Tandy TRS80 M100 Serial Terminal

IMG_20160902_142116

Since getting my Tandy M100, I’ve always wondered about connecting it to my main Linux machine. Doing so wasn’t beyond the realm of possibility and if successful, it would open up a whole range of things I could do with my tiny computer. Fortunately, there are two tutorials on the subject, but sadly both of them are out of date with the current distro’s of Linux. What follows is my revised version of both tutorials.

I will point out that this setup isn’t perfect, while I had no problem going on IRC chat and browsing directories, I discovered doing other things, such as using text editors was fraught with problems. The text wouldn’t load up on the screen properly or overlapped as the screen scrolled. While this is disappointing, I did find that I could upload text to an open document on my main PC. By running a session of Nano, I could press the UPLOAD button on the M100, select a file stored locally in the M100’s memory and load it in to the empty Nano document. While this isn’t exactly ideal, it does mean I no longer have fiddle around with Minicom. I can quite literally connect the M100 to my main pc and upload the document straight to the Hard Disk.

For any serious use, I would highly recommend using mComm, developed by Kurt McCullum. Availible on Windows and Android, it offers a convenient mass storage media for any TRS80 M100 Micro  computer.

Setting up Linux

First we need to teach Linux the TRS100, so that it knows how to display the console when the Micro connects via serial. With a 40 column display, getting text to fit right is pretty important.
First type

"Sudo nano /etc/trs100"

With the empty document open, paste in the following text.

trs100|Radio Shack Model 100:\
 :am:bs:xt:\
 :co#40:li#8:\
 :al=\EL:bl=^G:cd=\EJ:ce=\EK:cl=\EE:cm=\EY%+ %+ :\
 :cr=^M:dl=\EM:do=^J:ho=\EH:kb=^H:kd=^_:kl=^]:kr=^\:\
 :ku=^^:le=^H:nd=34:se=\Eq:sf=^J:so=\Ep:up=\EA:\
 :ve=\EP:vi=\EQ

Originally part of Terminfo, because of it’s age the configuration profile for the model 100 was relegated to a UFO archive in the mid 90s. Luckily Eric S. Raymond found the file and published the details on his website.

With the text now pasted in place, save the file by pressing Ctrl+O, name it trs100. Before we can do anything with this file, we first need to make sure ‘libncurses5-dev’ and ‘libncursesw5-dev’ are installed on your computer. Type the following command in the terminal:

sudo apt-get install libncurses5-dev libncursesw5-dev

With the above files installed, we can now compile the terminfo file we
created by typing the following command

'tic /etc/trs100'

Providing there weren’t any errors, we can now move on to configuring Linux.
This is where things get a little more involved.

Since the last tutorial was written, Systemd has replaced the init sy which is used to open a console session via the serial port. Without it, it would be unable to communicate with Linux. So we must revise what the original tutorial tells us to do. Let’s begin by opening up a new document in Nano with the following command in the terminal

sudo nano /etc/init/ttyS0.conf

With nano open, copy and paste the following in to the window.

# ttyS0 - getty
#
# This service maintains a getty on ttyS0 from the point the system is
# started until it is shut down again.

start on stopped rc RUNLEVEL=[12345]
stop on runlevel [!12345]

respawn
exec /sbin/getty -L 600 ttyS0 trs100

Save and close the document using Ctrl+O to save. While still within the terminal, type the following command.

sudo start ttyS0

By entering that command, you’ve now started a console via the serial port. But before you go trying to plug in your Micro, there’s just one last thing we need to do. If you’re serious about using your Model 100 with your Linux machine, one thing you might like is to have the output of the console visiable as soon at the PC loads up. To achieve this, we will need to alter the Grub configuration file.

While in terminal, type the following command and press enter.

sudo nano /etc/default/grub

Look for the follow entries and alter them to look exactly as they are
listed here.

GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX="console=ttyS0,600,trs100"

Tip- ttys0 tells Linux which serial port to use, this could be change to ttyS1. 600 sets the communication speed to 600 baud, while this might seem slow, going higher can potentially cause data corruption. Specifying the trs100 profile, allows the console to display properly on the tiny screen of the micro.
# Uncomment to disable graphical terminal (grub-pc only)
GRUB_TERMINAL="console serial"
GRUB_SERIAL_COMMAND="serial --speed=600 --unit=0 --word=8 --parity=no
--stop=1"

Tip-By invoking “console serial”, Grub is told to output via the display and serial. –unit=0, you might want to change this to 1, if your using ttys1. Providing all the fields are now updated, let us recompile the Grub configuration file using the following command

Sudo update-grub

Some text will scroll up the screen, similar to what is below.

