Much fuss gets made over the Rasberry Pi as "the learning computer." The thing though is about as far as a person could want from a learning computer. Such a device shouldn't have some closed off core leftover from it's system on a chip CPU which wasn't good enough for a shitty smart phone. Such a device should exist on well supported CPU architecture. Such a device simply should not suck so much balls. I imagine something better, a Vaxberry Pie.
Now, the Vax part isn't necessary, but the chip should be from some 32 bit beast of the 1980's. An OpenSparc derived S1 would be fine. As would a 32 bit 68k derivative. The key is that it should be an unencumbered design with a decent address space that gets juiced up on modern semiconductor chemistry and thrown on a board a bigger than a Rasberry Pi. 1 Here's the rest of the wants:
- Performance Gigahertz class performance and a Gigabytes of more of memory. 2 The thing should have the power to reasonably run a wide spectrum of modern software including a server handling a solid number of requests, some level of eye candy GUI for those who require it, and decently demanding maths. The thing should also be able to compile an OS in a timeframe that isn't too depressing.
- RS-232 is a must. This is a computer for learning so instead of forcing the USB stack as a prerequisite for playing with locally connected devices, it needs standard connectivity port with a wide degree of freedom and a large supply of stuff to shove in it. Keeping some USB ports on the thing is a given, but the learners need to be able to really fuck with the workings of this thing and the stuff it plugs into. RS-232 lowers the barrier of doing this.
- A bootable ROM slot. The big use I see for this is letting people plug in a ROM and boot straight into a language interpreter. Imagine a class going to the school computer lab to get an introduction to computer programming and you don't want them fucking around on MySpace or Flash games, what do you do? You have the computer lab set up with the Python ROM or the Emacs ROM. When they kids get bored and want to fuck around they fuck around in the environment set before them to learn, and then they learn.
- A stable and well documented default Operating System option ready out of the gate. Rasberry Pi has Raspbian, a stripped down Debian derivative. Vaxberry Pie gets OpenBSD, because fuck you, eat the vegetables. A friendlier GUI by default front end may be developed and offered, but OpenBSD is already plenty open to GUIs.
- No component requires a binary blob. Every driver should be capable of getting fucked. Bonus points if every chip that isn't memory is an FPGA and can get fucked as well.3
- At least one SATA port for the love of God.
- Revise the hardware performance upwards every 4 to 10 years. This way the things even though they start priced well above the Rasberry Pi have room to get much less expensive over time. Kind of faking this keep Texas Instruments Graphing calculators alive, and the aim of this thing isn't really all that different. Provide a fairly standard extensible learning platform and then shit them out by the millions.
As of this moment I have taken zero steps to bring the Vaxberry Pie into reality. I will likely not ever take steps to bring it into reality. Yes, you are very welcome to thank me for offering you this product idea.
- The one lesson from Bitcoin ASICs aside from the many business things is that if you come up with a chip and carry in the cash, you can get the chip made. [↩]
- Playing on the 3M's of a workstation for the 80's. It is a shame though that display manufacturers suck and we can't have cheap Gigapixel displays. [↩]
- The ROM slot can be very useful in this case as a way to boot the thing to reconfigure the logic gates back to factory settings. [↩]