An enthusiastic modding community has been playing with the $40 Raspberry Pi Linux computer for the past couple of months and they've not been wasting time.
Hacks and mods for the credit-card sized device range from speech-controlled robots to systems for controlling your house over the internet.
TechRepublic delved into the forums on the Raspberry Pi website to find the projects that really showcase the device's capabilities - starting with this initiative to build a robot drone.
There are plenty of Pi-powered drones in the pipeline, but this Pi in the sky could save lives by helping map disaster zones.
The lightweight Pi board will be the brain of the autonomous plane, which will take aerial footage of disaster-struck areas.
The drone is being built by OpenRelief, an international project to develop better communications tools for disaster relief efforts. The project was inspired by difficulties mapping the Tohoku area of Japan following the earthquake that struck the region in March 2011.
The drone will use open-source image-recognition software that can spot features such as smoke, roads or people. The plane will also include Arduino-based sensors to take measurements relating to weather and radiation. Information collected by the drone will be processed by the Pi and shared with disaster-management systems such as Sahana Eden.
The drone will be able to navigate and land unaided. OpenRelief expects the plane to be ready for production by December 2012.
Forgot to turn off the bathroom light in the morning? That's not a problem with this home-automation project.
Here the Pi is being used to connect to a home fitted with sensors and switches that allow the house to be remotely monitored and controlled.
The system can monitor data such as the temperature in individual rooms, the electricity consumption of the house, or how much oil is in a heating system tank. It also allows the user to control electrical fittings, performing tasks such as switching on and off lights, towel rails or even a fountain.
The house, seen here, is on the Isle of Wight off the south coast of England and can be controlled and monitored via a mobile phone app or web interface.
In a demo of the project, lights and the fountain are switched on and off using a web interface, by someone based 50 miles away in Basingstoke.
The Pi-based system is using the Liberty Profile for IBM's WebSphere application server to interface with telemetry based on the MQQT messaging protocol, which is handled by IBM's Really Small Message Broker (RSMB) messaging server.
The project has been set up by Andy Stanford-Clark and Simon Maple, of IBM, who used Stanford-Clark's house as a testbed for the system.
As the one of the leads for this project puts it: "Massive 25-foot waves, 60mph winds, torrential rain, lightning - none of these things should be put anywhere near a Raspberry Pi".
Yet that hasn't deterred the team behind the FishPi, an automated boat, from attempting to take the Pi into uncharted waters by having it guide a vessel across the Atlantic.
FishPi will be capable of autonomous navigation and will take environmental observations and measurements as it crosses the ocean.
The FishPi will be battery powered and charged by a 130W solar panel, utilising a ducted propeller to maximise its efficiency.
So far, the team has constructed the proof-of-concept version of the FishPi, seen above, which is smaller than the finished device.
The Pi, which will sit inside a waterproof container, will work with associated electronics to control the boat, including GPS, a servo-controller board and a compass.
The Pi is powerful enough to carry out speech recognition, as demonstrated by this voice-controlled robot arm.
The system is using the Julius open-source speech-recognition engine running on the Pi with the Linux Debian Squeeze distro.
In the demo the creator uses a microphone to command the arm to manoeuvre and open and close its grip. See more footage of the system in action.
Fancy a cut-price tablet? It might still be a prototype but the guts of a Pi-powered slate are there.
The enhanced lifestyle module device was made by hooking a Pi to a cheap in-car LCD screen and adding a touchscreen controller overlay and other components. The device has a spare USB port for adding wireless or 3G connectivity.
The creator, known as capulet2kx on the Raspberry Pi forums, says the finished device will be more compact, because it will be without many of the wires and powered by battery rather than the mains.
This hack turns the Pi into a musical maestro on the glockenspiel.
The Pi-powered musician was created by hooking up a Raspberry Pi to a buffer board that is attached to a glockenspiel controlled by a solenoid - a coil of wire that acts as an electromagnet. The Pi controls the flow of electricity to the solenoid so the bars of the glockenspiel are struck in time to a tune.
You can see a video of the device playing a rendition of Do-Re-Mi from the musical The Sound of Music.
Screenshot: Mike Cook/Vimeo
This Raspberry Pi project is designed to help the blind and visually-impaired to use elevators.
