Why You Should Stop Using a Raspberry Pi for Everything

James Bruce 24-05-2017

Want to make a web connected doodad that flashes an LED? You could probably use a Raspberry Pi! After all, when you only have a hammer in your toolkit, it’s easy to to view everything as a nail. But you shouldn’t, and here’s why.


Don’t Spend $40 to Flash an LED Over the Web

All too often we see relatively simple Internet of Things (IoT) electronics projects being made with a Raspberry Pi: a $35 mini computer that needs an SD card (another $5) and possibly a Wi-Fi dongle. In reality, you don’t need the power of a Raspberry Pi to handle simple embedded applications like an IoT sensor or web-connected LED.

The $5 NodeMCU board Meet the Arduino Killer: ESP8266 What if I told you a there's an Arduino-compatible dev board with built-in Wi-Fi for less than $10? Well, there is. Read More , which has built-in Wi-Fi, onboard flash storage, and is equally as easy to program as a Pi, could handle the job elegantly. It includes a web server library if you really need one, or you can use the slimmed down MQTT-based protocol.

nodemcu arduino board

My point is, don’t automatically turn to a Raspberry Pi just because your thingamajig project needs web connectivity.

In some cases, you may actually find your electronics project is limited by the sheer overhead of other things that have to run on a Pi. For example, Neopixels — individually controllable LEDs strings — require notoriously precise signal timings. Quadcopter drones are another. Changes in motor speed must be made in fractions of a second, or they’ll just come crashing down.


A Raspberry Pi has to run a full operating system — which includes things like processor threading, user handling, and file services — so it can struggle to push bits out at the speeds required. This means it may occasionally pause top-level user applications while it deals with more pressing low level processes. A development board like an Arduino Arduino vs Raspberry Pi: Which Is The Mini Computer For You? The Arduino and Raspberry Pi may look quite similar – they're both cute little circuit boards with some chips and pins on them – but they are in fact very different devices. Read More might be more feature limited (there’s no GUI, for instance), but it gives much lower level, faster access to the hardware, and only runs the exact code you tell it to.

In short, it’s not that a Raspberry Pi can’t do electronics projects, but it might be overkill in some cases and can cause complications.

It’s Not Powerful Enough for Desktop Use

Using the Pi as a full desktop — even the latest model 3 — is an incredibly frustrating experience. To start with, it runs Linux, which has a steep learning curve associated with it and isn’t suited to beginners. Linux enthusiasts perpetually claim that this year is the year that Linux will finally make headway into the desktop for the everyday user — but it never has and never will Why We Never Had "The Year of the Linux Desktop" Linux users have been praying for the "Year of the Linux desktop". But if we're ever going to see Linux gain serious traction, there is much that Linux developers need to improve. Read More .

raspbian pixel


Even with the performance boost that the latest model brought, you’ll still struggle through common tasks. That ever-so-slight delay between hitting a key and having it appear on screen will eventually wear you down. Good luck getting more than one web page to open at a time, or even a single tab to scroll smoothly.

Don’t like the substandard default browser and want to install Google Chrome? That’s a minefield. You can’t just download Chrome — you need to install Chromium, the open source version… but package names have changed, so many instructions are out of date… and the version available on the Raspbian repository is old anyway, so you should probably just compile it yourself. Even then, some popular web services like Netflix still don’t support the platform at all.

Welcome to the wonderful world of desktop Linux, where nothing is ever easy.

If you were thinking the Raspberry Pi looks like a great way to introduce your gran to modern computing, please stop. You really don’t want her first computing experience to be that horrid. Yes, of course it can handle a little Word Processing in Open Office, but you can also do that on literally any web browser through Google Docs nowadays. (Ironically, Google Docs is one of those things that will struggle on the Pi.)


A budget Android tablet is likely to be a more satisfying investment for your granny, or even a used laptop you could get off eBay for $20 (and if you insist, you could still put Linux on it).

It’s Dangerously Insecure (In the Wrong Hands)

It’s very easy to throw a web server onto the Pi How to Host Your Own Website on a Raspberry Pi Need to run a website but can't afford the hosting costs? Build your own LAMP-capable web server with a low-powered Raspberry Pi. Read More , and then open your router up to make it accessible from all over the world. Free website hosting, yay!

But the moment you do that, your machine will be inundated with automated hacking bots from every corner of the globe, systematically attempting to penetrate the device through known weaknesses in old software. This is true of every website regardless of where it’s hosted, but it’s particularly problematic for the Raspberry Pi, which tends to be set up by hobbyists who aren’t intimately familiar with best security practices.

Even worse: the Pi typically runs on a user’s home network. Once compromised, this bypasses any other security the internet router might provide, giving the hacker complete freedom to chisel away at the rest of your networked devices.


attaching metal plate to raspberry pi

To mitigate this problem: Never open your Pi as a public facing server. If you need to access the Pi from outside your network, use a secure third party gateway (such as controlling your OpenHAB system Getting Started with OpenHAB Home Automation on Raspberry Pi OpenHAB is a mature, open source home automation platform that runs on a variety of hardware and is protocol agnostic, meaning it can connect to nearly any home automation hardware on the market today. Read More using My.OpenHAB free cloud service). If you absolutely must open up a server to the world, be sure to read up on how to harden your security first.

