A beginner’s guide to getting started with Raspberry Pi (#RasPi)

This content is 12 years old. I don't routinely update old blog posts as they are only intended to represent a view at a particular point in time. Please be warned that the information here may be out of date.

I’ve written before on this blog about my experiences getting started with Raspberry Pi (attempt 1 and attempt 2) but, in my post about the inaugural Milton Keynes Raspberry Jam this morning, I highlighted something that became very apparent within the assembled group of Raspberry Pi enthusiasts at Bletchley Park:

“It’s all to easy to forget that, although the current version of the Pi was intended for developers in preparation for a broader educational release, it’s been massively popular with 350,000 boards shipped (and on target for a million by the end of the year!). Add to that, the Raspberry Pi foundation is 20 guys and girls who don’t get paid and who have day jobs – that’s a very limited resource pool to support an awful lot of people! Even so, the Raspberry Pi is not necessarily the most user-friendly experience for those who are not used to hacking around in a command line interface […]”

With that in mind, this blog post is intended as a basic guide for those who don’t have 20 years of experience working in IT, or are not bedroom coders, but do fancy getting stuck in to creating new and exciting things with a small and inexpensive computer. Regular readers may find that I explain things in more detail than usual but I’m assuming the audience are complete beginners when it comes to using a Raspberry Pi and that they do not spend their time geeking out with bits of hardware or bytes of software. If I’ve missed anything – or made some invalid assumptions – please leave a comment on this blog post, or tweet me (@markwilsonit) but please bear in mind that I have a day job too (so my response might not be immediate) and I can’t answer every single question about getting started with a Raspberry Pi!

What’s in the box – and what else do I need?

At its most basic level, the Raspberry Pi is a single board computer. Some distributors may sell bundles with mice, keyboards, etc. but many people will just get a board like the one shown here:

That means there are some essentials to buy:

  • A 5V power adapter with a micro-USB type B connection (I use the one that came with my mobile phone but not all phones have these):
  • A USB keyboard – i.e. a keyboard with a USB type A connection like the one below:
  • A USB mouse (if you want to run a graphical user environment – i.e. one that is not just text-based)
  • An SD card with an operating system. I recommend that beginners start out with one that comes pre loaded, for example with Raspbian Linux.  If you are going to “roll-your own” then that can be more complex and my earlier post based on Debian “Squeeze” might help but that’s a lot more technical and certainly outside the scope of this basic guide.
  • A television or digital computer monitor with either an RCA component, DVI, or HDMI input. VGA will not work. See below for details of what these connections look like.
  • A cable to connect to the Raspberry Pi to the television or computer monitor. The type of cable will depend on the type of connection.
    • RCA cables look like this (normally red and white are used for audio and yellow is used for video, but it doesn’t really matter – the cables are identical):
    • DVI cables look like this (the picture shows the “male” format, with the pins sticking out – the “female” version has holes and is normally found on the back of a computer):
    • HDMI cables look like this:

      You can also get a cable to connect from HDMI to DVI (and a connector to connect two “male” DVI cables) – these are not expensive and are what I use with my Raspberry Pi.
    • VGA connectors look like this (these are very common on both old and new monitors but the Raspberry Pi does not have a VGA output):
  • An Ethernet cable with an RJ45 connection to connect to your home broadband router/modem (Wi-Fi on the Raspberry Pi can be tricky – a cabled connection is often easiest to start with) – often these are supplied by your ISP with the router/modem:
  • Some headphones or speakers with a 3.5mm stereo TRS connection (if you want to hear any sound from your Raspberry Pi):

You might also want to buy a case for your Raspberry Pi but that is by no means essential.  Many people will already have the components listed above but if you need to buy them, they shouldn’t be too expensive.  Probably the most expensive parts are the keyboard and mouse but I picked up a wireless mini keyboard and mouse from Maplin today for £14.99 and they worked out of the box with my Pi.  You might also want to get a powered USB hub if you plan to use more than two USB devices (for example if you want to plug in a webcam, a USB flash drive, or a hard disk).

Putting it together

All of these components are different sizes and shapes so should be pretty easy to plug in. It doesn’t matter which of the two USB plugs are used for the keyboard and the mouse but this diagram (from the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s quick start guide) should help:

Just make sure that the power is coming directly from a 5V supply plugged into the mains and don’t be tempted to run a cable from a USB socket on a PC!

