Raspberry Pi 2 Model B



Unless you have been hiding underneath a rock these past few months, you will likely have heard about the last release from the British based Raspberry Pi Foundation. Who last month unveiled the latest edition to their line of micro computers, the Raspberry Pi 2 – Model B. The new model is an impressive step up from the original model B and B+, both of which utilise a single 700mhz core Arm11 processor and 512MB of internal memory. With 1GB of ram, the Pi 2’s new quad-core 900Mhz Arm7 BCM2836 processor was designed by Broadcom specifically for the new Raspberry Pi. The Pi 2 Model B is substantially faster than anything the foundation has released thus far. The upgrade now pushes the Pi in to the same league as boards such as the O-Droid and other multi core boards suited for hackers and gamer’s looking to run resource heavy tasks. Such as playing hi-definition video or Mame arcade emulators.

In a previous article I wrote about my frustration when I tried to get Mame to work right on my Model B. With the new Pi 2 spec, such headaches will be a thing of the past. In fact the release of the Pi 2 Model B in my opinion is a real game changer. Up until now, I was rather disappointed with the Raspberry Pi, maybe because I wasn’t using it for the purpose it was intended for.
I’m from a generation that grew up with Spectrum’s, Commodore Amiga’s and Duran Duran on the radio. When I see a tiny micro computer, my first thoughts are not whether I can fit an LED or robotic arm to it. I’m more bothered about what games I can play on it, if it will emulate a BBC micro and whether I can use it for email and light surfing. Later down the road I look at inputting programs and learning how to make games using Python or what ever passes as the modern-day equivalent of BASIC. I don’t know why I’m saying my generation, as I’m sure any ten year old today would want to do the same as I did at that age. Not just play games, but want to tinker with the code to get an extra life or skip a level by hacking the game. That was half of the fun of having a micro computer and having games written in an easy language like BASIC.

New Potential

The Pi 2 Model B is now powerful enough to realistically perform as a cheap home computer. While you might not be able to watch BBC Iplayer or Netflix, you can use it for other things such as:

Graphic editing
Music editing
Playing games
Surfing online
Receiving email

I know some of you will be reading this and saying that these are all things the Model B could do already. To an extent I would agree with you, but my experience was that doing any of the above listed tasks caused my original Model B to have a small panic attack. After which it would sit on my desk blinking with the CPU at 100%, getting no where fast. I realise the original Raspberry Pi was meant to be a computer for schools, it was never intended to be a desktop computer. So to compare it to our laptops or towered PC’s is to be unfair on tiny micro, as your average home computer has many times the power and memory of the model B 700Mhz Arm11 processor. However I would argue that if the computer was never meant to surf the internet, why then include a web browser with the operating system? Such questions can spark heated discussions online, so I’ll simply say that the only person who can tell us, is the person who organised the Raspbian distro to begin with.

Utilising four 900Mhz cores and 1GB of 450Mhz RAM , the new Model B is roughly six times faster than the previous model and give a lot of grunt for a £30 pocket size computer. The Raspberry Pi might have started its life in the class room, but it could now potentially find itself in kids bedrooms around the world, just like the Spectrum and C64’s of the 80’s. Perhaps parents wanting to get a computer for their children but worried about it getting broken, will see the Raspberry Pi as an affordable alternative. Time will only tell if this happens, I certainly hope it does as many of those kids from the 80’s and 90’s grew up to be the game programmers of today. Working on games for the 3DS, Xbox One and the Sony Playstation 4. Many of them will no doubt be able trace their computer interests back to the days of getting home from school and playing on their Amiga, C64 or BBC Micro. Wouldn’t it be nice, if in 10-15 years time a new generation could look back, and trace their programming roots to the day their parents brought home a new shiny Raspberry Pi 2?

Closing thoughts

It’s still early days here at ByteMyVdu, but the general feeling is that the Raspberry Pi 2 is a step in the right direction, if not a little overdue. It is a pity that the Foundation didn’t bring this out instead of the B+, which is more or less a facelift of the B. I had intended to buy a B+ but with Christmas close at hand I held off until the new year. I suppose I should be grateful I did, otherwise I can imagine this new release would leave me a little annoyed. Having spent £30 on a new computer, the last thing anyone would expect to see is a new and vastly superior model released 6 months later. I only hope there is a reasonable explanation for the foundation releasing the B+ and Pi 2 B so close on its heels. I honestly can’t imagine Apple or HP doing this with an Ipad or a laptop, as it might damage customer confidence. Computer technology has always resided in the fast when it comes to progress, however most companies leave a reasonable amount of time between product releases. Which is why I was understandable surprised to hear about the Pi 2 B being released. It doesn’t seem that long ago that the foundation released the B+. Regardless of the reasons, the Pi 2 Model B is here and I’m certain people are going to like it. After using mine for several days I can honestly say I’m impressed, it performs how I’d hoped my original model B would have when I first bought it. I suppose a lot of this is down to the custom BCM2836 SoC which Broadcom made specifically for the new Pi 2. I’m really looking forward to seeing what this new computer can do and what fun things I can do with it, aside from write blog entries. This is the first time I’ve been able to write an article for ByteMyVdu on a Raspberry Pi and not only write it, but then upload it to WordPress while still using the Pi. In the past trying to log in to WordPress would kill my Model B to the point that I’d have to unplug and plug it back it in just to resuscitate it. Actually being able to log in to the site and edit my blog is simply unheard of! I have to say I’m thoroughly chuffed with the new Model B and look forward to the coming months. I wonder if I can interface my TRS80 Model 100 with it using Minicom? Let the tinkering commence!!

Till next time, keep on geeking!

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