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Education Technology

University of Cambridge Offers Free Online Raspberry Pi Course 99

Posted by samzenpus
from the learn-all-about-it dept.
Barence writes "The University of Cambridge has released a free 12-step online course on building a basic operating system for the Raspberry Pi. The course, Baking Pi — Operating Systems Development, was compiled by student Alex Chadwick during a summer interning in the school's computer lab, and has been put online to help this year's new recruits start work with the device. The university has already purchased a Raspberry Pi for every new Computer Science student starting in 2012."
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University of Cambridge Offers Free Online Raspberry Pi Course

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  • When will it start this course?
    • When will it start this course?

      In due course. The Rasp Pi doesn't have a lot of power, it takes a while to boot up...

  • And actually get it delivered to you? I ordered mine back in mid June, and I'm STILL waiting for it.

    Latest ETA was late September.

    • I got 2 just in the last 2 weeks. should be easy to get. one from MCM and one from newark.

      but as the 'elephant usb bug' is still around, I can't really use my pi's. I NEED USB to work and be 100% solid. so, still waiting on that.

      • by Joce640k (829181)

        I NEED USB to work and be 100% solid. so, still waiting on that.

        Have you tried the "smsc95xx.turbo mode=n" fix?

        (Just add that parameter to /boot/cmdline.txt...)

      • by cbope (130292)

        Try a different keyboard and/or mouse. I booted my Pi for the first time last night using a Dell keyboard which happened to have a passive USB hub built-in. Only about 2 out of 3 keystrokes were registering making login practically impossible (password keystrokes are not echoed). I switched to a different keyboard without a USB hub and it works fine. I believe the issue is popping up when one or more USB devices try to draw a bit too much power from the USB ports. My Pi worked flawlessly after the keyboard

    • I've gotten one from a couple of different sellers now, the only one who so far hasn't delivered is RS. All the rest have been very quick.
      • Thats usual for RS. Phone them and whinge and it'll appear very rapidly. I live about a mile from an RS trade counter which is the best place to go whinge at.
  • by Hazel Bergeron (2015538) on Monday September 03, 2012 @01:23PM (#41215023) Journal

    I think it's a miniature course in elements of systems programming rather than a tutorial on writing an operating system in the modern sense.

    It worries me that something as simple as a Raspberry Pi is offered to all Cambridge undergrads, though. This is supposed to be the best university in the country - why are there people being admitted to its courses who aren't already playing with stuff like this in their spare time as kids?

    • by bugs2squash (1132591) on Monday September 03, 2012 @01:36PM (#41215135)
      What do you mean by simple ? It's as complex to program as anything else, the development environment is as rich as any other and it has the backing of a sophisticated community. Or are you one of those people who think real comp sci is all about using excel and word.
      • by oakgrove (845019)
        burn
      • What's wrong with x86?

        • Apart from cost, power requirement, size, etc. etc. Also ARM is a far better processor to learn this kind of thing on. Being RISC ARM assembler is incredibly elegant.

          • Cost? Old x86 boxes are free - even laptops. Extremely low power+size are of questionable relevance for an educational tool.

            Yes, ARM assembler is elegant. I recently found my first Dabs Press ARM Assembler book full of annotations I must have made when I was nine years of age. But the real world is not elegant, and it's really not a dealbreaker.

            • by xaxa (988988)

              Old x86 boxes are unreliable, which isn't appropriate for a lab, and take up far more space + power + cooling. There's also much less chance of some of the students doing something really interesting with an old PC, compared to a tiny ARM board. And where would you get a class set of 50/100/whatever similar old PCs? And where would you store them?

              Also, ARM's R&D is in Cambridge, right next to the main computer science buildings.

    • by inasity_rules (1110095) on Monday September 03, 2012 @02:19PM (#41215443) Journal

      Ever try to write an OS? In assembler? I did. Got as far as memory management before I gave up. I had a text graphics driver and all too. The device may be simple. Programming it and what can be done with it is not. All you need is imagination. And move them to a C compiler fast. Assembly gets hectic too quickly. Sure minuet did it, but those guys are certifiably insane. My kind of insane, but insane nevertheless...

      • Sure minuet did it, but those guys are certifiably insane.

        No, it just originates from Finland...

      • Er yes :-D

        I've written several extensions to RISC OS (Acorn's 32 bit OS for ARM machines) in assembler since that's what most of the OS was written in.

