Thursday, 17 January 2013

Pi Time!

Well, it's been a while since I updated this blog, but I'm sick, the house is a mess, the washing needs hanging up and my fingers are sore from playing the guitar. So it's obviously time to set up my Raspberry Pi. I'm writing this as I go, so I may get half way through and realise it's broke. Lets hope I get all the way through.

Here's the bits - an sd card, an hdmi cable, a power lead and of course the Pi itself.

The basic bits for the Pi - hdmi cable, power, sd card and the board itself

USB keyboard/mouse is recommended, but all I have on hand is wireless ones so lets hope they still do the job. I'll face that when I come to it though - even if we just get things booting up it'll be a win!

First up, pick an OS from the raspberry pi site - I'm going for the Linux Debian release, named Raspbian. Downloading...

In the mean time, lets find out how to set it up from here. Note - respect to the authors here - both links are not broken, despite being from a 6 month old piece of paper.

Apparently the easiest way to do it, having acquired the disk image from the earlier link is to grab win32diskimage from here and use it to write the image to an SD card (which is plugged into my lap top):

Disk imager - used to create initialize the sd card ready for the PI
You gotta love a nice simple program for a simple task! With the imager running, SD card in and image at 50% it's time for some tea.

OK, tea made, image downloaded. Hitting run.... percentages clicking up.. 25% and still going.... Done.

Boot time. OK, my monitor doesn't have hdmi input. Guess we're going with tv for now.

And incorrect plug type. Thanks RS electronics. Fortunately I am the sort of person with many an adapter lying around the house...

Everything wired up and ready to go
Doesn't work. Fiddle with plug.... and Houston we have Pi!

Hurray! It begins to boot. Lots of text, no scary error messages.
Looks like wireless keyboard works, but only if I plug in the adapter post boot, or maybe in a specific socket. Not worked that out yet. Oh well, time to fiddle. Looks like there's a handy config tool that boots up first, so I'l click on all the options to see what they do.

The first interactive screen - a friendly config tool


  • Expanding partition to fill the whole card worked fine.
  • Setting the keyboard was a little ropey, but I've ended up with a working UK setup. 
  • Presented with a vast list of locales to generate, and seem to have chosen none of them. It's generated the en-GB one though so hopefully that'll do for now.
  • Time zone nice and simple if you know your own address. I do.
  • Memory split seems to be how much memory to give the GPU. Default is 64MB which will do for now.
  • Lets not overclock it thankyou very much.
  • SSH enabled as I'm sure I'll need it at some point
  • Yes we'll boot straight to desktop please.

And lastly, given it ain't online yet, I don't see much point in clicking update, so I'm going for Finish! Reboot complete and...

Booted up after initial config, works first time. We have a desk top.
Well bugger me it works. With wireless mouse/keyboard as well (that's the logitech K520 wireless keyboard, and M310 mouse it comes with). That was easier than opening a document in the latest version of MS Office. OK so most things are easier than opening a document in the latest version of office, but this was still really easy.

Next up - the interweb. My knowledge of Linux is around about 0, so this'll be a test of the OS as much as it is the Pi. The obvious first step is to plug it into my router though...

Turns out plugging it in was also the last step. No other steps needed. And there you have it - a preview of this blog post (before even being posted) on the Raspberry Pi. Very chicken/egg ish.

Raspberry Pi connected to the interweb and previewing this blog

Well, that was the easiest bit of setting something up that might turn out complex I've done in a long a time. One might even say it was easy as Pi (boom boom). I guess there'll be some updating to be done, but I've heard Linux is good at that.

Well done Rasperry Pi team. You truly are the kings of small $30 computers.

Now I just need to decide what to do with it - probably next post will involve web cams - hopefully 2 of them! Or an Arduino. Who knows.

-Chris

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