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Tech nerds unite! 10 things you can do with a Raspberry Pi

Technology advances every day and nothing showcases how far it’s come more than a Raspberry Pi. It wasn’t too long ago that Nokia phones were the hot new thing. Now we can watch TV on our cellphones and video conference with people on the other side of the world.

But some technology is advancing so quickly it’s hard for us to keep up. We might see something like the Raspberry Pi — a tiny single-board computer — and wonder, “What in the world do I do with this thing?”

Sometimes, technology has dozens of uses if you know where to look. For example, did you know you can use Amazon Alexa to play April Fool’s Day pranks? (These are fun all year long.) Here are 10 amazing things you can do with a Raspberry Pi kit and a little bit of research, sponsored by the small business pros at Dell. They’re the experts on all things small biz. More on that later.

What is a Raspberry Pi?

The Raspberry Pi started out as a low-cost computer alternative to expand computer access to underprivileged kids worldwide. It’s the size of a credit card and can plug into a TV or computer. It’s compatible with standard keyboards and mouses. It’s an incredible device that can do just about anything.

The Raspberry Pi itself is a steal. You can find them for around $27. In most cases, buying a more robust kit makes sense for the amateur hobbyist. You’ll get more bang for your buck that way.

From going online to playing games, there’s a ton you can do with your own Raspberry Pi. It opens up a whole world of opportunities at a fraction of what you’d pay for a fully-fledged computer.

If you want something a bit more beefy, we recommend this kit.

Even if you’ve got a small budget, you can make your own tech at home. Sure, it requires a bit of work and research, but think of it this way: You’re developing a new skill and learning more about the amazing world of tech.

And if you’re ever looking for a job, it’s a great skill to add to your resume. Plus, it can be flat-out fun to explore your options. Speaking of which, here are ten fun uses for your Raspberry Pi.

1. Turn it into a basic computer

The biggest use of this nifty piece of tech is first on the list. Who wants to spend around $1,000 on a computer when they could spend $27? You can use your Raspberry Pi to create a basic computer that does everything your Windows computer does, including surfing the internet, making spreadsheets and playing games online.

You need more than just the starter kit, including an SD kit, a computer screen, mouse and keyboard, but you can still build a basic computer for around $100. Keep in mind, you will need to pay for a copy of Windows if you want to run that.

2. Build a media server

If you’ve got a ton of content you want to store, you should look at some server options. Maybe you want to save copies of your favorite movies or TV shows. If you solely rely on streaming services for your content, you’re at the mercy of companies, which often remove shows with little warning.

A server is also a great way to fight back against slow or finicky internet connections. Once you set up your own central hub for your media, you’ve got a lot more freedom. Plus, this setup saves you a ton of space in the long run since you’re not storing individual copies on different devices — everything you need is in one place.

You’ll need a bit of coding knowledge or some time to carefully go through the instructions.

3. Build your own robot

This project is for the more mechanically inclined. You can find instructions for this all over the web, including Raspberry Pi’s official site. Plus, there are several variations.

You may think this would cost a fortune, but science teacher Dinesh Patel made a synthetic friend for only $677. He sculpted his homemade robot with waste materials, including aluminum, wood, cardboard and plastic. With the help of Raspberry Pi and other public domain libraries, Patel hooked his robot up to a computer.

Dinesh Patel poses with Shalu, a humanoid robot prototype with many skills. | Photo from India Times

From there, he taught Shalu to read newspapers, deliver weather reports and browse through horoscopes. Using Python, you can build a robot to fulfill basic tasks. Currently, they only follow simple commands — they’re not yet advanced enough to serve you iced tea on your patio.

4. Create an emulator for your favorite video games of the past

The video games from our childhood were not very complicated. The simplicity is what made them so enjoyable and there are several sites on the internet that give us access to playing our favorites, like The Oregon Trail.

Now you can use your new piece of tech to build a retro gaming system just like the original Nintendo System and enjoy your weekend like it’s 1985.

5. Turn your regular TV into a smart TV

We’d all love to watch our shows on the most advanced TVs money can buy … but that can cost a lot. If you’re willing to put in the work, though, you can upgrade your current TV with some high-tech features. It all comes down to Kodi, a free piece of software designed to brings all of your digital media together into a customizable package.

This entertainment hub is 100% free, plus it runs on a wide variety of devices. It’s supported by a dedicated team of volunteers and a large community of tech lovers.

Just be aware that Kodi doesn’t provide media; you do. | Photo from Kodi.com.

Work with your Raspberry Pi and Kodi to easily get that new Smart TV for hundreds of dollars less. You’ll need a starter kit and an SD card, but the set-up is pretty simple.

6. Want a weather station?

Not everyone wants to turn on the Weather Channel and wait for the seven-day forecast. Take on another nifty project with your Raspberry Pi and build your very own weather station.

This was originally intended as a science project for kids, but why should they have all the fun? Host yourself a science Saturday and build your own weather station in the garage. You’ll be the envy of all the neighbors.

7. Wi-Fi extender

Not only can your Raspberry Pi be used as a Wi-Fi extender, but it can also work as a hotspot and perform many other neat tricks. You’ll need your starter kit and an SD card. Then, you’ll be able to use your Wi-Fi in hard-to-use places, like that dusty basement when you want some peace and quiet.

Of course, if you want to save some time, you can always buy one. We recommend this:

It’s a great tool to use if you have a ton of people on your home network or if your home is large or sprawled out. This extender also works great if you have outdoor areas where you’d like to get a Wi-Fi signal but can’t with your current setup.

8. Learn how to code

The creators of this nifty little piece of equipment created it with intention of teaching children how to code worldwide. They offer free online courses to teach you how to code multiple languages like Python with their product. While there are a lot of great resources on their website, there are countless YouTube videos as well.

9. Create a NAS Drive

NAS drives are so valuable for your business. The term stands for Network Attached Storage, which is basically a physical piece of equipment that stores all the information from a digital network.

In other words, your NAS connects all the servers in your business and saves the data in one easy location. Tap or click here for a deep dive into NAS.

The only downside: NAS drives are expensive and quite the investment. But if you need one and don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars, your Raspberry Pi can help. All you need is a starter kit and a program like Openmediavault to make the magic happen.

10. Make your own Eyecam

Have you ever wished you could have your literal eye on everybody? You might not still have that wish once you see what it looks like!

The goal of this project is to make your own video cam to spy on people. The catch? It looks like a creepy version of your dad’s eye, disassembled from his body. Check it out — just try not to recoil in horror.

If you think the Raspberry Pi is incredible, check out these 21 problem-solving gadgets that will make your tech problems disappear.

Need to upgrade your tech?

When you run a business, finding the right tech is key. You don’t want to waste money on tools that won’t get the job done. Don’t just guess and hope it all works out. The pros at Dell Small Business can help. Chat, call or email an advisor and get free, helpful advice to help you find the right solutions.

Ready to get started? Call a Dell Technologies Advisor to help you find the right tech for your business needs at 877-ASK-DELL or at Dell.com.

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