Multi-installer NOOBS for the Raspberry Pi


You should first unpack the downloaded ZIP archive, then switch to the newly created directory and move its entire contents to the SD card. Next, you can eject the card from the PC and insert it into the appropriate slot of the Rasp Pi.

To boot the Pi, connect the power supply with the board and the HDMI port with the display, such as a monitor or a TV. If your display does not have an HDMI input, you need to use a DVI-to-HDMI adapter. After a brief interval, the graphical user interface of NOOBS appears and presents a list of the various distributions, that are available (Figure  1).

Figure 1: After bootup, you should select the systems you want installed from the list of operating systems.

If the display remains blank, the system probably has not recognized the video mode correctly. In this case, hold down the 1 key on the keyboard for HDMI or the 2 key for the HDMI safe mode. The safe mode should always work. The composite output is located at the yellow cinch plug on the opposite side of the circuit board. If you are using this output to connect a video source, you can set the correct video mode by pressing 3 or 4. The 3 key selects PAL mode for televisions (e.g., Western Europe), and the 4 key selects NTSC mode (e.g., US, Canada, Japan). NOOBS writes the chosen option in the config.txt file of the distribution you are running so that the display device is automatically recognized in the future.

In most cases, however, the system chooses the correct mode automatically, and the selection screen shows the operating systems to be installed. Note that Raspbian [7], Pidora [8], and Arch Linux [9] are the ARMv6 architecture versions of the Linux distributions Debian, Fedora, and Arch Linux, respectively. OpenELEC and RaspBMC are the Rasp Pi implementations of the Media Center software XBMC.

Another choice is RISC OS, which deviates from the other systems in that it is not based on Linux. Instead, it is a native ARM-based operating system that was originally developed by Acorn for the Archimedes computer at the end of the 1980s. Today, RISC OS continues to be developed as free source code.

The number of systems to be installed is limited only by the size of the SD card, because NOOBS allows advanced users to add several additional Rasp Pi-specific distributions to the "system zoo." This process will be described in more detail below.

When selecting the desired distributions in the dialog box, the necessary and available storage space figures are shown at the bottom of the window. To navigate the list, you need to use the arrow keys on the keyboard. At this point, you should select the language and keyboard preference at the bottom edge of the window. Finally, click on the Install icon at the top left to start the installation process.

If you have an Internet connection, the third icon from the left at the top of the window lets you call up online help, which is shown in the Aurora web browser in Figure  2. Clicking on Exit at the far right closes the input dialog. The option Edit config (Figure  3), which at this point is still grayed out, lets you edit the configuration files of each of the installed systems. The icons to the right of the selected entries show whether NOOBS installs the indicated system from the SD card or the Internet.

Figure 2: The Aurora browser integrated into NOOBS opens online help as needed.
Figure 3: You can control individual settings by means of a configuration file.

Freshly Partitioned

As a first step, the installer repartitions the SD card by changing the single partition, which was created during formatting, into three partitions. At the beginning of the storage area on the card, the installer creates a boot partition. NOOBS itself boots from this partition and then presents a list of the installed operating systems. The boot partition is followed by the second partition, which contains all the installed operating system images. The third partition is an initially small recovery partition.

During installation, NOOBS displays a slideshow. For each operating system that NOOBS installs, it shows basic information and first steps (Figure 4).

Figure 4: During installation, NOOBS displays a slideshow and shows basic information and first steps for each installed operating system.

If more than one operating system has been installed, NOOBS displays a menu after installation has completed from which you select the system to be launched, as illustrated in Figure 5. Your selection is remembered, and the most recently booted system will be started again unless you alter the selection within 10 seconds.

Figure 5: After installation is complete, NOOBS displays a boot menu that allows you to launch one of the installed operating systems.

The selection menu does not appear if you install only one distribution, and this system will launch automatically. If you keep the Cmd key pressed during bootup, you will again see the dialog that lists the operating systems available for installation. This, in turn, allows you to install additional distributions as needed.

Note that the new selection will delete all systems that have been previously installed. Working in recovery mode allows you to avoid accidental deletion and save one or more operating systems that have already been installed into the persistent recovery partition mentioned earlier. Note that this will make the recovery partition grow.

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