You'll want to set a static IP address for the Raspbery Pi before you boot. Assuming we're connecting the Pi directly to the laptop with a crossover cable, we'll use an IP address in the range 169.254.X.Y. The IP prefix 169.254, like the IP prefixes 192.168 or 10.X, is a special IP address for special networks. In this case, 169.254 is the "link-local address" - an IP address range for devices connected directly to the computer with a crossover cable. (Original source of this IP address was here, but a search for 169.254 will point you toward the "link-local address" Wikipedia page here).
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