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A Beginner’s Guide to The Raspberry Pi

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#1
Nick

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Welcome to our beginner's guide to the Raspberry Pi. We've created this guide to explain what the Raspberry Pi is, where you can get it from, what else you will need to buy to get it up and running, and how to install software to get you up and running. We've also compiled this guide into a handy printable PDF, which you can download here from our Downloads library. Enjoy!

 

 

 

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Introduction

Launched in 2012, the Raspberry Pi has taken the world by storm. Not to be mistaken for the delicious fruity version, the Raspberry Pi was the brain child of a group of four gifted individuals Alan Mycroft, Rob Mullins, Jack Lang and Eben Upton, the Raspberry Pi was created with two things in mind, pocket-friendly and budget-friendly.

 

The resulting credit card sized pc is not just that but more. With loads of versatile uses, the amazing Raspberry Pi can be used for almost anything. Even used as a basic PC, it’s powerful enough to meet your needs and more. However, it can be rather complicated to understand owing to the fact that the Raspberry Pi is a PC processor and you’re going to have to build a bit around it before you can actually use it.

 

However, once you get your basics right, the Raspberry Pi can open up a whole new world for you. Use it as a PC or put it to some creative use. With the help of this eBook, we’ll focus on the basics and helping you understand why this deliciously named software can be just as sweet as actual pie.

 

What is Raspberry Pi?

Raspberry Pi is a small, credit-card sized ARM computer. With a price tag of merely £20/$25, the Raspberry Pi computer has made computing easy, accessible and affordable for everyone and happens to be the only computer that can be found at the same price as a high-end raspberry pie with vanilla ice-cream on the side.

 

This nifty little chip can be planted in your TV and with a keyboard attachment; it is completely possible to use it as a normal computer and run functions on it such as making spreadsheets, games, watching HD videos, word processing and various other electronic project functions.

 

The versatility and affordability of the Raspberry Pi has made it a huge success and since the Raspberry Pi was marketed on an international level, it’s possible to find one near you as well. Nonetheless, if you’re interested in getting your very own Raspberry Pi, you can do so via Premier Farnell/Element 14 and RS Components/Allied Electronics.


Admin / Webmaster bloke
Owner of 2 Raspberry Pi's, a 256mb model and a 512mb model.


#2
Nick

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raspberry pi board.jpg
  Bringing Home the Pi 

Once you buy your Raspberry Pi, you must be all a brim with excitement. Most Raspberry Pi software has to be purchased online or through a retailer. Luckily, Raspberry Pi has no strict license regarding who can be their retailer so you might find someone nearby who’s dealing in the Raspberry Pi business.

 

What’s Inside the Box?

When you’re buying a Raspberry Pi, you get what you pay for only, which means that you’ll only have to buy a lot of the supporting accessories that go with the Raspberry Pi. Nonetheless, unless you’re on a really, really strict budget, you shouldn’t skimp on the hardware. The price of the Raspberry Pi is kept so low because of the lightweight condition; that’s why we’re going to starts off very basic.

 

raspberry pi question marks.jpg
So let’s take a closer look at the Raspberry Pi. If you doubt the credit card sized comparison then whip out the inch tape, the Raspberry Pi measures a mere 85.60mmx53.98mmx21mm. There is a little overlap for the connectors and the SD card. This causes a small projection over the edges but all in all, the whole weighs 45g in its unmodified state.

 

Furthermore, if you buy a Raspberry Pi, you can also order the other accessories along with Raspberry Pi. You won’t have to panic though, there are plenty of retailers who do that and you’ll be able to get all the extra material that you need with ease.

 

Model A and Model B

 

The Raspberry Pi is available in two versions namely, Model A and Model B. Model A costs around $25 or £20.67 and Model B costs around $35 or £26.88. If you’re wondering, there is a difference. Model A has a 256MB RAM and one USB port. It does not support network connection since it has no Ethernet port at all. On the other hand, Model B has an Ethernet port, 512MB RAM and two USB ports.

 

raspberry pi model a model b specs.png

 

Model A and Model B also have a difference in the kind of hardware they support since all hardware devices such as keyboards, mice, external storage devices and network adapters depend upon a USB hub to connect. Luckily, Model A and B, both, support ports that easily connect with most USB 2.0 devices.

 

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GPIO Warning

 

The GPIO is a generic pin that allows the user to monitor and run its performance during run time. GPIO’s are commonly utilized in multipurpose chips and it’s no surprise that one would want to use them with the Raspberry Pi as well.

 

However, caution should be exercised when using GPIO pins with the Raspberry Pi since these pins are 3.3V instead of the acceptable 5V. If you still persist in using GPIO pins then make sure that you’ve taken the time to test the voltage through the cable before you turn on your Pi.

