How to Fix Your Piper Computer Kit’s Corrupted Software

My son brought his new Piper to life, but its software quickly began glitching. So, it was time to help keep the learning experience on track. That means figuring out how to reflash the Raspberry Pi’s OS onto the MicroSD Card. (what?) Here’s what I did…

A few weeks back I proudly bought my nine year old a Piper Computer Kit for his birthday. I was so excited for him… He would build his very own computer, powered by a Raspberry Pi and then learn programming and other computer skills through a Piper-specific Minecraft StoryMode interface…

I felt it was the best birthday gift a dad could give his kid… ever!
(Okay, maybe I got a little too excited.)

The truth is all my boy really wanted was a big stack of Pokémon cards.

Pokémon cards!?

Come on… I was about to give the young Lester the tools to create a virtual universe if he desired… and all he wanted… were some glittery cards.
(Clearly, I don’t understand the Pokémon phenomenon.)

So, of course, we got him the cards… too. And during the next few days, our boy was fully immersed in his Pokémon world.

The Piper Computer Kit sat unopened in the corner.
(Sniff)

…Cue the tumbleweed shot.

Then…

The next Saturday morning at breakfast, he turned to me and said with a big smile,
“Let’s build my computer!”

Finally!
We were on…

The Piper’s Stormy Maiden Voyage
He opened up the massive blueprints, spread them out on the floor, and began constructing the Piper with the intensity of engineers racing to build the spaceship in the 1951 sci-fi movie, “When Worlds Collide.”

In little more than a couple of hours, we had a heartbeat.

He activated the Piper’s Minecraft ‘Story Mode’, and before I knew it, he was testing circuits faster than you can say, “Scotty, I need warp speed!”

It was just glorious.

And then suddenly, it all just… stopped. Minecraft had crashed, and we were just staring at the desktop.

My son turned and looked at me.

Frack.

I suggested he double click on the icon to get back into the teaching game.
Nothing.

Hmmm….

Then, I took the next logical step… I checked for any software updates and downloaded those.
Still nothing.

The computer itself was still seemingly working okay… but we couldn’t get back into the Piper Minecraft teaching program…

Piper, we have a problem!

Time to Reinstall the Software
My son was still feeling pretty pumped about building his Piper, but understandably a bit deflated by this glitch. He powered down his creation, and I pledged to do some research to find a fix…

The next day, I emailed Piper customer service asking for a little support…

After sharing my details, the prognosis came back that somehow the software on the Piper’s microSD card had gotten corrupted, and I needed to “reflash” the SD card.

Huh?
(Reflashing the card means reinstalling the Raspberry Pi’s operating system image back onto the card.)

Okay… So how do you do that…?

How to Reflash the SD Card
Taylor, from Piper Customer Care emailed me links to the Raspberry Pi software and instructions on how to reflash the SD card.

Beyond the obvious need to first download the image of the operating system, there were three other key steps…

  1. I also had to download Etcher, which is a graphical SD card writing app that flashes OS images onto SD cards.
  2. I needed to remove the MicroSD card from its Raspberry Pi slot, slip it into a larger SD card adapter (which I happen to have from my GoPro kit) and then insert that into my iMac’s SD card reader.
  3. When it was time to find the downloaded Raspberry Pi operating system image in the Etcher interface, I first needed to drag it from my ‘Downloads’ to my iMac’s desktop. After that, it was easy to locate.

Then, you click on ‘Flash,’ and you’re on your way!

Within five minutes, the operation was compete, and I reinserted the MicroSD card back into the Raspberry Pi.

I powered up the Piper, and BAM!

It was all working again…!

A Computer Kit May Require Some Hands-On Maintenance
So, even though the Piper was now fully functional, part of me still wondered how much of a problem it was that I had to reinstall the operating system.

Shouldn’t a new computer not crash after 20 minutes of use?

On the other hand, I had to remind myself that I was working with a $300 computer kit centered around a $40 Raspberry Pi motherboard… not a $2,000 iMac. The rules are a little different!

And isn’t the entire idea behind a build-your-own computer that sometimes you’re going to have to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty?

At the end of the day, reflashing the SD card was super simple, and our Piper works like new again.

If my son were a little older, I would have had him do all the reflashing work. That would have been an excellent project for him!
(I just wanted to make sure I flashed the SD card and not my iMac’s hard drive.)

Taylor from Customer Care was super responsive and even offered to mail me a replacement SD card. I’ve got to say that’s pretty good support…

Thank You, Piper!
So, what have we learned from all of this…?

There’s often a fine line between worrying that you’ve made a bad technology purchase and feeling helpless to fix the problem… and taking control to find a solution and making the repair yourself.

It just takes the right point of view…

That’s a lesson children of all ages can learn… and one that I’m really happy my Piper experience has reinforced in my own life.

Play on!