How to prepare a headless Raspberry Pi Zero to drive the plotter#

A headless Raspberry Pi Zero is ideal as the engine for the plotter. It can can be used in OTG (on-the-go) mode, in which it receives both power and a network connection to a host machine over a single USB connection.

Here’s a recipe for a quick set-up, from scratch.

These instuctions have been tested with Raspberry Pi OS Bullseye.

Download the latest Raspberry Pi OS Lite (minimal image) from the Raspberry Pi OS downloads page.

Do whatever needs to be done to put it onto a micro SD card.

Enable SSH and OTG Ethernet access#

SSH access#

The SD card should have a boot volume. Create a file called ssh at the root.

OTG Ethernet access#

“On-the-go” power/Ethernet connectivity allows you to power a Raspberry Pi Zero, and connect to it via Ethernet over USB, on the same port (the Pi’s USB port).

Edit config.txt, adding:


to a new line at the end.

Edit cmdline.txt, adding:


just after rootwait.

Eject the card and put it into the Pi.

Connect to the Pi via OTG USB#

Connect a USB cable to the USB port (marked USB, not to be confused with the PWR port next to it) from your own computer. This will provide power and establish an Ethernet connection to the Pi.

After a while, your machine’s networking configuration should show the Raspberry Pi.

Macintosh: the Pi will appear as RNDIS/Ethernet Gadget (you can rename this).

Ubuntu: the Pi will show up as an ethernet device named Wired connection #

You should be able to SSH into it:

ssh pi@raspberrypi.local

The password is raspberry.

But better than using a password is to…

Set up SSH key authentication to the Pi#

Copy your public key to the Pi so you don’t have to log in each time you SSH - on your computer, run:

ssh-copy-id pi@raspberrypi.local

Set a fixed MAC address#

You may find that by default, the Pi will generate a new MAC address and appear as a new device to the host each time it reboots, which is annoying.

To set a fixed address, add a file /etc/modprobe.d/rndis.conf. In it, add:

options g_ether host_addr=ae:ad:f5:9d:9f:ba dev_addr=7a:26:9f:3e:97:6c

See How can I make a Pi Zero appear as the same RNDIS/Ethernet Gadget device to the host OS each time it restarts? on StackExchange for more information.

Share your Internet connection to the Pi#

Macintosh: this is available via the Sharing Preference Pane.

Ubuntu: go to the IPv4 Settings networking configuration tab, and set the method to Shared to other computers.

Check that you can ping an external site from the Pi.

Update everything#


sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get -y upgrade

to update the software.

This will take a while.

Install the software#

Refer to the Install the software section if you need more information about what will be installed by the following commands.

System packages#


sudo apt install -y python3-venv pigpiod libjbig0 libjpeg-dev liblcms2-2 libopenjp2-7 libtiff5 libwebp6 libwebpdemux2 libwebpmux3 libzstd1 libatlas3-base libgfortran5 git tmux


This also installs tmux, a very handy way of managing terminal sessions, so that even if your connection is broken, you can re-join the session without losing your place - when working with a Raspberry Pi Zero connected using OTG Ethernet, this is a great convenience.

Download the BrachioGraph library#

git clone  # if you have provided GitHub with your public key
git clone  # if you have not

Python packages#

In a Python 3 virtual environment:

pip install -r BrachioGraph/requirements.txt

Add a pin header#

If you don’t already have them, you will need a GPIO (general-purpose input/output) pin header to connect the Raspberry Pi to the jumper wires that will connect to the servo motors. Different pin headers are available that can be snapped or soldered into place.

Start it all up#

sudo pigpiod && source env/bin/activate && cd BrachioGraph && python