The operating system

Remember that I said I wasn’t going to show you how to prepare your Raspberry Pi with an operating system? There are other guides on the Internet (the Raspberry Pi website is a good place to start) but I strongly recommend you buy an SD card with Raspbian pre-loaded.

If you don’t know what an operating system is, don’t worry – it’s the software that runs on a computer when you turn it on and performs basic functions like driving the screen, keyboard, etc. (like Microsoft Windows on most PCs or Mac OS X on Apple Macintosh computers). Modern operating systems tend to include other functions, like web browsers and media players. Other applications can then be installed on top of the operating system to carry out more specialised tasks (like a word processor, an image editing package, or communications software like Skype).

Raspbian is a Linux operating system – that means that it is freely available (although some organisations might charge for supporting Linux distributions) and that the operating system is similar in many ways to a system called Unix that has been around for over 40 years and is used on many computer systems all over the world.

Logging in and getting going

After all of the “peripherals” (screen, keyboard, etc.) have been plugged in and the power has been switched on, you should see some characters appear on the screen and a prompt to login.

At the login prompt (which will say something like raspberrypi login: followed by a flashing _ cursor) type the username pi and press the Enter key, then type raspberry and press  Enter at the password: prompt.

Once you are logged in, the prompt will change to pi@raspberrypi:~$ followed by a flashing _ cursor. This is username@machinename so you can see that your user is pi and the computername is raspberrypi.

These are the default username and password settings but you really should change the password to something that only you know (I’ll tell you how to do this in a moment).

The first time you start your Raspberry Pi (the first “boot”, as us geeks like to say), your Pi will prompt you for some setup information. It’s important to select the options to expand_rootfs (expand the operating system to use the whole of the memory card) and change_pass (change password).

If you ever need to run this setup programme again, then the command to type is:

sudo raspi-config

Press  the  Enter key after typing the command (and for any other commands in this blog post). Then, just follow the instructions on screen.

Many people will find the command line interface (text-only, also called a CLI) unfriendly, so you can load a graphical user interface (GUI) to see something a little more familiar, driven by a mouse, and with applications in windows. To do this, the command is:

startx

This will slow down the Raspberry Pi a bit but it should be OK. There is a status indicator towards the bottom right of the screen (a green/black bar graph) that shows how busy the Raspberry Pi is. There are many applications pre-installed on the Raspberry Pi, accessible via the start menu (just like on Windows) and you can download others from the Internet (I’ll leave that for now – there’s plenty to get started already pre-loaded in Raspbian). Here are just a few ideas to get going with your Raspberry Pi:

  • You could try some programming in Scratch, or Python.
  • Or if that sounds a bit much for now, just browse the Internet (the browser is called Midori).
  • And, if you need to run any more commands from the CLI, then you can launch an application called LXTerminal.

Updating your Raspberry Pi

Before I sign off, it’s probably worth mentioning some commands that might be necessary to update the software on your Pi. Before I do that, I’ll explain something else – remember the command to run the Raspberry Pi Configuration Utility?

sudo raspi-config

The sudo part of this is worth remembering. Your username on the Raspberry Pi (pi) is what we call a standard user. It runs with a lower level of permissions to prevent any unintended consequences from running applications that might change the configuration of your system. When we want to make deliberate changes, we use sudo to run a command as a super user (like an  administrator in Windows or Mac OS X).

So, to update the software on the Raspberry Pi, run:

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get upgrade

APT is the Advanced Packaging Tool – so apt-get is getting details of available software. update downloads details of the available packages (a “resync”). upgrade is updating the operating system.

Finally, there is a tool called rpi-update that can be used to update the firmware (that’s the really low-level code that drives the components on the Raspberry Pi board, underneath the operating system).  This isn’t installed by default and is written by a programmer called Hexxeh.  You can find more details on Hexxeh’s blog and download rpi-update with these commands:

sudo wget http://goo.gl/1BOfJ -O /usr/bin/rpi-update
sudo chmod +x /usr/bin/rpi-update

This will download the  rpi-update program and then change the permissions so that it can be executed (run) on the local computer. I found that I also needed to install git before I could use rpi-update:

sudo apt-get install git-core

Then type:

sudo rpi-update

to update the firmware on your Raspberry Pi.  Generally you will only need to do this if you are having problems getting something to work.

