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Aldershot Scouts have a byte of Raspberry Pi

The Jamboree On The Internet, or JOTI, is a yearly event where scouts from all over the world chat over the internet, and this year Fubra Universe decided to lend a hand by sponsoring 10 Raspberry Pi workstations and a 100Mbps wireless link to it’s local scout hut!

Raspberry PI is a small £25 computer with a decent on board graphics card, HDMI connection, 2 USB ports and an Ethernet port, but how easy and cost effective is it really to use as a basic computer?

Our main goal was to provide robust and somewhat mobile workstations at a reasonable cost, so we did a fair bit of shopping around and tested a bunch of different components until we were happy. Here’s what we came up with.

Our first task was to choose the operating system and setup for our PIs. We decided to use Raspberry PI’s own Raspbian operating system which is a version of Debian Linux specifically optimised for the Raspberry PI.

Raspbian comes with a familiar window-based graphical user interface and includes some pre-installed software like a lightweight internet browser. The operating system is installed and ran from a standard SD card, so we opted for 4GB PNY cards at £3 each as these offered descent read/write speeds at a very low price.

Next we needed to find a case for the PI boards as they are sold without any housing. We tested a number of cases and whilst some of the screen mountable cases were quite handy, we could not resist the colourful Pibow case from Pimoroni.

As for keyboards, mice and cables, we were quickly able to find all these for very reasonable prices from an online retailer, which left only monitors. Choosing the right monitor for a Raspberry PI can be tricky as the PI can play very high resolution video, but struggles with everyday tasks like web browsing on higher resolutions. – This will hopefully change very soon

We decided on 15″ AG Neovo monitors as we already had a few lying about and managed to buy the rest for a very reasonable £52 each.

Here’s a breakdown of the total cost of in building one of these workstations:

Providing the scouts with a 100Mbps internet connection was done by setting up two outdoor Mikrotik point-to-point routers between the Fubra offices and the scout hut, which conveniently happens to be right next door, so with workstations ready and the internet connection up and running it was time for the JOTI!

The scouts were quick to connect their workstations, sign in to the IRC clients we installed on the PIs and was chatting away on what is no doubt the fastest internet connection of all the scouts taking part in the JOTI.

All in all the day went very well and the Raspberry PIs performed above expectations.

Costs can still be improved and, even at £110 per unit, these little machines make for some very affordable and very capable workstations whether that be in the classroom or at home.

If you have any great ideas or suggestions on furthering the use of these workstations, please leave us a comment below and we’ll be in touch.