Raspberry Pi, the most interesting projects for beginners

Raspberry Pi, the most interesting projects for beginners

The Raspberry Pi is not only the most successful single-board computer, but also the UK’s best-selling computer, which has also won numerous awards.

So it’s no surprise that the tiny developer board from the British Raspberry Pi Foundation is also attracting many beginners and novices with its bargain price. But after buying it, new owners often wonder what exactly they should do with a tiny board.

This PC World article will help beginners figure out the best projects to get started with the popular single-board computer without much prior knowledge.

Small PC with Linux OS

Raspberry Pi 4, the predecessor of the latest generation Raspberry Pi 5, already has a Broadcom processor with four fast ARM Cortex-A72 processor cores at 1.5 GHz, as well as 4 gigabytes of LPDDR4 and an integrated graphics unit.

So what could be more obvious than building a tiny Linux PC? It can then be easily used as a typewriter or for searching the Internet.

To build a small, full-fledged Linux PC with an open source operating system, you only need the following resources and tools:

  • Raspberry Pi 4;
  • Raspberry Pi OS;
  • Raspberry Pi 4 case;
  • microSD memory card.

You will also need a second computer system that will be used to download the official Raspberry Pi OS and install it onto the microSD card.

Having collected everything listed, you can start. The first step is to install the small single-board computer in the official Raspberry Pi Foundation case. This is done quickly thanks to the included instructions and is understandable even for beginners, and takes up to 15 minutes.

The next step is to download the operating system and save it to the microSD memory card.

In most cases, Windows 10 or Windows 11 is the starting point for further installation of Raspberry Pi OS. This is where the so-called Raspberry Pi Imager comes into play, which can easily create bootable installation media for the Raspberry Pi OS from a microSD card and prepare it accordingly for further setup.

Once the process is complete, which usually takes between 15 and 30 minutes, you can insert the microSD card into the Raspberry Pi and boot up the single-board computer.

From now on, Raspberry Pi OS provides you with a complete operating system for work, games and surfing the web. You have successfully implemented your first project for beginners – a small Linux PC based on Raspberry Pi.

Network storage

Setting up network storage or Network Attached Storage (NAS) with a Raspberry Pi is a great way to integrate and provide your own centralized data storage on your own network in a very cost effective and efficient manner.

To build a Raspberry Pi-based NAS, you need the following resources and tools:

Equipment:

  • Raspberry Pi (at least Raspberry Pi 4).
  • External hard drive or USB drive (500GB+).
  • microSD memory card (16 GB+).
  • Case for Raspberry Pi.
  • Power supply for Raspberry Pi.

Software:

  • Raspberry Pi OS.
  • Raspberry Pi Imager.
  • Terminal or SSH access.

Install the operating system

The next step is to install the operating system. To do this, you need to download the latest version of the Raspberry Pi OS and install it on a microSD card using the Raspberry Pi Imager.

After this process is successfully completed, you can insert the microSD memory card into the Raspberry Pi and boot the single-board computer.

Then you need to start working with the console (the so-called terminal) and perform certain actions.

Update your Raspberry Pi

To do this, open a terminal and run the following commands using the command line:

sudo apt update
sudo apt upgrade

These two commands update both the operating system and all software packages in the installation to the latest version, preventing possible compatibility issues later.

Connect the external hard drive

The next step is to connect an external hard drive or USB drive to the Raspberry Pi. Here you have to make sure that the hard drive has enough capacity or that you are using a correspondingly active USB hub.

Format and connect the hard drive

Continue the input request through the terminal. Use the following command to identify an external hard drive or USB drive:

sudo fdisk -l

The following command is used to format the drive in question, which will later make the data available over the network. All existing data will be deleted.

sudo mkfs.ext4 /dev/sdX1

(“X” must be replaced with a drive letter!)

The drive is assigned to a mount point with the following input:

sudo mkdir /mnt/nas

…and, finally, appropriately installed and thus accessible.

sudo mount /dev/sdX1 /mnt/nas

(Again, the “X” must be replaced with the drive letter!)

To ensure automatic operation at each system startup in the future, the following commands should be executed:

sudo nano /etc/fstab

/dev/sdX1 /mnt/nas ext4 defaults 0 0

(Again, the “X” must be replaced with the drive letter!)

Install Samba to access files on Windows

The final step is to install the Samba software.

Samba is a free software package that allows you to use Windows features such as file and print services on other operating systems and to act as a domain controller.

Among other things, it implements the SMB/CIFS protocol and makes it suitable for use in Linux.

