Plan Zero

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A slice of Raspberry Pi

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Raspberry Pi unboxedMy Raspberry Pi arrived on Tuesday! It's now Thursday and I haven't had much time to play around with it yet, but I have installed the Debian image and checked that everything is in working order.

Raspberry Pi booting upThe thought that my Pi may be DOA crossed my mind shortly after it arrived when I installed Debian onto the SD card, plugged everything in, and nothing seemed to happen. The power light was active, but the "OK" light remained dark. After doing some troubleshooting I found out that the 8GB SanDisk Class 10 SD card I was using is known to be a problem SD card and won't work with the Pi due to a bug in the Broadcom bootloader. Luckily, the SD card in my camera was compatible, so I swapped them over and installed Debian. This time both the power and "OK" lights lit up, along with the network lights a few seconds later.

The problem I now faced is that I had no HDMI to DVI cable so I couldn't actually see anything. Debian uses DHCP to get an IP on boot so I tried a quick network scan with nmap, but SSH wasn't open on the Pi; it turns out it's disabled by default for security reasons. Probably a good idea given the default username and password and keenness to connect to the network. I plugged in my old Happy Hacking keyboard and took a stab at blindly enabling SSH, which worked. For anyone in the same position, enter pi followed by raspberry to log in, then sudo /etc/init.d/ssh start to start the SSH server.

Raspberry Pi operationalQuake III on the Raspberry PiFor peace of mind I regenerated the SSH keys, changed the pi user password, and set myself up with an account. The initial partition only has a few hundred megabytes to play with so to get a bit more disk space I used cfdisk to create a new partition on the end of the disk, ran a mkfs.ext2 on the partition, then added it to /etc/fstab so that it mounted as my home directory (with the noatime option to save wear on the flash disk). Ultimately I'll probably re-install and extend the existing partition so that I can install large software packages without running out of disk space, but for now this is good enough.

I've since found an HDMI cable and had a play around with X windows, upgraded vim to the full version (the light version does my head in!), installed nginx (with a few minor tweaks which I might go into in another post) and, of course, played the obligatory game of Quake III Arena, which runs surprisingly smoothly, even with the quality settings cranked up to full! From here I'm going to see whether Python runs at a suitable speed to run genetic algorithms at a decent rate, and have a play around with the GPIO pins, which have been helpfully pre-soldered onto the board, despite the original design documentation saying you'd have to do this yourself.

So far I'm pretty impressed with the Raspberry Pi. It's smaller than I thought it would be, it boots up and is on the network in seconds, and when installing software and generally using the Pi you'd barely notice you weren't on a full desktop machine. Well done Raspberry Pi Foundation!