        • Then, why are you complaining the device is too simple? It is a general purpose RISC system. It is in fact fairly complex, and with a little imagination can do some fairly complex stuff (gpu binary blob aside). I honestly don't see your point.

        • Oh, wait, you're not op? Ignore my other post then...

    • by jareth-0205 (525594) on Monday September 03, 2012 @02:25PM (#41215489) Homepage

      This is supposed to be the best university in the country - why are there people being admitted to its courses who aren't already playing with stuff like this in their spare time as kids?

      Because not everyone has the support & background to be already proficient at something before they go to university - this is why we have educational establishments!

      It's not like the 80's when consumer computers were geared towards programming, there were languages build-in to the micros and monthly programming magazines. The kids of today have it *far* more convoluted and difficult to get into than I did. In fact, this is the entire reason the Raspberry Pi was created, to bring entry-level programming back.

      • What? I have written a couple of toy operating systems for the x86 platform. The first time round was around 1998 using the Risc PC 486DX4 copro, and the second time round was much easier because I could test using a VMware / VirtualBox VM. They both boot on the bare hardware too.

        I don't see why I need a Raspberry Pi for any of this this. And it is indeed not like the '80s, where only the more privileged kids had computers at home, and the programming environments were far more limited.

        The Pi may be quite u

        • I think you are talking from the wrong end of your body. It's a general-purpose computer.

          It is relatively open, is well documented, has an OS and a toolchain, it's inexpensive and reliable. That's all you need as an educational tool.

          What do you think we need as an educational tool instead?

          • I can't see how your point is relevant to jareth's.

            There is a big fat x86 sitting on everyone's desktop which works fine as an educational tool!

            • Yes but you don't want to have to reinstall it every 5 minutes when you break something. Please don't say the word QEMU either as it's not the same.

              I notice you are from the UK. In the mid 90's we had a surplus of BBC micros from schools available. We used them to test hardware interfaces for micrcontrollers so they didn't blow up expensive dev hardware. If it blew up, you'd throw the beeb in a skip and get another one out of the cupboard.

              That's what the Pi is for both with respect to software and hardwar

              • What is wrong with a VM, exactly? Why can't you develop on a VM and then test at intervals on bare hardware? It's perfectly normal. And an old x86 is effectively junk - somewhat cheaper than a Raspberry Pi.

                I can't bear the idea of using a bunch of Beebs as throwaway test devices! but I guess I can understand the philosophy of using something cheap as a buffer for device development, for middle class definitions of cheap. That's entirely not the same as using it as an educational tool for systems programming

                • The problem is that they don't match reality in some cases (peripheral support mainly from experience) and most of the time you're having to develop kernel drivers for hardware which you can't emulate which means JTAG, reference manuals, red bull and much frustration.

                  The beebs were free to us (schools had to pay to take tech waste away) and we had 30 or 40ish. If we blew the VIA or PSU up, there was no point in repairing it. We gave the 6-7 that we blew up a dignified funeral: we took a couple out to the c

            • Assuming you *have* a desktop! Thing is you can plug it in to your TV and you need a tenner's worth a cheap peripherals to drive it.

              Also I'd like to see you playing about with basic hardware IO on your desktop. Where do you get the GPIOs for a start?

              • Assuming you *have* a desktop!

                That's a much better assumption than preferring familiarity with the Pi.

                Also I'd like to see you playing about with basic hardware IO on your desktop. Where do you get the GPIOs for a start?

                Yes, we all miss the Beeb's user port &c. Is the point hardware interfacing or systems programming, though? You don't need a whole new architecture just because your PC doesn't have GPIO.

            • ARM assembler is much more straightforward to learn and conceptually satisfying than x86 assembler.
        • The one thing the PI isn't is embedded. Nothing that has the graphics capability of the PI is truly embedded unless it has its own canned screen. The Pi may be a little behind the curve power wise but its still a computer. Hell the first machine I ran linux on was my 30Mhz Acorn RISC PC in the mid 90s. The PI is blindingly quick in comparison. Just don't run bloaty code.

          • its been described as a combo of a 'hot' graphics core and an ok-but-not-great cpu core glued to the side.

            the pi kind of ignores the gfx 'greatness' and uses it to boot and use the cpu core for linux.

            this combo was never meant for what we are doing.

