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I'm probably going to buy one, but I'm not sure what I will do with it. I have a lot of linux experience but not a lot of hardware experience.

So what things can I do on it that would be useful and cheap (and primarily software based).

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Refer the below link http://elinux.org/RPi_Beginners. This would help you.You can also download the setup guide for raspberry from techspot.

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I know how to set it up (or I could Google it of I get stuck), but I don't know what I would do with it. What kinds of projects could I do with it? –  phillips1012 Jan 6 '13 at 10:28
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That is totally up to your imagination, if something is useful, is very subjective.

But to start:

  • You could add some small electronics (sensors) and get more feeling for hardware,
  • Contribute to a existing project with your software experience because most project use (more or less) external hardware,

After that you can get inspired into building:

  • MP3 players,
  • Internet Radio,
  • Home temperature/humidity/etc monitoring system
  • Outside weather station,
  • Small footprint server (file/web/video),
  • Pyrotechnics controller,
  • a Laptop,
  • Arcade machine,
  • Oscilloscoop,
  • Wave generator,
  • Spectrum analyzer,
  • Home automation (dim lights etc),
  • FM transmitter,
  • controls for a helicopter/quadcopter,
  • VOIP server,
  • XBMC server,
  • Beer fermentation monitor,
  • etc, etc, etc.

This list was mainly inspired by existing project that were posted on HackaDay. But as you can see, most of these projects use external hardware in some form, so starting at idea 1, getting to know hardware/electronics is mandatory for that. Otherwise you can search on google some 'bigger' projects where you might be able to only keep busy with the software part based on specification from the hardware people of the project.

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