The Raspberry Pi is a fantastic mini computer that is very useful in the world of amateur radio. It is already used in many repeater systems linking to echolink/IRLP and digital networks such as DMR/DStar. For personal use we can use them as low power hotspots or small field computers allowing us to utilise digital modes without the need to carry around lots of computer equipment.
There are several versions of the Raspberry Pi but obviously you want the best! The two main ones of interest to us are the Pi Zero W and the Pi 3B+. Other versions of the Zero don’t have wireless built in, and other versions of the 3B+ have slower processor speeds and less powerful wifi/bluetooth. But if you have one lay around, use it!
The Pi doesn’t run on normal desktop operating systems. They mainly use a version of Linux called Raspbian. Based on Debian linux with some tweaks. Unlike a desktop computer or laptop, the Pi uses an SD Memory Card for storage instead of a normal hard drive. This means that before we do anything we need to download the operating system and copy it to the SD Card. Fast SD cards are a must! Highly recommend the Sandisk Class 10 either 16Gb or 32Gb.
Download the image from: https://www.raspberrypi.org/downloads/raspbian/
You are going to want the Stretch with Desktop, its upto you if you want the extra software or not. All the software is available in the package manager, just gets bundled in from the start.
Once downloaded, keep the file, and go on to download some software to write that image to your SD card. Personally recommend a program called Etcher, downloadable from: https://www.balena.io/etcher/
Once installed, run Etcher, click to find the image file you downloaded, select the .zip image. Next with the SD inserted into the computer, choose the right drive, confirm its the right one by looking at the size of the volume. Finally click the Flash button and wait. Usually takes five or so minutes.
Pop the SD card into the Pi and you are ready to go! You can configure some options to make things easier on the first boot. We will go into those in the Raspberry Pi Configuring First Boot article.