Using a Raspberry Pi for Instrumentation — Hardware (Part 2)

Let's talk hardware. What are you going to need to do all of this?

  1. About $40 for a Raspberry Pi. I'm gonna use the most up-to-date model available which is the Raspberry Pi 3B+. It's available on Amazon for $40.
  2. A high-performance SD card (~$10). This is the hard drive that the Raspberry Pi gs going to use to hold all of the libraries, drivers, etc... that we're going to run. Most hobbyists indicate that the SD-card write and read speed is your bottleneck here. I've seen good ratings about Samsung Evo+, but have also been happy with a SanDisk Ultras. Get 32 GB size. It's the largest that most file formats will support without hacking, and should last you a long time.
  3. A USB power supply. If you're like me, you probably have a bunch of these cords rolling around (there the type that a lot of old Android phones, etc... use).
  4. A mouse, keyboard, and HDMI computer monitor. Although these won't necessarily be required at production time, it will be helpful to be able to use them while setting up your Raspberry Pi for the first time.
  5. Anything else that you might need to interface with lab instruments. Our lab has a couple of these USB to GPIB adaptors floating around. You might also consider a USB hub if you need to fan out to a lot of instruments.

I ordered the Raspberry Pi and SD card on Tuesday, and they arrived this morning (Thurdsay). I've set up Raspberry Pis before, and so a lot of this set up was old-hat, but I'll list here some notes for those who are doing it the first time (and don't want to look up other articles on how to do it). I like doing these sorts of things at home, or anywhere where you have extra mice, monitors, keyboards, power cords, SD cards, and especially an internet router that plays nice (it's such a pain to try to set up a Raspberry Pi when the internet requires a lot of configuration. I did all of this at home, and only once it was all set up and ready to go, moved it to my lab).

The first things that I had to was to download a copy of Raspbian onto my laptop. While that was downloading, I also made sure that my copy of Etcher (used to write the OS to the SD card) was up to date. Once both were downloaded, I used Etcher to write the Raspbian OS to the Raspberry Pi.

This process takes a few minutes. In the mean time, I made lunch, and attached the two heat sinks to the Raspberry Pi. If you've never done this before, you can watch youtube videos, but it's really just as simple as peeling the tape off and sticking the heat sinks on.

Once Etcher is finished, plug in your SD card to your Pi, attach the HDMI adaptor, keyboard, mouse, and perhaps an ethernet cord.

Your Raspberry Pi should boot up, and it will give you some instructions on setting up your software.

Congratulations, you're ready for the next step which is to set up the software.