Some bold individuals have even tried to monetize the Pi into real world security devices. The nomx personal email server ($199) claimed to be “the world’s most secure email server,”” yet an investigation by BBC Click found it was actually just a Raspberry Pi, running dangerously out of date software, and hard-coded with a master backdoor password of “death”.

The SD Card Will Wear Out

The single biggest issue with the Raspberry Pi is that it runs the entire operating system from a micro-SD card (which is one of the reasons it’s so slow). This will eventually wear out, but the speed at which it wears out will vary according to the quality of the card. Proponents of using an SD card will argue that it’s easy to backup and restore whole card images, but that’s rarely the case in the real world.

While it’s easy enough to download and burn a ready-made image, or to make a complete backup of your current SD card, restoring it requires a card at least as big as the original Easily Clone Your SD Card For Trouble-free Raspberry Pi Computing Whether you have one SD card or several, one thing that you will need is the ability to back up your cards to avoid the problems that occur when your Raspberry Pi fails to boot. Read More . A couple of bad sectors on the new card mean it will refuse to copy over.

There is a solution: You can actually enable a special USB boot mode on the Pi How to Make Raspberry Pi 3 Boot From USB The Raspberry Pi is a versatile piece of kit, capable of a diverse range of tasks. But it has one glaring flaw: the inability to boot from USB. Until now, that is. Read More , but it’s a pretty complicated procedure that even I couldn’t get to work.

raspberry pi pi drive pi

Dongles, Dongles Everywhere

The latest Raspberry Pi model 3 actually has Wi-Fi built in, but it’s quite unreliable. The $5 Raspberry Pi Zero is even worse.

Depending on your project, you’ll likely need an adaptor to make the mini-USB into a full size USB port, a USB hub so you can plug in more than one device (preferably plugged into a wall socket to provide extra power), then a USB Wi-Fi or Ethernet adaptor, and some GPIO headers to solder in. If you want to plug in a monitor, you’ll also need a micro-HDMI to regular HDMI adaptor.

Oh, and you better grab a case, too. It all adds to the total cost, and once you’ve spent all that, you might as well buy something more suited to the task.

A Mini-PC or Tablet Would Probably Be Better

Carefully consider your intended audience and purpose. A Raspberry Pi may seem cost effective, but once you start adding in all those extras, you can easily approach $100. For twice the price, you could buy a mini-PC that would run Windows 10. Real Windows 10 I mean, not the absurdly restricted Windows 10 IoT 5 Things You Can't Do With Raspberry Pi 2 With a quad core CPU and boasts of being able to run Windows 10 – is the Raspberry Pi 2 really all that? Here's 5 things the Raspberry Pi 2 still can't do. Read More , which bears no earthly resemblance to Windows 10 other than in name, yet to this day still gets quoted to us when we say Raspberry Pi doesn’t run Windows. That’s. Not. Windows.

With a mini PC or tablet, you would get better compatibility with a wider range of apps (not the limited selection of poorly made Linux software), and almost certainly better hardware.

kano 5

Yes, it’s very technically impressive that you can make a low-powered netbook with a Pi: but the piTop is $270 for what is really quite a poor laptop by any standards. The Kano Pi computer is $280 for a device they claim is a “build it yourself” computer. I wouldn’t say putting the bare Raspberry Pi board into a case and plugging some cables is “building your own PC” by any stretch of the imagination.

There are certainly some amazing educational uses for a Raspberry Pi, but learning what components go into making a PC is not one of them. The Raspberry Pi is a system-on-a-chip, meaning you can’t even point to individual components like the CPU, memory, and graphics card — because they’re all the same thing.

In my day, we learned what a PC was made of by stripping one down and rebuilding it How To Build Your Own PC It's very gratifying to build your own PC; as well as intimidating. But the process itself is actually quite simple. We'll walk you through everything you need to know. Read More !

So When Should You Use a Raspberry Pi?

I’ve spent most of this article telling you why you really shouldn’t use a Raspberry Pi for your next project, but here’s a couple of cases where it definitely makes sense.

Multiple combined use-cases. Need a Pi-Hole server, running alongside a web server, with some home automation software? Raspberry Pi could do them all. You may need to do additional configuration to get everything playing nicely, but you don’t need a single Raspberry Pi for every separate project — you can run them all alongside each other. Obviously, we don’t recommend running things you’ll frequently be tweaking with something you need to be rock solid, like a home automation platform or your internet filter. In that case, keep one for experimentation and another to simply run the smart house.

Low-power always-on servers. One of the great things about a Raspberry Pi is that it can run a full server system and suck down very little energy — much less than even the most power efficient small PCs. I don’t recommend a Pi for performance sensitive tasks like a networked file server (even if it is technically possible), but for tasks where performance isn’t such a concern, you can leave a Pi running and add just pennies to your monthly power bill.

raspberry pi pc connection

Your project needs a lot of software programming libraries. One of the great things about programming in Python is that lots of people do it. Whatever your end goal is, someone has probably already done it — and made the process easier. If your project is going to interact with other services and devices, you can probably find a Python library for it. Facial recognition, voice synthesis, or Twitter bots? Not a problem with Python on a Pi. Of course, Python isn’t the only language you can program with on Pi, but it’s the most popular. We’re big fans of NodeJS, too.

