Small Platform Digital Radio
Part 3 - Getting Started With Raspian

In our last article we made some choices regarding hardware to fit our needs in this learning experience. So by now one should expect you have at the very least the Pi 3 B or 3 B+ Raspberry Pi small computer card. If purchased in a starter kit, it may include the power supply and micro SD card for the operating system. Most starter kits include the Raspian (a scaled down version of Debian Linux) and the New Out Of Box (NOOBS) software already installed on the SD card.

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By now you have put the hardware together and are ready to apply power. If you have not done so, read parts one and two before going forward. If you are ready, we will begin to learn more about the software that makes the Pi work.

One note before we start. In some cases we will refer to items on the Pi hardware card. For instance, the power led is on the Pi card near one corner. Depending on the case, you may or may not see it without exposing the contents of the case. The same can be said for the system activity led. Not all cases have a viewport for these led display items.

When you apply power, you will notice the red led come on. A few seconds later the green system activity led will begin to flash. This indicates the Raspian software is loading. If Raspian has already been loaded on your SD card, it will begin to boot. If not, you will see the splash screen to allow you to install it from the New Or

A monitor should be connected using the appropriate cable – HDMI to VGA is most often used but HDMI to DVI are also available.

If all peripheral devices are connected, it is then time to apply power using the supplied power module by inserting the micro USB plug into the corresponding socket on the side of the Pi board.

In a few seconds you will see the splash screen that gives you a choice to use the SHIFT key to start NOOBS or wait for the Raspian system to start. Unless there is a problem starting the system, just wait to allow the desktop to appear. We will discuss the use of NOOBS and system recovery in a later article.

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Shown here is the default desktop for the Pi 3. It is not too unfamiliar if you have read the series of articles on Linux for Windows Users. In any event conventional window methods are used throughout.

Connecting To A Wireless Network

pi3wifi
- image courtesy Raspberry Pi Fondation raspberrypi.org

Our choice of the Raspberry Pi 3 B+ has given us many options. It is also a hardware feature of the Pi hardware board. WiFi and antenna are built on the board and no external equipment should be needed. The WiFi components are detected and initialized when the system starts.

Wireless LAN connections can be made via the network icon at the right–hand end of the menu bar. If you are using a Raspberry Pi 3 B, or B+ (which we should be), left–clicking this icon will bring up a list of available WiFi networks.

By clicking on this icon you can configure the wireless network parameters for connection to your existing WiFi system. This is assuming your WiFi network has Internet access. Once configured and connected there is no more need for the Ethernet cable and it can be removed for testing and wireless network use. If no networks are found, it will show the message “No APs found – scanning...”: just wait a few seconds without closing the menu, and it should find your network.

The icons on the right show whether a network is secured or not, and its signal strength. Click the network that you want to connect to. If it’s secured, a dialogue box will appear prompting you to enter the network key.

Enter the network access key and press OK, then wait a couple of seconds. The network icon will flash briefly to show that a connection is being made. Once it’s ready, the icon stops flashing and shows the signal strength.

When away from your location this process must be repeated when accommodating a Ham Radio mesh network or similar WiFi network set up for temporary use in the field. The system administrator will give you the parameters that are important for the connection to the mesh network.

Installing Other Software

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