Getting Started with the Raspberry Pi 2

The recently released Raspberry Pi 2 brings a new level of computing power to the hobbyist maker at the same low price point of $35 for the original Pi. The latest version delivers a 900MHz quad-core ARM CPU and 1 GB of memory while maintaining full compatibility with the original Pi. It also boasts expanded capabilities to include four USB ports and HDMI video. The Pi 2 is powered using a micro USB port, meaning you can use most common cell phone chargers.

Once you have a Raspberry Pi 2 in hand, you’ll need to download one of the operating systems available from the Downloads page on their site. For beginners, they recommend the NOOBS version, which is a Debian-based image. The offline version includes everything you need to get your Raspberry Pi 2 up and running and is probably the easiest and quickest route to success. They have complete instructions and a video on the site that lead you through the process of formatting a micro SD card and then copying over the contents of the downloaded zip file. Make sure you format the disk using FAT and nothing else.

Once that’s done, put the micro SD card into the slot on the Pi 2, connect keyboard, mouse, HDMI video and, finally, power. The rest is simply following the on-screen instructions and waiting about twenty minutes. Once you have the system image loaded, you’ll have a few steps left to set your time zone and configure your network connection. The Pi 2 has a full-size RJ-45 Ethernet connector for a wired connection. You can use a USB WiFi dongle as well if you’d like. You’ll find a list of Raspberry Pi-compatible adapters on the elinux site. Amazon has a number of USB WiFi adapters claiming to work with the Raspberry Pi as well.

If you chose the basic (or default) Raspbian installation, you’ll have the same basic operating system found in other Debian-based distributions, such as Ubuntu. Additional software packages can be installed from the command line by using sudo apt-get in a terminal window. You’ll probably want to update your operating system after installation using the same process. To do this, use the following commands from the terminal:

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get upgrade
sudo rpi-update
sudo reboot

The first command gets an updated list of all packages, and the second upgrades to any newer versions of installed packages. The rpi-update program looks for an updated version of the Raspberry Pi 2 firmware and then downloads and installs ut if necessary. Finally, sudo reboot reboots your Pi 2 with all the new updates.

You’ll find plenty of other applications and tweaks to make your Raspberry Pi 2 suit your specific needs. You also could try a different operating system altogether. A recently-released Snappy Ubuntu Core distribution is available for the Raspberry Pi, called Snappy-Pi. It’s available from the Raspberry Pi downloads site. Microsoft recently announced that they will have a version of Windows 10 for the Raspberry Pi 2 sometime later this year. This opens up a whole new world to this inexpensive little platform.

Next time, we’ll look at getting your Raspberry Pi 2 set up for coding.

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