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Posted by on Jul 17, 2014 in Features, Tutorials

5 things to do after setting up your Raspberry Pi

5 things to do after setting up your Raspberry Pi

If you’ve just got a Raspberry Pi Model B+ (or any Raspberry Pi for that matter) and are wondering how to configure it, you can always rely on the Raspberry Pi community to help take the next steps. I recently asked the community what they do after setting up a new Raspberry Pi and here’s what they had to say…

Update: find another 5 things to do after setting up your Raspberry Pi!

Your Raspberry Pi is a finely crafted piece of British engineering, but like all computers – no matter how big or small – they need a certain amount of maintenance to perform at their best.

The easiest way for new users to start off on the right foot is by getting an SD Card with NOOBS pre-installed. NOOBS (New Out of Box Software) is the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s way of making it really easy to get up and running ‘straight out of the box’.

It’s also the Best Out Of Box Software for the Pi (since you can choose from a number of popular Linux operating system options and install more than one at a time), but despite our best efforts the acronym just didn’t catch on.

Which ‘distro’ should you install first? We heartily recommend Raspbian. It’s the official option so it’s the best supported and you’ll find lots of community members willing to help you out in the RaspberryPi.org forums.

You can buy an 8GB SD card (microSD card with adapter) with NOOBS pre-installed direct from CPC, or you can use an existing card, download the latest NOOBS software and follow these instructions to get started.

With NOOBS in your corner you don’t have to do things like expand the filesystem (as many of the community recommended in their Tweets) and it takes you straight to the Raspberry Pi Software Configuration Tool (raspi-config) on first boot so you can tweak many of the settings straight away.

Let’s get down to business…

Tweak your resolution settings

Alex from RasPi.TV has a bit of a vested interest in getting their Raspberry Pi to display at 1280×800, but nevertheless, tweaking your resolution settings is an important part of setting up your Raspberry Pi.

You might be really lucky and find that your modern HDMI monitor or TV works flawlessly without any tweaking at all, but what will really happen is anyone’s guess: You might find that you have massive black borders going around your screen, or you might not be able to see all of the screen at all.

Either way, if you’ve just set up NOOBS and you’re in the blue raspi-config screen at first boot you could go to Advanced Options and select enable overscan from the Overscan menu option. Save your changes to exit and reboot.

It’s unlikely this alone has fixed the issue, so what’s next?

If you’re at the command prompt (the default login username is pi and the password is raspberry), or you’re already on the desktop (you can open LXTerminal by double clicking on the desktop icon) you can enter the Raspberry Pi’s all-important configuration file by typing:

sudo nano /boot/config.txt  

If you’re using NOOBS, you’ll need to go down to the bottom of the document using the arrow keys to find the entry NOOBS Auto-generated Settings (otherwise you’ll find the overscan settings at the top of the document). You’ll need to experiment, but assuming you want to turn on overscan, first ensure Disable Overscan is set to 0, then look at adjusting the overscan values. Remove the comments (#) from the start of the lines and change the numbers to suit what you’re seeing on screen. You’ll need to experiment. To save and test your selections use the key combination CTRL+X, followed by ‘y’ (for yes). Reboot your Pi with sudo reboot to see what happens.

An alternative is to to turn off the overscan (by setting disable_overscan to 1 and override the resolution using the lines framebuffer_width and framebuffer_height. Simply remove the comments (#) and set it to your monitor’s native resolution. By default doing this will display that resolution minus any overscan you might have configured. Save and exit (CTRL+X, then ‘y’) and reboot ( sudo reboot ) to test your settings.

Still having fun getting the right resolution to display? If you really want to show your config.txt (and monitor) who’s boss you can poll your monitor or TV’s settings via the command line and then insert them into the config.txt. It’s not too taxing and worth a look if you’re suffering. Check out Frank Mitchell’s excellent and easy to follow guide

Overclock your Raspberry Pi

Overclocking is the art of forcing a processor to run faster than the manufacturer intended. Overclocking is a great way to achieve some extra performance, but it’s usually made quite difficult (by manufacturer design) and tends to void your warranty. That said, the Raspberry Pi has been made very easy to overclock and it’s supported under warranty for the default overclocking options.

