Living in the Now!

Learning to enjoy my life more!

A Raspberry Pi Update

on 29/06/2012

To Start With

A macro shot of the Raspberry Pi’s logo printed on the circuit board.

At the moment it’s still in development, and its very much a learning tool to teach technical concepts. But that doesn’t mean that this is not suitable for kids, they will be fine. The whole thing will be a learning experience just like it was for me when I was 8-9 years old with my Commodore 64. But unlike then there is so much help available on the internet that anything can be over come with a little time searching around.

From what I’ve heared of Eben Upton (the guy behind the Raspberry Pi) it sounds like he wants to bring back this raw basic form of comuting to children so that they learn that a computer is more than just how you use the mouse and how you use word. its about how you properly formulate a IF statement. Yes its a complicated subject to grasp but just because most adults struggle to open a word document doesn’t mean that a kid can’t program.

And yes its a confusing and complicated subject but that’s because computers are complicated, it doesn’t matter how much companies make using a computer as easy and friendly as possible because all they are really doing is making it harder and harder for people to actually know what’s happening behind the interface and develop these things.

For those that may have problems with the terminology used in the rest of this article or want to know more about a specific thing I have provided links to more information. If I’ve missed something then please comment or send me a message on Twitter @dfragglet, thanks.

First Experience

Using the Pi and my net book late at night just like when I was a kid hacking away on my Commodore 64

An example is when you first get it you have to download the OS (Operating System) image to your computer and then unpack the image on to the SD card. First time I did this I did it in Windows and used the tool suggested, work flawlessly. After a few weeks there was a new version that they were asking people to beta test, I downloaded it and used a tutorial I found in Linux Format magazine to help me write the image to the SD card using the command line. This worked fine for the original image but when I tried it with the new updated image it messed the SD card up and made it unrecognisable to any OS I plugged it into. Eventually I found that despite my computers not recognizing it my camera would read it and say it had an error but allow me to format it and that fixed the issue of it not being read in any OS.

Eventually I found that the tutorial in the Magazine had a few steps missing so I followed the official tutorial on doing it through the Ubuntu terminal and it worked fine. Now in Windows you can do it through the command line or there’s a special tool, same for Linux and Mac.

When Ubuntu Terminal sessions go bad.

some unusual output from a terminal session on Ubuntu.

Once the SD card is prepared, pop it into the Raspberry Pi and power it. Now if the image is written correctly it’ll boot (first boot will take a little longer as its setting it’s self up to the hardware) after that it will just stop at a Linux command line asking you to log in. Default log in is username: pi and the password: raspberry.

Once logged in your still at the command line and to start a graphical desktop to do some work you need to type “startx”. then it loads a GUI called LXDE. its a Debian based Linux distribution but unlike alot of the other distribution for desktops this comes with tools to get started but nothing else.

The next step was finding a WiFi dongle that works, really long and technical process or trawling through the Raspberry Pi wiki finding the dongle that people have got to work and then following the steps that are there to make it work. Took 8 hours with the help of Phill at first to research and refine the process for using one of the WiFi dongles but after that we managed to refine that process down to 6 steps that took 5 mins to complete.

Expectations

It will not give you an easy ride but you will learn a lot from just using it. I know more about Linux from using my Pi for a month than I did from running Ubuntu for the past 2 years. mostly because Ubuntu is refined and well developed OS. The raspberry pi, not yet, there’s still a lot of performance to be unlocked from it as there’s no driver yet to use the GPU, no login manager (Note: the link to the left take you to a page for a login manager, it has a very good definition of what a login manager is but I am unsure if this particular Manager will work on the Pi) to make starting it up easier or package manager to make installing software easier by default, but there is a way of adding these things later.

If you want a little computer to view web pages, word process and play games or to just generally use out of the box then this is not for you. If you want to get dirty and learn how it works and get involved in then yes its for you. Its basically the same with a car, you want to own and use a car but don’t care or want to know how it works then stick to the well know manufacturers. You want a car that’s going to force you to learn how to keep it on the road then you get and MGB GT or any other classic car.

Other Impressions

The guys over at Jupiter Broadcasting have done a review of the Raspberry Pi and if you want to hear what they thought you can either got to the site Jupiter broadcasting or watch the embedded video right here. 


3 responses to “A Raspberry Pi Update

  1. Few more months pee’in around on Linux terminals and we will both see the Matrix!

  2. Russel says:

    Hey just wanted to give you a brief heads up and let you know
    a few of the images aren’t loading properly. I’m not sure why but I think its a linking issue.

    I’ve tried it in two different browsers and both show the same results.

    • Thank you Russel, I think it’s because they were linked directly to my Instagram account and I have recently deleted that account. I will restore those images from a backup I have of them, Sorry for the inconvenience!

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