Generating grub configuration file …
Found linux image: /boot/vmlinuz-3.13.0-55-generic
Found initrd image: /boot/initrd.img-3.13.0-55-generic
Found linux image: /boot/vmlinuz-3.13.0-54-generic
Found initrd image: /boot/initrd.img-3.13.0-54-generic
Found linux image: /boot/vmlinuz-3.13.0-53-generic
Found initrd image: /boot/initrd.img-3.13.0-53-generic
Found linux image: /boot/vmlinuz-3.13.0-48-generic
Found initrd image: /boot/initrd.img-3.13.0-48-generic

Now connect your null modem cable to your PC and your Model 100. On your Tandy computer, run Telcom and type ‘STAT 48n1e’ followed by ‘Term’. Now place the micro to one side and reboot your Linux machine. As it is rebooting, watch the display on the Model 100, it should begin to display information. If not, you may need to look at what serial port your using, as it might be ttyS1, instead of ttyS0. An easy way to find out is to use Minicom, which allows you to quickly swap between com ports and communicate with your Model 100.

Providing all has gone well, you should see a prompt asking you to enter your username and log in to Linux.

Now go have fun!

 

Thanks goes to

Sean Gallagher, Brian Hicks, wiki.archlinux.org and help.ubuntu.com

Without whom making this tutorial would have been much much harder.

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Using Alpine with POP3 Hotmail accounts

clippit

I really, really wish I’d found a page with that heading when I’d been trying to configure Alpine to work with Hotmail. A lot of us, myself included, don’t understand the inner workings of Alpine, which is no surprise as I gather it’s a pretty powerful email client.
Like many, I’m used to application being glossy and intuitive, all thanks to the colourful GUI OS’s we use today. The downside however, and bare in mind this is just my personal opinion. Is that all this eye candy is making us stupid and overly dependent on dumbed down interfaces that a 3 year old could follow.
Developers today work hard to make modern operating systems easy to use. So much so, that when we are faced with the bleak barren landscape of DOS or the Unix Terminal, the absence of pretty buttons has us running for the hills. I grow up in the 80s, Spectrum’s, C64s, DOS 6.22, I lived through all of that and was pretty good in using the lot, apart from the old BBC Micro. I always felt intimidated whenever I sat in front of a Model B at school. But somewhere along the way, I lost the ability to bend my head around a simple blocky, ASCII based program like Alpine. Worse still was after going online I found I wasn’t the only one. So after an evening with my thinking cap firmly on, here is how you get pop3 Hotmail working on Alpine.

When is an IMAP, not an IMAP, when its a POP!

So your struggling with Alpine and still cant retrieve your mail from hotmail yes? Well your possibly in luck, because below are the settings I used to get my mail via Microsofts POP3 servers. I’ll even walk you through what I did, so you can replicate it.

Things you need
-Linux Ubuntu or Xubuntu (will probably work on other destros)
-Liquid refreshment and snacks
-Internet access

First let us install Alpine, open up a Terminal and type;
“Sudo apt-get install alpine”

BMV-alpine4

Fig.1

Once your computer has finished unpacking and installing the package, lets run it, in Terminal type;
“Alpine”

You should see something similar to fig 1, continue to the config screen by pressing “S”, then press “L” for “Add a new collection”. You should see a page similar to the one in fig 2.

Enter the fields as follows
Nickname: Hotmail
Server: pop-mail.outlook.com:995/pop3/ssl/user=BGates@hotmail.com
Path: mail/
View:

‘In the server address, replace BGates with your own email address. Unless you are BGates, in which case, hello! *waves* ahem!’

Fig.2

Fig.2

Once everything is entered, press Ctrl+X to save and exit the screen, then press ‘E’. You should now be back to the main menu, press ‘S’ and then ‘C’, you should see something like fig 3. This is the main configuration panel and we have a few things that still need entering.

