Raspberry Pi operating system: now running on Debian ‘bullseye’ Linux

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Debian 11, nicknamed “bullseye” and the successor to “buster”, arrived in August and now the makers of the Raspberry Pi have finally updated the Raspberry Pi (RPi) operating system to this version.

The switch to Debian 11 for Raspberry Pi OS took a bit longer than expected and doesn’t bring a huge amount of changes on the Debian side. However, there are several changes coming from the RPi side.

“Debian ‘bullseye’ has relatively few major changes that are visible to users – there are a few changes under the hood to filesystems and printing, but most of the changes are fixes and upgrades. existing applications and features, ”says Raspberry Pi Engineer, Simon Long.

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“However, beyond the changes in Debian itself, the ‘bullseye’ version of Raspberry Pi OS has a number of significant changes in the desktop environment and in Raspberry Pi hardware support,” added Long.

Debian releases are important community events and affect Linux distributions like Canonical’s Ubuntu as well as Raspberry Pi OS. Debian 11 is a long term support release with two to six years of support and is the first release to provide a Linux kernel with support for Microsoft’s exFAT file system.

In addition to stripped-down single-board computers, Raspberry Pi also makes the Pi 400, which integrates a Pi 4 into a keyboard.

The main feature of Raspberry Pi OS is support for GTK + version 3. GTK + is a software layer that provides graphical user interface components – aka “widgets” – that help make RPi devices more useful as a desktop computers.

“All desktop components and applications now use version 3 of the GTK + User Interface Toolkit,” notes Long.

“Until now, most desktops have been using version 2 of the GTK + toolkit, but a growing number of Debian applications are using GTK + 3, so to try to keep things consistent we have upgraded all of our software and the desktop itself for the new version. “

GTK + 3 lacks some features that RPi OS previously relied on, so the RPi OS team added workarounds to make them work like GTK + 2, including a new look for tabbed interfaces.

With the move to GTK + 3, RPi OS has a new window manager called mutter, which replaces the openbox window manager of previous versions. Mutter draws the title bar and window frame around each app window and makes the desktop look more modern, but has some RAM related drawbacks.

“Mutter is what is called a compositing window manager, which means that instead of individually drawing window frames directly over existing windows on the screen, it draws all windows in an off-screen buffer. , where it creates a complete image for the whole screen. This is then sent to the hardware to be displayed, ”says Long.

“It’s quite RAM demanding and can only run properly on a Raspberry Pi with 2 GB or more. As a result, on Raspberry Pis with less than 2 GB the old openbox window manager is still used instead. . “

GTK + 3 brings RPi OS closer to other Linux desktop environments derived from the X Window System, which are gradually being updated with systems like Wayland in Ubuntu. Mutter brings RPi OS closer to Ubuntu in this regard.

“We’re still quite a ways away from moving from the Raspberry Pi operating system to Wayland, but one of its requirements is a Wayland-compatible composition window manager, and using Mutter is the first step on that path,” says Long.

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Notifications are also updated in this version, with a notification manager added to the taskbar accessible through other apps. The most recent notifications are displayed at the top then disappear after a configurable delay (15 seconds for example); you can also make notifications persist until clicked, or even turn them off completely.

There is also a new updater plugin for app updates, which removes the need to use the ‘apt’ command in a terminal window. In other words, RPi OS is now more graphical when it comes to library updates, which are displayed in a visual dialog box.

Elsewhere, there are updates to the File Manager, which is now more consistent between thumbnail and icon modes. Additionally, the Linux KMS driver (kernel modesetting) is now the standard video driver, and there is a new driver for accessing camera modules – a standard open source Linux API called libcamera.


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