Raspberry PC

Recycle your old pc or laptop - turn it into Raspberry Pi.

So, what does that mean, how does it work, and why would you want to do it?
There are some very good reasons why you might want to make a PC look like a Pi. 

If you have an old XP or Windows Vista machine, it's probably not powerful enough to run a newer version of Windows or, indeed Linux.

But the Raspberry Pi version of Linux will run very happily on old and feeble hardware.

It's also very easy to use and your kids probably already know how it works!

More on why, later, first of all let's see how it works.

Raspberry Pi Desktop

A while ago, the Raspberry Pi Foundation released a new version of their Raspbian operating system which included a new desktop environment, originally called PIXEL, it now goes by the more descriptive name of Raspberry Pi Desktop. 

Raspian is a version of Debian Linux specifically for the Raspberry Pi, and Raspberry Pi Desktop is a modified version of the LXDE desktop that runs on Debian.

Now, there are versions of Debian for PCs and LXDE, will run on any version of Debian, so it follows that if you bundle, the Raspberry Pi Desktop and the apps that come with the Pi, with Debian Linux for the PC, you can end up with a system that runs on a PC but looks just like a Raspberry Pi. 
And this is just what the clever folks at the Raspberry Pi Foundation have done.

While pretty much all of the Pi apps are on the PC version, it is not 100% the same, because the Raspberry Pi Foundation only have a license to distribute Minecraft and Wolfram Mathematica for the Pi hardware. Consequently, those two apps are missing from the PC version. The rest is there though, so you can program in Python, Scratch and Java, and the office productivity apps are there, too. Of course, being Linux, you can easily install other software, often for free.  

But what about the hardware incompatibility? In he latest versions of Rasbian, included in the software is a SenseHAT emulator. This displays a software version of the SenseHAT accessory, complete with LED display, joystick and sensor emulation, so that you can run Python programs that read or control the SenseHAT as if it were really there.

You can also buy a hardware accessory to plug into a USB port that looks just like the Pi's GPIO (the connector that lets you attach physical devices like cameras and sensors).

The latest PC version of the operating system is fully installable (the initial one wasn't) and free to download. The installation instructions are in the Magpi magazine (August 2017), which you can also download for free. 

Alternatively, if you can get hold of a paper copy of Magpi from August 2017, you get a free Raspbian PC DVD with it. 

I should mention that it works on x86 Macs, too.

Ok, that´s how. But why?

Why make a PC look like a Pi?

Why would you want to run the Pi’s operating system on a PC?

Firstly, Raspbian is a simple and complete Linux distribution that is good enough for many purposes. As I mentioned before, it contains all of the programming tools for Python, Scratch and Java that you will find on the Pi, and it has the Libre Office productivity suite. Being Linux, of course, you can extend it with other programs and, if you wish customize the way that it looks.

The second reason for using Rasbian on a PC is its familiarity. Anyone who has used a Pi will already be comfortable with it. The desktop is exactly the same as on the Pi, so students will have a consistent experience. As mentioned earlier, the only real difference is that the two missing programs, Minecraft and Mathematica. So, except for these two programs, a student will be able to easily transfer their work from school to home, or from one machine to another, whether they are working on a Pi or a PC.

The final reason could be extremely important. Raspbian will run on very old hardware. There is a photo, on the Raspberry Pi website, of it running on a 10-year old IBM Thinkpad. If a PC or laptop has at least 512 megabytes of ram, you can use it. This means that neither schools nor students need to dump their old hardware. You can re-purpose your old Windows XP laptop that will struggle with later versions of Windows, or even the heavier-weight versions of Linux (e.g. Ubuntu), with the lightweight Raspbian.

And it works!

I tried it out for myself. I downloaded the software from the Raspberry Pi web site, followed the instructions and ran Rasbian on an old Toshiba laptop that used to be an XP machine and must be, at least,12 years old. It took a little while to install but once up and running it was perfectly happy on this ancient hardware.
Here's a picture...

It could easily become my favourite PC.


  1. How you connect RPi to Toshiba display?
    How you connect RPI to Toshiba keyboard?


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