Archive | April, 2014

Adventure with Canakit and NOOBS: Update

20 Apr

I am writing this blog on the new Raspberry Pi.  It was an adventure to get here, but I’m here now.  Here’s a link to the first part of the story:

[OK, I found one weakness with Chromium.  There’s supposed to be a photo here and Chromium won’t let me do it.]

I downloaded the new version of NOOBS.  There’s no need for extra software, you just unzip it onto the memory card.  I did.  And it failed.  The memory card didn’t seem to be working.  The activity light never even blinked when I put it in and plugged in the RPi.  I decided to use the one that came with it.  It has a really cool raspberry image on it.  But, the 8 GB memory card was only reading 1.17 GB.  I formatted it 3 or 4 times and it remained the same.  The NOOBS image is bigger than that, so I couldn’t put it on the card.  I know that this is because the operating system sets a partition on the card to give itself space, but I didn’t know how to fix it.

Instead, I deleted a few of the operating systems that I won’t be using and got it down to 980 MB.  It fit.  It booted.  YES!  It worked!  I’m using Raspbian right now and it set up perfectly, the wifi was easy to set up, and it seems to be working.  Only challenge has been that none of the 3 browsers that came with it would allow me to start a new post on wordpress.  I am typing this in Chromium and it is doing an excellent job.

Although it has been a long road, I’m finally connected.  Message to Canakit, you really, really, really should make sure that the operating system that you put on your memory cards works with the Raspberry Pi that you ship it with.

Here’s how to install the Chromium browser.  Just open a terminal window and type this:

sudo apt-get install chromium-browser
To add some more fonts to make it look better, type this:
sudo apt-get install ttf-mscorefonts-installer 

Adventure with Canakit and NOOBS

20 Apr

My dad is the assistant principal at my school, the Western Center Academy, a really successful STEM charter middle school in Hemet, CA.  He is trying to get enough Raspberry Pi kits to start a Raspberry Pi club that will be a side project of our Computer Programming club (See our Kickstarter campaign here).  Because 15 of us finished the tutorial and half of us were girls, they gave us $1,000 to spend on a donorschoose project.  We got two complete Raspberry Pi kits.  We might do a summer institute this summer to do some projects with them.  So, we took one of the kits home to set up and start learning how to use the webcam and the PiFace.

Everything was going great.  Then, if you’ve been reading my blog very long, you probably know what comes next.  Everything fell apart.  We got the CanaKit RPi complete starter kit and it came with a memory card already burned with NOOBS on it.  NOOBS is a little program that allows you to install any of 5 or 6 different operating systems for the RPi.  It has RISCOS, Raspbian, RapbMC, Pidora, etc.  Sounded really cool and easy to use.  I didn’t even need a computer to do it.  Boy was I wrong.

I’m familiar with Raspbian, so I thought that I would start with that.  It took maybe 20 minutes to install (similar to how long it would have taken if I had burned it on the computer using WinDiskImage) and seemed like it was going great.  Then, it restarted to a black screen.  When you start up NOOBS, it tells you to hold down the shift key to enter setup or reinstall the image.  So, I did that.  In the setup, there were a bunch of settings related to HDMI and I am using an HDMI computer monitor.  I tried and tried to adjust those settings (by deleting the “#” to turn it from a useless comment to a useful computer command).  No good.  I reinstalled Raspbian and there was no difference.

At this point, I thought I’d try something new.  I tried to install Pidora.  Installation went great.  There were a few questions and username, password, and account settings.  I chose not to be an administrator on the computer, more about that later.  As I usually do with Raspbian and Occidentalis, I typed “startx” and got an error message something about gnome not being installed.  This was about my 8th failure and 15th restart of the night.  I googled the error message and found out that with Pidora, I need to type startxfce4 instead of just startx.  Awesome!  Not so fast.

Everything looked good and I clicked to get on the internet.  Fail!  Remember when I said that I chose not to be an administrator?  When I clicked on my home’s wifi, it told me that I do not have the rights to do that.  But I didn’t know how to use sudo override in the GUI.  I figured that I’ll just reinstall Pidora and this time, I’d choose to be an administrator.  Keep in mind that each install takes 20 or 30 minutes and it was around 10:30 on a Friday night already.  I reinstalled, chose to be an administrator, and got exactly the same message when I tried to connect to wifi.  The Pi could see my wifi, but it wouldn’t let me connect to it.

I tried installing RISCOS and a couple of the other systems and had the same issues, mostly black screen.  I read online that I should press 1, 2, 3, or 4 to change the display settings, but that didn’t work for me.  Neither did the configuration files.  Finally, I went to bed and my dad took over.  Just before falling asleep, I announced “I HATE technology!” but I didn’t really mean it; I was just frustrated.

My dad ended up having exactly the same problems as me.  He was able to get one of the XBMC media streaming programs to install, but accidentally clicked on the update button and for more than an hour, it kept downloading and installing stuff and then restarting.  In the end, XBMC worked and did a great job playing the movies.  But I don’t want this to be a media streamer.  I want my Linux!!  So, it was about 8 hours of wasted time.

Right now, I’m downloading the most recent version of NOOBS because the date on the one on the memory card seems old.  I’ll let you know if this takes care of the problem.  I read that some of the newer Raspberry Pi computers don’t work with the older operating systems.  They came in a box together.  If this is the case, Canakit could have saved us 8 hours by including an upgraded NOOBS.

I have to say that I think that NOOBS is a good idea.  I can reinstall the OS with just two button clicks.  But so far . . . it has been very, very frustrating.

3D Printing Step-by-Step

15 Apr

How to 3D print Thingiverse Objects on a MakerGear M2 with Simplify3D Creator and Pronterface

–          Plug-in 3D printer and connect the USB

–          Find the object that you want to print on

–          Download the STL file for that object

–          Open simplify 3D/creator

–          Drag STL file onto coordinate plane

–          Click “arrange”

–          Warm up 3D printer bed and extruder with Pronterface software

–          Click “add” in the Creator software

–          Complete the settings and hit  save

–          Put your memory card into your laptop

–          Click “prepare” and do your settings and save to the memory card

–          Run preview if you want by dragging the “end” slider

–          Put your memory card back into the printer

–          Bring up Pronterface (or click Tools, Machine Control Panel in Creator, but I prefer Pronterface)

–          Click “connect” and you’ll hear the fans change pitch for a second.

–          Click “SD” and then “SD print”

–          Choose the file that you want to print

–          Spray a little bit of Aqua Net hairspray on your 3D printer bed

–          As soon as the printer warms up and starts the actual printing process, unplug the USB cable

That’s it.  Now just pray that the bed is level, the Z-offset is correct and that the bed is sticky enough and the extruder doesn’t clog.  Other than that . . . piece of cake!

Raspberry Pi Kickstarter

8 Apr

Today, my school launched a kickstarter campaign to purchase Raspberry Pi kits for our computer science club to learn programming.  Please help us in the following ways:


1) Contribute to the campaign here:


2) Share the link with all of your friends on Facebook, Twitter, etc.



P.S. That’s my voice in the kickstarter video!

Science Fair Project

4 Apr

Hey, everyone, I got a gold medal at the county science fair!  This means that I am headed to the California State Science Fair!  

I need your help, though. In order to be competitive at the state fair, I need to get at least 250 more responses on my survey. Please share the following link with all of your friends, family, enemies, former friends, colleagues, associates, teachers, students, cousins, uncles, grandmothers, mayors, BFFs, tweeps, etc.