Raspberry Pi + Arch = “Winning!”

Finally got Arch Linux running on Raspberry Pi the way it should. Initially I thought of keeping the first Pi (yes, there’s one more coming) under CLI only, running as a NAS/file server. After a few times around with Samba setup, SSH’ing from Fedora main box, I’ve given in to a more or less full DE. Enter OpenBox for window manager and desktop environment, ROX for file manager, and Midori for web browser. As you can see, name of the game is keeping things light.

As it is now, the Pi boots in ~20 sec, and with ‘startx’ I have OB running in about 4, so overall pretty snappy. I have a 22″ monitor hooked up via HDMI, and screen resolution is set from boot to 1080p. Keyboard and mouse are working fine via wireless USB dongle. But, as it has been mentioned time and again, the Pi is not for everyday use. Even Midori, as lightweight of a browser it is (I’ve yet to try ultralights like UZBL browser), loading times are a bit sluggish. Not at unacceptable/unusable levels by any means, but the Pi won’t be replacing any of the everyday machines I use. So far I’ve had the Pi run only 3-4 hrs at a time, and only thing I’ve discovered is it gets luke warm. That’s it. So box it in, leave it in the corner, it won’t complain.

And what’s also great, and the real purpose of the Pi, it’s so simple, humming (ok, so it is completely silent…) away alone, separated from the rest of the household gadgetry. Screw up something royally, and at worst, all you’ve done is maybe force yourself to another ‘sudo dd if=…’. So it really is a perfect Linux learning tool.

Plan for Pi numero deux is to run Debian Squeeze on it, with all the pre-loaded learning tools (Scratch etc.), and to have my 6+ year-old get her Girl Geek on. She’s probably a little too young for real coding yet — read: Dad will have no farking clue what to do — but maybe we’ll have a couple of productive Scratch sessions and get a simple Pac Man game going.

So all in all, the Pi is, and I’m quoting one Charlie Sheen: “Winning!”


Raspberry Pi, part deux.

After yesterday’s minor setback with a power source and/or SD-card problem, all is well in R-Pi land.

I decided to go to a box store for a Samsung SD-card, more specifically an 8GB Class 10 (MB-SP8GA). While I was at the store, I invested in an extra wall charger to satisfy the 5V/1000mA requirement my old mobile chargers apparently weren’t producing. A quick ‘dd’ of Debian Squeeze onto the Sammy SD-card, and I had action on the screen.

Man was I happy to see the Raspberry Pi logo on the boot screen!

A couple of more seconds and I would have a fully functioning, ready-to-go…

… Kernel panic. Are you kidding me.

Not that I haven’t experienced kernel panics before, but at first sight? C’mon man!

A couple of more Debian image rewrite-ons, reboots with and without ethernet, USB-keyboard/mouse, and in the end, it was all worth it.

To complement the raw look of R-Pi, I’ve attached an old Sun Micro keyboard-mouse combo, which seems to work quite well. The Sun Micro hardware is leftover from a raising-the-dead Sun Blade project that resulted me tossing away 40lbs of work station… which was the intent of the original owner of the curbed Blade to begin with. Not the Pi though. The Pi is up and running!

Enough for the night, tomorrow it’s off to the forums to leech off some great Pi ideas.


Some R-Pi for my birthday. Almost.

So the day did finally arrive: I received my R-Pi 3:20pm PST, exactly on time for my birthday. What a treat!

Like everyone before me has mentioned, it is indeed a very small and light board, yet feels remarkably solid. And not just “$35-board” solid, but sturdy enough to feel like you can leave it running weeks on end, and yanking the micro-USB (only power source, and also the only way to control power on/off) will not render this board inoperative. Well done and well designed! After the quick unboxing (yeah, we’re not talking Uncle Steve’s Apple packaging here), it was time to fire up the little thing. I had already used ‘dd’ to put ArchLinux-ARM image on a micro-SD card (SanDisk 8GB Class 2) and planned on using one of the many micro-USB/charger combos I have lying around from various mobile, dead and alive, devices. Eben, the R-Pi project lead claimed a Kindle/Nook charger would work fine, so I was not about to spend an extra $15-20 for another charger.

Being well aware this is a developer board, and that many, many obstacles lie still ahead, I was not expecting to have an issue booting Arch. Alas, after all the great anticipation, in the end, I got nothing. My Samsung 22″ monitor complained there was no signal. The board itself indicated it was on, sort of, but main suspect after reading the wiki, was and is, power supply, and at close second, my SD-card.

After playing with various combinations of power supplies and USB cables, including one iPad charger — blasphemy! — nothing worked. I decided to then make sure it wasn’t the ArchLinux image on the SD card not playing nice, dd’ed Debian Squeeze (the preferred distro for R-Pi) on the SD-card and rebooted. Nothing. Since my Nook charger is the specified 5V-1000mA spec, my next step is to swap the SD-card. But I have to say, R-Pi: I’m a disappoint 🙁

But, tomorrow shall be a new day. Off to a big box store to buy a “guaranteed-to-work” SD-card, and we’ll commence round deux with the Pi. Good times.