So it was my birthday last week, and after crawling out alcohol induced coma, I was a year older and found that my girlfriend, in her infinite generosity, had given me a Raspberry Pi. For those of you that don’t know, the Raspberry Pi is a credit card size computer that runs Linux. It was designed to be a cheap hackable computer that kids could mess around with to learn how computers work.
I had been following the device ever since it made a huge splash in the tech world last year, and while I’d seen hundreds of pictures of the thing, nothing can really prepare you for how small the thing really is. Looking at a Raspberry Pi is akin to staring an optical illusion because you know what you’re looking at is impossible, yet there it is right in front of you.
It took me a few days to collect all of the other pieces of equipment that you need to actually run the thing. You get nothing out of the box other than the board itself. They ship it naked without even a case, the way they used to with electronics back in my day. (Now I feel really old.)
The first thing that you notice when you start plugin in the USB, SD card, and power plug is that you have to press them in a little harder than you should. This gives the impression that you might break the thing at any second, but I’m sure it’s more durable than I think.
Setting up the SD card with the Raspberry Pi OS was a very quick and painless task that didn’t take any time at all. Neither did the inital set up that I had to do on the first boot up. Everything on the Pi is painless. The thing wants to be hacked on. It wants you to mess with it fearlessly. It’s 35 dollar price tag really adds to this because if you do wind up bricking the thing, you’re not out much and you’ve gained some more “what not to do” knowledge.
After booting into the Desktop Environment -which is LXDE– the first thing I noticed was that the Pi was not outputting to the 1080p that I knew it could. It took me about two hours to realize that there was no simple utility to change the resolution, and that I would have to use the command line to go in and change the configuration file. At no point in this process did I feel frustrated. As I said, the thing wants to be hacked, so I’m actually glad there wasn’t an easy to find utility in the GUI that could change the resolution.
Of course, once I did change the resolution, I realized that it made the text way to small to read, but it didn’t slow down the desktop.
Currently, I’m going through the lessons at LinuxCommand.org to get really familiar with the command line before I turn the thing into a web server.
So my recommendation would be to pick one up if you have any interest at all in learning how a computer works. It’s a great rough and tumble environment to experiment without fear of causing any real damage because you can always get another or four.