The Top 5 Amazing Uses For Your Raspberry Pi Computer

Christian Cawley 16-08-2012

raspberry piI’ve recently received my Raspberry Pi after a long wait – and I’ve got quite a few plans for it. The problem is, I’m not totally sure which project I want to attempt first. While the idea of a carputer is a compelling one, my mobile phone and GPS unit seem to fulfill this purpose already.


Meanwhile, I’ve long had ambitions to build a MAME arcade machine unit, but never quite got around to it. So, to try and make up my mind I’ve compiled a list of the top 5 amazing uses for the Raspberry Pi.

Raspberry Pi – More Than Just a Cheap Computer!

As you probably know, the Raspberry Pi was conceived, designed and built Raspberry Pi - A Credit-Card Sized ARM Computer - Yours For Only $25 Something big has been brewing in the university town of Cambridge, UK. For the past year a team of academics, businessmen, lecturers and programmers have been making final amendments to a very exciting project indeed.... Read More to provide an affordable yet functional computer for students to learn the basics of programming and software development.

This most noble of purposes has resulted in a device that is capable of much more than that. While the various Linux distros that have been tailored to work with the Pi will afford a small amount of additional functionality there are various projects underway (and in some cases complete) that will enable the pocket-sized computer to be used in a variety of fascinating new ways.

Arcade Machine

raspberry pi

If gaming is your thing, the Raspberry Pi is a perfect starting point for a retro-esque gaming center, preferably of the MAME variety. You’ve probably seen custom-built arcade machines around the web, powered by old PCs with towers and CRT monitors housed in them, but the PI can change all of this.


In order to do this you will need emulation software. This might range from an 8-bit OS such as the Commodore 64 to a standard MAME (Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator) installation, although note that due to the lack of hardware acceleration on the Raspberry Pi, compatibility with games since the mid-1990s is limited.


raspberry pi computer

Ever wanted to stick a computer in your car to manage all of those in-car entertainment and GPS issues?

Thanks to the Raspberry Pi’s micro USB port, a standard smartphone car charger can provide enough power for booting up, although there could be limitations to the USB ports when it comes to actually plugging devices in, such as a touchscreen display and storage for your MP3 collection. Similarly a GPS unit might in theory be connected, but development in this area is incomplete.


However, there are plenty of ways in which the PI can be made to work as an MP3 storage with existing media head units that come pre-installed in many modern cars.

Internet Radio

raspberry pi computer

A more straightforward use for your PI might be to keep it wired up at home (in a custom case or one of the many boxes that are available 18 Interesting DIY Raspberry Pi Case Ideas The Raspberry Pi is an incredible computer, but its barebones design means it can be slightly fragile. We show you the best DIY cases to protect your Pi. Read More ) and connected to your local network to provide easy access to Internet radio.

In order to use this you will need a compatible, small LCD and an input device, along with dedicated Internet radio software. If a display and input device are not priorities, a mobile phone or tablet can be used instead, along with the MPD web radio streaming software for Linux.


Using SSH you can remotely connect from a suitable networked device and add and remove items on the Raspberry Pi, making this a flexible and compelling use for your new mini PC! Media streaming is also possible – see below for more details.

Security System

raspberry pi computer

If you have small children or wish to keep an eye on what is going on outside your home, you can connect a couple of webcams to your PI and use a Wireless-G USB dongle (Wireless-N might be considered overkill for streaming webcam pictures) to view the images elsewhere in your home or from a remote location.

Choosing a camera means finding one that is compatible with Linux, but once this is done you can use ffmpeg to stream via HTTP and view the images via a mobile phone or other suitable networked device.


Media Streaming

raspberry pi pc

One of the most popular PI projects seems to be to use the device as a compact media center. With its ability to output HD video, the mini PC is ideal for viewing content stored on other devices, on storage media connected by USB and for streaming content stored online.

Probably the best way of achieving this is via RaspBMC, available from Once installed, a version of XBMC is downloaded and installed to the Raspberry Pi, ready to accept plugins for popular services (such as BBC iPlayer in the UK).

The small size of the Pi and the possibilities of accessing XBMC via a mobile app make this use for the computer potentially the most powerful.


raspberry pi

In the end it was a tough decision, but ultimately the power of the Raspberry Pi as a media streaming device with the option for local storage was too much to resist. While it’s easy enough to setup a games console as a media streaming device (or even plug a USB stick into a modern TV and watch videos) the ability of the PI to effortlessly fulfill a role usually performed by much larger devices is so compelling that it cannot be overlooked.

To check the progress of other PI users with these and any other projects, head to the computer’s official community.

Image Credits: DASHBot, JWRodgers, Carputer via Shutterstock, Internet Radio via Shutterstock, Webcam via Shutterstock, Media Cloud via Shutterstock

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  1. Aneesh Anand
    November 17, 2012 at 9:16 am

    wow. i will definitely make a carputer out of this wonderbox :)

  2. Márcio Guerra
    November 13, 2012 at 6:15 am

    I'm still getting to know Raspberry Pi... Thank you.


  3. Josh David
    August 24, 2012 at 7:41 pm

    To use GPS you could connect a GPS unit to an arduino, then connect the arduino via USB to rasperry pi. Tada!

  4. Edward
    August 24, 2012 at 2:55 pm

    This is fantastic! Raspberry Pi and Arduino ( and a lot more) are putting real computer programming and applications design in the hands of the masses.