Wrapping up

So, we’ve seen:

  • What you need to buy/find to get your Raspberry Pi working.
  • How to logon to a Raspberry Pi running Raspbian and how to get past the command line and into a more familiar (graphical) environment.
  • Some basic commands to keep your Raspberry Pi up to date.

If you want to learn more, check out the Raspberry Pi Foundation website and there are also other resources available on the Internet. You could also read a book like Meet the Raspberry Pi by Gareth Halfacree and Eben Upton.

Acknowledgements

Much of the information in this post is from a talk given by Peter Onion (@PeterOnion) at the Milton Keynes Raspberry Jam, with additional input from Rob Bishop (@Rob_Bishop) of the Raspberry Pi Foundation.

The illustrations used are taken from Wikipedia and elsewhere as follows:

Due to the licensing conditions of the images listed above, this blog post (but not the rest of this website), is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

First Milton Keynes #RaspberryJam

This content is 12 years old. I don't routinely update old blog posts as they are only intended to represent a view at a particular point in time. Please be warned that the information here may be out of date.

A few weeks ago, I mentioned that I’d been to a Raspberry Jam event in London, so I was very excited to see a jam advertised for Milton Keynes, one of the towns near where I live. Not only was it in Milton Keynes but at The National Museum of Computing in Bletchley Park – a place which I was embarrassed to say I’d never visited, despite only living a dozen or so miles away…

I booked onto the event and then noticed that it was on a Sunday morning.  Evenings are generally not a problem for me but weekends are sacred  family time so I thought I might have to pull out, until I realised my family would be away and I was home alone. Time to geek out!

This morning’s Raspberry Jam, organised by Peter Onion (@PeterOnion) did not disappoint. With around 30 enthusiasts of varying abilities and even representation from the Raspberry Pi Foundation, in the form of Rob Bishop (@Rob_Bishop), there were talks on a variety of topics, followed up with a tour of The National Museum of Computing (I’ll save that for a separate blog post).

  • First up was amateur radio engineer Andy Brown, who had brought along his 1940s television set, rescued from a skip and “upgraded” with a Raspberry Pi and a former CCTV monitor. The original CRT scanned at 405 lines and is non-functional (although Andy hopes to restore it one day) but running RaspBMC with a selection of videos from the Alexandra Place Television Society, Andy says the “television” generates a lot of interest in his shop! There’s more information including some videos on the Raspberry Pi website and a description and photograph on Andy’s own site.
  • Next, Brian Hogan demonstrated RISC OS on a Raspberry Pi. This is something I’d also seen at the London jam and the basic premise is that, as the ARM CPU on the Pi is a development of the CPU used in the BBC Micro and later Acorn computers, why not port the Acorn RISC OS operating system to run on a Raspberry Pi? RISC OS dates back to the 1980s and has many user interface features that are commonplace today (and a few that are less so – like the three-button mouse controls that replace menu bars). Currently available as an alpha release, it’s hoped that RISC OS Open  (which comes in at less than 6MB and runs pretty quickly on modern hardware!) will be stable in time for the upcoming Raspberry Pi educational launch, providing opportunities for a BBC BASIC renaissance as well as access to commercial and open source RISC OS software packages.
  • The final session was a basic introduction to getting started with the Raspberry Pi. It’s all to easy to forget that, although the current version of the Pi was intended for developers in preparation for a broader educational release, it’s been massively popular with 350,000 boards shipped (and on target for a million by the end of the year!). Add to that, the Raspberry Pi foundation is 20 guys and girls who don’t get paid and who have day jobs – that’s a very limited resource pool to support an awful lot of people! Even so, the Raspberry Pi is not necessarily the most user-friendly experience for those who are not used to hacking around in a command line interface, so I’ll be writing a follow-up post this evening I’ve written a follow-up post to help those of a less technical background to get going with their Pi.

Peter hopes to run future Raspberry Pi events at Bletchley Park on a monthly basis. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to attend every time but I hope to take the elder of my two sons along with me to learn some geek skills (“it’s time you learned about programming, son”), as well as picking up a few tips myself (like using the GPIO to control some electronics…). Watch this space for more Raspberry Pi adventures!

