to spend a day, AT LEAST, Googling how that can be accomplished, ALWAYS with a complicated case sensitive, symbol intensive command line command that you have to type in, not for just “Linux”, but for your particular flavor of Linux. Linux also has no industry standards of any sort, so what works on one version may not work on another version, even at the beloved command line sometimes. And it means you can’t get programs that you can just download and “install”. There are few executable installers, and where there are, they are usually specific to the Linux branch you are using. Getting updates is also a crap shoot, though Raspberry Pi usually has a pretty good handle on making this easy.
And installing software is a particular issue, since the Raspberry Pi does not come preinstalled with pretty much anything useful. There’s a calculator, a picture viewer, and, Oh look! The command line interface! No Paint.NET, no LibreOffice or OpenOffice, and no room to save anything if it did.
The bottom line, the Raspberry Pi is a dream come true…if you’re a Linux geek and you plan to swap out that SSD card for a MUCH bigger one (even just the next size up is twice as big) and do something OTHER than what the average user does with a computer. Otherwise it’s probably pretty much useless to you. But it’s still cool, and that’s what’s important!