How to Setup Raspberry Pi (Part 1)

If you have recently purchased a Raspberry Pi (either from RS Online, like I did, or somewhere else), then congratulations! You are on your way to a world of endless possibilities where the limitation is your power supply.

I am currently in Manila, Philippines and it took 3 weeks for my RPi to arrive straight from the UK. It came via DHL, with customs and courier fees amounting to about Php1,600 or $40. The items, RPi Model B board and clear case was worth $49.49. But when it arrived, I was so excited I almost broke the circuit board trying to get it in the clear case. So a reminder: do not try to get your RPi in the case while in the moving car without the lights on. Chances are, you will end up with a missing pin or worse, a bent up or broken board.

So now that we have that out of the way. these are the ingredients I used in my basic Raspberry Pi:

  • Raspberry Pi Model B
  • Micro USB power supply. I am using the mobile phone charger that came with Samsung Galaxy S2, which has a rating of 5V and 1A.
  • HDMI Cable for video output. I bought one from this electronics store that sells CD-R’s and some other stuff. If you are in the Philippines, think yellow and royalty.
  • 8GB SD Card Class 10. Bought from the same store. For basic setup, 8GB is more than enough, actually you can do with 4GB, buy branded ones that are reliable. As for the class, Class 10 cards are faster and have more life in them. I have tested two cards, a Class 2 and a Class 10. Guess which one is faster.
  • USB Keyboard
  • Network patch cable. I have spare RJ45 network cables lying around so I do not have to buy one. This is directly connected to my router.
  • Wireless Network Adapter for later. I bought this one from the same store. It has Ralink RT5370 chipset, product number CW-5370E.
  • A working computer, either with Linux or Windows OS. You need this just one time for loading the OS on the SD card. For my sanity’s sake, I will show how to load the card using Windows.
  • A card reader, if your desktop/laptop does not have one.
  • A downloaded image of the Raspbian operating system. Download the image from Raspberry Pi website. I used the Raspbian “wheezy” variant on my initial setup. If you have the image in a zip file, extract it somwhere, let’s say C:Raspbian on a Windows machine, or /tmp/ on a Linux machine. You should have one .img file in that directory.

Getting your Raspberry Pi up and running

Your fresh RPi is just a shiny PCB with nothing in it. Nothing. So the first step you have to do is load an operating system on your SD card before you can actually use it. For first timers, I recommend using Raspbian. Raspbian is a Debian operating system configured for the RPi hardware. If you purchased a pre-loaded SD card, you can skip this part.

Step 1. Setup Raspbian on SD card using Windows XP or Windows 7

Depending on what operating system you have in your computer, loading an SD card is pretty easy. You just need a blank SD card, a desktop or laptop computer running Windows or Linux operating system, and an SD card reader if your computer does not have a built-in one.

  1. Download win32diskimager binary.
  2. Unzip the contents of the archive in a directory, let’s say C:win32diskimager.
  3. Insert the SD card. Format the card with FAT32 file system. I will not show you how to do this but Google does wonders.
  4. Run the Win32DiskImager.exe binary from the C:\win32diskimager directory. You should have a window that looks like this:
  5. Under the image file, click the folder icon. Go to the directory where the Raspbian image was extracted, C:\Raspbian.  Select the .img file and click SAVE.
  6. Under the Device, select the drive letter that was assigned to the SD card.  Be careful on this part. Make sure that you have selected the drive letter assigned to your SD card. Doing this incorrectly might disable your operating system or other connected storage devices. If you are unsure, open a Windows Explorer to see the drive letter.
  7. Click Write. Wait for the process to finish.
  8. After completing this without errors, you now have an SD card with Raspbian.

Note: Step 1 is entirely achievable using Linux, but I cannot show you how it is done if I have not done it myself (yes, we have Windows Desktop at home). I am pretty sure that Google can help you on this, or go to this page to see how this can be done using Linux.

This is end of part 1. Go here to continue to part 2.