[Updated 22 August 2012 to include a link to my beginners guide to getting started with Raspberry Pi]

Getting started with Raspberry Pi (#RasPi): Take 2

This content is 12 years old. I don't routinely update old blog posts as they are only intended to represent a view at a particular point in time. Please be warned that the information here may be out of date.

Raspberry Pi is a trademark of the Raspberry Pi FoundationA couple of months ago, I wrote about getting started with Raspberry Pi but I have to admit it wasn’t exactly successful. In true open source style the Raspberry Pi FAQ (since updated) contradicted the downloads page/quickstart guide and an official blog post suggested that Fedora was the recommended distro.  I had some issues with Fedora, not least that a graphical login seemed to fail (there’s a forum post that suggests why that might be a problem) but also with getting hold of Scratch (which is something I want to use the Pi for, with my sons).

Last night I tried again, reflashing my Pi’s SD card using the Debian 6 “Squeeze” distro from the Raspberry Pi downloads page. There are various tools to do this (I used Win32DiskImager, also recommended on the downloads page, although the Softpedia download site is UX disaster, but Linux and Mac users already have dd and there is a Windows port of dd that Element 14 are distributing).

With the SD card flashed, I booted the system, logged in (username pi, password raspberry) and set about resizing the 2GB image to fill my 8GB SD card.  There’s good advice for resizing flash partitions on the Embedded Linux Wiki and the steps I took were:

  1. Edit the partition table:
    sudo fdisk -cu /dev/mmcblk0
    p (to view the partition table)
    d (to delete a partition)
    3 (to select partition 3)
    d (to delete a partition)
    3 (to select partition 2)
    n (to create a new partition)
    p (to make it a primary partition)
    2 (to create partition 2)
    157696 (to set the starting position to match the old partition table – see the output from the p command earlier)
    Press the Enter key (to set the maximum available partition size)
    w (to write the partition table)
  2. Then, reboot:
    sudo shutdown -r now
  3. After logging in again, resize the partition:
    sudo resize2fs /dev/mmcblk0p2
  4. Finally, check the new size:
    df -h

With a working system, I launched the LXDE graphical user interface with startx. and found that there is a decent amount of software (including Scratch, Python, etc.) already installed. It’s also possible to access the Raspberry Pi remotely and run the GUI on another system with X Windows/SSH.

Back in the command line, I wanted to install a twitter client (so that my Pi can tweet status updates) and Twidge is my favourite (CLI-based) client on a Linux system.  Romilly Cocking has written about installing Twidge on the Pi (Tweety Pi!) but I found I needed to run sudo apt-get update before I could successfully complete the sudo apt-get twidge command (without the update, there were lots of 404 errors for missing dependencies). As I was running Terminal inside the LXDE environment, I could use Midori to authorise Twidge via the Twitter API, completing the twidge setup process, before sending a couple of tweets.  If you don’t like Midori, I couldn’t find a suitable version of Firefox but I understand Google Chromium can be installed on the RasPi using the sudo apt-get install chromium-browser command).

I’m much happier with the Pi now it’s running Debian – and tonight’s activity involves creating a case for it out of an old business card box (an Altoids tin won’t fit!) – watch this space for more details!

Short takes: Raspberry Jam (#RaspberryJam) and Milton Keynes Geek Night (#MKGN)

This content is 12 years old. I don't routinely update old blog posts as they are only intended to represent a view at a particular point in time. Please be warned that the information here may be out of date.

This week, aside from struggling with the culture shock of getting back to work after a fortnight of Internet abstinence, and getting very angry with Microsoft, I spent my evenings at two fantastic community events. Both of them deserve a lot more space on the blog but I’m short of time right now, so a teeny overview will have to suffice.

Raspberry Jam

Complete with scones (really!), Raspberry Jam was a fantastic evening of RaspberryPi fans talking about some of the things that they are up to and hosted by Alan O’Donohoe (@teknoteacher):

  • Genevieve Smith-Nunes (@pegleggen) talked about the HackDay she’s organising at her school with 250 Year 9 students who will be building “something” with RaspberryPi (and the website is a constantly moving feast as its the kids who are building it). She’s also teaching Scratch to kids in Year 1 and 2 (my children are Foundation and Year 2, so this is very interesting to me).

(great quote by the way – “nobody’s the teacher; everyone’s the teacher; and we’re all students”).

