Six years ago, Raspberry Pi founder Eben Upton set out to reignite programming in schools witha cheap, compact computing platform. Despite targeting students,his foundation's $35 computer captured the imaginations of tinkersworldwide, resulting in overwhelming demand. Interest was so high,that distributors Premier Farnell and RS buckled under the strain of preorders in February. The formeroutfit later said demand was 20 times greater than its supply, with orders hitting 700 a second at one point. |
When the first 10,000 devices shipped in mid-April, the organization graciously sent us a samplefor coverage. Along with a hands-on review of the Pi, today we'llbe covering basic steps for setting up the computer and otherelemental post-installation tasks to get you up and running withapplications. In other words, this should serve as a starting pointno matter what you want to do with your Raspberry Pi. We received a Model B ($35), which is powered by a Broadcom BCM2835SoC that includes a 700MHz ARM1176JZF-S CPU core, 256MB of RAM anda Broadcom VideoCore IV GPU with OpenGL ES 2.0 that supports 1080pat 30FPS as well as H.264 and MPEG-4 high-profile decoding forsmooth Blu-ray playback. Connectivity includes two USB ports,Ethernet, HDMI, RCA video, an SD card slot, a 3.5mm audio jack andtwo rows of 13 General Purpose Input/Output (GPIO) pins for furtherexpansion.
The Model A ($25, to be released at a later date) ships withoutEthernet and has a single USB port. Both models measure 85.60mm x53.98mm x 17mm, although the SD card and connectors overlap the PCBboard edges. Besides the Raspberry Pi itself, you'll also needvarious other items before you can configure and use the device: 5v micro-USB power adapter with at least 700mA (many micro-USBphone chargers work). SD card, or micro-SD card in an adapter, with the OS preloaded (4GBto 32GB recommended).
USB keyboard and mouse (PS/2 to USB adapters might work, but wehaven't tested this). Powered USB hub if you intend to have more than two USB devicesconnected. Display or TV with HDMI, DVI, Composite or SCART. Ethernet cable. As indicated, the Raspberry Pi uses an SD card for storage.
Both ofdistributors sell preloaded SD cards, but they're easy enough tomake yourself if you have a spare card laying around. Currently youcan use the Unix tool "dd" to perform the task, or for those usingWindows, "Win32DiskImager." We assume you're on Windows or youprobably wouldn't need this guide. Before we get started, downloadthe latest Debian Squeeze image and Win32DiskImager . Insert the SD card into your PC if you haven't yet.
Extract both archives and start the imaging tool by double clickingWin32DiskImager.exe. It should find your SD card as the applicationstarts and display it in the top right hand corner of the window.Click on the folder icon, then navigate to and select the DebianISO you extracted. Double check that the correct drive letter isselected, then click on "write" to load the image. This'll takeupwards of five minutes. Once the process is finished, a popup will notify you that thewrite was successful.
Close the box, exit the application, unmountthe SD card from your PC and attach it to the Raspberry Pi.Assuming everything went well, you're ready to fire the device up.The first time the computer boots from the SD card it willautomatically configure itself. It will then reboot and load uponce again to the login screen. The default username for Debian is pi and the password is raspberry . You can then load the LXDE desktop environment by entering startx . A few moments later, the desktop will load up as below: Applications can be found by clicking the icon on the far left ofthe toolbar, similar to the Start menu in Windows.
Creating a useraccount and updating the OS in Windows is pretty straightforward,but the steps are different in Linux. To create a user account,click on the menu, open the Accessories folder and selectLXTerminal. In the terminal window, type sudo adduser username and press enter. For example: Debian will create the user and prompt you to set a password, aswell as other personal information. Fill in the applicable fieldsand type y to confirm the information is correct.
The result lookslike this: With your account created, we can add it to the sudoers list. Thiswill let you issue commands as an administrator. Working in thesame terminal window, enter the command sudo leafpad /etc/sudoers . Leafpad will load the Sudoers file. Under the heading "# UserPrivilege specification" 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, then close Leafpad to finish.
Now you'vecreated an account and given it the ability to performadministrative tasks as sudo, which is needed for updates and newpackages or applications. Unlike Windows, Debian is traditionally updated from the terminal.To check for and install updates, you can use the followingcommand: sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get upgrade as seen below: Similarly, you can install supported packages through the terminalwith sudo apt-get install packagename . Debian has various packages pre-installed, ranging from the webbrowser, Midori, to a music player as well as programming andeducational applications. Popular packages are also available ifyou need more than the stock software. We may cover some of theseprograms in future guides.
As is the case with Linux in general, wireless can be a bit patchywith the Raspberry Pi. If you want to use wireless, theorganization has information on its Wiki regarding USB Wi-Fi hardware. Wireless niggles aside, USB externalhard disks and flash media will automatically mount when insertedin Debian and full read/write support for NTFS is also included, incase you need to access a Windows-based drive. Considering its price, the Raspberry Pi is quite remarkable. It'sobviously no powerhouse, but $35 gets you a system capable ofoffice work, light image editing, browsing, programming, emailingand so on.
The Pi's versatility makes it suitable for variousdedicated roles too, such as a torrent box downloading throughexternal USB or network drives, or as an XMBC-based HTPC, which wemight cover eventually. It's easy to lose track of the Pi in-between other regular-sizeddevices. Although there are many obvious uses for the Raspberry Pi, theplatform's open nature means your imagination is the limit. It'llbe interesting to see what the community cooks up in the comingmonths.
We'll be watching and posting our own how-to guides whentime comes. 16 comments - Read user comments, write your own Share this article: Email the author: Lee Kaelin Check out other recent reviews published at TechSpot.
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