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Experience Using Raspberry Pi 2 Mini PC As Desktop PC for Weeks

I have been using the Raspberry Pi 2 Model B with a 900MHz Quad Core CPU, 1GB RAM, VideoCore IV 3D graphics core and MicroSD Memory Slot, HDMI video port, 3.5 mm headphone jack, ethernet port, and 4 usb ports as a regular desktop computer for many weeks. I want to see if I can do a lot of the daily tasks I do like typing out blog articles, listening to music, and watching video files, which don’t really need a lot of computing power, can be done on the Pi 2. The Raspberry Pi 2 also only uses about 4 Watts of powers according to Raspberry Pi 2 related blog posts, and online videos I watched about the Raspberry Pi 2 power consumption. The Pi 2 uses less power than my Chromebox desktop which uses about 12 Watts of power, and my old 19 inch LCD monitor which uses about 40 Watts of power. I may get a newer HDMI and smaller LED Backlit monitor for the Pi 2, so I only use about 10-30 Watts for my monitor for the Pi 2, so the Pi 2, and monitor can be powered off a small battery, and I save some money on batteries, and electricity costs.

The Raspberry Pi 2 is slower than most desktop computers made in the last 10 years, but the Pi 2 is very stable, and rarely crashes, freezes, and randomly reboots when I used it for the past weeks. The Pi 2 is also compatible with my older monitor, usb keyboard, and mouse, and speakers. The Raspbian operating system haven’t broke down or slowed down on me like other full featured operating systems like Windows, and other versions of Linux which sometimes become slower, and less reliable after using it for a few weeks to months of use. Raspbian on the Raspberry Pi 2 is still very reliable, and fast after installing a lot of programs on Raspbian, and changing a lot of settings. I can be using the Pi 2 for hours to days without experiencing a single reliability problem related to Raspbian. Raspbian is based on Linux, so it is unlikely to become infected with a virus or malware which makes it unusable like Windows, and Mac may sometimes become infected by malware which makes them unusable until you remove the virus. Raspbian on the Raspberry Pi still starts up in under a minute, and shutdown in a few seconds even after using the Pi 2 for many weeks. It also rarely freeze or crash when I been using the Pi 2 for many weeks, so it remain stable ever since using it as a PC. The Pi 2 has a Quad-Core CPU, so it is fast enough for coding small programs, office work, web browsing on sites like Blogs, forums, Reddit and Twitter, playing music and HD 1080P video playback when I use programs like Kodi, or Kodi based operating system like OpenElec, Raspbmc, XBian. The Pi 3 can also be used for playing retro games like Quake 3. I sometimes overclock the Raspberry Pi 2 to 1GHz for the CPU, and 500 MHz for the Memory and Video chip with Raspian’s raspi-config program when I need more performance. But, the default CPU, and memory speed is fast enough for most of the tasks I use the Raspberry Pi 2 for.

The Pi 2 has 4 USB ports which is enough ports for me to plug in a keyboard, mouse, wifi adapter, and a USB storage drive into the Pi 2 with the USB ports. There are also additional GPIO ports, display ports, and more, so I can plug in more parts, and accessories without the need to buy a USB hub.

It is possible to uninstall software which you don’t want which came with Raspbian, and install 3rd party software like Libroffice on Raspbian. After removing unwanted software like programming tools, web browsers, etc, and installing thirdparty software like Libreoffice, I still have 3.5GB of Free space out of 6.3 GB of space on my 8GB NOOBs MicroSD card which is installed on my Pi 2. About 2.7GB is used to install NOOBs on a MicroSD Card, so if you want more free space on the Pi 2, it is best to install your operating system for the Pi 2 by using an IMG file which you downloaded from Raspberry Pi’s website.

The Raspberry Pi 2 is also quiet when it is On because there are no fans, speakers, and other things on the Pi 2 which can make noises. The Pi 2 is a good computer for putting in location where you want a silent running computer like at a TV room, library, bed room, or office where you don’t want a loud computer. The Raspberry Pi 2 CPU also runs very cool at 37-45 Celsius according to the Temperature monitoring app in Raspbian. When I touch the case for my Pi 2, it is not warm like other devices I own like a laptop, smartphone, or TV which gets warm when it is on. The low heat levels of the Pi 2 would make the Pi 2 a good choice for rooms like a bedroom, living room, and small room where you don’t want your PC, and other electronics like TV,monitor, and Stereo music system to heat up your room while your electronics are on.

