Tag: rant

Raspberry Pi and the Art of Being Patient

In 2006, Eben Upton, Rob Mullins, Jack Lang and Alan Mycroft from  the University of Cambridge’s Computer Laboratory set out to find a solution to the increasing problem in the computing sector. At one time, many students going onto Computer Science courses at university had a reasonable level of technical skill. Since then, the number of students has fallen drastically and so has the skill level. Why is this the case? One thought is the current IT curriculum in schools simply does not teach these technical skills. One thought is that changes in technology have limited how it can be taught. Perhaps it is a combination of these and more? “Back in the day”, platforms such as the BBC Micro and Spectrum ZX made it possible for any one to program applications. Fast forward a couple of years and schools mainly have windows PCs. While this was by no means a huge obstacle, it did start to mark the end of programming. Skip forward a few more years to when the Raspberry Pi project started, the average programming being done in schools was a bit of VB in Office. Even then, in some cases this was minimal, if happening at all. While useful, writing some macros or a single tiny program is not enough to encourage kids into software development as a career. It limited the creativity of some and completely put off others. The ones who were interested, found their own way into the area. For some this meant doing what owners of BBC Micros etc did and writing full applications of their own, for others it meant web development.

While writing this, the web comic below showed up in a feed. It turns out it is awfully relevant.

Here is where the Raspberry Pi came into being. The decline in skills and students was recognised and a solution was needed. The answer that resulted was a low cost (Cost, as always, being a huge factor in any solution) platform that could be a used as  a teaching tool, not just for the obvious computer applications, but also for more physical projects. So here it was, a cheap tool, a whole $35 worth, that had similar power to a low power netbook/smart phone with similar features, yet also had the capabilities to be used for physical computing like an Arduino.

Rasberry Pi Beta Board

Rasberry Pi Beta Board

After working on the project since 2006, hype began to build. Soon enough, the board was famous, everyone wanted one, then in February 2012, it was time. The team started sending out the message through all their previous communication methods. Emails were sent, blogs posted, tweets sent, and I assume shouting from the rooftops (Or at least crying into their tea on launch day when it became obvious just what they had achieved). Now, here is where it starts to annoy me. Let me rephrase that, here is where the community starts to annoy me. Don’t get me wrong, the vast majority of the community saw this coming and are taking it in their stride, there is a minority however (Isn’t there always when it comes to the internet…) that are only willing to see this as a disaster. Almost as if they had kicked a puppy*. Now this is what annoys me, you have been paying attention, you know how popular it has been and know it is going to be popular, yet still knowing this, you try to tear the team a new one. I don’t see any logic in this. It is a well established fact that the device in question has been developed by a a small group of volunteers and not a huge corporation. This means they have a fairly limited budget to work with (Again, an assumption based on the lack company information available), and as a result do not have the resources to magically produce enough boards for everyone in a realistic time scale. We cannot forget of course who this project was aimed at, educators and their classes. This gives the group two choices, delay the project another year while they produce enough boards to meet demand and reduce the amount of time developers have to produce the software users would need to get started, or release now and get the product to market faster so developers have time to prepare for September.

On an international basis, the September deadline is not a particularly important one (To my knowledge), but in the UK, it is a concern. In 2011, Ofsted (Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills) release a report on ICT in schools saying ICT in schools needed improvement, particularly in programming and a couple of other areas 2. As a result of this consultation, it was announced that the current ICT curriculum would be scrapped and replaced with a Computer Science focused course 3. While this may not have been part of the original plan for Raspberry Pi, it almost certainly gave them a new target. What better time to release a product that promotes computer science than when a new computer science curriculum is being released?

Whatever the reason for releasing now, it was known that the demand would be huge. As a result of this, they made efforts to give everyone a chance to get one of the first 10,000; a reasonable release time (Near impossible to find a time everyone is happy with), distributors that cover the world, different methods of alerting everyone. If the efforts by Raspberry Pi themselves wasn’t enough, there was certainly enough buzz on social networks. As shown by the release (and the prompt crashing of several websites), the launch was not missed. Quite how some didn’t notice is quite amazing. Granted, the announcement was not explicit, but given the prior hints at when the release was likely to be, the hints in the announcement itself, and the discussion, it was clear enough to know it was going to be big. And what is going to be bigger than a release?

So, my response to the people complaining about how it wasn’t publicised is this, “Tough.”. Move on, do something useful with your time, such as perhaps, oh I don’t know, write some software for it and test it on an emulator? For those complaining that 10,000 wasn’t enough for a first release. Um…ok, I take it you haven’t tried to predict the future to see how many you will need? Ignoring the time scale, there is the matter of funding. Creating a huge first batch would be rather expensive, a bit beyond the means of such a group. Not impossible, just difficult and a whole new barrel of fish. For those complaining that the team is in over their heads. Yes they are, and no they are not. This project has turned out bigger than anyone could have predicted. Given the scale, the group is in my opinion coping rather well. I challenge any of you to do better with only volunteers and jobs to do.


