Friday, 22 November 2013

Raspberry Pi as a media player

I’ve recently been looking at buying myself a Raspberry Pi - admittedly more as toy than for any serious purpose - as I’ve been feeling the lack of a linux machine at home ever since my old machines built out of recycled bits died in a rainstorm.

(To explain - I have a bench in the garage where I play with such things, and not unnaturally I had the machines on the floor. We had a rainstorm of tropical dimensions, one of the garage downpipes blocked, and the rainwater backed up and then got in under the tin and flowed across the floor, straight through my linux machines).

Anyway, to the point, I’ve been researching options to buy a Pi, especially as we don’t really have much of a local ecosystem in Australia.

And one thing that became very obvious is that they have a major role in powering media players and displays - which kind of makes sense given that they have HDMI output and run a well known operating system, making the ideal for streaming content off of a local source or powering a display system - run a kiosk app on the Pi, and push your content out onto a display device - wonderful what you can do with cheap technology.

Again, by pure coincidence I came across a post describing the role of cheap Android devices and how in the main they are used as ways of viewing video content or else as embedded devices.

In other words there is a lot of under the radar demand for content viewing which is different from how we think tablets are used - for more engaged activities such as web surfing and email, as well as routine tasks like online banking.

And here we have the key takeaway - tablets like raspberry pi’s are versatile computing devices, just as pc’s are. And just the same way pc’s have a lot of uses other than general purpose computing, tablets and other such devices do.

PC’s became general purpose computing devices in the main because of their open architecture and the fact that various factories in the Far East could make bits for the relatively cheaply, meaning that if you wanted to make a gene sequencer say, rather than having to design embedded hardware, and then have the difficulty of maintaing and upgrading it, you could write software and use the standard interfaces available on a pc - thus significantly reducing your development and delivery costs.

Android, and the Raspberry Pi, both of which are open systems like the original PC are giving us a similar effect - cutteing development and delivery costs for embedded systems as the software environment is already there …

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