I finally got my SD card and so spent the evening trying to get the Raspberry Pi running. Which i finally worked. Although it wasn’t super easy even if you know PCs. Here are some notes:

  1. There is no BIOS at all, so to get it running, you have to take the SD card and plug it into another machine and then binary copy the operating system to the SD card. Pretty wierd stuff. So it isn’t something that is easy to configure by loading a USB Stick.
  2. It is a bit mysterious how to do this from a Mac because when you go to the Raspberry Pi site and try to do the download, there is some strange incompatibility with Safari, you get a file named *.download and it doesn’t have everything even though Safari reports it is done.
  3. Instead, I used the bit torrent. This got a proper zip file of the Raspberrian. You then turn this into a full ISO by unzipping it.
  4. If you are on the Mac, then you have to run mysterious Terminal incantations. The core of it is to use “dh -f” to figure out what the raw disk is. You then have to unmount the usb drive with “diskutil unmount /dev/disk3s0. On a MacBook with two USBs, this looks like /dev/rdisk3 and then you run the “dd bs=1m if=*.iso of=/dev/rdisk3)
  5. The important point is that when you plug your keyboard into the Raspberry Pi, don’t plug a mouse into the keyboard (I normally do this), because the Raspberry Pi sees the mouse events from the keyboard and it puts it into strange modes. It thinks there is a blizzard of keystrokes when you move your mouse. Instead, plug your mouse directly into the Raspberry Pi.
  6. You then enter a character mode interface for setup and you have to setup the rest of the disk with the “expand disk to all of SD”.
  7. Then set overscan off
  8. Finally go to the keyboard and pick other keyboard, US keyboard and then the local is US UTF-8 (wow, this is nerdy!)
  9. You then get to a linux prompt and the default user is pi and the password is raspberry (you want to change that right away of course).
  10. The other strange thing is that the root login is not enabled by default, so to use root commands, you have to sudo everything. A little wierd but more secure. To get root enabled, you set the password by the command, “sudo passwd root”
  11. Now you want to get a VNC server so you can run the graphical interface, this is reasonably easy by by getting the tightvnc server, via “sudo apt-get install tightvncserver” and then running it with “tightvncserver” and then you can run an HD screen virtually by running “vncserver :1 -geometry 1920×1080 -depth 24″ and if you make a mistake, you change the vnc password with vncpasswd and you get rid of the terminal session with vncserver -kill.
  12. You need a vnc client then to work with the Raspberry Pi, Chicken works well for the Mac. The main strange thing here is that the vncserver is actually on port 5901 rather than the usual 5900, so the defaults for Chicken don’t quite work.

Anyway when I was done and with the Ethernet plugged in, I actually got the thing to the boot. It is amazing how fast it is as just a web browser!
To actually use the thing, you probably want to enable ssh and then use the command line:

  1. To find your IP address, go to the terminal and run, “ip addr show” 
  2. Then you can SSH in by running terminal on your Mac, or download putty for your Windows machine.

To actually use this thing, you can either download various Debian packages and compile them or you can download whole cloth systems. Here are some of them:

  • Raspbmc. This turns your Raspberry Pi into a XBMC display system. It is like a poor man’s Apple TV. The only thing missing is a case for which using some of your kids Legos is a good idea 😉 You actually run a curl script for the Mac and it downloads an installer that dumps RaspBMC onto a USB stick and you load it from there.

I’m Rich & Co.

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