(LEFT) Boot Screen of Rasbian for PC operating sytems. (RIGHT) This is Raspbian running on a PC. (via Raspberrypi.org)
The Raspberry Pi Foundation has created a version of the Raspbian OS for MAC and x86(Windows) personal computers. Raspbian is the Debian based Linux distro that until now, was intended specifically for the Raspberry Pi series of SBCs. This OS is purported to need a minimum of 512MB of RAM but you can see in the comments that at least one user got it running on a machine with just 256MB of RAM. The OS is meant to be run from a DVD or a USB drive. Just boot from the medium of your choice and then you will be taken right to the new PIXEL desktop.
I am sure that most maker/engineer types out there (like myself) have an alarmingly large pile of ancient computer equipment. I know that, at any time, I could have downloaded Knoppix or Ubuntu or really any other Linux distro and revived my sad and smudgy collection of laptops and desktops but I don’t need just another computer. However, a pi-top made from an actual old laptop would be awesome. I use Raspbian and Raspberry Pi’s extensively and it is really cool to be able to reuse that old hardware for RasPi development. Maybe you could set up a dual boot so that you can run the OS on your desktop for those days when you need to do some RasPi work but you don’t want to actually hook up a Raspberry Pi. But really, seamlessly (hypothetically) moving work across platforms but not operating systems is really conducive to familiarly with the OS.
That is one of the reason given by raspberrypi.org for why this whole endeavor is worth doing. Being able to work in the same environment regardless of platform reduces the learning curve and removes the need to adjust for different operating systems. Now their example refers to student users but it applies to users of all types.
Also, I am willing to bet that for a lot of people the only version of Linux that they have ever experienced is Raspbian. The release of the Raspberry Pi has almost certainly exposed a legion of people to Linux who otherwise might never have had need to use it.
Users of the new distro may notice the absence of Wolfram Mathematica and Minecraft. The RasPi foundation reports that they are only licensed to include that software on versions of the OS meant to run on an actual Raspberry Pi computer. Also, the RasPi foundation does caution that this release is a prototype, and while updates will be forthcoming, users can expect to see some issues with the OS recognizing some hardware configurations.
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