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As befits a man with too much tech on his hands, I’ve been playing with my Raspberry Pi recently, configuring the device so that it works to its fullest potential. It continues to run as a media center, although I have no doubt that this use will be added to it in the very near future.
However, installing an OS and adding XBMC is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to using the RPi – but you should be aware that simply booting up and using, while useful and quite normal, isn’t getting the best out of the pocket-sized computer.
Instead, you should spend time configuring your Raspberry Pi. My preferred OS for the platform is Raspbian, a port of the popular Debian distro for Linux. This has various configuration options on the Raspberry Pi, which you should take a look at.
Configuring The Raspberry Pi, Post Installation
The following details concern the use of the Raspi-config menu, displayed after installing the Raspbian OS on your Raspberry Pi, as discussed previously.
Like me, you were probably too keen to get started with the Raspberry Pi than to bother with the Raspi-config menu options, but you’ll be relieved to know that these can be displayed by opening the terminal and entering
Note that some of the menu items will take a while to load, so be patient! You will need to use your keyboard’s arrow and Enter keys in order to make your selection from the following.
- info – provides a warning against customizing the Raspberry Pi installation too much.
- expand_rootfs – this will the entire SD card (if over 4GB) for the OS, rather than any partitions.
- overscan – this option removes the black border, present to ensure that all of the output can be seen on a typical display. Activated with a reboot, if the results are not favourable you can edit /boot/config.txt to undo.
- configure_keyboard – set your choice of keyboard and keyboard language. The default language is UK English; onscreen instructions are quite detailed.
- change_pass – the default login is username: pi and password: raspberry. As this isn’t very secure, use this option to set a new password.
- change_locale – a slow-to-open menu, the default setting is en_GB UTF-8 UTF-8 – which means that the UTF-8 character set is currently applied, the choice for entering English. If you want to use more than one language the spacebar can be used to toggle selections in the menu.
- change_timezone – this requires you to first select your continent, then your city. Again, this is a slow menu.
- memory_split – with this option you can determine how much memory is saved for standard processes and how much for the video core. There are three choices: 32MiB, 64MiB or 128MiB for the video core. The default option is 64MiB – the highest option is best for running XBMC on your Pi.
- overclock – enables you to overclock the processor on your Raspberry Pi. Not recommended unless you know exactly what you’re doing!
- ssh – this is enabled by default, and provides command line access to your RPi from another computer, via an SSH client such as Putty. You might disable if your Pi is connected directly to the Internet.
- boot_behaviour – this toggles which mode you want the Raspberry Pi to display upon booting, desktop or command line.
- Update – upgrades the Raspberry Pi. More information on this can be found below.
Remember that using these options will force a reboot, which might only boot to the command line. In this case, use the startx command to launch the mouse-driven GUI.
Secure Your Pi!
In addition to those configuration options, you should spend some time configuring your RPi so that it is secure.
Changing the password on your Raspberry Pi can be easily done in Raspi-config (as outlined above), or by entering the standard Linux passwd command.
Most importantly, you should ensure that all security updates have been installed. If you’re not going to connect your Raspberry Pi to the Internet, this shouldn’t be a problem – but in most cases it will be vital! While there is a Raspi-config menu item to deal with this, the following method is more comfortable.
Open terminal and enter the following;
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get upgrade
Note that these updates might take some time to download and install, so be patient!
Conclusion: There Is More to Raspberry Pi Than Cream…
With a device that costs so little, you might be surprised to learn that so much is possible. But then, that’s the beauty of open source technology, one of the key elements of the Raspberry Pi’s popularity.
Devised originally as a low-cost yet competent computer for children and students to learn programming, the Raspberry Pi continues to surprise. The settings and configuration options listed here demonstrate that this small PC is capable of so much more than being simply a project computer – it is far more versatile and powerful than that!
Let us know if you have any interesting Raspberry Pi/Raspbian tweaks that you would like to share.