RaspberryPI – best & cheapest computer out there for everybody

pi-unbox There’s no doubt that non-profit organization behind http://www.raspberrypi.org/, the $25  computer (well let’s just say $35 + some xtras) had a huge success and is the next big thing for every computer enthusiast. Raspberry Pi is a full blown computer based on the ARM  architecture  that allows to run different sorts of operating systems. Today we have a choice of many Linux distributions, and the one to start and one to stay with is the Rasbian, based on another famous Linux distribution – the Debian. This little computer is designed in a very smart way allowing you to display video both on Composite only monitors (just back when I had Atari ST in the ’90, and every other Atari/Amstrad/Commodore C4 or Amiga) but also HDMI output, that you can optionally configure to work with any screen. Most HDMI->VGA converters do also work just fine. Raspberry Pi is now shipped in few variants – the classic 512MB RAM in model B is only available as used (just as the A model, that lacked Ethernet port), but previously they had – A i B just 256MB RAM. Today as of 2015 we have still B+ and A+ models – redesigned to allow better power management and distribution as well as the factor of outputs. The flagship today is of course the Raspberry Pi 2 and 3 – 1GB RAM, four cores and backward compatibility, while the version 3 has also WiFi and BLuetooth (LE) onboard, and the cores have been updated to A53 1,2GHz, 64-bit.  To continue the sound is also being transferred over  HDMI, which allows for decoding – but also you can choose analog (it’s on the jack along with composite video). For multimedia player enthusiast – this device is AVC hardware-decoding capable – way up to 1080p with sound – but there’s not default MPEG-2 license – you can order it separately. The original A, A+,  B and B+ had a CPU horsepower comparable to old Pentium II 350MHz, but don’t forget that GPU is 1080p capable. Just to start Raspbery Pi offers:

Let’s Begin!

You will need of course the Rasbperry Pi hardware – either old A i B or newer B+ and version 2. I would recommend to start with Model B+ since it has FastEthernet and better power management. You can buy them from official shops like RS or  Farnell both good choices. Apart from that we will need:

  • Power supply – 5V,  2000 mA with micro-USB connector
  • MicroSD card (older models use SD card format) – minimum is 4GB, but I recommend 8GB. Beware of counterfit microSD cards, use at least Class 4
  • Ethernet cable connected to home router – that has DHCP. You could start with monitor and keyboard, but that’s not really the way we deal with Pi

Options:

  • HDMI or Composite to connect to monitor or TV. Pi when started will try to obtain IP address via DHCP, so monitor is optional – yet you can read the result
  • chassis – Pi is barebone so to protect from unwanted ESD or just simple short-circut – use a ready or 3D printed chassis.
  • Audio cable and speakers
  • USB keyboard and mouse
  • USB WiFi dongle

Let’s install Raspbian! Download form https://www.raspberrypi.org/downloads/raspbian/ up-to-date  ZIP fileinstalacja_rasbianawith the image of distribution for Raspberry Pi. After unpacking for Windows: put a micro SD into card reader and find new drive in Explorer:dysk_hNext run Win32diskimager, open our image and choose Save:win32imagerAfter few minutes the image is ready. Remove safely the card and insert into Raspberry Pi. After hooking up keyboard and monitor  – power it on and observer how Pi boots. After it boots you can use keyboard and monitor to log in or if you already have IP address on the box – using ssh – user pi, password raspberry. System will display few options – one of the most important is the expading of the filesystem on the card – image has only 2GB and uses only 2GB on i.e. 8GB card. Chose “1. Expand Filesystem”, and allow reboot!

You will see after 30secs the IP address on the screen or you can find it out in home router logs. On keyboard – login using user pi and password raspberry – you should see: pi@raspberrypi ~ $. You might also boot straight into X – which is the graphical UI of the Rasbian – but if you’re stuck in ‘text’ mode – type startlxde – it looks kinda like Windows 95 and little less like Windows 7.

pi-ready

Congratulations, you’ve just started your Pi!

Next steps

If you’re an avid Linux user, you’ll just feel at home, but if you’ve never used UN*X but only MS Windows – use those two pieces of software:

Filezilla

Filezilla is an Open Source software, used to transfer files – and it has a perk of using SSH (SFP). Remeber taht SSH needs to be enable first, take a peek at next paragraph. SSH file transfer is very similar in operation to well known FTP, but it’s much safer, and uses encrypted channel. So you get two-in-one – ability to log in remotely via SSH and transfer files. You can get it from https://filezilla-project.org/, and to start all you need is IP address of your Raspberry Pi (when using console – use sudo ifconfig eth0 – to find out what is your Ethernet IP address or sudo ifconfig wlan0 if connected via WLAN), user pi, password raspberry and the port is 22. Just after logging in you will see the files in /home/pi folder.

Console or terminal SSH – putty

Putty is another free software used on MS Windows to connect via ssh protocol to remote or local systems. It’s a simple EXE file from:  http://www.chiark.greenend.org.uk/~sgtatham/putty/download.html. First you need to enable and start is – so leet’s get back fo a bit to the keyboard and screen console and type

Now get back to big PC – enter IP address of your PI, choose  SSH, when asked login: pi, then password: raspberry. And there you are just like on monitor and keyboard – using Raspberry Pi!