  • Neil Ford (@NeilCFord) talked about Portable Pi – a project for taking Raspberry Pis on field trips to provide a portable website for kids to upload research data where there is no mobile phone reception. The shopping list for a Portable Pi is available on Amazon (although I can’t see the battery on there right now).
  • Neil also mentioned the Young Rewired State Festival of Code that’s happening in August – teaching kids to code, hoping to create the next Mark Zuckerbergs, and to keep them in the UK.
  • There was a demo of the Acorn RISC OS running on a Raspberry Pi. I’d forgotten just how advanced it was, back in the days before Windows… what’s more, it is tiny (6MB) and includes BASIC. Great for starting to code…
  • John Bevan (@bevangelist) showed us Mozilla Thimble – a really simple tool to teach people how to publish on the web and one of a wider suite of tools that Mozilla is creating.

Plus there was loads of opportunity for networking, snacks, beer, soft drinks and more. Hosted at the Mozilla Space in London (a great venue for like-minded open source-oriented people), the organisers are looking for more RaspberryJam events to be created across London, the south-east (and presumably further)… jump on the #RaspberryJam hashtag for more.

You can also watch the recording (filmed on an iPhone using a rather cool tracking tripod head called a Swivl) on YouTube:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ShUnnqEmPGM]

MK Geek Night

Regular readers will know that, about once a month, I head down to Digital Surrey, which usually has some great speakers on topics of interest to “digital” (media/marketing/tech) types, like me. With the Digital Bristol and Digital Berkshire spin-offs, I considered starting a Digital MK or a Digital Buckinghamshire but I simply don’t have the time (or the contacts). That’s why I was so excited to see Richard Wiggins and David Hughes announce Milton Keynes Geek Night.

Wow! 190 people in a community arts centre in a converted bus station; two big speakers; three 5-minute lightning talks and some one-minute pitches. What a great evening.

  • Jon Hicks (@HicksDesign) spoke about iconography, using the redesign of Skype’s emoticons as a case study. Who knew there was so much to designing icons? I had an inkling there would be, and it’s pretty fascinating stuff (for geeks).
  • Kate Kenyon (@Kate_Kenyon) told us, in just 5 minutes, how to slash content and create better websites that work for users, not just company politics.
  • James Parker (@MrJamesParker) gave us some tips on how Twitter helped him to become a better designer.  I won’t leave you hanging – and they are not just for designers either – they are:
    1. Follow people relevant to you (not just celebrities).
    2. Don’ be a passive user – get involved in the conversation.
    3. Make friends – contacts are everything.
    4. Follow me.
  • Code Club (@CodeClub) were there – there are 120 schools and 1436 volunteers signed up now (maybe more this morning) to teach our children to write code with curriculum changes and after-school clubs. It’s a pity I don’t cut code for a living as this is a great initiative to get involved in.
  • Brendan Dawes  (@BrendanDawes) gave a whacky but enlightening talk on low-tech hacks and making “things” from “stuff” (that description simply doesn’t do the talk credit – I’ll write more in another post, I hope)
  • And then there were the one minute pitches for employment opportunities, user groups, special interests, etc.

Fantasmagorical!

The next event is scheduled for 20 September. Full speaker line-up is yet to be announced, but includes Relly Annett-Baker (@RellyAB) talking on content strategy and, based on the inaugural event, I have high hopes that Richard and David will find more great speakers. Follow @MKGeekNight on Twitter for more details.

Proof that Milton Keynes has geeks and about 200 more roundabouts than Old Street. #MKGN
@dvlngl
Lawrence Archard

Getting started with Raspberry Pi (#RasPi)

This content is 12 years old. I don't routinely update old blog posts as they are only intended to represent a view at a particular point in time. Please be warned that the information here may be out of date.

Raspberry Pi is a trademark of the Raspberry Pi FoundationMuch to my manager’s disgust (he has a programming background, whilst I’m an infrastructure guy “by trade” – although I did write code in my youth!), my Raspberry Pi arrived last week. Despite the botched launch, I still think this is one of the most exciting products we’ll see this year because, well, because it’s a fully functioning computer for around £25 (Model B) and that means the potential addressable market is enormous. Actually, that’s not quite right – the Pi is around £25 (plus VAT) and then you’ll need some peripherals – although they should be relatively easy to lay your hands on:

  • A micro-USB mobile phone charger (I use the one that came with my Nokia Lumia 800 but any 5V supply that can feed a micro-USB cable will do)
  • A USB keyboard
  • (Optionally) a mouse
  • (Optionally) some speakers
  • (Optionally) a USB hub (powered)
  • A wired network connection
  • An SD card
  • A display – but watch out as Raspberry Pi supports HDMI and component out (RCA) – not VGA.

