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Raspberry Pi Foundation releases operating system for PCs, Macs

Debian-derived PIXEL brings Pi experience to x86s, as Foundation chases 'best desktop environment, period'

By Simon Sharwood, 22 Dec 2016

The Raspberry Pi foundation has ported the PIXEL OS it released in September to the PC and Mac.

PIXEL stands for “Pi Improved Xwindows Environment, Lightweight” and is, says Pi founder Eben Upton, “our best guess as to what the majority of users are looking for in a desktop environment: a clean, modern user interface; a curated suite of productivity software and programming tools, both free and proprietary.”

Other uses for the OS seem to have exercised Upton's mind in recent months, as he writes that “Back in the summer, we asked ourselves one simple question: if we like PIXEL so much, why ask people to buy Raspberry Pi hardware in order to run it?”

Upton says he and other Pi guys noted “There is a massive installed base of PC and Mac hardware out there, which can run x86 Debian just fine” and asked themselves “Could we do something for the owners of those machines?”

The answer turned out to be “yes”, as the Foundation has cooked up an experimental x86 version of the OS.

PIXEL ships without Mathematica and Minecraft, as the Pi Foundation doesn't have licences for those applications on machines other than its own. System requirements are modest: Upton promises PIXEL “should run even on vintage machines like my ThinkPad X40, provided they have at least 512MB of RAM.”

Upton thinks those hardware requirements might excite schools with fleets of old PCs, as it will mean students can work in the same PIXEL environment at school on an x86 and then take their work home to run on a Raspberry Pi.

PIXEL is bootable from a DVD or USB stick, or can be installed onto the machine of your choice. Vulture South was able to download the 1.3GB .ISO file and it booted happily and rapidly into VMware Fusion. Your mileage may vary: Upton says some Macs don't think the PIXEL image is bootable. Upton also points out this is an early release that will improve. ®

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