My Raspberry Pi turned up last week. I actually had to leave it untouched for a few days because it came so quickly (about 4 weeks earlier than I expected) that I hadn’t got round to buying an SD card. I picked up an 8GB SD card for £3.50 from Amazon which was a bit of a shock after only ever buying overpriced Sony Memory Sticks before.

I downloaded and cloned the Raspbian image to the SD card. After hooking everything up I booted into Raspbian and manually started an X session to see how it performs on the Raspberry Pi’s modest hardware. I must say that I’m pretty impressed. Performance is pretty snappy even when web browsing… well, snappy for 700MHz ARM processor coupled with 256MB RAM.

However I’m not really interested in using the Pi as an every day computer. I’ve got a fairly beefy laptop for that. Instead I’m interested in seeing what it can do and what pieces of hardware I can replace with it.

Due to the Pi’s size and low power usage it would make a really good Airplay receiver. I’ve written about Airplay before. Personally I think it’s Apple’s killer feature that is one of the main advantages of keeping an all Apple setup. I used this blog post to quickly install Shairport (an Open Source implementation of Airplay) on to the Pi. The connection seems pretty solid but audio quality from the headphone jack is pretty awful. I have a spare HDMI port on my surround sound receiver so hopefully bypassing the Pi’s DA convertor will help.

I’ve also installed a VPN server on it. When I’m out of the house I can connect and get access to my network and browse the web through an encrypted link which is nice for unsecured wifi. My iPhone doesn’t seem to want to connect but my Macbook Pro and work Windows 7 PC seem happy to connect.

Another project I’ve got my eye on is raspbmc – the XBMC media software ported to the Pi. Apparently performance is pretty nice when watching h.264 encoded video.

So far it’s a pretty impressive bit of kit. The fact it costs £30 is quite amazing.