Three years to the month after launch­ing the first Rasp­ber­ry Pi micro­com­put­er, the Rasp­ber­ry Pi Foun­da­tion has unveiled a new Pi that uses a more mod­ern proces­sor and has twice as much mem­o­ry onboard. The Rasp­ber­ry Pi 2, as it’s being called, will sell for $35, just like its pre­de­ces­sors (the first gen­er­a­tion Mod­el A and Mod­el B), but it is unques­tion­ably a bet­ter val­ue, due to its improved specs.

We at NPI were among those who bought a Rasp­ber­ry Pi when it first went on sale. Though the soft­ware has improved by leaps and bounds since the ear­ly days, we’ve always wished the hard­ware was better.

At last our wish has been ful­filled — and soon­er than we thought.

After boost­ing the mem­o­ry on the Mod­el B from 256 MB to 512 MB in mid-2012, the Foun­da­tion main­tained that no fur­ther upgrades to hard­ware were planned, at least not in the short term. From the Rasp­ber­ry Pi FAQ, cir­ca Decem­ber 2013:

When will the next model of the Raspberry Pi be released?

As of the end of 2013, there are no imme­di­ate plans for the next mod­el; pos­si­bly a new mod­el will be released in 2–3 years, but this is not a firm time frame. A new mod­el would inher­ent­ly undo much of the com­mu­ni­ty work that has been done to date on the Rasp­ber­ry Pi, which would be counter-pro­duc­tive to our edu­ca­tion­al aims. We con­cen­trate our engi­neer­ing effort on mak­ing the soft­ware that runs on the Rasp­ber­ry Pi faster and bet­ter all the time – which is why you should always be run­ning the most recent firmware. Minor hard­ware revi­sions, such as bring­ing out i2s on the Mod­el B rev. 2 board, will occur on an as need­ed basis and have no set time­frame or schedule.

Here we are just a year or so lat­er, and we’ve got the Mod­el 2. How did the Foun­da­tion man­age to pro­duce a new Pi while main­tain­ing the back­wards com­pat­i­bil­i­ty they’ve insist­ed was so impor­tant to them? Turns out Broad­com, the mak­ers of the sys­tem on a chip the Pi uses, were will­ing to lend a hand:

Nonethe­less, there comes a point when there’s no sub­sti­tute for more mem­o­ry and CPU per­for­mance. Our chal­lenge was to fig­ure out how to get this with­out throw­ing away our invest­ment in the plat­form or spoil­ing all those projects and tuto­ri­als which rely on the pre­cise details of the Rasp­ber­ry Pi hard­ware. For­tu­nate­ly for us, Broad­com were will­ing to step up with a new SoC, BCM2836. This retains all the fea­tures of BCM2835, but replaces the sin­gle 700MHz ARM11 with a 900MHz quad-core ARM Cor­tex-A7 com­plex: every­thing else remains the same, so there is no painful tran­si­tion or reduc­tion in stability.

Because the new Pi’s proces­sor has four cores that are each 200MHz faster than the orig­i­nal Pi’s proces­sor, the increase in speed is six­fold. There’s twice as much mem­o­ry too, as pre­vi­ous­ly men­tioned. The new P‑I unfor­tu­nate­ly does­n’t come with sup­port for USB 3.0/3.1 or giga­bit Eth­er­net, but a future Pi well might.

The new Pi will sup­port Ubun­tu as well as Microsoft­’s Win­dows 10 oper­at­ing sys­tem, which will delight any­one who has tried to get Win­dows to work on the Pi. The Foun­da­tion has always advised against this in the past. From the old FAQ:

Will it run WINE (or Win­dows, or oth­er x86 software)?

Wine Is Not an Emu­la­tor. Some peo­ple have put Win­dows 3.1 on the Rasp­ber­ry Pi inside an x86 CPU emu­la­tor in order to use spe­cif­ic appli­ca­tions, but try­ing to use a ver­sion of Win­dows even as recent as Win­dows 98 can take hours to boot into, and take sev­er­al more hours to update your cur­sor every time you try to move it. We don’t rec­om­mend it!

