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What is a Raspberry Pi & what can you do with it?

A Raspberry Pi is a tiny computer that was created by Eben Upton with the intention of introducing and enabling people to learn and understand hardware and programming skills at a pre-university level.

However, this cheap and small device has grown to become a favourite gadget among tech enthusiasts, inventors among others citing its wide range of uses.

To use it, you plug it into a television or computer and by using a keyboard or a mouse; you can explore and sharpen your computing skills as well as learn programming languages like Scratch and Python.

A Raspberry Pi although somewhat slower than a desktop/pc, its features the same functions and capabilities, like playing games, word-processing and accessing the internet.

The device comes in various models like Raspberry Pi 1 model A, Pi 1 model B, Pi 1 model A+, Pi 1 model B+, Pi Zero, Pi 2, Pi 3 model B and Pi Zero W.

Some models were created as replacements of their predecessors but given that their demand remains to exist, production of older models continues.

The developers have worked to improve audio quality, power consumption, processor speed, and increase the number of USB ports among other features in newer models.

A Raspberry Pi runs mainly on Raspbian operating system, and along with the device being inexpensive, highly portable and consumes little energy, the device has a wide range of uses.

The number of potential uses of a Raspberry Pi is endless, but here are some clever ones that you can try.

Desktop PC

As we had earlier mentioned, the Pi is a micro-computer with few contrasts to a standard PC.

However, before converting your Pi into a desktop PC, among the things that you will need is an HDMI cable, a micro SD card, a decent display, a power supply and the Pi itself which are in most instances already with you. You will also need a USB keyboard and a mouse.

The Raspberry Pi 3 comes with inbuilt Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, but if your Pi model doesn’t come with these inbuilt features, you will need compatible USB dongles. But when using Ethernet, the devices come with an Ethernet port.

Once your setup is complete, and the Pi’s operating system up-to-date, all the tools needed for the device to run like a desktop PC will be available.

Robot Controller

The Raspberry Pi has been widely used as a robot controller in various creative projects making it very hard to settle for one. You may decide to make use of a dedicated robotics package that you will use to control and communicate with your robot.

You may also build your design from the components you already own to control the robot. However, the Pi model that is used to control robots is Pi Zero W.

This particular model features broad wireless connectivity, is lighter compared to other models, and its structure enables easy positioning within the robot without having to mind about USB ports making it the ideal Pi model for this purpose.

Building a Motion Capture Security System

If you are having problems with pests like rabbits or racoons, trespassers in your property or people breaking into your house, a Raspberry Pi security system offers the perfect solution.

Attaching a camera or webcam to your Pi, you can create a security system that captures any motion on the locations that it’s positioned.

However, since footage can take a significant amount of storage capacity, high capacity external storage devices or micro SD cards are recommended.

In this undertaking, the motion software and uvccapture-captures and saves footage from your web camera, are combined to work together.

Additionally, ffmpeg software is used to manage time lapse and bitrate. With all this setup, the system begins recording footage once movement is detected with an option of configuring email alerts.

Creating a Twitter Bot

When it comes to social media, Twitter has lots of entertaining content, but at the same time full of annoying and unpleasant stuff. A lot of the unpleasant stuff found there is posted by bots-programs created to post messages.

However, you can still use a bot to post useful messages or market a brand. With a Python application on your Raspberry Pi, and ensuring that the gadget is always connected to the internet, is all you need to create a Twitter bot.

The first step is registering a Twitter application at the Twitter website, which will enable the Twython software or your preferred software to access and interact with the Twitter API.

You now need to frame the type of content to be tweeted like fascinating facts about animals and with the help of cron, to ensure the tweets are sent regularly or stipulated intervals.

Hosting Web Servers

A practical yet straightforward way of using your Raspberry Pi is to configure it to be a low-cost web server-to host several websites.

Cloud-based hosting is deemed better but setting it up as a primary server is the perfect way of getting hold of networking and server technology.

There are various software that can be used to power your server, but a popular one is Apache and its associated libraries.

With these steps completed, saving your HTML files into the /www/ index is the final step; your web server is ready. You might also consider installing particular web software like Ghost or WordPress.

Building a Zero-powered Smartphone

Among the first uses of the original Raspberry Pi, was building a home-made smartphone. Newer models of Raspberry Pi have been created over the years that are way smaller than the old models, enabling makers to build even smaller home-made smartphones.

This home-made smartphone share a resemblance with the old phone models, only that they don’t have covers. They are designed to be inexpensive, open source and easy to put together and repair.

The driving force behind the original creators of zero-phone was that they needed more privacy and wanted to walk with Linux power in their pockets among other reasons.

Stratux

Along with the hundreds of useful and creative uses of Raspberry Pi, there are some uses that are meant to satisfy the curious human nature.

