Makers of the tiny Linux-based computer Raspberry Pi just released their own brand of operating system for the PC and Mac, potentially making older computers useful again.
It’s based on PIXEL, a desktop environment and OS designed to run on Raspberry Pi hardware, which is a cheap $35 microcomputer platform, and it was launched in September 2016. The PIXEL name is a somewhat tortured acronym that stands for “Pi Improved Xwindows Environment, Lightweight.”
The OS designed for PCs is a hybrid of Debian Linux running with PIXEL as its desktop environment. It provides a curated, modern interface with a number of curated tools, both free and proprietary. This includes the Chromium web browser and pre-installed Adobe Flash.
As the system is built atop Linux, users have instant access to thousands of free, open-source applications and tools to fill out their experience. Two key applications missing from this release include Minecraft and Wolfram Mathematica because the company only has licenses for them on Raspberry Pi platforms.
This release is an experimental version of PIXEL designed for x86 platforms, which includes all consumer PCs and most Macs. Since the OS is extremely lightweight, it should run reasonably well even on aging hardware such as i836 architecture, popularized by Intel Corp. in the 1990s. For example, PIXEL should run on a ThinkPad X40 with at least 512MB of memory.
To get going, users need only download the PIXEL image (here’s the direct download), burn it to a DVD or flash it onto a USB stick, and any computer capable can boot directly into the OS. Alternatively, the most recent issue of MagPi Magazine has a DVD attached with the image pre-burned.
With the release of PIXEL, the Raspberry Pi Foundation hopes to increase the reach of its tools and capabilities to more people, especially those in education. With the same desktop environment at school as well as on the Raspberry Pi, a student can seamlessly move between the classroom and home hobbies using the same interface and tools. Raspberry Pi sees this as enabling future hardware and software developers in their journey to maintaining and innovating the industry.
Further details and instructions on how to get PIXEL up and running are included in the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s release announcement.