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The Raspberry PI – adventures of a non techie – episode 2

Now that we have the bits and pieces we need – let’s build a Raspberry PI!


Michael Wood | 6 February 2013

Now that we have the bits and pieces we need – let’s build a Raspberry PI!

Well, you have all the right pieces, but not necessarily in the right order...

As I explained in my previous Pi blog, you need quite a few elements that are not in the box when you buy a Raspberry PI online. In this blog I will explain up and running from scratch. As I said, once you get it out of the box you realise that you need more bits and pieces to get it running.

I suspect the PI is fast becoming a £30 a month habit, as usually whatever you want to do needs another bit of kit or gadget, that's not that bad I suppose, I can think of more expensive habits...

So, the basic, bare-bones PI set up, you need.

  1. The PI
  2. A USB mouse
  3. A USB keyboard
  4. A TV (HDMI or normal aerial connection), or PC monitor
  5. An HDMI, aerial lead or monitor lead - I'm using HDMI, it is by far the easiest
  6. A power supply - micro USB, mobile phone type one, look for one that says it works with the PI
  7. A 2Gb minimum SD card

There is no on/off switch with the PI, as soon as you plug the power in it will try to start up. As there is no software on it, the pi will just sit there staring blankly at you. So leave the power cable until last.

So...there are 2 USB ports on the PI, mouse into one, keyboard into other. There is also an aerial connection and an HDMI connection on the sides of the PI, whichever cable you have, plug it in, and into the TV, note what channel your connection is on, most modern TVs have several. NOTE - for some reason, if I turn my PI on without the TV being on it just hangs there and I need to reboot it with the TV on...no, I don't know either...

Bear in mind the PI is quite forgiving of putting things in the wrong place, but it is a lower power device and, according to the manufacturers, could easily be blown with mishandling, so make sure you push everything in carefully. I work on the whatever-hole-the-cable-fits-in-must-be-the-right-one approach usually, and that's worked for me so far...

NOW - this is the important bit...getting the PI card up and running. It boots up (starts) from the SD card, and whatever is on there. If you are lucky, you've bought a PI package with a pre-built SD card on it, in which case just plug it in and turn the PI on and stand well back (kidding!) and you are on. The slot for the SD card is on one of the shorter sides, it is very basic, it won't click or anything like a normal memory card slot does.

If you don't have a pre-built card, you need to "flash" (or copy to you and me) an "image" (information) onto it so the PI can start up from it. The recommended beginner image is called " Raspbian Wheezy ". You want the download that matches your normal desktop operating system because you will be creating the image on your pc, not the PI (I say this because this confused me at first). You will also need an image writer, which can be downloaded in windows .

Unzip everything and put it somewhere useful, then you put the SD card in your pc, run the image writer software, carefully read the instructions and put the image for the pi you downloaded ONTO the SD card (apparently image writers can just happily overwrite anything with no warning so take your time and read everything.

Once that's finished, put the card in the PI and plug the power in, after a couple of minutes you will be at a login.  The standard login is "pi" password "raspberry". You will then end up at a prompt. If you are a linux guru then off you go, but if not, type "startx" and a desktop environment much more like windows or macos will appear.

And your PI is Raspberried...

Next time, what Michael did next, my specific set up.

QA Training | Michael Wood

Michael Wood

Learning Programme Manager

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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