RaspberryPi : A Missed Chance for Desktop Revolution

:: Several weeks ago, a friend of mine posted a question, he wondered why Windows on RaspberryPi 2 is so slow.
He got people answering, but I was sure mine would be the correct one : "there's no display driver for RaspberryPi".

I think he thought I'm kinda crazy 🙂 RaspberryPi, one of the most popular computing device ever, able to run Windows too, yet doesn't have a display driver for it ?
Seems impossible, right ? But he checked anyway.

He got back to me, surprised, indeed there's no display driver for RaspberryPi on Windows.
I smiled, I was already pretty sure because it's the same situation too on Linux – RaspberryPi is mighty slow as a desktop computer.

But then people drew the wrong conclusions. They thought RaspberryPi is underpowered, slow; a piece trash, basically.
This is just plain wrong.

RaspberryPi 2 actually is a very #powerful computer. The CPU itself has 4 cores. Then there's its GPU (graphic processing unit), VideoCore, it got 12 (!!!) cores; and it's able to #smoothly run multimedia applications, movie player, HD movies, even 3D games, such as Quake III.

All these for just US$ 35 🙂

So why is it still slow ?

As I said, currently there's no display driver for RaspberryPi.
Which means it uses the generic driver to run its display – which is as slow as a snail.

Which in turn causes all desktop software seems slow – browser, office apps, games, etc.

Yes, after nearly 3 years, there's still no proper display driver for RaspberryPi. (##)

RaspberryPi was originally created for kids, especially as a development tool. To help them learn to become computer developers. (###)
In a lot of cases, the RaspberryPi is used without display, instead attached to other instruments & devices as its brain. Or accessed remotely (headless / without display).

It seems that the founder of RaspberryPi failed to realize that their little device is fully capable to revolutionize the desktop computers as well.

The hardware is there, and very powerful. Similar hardware is being used by our smartphones, and it has no problem running even the most intensive 3D games.
To act as a desktop computer is much less strain than this.

Imagine a desktop computer, that is :

(#) So small : you can tape it to the back of your monitor (I did) 🙂

(#) Consume very little energy : green computing, anyone ?

Your average desktop computer maybe using about 100 watts, while RaspberryPi only need 10 watts. A 10 fold increase of energy efficiency. Very significant.

(#) Affordable : I've met people who needs a desktop computer, but could not afford it. Either it's too expensive, too big for their small house, consume too much electricity, or combinations of those reasons.

RaspberryPi can really help these people.

(#) Reliable : almost all desktop computers I found will one day fail because of dust. Dust clogging the power supply, the heatsink's fan, etc. Or, from hard disk failure. Etc.

RaspberryPi would not have these problems because it doesn't have fan because it doesn't need it, and it doesn't use hard disk (although it could).
RaspberryPi would be far more reliable than an average desktop computer. And this is quite important for a lot of people.

(#) Just Works : a lot of people nowadays just need a browser, or simple office apps. A RaspberryPi running Raspbian (Linux) will provide them with a desktop computer that just works. It will just keep on working, no virus, no malware, very little chance of hardware problem, etc.

I hope one day The RaspberryPi Foundation will realize the #revolutionary potential of their device for desktop computing. Until that day, I'll sit in my corner and cry for the missed opportunity.

(!!!) http://petewarden.com/2014/08/07/how-to-optimize-raspberry-pi-code-using-its-gpu/

(##) Some people will complain that there's this fbturbo driver, or some other patch that we can compile into the kernel, etc etc. Well, fbturbo is still fb=framebuffer, means it's still (much) slower than a fully optimized display driver. And a patch that you need to compile into the kernel is not a proper driver either – it's rocket science for non techie folks. It should be integrated already into the Linux distro, or easily installed like apt-get install rpi-driver

(###) https://www.raspberrypi.org/about/

(#) RaspberryPi Foundation cancelled their effort for a (much) faster desktop : Maynard/Wayland : https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/raspberry-pi-guy-interviews-eben-upton/#comment-1242340 WTH indeed.

(#) A faster web browser for RPi : http://blog.barisione.org/2014-09/rpi-browser/

(#) (very) Early version of VideoCore driver submitted into Linux kernel on 21th Oct 2015 : https://git.kernel.org/cgit/linux/kernel/git/torvalds/linux.git/commit?id=c8b75bca92cbf064b9fa125fc74a85994452e935

(#) Current state of Linux support for VideoCore https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/VideoCore#Linux_support

(#) fbturbo driver for RPi : http://linux-sunxi.org/Xorg#fbturbo_driver

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23 thoughts on “RaspberryPi : A Missed Chance for Desktop Revolution

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