The wearable computer system can recognise which floor the elevator is and can tell users when they have arrived at their desired floor.
Video from the camera is analysed to retrieve the floor number and a synthetic voice gives feedback to the user.
The project has been devised by a group of students from the computer vision lab of the City College of New York. You can watch a video of the system in action.
The Pi won't run Windows 7 natively, but there are ways to get the OS onto the machine.
An enthusiast managed to get Raspberry Pi to run a Windows 7 virtual desktop using Citrix XenDesktop 5.6 on a VMware ESXi 5 hypervisor.
The Pi in question was running the Debian Squeeze version 6.0 OS and had Citrix Receiver and the Iceweasel browser preloaded.
Raspberry Pi foundation spokeswoman Liz Upton said businesses could use the $40 Raspberry Pi as a cheap way to access the Microsoft OS.
"Run a bunch of instances of Windows on your server, push the displays out to many Raspberry Pis, and you've got a cheap way of getting Windows onto desks at work, without having to fork out for a full-cost PC," Upton wrote in a blog post.
Here is the Pi being used to power a wheeled-robot that looks for green objects nearby and travels towards them.
The video from the attached web-cam is fed to the Pi, which processes it to look for any green paraphernalia.
Once the system spots a green object, it sends a command to the robot to manoeuvre itself close to that item. If it can't see any green objects nearby, it will turn around until it can.
Its creator says the total cost of materials for the project is about £60.
The Pi may only cost $40 and be the size of a credit card, but it packs enough power to emulate a mainframe computer that supported thousands of users.
At community group DesignSpark.com, they loaded the Pi with an emulator for a mainframe based on the IBM 4381 processor. The mainframe dates from the mid-1980s and at the time would have been large enough to fill a room, despite specs that seem weedy compared with today's PCs. The IBM 4381 processor was capable of 2-2.7 MIPS and supported up to 32MB of RAM, compared with the Raspberry Pi's 965 MIPS CPU and 256MB RAM.
Using an open-source software package known as Hercules and an IBM 3270 terminal emulator, the Pi was able to emulate the mainframe without a hitch.
This hobbyist is building an in-car computer, or carputer, by combining a Raspberry Pi with a rather nifty slide-out screen.
You can see a video showing the Pi booting up the XBMC media centre software on the system.
Other hobbyists working on building a Pi-based carputer are planning to hook a webcam up to the device to create a black-box recorder for the vehicle.
Screenshot: Mohammed Ismail/Youtube.com.
This robot vehicle is being controlled using a Raspberry Pi.
The user controls the direction the vehicle is travelling by pressing the WSAD keys on a keyboard.
The control program was built using Node.js and is running on a LAMP server. The controls are relayed to the vehicle using the Pi's general-purpose input/output pins.
You can see a video of the vehicle in action.
Here is a mod that allows users to monitor and control webcams.
The system allows the user to set how often a picture from a webcam is sent over the network to the screen, ranging from taking a picture every second or so to several frames per second. Changing how frequently the picture updates allows the user to control bandwidth use.
The system has been built by connecting a Pi to a breadboard - a board for constructing prototype electronic circuits - which in turn is connected to a display showing the output from the webcams. You can see more footage of the Pi webcam viewer.
You've seen Windows 7 running on a Pi. Now here's the $40 device running Apple's OS X.
This photo shows the Mac OS X 10.3 running on PearPC, a PowerPC Mac emulator that runs on the Pi.
However this emulation is not suitable for everyday use. It took about one hour to boot and it runs about 1.2 million emulated instructions per second, according to a post by shaulkr on the Pi forums. That is roughly 50 times slower than it runs on an Intel E6300 Pentium PC.
Got fond memories of a misspent youth playing on the Amiga? Check out this project, which has the AROS Research Operating System, an open-source implementation of the AmigaOS 3.1 running on the Pi.
You can watch more footage of the AmigaOS Pi implementation.
Here is the Pi being used to show a simple boot message on a Noritake Itron display.
Screenshot: Suzi Cross/YouTube.com
A Maplin robotic arm controlled by a Raspberry Pi is used to lift a second Pi board. You can see a video of the arm in action.
Nick Heath is chief reporter for TechRepublic. He writes about the technology that IT decision makers need to know about, and the latest happenings in the European tech scene.