Getting used to Raspberry Pi

Its been quite some time since my Raspberry Pi Model B arrived. All I’ve done is tried to run several things, blink GPIO with examples found on Internet, set up a desktop computer for my daughter with TuxPaint. I never was big fan of Linux, on desktop computer I always use Windows for my daily tasks.

With cheap single board computers like Raspberry Pi people looked at Linux with different perspective. We can notice increased interest in Linux, how to do this and this. Who work with Linux long time, it is just another computer where they can work with it and make cool things right away. But for us like me, its a good chance get to know Linux better, and learn few tricks.

raspberry pi model b

There are already tons of information about Raspberry Pi computer. Practically anyone can find easy step by step guide how to set up Raspbian image, set basic settings and control it either through terminal screen or like casual computer with monitor, keyboard and mouse. From my experience it is a bit too slow for running desktop applications with graphical interface. For instance loading TuxPaint takes long time and is not very responsive. But for embedded applications or hardware optimized XBMC media center you can get great results.

As I mentioned, Raspberry Pi is great for embedded applications. Besides all computer interfaces like LAN, USB, Audio, HDMI, RCA, there is also a GPIO header that makes it powerful prototyping platform.

raspberry pi model b gpio header

Linux takes care of Internet things automatically and with few commands you can control real world applications from web and so on.

Raspberry Pi has couple ways of attaching monitor or other display (HDMI or RCA). You can attach monitor, keyboard and mouse in order to configure and use it. But in my opinion this is not what it is designed for (unless you use it for playing media or gaming). For embedded applications it might be placed remotely and the only thing that makes it accessible is internet cable or even WiFi. So from the beginning I will use it that way. This will help me get more comfortable with terminal commands and whole idea of using Linux OS.

In order to access to Raspberry Pi through terminal screen you need

  1. Router with running DHCP;
  2. Desktop computer attached to same router;
  3. Raspberry Pi attached to same router.

Power up Raspberry Pi and then what is left is to figure out what IP address is given to it. Best way is to open router and find devices connected to it. Depending on your router results may look different. Normally you will see device named ‘raspberrypi’. Write down its IP address

raspberry_pi_IP_address

Then if you are windows user it is best to use PuTTY terminal application. Enter IP address, save it for next use and click open.

raspi_putty_connect

In few seconds you will get black screen that prompts for login. Enter pi as user name and raspberry as password. You wont see feedback when typing password, just type it blindly and hit enter. And here you are – connected to Raspberry Pi remotely through SSH. From here probably we won’t go about how to configure it for first time – there are plenty start-up guides on how to do this. If you feel uncomfortable doing this from command line tool, probably for the first rung it is better to connect monitor and do this with keyboard and mouse attached.

When doing from terminal screen just type command:

sudo raspi-config

hit enter and you will see nice terminal pseudo GUI where you can navigate and configure different parameters like locale, keyboard mapping and more. First step you want to do is select ‘expand_rootfs‘ setting. It takes care of expanding file system to use maximum size of your SD card.

Raspbian ‘wheezy’ is a Debian Linux based operating system. So basically all tutorials and commands from Debian apply to Raspberry Pi. Raspbian already have a bunch preinstalled applications that can be used right away. If you want to know what programs are here type following command:

dpkg -l

it lists all installed programs and their versions. Programs are constantly updated by community so it might be a good practice to run update command which will download newer versions of outdated applications.

sudo apt-get update

it simply scans through list of download mirrors and builds a list of upgradable programs and modules. After this you can run

sudo apt-get upgrade

It will show the list of applications along with data archive to be downloaded;

sudp_apt-get_upgrade

type Y and upgrade will perform. It takes some time to finish. After this you will be sure that you are using newest versions of programs and OS. Next time we will get closer to basic terminal commands that are main tool of dealing with Linux.

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