Introducing the Raspberry Pi - Getting Started Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

Introducing the Raspberry Pi - Getting Started

1 Conversation

Faculty of Science, Mathematics and Engineering

Introducing the Raspberry Pi
Software | Hardware | Peripherals You'll Need | Getting Started
The logo of the Raspberry Pi

In this series of Entries Introducing the Raspberry Pi, we've looked at the computer's background, software and hardware, and the peripherals you'll need to run one. So now you've got a Raspi and know what it can do, how do you get started? This Entry looks at the first steps you'll need to take in order to get your Raspi up and running.

Before You Start

  • Safety: We'll generally assume that your Raspi is inside some sort of case that acts as an insulator and stops you from touching anything other than the peripheral slots. If it doesn't have a case on, you'll need to be more careful. Never touch your computer's circuit board while it is plugged in and switched on. If you need to fiddle with your computer, safely shut it down, switch it off at the plug socket, then wait at least 15 seconds for any remaining charge to dissipate.
  • Static: you should always ground yourself before touching the circuit board, to prevent static electricity from damaging your computer. This means regularly touching something that is attached to an electrical earth (simply touching any metal object will not do the trick) or attaching yourself to an earth using a wristband. You can go a step further by placing your computer on an anti-static mat while working on it – be sure to remove it from the mat before switching on, though. If you don't need access to the circuit board, keep your Raspi inside a case so that you can get to the peripheral slots without touching the board.
  • Memory Cards: The easiest thing to do is to buy a memory card from the Raspberry Pi foundation with an operating system package pre-loaded on it. If you haven't done this, you'll need a blank memory card, a regular computer that can read it, and a website that can provide you with an operating system 'image' for the Raspberry Pi.
  • Peripheral Information: During the installation process, you may need to tell the operating system what sort of hardware you are using. If you're lucky the questions will be minimal, but you may need some details about your mouse, keyboard, monitor1, video card2, network card3, and any printers or hard drives. This sort of information can be found on the Internet or in the manuals that came with your hardware. If using a wireless adaptor you may also be asked for the ID and password for your wireless router.

Hardware Setup

  1. Connect your Raspi to a screen using either the HDMI or the composite output. See the Peripherals entry for how to do this, and also how to connect some speakers if needed.
  2. Plug in your keyboard and mouse using the Raspi's USB ports. If you don't have enough USB ports, connect the keyboard and mouse to a USB hub, and then connect the USB hub to your Raspi's USB port.
  3. Insert your memory card into the memory card reader. The memory card has an arrow on it, and will only fit if you insert it correctly. It is normal for part of the card to remain outside the card reader.
  4. Attach any other hardware that you want to use, such as a Hard Drive Disk.
  5. Switch on your broadband router, and either connect the Raspi to it by ethernet cable or plug in your wireless USB card. (This step is optional.)
  6. Plug in your 5V Micro USB charger and connect it to the Micro USB slot on the Raspi.

Your Raspberry Pi should switch on and start displaying messages on your television or monitor.

Hardware Troubleshooting

If you have problems, check the following:

  • Make sure your screen is switched on and set to the input or AV setting that you've used to connect your Raspi.
  • If you're using a powered hub/wireless keyboard/wireless mouse, ensure these are plugged in/have fresh batteries in them.
  • Make sure the power supply to the Raspi is switched on and connected properly.

If things still aren't working at all, switch off the power and start from the beginning, checking all the connections are good. If you're having problems getting the Raspi to display things on your screen, try using a different type of connection or a different screen.

Booting Up

When the Raspberry Pi is powered-on, the GPU will read from the memory card, which provides the 'firmware' the GPU needs. The GPU in turn loads the operating system kernel and starts the main processor. The first boot may take a very long time, so be patient.

You should eventually see the first page of the Linux installer. This is a text-only display, so you'll need to use the arrow keys on your keyboard to select options. The default installation process is highly automated, and will only display messages if it needs information or encounters a problem.

Installation Process

You'll first be asked to enter your language, location and keyboard type. The installer will try to detect your Raspberry Pi's other hardware and peripherals by itself, and then start to load files from your memory card. It may ask for a network name – if you're using the Raspi at home, you can make something up when asked for a network, hostname and domain name. The installer will offer you a list of 'mirrors' from which you can download additional software packages – just select the nearest country and choose a mirror. Next, it will ask if you use a proxy server to connect to the Internet – if you haven't heard of one of these then you probably don't use one. Given this information, the installer should now be able to connect and download additional packages.

Next, you'll be asked to set the root (administrative login) password, and add a non-root user account. It's important to create a non-root user, as being logged in as 'root' all the time is a bad idea. You may then be asked to partition your disk; it is usually best to select 'use entire disk' and 'all files in one partition' at this point. The installer will finally start to install the bare essentials, following which you'll be asked to choose which additional software you'd like – make sure you include 'Graphic desktop environment' and the standard utilities options. Once this is done, you'll be able to boot into Linux.

1For a computer monitor, this will be in the manual, or will be the same resolution that the monitor uses when connected to a regular PC. A 720p television should support a resolution of 1280×720, and a 1080p television should support a resolution 1920×1080.2The Raspberry Pi is stated to use a Broadcom VideoCore IV with 128MB of video RAM.3In the Model B this is a 10/100 Ethernet controller, stated to be the SMSC LAN951x series. This chip also provides the Model B with its second USB port.

Bookmark on your Personal Space

Conversations About This Entry

Edited Entry


Infinite Improbability Drive

Infinite Improbability Drive

Read a random Edited Entry

Categorised In:

Written by

Write an Entry

"The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is a wholly remarkable book. It has been compiled and recompiled many times and under many different editorships. It contains contributions from countless numbers of travellers and researchers."

Write an entry
Read more