I Like to Tinker
My daughter, knowing I like to tinker with computers, gave me a Raspberry Pi miniature computer/development system for Christmas. Well, actually, she did get a few hints. On this page I have included some of the first few things I did when I fired it up.
What is a Raspberry Pi?
The Raspberry Pi is a low cost, credit-card sized computer. It plugs into a computer monitor or TV, and uses a standard USB keyboard and mouse. It is powered by a standard cell phone charger. It can be used to explore computing, and to learn how to program in languages like Python, C, C++, Ruby, and Perl. You can load an OS such as Linux ( a totally free OS) on it and and everything you’d expect a desktop computer to do, from browsing the Internet and playing high-definition video, to making spreadsheets, word-processing, and playing games.
It also has the ability to interact with the outside world, and has been used in a wide array of digital projects, from music machines to weather stations.
More than one company manufactures the Pi. The design is standardized and boards from any manufacturer will be the same. My board was manufactured by element14. More information about the board can be found on the manufacturers' web site →The adafruit page or on The element14 page
A spec sheet with full hardware details can be found here → Raspberry Pi spec sheet
The first thing to do is collect the pieces to fire it up and start tinkering. It has 4 USB 2 ports and it supports a standard USB keyboard and mouse. I had these available so that was a start. It supports several video formats, but HDMI is the easiest to use and I had an HDMI monitor and cable. The picture below shows the Pi with the key board and mouse. HDMI cable is not shown here.
Not quite ready for show time yet. Still need power and and something to put the operating system (OS) on. Time to go shopping.
I went to Micro Center in Duluth GA (the closest store to me that carries a full line of Raspberry Pi goodies). I could have ordered from any number of places on line, but I just could not wait.
The picture above shows the items that I purchased. Bottom row, middle, is the Pi. To the left is a 16 GB micro-SD card. This is what the device boots from and therefore where you install the OS. 8 G is the minimum size required, but 16 G was only about a dollar more ($8.99). On the right is a basic plastic case ( $4.99). Not absolutely necessary, but I don't like handling bare circuit boards. Top row, right , is a standard cell phone charger. That is what the Pi uses as a power supply (7.99). That is everything I need to start using it. But, while I was there I bought a few extras. The item at the top left is a kit of extra hardware items ($24.99) which can be used to extend the Raspberry Pi with digital displays and sensors. I have not tried any hardware projects yet, still playing with Python programming. I will include more info on this kit when my tinkering progresses from software to hardware.
Hooking it Up
Back from the store and ready to hook everything up.
The picture above shows the Pi installed in the case (just snaps in) with all the connectors plugged in. On the right side are keyboard, mouse, and Ethernet (internet access) cables. On the bottom are power and monitor (HDMI).
Loading the Operating System (OS)
Now to get an OS installed. I formatted the micro SD card and installed the OS installation tool on it. NOOBS is the name of the installation tool and is available from → Raspberry Pi Foundation Downloads Page
When you boot the Raspberry Pi from the SD card with the installation tool on it you get a screen offering you a choice of OSs to install. Raspbian is the most popular OS for the Pi so I chose it.
Its Alive !!
Once Raspbian finishes its installation the system will boot to that OS just like any other computer. Raspbian is fa full featured Linux based OS complete with a web browser and a full features Office software suite (similar function to Microsoft Office).
Just for fun, I installed the Kodi Media Center software on it. Thus you have a full featured media center PC for about $70. I live out in the country so I do not have an internet connection suitable for video streaming so I do not think I will use Kodi, but it was an interesting exercise. I will probably trash it and try some more useful stuff that is not so demanding on download caps.
Spring of 2018 Update
Since I started using the Raspberry Pi, the organization as totally updated the desktop (user interface) and it is a big improvement. he latest at this time is called RASPBIAN STRETCH, check it out → Raspberry Pi Foundation Downloads Page
This spring I have been improving my web design skills by taking an on-line course in creating web pages using WordPress software. WordPress automates a lot of the programming and can be used to create very complex web sites. Typically your WordPress web site is hosted on a hosting provider like GoDaddy, but it can be handy to have a local web server on your local home network. So I decided to configure the Raspberry Pi as a web server. There are lots of tutorials on YouTube. This is the one I used
Now I have a web server on my home network that can support WordPress so that I can created web pages off-line and test them before I upload them to my public host.It is amazing how a little computer you can hold in your hands can do a decent job as a web server