Raspberry Pi

Raspberry Pi
The Raspberry Pi is a low cost, compact, ARM CPU computer that was announced by the 'not-for-profit' Raspberry Pi Foundation.

The Raspberry Pi's main aim is to get children coding. The majority of them (2,000,000 sold as of Nov 2013, 750,000+ sold as of Dec 2012), have been sold to 40-something's like me though. We were the first generation that grew up with home computers. Fortunately for me, my Dad saw the potential of computers in education and as a headmaster of a local secondary school, bought me and my brother's a Sinclair ZX-80 before both his and my own school had one (funnily enough I didn't go to the school where my Dad was headmaster). I grew up coding in Z80 machine code and BASIC, moving on to 6502 machine code programming on a BBC Micro.

The Raspberry Pi is the modern day equivalent and the numerous add-on interface boards are starting to enable its full potential. What makes it or real interest to us is that it is possible to use one or more of them to build a Home Control System (HCS) and we are already looking at porting aspects of ours to one or more Raspberry Pi devices.

Versions

The current versions of the Raspberry Pi are:

  • Model A - 256Mb RAM, one USB port and no Ethernet (network connection).
  • Model B - Model B has 512Mb RAM, 2 USB ports and an Ethernet port.

The stated plan is to have an updated version available in 2015. The Foundation has no plans to make any radical changes to the design and is likely to stick with the Broadcom BCM2835 SoC chip at its core.

Raspberry Pi Store

On 17th Dec 2012, the Raspberry Pi Store was announced. There were 24 apps available at launch, with 23 being free and one paid app (Storm in a Teacup) costing £1.99. It's early days but, an exciting development all the same.

Operating Systems

The latest operating systems for the Raspberry Pi can be found on the official download page.

New Out of Box Software (NOOBS)

The latest version we are working with is version 1.3.2, released 2013-11-02. To install this version you follow the instructions in the readme.txt file:

  • Download the SDFormatter software (currently at version 4) from here. Extract the contents of the ZIP file and run the setup.exe file.
  • Set "FORMAT SIZE ADJUSTMENT" option to "ON" in the 'Options' menu.
  • Extract the files contained in this NOOBS zip file.
  • Copy the extracted files onto the SD card in the root directory.
  • Insert the SD card into your Pi and connect the power supply.
  • Your Pi will now boot into NOOBS and should display a list of operating systems that you can choose to install.

Raspbian 'Wheezy'

16th Dec 2012 - An updated version of this OS was released.

In July 2012 a new version of the operating system was released based on the Raspbian optimised version of Debian and with hardware floating point support, to make the RPi much quicker. This OS version also features a nice graphical configuration tool.

Android

A version of Android can be found in the support forums. It is not presently stable enough for everyday use, however work is continuing on it. The installation process is described on CNET.

SD Card

Adafruits Raspberry Pi Lesson 1. Preparing and SD Card for your Raspberry Pi.

We are using the Win32 Disk Imager on our Windows laptop.

Configuration

Raspi-Config
Adafruits Raspberry Pi lesson on first time configuration shows you how to setup your Raspberry Pi the first time you boot it up.

It simply allows you to expand the main partition to fill the SD card. We are using 4GB SD cards and this is essential. It also lets you choose the keyboard and layout. You can change the locale (default is en_GB.UTF-8). You can set the timezone (e.g. Europe / London).

Monitors

We had a few issues when using the RPi with a Samsung S27C570 monitor. We had a black bar around the displayed screen area and it would not use the complete screen. The solution was to change the RPiconfig by editing the configuration file, to turn off the overscan.

Shutting Down

You can use the command sudo shutdown -h now, or sudo halt or sudo poweroff the Raspberry Pi.

Software Updates

You can use the the command sudo apt-get update or sudo apt-get upgrade to update to the latest software/firmare for your distribution.

System Resources

To monitor things system resources usage, you can type 'top' to see what's going on.

Networking

To get the IP address of your Raspberry Pi, type sudo /etc/rc.local.

If you really want to, you can also turn a Raspberry Pi into a Wireless Access Point.

Network Printer

To get network print capability on your Raspberry Pi, type sudo apt-get install cups.

Hardware Modifications & Extensions

Real-Time Clock (RTC)

RTC Pi Real time Clock Module
A real-time clock was an obvious omission from the Raspberry Pi but, this was done to keep the costs down. Companies like AB Electronics now sell a RTC Pi Real time Clock Module to address this omission.

Reset Switch

reset switch
RasPi.tv have a good article on Making a Reset Switch for your Rev 2 Raspberry Pi.

Robert Savage reset switch
Robert Savage has gone one step further with his project which adds an on-board reset switch to the Model B Rev 2 Raspberry Pi.

Adding USB Drives

You can plug in a USB flash or hard disk drive while the RPi is running without any problem. The USB device will be sensed by the RPi but, it won't be added to the operating system's file system. This eLinux.org article describes the steps required to achieve this.

Applications

Apple AirPlay

Jordan Burgess has a blog post on how to turn the Raspberry Pi into an AirPlay enabled audio player. The audio quality from the 3.5mm output jack is not brilliant though, due to the lack of a quality analogue to digital converter.

Raspbmc also supports AirPlay.

Web Server

Web server speed comparison

XBMC

Raspbmc is a minimal Linux distribution based on Debian that brings XBMC to your Raspberry Pi.

Z-Wave

There are a lot of people looking at using the Raspberry Pi with a Z-Wave dongle, to turn it into a Z-Wave controller. Thomas Loughlin has suceeded with his project to do this.

HomeGenie is an Open Source Home Automation Server that supports Z-Wave.

RaZberry
The RaZberry is launching at the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas (January). The $59 kit includes a daughter board that sits on the Raspberry Pi's GPIO connector and a license for the 'Z-Way' controller software.

EVE
EVE is a Kickstarter project that features many radio connectivity options (including Z-Wave).

Resources & Further Reading

Suppliers

News & Articles

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