Raspberry Pi devices can now run all versions of Ubuntu Linux thanks to porting tools developed originally for Ubuntu MATE. The catch: GNOME, KDE and Unity won't run on Raspberry Pi, but LXDE and Xfce do.
Raspberry Pi, the family of tiny, inexpensive computers popular for educational and embedded computing, could soon become more Ubuntu-friendly. That's thanks to new tools that make it easier to port certain versions of Canonical's operating systems to Raspberry Pi devices.
A few days ago, the MATE team announced its intention of extending the porting tools so they work with other Ubuntu flavors. Developer Martin Wimpress said he has already compiled "every Ubuntu flavour, including server versions," for the Raspberry Pi using the tools. He plans to share more information at upcoming developer conferences.
The catch is that Raspberry Pi devices currently lack the graphics support required to run the most sophisticated desktop environments for Ubuntu, namely Unity, GNOME and KDE. As a result, Ubuntu flavors designed for those interfaces won't work on the Raspberry Pi, unless users are content working only from the command line.
However, lighter-duty desktop environments run in full graphics mode on the devices. That means Lubuntu and Xubuntu, which use the LXDE and Xfce desktop environments, respectively, work fine on the device when compiled using the MATE team's porting tools. Ubuntu Server, which doesn't include any graphical interface by default, also works on the hardware.
In general, this news is likely to interest only Ubuntu power users and programmers who would like to build a richer ecosystem of Ubuntu software for the Raspberry Pi, which already supports other distributions of GNU/Linux.
However, the porting tools could lead to bigger developments down the line, particularly in the realm of Ubuntu apps and programs for embedded or minimalist devices. The main selling point of Raspberry Pi hardware is that it offers an inexpensive, open base for embedded computing and other small-form factor applications. By becoming more Ubuntu-friendly, the devices will make it easier for third-party developers to create new types of Ubuntu-based hardware products, which could prove especially relevant as IoT continues to take off.