Raspberry Pi, a credit-card sized computer that retails for $35, finally has some operating systems ready to run on it. A remix of Fedora Linux is still the "official" operating system for Raspberry Pi, but it's been delayed. In the meantime, versions of Arch and Debian Linux are ready to go.
The Raspberry Pi Fedora Remix, which is based on the older Fedora 14 distribution, was designed to fit on a 2GB SD card. It will include the LXDE and XFCE, two popular lightweight Linux desktops and an assortment of popular open-source software. A version, using the more up to date Fedora 17, is also in the works.
Several problems have delayed both releases. This includes pushing audio out the HDMI and analog ports via PulseAudio and Advanced Linux Sound Architecture (ALSA). In addition, Chris Tyler, the man responsible for assembling the Raspberry Pi Remix, has been sick.
That said, there's been no further word on the Raspberry Pi Fedora actual release for almost two weeks. On March 4th, Liam Fraser, who's in charge of distributing the Raspberry Pi Fedora image, said he was "still waiting for an image from Chris but I do think that it is nearly ready."
This delay has understandably annoyed some Raspberry Pi fans. Forrest Shields wrote on the Raspberry Pi Fedora discussion list, "There was a release event where nothing was released! … As much as I appreciate Seneca's work, this is poor management of the F14 image release information. If this project is to succeed there needs to be better organization. There may be over 100,000 people interested in the Raspberry Pi at this early date, but it already looks a little amateurish in terms of management. No matter what the reason (or who is to blame) the RPi release was a disaster in terms of unfulfilled expectations. (Ironically, the RPi release was a P.R. bonanza for the same reasons.) Add to that the inability to find the most desired image for the device after its 'release;' it makes me worried that it will turn off a whole host of interested parties.
Still, Shields insists, "I want Raspberry Pi to succeed. Turning off newbies and possible integrators (who want to use RPi in their vertical markets) because of lack of information & organization is not a great way to start. What you will have left is a platform that only a rabid group of enthusiasts with insider knowledge will have interest in."
I agree with him completely. I know there's a lot of excitement out there about the Raspberry Pi. The Raspberry Pi Web site went down because people were so charged up about this kit computer. But, it's really inexcusable to leave users hanging without either the distribution or any official news on what's going on with its main operating system.
Be that as it may, Debian was actually the first Linux to be made available for the Raspberry Pi. The Debian image, which is based on Debian 6 "Squeeze," is available for download. It comes with the LXDE desktop, the lightweight Midori Web browser; development tools; and sample code for accessing Raspberry Pi's multimedia functionality.
In addition, Arch Linux ARM is now available for download. This distribution, however, the Raspberry Pi Foundation admits "may not be suitable for beginners." Indeed, Arch Linux is a Linux for expert users. The version for Raspberry Pi, for example, doesn't come with any GUI. You can, however, easily install LXDE on it.
In the meantime, if you don't have an order in yet for Raspberry Pi, it looks like it will be four to six weeks before the next round of the devices are ready to be ordered, never mind delivered. Hopefully by the time the next ten-thousand or so units are ready to be ordered, the Fedora remix will be ready as well. It needs to be or the flames of excitement over Raspberry Pi may cool into the ashes of disappointment.