Learning Raspberry Pi: Changing Over a Micro Center Pi

Micro Center Raspberry Pi shown with access slots for power, HDMI, audio, Ethernet, and USB
Micro Center Raspberry Pi shown with access slots for power, HDMI, audio, Ethernet, and USB

The computer and hobbyist retail chain, Micro Center is offering a Raspberry Pi 3 deal that includes a Raspberry Pi 3, microSD with OS already installed, and a power adapter with conversion plugs.

The price was $79.95 at the local store, and at first it seemed a very good deal at the time. But, for the normal use that the average user of a Pi would desire, it is totally inadequate.

The Case

The major issue with the case is that it is sealed. The various Raspberry Pis have General-Purpose Input/Output (GPIO) pins, that allow for other boards or interfaces to be connected to the Pi. If one desired to use the included case, a slot would have to be cut in the top, a terrible proposition.

The Power Supply

The power supply is also inadequate for normal use. A Raspberry Pi 3 requires a 5V, 2.5A source to ensure proper operation. The one included is on 2.0A.

The Operating System

A 8GB  microSD card is included, that is a good thing. The pre-installed OS is just Citrix client software, and not a full-blown OS, that is bad. So, in order to transform the Raspberry Pi into what an average user would need for intended use, a complete overhaul is required. In this article, I will concentrate on the case and the power supply. The next article will deal with the operating system.

Replacing the Case
Micro Center Raspberry Pi with back removed to show microSD slot, and Torx screw
Micro Center Raspberry Pi with back removed to show microSD slot, and Torx screw

The first thing required is to snap out the back is the end opposite the USB and Ethernet ports. This exposes the Torx screw. A Torx screwdriver is required, a flat head or Phillips-type will not work.

Torx Screwdriver
Torx Screwdriver

Unscrew and remove the back, then pull out the side away from the micro-USB power slot and audio port.

 

 

 

 

Micro Center Raspberry with cover removed
Micro Center Raspberry with cover removed

This is how things look with the cover removed:

 

 

 

Getting Official
Official Raspberry Pi Case - Black
Official Raspberry Pi Case – Black

The Raspberry Pi Foundation provides a official case for each Pi. It can assembled and disassembled based on need of the user. Plus, it allows for access to the GPIO pins, and easy access to the microSD card when needed.

Raspberry Pi 3 and Case
Raspberry Pi 3 and Case

Remove the Raspberry Pi from the Micro Center case and place it in the official case. It does not have to be snapped in. The port openings match the USB, Ethernet, micro-USB, etc.

Before placing the Raspberry Pi in the case, remove the microSD card. You will need it later to install a proper operating system.

Official Raspberry Pi Power Cord
Official Raspberry Pi Power Cord

Lastly, an adequate power supply certified to be used with the Pi is needed. When using a Pi, always consider a supply that can power the Pi, and the Pi only. A Raspberry Pi should never be used to power any peripherals that may be attached to it, a powered USB hub should be used instead.

A Completed Pi
Raspberry Pi 3 inside Official Case
Raspberry Pi 3 inside Official Case

This completes the hardware conversion of the Pi. Next time, we will concentrate on choosing an operating system, installation, and then set-up of the system.

 

 

 

Learning Linux: LXLE

It has been awhile since I have posted; unfortunately, school and life has gotten in the way. This post will not be detailed, but a summation of my activities.

Find A Linux Distro That Works

Micro Center USB Drive
Micro Center USB Drive

I initially chose to install Lubuntu, which is a version of Ubuntu Linux, that is meant work on older machines. Before that I purchased two things, a USB drive and a cheap mouse, both from the local Micro Center. I wanted to make this project as cheap as possible, so both came to less than $12 in total. Linux is open source, and therefore free, so my drive and mouse was my greatest cost so far.

I did attempt a battery purchase from a seller on Amazon, but was sent a charger instead. I returned the charger and decided to worry about a battery later.