Fig.3

Fig.3

Personal Name: B Gates
User Domain: hotmail.com
SMTP Server (for sending): smtp-mail.outlook.com:587/user=bgates@hotmail.com
Inbox Path: pop-mail.outlook.com:995/pop3/ssl/user=bgates@hotmail.com

Compare your screen with fig 3, the only fields I had to change were the ones I’ve listed above. Now scroll down the screen until you reach “Folder Preferences” and make sure “Enable Incoming Folders Collection” has a cross next to it. Now for all the changes to take effect, you must quit out of Alpine by pressing ‘E” and then ‘Q”. This will bring you back to the command
prompt. From here, type;
“Alpine”

If all has gone according to plan, Alpine should now prompt you for a password, so that it can log on and retrieve your mail. Finally enter the “Message Inbox” by pressing “I”.

Voila! Your online and accessing your POP3 hotmail!

BMV-alpine3


Raspberry Pi Winamp

winamp

Ah Linux, how we do love you, but why oh why are we forsaken to never enjoy a media player such as Winamp! I mean Parole is good, VLC isn’t bad either..But still, it isn’t Winamp is it? If your like me, then the Llama kicking audio player will be one of your staple apps. Its been on every one of my Windows machines for the past 12-13 years. So imagine my disappointment when I started using Linux 4 years ago and didn’t really find anything remotely like it. Fast forward to present day, last Monday to be precise and I’d got my newly built Amiga 600PI running pretty well, the only thing missing was a kickass mp3 player. After doing a search online, I found plenty of people in the same boat, they liked Linux, but they missed Winamp. After doing a little more digging  I learned about XMMS2 and the interesting things people had been doing to make it look like Winamp. Rolling up my sleeves, I gave it a go and while it wasn’t totally straight forward on the Raspberry PI, the results were still pretty successful, so read on.

The first thing you need to do, is install XMMS2 and Promoe client. I did this via the synaptic package manager. Which you can download via this terminal command.

Sudo apt-get install synaptic

Screenshot from 2015-11-19 13:17:19

When you have it installed, open it up and find these files. XMMS2 Promoe Once you have those two files installed, you will find Promoe is now listed in the Sound & Video section of your start menu. Run Promoe at least once, simply to test it works and also to allow XMMS2 to initialize itself. When your done, close the program and we’ll move on to the next step.

Audacious Classic Winamp skin, kicks the Llama’s ass!

Luckily the skins for Audacious seem to work on XMMS2 or perhaps thats the other way around, XMMS skins work with Audacious. Eitherway we need a classic Winamp skin to proceed, so go online and download the classic skin here.

Winamp+Classic+skin+for+Audacious

You should now have a file called “135799-winamp_classic.wsz“, make a new folder and call it ‘Winamp’, extract the archive inside it. See pic Right now here is the part where I hit trouble. According to everything I read online, Promoe stores its skins in the following location.

“/home/pi/.config/xmms2/clients/promoe/skins”

At least it would, if the location existed, which is didn’t on my system. When I navigated to the xmms2 folder, I discovered the ‘clients’ folder wasn’t there.

Here’s a handy tip if your trying to find a file or folder in on your Raspberry PI
find / -name filename 2>/dev/null
 
Swap out ‘filename’ for the name of what your looking for, press enter and wait. Your PI will now go off searching the entire SD card in search of your file. I used this to search for the missing ‘clients’ folder.

Even if the folder structure doesn’t exist, Promoe was still instructed to look in that location. So the best thing to do is make the directories ourselves, as Promoe will then find any skins we want to install. Because the xmms2 folder is a root folder, we’ll need root access to make alterations. Open the terminal and type

sudo nautilus

A new window will open up. You’re now navigating the file system with super user access, so be mindful young padwan. As one wrong keystroke or click here and you could break the entire operating system. And trust me, you really don’t want that! From the top menu, click ‘View’ and make sure “Show hidden files” is enabled. Now on the left panel, click on “File system”. Find the icon named ‘Home’, open it and then open the folder called ‘pi’. Next find a folder named ‘.config’, it will only be visible if you have ‘Show hidden files’ selected. Open the folder and scroll down until you find ‘xmms2’. Open the folder and from the top menu, click ‘File/Create New Folder’, name the folder ‘client’, making sure to keep it lowercase.
Open the ‘client’ folder and create another folder, this time name it ‘promoe’,

