Raspberry Pi Zero, or Minus One?

By on December 7, 2015
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The Wall Street Journal reported that [Eric Schmidt] of Google and now Alphabet Inc, promoted the idea of an inexpensive version of the Raspberry Pi to the Raspberry Pi foundation’s [Eben Upton]. Apparently [Upton] accepted this recommendation despite existing plans to make a more expensive, more powerful version of the Pi. The outcome is the Raspberry Pi Zero that sells, in some places, for $5.00 and was given away for free on the cover of the MagPi magazine.

I definitely like the idea of having a tiny computer for $5, not only to start coding but to have a “disposable” yet powerful board for IoT or wearable experiments.

Hackaday is publishing a tough critics to Raspberry Pi Zero, pointing the educational purpose that seems not really hit by the non-profit foundation.

Why then does the Raspberry Pi Zero exist? [Upton] “We really hope this is going to get those last few people in the door and involved in computer programming.”

Very good, but how well does the Zero support this goal or address their concerns?

The obvious point, directly inspired by the CEO of Google: it’s cheap. Except it isn’t. Adafruit is selling a Budget and a Starter Pack that cost $29.95 and $59.95, respectively.

A goal of the Pi Foundation is to encourage learning software development.

For development you need to set up the Zero with a power supply, mini-HDMI to HDMI adapter, HDMI cable, the USB OTG cable, USB hub, a keyboard, and possibly a mouse. After some hours of work you’re ready to try the software in your device. The cables are all disconnected and the board connected to the device. Tests are run. You pull the Zero out and plug everything back together for further software work.

This amount of hassle is discouraging to younger students who are looking for speedier results. I’m not lodging the instant gratification criticism of students here, only recognizing their lesser experience with the amount of time and effort that goes into a project.

What is your opinion? Which is the niche Raspberry Pi Zero is pointing to?

Source: Raspberry Pi Zero, or Minus One? | Hackaday


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  2. Fernando França

    December 10, 2015 at 12:15 PM

    RPi Zero is for me a opportunity to make my embedded system smaller and cheaper. I really don’t think that will be a great deal to the students simply because requires more electronics skills to make usable.

  3. Åke Hedman

    December 10, 2015 at 1:42 PM

    Well we are in the wireless era now and with boards like http://grodansparadis.com/wordpress/?p=1278 coming this will be a nice low cost node with enormous potential.

    • Jeff2Space

      December 10, 2015 at 3:03 PM

      Sure, but a wireless N USB adapter is less than $10 US, so even with that requirement, the Pi Zero is still pretty cheap for a 1 Ghz, 512 Mb, HDMI capable single board computer.

      • Åke Hedman

        December 10, 2015 at 5:31 PM

        I can just agree.

  4. Tanishq Jaiswal

    December 10, 2015 at 1:57 PM

    Aah come on, it costs 5$ and what do you expect in that price, the cables/connectors which are required are not specific for Pi Zero you can use them wherever you want so, it does worth it, however Adafruit is selling those quite expensive.

  5. Murph Strange

    December 10, 2015 at 2:21 PM

    I think the criticisms are slanted. For one, those Adafruit.com bundles are not the only place to get a Pi Zero, and they include a lot of peripherals, not just the board. Also, I’m not sure what the author meant by the whole process of having to disconnect everything and reconnect everything to test software projects. I am almost certain he’s doing it wrong. I have several raspberry pi boards. Once you install the operating system and plug it in, attach a keyboard and monitor, its fully operational I Really don’t know what this guy was doing, but he must have been doing it wrong, cause it’s less complicated than installing software on a new computer you would buy at Best Buy or someplace like that. Even if you bought the 60 dollar bundle from adafruit with all the extras, thats still cheaper than any desktop or laptop. If you bought just the board, which will cost about 5 dollars, you’re going to need a power cord, and since its made in the UK, its good that it doesnt come with one because it wouldnt be compatible with US wall outlets anyway, and raspberry ois use the same power cord most android phones use, so there’s a good chance you’re not more that 20 feet away from power at any given time. You also need an hdmi cable. 6 dollars at Walmart, and no, the big box store desktops dont come with one either. There us an adapter cord thats necessary for the hdmi cord, but its pretty cheap as well. The process of installing the operating system us this easy: Download it, unzip the file, copy it to a formatted sd card, insert the sd card into the pi, turn the pi on. Any questions? Like I said, this guy seemed to go into his review hating the raspberry pi zero, and the whole thing is slanted. Its cheap, its easy and it works. So yeah, for a grand total of maybe 20-25 bucks you can have a functional computer to learn to code on. I havent seen a cheaper option. And it also lends well to projects that require small, disposable (financially anyway, dispose of all electronics properly) parts.

    • Jeff2Space

      December 10, 2015 at 3:01 PM

      Actually the Pi Zero is made in Wales (UK), not China. China manufacturing was really only used for earlier models of the Pi.