        • by xaxa (988988)

          Why did you use the RISC PC? Surely you had an old Archimedes lying around!

          • Oh, I had the PC Emulator for the original Acorn, but that was 80188 software, not 486 copro!

            Writing an OS for ARM never appealed to me even though I knew and loved the instruction set. I wanted something that would work with (then comparatively) well-documented "industry standard" hardware. Also, ARM26 did not iirc restart instructions properly for VM, but maybe I'm remembering wrongly.

      • I disagree - I think it's easier than ever to get started with programming. The kids of today have an entire Internet full of programming tutorials. It's much easier to Google a question than it is to try to look it up in a book, which is what one had to do in the 80's.
        • At the same time, it involves less thinking now. You had to understand what you're doing rather than get google to do your homework for you.

          People now just have no fucking idea what they are doing unless they can Google it. Even I'm guilty of it and I hate it so much thatI drag my laptop out into the garden where the WiFi doesn't work occasionally so I can think for a bit.

        • by cduffy (652)

          I disagree - I think it's easier than ever to get started with programming. The kids of today have an entire Internet full of programming tutorials.

          Tutorials that teach them how to use high-level tools with no low-level understanding of what those tools actually do. Not saying that the Pi does this entirely, but I think there's a lot of value to getting started without so many layers of abstraction in the way.

          There are far too many people in software today for which everything under the JVM (or otherwise, r

      • Not to mention a large proportion of undergrads will be polymaths. I came across a few in my time - superbly gifted - whose only problem was "what subject do I drop?"

    • by _Shad0w_ (127912)

      Don't let Oxford hear you say that.

    • There are two reasons to do a university course: to make money -or- because it's interesting. The latter people are so few and far between that they have to cater for the earlier ones to make the courses viable.

      At the risk of getting flamed off the planet, most of the postgrads we've had in are shit and couldn't pass the simple test: "you have one hour to open a file in python and print every alternate line to the screen". They were given a windows 7 box without python installed and had to work it out them

      • I decided not to apply for Cambridge at undergrad level many years ago because it seemed to be full of people who were only there for the piece of paper and the money which would follow.

        Yet Cambridge has the best reputation in the country for research and for some undergrad courses (e.g. mathematics). It could afford to select only those who are both intelligent and passionately committed. It certainly does so for certain subjects, according to some of m'colleagues, but not at all for others.

        • I think it has the best reputation for comp sci research as the grads are shit and can't get a job anywhere else (no offense guys). Agree they are best for mathematics though.

          The best guys we've had came from Nottingham, Brunel, Warwick, Reading and Imperial.

    • by aliquis (678370)

      Because demand (of workforce) is bigger than the amount of awesome people?

    • by IrquiM (471313)

      It worries me that something as simple as a Raspberry Pi is offered to all Cambridge undergrads, though. This is supposed to be the best university in the country - why are there people being admitted to its courses who aren't already playing with stuff like this in their spare time as kids?

      Probably because they know what a girl is?

  • Finally, a 12 step program you might actually complete successfully.
  • This explains why I can't seem to get one. I have been waiting for my pi for months, and I was on the waiting list for months before that. I just got an email the other day that said they couldn't produce enough of the devices and my order would be delayed *again*. I bet I won't see one until 2013.
  • I think the course is great. After the initial excitement of getting my Pi up and running (to the point of doing a Google search) this little board has been sitting around on my desk for a few weeks gathering dust. Finding out that the little LED labelled "OK" on the Pi's PCB is hooked up to the GPIO and can be turned on/off with a few lines of assembly language is exciting news! Browsing through the pages of this online course... 10/10 to the author for an ace job at tutorial writing. You end up compilin
  • I've ordered 3 from Farnell and had them delivered within 3 days of placing the order.

    If you're waiting for an RS order, it can't hurt to buy from Farnell and cancel your RS order if it arrives first. If your RS order beats the farnell one, you have the right to return it within 7 days.

  • Folk keep harping on the price of the extra stuff like a laptop, keyboard, mouse, display.
    For "Operating Systems Development" the RasPI is ideal. You cannot do OS development
    on your own laptop. Some can be done under qemu but nothing is equal to real hardware.

    OS development is like working on cars. You need a second car to go get parts
    if you are doing anything other than a trivial repair. Microsoft and Apple do not give
    out the keys to their walled garden so they exclude themselves. There are so

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