Wednesday, June 26, 2019

The Raspberry Pi 4 is here!

In a surprising move, the Raspberry Pi foundation announced the much-anticipated Raspberry Pi 4. See why it matters.

Wow! The Raspberry Pi Foundation just announced the Raspberry Pi with awesome additions. With the new hardware, the desktop experience should be even smoother. Plus, it includes support for optionally more memory, 4k displays, USB-C, gigabit ethernet, Raspbian updates and more. Much more.

Let's take a look at some of those changes.

What's New

In summary, this is what stands out in this release:
  • Updated ARM Cpu. Now 1.5GHz Arm
  • Updated optional Ram size (1GB, 2GB and 4GB)
  • Two new USB 3 ports
  • 4-bit BCM2711 quad-core A72 CPU @ 1.5GHz
  • VideoCore VI GPU
  • Gigabit Ethernet port
  • Support for 4k displays
  • Dual-band WiFi supporting both 2.4GHz and 5GHz
  • Double-HDMI - so now you can connect two monitors
  • Powered by a USB Type C
  • Bluetooth 5.0
  • Audio – 4-pole stereo audio and composite video port

Why the Raspberry Pi is matters

Before going forward, let's review why the Pi is important.
  • it runs Linux
  • it's super cheap
  • it's an excellent computer for kids
  • it's excellent for teaching computing kids
  • it's an excellent alternative to the Chrome OS
  • it can be a VPN server
  • it can be a gaming machine
  • it can be used for robotics
  • it can interface with Arduino trough its GPIO header
  • it's an excellent opportunity to learn Linux
  • And so much more!

What else to consider

Physical Computing

The PI allows us to interface with the external world (called physical computing) with its GPIO header. It's basically a standard 40 pin I/O that you can use to read/send electric signals to LEDs, motors, sensors, etc. With it we can build all sorts of things including robots.

Perfect for kids

Either being their first PC (as in personal computer, not as in Windows) or an upgrade from what they have, I consider that the Pi is perfect for kids. Why? I could for example teach them:
  • basics of computing with MIT's Scratch language
  • linux - so they grow up used to the best OS in the world
  • python programming
  • game development using python and pydev
  • arts and image manipulation with GIMP

It's can be a gaming console

Yes, you could install Retropie on it and load your ROMs into it. Just plug some controllers and you're ready to go.

It can be a hub to learn computing

This is one my favourites. One could use the Pi to learn Python, programming, game development, physical computing and so much more. The Pi is also an excellent introduction to free/open source software and to Linux in general.

It can be a Media Center 

Speaking of sharing, you could use the Pi as your media center using Kodi for example.. So all your videos could be shared between devices connected on the same network.


It's perfect for a personal VPN

The Pi has a very low power consumption which makes it a great always-on VPN server. Trough it you'll get secure access to your home network when you're on the go and can use it for secure web browsing when you're on public networks.

It's perfect for a personal File server

You could turn your Pi into a file server to back up and share content from anywhere on your local network. That way, you could share with everyone connected to your home network access all your files potentially hosted on that old external drive.

It can be a Web Server

Yes! If you don't believe, check this article out on how the Raspberri Pi foundation built its website running on a cluster of Pi's handling record load. Very interesting read.

It runs Linux

This Raspberry Pi 4's operating system, Raspbian was updated from a major Debian release, Buster. Buster brings a few user interface tweaks and a whole host of software upgrades, including Python 3.7.

It can be your new computer

Yes! We've been waiting for nice ARM computers for some time now. Turns out that the Pi 4 has enough specs to be considered as an entry-level computer. The Pi 4 also supports dual monitors and comes with USB 3.0 interface collaborating with faster external storage access.

Pricing and availability

This is the best part. The pricing for just the Raspberry Pi 4 board starts from $35 and depending on the choice of RAM (1-4 GB) as detailed below:
  • Raspberry Pi 4 with 1 GB RAM: $35 USD
  • Raspberry Pi 4 with 2 GB RAM: $45 USD
  • Raspberry Pi 4 with 4 GB RAM: $55 USD

Performace

By the specs, it's clear that the Pi 4 is way better than the previous generations. But how much? This beautiful post from Gareth Halfacree provides a lot of details on it. Allow me to show what stood out to me:
Source
Source
Source

The official announcement

The annoucement video from the Pi Foundation summarizing some of the changes can be seen below

Final Thoughts

The Pi has always amazed me. Being a fan of physical computing and having both a Pi and an Arduino, I'm so excited to see the recent improvements with the Pi that I'm planning to by one for my kids and one for me to test out different use cases. Plus, we the excellent performance, the Pi now not only serves as a small server but as a very capable GNU/Linux desktop system.

And you, have you considered the Pi yet?

References

The Raspberry Pi Foundation
Retropie
The Scratch Programming Language
Raspbian
Arduino
Kodi
An introduction to Raspberry Pi GPIO
Wikipedia - Physical computing
Low-cost Raspberry Pi 4 cluster handles record web traffic for Pi 4 launch
Could a Raspberry Pi be your next desktop PC?
Benchmarking a Pi 4

See Also

Why I use Fedora
How I fell in love with i3
Windows Subsystem for Linux, the best way to learn Linux on WindowsWhy I use Fedora
How I fell in love with i3
.NET Core and .NET merging as .NET 5.0
Copying data between Azure databases in 3 easy steps