Note: Given the reader base of Lifehacker and Hackerspace, I assume most users have heard of the Raspberry Pi, so I won’t be explaining what it is. If you are unfamiliar, read the official website or the Wiki page.
Which Pi did you purchase?
I elected to purchase the Pi 2 for the extra ‘umph’, as I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to use it for and more power gives more flexibility. (The Pi Zero is next on my list, after I have more ideas and it starts to stay in stock.)
I received a Canakit starter pack from Amazon along with the PiTFT 2.8" Touchscreen Add-on.
The Canakit pack came with a case, 8GB Class 10 SD Card with NOOB/Raspbian (NOOB = Installer; Raspbian = Debian for the Pi and ‘Official’ distro for Pi), a USB WiFi adapter, and a ‘HAT’ with some LED’s to plug and play with.
While I am an avid lover of ‘pacman’ and Arch-based distros, Raspbian appears to be too deeply integrated with the Pi to use anything else as a main OS for it. (I will experiment with Arch ARM with the purchase of another SD card).
The install with NOOB took less than hour and then you are booted into an LXDE session which has been flavored for the Pi. For some reason they hide the bulk or the appearance settings from you, so if you want a snazzier theme, then you’ll need to unhide those settings.
The PiTFT is an easy plug-in, and the instructions from Adafruit.com were superb. I now have it as my default display when booting up the Pi.
I have not started any true projects with the Pi as of yet, I have been reading MagPi, Reddit, and just considering my own desires.
My initial desire was to do a simple mini-emulator. I wanted to plug in a Dualshock 3 controller and play GameBoy games using the PiTFT. However, I realized that emulation for the Pi is only easily accomplished using the RetroPie image, and I currently don’t have a spare SD card large enough to house it.
Next, I set my eyes towards information display, which I chose to do using PyGame since Python is integrated with the Pi and it is a language I’m fairly accustomed to. So far I have written a simple digital clock that displays on boot, and am currently working on an RSS feed loop.
Some other thoughts/plans I have for the Pi are a local Media/File server, a simple, native, touch powered game, a Twitter feed display, and playing with the LED lights that came with the kit.
Of course, these ideas consist of software editing, which differs from the many hardware hacks that the device is known for. I would love to, and plan to, add some hardware to the little bugger, but that will be postponed until I have some more disposable income.
I’m just scratching the surface with the Raspberry Pi, and I love the fact that I am unsure of what to do next with it.
If you are someone who has some spare time, enjoys completing a project for the sake of completion, and/or wishes to learn some basic coding, then I highly recommend this as a low-risk, fun-reward purchase.
(In fact, I’d recommend the Canakit Pack, as the case and WiFi adapter make it a sleeker experience.)
Also, feel free to drop any any suggestions or projects for the Pi in the comments section below!