The Raspberry Pi is proving to be quite an interesting–and capable–little device. It’s a small system-on-a-chip (SoC) board with USB, GPIO, and HDMI interfaces that provides computing power roughly equivalent to a low-end smartphone in an open format for $35. Granted, the “real” price of an RPi depends on what you’re planning to do with it, but will definitely include an SD card (6GB or bigger, depending on your chosen OS flavor) and will often include a monitor, keyboard and mouse, and power supply. Sometimes you can scrounge around the workshop for these parts, but you may need to purchase them. There are a number of outfitters that market “starter kits” with common parts at various price points, so just know that getting started with Raspberry Pi might cost slightly more than the $35 core price tag.
The next thing that you’re going to need to know is how to use Linux. Don’t mess around with that Windows 10 IoT nonsense. Everyone who is anyone who is worth their salt is going to be developing in FOSS (Free/Open-Source Software) because that’s how and why the RPi was made. Besides, putting Windows 10 on RPi requires that you install Windows 10 on your desktop, and I wouldn’t entirely recommend that. Don’t worry if you’ve never used Linux, it’s all part of the fun! The Raspberry Pi was developed as an educational tool to help people learn how to better interact with sophisticated computer systems–how to read new languages and write in code. There are lots of resources online that can get you familiar with the basics, including an entire section of this very website.
Getting Started With Raspberry Pi
Once you’re ready to begin working with the Pi, you’re going to need an operating system. This–if you didn’t know–is the set of instructions that tell the computer how to process information and how to behave under certain general conditions. By default, Raspberry Pi uses Raspbian, a specially-designed version of the Debian Linux distro. You could use Ubuntu Mate, OpenELEC, but I like the “official” support that comes from Raspbian, and it’s what I’ll be using for most of my projects.
Download the NOOBS installer from the Raspberry Pi Foundation and unzip it to a convenient location on your main computer. Stock NOOBS comes with Raspbian and WiFi support by default while NOOBS Lite will require a hardline connection to the internet to download your OS of choice.
Download the SD Card Formatter from the SD Association and install it according to their instructions. Insert your SD card into your card reader and format it with the application.
Copy the extracted contents of the NOOBS zip file to the formatted SD card, eject it, and insert the card into the slot on the Raspberry Pi.
Make sure that your Raspberry Pi has keyboard, mouse, and monitor plugged in, then plug the USB power cable into the Raspberry Pi. The device will boot into the NOOBS installer and allow you to choose your operating system. Select “Raspbian” from the list and click “Install”. The process may take a few minutes, so fix a cuppa tea and have a sit. When installation is finished, the configuration menu will appear. Make the appropriate adjustments to settings, then click the “Finish” button.
If you are dumped out to a text screen asking for login information, the default user is “pi” (always lower-case user names in Linux) and the password is “raspberry”. You can always change these credentials later. If you prefer to play with the graphical user interface, type
startx and hit enter/return.