Hardware What I’m Up To

New life for an old Raspberry Pi with a 3.5″ touchscreen

Since getting my Raspberry Pi 4 as part of the cybersecurity course I took last summer, I haven’t done any work with my older Raspberry Pi 3, which is still a decent computer, especially considering its size and price.

That all changed when I finally unboxed my Kuman 3.5″ LCD display, (a steal at $20) which my in-laws gave to me for Christmas (they went through my Amazon wishlist for gift ideas). They had no idea what it was, but figured I’d like it, which I do!

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With a 3.5″ diagonal and 480 by 320 resolution, this screen isn’t meant for reading web pages or PDFs or writing code, documents, or spreadsheets. It’s meant to be a display for an IoT project that doesn’t need to display a lot of information, such as a weather app, smart thermostat, or even low-res videogames.

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The screen’s not just an output device, but an input device as well, since it’s touch-sensitive. Once you’ve installed the driver, the Pi treats the screen as if it were another mouse, treating taps as mouse clicks, and the location of your tap as mouse coordinates.

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The screen plugs directly into the Pi’s GPIO (General Purpose Input/Output), a 40-pin connector located along the top edge of the board, which it uses for power. It’s also what physically holds the screen to the Raspberry Pi.

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The video signal is fed to the screen through a U-shaped HDMI connector that connects the Raspberry Pi’s HDMI port to the screen’s HDMI port.

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I’ll post the results of my noodling with this new Raspberry Pi/screen combo here on Global Nerdy. It should be interesting!

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Hardware Programming

Yes, you can run Visual Studio Code on Raspberry Pi

This is the first in “Cobra Pi”, a series of articles on getting the most out of your Raspberry Pi!

Yes, you can run Visual Studio Code on Raspberry Pi!

You’ve got many options for editing code or other plain text files on your Raspberry Pi. It is, after all, a Linux machine, and you’ve got all the classic command-line editors — vim, emacs, and…

And the windows-and-mouse-based Geany (text editor) and Thonny (beginner-friendly Python IDE) come along with even the bare-bones version of the Raspberry Pi OS setup.

But if you’re like about half the developers who answered the 2019 Stack Overflow survey, your “home” editor is Visual Studio Code. And yes, you can run Visual Studio Code on Raspberry Pi.

How to install Visual Studio Code on Raspberry Pi

If you go to Visual Studio Code’s “downloads” page, you’ll see this:

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For the Raspberry Pi, you want to download the Debian package for systems with ARM processors (click on the ARM button in the .deb row).

Once downloaded, go to your Downloads directory and double-click on the the .deb file you just downloaded. You’ll see greeted with this dialog box:

Click the Install button. You’ll be presented with another dialog box, this time asking for your user password, since it’s required when installing new applications:

Enter the password you use to log into the Raspberry Pi into the Password field and click OK.

Visual Studio Code will be installed on your Pi. Once the process is done, you can launch it by clicking on the Start Menu (the raspberry icon in the upper left-hand corner)…

…and in the menu that appears, select the Programming menu. A sub-menu will appear, and one of the items will be Visual Studio Code. Click that and…

Screenshot: Visual Studio Code on Raspberry Pi
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You’ll be in the Visual Studio Code that you know and love from Windows, macOS, and Linux! And yes, all the plugins that you’ve come to depend on will be available.

Go forth and code!