Raspberry Pi PIXEL Desktop Environment For Mac And PC Can Breathe New Life Into Old Machines

The Raspberry Pi Foundation has reworked its PIXEL OS to make it work on regular desktop computers such as PCs and Macs, which can mean great things for old machines.

The company wanted to make its PIXEL more widely available so that more users can take advantage of it without needing to buy its tiny $35 Raspberry Pi computer. With this in mind, an x86 PC port of Raspberry Pi's Debian+PIXEL desktop environment is now available to boot.

To set the record straight, this has nothing to do with the Google Pixel. The PIXEL from Raspberry Pi stands for Pi Improved Xwindows Environment, Ligthweight and it's a heavily customized version of the LXDE X11 desktop environment.

Raspberry Pi first launched its PIXEL back in September for its single-board mini PCs, and now it has extended its availability to cover x86 PCs as well so that interested users can boot the PIXEL desktop environment on their Mac or Windows PC.

Reviving Old PCs

Because of the approach Raspberry Pi took in porting the desktop environment to x86 PCs, the PIXEL OS can run even on older PCs that are too slow or low-specced to run modern operating systems.

"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," says Raspberry Pi co-creator Eben Upton.

How To Get PIXEL OS For Mac And PC

Those intrigued by this prospect can download the PIXEL OS image, flash it onto a USB stick or burn it onto a DVD, then boot into the PIXEL desktop environment on their Mac or PC. Alternately, interested users can also purchase the latest issue of the MagPi magazine that comes with a bootable PIXEL DVD.

What You Get

PIXEL OS will bring a modern and clean user interface, a curated suite of programming tools and productivity software, as well as the Chromium web browser with a number of plugins such as Adobe Flash preinstalled. With PIXEL built on Debian, users will also have access to a slew of free applications.

The PIXEL port for Mac and PC will include all apps Raspberry Pi users have come to love, except for Wolfram Mathematica and Minecraft. For the latter two, the Raspberry Pi Foundation explains that it only has a license to offer those applications on Raspberry Pi machines.

This release should make it easier to work across various devices. The Raspberry Pi was designed as a tool to get kids to learn about programming and computers, and the PIXEL port for Mac and PCs now allows students to use the same software, tools and desktop environment at school as well.

Lastly, Upton points out that this is a prototype, not the final version, so a few minor issues might arise. An issue apparently affects some modern Macs that can't identify the image as bootable, but an updated image is en route as soon as the team finds a fix.

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