Monthly Archives: April 2015

Why the Raspberry Pi 2 is my main computer

So this here is my primary personal computer.

pi_picture

Did you miss it? I don’t blame you. It’s the exact same size as my mouse.

pi_picture2

[Left: A multi-purpose Linux computer. Right: A logitech mouse.]

I’m using the Raspberry Pi 2 for most of my computing computing needs at home, even though I’ve got two laptops that are loads more powerful. So the question is, why would I choose the raspberry pi over a beefier Lenovo Thinkpad or HP Pavilion?

1. Because I can!

Probably the biggest reason I do it is because it feels silly. There is something just wrong about being able to run Linux on a computer I can fit into my pocket. It just shouldn’t be possible. Every time I look at the board, I think “This can’t be it.Nope, this must be a joke.”

My favorite type of poem to write is the villanelle. Largely because it’s such a pain to do. You are given a very specific set of constraints and have to work your way out. The Raspberry Pi is the same way. How much compute can you get out of a $35 computer (and $105 dollars in accessories)? It turns out a surprising amount.

2. Because I can (now)!

I tried to do this before with the regular Raspberry Pi and failed. The Model B was just below the threshold of usability.The desktop was just way too slow, and trying to use Midori to surf the web was a nightmare. On top of that, the original Model B only has 2 usb ports. So if I wanted to use keyboard, mouse and a wifi dongle, I’d have to add a usb hub.

I tried using command line only, but having lynx as your main browser is not much of an improvement. I absolutely love the command line, but I don’t want to live there. Not when I want to look up reference material or do web development.

The Pi 2 passes the threshold of usability for me. It has 4 usb ports which is one more than I need. It runs Iceweasel like a champ (except for the Azure portal Sad smile). And best of all, it has 4 cores, so the desktop can be responsive even if something else is running slow.

3. Because I surf the web too much!

It turns out that most of what I do now is in a browser. I think that’s true for a lot of people these days. That’s why you see things like the Chromebook taking off.  Once you get browsing to work, you’ve hit 80% of people’s computing needs. And as I said, Iceweasel runs very well on the Pi 2, giving me modern HTML support.

4. Because forced simplicity is good.

It’s amazing how many things you can do with a modern computer and how much crap you can install on it. I’ve definitely had the problem of being on my laptop to do Serious Things©, but instead I just surf Hacker news. With the Pi, at least I’m being intellectually honest. Either I’m surfing the web or coding something in vim. That’s it.

When I need to use iTunes, or Steam, or play around with SQL Server, I go to a different computer. As a result, my brain gets context clues about what I’m doing. If I’m on this computer I must be working on something. If I’m on my Pi I’m probably relaxing. That sense of clarity is nice.

5. Because I need to justify impulse buying.

Did you know I have 4 Raspberry Pi’s? I keep telling myself I’m going to do something with all of them but I just haven’t. There’s something sad about buying tiny little $35 dust collectors. By using the Pi as my primary computer I can tell myself that at least one of those expenses was worth it.

6. Because I want a change of pace

Finally, it’s nice to just have a change of pace. I work with the Microsoft stack all day and after a while it can get tiring. It’s nice having a completely different environment for leisure than for work. Linux on a credit card size computer is a sizable leap, for sure. This also provides me a nice way to learn Linux and diversify my skillset a bit.