Combining the Pi with a microcontroller. With the power of a Pi and the simplicity of a microcontroller, you can go a long way: like this DIY Siri-controlled light strip How to Make a DIY Siri-Controlled Wi-Fi Light In this guide, you're going to learn how to create a Wi-Fi controllable light, and control it with Siri. Read More . The brains run on a Raspberry Pi, with NodeJS presenting itself as a fake Siri device, which then relays the commands to a remote NodeMCU with a lightstrip. You can expand with more lights for the fraction of the cost of another Pi.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not hating on the Pi. I have four Raspberry Pi’s at home and another on the way. One runs some critical parts of my smart home, in that kind of “six-month uptime” reliable way that I could never hope to achieve with a Windows machine. But it’s not the solution to every problem.

Will the Nvidia Jetson Nano will replace the Raspberry Pi? Is Google Coral Dev Board better than Raspberry Pi Is the Google Coral Dev Board Better Than a Raspberry Pi? Heralding a new era in accessible hobbyist boards, just what is Google's Coral Dev Board? And can it replace your Raspberry Pi? Read More ? We can help you decide:

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

Whatsapp Pinterest

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Barry Chapman
    September 29, 2019 at 8:44 pm

    dumbest article i've read all year. waste of time

    • James Bruce
      September 30, 2019 at 7:31 am

      Thanks for the insightful feedback Barry!

  2. Elijah Hower
    April 20, 2019 at 7:48 am

    The author just loves Windows. If an OS is not Windows, he reminds us “That’s. Not. Windows”. Windows is clearly not the be-all-end-all OS the author will have us believe it is. If this is why he trashes the PI platform, then it’s like leaving your lovely wife in favor of a buck-toothed, inbred, backwoods hillbilly with eight kids from nine different fathers.

    Hey everyone, here’s the lesson to be leRned from this article: IoT endpoints should be implemented on Windows. Because it’s easy. Everything else is too hard. There’s an icky command line that’s unintuitive (to Windows fan boys like the author). Let’s all run back to windows and reboot every few days so our systems don’t lock up. That’s. Not. IoT.

    I hope the author takes all the other whiner Windows fan boys with him and runs off to try to build IoT devices on Windows. The rest of us will continue to build on Pi and Arduino, even if they don’t run Windows. Gasp!

    Sorry to have wasted so much breath on such a shallow article, but these clueless authors spout such nonsense and pretend to know what they’re talking about. This article is a microcosm of what’s wrong with our society. I won’t be back here ever again.

    • James Bruce
      April 20, 2019 at 7:52 am

      The author hates Windows, actually. The author uses Mac OS and linux daily. IoT shouldn't go near Windows. IoT is a great use for Pi. This article is aimed at people who think the Pi is powerful enough to run a desktop OS, or turn to a Pi for every little thing. It has its applications, and is a great learning tool. But for most things people do with one, there are almost always better tools for the job.

  3. SV
    January 8, 2019 at 12:06 am

    what of using RPi in an Amazon Alexa smart mirror project?
    would that be considered a waste of the RPi's system hardware resources?
    or would using an old Android smartphone/tablet or Apple iPhone/iPad in it be less trouble?

    • James Bruce
      January 15, 2019 at 9:07 am

      That would be a great use for a Pi, quite a common project!

  4. KW
    November 10, 2018 at 1:09 pm

    You certainly sparked some aggressive responses!

    For my part, I got my first RPi out of a sense of curiosity (the same reason I got my first Arduino) and since then it (the Pi) and me have kind of evolved together and now I have a farm of around 10 - doing things ranging from security camera to environmental monitoring.

    In each case, the RPi was the perfect choice because of everything from hardware cost to strength of support. In the early days I did have some problems with SD card corruption, but if you’re careful about where you write stuff, these can be overcome.

    Of course it has its limits. I think I’ve hit that limit with my latest project which is to use it with an SDR, where it very quickly runs out of steam. However, because the SDR is located remotely and more than 50m from the “shack”, the idea of replacing it with a more powerful PC-like computer is a bit daunting.

    So, as you say it has its place and this “place” is mostly down to the imagination and skill of the experimenter.

  5. Jason S.
    October 19, 2018 at 8:20 pm

    From reading about your 'frustrations', it sounds like you are a Windows fanboy and just refuse to learn Linux. It really, really isn't that difficult to use the Raspbian GUI AND learn a few very basic commands to download software. sudo apt-get install (program name) It's really not THAT much different than DOS,heck you can even type 'dir' like you would in DOS to get a list.

    The pi was never meant to replace your home computer. I understood that a $35 microcomputer with a quad core ARM processor isn't going to be able to play Sim City 5. As far as the Pi3 being overkill for simple light projects, the beautiful thing about the pi is that once you are finished (or bored) with your current project you can simply unplug it and start an entirely new one from scratch. Sure, a quad core processor is overkill if the only thing you care to do is make 1 LED blink. However, most people who buy a pi start off simple and then build more complex projects as their skills progress.

    • James Bruce
      October 23, 2018 at 7:48 am

      Oh please, stop calling someone a fanboy because they have a differing opinion. I can't stand Windows, and I use linux daily. When I say "it's not easy to use", I'm talking about how it is objectively difficult for most people to use, not me specifically. Having to jump into a command line to do something simple is not remotely intuitive, and most people have never touched DOS for good reason.

