So you have a Raspberry Pi, or it is on order. If not go and get one now. But what will you do with it once you have it. It can often be the case that once you get a Pi it all gets a bit overwhelming, you don’t now where to start so it get put in a cupboard for another day, and there it stays, here we guide you to getting started with the Raspberry Pi.
We are here to help and guide you through that initial stage of ‘How do I get started?’, once you get into things it is not hard and the learning opportunities are endless. To start with, you will need some inspiration, hopefully we can help here. If you are local to Ipswich, why not sign up to our next Raspberry Jam. Here you will see what others are doing with their Pi’s, get a chance to try one hands on and maybe even take part in a workshop. If you are not local, check out the Raspberry Jam locator on the Raspberry Pi website.
What do I need
To get a Pi working you will need a few things:
- A Raspberry Pi, any Pi will do, though to start a Model B with build in USB ports is the simplest
- An SD Card, this is effectively the Pi’s hard drive, it stores the operating system and also any files you create. The latest Pi’s use a micro SD card, 8GB is a good size, though if you have an original model A or model B, it might need a full size SD card, or a micro SD card and adaptor
- A Micro USB power supply, delivering 5v at 1 amp or more, if you have a more recent Pi a 2 amp supply would be better
- A USB keyboard and mouse
- A monitor or TV, ideally with an HDMI input,. if you cannot find a monitor with HDMI then you can use an HDMI to VGA converter
- An HDMI cable, or VGA cable if your monitor does not have HDMI input
- Ethernet cable, for connecting your Pi to the internet. Or a USB wifi dongle
- Optionally you can get a case
A good way to ensure you get all the bits you need to to grab a Pi starter kit.
Plug it in
Before we plug the Pi in we need to make sure we have the operating system (OS) on the SD card. There are a number of OS’s available for the Raspberry Pi, the one officially supported by the Raspberry Pi Foundation is called Raspbian, it can be downloaded here or if you got a starter kit the OS might already be installed. For first use we recommend the full version of Raspbian rather than the ‘lite’ version. The full version comes complete with a desktop operating system whereas the ‘lite’ is more for advanced users and headless or Internet of Things (IoT) applications.
Download the Raspbian zip file onto your main desktop or laptop and unzip it. Do not copy it to the SD card yet, this needs to be done in a special way. The Raspberry Pi Foundation have a good page with instructions on writing the Raspbian image to the SD card. We also find a piece of software called etcher to be very good.
Once the SD card has been written, it can be inserted into the Raspberry Pi, plug in the keyboard and mouse, plug it into the monitor or TV and then your almost ready to turn it on. The Raspberry Pi does not have a power button, as soon as the power plug is connected it will power up. So make sure your SD card is properly inserted. Also, if your Pi is not in a case, make sure it cannot touch anything metal, if a piece of conductive material touches the bottom or top of the Pi whilst it is powered up it could be damaged beyond repair.
So everything is ready, plug in the Pi and if all goes well you should see some raspberries in the top left hand corner of the screen, followed by lots of scrolling text. Don’t worry about the text, all computers go through this process, but it is just hidden from us. The number of raspberries at the top of the screen indicate how many cores your Pi has. If it is an older one, you will see just one, if it is a newer quad core version you will see four.
If you are prompted for a user name and password, the default details are:
- User name:
Congratulations, you should now see the Raspberry Pi desktop, (if you don’t you might be using an older version of the operating system, try typing
startx). Take some time to have a look around, it should like quite familiar.
Taking things further
There are so many guides on taking things further with the Raspberry Pi, one of the best resources is the Raspberry Pi Foundation website
Things to checkout on this site are
- The Forums – Get yourself registered here, it is the first place you should look if you have a question or problem. Do a search first, most likely someone else has already had the same question, if you cannot find any suitable results then post a question. The Forums get a lot of traffic and your question will likely get answered quickly.
- The Help pages – So much useful information here, from setting up the Raspberry Pi, to adding and using the camera module to basic Linux usage (the Raspberry Pi is a Linux OS after all), the list goes on and on. Definitely check out this page.
- Once your happy booting up and navigating the Raspberry Pi take a look at the Resources page, this is made up from three sections, Teach, Learn and Make. To start with take a look at the Learn and Make sections, there are some great guides on using the Pi and the various accessories and also guides on getting started with physical computing and using the General Purpose In Out (GPIO) pins.
As well as the official Raspberry Pi website, there are some great community sites also, we have picked out some notable ones below.
- The Raspberry Pi Pod by Recantha is a great source of the latest news and projects from around the world, he also has a great getting started page
- Alex Eames from Raspi.tv has a great blog and YouTube channel with lots of tutorials.
- Average Man vs Raspberry Pi is another great blog with Richard detailing his story from Average to not so average.
- If you want to start using the GPIO and want to know which pin is which, what it is capable of or what pins a certain add on board uses then pinout.xyz by Gadgetoid is the place to go.
- Another great tutorial site we like is Raspberry Pi Spy by Matt Hawkins.
Of course, if you want to get hands on with a Pi before our next event then why not check out Ipswich Makerspace. We usually meet twice monthly, details can be found on our events page. We also have an active Facebook group as well as a Google Group, so you have no excuse for not getting in touch. Look forward to meeting you all.