Getting the Pi Baked
I got my Raspberry Pi in the mail yesterday — a long anticipated event. My excitement was slightly deflated when I realized I didn’t have anything I actually needed to make the damn thing run: micro USB for power, an hdmi-dvi adapter so I could actually see and control it, and a fast SDHC card with lots of room*.
*Turns out this isn’t necessarily a good thing…
So after work I busted over to (gulp, swallows pride) Best Buy and purchased my three EXTREMELY OVERPRICED items. Now, when I say overpriced, I mean that these “peripherals” cost 2x more than the computer… so yeah. This is the price I pay for not ordering from NewEgg in advance. :P
So I get home and realize that, in the middle of an apartment move, my Linux laptop with an SDHC card reader is already packed and at the new place, so I improvise and use my Olympus SP800 camera as a card reader. The only drawback to this is that it’s a slow connection, so the write time is considerably increased. I then installed the recommended Debian package on the card using the instructions here and got the Pi all hooked up.
ERROR: mmc0: timeout waiting for hardware interrupt.
;'( ‘ ‘ ‘
I tried the Arch Linux package as well with no better results. At the first boot I was given a “busy” prompt for 5 minutes after which I powered it off. At the second boot (and the 3rd, 4th, 5th, etc) I got nothing.
Now, I was aware that this might be a possibility. There is a site here that shows compatible and incompatible cards. The card I got was on neither list, so I knew there was a risk. Nevertheless, I figured if it worked, great, if not the good “geeks” at Best Buy told me I could bring it back.
I had a spare mega-old and slow 2GB SDHC card laying around (from the camera I used as a card reader) so I decided to give that a shot, which actually worked with the Debian package. This was a pleasant surprise, but I suppose could have been guessed being that the Pi is designed for Linux which is designed to support older hardware.
The first sort of unexpected behavior was a sort of “initialization” that occurred with the working OS. I guess this was a firmware/hardware initialization, because it only happened once. As shown in the screenshot below, the initialization froze at the “portmap” bit as indicated. I followed the advice to power it off and back on again (Thanks IT Crowd) and it booted OK.
Once the Pi booted I was presented with a command prompt. GDM did not start by default (i’m not sure why) so I had to log in at the command prompt and start gdm (sudo gdm start) manually. This took a while, but did get up and running and, after logging in again, I got to the LXDE desktop. (Note: I changed the default desktop appearance for the shot below.)
Some Nice Things:
- Networking works off the bat.
- gdm works (with manual start) with no video configuration required.
- lots of different keyboards/mice are supported (some configuration kludge indicated above.)
- Generally speaking the system behaves as expected and seems stable.
Some Not Nice Things:
- As mentioned above, not all SDHC cards play nice with the Pi, and the ones that don’t seem to be the cards with the best performance (faster read/write times.)
- Keyboards/USB plug ‘n’ play seems to be… kludgy at best. The Pi doesn’t like keyboards with mouses plugged directly into the keyboard. Using a Dell keyboard and mouse this way results in a touchy, sticky prompt where for no reason the machine thinks certain keys are being held down. IOW, it freezes on a key occasionally making login impossible. Using an Apple keyboard and mouse this way makes the keyboard unrecognized as a keyboard so no input is possible. This is easily solved by unplugging the mouse and plugging it back in again.
- Keyboard location set to British. This means you have to search for @ and / which are not where you would expect them to be. There’s not easy/apparent way to change (graphically) the keyboard location.
- In general the system is slow. Now, with 512 RAM and a 700mgHz processor, I’m not expecting Speedy Gonzales, but 5+ seconds to open applications seems… dodgy. Hopefully this will get better with an SDHC card with better read/write speeds. (Assuming I can get one to work with this thing.)
- sudo/admin privileges fail in the graphical interface. I can ‘sudo’ from the command line, but entering my password in a graphical window asking for admin privs always fails. I’ll have to the forum for this one…
[this one explained:
gconftool-2 -\-type bool -\-set /apps/gksu/sudo-mode true
I don’t think this thing is going to revolutionize computers and learning. Getting the pre-loaded SDHC card with an existing OS will go a long way to making this thing accessible to the masses. However, it seems, like with all Linux projects, there is just a certain amount of stuff that never work as expected and that requires knowledge and patience to solve. If you have these, then this guy will fit right into your life. I will reserve judgement as a whole until I have had a chance to work with it regularly and to try to install additional software/hardware and put it to work.
Q: So what are you going to do with this thing?!?
A: In my next post I will describe the coming… MUCOLLABORATOR.
The MuCollaborator will be a musical, improvising automaton with machine-listening capabilities, analog and digital sensors, visual feedback, and more. At the heart of the MuCollaborator will be the Raspberry Pi.