I finally found time this evening to pick up a few items and bring one of my two Raspberry Pi Model B boards to life. My wife and I went out for a simple supper. While we were out I stopped by a local Best Buy and picked up an inexpensive all-plastic 22″ Samsung 1920 x 1080 LCD display and an Apple USB keyboard. The Samsung comes with a convenient HDMI port, which the Raspberry Pi plugs into with the right cable. The Apple keyboard was surprisingly inexpensive as well, the cheapest on Best Buy’s shelves, yet it’s built around a nice machined aluminum frame.
I’d already set up the boot device, a SanDisk 8GB SDHC, with last year’s Raspbian release. When I booted up into the graphical desktop I was pleasantly surprised that the Logitech M305 wireless mouse worked with the system. Power was supplied by my Galaxy S4 charger. The whole time I was running the system the charger never got warm. I tried to bring up wireless networking with a USB WiFi Cisco Valet dongle that’s normally plugged into the back of my Wii, but that didn’t work. I need to dig around and see if I can find a way to inexpensively add WiFi to the Pi.
The graphical desktop for Raspian is Xfce, a simple environment that has been a refuge for many fleeing Gnome 3. Xfce proved to be absolutely no problem. If you’re used to Gnome 2 in any incarnation, then Xfce is dead simple to operate. Besides, give me a shell to work in and I don’t really care what the visual desktop looks like. A quick check of resources shows it has GCC 4.7.2, Python 2.7, and a late version of Ruby. Although I couldn’t start irb up because not all the Ruby Gems were installed.
Working with Raspian on the Raspberry Pi demands patience. It’s slow. Even my Linux VMs on my Windows 8.1 are faster and smoother than the Pi. And yet one must always remember that the Raspberry Pi is, after all, a $35 bare-bones computer running a mid-to-low-end ARM processor (ARM1176JZFS running at 700MHz) with 512MB of RAM. Although, come to think about it, my AMD 32-bit PC from 2003 was only a little bit faster, ran Microsoft Millennium (ME) on 512MB of DRAM. I suspect that if I were to install the current release of Raspian it might run a bit smoother than it does right now. Still, it’s a bit remarkable to see it running at all. I purchased this as an embedded system, not as some ground pounding workstation. For what I intend for the board it’ll be running in character mode to avoid consuming precious memory with a graphical desktop. For what I have in mind I think it’ll be just fine.