Monday, 28 May 2012

The wait is over

I ordered a Raspberry Pi shortly after they became available and it has arrived less than three months later.

If you don't know what I'm talking about then you might like to take a look at the Raspberry Pi FAQ page, but Raspberry Pi is a small, self-contained computer that runs an ARM processor and costs less than £30 delivered. When I opened the envelope there was a tee shirt (which I'd forgotten about) and a small box about the size of a smart phone which contained a circuit board wrapped in anti-static plastic.

It has sockets and connectors all over it, around the edges are a mini-usb socket to power it, two USB sockets for USB things like a keyboard, a socket for an SD card, an ethernet RJ45 socket, an HDMI socket to connect it to a TV or monitor, a composite socket which would be an alternative way to use an older TV as a display and a 3.5mm jack for sound. On the top are general purpose IO (GPIO) pins. These are interesting, but not just yet.

I had created a boot disk by downloading a disk image from the Raspberry Pi web site. I had plenty of time while I was waiting. The disk image gets written to an SD card which is how the Pi boots. Once it has booted it is possible to use extra drives connected to USB, which can be extended with a USB hub. The disk image is a Debian distribution of Linux, specifically created and compiled to run on the ARM processor.

I plugged in the SD card, a USB keyboard, an HDMI cable to the TV and then plugged a phone charger for power. The TV leapt into life and a series of text scrolled by. Instead of the expected login prompt I got a Kernel Panic. After a second go with the same result I unplugged the keyboard and the Pi booted, but I couldn't login without a keyboard. When I plugged it in the Pi crashed. Mike McLennan pointed me, via twitter, to the list of keyboards that work and don't and sure enough mine was in the problem list.

I bought a cheap keyboard from Tesco today, and now all is well. Now I need to look at what is there and what I can do with it.

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