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Getting Started with Raspberry Pi

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Introduction

The Raspberry Pi is a credit-card-sized single-board computer developed in the UK by the Raspberry Pi Foundation with the intention of promoting the teaching of basic computer science in schools.” From Wikipedia.

The RPi is a real computer. It costs around £30 is hackable and small. It’s the perfect solution for tinkerers!

This device is not for everyone. This not a computer, that you plug and play. There are some considerations that you need to have in mind. You need to have a clear goal of what you want to do with the RPi.

That will tell you which operating system you’re going to use, the peripherals, SD card size, etc…

You can choose two different versions Model A and Model B.

RPi Specifications

Raspberry Pi Model A Raspberry Pi Model B
Price From £25 From £30
Chip Broadcom BCM2835 SoC full HD multimedia applications processor Broadcom BCM2835 SoC full HD multimedia applications processor
GPU  Dual Core VideoCore IV® Multimedia Co-Processor  Dual Core VideoCore IV® Multimedia Co-Processor
Memory  256MB SDRAM  512MB SDRAM
Ethernet  None  Onboard 10/100 Ethernet RJ45 jack
USB 2.0  Single USB Connector  Dual USB Connector
Video Output  HDMI (rev 1.3 & 1.4) Composite RCA (PAL and NTSC)  HDMI (rev 1.3 & 1.4) Composite RCA (PAL and NTSC)
Audio Output  3.5mm jack, HDMI  3.5mm jack, HDMI
Onboard Storage  SD, MMC, SDIO card slot  SD, MMC, SDIO card slot
Operating System  Linux  Linux
Dimensions  8.6cm x 5.4cm x 1.5cm  8.6cm x 5.4cm x 1.5cm

The differences between these boards besides the price is the memory, Ethernet and USB ports. You should definitely get the Model B. It’s way more powerful.

Let’s take a look into the Raspberry Pi Board Model B Pinout

The best thing about the Raspberry Pi is that there’s no right way to use it. It’s perfect to surf the web, watch videos, learn programming and hacking!

What do you need?

  • Raspberry Pi
  • SD Card (Minimum size 4Gb and class 4)
  • Micro USB Power Supply (Must provide at least 700mA at 5V)
  • Display:
    • HDMI to HDMI
    • HMDI to Scart
    • RCA video lead
  • USB Keyboard and Mouse
  • Ethernet (Optional, but Recommended)
  • Wireless (Optional)
  • Audio lead (Optional)
  • Case (Optional, but Recommended)
  • USB Hub (Optional)

SD Card

The RPi has no internal storage, so it requires an SD Card to boot the RPi and launch the Operating System. We’re going to prepare a SD Card with the right Operating System for you later. You need to get a SD card just like the one below that has a minimum size of 4GB and It’s at least Class 4. It’s also recommended to be branded.

Micro USB Power Supply

The RPi is powered through a USB power supply that can provide at least 700mA at 5V. Many phone chargers can be used with the Raspberry Pi, simply check what the label says. If your supply provides less than 5V your Raspberry Pi may not turn on at all. Don’t use unreliable power supplies.

Display

There are two options for the RPi display

  • HDMI (high definition):
    • HDMI to HDMI
    • HDMI to Scart
  • Composite (low definition): It’s a yellow-to-yellow cable.

Keyboard & Mouse

Most standard USB keyboards and mice will work with the RPi. Wireless devices should also work just fine, as they only require a single USB port for an RF dongle. The Model A has a single USB port and the Model B only has two. You can always add more ports with an USB Hub.

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RPi Setup Example

Where to Buy

Raspberry Pi 3 Model B Starter Kit – Click to see on eBay

Software

There are 6 officially supported Raspberry Pi Operating Systems. RaspberryPi.org recommends you install NOOBS, which is not a Operating System, but it’s a easy way to install any distribution you want.

The official distribution for the Raspberry Pi is Raspbian. That’s the one I recommend you to install. Especially if you’re a beginner, because is the one with more support and tutorials.

If you want to create a media center with your Raspberry Pi you should install RaspBMC.

  • NOOBS: New Out Of Box Software
  • Raspbian (Recommended)
  • Pidora
  • RISC OS
  • RaspBMC
  • Arch
  • OpenELEC

Go to raspberrypi.org.com/downloads and download the Raspbian distribution.

raspbian downloads

Prepare your SD Card (for Windows)

Those instructions below where taken from elinux.org if you have another operating system click here to prepare your SD card using MAC or Linux

Using the Win32DiskImager program

  1. Make sure the distribution you just downloaded is for the Raspberry Pi, as others will not work. Usually these are zipped (compressed) files ending in .zip or .gz (something like “distribution-name.zip”).
  2. Extract the image file from the downloaded .zip file, so you now have “distribution-name.img”.
  3. Insert the SD card into your SD card reader and check what drive letter it was assigned. You can easily see the drive letter (for example G:) by looking in the left column of Windows Explorer. You can use the SD Card slot (if you have one) or a cheap Adapter in a USB slot.
  4. Download the Win32DiskImager utility (it is also a zip file). You can run this from a USB drive.
  5. Extract the executable from the zip file and run the Win32DiskImager utility; you may need to run the utility as Administrator! Right-click on the file, and select ‘Run as Administrator’
  6. Select the image file you extracted above.
  7. Select the drive letter of the SD card in the device box. Be careful to select the correct drive; if you get the wrong one you can destroy your data on the computer’s hard disk! If you are using an SD Card slot in your computer (if you have one) and can’t see the drive in the Win32DiskImager window, try using a cheap Adapter in a USB slot.
  8. Click Write and wait for the write to complete.
  9. Exit the imager and eject the SD card.
  10. You are now ready to plug the card into your Raspberry Pi.

First Boot and Basic Configurations

Plug in the SD card into your Raspberry Pi, connect the keyboard, connect the RPi to your HDMI monitor, plug in the USB power and the Ethernet Cable.

You’re screen we’ll be back and with some white text. This will take you to a Raspberry Pi configuration screen. You’ll see this only the first time. The options are:

  1. Expand Filesystem: We don’t need to do this for most RPi purposes— some people may disagree.
  2. Change User Password: (default username: raspberry and password: pi)
  3. Enable Boot to Desktop/Scratch: This is set to console by default and that is what we want to keep
  4. Internationalization Options: Set your timezone
  5. Enable Camera: No – you can change this later
  6. Add to Rastrack: No
  7. Overclock: Ee don’t need to change this
  8. Advanced options: Make sure you choose A4 SSH — this will enable secure shell access, then you can control your Raspberry Pi from a remote computer.

Wrapping up

I hope you found this getting started guide useful. If you don’t have a RPi yet, you’re missing out some cool projects! So get your own RPi here.

Thanks for reading!

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