  5. James Hartwell
    August 23, 2012 at 3:54 pm

    I got two of things and I am currently trying to get one up and running as just a mini computer. The idea is to eventually create a mod case where the pi is inside the keyboard case and the other will be used for an automated beer brewing station. I just like the idea that I can have a full computer in something a little bigger than a credit card.

    • Christian Cawley
      August 23, 2012 at 4:46 pm

      Hi James - your beer brewing station sounds fascinating, let us know how it goes!

  6. Ganesh Kumar
    August 21, 2012 at 11:28 am

    Raspberry pi is available in India or not i want to buy it

  7. Efi Dreyshner
    August 20, 2012 at 4:57 pm

    Thanks (;
    Just bought one :D

  8. Aibek Esengulov
    August 20, 2012 at 11:57 am

    I am planning two projects with Pi's. One for media center and another for a DIY home surveillance system. Will see it goes.

    • Christian Cawley
      August 23, 2012 at 4:47 pm

      I've started the media center, will be writing it up as my next RPi article.

  9. rimaz nazeer
    August 20, 2012 at 5:43 am

    I'll getting one by the end of this year.....Probably be using it as an arcade machine,or the media streamer.Or maybe just for browsing use.

  10. Nerd Uno
    August 18, 2012 at 8:59 pm

    Might want to take our Incredible PBX for a spin on the RPi as well. Works flawlessly and provides free Google Voice calling in the U.S.and Canada as well as free worldwide calling through iNum access points.

    • Christian Cawley
      August 23, 2012 at 4:47 pm

      That is extremely impressive! I'll check it out as soon as I can

  11. Muhannad Agha
    August 18, 2012 at 2:17 am


  12. Beaker
    August 17, 2012 at 1:39 pm

    I would appreciate it is Make Use Of could do a step by step process on how to load game emulators on Raspberry Pi. I have read a number of walk-throughs on Reddit and the forums, but they are difficult to follow.

    • Reý Aetar
      August 20, 2012 at 6:02 pm

      Raspberry Pi can run android and debian as far i have read ,and there is a version of dos box for both so just try to know more about that ..

      • Christian Cawley
        August 23, 2012 at 4:48 pm

        Android 4 is expected to be released for RPi in September

    • Christian Cawley
      August 23, 2012 at 4:48 pm

      Thanks Beaker, we'll sort something out.

  13. Reý Aetar
    August 17, 2012 at 1:22 pm

    Those were great .. I found many other amazing other trics at hackaday website

    • sam
      August 17, 2012 at 4:17 pm

      Please, paste the link... (Me ??? Lazy ??? :D)

      • Reý Aetar
        August 20, 2012 at 6:08 pm
        here is the link of the site search Raspberry Pi many articles are there
        (one i found about fitting the pi to make a complete computer in the key board was amazing)

  14. Elijah Swartz
    August 16, 2012 at 11:56 pm

    Does anyone else think it's a little amusing that the Raspberry Pi was created to help children in poor regions of the world learn programming, yet all of us 1st world people bought them all out before the intended audience could have a chance at getting one? Hopefully they can increase production. Perhaps they should have released it by region and make wealthier nations last.

    • Daniel Escasa
      August 17, 2012 at 7:12 am

      Not necessarily in poor regions. And in any case, from their About page:

      We want to see cheap, accessible, programmable computers everywhere; we actively encourage other companies to clone what we’re doing
      >/quote -- emphasis mine><

      • mittfh
        August 20, 2012 at 3:14 pm

        The initial release, without cables, case or SD cards, was intended primarily for development uses: until its release, there was relatively little software ported for the ARM platform or optimised for the device. Allowing developers (and more techy members of the general public) access to the device to several months before mass production started and the retailers started selling 'all-in' versions allowed some time to get software developed for it.

        Besides which, one of the primary desires was to encourage children to start learning to code (hence why Scratch and Python are on the default installs - both of the customised version of Debian Squeeze and the newer Raspbian [based on Debian Wheezy]), and later this year 'all-in' versions will be sold to schools. Future releases will include more code optimised for the graphics capabilities of the SoC, more software binaries, and of course more optional hardware add-ons (the GertBoard GPIO add-on's already been released, they're working on a camera module, while there are a few other currently unused connectors).

        And as Daniel says, everything other than the details of the Broadcom SoC is open source - so if anyone wants to produce something similar with a different chip, they're free to have a go. Unlike some organisations (a company with a fruity name springs to mind), they actively encourage others to compete with them or even copy what they do!

    • Lisa Santika Onggrid
      November 9, 2012 at 5:07 pm

      That's an unfortunate irony. It's a cool toy for geeks, I have to say.
      Hopefully the intended audience would get their hands on it soon.

  15. Habib Alamin
    August 16, 2012 at 10:50 pm

    Damn, you're lucky. I've ordered from the UK, waited the 10 days that they asked for and then it turns out there was an error in the system, they didn't even charge me or dispatch it.

    They're calling me tomorrow at 10 am to order over the phone. I have repeatedly asked for a faster service with tracking (by email), but the support hasn't even acknowledged that, so I don't know how long I'll have to wait for the new unit.

    On the other hand, what's lucky is that I already had a 4GB SD card, but I thought I lost it, so I bought an 8GB SDHC. I then found the 4GB SD card, so then I had two. Even luckier, we had a family outing today, so my aunt came over and wouldn't you know it, she bought a camera and she had 2 brand new SDHC cards (don't know if they came with the camera or not). She gave me one. It was 4GB SDHC class 4 (the 8GB one is class 10, I have no idea of the class for the original 4GB). Now I have 3 SD cards (at least two of which are SDHC, so I know they'll fit).