Last Friday I found a nice package in the mail. My Raspberry Pi arrived! For those who don’t know: The R-Pi is a very cheap (and sexy) Linux ARM box. It has about the same processing power as a typical PC during the first internet bubble, but with a much lower price tag and using way less energy (about the same as a LED light bulb).
In the end, I want to use the R-Pi as a simple audio synthesizer platform. To port my two synth engines (Violator and Faze-1) and to hack up some interfacing hardware. More on that soon I hope!
Getting up ‘n running
Ran to the store to get a cheap Logitech USB-keyboard and TP-Link TL-WN722N wireless dongle. I set the R-Pi up with the default Debian image using
dd. Hooked it up to my TV over HDMI, connected the keyboard & mouse and made some standard changes:
- Change the keyboard mapping to US — I think this should be the default anyway!
- Set up the locale to nl_NL.UTF-8 and update the timezone
- Set default audio output to HDMI — in my case my TV (Samsung PS50B530) was not detected as supporting audio.
- Increase partition size — perhaps it would be useful to offer images for 2, 4 & 8GB SD cards on the download page.
- Set up SSH for remote logins
The built in desktop environment is a
startx command away. Was fun to get Midori up and browse the web on the TV, all with a device costing just 25 euros. Not the fastest performance, but very doable. Not having hardware acceleration in X is a bit of a drag though — scrolling is very choppy.
Wireless & USB problems
Next, to get wireless networking going: This turned out to be quite problematic. After a bit of setup (getting the right firmware), just plugging in the wireless stick was not working. USB errors. Using a powered hub gave no relief.
Booting with the stick plugged in worked sometimes, but also gave kernel panics and other errors. I did get it to work once, for about half an hour. The next morning the R-Pi seemed dead though.
According to the forums, there are quite some problems with either the USB drivers or with the USB power management. When you find yourself using a multimeter to check power voltages on a PCB, that’s an indication your device has some issues… So for now there’s still an ethernet cable running through the living room.
Since the R-Pi has quite a beefy graphic processor it should be capable of running a game like Quake 3 smoothly. Unfortunately I couldn’t get it to run within half an hour of trying and debugging. Not getting further than a black screen — requiring a reset of the R-Pi. Will try again in a few days.
All in all it’s a very fun box, but it still has some major quirks! For the R-Pi foundation I reckon that fixing the USB issues should be priority one, followed by getting hardware acceleration working for x. Worth the 25 euros? You bet!