Raspberry Pi Zero

Pi ZeroIf you have been hiding recently you may not be aware of the new Raspberry Pi Zero. Hot on the heels of the CHIP and other low cost micros and by the look of it a zillion miles ahead of that daft BBC “Micro Bit” (there’s a shocker)   the Raspberry Pi Zero has some great potential not least because of the price tag – $5 which as you may know is around £3.30 right now.

So what do you get for this ridiculously small amount of money. A Raspberry Pi 1 at double speed, amazingly. Yes, running at 1Ghz the Pi Zero is a full Raspberry Pi and it is tiny.

The official MagPi magazine is out today and will GIVE AWAY one of these on the cover.. not kidding!!! So now every child in Britain etc. CAN have a computer. I have to tell you I am so pleased there’s an alternative to the BBC’s second and hopefully failed attempt at world domination.

Raspberry Pi ZeroSo what could be wrong – £3.30, a full Raspberry Pi – what’s stopping you?

Well, before you rush off.. there is tax – which for example in Chicago is a miniscule 39 cents. Oh yes, this is real – my Pi Zero is ordered and waiting for me to pick it up at the shop – a grand total of $5.31 which is £3.51

But… mostly the ads say “available NOW” – just as they did with the original Pi until you get to the bottom of the page where it says “due to high demand we are currently out of stock” – surely there must be a law against that but hey ho.

I gets worse but before I gripe about British rip-off merchants, let me clarify – this is ALMOST a Raspberry Pi – it has no ETHERNET.. and that’s a big but! Why? Because if you’re familiar with the Pi, you will know that most if not all of the WIFI dongles available for the Pi, which working, are not the most reliable items in the world. This would be IDEAL as, say a dedicated MOSQUITTO server or BLYNK server or similar but would I trust one of those WIFI dongles 24-7 – no.  A real shame.  However, by the time I get my hands on this device and get it back in the office to play with I may well have found someone to prove me wrong about the WIFI reliability. If you know better – please do write in. It was suggested that you could plug in an Ethernet to USB adaptor – but judging by Ebay prices it would be cheaper to buy an Orange Pi which is a better bet than Pi Zero + external Ethernet – or will be once they sort out the software.

So – you can run Raspbian (not entirely sure how to do that yet without the Internet – perhaps BerryBoot might come to the rescue here). – Oh and before I forget – the really good new news on Raspbian is that future versions will have Node-Red built in by default (I love it when I make the right choices) and this just opens up SO many possibilities.

Remember - £3.51 all in -  I just bought one for (the few places in Chicago that do have these in stock are offering one per family so there will be a couple of families going to the store with me Smile )

So here we go - https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/raspberry-pi-zero/  - MADE IN WALES – which is on the same tiny land-mass as the rest of Britain right?  So if the Americans can charge me £3.31 – what bargains might I get in England you wonder, a mere stones throw from the factory..

Let’s take a look shall we, at the bargains available in the UK right now. http://cpc.farnell.com/raspberrypizero?&ICID=I-Rpizero  - a mere £10.54 + VAT which comes to £12.65 – or a mere NINETEEN DOLLARS. Oh yes, you get a couple of cables with that – you know, the ones you could pick up for a couple of quid from Ebay.

Pi Hut http://thepihut.com/products/raspberry-pi-zero offer the basic Pi Zero at £4 which is a little more like it – but it is all irrelevant as they are out of stock.

Pimoroni also charge £4 for the basic item - http://pimoroni.com/zero but when you press the buttons – they don’t work – I’ll assume that means out of stock.

For around £6 you could buy the MagPi magazine and get a Pi Zero for nothing!! Except you can’t  as they are out of stock. http://swag.raspberrypi.org/collections/magpi/

So – assuming you CAN find somewhere to buy this – I do think it has a bright future unless someone comes along with the same thing plus Ethernet for £6  - but remember this is a souped-up Raspberry Pi – NOT a Raspberry Pi 2 which remains a superior beast.