Raspberry Pi is an amazing board created to help solve the lack of skilled computer science students. It is a project run by volunteers working with the community. If for some reason you do not like what they are doing, either get involved with useful advice or start your own project. Or simply be quiet. Yes there will be some disappointments along the road, yes it may take a while for you to get your own, but please, do not complain and complain some more about someone doing a fine job under difficult circumstances. Do not waste your energy complaining about how badly someone is handling something that a corporation can struggle with never mind a small group of people. Instead, regardless of where you are, put your energy into helping the next generation of computer scientists, engineers, mathematicians, scientists (Or anyone else who falls into the category of STEM). A little bit of effort and we can do something amazing. Hop to it.

*No puppies were ever harmed, only stroked and petted and found to be amazing. Presumably cats were also found to be amazing, but I’ll leave that one to the Raspberry Pi team to confirm or deny.

Updates of a general sort


Indeed, science! Not just any science, back yard science! Or atleast rented warehouse science. In recent news has been the story of a man who, when not working as a web developer, has developed a fusion reactor. Yes thats right, a nuclear reactor, in a warehouse in Brooklyn. The DIY project itself cost over $39000 with the majority of the bill funded by the amateur scientist. You can read more at your news outlet of choice, including the BBC.


If you haven’t heard, it is element-14 first birthday. Happy birthday to them!
As part of this they have been running some trivia quizzes, and guess who won one. The prize was a high quality element-14 t-shirt. Some of the best packaging so far. Compressed down to a smaller t-shirt brick.


Messy Carla’s facebook page has reached 100 fans, I’m sure one or two of you may be interested in making that number higher.
If you are interested in a fashion blog, check out Carla’s at http://messycarla.blogspot.com

Everything Else?

Attention Scum!

No, I don’t just mean that as a greeting, I mean the TV series by Simon Munnery, Stewart Lee and friends (Including Kevin Eldon…). Really, why did it have to end? It was a work of genius. If anyone knows whether it can be found on DVD I’d love to know!

Short blog is short, if theres anything you want to see here next time, speak up. Hope everyone is doing well and enjoying the weather.

Rant Time.

Todays topic of ranting is dating websites. Don’t want to read? Don’t look.

(continue reading…)

Steam, Portals, Facebook Rant, Other!

If you haven’t already seen around the interwebs, Steam, the popular gaming software for PCs, has made its way to Mac. Is this a good thing? Yes! Despite the common misconception, Macs can be used for gaming (Yes yes shock, awe etc. etc.). With the release of Steam, the number of games you can easily find has just gone up. As a result of the recent release, and it being for Mac, the number of games available is limited and currently hangs around 63, and that is just the New Releases. What does this mean for Mac users? Simple. Fun. The current available games are some of the old classics and the newer classics and of course the new indie games like World Of Goo. There is however one other game which has been able to sneak in. For a limited period, Portal is available free. Cool huh?

While it is all well and good that Steam has made it to Mac, I do still have one or two minor issues with it. The first, where is the Linux client? Especially for the indie games! Come on guys, not a challenging one. Second, and slightly more important, is the interface. Sure it is nice and shiny, and like everyone I like the interface to change from the norm from time to time. This however does it but not exactly as well as it could. I can’t quite put my finger on it yet, but there is something about the way it works that puts me off.

The main thing that sold me? Portal. Why? It sounded interesting and to be honest so far it is, if only in a bahmybrainsdeadandneedsomethingtooccupyme kinda way. It is one of those puzzle games that will get you thinking. A mix of platformer and puzzle with a hint of broken physics and good graphics. Worth checking out. You may be able to expect some form of proper review at a later time.

Rant time. So assuming a good number of you use that facebook thing, can we also assume that at some point recently you have came across one of these groups that requires you to complete a survey, shave a goat and for the odd one you will no doubt also have to touch a sheep in an inappropriate place. Yes? Of course you have, because it now seems that only 1 in 40,000 doesn’t require you to do that (Exaggerated statistics courtesy of the magic world of cheese). Why? Seriously, why?! I don’t care about your ‘survey’/scam. Just let me move on. Yes I know there are sites that still have some of this content available without the need to hit that ‘Like’ button, but I don’t care. This way used to be easier. </ mini rant>

In other news! Birthday times! Yes indeed, this week it was the birthday of a previously mentioned blogger Carla (Twitter). Happy birthday!

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