Built a computer for my kid for less than $100

IMG_20180618_105130

Could be cheaper with smaller SD storage and no WIFI

This took an hour to build. I goofed around with Python, Wolfram and Minecraft. It’s fun. I built my kid a computer for less than $100. A cheap SD could have saved me $22, and no WiFi, another $30 if I’d used an old Ethernet cable instead of a dongle. All of this stuff was in a box for three years, and it all works. Totally love the productivity software and browser. Super fast loads.

Abandonware can be found in old Gen X and Millenial homes and apartments across America. I assume. I live in an abyss, who can say? Save money on cables and keyboards and optical mice.

I could have spent the extra $50 on a cooling system. I will have to do that anyways. This thing runs hot. It will be used to program stuff with Micropython and Arduino.

Gear

  • Pi                     …$35
  • Monitor         …free
  • WiFi dongle  …$30
  • SD card          …$20 (32 Gb, bigly)
  • Mouse            …free
  • Keyboard       …$10
  • USB 2.0           …free
  • Power cords  …free
  • VGA-VGA.       …free
  • VGA/HDMI     …free*
  •  5 V supply      …free
  • Speakers        ….free
  • Case and fan  ….optional abandonware

 

Procedure

  1. Download Raspbian.
  2. Download SD formatter – I used Etcher.
  3. Format SD card.
  4. Download Raspbian unto your SDs.
  5. Power everything.
  6. Load SD into SD slot on Raspberry Pi.
  7. Consider directories, paths, automation, networks and organize your Pi area.
  8. Play Minecraft for three hours and tell spouse you’re “testing the equipment”.
  9. Cool device, especially if placed in a case and running WiFi.
  10. Get speakers.

Vendors

Software

NOOBS is an easy operating system installer which contains Raspbian and LibreELEC. It also provides a selection of alternative operating systems which are then downloaded from the internet and installed.

  1. You will need software to prepare your SD card to receiveth thy NOOBS, so I chose Etcher. It was easy to use.
  2. Or buy Noobs preloaded on the correctly format SD card. I chose Adafruit because they have a universe of DIY stuff, like this portal to IoT stuff you can develop. 
  3. Consider serial displays and GUI like Eclipse or PuTTY for tweaking transmitters and receivers. Spitballing here.

Hardware

  1. If you need a VGA/HDMI adapter, find one here.  Cheaper than a new monitor!
  2. Get a fan and a case and a power supply. I found these on Amazon. These are, of course items light enough for local drone delivery. It is possible to use a Pi to control a drone. Cheap.
  3. Build a drone with it.  There are a million ways to do it. Here’s one way.   I found this immediately on a Google search. Microsoft recently purchased Github for lots of clams. Lots. I really enjoy the data management tools available and look forward to seeing synergy between Microsoft and Github. It will fuel innovation and industrial control systems. Not expensive, not cheap.
  4. Get other remote sensing packs. Reccomend Adafruit, or Texas Instruments for wireless development. Check Hackaday, Github, Instructibles, Element14 or Sourceforge for news and views. Prices vary.
  5. WiFi dongles are cheap. In 2015 I paid 3x for this. 
  6. Print parts as needed. Thingverse, Shapeways, go for it.

 

 

 

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