Should look like this

Should look like this

again all lowercase. Still following me? good, because we are almost done. Finally within ‘promoe’, make one last directory and name is ‘skins’. All going to plan, you will now have the follow directory structure;

“/home/pi/.config/xmms2/clients/promoe/skins”

 

But wait, we aren’t finished yet, we still need a skin to put inside the skins folder. If you downloaded the one I mentioned earlier, you need to copy the ‘Winamp’ folder in to the skins directory. The simplest way to do this is a drag and drop. First open the ‘skins’ folder you created, then from the start bar, open a new file manager window. Locate your ‘Winamp’ folder and drag it over to the open ‘skins’ folder. Now let us see if it all worked, fire up Promoe, by default it uses the Almond-blue theme. Click on the little blue box in the top left of the interface, from the drop down menu, select ‘Theme settings’. You should now see the Winamp skin listed, click it and voila! Winamp Classic on your Raspberry PI!

Screenshot from 2015-11-19 12:59:34

You can now close all the other windows, especially the one displaying the ‘skins’ folder. Once closed, it will terminate your root access and once more protect your system from any accidental clicks. Until next time, keep on geeking!


Raspberry Pi 2 Model B

 

 

Unless you have been hiding underneath a rock these past few months, you will likely have heard about the last release from the British based Raspberry Pi Foundation. Who last month unveiled the latest edition to their line of micro computers, the Raspberry Pi 2 – Model B. The new model is an impressive step up from the original model B and B+, both of which utilise a single 700mhz core Arm11 processor and 512MB of internal memory. With 1GB of ram, the Pi 2’s new quad-core 900Mhz Arm7 BCM2836 processor was designed by Broadcom specifically for the new Raspberry Pi. The Pi 2 Model B is substantially faster than anything the foundation has released thus far. The upgrade now pushes the Pi in to the same league as boards such as the O-Droid and other multi core boards suited for hackers and gamer’s looking to run resource heavy tasks. Such as playing hi-definition video or Mame arcade emulators.

In a previous article I wrote about my frustration when I tried to get Mame to work right on my Model B. With the new Pi 2 spec, such headaches will be a thing of the past. In fact the release of the Pi 2 Model B in my opinion is a real game changer. Up until now, I was rather disappointed with the Raspberry Pi, maybe because I wasn’t using it for the purpose it was intended for.
I’m from a generation that grew up with Spectrum’s, Commodore Amiga’s and Duran Duran on the radio. When I see a tiny micro computer, my first thoughts are not whether I can fit an LED or robotic arm to it. I’m more bothered about what games I can play on it, if it will emulate a BBC micro and whether I can use it for email and light surfing. Later down the road I look at inputting programs and learning how to make games using Python or what ever passes as the modern-day equivalent of BASIC. I don’t know why I’m saying my generation, as I’m sure any ten year old today would want to do the same as I did at that age. Not just play games, but want to tinker with the code to get an extra life or skip a level by hacking the game. That was half of the fun of having a micro computer and having games written in an easy language like BASIC.

New Potential

The Pi 2 Model B is now powerful enough to realistically perform as a cheap home computer. While you might not be able to watch BBC Iplayer or Netflix, you can use it for other things such as:

Wordprocessing
Graphic editing
Music editing
Playing games
Surfing online
Receiving email

I know some of you will be reading this and saying that these are all things the Model B could do already. To an extent I would agree with you, but my experience was that doing any of the above listed tasks caused my original Model B to have a small panic attack. After which it would sit on my desk blinking with the CPU at 100%, getting no where fast. I realise the original Raspberry Pi was meant to be a computer for schools, it was never intended to be a desktop computer. So to compare it to our laptops or towered PC’s is to be unfair on tiny micro, as your average home computer has many times the power and memory of the model B 700Mhz Arm11 processor. However I would argue that if the computer was never meant to surf the internet, why then include a web browser with the operating system? Such questions can spark heated discussions online, so I’ll simply say that the only person who can tell us, is the person who organised the Raspbian distro to begin with.

