Using the raspberry pi 3 as a personal computer

After some months I think I can give you a realistic review of my raspberry pi experiment.

I’ve been using the raspberry pi 3 as my main computer for some months and I think that you can use it on a dayly basis.

Software

I’ve barely used Libreoffice in this period of time but you should not find any troubles with this office suite. I prefer to use text based formats whenever is possible, mainly because you can edit thouse files using nano. You can run it on your terminal emulator so probably can use it even in the modest hardware.

By the other hand, I switched from latex to restructuredText in order to avoid installing the tex-live packages. Tex-live eats a lot of space of your SD card and compiling a latex documente stress it due to the frecuent read/write operations.

You can surf the web using Chromium or Firefox. Do not abuse of the tabs because the memory is a real limiting factor here. In my case Chromium is prone to crash but starts faster than firefox.

Gimp works ok, maybe a bit slow. Blender can’t render video and Ardour is pretty usable. Don’t get my wrong, Ardour runs slow and the crappy on board audio hardware doesn’t help.

Hardware

You can use:

  • Most USB drives
  • USB Hard drives (better if you use an USB powered HUB)
  • My HP printer
  • The scanners I’ve tried
  • An USB to MIDI interface (MIDIPLUS 2x2)
  • USB audio cards (EDIROL 1A-UG and AROMA GM3)
  • HDMI and VGA screens (VGA through an HDMI to VGA adaptor)
  • A small USB Wacom tablet
  • My Rii K12+ Keyboard
  • A Rii Wireless multimedia presenter

Actually, everything I’ve tried to use worked with no remarkable issues. Thats really awesome knowing the limitations of this piece of hardware.

Mobility

I use it mainly on my classroom. 4 hours of continued use every day. To get a closer experince of a laptop use I get the power from a RAVPOWER rechargeable battery bank. Note than I use it connected to a PC screen or a screen projector so the only power used from the battery bank is to run te raspberry pi.

During the weekends I use a dedicated 5V power brik and the pi is used to run my home-studio.

ToDo

You can’t recharge the battery bank when it is powering the pi so if the voltage goes too low the pi will be switched off and you can suffer from data corruption. Some power banks can bypass this limitation so, in the future, I’ll keep an eye on them.

As the SD card is a source of troubles I’ve tried to use an USB drive as the OS root. You need to boot from the SD card anyways but the USB drives performs better.

What I really like

Modularity

In my opinion it is its main feature. You can change the hardware configuration with no hassle. My Packard Bell laptop is way reliable and you can run all the software you need but the battery died and after replace the battery cells with new ones, it died again. You can’t find a brand new battery or a compatible one so it is tied to my table’ as a reduced version of a PC

Silence

Working in the middle of the night is increddible. You can only hear how your fingers press the keys. There is no fan and no beeps. My laptop, by the other hand, sounds like a vacum cleaner.

Things that are not so good

Obviously there are some caveats.

  • The hardware is quite limited and if you try to get too much from it you’ll notice thouse limitations.
  • On Raspbian you only get hardware accelerated video using omxplayer that is a cli video player.
  • Audio quality is barely ok
  • Ethernet port is quite slow, and get worst even if you use the USB ports simultaneously

Well, thouse problems are acceptable if you think that is a 39€ computer that you can use with some cheap peripherals that you probably have in your garbage box.

So I’m quite happy with the experiment and I bet I can use it for my work with no worries.

See you.

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