      I certainly the realise the Pi was never meant to replace to a home computer, but apparently some people don't: // // . Again: I use Pi's all the time for various projects. The point of this article was to say "no, it isn't suitable for everything".

      • Jason S.
        October 23, 2018 at 12:32 pm

        I would be willing to bet that the average 'Joe Blow' who picks up a rpi likes to 'tinker' with computers. Yes, the linux command line can be intimidating but there are plenty of resources to help new users. Heck, I don't even have a Linux book...I learned everything from youtube videos and the official raspberry pi website.

        As good as the Raspbian GUI is, I actually find using the command line easier and quicker to use and I, by no means am an expert on Linux. Downloading and installing packages is a breeze compared to Windows. Again, sudo apt-get install and it just works. No scouring the internet to find a safe download for your programs. Just about everything a new user needs can be found in the default repository.

        With all due respect, you really make a moot point in your argument that 'rpi's aren't suitable for everything' Well, either are PC's or Macs or tablets or smart phones. The rpi, just like every other piece of technology is a tool honed for a specific purpose.

        • max pawa
          January 2, 2019 at 9:15 pm

          Linux is not that easy to learn when you never use it, it's fun but not easy.

  6. Nick B
    September 13, 2018 at 5:18 pm

    Your assertion that Linux has a steep learning curve is utter bull. Its learning curve is nowhere nearly as steep as that of Windows. The article was clearly written by someone who knows nothing about Linux and just has a typical anti attitude towards it.

    • Sadev
      October 13, 2018 at 9:06 am

      Oh yeah so easy when i stalling software and drivers.. Are you nuts

  7. stallman can't code
    August 22, 2018 at 5:22 am

    YES, finally. Finally! I'm absolutely SICK of seeing EVERYONE shove RPIs into EVERYTHING for whatever stupid reason. Web server ? Pi. Media center ? Pi. Retrogaming ? Pi (oh no why is my ps1 emulator so slow oh no). STOP.

    Anyway, I absolutely love the linuxfags in the comments. Nobody with the slightest common sense would ever use linux for anything other than MAYBE a server. It's absolutely horrible as a daily driver. Nothing is simple, nothing is immediate and there is no "universal" fix for your troubles. Also very crappy hardware support (lol nvidia driver installation. And a single update can make your entire system crap itself. It's true for windows too but at least the fix for that is very easy. More often than not you'll have to resort to reinstall your entire distro unless you waste space and keep backups.

    • Nick B
      September 13, 2018 at 5:20 pm

      You're wrong in everything you say and if you were to call this Linux user a *** to his face you'd be spending the next half hour picking your teeth up off of the floor!

  8. JDBoelter
    January 3, 2018 at 2:51 pm

    Judging by the tone and quantity of the comments on your article, I'd say it was a success. It seemed a little loose on the actual technical details (hence all the snarling about Linux and SD cards), but I enjoyed the cautions and the review of potential difficulties. Not perfect, but interesting and enjoyable, especially the opening remarks on flashing an LED over the Web.

  9. nairetep
    November 22, 2017 at 3:12 pm

    What a complete buttock you are!

  10. Eugene
    October 11, 2017 at 10:08 pm

    The author must not know what he is doing with his raspberrypi. Linux is simple and can adapt to just about any device old or new. Find an old Athlon64 single core and install Windows 10 on it - it won't be usable. Install Ubuntu 16.04 and it works like a dream. I recently toyed around with said computer for kicks. Had the same ubuntu OS on a rpi and the Athlon64 3700 performed decently for being so dated.

    Basically the author needs to do more research or just learn about ufw for his failed attempts at security.

    sudo apt-get update && upgrade

    That should keep your Linux distro up to date - your welcome!

  11. Stefan Vorkoetter
    June 20, 2017 at 4:44 pm

    What is this keyboard lag you speak of? I work with a Raspberry Pi, running a full LXDE desktop, and find it at least as responsive as my Windows machines.

    As far as SD cards wearing out, yes, that's quite true. In a decade or so of typical use. I have yet to see a hard drive last that long.

  12. Joe
    June 19, 2017 at 8:53 am

    Jesus, who would want Windows 10 for IoT? :\

    • John
      October 5, 2018 at 11:37 am

      Jesus, who would want Windows 10 for anything! Most hardware intensive user unfriendly experience I've had. I take back everything bad I ever said about unix / linux command line and commands like sed.

      There are really only about 3 fully fledged windows major release versions, each initially released as a beta and re-released with a new name for every minor release , windows 0 (microsoft refer to this as 3.x), windows 1 (everything from windows 95 to xp), windows 2 (windows vista to 8.1) and the current offering is the beta version of windows 3.

      Nowhere near ready for what most windows users want to use windows for, there might be a stable version in a few more years, and I'd be surprised if there aren't already plans to make associations between the windows os, 2020 vision, and the year 2020! Windows 2020 might be the name of the best/ready/useable version of windows 10 (or windows 3 if they were honest).

      • Zider
        March 2, 2019 at 8:13 am

        It's clear that you have no idea what you're talking about.. sad to see such incompetence, especially on an article about Raspberry Pi.

