Tasting Raspberry Pi #2: Up and running…

raspberry-pi-powered-up.jpgContinuing my tasting of a Raspberry Pi – my Christmas treat to myself – I thought I could outline my initial stages of actually running things on the ARM v7-based, Broadcom BCM2835 SoC device, touching on things such as package managers, Chromium, Linux shell commands and browsing generally…

First off, I was relieved to see the little green LED on the board flashing things as “OK”, and the system startup trolled past successfully. (Occasionally it would get in a twist on startup, giving me pause for concern – had I broken it already? – but simply re-powering it up always got it back on an even keel.)

Having previously used Ubuntu for my desktop (but sticking to the graphical Gnome desktop environment) and having used Unix in my distant past (but very distant past), I was used to the idea of package managers. And a very good thing they are too – essentially, the Linux way of ensuring that any extra programmes you choose to install, from special online repositories, are pre-prepared to run on your machine. Using the apt commands was new to me, however: apt-get install, apt-get purge, apt-cache search, etc…

First hurdle to overcome was a failed attempt to install Google’s Chromium browser for Linux:
sudo apt-get install chromium-browser
As advised by the excellent Raspberry Pi User Guide, however, updating the package manager cache solved things:
sudo apt-get update

Disappointing news when the software started, however. The outlines of the PC desktop Chrome were familiar but the browser ran too slow, for me, to be useful. The default Midori browser was much nippier, and seemed to work perfectly well on the likes of Google.co.uk and BBC.co.uk.

More basic commands such as cd, to change directory, and ls to list files, soon came back to me, but using the graphical interface instead, particularly the File Manager, is completely straightforward. Plug and play support is available via USB – plug in an external hard drive, for example, and it will pop up automatically for display and use…

On the subject of shell commands, it took a bit of getting used to running things as root user – via the sudo prefix – but LXDE provides a dedicated ‘Root User’ terminal window to eliminate the need for the prefix. Nice.

raspberry-pi-working.jpgIn terms of the general desktop environment, LXDE (the open source Lightweight X11 Desktop Environment) was perfectly manageable.

Things are quite basic and sparse, but it is up to you to choose which programmes to install and take precious space off your SD card (unless of course you are going to run another hard-drive to boost capacity…). Things like Open Office, free games (chess? backgammon?), the LAMP stack to run MySQL databases and PHP programming on your Pi, and much more…

Time and patience is the issue here. The ball is in your court to best customise your own system with what you want or require.

Which leaves one big area unexplored… programming. Two avenues to explore are the Scratch interface – to help introduce kids to programming constructs – and IDLE, the integrated development environment for the more traditional, high-level programming language Python… That’s next on my list.

Previous Tasting Raspberry Pi:

* Tasting Raspberry Pi #1: All I wanted for Christmas…

Tags: chromium, even keel, gnome desktop environment, graphical gnome, linux shell commands

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