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Working with Raspberry Pi Zero

January 23rd, 2016

Vikas Shukla

Last week I had a chance to check out Raspberry Pi Zero the newer $5 board. It turns out that the demand has outstripped supply and, even though they seem to manufacture at a steady rate, they are not able to meet the demand. So I turned to ebay and purchased one for $29.

Minimal Additional Basic things required

The $5 Pi zero board comes with nothing additional. No power supply, no Micro SD Card to boot, no HDMI Cable. So if you are planning to get the board working you may do yourself a favor by reading this post and keep the things handy.

The Pi Zero uses a Mini HDMI Connector and so you will need a Mini to regular HDMI Cable. I purchased one from amazon.com for like $5. You could also use a Mini to regular adapter, but since, both have the same price of about $5, I went ahead and got the cable.

The Pi zero has a USB Micro connector to power up. If you have a USB Charger this, should be good enough. The Pi itself takes only 150 mA, well below 500 mA rating for USB.

The third thing will be tricky for most users - a Micro SD Card to boot the raspberry Pi. You need to buy a Micro SD Card and then you need to program it. And here is the problem. Most Laptops come with regular SD Card Sockets and not the Micro SD, so you are out of luck if you have just the Micro SD Card. Make sure you purchase a Micro SD to regular SD Card adpater to be able to program the Micro SD Card. I assume that your laptop has a SD Card Socket. If not, you will also have to purchase a USB SD Card programmer.

You will also do yourself a favor by purchasing at least 8 GB Micro SD Card. I had a 4 GB card lying in my desk. With a 4 GB Card I could only get the Linux Jessie Lite working. If you need full GUI, you will need regular Jessie which is like 4.5 GB.

Programming the SD Card using the Jessie Lite

I will cover the process of programming SD Card using Linux Jessie Lite briefly here. The same procedure should apply for the regular Jessie ( you will need 8 GB Card for that ).

1. Download the Jessie Lite from here - https://www.raspberrypi.org/downloads/raspbian/ . It is a little more than 1 GB and should fit in 4 GB Micro SD Card. Once you have downloaded it, save it and unzip it. This will give you an img file.

2. Download Win32DiskImager from here - http://sourceforge.net/projects/win32diskimager/ . Open the Win32DiskImager and Select the img file you downloaded and extracted above. Insert your Micro SD Card in your computer and select the drive letter corresponding to this drive ( In my case it was I). Now click on write and it will write the Micro SD Card.

If everything goes well, the Raspberry Pi should boot as shown in the youtube here

Digging Further

I could not proceed anything further than this, as this board has only one USB Micro socket. I will need a USB hub to be able to hook a keyboard and a Wifi adapter to be able to do something more meaningful. I will cover these when I have a chance to play more with it.


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