My monitors are mostly VGA (I have one that will take DVI) and my TV is far too old for HDMI (it’s a 14-year-old Sony Trinitron 32″ widescreen CRT!) so I set the Pi up to use the analogue  connection to the TV.

Installing the operating system

I selected a Linux distro (the Raspberry Pi blog suggests that Fedora Remix is the recommended distro, as does the FAQ, although there is extensive discussion about whether to use Fedora or Debianthe Raspberry Pi quick start guide suggests that developers should use Debian and there are alternative downloads too). Eventually, I managed to install the Raspberry Pi Fedora Remix on my SD card (my Ubuntu machine recognised the SD card, but the Python version of the Fedora ARM Image Installer didn’t*; meanwhile my work laptop installed an image on the SD card but it wouldn’t boot – I suspect that’s down to the disk encryption software we use; finally I managed to run the Windows version of the Fedora ARM Image Installer on another Windows 7 PC).

Once I had an operating system installed, I booted and the RasPi picked up an IP address from my DHCP server, registered itself in DNS (raspi.domainname) and set to work expanding its disk to fill the 8GB SD card I’m using.

*getting this installer to work involved installing the python-qt4 package in the Ubuntu Software Centre, then running ./fedora-arm-installer.

Switching displays

Unfortunately, standard definition CRT TVs are no better at working with Raspberry Pi’s than they are with any other computer (except a games console) – and why I thought that should be the case is a mystery…

With only part of the display visible via component out (and not exactly easy to read) I started to investigate options for use of the HDMI port.  It turns out that HDMI to VGA is too expensive, but an HDMI to DVI cable cost just £2.39 at Amazon (thanks to Chromatix, The EponymousBob and GrumpyOldGit on the Raspberry Pi forums for sharing this info). With the RasPi hooked up to my only digital monitor, everything was much easier, although I did have to plug the cable directly into the monitor and I’m now waiting for delivery of a DVI-I female to female gender changer so that it’s a bit easier to swap the monitor cable between my computing devices.

So, what’s it like to use then?

Did I mention that the Raspberry Pi is a fully functioning computer for around £25? Well then, what’s not to like? Sure, performance is not lightning fast – the Raspberry Pi FAQs suggest:

“… real world performance is something like a 300MHz Pentium 2, only with much, much swankier graphics”

but that’s plenty for a bit of surfing, email and teaching my kids to write code.

I am finding though that I’m struggling a little with my chosen distro. For example, I haven’t yet managed to install Scratch and it doesn’t seem to be one of the recognised packages so I may have to resort to compiling from source – hardly ideal for getting kids started with coding. For that reason, I might switch to Debian (I’m downloading it as I write) but for now I’ll continue to explore the options that the Fedora Remix provides.

I’m sure there will be more RasPi posts on this blog but if you’re one of the thousands waiting for yours to arrive, hopefully this post will help to prepare…

And once the educational models are available, I’ll be encouraging my sons’ school to buy a lab full of these instead of a load more netbooks running Windows XP…

Raspberry Pi: a case study for using cloud infrastructure?

This content is 12 years old. I don't routinely update old blog posts as they are only intended to represent a view at a particular point in time. Please be warned that the information here may be out of date.

In common with many thousands of geeks up and down the country, I set my alarm for just before 06:00 today for the big Raspberry Pi “announcement”.

The team at Raspberry Pi had done a great job of keeping the community informed – and I was really impressed that they gave everyone a chance to hear where to buy their miniature computers at the same time. Unfortunately the Raspberry Pi announcement didn’t quite have the intended result as it effectively “slashdotted” the websites for both of the distributors (RS Components and Farnell).

Whilst Raspberry Pi had moved their site to a static page in anticipation, the electronics retailers probably aren’t used to their products being in such demand and both buckled under the load.  Which left me wondering… I know Raspberry Pi’s goal is to support the UK electronics industry (hence the choice of distributors and not simply selling via Amazon.co.uk or similar) but surely this is a case study for how a cloud-based solution could have scaled to cope with demand? Perhaps by redirecting Raspberry Pi purchasers to a site that could scale (e.g. on Amazon Web Services), still fulfilled by RS and Farnell?

