8 Awesome Uses for a Raspberry Pi

This is a guest post by Grayson Williams

You have given in to the hype and have finally bought a Raspberry Pi. Now the question is: What do you do with this little device? Well, the answer is A LOT can be done using a Pi. It can be a desktop PC, a web server, or even a radio station- anything computer related!  This post highlights 8 awesome uses of a Raspberry Pi for people of all ages and tech prowess. Most of these projects run best on Raspberry Pi 4 sets because this new model has better speed and performance compared with earlier models. Your experience on the new model will be smooth and your project will be more energy-efficient and cost-effective.

Now let’s get right to it:

1. Setting up an Apache webserver

Apache is a modern technology that can serve HTML files over popular web protocols such as HTTP and HTTPS. It can also serve modules such as PHP. This versatility and dynamism makes Apache the most popular web servers for amateur programmers. It is also one of the best available servers for the Raspberry Pi. And although there are faster servers than Apache, a good example being Nginx web server, this technology accounts for almost half of all web servers in the world.

With Apache, you can use Raspberry Pi 4 or Pi 3B to create a web server for your local network. This server dissipates negligible heat which means two things: Lower electricity bills and no need for a cooling fan even if it runs for a whole day. You can rely on the server to serve web pages over the internet as well, with the Pi holding multiple web page copies as you load them over the internet. When used on a local, dedicated network, the server can be extremely fast. You will not experience internet slowdowns at all. Follow this guide to create your Pi server. The tutorial focuses on how you can set up Apache, create its VirtualHost file, and install PHP.

2. Pi tablet

Basically, you can create a touchscreen using a Raspberry Pi 4 or Pi 3B. You can then transform that touchscreen into a Raspberry Pi Tablet. Here is a simple guide that explains how you can make your DIY Pi tablet using a 7’’ touchscreen display, Raspberry Pi, and a raspi official camera module. It also explains how you can load android OS onto raspberry Pi. Note that the Pi tablet will require you to install a USB sound card because plugging in your headphones directly to the Pi board doesn’t produce the clearest of sounds. It sometimes has too much cracking and popping sounds. Another worthy investment is a battery bank for charging your tablet. 

3. Retro gaming

Retro gaming encompasses almost all games you played on the Nintendo Entertainment System growing up. You know, Super Mario Bros 3 and such. If you want to relive that experience, you can use the Raspberry Pi, through the RetroPie project, to create a retro game platform. RetroPie is software built on top of Raspbian and what it does basically is to imitate out-of-date, probably obsolete, gaming consoles. It allows you to emulate not only arcade games but also titles whose original release was on a host of 8, 16, 32, and 64-bit systems.

The RetroPie software comes pre-installed in Raspberry Pi 4, which allows smoother emulation, but it can be adapted and run on any Raspberry Pi model. If you want to revisit your past, this guide will help. You no longer need to download or configure BIOSes of any retro gaming machines.

Warning: Downloading and/or storing an electronic copy of copyrighted game ROMs from the internet is illegal and punishable by law. Be careful with the retro games you choose and seek the consent of the original maker in case a game is copyrighted.

4. Reviving your faulty printer

Maybe you have an outdated printer that refuses to connect to your PC wirelessly. Knowing that e-waste is the hardest to dispose, plus you probably have a unique attachment to the printer, your better option would be to revive it using Raspberry Pi. Or it could be that you just wish to turn an old printer into a wireless printer for your home or office network. Making your old printer wireless is priceless because, on top of eliminating the need to spend on a pricey printer, the flexibility that comes with the wireless technology is massive. Wires and cables belong in the past.

All you need to go wireless is Samba file sharing software, your Pi (Wireless-enabled Pi models are Raspberry Pi 3 B/B+, Raspberry Pi 4 B, and Raspberry Pi Zero W), CUPS modular printing system, probably a USB cable, and this guide to get started. When properly installed, your printer will be operating smoothly on MacOs and Windows operating systems.

5. Create animated GIFs

You can create time-lapse animations using a Raspberry Pi. It involves taking pictures using a Pi camera and then writing a script that tells the story behind the images. You will need some basic understanding of time-lapse photography, Python, and ImageMagick to combine the script and the images into animated GIFs. Learn more about this here. The good thing about this project is that you can use the final product as a décor item in your living room. You will just need to mount a Raspberry Pi onto your wall, mount a photo frame around the Pi, and use the setup to display a new random animated GIF after every few seconds. It doesn’t get more awesomely, incredibly goofy than that!

6. Simple computers for kids

This is a simple project for kids as young as 8 years. Just buy your kid the Kano Computer Kit and Raspberry Pi 4 and then guide them to build their first computer. It is easy, fun, and adventurous. What’s more, you only need to follow this guide once and you will be ready for the best bonding time you have ever had with your kid.

Other fun Raspberry Pi projects you can do with your kids include:

  • Modification Minecraft for gaming videos for kids. The modifications, through the Minecraft Application Programming Interface (API), allow kids to experiment with new gameplays and graphics.
  • Using the Python operating system and raspberry Pi to create a weather station for observing the weather at home.
  • Use the Pi to teach kids the art of cloud storage.

7. Motion capture security system

Smart home security is a necessity these days. You need to know who is messing around your home when you are at work or out of town. That is why you need to create a motion capture security system using Raspberry Pi Camera Module. You will need a USB storage device for storing captured images. A high capacity microSD card can do if you don’t have a USB. Now follow this procedure to create your first DIY home security system. Also, to ensure safety you can also use a NordVPN which will enable you to encrypt your data.

8.      Wi-Fi extender

With coronavirus quarantine going on, you probably have created a home office away from the Wi-Fi router, probably in the basement. Or it could be that your Wi-Fi signal isn’t strong enough in some corners of your living room. You can turn your Raspberry Pi into a Wi-Fi extender by watching this video.

Conclusion

The Raspberry Pi is no longer a luxury device. It is not a device that only tech geeks need for their nerdy programming, electronics, or robotics projects. It is now a necessity for all people regardless of their tech know-how. It is right at the center of the IoT revolution. Acquire one today if you haven’t and start experimenting on its thousands of ready-made projects.

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