Getting a Raspberry Pi up and running is easy. All you need is a Raspberry Pi, a power supply, a keyboard, mouse, monitor, and SD card. The hard part is deciding which operating system to install on your Raspberry Pi to launch your first project.
Luckily there are a lot of choices when selecting a Raspberry Pi operating system. Because Linux is an open source system, all of the Raspberry Pi OS are free.
This is nice because you can try all the flavors without worrying about cost.
So here is a breakdown of Raspberry Pi projects/OS for beginners.
If you don’t know which Pi operating system to download or want to try something else. Check out your options.
1. Raspbian Operating System
If you are a Raspberry Pi beginner and looking for the best operating system to learn on then Raspbian is a great choice.
In fact, Raspbian is the default operating system that comes with NOOBs (the recommended distribution).
Raspbian is great for beginners because it looks and feels like Windows so many users understand how to move files around, access applications, and navigate the desktop.
There is also a Pi Store where users can download free or paid applications.
The Raspbian project is based from Debian and is optimized for the Raspberry Pi hardware. The development of Raspbian is quite active which means support and updates to the operating system.
The goal of Raspbian is to be the go to choice for all Raspberry Pi users. The goal is close to being achieved. There are some reasons why a user would want a different operating system, but if a user is a true beginner and looking to get a Raspberry Pi up and working quickly then a Raspbian operating system makes sense.
Because the operating system is built from Debian it is well documented. A user will have little trouble finding answers to their questions. So go ahead and download Raspbian’s operating system and give it a try.
You can download Raspbian here.
2. RISC OS Pi Operating System
RISC OS is a British operating system originally designed by Acorn Computers Ltd in Cambridge, England, and was first released in 1987. It was specifically designed to run on the ARM chipset. It is fast, compact and efficient. RISC OS is not a version of Linux, nor is it in any way related to Windows and interestingly was developed by the original ARM team.
RISC OS Pi comes with a small set of utilities and applications, It includes a browser called NetSurf, a simple text editor, a scientific calculator, and it also has two software/package managers, packman and a store. Although it’s not a modern operating system (when compared Linux, Windows and OSX) is does have number of unique features and aspects to its design. It is available to download from RISC OS Open Website or RaspberryPi.org.
3. Firefox OS Raspberry Pi Operating System
Recently Mozilla have been pushing the Firefox OS for the Pi and embedded devices and on their Wiki page they have some handy guides to get Firefox OS on the Raspberry Pi and also a Foxberry Pi Demo.
Firefox OS is one of the more difficult projects for a beginner but well worth it if you’re feeling confident.
4. Kali Linux Operating System
Kali Linux is a Debian-derived security auditing Linux distribution designed for digital forensics and penetration testing. It is maintained and funded by Offensive Security Ltd. Kali Linux comes pre-installed with numerous penetration-testing programs, including nmap (a port scanner), Wireshark (a packet analyzer), John the Ripper (a password cracker), Aircrack-ng (suite for penetration-testing wireless LANs), Burp suite and OWASP ZAP (security scanners). Recently support for TFT touchscreens was added.
If you want to try you hand at installing Kali on the Raspberry Pi you can download it from their downloads page or if you’re feeling more technically minded check out the documentation.
5. Raspbmc/Kodi (formally XBMC)
Raspbmc is based on the award winning free and open source software media player and entertainment hub formally known as XBMC (now Kodi). It is based on the Debian Linux distribution. It features a 10-foot user interface for use with televisions and remote controls and you can use Raspbmc to play and view most videos, music, podcasts, and other digital media files from local and network storage media and the internet.
It supports both wired and WiFi out of the box, multiple languages, auto updating and more, and the best thing is that if you want to use the Raspberry Pi as an XBMC front end you can do exactly that with no knowledge.
You can download the latest version from the Kodi Website or from RaspberryPi.org.
6. OpenELEC Operating System
OpenELEC (Open Embedded Linux Entertainment Center) based on Kodi/XBMC and is meant for home theater PCs and is also available for the Raspberry Pi. However the philosophy with OpenELEC is to apply the ‘just enough’ principle. It is primarily designed to be lightweight and streamlined, so that it boots up quicker and feels a little snappier than Raspbmc. It functions similarly to Raspbmc but has its own settings and configurations area.
If you’re interested in downloading it you can download it from the OpenElec website or from RaspberryPi.org.
Pidora is a Fedora Remix optimized for the Raspberry Pi, which in turn was based on the Linux kernel, developed by the community-supported Fedora Project and owned by Red Hat.
Pidora although somewhat similar to Raspbian is slightly different as it’s distributed with a handful of different software. Some of the included software includes text editors, programming languages, and more. For some users you can also get a really useful ‘headless mode’ to operate your Pi without a monitor attached.
Pidora is available to download from the Pidora website or from RaspberryPi.org.
8. OpenMSX Operating System
OpenMSX is an open source MSX emulator distributed free under Debian Free Software Guidelines, and available under the GNU General Public License. It is designed to emulate the MSX (a standardized home computer architecture, first announced by Microsoft Japan in 1983 and it is said that Microsoft led the project as an attempt to create unified standards among hardware makers.
Historically the MSX was the platform for major Japanese game studios, such as Konami and Hudson Soft – the Metal Gear series was originally written for MSX hardware.
You can learn more about how to get OpenMSX working on the Raspberry Pi here and visit their page on SourceForge.