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June 23, 2012

Experience so far with the RaspberryPi

Filed under: My Life,My Thoughts,Techie Stuff — Suramya @ 10:46 PM

In one word, the experience so far has been awesome! I recently got my hands on the RaspberryPi and as I mentioned earlier I will be blogging about my experience with it. I had to go buy a USB keyboard as I didn’t have any USB keyboard at home (yeah yeah, lot of people ask me about that… My old PS2 keyboards worked fine so didn’t even realize I didn’t have USB). I bought the mouse as well since I didn’t want to disconnect the mouse from my main system every time I booted into X on the Pi. I got the wired version of both because I wasn’t sure if the Pi could support wireless. It does support wireless stuff but it depends on how much power each device pulls and since I didn’t want to take a chance I went with wired.

Set it up, hooked it to my 2nd monitor and booted and it came up perfectly. Initially there was a problem with the display switching of for about 1/2 a sec at random intervals but that was easily fixed with a line added to the config file. Basically the problem was that the HDMI output wanted more power than the board was giving and since that is software controlled I was able to change it by adding the following line to /boot/config.txt

config_hdmi_boost=4

The other, I won’t call it an issue but distraction I had to fix was that when the system started up in full screen, there was an inch of black space around the display on all four sides. This also was easily fixed by adding the following line to the config file (more details on troubleshooting and available config options are available Here):

disable_overscan=1

I added the line, restarted and both the issues listed above disappeared. After that I played around a bit with the system and found that the average boot time is about 10-15 seconds to the login prompt. If I start the GUI interface it takes between 20-30 seconds for it to come up and be usable. Was able to browse the web and install software without any issues at all.

One interesting fact that I noticed was that the system didn’t appear to honor the rcX.d convention. I was trying to get ssh to start be default on the Pi when it booted up so I put an entry in the /etc/rc2.d directory called S25ssh which was a symbolic link to /etc/init.d/ssh and this should have started up SSH everytime the system booted up but for some reason that wasn’t the case. I tried fiddling with the number, made sure the file was executable etc but nothing seemed to work so I finally ended up adding the line in /etc/init.d/rc.local and then it worked fine. Haven’t really debugged it but it felt like it wasn’t supported or something else was overriding the instructions.

Finally once everything else was working the way I wanted it to, I decided to try get my Wireless dongle working on the Pi. Unfortunately I could only get it to work partially. The system detected the dongle without issues but gave the following error as the firmware for the dongle wasn’t installed:

zd1211rw 1-1.2:1.0: couldn't load firmware. Error number -2
usb 1-1.2: Could not load firmware file zd1211/zd1211_ub. Error number -2

The fix for this was easy, all I had to do was run the following command to install the firmware:

apt-get install zd1211-firmware

Once the command finished, the card was activated and I was able to see the networks around me including my home wireless network. However for some reason it was unable to get a DHCP lease from the router no matter what I tried, I even tried setting a static IP but it still wouldn’t go out to the net. I think the problem might have been because the dongle was trying to pull more power from the USB than the board supported, but since I didn’t have a working powered USB hub I couldn’t test the theory. Wondering if I should go buy a powered USB hub… Haven’t decided yet but it might be required as the Pi only has two USB ports and already I have three devices that I want to connect (the number will go up as I find more and more uses for the board).

Well this is all for now. Will post more once I play with the board a bit more.

– Suramya

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