Building Our $35 Raspberry Pi Computer

Raspberry Pi computer being assembled.

Raspberry Pi computer being assembled.

The quest continues…

A week ago, we purchased our Raspberry Pi computer, a $35 computer targeted at kids. We bought it for my daughter, who’d expressed interest in making her own video games.

The official Raspberry Pi store was sold out of these affordable little computers. I hunted around and found sellers on eBay offering them for $47. My daughter was excited to spend $35 of her own money to buy her own computer. I bit the bullet and paid the extra $12 to get the Pi.

Then the fun begins. It comes in a package with no cords, hard drive, or instructions. You get the manual as a PDF at the Raspberry Pi website.  Easy enough.

If you’re like me, you also discover that you don’t have all the cables you need. So instead of plugging it in and booting up, I had to order some cables and adapters. It wasn’t very expensive, but it did sort of strip away the mystique of a $35 computer. No biggie, I had most of the things I needed, including a cellphone charger (for the power source) and an SD card (for the hard drive).

Assembly Required
Today, we put everything together. I’m pretty good with technical stuff, but installing the Raspberry PI operating system was more difficult than I’d expected. It took a few different tries, several Google searches, and some serious profanities…but I got it.

I am running a Mac, and I downloaded some apps that were supposed to help with the OS install. Unfortunately, they didn’t work for me. It was most likely user error on my part, but they still didn’t work. I ended up using the Mac’s Disk Utility to format the SD card (easy) and Terminal to install Raspian Wheezy (not easy).

This is the line of code that worked for me in Terminal on the Mac:

sudo dd bs=1m if=/Users/COMPUTERNAME/Desktop/2013-02-09-wheezy-raspbian.img of=/dev/disk4

Similar versions of that execution didn’t work. Go figure.

Running of the Pi
We got everything working, the Raspberry Pi booted like a champ, but I kept getting stuck at the password. This one was just a user error on my part. I kept spelling “raspberry” as “rasberry.” Yup, I kept dropping the “p” from the word. Hey, you may do it too, but at least I am letting you know ahead of time.

There were little things to configure, but the computer booted quickly and we were able to start playing immediately.

The interface is quite pretty and intuitive. The designers did a really good job here.

Best part? The Scratch software came pre-installed. We were able to start moving pixels with no additional effort. Good stuff and all free.

We poked around their app store. There appears to be a fair mix of free and paid applications. We’re going to create a profile, so we can see what kinds of goodies we can download.

And now, as I blog this, my daughter is exploring her new computer. Life is good.

Check back again, as I continue my Dad’s Tech Quest!