Book review: Banana Pro Blueprints by Follmann/Zhang

The Banana Pro is a competing, small-form-factor, Single Board Computer (SBC) similar to a Raspberry Pi, except the Banana Pro has more, and better specs in many regards. This book explores several projects that you can do with a Banana Pro. The book is called Banana Pro Blueprints.


What is this?
First, to be clear:

Full Disclosure: I was a technical reviewer on this book. I receive no royalties from your purchase, but I do have an interest in it succeeding. With that said, I try not to have a bias and will give my honest opinion.

The Banana Pro is a Single Board Computer (SBC) which is around the same size as the Raspberry Pi, but the Banana Pro has significantly better specs. It’s really intended for professional or higher-end projects, whereas the Raspberry Pi is meant as a general purpose computer. The Banana Pro is manufactured and distributed by LeMaker.

Some notable differences between the Raspberry Pi you might know and the Banana Pro, the Pro has:

  • 1GHz Cortex A7 dual-core CPU
  • 1GB DDR3 RAM
  • SATA 2.0 hard drive connector
  • 10/100/1000 ethernet (the Raspberry Pi has 10/100), and on-board b/g/n Wi-Fi
  • Onboard microphone
  • Onboard IR receiver
  • Buttons: reset, power, and U-boot

So, as you can see, it includes several things which you don’t see on a Raspberry Pi. So, what can you do with it? Well, that is what the book is about!

Book Overview:
One thing I really liked about this book is that each chapter sort of stands on it’s own. Each chapter is a complete project which you can attack one night after work. Here is a brief summary of the projects which are covered:

  • Chapter 1 – covers the physical device, the accessories and add-ons that you can get, including case and display options.
  • Chapter 2 – covers all about programming and connecting to the device.
  • Chapter 3 – is several WiFi projects including how to configure the onboard WiFi, and how to work with the AirPlay protocol.
  • Chapter 4 – is all about building an arcade cabinet. There is a project called “libretro” which lets you run various simulators. This chapter covers the entire project from hardware, to software, to the actual cabinet!
  • Chapter 5 – is all about a multimedia center. This includes a video disk record, and configuring the menus you see on the screen.
  • Chapter 6 – is a pretty cool project about remotely-controlling a small car using an IP camera.
  • Chapter 7 – covers creating a laser engraver using a kit. Once set up you can use standard G code to laser engrave objects!
  • Chapter 8 – covers several/many sensors, using Scratch to build a “smart house”.

Bottom Line:
This book was a lot of fun to review because it had a lot of interesting projects, and exposed me to several open source projects with which I wasn’t familiar. Better, since the Banana Pro is very similar to the Raspberry Pi, if you have sensors or software that you like, chances are you can get it working with the Banana Pro. After all, the Banana Pro supports pretty much all of the same operating systems that the Raspberry Pi does.

Also, if you like the Raspberry Pi, but are looking for a more-capable board with more onboard functionality, take a look at the Banana Pro – it’s pretty cool!

Posted in Computers and Internet, General, Infrastructure, New Technology, Professional Development, Raspberry Pi, Uncategorized

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