Distributions for the Raspberry Pi at a glance

Arch Linux

Arch Linux [12] is an interesting counterpoint to Raspbian. It forgoes a graphical interface in favor of booting directly into the command line – taking just a few seconds to do so. Arch Linux inevitably drives absolute beginners to despair, but geeks will appreciate the sleek base system that they can selectively expand to suit their own needs. The Pacman GUI package manager is available for installing packages, and you can use it to set up a graphical interface if necessary.

Arch Linux follows the "rolling release" approach. Unlike many distributions, the developers do not release new versions of programs in cycles; instead they release on a daily basis via the package sources. Regular updates to new versions of the distribution are thus something you can forget. If you make a mistake during the configuration, however, you will end up with an unstable system. You should only use Arch Linux if you are familiar with the Linux command line  – or if want to learn more about it.


The completely independent RISC OS [13] was supplied by British manufacturer Acorn in the 1980s and 1990s with various generations of home computers. RISC OS is not a version of Linux but is a completely different operating system. In the UK in particular, Acorn sold the legendary Archimedes computer in larger numbers. Because the Rasp Pi had a greatly improved version of the CPU installed at the time, RISC OS was an obvious match for the mini-computer. RISC OS is not free software, but you can download it for free use and pass it on. The details are governed by the proprietary license included with the distribution.

Because RISC OS has a long history, you will find related software on many older websites. Not all of them run on the Raspberry Pi's ARMv6, which is why you should use one of the two built-in package managers (Store or Packman). Although both contain only a small part of the available applications and games, they were selected in terms of compatibility and quality.

Overall, RISC OS is quite stable, boots quickly, and has a lean core. During operation, you will see that it can be significantly different from other operating systems, such as the much more frequent use of drag and drop. File selection dialogs (e.g., opening files in a program), for example, almost never show a hierarchical list of directories and files. Instead, you must use the mouse to drag the desired file from a directory window on the desktop and drop it onto the appropriate icon within the program window.

Despite enthusiasm for the microcosm of RISC OS, the system does look rather out of date from today's perspective, particularly with regard to the functionality of the software. For example, the preinstalled NetSurf browser does support either HTML5 or JavaScript. Additionally, you will look in vain for an office package that can compete with LibreOffice.

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