Raspberry Pi Overview & Preliminary How-To Setup Information

Six years ago, Raspberry Pi founder Eben Upton set out to revive school programming with a cheap, compact computer platform. Though aimed at college students, his foundation's $ 35 computer caught the imagination of hobbyists worldwide, resulting in overwhelming demand. The interest was so great that distributors Premier Farnell and RS gave in in February under pressure from pre-orders. The former company later said demand was 20 times higher than supply, and orders at one point hit 700 per second.

When the first 10,000 devices were shipped in mid-April, the organization kindly sent us a sample for reporting. Along with a hands-on review of the Pi, today we're going to cover basic computer set up steps and other basic post-installation tasks to get you started with applications. In other words, this should serve as a starting point for no matter what you plan to do with your Raspberry Pi.

We received a Model B ($ 35) powered by a Broadcom BCM2835 SoC with a 700MHz ARM1176JZF-S CPU core, 256MB of RAM, and a Broadcom VideoCore IV GPU with OpenGL ES 2.0, which supports 1080p at 30 FPS as well as H. High-quality 264 and MPEG-4 decoding for smooth Blu-ray playback. Connectivity includes two USB ports, Ethernet, HDMI, Cinch video, an SD card slot, a 3.5 mm audio jack and two rows of 13 GPIO pins (General Purpose Input / Output) for further expansion.

The Model A ($ 25, will be released at a later date) ships without Ethernet and has a single USB port. Both models measure 85.60 mm x 53.98 mm x 17 mm, although the SD card and connectors overlap the edges of the circuit board. In addition to the Raspberry Pi itself, you will need various other items before you can configure and use the device:

  • 5 V micro USB power adapter with at least 700 mA (many micro USB phone chargers work).
  • SD card or micro SD card in an adapter with a pre-installed operating system (4 GB to 32 GB recommended).
  • USB keyboard and mouse (PS / 2 to USB adapters might work, but we haven't tested this).
  • Powered USB hub if more than two USB devices are to be connected.
  • Display or television with HDMI, DVI, composite or SCART.
  • Ethernet cable.

As stated, the Raspberry Pi uses an SD card for storage. Both distributors sell pre-installed SD cards, but they're easy enough to make yourself if you have a replacement card lying around. Currently, you can use the Unix dd tool to perform the task, or Win32DiskImager for Windows users. We assume that you are using Windows or that you probably don't need these instructions. Download the latest Debian Squeeze image and Win32DiskImager before you begin. Insert the SD card into your PC if you haven't already.

Extract both archives and start the imaging tool by double-clicking Win32DiskImager.exe. It should find your SD card when the application starts and display it in the top right corner of the window. Click the folder icon, navigate to the Debian ISO you extracted and select it. Make sure the correct drive letter is selected, then click Write to load the picture. This takes more than five minutes.

As soon as the process is complete, you will be notified by a popup that the write process was successful. Close the box, exit the application, remove the SD card from your PC and connect it to the Raspberry Pi. Assuming everything went well, you can start the device. The first time the computer is started from the SD card, it will automatically configure itself. It will then restart and reload the login screen.

The default username for Debian is pi and the password is raspberry. You can then load the LXDE desktop environment by typing startx. A few moments later the desktop loads like this:

Applications can be found by clicking the icon on the far left of the toolbar, much like the Start menu in Windows. Creating a user account and updating the operating system on Windows is fairly straightforward, but the steps are different on Linux. To create a user account, click on the menu, open the Accessories folder and select LXTerminal. In the terminal window, enter the following sudo adduser username and press Enter. For example:

Debian creates the user and asks you to set a password and other personal information. Complete the appropriate fields and enter y to confirm the information is correct. The result looks like this:

When your account is created we can add it to the Sudoers list. This allows you as an administrator to issue commands. Enter the command in the same terminal window sudo leafpad / etc / sudoers.

Leafpad loads the sudoers file. Under the "# User Permissions Specification" heading, add the following text: Username ALL = (ALL) ALL for the new username exactly as it is displayed for the user pi:

Select File and Save and close the Leafpad to complete the process. Now you've created an account and given it the ability to perform administrative tasks as sudo that are required for updates and new packages or applications.

Unlike Windows, Debian is traditionally updated from the terminal. You can check for and install updates using the following command: sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get upgrade as seen below:

You can also install supported packages via the terminal sudo apt-get install package name. Debian has various pre-installed packages, ranging from the Midori web browser to a music player to programming and learning applications. Popular packages are also available if you need more than the stock software. We may have some of these programs covered in future guides.

As is generally the case with Linux, wireless can be a bit sketchy on the Raspberry Pi. If you want to use WiFi, the organization has information about USB WiFi hardware on their wiki. Aside from the wireless issues, external USB hard drives and flash media are automatically mounted when inserted into Debian. It also includes full read / write support for NTFS in case you need to access a Windows-based drive.

Considering its price, the Raspberry Pi is quite remarkable. It's obviously not a powerhouse, but $ 35 gives you a system that does office work, light image manipulation, surfing, programming, emailing, and so on. The Pi’s versatility also makes it suitable for various dedicated roles, e.g. B. for downloading a torrent box via external USB or network drives, or as an XMBC-based HTPC, which we may cover later.

It's easy to lose sight of the Pi between other normal-sized devices.

While there are many obvious uses for the Raspberry Pi, the openness of the platform means there are no limits to your imagination. It will be interesting to see what the community invents over the coming months. We'll review and post our own guides when the time comes.

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