Utilising four 900Mhz cores and 1GB of 450Mhz RAM , the new Model B is roughly six times faster than the previous model and give a lot of grunt for a £30 pocket size computer. The Raspberry Pi might have started its life in the class room, but it could now potentially find itself in kids bedrooms around the world, just like the Spectrum and C64’s of the 80’s. Perhaps parents wanting to get a computer for their children but worried about it getting broken, will see the Raspberry Pi as an affordable alternative. Time will only tell if this happens, I certainly hope it does as many of those kids from the 80’s and 90’s grew up to be the game programmers of today. Working on games for the 3DS, Xbox One and the Sony Playstation 4. Many of them will no doubt be able trace their computer interests back to the days of getting home from school and playing on their Amiga, C64 or BBC Micro. Wouldn’t it be nice, if in 10-15 years time a new generation could look back, and trace their programming roots to the day their parents brought home a new shiny Raspberry Pi 2?

Closing thoughts

It’s still early days here at ByteMyVdu, but the general feeling is that the Raspberry Pi 2 is a step in the right direction, if not a little overdue. It is a pity that the Foundation didn’t bring this out instead of the B+, which is more or less a facelift of the B. I had intended to buy a B+ but with Christmas close at hand I held off until the new year. I suppose I should be grateful I did, otherwise I can imagine this new release would leave me a little annoyed. Having spent £30 on a new computer, the last thing anyone would expect to see is a new and vastly superior model released 6 months later. I only hope there is a reasonable explanation for the foundation releasing the B+ and Pi 2 B so close on its heels. I honestly can’t imagine Apple or HP doing this with an Ipad or a laptop, as it might damage customer confidence. Computer technology has always resided in the fast when it comes to progress, however most companies leave a reasonable amount of time between product releases. Which is why I was understandable surprised to hear about the Pi 2 B being released. It doesn’t seem that long ago that the foundation released the B+. Regardless of the reasons, the Pi 2 Model B is here and I’m certain people are going to like it. After using mine for several days I can honestly say I’m impressed, it performs how I’d hoped my original model B would have when I first bought it. I suppose a lot of this is down to the custom BCM2836 SoC which Broadcom made specifically for the new Pi 2. I’m really looking forward to seeing what this new computer can do and what fun things I can do with it, aside from write blog entries. This is the first time I’ve been able to write an article for ByteMyVdu on a Raspberry Pi and not only write it, but then upload it to WordPress while still using the Pi. In the past trying to log in to WordPress would kill my Model B to the point that I’d have to unplug and plug it back it in just to resuscitate it. Actually being able to log in to the site and edit my blog is simply unheard of! I have to say I’m thoroughly chuffed with the new Model B and look forward to the coming months. I wonder if I can interface my TRS80 Model 100 with it using Minicom? Let the tinkering commence!!

Till next time, keep on geeking!


Raspberry Pi Part IIII

Wowzer part four! This truly is an occasion at BMV when I have a guide coming in sections. So when we last talked about the RPi, we had just wrote our Linux OS image to the SD card. Hopefully you followed the guide and it all went well. If it didn’t, go back read the guide again and try once more. You wont break anything. If your truly stuck, feel free to drop me a message or better still, visit the RPi Foundation website at

Link:

http://www.raspberrypi.org

Get yourself on the forum and start asking those questions.

For now, let us assume you have your image file written to your SD card. You should now be able to insert it in your RPi and watch the little computer boot up (If you haven’t already). The first time you boot Raspbian, you will go through a setup menu. This is a very useful program, allowing you to resize the partitions on your SD card, alter the date & time and also enable SSH. For connection to your RPi remotely on your local network. The first time round, I must confess I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with the RPi. Many of the settings I wasn’t familair with. So I didn’t alter that much.Once you are out of this menu, the RPi will begin loading Raspbian.

Under the hood, Raspbian is a distro of Debian 6, if you don’t know what any of that means dont worry. It’s not overly important. GNU Linux is open source, which means it is open to others to play with, develop software for and even make entirely new operating systems based on the original source code. Debian is one such variety, compact and offering better memory use then Windows. Debian suits the Raspberry Pi’s limited resources very well.

Once Raspbian has loaded, you will be presented with a familair desktop layout. Taskbar, desktop and various program icons, including a handy Debian reference manual, to help you take your first steps in to the world of GNU Linux.