 

Since a GPIO pin will be directly attached to the Raspberry Pi chip, if you’re not careful or using them properly, you might end up with Pi on your face and unfortunately, this kind of Pi isn’t mushy.


Admin / Webmaster bloke
Owner of 2 Raspberry Pi's, a 256mb model and a 512mb model.


#3
Nick

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The Ingredients to make the Perfect Pi – Tools You Will Need

 

Based on what you’re buying every consumer gets their very own Pi with its very own supporting hardware and software. However, you’re going to need some more items for your Pi to make it a durable companion for you.

 

Wires and Lego’s and Boxes and Pi!

In a bid to make it cheap for the consumers, the makers of Raspberry Pi have to give you the basics since it’s cost effective for production too. This means that you’ll have to find a body for your Raspberry Pi chip. However, you won’t have to dish out any extra money to get a custom made Raspberry Pi body box.

 

The Pi community embraced the unique challenge that the Raspberry Pi presented and they decided to make it work for them. Since the Raspberry Pi was designed to be budget friendly and affordable, people also chose materials that could be used by anyone. With the help of Lego’s, people have been able to build strong sturdy structures that are easy to move around and accommodate as well. With a Lego plastic body, the flexibility and usability of the Raspberry Pi is further enhanced.

 

punnet box.png

 

Another popular option is the Punnet case. It’s a printable design that you can download and print. You can then cut it out and construct it in cardboard or really thick paper to give your Pi a comfortable home. Punnet boxes are also more flexible when it comes to dealing with the wires and other cables.

 

There are also lots of other interesting DIY cases as well where people have let their artistic flair get the better of them by recycling and re-using old equipment and toys such as the Nintendo Gameboy, video game cartridge, old routers and even keyboards.

 

Special Pi Cable-ry!

 

Since you’ll be building your Raspberry Pi from scratch, it’s not always possible to know what kind of wiring you will need to accomplish this task. However, we’re here to help so make sure that you get the following cables for your Pi:

  • Ethernet Cables – You’ll need this to help you connect to your router if you’re not planning on installing a Wi-Fi adaptor in your Raspberry Pi. It’s commonly known as a Network cable
  • HDMI Cables – Since the Pi is capable of handling high definition audio and video, you’ll need these cables to utilize this amazing option. Make sure your HDMI cable is version 1.3 a since that is the only version that Pi supports properly. You can buy lower versions (1.1-1.3) or higher versions (1.4) but you’ll end up paying for something which the Pi cannot support or cannot show proper quality images on.
  • RCA Video Cables – Not all screens will be able to support HDMI. If you’re hooking your Pi up to an older TV then you’ll really like these as an alternative video outlet. On the downside, you’ll have to get your hands on some audio cables since these don’t support sound at all.
  • Audio Cables – If you’re using RCA video cables or if you’d like to use a different outlet for audio, you can utilize the single standard jack to connect your pocket Pi to an audio system. Make sure you get a 3.5 mm audio cable. This is not required when you’re using an HDMI cable.

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Storage

 

Like all computers, storage is a necessity and for the Raspberry Pi, you can use an SD card. When you purchase the Raspberry Pi, you can also get an SD card, particularly a 4GB, pre-loaded SD card which is compatible with the Raspberry pi.

 

If you’re looking for more storage options then you can try the Pi SD cards that offers up to 32GB of memory storage. However, if you still want more, your best bet would be to utilize external storage devices or USB hard drives for storage purposes. (You can take a look at a list of other Pi compatible SD cards here)

 

Toppings for Your Pi

 

The Raspberry Pi has a wide array of supporting hardware that you can use. Since you’re making it from scratch, you’re also going to need:

 

  • USB keyboard – No computer is complete without one and seriously, how else are you going to issue commands on a computer?
  • USB Mouse - You can choose to skip the mouse if you’re really adept at the keyboard but you might find it handy to have it around.
  • Monitor or TV – This is required to make the display screen of the computer. You’re going to need the HDMI or the RCA cable for this.
  • Power Supply - The Pi works on different frequencies and power supply and you’ll need 5V/300mA (3.A) for Model A and 5V.15 A/700mA (7.A) for Model B. You can easily buy a USB charger or wall adapter. Make sure it supports USB connection because the Pi does not have any other way of connecting with anything else. While you might be tempted to just use your Blackberry or Samsung chargers, make sure to check the power supply it provides before plugging it into your Pi.
  • USB Hub – You’ll need this if you want to connect more USB devices into the Pi then it has ports to support. You can get a passive USB hub that depends on the Pi for power or you can get an active USB hub that can plugged into its own power supply. Passive USB hubs are useful when you’re connecting USB disk, card reader or blue tooth. For Wi-Fi adapters and hard drives, you’ll be happier with an active USB hub.
  • Monitor – You might feel like all monitors are useable but make sure that your monitor is compatible with the Pi. LCD’s and HD TVs can be easily connected with the help of a male, full-size HDMI cable. If you’re using older TVs you can utilize PAL and NTSC format TVs.

