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I'm trying to build the specs for a workstation which will serve as a programming environment for a student. I will use the set of specs to build 30 workstations eventually connected to a main server. I will give you the requirements and what I have in mind as a starting point.

Requirements: they are programming in codeblocks. that's it. No more, no less. Basic algorithms, graphs, backtracking, etc. The programming language used is a subset of C++. So what is needed is a graphical environment where they can write, compile, debug, and run their programs. I am thinking, an X session + codeblocks is all that is needed, disregarding for the moment the entire set of build tools which I can safely ignore for now.

What have I thought about until now: Raspberry Pi 3 or a BeagleBoard. I must stay cheap because the budget is low. I can go up to $2,000. But I don't want to pay a higher price later for initially being too cheap.

Which product - the Raspberry Pi3 (cheaper) or the BeagleBoard (better?) - will satisfy my requirements?

If none of the above:

note: the $2k budget is for "the box" only, not including displays, keyboards, and mice. I could go up with few bucks if the solution totally satisfies the requirements. Every time I will be buying a device to test, my budget will go lower.

Please note that I am in Romania, and the price of the rPi3 is roughly $55 here. The $2000 budget is for all 30 devices.

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  • I don't see how this would help me, really. I still need the workstation which require minimal specs for running an ide and compiling small programs. The cloud is expensive and useless in this case but thank you for pointing it as an option. – user237419 Sep 30 '16 at 15:09
  • If you're not doing builds locally (or can afford to wait a bit for the build to complete) and rather only need "something cheap that can run a text editor and drive a display" than the RPi2 should do the trick no problem. I don't know how ressource-hungry Code::Blocks is though... – SEJPM Sep 30 '16 at 15:14
  • i'd need to hack codeblocks to queue the builds on a server. undesirable. or maybe not, I think there are already solutions that I can easily integrate. anyway, i'd say that the most expensive build is for ... let's say, backtracking problems – user237419 Sep 30 '16 at 15:18
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    30 workstations for $2k is only $66 each. Do you have any existing components that you could re-use? TV's/Monitors? Keyboards? Mice? Ethernet or Wifi network? If you go for Raspberry Pi 3, don't forget to add in the cost of power supply, HDMI cable, SD card, network cable or wifi dongle etc. – Mark Booth Sep 30 '16 at 17:22
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    and yes, keyboards and mice... I can try and get those donated by IT companies. Tough but I will knock the doors open. – user237419 Sep 30 '16 at 17:30
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2,000 isn't much. You can buy 1 very expensive desktop with that, or 5 reasonably priced ones. You want 30.

Assuming you want all workstations to be identical, this leaves you with 66 dollars and change per workstation. If an RPi costs 55 at your location, this would work.

To turn an RPi into a workstation, you'll need a mouse, keyboard, micro SD-card and monitor (assuming you already got HDMI cables and power adapters). You won't need an Ethernet cable, since the RPi 3 has WLAN. Still, 11 dollars for all those peripherals, it can't be done.

The processor of an RPI 3 B is a 1.2 GHz 64-bit quad-core ARMv8. That sounds good, but for a workstation, it's not a lot. If an application is not optimized to make use of multiple cores, this leaves you with at most 1.2 GHz per application. That's not a lot.

Is it usable as a workstation?

Yes. Somewhat. If you have some patience and don't make it do crazy things. Running a GUI IDE and a web-browser is something even the Model 1 could do. Just don't expect it to be fast. Compiling large projects will take a while. Also keep in mind 1 GB RAM is less than you're used to. Don't keep too many things open in the background.

Don't forget modern computers are often limited by their disk speed if they're not outfitted with SSD. Not by their processor core. A micro SD-card is even slower, much slower really, than a normal desktop HDD. Whatever you do, get some decent cards. The ones that don't go bust too easily and have a higher speed (Class 10).

What about the BeagleBoard?

Don't bother. You're talking educational here. There's simply much more content available for the RPi than for the BeagleBoard.

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