I’ve had my little Raspberry Pi for a couple of months now. To be honest, I haven’t used it for a great many things, other than as a BBC iPlayer client using XBian, but I have been spending a little more time in Raspbian recently to get to grips with it.
Running in headless mode
When I set up the Rasbperry Pi initially, I had it plugged into a computer monitor – my monitor thankfully has an HDMI input, and can switch between HDMI, VGA and DVI sources so I didn’t need to unplug my Mac. I also used a spare mouse, but at present I only own one keyboard which I had to keep unplugging and reconnecting with my Mac as I switched between them, which is hardly ideal.
So one of the first things I did was follow these instructions to enable VNC so that I could work with the Raspberry Pi using the Screen Sharing app on my Mac. I also used these instructions to ensure that my Mac could see it on the network, and share files. That guide also tells you how to set up VNC but I couldn’t get it to run on bootup, hence why I linked the other set of instructions as these worked for me.
Running the BOINC client
Since the Raspberry Pi is very energy efficient, I’ve decided to keep it on all the time and run SETI@Home on it, using BOINC. There are quite a few guides to this and on the whole this is the best one, although you will need to replace the URL in the wget command with the newer one for version 7 of the SETI@Home client. Although you can safely use the BOINC client that installs using Raspbian’s package manager (sudo apt-get install boinc-manager), you’ll need to download the SETI@Home client as instructed. The client that Raspbian offers through apt-get is out of date and so you won’t get any tasks to complete. I found this out the hard way.
If you use other BOINC projects, then you’ll probably find that most won’t work with the Raspberry Pi as they need to be compiled for the ARMv6 processor architecture. Rosetta@Home is one such example that I’m part of. The other big caveat is that tasks will take a very long time to complete. What a modern desktop PC could do in hours, may take up to a week of continuous computation for the Raspberry Pi to complete. But, it’ll do so using less electricity.
Getting used to Unix
This isn’t such a tangible thing, but I’ve been able to learn a lot more about Unix by having a Raspberry Pi to play with – especially when it comes to the command line. This is important as this blog runs on a Debian Linux server, and I do need to log in from time to time to do things. In particular, I’ve learned that nano is the easiest command line text editor to use and, in my opinion, is far superior to vi or vim.
I still have a lot more to learn, as and when I have free time to do so. It’s certainly been interesting, and better than working with a Linux virtual machine in VirtualBox.