After just 16 weeks the Raspberry Pi I ordered back in September has arrived. This may seem a long time, but given the run-away success this remarkable piece of hardware has had, I am lucky to get it at all!
So what is a Raspberry Pi? There is plenty out there on the web and in the computer press about what the Raspberry Pi is, and what it can be used for, but briefly, for NZ$60, I got a fully functional computer, a clear case to protect it, and delivery to NZ. For that, I get a credit card sized circuit board, with an ARM processor and 512MB of ram, with a micro usb power socket, two USB sockets, and ethernet socket, an HDMI socket and a composite video socket and audio 3.5mm jack. No cables, disks or other stuff. It does not use any diskdrive, instead the operating system is loaded onto an SD card. The case I bought myself for GBP5. What does it do? Well it runs a light weight Linux distribution ( a few are available), in which you can run browsers, Python development environments, media centre programs capable of playing 1080P video, games such as quake 3. Why did I buy it? Curiosity, a love of small computers (I have a FITPC2i as my main office computer) and the possibility of developing point of sale advertising apps etc.
I ordered it because of an article I saw in Australian Personal Computer, and at $60 it was a bit hard to resist! Immediately after I ordered it, I downloaded the Raspbian operating system, which is a flavour of the Debian operating system tailored for the R-Pi. Instructions for the download and installation onto an SD card can be found at raspberrypi.org, and it was all very easy.
So when the hardware arrived, I installed the computer in its case (30 seconds – just clips in and together), plugged in the pre-loaded SD card with the OS on it, and grabbed a few cables and peripherals from around the house. I used a micro-USB cable plugged into my media computer, which even though asleep, still provides power to the USB port – how cool is that! An HDMI cable connected it to my 32inch TV, a wireless keyboard and mouse dongle took care of the HIDs, and an ethernet cable plugged it into the wireless range extender under the TV. Plugging in the power supply powers it up, and 40 seconds later I had a command line input prompt (well 45 – I got a configuration screen first, which I exited out of – more of that later).
Log on using the userid “pi” and the password “raspberry”. The command “startx” brought up the GUI screen. Click on the Midori icon to start a web browser, type in a URL, and there I was surfing the web! About 20 minutes from ripping open the parcel!
And that is when it started to get fun! Of course Rasbian is set up for the UK market, so there are a few problems. That configuration screen I exited out of and registered in my mind, and I thought I needed that back again, rather than using command line options to set up keyboards, languages, locales etc. A quick search revealed that this is called raspi-config, and having exited the gui using logout, “sudo raspi-config” brought up the screen again.
There are a few things worth doing here, as follows.
1. expand-rootFS – a very simple way to make the Raspian system fill the whole SD card (in my case a 4GB card). There are other ways of doing this, but this utility does it with a single click!
2. Configure keyboard – change locale and change timezone, allows the correct keyboard layout (US here in NZ), locales (currency symbols, number and date formats etc) and timezone (we are up to 13 hours different here so it makes a difference!
3. Boot behaviour – boots straight into the X-windows gui, missing out the logon and startx command!
So here I am updating my blog, from my Raspberry PI, just a couple of days and 60 minutes playing since it arrived, joining such illustrious company as Mr. James May of Top Gear fame, and probably many other famous and worthwhile people, as a Raspberry PI user!
Next job, load Quake III – just as an exercise of course!