Cheap Mouse
Cheap Mouse

As I said, I had chosen Lubuntu, which is available for download from the Ubuntu site. Ubuntu comes in all shapes and sizes depending on your needs, so it pays to do your research. Lubuntu contains the same kernel as Ubuntu, with the difference being a reduction in included software.

Screenshot of UNetbootin Homepage
Screenshot of UNetbootin Homepage

The download is a compressed image that must be unzipped before saving it to the USB. Special software is needed to properly save the image to an USB so it boots properly. I chose UNetbootin as recommended by the Ubuntu website. Make sure you follow the instructions to the letter, or you could damage your current system.

Before you can perform an install, you must set your system to boot from USB. Each system may be different, I had to hit the F2 function key as soon as the splash screen appeared. This takes you to a configuration menu, which is where you change boot priorities.

One good thing about using an USB drive is that you can test drive a Linux distro before deciding to install. That is what I decided at first, and everything worked great. Windows Vista was shot, so I decided to install Lubuntu. That was when the fun started as I tried about ten times and could never get things to work. Another problem was Ubuntu does not work with Broadcom modems, which the Dell has. I ended up buying a TP-Link TL-WN722N WiFi dongle, which works out the box with Linux.

I finally gave up and tried to find another distro which brings me to…

LXLE

Screenshot of LXLE Desktop
Screenshot of LXLE Desktop

Per the LXLE, “LXLE is a GNU/Linux operating system based on Lubuntu which is an official Ubuntu OS using the LXDE desktop environment.” Unlike my attempt of installing plain Lubuntu, LXLE installed quite easily. That is a photo of the desktop to the left. It has made a dead and almost buried Dell alive again. In fact, this post is being written on it. I’m still learning the ends and outs and will address those in due time.

That is all for now, and I have much, I mean much more to share with you. Can you say “Raspberry PI”?

 

 

Learning Linux: What is Linux?

linux logo
Linux Logo

As I wrote in last week’s post, I have decided to learn Linux and share with you the ins and outs as I go along. I am majoring in Software Development at Georgia Gwinnett College where we learn Java development, but as far as Linux is concerned, I am on my own. There is an Operating Systems course that is offered at the school, but that is still at least a year away until I finish my prerequisite courses, so if it is to be, it is up to me.

Screenshot of linux.com What is Linux?
Screenshot of linux.com What is Linux?

So, what is Linux? Well, it is an operating system, more specifically, a kernel. A kernel is the core of an operating system, its purpose being to manage the CPU, memory, and peripheral devices of your desktop or laptop system. The kernel is lowest level of the operating system. You can find a great introductory article at https://www.linux.com/what-is-linux .

Linux is the most-popular and most-used open-source operating system in the world. You may be using it and not even know it. Android phones are based on the Linux kernel as well as the Roku streaming devices, (I don’t watch regular television, unless it’s football. I cut cable long ago). Many internet sites are run off of Linux through servers, plus many  of the world’s super computers rely on some subset of Linux.

Screenshot of linux.org What is Linux?
Screenshot of linux.org What is Linux?

Linux was created in 1991 by Linus Torvalds, who was a student at the University of Helsinki. Linus wanted a free and open-source version of Minix, which was a clone of Unix, that was used in academic circles. Unix is an operating system created at Bell Labs in the 1970s by Ken Thompson, Dennis Ritchie, along with others. Torvalds intended to use the name “Freax”, but the administrator of the server Torvalds used to distribute his code named the directory “Linux” from a combination of his first name and Unix. You can find out more about the history of Linux at http://www.linux.org/threads/what-is-linux.4076/.

Torvalds holds the trademark for Linux, and the source code is under copyright and licensed GPLv2. Most of the Linux kernel is written in the C programming language, which was also invented by Dennis Ritchie. Even so, being open source means that anyone can download and install Linux for free. You will not be tied down by software licenses or time limits for use.

