The Raspberry Pi $35 tiny computeris here at last — now what can you do with it? Here is our pick of the project ideas that you can try with your Pi.
Note that not all of these are going to work straight of the bat. The Raspberry Pi is brand new and will require some fiddling to get working properly. Give it a week or so however, and we reckon there will be several pre-packaged installers available for you to use if you lack the skills or time to try these yourself.
Make a Media Centre
The Raspberry Pi may only be tiny, but it has enough graphical oomph to play HD video. Add some USB storage or a network share and you can run a full-blown media centre app, as this demo of the free XBMC media centre running on an early test model clearly shows.
Raspbmc is a project to build a special version of XBMC optimised for the awesome Raspberry Pi that supports DNLA, AirPlay and 1080p video playback. There is no downloadable code yet, but with a real Pi in his hands, the developer should be able to make speedy progress and coders from the full XBMC distro are chipping in too.
Simple network storage
Chuck a big ol’USB drive into the Pi and turn on Samba file sharing in the Fedora Remix that comes with it and boom, you have an instant(ish) network storage device. At its most basic, this is a handy server to stick on your home network from which you can grab music, video, documents or whatever else is too big to fit on your notebook, tablet or smartphone.
With a little more fiddling you can share your data over the internet using either a compact web server like Abyss or NGinx or even set up a secure file repository using SSH. If the thought of trusting your data to Dropbox or Google Docs fills you with dread, this is a great way to join the cloud computing revolution for cheaper than a Pogoplug.
Remote control your work PC
VNC is a free desktop remote control service that you run on a PC or Mac to give you remote desktop access from the companion VNC Viewer app. Run it on your work PC (best to ask permission first) and then plug a Raspberry Pi into your widescreen telly, pair up a Bluetooth mouse & keyboard and you can ‘work from home’ from the comfort of your sofa.
Even if your employer takes a dim view of such shenanigans, you can run VNC on the Pi to take control of your home computer from elsewhere in the house, giving you a ‘terminal’ in the living room to check on downloads or one in the kitchen to live the dream and both check out the BBC Food recipe archive and listen to mp3s while you cook.
Make a home-brew voicemail system
Some hobbyists are working to bring FreeSwitch to the Raspberry Pi. FreeSwitch is a full PBX telephone exchange package that can be set up to work as a voicemail system. Want to give callers a menu of options when they call you? “Press 1 to leave a message, press 2 to hear my current news, press 3 to try my mobile, press 4 if you’re a telemarketer… cos you can go to hell.” The Raspberry Pi is already powerful enough to run the software and many similar systems use both linux and ARM processors like the beating heart of the Pi.
Budget smart TV
Don’t waste money on expensive ‘smart TV’ offerings from the likes of LG or Samsung that just give you a few apps and a lame web browser. By plugging in a Raspberry Pi to your tellybox you get a proper desktop web browser that will actually work with the modern web and a potentially huge library of apps and games. And that’s just with the Pi’s default Fedora Remix.
A small army of nerds is already working on more specialist distros for you to sling on to your Pi that will outfit it as a mini office machine, a social media powerhouse, or even a retro gaming arcade to name but three.
Have you managed to order a Raspberry Pi today? Let us know in the comments and tell us what you plan to do with it.
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