I don’t need to spend any extra money after setting up my Raspberry Pi 2 which I bought as a kit from Canakit for $69. The Raspberry Pi 2 kit includes the Raspberry Pi 2, Pi 2 case, USB Wifi 802.11N Canakit adapter, HDMI cable, 2.5A Micro-USB power supply, heatsink for the Pi 2’s Broadcom CPU, and Sandisk Class 10 – 8GB MicroSD card pre-loaded with NOOBS for installing Raspbian. The kit also comes with instruction manuals for using the Pi 2, and Raspbian. What I like about the Pi 2 is that most of the parts like the power supply, usb wifi adapter, HDMI cable and microsd memory card can be replaced for $5-15 dollars each, and the Pi 2 only cost $35, so fixing the Pi 2 does not cost much money to fix. Plus, most of the parts can be bought locally at a regular store with an electronics department like Wal-Mart, Target, and Bestbuy . One of the advantages of the Raspberry Pi using off the shelf parts like a MicroSD Memory card, Micro-USB power supply cell phone chargers, and regular HDMI cable is that I already own a few of these items from old smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices, so I can quickly re-use old smartphone accessories on the Pi 2 if something breaks on the Pi 2. MicroSD Cards, Micro-USB power supply cell phone chargers, and hdmi cables last a long time in my experience, so I shouldn’t need to replace them very often. I like that most of the parts like MicroSD card and power supply are removable, so it is easy to fix the Pi 2 when one part break, and easy to recover data on the MicroSD card by plugging it into another working Pi 2, or PC’s MicroSD Card slot to recover data if the Pi 2 breaks. I can also re-use the MicroSD card, Micro-USB power supply, and other parts when the Raspberry Pi 3 is released, or I can use them on other mini computers, and smartphones.

The Raspberry Pi 2 is the cheapest new computer to learn how to use different versions of Linux, learn Linux command lines, and have a computer which is good enough to create programs with Python, and run Linux programs.

The Raspberry Pi 2 also provides many hours of entertainment per day since there are so many programs for Raspbian, and it has a lot of nice accessories like cameras, touch screen monitors, soundcards, speakers, motors, heatsinks, cooling fans, and custom cases to protect the Pi 2. I also seen some other Pi 2 owners turn their Raspberry Pi 2 into a wireless router, servers, digital camera, game console, and cell phone by installing extra accessories and parts onto the Pi, and installing extra software on their Pi 2.

I mostly use Raspbian Linux Operating System on the Raspberry Pi because it has most of the programs like web browser, word processor, media player, , and image editor which I usually use on a daily basis. There is also a lot of people who use Raspbian Linux, so it is easy to find an online help article about different topics related to Raspbian posted on a forum, or blog about Raspbian. Raspbian is also pretty lightweight, so it starts up in under a minute, and shutdown in a few seconds. Programs like Clementine music players, and Mirage image editors take a few seconds to open. I like the user interface in Raspbian, there is a Menu button which shows menus of applications which are installed on Raspbian. There is also a taskbar which shows the opened programs which I am using. Using Raspbian is pretty simple to learn how to use since it is similar to other desktop operating systems like Windows XP.

The default file manager in Raspbian is easy to use to organize, and manage my files on my Pi 2’s storage drive.

I can use the Pi Store in Raspbian, or the Terminal command line program to install programs on Raspbian. I can install programs from the internet using the terminal by using a command like “sudo apt-get install program”, and it is also possible to install programs offline with a .deb debian package in Raspbian.

Using most programs like Word Processors, Web Browsers, media players, and games on Raspbian has been pretty reliable in my experience because programs rarely crash, or freeze when I use them.

Keeping programs, and Raspbian updated is easy to do.

I just need to type

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get upgrade

in terminal to keep Raspbian, and its programs updated.

Using the Raspberry Pi 2 to type out text documents like blog articles with FocusWriter is fast, and reliable. You can download, and install Libreoffice if you need a bigger full featured office suite with word processor, spreadsheets, presentation, drawing and Database programs.

You need to type

sudo apt-get install libreoffice

in terminal to install Libreoffice on Raspbian.

Web browsing on the Raspberry Pi 2 is better than the original Raspberry Pi 1 which was slower because of the slower parts on the Pi 2. The default Web Browser which is Epiphany also runs pretty fast, and can smoothly play online video, and music files which are hosted on a website. The file download speed, and website loading times is a lot shorter than the Pi 1, and other less powerful computers. With the Pi 2, I can now use bigger websites with more animation, HTML5 content, scripts like JavaScript like a WordPress blog at a more usable speed. The default web browser for Raspbian runs pretty smoothly on the Pi 2 with a slower CPU, and less RAM than most modern computers. I mainly use IceWeasel Firefox based Web browser on Raspbian. I installed NoScript, and ImageBlock on IceWeasel which makes the Pi 2 use less RAM and CPU resources when browsing websites which has a lot of JavaScript scripts, and large image files which sometimes make the Pi 2 run very slowly because of running scripts, and large images slowing down IceWeasel. I also installed a useragent changer in IceWeasel to view a mobile site instead of a desktop website, so the site loads faster. IceWeasel is also good enough for posting articles to my WordPress Blog. WordPress does not run as fast on IceWeasel on my Raspberry Pi 2 compared to my Chromebook, and regular desktop. But, Iceweasel on the Pi 2 is very stable, and does not crash a lot.