The following console command installs Samba to configure file shares for Windows and other devices on the network:

sudo apt install samba

After that, you need to edit the Samba configuration file. The most reliable way to do this is with the following command:

sudo nano /etc/samba/smb.conf

At the end of the Samba configuration file, you need to add the following entry:

[nas]
comment = Raspberry Pi NAS
path = /mnt/nas
browseable = yes
guest ok = yes
read only = no
create mask = 0775

Now you just need to restart Samba and the NAS is ready:

sudo service smbd restart

Access to network storage

You can now access the network storage. You can use a file explorer or a web browser for this. On another device on the network, enter the IP address of the Raspberry Pi and the name of the share (in this example “nas”) to access the network storage.

Inexpensive cloud server

A Raspberry Pi 4 and an external hard drive or SSD are all you need to create your own cloud server based on a popular single-board computer.

You also need the free and open source cloud software NextCloud, which must be installed on the microSD card of the single-board computer using the NextCloud Pi image.

The following step-by-step guide explains two ways to turn a Raspberry Pi 4 with NextCloud into a true cloud server.

A cloud server on a Raspberry Pi is then a centralized pool of server resources that is hosted and provided over a network, typically the Internet, and can be accessed by multiple users as needed.

Once set up, users can access their Raspberry Pi and server services over the Internet while on the go.

Ad blocker

With the help of a Raspberry Pi and the free software Pi-hole, which performs the tasks of tracking and blocking ads, as well as an additional DHCP server, the home network can be completely ad-free.

Note: Pi-hole offers an effective way to block unwanted advertising at the network level. However, it’s important to be aware of the impact on traffic and privacy.

Setting up a Pi-hole on a Raspberry Pi

Pi-hole is an open source software that serves as an online ad blocker.

Here are the steps to install and configure Pi-hole on Raspberry Pi:

Prepare the Raspberry Pi

Using the commands already known, you should use the console to ensure that the Raspberry Pi, its operating system and software packages are up to date:

sudo apt update
sudo apt upgrade

Install Pi-hole

The following command loads Pi-hole on the Raspberry Pi:

curl -sSL https://install.pi-hole.net | bash

The installation process asks for various settings that are very well documented and explained. Users should follow the instructions and adapt the configuration to their needs.

Configure the web interface

Using a web browser, enter the IP address of the Raspberry Pi followed by “/admin” (example: http://192.168.1.2/admin).

An automated setup wizard starts, during which you assign a strong password for the web interface.

Configure DNS settings

To use Pi-hole as your primary DNS server, you need to configure your router’s DNS settings accordingly. This is usually done in the router’s web interface.

Pi-hole updates and support

Update Pi-hole to make sure the app is up to date. Again, this uses the console:

/qpihole -up

After the update, you should check the Pi-hole statistics to make sure the filter function is working properly.

Make additional settings

You can further customize Pi-hole by editing the blacklist and whitelist in the web interface. Domains can be blacklisted to block ads or whitelisted to allow domains.

Retro game console

Finnish Linux distribution Lakka, based on the free LibreELEC media center, uses RetroArch to turn the Raspberry Pi 4 into a true retro gaming console for platforms ranging from Atari, Sega and Nintendo to the PlayStation in just a few steps.

LibreELEC, a fork of the Kodi-based OpenELEC operating system, and the latest version of the open and cross-platform interface for emulators, game engines and RetroArch video games form the basis of Lakka.

The latest platforms that are supported and therefore can be emulated are the Philips CD-i interactive media player and the Neo Geo Pocket gaming laptop.

In addition, the libretro library has been improved for Sony PlayStation compatibility, and the Mesa 3D update provides improved support for OpenGL and Vulkan graphics interfaces.

Installing Lakka is simple and, like many other Linux distributions, is done using the appropriate system image.

Once the image is downloaded and written to the Raspberry Pi’s microSD card using the USB tool, the single-board computer can be booted from this media.

Systems for emulation are divided into so-called cores, each of which represents a system. Once installed, Lakka already offers around 30 pre-installed cores for the likes of NES, SNES and N64, Sony PlayStation and various home computers from the Amiga series.

In total, you can emulate more than 50 systems and play their games in ROM form.

Other interesting emulators and retro game consoles for the Raspberry Pi include the following systems:

  • Emby.
  • RetroPi.
  • Recallbox.
  • Arcade HQ.
  • Batocera.Linux.
  • Homemade Arcade Machine.
  • AmberELEC.
  • RetroArch.
  • MAME
  • PCSX2.

Bypassing effective copy protection is prohibited. It is only legal to use an ISO file if it was released by the manufacturer itself or if the game in question is currently considered open source or FOSS.

The Lakka operating system itself does not use any original or modified firmware of the emulated systems, but only copies them.

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