Setting Up Raspberry Pi

piSo I recently got a Raspberry Pi and boy is it everything I hoped it could be! Recently my old laptop I keep for Linux purposes is beyond being on its last legs and it basically on life support. It seemed like it was about time I set up a new Linux environment. What better way than exploring the new and exciting world of Raspberry Pi?

Since I got it I’ve been a little skeptical about jumping right in, I have a habit of reading all of the directions a few times before I do anything stupid and break something. As it turns out that’s hardly necessary. Full disclosure I got one of the starter packs that comes pre-installed with NOOBS and has a power adapter as well as a case. I went with Vilros but there are a lot of decent options out there and most of them seem like they’re about the same level quality wise anyway. The only major differences being instructions, power adapter, and case since they all come equipped with whichever Raspberry Pi you’re looking for. There are also some kits out there that come with electronics stuff like resistors and breadboards, they cost a little more for the extra materials, but that’s not what I got it for so it felt a little pointless for my purposes.

Things you may want to know right off the bat, the heat sink isn’t really necessary unless you’re doing something that’s likely to overheat your Pi. It basically exists for people who are overclocking their Pi and from what I hear it’s not really necessary in that case either. I feel like it’s likely there just to put people’s minds at ease. Of course it never hurts to be prepared, but I didn’t bother throwing it on. I did keep it in case I change my mind in the future though. A heat-sink is basically a piece of metal that’s going over your CPU to soak up heat. Generally computers don’t like heat that’s why you see some fancier ones with lots of fans. Or even more extreme cases where people use liquid cooling solutions.

Snapping together the Raspberry Pi is a relatively easy process. Most things are marked, and the mini SD card (I got the Pi 3 model B) only goes in one way so they’ve made things pretty simple to put together.

Once your pi is together and you have your keyboard/mouse and screen hooked up you can start-up your raspberry pi. This will load the default desktop environment which is LXDE or Lightweight X11 Desktop Environment. Personally I’m not a fan and the first thing on my to-do list was updating it to my personal tastes. I really love the gnome interface, but it does eat up a little too much space for my liking on the mini-SD card. So instead I went with XFCE much like LXDE it’s a lightweight environment for Linux and I prefer it aesthetically. If you’re not a fan of the default desktop environment there’s a lot of options out there, if you want XFCE this is how to go about getting it.

Switching to XFCE

Enter the following commands into your terminal.

sudo apt-get update

sudo apt-get install xfce4

You’ll have to reboot at this point (annoying, I know).

sudo reboot

When you come back, you’ll be booted directly into your old environment if you want to switch to your new environment you’ll have to log out and log back in. At the login screen, go to your top right corner and click on the circle which will have a drop down of different environments to choose from. Choose XFCE or whichever one your chose to install.

username: pi

Password: raspberry

Now if this seems like an annoying process, I completely agree and there’s a solution. We can change our default desktop environment with the following code.

sudo update-alternatives –config x-session-manager
You’ll get a window that allows you to choose your default environment. Select the number that corresponds with the path “/usr/bin/Xfce4-session”
Now the next time you reboot, you’ll end up directly in XFCE. At this point, you’ll notice your menu has many more applications and the environment should be eating up a bit more of your resources. It’s a downside, but I think it’s worth it. If you go to settings > Settings Manager, you can make the appearance a little more to your liking. Personally, I switched the appearance to “Xfce-dusk” right away.
Switching Keyboard

If you’re like me, you started with a UK keyboard for some reason, which is annoying if you have any intention of writing C code or ever using the # symbol.

sudo dpkg-reconfigure keyboard-configuration

This will take you through a menu to choose your keyboard. I just picked whatever I was on and on the next screen, choose US if you’re one of us, or choose whatever keyboard you’re looking for. Personally, I just went with Default, no compose key, and I didn’t use the shortcut to terminate the X server.
Once again, you’ll have to reboot to get the benefits of this.
Fixing the Time
If you’re like me, you don’t live in the default region of the Pi. Fixing the time is actually pretty easy. Enter the following into your terminal.
sudo dpkg-reconfigure tzdata
Select your country and then the city within your time region. This is the one thing you won’t actually have to reboot for. If you have an internet connection, things should update themselves after a minute or so.
You should never unplug a running computer, it’s just bad practice. You can go through the menu to shut down, but I just use the following line in the terminal.
sudo poweroff
Eventually, your screen will have no signal and one of the two led lights on your raspberry pi will be green. This process should only take a few seconds.
Don’t want to use Raspbian Pi?
There are many distros(distribution) out there that you can use to make your pi do just about anything you can imagine. My card came pre-installed with NOOBS, but if you have a blank card, all you have to do is unzip NOOBS to your SD card or Mini SD card and it will handle the rest of installing Raspbian Pi as well as many other packages on it. That doesn’t mean you have to use it though. I haven’t tried any other distros yet, so I can’t give in-depth instructions on it.
Some of the more interesting ones I’ve seen are Kali Linux, a distro made for security, specifically penetration testing. As well as a distribution called RuneAudio that is based on Arch Linux, it can act as an interface between your music collection and your music equipment. It seems pretty cool. The cool thing is all you need is an extra SD card to install these and experiment with them. After Installing them on extra SD cards switching between distros will be as easy as swapping SD cards.
My name is Chris Diel and when I’m not playing with computers I host a radio show on KSSU