Windows and Raspberry Pi, Oh my!

I woke this morning to two strange realities.  My sometimes beloved Seahawks did not win the SuperBowl, and the Raspberry Pi Foundation announced the Raspberry Pi 2, which will run Windows 10!

I’ll conveniently forget the first reality for now as there’s always next season.  But that second reality?  I’ve long been a fan of the Raspberry Pi.  Not because of the specific piece of hardware, but because at the time it was first announced, it was the first of the somewhat reasonable $35 computers.  The hardware itself has long since been eclipsed by other notables, but none of them have quite got the Raspberry Pi community thing going on, nor the volumes.  Now the Pi is moving into “we use them for embedded” territory, not just for the kids to learn programming.

And now along comes Windows!  This is interesting in two respects.  First, I did quite a bit of work putting a LuaJIT skin on the Raspberry Pi some time back.  At the time, I did it because I wanted to learn all about the deep down internals of the Raspberry Pi, but from the comforts of Lua.  At the time, I leveraged an early form of the ljsyscall library to take care of the bulk of the *NIX specific system calls. I was going to go one step further and implement the very lowest interface to the Video chip, but that didn’t seem like a very worthwhile effort, so I left it at the Khronos OpenGL ES level.

At roughly the same time, I started implementing LuaJIT Win32 APIs, starting with LJIT2Win32.  Then I went hog wild and implemeted TINN, which for me is the ultimate in LuaJIT APIs for Win32 systems.  Both ljsyscall and TINN exist because programming at the OS level is a very tedious/esoteric process.  Most of the time the low level OS specifics are paved over with one higher level API/framework or another.  Well, these are in fact such frameworks, giving access to the OS at a very high level from the LuaJIT programming language.

So, this new Windows on Pi, what of it?  Well, finally I can program the Raspberry Pi using the TINN tool.  This is kind of cool for me.  I’m not forced into using Linux on this tiny platform, where I might be more familiar with the Windows API and how things work.  Even better, as TINN is tuned to running things like coroutines and IO Completion ports, I should be able to push the tiny device to its limits with respect to IO at least.  Same goes for multi-threaded programming.  All the goodness I’ve enjoyed on my Windows desktop will now be readily available to me on the tiny Pi.

The new pi is a quad core affair, which means the kids will learn about muteness, semaphores and the like…  Well, actually, I’d expect the likes of the go language, TINN, and other tools to come to the rescue.  The beauty of Windows on Pi is likely going to be the ease of programming.  When I last programmed on the Pi directly, I used the nano editor, and print() for debugging.  I couldn’t really use eclipse, as it was too slow back then.  Now the Pi will likely just be a Visual Studio target, maybe even complete with simulator.  That would be a great way to program.  All the VS goodness that plenty of people have learned to love.  Or maybe a slimmed down version that’s not quite so enterprise industrial.

But, what are these Pi used for anyway?  Are they truly replacement PC?  Are they media servers, NAS boxes, media players?  The answer is YES to all, to varying degrees.  Following along the ‘teach the kids to program’ theme, having an relatively inexpensive box that allows you to program can not be a bad thing.  Making Windows and Linux available can not be a bad thing.  Having a multi-billion dollar software company supporting your wares, MUST be a good thing.  Love to hate Microsoft?  Meh, lots of Windows based resources are available in the world, so, I don’t see how it does any harm.

On the very plus side, as this is a play towards makers, it will force Microsoft to consider the various and sundry application varieties that are currently being pursued by those outside the corporate enterprise space.  Robotics will force a reconsideration of realtime constraints.  As well, vision might become a thing.  Creating an even more coherent story around media would be a great thing.  And maybe bringing the likes of the Kinect to this class of machine?  Well, not in this current generation.

The news on this monday is both melancholy and eye brow raising.  I for one will be happy to program the latest Raspberry Pi using TINN.

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