Raspberry Pi Beginners Guide

Another entry from the land of “So I can find it later….”

Setting up the Raspberry Pi set was easy enough, and installing Chromium (the open-source version of Chrome) only took a single command (apt-get install chromium). When I was using it to post “Hello World” on Facebook, I discovered that the @ and ” keys were reversed (the physical keys were in their usual locations, but their behaviors were backwards). OK, the keyboard mapping isn’t set for the US. (The Pi and the drive image I’m using are both from the UK.)

I was pretty sure I could fix it via the configuration program that runs when you boot the first time, but there were two problems: (1) the configuration program only run automatically on the first boot and (2) I couldn’t remember the command.

Searching for raspberry pi configuration program led to the link RPi Beginners which looks to chock-full of useful information if (like me) you’re just getting started with Linux and/or the Pi. (For example: Backup your SD card.)

By the way, the configuration program is raspi-config; you’ll need to run it as sudo raspi-config.

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Installing Ubuntu without pae

From the land of “things I might want to refer to later….”

My old Dell Inspiron works fine except for a missing ‘R’ key. Windows XP is showing more signs of age than the notebook, so time to put another OS on it.

I’ve been using Ubuntu in such situations, but my attempts at installing both 12.04> and Lubuntu (lightweight Ubuntu) have both ended with a message about the hardware not supporting the required pae extensions.

Physical Address Extension (aka pae) is an Intel technology which allows a 32-bit operating system to access more than 4 GB of RAM. (A quick read suggests it essentially hands each application a 4 GB chunk of memory, similar to how programs on the 80286 and earlier chips were able to address more than 64 KB at a time by combining a 16-bit memory address with a 16-bit segment address — and by revealing that I know about this, I’ve probably dated myself quite handily.)

Another quick search on Google turned up a relevant pair of AskUbuntu Questions describing how to install a non-PAE version.

In a nutshell:

  • Download the non-pae netboot image mini.iso. This is a bare-bones installer which downloads the selected packages during the installation process. (Obviously, this requires a broadband connection.)
  • Burn the image onto a CD* and boot the computer from that.
  • Accept the default values for most of the prompts. You’ll need to supply a userid and password. My experience is that it’s faster to select the keyboard layout from a list then to go through the prompts for “detection.” (Faster for a standard US keyboard anyhow; your mileage may vary.)
  • At the final screen, when prompted for packages to install, be certain to select a desktop (e.g. Ubuntu Desktop) unless you plan to do everything from the command line.

* The Inspiron’s CD drive is getting old and unreliable, using UNetbootin to make a bootable thumb drive worked perfectly.

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Setting up a Subversion Server on Ubuntu

From the “So I can find it again” department…

Setting Up an Ubuntu Subversion Server

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Experimenting with the PogoPlug

I’ve had a PogoPlug for a little more than a year.

The pluses to the device are:

  • It’s an easy way for a home user to convert old drives into network attached storage
  • You can access your files from anywhere you have an internet connection.
  • Drives connected to the device appear as local drives (even across the internet).
  • It can convert video files to play on (supposedly) any device.

There are some down sides too:

  • The video conversion is slow (not completely unexpected with a low-power, always-on device)
  • The client software requires a new login after every boot.
  • The attached drive sometimes “disappears” until you tell the software to “reload” it.
  • My experience with the Android application has been that it’s a bit flaky.

All in all, it’s an interesting device and I can definitely see where home users might find it useful if they’re comfortable with the fact that you need to login via a third-party service (the My PogoPlug service), even when you’re accessing it a home.  (If Cloud Engines ever goes out of business, PogoPlug owners may find themselves with an unusable device.)

Part of my reason for acquiring the PogoPlug in the first place was that it seemed like a potentially inexpensive way to accomplish a few things on my home network:

  1. File sharing between my various computers.
  2. Running a private web server I could access without switching the main computer on.
  3. Running a private subversion server.

Goal 1 was easy enough to accomplish straight out of the box.  Goals 2 and 3 were going to take some work.

When I finally decided to hack the PogoPlug, a Google search led me to LifeHacker’s tutorial on turning the device into a “Full-Featured Linux Web Server.”  It was a good starting place, but in the end I decided to follow the source instructions from PlugApps.com.   (CAUTION: As it says on the PlugApps instructions, hacking your PogoPlug will void the warranty.)

My initial install was onto a 4GB SanDisk Cruzer flash drive.  The initial reboot came up fine, but later boots tended to come back to PogoPlug Linux,  which after the first steps of the install would no longer connect to the MyPogoPlug service. If I manually mounted and mounted the thumb drive  before running /sbin/reboot, that would take me over to PlugBox Linux, but going through those steps repeatedly is a pain.  I reran the install for PlugBox Linux using a no-name 16GB drive and it’s been working reliably ever since  (I love that storage has become so cheap that I had a 16GB drive “just laying around”).

To accomplish Goal #1 (file sharing), I installed Samba.  It works like a champ and I’ve been able to back to doing my backups to a network drive.

To accomplish Goal #2 (private web sever), LifeHacker’s instructions did the job.  By default, the web site is served out of /srv/http, and there’s also an ftp site in /srv/ftp.

Goal #3 took some guesswork. I didn’t see any mention of Subversion on PlugApps, but I made a guess and ran  pacman -Sy subversion.  I haven’t got around to setting up svnserve to run as a daemon at boot time, but it’s running right now.  (Getting it set up as a daemon will require putting a script in /etc/rc.d/ and adding it to the list of daemons at the end of /etc/rc.conf.)

So mission accomplished.  Not bad for a $100 device.

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