Raspberry Pi OS Operating Systems include Raspberry PI OS formerly known as Raspbian, LibreElec a KODI Entertainment Center, RetroPie, and Ubuntu 32 or 64 bit. In general, each distribution is designed for a specific purpose or target audience.
However, for beginners the Raspberry PI OS (32 bit) is regarded as the best way to get started learning the Raspberry Pi. The Raspberry Pi OS (32 bit) currently comes in three distributions including Desktop with recommended applications, Desktop, and a Lite version.
Raspberry Pi OS with Desktop & Recommended Applications:
This distribution is the largest (about 3gb currently) however it contains a good mix of software to get you started. The time you save by not having to download and install commonly used applications is well worth it. For example, LibreOffice, scratch for programming, Chromium Web Browser, VLC Media Player come pre-installed. As a result, I recommend starting with this distribution if you are new to the Raspberry Pi.
Raspberry Pi OS with Desktop:
This distribution is smaller (about 1.2gb currently) and installs with the basic operating system and desktop. If you are an more experienced user and want to start from scratch this is your distribution. I recommend this distribution for users wanting to perform specific groups of tasks or just want lean mean machine.
Raspberry Pi OS Lite:
Generally speaking, the Raspberry Pi OS Lite distribution is used when you wish to turn your Raspberry Pi into a Server. In addition, this distribution is great for people that are comfortable with the Raspberry Pi Terminal and shell commands. By and large, this distribution does not take up as much space and works on smaller Micro SD cards.
Running Raspberry Pi OS on Windows PC or Mac PC:
In the event that you wish to try out the Raspberry Pi OS on a Windows PC or Mac, Debian Buster with Raspberry Pi Desktop is available. Notably, this is a cool way to learn and get to know the Raspberry Pi OS. As a result, many people try out the operating system on their PC or Mac before purchasing a Raspberry Pi.
3rd Party Raspberry Pi Operating System Distributions:
In general, most people install the Raspberry Pi OS. However, there are some other very cool options for the Raspberry Pi that deserve attention.
LibreElec a KODI Entertainment Center for Raspberry Pi:
On balance, KODI is the ultimate entertainment center. KODI (formerly XBMC) is a free and open source media player application. In addition, KODI was developed by the XBMC/KODI Foundation, a non-profit technology consortium. KODI is recognized as the most popular open source media Center. Consequently, KODI gives a smart TV, a run for the money. As a result, the following list gives an example of what you can do with KODI:
- Store and display home movies and pictures.
- Store and display movies, you own and have ripped.
- Add a TV Tuner and record TV shows and movies from Cable or Antenna.
- Stream TV shows, movies and more with App you can download and configure.
- Hook up a DVD drive/player and watch DVD movies.
In addition, the KODI Entertainment Center is available for Windows, Macbook Pro, Mac PC – OSX / iOS, Android and Linux. Notably, you can now have your Pi and some entertainment too!
RetroPie – The ultimate Retro Gaming System for Raspberry Pi:
The 1980’s and 1990’s saw an explosion of gaming systems as well as personal computers with games. The Raspberry Pi can run most of them. Visit your past and show your kids all your favorite games from your youth. Consequently, you will need to purchase game ROMS or convert game ROMS you own, to play them with RetroPie. Therefore, the RetroPie does require additional work before being able to play games. However, it can be well worth the time and effort. For example, the following list shows some of the gaming systems that can be emulating using RetroPie:
- Apple II
- Atari 2600, 5200, 7800, Jaguar, Lynx & More
- Commodore 64
- Game Boy
- Game Gear
- Nintendo DS, Entertainment & 64
- PC DOS
- Play Station
- Radio Shack Tandy TRS-80 & Color Computer
Ubuntu Desktop, Server & Core in 32Bit or 64Bit:
In addition, Ubuntu Desktop, Server & Core is available for downloading and installing on the Raspberry Pi. Ubuntu is a version of Linux based of of Debian with a big following. As a result, power users looking for more speed can use the 64bit Ubuntu distributions. For many, experienced Linux users, will be right at home using Ubuntu. The newer versions of Ubuntu have snap making many software installations simpler than in the past.
In general, the desktop version comes with software pre-installed like LibreOffice. Accordingly, Ubuntu server and core have less and in most cases do not contain the desktop.
Raspberry Pi OS Summary:
The Raspberry Pi computer is versatile and able to run different versions of the Raspberry Pi OS serving different needs. In addition, 3rd Party Operating Systems are available for the Raspberry Pi, including the KODI Media Server and RetroPie Gaming Systems.
In the event that, you do not have a Raspberry Pi computer, you can install the Raspberry Pi OS on a Windows or Mac PC.
May the Pi be with you,