8 Seriously Useful Computing Tasks You Can Do With a Raspberry Pi

Own a Raspberry Pi computer? You’ll be surprised to learn that not only is it a great little device that you can use to build a home theatre with, it can also perform other remarkably useful tasks as diverse as personal cloud storage, home automation (with the assistance of an Arduino) and even distributed computing projects.

The Raspberry Pi: Versatility Is Key

The amount of computing tasks that you can perform with this small 3.37 x 2.21-inch computer is jaw-dropping. We’ve previously covered various amazing projects like self-funded space programs and remote controlled cars (coupled with an Arduino), and over the years other astounding projects have materialised, such as this guy’s attempts to build a robot dog (based on Doctor Who‘s K9).

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Raspberry Pi isn’t any more versatile than a standard PC (although the size does help) and its limited processor probably prevents some projects from being achievable. However, what it is capable of doing continues to shock and stagger some fans, and despite its modest spec, it is likely to continue to do so for a few more years.

The Raspberry Pi At Home

The media centre capabilities of the Raspberry Pi have been featured heavily in various places across the Web, not least here on MakeUseOf, where we showed you how to setup your own home theatre using the RaspBMC version of XBMC. Although capable of running a decent media centre setup, however, there are one or two things that RaspBMC cannot do.

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One way of adding media to your Raspberry Pi is through downloading from the Internet. Combined with a network connection and hard disk drive, the computer can be setup as a BitTorrent box, switched on at all times to ensure the data you want is downloaded. You might use this alongside your Raspberry Pi media centre, or purchase a second device.

As well as building a retro games machine with your Pi you might be interested to know that by combining it with an Arduino microcontroller, the computer can save you a lot of money setting up a working home automation system. My colleague James Bruce explained how in some detail in 2013.

Server and Storage Solutions, Raspberry Pi Style

Privacy concerns about the security of your data should be high on your list of priorities. Things have changed over the past few months with the Snowden revelations and the seemingly insatiable urge by American and British espionage agencies to know exactly what data you have.

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With a march towards cloud storage taking place in modern personal computing, the best solution is to build your own cloud storage solution, relying on your Raspberry Pi and BitTorrent Sync software. You’ll probably need a decent sized hard disk drive, too.

You may also be concerned with online censorship, and ensuring that your voice – or that of an oppressed party – is heard. One way to do this by hosting your government-baiting material on a Raspberry Pi. Several methods exist for you to do this, among them the new Google Code which lets you set the minicomputer up as a web server.

The Raspberry Pi: Saving The World One Byte At A Time

The noble purpose of the Raspberry Pi (see below for more on this) make it a piece of kit that you really can rely on to make life better for those that need it.

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Beyond these altruistic aims, however, you might like to give your Raspberry Pi the opportunity to take part in some distributed computing tasks, taking advantage of its low power requirements to put available system resources to good use.

Distributed computing relies on a network of computers linked by the Internet to participate in massive problem solving projects, and the Raspberry Pi can be simply configured to take part in such projects, as explained by the University of Cambridge.

Have You Got Your Raspberry Pi Yet?

Available for under $50, the Raspberry Pi is a remarkable piece of hardware. Two years on from its launch, it continues to surprise and delight, and if none of the projects described here piques your interest, then you might be more fascinated to learn that Raspberry Pi was established initially as an educational project. But it’s more than about teaching kids to program.

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When I spoke to Raspberry Pi Foundation founder Eben Upton in Cambridge, England last year, he explained that the if the Raspberry successfully combats Britain’s tech skills shortage, the current state of affairs in which the U.K. and U.S. rely on skills from India will end. As he puts it: “The problem is that turns [us] into a parasite on India, we and America will suck India dry of all the best programmers.”

Perhaps we should have named this article “10 Compelling Reasons To Buy A Raspberry Pi”. As it is, this is a computing phenomenon, and if you don’t own one already, don’t think you’ve missed the boat – head to www.raspberrypi.org or Amazon now, buy your Pi and get started!

Featured Image Credit: Solarbotics, Raspberry Pi Server by Mollenborg, Networked Raspberry Pis by Osde8Info.

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6 Comments -

Ed

Nice article.
Love these little ARM boards. I built an OpenELEC version of XBMC for a friend and 1080p video was very fluid.

I currently have the Odroid-U3, which is actually slightly smaller than a Pi, but has the power of a Samsung Galaxy S3 with the same quad core CPU, 2GB RAM, and an installed 16GB eMMC. The board, eMMC, power supply and case shipped to the US for $132 total. It’s more expensive than the Pi, but feels as fluid as an x86 Linux PC. It will do Linux, XBMC, and android. XBMC is perfect in Android, but needs Debian Jessie to be playable under Linux.

Currently using my U3 as a Debian Linux system with XBMC and Chromium browser with Pepper Flash. also serves as an SMB server.

I’m noticing, for many users, these small ARM boards can serve as a PC alternative for those not afraid of learning a little Linux. PCs for under $150, even under $100 are now possible with the Pi or Odroid-U3.

M R

I have a raspberry-pi, but find it under-powered for a nice UI. The Odroid-U3 looks very interesting, and if it included IR I would be all over it. Right now I’m waiting for my Cubox-i4Pro to get delivered at the end of April.

Steve G

I want to get one of my kids interested in learning about computers and think the Raspberry Pi may be a great teaching tool to learn and build on. Thanks for the article, its inspired me to look a little bit more into this.

Daniel E

You may want to look at Kano — http://www.kano.me — a Raspberry-based computer and coding kit. Your kids could pick up some hardware skills too.

Frederick Sieber

If you are backing up a lot of data with bit torrent sync, say more than 100G, I have found that the beagle bone black is much more stable than the raspberry pi. However the installation of bit torrent sync on the beagle bone wasn’t entirely smooth, a few tweaks were required that were not well published.

Mike A

I use mine as a wireless print server. Now my old but perfectly functional laser and inkjet printers are wireless-enabled. Quite easily achieved using CUPS.