IF a cheap WIFI dongle can be found on EBay that works reliably and If the likes of BerryBoot will pick up on that dongle so you can simply download the operating system without needing a PC or jacked-up-price-SD card, then I predict a bright future for this device – not least because of the massive amount of PI-related information out there, the friendly nature of Raspbian and of course the stunningly brilliant Node-Red.

Expect more on this next week – I pick mine up on Saturday, just before heading back to the UK as we have Thanksgiving here in the USA today and there’s no chance of getting into the stores in time today.


22 thoughts on “Raspberry Pi Zero

  1. Pete,
    The board I sent is really just a NodeMCU with a second TTL serial UART. Maybe that could be used in place of a WiFi dongle. Does the PiZero have TTL serial port?

    1. Oh..... I didn't think of that. yes it does. So an ESP could handle WIFI - indeed the code that lets Arduinos talk to ESPs (SLIPP protocol) could likely be modified to work with Pi Zero without too much effort - failing that it would be relatively easy to simply have the ESP handle all the MQTT communications and simply pass messages and responses over the serial line - so what we COULD be talking about here is effectively a very low cost IO line expander for the ESP8266 with all sorts possibilities with cameras and other stuff that the ESP might have a lot of trouble with.

      This gets better by the moment. Well I was going to pick one up today but it turns out everyone in Chicago is closed for ThanksGiving!!

    1. Yes see my other comment - indeed it would be quite easy to convert my existing ESP code to send general MQTT commands back and forth to the PI Zero, opening up a whole range of expansion for the ESP. Let's just hope in rip-off Britain that the £4 does not turn into £4 + tax and postage... lots of possibilities here.

  2. Not so sure I see your point about needing a connection to run Raspbian. Surely you'd use the connection on another machine to download and write the image to the micro sd card.

    On your point about Wifi and reliability...why not get a USB-Ethernet adapter and run it wired? They're fairly cheap and you wouldn't get the interference/drop outs that you get on wireless.

    As an aside as you mentioned Node-Red, I've been a bit ignorant on it, what makes it so powerful (or rather what are it's selling points?) compared to other integration software/services?

    1. Yes indeed but see my other comments. I see a plan developing... definitely useful. I'm out of time here.... usb dongle to Ethernet also good.... and Node-Red - you will see LOTS of it soon as Raspbian will have it built in. It is powerful, easy and ... well, powerful easy and free.

  3. Well I must be one of the lucky ones! Whilst I munched my breakfast porridge I could have bought as many as I liked from Pi Hut for £4.00 each + £2.50 postage. I wanted other stuff from them so the postage covered the lot. I also bought a memory card and the connectors principally because I am very new to the PI and also because I wanted a Pi 0 type connector for another project.
    Personally I don't care about postage charges in the UK, they are a fact of life and far cheaper than importing stuff from the US. The reality of like in the UK is that unless you buy stuff from the far east then delivery charges have to be paid.
    I also got my ESPresso Lite modules from Singapore this week! Looking forward to playing with those too.
    I am definitely with Peter on the ESP/ Pi 0 marriage allied with Node-Red but sadly I do not have the expertise to develop it. I'll look forward to Peter's and everyone else's input especially if the ESP stuff in on the ESP/Arduino platform as opposed to the very unfriendly Eclipse!

    1. Sure. Micro Center at 80 East Ogden Avenue | Westmont, IL 60559 | (630) 371-5500

      A REALLY nice store - however - when I was in the store - they had no others left.... and the magazine had gone too. Just my reserved board - which, when the soldering iron heats up is about to get an embedded WIFI module!!!

  4. I read the press release on launch day at about 8.20 on the train to work. I walk by a Tesco Extra on the way from the station to the office, so at about 8.45 I'd picked up 4 copies of MagPi magazine! Soldered header pins to ome Zero at the weekend and fired it up. Let the fun begin!

