You’ve come a long way, baby

Debian Squeeze on Raspberry Pi
that was then…

and this is now…
Raspberry Pi is baking...

I’ve been setting up Raspberry Pi computers since they came out, but setting up a new one with my daughter yesterday made me realise how very, very far this little computer has come. Where once getting it to work was a hit-and-miss affair, now NOOBS (New Out Of Box Software) makes getting it working a breeze. Things just seem to work – even our Samsung TV with its dodgy HDMI implementation produced a picture with none of the command line jiggery-pokery once required. An old iMac keyboard with built-in USB hub just worked. The USB wifi adapter I bought just worked – the first time I’ve managed to get the wifi configuration tool to work first time. NOOBS is an extraordinary achievement.

We’re running out of time this half term to build our top-secret project, but my 8-year old daughter and I had fun setting the Pi up from, er, scratch.

First of all we formatted the SD card – Tilly made notes of important settings we’d need in the SD card formatting tool:

important card formatting settings


Plugging the HDMI cable in:

plugging the HDMI cable in

Putting the antenna on the USB wifi dongle:

putting wifi antenna on

I decided to try this wifi adapter with an external antenna rather than the Edimax dongle I’ve used before because the wifi reception in her room is so poor.

Wires in, Pi ready to go:

pi ready to go

The moment of truth. Powering up:


NOOBS gives you a huge choice of different operating systems to choose from, including an option to boot straight to Scratch, which is fantastic for educational use. We picked Raspbian for ours:

choice of operating systems

Success! It boots. First successful login, and Tilly discovers the pitfalls of choosing a very, very long password:

it boots!

Type startx and the desktop appears!

startx - and the desktop appears!

We got a LEDBorg for our project: it’s a tiny £5 board that plugs into the Pi’s GPIO pins with a really bright LED that you can get to change colour.

LEDBorg lights!

changing light colours at the command line

The LEDBorg has a simple colour picker on the desktop, but we also made it change colour from the command line, learning something about primary colours and mixing light as we went. What happens if you mix red and green light? We tried it out – you get yellow. What would happen if we turned on red, green AND blue? Genuine amazement when white light appeared. We then looked close-up at the pixels on the TV and found they work the same way.

Trying Scratch
trying out Scratch

Minecraft - the killer app
Minecraft – the killer app

Eldest son wants a £700 computer. My daughter seems pretty content with one costing £30.

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