Monday, August 6, 2012

Raspberry Pi, the Second Helping


Have you ordered yourself one of these yet? No? Well what's wrong with you? They're fun. I'm going to proceed to be a really lousy inspiration for you to get one by telling you about some of the things I've done and had trouble with.

First of all I decided to stick with Raspbian as the OS simply because it is pretty far along and has a lot of support right now. In the mean time Gentoo has starting making releases, and I expect they will be another very popular option.

I dedided a good challenge would be to replace my Windows based server (previously mentioned Intel Atom in a spacious rack mount bay). The main features it would require are:


  1. Remote Music Player (accessible by phone/tablet)
  2. Web Server (HTTP, PHP, PERL, MySQL)
  3. FTP Server (FTP/SFTP)
  4. Download Server (accessible by phone/tablet)


Looking down these they all are things to be accessed remotely, and I would have very little use for a desktop environment for them. Since a desktop takes a lot of overhead I decided I should stick to the command line. And I haven't booted the desktop environment since. Fun right? No, seriously. It's fun. You just forgot. Like I did. Because most of us only crack open a terminal window every now and then when someone hasn't made a button to do something for us. Or perhaps check our IP address or something.

This also means at some point I unplugged the mouse and couldn't think of a reason to plug it back in. I replaced it with an external hard drive, which, BTW, needs to either have its own power source or be plugged in to a powered USB hub. The 'Pi doesn't have much juice on the ports.

The web server and FTP seemed like a good place to start, so I pulled in the packages for this:

sudo apt-get install apache2
sudo apt-get install php5
sudo apt-get install mysql-client mysql-server
sudo apt-get install postfix

And that was pretty much it. Apache is the http stuff, PHP is a useful programming language for web that things like wordpress run on, MySQL is database, and postfix is email (which is useful for having your pages send messages out). I made some minor adjustments to /etc/apache2/httpd.conf and /etc/apache2/ports.conf using a command line text editor, example:

sudo pico /etc/apache2/httpd.conf

(You make your edits and then press ctrl + x and follow the prompts from there. There are other command line editors besides pico, so dig around and find one you like. Or don't. I mean it's editing things with a keyboard. There probably isn't a text editor that will make unicorns shoot out of your pupils.)

Speaking of, this is where I noticed my first "oops." It turns out that the default keyboard setup is for Britain, and so my Amuricah the Keyboard had a few keys rearranged and inaccessible (*nix is hard to work with when you don't have a \, ~, or |, even if you can find they swapped # and @ to other places Plus it means you have to curse at the machine without censoring). Fix this by changing "gb" to "us" in /etc/default/keyboard. Unless you're British. In which case chortle at the yank' luddites.

A quick check by going to the Pi's local IP address from another computer confirmed I had web service running.

Next up was FTP:

sudo apt-get install vsftpd

I had to edit this one a fair amount to get users added to the system. You can find a lot of info about this by reading about VSFTPD, it's not difficult but this post is going to be long enough already.

At any rate I did manage to get it working, got permissions set on the folders that would be used, and made an alias to the web server's www directory using

mount --bind [a] [b]

where [a] = what you want to link from and [b] is where you want to link to, in my case /srv/ftp/www and /var/www respectivly. This knowledge will come in handy later when you decide you want large folder of files to not reside on the SD card.

More to come...

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