As such, there are many different versions of Linux, called distributions, or “distros.” Some of the most popular are:

  • Ubuntu Linux
  • Arch Linux
  • Deepin
  • Fedora
  • Debian
  • openSUSE

There is a distribution for everyone, whether you are a newbie, just average, or advanced. What really set Linux apart is Live Distribution. Linux provides the capability of being run from a CD/DVD or USB drive. You can “test drive” a distribution before making a decision on which one to choose. You can also install Linux on the same drive as your Windows or Mac system. Installation of Linux is probably the easiest you will find anywhere.

In my next post, I will give a breakdown of Linux and its components. As always, I value your comments and ideas. Tell me what you like and also what it is you don’t like.

 

 

Learning Linux: Dell Inspiron 1525

linux logo
Linux Logo

First, it is good to be back. School took up all my time, and as a result my writing was severely hampered. I need the holiday time to recover, but now I am refreshed and ready to start rolling.

I keep saying this blog is about deep thought, and it is, but it also is about science and technology. With that said, this post is the first in what I plan to be an ongoing series. I am learning programming in college, specifically Java, but one thing they do not teach is much of anything about open-source systems, specifically Linux.

If I want to learn Linux, it will be something I will have to do on my own. Plus, I thought it would be great to take you along for the ride. I am starting this adventure cold, so I will not profess to be an expert. You will see everything I learn as I learn it. And, since I am the Musing Cogitator, expect me to go deep.

Dell Inspiron 1525

dell inspiron 1525 back
Dell Inspiron 1525 back

I need a system to use as my learning tool. With Linux, unlike some pay-for-use operating systems, (Windows), all one needs is a low-end device that with just adequate capabilities. I have such a system in a Dell Inspiron 1525 laptop that has been lying around unused for years.

dell inspiron 1525 bottom
Dell Inspiron 1525 bottom

I bought it for my mother eight years ago. My mother is not a technology maven, so it was barely used. It came with Windows Vista, has an Intel Celeron 2.00Ghz processor, 1GB of ram, 80GB hard drive, and DVD/CD drive.

 

Specifications

This is a list of the specifications:

  • Intel Celeron 32-Bit 550@ 2.00GHz microprocessor
  • 1.0GB ram
  • Disk drive: ST980811AS
  • Display adapter: Mobile Intel 965 Express Chipset
  • CD ROM: TSS Corp CDRWDVD TSL462D ATA Device
  • IDE Channel
  • Intel 82801 HEM/HBM SATA AHCI Controller
  • Intel ICH8M Ultra ATA Storage Controller – 2850
  • Ricoh Memory Stick Controller
  • Ricoh SD/MMC Host Controller
  • IEEE 1394 Bus Controller: Ricoh OHCI Compliant IEEE 1394 Host Controller
  • Modem: Conexant HDA D330 MDC V.92 Modem
  • Network adapters: 6T04 Adapter, Dell Wireless 1395 WLAN Mini-Card, Marvell Yukon 88E8040 PCI E-Fast Ethernet Controller
  • SDA Host adapter: SDA Standard Compliant SD Host Controller
  • Sound, video, and game controllers: Intel High Definition Audio HDMI, Sigma Tel High Definition Audio CODEC
  • Storage Controller: Microsoft iSCSI Initiator
  • Hard Drive: 80.0GB
dell inspiron 1525 keyboard
Dell inspiron 1525 keyboard

As stated before, it was hardly used, so my biggest worry is dust, more than the condition of the hardware. It does not come with a webcam, not a bummer as I have yet to ever use one. I do not Skype, which I’m sure breaks Microsoft’s heart.

What’s next

In my next post I will go over exactly what is Linux and why I have chosen to learn it. I will decide on a distribution and attempt an install. If I fail, you will hear about it, and of course you will hear about the successes and what I did to achieve them. I welcome any and all feedback for this series and will try my best to post weekly, school permitting.