26 Nov 2012, 09:34

Conor's 2012 @Raspberry_Pi Christmas Gift Guide


#“Conor’s 2012 @Raspberry_Pi Christmas Gift Guide”

This post was prompted by @mollydot asking me last night on Twitter what accessories make sense if you are buying a Raspberry Pi as a Christmas Gift and@jkeyesrightly suggesting that a post with links would be useful.

I really think this Christmas could be a lovely replay of 1982 for a lot of people, like me, who got their first home computer that year. You could have so much fun on Christmas Day messing with the RPi rather than falling asleep in front of the fire. Just don’t fight over who gets the telly when Doctor Who is on.

Whilst the bare-bones nature of the Raspberry Pi is wonderful, it is unusable out of the box unless you are a house with smartphones,digitalcameras and existing PCs already that you can raid for components.

What you want to avoid is a repeat of me that December in 1982 with my brand-new 16K ZX Spectrum which didn’t work on our Nordmende TV until two weeks later when the RTV Rentals guy came and replaced the TV Tuner. Two weeks typing Beep 1,2 to make sure it wasn’t broken.

For most parts, check the list of verified compatible devices here. This is what you need:

  1. The Raspberry Pi itself
    1. You can get it online from Farnell Element 14. Also most of the accessories I mention below. They are quoting a 3 week delivery time so get your skates on.
    2. And available online from RS Components. They have lots of accessories too.
    3. Orrrrr, you can skip everything I have written below and just get theMaplin Starter Kitfor Raspberry Pi. Unusually for them, it’s actually decent value and you know all of the components have been tested for compatibility. There weren’t any in Blackpool in Cork the last time I was there so ring-ahead or order online.
  2. An SD Card
    1. I got these very cheap 16GB ones from 7DayShop in Jersey but the casing on one has shattered after very little use. They have branded ones which should have better quality plastic.
    2. Micro-SD cards in an adapter work fine too.
    3. Get the fastest one you can. Class 10 for full SD works great as does Class 6 on MicroSD.
    4. Any size from 4GB up should be fine initially.
  3. A Micro-USB phone charger
    1. I’m currently using the one from my HTC Sensation.
    2. Anything above 700mA should be fine but that excludes most cheap 500mA chargers that come with Chinese electronics.
    3. I’ve had success with a some of the cheap ones from DX.com in China but many of the so-called 2 Amp ones can barely do 1 Amp so it might be best to avoid. Also, be warned, delivery times from DX can range from a week to many months.
    4. I was very surprised to see an entire shelf of power supplies in a small Maplin in London but not one Micro-USB charger. As a place where a lot of people go to get emergencyreplacementsfor things, they should surely have tons of these?
  4. TV Cables
    1. If the person you are buying for has an LCD/Plasma TV then any HDMI cable will be fine. I have used ones from DX and Lidl with no problems.
    2. If they have a older CRT TV then they will need a video cable with RCA at both ends and an audio cable with 3.5” headphone jack at one end and RCA at the other end. If the TV takes RCA then that’s all they need.
    3. If the TV only takes SCART, then you need an RCA to SCART adapter. Most TV shops have these. Maplin definitely do.
    4. If they have a monitor with DVI then there are HDMI-DVI adapters. Neither of theadapterson DX worked for me. See this page for a list of compatible adapters.
    5. If they have a monitor with VGA then this adapter on eBay may work. Note that it works for me on two monitors here but totally failed on a projector at an event during the summer.
  5. USB Keyboard and Mouse
    1. I haven’t found a wireless one which doesn’t work. Lidl and Aldi both great for these at the right time of the year. Otherwise anywhere online or PC World.
    2. Not all wired keyboards will work as they may draw too much current. I have one roll-up rubber one (don’t ask) which shuts the RPi down when I connect it.
    3. I found a dirt-cheap Microsoft wired Keyboard/Mouse for about 15 last year in Dixons
  6. Powered USB Hub
    1. USB remains a very frustrating experience on the Raspberry Pi. Unlike a PC, it seems to be a crap-shoot as to whether something will work on it or not. The problem is the tiny amount of power the two USB ports can provide (150mA compared to 500mA on most PCs) and some ongoing problems in the drivers.
    2. The best way to avoid this is to get a USB hub that can be externally powered and connect all devices to that. Unfortunately, many of the dirt cheap ones out there that have a power connector don’t actually work with power connected.
    3. This extremely cheap hub($5!) that I got on DX last week seems to be working really well so far. It doesn’t come with a power supply but accepts one. You’ll have to find a 5V one yourself with that smaller size of power jack.
    4. To be absolutely sure, just check this list of compatible hubs.
    5. If you continue to have problems then you may be forced (as I was) to hack the USB cable from the hub to the RPi and disconnect the power lines so that the Hub isn’t sending power back up to the RPi
  7. Wireless Adapter
    1. Whilst the RPi has an Ethernet port, it’s not really that useful for many people whose broadband routers are in the hall. One of our RPis is wired but that’s because we run GigE cabling everywhere.
    2. I have a ton of Wifi adapters collected over the years. Most of them work on the RPi.
    3. I’m currently using some random Wireless-G one to stream a webcam internally.
    4. Again, check the list of compatible ones here
    5. And again, connect it using the hub to avoid power problems
    6. The current version of Raspbian for Raspberry Pi comes with a nice Wifi GUI config tool to make setup very easy indeed.
  8. The Raspberry Pi User Guide
    1. Get it here on Amazon
    2. Because I still have my ZX Spectrum manual and still remember drawing my first circle on the screen using the instructions in it.
  9. A nice case
    1. If you are feeling very generous.
    2. Some lovely ones on the Adafruit site in New York
    3. And this awesome Pibow in the UK
Any questions at all? Pop em in the comments. Not on Twitter or Facebook :-)

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