RPi-Powered pi-topCEED Makes the Case as a Low-Cost Modular Learning Desktop

It's hard to go a day without seeing interesting and compelling Indiegogo or Kickstarter projects that feature the Raspberry Pi, Pine 64 or the Intel Edison inside some sort of embedded device or standalone computer or laptop. Last fall, I stumbled across one such project that billed itself as "the first $99 Raspberry Pi desktop", and I felt the need to have it.

In fact, I forwarded a link to the Indiegogo pi-topCEED campaign to my wife and suggested, "This would make a great Christmas present!" Unlike other RPi projects and kits, the pi-topCEED billed itself as a fully integrated, plug-and-play learning platform, complete with an RPi2 (later upgraded to an RPi3), a 13.3" HD LCD screen (later upgraded to 14"), and a breadboard kit for attaching and experimenting with external devices.

As with many of the other Kickstarter-like products I've ordered (or had ordered for me), I forgot about the pi-top until well into the new year. Delivery dates began to slip, and the folks at pi-top had trouble with their Chinese fulfillment house, but nonetheless, the pi-topCEED was a go and finally landed on my doorstep in late August, ironically while I was away at LinuxCon.

As promised, the RPi desktop came with everything in the box you need to start experimenting with Linux, electronics prototyping and the RPi—except a keyboard and mouse. You have to supply your own (unlike the pi-top laptop, which comes truly complete).

The pi-topCEED is about 15 inches square, with a 14-inch HD screen and adjustable stand.

The little desktop comes with a power supply, easy-to-follow instructions, the breadboard and wire connectors, and an 8GB SD card preloaded with pi-topOS, a customized version of the stable and popular Raspbian. The case itself is made of sturdy plastic and sports a metal kickstand that lets you set the pi-topCEED on your desk at pretty much any angle.

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John S. Tonello is Director of IT for NYSERNet, Inc., in Syracuse, New York. He's been a Linux user and enthusiast since he installed his first Slackware system from diskette 20 years ago. You can follow him @johntonello.