sunnuntai 14. helmikuuta 2016

Two Linux boxes: an ancient PC vs Raspberry Pi - pros and cons

Oldies but goldies

I have a bunch of not old but ancient PCs lying around. One of them is AMD K6-2 with 128 MB of RAM and 6 MB HD from year ~ 1998. Since this PC is capable of running the latest Debian 8 I decided to give it a go. Old ISA network card was removed and a PCI USB card with A-Link USB wifi dongle mounted. That's how an old PC got a new life.

Will Raspberry Pi take over?

So how does Raspberry Pi, an SBC (Single Board Computer), which I like a lot compare with an old PC? Here is my list of the pros and cons:

Old PC:


+ still going strong and running the latest Debian Linux (in command line mode only) so why buy a new PC when you can get it once and use forever!
+ hardware is well known and documented, it's easy to get help if needed, spare parts can be found
+ chassis has enough space for almost any piece of hardware
+ when PC is up and running you really can hear it!
+ not running the latest Windows ;D


- an old PC consumes a lot of energy
- noisy (what if I had 10 of them running at the same time!?)
- chassis needs a lot of space at home
- BIOS supports booting from CDROM only

Raspberry Pi


+ runs Raspbian Linux (i.e. Debian for Raspi)
+ it's tiny compared with an old PC and it'll get tinier (Raspi Zero!)
+ it doesn't need that much energy to run
+ no noise!
+ a lot of users on the Internet, it's easy to get help if needed
+ GPIO pins which takes computing to another level!
+ not running the latest Windows ;D


- you only get Raspi when purchasing one, no chassis, nothing
- you can't update the hardware, 1 GB of RAM is enough!
- will Raspi run after 18 years?
- slower than your smart phone hardware, for hobby purposes only
- not replacing your present Desktop

My verdict

An old PC is like Volkswagen Beetle from the sixties - buy once keep forever! However show must go on. Raspberry Pi is my choice because we are living IoT-age. You can't place an old PC behind your flat TV, can you ;D? So, the first price goes to Raspi and not that far away behind an old PC.

My AMD K6-2 from year 1998

an old ISA NIC

Raspberry Pi 2 GPIO pins

1st generation raspi and an old Casio TV as monitor

Raspi is an SBC (Single Board Computer)

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