Grumpy with RS and Farrell for not taking #raspberrypi traffic warnings seriously. @ must be gutted, but stoked by interest!
@edgillett
Ed Gillett

It didn’t help that the links given were to the main pages (not deep links). I got in during the first 5 minutes at RS and followed the instructions (“Search for Raspberry Pi, and then follow the normal shopping and checkout process.”) only to find that there was a “register your interest” page but no purchase option. A few minutes later, Raspberry Pi said on Twitter that was the wrong page, and I couldn’t find the right one from a site search. Later in the morning, reports on Twitter suggested that RS are not putting Raspberry Pi on sale until the end of the week…

RS *not* sold out of Raspberry Pis - not opening sales until the end of the week. Hope they beef up their servers before then!
@ghalfacree
Gareth Halfacree

[It now seems that doesn’t fit with RS Components’ Raspberry Pi press release]

With the mainstream news sites and even breakfast TV now running Raspberry Pi stories, the interest will be phenomenal and I’m sure Raspberry Pi can sell many more devices than they can manufacture, but I can’t help feeling they’ve been badly let down by distributors who didn’t take their warnings seriously.

We're so frustrated about the DDOS effect - and apparently some of you are VERY ANGRY. We're really sorry; it's out of our hands.
@Raspberry_Pi
Raspberry Pi

Or, as one open source advocate saw it:

Absolutely fantastic! @ sale brings down #RS & #Farnell. Shows there's massive demand for computers for learning. #opensource

With any luck, my success at registering interest from RS at about 06:03 this morning will have worked. Failing that, I guess I’ll have to wait a little longer…

[Update 07:49 – added link to RS Components press release]

Hardware lineup for 2012

This content is 12 years old. I don't routinely update old blog posts as they are only intended to represent a view at a particular point in time. Please be warned that the information here may be out of date.

Last year I wrote a post about my “hardware lineup” – i.e. the tech I use almost every day so I thought I should really do the same for 2012.  Much of it’s still the same but there are some changes – it will be interesting to take a look in retrospect next year and see how my plans for 2012 have worked out. So, here’s the tech that I expect my life will revolve around this year.

Car: Volkswagen Tiguan 2.0 TDI Sport

My company car is due for replacement in the spring and I’ve ordered a Volkswagen Tiguan to drive for the next 3 years. I really like the Audi A4 Avant that I drive at the moment but it’s recently had a lot of money spent on it (new clutch and major service costing over £2,500 – thankfully not paid by me) and I’m not sure that a three-year-old car with 60,000 miles on the clock is  worth the money the lease company wants for me to take it on…

Due to price increases, another A4 with the same spec will cost me quite a lot more each month and, whilst the Tiguan is a little smaller, it’s also more practical (I looked at the Q3 too – but it’s “fugly”, overpriced and there is limited engine choice at the moment). With my growing family the addition of a towbar should allow me to take 4 bikes around on a carrier without scratching the car too.

Verdict who knows – it’s not been delivered yet!

Phones: Nokia Lumia 800 and Apple iPhone 3GS

Apple iPhone 3GSNokia Lumia 800I recently joined the 1.5% and jumped into the Windows Phone market. I like it – and want the platform to succeed – but really feel Microsoft has a long way to go. Thankfully I still have an iPhone 3GS provided by my employer (and my iPad) to fall back on when apps are not available or when the Lumia is just too infuriating…

It was a risk buying the Nokia Lumia but the hardware is lovely, the software will improve, and it was a major investment so, realistically, it’s likely to remain with me for the next 2 years! Meanwhile, I’m still hoping to get myself an iPhone 4 or 4S to replace the 3GS but the chances are best described as slim.

(Lumia) Verdict 7/10. Hold.
(iPhone) Verdict 3/10. Not mine to sell!

Tablet: Apple iPad 3G 64GB

Apple iPadNo change here – the iPad is my media tablet of choice and no-one else even comes close. I may be tempted by an Amazon Fire or the new (rumoured) baby iPad but at the time of writing this device is still great for occasional surfing, a bit of TV catchup, and social media on the move.  It’s also great for the kids to play games and catch up on vital episodes of childrens’ television programmes that they missed (using BBC iPlayer)!