Midori is also a pretty good lightweight web browser for Raspbian which supports JavaScript, and HTML5, so you can watch video on YouTube, and visit most modern websites like WordPress blogs. There is also Dillo, and Netsurf which are both extremely lightweight visual based web browsers which are mainly use to visit websites with text, and pictures, but don’t display video, and animations like a more modern web browser like IceWeasel or Midori which can do more tasks online like display html5 animation, and video.

For many users, video and audio playback will be the main purpose for them to buy the Raspberry Pi.

The Raspberry Pi 2’s video playback performance is very fast when I use Kodi/XBMC, or OMXPlayer which are both hardware accelerated when playing video files. 1080P video runs very smooth without video slowdown problems like freezes, and dropped video frames. The audio quality of video files, and MP3 music files are pretty good for the Raspberry Pi 2. I notice the audio does not slowdown when playing video where the video plays faster than the audio track like on an old PC I own which sometimes play video faster than the audio. The audio levels is loud, and clear, so the Pi 2 is good enough to use for playing music files on the Pi 2 connected to my computer speakers with a 3.5mm audio jack.

I mainly use Kodi on OpenElec, and Rasbmc operating system if I want to quickly watch online and offline video, listen to music from the web, or stored on my external hard drive or a usb flash drive because Kodi is easier to use, and faster to learn how to use than OMXplayer which is harder to use in Raspbian because you need to use the Terminal command line program, and know how to type commands like omxplayer /home/pi/Downloads/video.mp4 to play a video named video.mp4 in the Downloads folder on the Pi’s Home Folder.

But, OMXPlayer has frontend gui like TBOPlayer which makes OMXPlayer a lot easier to use while you are logged into Raspbian’s user interface because TBOPlayer lets you make a playlist, play files, and control media files from TBOPlayer user interface instead of using the command line in Terminal. But, a lot of user interface programs for OMXPlayers are very basic, and don’t have features like a seek bar, nice user interface, and other features found in more advance video players like VLC. OMXPlayer GUI user interface programs can also be kind of hard to install for users who are not used to using the Terminal command line program in Raspbian and other versions of Linux.

But, I find using TBOPlayer to control OMXPlayer more convenient because I can watch video or listen to music within Raspbian operating system instead of rebooting my Pi 2, and choosing OpenElec or Raspbmc to use to play a video file. I can also listen to music while I browse the web, and type out documents when I use TBOPlayer to play music in the background.

OMXPlayer and user interface programs for OMXPlayer also uses a lot less RAM, and CPU resources than full-featured media players like Kodi, VLC, etc, so OMXPlayer is less likely to suffer from slowdown problems even when you have other big programs like Web browsers opened. OMXPlayer on the Raspberry Pi 2 opens HD video files on its drive very quickly, and the video playback is smooth, and fast. The Pi 2 can also stream video on the web pretty quickly with OMXPlayer, but you’ll need to follow an online tutorial to learn how to stream online video from a website with OMXPlayer.

OMXPlayer is not very hard to use to play files on the Pi’s SD card with Terminal command line program since I just need to type

omxplayer folder-path-address/filename.file-extension

For example, if I want to open a file called video.mp4 with a .mp4 extension which is located in my Downloads folder found in /home/pi/ in Raspbian, I need to type

omxplayer /home/pi/Downloads/video.mp4

and press the enter key on my keyboard in Terminal to make omxplayer play video.mp4 in /home/pi/Downloads/ folder

To stop omxplayer from playing back video or music, press the “q” button on your keyboard to stop omxplayer from playing your video or music file.

Note: Make sure to type the D in Downloads with a capital D or the command won’t work. If you do not hear sound from the video, you may need to adjust your sound settings in raspi-config advance settings’ audio settings.

If you don’t see video, you may need to adjust your memory split setting to 64MB or higher in raspi-config advance settings’ memory split. You can open raspi-config by typing sudo raspi-config in the terminal. I recommend at least 128MB for the memory split since it will make bigger videos have more RAM to help it play videos more smoothly. 128MB or higher Memory Split may also make some games run better.

The default Epiphany Web Browser in Raspbian Linux can open MP4 and other Pi 2 compatible video files, and play them smoothly, and quickly in Epiphany browser window. But, the Epiphany video player is very basic with just a full screen button, seek bar, play/pause, playtime counter, and video window.

