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Raspberry Pi for research labs (1)

September 30th, 2013

Raspberry Pi for research labs (3)
Raspberry Pi for research labs (2)

Raspberry Pi is a mini and incredibly cheap PC. The size is like a credit card, and the price is $35. See how small it is compared to my hand.

If you connect Pi with a TV (or monitor), a keyboard, a mouse, an internet cable, a SD card, then it becomes a full fledged PC. Pi is ideal for students to learn computer languages and other educational purposes. But many people are very creative in using Pi as a digital photo frame, a media center, a internet radio station etc. Pi’s performance is like a a 300MHz Pentium 2.

Can Pi be used in human behavior and brain imaging research labs?  Our specific goal is to see if we can integrate Pi in our Near Infrared Spectroscopy (NIRS) research. In this first part of experiment, we will see if we can get Pi running at all as a regular computer.

Joe in our lab and I rush into Fry’s to purchase some items needed to run Pi:

  1. Power adapter. Yes, Pi needs power. The adapter is actually identical to my smartphone (android) charger.
  2. SD card and reader. It is like the hard disc of a regular computer and is where data (including OS) is saved.
  3. HDMI to VGA adapter (to connect to a monitor)
  4. We already have a monitor, a USB mouse, and a USB keyboard.
1. let’s format the SD card and put OS in.
I am using a Windows computer so I follow the following instructions.
  1. Download the SD Association’s Formatting Tool from
  2. Install and run the Formatting Tool on your machine
  3. Set “FORMAT SIZE ADJUSTMENT” option to “ON” in the “Options” menu
  4. Check that the SD card you inserted matches the one selected by the Tool
  5. Click the “Format” button
Then download NOOBS software from http://downloads.raspberrypi.org/noobs. It is a zip file, extract it and put the contents to the formatted SD card. Note, put the contents inside NOOBS_v1_3 folder to the SD card, but not the NOOBS_v1_3 folder itself.
2. Connect hardware to Pi.
Plug in the SD card to Pi, connect keyboard and mouse, HDMI to VGA adapter (then to monitor), Ethernet cable, and power adapter. As soon as you connect the power adapter, Pi will start to run. We have an option to select which OS to run, and we selected Raspbian, a version of Linux.
A close view of the hardware connected to Pi.
A far view of Pi and the keyboard/mouse, monitor etc. You can see the big juicy raspberry on the screen.
3. Surfing internet
Looks like it’s ready. Now let’s do something real - surfing internet. I opened Midori (a web browser) and can successfully go to any website I like.
We successfully set up Raspberry Pi as a computer running Linux. The next step is to see if we can use it for research purpose.
Author: Xu Cui Categories: brain, linux, programming, web Tags:
Try Stork, a research tool we developed

Stork is a publication alert app developed by us at Stanford. As a researcher we often forget to follow up important publications - and it's practically impossible to search many keywords or researchers' names everyday. Stork can help us to search everyday and notifies us when there are new publications/grants. How Stork helped me?

About the author:

Xu Cui is a human brain research scientist in Stanford University. He lives in the Bay Area in the United States. He is also the founder of Stork (smart publication alert app), PaperBox and BizGenius.


He was born in He'nan province, China. He received education in Beijing University(BS), University of Tennessee (Knoxville) (MS), Baylor College of Medicine (PhD) and Stanford University (PostDoc). Read more ...
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