Verdict 8/10. Hold.

Everyday PC: Fujitsu Lifebook S7220 (Intel Core 2 Duo P8400 2.2GHz, 4GB RAM, 250GB hard disk)

Fujitsu Lifebook S7220I’m still hoping for a BYOC scheme at work, but this PC is my main computing device. I’d love a ThinkPad, but the Lifebook is a perfectly capable, solid, well-built notebook PC, although I frequently find myself running out of memory with the number of tabs I have open in a typical browsing session!

When it comes up for replacement, I’ll see if I can blag something smaller (really need to be a grade more senior for that) and reduce the weight of my work-bag…

Verdict 6/10. Holding out for a BYOC scheme at work.

Netbook: Lenovo S10e (Intel Atom N270 1.6GHz, 2GB RAM, 160GB hard disk)

Lenovo IdeaPad S10Netbook, schmetbook. I hardly used this in 2011. I did install Ubuntu 11.04 on it and have a couple of blog posts to write before I use it to play with Windows 8. I bought the S10e for Windows 7 testing 3 years ago so it owes me nothing but the netbook form factor has been usurped by tablets and low-cost notebooks. My kids have one too but even they are frustrated by the small screen and tend to use my wife’s notebook PC instead

Verdict 2/10. Not worth selling, so keep for tech projects.

Digital Cameras: Nikon D700 and Coolpix P7100

Nikon D700Nikon P7100I still love my DSLR and the D700 will be with me for a while yet. Indeed, it’s more likely that I would buy some new lenses and a flashgun before I replace my camera body.

The P7100 joined me this year as a device to carry everywhere and it’s been pretty good, offering entry-level DSLR levels of control in a small package, although it’s not as responsive as I’d like.

(D700) Verdict 9/10. Hold.
(P7100) Verdict 7/10. Hold.

Photography PC: Apple MacBook MB062LL/B (Intel Core 2 Duo T7500 2.2GHz, 4GB RAM, 750GB hard disk)

Apple Macbook White (late 2007)This MacBook needs to last a while longer before I can justify its replacement but I did upgrade the hard disk in 2011 and it may get another upgrade this year. 4GB of RAM is starting to feel a bit light for big Photoshop jobs but new Macs are expensive. I’d better get saving for something new in 2013…

Verdict 5/10. Hold.

Media: Apple Mac Mini MA206LL/A (Intel Core Duo 1.66GHz, 2GB RAM, 120GB hard disk)

(+ iPad, Lumia 800, iPhone 3GS, various iPods, Altec Lansing iM7 iPod speakers)

Apple Mac MiniNo change here since last year – although both disks in one of my NASs failed and I need to re-rip my CDs for my music library (iTunes had already done a good job of mangling it). I still haven’t bought the music keyboard (maybe this year) but it’s lasting well as my multimedia PC for the office with Spotify, iPlayer, etc.

It may not be the most powerful of my PCs, but it’s more than up to this kind of work and it takes up almost no space at all.

Verdict 6/10. Hold.

Gaming: Microsoft Xbox 360 S 250GB with Kinect Sensor

Microsoft Xbox 360sI don’t play this as much as I should to make full use of it (although I am enjoying my latest purchase: Lego Pirates of the Caribbean). Hopefully the next few months will finally see iPlayer land on the Xbox at which point it will become a really useful media centre for the living room (it works with my aging SD TV).

Verdict 9/10. Hold.

Servers and Storage: Atom-based PC, 2x Netgear ReadyNAS Duo

My Dell PowerEdge 840 has been retired to save energy (although it could still be wheeled out for any virtual machine workloads to test infrastructure scenarios) and, as I already mentioned, one of my ReadyNASs has suffered a multiple disk failure (waiting for me to sort out some warranty replacement disks) but, once recovered, these machines will remain as the mainstay of my computing infrastructure. Cloud storage for my photos is still too expensive so I’m likely to add another NAS at a family member’s house to maintain an off-site backup.

Verdict 6/10. Hold.

Potential new toys: Nest learning thermostat, Romotive Robot, Raspberry Pi

These have taken my fancy and I’m seriously considering them all in 2012. Only time will tell what I buy (and when) but I’m sure you’ll hear about my exploits on the blog!