Debian + Pixel: Raspberry Pi OS for Mac and PC
Pixel represents our best guess as to what the majority of users are looking for in a desktop environment: a clean, modern user interface; a curated suite of productivity software and programming tools, both free and proprietary.
It also includes the Chromium web browser with useful plugins, including Adobe Flash, preinstalled. And all of this is built on top of Debian, providing instant access to thousands of free applications.
Put simply, it’s the GNU/Linux we would want to use.
Back in the summer, we asked ourselves one simple question: if we like PIXEL so much, why ask people to buy Raspberry Pi hardware in order to run it? There is a massive installed base of PC and Mac hardware out there, which can run x86 Debian just fine. Could we do something for the owners of those machines?
So, after three months of hard work from Simon and Serge, we have a Christmas treat for you: an experimental version of Debian+PIXEL for x86 platforms. Simply download the image, burn it onto a DVD or flash it onto a USB stick, and boot straight into the familiar PIXEL desktop environment on your PC or Mac.
You’ll find all the applications you’re used to, with the exception of Minecraft and Wolfram Mathematica (we don’t have a licence to put those on any machine that’s not a Raspberry Pi). Because we’re using the venerable i386 architecture variant it should run even on vintage machines like my ThinkPad X40, provided they have at least 512MB of RAM.
Download the image, and either burn it to a DVD or write it to a USB stick. For the latter, we recommend Etcher.
Insert the DVD or USB stick into your PC or Mac, and turn it on. On a PC, you will generally need to enable booting from optical drive or USB stick in the BIOS, and you will have to ensure that the optical drive or USB stick is ahead of all other drives in the boot order. On a Mac, you’ll need to hold down C during boot*.
If you’ve done that correctly, you will be greeted by a boot screen. Here you can press escape to access the boot menu, or do nothing to boot through to the desktop.
We are aware of an issue on some modern Macs (including, annoyingly, mine – but not Liz’s), where the machine fails to identify the image as bootable. We’ll release an updated image once we’ve got to the bottom of the issue.
If you are running from DVD, any files you create, or modifications you make to the system, will of course be lost when you power off the machine. If you are running from a USB stick, the system will by default use any spare space on the device to create a persistence partition, which allows files to persist between sessions. The boot menu provides options to run with or without persistence, or to erase any persistence partition that has been created, allowing you to roll back to a clean install at any time.
One of the great benefits of the Raspberry Pi is that it is a low-consequence environment for messing about: if you trash your SD card you can just flash another one. This is not always true of your PC or Mac. Consider backing up your system before trying this image.
Raspberry Pi can accept no liability for any loss of data or damage to computer systems from using the image.