The Best Operating Systems for Your Raspberry Pi Projects

If you’re new to the Raspberry Pi, this $ 35 tiny computer we all love, chances are good that you’ve downloaded (or purchased an SD card that includes) NOOBS . NOOBS makes getting started with the Pi easy and includes many different operating systems to choose from. Which one you should choose depends, of course, on your project. Here’s how to make the right choice.

What is NOOBS?

The Raspberry Pi itself does not come with an operating system. To do this, you need NOOBS , short for New Out of the Box Software. It is an operating system manager that makes it easy to download, install, and configure your Raspberry Pi. When you download NOOBS for the first time, you get a choice of OS to choose from. Which operating systems are available depends on which Raspberry Pi model you are using. For this guide, we will stick to the most common OS operating systems available on the latest Raspberry Pi models. Right now, these are Raspbian , OSMC , OpenELEC , Windows IoT Core, and RISC OS .

While it’s easy to download NOOBS, you can buy an SD card with NOOBS pre-installed for about $ 12 from Adafruit . If you prefer the DIY option, the installation process is very simple and you will find the complete guide on the Raspberry Pi website . On first boot, NOOBS welcomes you with a selection of operating systems. You can set as many as you like to fit on your SD card. Let’s see which of these options works best for your specific Raspberry Pi plans.

Raspbian is the best general-purpose operating system

Raspbian is the “official” operating system for the Raspberry Pi, and as such, most people will want to start with it.

Raspbian is a version of Linux built specifically for the Raspberry Pi. It comes with all the software you will need for every basic computer task. You will receive LibreOffice in the form of an office suite, web browser, email program, and some programming tools for both kids and adults. Heck, it even includes a dedicated (no longer development) version of Minecraft . Raspbian is the foundation for almost every DIY project , so if you want to do something , Raspbian is likely to be the place you want to start from. Because it is so widely used, it is also easy to find guides and troubleshooting tips.

If you are new to Linux, Raspbian will confuse you a little. The Rpi Starter Wiki is a great starting point, as are the official Raspberry Pi resources . They both walk you through everything you need to use Raspbian, from making games to accessing the default programs. If the video is more your thing, Raspberry Pi for beginners YouTube channel has a lot to see how it makes Raspberry Pi Tutorials C h n n e l .

OSMC – the best, feature-rich media center software

OSMC (Open Source Media Center) is a media center software based on Kodi (formerly XBMC) but easier to set up and use. In fact, it doesn’t look like Kodi at all, which is a good thing. This is probably the easiest-to-use media center software available on the Pi. Whether you’re new to media centers or trying to create one for non-tech people, OSMC is the place to go.

Compared to Kodi, OSMC has a clean interface that gets rid of the clutter. You get a menu on the left side of the screen that allows you to select media (video / music / pictures), dig into settings, or check other programs. Everything is neat and clear. Of course, you can still install Kodi add-ons for media streaming and customize remotes so you don’t have to use your keyboard. In fact, OSMC has presets for several popular remote controls, so you don’t even have to scratch your head trying to set up one. As for local media, you can play videos and photos from USB storage.

However, OSMC still has work to do. It runs full Debian under the hood, so you can set up SSH, FTP, Samba sharing, and more if you’re an advanced user.

OpenELEC is the media center for people looking for a fast and easy experience

If OSMC isn’t right for you, it’s worth taking a look at OpenELEC (Open Embedded Linux Entertainment Center). OpenELEC is a more direct port of Kodi, so if you’re familiar with Kodi and how it works, you’ll be right at home. If OSMC is a feature-rich and customizable media center that can do whatever you want, OpenELEC is built for one purpose: multimedia playback. If you already have a ton of movies or music on your hard drive and just want an easy way to play them on your TV, OpenELEC is the way to go.

We’ve dug into OpenELEC before , but its main attraction is speed. OpenELEC takes Kodi and strips away a lot of customization options to make it simple, fast, and simple. It’s not as open-minded as OSMC, however, so you can’t make system-level changes like changing the Pi’s overclocking speed without diving into the complex menus. OpenELEC also restricts access to certain services such as SSH, so it is not easy to set up.

Windows 10 IoT Core is for developers building connected devices

Windows 10 IoT is a special version of Windows built for the Raspberry Pi. This is not a complete version of Windows. Instead, it’s conceived as a development platform for coders and programmers to prototype internet-connected devices using a Raspberry Pi and Windows 10. Windows 10 IoT is only compatible with Windows 10, and you can’t do anything with it if you don’t. another computer with Windows 10 installed.

When you first boot into Windows 10 IoT, all you see on your Pi is the screen above. You cannot control or do anything with the Pi yourself. To do this, you need to download and install Visual Studio on your Windows PC. Once you’ve done that, you can program and control your Raspberry Pi from Visual Studio on Windows 10. This means you can fire flashing lights, connect to buttons, control motors, and a host of other things.

To get started with Windows IoT Core, Microsoft has a fantastic collection of projects that show you how to use it. Take a look at these projects and see if they are of interest to you to decide whether or not to install Windows 10 IoT Core.

RISC OS is for anyone who wants to play with a completely different type of operating system

If there is a weirdo here, it is RISC OS . The RISC OS is not built on Linux, and it is not really a prototype for helping electronic wizards. Instead, it is a separate operating system. It’s kind of weird too, but it can be fun to play with.

RISC OS doesn’t have much in common with other operating systems like Linux, OS X, or even Windows. It was originally developed in 1987 and has its roots in BBC Micro . RISC OS is much simpler than modern operating systems. One application can take over the entire operating system, it only works as a single user system, applications are just directories with an exclamation mark in front of the name, and this is not particularly protected. RISC OS is also great for drag and drop, where if you want to save you drag the “save as” icon into a folder. It is essentially an obscure little operating system, but addicting nonetheless.

Most people should not install RISC OS. You can’t use it as your primary operating system, it has few features to support modern software, and it doesn’t work like any other operating system available right now. However, if you are a curious type, it is fun to play with. For Beginners:Ident Showcase has a good step-by-step tutorial on YouTube , the RISC OS welcome page walks you through some of the basics, or visit the RISC OS forums for tips .

NOOBS is a great way to test new operating systems and get to know the Raspberry Pi, so it’s worth experimenting a bit with all of them. If you’re looking for other options, there are tons of other off-the-shelf projects not included in NOOBS that are worth checking out.

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