  13. Johnathan Rice
    June 15, 2017 at 11:49 pm

    This article is just flat out dumb. One of your first critiques is that it runs linux… I already smell a novice programmer in the midsts. You had better damn well know linux if you are ever to have a punchers chance at being successful in the IoT realm. Otherwise save us all the nightmare of your insecure device causing DDOS attacks because you found the GUI desktop on a 35$ computer to be too high level.

    I stopped reading after the asinine comments that RPis can't be secured. The worst thing in the world is hearing a novice talk about security like they know it all. There are plenty of RPi server farms in the wild and they are growing. It takes skill and careful thought to design secure systems, but don't blame the hardware for your lacking knowledge. Clearly you haven't don’t know how to set up proper firewalls, fail2ban, whitelists, subnets, ssh keys, etc, which is a must for anyone who attempts to open ports to the internet.

    Bottom line, only novice programmers should take your advice. Its pretty much all wrong, but at least they won't be accidentally churning out botnets. For more experienced programmers, it's a very powerful tool.

    • James Bruce
      June 17, 2017 at 6:44 am

      I use Linux everyday, actually, and rarely even touch the GUI on my many Pi's.

      I didn't say Raspberry Pi couldn't be secured: I said most people don't bother, making them a security risk. It's very easy to set up a web server, crack open some ports on your router and leave yourself exposed, and people do. I linked to a guide on securing one, in fact.

      • Roger Merchberger
        June 21, 2017 at 6:04 pm

        If most people don't bother securing the Pi, that doesn't make the Pi the security risk... it makes the person running it the risk. Blaming the hardware for being insecure is like blaming the hammer for hitting your thumb.

        It's much *easier* to secure a Pi than your standard Winders PC (just ask the zillions that run the botnets...) but I can see where yet another article 'dis(cus)sing Win7/8/10' wouldn't attract as much attention as this one.

        Mmmmm... more tasty clickbait...

  14. Robyn
    May 31, 2017 at 11:11 pm

    There's a bit of a conflicting set of messages: Linux is too hard for anyone but the tech-guru, yet setting up a web-server on a chip isn't?
    I've set up an Ubuntu web-server (LAMP), and set up and run a variety of desktop-Linux flavours on everything from old Macbooks (white) to netbooks to desktops to... well, pretty much everything except Chromebooks, and have had less issues with any of them than any Windows system I've had the "pleasure" of working on, and there have been a few since 1991 (and DOS-based dual-floppy systems before that, since about 1985).
    I would never presume to set up *anything* on a chip. I have no experience with single-chip computers (or Arduinos or PIs or any of that ilk) so wouldn't and can't comment whether it is hard to do or not, but to this techie, it seems like a very hard thing to do.

    Your comment about Linux reflects a lack of experience with it. Seriously? too hard? for whom?

    • James Bruce
      June 1, 2017 at 7:46 am

      Not all of the article is aimed at all types of reader. Linux is very hard, for people familiar with Windows. And that's most people. Not me, I won't touch Windows. I like my OSes with a command line, but again: this isn't about me, or you. If you've been using linux for 20 years, it should be of no surprise that you are intimately familiar with it. However, this isn't about Linux in general, it's about Linux on a Pi with a GUI and giving that to someone as a replacement for a proper desktop machine. It's underpowered, unfamiliar, and downright frustrating.

      To install a web server on a Raspberry Pi, you can type:
      sudo apt-get install apache2 -y

  15. Paul Girardin
    May 30, 2017 at 1:42 am

    I got to the part where he said " you can't just install Chrome,you have to install Chromium" and thought,if you are that wrong about Linux software nothing in this article can be relied on.

  16. ZophiasDad
    May 29, 2017 at 11:41 pm

    "Using the Pi as a full desktop — even the latest model 3 — is an incredibly frustrating experience. To start with, it runs Linux, which has a steep learning curve associated with it and isn’t suited to beginners. Linux enthusiasts perpetually claim that this year is the year that Linux will finally make headway into the desktop for the everyday user — but it never has and never will." This statement indicates that the author is either grossly misinformed and has not ever used Linux or perhaps tried it many years ago or it just an outright Microsuck fanboy or perhaps he eats Apples for far too long. Yes there are still some Linux distros around that are difficult to use, however those are no longer the normal experience. I bet he has not looked at Linux Mint v 18.1. which is far easier to use than Windows 10. Do you have any idea how I know this? I have recently built my Parents a HTPC and put a fresh copy of Windows 10 Pro on it for them. My Mom who is 87 constantly complains about it and finds moving from Windows 7 to be very frustrating. She had an older laptop that had Windows XP on it and wanted to be able to safely use it to go online with it so I put an install of Linux Mint 18.1 with the KDE desktop. She has commented several times how easy it was to use and wishes that the HTPC was as good. Yes in compareson to Windows Linux is on far fewer systems but getting real numbers as to how many people actually use it daily as their main OS is difficult due to it being a FREE and freely downloaded OS but I bet the percentage of users is close to how many use a Mac with OSX if not a larger number. Yes the statement that is stated many times is "This year is going to be the year for the Linux on the desktop" has not happened and may never really happen. Is it because Linux is not worth using? No it is because it is not a commercial OS and there is no money behind it to advertise it on TV and due to the powerful monop0ly of Microsoft and its strong arm tactics there are 0 printers or scanners that you can purchase today that the manufactures support Linux. This does not mean that they will not work, I have some printers that when being used on Linux out perform their prints done when using Windows. The other areas that prevent wide spread adoption is that there is no one who makes a Linux media player that will play commercial BlueRays on Linux. Is it because that it is not possible? A lot of it has to do with the pressure that MS applies across the industry to keep the numbers of users down. However if you like I am are very concerned with the amount of spying that Windows 10 does and the constant data mining that if the truth be known is going directly to the NSA and CIA then you might want to check out Linux as a viable alternative. I have dumped Windows 10 and now use Linux Mint as my main OS, I still dual boot into Windows 7 in order to play my windows only games, but I now use and treat Windows like a game console, I only boot it up when I want to play a Windows only game. This inaccurate opinion of Linux causes me to distrust the many other opinions that the author has expressed in the remainder of the article.