Will it run the Win­dows 8 ARM edition?

No. Even if Microsoft decid­ed to devote all its resources to get­ting Win­dows 8 on the Pi it would not work. The Rasp­ber­ry Pi lacks the min­i­mum mem­o­ry and CPU require­ments, it runs on an ver­sion of the ARM proces­sor that is not sup­port­ed by Win­dows 8, it lacks the appro­pri­ate axis sen­sors… the list goes on and on. The Pi will not run Win­dows 8.

But the Pi 2 will be able to run Win­dows 10. From Microsoft:

We’re excit­ed to announce that we are expand­ing our Win­dows Devel­op­er Pro­gram for IoT by deliv­er­ing a ver­sion of Win­dows 10 that sup­ports Rasp­ber­ry Pi 2. This release of Win­dows 10 will be free for the Mak­er com­mu­ni­ty through the Win­dows Devel­op­er Pro­gram for IoT.

Win­dows 10 is the first step to an era of more per­son­al com­put­ing. This vision framed our work on Win­dows 10, where we are mov­ing Win­dows to a world that is more mobile, nat­ur­al and ground­ed in trust.

With the Win­dows for IoT devel­op­er pro­gram we’re bring­ing our lead­ing devel­op­ment tools, ser­vices and ecosys­tem to the Rasp­ber­ry Pi community!

We see the Mak­er com­mu­ni­ty as an amaz­ing source of inno­va­tion for smart, con­nect­ed devices that rep­re­sent the very foun­da­tion for the next wave of com­put­ing, and we’re excit­ed to be a part of this community.

We are excit­ed about our part­ner­ship with the Rasp­ber­ry Pi Foun­da­tion and deliv­er­ing a ver­sion of Win­dows 10 that sup­ports Rasp­ber­ry Pi 2, and we will be shar­ing more details about our Win­dows 10 plans for IoT in the com­ing months.

Win­dows 10 will also be a free upgrade, at least in the first year of avail­abil­i­ty, for peo­ple run­ning Win­dows 8 and 8.1 now. In mak­ing Win­dows 10 upgrades free (as in free beer), Microsoft is fol­low­ing in the foot­steps of Apple, which decid­ed to stop charg­ing for OS X upgrades in 2013 when it released Mavericks.

Nei­ther OS X or Win­dows is free as in free speech, how­ev­er. Both oper­at­ing sys­tems con­sist of code that’s pro­pri­etary, or closed source. The var­i­ous oper­at­ing sys­tems that the Pi has run since its incep­tion (includ­ing Rasp­bian) are open source, mean­ing that any­one can see how they work and mod­i­fy them to their heart’s content.

Owing to its nature, free soft­ware can­not be pirat­ed like Win­dows or OS X. Any­one who wants a copy of a libre OS like Ubun­tu or Debian can freely and quick­ly get one. Copy­ing free soft­ware is not only legal­ly allowed, it’s encouraged.

Con­trary to what you might think, free soft­ware can actu­al­ly be sold (and some­times is), but its pur­chasers then have the option of redis­trib­ut­ing it gratis, if they wish. If they did­n’t have this free­dom, then the soft­ware would not real­ly be free.

We at NPI are firm philo­soph­i­cal believ­ers in free soft­ware, and we’re proud that our online pres­ence is pow­ered exclu­sive­ly by a free soft­ware stack. While it’s nice that Microsoft is sup­port­ing the Rasp­ber­ry Pi (just as it sup­ports Dru­pal and Word­Press), we’ll con­tin­ue to prin­ci­pal­ly pow­er our Pis with free software.

Con­grat­u­la­tions to the Foun­da­tion on the launch of the new mod­el. We’re anx­ious to put it to the test and see what it can do.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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