Make: pal and former staffer, Donald Bell, has a new tutorial on his Maker Project Lab YouTube channel showing how relatively easy it is to get a full-blown Raspberry Pi computer system up and running. Donald’s channel is sponsored by Western Digital and the video is of him unboxing and setting up their turn-key PiDrive Compute Center (just add monitor). So this is basically advertorial content, but I’ve been curious about the PiDrive since it was announced and think this video does a good job of explaining the system and basic Pi-based computing in general. The PiDrive does look like a great way for the every-maker, especially those who might be a little intimated by command-line computing, to have an out-of-box solution at a dirt-cheap price.

I love the idea of a custom-engineered (for greater power efficiency) hard drive formatted with a bunch of bootable project partisans so that you can easily switch between project spaces. For just over US$100, you get a 375GB WD HDD, a Raspberry Pi 3 (Model B), a microSD card pre-loaded with the NOOB software, a mouse, keyboard, USB cables, power adapter, and a black plastic case to hold the system. You can also get a PiDrive kit without the mouse, keyboard, etc., for as little as $16 (64GB Flash version) up to $38 for a 375GB HDD version. The PiDrive kit comes with NOOB, Raspbian PIXEL and Raspbian Light on a microSD card, and a custom USB-based Pi-to-HDD cable.

Donald does a really good job of covering everything from the unboxing of the Compute Center to setting up the hardware (basically plug-n-play), to installing and updating the software. One of the biggest intimidating factors for many users who aren’t hardcore computer geeks is working with a command-line interface. It really isn’t something that should intimidate too easily. After you learn a few basic commands and basic command syntax, you can do a lot. And as Donald puts it, “the general trick is to know what you want to accomplish and then ask the Internet for help.” And: “I know it can be intimating, it’s still intimidating to me… but every problem I run up against is a web search away from finding a solution.” When he have a positive approach to learning something like setting up and programming a Raspberry Pi, and you know how and are not afraid to ask for help, you really can do and learn some amazing things.