  17. James M Dinsmore
    May 28, 2017 at 12:41 pm

    Author has made valid points; don't crucify him for Barbecuing a sacred cow. I love the Pi; have purchased at least 20 of them; use them in teaching; have shared many of his frustrations also; but still love it! He is right that if it can be done with an Arduino or ESP8266 it only makes sense to use appropriate hardware. IOT security flags need to be waved on every open Web project; hopefully easier to use security solutions will come. I share a distaste for the clunkiness of dongle dongle dongle crap. The fantasy of a laptop Pi will remain just that; for the same money get a nice recondition laptop that works. What I value most on the Pi is having a disposable test bed for trying new things, and being able to easily wipe the slate clean to start over. People, listen to your critics and be open to the truth!

  18. Jaden Peterson
    May 26, 2017 at 4:36 am

    Sounds like you're stuck in the 90s, Desktop Linux is so much more smooth. Don't expect it to be like Windows, 'cause it isn't. It requires a learning curve just like Windows does. You just don't remember it because you were probably learning it as a kid.

  19. ILikePi
    May 25, 2017 at 9:48 pm

    Problem 1.
    You can point to any device on the Pi as Broadcom has so benevolently published a hardware specifications document
    Problem 2
    Really? Trouble with USB booting? I got that to work when I was in 11th grade, and I’m only 18.
    Problem 3
    You can actually learn so much about PCs with a Pi. Plugging in a graphics card to your PC and calculating that you need a 750W power supply and calling that “learning” is an indictment to computer engineers everywhere.
    Just because the Pi is based on an SOC and can't be taken apart doesn't mean you can’t learn how to write your own barebones operating system with basic opcode in assembly, or write a driver that allows devices to interface directly with the ram through the GPIO via the DMA engine. The excellent community around the Pi makes these very things possible and in fact, I am currently writing a driver for the Pi for a ADC that I am using. The Pi’s excellent form factor and the unique features of ARM architecture compatible chips, not withstanding the excellent documentation provided by ARM or the fact that the Pi is open hardware (a quality that virtually no other computing platform can rival) makes the Pi one of the BEST choices for tinkerers.
    The fact is, the Pi is so well documented, that I believe the only documentation missing besides some binary blobs surrounding the mysterious GPU may be the actual logic gate configuration within the Broadcom chip itself(which is proprietary for obvious reasons). And sure you can use Pi for daily computing… the fun is in hacking the Pi to make it viable in 2017. After all, computers like the “notoriously” slow PowerPC macs were once state of the art. It’s all a matter of perspective and how hard you work to find a solution. Why the author makes such ridiculous, absurd, and annoying claims is beyond me, I sense perhaps a level of incompetency.

  20. Michael Mesmer
    May 25, 2017 at 5:11 pm

    I only use mine for emulation, but writing that you need an adapter for HTMI or an external USB hub? Lies. Both of my Pis came with 4 USB ports on the board and a standard HDMI out. So... Yeah. Thanks fornthe sponsored content ???

    • James Bruce
      May 25, 2017 at 5:19 pm

      Sponsored by whom, exactly? And no one is lying: the line preceding specifically mentions the Pi Zero, that's what I'm referring to as needing all the dongles.

    May 25, 2017 at 3:38 pm

    Hi James,

    1) Desktop experience on arm Linux is not smooth
    2) r pi is over qualified for many diy projects

    Don't agree:
    1) Linux on desktop is painful - it's painful for only for people who start on Linux expecting it to behave like windows. How do you explain the popularity of pi among kids and school projects, if Linux desktop experience is so difficult?
    2) exposing pi to outside? world is more dangerous than exposing most other boxes - Linux on pi can be better protected than any windows box.

  22. RyanE
    May 25, 2017 at 3:31 pm

    While I agree that this is not the year of the Linux Desktop *ON RASPBERRY PI*, it's certainly the year of the Linux Desktop at my house, and has been for 10 years. Now, even my wife runs a Cinnamon Mint desktop, and has no issues.

    I had to compile *zero* packages, had to manually install *zero* printer drivers, and had literally *zero* issues in setting it up.

    I think your attitude of Linux Desktop (on standard PC hardware) is stuck back in the Gentoo days.


    May 25, 2017 at 11:54 am

    Thanks for such a great article!

  24. Mayank Sharma
    May 25, 2017 at 8:04 am

    First of all , by reading your post ,I must tell you to do your reasearch properly about the topic and then put something out. It seems that you don't know anything about linux. Don't write about something that you don't know. Please go and see the conferences about open IoT and then you will come to know about the contribution of linux to the IoT world. And linux has become very much easier to use now as compared to the 90s. Don't just blabber about anything without knowing. This blog post is useless.