So, the Pi doesn’t just function as a basic computer. If you buy the supporting hardware, it’s possible to turn the Pi into a great computer.


Admin / Webmaster bloke
Owner of 2 Raspberry Pi's, a 256mb model and a 512mb model.


#4
Nick

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Setting it All Up

 

The most basic thing to do now is to assemble everything. Keep the power turned off. Once you’ve connected everything, you can turn it on then. Connecting everything to the Pi is pretty easy. You should also make sure that you have a properly formatted SD card before you even turn on the Raspberry Pi. If you’ve bought a pre-loaded SD card then the Raspberry Pi should just start up but if there’s a problem of some sort then you might experience a lot of problems booting your Pi.

 

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Raspbian

 

Since Linux has collaborated to give Raspberry Pi it’s very own Distro, the Debian Raspbian, the Raspberry Pi does tend to function more smoothly with a Linux OS. Despite that, there are plenty of other distros available for the Pi but we’ll focus on the ever popular Raspbian.

 

Now using Windows, you should download Raspbian and make sure that it’s the latest version. Once you’ve downloaded it, unzip the .img file. Now download Win32DiskImager and unzip the application (.exe file). Using a card reader, insert the SD card in your PC. Open the recently downloaded Win32DiskImager by double clicking it.

 

win32 disk imager.png

 

If you’re on Windows 7 or 8, then right click and choose “Run as Administrator”. In the section for image files, click the little folder icon and choose the recently downloaded Raspabian.img file. Now click on the Write button and wait for the magic to happen. Once it’s done, you can eject your SD card and put it in the Raspberry Pi.

 

If you bought a pre-loaded SD card then you can skip this step but if you didn’t then pay attention. You’re going to have to download Raspbian but you’ll have to be very careful otherwise you run the risk of corrupting the hard drive of the computer you’re using.

 

Raspi-Config

Now that your SD card is ready, you can finally turn on your Raspberry Pi. You’ll have to configure a few things but you’ll know that it’s ready since it’ll show you the Raspi-config window. You can mess with a lot of the setting of your Raspberry Pi here. However, the first thing that you should do is expand the file system so that you it allows you to use all the space on your SD card.

 

expand rootfs.png

 

To do that, you need to select expand_rootfs and press enter. Confirm that you’re expanding the file system and then let Raspbian do what it needs to do. It’ll take you automatically to the configuration list once it’s done. When you get to the configuration list, go to the very bottom of the list and choose Finish. You’ll be asked then if you want to reboot. Choose yes.

The Raspberry Pi will then reboot and take it’s time to expand the system file. When you’ll be asked to log in, you can do so easily with the help of the default password and username:

 

Name: pi

Password: raspberry

It’ll take you to a prompt screen where you can type: startx

Once you’ve done that, your Raspberry Pi is officially live and functioning. You can also access the Raspi-Config by using the command sudo raspi-config in the terminal.

You can take a look at the table below which explains other functions of the Raspi-Config:

table raspi-config.png

 

Pi and SSH

It’s possible to enjoy ‘headless’ (using it without a monitor that’s dedicated to it) use of your Raspberry Pi if you’ve got SSH available. Luckily, you don’t have to download anything since this is always enabled by default. As long as you’re able to connect your Pi with the same network that your computer is connected to and you have an SSH utility running such as PuTTY on your PC, you’ll be able to enjoy SSH connection with your Pi within seconds.

 

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You can also configure PuTTY. Go to the Session screen; put the IP address of your Raspberry Pi in the place for IP address or the Host Name field. Ensure that the SSH is selected and click on Open. You can easily login to your Pi by using the credentials that are provided by your chosen distro. For example: if you’re using Raspbian, then the password and username are already available on the download page for Raspbian.

 

The Command Line

The Raspberry Pi is run with the help of the command line. Owing to the fact that Raspbian is made by Linux, it runs on the same format that other Linux distros run on. Therefore, you’ll have to rely on issuing commands through the command line. The command line will be found from within the StartX GUI.

