Raspberry Pi. Something you definitely shouldn’t put in your oven. If it’s not food, what is it? It’s a small, cheap computer designed by several gentlemen at Cambridge University, the purpose of it being an easy platform to learn computer programming on. There are a lot of fun things to do with it, including making your own robot or retro games console. Since you won’t be eating it, I wrote this guide to help you choose your Raspberry Pi.
Don’t Choose Starter Kits
Don’t choose a starter kit. I bought a starter kit and ended up replacing most of the accessories. Buy the individual components instead; it will probably be cheaper and you will learn more through the process.
Choose The Board
There are 3 main versions of Raspberry Pi. The main difference you’ll notice is the speed and number of USB ports.
- Raspberry Pi 2 Model B is what I recommend. It’s the fastest and has 4 USB ports and only slightly more expensive than the others. Uses Micro SD cards.
- Raspberry Pi 1 Model B+ is cheaper and has 4 USB slots, but the Pi 2 is 6x faster. You’re better off with a Pi 2 for the tiny bit of extra money. Uses Micro SD cards.
- Raspberry Pi Model A+ is the cheapest, has 2 USB ports and is half the speed of the Pi 1 B+. You really run in to trouble if you want mouse, keyboard and USB WiFi. Don’t get this one. Uses Micro SD cards.
Full comparison chart.
Choose a Memory Card
The memory card is the hard drive of your Pi. You can swap out memory cards that run different programs for different experiments without buying another Pi.
- Buy a 16GB memory card or more. Something like this should be fine.
- Don’t buy pre-installed memory cards. You’ll learn more by installing the software yourself.
- Most of the Raspberry Pi models use Micro SD, but check before you buy.
- Most memory cards should work fine, but you can check here first. Big brands like Samsung and Sandisk should be okay.
Choosing the right WiFi USB is important to have a stable internet connection.
- I recommend WiPi, the official Raspberry Pi WiFi adapter. It uses 2.4GHz.
- Raspberry Pi works best with 2.4GHz adapters rather than 5GHz.
- If you don’t know what 2.4GHz and 5GHz means, read here. Basically they are 2 different radio frequencies.
- Some WiFi Routers are 5GHz, so if yours is one, you may need to find a 5GHz WiFi adapter for your Raspberry Pi, but it will probably require a powered USB hub and some workarounds. Or get a dual band router that can do both 2.4GHz and 5GHz.
You will need a power supply. Buy the recommended ones for your Raspberry Pi to make sure you don’t accidentally fry it by giving it too much power.
I recommend a case.
- It protects the Raspberry Pi from dust and static electricity.
- The human body can build up several thousand volts of static electricity, and if you zap your Pi with that, you’ll cook it like a goose at Christmas.
- You can buy one of the recommended ones from RaspberryPi.org, or buy this really cool looking case.
Mouse, Keyboard, Screen or SSH
It’s a second computer so you need a way of controlling it.
- I just used my spare screen and keyboard / mouse, which is the easiest way.
- You can use something called a KVM switch to use one set of Keyboard, Screen and Mouse and switch between them, but it may not be compatible with your Pi.
- You can also run it remotely from your standard PC through something called SSH, but if your Raspberry Pi is on WiFi, your PC will need to be using WiFi too to connect to it.
- Using accessories for projects opens up the possibility with the Raspberry Pi and you can make things like your own weather detector or even robot.
- Take a look at the Raspberry Pi site for some simple accessories to start with.
- You can also look here at some of the future possibilities.
- You don’t need any accessories to start with. If you’re interested though, look up some beginner projects and what accessories they recommend. Often they will use camera’s and sensors.
A summary of my recommendations:
- Buy a Raspberry Pi 2 Model B
- Buy a 16GB+ Memory card (Check if your Pi needs Micro SD or regular SD cards)
- Buy a WiPi USB WiFi adapter
- Buy a recommended power supply
- Get a case – check out Adafruit
- Get a second mouse / keyboard / screen or look into controlling your Pi remotely through SSH
- You don’t need any extra accessories yet, but you can take a look
The next step is to format your SD Card and set up all of the software. I am writing the next article to show you how to do exactly that while you wait for your new toy to arrive in the post. You should also check out my latest puzzle game The Nodus to stave off the waiting pangs.
The Super Pi Boy project.