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Microcomputers for kit builders, and phones that won’t play nice with SD cards

Raspberry Pi

Listener James in Bridgman, Michigan asked Into Tomorrow:

I have been looking at a Raspberry Pi 2 little PC online.  It shows kids using these to learn some programs and you can get kits where they can learn to make and control some electronics.  These machines are not very expensive, about $85 for a starter kit, but before I purchase one of these I would like to ask if the same can be done with a PC I already own. Can I take an old PC, install Linux, get the breadboard kit and connect to a parallel port on the PC, or is using a machine like the Raspberry Pi way better ? Thanks for any insight you can give.

A Raspberry Pi is actually worse than any reasonably modern PC… it’s pretty ok for something tiny enough to fit in almost anywhere, but it’s not powerful at all and it doesn’t offer the same flexibility a regular PC does.

The Pi would be a better option if you want to be able to stick it to the top of something you’re building and let it control it, it’s a good unobtrusive “brain,” and it’s easy to hide if you want to set up a (kind of slow) media center behind a TV for example.

Where does the Pi shine?

The big advantages of the Pi are it’s size and it’s price, it’s cheap and easy to hide or stick to whatever electronic device you happen to be building, but if you have an old computer you can almost certainly use it just fine, it’s the traditional way to play with electronics, the Pi offers a new alternative, but it’s not necessary, it’s just a cheap way to enter the game if you don’t want to buy a full sized computer.

If you still want to look at the Raspberry Pi, there are other options that you may want to research as well, like the Banana Pi (which looks the same as the Raspberry Pi, but with a yellow connector and is more powerful), the Raspberry Pi 2, and the extensive Arduino line.

Where does it not?

We’ve done a little pricing on the Raspberry Pi and what we’ve found is that by the time you connect up all the bits and pieces you’d need to make a complete general purpose desktop PC, you’d be paying just as much as you would for a low cost PC running Windows.

We think the Raspberry Pi is excellent in its place and it’s a great tool for getting kids deeper into electronics and the internals of computers. But it’s really not a computer “system,” like we said, it’s the brains of some other project. The ultimate DIY device.


MaryAnn in Mississippi listens to Into Tomorrow on Smart Talk 100.9 FM and asked:

I have a Sony Xperia L which I have enjoyed for more than a year. I have never been able to get my phone to recognize a micro-sd card.  Is a defective slot likely?  Is this repairable or should I face it and realize that after multiple attempts this techno…challenged person is most likely installing it incorrectly?  (I’ve had a couple of shops take a look without success though I admit one just told me to get an iphone)  Thanks and I enjoy your show.

First and foremost, thank you for listening! It’s much appreciated, and you can keep those questions coming– it is what we’re here for. However, unfortunately there’s no easy solution to your problem… aside from getting a new or refurbished phone. Surely if several repair shops were unable to locate an exact problem, they weren’t turning away your business but simply stumped at why this defect has found it’s way onto your phone.

If you purchased the phone from your service provider, you should begin by letting them know about the issue and receiving their suggestions. If you have purchased insurance on the phone, it should be no problem for them to take the phone back and send you a new or refurbished one. We were unable to find an Xperia L user who is experiencing the same issue so, as far as we can tell, it must be an individual phone issue and you should look beyond a repair shop to remedy this problem.

If you and several stores have all failed at putting an SD card into the phone and making it work, the phone has a problem. There’s really nothing to it, you slide it in, then it works. Here’s the bad news though: if you’ve been enjoying the phone for a year you may have waited too long to have it repaired or exchanged under warranty. Either way, give it a shot, you may get lucky!

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Written by Dave Graveline

Dave Graveline is the founder, Host & Executive Producer of "Into Tomorrow" in addition to being President of the Advanced Media Network".

Dave is also a trusted and familiar voice on many national commercials & narrations in addition to being an authority in consumer tech since 1994. He is also a former Police Officer and an FBI Certified Instructor.

Dave thrives on audience participation!

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