Raspberry Pi Quick Start Guide

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Ok, so now you have a Raspberry Pi 3 and you don't know what to do next.

You have been told there are an almost uncountable number of things you can do with it but you have to start somewhere, so how about we walk through a simple start up which can be thought of as the “Hello World” for the Raspberry Pi. in this article we will step through getting a basic operating system up and running to give a strong base on top of which we can build many more projects from old game arcades to whole house automation brains.

Getting a small system setup use to be a hassle of incompatible drivers, version checking, and hardware variants. A lot of effort went into getting these systems up and running stably putting them more in the realm of hardcore engineering and not quite ready for tinkerers and makers creating things without a huge depth of knowledge in embedded systems. A lot has changed since that point and now devices like the Raspberry Pi 3 make getting up and running relatively painless. 

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You have the basics of the Pi, micro SD card, power supply, keyboard, mouse, and HDMI cable ready to go now all you need is an operating system. The best place to start is with the pre-built NOOBS package from the Raspberry Pi Foundation. NOOBS stands for New Out Of the Box Software and helps you install a decent selection of operating systems onto the Raspberry Pi 3 as well as allowing for multi-boot if you want to experiment with multiple operating systems. The package is available in a lite and full version, the full version has Raspbian already packaged with it so you don’t have to wait for it to download after you boot the Pi. I would recommend the full version for simplicity. If you are familiar with the ecosystem of Linux distributions Raspbian may look familiar as it is based the Debian distribution.

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You must download your preferred flavor of NOOBS from the official Raspberry Pi Foundation page here

One recommended step after downloading NOOBS but before you load it onto your SD card is to completely format the SD card which will help eliminate partitions that may not be seen by Windows and could cause issues later when you get it going on the Pi.  The SD Formatter from the SD Association helps with this problem and is pretty simple to use with one very large caveat: Select the right drive letter and make sure you selected the SD card. Again the right drive letter makes a huge difference as getting it wrong could cost you a lot of data and be a huge hassle. The SD Formatter is available here.

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Now you have all the pieces they just need to be mixed together. With the freshly formatted SD card inserted in your computer you can extract the entire contents of the NOOBS download directly onto it making sure not to have it end up in a random sub folder.

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Insert that card now with a fresh NOOBS install into the Raspberry Pi 3 and connect up all the relevant cables. If you want to get up and running without a display, keyboard, and mouse we have another article which covers getting the Pi setup and online without inputs but it is a bit more involved. Once powered on you will be presented with a selection screen for different operating systems. Since we are just getting started I would recommend the base Raspbian which comes on the full NOOBS download. Raspbian is probably the best supported operating system dedicated to the Raspberry Pi and gives you plenty of things to play around with before you take the deeper dive into alternate OSs. One thing to lookout for on the install is to make sure and set your keyboard layout and localization preferences as the Raspberry Pi defaults to UK settings. I had a hiccup typing in my WiFi password since the UK keyboard maps special characters differently from a US keyboard. 

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Now you have successfully baked a Raspberry Pi 3. Think of the Pi as a complete mini-computer with some additional inputs and outputs in the form of GPIOs that allow you to interface with many types of sensors, motors, lights, etc. Let your imagination run wild and create something cool and useful or completely useless but still really cool

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