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24 hours with the Raspberry Pi

Tuesday June 12 2012

Raspberry PiLast 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:

Web browsing

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.

Quake 3?

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.

Summing up…

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!


Jay Vaughan @ Tuesday June 12 2012 14:43
Nice one Joost! I believe the USB problem will get sorted - but are you sure that using a USB powered hub doesn't resolve things? Also, that the rPi and the Hub have completely separate power supplies seems to be necessary - the USB circuit of the rPi won't be able to support the load if your rPi is using USB host power ..

Anyway, nice to hear you're having fun with it.. I've got my PandaboarES Tablet machine build in-progress, will let you know on the -bar when its running something interesting .. ;)
jstsch @ Tuesday June 12 2012 14:56
Yo Jay, yeah. Using separate power supplies. I heard about snipping the red wire on the USB cable from the hub to the R-Pi, so that no power can be transferred from the hub to the R-Pi, but I didn't try that yet.

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