The Raspberry Pi is not a very powerful computer, for £30 you can’t expect a mini power house. So do not expect full video playback using VLC. At the time i last used my RPi, just before December ’12, mp3 playback was not perfect and the sound drivers where still a little rough.

In a future blog I shall cover some fun projects you can do on your RPi. Hopefully i will find the time at some point to look in to arcade games and online radio. If you check out the Picade I covered in an earlier article, there’s no doubting the RPi has plenty of potential.

Blog written on an Amstrad NC100


“Raspberry Pi Part III”

Setting Up You Pi

Using the kit I had bought off fleebay, I hooked the Pi up to my LCD TV through the scart. The SDCard that came with the kit was pre-installed with Debian “wheezy” 6.0. Personally I didn’t get on with it too well. The Pi might not have the most powerful CPU on the block, yet under “wheezy” it just seemed awfully sluggish, especially compared to Lubuntu running on the Nomad or the small 3.5″ fanless VIA C3 600mhz board I have.
Visiting the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s website, you can find a wealth of information. The forums are a great source for bug fixes and general chitchat about the Pi. There is also a download section, which contains all the current distros availible for the Raspberry Pi. The foundation have several versions which they recommend users download. Atm Raspbian seems to be the OS of choice for most Pi users, as it offers good all round performance. So I downloaded that.

RPi download section
http://www.raspberrypi.org/downloads

SD Cards and Image files

The main storage medium for the Pi is it’s SD card slot. Most people opt for either 4 or 8 GB capacity. I chose to go with 4GB as it came with the kit I bought. One thing to note before downloading any image files, is that you will need to write the image to the memory card. Do NOT COPY the file directly to your SD card, it wont work! If you’re using GNU Linux, you will need to use the UNIX tool “dd”. If you’re using Windows, Win32DiskImager, the offical RPi guide can be found here. For convienence I am reposting it here as well, so as to keep as much of this guide centralized.

Copying the image to an SD Card on Windows

  1. Download the image from a mirror or torrent. The remainder of this assumes you are using the Raspbian “wheezy” download 2012-07-15-wheezy-raspbian.zip
  2. Extract the image file 2012-07-15-wheezy-raspbian.img from the downloaded .zip file.
  3. Insert the SD card into your SD card reader and check what drive letter it was assigned. You can easily see the drive letter (for example G:) by looking in the left column of Windows Explorer. If the card is not new, you should format it; otherwise Win32DiskImager may hang.
  4. Download the Win32DiskImager utility. The download links are on the right hand side of the page, you want the binary zip.
  5. Extract the executable from the zip file and run the Win32DiskImager utility. You may need to run the utility as Administrator.
  6. Select the 2012-07-15-wheezy-raspbian.img image file you extracted earlier
  7. Select the drive letter of the SD card in the device box. Be careful to select the correct drive; if you get the wrong one you can destroy your computer’s hard disk!
  8. Click Write and wait for the write to complete.
  9. Exit the imager and eject the SD card.
  10. Insert the card in the Raspberry Pi, power it on, and it should boot up. There is an option in the configure script that comes up to expand the partitions to use all of the SD card if you have used one larger than 4 GB

In Windows the SD card will appear only to have a fairly small size – about 75 Mbytes. This is because most of the card has a partition that is formatted for the Linux operating system that the RPi uses and is not visible in Windows.

Links

SD Card Setup
http://elinux.org/RPi_Easy_SD_Card_Setup

Win32DiskImager
https://launchpad.net/win32-image-writer/+download

I’ve not had chance to try dd through Linux, only Win32DiskImager on Windows. The process could not be any simpler. Using the prepared guide, writing the image to the SD card was a breeze. There are some aspects to the RPi, such as the community, that truly are impressive. A lot of credit has to go to those anonymous contributors, who write up the guides such as the one above.

Stay tuned for more in part 4


“Raspberry Pi Part II”

So last week a friend asked if I’d be interested in looking at Mame on the Raspberry Pi. As I didn’t yet have one, he graciously lent me one as he is already busy making Pibows, a custom acrylic case for the Pi PCB, he simply doesn’t have the time to spare looking at getting Mame up and running.

