The joy of troubleshooting the Raspberry Pi


#1

Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2017/03/14/the-joy-of-troubleshooting-the.html


#2

Okay I think this is why I don’t tinker with a pi or linux or such very much when I am home. I do (well did and will probably do that again as soon as I get a new job) this for my day job and would rather not deal with it at home too.


#3

Do not throw your Raspberry Pi.


#4

I noticed this. The default configuration is useless and everything is set up so that nothing works out of the box. I’ll stick with a WiFi enabled Arduino which defaults to useful.


#5

An arduino certainly defaults to more than a bare AT-whatever chip does; but what sorts of harrowing dysfunction have you run into with rPi defaults that make them less useful than a microcontroller that hasn’t had anything but a bootloader flashed yet?


#6

About the only thing I find annoying about the Pi’s default configuration (at least in Raspbian) is that the internationalization settings default to UK (but that makes sense, given that it was designed there in the first place). It certainly has no problem hooking into my network.

It’s not perfect (the low-performance wired networking is a sore point), but it’s still one hell of a bargain, and I’d consider it to be a far better classroom computer than a tablet. Its usefulness as a hobby/project system is a bonus.


#7

I’ll bet this guy really loved Windows 3.1.


#8

So copying a distro onto a flash card and powering it on is now considered “troubleshooting”?


#9

It isn’t harrowing, but it is annoying. To start with, I need to dig up an HDMI display and a USB keyboard to even get started. I actually do own both of these, but I never use them for anything but configuring an rPi and that means cleaning off some bench space, hauling out all the crap. plugging everything in and so on, before I can do anything with the gadget. Then I have to put everything away and hope I don’t have to reset my rPi and haul everything out again.

The rPi acts as if it is a full fledged computer, and demands that it be used that way at least until you can set up network access and a remote shell. I’m planning to use it to drive a lamp or run a weather station, but it has to go through a larval full fledged Linux computer workstation life stage before I can use the imago embedded device. It would be much easier if just created a WiFi hot spot with a configuration server so I could switch it over to my household network and set up a secure remote shell.


#10

You can set them up headless via SSH. Once you know what IP address it landed on, that’s not a problem.

Edit: I seem to recall that they changed the default for SSH recently to off, but you can override that in the cmdline.txt.


#11

That’s a fair enough criticism. I assume it has something to do with the original ‘handy all-in-one-programming environment for the kiddies’ concept; but even in the newer revisions, it’s horribly outgunned for that purpose, so at least spawning an SSH server during install, like the various Debian flavors for headless devices do, would be nice.

That said, while nothing in the official documentation seems to suggest that this might be handy; you can save yourself a lot of (physical) trouble by ignoring the Pi to begin with, and either mounting the SD card image to a loop device, or writing to the SD card and then mounting the card. Good old text config files don’t care that an x86 is modifying them but ARM binaries are going to be reading them.

If you do need full interactive configuration for something, I’m told that QEMU has Pi support now; but I haven’t tried it.

As a more general convenience; I’m very fond of the cheapo HDMI extender. The newer version speaks a non-broken streaming protocol, which makes setup really easy; I have the v.2 which speaks a somewhat dysfunctional dialect; but also has support.

Image quality isn’t what you’d call genius; but these things are markedly cheaper than ‘proper’ capture cards(and don’t involve exciting fights with driver support); and they are certainly good enough to make text easily legible/otherwise allow GUI fiddling, with the ‘monitor’ living in a video player window on whatever computer you don’t have to drag a monitor out of the junk box for. Unlike an (also wildly more expensive) IP KVM, this thing doesn’t even pretend to handle peripherals, but something like the Logitech K400 isn’t too bulky or annoying to set up. Hacked Motorola Lapdocks are also handy for speaking HDMI-and-peripherals in a small, portable, package.

None of this excuses a failure to just spawn an sshd for me, please? on the part of the Pi, however.


#12

I luv m’sush. Gooeys is fer wimps.


#13

oh cool. i’ll have to look into this.


#14

What would you prefer it default to?


#15

Actually, I’d like a quick country selection dialog instead of having to wade through multiple menus (though keep that as an option if you have a situation where you want a nonstandard keyboard layout, or you’re in a country that commonly uses multiple keyboard layouts).

Even better would be a headless config option to set that all up on the first boot.


#16

I found the Pi to be considerably easier to set up than most of the computers I’ve used in my life. Anyone who complains about selecting a county on a menu has never had to toggle a bootloader into a PDP-8 every time you want to use the machine.

Troubleshooting usually consists of one step: get a better power supply.


#17

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