You might feel a bit shy or daunted which will make you hesitant to want to use the command line. However, with usage and practice, you’ll soon start to feel more comfortable with the command lines. Furthermore, there are instances when it’s preferable and required that you use the Command line for certain functions such as starting and shutting down the Raspberry Linux

 

Starting and shutting it down safely

Starting and shutting down the Raspberry Pi depends solely on the command line. Since the Raspberry Pi has an SD card, it’s not possible to simply shut it down by turning off the power supply. This would lead to corrupting the card and you’ll have to re-format your SD card re-configure your Raspberry Pi too.

 

The only way to safely turn off the Raspberry Pi is to use the command lines and issue the following commands:

To start: startx and

To shutdown: sudo shutdown – h now

Luckily, there’s also an option to shutdown on the desktop but you’re still going to have to issue a command to turn it on. Here are some other useful commands that you should know:

  • Shutdown your Pi in 1 minute:

sudo shutdown -h 1

  • Reboot your pi in 1 minute:

sudo shutdown -r 1

  • Get manual for any command:

man [command] e.g. man shutdown

 

The Python

The Pi was made to make programming easy and affordable and it’s something which has succeeded in both these goals. The Raspberry Pi supports the Python and that is the primary programming language. Users who have experience with Python will be able to breeze through Raspberry Pi. Luckily, for beginners, the Raspberry ships a built in module known as a Pygame which functions as a fun, programming building game. This lets you have fun and learn the basics as easily as possible.


Admin / Webmaster bloke
Owner of 2 Raspberry Pi's, a 256mb model and a 512mb model.


#5
Nick

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Other Software Supported by Pi

The Raspberry Pi also supports the following programs which are among the more popular and well loved software that is available for the Raspberry Pi.

 

Pidora

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This is an optimized version of the Fedora software and is specifically made for the Pi computer. If you’re not in the mood to utilize the Rasbian, you can try utilizing the Pidora. You can also easily download it from the Raspberry Pi website

 

RaspBMC

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RaspBMC is a small Linux distribution which is based on the Debian that brings XBMC to the Raspberry Pi. This little software has excellent form factor and has enough power to easily handle media playback, making it an ideal component to have in a low HTPC setup. Again, you can easily download it from here.

 

RISC OC

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An easy to use, free, computer software, RISC OC is pretty old since it was developed in 1987. You can easily look up more tutorials and other information regarding its usage. They’re a bit harder to find though since the popularity of the Raspbian makes that the more obviously favored and looked for software. Nonetheless, you can download it from here.

 

OpenELEC

openelec.png
A Linux distribution, the OpenELEC gives all the multi-media options that you would need in your media center software suite. It even comes with a pre-configured version of XMBC and a lot of third party addons. Open ELEC is also really compact and boots extremely quickly making it ideal for the Raspberry Pi since it is designed on the basis of requiring and consuming few resources and to boot as quickly as possible from flash memory. You can download it from here.

 

Arch

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Another Linux distribution, the Arch focuses on keeping things simple and easy to use. This lightweight software, open source software completely compliments Raspberry Pi. However, Arch Linux is rolling release software which means that is still constantly being developed and you’ll get newer versions of the software being introduced to the market rather frequently. You can download it from here.


Admin / Webmaster bloke
Owner of 2 Raspberry Pi's, a 256mb model and a 512mb model.


#6
Nick

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Last Words of Advice – The cream on top of your Raspberry Pi

As is always the case, you will soon not require any help from this ebook and will be able to start using the Raspberry Pi on your own. The Raspberry Pi is simple, easy and innovative to facilitate ease of use and is a great favorite among people who’re advocating the need to make computers easy to have and cost effective too.

 

With its database being constantly updated, the Raspberry Pi continues to retain and attract newer and older users. The Raspberry Pi always has something new to offer. You can also check out their forums and other reading material that they have available for new and old users.

 

Here are a few last tips and pointers for you to work on while using the Raspberry Pi:

  • Read up on the Raspberry Pi literature. Don’t be shy about it. The more you know, the more you’ll be able to understand what to do with your device.
  • The Raspberry Pi is something which is constantly being updated or getting new software added to. However, at the time of this ebook’s release, there are no new updates and this ebook is as updated as possible to the Raspberry Pi.
  • Learning how to use the Raspberry Pi is not too hard and new and unique ways can be found which help to accelerate or boost your performance. Don’t be afraid to try out new techniques.
  • If you don’t succeed once, try and try again. There are loads of functions and you’ll often become tangled in them but if you’re patient, you’ll find that it does pay off and you’ll be able to work them out.

We enjoyed providing you with a tour of the mysteries of the Raspberry Pi but unfortunately, we must bid you goodbye.

 

Happy Programming!


Admin / Webmaster bloke
Owner of 2 Raspberry Pi's, a 256mb model and a 512mb model.


#7
Kyrie

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Thanks for the guide dude! When I do make the purchase, it'll be even sweeter.


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