Pi Diary – Part Two – Initial Setup

I wasn’t especially concerned about the initial setup of the Pi, I’ve used Linux for over eight years now, and Raspian, the particular flavour (or distro) of Linux that I got my Pi with is a fairly mature fork of Debian now. Most of my experience has been in Ubuntu (another Debian based distro), as well as a little Fedora, so I was fairly confident that the initial software side of setup wouldn’t be too much trouble.

I unwrapped all the various packages that came with the Pi, sorry no un-boxing video/pictures, as I must do my part to rid the internet of such idiocies. I had my usual moment of worry when taking apart the enclosure, I’m always scared of breaking things like that trying to pull them apart for the first time, but luckily the enclosure is a fairly sturdy and well made snap-together affair, which came apart in my hands easily. Taking the circuit board I slipped it into the enclosure, after a false start or two. Then snapped the enclosure back together again. At which point I realised my first mistake. So I undid the enclosure, pulled out the board, and found the location of the microSD card slot, sliding my brand new Raspbian SD into it, before putting it all back in the enclosure again. The bottom line was that I could have slid the SD card into the Pi, while it was in the enclosure, but my fingers are a little to clumsy to do that with my enclosure, so it was far easier and safe to pull it out and start again.

Next I plugged in the HDMI cable that ran to my TV, followed by my wired mouse and keyboard. Finally I plugged the power cable into a surge protected socket, and then into the Pi itself, booting it for the first time. Which is when I got my first real surprise. My TV (which is a Samsung) turned itself on, and set it’s source to the right HDMI cable, even before I’d picked up the remote. I knew my TV came equipped with HDMI-CEC (Samsung calls it’s version AnyNet+ for…well reasons I guess) but up until this point hadn’t ever had a device to take advantage of it. So after a quick read-up I decided that I’d rather my Pi and TV did what I told them to do, rather than what they decided to do together, and turned the feature off on the TV. It may get re-enabled further down the road, but for now I want control.

Once I had sorted my wilful television out, I had my second surprise. I was expecting the Pi to boot into it’s config utility, or at best the command line, but it appears that my information was out of date, and now that the Pi 3, and Raspbian itself, has it’s attractive new desktop environment (called Pixel) they want to show it off, and it booted directly into the desktop. This wasn’t especially a problem, I’d intended on launching Pixel fairly quickly anyway, despite my comfort with the Linux terminal, there were a number of setup tasks that were always going to be quicker in a graphical environment. One such of these was internet connection, the Raspberry Pi 3 comes with an inbuilt wireless adapter, which meant it took mere seconds to find our home network, and a quick launch of the Chromium browser proved that we had full internet access.

I spent the next few hours pottering around on the desktop, doing those usual tasks that people do when they have a new computer, changing the background picture, editing the menu’s and taskbar so they show what you want them to show. I was a little disappointed at the amount of programs shipped with Raspian, in that there were more than I expected. I’m too used to the control that Linux usually gives you in creating a barebones system that you then add what you want to, instead of what they give you, and the addition of a few applications (including Minecraft of all things) seemed unnecessary.

Finally after a ritualistic clean up, and quick check that rebooting back into the Pi worked it was time to venture into the Terminal. This was probably a task I should have done much earlier on, but my wife was streaming so didn’t want to hog all our bandwidth. I pulled up the terminal and executed the two commands to do a full update of Raspbian.

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get dist-upgrade

This took around an hour and a half, which was actually a fair bit quicker than I was expecting, once finished, I did another quick reboot, then for the first time shutdown my Pi, and pulled out the plug.

Pi Diary – Part One – Introduction

Ever since I heard of the Raspberry Pi around four years ago, it’s been one of those pieces of technology that I just wanted to mess around with. When it comes to technology, and computers in general, I’m an inadvertent fiddler – I like messing around with things, not just to see how they work, but how I can make them work better, and the Pi seemed to be a perfect vehicle for this.

However for one reason or another I never picked one up. My work life was busy, and despite my (in hindsight) absolute need for a channelling of my creative (and possibly even destructive) energies, I never believed I had enough time to devote to something with such a wide range of possibilities. When I got made redundant, obviously this was a much better time to get involved, but numerous things stopped me…until now.

In the run up to Christmas, as part of my ongoing attempt to manage my mental health issues, I took part in a seminar ran by the Wellness service, a part of which was looking at those things that you used to do, that were now missing from your life. In considering this, I realised just how long it had been since I’d really undertaken a project (certainly in the realms of computers and technology), and so my interest in all things Pi was rekindled.

My intention is to use my Pi as a vehicle for a number of projects, many of them small, and often replacing things I’ve done or used before in a more streamlined, or productive way. These will hopefully lead to bigger and bigger things dependent on whether I can persuade my wife to let me pick up all my old Lego which is totally not going to be used to build a robot at all…no why-ever would you think that?

I ordered my Pi from Amazon, selecting the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B. I bought it as part of the Official Starter Kit in a rather tasteful black. While I probably had all the additional equipment (usb/power cable, SD card), I trust the official kit’s build quality more, especially of SD card than the one I found at the bottom of my cables drawer. Additionally the enclosure was essential for me, as I while I imagine eventually it will become unnecessary, at the start I didn’t want the Pi getting damaged easily. I already had a spare mouse/keyboard lying around, and was planning on using our television as a monitor, for at least initial setup tasks. The SD Card came preloaded with the latest version of Raspbian(more on that later) and was a 16GB version (because oddly enough the 16GB was cheaper than the 8GB.) It arrived a few days later…while I was ill, so once I recovered I got to playing.