    • James Bruce
      May 25, 2017 at 8:30 am

      Always great to meet one of my fans.

      • Paul Paul
        May 29, 2017 at 2:39 pm

        You have fans? Unbelievable!!!

  25. Jason Nichols
    May 25, 2017 at 4:33 am

    I was with you until you started taking about how steep the Linux desktop learning curve is. It isn't 1996 any more. I have introduced many people to cinnamon and mate based desktops, mostly running on Mint or Ubuntu (there are other friendly distros out there, too) from all age ranges who never went back to Windows. In fact, the less experienced users pick it up quicker. I have yet to run into a person who, after a half hour or so of demo, dosen't pick it up, say it's easier to use, and never want to return to Windows. It used to be the other way around but with Linux, now things just work out of the box while with Windows, often times you gotta wrestle with things to get them to work right, especially when it comes to things like file sharing and security. The free alternative has come a LONG way. If you ever DO have problems, support is actually available and cheap, assuming your easy step by step answers aren't in a forum. Good luck getting ahold of somebody at MicroShaft if you need help with something.

    I will agree that for many projects, Arduino based boards are better than pi, though. Running a C based language and operating on a hardware level without the overhead of an OS is nice. My biggest problem with arduino is that you run off of the sdcard, though. I have run out of program space on the Arduino way too many times. That, more than wifi, is what the more expensive boards should be looking at. Adding wifi is just a module and a library away for ANY controller.

  26. urzu117
    May 25, 2017 at 3:27 am

    You can negate the need to use an SD/microSD card by using Western Digital's HDD kit for the Raspberry Pi.

    • James Bruce
      May 25, 2017 at 6:37 am

      That's another £50!

  27. Chris
    May 25, 2017 at 2:47 am

    I stopped reading when you started slamming Linux. If you think Linux has a steep learning curve, wait till you start building a thingymagig with no GUI and, you have to programme a chip using only a console/terminal without the support of the Linux community.

    • James Bruce
      May 25, 2017 at 6:36 am

      All my Raspberry Pi tutorials are intended to be followed headless via SSH. The Pi is perfect for that, without the overhead of a desktop.

      That's precisely the point – that it's a seriously underpowered and frustrating desktop experience. Trying to roll it out as a perfect desktop replacement for anyone new to computers is unwise.

      • Justin
        May 25, 2017 at 1:40 pm

        "Trying to roll it out as a perfect desktop replacement for anyone new to computers is unwise."

        That's a massive strawman you got there. Everyone knows the Pi is extremely underpowered as a desktop, it's only a $35 "development board" and was never advertised otherwise.

        It's pretty ridiculous for you to start talking down on the Pi because "there's too much overhead" and suggest a device that is less user friendly, but then go on to say the Pi is a poor choice because it's not user-friendly enough.

        This is a very poorly written article.

      • Chris Knight
        May 30, 2017 at 8:16 am

        If you want a responsive desktop on a RasPi you run RISC OS, not Linux.

  28. Jon
    May 25, 2017 at 2:44 am

    Not impressed by this hate piece on the Pi. And it running Linux is a positive, not a negative... And yes, I mean on the desktop as well. It's outdated to think Linux is really that hard to use day to day.

  29. HumanT
    May 24, 2017 at 11:50 pm

    Without the raspberry pi you wouldn't have those other options today. It's the regular thing that people rarely/never do research on their project. For me any raspberry pi is a base to make something. Anything. So, keep on using a raspberry pi for everything. As long as it's the right thing for you. It CAN be the solution for every problem as it's easy to get hold of, and is widely supported and is very easy to get started with. And the new Zero W fixes part of the dongle hell. Use the RPI. As long as you yourself do your research. Just what you want to do. And just why. As a generic "toy" it's very hard to beat.

    • JDBoelter
      January 3, 2018 at 3:29 pm

      Not to bag on you, my friend...but I think what you are saying is the thrust of the article, but with a different emphasis. Yes, the Pi can do almost anything...but it often isn't the best CHOICE for everything. I think Bruce was just trying to shock readers out of their "dogmatic (Pi) slumber).

  30. Derek Harding
    May 24, 2017 at 11:27 pm

    How I agree that the Pi isn't a panacea for all problems. I started programming in the late 1970s and have grown through IBM OS, early Apples, Sinclairs, BBCs, machine code (yes) and assembler programming. I started with Unix with a C/PM emulator in the late '80s and Linux when it started in '94.

    Even given my familiarity, I would challenge the statement that it is not desktop ready. Apple's OS and Android are Linux-based after all. The issue with desktop adoption is familiarity, rather than speed. (SD card based devices will always be slow, regardless of flavour.) Several elderly relatives used/use Linux very happily and transparently. My mother (then 80) asked me to remove the supplied OS from her new computer and replace it with an upgraded version of Linux. As an aside, I've never experienced significant keyboard/display delay with a Pi3 but different configurations could affect individual experiences.

    With over 96% of all web-servers (source W3Cook - May, 2015) running GNU Linux and just under 2% running BSD Linux, speed and functionality aren't really an issue. Nor, really, is security. A home user running with inadequate firewalling is at risk regardless of the device or its OS.