All you have to do is enter the Raspberry Pi Configuration Tool. At the command prompt simply type: sudo raspi-config 

Use the arrow keys to drop down to menu 7 (Overlock) and press Enter. Heed the advice on the screen there and press Enter Again to see the available overclocking options. Since overclocking can affect stability, we recommend starting with a modest or medium-level overclock. Press Enter to save your selection.

Assuming your Raspberry Pi is still performing as intended (try taxing it with a game or similar) you could edge it up a bit higher. How high is up to you!

Lots of people ask if overclocking can harm or shorten the lifespan of your hardware. The short answer is yes, but provided you’re sensible there’s no reason to worry. Life expectancy of modern processors is so long, the fact it’s being shortened is unlikely ever to come to light.

By the way: Ryan Walmsley (in the Tweet above) isn’t just obsessed with overclocking, he’s also the creator of the Rastrak software that maps all the Raspberry Pi’s around the world. You can take part with your Pi by going into the raspi-config as above and selecting option 6 ‘Add to Rastrack‘. He also makes robots (which is cool). 

Enable the Raspberry Pi Camera Module

The Raspberry Pi Camera Module is a fantastic piece of hardware. It can take pictures and videos in full HD, take stunning high-speed video footage and even be used to create impressive facial-recognition projects. Before you plug in your camera, though, you’ll need to enable it using the Raspberry Pi Software Configuration Tool.

To do this simply type:  sudo raspi-config at the command prompt or an LXTerminal window and select option 5. Change the selection to Enable, press Enter then Tab down to Finish. 

Connecting the camera is easy. Just make sure the blue side of the connector is facing the Ethernet port and the ribbon cable is lined up nicely before the close the bracket.

Install Minecraft Pi

Minecraft is one of the most popular games in the world. The Raspberry Pi is lucky enough to have its own version of this brilliant sandbox game.

The game only runs in the XWindows environment, so you’ll need to make sure you’re at the desktop by typing: startx  from the command prompt. You can’t install Minecraft Pi from the official Raspbian repositories using  apt-get install , you’ll have to download the compressed ‘tarball’. To do that, open an LXTerminal window, make sure you’re in the home folder with:  cd ~

Then type:

wget https://s3.amazonaws.com/assets.minecraft.net/pi/minecraft-pi-0.1.1.tar.gz

Next use the following command to uncompress the tarball:

tar -zxvf minecraft-pi-0.1.1.tar.gz

Once it’s finished, move yourself into the newly created directory by typing:  cd mcpi

To start the game you’ll need to input:  ./minecraft-pi

We highly recommend you visit both StuffAboutCode.com by Martin O’Hanlon and Craig Richardson’s website to learn more about hacking and coding with this amazing game.

Want a desktop shortcut for Minecraft Pi? We can help you with that too!

Update & Upgrade

Thanks to Raspians for the last recommendation. Give them a follow since it’s a great tweeter feed for keeping up on all things Raspberry Pi!

Remember when we said modern computers need a small amount of maintenance to work at their best? Well the best way to do this with your Raspberry Pi is to periodically run the following commands to ensure all your software is up to date and your Raspberry Pi’s core software is in tip-top condition:

sudo apt-get update

This updates all the lists of software ‘packages’ that are available through the official Raspbian repositories. Doing this before you want to install a new package helps to ensure it’s actually there (if it’s newly released) and the latest available version. It’s not essential, though, unless you plan to use the next command…

sudo apt-get upgrade

This actually fetches all those new packages from the list you just updated and installs them. This can take some time, but it’s well worth doing.

Since you can also string commands together, there’s nothing stopping you from using the following:

sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get upgrade

Finally, there’s one more uber-command for updating your Raspberry Pi. It effectively updates the Raspberry Pi itself and the low-level software that runs and maintains it. Any new features or peripherals that are made available to the Raspberry Pi (like the official touchscreen display) will likely require you to run the following command. Just make sure you’ve already updated and upgraded first.

sudo rpi-update

Here’s another 5 things to do after setting up your Pi.

Don’t forget to let us know what you did after setting up your Raspberry Pi! Use the comments thread below or let us know with a Tweet (you can use the Twitter widget on the sidebar to the right).

  • Stephen Emo

    I created a realtime node app that let’s me see the tweets from my area in realtime, display the weather and highlight local weather using a piglow http://www.whatsupwaringstown.co.uk