Using bespoke web-based software from a Raspberry Pi
We’ve heard quite a lot about the little Raspberry Pi palm sized computer in recent years, and with the recent significant hardware improvements present on the new Raspberry Pi 4 we thought we’d take a look to see if it was useful to us or our customers as a thin/browser client for accessing web based systems.
We know that it’s doing great work in schools, encouraging students to write computer programs, play with circuitry and sensors, robotic design etc., plus makers creating all sorts of weird and wonderful devices with a Raspberry Pi at the core, but we were interested in the new specification for use as a dedicated business based desktop workstation specifically for using its browser to access the systems that we write for our customers, in those cases where the machine is dedicated for that purpose.
We write a lot of web-based software for our customers, and these systems often only require a basic computer with internet access, a web browser, a keyboard, mouse and monitor. Whilst almost all desktops, laptops and tablets are suited for this purpose, for those that want a simple, dedicated, cost effective, quiet, small footprint, desktop machine, the Raspberry Pi 4 (4GB) fits the bill rather well as a simple desktop computer / web browser. It also has lower power requirements than desktop machines.
The Raspberry Pi 4 with the extra memory at 4GB costs only £54, and we’d recommend this extra memory configuration.
You will also need a few extra things for desktop use:
- A USB keyboard
- A USB mouse
- A USB-C power supply
- A MicroSD card with Raspbian OS
- A HDMI monitor (or two)
- A micro-HDMI to HDMI cable (or two)
- A case to protect the Pi
Any USB keyboard and mouse will do, but you can get desktop kits which include the Raspberry Pi and everything above apart from the monitor(s) for around £115. We got ours from the excellent PiHut but there are also other suppliers.
For those customers that require a thin client desktop machine to access our systems we’ve also suggested Chrome Boxes in the past, and these little Pi machines also work really well for this purpose. They are no bigger than the palm of your hand, and could easily be mounted to the back of a monitor for example. They are certainly a fair bit smaller than the Chrome Boxes.
Within about 10 minutes we had the Pi all installed and accessing web based systems that we’ve written for various clients, using the default Chromium web browser. You can even run two monitors from it via the two micro HDMI ports. It was nippy enough in use and immediately seemed well suited to this purpose. We found the little machine to be pretty well specified with:
- 64 bit quad core 1.5 GHz CPU
- 4GB RAM
- 2.4GHz and 5.0GHz 802.11ac WiFi
- Gigabit Ethernet port
- 2 USB 3.0 ports
- 2 USB 2.0 ports
- 2 micro HDMI ports (up to 4k at 60 fps)
- Bluetooth 5.0
- Plus the useful GPIO (general purpose input output) pins for the enthusiast
We have been nothing but impressed with these little machines and will certainly be recommending them as a small footprint thin client desktop machines for accessing the web based software systems that we provide to our customers.
The excellent official Raspberry Pi magazine also had an article recently (Sept 2019 – Issue 85, p22) with one of their reviewers trying it out as a desktop machine. It’s a good read at:
You can download the whole magazine in PDF format for free. There are also all the back issues available for download.
For the creative tech types amongst you wanting to utilise the Raspberry Pi, there are also other free digital versions of excellent magazines available from:
There’s also lots of other resources and projects online on numerous sites around the web.
The ease with which you can attach and program the interaction with various sensors and motors has also caught our eye for use in projects that require that kind of bespoke requirement.
If you need a bespoke web-based system and are in the Manchester / North West area, please contact us.