Recently I bought a Raspberry Pi 4 with 8 gigabytes of RAM to see if the desktop dream had finally arrived on the Pi. The Raspberry Pi, for those that do not know, is a small credit card-sized computer that is designed by the Raspberry Pi foundation. A charity that aims to advance the computing skills of the younger generation. It has caught on with hobbyists and tinkerers the world over. Initially, I used the native operating system of the Raspberry Pi which is called the ‘Raspberry Pi OS’ and I found it a little limiting. So I changed the desktop environment and tried to use it like I would any one of my Linux desktops. Even though the Apple sharing protocol is set up by default it was constantly dropping out. I tend to use this particular file sharing service on most of my Linux desktops so I wasn’t particularly happy. I must admit that I didn’t delve very deeply into the issue as I am sure there would be workarounds or reasons for it dropping out.
I decided to try the desktop version of Ubuntu which at this stage is an ‘unstable’ branch. There were stable ‘server’ versions but I didn’t know if it would contain a full repository for a desktop system and applications as the ‘server’ version is mostly command-line focused. Once again I didn’t delve too deeply and found the unstable version of Ubuntu both an improvement but also full of other problems. Using an unstable branch is always exciting and a little disappointing at the same time. Many years ago I discovered this by upgrading one of my Debian systems to unstable and it was great but also unstable which goes without saying. That is why I am currently sticking to Ubuntu on the Pi. It has some features that are pretty cool. Some applications that I initially wanted to use don’t really work at all so I have had to make the most of what does work.
The main issue with the Ubuntu desktop for the Pi is it doesn’t have accelerated graphics. Even though I have still managed to make two videos. I only needed to lay down the sound and do basic editing. Even though I couldn’t play it back before rendering I basically knew how the video would come out. The Pi 4 can really perform when rendering video and I also edited some sound files without any issues. If I wanted to fine-tune my video editing I wouldn’t be able to do it without accelerated graphics though. The other great feature is Bluetooth. The Pi has Bluetooth built-in and when paired with my phone I can sample almost anything. That is the killer feature for me. I heard a friends soundtrack to his video and I asked him for the track but he is too busy to even scratch himself so I knew I would never get it. So I fired up Bluetooth and basically sampled it and now I can listen to it whenever I want.
What I have found though is the desktop journey for the Pi is still in its infancy and will take a few more years to develop. I have also realised it is good to have at least one unstable operating system on hand. For years I have only used stable versions of Linux. That is good but you don’t get to try new experimental features and see what is bleeding edge. I tend to have a lot of computers anyway. It is a hobby and also a creative tool. I am hoping the Pi desktop experience will keep growing and I am sure it will.