The Raspberry Pi company has decided to expand its Raspberry Pi OS releases from one to two branches of Debian to better support all users.
The Raspberry Pi OS legacy release will be based on Debian Buster, the 2019 release before Debian Bullseye, which was made the basis of current Raspberry Pi OS in November.
Raspberry Pi chief product officer Gordon Hollingworth explains that the shift from one branch of Debian to the next can cause "significant" problems for end users, which is why it's decided to make two versions of R Pi OS: current and legacy.
"Over the past nine years, Raspberry Pi has only ever supported a single release of the Raspberry Pi OS (formerly known as Raspbian). This can cause significant problems when we move to a new upstream branch (for example when we moved from Jessie to Stretch or from Stretch to Buster, or the recent move from Buster to Bullseye)," he notes in a blogpost.
"Of course, we understand this isn't always the right decision for particular users. For example, some of you are educational users who would like to follow instructions and tutorials online. Others are industrial users, who've developed software to use particular library versions; or who value a stable unchanging operating system," he said.
As a result, some users have been requesting a "stable unchanging operating system", including an option to roll back to parts of the OS to restore now-gone functionality.
The Debian Buster version of Raspberry Pi OS will be known as the "Debian oldstable release". Besides being based on Buster, it removes the hardware-accelerated Chromium browser for decoding video and replaces it with the upstream browser, which uses software acceleration.
"Raspberry Pi OS (Legacy) will remain supported while the various components continue to receive updates. For Debian Buster, support will be available until June 2024. For Linux 5.10 kernel, December 2026. If Debian Bookworm becomes stable in this time, Raspberry Pi (Legacy) will switch to Bullseye," notes Hollingworth.