Digital World Native

Lightweight OS ‘PIXEL’ for Raspberry Pi is available for free on Mac & PC

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This lightning fast operating system (OS) ‘PIXEL’ is optimized to run productivity & game software on the Raspberry Pi, a cheap microprocessor for hobbyists & students. It has now been released as a free downloadable image that will run on old, underpowered PCs & Macs that are ready for the scrapyard, potentially giving them a new lease on life.

If you’ve given up on your old x86-based laptop or MacBook, you can breathe new life into it using this highly optimized & fast Raspbian & Linux Debian-based OS. The minimum requirements on the PC side is that you have an x86 processor with at least 512MB of RAM. PIXEL is visually appealing & comes with the latest version of Chromium, the open source version of the Google Chrome browser, as well as a productivity software suite, programming tools & everything you’d expect from a modern OS.

The OS was ported from the Raspberry Pi version by the UK-based Raspberry Pi Foundation, with software developer Simon Long leading the effort. The name stands for “Pi Improved Xwindows Environment, Lightweight”, & Foundation spokesmen have said that they’ve developed it to reach the massive installed base of old PC & Mac hardware whose owners would be leery of installing a “difficult” OS like Debian, replacing the experience with a full-featured OS with a decidedly user-friendly install & user experience.

PIXEL is currently an experimental prototype, so don’t expect everything to be breezy just yet. You’ll most likely run into some bugs & problems with hardware compatibility on some computers, most noticeably on Macs. Also, it ships without some of the software that has helped to make it a success on Raspberry Pi hardware: Mathematica & Minecraft, since the Pi Foundation does not count with licenses for those titles outside the Raspberry Pi.

One of the things the Foundation is counting on is that schools, which have been one of the main markets of the Raspberry Pi, can take advantage of old PC & Mac hardware that they & students have laying around. Students can work on the same OS regardless of the hardware involved, thus making it easy to take work back & forth from school to home.

You can get a bootable ISO image for free here. It can be burned on a DVD or removable USB stick using, for example, the recommended (by the Pi Foundation) free Escher burning software on Windows.

Image Credit: Raspberry Pi