Checking out Pop!_OS 21.10 on the Raspberry Pi

With the recent release of Pop!_OS 21.10, a version for the Raspberry Pi was also released. In this video, I’ll check out the new Pi spin and give you my thoughts.

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  1. I just finished watching this video.

    I’m one of “those people” who use the RPi 4 as their desktop and daily driver computer. The reason for it is fourfold:

    1. A bit rebellious, as I want to get away from x86 and get into RISC, but that’s minor, I’m still going to use x86 for a while.

    2. I love having my (desktop) environment very portable and I like power efficient computing. My move to RPi didn’t happen in one day and it was mostly influenced by my exercise of minimalism. Previously I was running KDE Plasma Wayland on a Pentium G4560 PC, where I was virtualizing a Windows installation with hardware passthroguh. But sick of having Manjaro be an unstable mess and wanting more resources for Windows, I decided to treat that computer as a console. So I got myself a Celeron J3455 PC (I already had another one working as a pfSense box and I was happy with it, so I bought a second one). And I couldn’t easily migrate my KDE setup. This has bothered me for a while, because I had multiple computers with different settings, themes and such, so I wanted a bit more consistency. So I took the jump to a Window Manager, I tried JWM (because I was familiar with it) and it worked fine. But sometime, I tried PoorMan’sTillingWindowManager, a script that makes your WM tilling, which made me realize I actually really like tillingWMs, so I moved to sway. JWM had a bit of tearing on youtube (this was before I moved to watch youtube videos offline). And sway was the best option, because it has just 1 dotfile that I have to move and just have to install the software that I normally use and I’m off to the races. This lead to me moving from my celeron to the rpi. But the RPi on a uSD sucks, running from an SSD massively improves the experience from almost unusable to mostly usable (which I’m fine with).

    3. I mentioned liking power efficiency, so it gets hard to beat a 15W total power draw from the wall (the brick can’t supply more).

    4. I want the physical portability of a laptop, without sacrificing the modularity of a desktop, as in, being able to swap keyboard, mice, display and even batteries (UPS). I can power my Pi from a USB power bank and my monitor from another power bank and have a portable computer that can fit in almost any backpack. I’m using a wireless keyboard/touchpad combo with its own NiMH batteries and the portable monitor has built-in sound. I can use this monitor with my work laptop, or with a desktop and when I don’t need to use my usb power bank on the Pi, I’m using it on my phone. Not exactly recycling, but I love being able to interchange components between devices. And just like most monitors, this portable one has 2 display inputs and I can use it for 2 devices simultaneously (by switching input in the OSD).

    As for Pop!_OS, I have a hypothesis as to why System76 ported their desktop to the RPi 4.

    There is no greater way to fix something than to put it out into the public.

    I think it has more to do with the fact that they are working on a desktop written in Rust, as revealed by one of their devs:

    If that is the case, it makes sense to try and test their new desktop on the lowest common denominator and make sure it runs smooth there. Vanilla GNOME Shell from Fedora runs just as bad on the RPi 4 as Ubuntu’s and Pop!_OS’ versions of GNOME Shell. I have personally tried the first 2. GS uses a lot of CPU, which is what makes those stutters. So it’s unlikely that there will be any “fix” for GNOME Shell performing awfully slow.

    But if their new Cosmic rust desktop will run just as smooth as Sway on the RPi, then it will run on anything. And I think that’s the intended purpose of a Pop!_OS release on the RPi.

    And I believe the port to the RPi is no more than a demo for people to try and a development environment for the new Cosmic shell written in rust.

    But even without this hypothesis, having access to the System76 repo for other tools does make sense. Additionally, if System76 wants to expand into ARM laptops and compete with the M1* Macbooks, they have to start from somewhere. The RPi 4 offers a great environment to test software compiled for ARM and build up their repo, before they launch an ARM laptop (or workstation, maybe we’ll see a System76 alternative to the Honeycomb LX2K).

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