Whether you already own a Raspberry Pi or are planning to buy the latest model, you’re probably aware of just how flexible this piece of kit is. Put simply, you can do almost anything with it, from managing your garden to taking photos in near earth orbit.
But if you’re looking to get started straight away with a project, rather than spend time installing Raspbian and then finding the various project-specific software, why not use one of these pre-baked projects? All you’ll need to do is download and write the image to your SD card, insert into your Raspberry Pi, and power up.
Get Gaming with RetroPie
One of the most interesting uses for the Raspberry Pi is as a retro gaming center, and RetroPie is a pre-built OS that gives you all of the tools you need to play virtually any 8-bit game you can think of, and quite a few 16-bit ones too.
Although our guide to RetroPie is focused on the old Model B, the software has since been updated for the Raspberry Pi 2, which means you can even emulate the SEGA Saturn and Nintendo 64. We recently demonstrated how to build a compact arcade machine using a Raspberry Pi and RetroPie, and MAME, old Atari and Commodore 64 games and many more can be played, but be aware of the implications of playing licensed titles in this way before proceeding. Other RetroPie-centric gamestation builds are available.
Build a Wireless Access Point
Want to learn about network hardening, or perhaps create a free wireless access point for friends? Do you need to extend the range of your existing home wireless network? If so, the Raspberry Pi can be configured with the Pi-Point image giving you a wireless device that you can tweak and tinker with.
Enjoy Your Favorite Tracks with Pi MusicBox
Using Wouter van Wijk’s Pi MusicBox [Broken URL Removed] image you can build an AirPlay-friendly speaker with a built-in connection to Spotify, Google Music and SoundCloud. Forget piping music through your tablet or phone, or even from your TV set. Internet radio is the future of music, and you can have it hands with a Raspberry Pi.
With just a Raspberry Pi Model B, some cabling and a bit of soldering, this Internet-connected radio will revolutionise how you enjoy music, and can be constructed in just a few hours.
See our Pi MusicBox tutorial for full details on setting up this project.
Self-host a WordPress Blog with PressPi
We’ve previously looked at how you can host a website on your Raspberry Pi, but with PressPi you can take this concept a step further and host a full WordPress driven site on your little computer.
While it’s fair to say that visitors might run into problems with site performance if you attempt to host a popular, large website on your Raspberry Pi, the PressPi image has been “Meticulously tested and optimized for performance and ease of use” according to the website, which offers the most recent WordPress version 4.x.
We reckon it makes a great weekend project, one that you can download from www.presspi.com, and if you want to use it more extensively it should be perfect for local development and testing.
Install Kano OS, the kid-centric learning platform
Want to teach your children the basics of computer use and programming? It’s a skill that will prove vital in the future, so having the Kano OS image ready to use with your Raspberry Pi is a great idea. Kano is an open source OS designed for the Raspberry Pi, available free to download on its own as well as being included in the Kano kit, which features a Pi, keyboard, Wi-Fi dongle, cabling and other useful bits.
Our review of the Kano kit, will give you an idea of what you can expect from the OS.
Build a NAS with OpenMediaVault
MakeUseOf’s DIY editor James Bruce previously showed you how to build a NAS with a Raspberry Pi, but the world of network attached storage has moved on somewhat since then. OpenMediaVault is now where it’s at, turning your Raspberry Pi into a fully-fledged file server. With this NAS setup you can save your family photos, music and videos to a connected HDD, ready to share across your home network.
The benefits of such a setup are obvious, especially if you’re using a media server such as Plex installed on a PC or a second Raspberry Pi.
The blocky building world of Minecraft just keeps on getting bigger, wrapping its retro-styled tentacles around virtually any platform you can think of, and the Raspberry Pi is no different. MineCraft: Pi Edition is a ready-made server for designed multiplayer Minecraft joy, and you can download it for your Pi at pi.minecraft.net.
Full instructions are provided on the website, and although MineCraft: Pi Edition is compatible with all mod, you’ll get the best performance with the superior-specs of Raspberry Pi 2.
If you’re new to the game, meanwhile, our Minecraft beginner’s guide should prove invaluable.
Turn Your Raspberry Pi into a Media Center
Everyone with a collection of digital media needs a media center, but the days of the HTPC are long gone since the arrival of the Raspberry Pi. Now, all you need is one of these little computers and a suitable image, such as Raspbmc (an XBMC version of Raspbian) or OpenElec (itself a version of XBMC, available for quick install using the NOOBs installer).
Raspberry Pi 2 owners, meanwhile, will be pleased to know that the newly relaunched XBMC is available for their device. Now known as Kodi, this too is available as an image to be written to SD card and inserted in your Raspberry Pi, or installed from within an existing Raspian OS.
Emulate AirPlay with Shairport Sync
An open source reverse engineered version of Apple’s AirPlay, Shairport Sync is an alternative to Pi MusicBox, and enables you to stream audio from a computer or phone to your Raspberry Pi, where the signal is then output to the connected speaker.
Once installed, the Shairport Sync image is preset to act as a receiver and player for your music collection, put is particularly suited to iOS users who like to keep a good selection of tunes on their iPhones or iPads.
Build a Pirate Radio Transmitter, Arr
Avast, scurvy seadogs! While pirate radio might immediately inspire memories of black music in the 1980s and 1990s, or even seaborne radio stations in the 1960s and 1970s, it’s possible to use your Raspberry Pi as a radio transmitter using the PiFM image.
Couple this up with the necessary broadcast antenna and a portable battery solution for your Raspberry Pi, and you too can have a police-taunting mobile radio station. What you broadcast is up to you, of course, but be aware that broadcasting pirate radio can get you into very real trouble with the authorities.
These projects are all a little bit awesome in their own way, but if you feel as though we’ve somehow missed something out, let us know in the comments.
Image Credits: construction tools via Shutterstock