Monday, April 14, 2014

Raspberry Pi Part 1

The Digi Corner Vol 1, Chapter 1, 14 Apr 2014, Bootjack CA

A new beginning or should I say “To Boldly Go to Where No One Has Gone Before”, well maybe where none of us have gone before.

This is a new corner on the Mariposa Area Amateur Radio Organization (MAARO) newsletter dedicated to all of the new toys available to the Ham operator. I am open to suggestions from the masses but to start off we will be covering (by popular demand of course) the Raspberry PI a single board (about the size of a deck of cards) Linux sub microcomputer.

So who am I or at least what are my qualifications.  I have spent 3 years in the US Navy as a Radioman and a high speed morse code operator, 21 years with the US Army and it's reserve components (Active Duty, National Guard and US army Reserve serving as a Medic, Computer Specialist and Military Policeman from Vietnam to Desert Storm and I didn't miss much in between) and 20 years in Federal Civil Service as a Computer Specialist (INFOSEC) (that means I worked with information security) as a GS12 (that means Government Service employee at level 12) I served as the Information Security Officer at HQ SHAPE (the military arm of NATO), Belgium.  I am now a member of the US Coast Guard Auxiliary so I may at times use terms that are  Military or EMCOM acronyms (see there's one now, it means Emergency Communications).  I will do my best not to and if I do I will either explain it on the spot or point you in a direction that will explain it.

Well lets get started...

The Raspberry PI started off as a project, in England, to make available to educators and students (as young as 5 years old) an inexpensive, safe, and easy to learn and to operate  microcomputers and as a way to teach programming skills. Guess what they have succeeded. It now has leaped or should I say it is more like a “PI in the Face” (a poor pun) to the tech world in which we live. Raspberry PIs are available locally at Radio Shack. Ebay, on the internet (just Google “Raspberry PI) and Amazon, who knows it may come availabe in the Wal*Mart checkout line next. It comes in two flavors a Model A and a Model B for now (see the chart below for the differences). Thanks to the Raspberry Pi Wiki the following chart is provided.


A lot of big words are used in the chart, some of them I will reuse but a lot of them I won’t. Just like in using a car all the fancy words don’t keep you from driving it. So continuing on with the car analogy lets cover some additional hardware options some are required for different applications and well some of them are mandantory such as the human input/output devices. For our projects here in the Digi Corner I am going to have to select some baselines so the first is that we will be using the Raspberry Pi “B” model. A lot of the concepts and hardware will work on the Model “A” but I believe that the most bang for the buck is the Model “B”.

Lets start with a keyboard and mouse, we need to provide our input in to the Pi some how, they both can be USB or PS2 with an USB adapter, but wait, we have a problem Huston, using individual USB inputs we have none left to attach other toys. So may I suggest a wireless keyboard and mouse combination, with the combination wireless keyboard and mouse you will use just one USB port (you have got to connect it some where right) but now we have a single USB port available, I am going to recommend that you attach a Hi-Speed “Powered” USB Hub to that port. The one I use has 7 USB ports and came with its own power adapter. Now might be a good time for me to list my development PI’s configuration.

List of Hardware (My Toys) and my recommdations.

Raspberry PI Model “B” (highly recommended)

A case (very optional but if you should spill or drop any thing on your PI, well you get the picture),  Cases can be as fancy or as basic as you imagination can make it ($80 to $2) so get what ever trips your trigger, from pine to stainless steel it's out there.  Right now I am looking for a waterproof one for a Coast Guard application.

Heat sinks (very opitional right now everyone in the industry says it is not needed but ? When you overclock your PI the CPU gets mighty warm).

HDMI monitor/TV (highly recommended, but you can use and old TV with composite input).

Hi Speed “Powered” 7 USB port Hub (Highly recommended but no matter what size or flavor it must be powered, the more amps the better).  During development you don't know what you will hang off of it

5v 1.5 amp (higher amperage will make you PI very happy) Power Supply with mini USB connector (Highly Recommended, this can be an old cell phone charger).

5v 2 amp Power Supply for the Hub (Highly Recommended, I call these wall-Warts).  Again keep piling on those amps.

Standard USB Keyboard (Highly Recommended, I actually have a full sized one (non-wireless) and a wireless mini attached).
Standard USB Mouse again or wireless.

WIFI dongle on a Model A USB hub (it only has one USB port) or B or an Ethernet connection on the Model B.  You need an internet connection to keep your Linux well fed.

7” TFT LCD Monitor with it’s own 12V power supply (we need separate wall warts for all accessories for now, we will explore alternatives later).

16GB SD card with the Wheezy Linux release (any size from 4MB or greater will work I have several of each), the 16 GB seems to be a good starting point because I have bricked (made inoperable) several 4 and 8 GB cards trying to configure them.

I use an SD card for each of my projects.  One for my internet TV, another for project development, another will be used for my NAS and network printer, yet another for my Digi Comms application.

Well it only gets worse from here on in. So until next time try not to let you amps fall on the floor


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