You probably have heard of Raspberry Pi, but are not sure what exactly is it. Raspberry Pi is a tiny and cheap computer that cost just $35 (Model B) and is about the size of a credit card. Many have called it the computer for kids, but it is in fact more powerful than it actually is. Not only can you run a Linux distro on it, you can also use it to watch HD videos, word processing etc. With a computer that size, there are tons of things that you can do with it.
For those who are planning to get yourself a Raspberry Pi, but worry that it is too complicated to set up, here is a simple guide to help you setup Raspberry Pi and get started. While it may seems complicated, it is actually much easier than you thought. Be prepared to spend an hour or two though.
What you need
- Raspberry Pi (you can buy it here)
- A SD Card, minimum 4GB, class 4 (the class of a SD card is how fast it transfers data. Raspberry Pi works fine on a class 4 SD card, and you can boost its speed with a class 6 or higher SD card)
- A monitor with HDMI input and HDMI cable
- Micro USB power adapter (minimum 5V and 700mA. You can check the power rating on the power socket itself)
- A USB keyboard and mice (wireless keyboard and mice with USB dongle will work fine too)
- Internet LAN access and LAN cable (optional if you are using the offline installer)
Preparing the SD Card
Before we get started, we need to prepare the SD card. This will be the so called “hard disk” of Pi. The installer we are using is NOOBS which is an all-in-one one-click installer.
1. Download NOOBS. The offline installer is about 1.2GB and will contain the various distro installer. You can also opt to download the network version which is about 20MB. The difference between the two is that the network version requires your Raspberry Pi to be connected to the Internet (with a LAN cable) during the setup.
# for Debian-based or Ubuntu-based distro sudo apt-get install gparted
3. Install the SD Formatter software. Connect the SD card to your computer and run the SD Formatter app. Select the SD card and “overwrite Format”. Click “Format”.
In Linux, simply use the GParted application to format the SD card to “FAT32” format.
4. Next, unzip the NOOBS archive and copy all the extracted files and folders to the SD card.
Setting up your Raspberry Pi
1. Disconnect the SD card from the computer and plug it into the Raspberry Pi’s SD card slot. Connect up all other accessories: HDMI cable to monitor, USB keyboard and mice. If you are using the NOOBS network version, connect the LAN cable to the Pi’s ethernet port.
2. Lastly, connect the micro USB power adapter. This will power on the Raspberry Pi (note that there is no power switch in the Pi. Once you connect the power adapter, it will automatically power on).
3. Raspberry Pi will now boot up the NOOBS Installer and resize the SD card’s FAT partition. Once it is done, it will show the installation screen where you can choose from a list of distributions to install in your SD card. The few choices include:
- Raspbian (Debian optimized for Pi)
- OpenELEC (Media Center)
- Arch (ArchLinux optimized for Pi)
- RaspBMC (XBMC optimized for Pi)
- Pidora (Fedora optimized for Pi)
- RiscOS (A fast and easily customised operating system for ARM devices)
For those who are undecided, or are used to Ubuntu or apt-based distro, simply choose “Raspbian” and click “Install”. Alternatively, if you want to try out various distros and see how they perform, you can select multiple distros and install them all in the SD card. Just make sure that you have sufficient storage space in your SD card.
4. As soon as you click the “Install” button, the installation will start. Depending on the number of distro you have selected, it could take as fast as 10 minutes to an hour.
5. Once the installation is done, it will load up a blue screen full of options. This is the “raspi-config” screen.
The default settings usually work for most of you. One thing that you want to change is the User Password. The default user/password is “pi/raspberry” for Raspbian and “root/root” for Arch. This option allows you to change the password of the default user.
Another setting that you want to change is the booting up to graphical desktop. The default setting is for the Pi to boot up to a console. Scroll down the list to “3. Enable boot to desktop” and press Enter.
In the next screen, select “Desktop Log in as user ‘pi’ at the graphical desktop”.
Once you are done with the configuration, press Tab and navigate to “Finish”. Press Enter.
Raspberry Pi will now reboot and boot into the distro that you have installed.
That’s it. Enjoy your Raspberry Pi.
Image credit: Raspberry Pi