    Great article with good thought provoking statements. Horses for courses is always an important criterion. Thanks for the reminder.

    • MakeUseOf User
      May 25, 2017 at 12:05 am

      Question: What desktop environment and/or distro did you set up for them?

      • Derek Harding
        May 25, 2017 at 12:57 am

        I tend not to use KDE although I have. Most recently, Linux Mint but also Ubuntu, LUbuntu, LXDE, Slakware, Puppy, damnsmalllinux and arch plus server-specific distros. Rasbian for the Pi and a version of Debian for CubieTruck. Quite a few.

      • Derek Harding
        May 25, 2017 at 1:00 am

        Sorry, didn't quite read your request. I used Ubuntu for one (mother) and Linux Mint (which is really Ubuntu) for the others (four of them). I use a whole variety (as above) and have been essentially Linux exclusively since 1996 but my wife uses Mint and has done so since 2002.

  31. Rees
    May 24, 2017 at 11:19 pm

    I agree with the first comment, if people want to just mess around and have fun with a raspberry pi, let them. I have 3 of my own (don't see the need for more than that) and I mess around with them all the time. I just find it fun and intriguing and others will as well.

    And for the micro sd card going too slow and will die too soon. I just got done putting together a $24,000 server and the boot media is from a micro sd card. That's how the motherboard was made. So if it is going to run effectively on enterprise hardware, I don't mind ruining a 35 dollar thing from one.

  32. Steve Gossett
    May 24, 2017 at 9:27 pm

    Why the bagging on the Pi? To each their own when it comes to projects and learning things. Theres a lot of tech available now similar to Arduino and Pi with a large user base of project builders from robotic projects to, Yes, making a blinking light. To people like you, the writer of this article, perhaps its something stupid as you project by this article but to a number of kids the Pi and Arduino are fun, they are used in schools, on the Space Station and spark creativity. Perhaps someone paid a kickback for the NodeMCU or maybe you got up on the wrong side of tech bed. You are entitled to your opinion though.

    Everything has its place in tech and I find this article a bit annoying to be bagging the way it does. i feel it would have been better to come across a bit more friendlier and simply say theres a new kid on the tech block and then more finely compare the NodeMCU to the Pi and/or Arduino.

    As for the nodeMCU, now that I am aware of it I will check it out further since it has sparked my interest.

    • James Bruce
      May 24, 2017 at 9:44 pm

      I'm sorry if you got that sense from the article. I've written hundreds of Arduino and Raspberry Pi tutorials over the years, so I'm certainly not "bagging". It is absolutely changing the world of education. I'm considering starting some local classes based around it. But it doesn't solve every problem, and people should be wary of pushing into becoming a solution to everything.

  33. David
    May 24, 2017 at 9:01 pm

    Finally! I'm sick of people romanticizing tech things beyond what they are. Truth bomb: Linux on the Desktop is functional but not for most people. Linux-arm is appropriate for an even smaller subset of people.

    Everyone acts as though some gadgets are the bestest thing ever, when they likely would be better off with a beat up old laptop with an sad that is kept tidy from malware. Don't treat grandma like she's a developer and don't treat her like a moron who isn't responsible enough to own a Windows machine. Old people are surprisingly good at following instructions when presented with familiar interfaces that don't lag or have wierd compatibility issues with their basic needs like Skype and flash player.

    • MercuryAdept42
      May 25, 2017 at 4:43 am

      I doubt a grandparent with low tech skills would be attempting the kind of project that would require a raspberry pi or similar device. So what's your point?

      • James Bruce
        May 25, 2017 at 6:32 am

        When Raspberry Pi 3 was released, there were people claiming you could replace an entire office worth of machines with these and save thousands. The point is, it was never meant to be a desktop replacement and shouldn't be treated as such.

        • Swsan Bach
          May 30, 2017 at 8:37 am

          Surely the whole "point" of the Raspberry Pi was to facilitate learning? To allow someone to gain the proficiency to have it do anything it was capable of doing? If everyone just did what was intended every day would be Groundhog Day ;)

  34. Mine
    May 24, 2017 at 7:32 pm

    Kodi box for sure! Works great on pi 3 for streaming. No complaints yet. Use fast SD card and you are set.

  35. Param
    May 24, 2017 at 6:15 pm

    At last someone tells the truth.
    I purchased a Pi 2 to build a media player. Spent over 100$ on additional parts.
    Two most painful things were power supply and the enclosure.
    Those Chinese power supplies claim to be 3A but never cross 1A. And the micro usb doesn't help if you make your own power supply.
    Next is the enclosure. The ones made specifically for the pi are too small to hold any additional components. You end up making an ugly looking box for your device. And the enclosure ideas on Internet are even worse. I never found an enclosure good enough to place next to my tv.

    Having said that, pi was the cheapest device which let me make my own media center. It is more of an expensive toy than a cheap computer.

  36. likefunbutnot
    May 24, 2017 at 4:54 pm

    I've been using these arguments more or less verbatim for a while. People still think they want a Raspberry Pi. I get it. They're cheap computers. But there are better ways to do almost everything and almost no one is bothering with their intended purpose. I suspect that the vast majority of them are just being made in to cheap Kodi or Retro-gaming systems that run until the SD card dies, at which point people assume the Pi died and throw it away.