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 code.org 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.