Never one for turning down a challenge nor the opportunity to play around with a Raspberry Pi. I began digging around on the net, finding out as much as I could about running arcade games through Mame on the Raspberry Pi, not to mention how to set the darn thing up. I had read that the primary OS was Linux, a Debian distribution to be precise called Raspbian. Perhaps playing around with Lubuntu on the Nomad for all those months was going to pay off.

Things You Might Need

Left – Mini USB, Right – Micro USB – Becoming the standard for many devices.

When I was handed the Raspberry Pi, it came in a tiny white box. Inside you got, the PCB in an antistatic bag and a piece of paper telling you that your device meets all the right EU regulations. To keep costs down, Pi’s are not sold with any accessories, the idea being you buy them separately. There’s also a good chance you own some of the parts already.
The Pi is powered via a standard 5 volt – 1Amp micro USB, which is used on many modern mobile phone chargers. As for video, you can choose to go old school analog and use the composite RCA port (phono), just like back in the day with the ZX Spectrum and C64.You will need a phono to phono cable or if you want to get techie, a male to male RCA cable for this. The picture isn’t amazing and on a CRT it’s headache inducing. An LCD does give better results, if a little blurry.

Alternatively you can use the more modern HDMI port, which will give a much better digital picture and is compatible with most modern flat panel televisions. If you own a flashy new telly, you might have a spare HDMI cable laying around. If not you will need to decide which method of display your going to use.
For storage you will need to buy a class 4, 4GB SD memory card or bigger. The Pi foundation advise against using none branded memory cards, such as the cheap one’s you find on ebay. The Pi needs a good quality card for the access speeds. Otherwise you might encounter problems running your OS. For Sound, any set of speakers should work fine with the Pi. Alternatively a 3.5mm audio jack to phono cable should allow you sound through you TV.

Not Feeling The HDMI Vibe

If like me, you don’t own anything with HDMI, you will be stuck with using composite. Unless you buy a HDMI to VGA converter, which will allow you to hook the Pi up to any PC VGA monitor. I found one on ebay for £8, it’s yet to arrive in the post but with some luck it will make the Pi more useful.

  •  Going Analog

First thing I have to say is don’t use the Pi on a CRT television for any length of time through composite. If you’re using the terminal your might be fine. However myself and a friend found booting into Raspbian to be almost unbearable. The picture was extremely flickery, like Amiga 1200 Pal Hires Laced flickery! Unless you like eye strain and headaches, I strong advise against using this setup for anything other then running commands via the terminal.

  • Composite to Scart

You might find on ebay that some sellers are offering a scart cable for the Pi, this is simply a composite output to through the Televisions scart connector, it does not alter the picture from composite.

  • Analog & LCD TV

This is possibly the only good way to use the composite display. LCDs don’t suffer with flicker like CRTs. While the image might be a little blurred, it’s a lot less harmful on your eye’s then the alternative. Luckily most LCD televisions come with composite for hooking up such things as consoles, video camera’s ect. BMV Recommends this method to those geeks on a budget, who cant afford a new TV or a HDMI to VGA adaptor.

  • HDMI

While I’ve not used this means of display myself, I have seen one at the Pibow workshop and it looks great. Pretty much the same display as modern computer with a monitor. If you buy yourself a HDMI to VGA converter, the picture will be pretty much the same.

Accessory kits

After getting the Pi, I looked at the various items I needed to buy. Cables, PSU and SD card. A quick search on ebay will throw back quite a few kits, which offer all of the accessories you need to get your Pi working in one job lot. I even found a composite to scart cable. After buying it, I have to say it’s not that amazing. In fact it didn’t seem as good as using scart on an Amiga. While some of these kits aren’t that good, if you have your wits about you, they can make setting the Pi up a lot easier then having to buy everything separate and saves on postage. The kit I bought came with a PSU rated at 5v 1000mah, scart cable, which connected to the Pi with a phone cable for picture and a headphone jack for sound. It also came with a class 4, 4gb memory card. Pre-installed with a copy of the soft-float Debian “Wheezy” OS. The scart cable was of a cheap construction and the metal shielding at one point came unstuck from the header of the cable. For £12 what can you expect? The PSU however is great and is not only useful for powering my Pi, but also my phone and HP Touchpad. Three uses in one! Not bad at all!

In part 3, I plan to cover setting up your pi, what to do if your getting a grey picture on your TV and how to stretch the picture on your screen to fit better.