      • Murph Strange

        December 10, 2015 at 3:18 PM

        You’re absolutely right. I remembered reading that somewhere. I originally wrote made in the UK, second guessed myself, grabbed one of the boards I have, which happened to be the first one I bought, and saw the made in China on it and changed what I had to made in China for the UK. Either way though, it still wouldn’t have a power cord compatible with the US outlets, so it’s better to just purchase one from the retailer you order the board from anyway. They will recommend one that’s right for you, and if you already have a phone charger cord, you can skip it entirely and get just the board.

  6. Jeff2Space

    December 10, 2015 at 2:59 PM

    Actually, many that will buy the Pi Zero already have another Pi (Model B or
    Model B+), so development can take place on the other pi. Yes, if one
    must attach a monitor, keyboard, mouse, and etc to the Pi Zero, you need
    a couple of adapters and a USB hub. But that’s just for development.
    Once development is done, that $5 Pi Zero can be embedded in a project
    and left there. So the developer can then buy another $5 Pi Zero and
    work on the next project.

  7. Murph Strange

    December 10, 2015 at 5:47 PM

    My fair and honest review of the Zero:

    I keep running into comments that imply you can’t actually dev on a zero to any degree. Do you even commandline, bro? You don’t need a fancy Pro developer software suite to get the job done. Unless you’re actually a pro developer, but then you would hopefully have a job that allows you to afford more than a five dollar computer. I’ve cranked out perfectly good tools and apps remotely through the shell from my phone, so it can definitely dev. It won’t be the platform used to write the next Call of Duty, for practicality’s sake, but it didn’t need to be. Its for kids to learn to code. If you wanted something more convenient, you’re not someone this board was made for, and should look into slightly more expensive options. There are plenty of other raspberry pi boards, and many competing kickstarter “system on a card” set ups out there if you just wanted a small computer as a gimmick. Or just buy a PC, and have all the ports, power and storage you want.

    The Zero is five bucks, and all the adapters needed (not included because you can get them pretty much anywhere and might even know someone who has an extra) are about five bucks if you need to buy it in stores or online. Ten bucks for each kid who has a desire to learn how to code puts it in the realm of possible even on poor neighborhood school budgets, which was the intent of the Raspberry Pi Foundation: affordable learning computers to renew our interest in teaching computer science at an early age. An 8 gigabyte sd card adds maybe another 8 or 10 bucks to your total, and gives ample room for the operating system and the code you write while you learn. You can even buy SD cards with the operating system already on it, so you can pop the card in the Pi and you’re ready to roll. That’s still extremely cheap. Seriously, that’s paper route money.

    And setting up is not as hard as everyone makes it out to be. I could hook up the VCR through the cable box without disconnecting the Nintendo when I was eight years old, so don’t under estimate a child’s ability to understand how this all works. There are very well done tutorials on the whole process if you can’t figure out what plugs in where, but I’ll try to walk you through it. The mini-HDMI port is where you connect the HDMI for the monitor; there’s an adapter to make the standard HDMI fit that you can get online if you need one. One of the micro USB ports is for power (connect this last), one is for the keyboard. The keyboard will probably need a usb to micro usb adapter, also available online if you can’t find one, and you might even be able to get one with the hdmi adapter, together, for around five bucks. You don’t need a mouse unless you really want one, and if you want one, I suggest a wireless keyboard/mouse combo, which retails for about $18 on element14.com, and it uses only one USB port for both mouse and keyboard, and only the dongle needs to draw any power from the zero, so no powered hub necessary; the keyboard and mouse are battery powered. If you can’t afford that, save up and use whatever wired usb keyboard you have access to until then, you’ll still get plenty accomplished without a mouse. MicroSD card goes in the MicroSD Card Slot, in case it wasn’t obvious. A wide range of storage sizes are available for the SD card in case 8 gigs just isn’t enough for all your “Hello World!”-ing. And if the card you bought doesn’t have the NOOBs pack installed already (you can get SD cards with NOOBs installed on them from a lot of the same places that sell Raspberry Pi boards), you’ll want to ask a friend, co-worker, Santa Clause, whoever you know with a computer if they can download NOOBs for you, then unzip it, and copy all the files that were in the zipped file to your SD card. NOOBs is now installed. Pop it into your Zero, and connect the power. Congratulations! You’re done. That is it. All you need to know to get set up. If you can hook up an Xbox to a TV you can do this. That’s real accessibility, right there.

    Another win from the good folks at Raspberry Pi Foundation, and a new toy for coder-hopefuls and DIYers alike. As always, expect quantities to be limited for awhile, cause everything Raspberry Pi sells out instantly for about a month or so when they first come out. That’s just how it goes.

    Do not waste money buying them off Amazon or eBay from resellers, either. These resellers buy out the first batch with the intent of selling them at a much higher mark up, while sites that had them available at 5 bucks are sold out. Since they bought out the entire stock, they are the reason those sites are sold out, and then the resellers list the boards for whatever price they want, and since they bought them all, you don’t have much choice except to pay their ridiculous mark up, or wait for it to come back in stock. I say wait it out, and leave those vultures stuck with the thousand or so boards they bought thinking they’d corner the market and turn an easy profit. Eventually they’ll stop buying up all the boards at $5, because nobody buys them for the $30 – $60 bucks they try to resell them for, and those store that list them for $5 will have them available.

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