    1. Having had an initial tinker with the board, I agree that it's a good candidate for an ESP8266 pairing. Sadly, I have evening and weekend commitments for the next few weeks (When I am not at my day job, I do sound and SFX/LFX for local amateur dramatics groups and it's panto season!) and so playtime has been delayed.

  5. Hey Pete

    You luckier than most of us back in blighty.

    They were out of stock on-line every where within hours. Tried whsmiths for the MagPi magazine at metro centre and Newcastle but they where out as well (nice lady on counter said they only been given 6 copies, duh)

    Tacked a couple on to a Farnell order, but back order delivery is stated as March 2016.

    So history repeats it self with another Pi "shortage"

    Now, where did I put my Arduino or rather its nice STM32 ARM cousin I got for £1.95 on ebay 😉

    1. Hi Tony - I tried Tesco in Kingstone Park and Hexham on my return as well as Morrisons - nothing - why do people do this - they MUST have known what type of response they'd get - unless they realised that this would have no future due to the limitations and just simply put the lot out at once as a massive marketing exercise. I have the one and I'll set it up - but by the time you add an Ethernet connector etc, Orange Pi is still looking a lot better - and remember this is not a Pi2 so it will still be slow. Now I'm getting used to the power of having Raspbian (or similar) I really don't want to go back to the Arduino - even the 1284 which I used all the time.

  6. Hi everyone.

    The lack of connectivity seems to be a very hot topic. I'd personally say, that Pi Zero doesn't compete to other Pi-s. When You need Ethernet it is cheaper and better to grab 'adult' Pi. (BTW, they are also on sale). Pi 0 seems to be the replacement for the Pi A, as cheap as possible linux board with GPIO. And it is amazing for the projects where connectivity is not needed or a special connectivity required (i.e. drones? or LoRa, or simple NRF24 to communicate to some extra low power devices).

    The cheapest solution with connectivity seems to be https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1598272670/chip-the-worlds-first-9-computer . They offer WiFi and BT onboard. As well, as 4Gb storage. For 9$. But (there is always a but), current pre-orders will be shipped only in June 2016.

    And the last. Seems like Pi 0 was just a promotion now. Not sure if it will be available soon again. As well, as the price might be reasonably higher in future. Counting the cost of shitty cables, overall price is a bit confusing.

    1. The real solution is to get to the bottom of why I managed to buy Pi2 for just over £20 in the states when we get shafted for over £30 in the UK. I should have brought a suitcase full of them.

  7. I was also one of the lucky ones, I went to my local Tesco (UK) and got the last MagPi straight off the shelf, ordered a couple of very inexpensive OTG, Mini-2-HDMI cables and new Micro-SD card, apparently every UK shop is out of stock now. The magazine is pretty good too, loads of really interesting info and projects, very well put together. My PI will be made use of over the xmas as an HDMI games console, although I havent selected which games yet. I'm not really that bothered about the Ethernet connection as I already have a PI-B. MY ZERO IS PURELY FOR FUN !!
    PS. Mr Scargill, thank you for a very informative website !!

    1. And thank you for the compliment Bob - well I know what mine is going to be.. if I can get it working (no lead yet) - an EMONCMS server. I've been playing with this all afternoon (using the EMONCMS.ORG server) - and I just have to have my own - what a great toy 🙂

      1. Slightly off-topic, but still based on the ESP8266.. I have been reading some of your blogs regarding using the 8266 in AP mode, I want to make a permanent connection with an iPad, not to do huge amounts of data, but I dont want it to drop out (as I have read about resets etc) - (1) is the current build of the 8266 firmware stable or does it still drop out ? (2) Should I start with AT commands, or go straight to programming in Lua, or use one of the SDKs so I can write in C ?
        There seems to be a lot of programming choice and I am a little confused as to the best way forward and I dont want to waste loads of time and effort if there is a solid known route - As always, thank you for such a great informative site, I am sure there are many that totally appreciate your efforts and passing the knowledge on 🙂

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