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Archive for January, 2013

400K Floppy Support

I’ve added 400K floppy support to Floppy Emu, so now you can boot up System 1.1. The fix took all of fives minutes, so why didn’t I do this ages ago? Grab the latest Floppy Emu file archive for the new software.

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Raspberry Pi

A friend from work gifted me a Raspberry Pi Model B. I was generally familiar with the RPi, but hadn’t had a chance to look at it in detail before now. The specs are impressive: a 700MHz 32-bit ARM CPU, 256MB RAM, USB, audio, composite video, HDMI video, and SD card support. It’s also got GPIO headers as well as headers for I2C and SPI, so you can interface it with various sensors and other external elements.

The Raspberry Pi has proven to be extremely popular since its release, and appears to have made major inroads among the Arduino community. But the further I looked into it, the more confused I became about who this product was intended for. Perhaps the hardware specs are a little too good: it’s nearly the equivalent of a standard Linux PC from 10 years ago. That’s an amazing thing to fit onto a tiny board that costs $35, but is it fun to use?

What I enjoy most about my projects is interfacing with hardware at a very low-level. I get a kick out of bit-banging video, replicating retro electronics, and interfacing with odd hardware with specific timing requirements. I don’t really want to run X-Windows on my embedded project, or use it as a development IDE platform. When it comes to digital bit-twiddling, the lowly Arduino still has more GPIOs, and offers real-time control of the IO pins. The RPi can’t really match that, running garbage-collected Python programs on top of a multi-tasking Linux kernel.

If you’ve got a Raspberry Pi and found it useful, what kind of projects did you use it for, and how do you see the RPi’s strengths and weaknesses in comparison to other embedded hardware?

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