A bit of a departure in this blog as I talk of my new adventures into the Raspberry Pi. I am presenting at Microsoft Ignite Australia with Dynamics Wunderkind Doug Daley and part of this is showing how the Internet of Things can interact with Dynamics 365.
The first step is getting a ‘Thing’ to send information back to the internet or, in our case, Windows Azure so we can feed it into Dynamics 365.
In our case, that ‘Thing ‘is a Wii Balance Board talking to a Raspberry Pi.
What is a Raspberry Pi?
A Raspberry Pi is a computer the size of a largish business card which costs around US$35. For us Aussies, it is around $55. This is what it looks like.
This is the latest version, Raspberry Pi 3, which comes with WiFi and Bluetooth built in. Power is via a Micro USB port. Basically you plug it into the HDMI port of a monitor, connect a keyboard and mouse, insert a Micro-SD card with an OS on it and power it up and you have a working computer.
Where Do You Buy One?
In my case I bought it from Element 14. I also bought a power supply, pre-loaded Micro-SD card and plastic case. I had a spare keyboard, mouse and HDMI cable so no worries there. What is good about Element 14 is, for Australian buyers, they distribute within Australia so no problems with strange-shaped plugs or expensive shipping. They even send to PO Boxes.
What Happens When You Boot It Up?
Once you have plugged it in and booted, the default operating system starts up (Raspbian).
This is a form of Linux with a GUI so even if you do not know the essentials of Linux you can still mouse around. It even comes with Minecraft. In my case I do not want to use Raspbian but Windows 10 IoT.
What Is Windows 10 IoT?
Windows 10 IoT is not a standard version of Windows but one which acts as a foundation for IoT apps you can install via Visual Studio or directly. How you install these apps will have to wait for another blog.
How to Install Windows 10 IoT onto the Raspberry Pi (IoT Dashboard)
There are two ways to get Windows 10 IoT onto the Raspberry Pi if it is not on the Micro-SD by default. The first is to download the IoT Dashboard onto a Windows 10 device.
The process is pretty straightforward but, for me, when it came to mounting the ISO file, which sets up the OS, the process ended abruptly and errored with “Failed to unpack installer”. Online forums suggested enabling the Administrator account on my Windows 10 PC and running it through this but this seemed a bit extreme so I looked for another way.
How to Install Windows 10 IoT onto the Raspberry Pi (NOOBS)
The other way to install a new OS is through NOOBS. NOOBS is sort of the BIOS for the Raspberry Pi and can be accessed by hitting the Shift key on your keyboard when you boot.
With the version of NOOBS that came with my Raspberry Pi, WiFi was not supported when booting up NOOBS and a network cable was needed. I am told that the latest version of NOOBS fixes this and WiFi works. Either way, a set of OSes appear which can be loaded onto the Micro-SD card from the internet.
Selecting Windows will begin the download process. This will be at least a Gig or two of data so be careful of your internet charges.
Once done, you reboot and, with any luck, you will be booting to Windows 10 IoT. In my case, my HDMI television was sucking too much current and preventing the boot process but once I plugged the Raspberry Pi into a normal monitor everything went fine.
If you are IoT curious or Linux curious, the Raspberry Pi might be an interesting way to go. It is inexpensive and plays nicely with Arduinos. If you are not sure and want to see it in action, feel free to see Doug and I at Ignite.