More about the Pi

Pi with memory card

The raspberry pi is a small computer.  It was released in April this year, and the current release is considered the developer’s release.  The intention is to produce a version for education in the near future (it should even have a case!)  Its operating system is stored on an SD card, which means that it’s easy to switch versions for different builds.

It has two USB slots, which are typically used for keyboard and mouse, an HDMI slot for the monitor and uses a low level power supply. (More technical details here; it’s not my intention to go into too much technical stuff, I just want to get exploring the practical side.)

HDMI to VGA M/F adapter

I needed one extra piece of kit – an HDMI to VGA M/F adapter.  That was enough to adapt my current monitor lead to fit the pi.  A powered hub is needed to run any extra devices, as the pi itself doesn’t put enough power through to power anything else.

That’s as much as I needed to know in order to get prepared for when my pi arrived in June. It had been ordered on the first morning that orders were open, but it took a while for the supply to catch up to the demand.

pi parcel

A neatly packaged raspberry pi

I followed the instructions on the website, bought a 4G SD card and downloaded the debian squeeze distro that’s recommended for beginners, then used a card imaging utility to create the image on the SD card.  Just copying the file over won’t work: my first lesson in the more technical aspects needed to get the pi up and running, and to be honest it was very simple.

All I need apart from the monitor

Then it was plugging everything in, turning it on and watching as streams of white text appeared on my black monitor.  Not yet ready for a command line interface, I started up the GUI.  This is linux, but so very similar to windows that there was no issue at all.  The first session was really to check the pi was working, and to see what was on the system.  I recognised Scratch, and was pleased to note that python was also installed.  A few minutes was enough to figure out how to write and compile a python program or two (“hello world”).

I haven’t yet plugged in the ethernet cable – I still need to figure out whether I can wangle another one from the router or whether I’ll need to unplug my main box’s connection.  I’m lucky enough to have a two monitor set-up on my desk, so can run both pi and the PC side by side, and I don’t really want to lose the internet connection on the PC as it’s handy to be able to look up details as I work on the pi.

So having established that all was working correctly, I packed it all carefully away again, ready for the holidays when I’d have more time to work on it.


About emmyleigh
Writer/editor/proofreader who loves technology

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