Was it ‘bingo time’ for the Raspberry Pi?

“It’s bingo time for Arsenal!” exclaimed Gary Neville during his punditry for the Arsenal-Milan Champions League clash last night. It certainly was – except they just couldn’t get the last number on their card filled. I know just the feeling – the uncomfortable, yet tantalising sensation of being so near to a goal, yet so far. And so it was with the ‘release’ (a term used in the loosest sense) of the Raspberry Pi. All of the hype, the preamble, the hyperbole of how this diminutive device will be the saviour of computer science, how it will reignite our passions for programming and quite possibly halt the destruction of western civilisation as we know it all came to a head on February 29th at the much anticipated hour of 6am GMT. The release announcement revealed that two electronics companies, RS and Farnell would handle the distribution of the initial run of 10,000 units, and that they would also be handling the manufacture of the devices from then on.

With the full weight of expectation of the computer science community pressing down on them, the online storefronts dutifully cracked under the strain. When most customers were able to gain access, it was too late, and only ‘expressions of interest’ for the devices were being taken. As has been blogged elsewhere, the failure of online commercial storefronts to handle heavy customer demand is a concern for retailers of products with massive expectations from a more-than-willing, paying public. The levels of expectation for this product were known well ahead of release. A more managed approach, giving customers a clear level of expectation would have been received much better than overloaded servers.

I will stick to my emulated ARM cpu within QEMU full system emulation running on Ubuntu for the foreseeable future (see here or here for excellent info on setting a system like this up). The saving of western civilization will just have to wait a while.