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 * The Raspberry Pi has been hyped as an educational device but [[http://whitequark.org/blog/2012/09/25/why-raspberry-pi-is-unsuitable-for-education/|is not fit for that purpose]].  * The Raspberry Pi has been hyped as an educational device but some would claim it [[http://whitequark.org/blog/2012/09/25/why-raspberry-pi-is-unsuitable-for-education/|is not fit for that purpose]].

Can I put Debian on my Rasberry Pi?

Yes.

Debian armhf will not work (see below). Debian armel will, but will not make best use of the floating point hardware.

Your best bet is to use Raspbian - which is Debian armhf rebuilt for the RPi's ARMv6+VFP2 ARM variant.

Should I buy a Rasberry Pi?

There are issues with the Raspberry Pi which means Debian does not recommend it (below). Despite the hype it is a more closed platform than many other things you could buy, and the unusual hardware can be problematic too. We suggest considering one of the many devices in the Freedombox list, or some of the other low-level development boards listed if hardware hacking is your focus

If you really need the hardware-hacking aspect but not full-blown linux, and favour ARM, then these cortex-based MCU boards are worth a look

List compiled March 2013, no doubt many more will be along soon. As you can see there are plenty of things more open, cheaper and more standard than Rasberry Pi's, and which don't misrepresent themselves.

Raspberry Pi issues

The Raspberry Pi issues relate to technical problems, software freedom and hype:

  • The CPU in the Raspberry Pi implements the ARMv6 ISA (with VFP2) and is thus incompatible with the Debian armhf port baseline of ARMv7+VFP3 and ARM hardware-floating-point ports for other distributions, which all have the same baseline. It is compatible with Debian armel (armv4t, soft(emulated) FP), but floating-point tasks will be slow when running the Debian armel port.
  • The Raspberry Pi boots from its GPU and only non-free software is currently available for the GPU, even starting the machine requires a large (2MB) blob of non-free, unsupportable software.
  • The 3D driver for the Raspberry Pi, while free software, is just a shim that passes OpenGL commands directly to the non-free software running on the GPU. This means that any issues with OpenGL cannot be fixed nor performance improved. This is better than some other GPUs because the ARM part can be rebuilt, but claims were made for this 'first Open Source ARM GPU driver' on its release, far beyond the actual functionality/openness.
  • The Raspberry Pi has been hyped as an educational device but some would claim it is not fit for that purpose.