Setting Up a Raspberry Pi – Things I Learned (Woot! Node.js!)

I bought a Raspberry Pi. This little make device, toy, stuff, right? Well I wanted to have a dev environment, and this was best choice. I learned some things that I thought I’d share. Like most dev things, there seems to be a contingent that wants to keep things hard. And like most of the aging internet, stuff never gets updated. So I figured, I’d write down what I know.

Buying a kit

You certainly don’t have to. The latest Raspberry Pi 3 will run about $36. But if you want things, you might as well buy a kit. There are many out there geared towards different projects including retro gaming, programming, laptop having, media servers, and IoT thingamajugs. Kits get you cases that look cool, and various parts you might need but it’s important to note:

Kits Don’t Come with Everything You Need

Not a big deal. Many people have old computer parts lying around but if you don’t a kit may be lacking. There are few things you want to get. After much research I ended up buying the official kit, cause I liked the white and red case, and it came with a preloaded NOOBS micro SD card and wired essentials. It was missing things. But for all the choices it got me the things I needed to get going with the least headache IMO. Research kits before making your choice.

What You Need

Wired keyboard and Mouse – You need these to set things up. Once you have Bluetooth and wireless configured, you won’t need these anymore, unless you want to use the ones you have.

Ethernet Cable – the 3 comes with Wireless and Bluetooth already on board. That’s enough reason to buy a 3 over an older one already. But to get started, and to get through the long and involved process of updating your software (mine was nearly a year out of date) you’ll want that cable.

Storage – Most Pi kits come with an 8 – 16 g micro SD card with some operating system on it. I went with one that had NOOBs which makes setting up Raspbian easy (and you don’t have to extend things later), but that’s a tiny amount of space. Micro SD cards come up to 256 GB now, so you could get one of those, or if you want even more, you can get an external drive. If you go that route (which I did) you’ll need a powered USB hub. That’s one that comes with a power adapter. Or you’ll need one of those special regular harddrives with an external case. I had a 300 gb Passport lying around, so I bought Amazon’s powered USB hub. It’s plug and play.

Note on SD cards – You need one for the operation system but you don’t need to buy a preinstalled one, you can use any computer with a micro SD or even SD port to set that up yourself.

Monitor or TV with appropriate HDMI connection for at least set up – Raspberry Pi can be run headless (without a monitor, through another device) or can be connected to a monitor. But at least for initial setup you’ll need something to see what you are doing. I choose to use an HDMI cable and connect it to my Smart TV. Again plug and play.

Sudo Apt Update

The first thing you’ll need to do is update your software. Even the latest operation system doesn’t have the latest packages. This is a necessary step to avoid the pain of finding you can’t do something cause your app was last year’s install. If you’re using Raspbian and have a Pi 3 there is a article that will walk you through the process. And really, you could follow the article all the way through if you want to install Node.js on your system but it’s solid and will get updated, up and running, connected to your other devices, and ready to do what you want. You can stop short of Node or even of connecting to your PC. He even has directions if you want a headless setup (see above) which I skipped.

Beginner’s Guide to Installing Node.js on a Raspberry Pi

Updating Takes Forever

Updating can take a long time. My card came with software from Nov 2016. It took three hours to update. Plan to walk away. Your command is done when you see $ prompt in your terminal screen. You may have to say Y or N a few times. So check back. If it appears to hang…go do something else for awhile. The Sonic Pi package will appear to hang. Walk away. Trust me. It’ll finish. You’ve got to be patient.

Research on the Internet

Not every person goes back and updates their post. They just don’t. If you have a Raspberry Pi 3, and you are using Raspbian, Look for articles written AFTER March 2016. Make sure they talk about Jessie – that’s version you’ll be on as of this article (July 2017). Wheezy cannot help you. Other Linux distros…well make sure you know what version you are doing what with.

On 3, Bluetooth is Installed…Kinda

You may still need to initialize bluetooth even if you see the runes in the top right hand corner. I had to.  Typing setting up bluetooth on a raspberry pi 3 into google will get you instant directions.

Your item may not pair…unless you restart

I know it sounds silly, but in this day and age, the biggest myth about computers is that you don’t need to restart them or power them down. That’s a lie. You really really should. All the time. The Pi is no different. If your mouse, or keyboard or other device is not paring, restart your damn pi. Sudo reboot. You’re welcome.

Anyone Who Says That a Pi is Under Powered for Web Programming is a Liar. Dirty, Sir.

Or at the very least drank some stupid kool-aid. Web development is TEXT EDITING. You don’t need a $3000 mac or even a $500 to PC to be a web developer. There no advantage, only preference for bells and whistles. I like my glitter as much as the next gal but really if you are search the web and come across any post or article that says, you can’t do that, it’s too under powered. It’s a lie. Then end. Thanks for playing. The nifty thing about Pi is it’s extendable. My set up, cost $150 with the crap I had lying around, but I didn’t need that. I liked that. Frankly this goes for anything you want to do on a computer. Things Pi’s have been used for which take a  lot of power way more than you need to write JavaScript(but funny you could use JavaScript In):

  • Render Farms
  • Space Camera
  • House Automation
  • 3D Scanner
  • Powered Skateboard
  • Home Appliance – like a microwave
  • And Yeah, Gaming

There plenty of reasons not to use a Pi for things. The point its making your thing with it and getting a low cost solution. ::Puts on her old hat:: Building computers used to be hard, y’all.  Okay it still can be, but it doesn’t have to be.

So yeah, now I have it going. I turn Spotify on my phone, link to my Hex 808 and sit back to program on 50 inch screen. Now that’s kinda fun.


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