I finally got some spare time to fire up the Raspberry Pi. All my ducks were in a row. I had a suitable HDMI telly, a beefy enough power supply. I am a Mac person, so the only spare USB keyboards kicking around here were some old Mac Pro keyboards. PC mice work fine in Macs and I had a spare mouse.
How easy is it to set up? I am no Linux geek and have only given it a cursory glance by following Liam’s excellent Youtube tutorials. I had installed this on the Mac using VirtualBox.
If I can set this up easily then almost anybody who can read a set of instructions can get the RasPi working.
Writing Linux to an SD card
I’d read that the RasPi does not like high speed cards and I’d bought a class 10 SD card. I went out and bought a class 4 just to be safe. It seems that it reads the class 10 card OK, which was an Ultima Pro. I will report further on this when I get a chance to test it thoroughly.
I went to the section on writing a disk image on the Mac on the elinux site which said:
Download the image from a mirror or torrent
Verify if the the hash key is the same (optional), in the terminal run:
Extract the image:
(or: just double click the zip, it will extract automatically)
From the terminal run df -h
Connect the sdcard reader with the sdcard inside
Run df -h again and look for the new device that wasn’t listed last time. Record the device name of the filesystem’s partition, e.g. /dev/disk1s1
Unmount the partition so that you will be allowed to overwrite the disk:
diskutil unmount /dev/disk1s1
(or: open Disk Utility and unmount the partition of the sdcard (do not eject it, or you have to reconnect it))
Translate the device name of the partition into the raw device for the entire disk, by missing out the final "s1" and replacing "disk" with "rdisk":
e.g. /dev/disk1s1 => /dev/rdisk1
In the terminal write the image to the card with this command, using the raw disk device name from above:
dd bs=1m if=~/Downloads/debian6-13-04-2012/debian6-13-04-2012.img of=/dev/rdisk1
After the dd command finishes, eject the card:
diskutil eject /dev/rdisk1
(or: open Disk Utility and eject the sdcard)
Insert it in the raspberry pi, and have fun
Did it work?
The first point to realise is that you should leave your zip file in Downloads, or if your downloads folder is somewhere else you need to put that address in instead. Also, the filename will be different – mine was called debian6-19-04-2012.zip – and will need changing to whatever the current distribution is called in the instructions above.
Another thing you will find is that there is no visual feedback in Terminal to show anything is happening, but be assured it is. Just be patient and eventually a message will apppear showing what bytes have been written to the card.
All that remains is to put the card in the RasPi, get your pieces connected up and make sure your monitor or telly is set to receive a signal and you have the RasPi plugged into the correct telly socket. In my case I used HDMI with the telly set to HDMI 1.
The red light comes on to show you are plugged into your power supply and the RasPi starts to read from its card and the green light comes on.
Very soon you should start to see a RasPi logo and a stream of text telling you what is happening. There is not much to do here except watch and soon it will settle to a prompt asking for your Username and Password. These were given to me when I when I downloaded the SD card disk image.
Now what confused my son and I was the lack of anything seeming to happen when the password was entered. The cursor does not move and nothing appears to get entered. I wondered if it was because I used a Mac keyboard or whether I had let the card write properly. I went away and wrote the card again but needn’t have bothered. Apparently I was being dumb, but I bet this confuses a lot of people in future.
If you are new to Linux, as I am, you will not be used to seeing a lack of feedback when entering passwords – you don’t see any dots or asterisks to show something is happening. Just press on regardless, making sure you typed it correctly.
If all is well the RasPi will restart itself the first time and after entering the Username and Password will get you to a desktop GUI interface ,where you can start to explore what is inside the basic install. This will be more familiar territory for anyone who has used Windows or OSX.
That logo – I am probably going to have something to say about it in another post – personally I hate it. It doesn’t look much like a raspberry and the leaves just look plain weird.
Preferring the Lighweight X11 Desktop Environment, I quickly changed the pink-disco-ball-with-green-ears to the default background.
There you pretty much have it, a fully-fledged computer that is actually quite responsive. Just don’t click everything at once and it will be a very useable little device. It’s hard to believe and easy to forget how cheap this computer is when making comparisons with any other computer you might have or use. It’s wholly unfair to expect it to compete with the family PC for speed. It’s amazing that a credit-card sized computer can have so many ports and features directly out of the tin in the first place.
So well done to the Raspberry Pi Foundation and all it aims to achieve and indeed has done so far. For myself I shall start to explore further as time permits. Get connected to my ethernet hub and the net, perhaps get a wireless USB dongle working. Start to get some programs of my choice running.