Book review

Circuit World

ISSN: 0305-6120

Article publication date: 16 August 2013



Goosey, M. (2013), "Book review", Circuit World, Vol. 39 No. 3.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2013, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Book review

Article Type: Book review From: Circuit World, Volume 39, Issue 3

Raspberry Pi for DummiesSean McManus and Mike CookWileyHoboken, NJ

Having begun my scientific career when slide rules were still the order of the day and four function calculators cost over a month’s salary, I have spent more than a little time learning how to operate, programme and interface a range of early computers in order to make them do something useful. However, although they have now been widely available for many years and possess vastly greater capabilities, the need to undertake such tasks has largely disappeared, leaving new generations of users with little understanding of how computers operate or the programming languages and operating systems that bring them to life. (This has been confirmed by the year-on-year decline in the numbers and skills levels of students applying to read computer science at university in each academic year). There is clearly a strong need to encourage the broader adoption of computer skills in new generations of users. Fortunately, this is one of the key objectives of the Raspberry Pi Foundation, a UK-based charity that has developed the credit card sized, and very low-cost, Raspberry Pi computer.

The Raspberry Pi is a UK developed computer built on a small printed circuit board that is specifically aimed at promoting the teaching of basic computer science. In fact, this bare board computer, which requires a case, power supply and various other additions to make it of any use, has already developed something of a cult following, with over 1 million units having been shipped to eager users since its launch early in 2012. It has encouraged a new generation to take an interest in computing and to see what can be done with this unique and fascinating little device.

Being aware of the various “for dummies” publications that have appeared over the years, but never having read one, I was pleasantly surprised by the “Raspberry Pi for Dummies” easy to use and approachable style of writing, which was augmented with many illustrations and examples. This 19 chapter, 412 page book is divided into six key sections, the first having three chapters giving an introduction to the device itself and detailing how to get the computer up and running, including the important prerequisite of downloading and installing an operating system which runs from an SD card. It also covers how to connect the Pi to other devices, such as a keyboard, mouse and monitor, etc. The next section has a focus on the Linux operating system and there then follow four chapters on using the Raspberry Pi for both “work” and “play” applications. Examples of what are covered here include editing images, creating web pages and playing music. There then follows a section on how to write programmes for the computer in both the Scratch and Python programming languages.

In section 6 the book moves on to explore the use of electronics with the Raspberry Pi and there are four chapters that begin with an explanation of circuitry and soldering. The following chapters then cover a specific project that demonstrates the use and control of the computer’s input and output signals in a simple way to create a game. The next two chapters take this approach further by covering the fabrication of electronic circuitry on to a breadboard and even going as far as requiring the use of surface mount componentry. The book then introduces the use of discrete logic levels, with the final chapter of the section covering analogue aspects and applications. This gives the reader/user the opportunity to indulge in some more soldering and circuit board assembly in order to build one of a number of interesting and useful devices, including a so-called “Steve Reich Machine” that generates interesting musical patterns. The book then concludes with a couple of useful appendices. The first covers trouble shooting and configuring the Raspberry Pi, including software and networking issues. The second appendix covers the pin configuration of the general purpose input/output (GP10) pins of the computer.

In summary then, the recent publication of “Raspberry Pi for Dummies” is a most welcome event, as it covers all of the key aspects of the device from first set up and software installation through to interfacing and making this little computer do something useful. “Raspberry Pi for Dummies” is the perfect guide for getting started with this exciting new device and I am happy to recommend it to anyone who is purchasing the computer itself. Sean McManus and Mike Cook are to be congratulated for producing such a valuable and useful work and I am sure that the book will prove to be just as successful as the Raspberry Pi itself.

Martin Goosey

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