We’ll deal with software first, then get into soldering and case assembly later.

The software for this project is built upon the Raspbian Lite operating system, a pared-down version of Linux for the Raspberry Pi.

The current kit comes with a card loaded with NOOBS. This can be used to download and install Raspbian Lite, but we recommend you overwrite the card so you have the most minimal setup (less things can go wrong!)

Installing From the NOOBS Card

NOOBS has a graphical interface and requires temporarily setting up the Pi like a desktop computer. You’ll need a monitor connected, along with a USB keyboard and mouse (this may also require a USB hub). Insert the card in the Raspberry Pi, then connect a USB micro-B cable from the board’s power connector to a USB power source — a phone charger, hub, or just a USB port on your “main” computer.

When booting the NOOBS card, you’ll briefly see the “rainbow screen” — normally bad news, but it’s okay in this case — the Pi will then reboot and launch the NOOBS installer menu:

First order of business is to connect NOOBS to a wireless network so software can be downloaded. Use the “WiFi networks” icon (top center) to set this up. It’s a fairly straightforward WiFi configurator…select a network from the available list and enter a network password if required.

NOOBS WiFi supports wireless-capable Raspberry Pi boards as well as the “official” Raspberry Pi USB WiFi adapter. Not all third-party adapters are supported. If this presents trouble, you might use the “Overwriting NOOBS” directions below instead.
Installation can not proceed until a WiFi internet connection is established.

With an internet connection now made, select “Raspbian Lite” from the list of available operating systems. Do NOT select “Raspbian with PIXEL” — this contains a whole lot of software we do not need or want!

Click the “Install” icon. This will download Raspbian Lite (about 300 megabytes), install it on the SD card and (after prompting) will reboot into the newly-installed operating system. You can then skip ahead to the “Setup” page.

More information on NOOBS is available in this guide if needed.

Overwriting NOOBS with Raspbian Lite

If you have some prior experience with Raspberry Pi and Linux, you might find this approach simpler…

Start by downloading the latest version of Raspbian Lite from the Raspberry Pi web site.

Do NOT use “Raspbian with Desktop PIXEL” — this contains a whole lot of software we do not need or want! Also, if you’ve previously downloaded Raspbian Lite for other projects, check if a newer version is available. This project relies on some recent features!

Here’s a tutorial explaining how to install the Raspbian software on the SD card (replacing NOOBS), with links to nice GUI apps for Windows and Mac. The first couple of pages can be skipped, as we’re already downloading the right software for this project.

If you ever need to restore the NOOBS card to its original state, this guide explains the whole process.

This guide was first published on Apr 12, 2013. It was last updated on Sep 21, 2023.

This page (Software Prep) was last updated on Feb 20, 2017.

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