How I Set Up My Raspberry PI – Lesson Two Deciding on Operating System Distributions

So my next decision was which operating system distribution to use. The rally really great thing about the Raspberry Pi is that it is not a consumer device (by design) –it was designed for learning how computers work, how they interface with electronic devices and to program– and as such has several different operating systems that can run on it. My initial interest was  looking at BBC Basic (which necessitates the RISC OS) but I decided to start out with Raspian Raspbian Wheezy because of the knowledge base associated with Linux is better known to get started. Also the RISC OS required a wired Ethernet connection which I had yet to run to my new office.

What I discovered was that Adafruit had built what they called Occidentalis which is a derivative of Debian Wheezy. Adafruit had added some enhancements to the generic Debian Wheezy distro to make it easier to set up. And after finding the video below, which walks one through a basic setup process including how to set up Wi-Fi, my first distribution was Occidentalis. The video is great as it shows one how to set up a US keyboard (the PI is set to a British keyboard with the @ and ” keys reversed to what we are use too in Canada. It also shows how to do this using the command line interface which is an essential component to understand given that the Raspberry PI is a device built around learning computers

What I really got out of the video though was a basic understanding of how to set up a Wi-Fi interface to my PI. For me networking –and especially wireless networking– is a black art and I’ve always admired individuals who have mastered the art of operating and interfacing network environments. By working through the video I learned how Linux senses a wireless device, how one modifies files to activate wireless interfaces/various parameters and finally how to get wireless interfaces working. Not saying the exercise made me an expert by any means but I was able to slay a few demons while learning how wireless interfaces are set up.

Note: When I worked with the video below I did not do the whole Putty thing. Instead I just hooked up a keyboard and monitor directly to my Raspberry PI and followed along with the video using a direct keyboard/monitor connection  It took away one more confuse-able(s) and I did not have access to a wired Ethernet connection.

Follow-up

  • I found that Occidentalis set my 1080p monitor to a lower resolution than it should be. To fix it I had to edit the /boot/config.txt file and add hdmi_mode=16   (which is 1080p 60Hz mode) to the file. This was done sith the command line instruction: sudo nano /boot/config.txt  A complete explanation of what you can do with the /boot/config.txt file can be found at http://elinux.org/RPiconfig.
  • I have since moved away from Occidentalis back towards Raspian Raspbian Wheezy. After getting Occidentalis operational I could not get the browser provided by the graphical user interface LXDE to talk to the Internet! When I applied the same setup found in the Video above to Raspian RaspbianWheezy the internet browser worked fine. Looks like I’m not the only one with this problem of LXDE cutting off the Internet to its browser. Check out  http://www.raspberrypi.org/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=28&t=6928
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