Phil Bull (philbull) wrote,
Phil Bull

It's raining Raspberry Pi

I ordered a Raspberry Pi board a few months back when they first went on sale. Mine finally arrived in the post last Friday, courtesy of RS Components. Only... it didn't arrive alone.

In fact, they managed to send me two. Knowing that these things are still like gold dust due to the high demand and limited size of the batches being produced, I tried calling them and emailing them to see if they wanted it back. To no avail. I'll probably send the other one to a local school, along with some bits and bobs for them to play with, but that might have to wait until next academic year (it's pretty close to the end of the school year here in the UK). So, in the mean time, I have two Raspberry Pi boards, and too few ideas on what to do with them. Oh, what a terrible, terrible position I find myself in.

The boards themselves are rather neat. They're tiny - credit card sized - and stuffed full of connectors. I'm not a massive fan of the graphics connector options (I'm still a D-SUB man myself), but I can understand the reasoning behind putting HDMI and component video on there. It's a bare board, with little to protect it from my grubby fingers, so I'm planning to invest in a box some time in the near future, in the vain hope of avoiding any of my patented clumsy accidents.

I decided to flash one of the special Debian ARM images for the Pi onto one of my own memory cards, rather than buying one of the pre-installed ones from RS. A few attempts later (I'm an idiot, it turns out), I had the thing booting to a terminal. So much fun! It also appears to have LXDE installed, and some interesting educational/programming tools. There's so much scope for innovation, though, that it's ridiculous. We (I refer to the open source community at large) really need to whip up some awesome stuff to put on there and get kids excited about hacking/electronics/science (I have a few ideas, but nothing too special yet).

So, what was causing my boot problems? Well, the board doesn't really give any feedback if it's having difficulty booting; all you get is a constant red "PWR" light when you connect it to the mains. In order to boot, it needs the SD card to be firmly plugged in to the slot on the underside of the board before you switch it on. It also requires you to follow all of the instructions on how to put the image onto the SD card. The first time, I didn't run sudo sync before unplugging the card from my computer. The second time, I realised I'd accidentally written the image to a partition on the card (in my case, /dev/sdb1), rather than the card itself (/dev/sdb). Duh. So, with both of those faults connected, it works.
Tags: debian, foss, raspberrypi

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