Raspberry Pi for Dummies

Sean McManus, Mike Cook

Published by

Wiley

ISBN

9781118554210

RRP

£17.99

Reviewed by

Mehmet Hurer BSc (Hons) MBCS CITP CEng

Score

9 out of 10

Reading this book reminded me of a conversation I had many years ago whilst at secondary school with a fellow pupil. The microcomputer had just been introduced and we were both excited at the prospect of being able to write our own computer programs.

Pretty soon we were both fluent BASIC programmers, and expanded our knowledge to controlling various circuit boards using simple interfaces. 

Then, one day, my fellow pupil installed a spreadsheet application and was so impressed with the capability it offered that he viewed programming as an unnecessary burden.

He lost interest in computer programming, whilst I progressed further by studying computer science at university. In my mind, this is pretty much the approach taken with ICT taught in many schools today; it seems to be more about how to use the technology rather than learning how to program.

The Raspberry Pi provides everyone with a very cheap way of redressing this imbalance. That’s not to say that everyone should learn how to be programmers, but at least by giving students a quick and simple way of learning some basic programming skills it may inspire the next generation of programmers.

This book takes you through the key steps required to get your Pi fully operational. It starts, logically, with how to load the operating system; a version of Linux best suited for the Pi. As Linux may be new to many Pi users, the authors introduce some of the key shell commands, as well as a desktop environment, for those wishing to use one.

With the Pi up and running, the authors describe how the Pi can be used ‘for both work and play’. This includes an introduction to office applications (‘LibreOffice’), how to view various media files (photos, audio and video), and how to build a website.

As an introduction to simple and visually-based programming, the authors present ‘Scratch’. This has a visual interface and is described as a quick and easy way of building arcade-style games. For more in-depth programming techniques there is an introduction to the Python programming language.

For those readers interested in exploring electronics, there is a section dedicated to ways of building electronic circuits and interfacing with the Pi. As this topic may be new to many readers, the authors state no previous knowledge of electronics is required; they even describe how to use a soldering iron! The section covers analogue as well as digital interfacing.

To further whet the readers’ appetite, the final section of the book describes some Pi-related projects. It was interesting to see the wide range of applications the Pi has been put to, and I’m sure this will inspire many others.

If you have just purchased a Pi and are not sure where to begin, this book provides an excellent place to start. The authors assume only basic knowledge of computing (such as being able to use a Windows computer), which means the book is suitable for a broad spectrum of readers.

Further information: Wiley

Author website and free bonus material

June 2013