The Raspberry Pi is a simple, low cost, single-board computer.
The Raspberry Pi was developed in the UK to teach computers and programming to students. The default R P runs Linux and has the Python programming language installed. First released in 2012, several updated models have been released since. The list price has remained at $35USD.
The hardware specs are similar to a smartphone or tablet as far as processor and memory but the architecture is more like a desktop with an HDMI video connector, USB ports for keyboard, mouse and other peripherals, RJ45 for network and an SD card for storage.
Don’t get ready to replace your desktop with the R P just yet. The fact that it runs Linux will stop many and it is rather underpowered. Browser performance is slow and YouTube worse.
But if you are looking for a single board computer to learn about computers/Linux/Python or you have a maker/builder project in mind, the R P can’t be beat.
To set up a complete R P system you will need:
– The Raspberry Pi single board computer
– Monitor with HDMI input and cable
– USB keyboard
– USB mouse
– SD card 16 or 32 GB
– Power adapter (charging adapter for a smartphone or tablet works) with a cable ending in Micro USB
If you don’t have the supporting hardware and are on a budget, think friends, garage sales, second hand stores.
Now you need a R P Operating System (OS) on the SD card. The default recommended is Raspbian. You can buy an SD card with Raspbian ready to go or use a computer connected to the Internet to download it and write it to the SD card. For example with Windows download Raspbian and use Win32DiskImager to write the bootable Raspbian OS to the SD card.
– Internet connection for updates, new software and just doing Internet things.
– Case for R P (it is a bare naked PCB which is cool to look at but in a rough environment needs a case)
– Speakers (if not built into your HDMI capable monitor) more better amplified speakers because the sound output of the R P is weak
– USB wireless adapter for Ethernet instead of the RJ45 cable
Here are my notes on setting up a R P computer. There are several hardware versions and many software options so your mileage may vary.
There are tons of resources out there for everything R P. Use your favorite search engine to find what you need.
For example here are great instructions about getting started
I will warn you that bumps in the road are ahead
– fractured support for different models
– the GB keyboard will confound you by switching the @ and “
– Internet browsers run slow
Assemble your R P and boot
Linux boots! You are at a login command prompt!
raspberrypi login: pi
You are back at the command prompt!
Now what? Two suggestions – start the xwindows graphical environment and start exploring or configure your system.
To start Xwindows, at the command prompt type startx
Point and click! Explore the Menu and see what you have available.
Epiphany Web Browser
Python programming language
Leafpad text editor
Accessories like Help, Calculator, Image viewer, PDF viewer, other stuff.
In Xwindows –
End Xwindows back to the command prompt: Menu > Logout (keyboard shortcut: <Ctrl><Alt><Backspace>)
Shutdown the computer: Menu > Shutdown
sudo raspi-config will get you into the R P Software Configuration Tool where you can expand your filesystem to use the entire SD card, Internationalisation Options, and Overclock
Expand your filesystem is a good thing to use the entire SD card space.
Internationalisation. The default UK keyboard swaps @ and “. Change the keyboard to US layout here.
Overclock. R P seems to encourage overclocking. As the R P is slow, try it.
New software and OS updates
In R P the way to get new software and OS updates is with the package manager. The package manager connects to trusted repositories of software. This is like an app store. Updating and installing software from repositories is more secure.
To update all package availabilities: sudo apt-get update
To install a program for example Firefox type the command (but note the name change, there is some drama)
apt-get install iceweasel
Say hello world in Python
Create a Python script and run it –
Menu, Accessories, Text Editor,
print “Hello world”
File, Save As, Select folder pi, Name: hello_world.py
Menu, Accessories, Terminal,
This is a really simple overview of R P.
R P is a very cool computer with unlimited potential. Well done R P.
5 million R Ps have been sold.
The latest version is Raspberry Pi 2 with a faster processor and more memory.
Microsoft has announced support for Windows 10 on the R P 2
The R P has a 40 pin GPIO for builders.
There is a large community to support and promote R P.
Builders find more and more uses for R P and share their work.