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The Raspberry PI – adventures of a non techie – episode 1

The Raspberry PI has been touted as the “must have” techie-gadget this year. After a monumental waiting I got my hands on one...first – the setup

Michael Wood | 6 February 2013

The Raspberry PI has been touted as the “must have” techie-gadget this year. After a monumental waiting I got my hands on one...first – the setup

So I wanted to get my kids into programming...

I remember as a child in the late 70s/early 80s playing with commodore pets and ZX systems, and later the spectrum. These systems were very, very different to the sealed system PS3 and Wii that my children play with, even the pc is just windows with install programmes controlling everything. I remember having to actually programme my BBC micro to get it to play games, or at least to load them. We got a Raspberry Pi as a present and I thought this would be an ideal way to get the kids into programming. Of course, it has ended up with me getting obsessed over it and the kids going back to their consoles, but I am loving it.

As you can see form my bio, I am a project and programme management trainer i.e. not a techie. Our IT trainers blow my mind with their level of knowledge, and I am sure they could strip and rebuild a PI and turn it into a coffee machine blindfold, but I thought it would be interesting to see what the PI offers someone who isn't an expert. With this in mind please note there are probably better ways to do the things I mention here, but this is how I got there.

In this first instalment I wanted to talk about what you get out of the box when you buy a PI. First important thing to note is that if you buy a Raspberry PI, you get JUST THAT, a raspberry pi. From what I can gather it is a computer of similar power to a mobile phone, it has a monitor and HDMI port so you can hook it up to the TV, and the latest model as of writing this is the model B, which has 2 USB ports as well. There are other strange looking long-named ports on there, but they are not important (or understandable) right now, they look like they involve robots, or soldering, or both...maybe later.

Anyway, my point is you get JUST the raspberry pi, not even a power supply is included. So first thing, here is a list of what I would suggest you need MINIMUM:

  1. A power supply, it is a mini-usb supply, the type that you power your mobile phone with. I went on amazon (other online shopping sites are available) and typed in "Raspberry PI power supply" and got one for £6.  NOTE - if you get a powered USB hub as per the optional section below, you can power the PI from that, 1 power supply instead of two, very nifty!
  2. An SD card, minimum 2Gb, you need this to give the PI a decent amount of memory, and it will load up using the card, but that's for the next blog.
  3. An HDMI cable to connect the PI to your TV, or a monitor cable, that connection looks to be a bit more complicated though, if you have an HDMI connection on your TV use that
  4. A USB mouse
  5. A USB keyboard

With that little lot you can get the PI running with a modern TV with an HDMI port.

OPTIONALLY - if you want the PI to go online (a good idea early on), you will need:

  1. A wireless USB dongle - again, searching on amazon will do for this, but do some research as some are a LOT easier to set up than others on the Pi, due to something called "firmware", a new word I learned doing this.
  2. Alternatively, a wired connection if your home router has Ethernet ports (which means you'd need a CAT5 cable too)
  3. A powered USB hub
  4. A micro USB to USB cable which you could use to power the pi from the hub.

This little lot will probably make a big hole in £40, not including the PI itself.

Finally, I would strongly recommend the Eben Upton guide "Raspberry PI user guide", it is very user friendly and takes you through a lot of the things that the PI can do.

Next job will be to get all this working, then we can talk about what you can use it for...

NEXT BLOG - getting the Pi up and running!


QA Training | Michael Wood

Michael Wood

Learning Programme Director

Michael has been teaching at QA for 12 years and is the lead trainer for MSP, managing successful programmes. Before this he worked with the public sector to implement initiatives such as the egovernment agenda. Michael has also project and programme managed many large scale implementations in the construction industry and in web technologies and ecommerce, as well as enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution for some well know utility and communications organisations. Michael believes in teaching in a down-to-earth style, using everyday real examples and injecting a bit of humour!
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