It is also possible to install Kodi on Raspbian Linux, so you can save space on your MicroSD card by not having to install two operating systems. But, I think it is better to install OpenElec, Rasbmc, and Raspbian separately with NOOBS, or use separate MicroSD Cards for each operating system, so you don’t lose access to media playback or your operating system if Raspbian breaks for whatever reason.

You can install VLC media player on Raspbian by typing

sudo apt-get install vlc

in a Raspbian terminal window.

VLC can’t play video smoothly on the Pi 2 because VLC is not hardware accelerated on the Pi. But, VLC on the Pi 2 is fast enough for playing audio files like MP3 files.

You can also download and install XiX Player from the Pi Store. Xix is a full featured music player which is compatible with the Pi 2.

You can also uses Clementine which is a free full featured music player which has playlists, and audio streaming features to play back music files, and streams from the web. To install Clementine, you need to type.

sudo apt-get install clementine

in the terminal program on Raspbian, and press enter, and y key on the keyboard to install clementine.

I can also install lxmusic player which is a more basic music player which is mostly designed for playing music on your computer. It has a playlist editor, and music player with seekbar, play/pause, volume, and filter/search. It uses about 24MB of RAM when it is playing a music file, so lxmusic is great to use to play music when I plan to do something like web browsing which can use a lot of RAM. I mostly use lxmusic because it is lightweight, and has most of the features I need in a music player like music controls, seekbar, and playlist editor.

To install lxmusic, I just need to type

sudo apt-get install lxmusic

in Raspbian terminal program.

It is also possible to open MP3 files with the default Epiphany web browser installed in Raspbian. The music media player is very basic, and can just open files, pause playback. The media player in Epiphany also has a seekbar, volume level bar, and time played/total time of music time counter. The media player in Epiphany is good enough for quickly opening and playing a song by right-clicking a music file on the desktop, and picking open with Web Browser in the Right click menu.

The Raspberry Pi 2 is a nice affordable $35 mini computer for doing a lot of tasks which don’t need a very fast computer. The Pi 2 is easy to maintain, and fix, and most of the parts like MicroSD Card are affordable to buy for a few dollars. There are a lot of parts, accessories, and programs which are compatible with the Pi 2. There are also a lot of new official Pi parts, and accessories which come out for the Raspberry Pi almost on a monthly basis, so there is always something new to install on the Pi. A few days ago I read a blog post that a official 7 inch touchscreen monitor is now available for the Pi 2. Most importantly, there is a huge community of Raspberry Pi users, so it is easy to find help on how to use the Pi 2 by reading blog posts, and forum posts related to the Raspberry Pi 2 online. There are a lot of online videos and books on how to use the Raspberry Pi.

3 comments… add one
  • wanda mcgann July 2, 2016, 4:41 pm

    I was reading your comments on how you put the raspberry pi as a computer. I just want to know if you had no television to use, how would I put speakers on a pc with only a monitor and speakers and raspberry pi 2 b model. I get it running well but I need sound, how could I get that. use bluetooth speakers?? or can I get my pc speakers to work on it. when I hook my pc speakers on the raspberry pi usb port and hook the green colored piece in the on the audio port it makes a big buzzing sound

    • Johnson Yip July 2, 2016, 5:36 pm

      I just normally use PC speakers for getting sound, and it works okay. I notice when I have a USB hub, or other device hooked up to my Pi it sometimes buzzes.

      The buzzing sound could be caused by a your USB power adapter giving off electrical interference. If you overclock your Pi, it may have buzzing sounds from interference from an overclocked CPU.

      There are some third-party external USB sound cards and add-on sound boards designed for the Raspberry Pi 2 model B like the Wolfson Audio Card
      which work for the Raspberry Pi Model B.

      External sound devices usually sound better because they are digital devices which are separated from the Raspberry Pi’s circuit board which contain the CPU and other parts which can give off electrical interference.

      I seen some HDMI to VGA converter devices which has a 3.5mm audio jack for plugging in a pair of PC speakers. There is a possibility that using a HDMI to VGA adapter with a 3.5 mm audio jack may get rid of the buzzing because the jack is on the video converter. There are also HDMI to HDMI video boxes with a 3.5 mm audio jack for plugging in stereo 3.5mm speakers which use the 3.5mm audio jack for sound.

      I think a Bluetooth Speaker setup is not as simple or good as a USB or Add-on sound board for the Pi because there might be some audio lag/slowdown problems when playing sound with a wireless bluetooth speaker. The lag can make playing audio and video and games on the Pi out of sync. It is also more complicated to setup since you need to connect the Bluetooth speaker to a wireless Bluetooth adapter. With a wired audio setup, you just need to plug in your speakers to the soundcard.

      In Linux, the audio drivers for Soundcards are usually installed automatically after you bootup your computer, or install your OS.

  • George April 30, 2018, 12:48 am

    But, can it run Minecraft? Spoiler alert: Yes!

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