New Raspberry Pi OS update: First 8GB Pi 4, now you get these latest features

The latest Raspberry Pi OS update is all about improved reading on the graphical user interface.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

Along with the release of the $75 Raspberry Pi 4 with 8GB of memory, the Raspberry Foundation has updated its official operating system, Raspberry Pi OS, formerly known as Raspbian. 

The 32-bit version of Debian-based Raspberry Pi OS is gaining a new 'bookshelf' app that organizes editions of Raspberry Pi-related magazines and books from Raspberry Pi Press, such as the MagPi, HackSpace and Wireframe. 

The foundation has provided Raspbian as the official OS ever since the first batch of Arm-based single-board computers arrived in 2012, which featured just 512MB of RAM and a Broadcom chip that ran at 700MHz. 

SEE: Top IT certifications to increase your salary (free PDF)

Today's Raspberry Pi 4 lineup is far more capable, featuring a 64-bit Broadcom chip that runs at 1.5GHz and RAM of 2GB, 4GB and as of last week 8GB. It's also released a beta of the 64-bit version of Raspbian OS for developers who need all 8GB of memory for their applications.      

The PDF versions of the books and magazines will open in Chromium and all downloaded PDFs are saved to the Bookshelf directory for local access. 

The foundation notes that there is a bug that incorrectly reports a 'full disk' error on systems configured with a language that is not English. A fix is on its way, according to the foundation. 

Raspberry Pi OS has also gained an accessibility improvement for visually impaired users via a new magnifier feature for the desktop UI. This builds on the existing Orca screen reader. 

Simon Long, a UX engineer at Raspberry Pi, says he wrote a magnifier app for the OS "almost from scratch" because he couldn't find a Debian-based program that worked as well as magnifiers for macOS and Ubuntu. 

Users can install the magnifier by launching Recommended Applications in the new image and then selecting Magnifier under Universal Access. 

After installation, users need to reboot the system, and there will be a magnifying glass icon on the right-hand side of the taskbar. The magnifier can be activated by clicking the icon or using the shortcut Ctrl-Alt-M. 

Long designed it so that a right-click brings up magnifier options from where users can choose a circular or rectangular window with a customizable size and zoom. Users can make the magnifier window follow the mouse pointer or just make it a static window on the screen. 

For those who want accessibility features, Long recommends using Firefox because it already supports accessibility, whereas it's coming to Chromium in a future release. But Long advises against Firefox for others because it can't use the Raspberry Pi's hardware accelerator for video playback whereas Chromium can. 

The foundation is also launching a short four-question user survey to find out how people are using Raspberry Pi.

SEE: Raspberry Pi sales jump: Here's why the tiny computer's in demand in coronavirus crisis

It's also made some changes to audio. Instead of treating the HDMI socket and the headphone jack as a single device, Raspberry Pi OS will now treat each output as a separate device under the Advanced Linux Sound Architecture. 

"This makes managing audio from the two HDMI sockets on Raspberry Pi 4 easier and should be more compatible with third-party software," says Long. 

"What this means is that after installing the updated image, you may need to use the audio output selector (right-click the volume icon on the taskbar) to reselect your audio output."

Long says the foundation is working on a fix for a known issue affecting the Sonic Pi synthesizer that causes it to only use HDMI output regardless of the selector setting.

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