Stratux is meant to give you information about various aircraft flying above the sky around. It is designed to receive and decode ADS-B broadcasts originating from planes flying around you and giving information such as the aeroplanes’ speeds, altitudes, callsigns and locations.

It uses a Raspberry Pi 3 motherboard whereas the decoding software can be downloaded onto a storage device that you can plug into your device and begin exploring the sky.

Bitcoin Mining Machine

Since it was launched in 2008, bitcoin has earned its fair share of criticism and a bad rep from governments, media outlets and member of the public. However, you will agree that it may have some benefits over traditional currencies.

Getting ahead in the bitcoin industry may be through mining which involves some rather complex calculations. However, the Raspberry Pi 2 can be used in this rigorous bitcoin mining process.

The Raspberry Pi 2 features a large RAM and a high processing speed that can quite handle miner software. With the miner software installed, you may also connect several Pi 2 devices, to increase the speed.

Wireless Printer

Even though printers have been in use for a while now, manufacturers have never had to get rid of issues like paper jamming or unexplainable ink consumption. In most occasions, you have to dispose of it and get a new one.

Without having to fork out your money on a new printer, you have an option of retrieving an older printer model from your store and connecting it to a Raspberry Pi designed to serve the purpose of a wireless print server.

After connecting your Raspberry Pi to your home network, you then need to install your preferred file sharing software along with Common Unix Printing System (CUPS) –provides drivers for your printer and an administration console.

With this already set up, the final step involves configuring your Raspberry Pi to ensure that computers within your home network have access to the printer. However, this applies to printers with a USB cable; if not, adaptors are available.

Digital Photo Frame

Digital photo frames have become very popular and increasing by the day. They are attractive and give a room a new look. If you have a spare display or an existing digital frame that has a USB connection, you have an opportunity of creating a customized digital photo frame by connecting a Raspberry Pi to them using a USB-HDMI adaptor.

Baby Monitor

Having a baby is the most beautiful thing in this world, but taking care of them may sometimes be hectic. Always sleep deprived and tired, a Raspberry Pi provides the perfect solution.

Your Pi attached to a webcam along with a motion sensing package enables you to stream your baby on your phone or tablet, monitor the temperature and play calming music to the baby.

This is an ingenious solution to parenting nightmares; helping your baby to go back to sleep at the same time enabling you to work or have a rest.

Building a Network Monitoring Tool

If you have thought about monitoring devices on your network or need quick alerts when your website or blog goes offline among other concerns you may have, then the ultimate answer to your worries is a network monitoring tool.

There are several options at hand, but depending on your preferred networking tool, they are usually easy to install and configure.

Once you have this tool installed, you will have a view of devices on your network along with other advantages.

All you have to do is download your preferred network monitoring tool, send it to your Pi’s SD card, install and configure, then proceed to use it. The Raspberry Pi 2 has however proven to be more reliable.

Xbox Zero

Citing the small size of a Raspberry Pi, people have gone to great lengths to fit it into other gadgets and improve them.

One such person is a maker and programmer Terence Eden who managed to fit a Pie Zero into an original Xbox controller.

Using the Retropie emulation software, he created a retro games console all contained in the controller. With this controller, he can play various classic games on any television.

Building a Weather Station

We are all fascinated about studying weather patterns, whether it’s choosing the right outfit or deciding whether to attend an event, the weather remains a significant factor.

When it comes to building a weather station using a Raspberry Pi, there are numerous approaches that you can take, but the primary factors that will influence the route to make are based on the weather aspects that you want to measure-outdoors or indoors.

Outdoor weather stations gather their data based on environmental weather conditions like the amount of rainfall, direction of wind and speed of the wind. On the other hand, outdoor weather stations focus on metrics like temperature, air quality and pressure.

Ready to assemble kits are never hard to find though you may need to buy other materials like a waterproof case.

1As a Smart TV

There are various creative uses of a Raspberry Pi to add to your entertainment, but a more interesting one is using this device to turn your standard television into a smart TV.

For television to be a smart TV, it needs to stream videos, play media using a USB or an external storage device, offer remote control among others.

With a Raspberry Pi, you can transform a standard television into performing functions of a smart TV. You also have an option of installing Kodi software on the Raspberry Pie for you to be able to stream everything from one place.

Final Thoughts

The Raspberry Pi which was created with the intention of educating young learners is among the greatest creations of our time now used by people from all ages and walks.

Spending time to explore this gadget will give you a better picture of this device and as many makers that have interacted with this device say, a Raspberry is not limited to uses but rather what you make it into.

About the author

Lamin

Lamin

Geek Life Activated is my little corner on the web. I'm very passionate about tech, and i aim to use this blog to express that. I currently work as a System Administrator, and i love every second of it. I'm still new at it, so i'm learning something new everyday. I'm pretty open to learning new things, so please feel free to correct me if i'm wrong about anything, and you can contact me anytime you want. I'm a very easy person to talk to. :)

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