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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good, but already out of date, 22 Oct 2012
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This review is from: Raspberry Pi User Guide (Paperback)
If you're reading this review a good while after it was written in October 2012, bear in mind that these comments refer specifically to the first printed (paper) edition of this book. I fully expect that the few issues I mention here will be resolved in the next edition.

--Edit, December 2013. The second printed edition of this book has now been released. All comments below still refer to the first edition, as I have not seen the second edition.

The good: Well written and informative, especially for those for whom the Raspberry Pi is their first taste of Linux.

The bad: It was already out of date on the day of release, in several ways. In the three months after the book was completed and before it was printed, some things changed.

1) One particular Linux distribution (Raspbian) has become quite synonymous with the Pi, due to the fact that it is modified to use the hardware floating-point maths capability of the Pi, which means that it is able to do some things faster than it could when running standard Debian. When the book was written, the recommended version or 'Distro' of Linux for the Pi was Debian 'Wheezy', and the book makes no mention of Raspbian. Fortunately, as Raspbian is essentially a Pi-tweaked version of Debian, there's little difference between using one or the other. Instructions given originally for Debian in the book will work fine in Raspbian.

2) The hardware design of the 'deluxe' model (The Model 'B') has changed slightly so that some of the connections on the GPIO connector are not the same as they were on early (revision 1) boards). If you have a revision 1 Pi then all the information in this book will exactly match your Pi - but if you have a revision 2, you may be disappointed to find that there is no reference to that version at all - no pin diagram of the GPIO connector for the revision 2 board for example. There is also no reference to the fact that the very newest model B Pi now comes with 512MB ram on board, but as this came about after the publication date of the book, that could hardly be helped. The differences in the GPIO connector are the only serious differences between the revision 1 and revision 2 - everything else is much the same, but the book needs to be revised to include a GPIO pin diagram for the revision 2 as well as the revision 1.

The book has sections on:

-History of the Pi - why it was conceived.

-Setting up, including downloading and installing an operating system onto an SD card, and also backing up the card once you have it set up the way you want it. Since the Pi can't do anything without an operating system, you either have to purchase a preloaded SD card or load one with an operating system yourself. The book explains how to do this using Windows, Linux and Mac based PCs.

-Configuring, including comprehensive coverage of the many options in the config.txt file, used to set the graphics modes and system speed and voltage settings among other things.

-Productivity applications: Cloud based office type applications: Local (as in installed on the Pi itself) Office type applications, including a section on GIMP, Linux's image manipulation program. (Sound / Music authoring and editing didn't make it into this section).

-Multimedia - this section focuses on RaspBMC, one of several applications which make the Pi into a fully featured media player.

-Networking - a very good section on getting the Pi to work with wired networking, USB networking (for the model 'A' which doesn't have an ethernet connector) and with wireless networking.

-Pi as a web server - yes, you can even host a website on your Pi. This explains how to do it.

-Programming (in Scratch) - up to and including the use of collision detection, an essential building block in most games.

-Programming (in Python) - a more advanced game example including the use of the 'Pygame' Python module, and then (overlapping with the section on hardware) reading from and writing to the GPIO pins using the GPIO Python module

You might have expected that the 'C' programming language would have been covered, but it is barely mentioned. Nor is there any mention of BASIC, which might disappoint many for whom the Pi evokes fond memories of the 8-bit computer era (although Python has many BASIC-like qualities).

-Hardware section - you could reasonably expect that this section would get as far as introducing the transistor as an output switch or buffer / driver but it doesn't, it's kept at the most basic level possible - switches and LEDs. However, the use of these components is properly shown in a truly practical way, illustrating placement of the components on breadboard. Transferring projects to stripboard and the subsequent need for soldering skills is also discussed.

-Third party add on boards such as the Adafruit, Slice Of Pi and Gertboard are discussed - that is, their existence is discussed and images of them are shown, but there is really no hard information in the book which would actually get you started on using the Gertboard, for example. That is perhaps understandable since the Gertboard is a pretty complex PCB which includes an autonomous Atmega microcontroller - you'd have to devote another whole book just to that.

Everything in this book can be found online on the official Raspberry Pi support website and numerous other fan and community websites - if, that is, you can spare a year or two to sift through it all.

If you're reading through these reviews of this book it's possible that you are doing so because so much of the advice on website forums is written in such intensely nerdy, cryptic shorthand that you find it impossible to understand it even when you find it.

If so, this book, written on the assumption that the reader has never used Linux before, will come as a tremendous relief to you. Absolutely recommended if you have a revision 1 Pi: If you have a revision 2, you will have to bear in mind that the GPIO header diagram in the book does not match your board, but 95 percent of the book is still relevant for all that, and this discrepancy is sure to be updated in the next edition of the book.
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