Set up your Raspberry Pi and install the Flotilla software.

Materials Used

  1. Raspberry Pi 2 or 3 model B
  2. 5v/2A+ micro USB power supply
  3. HDMI-capable display, or official Raspberry Pi display
  4. USB keyboard
  5. USB mouse
  6. Wifi dongle or ethernet cable
  7. Micro SD card 8GB+
  8. Flotilla dock
  9. Red USB cable
  10. Blue Flotilla rope, any length
  11. Rainbow module

In this getting started guide, we'll go through setting up your Raspberry Pi, installing and running the Flotilla software and then a quick test of whether it's all working as it should.

Setting up your Raspberry Pi

The easiest way to get your Raspberry Pi set up is to use one of the Raspberry Pi Foundation's NOOBS micro SD cards. NOOBS allows you to install an operating system on your Raspberry Pi. In this case, we'll be installing Raspbian, the preferred operating system of the Raspberry Pi Foundation.

You can buy a NOOBS card here, or if you already have a blank, formatted micro SD card that you'd like to use, you can download NOOBS from here, unzip the downloaded file and then drag and drop all of the files in the unzipped folder to the blank micro SD card.

Once you have you NOOBS card ready, pop it into your Raspberry Pi's micro SD card slot on the underside of the Pi.

Attach your Pi to a display with an HDMI cable, and plug your USB keyboard and mouse into the Pi's USB ports. Plug in your wifi dongle or ethernet cable if you're using a Raspberry Pi 2; the Raspberry Pi 3 has built-in wifi, so you won't need a separate wifi dongle.

Next, plug in the micro USB power supply and your Pi should begin to boot.

You should see a screen that looks like the one below. Select Raspbian, as in the image below, and then click "Install" to begin the installation.

Noobs install screen

It'll take a few minutes to install Raspbian, so hold tight!

Once it's done, it should tell you that the "OS(es) Installed Successfully". Click "OK" and your Pi will boot straight into Raspbian.

If you're using a wifi dongle or the built-in wifi on the Pi 3, you'll need to configure this now.

Make sure your wifi dongle is plugged in, if you're using one, then click on the icon towards the right hand end of the menu bar that looks like two computers. You should see a list of the available wifi networks, like the image below.

Wifi list

Click on the network that you'd like to use, and a dialog box like the one below will appear into which you can enter the password for you wifi network. Click "OK" and you should be connected.

Wifi key

Installing the Flotilla software

We've made it super-simple to install the Flotilla software, which consists of:

  • Flotilla dock firmware (the code on the dock that makes it work)
  • Flotilla daemon (this runs all the time and communicates with the dock)
  • Flotilla Rockpool (the web interface for simple Flotilla programming)

You'll need to open the terminal to install the Flotilla software. The terminal is where you can type commands to do all sorts of things with you Pi. It can be daunting if you're not familiar with it, but don't worry, because we're only going to type one line in the terminal!

You'll also need your Flotilla dock plugged into your Raspberry Pi. Use the red USB A to micro B cable, plugging the A end (the large one) into one of the USB ports on your Pi, and the micro B end into the port labelled "COMPUTER" on the dock.

Open a new terminal window by clicking on the "Raspberry Pi" menu, then in the "Accessories" menu, click on "Terminal".

Terminal

In this window, copy the following line of code, and press enter to start the Flotilla installer. You should be prompted to plug in your dock to update the firmware on the dock, if necessary.

curl -sS get.pimoroni.com/flotilla | bash

Once it's done, you should be prompted to reboot to get everything up-and-running.

It's a good idea to unplug your dock and then plug it back in again before proceeding. You should see the LEDs cycle a couple of times, and then the "TALKING" blue LED should pulse slowly to show you that your dock is talking to the Raspberry Pi as it should.

Flotilla Rockpool

Installing the Flotilla software should have added a new option to the "Programming" menu, "Flotilla Rockpool". Clicking this will launch Rockpool on your Raspberry Pi.

Rockpool menu option

You can also run Rockpool on a tablet, PC or Mac, on the same network as your Raspberry Pi. To do that, just visit http://flotil.la/rockpool.

Rockpool should find any docks on the same network automatically. If it has, then you'll see an icon with an image of a dock and "Unnamed", since we haven't named our dock yet. Click on the dock icon to connect to it.

Pick your dock

If Rockpool hasn't found your dock automatically, then you can find the IP address of your Raspberry Pi and then enter it in the box that says "Don't see your dock? Enter the IP address of your Flotilla host."

You'll find your Pi's IP address by hovering your mouse over the network icon, in the top right hand corner of the screen. It should look something like the image below.

IP address

The IP address is the 192.168.0.120 bit. You can ignore the /24.

This dialog box may look slightly different depending on whether you're using wifi or ethernet or both, but as long as there's at least one IP address there, then you should be good to go.

Enter your IP address in the box and click "Find". Rockpool should find and connect to your dock.

Testing Rockpool

We have a complete guide on how to get familiar with Rockpool here, but we'll quickly test that everything is set up correctly before we move on to that.

If you've connected to your dock in Rockpool successfully, then you should see a screen similar to the one below.

Rockpool empty

Plug one of the blue Flotilla ropes into port 1 on your dock, and then plug a rainbow module onto the other end of the rope.

You should see one of the eight blue dots (representing the 8 ports on the dock) on the output (right) side of the screen has now turned grey, meaning that Rockpool has detected an output module.

Output detected

Rockpool starts with a single rule with a virtual input of 50%. We're going to use this virtual input to light our rainbow module red.

Click on the "+" icon directly below where it says "output" to set rainbow as an output. You should see an image of the dock with a rainbow module connected.

Rockpool add rainbow

Click on the rainbow module and a number of choices should pop up. We're going to click on "red", to set our rainbow module output to red.

Rockpool rainbow choices

Your rainbow module should now be glowing a pleasant red colour! At the moment, it's being driven by the 50% virtual input, but in the next tutorial on Rockpool, we'll learn how to do some much cooler things!

Rockpool rainbow red

Click here to move on to the Rockpool tutorial.