You can do multiple things with a Single Board Computer (SBC). There are plenty of DIY projects that can keep you busy for weeks. A single board computer contains all the things a computer needs to function. All of these items, including processor, RAM and input/output slots are designed on a single board that you can hook to TV or use it as such.
Single Board Computers
A Single Board Computer is a complete computer built on a single circuit board – with microprocessor, memory, input/output and other features required of a functional computer.
Raspberry Pi vs BeagleBone vs Arduino
There are many SBCs out there in the market. I have narrowed down the items to Raspberry Pi, Beaglebone and Arduino. The following post will help you understand which the best is for you.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Raspberry Pi
Available at low cost – around USD 30 only. It is a tiny board that has several advantages over the other two (BeagleBone and Aurdino). For example, you can use the HDMI port to plug the SBC into a TV and view the output on the monitor. There are plenty of USB ports that you can use with anything. You can add external keyboard and mouse to the computer. You can also use a printer with the USB port.
It has an Ethernet port built onto the board. This helps you to connect to the Internet with an Ethernet wire and hook up your computer or project with an existing LAN or WAN.
Since the operating system runs from a SD card, you can simply change the cards to change the operating systems. Though there are not many mainstream operating systems that can run off a SD card, you can switch between Linux and Android for example. For details about using OS off SD cards, check this article on operating systems to run on Raspberry Pi.
Coming to the disadvantages of Raspberry Pi, I do not see many. I know an NGO that has been successfully using Raspberry Pi to teach programming to street kids so that they can lead a good life. The only one disadvantage of Raspberry Pi is that it has limited options of interacting with external sensors. So you may have to work a little extra if you are creating things like remote control of house lighting etc.
Advantages and Disadvantages of BeagleBone
There are not as many advantages like swapping operating systems in BeagleBone. The memory and operating system come preloaded with BeagleBone. The on board operating system is Linux but you can add your own by connecting it to a computer. See this article on getting Started with BeagleBone for more information.
Another advantage of BeagleBone over Raspberry Pi is that the former can interact with a multitude of external sensors and hence can be used as a central thing in creating an Internet of Things or any of the many projects you can undertake using BeagleBone.
Coming to disadvantages, there are not many USB ports so you are a little limited with the number of external devices that you can use with BeagleBone. Also, video encoding is lacking so you may not see proper images when you connect BeagleBone to a TV. This article throws more light on this.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Arduino
Priced around USD 25, this is one of the cheapest SBC available in the market. There are not many issues with Arduino except that it is very basic board and it takes a while before users can actually get adjusted with it. The main problem is that one doesn’t find a graphic interface so trying to create projects is bit clumsy as the user will have to remember commands.
On the plus side, the popularity of Arduino has prompted several people to write a comprehensive tutorials, help and documentation for the board. There are several DIY projects available for Arduino so that you understand how it works and get on later to your own projects.
I invite your comments on this subject.