U:Create Family pack (Raspberrry Pi)

It’s the Governments self proclaimed year of coding (even though a lot of bods a lot more technical than me wanted a year of programming instead). What better way to introduce your kids to it all with there very own computer that they can even “build” themselves in the form of a Raspberry Pi?

Last year a bunch of clever bods set about trying to change this in terms of a combination of hardware and software that could be bought cheaply and could be used by anybody. The hardware was called the Raspberry Pi, a small bare board computer than could run a version of the free Linux operating system and was initially aimed at techies and schools. The techies won the day and started porting media centre software to the Pi and a lot of other users found it a bit daunting. Some of the early operating systems didn’t even boot to a GUI (graphical user interface, or basically a desktop) but instead booted to a command line that no doubt baffled ITC teachers country wide.

Now however the software has matured and companies are offering bundles that include the Pi, an SD card preloaded with easy to set up operating systems that include software for starting on the road to becoming a programmer. At last, my thwarted childhood dreams could become realised!

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Within the box there is a 512MB Raspberry Pi, a deluxe case, keyboard, mouse, SD card and cables, as well as tutorials to guide young children through projects in a way that is jargon free, educational and fun. There is also a breadboard project to make your own traffic lights powered by the Pi, which is pretty exciting for slightly older kids. For kids read anyone, me included. The case takes a bit of screwing together, and isn’t something I’d advise the children do themselves to be honest but even before you’ve taken a screwdriver to the case, you’ve got quite a lot of bits and bobs in the box:

One of the most important programmes pre-installed on the OS is called Scratch. This is a game creation suite developed by MIT for 8-16 year olds to learn how to design games. I’ve only begun, with help from the kids, to get to grips with this but I can already see that for kids within the right age bracket this could be exceptional. At it’s most basic level it lets the kids concentrate on making things look cool without getting bogged down with code but as they develop, so does the complexity of the software.

The package costs £99 for everything you see in the picture, which includes a HDMI cable, making it a cheap and ideal way to get a computer for your child. If you have a flat screen telly, the chances are it already has a HDMI connector spare, so it shouldn’t be a problem connecting it up. The keyboard and mouse are of good quality and the case looks properly dinky:

I have to admit it did seem pretty cool using something so small hooked up to our 50 inch plasma screen telly and even though I’ve not really done much Pi related other than installing XBMC onto one I had on preoder, it was simplicity to set up as I’ve said:
I just followed the onscreen prompts and it did the rest.
If you think your kids might be interested in more than just playing games or you yourself fancy a bit of tinkering, this is an excellent place to start.