Raspberry Pi – The basics

Raspberry Pi – The basics

Introduction – there is always a need for an introduction

When I first saw the Raspberry Pi, I was amazed at the simplicity.  My thoughts were it’s a linux pc on an small embedded platform.  I recalled a balloon project that predated the release of the first Raspberry Pi.  Now everyone can do it.

Everyone except me.  All though the RPi is touted as being simple, I managed to find the complexity.  It’s really my oversight, I’m so farsighted, I’m nearsighted.

Purpose – what is needed to get it running

The RPi has some requirements to operate normally.  It may seem obvious, but I overlooked this and observed some really strange behavior.  Power is supplied through a micro B USB connector.  The supply should be rated for 5Volts DC with 1.8Amps of current.  Just because the micro B USB connector fits, doesn’t mean it will power it.  I had a wall adapter that was used to charge a bluetooth headset at 180mA.  The RPi would boot, but would crash then reboot over and over again.  This is when I began to have strange behavior.  First I thought it was a government conspiracy, then I ranted about oppression, then I had an ale and excepted my place in society.

Detail – save yourself the embarrassment

Do yourself a favor, get a power source rated for the load.  Once I calmed down and used the correct power source, it ran as expected.  Pheww, that aluminum hat was itchy.

Next, the RPi needs some OS to load from memory.  The OS can be downloaded from the organizer‘s website.  Once downloaded, the data is placed on either a micro SD or regular SD memory card, depending on what flavor or RPi you’re using.  I’m a bit of an overachiever and have both.  You can use a micro SD for both, but you’ll need a SD adapter if you plan to use it with the older RPi. The setup instructions can be found online, I can attest, they work.

Once you’ve made it over the hump, next up is loading the OS.  To do this you’ll need to connect the KVM, this stands for keyboard, video, and mouse.  You’ll have to interact with the OS load up options and select what pertains.  After a few moments with a progress bar, you’ll be were you are.

I found some online tips on running headless.  This is running the RPi without the KVM.  You will need to have a network connection.  You can use either the built in ethernet port or use a USB wifi adapter.  I did not find a way to install the OS in this mode, largely due to the fact the network layer wasn’t active.  With that said, use the KVM to load the OS, then go headless, otherwise loose your head like me.

Once the RPi OS is loaded and you want to go headless you can SSH into the RPi using programs that support it.  For windows users, PUTTY is the most popular choice.  The rest of you folks can use terminal, easy peasy.

One thing I find useful is enabling RDP on RPi using the command, “sudo apt-get install xrdp”.  Once it is run, now I can remote into the desktop and have a near similar experience.  The reason I say near is because some programs won’t run the same, such as Minecraft Pi edition.

Once all this is done, you’re well on your way.

Relations – great, now what

One of the big things I’ll be using RPi in the coming months is the vision features.  I would like to run OpenCV and have it interact with the 1080p camera module that RPi uses.  I was able to mistake the display module slot on the RPi for the camera module.  Using this port to display the camera input could be useful.

There is a near IR camera module named Pi Noir.  Using this module with the display module port and some near IR illumination, one could make a night vision camera.  I still would like to run a single system with a dual camera input.

It looks like the RPi can take the place of 2 mobuis cameras.  Another application for the RPi is a dashcam.  The thing that’s nice about the mobius is it can operate as a webcam.  I’ve seen some leg work in this area, I’ll have to wait and see.

Summary – now that you know

The RPi is a small inexpensive platform that is flexible.  It has a set of features that can be used for a broad host of applications.  The low power and small size make it practical for field use.  Albeit the RPI is simple in appearence, it is a complex device with special functions that have yet to be realized by the public at large.

Covering the basics is a good first step for anyone considering using it.  The solid foundation will make the experience more productive and enjoyable.

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